DEPARTMENTS & STAFF
EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP TEAM
Stephen Mills, Sarah & Ernest Butler Family Fund Artistic Director
Known for his innovative and collaborative choreographic projects, Stephen Mills has works in the repertoires of companies across the United States and around the world. From his inaugural season as Artistic Director in 2000, Mills attracted attention from around the United States with his world-premiere production of Hamlet, hailed by Dance Magazine as “…sleek and sophisticated.” The Washington Post recognized Ballet Austin as “one of the nation’s best-kept ballet secrets” in 2004 after Ballet Austin performed Mills’ world premiere of The Taming of the Shrew, commissioned by and performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The Company was first invited to perform at the Kennedy Center in January of 2002 with the Mills production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and at The Joyce Theater (NYC) in 2004. In 2005 after two years of extensive research, Mills led a community-wide human rights collaboration that culminated in the world premiere work Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project. In 2006 Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project was awarded the Audrey & Raymond Maislin Humanitarian Award by the Anti Defamation League. In September of 2013, the work made its international debut with a tour in three cities across Israel.
Cookie Ruiz, Executive Director
Cookie Gregory Ruiz has more than 30 years of experience in the areas of strategic planning, organizational development and non-profit fundraising/management and has served as executive director of Ballet Austin since 1999. She holds the professional designation of Certified Fund Raising Executive (C.F.R.E.) by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Her community honors include Austin Business Journal’s “Profiles in Power” Award, Leadership Austin’s Polly Scallorn Community Trustee Award, Austin Community Foundation’s Beverly S. Sheffield Award for Excellence as a Nonprofit Executive, The American Red Cross “Clara Barton Medal of Honor,” Volunteer of the Year for the Austin Independent School District, the Lone Star Girl Scout Council “Women of Distinction” Award, The Junior League of Austin’s Volunteer Extraordinaire Award and is a 2016 Austin Arts Hall of Fame inductee. Ruiz served as the citywide Chair of CreateAustin, a City Council appointee to ImagineAustin’s Citizen’s Advisory Task Force, and is a graduate of the Austin’s City Works Academy. As a graduate of Leadership Austin, she served four years on its board of directors.
Ruiz is president of the board of Texans for the Arts and serves on the boards of Dance/USA, the Performing Arts Alliance, the Mayor’s Better Austin Foundation, HousingWorks Austin, and is a member of the Austin Area Research Organization (AARO). She is also a fellow of the National Arts Strategies International Chief Executive Program.
Michelle Martin, Associate Artistic Director
Michelle Martin had her early dance training at the Alberta Ballet School and danced with the Alberta Ballet Company for four years before joining the Indianapolis Ballet Theatre (IBT) in 1982. While with IBT and, subsequently, the Hartford Ballet in Connecticut, she performed leading and soloist roles in Romeo and Juliet, The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty and The Moor’s Pavane as well as creating roles in many original works. Martin’s teaching credits include guest-teaching engagements at schools and universities in Canada, South Carolina, Michigan, and throughout Indiana and Texas. She was on faculty at Butler University in Indianapolis for five years. Martin began her tenure with Ballet Austin in 1991 as a dancer with the Company and in 1992 she was appointed ballet mistress and curriculum director of the Academy. In 1999 she founded Ballet Austin II, Ballet Austin’s apprentice program, providing professional development for the 10-member second company and designing educational programming for presentation in schools. Martin has served on the Texas Commission on the Arts advisory panel for Arts Education and is a recipient of the Austin Under Forty award for contributions in the area of the Arts and Entertainment. Martin was appointed associate artistic director of Ballet Austin in 2000.
Eugene Alvarez, Company Manager
With a business degree and a professional dance background Eugene Alvarez has found his perfect niche at Ballet Austin. While studying at the University of Texas, Austin he took a recreational ballet class with teacher and, at the time, artistic director of Austin Ballet Theater, Stanley Hall. Soon Eugene was supplementing his college studies and UT ballet classes with classes, rehearsals and performances at Austin Ballet Theater. After graduation, degree in hand and only a couple of years into his auditor job at UT, Eugene left the business world for a chance to dance professionally with Ballet Austin. He danced for seven seasons and rose through the ranks to dance principal roles with fellow company members at the time, Stephen Mills and Michelle Martin. Retired from ballet he held administrative positions with The Texas HIV Connection and Jackson/Ruiz Salon before being invited back to Ballet Austin by current Artistic Director Stephen Mills. He’s been the company manager position since the fall of 2002 and feels fortunate to be able to use his business background to support his love for the arts.
Christopher Swaim, Rehearsal Director
Christopher Swaim is originally from Bryant, Ark., where he began his training with Kirt and Linda Hathaway at the Academy of Ballet Arkansas. He then went on to graduate with distinction from the University of Oklahoma with a B.F.A. in Ballet Pedagogy. Swaim has danced a variety of soloist and principal roles across classical, contemporary, and modern repertory, including works by Stephen Mills, George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, Justin Peck, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Nicolo Fonte, Amy Seiwert, Ben Stevenson, Miguel Terekhov, Pam Tanowitz, Sidra Bell, and Septime Webre. While at Ballet Austin he had the pleasure of touring the globe, performing at the Kennedy Center in our nation’s capital with The Suzanne Farrell Ballet and again with Ballet Across America III, and guesting with Ballet Arkansas and Amy Seiwert’s company, Imagery. In May of 2019, he retired from the stage after 15 years with Ballet Austin as Albrecht in Giselle. Swaim teaches in the Ballet Austin Academy and has guest taught across the country.
