Faculty Bios

BBT's acclaimed faculty bring a wealth of knowledge and a welcoming spirit to each class, inspiring students in all Divisions to explore their passion for dance

 
 

Teachers

Graciela Acedo

Patricia Banchik began her training in Mexico City where she was born and raised. She attended Loretto Heights College in Denver, Colorado and received a B.A. in Dance and Psychology. She performed with David Taylor Dance Theater, Berkeley Ballet Theater, Dance Brigade's Nutcracker, and independent choreographers in the Bay Area. In 2003 she formed her own dance company, Kinesis, which has performed in several festivals including Dance Is Festival and West Wave Dance Festival. Banchik has been teaching at BBT since 1988.

Rachel Caldwell is delighted to be a member of the Pre-Ballet Faculty at Berkeley Ballet Theater. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Caldwell trained in ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop, and Scottish highland dance. She earned her BFA in Dance from the University of North Texas in 2011 and MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from Mills College in 2014. Outside of BBT, Caldwell is a ballet and jazz teacher at Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, writer for Dance Magazine, and a Contributing Editor for Dance Teacher magazine, for which she writes the History, Technique, and K-12 columns.

Sandra Chinn

Julie Crothers is a freelance dancer, choreographer, and educator based in Oakland, CA. Born and raised in Nashville, TN, Julie studied dance and arts administration at Elon University in NC. Professionally, she has danced with AXIS Dance Company, Sarah Bush Dance Project, Tara Pilbrow Dance, and Renay Aumiller Dances. In 2018, Julie was selected as an Emerging Artist in Residence at Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, Summer Artist in Residence at Deborah Slater Dance Theatre's Studio 210, Feedback Artist in Joe Goode Performance Group's Feedback Program, and choreographer in AXIS Dance Company's Choreo-Lab. Her work has been presented at CHOPSHOP Dance Festival in Bellevue, WA and has been selected to be presented at 2019's Women in Dance Leadership Conference in Philadelphia, PA. Julie currently teaches dance at Berkeley Ballet Theatre, Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, and Washington Elementary.

Erica Felsch began her professional training at North Carolina School of the Arts. She was later offered a full scholarship to San Francisco Ballet’s pre professional program where she performed in many productions, and toured with the company in their production of Don Quixote.

After several years with SFB, Felsch joined Colorado Ballet with Artistic Director Martin Fredmann. Felsch continued on to perform soloist and principal roles with Madison Ballet, Nova Ballet, North Carolina School of the Arts Summer Performance Series, and Sierra Nevada Ballet, where she performed Odette/Odile in Swan Lake. She has performed world premiers by Adam Hougland, Emery Lecrone, Robert Dekkers, and Rick McCullough. In 2008 Felsch joined Ballet Arizona under the direction of Ib Anderson. She performed in George Balanchine's Four Temperaments, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, La Valse, Rubies, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. She has performed ballets choreographed by Ib Anderson, Alejandro Cerrudo, and Marius Petipa.

After four seasons with Ballet Arizona, Felsch moved to Los Angeles where she was featured in commercials, print ads, and an episode of Disney’s Shake it Up. She later joined Smuin Ballet in 2012 with artistic director Celia Fushille. She has performed principal and soloist roles with Smuin, and originated roles in world premiers by Adam Hougland, Helen Pickett, Val Caniparoli, and Garrett Ammon. She has worked with and performed pieces by Michael Smuin, Jiri Kylian, Trey McIntyre, Darrell Moultrie, Amy Seiwert, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Ma Cong, among others.

Felsch is a passionate dance teacher and choreographer. She has choreographed for Smuin Ballet and taught master classes and workshops throughout the United States. She hopes to continue to inspire young artists. After seven seasons with Smuin Ballet Felsch has embarked on a freelance career. She will be guesting with various companies throughout the season.

Robert Dekkers

Robert Greer, a native of California, danced throughout the U.S. for over twenty years. He performed in a number of ballet companies such as Augusta Ballet, Charleston Ballet Theatre and Ballet Idaho. He spent his summers with Ballet Montana, performing with people from all over the world. He has enjoyed dancing in many ballets; some of his favorites are Lar Lubovitch’s My Funny Valentine, Jill Bahr’s The Rite of Spring and Roy Gan’s Requiem. Greer continues to perform as a character guest artist with the Peoria Ballet. Greer began his training at the age of twenty and set out on a journey to learn as much as possible about his newfound passion. He moved back to the Bay Area in 2007 where he began teaching for Berkeley Ballet Theater and other schools. While at Berkeley Ballet Theater Greer created a number of classes including Pas de deux, Beginning 2 and Intro 2 to help build the Adult Open Division. He also added summer and winter workshops to give adults more learning opportunities and extra performance experience. Greer continues to teach many classes at Berkeley Ballet Theater and looks forward to sharing his passion with anyone wanting to learn.

