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Endowed by Sarah and Ernest Butler through the Ballet Austin Foundation

The Butler Fellowship Program serves as Ballet Austin’s trainee program. All Butler Fellowship positions are fully endowed, allowing these 15 outstanding dancers the opportunity to train at Ballet Austin tuition-free.  Currently, 30 percent of Ballet Austin’s main company positions are filled with graduates of the Butler Fellowship Program.

The Butler Fellows are selected through a nationwide audition process and make Austin their home to participate in this unique training opportunity. Designed for post-high school dancers, the Butler Fellowship Program features an innovative and personal approach to professional-track training. It is linked directly to the artistic “arc” of Ballet Austin, with all daily technique classes taught by Artistic Director Stephen Mills, Associate Artistic Director Michelle Martin, and Rehearsal Director Christopher Swaim.

The Butler Fellows participate in up to 25 hours of classes per week including ballet technique, pointe, men’s technique, partnering, variations, contemporary movement, and repertoire. Particular attention is paid to helping dancers become familiar and comfortable with the improvisational and collaborative techniques now used by many choreographers as they create new work. The dancers present their own repertory performances each spring and perform with Ballet Austin II and the main company in larger productions.

In addition to classes and performance opportunities, the Butler Fellows receive access to onsite physical therapy as well as career management counseling and job placement assistance. Each spring, Ballet Austin brings artistic directors from across the nation to audition the Butler Fellows, and to date, 109 graduates of Ballet Austin II and the Butler Fellowship Program have secured contracts with more than 42 companies.

Interested Butler Fellows may choose to train as teaching assistants for Ballet Austin Academy or to serve as interns in other departments. Additionally, through a partnership with PeletonU, Butler Fellows may pursue a college degree. The competency-based structure of this online program allows dancers to complete a two-year Associates Degree in as few as nine months and includes access to tutors and advisors at PeletonU’s local campuses.


The Butler Fellows are recruited through the Ballet Austin Academy, Ballet Austin’s Senior Summer Intensive, and through partnerships with a select group of training institutions across the country. Auditions for the Summer Intensive are held each winter/spring. Students age 18 and older can also be considered for acceptance into the Summer Intensive by attending a Company Audition.

For more information about the Butler Fellowship Program please visit our video gallery. You may also email Eugene Alvarez or call 512.476.9151 with any additional questions.

Butler Fellowship Program Dancers

Sophia Crane
Joined Butler Fellowship Program in 2021

Sophia was raised in San Rafael, California and started her ballet training at age 4 with Marin Ballet, under the directorship of Cynthia Lucas. During her time at Marin Ballet, Sophia performed many roles in Julia Adams’ Nutcracker, including, Principal Spanish and Snow Queen. Sophia also had the opportunity to perform in two of Balanchine’s Ballet’s, which were, Serenade, and Who Cares? Sophia joined Marin Ballet at The Ballet Alliance Festival in 2018 and 2019, where she performed the principal role in Robert Kelleys’ Arcadia, and Eva Stones’ Heedless/Heartless. During the summers, Sophia expanded on her Marin Ballet training by attending Complexions Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, and Ballet Austin summer intensives. Sophia is looking forward to her first year with Ballet Austin’s Fellowship program!

Daniel Estrada
Joined Butler Fellowship Program in 2021

Born and raised in El Salvador, Daniel started dancing at his mother’s studio, Macholah Escuela de Danza, at age 15. In 2018 he moved to the U.S. and continued dancing at El Paso Ballet Theatre. He returned to El Salvador during the pandemic but continued training remotely with Ballet Austin Academy. During this time, Daniel also trained with the National Ballet Company of El Salvador. After a year of his training online with Ballet Austin Academy, he is happy to be taking in-person classes again and to have the pleasure to be part of Ballet Austin. Daniel has made guest appearances dancing the pas de deux from La Fille Mal Gardee, the pas de deux from Harlequinade, the pas de trois from Swan Lake, and most recently in Les Sylphides.

Emmakate Franz
Joined Butler Fellowship Program in 2021

Born in Guangxi, China and raised in Charlestown, WV, Emmakate started dancing at a local dance studio before age 11 when she began training at Maryland Youth Ballet.  She received a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago and continued training at their conservatory level under the direction of Karin Ellis-Wentz.  There she had the opportunity to perform Raymonda, The Sleeping Beauty, and Etudes.  She has attended summer programs at ABT New York, Ellison Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet and Joffrey Ballet Chicago.