Alexa Capareda, Rehearsal Director- Ballet Austin II and Butler Fellows
Alexa Capareda received her early training in classical ballet and modern dance at the Philippine High School for the Arts in her native Philippines. After moving to Texas, she trained professionally at Ballet Austin. She continued her studies in Canada at Ecole Superieure de Ballet Contemporain de Montreal before joining Mario Radacovsky’s Balet Bratislava in Slovakia, where she had the privilege of performing Jiri Kylian’s Falling Angels and Six Dances. She began exploring her own choreography before leaving Europe, winning 3rd prize at the 2013 Festival of Choreographic Miniatures in Serbia.
Capareda joined Ballet Austin’s artistic staff and Academy faculty in 2015. As Rehearsal Director for Ballet Austin II and the Butler Fellows, she has restaged ballets by Stephen Mills, Nelly van Bommel, Nick Kepley, Thang Dao, and Jimmy Orrante for Ballet Austin II, and has created original pieces for BAII and the Butler Fellowship Program. Maria and the Mouse Deer, her new ballet for BAII based on Philippine folk stories, has been awarded a Grants for Arts Projects award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Capareda is an artist and Assistant Director with Jennifer Hart’s Performa/Dance. She has co-produced and performed with Frank Wo/Men Collective and has worked with ARCOS, BLiPSWiTCH, Jennifer Sherburn, and Magdalena Jarkowiec. She has collaborated with sound artists/musicians Steve Parker, Brent Baldwin, Henna Chou, Lynn Lane, Austin Camerata, LOLA Austin, and visual artists Tom Suhler and Susan Scafati. She has presented work at Austin Dance Festival, Barnstorm Dance Festival, and Fusebox Festival. In 2017, Capareda received an Austin Critics Table Award for Excellence as a Dancer. She has a B.A. in English and a minor in Theater and Dance from UT Austin.
CREATIVE SERVICES STAFF
Paul Michael Bloodgood, Associate Director / Film & Video Production
Before joining Ballet Austin as Associate Director of Film & Video Production, Lone Star Emmy®-winning filmmaker Paul Michael Bloodgood enjoyed a career spanning 20 years as a professional ballet dancer with Ballet Austin and Ballet Pacifica, performing in a myriad of principal roles in works such as Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Giselle, Swan Lake, La Sylphide, The Sleeping Beauty, The Firebird, Coppélia, Agon, Allegro Brillante, Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project, as well as originating “Beast” in Stephen Mills’ Belle REDUX / A Tale of Beauty & the Beast. Paul Michael has a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and the Humanities from St. Edward’s University and is a union stunt performer with recent work in Martin Scorsese’s next film KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, Robert Rodriguez’s upcoming HYPNOTIC starring Ben Affleck, multiple episode appearances on seasons 5-8 of FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, FREE DEAD OR ALIVE starring Edy Ganem, and season 2 of LEVERAGE: REDEMPTION. Paul Michael has appeared in major feature films including Michael Bay’s TRANSFORMERS, Forest Whitaker’s FIRST DAUGHTER starring Katie Holmes and Michael Keaton, Richard Linklater’s BERNIE starring Jack Black, and alongside Mena Suvari and Jason Biggs in the Wheatus music video for the film LOSER. Executive produced by James Moll (FOO FIGHTERS: BACK AND FORTH), Paul Michael’s feature film TRENCHES OF ROCK premiered at the Atlanta Film Festival, garnering the attention of festivals worldwide, receiving 14 accolades including multiple “Best Feature Documentary” and “Best Director” awards (available on iTunes / Amazon / Google / DirectTV). Paul Michael collaborated with choreographer Stephen Mills on the Lone Star Emmy®-winning dance film, PRELUDES/BEGINNINGS which had its television premiere on Austin PBS. A member of SAG-AFTRA since 2003 and a 4-time Austin Critics Table Award recipient, Paul Michael credits his extensive background in film, music, and dance for his approach to creative storytelling.
Anne Marie Bloodgood, Senior Manager, Digital & Social Media / Chief Photographer
Anne Marie Bloodgood is an audience content coordinator for Ballet Austin and is responsible for capturing, editing, and archiving photographs and video content related to Ballet Austin’s productions. Anne was first a dancer with Ballet Austin for 13 years and has been photographing dance for 15 years. She utilizes her prior dance experience and knowledge of the art form to photograph and film rehearsals and performances to produce storytelling visual content that supports the activities of Ballet Austin’s Audience Engagement, Sales & Services Team as well as being presented during productions at Ballet-o-mania!, Ballet Austin’s interactive learning lounge.
Stephanie Albrecht, Website Manager
A native Austinite, Stephanie joined Ballet Austin in 2013, working with the Butler Center for Dance & Fitness and the Ballet Austin Academy for 9 years. She joins the creative services team with a background in website content management and coding.
Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from The University of Texas at Austin.
Tori Nunn, Video Content Creator
After expanding her background in both dance and filmmaking, Tori Nunn became a member of the Ballet Austin creative services team as Video Content Creator. She spent her early years dancing in the Austin area and continued her training in college, earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance with a minor in English from Sam Houston State University. She combines her knowledge of movement with her passion for film by directing, choreographing, and producing dance films which have premiered and screened at various festivals across the country, including the American Dance Festival and Lake Travis Film Festival. Tori utilizes her performance background to find dynamic and innovative ways for movement to be portrayed on screen, producing engaging video content for the creative services team.
