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About Us

STATE STREET BALLET YOUNG DANCERS was founded as a pre-professional training program to provide young dancers with the discipline and performing experience necessary for a career in dance. The dancers train under the direction of Allison Gustafson and Nicole Comella and perform works ranging from classical to contemporary. Well known choreographers work with the dancers, providing them with the invaluable experience of learning cutting-edge works. SSBYD is an apprentice company to the professional company State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara, directed by Rodney Gustafson, nationally recognized for its innovative choreography and unique style.

Our Prospects

Dancers from SSBYD have gone on to professional careers with State Street Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Ballet West, San Diego Ballet, Ballet Austin, City Ballet of San Diego, Sacramento Ballet, Smuin Ballet, San Jose Cleveland Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet and Company C, as well as many college programs. SSBYD and RDA have proven to be a wonderful experience and an exceptional training ground for our talented young dancers. This past Spring, SSBYD performed Kassandra Taylor Newberry’s “Not a Destination” at the Regional Dance America/ Pacific festival in Phoenix, Arizona. This coming spring, the company will travel to Spokane, Washington for Festival 2014.

Who We Are

STATE STREET BALLET OF SANTA BARBARA was founded in 1994 by Rodney and Allison Gustafson. With at least three productions each season in Santa Barbara, State Street Ballet has also toured throughout the United States, as well as internationally in Taiwan and China. The company is directed by Rodney Gustafson, formerly with Geneva Ballet, Cleveland Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. Mr. Gustafson went on to receive his B.S. from University of Arizona, and his M.B.A from Antioch University. State Street Ballet is known for its innovative choreography and unique style.

Our Directors

Allison Jones Gustafson

allison-headAllison Jones Gustafson received her training in Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas and was a founding member of State Street Ballet in 1994. She received her B.A. from Southern Methodist University and her M.A. from the University of Arizona. Her strong belief that a dance studio should provide a healthy environment where both learning and personal growth can occur stems from her academic research concerning the connection between the environment of the dance studio and a dancer’s self-esteem. Ms. Gustafson has successfully completed the ABT Teacher Training Intensive in Primary through Level 7 of the ABT National Training Curriculum. Ms. Gustafson is Director of the school, which has grown to over 500 students, and Co-Director of SSBYD.

Nicole Comella

nicoleNicole Comella received her ballet training in San Diego, California. She received a BFA in Dance from United States International University. Ms. Comella performed ballet and musical theater professionally throughout California, Utah, Mexico, London and Taiwan. In 1994, she became a founding member of State Street Ballet. She danced principal roles with the company for six years before becoming Assistant School Director and Co-Director of SSBYD. Ms. Comella has successfully completed the ABT Teacher Training Intensive in Primary through Level 5 of the ABT National Training Curriculum. She is also a certified Pilates instructor and incorporates the method into her teaching.

SSBYD Groups

State Street Ballet Young Dancers

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Company Level

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Apprentice 2 Level

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Apprentice 1 Level

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Junior

juniors

Our Dancers

Hannah Ezell

Company

Hannah is 17 years old and a Senior at Santa Ynez High. This will be her 5th year be-ing a part of SSBYD and her 4th year attending RDA. She has been lucky enough to perform the past 3 years at Festival in Company or Emerging Pieces. She has attended Long Beach Ballet Summer Intensive, Walnut Hill School of the Arts Summer Intensive on scholarship, Ballet West Summer Intensive for 2 years, and State Street Ballet Summer Intensive for 2 years with a full scholarship from RDA. Her most major role performed was Clara in The Nutcracker the past 2 years and is very grateful for the experience. It is also her 4th year assisting to a ballet class. When she is not in the studio, Hannah spends most of her time on school work and trying to spend time with family and friends.

Karlise Loza

Company

Karlise is a 17-year-old Senior at San Marcos High. She has been dancing since the age of 7, beginning with the Montecito School of Ballet for 6 years before joining SSBYD. She has been featured in roles such as Clarice in Rudolph, Peter in Peter and the Wolf, and Clara in The Nutcracker. She was also selected to be a top 10 finalist in Teen Dance Star 2017. Karlise has attended summer programs at the Montecito School of Ballet, State Street Ballet, and received a full scholarship to the Sacramento Ballet Summer Intensive at RDA. Outside of ballet, Karlise is the Senior class Secretary, in enrolled in San Marco’s Entrepreneurship Academy, and enjoys playing the re-corder in her spare time.

