Karine Seneca


Karine Seneca

Master Teacher and Coach,

Principal Dancer with
Zurich Ballet, Boston Ballet,
and Staatsoper Hannover,
for 14 years total




Ballet Intensives NYC is excited to introduce Karine Seneca, a deeply talented dancer with an interesting career and a new asset to our 2019 Program. Karine will be teaching Classical, Variations, and Artistry / Acting. To focus on the importance of Artistry, she will be teaching older students excerpts of Jörg Mannes’ repertoire, from his ballets Dangerous Liaisons and Madame Bovary. She has also designed a special program for the younger levels. 

“Karine has a real gift for coaching dancers, helping them achieve their maximum potential,” says Jorg Mannes, Artistic Director of Ballett der Staatsoper Hannover.

Karine Seneca is remembered for raw, real emotions she filled her many ballet heroines with. She built it all up from a strong academic foundation, of course, which manifested itself in the elegant, polished exactitude of her movement and her beautiful French technique, but it was Karine’s artistry that ultimately conquered the audiences and stayed with them long after performances ended. 


Throughout her dancing career, Karine graced many prestigious ballet magazine covers:


Karine with the gorgeous Julien Lestel (both Zürich Ballet Principal Dancers at the time) on the cover of French Danse Magazine (left). Karine partnered by Dirk Segers (right) in Heinz Spoerli’s masterpiece Bach Cello Suites — In den Winden im Nichts (Winds in the Void), choreographed for Zürich Ballet and used for the cover of April 2006 edition of Ballet 2000 (right).


(That year, along with Seneca and her partner, January to September editions of Ballet 2000 featured Alessandra Ferri and Julio Bocca, Marie-Agnès Gillot, Aurelie Dupont and Hervé Moreau, Benjamin Millepied, and Vladimir Malakhov, respectively.)


Born in France, Karine Seneca studied at and graduated from one of Europe's leading ballet schools: Centre de Danse International Rosella Hightower (currently Ecole Supérieure de Danse de Cannes Rosella Hightower). Established by Rossella Hightower in the South of France in 1962, the school quickly acquired a worldwide reputation, with many ballet luminaries like Anton Dolin, Serge Lifar, Rudolph Nureyev, and Maurice Béjart, as Guest Teachers. Karine was taught by Rosella Hightower herself. It was incredible schooling: “Technique was important,” she recalls, “but it was the artistly Rosella really focused on and made us work on.”



A full-length ballet Cinderella, starring Karine Seneca in the title role and Stanislav Jermakov as her Frédéric, was recorded in 2003 (left). Lavishly choreographed by Heinz Spoerli, this Zürich Ballet production of Prokofiev’s beloved ballet was a big success. Heinz Spoerli with Karine in rehearsal of Goldberg-Variationen (Goldberg Variations; right). The choreographer is holding Karine to demonstrate correct placement as her partner Giorgio Madia is observing and taking in the position.



At the age of 17, immediately upon her graduation, Karine joined Basler Ballet under Artistic leadership of Heinz Spoerli. “Spoerli was like a mentor to me,” she says. In 1991 she followed him to Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf and then, in 1996, to Zürich Ballet, where Spoerli was appointed Artistic Director. As a Zürich Ballet Principal Dancer, she performed many of the beautiful parts Spoerli created over the years. In 2011, at the very end of Heinz Spoerli’s career, he summoned Karine one last time, inviting her to dance a part in Das Lied Von der Erde (The Song of The Earth), choreographed to a symphonic work by Gustav Mahler. This was the last work Spoerli would choreograph before retiring from Zürich Ballet.


“You have to bury the depth. Where? On the surface.”


It is a thought from Buch der Freunde (Book of Friends) by the Austrian writer and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Critics denoted that Spoerli often applied this golden rule to his choreography. To bury one’s depth on the surface as an Artist and Performer is one of the many important lessons Karine has learned from her mentor Heinz Spoerli. 



Spoerli’s last choreography’s before retiring from his position as the Artistic Director of Zürich Ballet (left). Seneca performed it with Galina Mikhailova and Vahe Martirosyan. Karine is the one on the left, kneeling, with her back arched. A candid shot of Heinz Spoerli in rehearsal (right), with young Karine behind him.



In Germany, in addition to the classical repertoire, Seneca worked with such renowned Contemporary choreographers as Jiří Kylián, William Forsythe, Hans van Manen, Mauro Bignozetti, and Twyla Tharp.


At Zürich Ballet she danced in Kylián‘s powerful Petite Mort and Dream Time, as well as in van Maanen’s pristine and elegant Déjà vu, striking Visions Fugitives and masterful Three Pieces; in Düsseldorf — in Bigonzetti’s Rossini Cards and La Piaf.  She performed Forsythe’s staple In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated both for Deutsche Oper am Rhein and Zürich Ballet, and later again for Boston Ballet. “I very much enjoyed dancing Twyla Tharp’s Push Come to Shove with an American Guest Artist Ethan Stiefel, then Principal Dancer of ABT,” Karine says.