BALLET AUSTIN ACADEMY STAFF
William Piner, Academy Director
Bill Piner graduated from Butler University’s prestigious dance program in 1982 and had a wide and varied professional performing career with companies such as Ballet Austin, the Hartford Ballet and Dance Kaleidoscope, Indiana’s only professional modern company. A member of Actor’s Equity Association, Bill also enjoyed a career in musical theatre before retiring to direct Ballet Austin Academy. He has been teaching extensively since 1982, including seven years on faculty at Butler University’s Jordan College Academy of Dance in Indianapolis. In 1992, Bill was appointed director of the Ballet Austin Academy. Under his direction the Academy has grown to become one of the largest classical ballet schools in the country.
Jennifer Hart, Curriculum Supervisor for Levels 1 – 9
As curriculum supervisor, Jennifer Hart oversees the syllabus for the Ballet Austin Academy’s Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced Divisions. She also teaches all levels of the school as well as Ballet Austin’s Butler Fellowship post-Program and its second company.
In addition to teaching, Hart pursues an active career as a choreographer. Hailed as a choreographer “with an imagination so exuberant that one could not be sure how one movement led to the next” and “not only inventive but heart-rending,” Jennifer Hart has been commissioned by Ballet Austin, Ballet Austin ll, Ballet Nouveau Colorado (now Wonderbound), James Sewell Ballet, Minnesota Dance Theater, The Walker Art Center’s Momentum Series, The McKnight Fellowship for Dancers, Metropolitan Ballet Project, University of Kansas, University of Massachusetts, Lawrence Ballet Theatre, and Merick Strategies for its production of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” and “Icons of Broadway Holiday Spectacular.” Upcoming commissions include Ballet Austin and Halcyon Dance Project in San Francisco, California.
In 2011, Hart was awarded a New York City Ballet Fellowship and won third place at the Saint-Sauveur International Choreography Competition. She received second place at Ballet Nouveau Colorado’s choreography competition and was one of three winners of the University of Kansas’ competitive choreography competition. She was chosen three times to present work at Ballet Builders, New Choreographers on Point in NYC. She was commissioned by the University of Massachusetts in the fall of 2013; the work was chosen for the National College Dance Festival at the Kennedy Center, in June 2014.
In 2014, she formed Performa/Dance with Ballet Austin dancer Edward Carr. Performa/Dance launched its inaugural show. Ignite: Three Works, in June 2014. Her work for Performa/Dance was awarded four Austin Critic’s Table awards for Best Short Work (“On Truth and Love” and “Camille: A Story of Art and Love”), Best Choreographer (“Fellow Travelers” and “Murmuration”), and Best Dance Concert (Ignite: Three Works). Along with her work in concert dance, she has choreographed and performed cabaret shorts for nightclubs and television. She recently choreographed and co-directed the epic Bernstein’s Mass, a work involving 300 performers.
She trained at Minnesota Dance Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet. Her performing career includes Minnesota Dance Theater, Ballet of the Dolls, and L. A Chamber Ballet, as well as independent choreographers.
Katelyn Rustagi, Academy Manager / Pre-Ballet
A native of Beaumont, Texas, Katelyn began her dance training at Beaumont Ballet Theatre and continued through Beaumont Civic Ballet and Texas Ballet Theatre. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Dance, graduating Summa Cum Laude from Oral Roberts University in 2012. After graduation, Katelyn went on to teach ballet at Tulsa Ballet’s Center for Dance Education, and most recently, she has spent the last three years on the faculty at the School of Nashville Ballet where she was the children’s program coordinator and taught ages 2 and up through Level 3 in the Academy. Katelyn strives to make every child feel seen, known and wanted in her classroom.
Samantha Canedy, Academy Manager / Young Children
Growing up in a military household, Samantha has found consistency in her family and a passion for dance. She began dancing at an early age and began a more serious study at Ballet San Antonio under the direction of Mayra Worthen and Julie Morton Simpson. Following graduation from high school, Samantha attend Ballet Austin’s Summer Intensive and was invited to stay for the year-round Pre-Professional program.
While dancing, Samantha began her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Advertising from The University of Texas at Austin. As the Academy Programs Manager for the Young Children’s Division, she hopes to use her skills in communication and personal experience as a dancer to spread the joy of dance and its amazing benefits to future generations.
Siobhan O’Donnell, Academy Registrar
Siobhan studied dance for 13 years, including two summers at Ballet Austin. She also had the pleasure of teaching ballet to students of all ages at the Ballet Conservatory of South Texas from 2013 to 2017. While completing her Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology at the University of the Incarnate Word, Siobhan began working in the group fitness industry. Over the next five years, she gained invaluable experience through teaching Barre classes and managing multiple Boutique Fitness studios in San Antonio. Siobhan will always have a passion for movement and the Arts, so she is thrilled to join the team at Ballet Austin. As Academy Registrar, she hopes to help promote creativity and wellness while assisting students, parents, and staff.
Jessica O’Brien, Academy Administrative Associate
Jessica was born and raised in Austin, Texas, where she trained and performed in musical theatre all around the city. She grew up in Round Rock, Texas and is an alumni of Cedar Ridge High School’s Visual and Performing Arts Academy where she trained under award-winning director and choreographer, Kristie Copeland. Her love for her family and friends has kept her close, as well as her deep roots in the theatre community here in Austin. Her passion for singing, acting, and dancing has cultivated a love for instilling it into the next generation and watching them grow in their bent for the Arts as well. She has worked with many arts education organizations in teaching and administrative roles here in Austin, as well as in New Orleans such as NOLA Microschools, The Paramount Theatre, TexArts and much more! In 2019, Jessica was also The Female Residential Director for Texas Arts Project, a 3-week sleepaway summer intensive for students training in Musical Theatre. She most recently was a Chaperone for Ballet Austin’s 2022 Summer Intensive where she fell in love with the atmosphere Ballet Austin provides for the community at large and within. Jessica hopes to provide a warm and nurturing experience for both the students and their families, as they grow here at Ballet Austin.
