Zalman Raffael, familiarly known as Zali, grew up in New York City. At age 8, he began studying at the School of American Ballet under the guidance of Olga Kostritzky. During this time, Zali had the opportunity to perform with the New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theater, furthering his knowledge of the theater. At age 13 he choreographed his first piece for the School of American Ballet Choreographic Workshop. As a teenager, Zali worked with choreographers prominent at that time. After joining Carolina Ballet’s Corps de Ballet, Zali began setting ballets for the company and soon thereafter choreographing his own pieces for Carolina Ballet. Zali was promoted to Carolina Ballet’s first Resident Choreographer and has created over 30 ballets for the company including Rhapsody, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Mendelssohn’s Violin ConcertoandIn the Grey.
Founding Artistic Director Robert Weiss, and former Principal dancer Melissa Podcasy, have truly been mentors to Zali, exposing him to the intricacies of teaching, choreographing, fundraising, administrative duties, and all aspects of running a professional ballet company. In 2018, Zali initiated opening the School of Carolina Ballet and after becoming Carolina Ballet’s Artistic Director/CEO in 2019, he continues to elevate Carolina Ballet through his innovative vision.