Born on Long Island, New York, Cory Stearns began his classical training at Seiskaya Ballet with Mme. Valia Seiskaya. At fifteen, he participated in the Youth America Grand Prix and was offered a full scholarship to the Royal Ballet School in London. During his training there, he performed in Madrid, Moscow, Milan and Germany. His principal roles included principal roles in Mark Annear's Mendelssohn Concerto, Kenneth Macmillan's Concerto, Kirk Peterson's Eyes That Gently Touch, Robert Hill's Piano Concerto #2, and Barry Moreland's Fearful Symmetries. In March 2004, Stearns appeared with Kylie Minogue in her music video Chocolate. Upon graduating from the Royal Ballet School with honors, he received, for the second year, the Dame Ruth Railton Award for excellence in dance.

Stearns joined American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company in September 2004, the main Company as an apprentice in January 2005 and as a member of the corps de ballet in January 2006. He was appointed a Soloist in January 2009 and a Principal Dancer in January 2011.

Stearns repertory with the Company includes The Man in AfterEffect,The Awakening Pas de Deux, Solor in La Bayadère, a featured role in Brief Fling, the Ballet Dancer in The Bright Stream, Her Prince Charming in Cinderella, Conrad in Le Corsaire, Basilio and Espada in Don Quixote, Oberon in The Dream, a leading role in Études, the second sailor in Fancy Free, Kaschei in Firebird, the Baron in Gaîté Parisienne, Albrecht in Giselle, Grand Pas Classique, Her Lover in Jardin aux Lilas, Armand Duval in Lady of the Camellias, Des Grieux in Manon, Beliaev in A Month in the Country, His Friend in The Moor's Pavane, The Nutcracker Prince in Alexei Ratmansky's The Nutcracker, Onegin in Onegin, Iago and a Carnival Dancer in Othello, Man from the House Opposite in Pillar of Fire, Romeo and Paris in Romeo and Juliet, the Terrestrial in Shadowplay, Prince Désiré in The Sleeping Beauty, Prince Siegfried and von Rothbart in Swan Lake, James in La Sylphide, The Poet in Les Sylphides, Orion and Apollo in Sylvia, Prospero in The Tempest, leading roles in Allegro Brillante, Duo Concertant, Everything Doesn't Happen at Once, The Leaves Are Fading, Monotones II and Theme and Variations and roles in The Brahms-Haydn Variations, Citizen, Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes, Duets, In the Upper Room, Overgrown Path, Rabbit and Rogue, Symphony in C and Thirteen Diversions. Stearns created roles in From Here On Out, One of Three, Piano Concerto #1, Private Light, Raymonda Divertissements and With a Chance of Rain.

Stearns won the 2009 Erik Bruhn Prize for best male dancer.

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