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Ballet Austin Academy

Academy Staff

William Piner, Academy Director

bill.piner@balletaustin.org

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.

Katelyn Rustagi, Programs Manager & Resident Faculty

katelyn.yeary@balletaustin.org

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.

Siobhan O’Donnell, Academy Registrar

registrar@balletaustin.org

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.

Joshua Piper, Pianist Coordinator

pianistcoordinator@balletaustin.org

Since 2011, Joshua has worked as Pianist Coordinator 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.

Academy Faculty

Michelle Martin, Associate Artistic Director and Academy Curriculum 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 JulietThe NutcrackerThe 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.

Jennifer Hart, Ballet Instructor and Curriculum Director for Levels 1-5

As curriculum director, Jennifer Hart oversees syllabus for the Ballet Austin Academy’s lower school. She also teaches all levels of the school as well as Ballet Austin’s Fellowship post-graduate 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 Choreographer’s on Point in NYC. She was commissioned by University of Massachusetts in the fall of 2013; the work was chosen for the National College Dance Festival at the Kennedy Center, 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.

Max Azaro, Company Dancer and Ballet Instructor

Max began dancing under Risa Kaplowitz, Director of Princeton Dance and Theater (PDT) Studio in Princeton, N.J. He began performing at age 12 with Princeton Youth Ballet. In 2014 Max began studying at American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School after winning a full scholarship through Youth American Grand Prix. He trained at the JKO School from 2014-2017, first under Franco De Vita and then Cynthia Harvey. While at the JKO school, Max performed Jeremy McQueen’s original work, Garden of Dreams, at the Ballet Across America Gala. He performed the Paquita Grand Pas de Deux and George Balanchine’s La Source at JKO’s year-end performance. In 2016 Max was awarded the prestigious Northern Trust Scholarship. Max spent his summers at PDT, Orlando Ballet School, the Chautauqua Institute, and American Ballet Theatre, N.Y. He also studied at the Amsterdam International Summer School, IBStage in Barcelona, and International Ballet Masterclasses in Prague.

Ian J. Bethany, Company Dancer and Ballet Instructor

Ian J. Bethany is from Long Island, N.Y. He started dancing as a tap and jazz student at Robert Mann Dance Centre. He started ballet at the age of 12 at Tap to Pointe Dance Center. Ian then went on to train at the Frank Ohman School of Ballet, at the School of Ballet Chicago with Daniel Duell and Patricia Blair, at Ballet Academy East with Darla Hoover and Francis Patrelle, and then as a full scholarship student in the Professional Division of Pacific Northwest Ballet School with Peter Boal, Elaine Bauer, Marjorie Thompson, Bruce Wells, and Nicholas Ade. With Ballet Austin, Ian has enjoyed performing in George Balanchine’s Agon and Allegro Brillante, Nicolo Fonte’s Lasting Imprint, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Requiem for a Rose, Gabrielle Lamb’s Dovetail, Bradley Shelver’s The Last Just, Stephen Mills’ Carmina Burana, The Magic Flute, and The Nutcracker, and the Bluebird Pas de Deux in The Sleeping Beauty. Ian has performed with project-based company Performa/Dance, has sung with the Austin Opera, was seen as Dream Curly in Zilker Theatre Production’s presentation of Oklahoma!, and does numerous juggling gigs around Austin. He also teaches in the Ballet Austin Academy. Ian would like to thank Jesus Christ, his wife, Grace, and his family for the support they give him each day.

Alexa Capareda, Ballet Master — Ballet Austin II and Butler Fellows, and Ballet Instructor

Alexa was born in the Philippines, where she began her dance training at Ballet Regina, following the Royal Academy of Dance curriculum. At age 16, Alexa started a three-year traineeship with Ballet Austin while attending college at the University of Texas. She attended the study program of the Ecole Superieure de Ballet Contemporain de Montreal in Canada, where she trained under renowned classical and contemporary artists and performed with Le Jeune Ballet du Quebec in works by Gioconda Barbuto, Shaun Hansell, and Jean-Louis Morin. While in Montreal, she performed as a guest soloist with Ballet Ouest in their production of “The Nutcracker.” In 2011, Alexa joined Mario Radacovsky’s newly formed contemporary company, Balet Bratislava, in Slovakia, as one of 16 original company members. Aside from working with Radacovsky on the company’s repertoire of neoclassical and contemporary works, Alexa had the privilege of performing Jiri Kylian’s Falling Angels and Six Dances and performing creations by Libor Vaculik, Sarka Ondrisova, and Jan Durovcik.