Ashley Krystkowiak
Joined Butler Fellowship Program in 2021

Originally from Round Rock, TX, Ashley grew up in San Diego, CA where she received her dance education at San Elijo Dance Academy under Ben and Lauri-Michelle Houk.  Ashley danced in eleven seasons of West Coast Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker with her most notable roles including Clara, Dew Drop Fairy, and Sugar Plum Fairy.  She has also performed excerpts from Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake in addition to original contemporary works.  Throughout her training, Ashley attended summer intensive programs with Ballet Austin, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre in New York City.

Alexandra Owens
Joined Butler Fellowship Program in 2021

Alexandra Owens began her dance training at the age of 3 in Wichita, Kansas under the direction of Jill Landrith. She performed with Ballet Wichita from 2013-2019. In the fall of 2019, she joined Next Generation Ballet’s trainee program under the direction of Philip Neal. Additionally, Alexandra has attended summer intensives at Kansas City Ballet, Oklahoma City Ballet, Ballet Austin, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Next Generation Ballet. With Next Generation Ballet, she performed the roles of Clara and Shepherdess in the The Nutcracker, as well as the Pas de Trois and Spanish in Swan Lake.

Priscilla Pope
Joined Butler Fellowship Program in 2021

Priscilla Pope grew up performing with the Santa Clarita Ballet Company and studied under the Royal Academy of Dance curriculum. She holds each of her examinations with Distinction, and has traveled the country training at various professional ballet companies such as Boston Ballet, Sarasota Cuban Ballet, Los Angeles Ballet Academy, and The Colburn School. She has received numerous scholarships including the Eurotard 2019 sponsorship and the EJ Busser scholarship for dance. In addition to her Butler Fellowship, she also teaches in Ballet Austin’s Young Children’s Division.

Isabella Salas
Joined Butler Fellowship Program in 2021

Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Isabella first trained at Ballet Chelsea under Wendi Dubois before earning a scholarship to Miami City Ballet’s pre-professional program. There she had the opportunity to perform in Balanchine’s Serenade as Russian Demi and as one of the six friends in Coppélia. Isabella continued her development as a trainee for Cincinnati Ballet where she danced in numerous company productions including the roles of snow and flowers in The Nutcracker and swan corps in Swan Lake. Isabella is thrilled to be joining Ballet Austin as a Butler Fellow in 2021.

Natasha Snogren
Joined Butler Fellowship Program in 2020

Born and raised in Roslindale, Mass., Natasha trained at The Brookline Ballet School under Trinidad Vives and Parren Ballard. In her last year of high school (2019-2020), she danced at the San Francisco Ballet School. She rehearsed with the SFB company as a corps dancer in Waltz of the Flowers and the Snow scene of Helgi Tomasson’s The Nutcracker and had the opportunity to perform as a flower in the finale and as a Rich Girl in the ballet’s prologue. Natasha also competed and was awarded a Bronze Medal at the Valentina Kozlova Dance International Ballet Competition.

Allie Swartz
Joined Butler Fellowship Program in 2021

Allie began her ballet training at the Raleigh School of Ballet in North Carolina, where she danced roles such as Medora, Cinderella, and Snow White.  She was also given the opportunity to augment the corps de ballet of Carolina Ballet in Robert Weiss’ The Nutcracker and George Balanchine’s Serenade.  She has been blessed to attend summer programs at the School of American Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Pennsylvania Ballet, and Ballet Austin.  She gives all praise and glory to God for the many opportunities she has been given, and is excited to be a Butler Fellow.

Julius Taiber
Joined Butler Fellowship Program in 2020

Born in Munich, Germany, and raised in Greenville, S.C, Julius began his early dance training at the International Ballet Academy at the age of 9. From 2014-2017, he trained at the Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts and then with the Next Generation Ballet from 2017 – 2018. He then attended Houston Ballet Academy under the direction of Claudio Munoz where he was given the opportunity to perform in Stanton Welch’s Bruiser and The Nutcracker, as well as Ben Stevenson’s Sleeping Beauty. He has attended summer programs at Next Generation Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Ellison Ballet, Boston Ballet, and Houston Ballet.

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