Rena Marie Guidry has been an actor and dancer for over 25 years, in both Los Angeles and the Bay Area. She studied ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, modern, salsa, liturgical, and Samba. She has done music videos, commercials, films, performed in self-produced dance theater productions, and been a part of several theatre ensembles. She has also been a guest performer for both Sambaxe, and the Latin Dance Grooves ensemble. Guidry has led high-energy, packed classes with Rhythm & Motion since 2011. She is a trained Drama Therapist, with an MA in counseling psychology. She uses this training in her artistic work with youth and adults. Guidry believes the arts are inherently therapeutic and can be used to bring about healing and wellness.

Katie Gwizdak began dancing at the age of four training in ballet, tap, and jazz at Dance Connection Performing Arts Center. She competed regularly in dance competitions with her studio and had the opportunity to perform throughout the Bay Area as well as out of the state and country. At 18 years old she continued her training at Diablo Valley College under the instruction of Kimberly Valmore from 2012-2014. While there, in 2012, she received the opportunity to join Coterie Dance Company, led by Kimberly Valmore. She is still a member today. Through this company, Gwizdak performs throughout the Bay Area in many showcases and festivals.

Gwizdak expanded her training at San Francisco State University under the instruction of Wendy Diamond, Cathleen McCarthy and Ray Tadio from 2014-2016. Gwizdak graduated from SFSU in the Spring of 2016 with a BS in Kinesiology and a minor in Dance. She is currently attending graduate school at Life Chiropractic College West working towards her Doctorate degree in Chiropractic. She will graduate in 2021 and aspires to work with families and dancers.

Throughout her undergraduate education Gwizdak has taught dance at youth centers and many studios throughout Oakland and Berkeley. She has taught ages 2-18 and especially loves working with younger students. Gwizdak started teaching at BBT in the summer of 2016. She considers it a privilege to work with so many wonderful staff members and students in such an encouraging and supportive environment.

Liz Farotte Heenan

Christopher Lam was born in Brisbane, Australia and trained with Betsy Sawyers before joining the Australian Ballet School. Upon graduation Lam was offered a place in the Australian Ballet where he danced in full length classical repertoire and worked with illustrious teachers and coaches such as Natalia Makarova, Kelsey Kirkland, Jonny Eliasen, Sonia Arova, Olga Evreinoff among many others. Lam danced in Europe for many years broadening his understanding of the art form and dancing works by Jiri Kylian, Ohad Naharin, Nacho Duato, Stjin Celis, George Balanchine, John Niemeyer, and Jean-Christophe Maillot.

Since retiring from the stage, Lam has taught in Europe, Australia and the United States, teaching all levels from beginner to professional in addition to staging full-length classical works and one act contemporary pieces. Lam continues to share his love for dance in the Bay Area teaching for Berkeley Ballet Theater, ODC/Dabce, LINES Dance Center, Smuin Ballet, and Dance Theater of San Francisco.

Lindsay Grey Leonard, a North Carolina native, relocated to the Bay Area in 2015 with a position teaching Pre-Ballet at Berkeley Ballet Theater. Leonard began her ballet studies as a student of Marilyn Cloutier and continued her training on scholarship at Ballet Spartanburg, Balance Pointe, Atlanta Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet School, Walnut Hill School for the Arts, Duke Dance, American Dance Festival, and ODC. She has worked and performed with Renay Aumiller Dance (RAD), Helen Simoneau Danse, Nicola Bullock & The People, VECTOR, KT Collective, Deigo Carrasco-Schoh, The Dance Cure, Code f.a.d., and Open Air Dance. Since relocating, she has performed with Helen Wicks, Rose Baker, and dana e. fitchett.

Leonard is currently on Faculty at Berkeley Ballet Theater, ODC, and Alameda Ballet Academy teaching early childhood creative movement as well as youth and teen contemporary classes. In addition, she wears many hats as a full-time ODC school staffer and is currently the Assistant Director of ODC's Step Onstage children's repertory classes that culminate in the school's annual production of Uncertain Weather; the Teen Company Manager for ODC's teen contemporary company, the Dance Jam, as well as the teen hip hop company, Seeds.