Alexa has extensive training in dance and choreography, having participated in top-notch summer programs and workshops at Springboard Danse Montreal, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Northwest Dance Project. Shortly before leaving Balet Bratislava, Alexa received 3rd place in the 2013 Festival of Choreographic Miniatures choreography competition held in Belgrade, Serbia.

Alexa has been teaching ballet and contemporary at Ballet Austin’s Butler Center for Dance & Fitness since 2013. She also dances professionally with Austin-based Arcos Dance, and has performed with Andrea Beckham Dance Collaborative and Jennifer Hart’s Performa/Dance. Alexa received a BA in English with high honors from the University of Texas-Austin in 2015.

McKenzie Chen, Young Children’s Division Instructor

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. For the past five years, 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.

Danielle Cortier, Pre-Ballet Instructor

Danielle is originally from South Bend, Indiana. After graduating from Ball State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance Performance and a minor in Dance Education, she moved to NYC where she worked as a freelance performer and dance educator for 13 years. On top of freelance performance work, she danced with several companies including Eidolon Ballet in Concert and Mariana Bekerman Dance Company. She has performed all over NYC and the East Coast, including the Lincoln Center “Out of Doors” Festival, Jacob’s Pillow, and City Center Studios. She has also performed abroad in Japan. Danielle’s national credits include back up dancing for Twenty One Pilots on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Teaching has always been a large part of her life, and she taught at Ballet Academy East on the Upper East Side during her time in NYC. Danielle enjoys teaching students of all ages in many forms of dance including Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Modern, and Contemporary. She has been a Dancer, Assistant Choreographer, and US Company Manager with Keiko Fujii Dance Company based in Osaka, Japan since 2015.

Katie Deuitch, Company Dancer and Ballet Instructor

Katherine is originally from St. Paul, Minn. She began her pre-professional training at Minnesota Dance Theatre under Lise Houlton. She became an apprentice with MDT in 2013, where she danced works by Loyce Houlton, Lise Houlton, Elliot Feld, and Emery LeCrone, among others. In 2014, she was invited to attend the School of American Ballet. While at SAB, she participated in multiple Choreographic Institute’s where she originated roles by Dana Genshaft and Peter Walker. She also appeared in SAB’s annual Workshop performance in Jerome Robbins’ Fanfare as well as George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments. As an apprentice with Ballet Austin, she has had the opportunity to dance works by Stephen Mills, Michelle Thompson, Thang Dao and Septime Webre. Most recently, she appeared in Jennifer Hart’s Fellow Travelers with Performa/Dance.

Lisa Del Rosario

Lisa del Rosario, Pre-Ballet and Ballet Instructor

Lisa del Rosario began her dance studies at the Margo Marshall School of Ballet and the Cleveland San Jose School of Ballet. She continued her training as a Heywood “Woody” McGriff Presidential Scholarship student at the University of Texas at Austin where she received her BFA in Dance. She also studied classical piano and violin for many years and in her later years Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, qigong, Droznin System, Vipassana Meditation, and the Feldenkrais Method® of movement education. She currently is a member of DA! Theatre Collective and Sheep Army/Elsewhere Dance Theatre, and also performs her own solo work, along with independent choreographers, locally, nationally, and internationally. Lisa has taught and choreographed at the Dougherty Arts School, the McCallum High School Fine Arts Academy, Tapestry, and the Texas Arts Project at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. Lisa is thrilled to be teaching at Ballet Austin Academy.

Aisling DiRico, Ballet Instructor

Aisling began training at the age of 6 at Ballet Austin Academy, then continuing on at The University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She trained under many great teachers including Melissa Hayden and Nina Danilova. After graduating from the high school program, Aisling began her professional career with the Kansas City Ballet. During her 15-year professional career, she performed in many ballets including principal and soloist roles in classical favorites such as The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Giselle. Some of her personal favorites were Afternoon of a Faun, The Concert by Jerome Robbins, Agon, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Slaughter on 10th Avenue by George Balanchine, and The Dying Swan by Mikhail Fokine (staged by Elaine Bauer).