Elegant as ever, Karine performs in Boston Ballet’s La Sylphide (left), with Yury Yanowsky in the role of James (right). August Bournonville‘s most famous ballet was choreographed in 1836.



In 2004 Seneca joined Boston Ballet under the direction of Mikko Nissinen. As a Principal Dancer, her repertoire of leading roles in Boston included La Sylphide in August Bournonville’s La Sylphide, Bianca in John Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew, as well as the title role of Giselle, for which she was coached by the awe-inspiring Maina Gielgud. Another staple role was Mikhail Fokine’s The Dying Swan.


Aside from the already mentioned Forsythe’s choreography, Karine’s contemporary repertoire at Boston Ballet included the title role in Jorma Elo’s Carmen, Jiří Kylián’s Falling Angels, Christopher Weeldon’s Polyphonia, and various others.


During her years at Zürich Ballet and Boston Ballet Karine appeared in many international ballet galas worldwide and was frequently invited as a Guest Artist to perform at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.


In 2008 she joined Jörg Mannes’ Ballett der Staatsoper Hannover as a Principal Dancer. 


“I loved working with Mannes,” she says. “Jörg’s forte is choreographing strong pas de deux’s and pas de trois. His creative genius truly shines when he examines close relationships between people, between his characters.” 


Karine Seneca’s beautiful lines and flawless technique took the audience’s breath away in Jörg Mannes’ emotionally charged ballet Dangerous Liaisons, performed at Staatsoper Hannover. In this ballet she was partnered by the talented and expressive Brazilian dancer Denis Piza (left).


“The moment I dance a role on stage, there is nothing else. For me, if it was a love pas de deux, then it was love.”


“Mannes has such an incredible understanding of each of his Principal Dancers, both as dancers and people, and the unique roles he creates for them fully reflect that,” Seneca explains.



“Jörg Mannes’ storyline ballets are always interesting: he doesn’t go by the usual ballet librettos. Instead, he turns to the original books the well-known librettos were based on, so there’s always surprising depth in his characters. For example, his Alice in Wonderland is really an interesting story of coming of age.”



“Alice is portrayed as a conflicted teenager, a little bit drammatic and rebellious. There are a lot of ups and downs in the process of growing up, and Jörg’s Alice is about all that too,” explains Karine.



Mannes choreographed Alice in Wonderland to the music of Erik Satie and Antonín Dvořák. The ballet received lots of accolades and was called “absolutely magical.”



Another Mannes’ narrative ballet Seneca performed in was Nussknacker und Mausekönig (The Nutcracker and the Mouse King) — a darker version of the tale, reimagined to the well-known Tchaikovsky score.



Jörg Mannes faithfully based his ballet version on the original Christmas tale by Hoffmann; Karen Seneca (left and right) performed the lead role of Marie [Stahlbaum]. 



Marie Stahlbaum is the leading role Americans know as Clara.



Karine as the playful Titania, Queen of the Fairies, in Staatsoper Hannover’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.



Madame Bovary was the last ballet Karine performed in. Emma Bovary was the role that saw her into retirement. The process of working on this role was highly emotional. “When Jörg and I began creating Emma Bovary, together, my life was Bovary... The preparation went on for 5-6 weeks. There was a lot of pressure.” 



Madame Bovary was choreographed to the music by Mark Polscher, Frédérik Chopin, Gabriel Fauré, Edvard Grieg, and Jules Massenet. It premiered at Staatsoper Hannover on April 28, 2012.



Stunning takes by Gert Weigelt, Ballett der Staatsoper Hannover photographer, capture the emotional depth of Karine’s performance.


“It’s like a trance. Since much of the work is done before, in preparation for the role, I don’t have to think about it on stage; I just live the role.”


Karine Seneca as the tormented Emma Bovary



In Madame Bovary, partnered by the talented Brazilian dancer Denis Piza



Karine on stage as Emma Bovary (left), and caught backstage (right), in a moment of reflection, with the Madame Bovary Staatsoper Hannover poster hanging on the wall next to her; a photograph by the German photojournalist Insa Cathérine Hagemann.



Working on roles with the world-famous coaches like the British ballet veteran Maina Gielgud and Sorella Englund of The Royal Danish Ballet inspired Karine to start teaching and coaching, eventually opening up her own school in Cannes. 


“Karine is perfect for teaching: she has extraordinary experience and the qualities required to transmit it,” says Mikko Nissinen, Artistic Director of Boston Ballet.


Teaching a Masterclass (left) and with her youngest students (right), in Morocco, where Karine co-directs Jeune Ballet National Marocain.