BUSINESS ANALYTICS & TICKETING STAFF
Lital Yaacob, Director of Business Analytics & Ticketing
As director of business analytics, Lital is responsible for providing enterprise-level business insights for strategic decision-making, improving operations/efficiencies and identifying potential new market share for Ballet Austin, while identifying potential challenges/ threats in the mid-to-long-range horizons.
Prior to Ballet Austin, Lital worked for the Jewish Federation of Greater Austin as director of outreach & engagement and partnership with Israel, where she helped grow the ties between Austin and the Western Galilee region in Israel and coordinated Ballet Austin’s Tour of Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project to Israel in 2013. As director of outreach & engagement, she served as the first point of contact to newcomers to the community and managed the local chapter of a nationwide literacy program.
Before moving to Austin in 2010, Lital managed strategic procurement projects for the Israeli Cable Company and served as a project manager with high-tech and telecommunication companies.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Tel-Aviv University.
Maureen Cross, Associate Director of Ticketing
As the Associate Director of Ticketing, Maureen Cross, oversees all ticketing operations with a focus on cultivating sales strategies to help develop audiences and maximize revenue. Maureen began her career in ticketing over 20 years ago and has had the honor of working with Ballet Austin on two previous occasions. She holds a BFA in Theater Studies from the University of Texas and an MBA in Digital Media Management from St. Edward’s University.
She has managed ticketing operations for various arts organizations, including the Austin Symphony and the Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston, MA. She spent the last 5+ years working in the corporate sector, where she managed operational teams, worked with clients to implement customer experience programs, and built campaigns focused on converting high-level leads. She has a passion for helping organizations achieve success by focusing on operational efficiencies, customer experience, and innovation. She is excited to return to Ballet Austin and believes that the ticketing experience plays a crucial role in helping to develop life-long patrons.
Jane Trembley, Database Specialist
Bio coming soon!
Paul Petrosky, Ticketing Manager
Paul comes to Ballet Austin with more than 10 years of expertise in customer experience and 4 years of ticketing from his time with the Paramount Theater. He is passionate about serving others and finding creative solutions that make a positive and long-lasting impact. In addition to his dedication to customer service, Paul also finds time to fuel his other passion…dance. From Flashdance to rave kid to ecstatic gatherings, Paul has always felt the most inspired, expansive, and free when moving his body to the beat. He’s channeled these passions into communal and fun dance walks along Austin hike and bike trails. He also holds a BS in Radio-Television-Film from the University of Texas, which he also uses to feed his creativity through various freelance video editing projects.
BUTLER CENTER FOR DANCE & FITNESS STAFF
Vicki Parsons, Director of the Butler Center for Dance & Fitness and Pilates Center
Vicki helped design and develop programming at Ballet Austin that now offers dance, fitness and Pilates classes to over 10,000 adults annually. Through classes, community-based programs, and Ballet Austin’s Be Well strategies, she helps promote best practices for physical and mental health and overall well-being in the Austin community.
Vicki joined Ballet Austin in 1997 after years of experience working in the field of Long Term Care, specifically in direct care as a Recreation Therapist, using therapeutic recreation as a treatment intervention to promote healing and living a healthy and well life. Vicki taught at Austin Community College and worked with several non-profit organizations to develop and present workshops to encourage and empower people through all ages and stages of life. As a Life Coach, promoting healthy living, and “living life to the fullest” continues to be one of her greatest interests and passions.
She holds the professional designations of Certified Brain Health Trainer (CBHT) and Certified Functional Aging Specialist (CFAS) as well as certifications in Senior Fitness Programming, Group Exercise, Advanced Sports Nutrition, and is a certified Fitness Business Manager. Vicki developed curriculum for and teaches Active Aging at Ballet Austin, including Better Balance & Movement, a falls prevention program, as well as other aging classes promoting physical and cognitive functions. In 2015 Vicki implemented the free BeWell Healthy Living Talks and is a requested speaker at area businesses, organizations, and conferences.
Follow Vicki: Twitter @VickiBeActive Instagram @Vicki_BeWell and Ballet Austin’s Be Well Youtube Channel
Vlada Sheber, Pilates Center Program Director
Originally from the Ukraine, Vlada Sheber received her training in classical ballet from the State Classical Ballet College of Russia (Voronezh.) Vlada performed as a soloist in the Donetsk Ballet Theatre before immigrating to the United States. She was a company member with Ballet Austin from 1992-2003.
In 2002, Vlada received her diploma as a Certified Core Connections® Pilates Instructor from the Core Connections® Comprehensive Teacher Training Program at the Pilates Center of Austin. There she studied under Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle.
In 2007 Vlada was named Program Director for Ballet Austin’s Pilates Center, participating in both the original design of the Center and expansion in 2015.
Vlada is a certified Post-Rehabilitative Breast Cancer Exercise Specialist, and has also trained extensively in a physical therapy clinic under Allison Bennett (Women’s Health specialist) which expanded her knowledge of anatomy and Pilates rehabilitation. She has developed Pilates workouts specifically for osteoporosis, scoliosis, and chronic back pain.
Vlada’s knowledge and approach to her practice of Pilates make her a highly requested master Pilates instructor.
Lauren Parra-Faudree, Butler Center for Dance & Fitness Manager
Lauren has a BA in Sociology and Psychology with a Minor in Dance from Skidmore College in Upstate New York. Originally from Austin, Lauren began dancing at the age of 2 and never looked back! She spent her early dance years training in a variety of styles including Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Hip Hop, Contemporary, Lyrical, Modern and Ballroom. In College Lauren continued her dance training in Modern and Ballet, while serving as the Captain of her College Dance Team. It was in college where Lauren began to fall in love with teaching. She was a teaching assistant in the dance department while simultaneously working at a local studio and directing an after school dance program for High Schoolers with Special Needs.
