Departments and Staff
Executive Leadership Team
Stephen Mills, 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 contemporary 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 became a Ballet Austin Academy instructor in 2015, has since assisted in restaging ballets by Stephen Mills, Nelly van Bommel, Nick Kepley, Thang Dao, and Jimmy Orrante for Ballet Austin II, and has created original pieces for the Butler Fellowship Program. Capareda also works as a dance artist with Jennifer Hart’s Performa/Dance, ARCOS, BLiPSWiTCH, Jennifer Sherburn, and Magdalena Jarkowiec. She is co-producer and performing artist with Frank Wo/Men Collective, and her solo work has been featured in collaborations with sound artists/musicians Steve Parker, Brent Baldwin, Lynn Lane’s Houston- based Transitory Sound and Movement Collective, Austin Camerata, and LOLA Austin. In 2017, Capareda received an Austin Critics Table Award for Excellence as a Dancer. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, and a minor in Theater and Dance from the University of Texas at Austin.
Creative Services Staff
Paul Michael Bloodgood, Associate Director / Film & Video Production
Before joining Ballet Austin as Associate Director of Film & Video Production, 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, multiple episode appearances on seasons 5-7 of FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, and the upcoming feature film FREE DEAD OR ALIVE. 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 music video for the film LOSER. Executive produced by James Moll (FOO FIGHTERS: BACK AND FORTH), Paul Michael’s feature film TRENCHES OF ROCK had its world premiere at the Atlanta Film Festival, garnering the attention of festivals worldwide, receiving 12 accolades including multiple “Best Feature Documentary” and “Best Director” awards. Paul Michael collaborated with choreographer Stephen Mills on the dance film project PRELUDES/BEGINNINGS to critical acclaim. 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.
Graham Emmons, Associate Director / Graphic Design
After working as a freelance graphic designer for arts non-profits, including the Bowdoin International Music Festival, Windy City Playhouse, and the Athenaeum Theatre, Graham Emmons joined Ballet Austin in August 2019 as the creative services manager / graphic designer.
Emmons graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and moved to Chicago where he worked as a stage and commercial actor. He was seen in many plays and world premieres in many states across the nation, including: Illinois, New York, Iowa, Maine, Missouri, Colorado, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Emmons can be found in some indie films as well as commercials airing across the United States.
Boo Wong, Associate Director / Marketing & Communications
Boo Wong is a classically trained dancer and Pilates instructor, who uses her knowledge of the inside workings of the dance and fitness business to help promote and develop all revenue sources under the Ballet Austin umbrella with a specific focus on digital marketing and communications and creative services. She was the executive assistant to Jacqui Schraad of the Heritage Society of Austin, where she learned skills pertaining to fundraising and community outreach. She has been brought on as a consultant for several fitness businesses to help create more revenue streams and secure fiscal health, as well as training teachers and managers. She spent her first seven years with Ballet Austin creating new classes and marketing strategies to drive business as the organization was moving into its current downtown location.
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.
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.
Katelyn Yeary, Programs Manager & Ballet Instructor
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.
Emily McLaughlin, Academy Registrar
Emily McLaughlin joins Ballet Austin as the Academy Registrar. She will oversee enrollment for Ballet Austin Academy and the Young Children’s Division, lead communication with parents regarding scheduling and tuition, and overall nurture the ballet dreams of young dancers.
Emily holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Ballet Performance from The University of Utah and while completing the last year of her studies, began her professional career with Ballet Austin. Emily danced professionally with Ballet Austin II, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and Dominic Walsh Dance Theater. Upon the conclusion of her career, she pursued a 500 R-YTT Yoga Teacher Certification to help others attain a positive mind-body connection to lead happier, healthier lives. Emily moved on to use her ballet and yoga background to manage a local Austin fitness studio and was influential in its continued success.
Joshua Piper, Pianist Coordinator
In his role as pianist coordinator for Ballet Austin, Joshua Piper accompanies dance classes and manages accompanist schedules for the Ballet Austin Company, Ballet Austin Academy, and the Butler Center for Dance & Fitness. In addition to working for Ballet Austin, Joshua is also the pianist for the Tosca Tango Orchestra, works with the Vintage 15 jazz big band, is staff organist and pianist for Asbury United Methodist Church, plays for Royal Academy of Dance exams, and teaches a small group of piano students from kids to adults. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Piano Performance from Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas.
