Artistic Staff Bios

BBT's Artistic Staff cultivate a spirit of creativity, collaboration, and connectivity among teachers, students, and families

 
 

Robert Dekkers, Artistic Director

Robert Dekkers  coaching BBT’s Studio Company dancers, photo by Natalia Perez

Robert Dekkers coaching BBT’s Studio Company dancers, photo by Natalia Perez

Berkeley Ballet Theater’s Artistic Director since 2017, Robert Dekkers is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of movers and makers with his vibrant imagination, passion for movement, and commitment to the craft of ballet. Named “25 To Watch” by DANCE Magazine and noted for his direction of multi-disciplinary collaborations that are “inventive, focused, sophisticated, and anything but risk averse” (SF Chronicle), Dekkers is also founder and Artistic Director of Post:Ballet.

Dekkers danced professionally with Ballet Arizona, ODC/Dance, Company C Contemporary Ballet, and Diablo Ballet, where he was nominated for an Isadora Duncan award for “Outstanding Performance – Individual” in 2013. He danced leading roles in works by George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, José Límon, KT Nelson, Val Caniparoli, Lar Lubovitch, Jodie Gates, Trey McIntyre, Dominic Walsh, Septime Webre, and Paul Taylor before transitioning fully into teaching, choreographing, and directing in 2015.

Dekkers has choreographed and/or directed over a dozen new collaborations with Post:Ballet, including evening-length productions such as Do Be, Incandescent Body, and Lavender Country; one-act works including Milieu, Mine is Yours, When in Doubt, and field the present shifts; and short films like Tassel and Coming Home, which was commissioned by the San Francisco Dance Film Festival for its 2017 Co-Laboratory program.

His choreography has been presented at Jacob’s Pillow, San Francisco International Arts Festival, Tanzsommer Festival, Ballet Builders Showcase, Against the Grain Festival, and West Wave Dance Festival. Commissions include Kansas City Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, sjDANCEco, Smuin Ballet, Grand Rapids Ballet (with co-choreographer Vanessa Thiessen), and Diablo Ballet, where he was resident choreographer from 2013–2018 and created critically-acclaimed works including Carnival of the Imagination, Flight of the Dodo, and Red Shoes. He’s also created new works for the dance departments at Stanford University, Southern Methodist University, and the University of Richmond. He choreographed and directed a full-length Alice in Wonderland for Contra Costa Ballet in 2012, and has created short new works with youth companies across the country.

Dekkers choreographed and directed a full-length production of Firebird set to an orchestrated score based on the music of Radiohead for Quixotic Cirque Noveau in 2017, where he continues to work as a guest choreographer. He is also Director of Choreography for Art Haus, a Playa performance group whose first production featured a reimagined Rite of Spring with over 40 dancers and performers, accompanied by a full orchestra performing Stravinsky’s masterpiece, at Burning Man 2017. In 2018, Art Haus presented his contemporary work We, Human set to Steve Reich’s Eight Lines, and in the summer of 2019 Art Haus presented his new Firebird on Playa with a full orchestra playing the original Stravinsky score.

Dekkers regularly teaches company class for LINES Ballet, Smuin Ballet, and ODC/Dance, and he holds a degree in business from Rio Salado College.

Sally Streets, Artistic Director Emerita

Sally Streets, Artistic Director Emerita, has danced, taught, and choreographed in the Bay Area for more than thirty years. An Oakland native, Streets performed with Mia Slavenska’s Ballet Variante and with New York City Ballet early in her career. She was a principal dancer with Pacific Ballet and Oakland Ballet. She has served as Guest Company Teacher for San Francisco Ballet, the New York City Ballet, and the Royal Ballet in London. In 2003, Streets was honored with the Isadora Duncan Lifetime Achievement Award. She continues to teach and create new works for BBT and has created seventeen world premieres for Diablo Ballet since March 1994.

Streets is the proud mother of Alexander V. Nichols, who has served as Resident Visual Designer for the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company since 1988 and received the San Francisco Certificate of Honor for his work at the American Conservatory Theater, four Isadora Duncan Awards, four Bay Area Critics Circle Awards, and three Dean Goodman Awards; Kyra Nichols, a former Principal Dancer at New York City Ballet and current ballet mistress with Pennsylvania Ballet; and late son Robbie Nichols, a dancer and choreographer with Berkeley Ballet Theater.

Sandra Chinn, Artistic Advisor

Sandra Chinn is a company ballet teacher for Alonzo King LINES Ballet and ODC Dance Company. She is guest adjunct faculty at New York University Tisch Summer Dance Residency, Visiting Guest Artist at Hollins University MFA Dance Program, and Artistic Advisor at Berkeley Ballet Theater. She has been a guest teacher for Company Wayne McGregor, Jessica Lang Dance, dancers of Paul Taylor Dance Company, Abraham.In.Motion, Lucinda Childs Dance, Smuin Ballet, Aszure Barton and Dancers, Amy Seiwart's Imagery, Post:Ballet, SF DanceWorks, Matthew Bourne's New Adventures, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, and BodyTraffic, and she teaches youth and adults at Berkeley Ballet Theater, Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, LINES Dance Center, and ODC.