After moving back to Austin in 2013, Lauren taught at a variety of studios in the Austin area while also working as a freelance performer. For many years, Lauren served as the Director of Dance for St. Gabriel’s Catholic School & St. Michael’s Catholic Academy. She was responsible for building dance curriculum for all students ranging from 5-18 years old. Lauren also served as the Head Coach for the Crusaderettes Dance Team for 6 years where she was able to focus on field performance styles while growing and leading a team of young women. She has been a favorite instructor at Ballet Austin for years, and is excited to program for and manage the future programming for the Butler Center for Dance & Fitness.
Lauren’s knowledge of and experience teaching dance, combined with being a lifelong Austinite and her ability to connect with people, make her a great leader for the BCDF team and programming.
Rajiv Awasthi, Customer Experience Team
Rajiv works as a member of the customer experience team. Customer Experience Team members serve as the first point of contact for Ballet Austin’s customers, assisting, providing information, and creating an overall customer experience of excellence.
Aidan Abraham, Customer Experience Team
Aidan works as a member of the Customer Experience Team. Customer Experience Team members serve as the first point of contact for Ballet Austin’s customers, assisting, providing information, and creating an overall customer experience of excellence.
Tal Filossof, Customer Experience and Ticketing Associate
Tal works as a member of the Customer Experience Team. Customer Experience Team members serve as the first point of contact for Ballet Austin’s customers, assisting, providing information, and creating an overall customer experience of excellence. As As Ticketing Associate, Tal is able to help with ticket purchases and other Ballet Austin Box Office transactions.
Michael Owens, Customer Experience Team
Michael works as a member of the customer experience team. Customer Experience Team members serve as the first point of contact for Ballet Austin’s customers, assisting, providing information, and creating an overall customer experience of excellence.
Irina Raleigh, Customer Experience Team
Irina works as a member of the Customer Experience Team. Customer Experience Team members serve as the first point of contact for Ballet Austin’s customers, assisting, providing information, and creating an overall customer experience of excellence.
Pei-San Brown, Director of Education
Pei-San Brown has over 35 years of experience in dance education and 25 years of experience in curriculum and instruction. As Ballet Austin’s Director of Education since 2004, she has successfully: designed and implemented dance, movement, social justice, social-emotional learning (SEL), and mindfulness curricula for schools; developed a comprehensive and tailored approach to professional development for teachers in dance education and team-building; designed and implemented deep and rich audience engagement experiences; and collaborated on Ballet Austin’s strategic planning for the future.
Pei-San holds a Master of Arts in Education with a concentration in Curriculum and Instruction from The University of Texas at Austin, and has completed her doctoral course work in the same field. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Dance Pedagogy and a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences from the University of California at Irvine. She has also holds the title of Kumu Hula, which is equivalent to a graduate degree in the study of hula. She taught undergraduate and graduate education courses at The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education and was the co-founder of an educational research firm. She has been involved in research funded by The Wallace Foundation, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the National Institutes for Child and Human Development (NICHD), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Her publications include The Developmental Benefits of Playgrounds (2004), the CPSC’s Age Determination Guidelines: Relating Children’s Ages to Toy Characteristics and Play Behavior (2002), as well as numerous chapters and articles in the field of early childhood education.
Pei-San is also currently on faculty as a dance instructor at Ballet Austin’s Butler Center for Dance & Fitness. She has danced with Disney Entertainment Arts (Los Angeles), Third Coast Jazz (Austin), Austin Musical Theatre (Austin), Halau Ho’ola Ka Mana O Hawai’i (Dallas and Houston), and as a featured dancer in the movie Miss Congeniality (2000).
Kathleen Rockefeller, Associate Director of Education
Kathleen Rockefeller has worked as an educator for fourteen years in the Austin area. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Louisiana State University in elementary education. She received her Master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from The University of Texas at Austin, and she also holds her school principal certification. She taught Kindergarten, first grade, and fifth grade in Del Valle ISD before becoming an instructional coach with the school district. She also worked as an instructional coach with BetterLesson, a company that offers virtual instructional coaching and professional development for teachers all over the country. Kathleen is originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and studied dance with Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre. She also studied dance at the Rock School for Dance Education (Philadelphia, PA), and spent summers studying with American Ballet Theatre, The Joffrey Ballet School, Lines Ballet School, and Ballet Austin. She also spent a year in the trainee program with Ballet Austin.
Sam Rosas-Mantilla, Education Assistant
Sam Rosas-Mantilla’s experience as a dance educator spans both studio and public school settings, multiple dance genres, and includes curriculum design and implementation. She has taught ballet and jazz, and assisted in Latin dance classes for children ages 4-11. While at the University of Texas at Austin under Dr. Tina Curran’s mentorship, she created and led dance classes and experiences for students ages 11-18. For her student teaching placement with the Austin Independent School District, Sam worked with the Dance Departments at Lamar Middle School Fine Arts Academy and McCallum High School Fine Arts Academy. She also served as a guest choreographer for advanced and company dancers at Lamar and ballet students at McCallum for their spring 2021 performances.
Sam holds a Bachelor of Fine of Arts in Dance Studies with a concentration in Education and a Minor in Educational Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin, and is a Texas Education Agency certified K-12 Dance Educator. She has also worked as a Residential Counselor at American Ballet Theatre’s UT Austin Summer Intensive in 2018, and Boston Ballet School’s Summer Dance Program in 2019 and 2021 as a Senior Residential Counselor. At the University of Texas at Austin, Sam trained in a plethora of contemporary dance styles under Charles O. Anderson, Erica Gionfriddo, and Gesel Mason, and performed with the University of Texas at Austin’s award-winning ensemble Dance Repertory Theatre. She also studied Pilates and Somatics under Andrea Beckham, and mindfulness with Dr. Kirstin Neff.