Aisling began teaching in 2003 at Kansas City Ballet’s summer program in Crested Butte Colorado and immediately fell in love. Watching her students learn and thrive was invigorating and gave her a sense of pride and admiration. Aisling’s teaching credits include Kansas City Ballet Academy, Dance Works Academy, and the Kansas School of Classical Academy where she had the pleasure of teaching students from around the globe. Aisling is extremely excited to be a part of the Ballet Austin faculty and to be able to share her knowledge with the next generation of dancers at her Alma Mater.

Alexis “Lexi” Eicher, Ballet Austin II Company Member and Young Children’s Division Instructor

Alexis “Lexi” Eicher is a current dancer in her second season with Ballet Austin II. She grew up in Fort Wayne, IN where she began both her dance training and her teaching career, undertaking many children’s classes at multiple studios during high school. In 2021, she graduated from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music with a Bachelor of Science in Ballet & Psychology. During college, she performed works by renowned choreographers such as George Balanchine, Antony Tudor, Martha Graham, Jerome Robbins, and Christopher Wheeldon. She also took three years of ballet pedagogy courses and taught the Pre-College Program’s Introductory to Ballet classes. She moved to Austin in the fall of 2021 and is beyond excited to share her love of ballet and passion for teaching with the young children of Austin.

Leslie Ellingburg, Pre-Ballet & Young Children’s Division Instructor

Leslie Ann Ellingburg (she/her) is a trauma-informed movement educator who is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine, has a degree in Exercise Science from East Tennessee State University, and is a certified Yoga instructor, and completed a trauma-informed certification through Yoga 4 Trauma. Leslie has over fifteen years of working in the dance & wellness industry. Leslie has taught dance to a variety of age groups primarily working with Pre-Ballet & Early Elementary divisions and working as a coach for act & performance development. Her approach and teaching philosophy are rooted in the notion that we are all dancers. Dance and movement are part of who we are, they can help us express ourselves when words fail, and they can heal what hurts us. She also believes in honoring every person in her classes–seeing them as individuals, making sure that everyone feels welcome, safe, and loved. When not teaching she works as a performing artist, studies aerial & circus arts on the Lyra apparatus spends time with her dog Winston, enjoys all of the arts, and coffee, and loves to travel and experience what the world has to offer.

LB Flett, Young Children’s Division Instructor

LB (Laura Beth) is a performer, choreographer, and dance educator from Louisiana currently residing in Austin, Texas. She has been training in all types of dance, primarily ballet and contemporary, for 17 years. She recently graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and a Business Foundations certificate. As a member of UT’s Dance Repertory Theatre, she has performed in works by renowned choreographers such as Ananya Chatterjea, Charles O. Anderson, and Adrienne Hurd. More recently, she has choreographed pieces for UT’s Dance Repertory Theatre, and is now choreographing and performing with interdisciplinary performance group TC Superstar. LB is dedicated to teaching and inspiring young dancers to be healthy, creative, and conscientious individuals.

James Fuller, Company Dancer and Ballet Instructor

James Fuller is from Irvine, Calif., and was trained at Ballet Pacifica Conservatory. In 2004, James received a Youth America Grand Prix scholarship to study at the Boston Ballet School, where he completed his final year of training. James apprenticed with Oregon Ballet Theatre for a year before enrolling at Harvard University. At Harvard, James performed works by choreographers such as Paul Taylor, Martha Graham, George Balanchine, and Alvin Ailey. In the summers, James studied modern dance with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, American Dance Festival, and Beijing LDTX. James directed the Harvard Ballet Company in 2009 and graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of the Arts in Philosophy, a secondary field in dramatic arts, and a language citation in Urdu-Hindi. Since joining Ballet Austin, James has performed in original works by Stephen Mills, including Though the Earth Gives Way and Four Mortal Men, danced the role of Albrecht in Giselle and the main pas de deux in Christopher Wheeldon’s Ghosts, performed with the National Choreographers Initiative, and choreographed for Houston City Dance.

