Founder & Artistic Director

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Marla A. Hirokawa was born and raised in Hilo, Hawai’i where she trained at the Hilo School of Ballet and was an apprentice with the Honolulu City Ballet. She later graduated cum laude with a B.A. degree in dance from the University of California, Irvine. While in Irvine, she received the Distinguished Student Scholar Award, the UCI Dance Alumni Scholarship, and the Laguna Beach Festival Scholarship. After dancing in Hawai’i, California, and for various companies in New York City, she opened Covenant Dance Studio in 1987, founded Covenant Dance Theatre in 1989, and then in 2007 transformed both unincorporated businesses into Covenant Ballet Theatre of Brooklyn, Inc. (CBT), a nonprofit arts organization. 


Since 1987, Marla has developed and managed Covenant Ballet Theatre’s ballet and modern curriculum and other student programs. In 2011, she became an American Ballet Theatre® Certified Teacher in primary through level 3 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum. CBT students have gone on to study at virtually every major dance school in New York and beyond, including the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Ballet Hispanico, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre, School of American Ballet, Joffrey Ballet School, Ballet Academy East, Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory, Boston Ballet School, and more. They have also attended the School of Performing Arts: A Division of the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, Joffrey Academy at Fort Hamilton High School, Talent Unlimited High School, Professional Performing Arts High School, Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in New York City, and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.


CBT alumni have earned degrees in fine arts, dance, and/or physical therapy from Juilliard College, Marymount Manhattan College, Purchase College, Point Park University, Western Michigan, Hofstra University, Hunter College, and Indiana University. They have apprenticed with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet at Kennedy Center and danced professionally with the Martha Graham Dance Company, Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadanco), Ballet Repertory Theatre, City Ballet of San Diego, Tulsa Ballet, Aszure Barton and Artists, Ballet Theater Munich, Tanz Munich Theater, the Metropolitan Opera, Donald Byrd's Spectrum Dance Theater, Balasole Dance Company, and Avant Chamber Ballet. They have also established their own dance companies and teach dance to the next generation of students, including at CBT.


From 1990 to 1997, Marla was a teaching artist for the New York City Ballet Education Department. Since 1997, she has created and managed arts education programs presented by Covenant Ballet Theatre faculty in the public schools. She has been an adjunct ballet, modern technique, and modern composition instructor at Kingsborough Community College and an adjunct ballet instructor at Marymount Manhattan College. 


Over the past two decades, Marla has conceived and choreographed seventeen original narrative ballets performed by her students and professional dancers, several of which are historic in content. “Orphan Train” is a tribute to Rev. Charles Loring Brace, the founder of the New York Children’s Aid Society and father of the first placing-out program known as the Orphan Trains. It has been performed numerous times since 1997, including performances in Athens, Georgia by Encore Dance Theatre.

In 2001, Marla premiered “Nisei,” a loving dance tribute in memory of her father and of World War II Japanese American veterans. The Nisei Project brought Covenant Ballet Theatre to O’ahu, Kaua’i, Big Island, and Maui to perform the “Nisei” ballet in 2003. In 2014, “Nisei” was re-staged for the New York International Fringe Festival.


In addition to her narrative ballets, Marla has choreographed a number of smaller works that CBT faculty and guest artists have performed in Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens, and Brooklyn. Her choreography received recognition at the Ballet Builders Showcase in 1992, the Choreographer’s on Point choreography workshop in 1995, and the Choreographer’s on Point Previews in 2007.