Rebecca Tulis, EduMoves™ Teaching Artist
Rebecca Tulis began training in ballet, jazz, tap, and gymnastics at the age of 3 in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. She graduated from Creighton University with a B.A. in Psychology. She also continued dancing at Creighton, where she trained with Patrick Roddy in jazz and tap, learning the style of Bob Fosse and performing in pieces such as Steam Heat and Bye Bye Blackbird. For six years in Bury St Edmunds, England, she was the Principal Dancer and Assistant Ballet Mistress for a local company, Anglian Ballet. She made lasting friends from all over the world while “bringing dance to the villages” under the direction of Neil Runswick and guest choreographer, Dominic Marshall. She later earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin, and worked as a caseworker in Kansas and Austin for children and refugees. She also completed a German Language and Culture Intensive Integration Program in Duesseldorf, Germany, where she lived for three years.
Rebecca began teaching dance to students of all ages while still training at her dance studio in Omaha. After finishing her undergraduate degree, she continued teaching elementary school students as an AmeriCorps volunteer at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. One of her most treasured memories is of her students teaching her their traditional Native American dance steps as well as recreated Spice Girls routines. Most recently, she taught dance in Del Valle ISD’s LEAD after-school program at Hornsby-Dunlap Elementary School.
Dance has been a constant thread in Rebecca’s tapestry of life. It facilitates continual growth and development of mind, body and spirit. Dance and movement bring her so much joy. When she is able to help others have a similar experience, a piece of her life’s purpose is realized. “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” So let’s delight in it while we can!
McKenzie Chen, EduMoves™ Teaching Artist
McKenzie Chen is a movement artist and dance educator from Houston, Texas. She holds a BFA in Dance from the University of North Texas and an MA in Dance Education from Hunter College. During her graduate studies, she was a Lincoln Center Scholar and received the Excellence in Dance Education Award. From 2017-2022, she taught for the NYC Department of Education as a full-time K-12 certified dance specialist. She also served as a teaching artist for New York City Ballet and the Coalition for Hispanic Family Services Arts and Literacy Program. McKenzie is an ABT Certified Teacher in Pre-Primary through Level 3 and a graduate of The Foundations of Dance Education from the Dance Education Laboratory at the 92nd St Y. She strives to foster creativity, critical thinking skills, artistry, and a love for movement in her students.
NaKia Whitaker, EduMoves™ Teaching Artist
Raised in East Texas, NaKia began their dance journey on their high school’s dance and drill team. Upon graduating high school, she began studying Dance and Creative Movement at Tyler Junior College. During their time at TJC, NaKia taught ballet to preschoolers at Stepping Stone School in Tyler, and their class had the opportunity to perform in the TJC Dance Department Academy Showcase. She also had the opportunity to lead several summer dance camps for children ranging from ages 4 to 13 years. Upon graduating Tyler Junior College with their Associate of Arts Degree in Dance, NaKia choreographed, collaborated, and released her first video dance performance piece to Shane Koyczan’s “Circle.”
In 2017 NaKia transferred to Texas State University where they continued studying Dance and Dance Education. While at Texas State University, NaKia joined the Orchesis Dance Company for the 2017/18 performance season. Upon leaving Texas State University, NaKia choreographed and performed with various dance groups such as Psalm 149 Dance Ministries and Queer Theatre Texas.
After a brief hiatus from the dance world, NaKia is back in action. They teach dance fitness classes throughout Austin and San Marcos, and also work with 4 to 11-year-old students in the Child Development Center’s CREW afterschool program. She became an EduMoves™ Teaching Artist with Ballet Austin in 2023 and is excited to bring her energy and experience to the team!
Christi Cuellar Lotz, Director of Development
As Director of Development for Ballet Austin, Christi is responsible for overseeing all contributed revenue for the organization. She joined Ballet Austin in 2008 and prior to that, Christi was the Development Director at St. Gabriel’s Catholic School, and managed the completion of a $5 million capital campaign. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, a Master’s in Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Music, all from the University of Texas at Austin. After her first undergraduate degree, Christi worked as a Process Engineer for Procter & Gamble, and following her graduate degree, was a Senior Consultant for Deloitte. Upon completion of her final degree in music, Christi worked for Texas Performing Arts in Development. In 2013, Christi obtained the designation of Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE). She is a 2009 graduate of Leadership Austin’s Essentials Class and is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, having chaired the 2013 Philanthropy Day Awards Luncheon.
Brooke Holmes, Associate Director of Individual Giving
Brooke Holmes joined Ballet Austin in 2004. As senior development manager, Brooke works with individual giving and stewardship and is the staff support for the Ballet Austin Foundation including all aspects of cultivation, solicitation and stewardship. Brooke also oversees the development administrator and database functionality for the development department.
Prior to her current position, Brooke also served as development administrator, development associate and senior development associate with Ballet Austin. In her role as development associate, she was the project manager for the $10.3 million capital campaign for the current home of Ballet Austin, the Butler Dance Education Center.