Leonard was previously the Alonzo King LINES Ballet Summer Program Administrator, the Administrative Manager for the UNC Chapel Hill Department of Marine Sciences, Student Services Manager for the UNC Institute for the Environment, and has been on faculty at the RoCo Dance, ADF Scripps Studios, the Ballet School of Chapel Hill, Ninth Street Dance, and Nina's School of Dance teaching ballet, modern, and jazz to students of all ages. She holds a BA in Environmental Studies from her alma mater, UNC Chapel Hill.

Jackie McConnell, from Salem, Oregon, trained with Pacific Northwest Ballet School and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She danced with Nevada Ballet Theatre, Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance in New York City, and toured with the Portland-based company, Bodyvox. In the Bay Area, she has danced with Company C Contemporary Ballet, Garrett and Moulton Productions, Menlowe Ballet and the San Francisco Opera. McConnell currently dances with Post:Ballet, Oakland Ballet Company and Diablo Ballet. She has taught all over the Bay Area including Oakland Ballet School, the Center for Community Arts in Walnut Creek, and Orinda Ballet Academy. She is very excited to be joining the Faculty at Berkeley Ballet Theater this year!

Xiao Liu-Moore was born in the city of Changsha in the People’s Republic of China. At age 11, after a vigorous audition, she was chosen by the government to attend Hunan Dance and Music Art Institute and began full time professional training. After graduation, she joined Hunan Dance and Music Company, and was shortly promoted to principal dancer.

In 1980, Liu-Moore placed 3rd at the First China National Dance Competition, and in 1982 she won 1st place at the Hunan Dance Competition. In the same year, she was selected to attend the China National Dance Performance Workshop for principal dancers, at ShangHai Dance Academy. In 1984, she received the first-rank award of Outstanding Performer in the Hunan Outstanding Performance Competition. She was the first Chinese offered a scholarship from The China Fund of America to attend the School of American Ballet in New York City.

After 9 years with Hunan Dance and Music Company, in 1984, through a national dance audition and national college entrance examination, Liu-Moore was accepted to Beijing Dance Academy’s Ballet Teaching Department. She received her BA in Ballet Pedagogy in 1988.

Liu-Moore has been teaching ballet in the Bay Area for nearly 28 years. She feels blessed to be able to work with some of the best artists, talented students, smartest scholars, and wonderful human beings. She has gained so much wisdom in dance and life from them and through her life’s journey from East to West.

Eyla Moore grew up in the Bay Area playing music and dancing. Moore is the daughter of the famous jazz drummer, Eddie Moore. She holds a BA in Dance, Performance & Choreography (2009) from SFSU and won the title of Queen of SF Carnaval (2011). Moore started as a student of Rhythm & Motion in 2001 and became a R&M Instructor in 2005. Moore loves the freedom she feels when teaching R&M and loves watching her students as they grow and excel in class. Moore is a certified Dunham Technique and Pilates instructor who loves music and dance from all over the world!

Deborah Moss, a New York native, has made the Bay Area her home. A passionate dance educator, Moss firmly believes that the arts inform and enrich our lives and must be accessible to everyone. She has taught dance in public and private schools throughout the East Bay. Moss joined Berkeley Ballet Theater in 1989 serving on both Artistic Staff and Faculty, as School Principal, Director of Pre-Ballet and Outreach Coordinator. Moss is devoted to BBT’s commitment to be a place Where All Can Dance and is honored to be a part of the school’s mission. She currently teaches and choreographs in BBT’s Adult Open Division.

Along with her many years as a student of BBT’s Artistic Director Emerita, Sally Streets, Moss has studied with Marina Eglevsky, Nicholas Polajenko, Soili Arvola, Fred Strobel and Catherine Graves. Her studies in ballet pedagogy include: Karen Morell, (Vaganova), Irene Owen (Legat) and Jane Stamps (Cecchetti). Moss is an ABT certified teacher for Levels Pre-Primary-3. Moss expanded her studies with modern dance, training with Dawn Horowitz (Cunningham) and Camille Hill-Long (Jack Cole and Lester Horton). 

Dancers must possess a broad movement vocabulary and the knowledge and confidence to execute a variety of dance forms safely with grace and ease. To assist students in adapting to the increasing demands on their bodies, Moss believes that dance educators should have an awareness of current dance medicine findings and various somatic techniques. Moss strives to advance her knowledge with classes and workshops in Dance Medicine, Franklin Method, Rosen Method, Feldenkrais Technique, Yoga and Chi Kung.

Moss’ performance experience includes Berkeley Ballet Theater, Dancer’s Circle, Halifax Civic Ballet, Atlantic Dance Company and Concept 1. As a student of Tai Chi, Moss has also demonstrated and competed throughout the East Bay. Her performances include UCB Annual Chinese Martial Arts Tournament, San Francisco International WuShu Festival, The Asian Art Museum and The Taoist Gathering.