Chloe Babcock

Company

Chloe is a 16-year-old Junior at Santa Barbara High. She has been dancing with GD for the past 6 years and has been a member of SSBYD for the past 3, also attending multiple RDA Festivals. Her favorite ballet is The Nutcracker and she is excited to be in Waltz of the Flowers this year! Chloe has participated in 7 GD Junior Intensives and multiple summer intensives at Santa Barbara Dance Arts and Momentum Dance Company. Outside of dance, she enjoys photography, art, hiking, biking, and being with family and friends.

Sarah Block

Company

Sarah is 17 years old and is a Senior at San Marcos High. She has been dancing at GD since the age of 3 and this will be her 6th year with SSBYD. In January 2015, she was a finalist in Santa Barbara’s Teen Dance Star and placed in the top 3 of the competition. This past summer, Sarah attended the National Choreography Intensive on scholarship and won the Superlative “Most Likely to Become a Prima Ballerina.” She looks forward to making the most out of her last year with SSBYD.

Kate Dalforno

Company

Kate is 16 years old, a Junior in high school, and a dual enrolled student at SBCC. She has been dancing at GD since the age of 3. Kate is extremely excited to be a SSBYD Company member and dance the role of Heidi in the upcoming production of Rudolph and attending and performing at RDA in Spokane, WA this year. Outside of dance, Kate enjoys playing the violin, taking art classes and spending time with friends and family.

Emily Hillebrandt

Company

Emily is 16 years old and currently a Junior at San Marcos High. She has been dancing since she was 3 and came to GD at the age of 7 after she moved to Santa Barbara from San Diego. This is her 3rd year participating in SSBYD. She also has a love for musical theater and singing. Emily has attended GD Junior Intensives for 4 years as well as attending Long Beach Ballet’s Summer Intensive in previous summers.

Anna Lebolt

Company

Anna is a 16-year-old Junior in the Engineering Academy at Dos Pueblos High. She has been dancing with GD since age 2 and has attended the State Street Ballet Summer Intensive for the past 3 years as well as the GD Junior Intensive program. This will be Anna’s 5th year with SSBYD. She looks forward to dancing the roles of the Misfit Doll in Rudolph and a Princess in The Nutcracker. When not dancing, Anna can be found reading, listening to music, or drawing.

Amelia Miller

Company

Amelia is 16 years old and a Junior at San Marcos High. This will be her 4th year in SSBYD and her 1st year in the Company level. She looks forward to dancing the role of Clarice in Rudolph as well as Snow in The Nutcracker. In 2016, Amelia was accepted to American Ballet Theatre’s North Carolina Summer Intensive as well as the Joffrey Chicago Summer Intensive. She attended the State Street Ballet Summer Intensive in 2015 and 4 GD Junior Intensives. She looks forward to traveling to Spokane this year for her 4th RDA Festival.

Clara Morando

Company

Clara is a 15 years old high school student and a dual enrolled student at SBCC. She has been dancing with GD since the age of 2. This will be her 4th year of SSBYD. Clara attended State Street Ballet Summer Intensive a few summers ago and GD Junior Intensives the past 7 years. She has danced the roles of the Duck in Peter and the Wolf and Rudolph in GD’s winter production of Rudolph. She is extremely excited to be a SSBYD Company member and dance the role of Clara in the upcoming State Street Ballet’s the Nutcracker production! Outside of ballet, Clara enjoys reading, going to the beach, and spending time with family and friends.

Catherine Pizzinat

Company

Catherine is 15 years old and a Sophomore at San Marcos High. She has been dancing at GD since the age of 2. This will be her 4th year of SSBYD and her 4th time going to RDA. She has attended the State Street Ballet Summer Intensive for 2 years, the Long Beach Ballet Summer Intensive, and 5 Junior Intensives at GD. She has danced many roles such as Tina in Tina Ballerina, Clarice in Rudolph, multiple parts in The Nutcracker and Rudolph, and is going to be Ballerina Barbie in Rudolph. She was a finalist in Teen Dance Star and placed in the top 4 of the competition.