Brooke holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Southwestern University and is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
Maria Murphy-Mayberry, Senior Development Manager
Maria joined Ballet Austin in 2013 and currently serves as the senior development manager for the organization. In this role, she manages the writing process for all grants, soliciting information and data from all Ballet Austin departments to prepare accurate and effective funding proposals and reports. She also assists with program design and evaluation, researches potential new funding opportunities, maintains contact with foundation and government funders, and manages the timely submission of all funding proposals and reports. Prior to her current position, Maria served as Ballet Austin’s community education associate from 2013-2016 and as the organization’s grants writer from 2014-2016. Maria is a native Austinite and holds a Master of Science in Arts Administration from Drexel University and a Bachelor of Arts with a focus in Dance from Bennington College.
Miranda Cave, Grants & Institutional Giving Associate
Miranda Cave joined Ballet Austin in 2022 as the Development Department’s Grants & Institutional Giving Associate. Miranda is excited to serve the mission of Ballet Austin in this role by growing support for the organization’s innovative and diverse programs through grant writing, grants management and the stewardship of institutional donors and partners. Prior to Ballet Austin, Miranda held associate and leadership positions in non-profit development and enterprise IT account management, with extensive experience in grant writing, program evaluation and strategic communications. She is from the Central Texas area and holds a BA in Government from The University of Texas at Austin.
Claire Coker, Development Administrator
Bio coming soon!
FINANCE AND HR STAFF
Emily McLaughlin, Finance & Administrative Associate
Emily McLaughlin holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ballet Performance from the University of Utah. In her last year of school (2009-2010), she joined Ballet Austin II to dance professionally while completing her degree. Emily danced professionally with Ballet Austin II, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, and Dominic Walsh Dance Theater. Upon the conclusion of her professional ballet career, she became a 500 R-YTT Yoga Teacher. She moved on to use her ballet and yoga background to manage a local Austin fitness studio and help it thrive.
Emily was thrilled to return to Ballet Austin and serve the community as Academy Registrar in July 2019 where she worked to enroll students for the Academy and Young Children’s Division (YCD), communicate with parents, and help nurture the ballet dreams of young dancers. She currently is the Finance & Administrative Associate assisting in all financial and administrative functions of Ballet Austin.
Billie Bledsoe, Operations Director
Bio coming soon!
Bill Sheffield, Director of Production / Stage Manager
Bill Sheffield’s long tenure with Ballet Austin extends back to the 1980s when he served as the first director of production for the organization. In 1990 Sheffield became the full time Production Manager of the historic Paramount Theatre. Sheffield rejoined the company as production stage manager in 2002 and added the duties as director of production in 2006. An Austin native, Sheffield also produced some of the summer musicals at Zilker Park, including the hits Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Annie Get Your Gun, Into the Woods, and the award-winners Crazy for You and Big River. Sheffield formerly worked with the Austin Musical Theater, where he was stage manager for many of their productions. He has worked with many Austin arts groups, serving as stage manager, lighting designer or master electrician. Some of these groups include Austin Opera, Bruce Wood Dance, Dance Salad, Conspirare, Roy Lozano Ballet Folklorico, Zilker Theatre Productions, Austin Shakespeare Festival, Slavin-Nadal Dance, Austin Dance Ensemble, Austin Repertory Theatre, and Tapestry. More recently, Sheffield help found the Production Managers Affinity Group with Dance USA serving as its chair for two years.
Alexey Korygin, Wardrobe Master
Alexey Korygin was born in Donetsk City, Ukraine. He earned a master’s degree in Fine Arts from the Kiev State Ballet School of the Ukraine, and following his graduation in 1984, he danced with Donetsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater as a soloist and toured extensively throughout the USSR, Europe and United States.
In 1992 after auditioning in New York, Korygin joined and danced for four seasons with Ballet Austin. At the same time, he began designing and building costumes for the company. In 1996, Korygin finished his dancing career and assumed the position of Ballet Austin’s wardrobe master. His costumes can be seen in Stephen Mills My Wall of Names and Bolero, as well as Lambros Lambrou’s Remembrances, Lady of the Camellias, Evolution of An Angel: Part II, Homecoming and Ulysses. He is also credited for his costumes in Ballet Austin’s production of Fokine’s Les Sylphides, Balanchine’s Pas de Dix, the pas de deux from Le Corsaire, and the principal costumes for Ballet Austin’s Swan Lake production.
In 1996, Ballet Austin unveiled a new production of The Nutcracker with costumes designed by Tommy Bourgeois; Korygin masterfully constructed and 40 of the new costumes, while also building all of the costumes for Not Afraid of the Dark-The Show that Glows!® in 2001. Additionally, Korygin has served as resident costume designer and co-designer for Ballet Austin’s New American Talent/Dance competition and has designed and co-designed costumes for 32 full-length and one-act ballets, while supervising costume construction and wardrobe operations for more than 100 Ballet Austin productions.
During the 2016/17 season, Korygin, who lives in Austin with his wife, Inga Lujerenko, and their son, Nikolay, will celebrate his 25th year with Ballet Austin.
Steven Myers, Operations Stage Manager
Steven Myers joined Ballet Austin in 2010 and works with Ballet Austin’s main company as well as Ballet Austin II and the Butler Fellowship program participants for their performances. Myers travels with the Ballet Austin II and the Butler Fellows for numerous educational outreach performances, bringing the arts to area schools. In addition, Myers also works with many local performing arts organizations, such as Kathy Dunn Hamrick, Cheryl Chaddick, and SoCo Women’s Chorus and serves as the resident lighting designer for Performa/Dance.
Prior to joining Ballet Austin, Myers spent 12 years as the production stage manager for the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. While in Aspen, he toured the world as well as theaters both big and small. Highlights included tours of Israel, Italy, Greece, and France, as well as working with notable choreographers, such as Jorma Elo, Nicolo Fonte, Cayetano Soto, Helen Pickett, Twyla Tharp, David Parsons, Moses Pendleton, and Trey McIntyre.