Business Analytics Staff
Lital Yaacob, Director of Business Analytics
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, Box Office Senior Manager
As the Box Office Senior Manager, 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.
Business Development Staff
Billie Bledsoe, Director of Business Development
Bio coming soon!
Samantha Canedy, Business Development Manager
As Business Development Manager, Samantha Canedy is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Business Development department, oversite of MindBody client account management and programming and project management for related strategies of acquisition and retention of the Young Children’s Division (YCD).
Samantha holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The University of Texas at Austin. Upon graduation, she continued her dedication to the performing arts with Youth America Grand Prix. While there, she played a key role in project management for their extensive regional competition tour. As a returning Ballet Austin Pre-Professional Division alumna, Samantha is thrilled to be returning to Ballet Austin and the Business Development team.
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 that now offers dance and fitness classes to over 11,000 adults annually. Health, fitness, and overall wellness are a priority, and through classes, community-based programs, and BeWell (workplace wellness) Talks she helps promote health and 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 improve overall wellness. Vicki taught at Austin Community College and worked with several non-profit organizations to develop and present workshops on health and well-being. As a Life Coach, promoting physical activity and wellness to people of all ages continues to be one of her greatest interests and passions. She is an avid believer that recreation is therapeutic.
She holds the professional designation of Certified Brain Health Trainer (CBHT) 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.
Her advice is simple, “Find your recreation. It’s your life, your health, YOU are in control. Be active. Be resilient, Be well!”
Follow Vicki: Twitter @VickiBeActive Instagram @Vicki_BeWell
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.
Stephanie Locklear Albrecht, Associate Director, Butler Center for Dance & Fitness and Pilates Center
As Associate Director of the Butler Center for Dance & Fitness and the Pilates Center, Stephanie oversees the design, execution, and evaluation of new and ongoing programs that connect the Butler Center for Dance & Fitness and Pilates Center with other Ballet Austin programs and community partners. She manages ongoing research and evaluation of Pilates client acquisition, the client experience, and retention. Stephanie works with the Director to develop ongoing best practices for the Customer Experience Team and MINDBODY management.
Stephanie teaches POUND – Rockout. Workout® and PlyoJam® cardio dance classes at the Butler Center. She is an ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor and a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (FNTP®). She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology from The University of Texas at Austin.
Melody Abraham, Customer Experience Team Coordinator
Melody works as a member of the customer experience team. She is the team leader and coordinates schedules and team spirit. 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.
Max Gorman, Customer Experience Team
Max 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.
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.
Percy Schackmann, Customer Experience Team
Percy 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.
Community Education Staff
Pei-San Brown, Community Education Director
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 Community Education Director 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).
Kayur Patel, EduMoves™ Teaching Artist
Kayur Patel is a teaching artist for Ballet Austin. He began his dance journey in India with folk and Bollywood styles and eventually added hip hop, modern, and jazz to his repertoire after moving to the United States. He currently teaches dance and yoga classes throughout North Austin and also hosts artist workshops in the Austin area. His goal is to integrate art as an outlet and medium into modern healing and educational practices.
Kayur has worked with several artist communities in recent years as a performer and choreographer. He was selected as a featured artist at Austin Community College for his work regarding trauma and racial healing.
Sam Rosas-Mantilla, 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 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 Tullis, 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!
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.
Sarah Johnson, Development Administrator
Sarah is the Development Administrator for Ballet Austin. In this role, she manages Ballet Austin’s CRM database (Tessitura), assists in donor stewardship, and provides administrative support to the Development department.
Sarah graduated Summa Cum Laude from Southwestern University in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and a minor in Anthropology. While completing her studies, she was involved in various nonprofit organizations, including The Georgetown Project, CASA of Williamson County, and Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center.
Sarah is passionate about uplifting and empowering organizations though data-driven philanthropy and is excited to help Ballet Austin achieve its mission.
Maria Murphy-Mayberry, Grants Manager
Maria joined Ballet Austin in 2013 and currently serves as the grants 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.
Samantha Smith, Development Associate
Samantha joined Ballet Austin in 2021. As Development Associate, she works with individual donors and manages donor stewardship events.
Prior to her current position, Samantha worked as Associate Director of Education and Development at the Atlanta Shakespeare Company, where she provided support to a 2.8 million dollar capital campaign, served as the primary grants manager for the Education Department, expanded education programming to new community partners, and worked in classrooms as a Teaching Artist.