Isabella Fuentes

Company

Isabella began her studies at 9 years old at the Royal Academy of Dance (Santa Clarita) which gave her a wonderful foundation in classical ballet. She holds a Royal Academy of Dance Intermediate certificate. This will be her 2nd year at GD where she’s a member of the SSBYD Company. During the summer of 2016, Isabella fulfilled one of her biggest dreams by dancing at the San Francisco Ballet Summer Intensive. It was a very enriching experience where she met teachers and students from all over the world. In summer of 2017, she attended the Houston Summer Intensive where she focused on refining technique. Isabella’s favorite method of dance is Balanchine and the dancers she most admires are Misty Copeland and Isabella Boylston. She’s been lucky enough to meet both talented dancers and hopes to dance on the same stage as them one day. She looks forward to what this year with SSBYD will bring and is very excited to dance the role of Clara in The Nutcracker. Isabella loves expressing her feelings and stories through ballet and to her, it is a way to communicate with people from around the world, even if they don’t speak the same language. Her ultimate goal is to dance professionally with a company and after she retires, she would love to open her own school where she’ll share what she’s learned in the world of ballet.

Fenna Roukema

Company

Fenna is 17 years old and a Senior at Dos Pueblos High. She has been dancing since the age of 3 at GD and this will be her 5th year in SSBYD. She has danced multiple roles in many of the GD shows, including Waltz of the Flowers in The Nutcracker, a Rabbit in Thumbelina. This year she’ll dance the parts of Spirit of Winter and Blizzard in Rudolph as well as Snow and Princesses in The Nutcracker. She also has been a part of Celebration of Dance in which she has been cast in multiple works by both professional and emerging choreographers. This year, Fenna will be choreographing her 2nd emerging piece and will be adjudicated in January. Outside of dance, Fenna is involved with the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy and hopes to pursue a career in physical education or sports medicine.

Nina Schaeffer

Company

Nina is a 16-year-old Junior at San Marcos High. She has been dancing with GD for 13 years and this is her 4th year in SSBYD. During the summer, Nina attended State Street Ballet’s Summer Intensive as well as GD’s Musical Theatre. She is thrilled to be cast in Waltz of the Flowers in The Nutcracker and as the Misfit Cowgirl Toy in Rudolph this holiday season. Outside of dance, Nina enjoys reading, music, and playing with her dog, Chester.

Sophia Vraciu

Company

Sophia is a 17-year-old Senior at Santa Barbara High. She has been dancing with GD for 14 years, has participated in SSBYD for 6 years, now entering her 7th. She has danced roles such as the title role in Tina Ballerina, Clarice in Rudolph, Snow and Princesses in The Nutcracker, and lead roles in more contemporary works. She has also received scholarships to summer programs such as Ballet West, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Joffrey Ballet School, and has attended State Street Ballet’s Santa Barbara and Durango programs. She also placed 2nd in the Santa Barbara Ballet competition, been a part of the inaugural year of Teen Dance Star’s Top 10, and has participated in the Youth Grand Prix. In her time away from dance, Sophia is very involved in school with both academics and community service, including tutoring her fellow peers. She hopes to continue dancing through college and in the future to pursuing a career in either law or politics.

Audrey Biles

Apprentice 2

Audrey is 13 years old and in the 8th grade at Crane Country Day School. This is her 2nd year dancing with GD and loves being a part of this wonderful program. Audrey has been dancing since she was 5 years old and is experienced in tap, jazz, and con-temporary but ballet is her passion. Audrey has attended summer intensives at San Francisco Ballet and Ellison Ballet in New York City, and is very excited to compete in YAGP this winter. Outside of dance, Audrey likes to play sports with her friends and family. She loves being a part of SSBYD and is looking forward to another great year!

Sydney Coffman

Apprentice 2

This will by Sydney’s 3rd year in SSBYD, recently turned 13 years old, and is an 8th grader at Matilija Junior High. She’s excited to be an Apprentice 2 this year. Sydney shared that it’s been a great experience working with the visiting choreographers and looks forward to more opportunities like these. She feels that this is going to be a year of growth not only as a dancer but as a person. SSBYD is a wonderful and supportive company and Sydney is proud to be a part of it. “Thank you to all the upper level for being great dancers and role models for us younger dancers.”