Tony Tucci, Lighting Designer
Residing in Austin, Tony Tucci has been the resident lighting designer for Ballet Austin’s repertory, for more than 25 years and also currently serves as resident lighting designer/director for Ben Stevenson’s Texas Ballet Theater and Bruce Wood Dance. Tucci created the lighting designs for Bernstein’s Mass at the Long Center in June 2018. In September 2018, Tucci will design a new production of Cinderella, choreographed by Ben Stevenson for the National Ballet of China. Tucci has created designs for national and international dance companies: Mejia International Ballet, Washington Ballet, Houston Dance Salad, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Colorado Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Cirque Ziva, the Golden Dragon Acrobats, National Ballet of Canada, Royal Danish Ballet, Winnipeg and Swedish Ballets, Hong Kong Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre, Ballet Contemporaneo de Caracas, Christopher Bruce’s Kingdom- Geneva Ballet, Flemming Flindt’s Caroline Mathilde and Lucifer’s Daughter-Royal Danish Ballet. Tucci has designed for musical theater, including Austin productions of Damn Yankees, Carousel, West Side Story, Annie, Gypsy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Music Man, Oklahoma, A Chorus Line, Carousel, and Sound of Music as well as Charles Duggan’s productions of Dames at Sea in San Francisco and at the Goodspeed Opera House. For 1996 Summer Olympics, Tucci designed for the Cultural Olympiad, showcasing national and international companies. He is the recipient of two Iden Payne Awards and Critics Table awards for lighting in Austin.
Brad Wilson, Associate Production Manager
Brad has worked on Austin’s smallest and largest stages, having been involved in the city’s theater scene in one capacity or another since the early 1990s. From acting in and writing plays to designing lights to building opera scenery, he’s tried almost every aspect of live theater. Except directing and wardrobe, both of which scare him a little. He first worked as a stagehand for Ballet Austin in 2005 and joined the production staff in 2015. Longtime fans of Ballet Austin might recognize him as the magical bed at the end of The Nutcracker, a role he’s pretty sure he played longer than any other stagehand in the history of the old set. During his career he also earned a Bachelor’s degree in Labor History from the National Labor College and a Master’s in Creative Writing from St. Edwards University. But neither of those paths could keep him away from the stage for very long. As the Associate Production manager he spends most of his time adding to and managing the company’s performance video archives, maintaining the rehearsal studios, and building the occasional piece of scenery.
Miriam Jurgensen, Ballet Austin II Head of Wardrobe
Miriam Jurgensen is a native Austinite with a B.A. in Theater Arts Technology and a B.A. in Graphic Design from St. Edward’s University. She has an M.F.A. in Costume Technology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also completed the Costume Intensive Course at the Northern College of Costume in York, England. She has spent her career thus far working in theater, dance, film, and television as a stitcher, draper, crafts person, dresser, and costume shop manager. Most recently, Miriam was a draper for the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana, IL and Hope Summer Repertory Theatre in Holland, MI as well as the costume shop manager for the Summer Repertory Theatre Festival in Santa Rosa, CA. She was previously a stitcher and dresser for Ballet Austin from 2013-2016. She has been the head of wardrobe for BA II and the company shoe manager since 2019.
Joshua Piper, Pianist Manager
Since 2011, Joshua has worked as Pianist Manager for Ballet Austin where he accompanies dance classes and manages accompanist schedules for the Company, Academy, and the Butler Center for Dance & Fitness. In addition to his work as a ballet pianist, he tunes and maintains the studio pianos, and trains pianists in the nuances of playing for dance. Joshua has released six albums of ballet class music which can be found online. His work has been commissioned for choreographic projects for the Butler Fellows, Ballet Zaida, SUNY Purchase, and Ventana Ballet. Outside of dance, Joshua has worked for The Vintage 15 big band, Doctor Mistuh Productions, River City Pops, and Asbury United Methodist Church. In 2020 he composed and recorded an original soundtrack for the documentary “Finding Light.” Joshua holds a B.A. in Piano Performance from Bethel College. When he is not playing for ballet classes, Joshua regularly uploads original piano arrangements and tutorials to his YouTube channel, heavypiano.
Stevie Sparks, Accompanist
Stevie received their music degree from Knox College, where they served as the saxophone Section Leader of the Knox Jazz Ensemble. Upon returning to Texas, they worked in a variety of roles at places such as Conspirare, Austin Chamber Music Center, and Greater Austin Music Academy. They joined Ballet Austin as an accompanist in 2018, and now play for a number of other companies in the Austin area. They enjoy adapting all kinds of music for classes, from jazz to pop songs to video game soundtracks.
As a multi-instrumentalist, Stevie is also a member of two local bands: Oh Antonio & His Imaginary Friends (sax, flute) and Sheilava (sax, piano, flute). They have worked on several projects as a guest performer, session musician, and composer, and are always looking to take on new musical challenges. Their work as a solo musician can be found on YouTube under the name SymphonicElectric.
Ben Tibbetts, Accompanist
Ben Tibbetts (born 1989) is a professional pianist and composer working in the Austin area.
As a piano accompanist, Ben specializes in collaborative performance and high-level improvisation. He is a former staff accompanist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he performed with students on dozens of recitals, classes, masterclasses, and private lessons every semester. Ben is a regular accompanist for classes at Ballet Austin and a frequent performer for local events, including weekly services at the Trinity Church of Austin.
Ben teaches piano and composition lessons at Timbral Music Studios, the Armstrong Community Music School, and Premier Music Academy.
Ben is an active composer, arranger, and audio producer; his work has been featured in films, video games, and broadcast radio performances.