Aubree Hamby, Young Children’s Division Instructor

Aubree has spent most of her life submerged in the dance world. Growing up in North Austin, her training began at age 3 on competition teams and her favorite and most recent experience was dancing down Main Street USA in the parades at Disneyland. Beyond performing, Aubree has taught ballet to kids ages 1yr-7yr in Southern California and has taught multiple dance styles to kids aged 2yr-13yr in North Austin.

She believes that children have a natural excitement and curiosity that make teaching fun and when you pair that with dance, the imagination can make anything come to life. Finding joy in movement and expression has always been important to her and she strives to share that with her students.

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Kanning, Ballet Instructor

Growing up in Washington state, Elizabeth began her ballet education at Ballet Bellevue and trained with Pacific Northwest Ballet School during her high school years. She has danced with Oregon Ballet Theater II, Ballet Austin II, and Ballet Tucson where she has performed classical and contemporary roles in works by George Balanchine, Christopher Wheeldon, August Bournonville, and Stephen Mills, among others. She has also spent summers training with Boston Ballet, NW Dance Project, and Danceworks Chicago.

Brenda Susanto Madsen, Young Children’s Division Instructor

Brenda Susanto Madsen was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she began dancing as a young child and teaching at age 18, both following  the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) method. In addition to studying classical ballet in Indonesia, she also trained at Danzamania Pergine in Trento, Italy, and the Federal Academy of Ballet in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. After finishing law school in 2008, Brenda decided to follow her passion in life and founded her own dance studio. There she led teachers trained in the RAD curriculum and choreographed 25+ performances, including annual performances at The Jakarta Art Building – the city’s iconic center for the performing arts. Brenda ran her school until moving to the United States to join her husband in 2016.  She is very excited to bring her 15+ years of experience working with young children to the Ballet Austin community. Brenda finds it extremely rewarding to teach children how to grow as dancers and ultimately become beautiful individual human beings outside of the dance studio.

Grace Morton, Company Dancer and Ballet Instructor

Grace Morton is from Seattle, Wash. She received her early training from Vivian Little and Mary Reardon, school directors of Dance Fremont. In 2010 she began training under the direction of Damara Bennett in Oregon Ballet Theater’s professional division. She had the chance to tour to Korea and performed in company productions of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker and Nicolo Fonte’s world premiere of Petrushka. As a member of Ballet Austin II, she enjoyed performing featured roles in Stephen Mills’ Luminaria, Jennifer Hart’s Wavemakers, and Nelly Van Bommel’s Snow White. After joining the company, Grace has performed roles in classical ballets such as French in Stephen Mills’ The Nutcracker, Puss ‘n Boots in The Sleeping Beauty, and Four Little Swans in Swan Lake. She has also had the pleasure to appear in George Balanchine’s Agon, Stephen Mills’ One/the body’s grace, Gabriel Lamb’s Dovetail, James Gregg’s The Space Between, and Jennifer Hart’s To Here. Grace has danced in project-based company Performa/Dance, and appeared in Zilker Theatre Production’s presentation of Oklahoma! as Dream Laurie. She is also a teacher in the Ballet Austin Academy.

Isabella Phillips, Company Dancer and Ballet Instructor

Born in Fremont, Calif., Isabella trained at San Francisco Ballet. At 15 she continued at Ballet San Jose under José Manuel Carreño where she performed in the U.S. premiere of Alicia Alonso’s Giselle. At 17 she joined The New Ballet Studio Company under Dalia Rawson Hughes. In fall 2017, she was a trainee with Smuin Ballet. Summer training included Joffrey Ballet Chicago, National Ballet of Cuba’s Yoira Esquivel Brito and Amparo Brito, and Ellison Ballet. Her Ballet Austin II credits include the Grand Pas from Paquita, Joshua Manculich’s Menagerie, Jimmy Orrante’s Ugly Duckling, and Stephen Mills’ The Nutcracker and Giselle.