Adrienne Cruse

Apprentice 2

Adrienne is 14 years old and had been dancing at GD for 7 years. She is in her 3rd year of SSBYD and is an Apprentice 2. She has participated in 5 years of GD Junior Intensives and State Street Ballet Summer Intensive 1 year. Adrienne is a Freshman at San Marcos High and a very dedicated student. She is looking forward to RDA and the remainder of the dance season.

Bennett Ruehlman

Apprentice 2

Bennett is 14 years old and a Freshman at Dos Pueblos High. This year is Bennett’s 3rd year at GD after starting at Santa Barbara Dance Arts. He is delighted to take part in his 1st year of Apprentice 2. Bennett is honored this year to understudy as well as take part in Adjudicated pieces. In addition, he’s looking forward to taking part in more contemporary dance as well as other new styles. Bennett looks forward to at-tending this year’s RDA. Outside of dance, Bennett does theater and enjoys working on school.

Ella Rotondo

Apprentice 2

Ella is a 14-year-old Freshman at San Marcos High. She has danced with GD for 8 years. This is Ella’s 3rd year dancing with SSBYD. She has participated in many camps and intensives over the years, including State Street Ballet Summer Intensive. Ella has a strong passion for dance as well as other hobbies such as art, music, going to the beach, and spending time with family and friends.

Tessa Storr

Apprentice 2

Tessa is 13-years-old and a Freshman at San Marcos High. She is entering her 2nd year in SSBYD and is excited to dance as an Apprentice 2. Tessa has attended the State Street Ballet Summer Intensive as well as GD Junior Intensive. Outside of dance she enjoys singing, traveling, reading, and spending time with friends and family. She is looking forward to another great year of SSBYD.

Ruth Baker

Apprentice 1

Ruth is 14 years old. She is a Freshman at San Marcos High where she particularly enjoys English and choir. Ruth started dance at Santa Barbara Dance Arts at the age of 3. She then joined GD where she has missed only one semester. This was at the age of 7 when she had to play basketball instead. This past summer, Ruth attended Studio West Dance Academy’s summer intensive in Washington state. She also attended GD’s Musical Theatre Intensive for the 2nd time. Ruth is excited to be spending more time at the studio this year through SSBYD as an Apprentice 1.

Marina Fay

Apprentice 1

Marina is an 8th grader at Goleta Valley Junior High and is excited to join SSBYD this year as an Apprentice 1 dancer. Marina has been dancing with GD since she was 3 years old and has attended many of GD Junior Intensives. She is also one of the Captains of her school’s Dance Team with which she has performed with at community events and attending competitions. She looks forward to performing with SSBYD this year and attending RDA in the Spring. Outside of dance, Marina enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and biking and loves hanging out with her friends.

Margaret Gobbell

Apprentice 1

Margaret is 17 years old, a Senior in high school, a dual enrolled student at SBCC, and has been dancing for 4 years. She just joined GD in July after attending the GD Sum-mer Intensive and is now a part of Apprentice 1 in SSBYD. She has previously danced with Curtis Studio of Dance. She is looking forward to being a part of The Nutcracker, Rudolph, Madeline, as well as attending RDA. Outside of dance, Margaret enjoys photography, modeling and hanging out with friends.

Olivia Gobbell

Apprentice 1

Olivia is 12 years old and in 8th grade. She has been dancing since she was 8 years old and joined GD in January. She is so excited to be a part of SSBDY and will be performing as a Party Girl in The Nutcracker. Her goal is to become a professional ballerina. This year she looks forward to performing and competing in YAGP and California Dance Classic as well as hopefully attending RDA. Outside of dance, Olivia enjoys swimming, running, photography, and hanging out with friends.

Lauren Polito

Apprentice 1

Lauren is a Freshman at San Marcos High. This is her 3rd year dancing with GD but has danced with Santa Barbara Dance Arts for 1 year. Lauren has attended 2 State Street Ballet Junior Intensives and 1 State Street Ballet Summer Intensive. Outside of dance, Lauren enjoys photography and being with family and friends. Lauren is very excited to begin her 2nd year of SSBYD.