Samantha earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Rhodes College in 2014 and a Master of Arts degree in English: Shakespeare in History from University College London in 2015, where her dissertation entitled “‘What Dances Shall We Have?’: Post-1960 Ballet Adaptations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream” allowed her to conduct archival research in ballet performance history at the Royal Academy of Dance and The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. She also holds a 2018 Professional Fundraising Certificate from Boston University Metropolitan College and a 2020 Master of Arts degree in Education in Arts and Cultural Settings from King’s College London.
Finance and HR Staff
Gail Romney, Director of Finance & Administration
Gail Romney joined the staff of Ballet Austin in 1992 as development associate, became business manager in 1996, and is currently director of finance, where she manages and oversees all accounting, budget, audit, and human resources functions.
Gail has Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance from the University of Utah. After a short career performing in New York, Texas, and Mexico City, she developed expertise in the area of arts administration and has more than 30 years experience in the area of nonprofit management and finance. Before coming to Austin, she worked in concert management for the Houston Symphony and was controller for the Houston Grand Opera.
Gail has been a moderator for various local organizations, served as a Peer Panelist for the City of Austin’s Cultural Arts Division, and has been a guest speaker in the Economics Department at the University of Texas. She was most recently named the “Best CFO for a Nonprofit Organization” by the Austin Business Journal. She has served in numerous volunteer positions with civic organizations, and spent 20 years as an active member of the Junior Leagues of Houston and Austin.
Emma Garcia De Alba, Accounting & HR Senior Manager
Emma Garcia De Alba joined the Ballet Austin staff in March 2017. As the accounting and HR manager, her primary responsibilities are supporting the bookkeeping and assisting with human resources functions of the organization. This role entails, recording daily deposits, reconciling all bank accounts, completing payroll, preparing monthly cash flow reports for budget directors, and assisting with enhancements to company culture and development of employee engagement.
Prior to working at Ballet Austin, Emma started her career in property management gaining expertise in proper bookkeeping, budget reporting, payroll, and aided with administrating employee benefits. She worked up the ranks to property manager and successfully handled the day to day financials and operations.
In the past, Emma was a student in the upper-school division at Ballet Austin and volunteered in the Academy office. She is delighted to be back to help support and cultivate the arts community in Austin.
Kent Pool, Operations Director
Kent Pool moved from Houston to Austin in 2009. He joined Ballet Austin from The Contemporary Austin, where he served as the operations assistant for several years. Previously, Kent was an intelligence specialist in the United States Navy, an AmeriCorps crew-member in Alaska, a ranch-hand at an English dressage riding-facility, a sailor, a voice-actor, an avid literary and cinema enthusiast, and even a principle monster in Austin’s own House of Torment. No stranger to the stage, Kent has acted, directed, stage-managed, and haunted the catwalks of multiple college and community theaters around Texas.
Bill Sheffield, Director of Production / Stage Manager
Bill Sheffield had previously served as stage manager for Ballet Austin in the late eighties and when the Company went to The Kennedy Center with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. An Austin native, Bill also produces the summer musicals at Zilker Park, including the recent hits: Crazy for You, Into the Woods and the award-winning Big River. Bill formerly worked with the Austin Musical Theater, where he was stage manager for most of their recent productions. He has worked with many Austin arts groups, including Austin Lyric Opera, ZTP, Austin Shakespeare Festival, Slavin-Nadal Dance, ADE, ART, ZST, Tapestry, Roy Lozano Ballet Folklorico, and many others.
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.
Miriam Jurgensen, Ballet Austin II Head of Wardrobe
Miriam Jurgensen rejoined the Ballet Austin staff in the fall of 2019. She previously worked for the company as a stitcher and dresser from 2013-2016. She is a native Austinite with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater Arts Technology and Graphic Design from St. Edward’s University and a Masters of Fine Arts in Costume Technology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has also completed the Costume Intensive Course at the Northern College of Costume in York, England. Most recently, Miriam has worked as a draper for the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana, Ill., and Hope Summer Repertory Theatre in Holland, Mich. In 2015 and 2017, she was the costume shop manager at the Summer Repertory Theatre Festival in Santa Rosa, Calif. Miriam’s favorite credits include craftsperson for Illinois Theatre’s The Minotaur, draper, and craftsperson for Illinois Theatre’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, draper for The Wiz at Hope Summer Repertory Theatre, and shop manager for South Pacific, Tartuffe, West Side Story, Chicago, and The Drowsy Chaperone at the Summer Repertory Theatre Festival.