A native of Berkeley, California, she studied with Jane Stamps in Albany, California and received full scholarships at National Academy of Arts and Joffrey Ballet School. A New York Drama Desk Award nominee (“Best Featured Actress in a Musical”), she won praise as a “charismatic, expressive young star” for her various comedic dance portrayals in the Off Broadway production of Funny Feet (Stephen Holden, New York Times). As a company member of Dennis Wayne’s Dancers, Finis Jhung's Chamber Ballet USA, and American Ballet Comedy, she has toured extensively throughout the world. She has danced a diverse repertory from works of Petipa, Balanchine, Anthony Tudor, Michael Fokine, John Taras, Brian MacDonald, Norman Walker, Samuel Weber, Norbert Vesak, Bob Bowyer, and Kathryn Posin.

Chinn has extensive Vaganova teacher’s training (Level 1–5) under Karen Morell, and she is primarily inspired by the generosity and positive spirit of ballet teachers such as Maggie Black, Lawrence Rhodes, Marjorie Mussman, Ernesta Corvino, Gwynne Ashton, and Meredith Baylis. In addition, her ballet class is somatically informed through studies with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, Body-Mind Centering, Pilates, Feldenkrais, Franklin Method, Alexander Technique, Iyengar Yoga, Gyrotonics, and Gyrokinesis. Chinn believes in applying these embodied concepts to dance education and seeks to reveal to concert dancers additional possibilities for rich, efficient, and elegant movement.

Milissa Payne Bradley, Pre-Ballet Director

Milissa Payne Bradley’s choreographic work has been referred to as “American Chic” by the Huffington Post. She was hailed as a “New Name to Watch” in Dance Europe Magazine’s 2016 Critics’ Choice accolades, and in the 2017 Critics’ Choice, her two-part work Enough Said was named among the year’s “Best Premieres.”

Branded the “e.e. cummings of ballet” by The Huffington Post, Payne Bradley began choreographing in 2010 and founded the San Francisco based The Milissa Payne Project the same year. In 2011, Payne Bradley’s The Game is Afoot was chosen as a semi-finalist for the Company C Contemporary Ballet’s New Commission Project. The Milissa Payne Project’s Revolve was awarded Best Whirling Dervish in the Best of San Francisco 2013 by SF Weekly.

Payne Bradley has set work on New York Theatre Ballet at New York Live Arts, 92Y Harkness Dance Center for the Dig Dance Weekend Series; Emerging Ballet Choreographer performance and in San Francisco for Dance Theatre of San Francisco, ODC Theater’s Music Moves Festival and the West Wave Dance Festival. She has participated in the RoundAntennae Choreographic residency with ODC Associate Artistic Director K.T. Nelson and Elizabeth Farotte Heenan, and through the Center for New Work at the Harvey Milk Center for the Arts.

Payne Bradley began her professional performing career in 2005 with The Oakland Ballet under the direction of Ronn Guidi. For twelve years Payne Bradley was an Artist in Residence at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, SOTA. She is a graduate with Honors from Saint Mary’s College of California in the Liberal Education for the Arts (LEAP) program and a graduate with Honors from the inaugural class of Saint Mary’s College of California, MFA in Dance: Creative Practice. She is a current doctoral candidate at California State University, Stanislaus in Educational Leadership. Payne Bradley is an Adjunct Dance Professor at San Joaquin Delta College, Contra Costa College, and Los Medanos College.

Liz Farotte Heenan, School Director

Liz Farotte Heenan  with BBT’s Youth Division dancers, photo by Natalia Perez

Liz Farotte Heenan with BBT’s Youth Division dancers, photo by Natalia Perez

Elizabeth Farotte Heenan joined Berkeley Ballet Theater as Associate Artistic Director in 2017 and became School Director in 2018. Better known as Ms. Liz, she takes great pride in welcoming dancers and families to the BBT community and is committed to continuing and celebrating BBT’s mission of being a place where all can dance!

Heenan has taught BBT’s Youth Division Level 1, Level 2, Level 6, and Pilates classes. In addition to her time at BBT, Heenan is Co-Founder and Facilitator of RoundAntennae, a choreographic mentorship program. Founded in 2014 with ODC/Dance Co-Artistic Director KT Nelson, RoundAntennae provides subsidized studio space, personalized feedback, and performance opportunities to new and emerging choreographers.