Emi Thomas

Apprentice 1

Emilia is 14 years old and attends Santa Barbara High. She has been dancing for 3 years and this is her 2nd year at GD and in SSBYD. She loves being able to express herself through dance and share it with others. She also loves photography, videography, and is in the Multimedia Art and Design Academy at SBHS. When she graduates, Emi would love to attend a large university and continue dance throughout her life.

Jacey Allen

Junior

Jacey is 13 years old and is currently attending 8th grade at La Cumbre Junior High. She has been dancing at GD since she was 2 years old. She has attended all GD summer camps and Junior Intensives. Jacey is pleased to be a Junior member of SSBYD this year and continuing her dance training. She loves helping others discover their love for dance. For the past 2 years, Jacey is a teaching assistant for ballet and tap classes. Jacey’s dream is to have her own dance studio where she can choreograph and teach. Dancing is her passion, whether it be jazz, ballet or tap, and would love to continue dancing throughout the rest of her life.

Tehya Baptista

Junior

Tehya is 13 years old and is in 8th grade at Goleta Valley Junior High. She began dancing at Santa Barbara Dance Arts at 6 years old. Over the years, she has danced most forms of dance including aerial, hip-hop, musical theatre, contemporary, jazz, tap, and ballet. This is her 1st year participating in SSBYD and she is very excited. Tehya’s dream is to attend Julliard School in New York. She loves reading and her favorite book is titled, “Every Soul a Star”.

Ava Benhayon

Junior

Ava is a 6th grader at Montecito Union School. She began dancing at GD in 2009 at age 3. Ava has performed many roles in Rudolph, The Nutcracker, and in the Spring performances. She dances year-round by attending both the Musical Intensive and Junior Intensive summer programs at GD. 2017 marks Ava’s first year as a member of SSBYD. Ava also enjoys singing and has been a member of the Montecito Union Chorus for the last 3 years. When she isn’t singing or dancing, Ava enjoys spending time with family and friends.

Persephone Gallegos

Junior

A homeschooled 6th grader, Persephone has been dancing since she was 2 years old. She’s been training at GD the last 4 years and this is her first year in SSBYD. Persephone has trained at GD Junior Intensive the last 3 summers. In her spare time, Persephone likes to be outside, playing with her kitties and her labrador Prudence, read, and draw. She loves to go diving with her family. Her dream is to be a professional dancer.

Madelyne Herbert

Junior

Madelyne is 11 years old and is in 6th grade at Cold Springs School. She has been at GD for 8 years. She is very excited for her 1st year in SSBYD and looks forward to attending RDA in the Spring. Her favorite show to dance is The Nutcracker. She loves ballet, jazz and enjoys contemporary. When she isn’t dancing, Madelyne sings in her school chorus and enjoys reading and spending time with her friends.

Ian Larkin

Junior

Ian is a 13 year old 8th grader at Goleta Valley Junior High. He has been dancing at GD for 2 years and this is his 1st year in SSBYD. Ian is honored to be a Junior in SSBYD and is looking forward to this year of dance. Outside of dance and school, he enjoys playing piano, reading books, and engineering things. This year he hopes to be accepted into Dos Pueblos High’s Engineering Program.

Rebecca Lennon

Company

Rebeca is 12 years old and a 7th grade honors student at Goleta Valley Junior High. This is her first year as a member of SSBYD. Becca, as she is known by her friends, has been dancing at GD since she was 2 years old. In addition to her love of dance, Rebecca also participates in her school’s theater arts program and plays the flute in Goleta Valley’s Advanced band.

Ashly Pryor

Junior

Ashly is 12 years old and attends Laguna Blanca School. She has trained at GD since she was 3 years old and this is her 1st year in SSBYD. Ashley looks forward to dancing as a Battle Toy and a Little Maid in The Nutcracker this season. In addition to her passion for dancing ballet, Ashly also enjoys traveling with her family, going to the beach with friends, and volunteering in the community.

Hidde Roukema

Junior

Hidde is 13 years old and an 8th grader at Goleta Valley Junior High. He has been dancing for 3 years and this is his 1st year in SSBYD. He has dances the roles of a Party Boy in The Nutcracker and Storm in Thumbelina. This year he will be an Ice Skater in Rudolph. He hopes to one day get the role of Fritz in The Nutcracker. Outside of dance, Hidde is a part of theater at school, loves science, and likes to build stuff.