Moss holds Associate degrees in Arts in Humanities and Technical Illustration from Daytona State College. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley with a BFA in History of Art; receiving the Maybelle M.Toombs Award.

Kaori Ogasawara

Milissa Payne Bradley

Sally Streets

Victor Talledos is an international independent artist based in San Francisco. He began his dance training at Conservatorio de Danza in Mexico City and graduated from Escuela Superior de Musica y Danza de Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico. In 2008, he moved to NYC to attend the Ailey School for two years. Talledos has performed for Proyectos en Movimiento dance company and Ballet Moderno de Mexico-Las Bestias in Mexico. In 2010, Talledos moved to San Francisco and became part of the Bay Area Dance community, he has worked for Robert Moses’ Kin Dance Company, Copious Dance Theater, Labayen Dance San Francisco, Alayo Dance Company, The Anata Project, RAWDance SF, among others.

As a choreographer, Talledos has shown his work at Ailey Citigroup Theater, Dance New Amsterdam for the Latin Choreographers Festival in NYC, Dance Mission Theater for the Latin American Contemporary Choreographers Festival in SF, SAFEhouse Arts, Cowell Theater and has been a guest choreographer for Labayen Dance, Copious Dance Theater and Emote Dance Theater.

Talledos is a faculty member for the educational programs at LINES Dance Center including Teens at LINES and the LINES Ballet Training program, he’s part of the Modern Dance Faculty at Berkeley Ballet Theater and teaches open classes at LINES Dance Center. Talledos has taught in ODC Dance Commons, Shawl Anderson Dance Center, Westlake School for the Performing Arts and has been a guest artist at Stanford University, guest teacher and choreographer at Mills College, guest choreographer at The Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA), has taught for LINES/Dominican University BFA Program and has had workshops in Amarillo, Texas, Mexico City and Monterrey, Mexico. 

Aside from his professional dance career, Talledos is also a visual artist, part-time model and photographer.

Born in Irvine, California, Jordan Tilton trained with Hannah Karacic before joining the Ballet Pacifica Conservatory. After spending summers at the School of American Ballet and San Francisco Ballet School, in 2008 Tilton was invited to join San Francisco Ballet School’s Trainee Program. She went on to join San Francisco Ballet as a member of the Corps de Ballet in 2010, where she danced roles in full length ballets such as Tomasson’s Giselle, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Romeo & Juliet for Lincoln Center at the Movies, Cranko’s Onegin, Neumier’s Little Mermaid for PBS, Balanchine’s Coppelia, and Wheeldon’s Cinderella

In addition, Tilton has performed works created by Possokhov, Balanchine, Forsythe, Morris, Ratmansky, Myles Thatcher, and Liam Scarlett, among others.

In 2017, Tilton joined the Diablo Ballet with her husband, Raymond Tilton. With the company, she has danced in works by George Balanchine, Robert Dekkers, Danielle Rowe, Sean Kelly, & Val Caniparoli. In addition, Tilton began teaching at the San Francisco Ballet School and Berkeley Ballet Theater. 

Raymond Tilton was born in San Marcos and trained at San Elijo Dance Academy before joining the San Francisco Ballet School as a top level student in 2008 and later as a Trainee in 2009. 

In 2010, he was named an apprentice with San Francisco Ballet and joined the corps de ballet in 2011. 

With San Francisco Ballet, he performed in works such as Tomasson’s Nutcracker, Giselle, and Romeo & Juliet, Balanchine’s Coppélia and Scotch Symphony, Cranko’s Onegin, Neumeier’s The Little Mermaid, Wheeldon’s Cinderella, Fokine’s Petrouchka, Lifar’s Suite en Blanc, Nureyev’s Raymonda, Possokhov’s Firebird, Ratmansky’s Shostakovich Trilogy, and Robbins’ Glass Pieces.

In 2015, Tilton joined the Diablo Ballet. With the company, he has performed in works by Robert Dekkers, Sean Kelly, Norbert Vesak, Gary Masters, Sonya Delwaide, Val Caniparoli, and George Balanchine’s, Apollo & Valse Fantasie.

 Tilton currently teaches at Berkeley Ballet Theater’s, teaching advanced students as well as in the Adult Open Division.