Priscilla Pope, Butler Fellow and Young Children’s Division Instructor

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. Priscilla has trained with world-renowned instructors such as Jenifer Ringer, James Fayette, Seth Belliston, Romy Zippora, Kelly-Anne Sloan, Corrine Glover, Carol Guidry, and Fabrice Camels. She has received numerous scholarships; including the Eurotard 2019 sponsorship, and EJ Busser scholarships for dance. Priscilla has also placed and participated at numerous dance competitions including California Dance Classics, YAGP, and the RAD Dance Challenge. Priscilla has also grown-up training dancers, cross-training athletes, and teaching children technical ballet. She studied under Tawny Gentry, learning the joys of teaching, and found her passion as a dance instructor. She is currently a Butler Fellow with Ballet Austin, and teaches in the Young Children’s Division.

Melissa Roetker, Young Children’s Division Instructor

Melissa began her dance training in San Diego, California. She first performed professionally with City Ballet of San Diego and began teaching children’s classes locally. She furthered her training with summer programs at the School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell, Miami City Ballet, and NW Dance Project. Melissa relocated to Miami to dance with Miami City Ballet in their pre-professional division where she had the opportunity to perform several ballets by George Balanchine and August Bournonville. After attending a summer program at Ballet Austin, Melissa was invited to join Ballet Austin II for the 2012/2013 season as an apprentice and performed works by Stephen Mills, Jennifer Hart, Nelly van Bommel, and August Bournonville. Since 2013, Melissa has been teaching dancers of all ages throughout Austin and the surrounding areas. She joined the Ballet Austin Academy in June of 2019 and is excited to share her love of dance with her students.

Sam Rosas-Mantilla, Young Children’s Division Instructor & Community 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 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 currently holds the title of Ballet Austin’s Community Education Assistant, where she assists in curriculum writing and implementation, and is a substitute Teaching Artist in Ballet Austin’s kinesthetic learning program, EduMoves ™, for elementary age public school students.  She also teaches contemporary and ballet master classes for middle schools and high schools with the Community Education Department at Ballet Austin.

Alison Spell, Young Children’s Division Instructor

Born and raised in Austin, TX, Alison discovered her love for movement when she took her first dance class at the age of 5 years old. Over the course of her training, she became proficient in ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, and pointe. By the time she reached high school, she was traveling and earning awards state-wide with her studio’s invitation-only company performance team.

After graduating high school, she continued her dance education at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland where she deepened her understanding of dance fundamentals and developed her pedagogical practice. Eventually, she returned to the states and leaped into using her newfound knowledge to create her own dance classes.

This was a pivotal experience in Alison’s dance journey, as she uncovered her passion for teaching and working with children. Subsequently, she transferred to the College of Education at the University of Texas in Austin and earned her degree in Applied Learning and Development in 2014.

Since then, Alison has allowed her passion for movement and education to guide her professionally. She’s worn many hats over the course of her 12-year career: professional dancer, barre & Pilates instructor, preschool teacher, and most recently, manager of a children’s dance academy in Los Angeles, CA; but where she feels most at home is in the dance studio, sharing the joys of dance with her students.

From once a tiny dancer herself, twirling in the aisles at Ballet Austin performances growing up, to now joining its faculty as the Young Children’s Division dance teacher, Alison is honored to bring her knowledge, experience, and passion for dance to the students and families of Ballet Austin

Jessica Stroh

Jessica Stroh, Young Children’s Division Instructor

Jessica Stroh is a dancer, choreographer, and teacher originally from Ocala, Fla. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of South Florida in 2015. Under scholarships, Jessica further trained with Bodytraffic, Repertory Dance Theatre, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, and USF’s Dance in Paris Program. In 2016, Jessica moved to New York City where she had the honor of working and collaborating with Colleen Thomas Dance, Dugal Dance Projects, Alexeya EM, Rosie DeAngelo, Bryce Dance Company, and BodyStories: Teresa Fellion Dance. In NYC, Jessica had the privilege of teaching with Greenhouse Arts Center and Global Community Charter School. Jessica has choreographed, performed, and taught in NYC, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Paris, France. She is the recipient of Brooklyn-based Spoke the Hub’s 2018 People’s Choice Award where she presented an evening-length work with collaborator Laura Mobley. Jessica now resides in Austin, Texas, and joyfully teaches and creates with her performance company, Alt Project, alongside co-founder, Laura Mobley and is thrilled to be joining the Ballet Austin Young Children’s Division.

Christopher Swaim, Ballet Austin Rehearsal Director and Ballet Instructor

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.

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