Sadie Ugoretz

Junior

Sadie is 13 years old and in 8th grade at Goleta Valley Junior High. She has been dancing at GD since she was 3. Over the past summer, she attended the Dance Inten-sive at Idyllwild Arts and her 4th Junior Intensive at GD. In her free time, Sadie enjoys playing the piano and hanging out with her sisters. She is really looking forward to her 1st year of SSBYD.

Corinne Yungling

Junior

Corinne is 12 years old and is currently a 7th grader at Marymount. She began dancing at the age of 3. She enjoys all aspects of dance and is thrilled to be a member of SSBYD at the Junior level.

Chloe Babcock and Amelia Miller November 2017

This month’s Dancer Spotlight features SSBYD Company dancers Chloe Babcock (Rudolph) and Amelia Miller (Clarice). These high school Juniors (Chloe attends Santa Barbara High and Amelia attends San Marcos High) take a moment from their busy schedules to share what their life is like in and out of the dance studio.

C
hloe – What was your initial reaction to being cast as Rudolph?
I
was so surprised and immediately excited to play this fun part! I was not expecting to have the opportunity to play Rudolph and I’m looking for to the multiple duets with my best friend Amelia.
H
ow do you balance rehearsals, dance training, and school?
T
his is challenging but has become pretty routine to me now. I utilize a lot of lunch time and Sunday nights to get ahead and do homework early in the week. Even when I have down time at dance or in-between rehearsals, I try to get a few assignments done.
A
melia – How are rehearsals going as Clarice?
S
ince rehearsals have started, my excitement for this role has flourished. I really enjoy dancing my solo and the music just makes it that much better. I also love that I get to dance such a role with my best friend.
W
hat inspires you to dance?
A
lot of things inspire me to dance but the passion I have found and grown upon for the art form is what keeps me going. When having a life chaotic as mine, I always look forward to the consistency of dance and how it’s always there for you.
W
hat do you do in your spare time?

C
hloe
I
love to spend my spare time with friends and family. My favorite things to do with them includes going to the beach and movies, hiking, bowling, and picnicking. I enjoy photography and creating visual art. Last but not least, I love to sleep!
A
melia
Y
ou’ll probably find me adventuring with my friends and family. I always love a good, spontaneous adventure.
I
s there a special item you keep in your dance bag?

C
hloe
I
don’t have any special items but a do keep a little snack in case I get hungry during rehearsals! Bars are my ‘go-to’ and I especially love chocolate chip Chewy ones. Fruit snacks are good too.
A
melia
M
y yo-yo.

Sydney Coffman – June 2017

This month’s Spotlight shines on Apprentice 1 Dancer Sydney Coffman, who will be dancing the title role in Gustafson Dance’s production of Thumbelina this weekend. Sydney shares what’s going on in rehearsals, as well as how dance has inspired her.

C
ongratulations on being cast as Thumbelina! How are rehearsals going?
I
have really enjoyed dancing as Thumbelina and I’m very excited to perform at the lovely Lobero Theatre. Playing Thumbelina is a fun experience because I enjoy acting on stage and I love the character. The most challenging part of my role is definitely partnering. I have never had a partnering class so it makes it very difficult. You have to learn how to work together with your partner and make it look effortless. I never really realized how little things, like where your hand is placed and the distance from your partner in a step, could really make a difference in the way the movement looks. You also have to learn to trust your partner. If you don’t trust your partner, it makes the step more difficult and it doesn’t look as beautiful as it could. I feel fortunate that Bennett is my partner. He is a talented dancer with good work ethics. Thank you, Bennett.
W
hat do you like to do when you’re not dancing?
B
esides dance, I love to hang out with my friends. My best friend happens to live right across the street from me. She is a very talented actress and we love to come see and support each other at our shows. We can talk to each other about anything and understand each other very well. I am very grateful to have such a true, wonderful friend and I couldn’t imagine not having her in my life. I love you Chiya!
W
hat about dance inspires you?
M
y favorite part of the day is when I’m at the dance studio. If I’m ever having a rough day, coming to dance always helps because this is what I want to do for my career. Walking into class always gives me this special feeling of knowing that this is where I belong. Dance is a big part of who I am. Thank you, Gustafson Dance, dancers, and our talented instructors. I feel very proud to be a part of the studio. Getting to see the State Street Ballet Company practice and getting to watch the final product of their hard work is special. I’m always in awe when I see them at the studio. I know it is possible-with hard work and passion for what I do—to make my dream a reality.
D
o you have any dancer role models?
M
y dancer role model is Sara Mearns, who is a principal dancer with New York City Ballet. She really inspires me because whenever she gets on stage, she becomes the role that she is playing. You can also tell how much she loves to dance and perform and makes every step so beautiful and artistic.
A
ny special items in your dance bag?
I
always keep stuff like toe tape and my pointe shoe sewing kit just in case I get a bad blister or need to sew my pointe shoes. I also keep an extra pair of tights in my dance bag if anyone has a rip in theirs or forgot them.