A native of Gilroy, CA, Heenan started her training in the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus and was awarded marks of Honors or Distinction on eight RAD examinations, with scholarship to study at their New York program. She furthered her training on scholarship with Ballet San Jose and the Cleveland Ballet with additional study at the Boston Ballet and San Jose Dance Theatre. As recipient of the Donald McKayle Medal Scholarship, a member of McKayle’s Etude Ensemble and a two-time UC UROP Grant recipient she graduated from UC Irvine with a B.A. in Dance. She was awarded for “Outstanding Dance Performance” and was chosen by UCI to perform principal roles in works by David Allan, George Balanchine, and William Forsythe while on exchange at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris.

Heenan has danced professionally with BalletMet, toured works by Bay Area choreographers, and was a member of San Francisco’s ODC/Dance. With ODC, she participated and taught during a U.S. Department of State cultural diplomacy tour to Southeast Asia and engaged in outreach programs with public schools, universities, and 7 Tepees. She has taught for the Oakland Ballet and Solad Dance Center, choreographed for South Valley Civic Theater and Limelight Actors Theatre, and has taught Pilates to clients ranging from aspiring professional dancers to competitive weightlifters to those with injuries and post-surgical conditions.

Susan Weber, Dance for PD® Director

Susan Weber danced in the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, touring extensively in North America and Europe and assisting Mr. Lubovitch in setting works at the Royal Danish Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, and on Lynn Seymour of the Royal Ballet, among many others. More recently, she assisted Mark Morris as he created new works at San Francisco Ballet: A Garden, Later, his full-length Sylvia, and Joyride. She has also helped set his works at the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet. In July 2019 she performed in two short Samuel Beckett plays Morris directed for the Happy Days Festival in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.

Trained in Cecchetti ballet technique and later mentored by master teachers Mia Slavenska, Jack Cole, and Maggie Black, Weber is also a certified yoga instructor and a passionate lifelong student of anatomy and kinesiology.

Weber founded the Dance for PD® Program at BBT in 2008, motivated by her father’s twenty-year experience with Parkinson’s disease and by her long friendships with Mark Morris and founding teachers David Leventhal and John Heginbotham. Weber has the honor of being the first Dance for PD® certified teaching artist in the state of California. She holds M.A. and B.A. degrees in Dance from UCLA, where she graduated with honors and first began teaching during graduate school.

Weber is Director of BBT’s Dance for PD® Program, teaches Levels 8 and 9 in the Youth Division, and serves as Advisor to members of the Studio Company.

Kaori Ogasawara, Rehearsal Director

Kaori Ogasawara was born in Japan and studied ballet with her grandmother Kazue Ogasawara and her coach Takao Hisamitsu. In 1993 Ogasawara came to the US to train at the Boston Ballet School; she danced at Boston Ballet before joining Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 1999 with her husband Christopher Rendall-Jackson and was promoted to soloist in 2004. After joining PBT, Ogasawara performed featured roles including the Sugar Plum Fairy and Marie in Terrence S. Orr’s The Nutcracker, Myrtha in Giselle, Mercedes in Don Quixote, Svetlana in Ben Stevenson's Dracula, and Queen of Hearts in Derek Dean's Alice's Adventure in Wonderland. Among many opportunities to dance George Balanchine’s ballets, Ogasawara’s performances included the Russian Lead Girl in Serenade, Sylvia: Pas de Deux, Theme and variations, Divertimento No. 15, and Who Cares? Ogasawara also performed in contemporary ballets by choreographers such as Paul Taylor, Dwight Rhoden, and Jean-Christophe Maillot.

Among other things, she is currently the Rehearsal Director for Berkeley Ballet Theater; company class teacher for various companies, including ODC and Oakland Ballet Company; and guest teacher and choreographer for New Ballet Ensemble in Memphis, Tennessee. She and her husband are also proud parents of two children, Emiya and Hana.

Rosie Ueng, Nutrition & Wellness Advisor

Rosie Ueng brings a holistic approach to nutrition and wellness. Having danced herself for over three decades (and still dancing!), she understands the many challenges that dancers face, including high physical and mental demands along with busy schedules and other pressures. Ueng believes that healthy nutrition isn’t about counting calories; rather it’s about understanding sources of nutritious food and reconnecting with the body’s love of delicious food and nourishment. She believes that enjoyment of food in moderation, self love and care, stress reduction, movement, community, and connection with nature is a recipe for good health. 

Her education includes a B.A. in Molecular and Cell Biology from U.C. Berkeley and an M.S. in Holistic Nutrition from Hawthorn University. Ueng has over two decades of experience cooking in various commercial kitchens as well as two decades of experience in education. She is currently a private nutrition consultant and the Director of Academics and a faculty member at Bauman College, Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts, where she is doing work in curriculum development, food justice, education access, and community wellness.