Claire Toner (Stallman) started dancing at age four in Saratoga, California. She studied ballet with Karen Millar before joining the San Francisco Ballet School, where she received training from Gloria Govrin, Pascale Leroy, Shannon Bresnahan, and Jocelyn Vollmar. She attended summer intensives with the School of American Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. Toner has performed with Boston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, The Royal Danish Ballet, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, and Diablo Ballet. She has been featured in Jerome Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun, Christopher Wheeldon's Rush, Jean-Christophe Maillot's Romeo et Juliette, and works by George Balanchine, James Kudelka, Helen Pickett, and Benjamin Millepied. Studying part-time while dancing, she received her bachelor's degree in applied mathematics from Georgia Tech. Toner  joined Berkeley Ballet Theater in 2016.

Susan Weber

Accompanists

Daniel Berkman

Julia Ganina worked as an accompanist in Moscow, Russia. After immigrating to the United States in 1997, Ganina continued to work as an accompanist in the Bay Area. At the present, Ganina plays for the San Francisco Ballet School, Marin Dance Theatre, Marin Ballet, and LINES Dance Center.

Lucy Hudson was a Company Pianist for San Francisco Ballet for 11 years. She has played for numerous other dance and theater companies in America and Europe, while also performing as a solo artist, composing for electronic instruments and symphony orchestra, and teaching dance-and-music workshops. She is now working as a pianist with LINES Dance Center, Academy of Ballet, ODC Dance Company, and Berkeley Ballet Theater. Hudson also plays drums for BBT's in-house rock band, Pique-Haze.

Stephen Mello has been accompanying ballet studios around the bay area for over 8 years, and is proud to have started his career with Berkeley Ballet Theater.

As the son of a ballet dancer and a pianist, he's happy to have a profession where he can employ valuable insights from both. His playing is strongly informed by both the piano teachers and fellow accompanists who have helped him along the way, as well as the variety of amazing teachers he's worked with. Always willing to adapt his playing to fit the form and emotion of each combination, he strives to provide dancers with music that isn't just beautiful, but also supports their movement and expression.

Mello is comfortable playing for any level of class, from beginning to company, and all ages. From a background of Baroque and Romantic music, accompanying ballet has given him the chance to branch out into new genres. Not only playing everything from classic ballet music to tangos and jazz, he has progressed to improvisation and even pieces of his own composing.

Mello is happy and honored to work with Berkeley Ballet Theater, and hopes to see you in class!

Wendy Tahara began classical piano lessons at age seven, eventually earning a performance degree from Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington, IN. She has had a lifelong love of dance, so she began working as a ballet accompanist while in music school. Over the past 20+ years, Tahara has played classes for Westside Ballet in Santa Monica Charleston Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Burklyn Ballet Theatre, Anaheim Ballet, the dance department at UC Irvine, Ballet Pacifica, and Riverside Ballet, playing for such guest teachers as Darci Kistler, John Gardner, Amanda McKerrow and the late David Howard.

Her music for ballet classes are a beautiful blend of classical piano and ballet repertoire, as well as improvised piano pieces created to match the energy, mood, and rhythmic subtleties of the exercises. In 2007, Tahara discovered an unexpected, profound love for the Celtic harp while going through a sort of spiritual awakening. She discovered kundalini yoga, which placed her on an amazing intuitive spiritual path which continues to guide her to this day. She has a deep passion for creating music which is empathetic and nurturing to the human spirit. Her angelic harp compositions, described as “soulful, evocative, heart-healing, compassionate, soothing, stirring, passionate, thrilling”, have often been used for yoga classes, meditations, sound baths, retreats, and spiritually conscious festivals.

Tahara has composed music and performed for the Croatian healing gazer Braco, toured with the artist Ashana, and provided meditation music for The Agape International Spiritual Center for Michael Bernard Beckwith. She has had the pleasure of opening for the Sound Healing Symphony at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. She is currently providing meditation music for MYNDFULL, as well as working on her latest project, Savasana Sound, to bring beautiful, calming, powerful yet peaceful sound journeys to the community in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and beyond. 

Sky Tan is a pianist, composer, recording artist, and piano teacher. She earned her Masters in the Performing Arts in China and trained under Russian pianist Dr. Alexander Goncharov for six years. She has performed in multiple concerts in both China and the US including solo concerts, duets, and ensembles.

Tan started to play for ballet and modern dance in 2005, she currently plays for the San Francisco Ballet, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, the Berkeley Ballet Theater and the Shawl-Anderson Dance Center. Sky has worked with many artists including Wendy Whelan the Associate Artistic Director of New York City Ballet, Patrick Armand the Director of SF ballet school, Yuri Possokhov Choreographer. 

In 2016 she released an album titled ‘Piano Ballet Standards’ that is used in multiple ballet classes throughout the world.