Isabel Clark – February 2017

This month’s Spotlight shines on SSBYD co-captain and Company Level dancer Isabel Clark. Isabel is a senior at Dos Pueblos High School and a member of the DP Engineering Academy (DPEA), as well as an instructor at Gustafson Dance. Isabel took a few minutes out of her busy life to talk with Spotlight!

H
ow do you balance academics with ballet?
T
he demands of DP Engineering are not that much than the demands of regular high school. However, when I have to miss rehearsal (for example, when I had to travel with the DPEA to the Maker Faire) I make sure to communicate with Allison and Nicole ahead of time.
W
hat advice do you have for younger dancers?
T
he advice I would give younger dancers is that one role will not decide your dance career. Keep working hard and don’t forget to have fun.
W
hat have been some of your favorite roles to dance?
O
ne of my favorite roles to dance was in Kassandra Taylor Newberry’s “To Build a Home.” It was a very emotional and beautiful piece and it was my first time performing at RDA. “To Build a Home” will always have a special place in my heart.
W
hat are your plans for after graduation?
A
fter graduation, I plan to go to college and pursue a double major in Dance and Economics.
A
ny special items in your dance bag?
I
usually have around 4-7 pairs of pointe shoes (most which I do not wear anymore) and candy.


December 2016

Clara Morando, Chloe Babcock & Tori Fay

This month’s Spotlight shines on three dancers highlighted in Rudolph: Clara Morando (Rudolph), Chloe Babcock (Heidi), and Tori Fay (Yukon Cornelia). The three Apprentice 2 dancers discuss rehearsals for December performances, balancing school and ballet, and where they can be found when not in the studio!

Clara Morando

C
ongratulations on playing the part of Rudolph! How are rehearsals going, and what are some of the challenges of the role?

R
ehearsals are going great! I don’t have any part that I am struggling with, but it is a little overwhelming to memorize all of the choreography for Rudolph with The Nutcracker coming a couple of weeks after.
W
hat was the first role you ever danced in Rudolph? What has been your favorite role to dance?

M
y first part in Rudolph was a Green Elf. It was my first ever jazz dance and I was so excited! It stands out in my memory because it was the first time I ever danced any other type of dance other than ballet. Some of my favorite roles in Rudolph have been Ice Skaters and Santa’s Helpers.
W
hat do you like to do in your free time?

I
n my free time I love to spend time with my family and friends. And when I am not with them you can always find me reading a book!


W
hat’s a special item in your dance bag?

W
ell, I have a special pointe shoe key chain that hangs on my bag. My former jazz teacher, Sarah, gave it to me.

Chloe Babcock

Y
ou are dancing the role of Heidi in Rudolph this year! What do you especially like or find challenging about this role?

I
love that Heidi is a happy character who loves to dance. I really enjoy the solo as well as dancing alongside Clara as Rudolph a few times! Although the role is fun, it is challenging for me, especially the pas de deux with the snow monster!
H
ow do you balance school and ballet?

I
really like being involved with my school through ASB/leadership and also experiencing such awesome programs like the Multimedia Arts and Design (MAD) Academy, where I am learning a lot about graphic design, photography, film, and more. Balancing everything is not always easy but I love both school and dance and can always find a way to make things work out.
W
hat do you like to do when you’re not at school or dance?

S
chool and dance take up a lot of my time, but I do also love to spend time with friends and family. I don’t really have many hobbies besides occasionally swimming and hiking. I also enjoy drawing and painting.


W
hat’s a special item in your dance bag?

I
don’t really have a special item in my dance bag. However, I often eat Chick-fil-A before or after class and usually have a couple of wrappers or napkins in my bag from there which my friends and I think is pretty funny. Classic Chloe. 

Tori Fay

C
ongratulations on dancing Yukon Cornelius in Rudolph. How are rehearsals going?

I
am excited to play the role of Yukon in Rudolph! I especially like dancing with the little dogs, and having them pull me in the sleigh. Yukon is my first big role and I am very excited to dance and act, as well. I am looking forward to all my upcoming roles, and I am especially thrilled about dancing in the “Waltz of the Flowers” in The Nutcracker this year.
H
ow do you balance school and ballet?

T
he Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy (DPEA) is something I really enjoy at school, as it allows me to try new things and apply the learning and create actual projects. School and dance can be hard to balance at times, but with Independent PE I try to get some work done in my free 6th period so that it’s not all waiting for me after I get home from ballet.
W
hat do you like to do in your free time?

I
n my little free time, I love hanging out with friends, drawing, hiking, and going on adventures! This year I’m teaching myself how to play the guitar, which is a lot of fun. I also spend a good deal of time doing homework and spending time with my family, as well. I love spending time outdoors because it relieves stress, and going on walks in nature is so beautiful. I also am a team member of a volunteer organization called Build On, which raises money to build schools in poor countries. I hope to raise enough money to travel to Nicaragua this summer and help to build a school there.


W
hat’s a special item in your dance bag?

A
special random item in my dance bag is a bunch of little perfumes and hand sanitizers that smell amazing. I always keep a little perfume with me wherever I go, so of course I must have some in my dance bag!


Sophia Vraciu – October 2016

This month’s Spotlight shines on Company dancer and Santa Barbara High School junior Sophia Vraciu, who will be performing the part of the Ballerina Barbie in Rudolph in December. Sophia talks with Spotlight about favorite roles, her experience as a finalist in Santa Barbara’s inaugural Teen Dance Star competition last year, and plans for life after graduation.

C
ongratulations on being a finalist in Teen Dance Star last year! How would you describe the experience?
T
hank you! Being a part of the inaugural Teen Dance Star was incredible. It was something I kind of auditioned for at the last minute, but the results were amazing. I learned so much, especially about myself and how I apply corrections to my dancing. I also made tons of new friends, connections, and of course, memories I will never forget! I, of course, enjoyed every moment of it, and I strongly suggest all of you girls to audition- it doesn’t hurt and you gain experience no matter what!
W
hat has been some of your most memorable dance roles?
I
have been lucky enough to have some really great roles over the years, and I’m super excited about Barbie, especially because there’s a lot of acting involved, which makes it that much more fun and provides a focus on more than just the steps. I was Tina in Tina the Ballerina when I was 13, which I absolutely loved, and also I got to be a lead in a company piece called “False Start” when I was in the 8th grade–that was a huge evolving period for me and I was so lucky to have had such an opportunity.
W
hat do you like to do in your free time?
H
aha free time! In my limited free time, I love to hang out with my friends and do crazy, fun, and spontaneous things, catch up on sleep, or even do homework (as crazy as that sounds). I find solace and stress relief in studying!
W
hat would you like to do after graduation?
B
efore I went to high school, I was pretty adamant and focused on becoming a professional ballerina. College was always going to happen, but it was still with a focus on dance, dance, and more dance! But during my freshman year, my priorities shifted. I got injured, had surgery, and I realized that college, school, and learning were something else that I loved and wanted to pursue. I have a big list of dream schools; I’m thinking either law or pre-med/surgery.
A
ny special items in your dance bag?
P
eople usually marvel at the large amount of pointe shoes I carry around. I’m very picky and always need several old backup pairs to rotate in use! I also carry around this contraption thing called “The Stick.” it’s like a roller that runners use, and it really gets to the tight and stubborn muscles!


Catherine Pizzinat – May 2016

This month’s Spotlight shines on Catherine Pizzinat. In May, Catherine will be dancing the title role of Tina the Ballerina and is hard at work with the rest of the cast rehearsing for the shows. We checked in with the 8th-grade La Colina student as she prepares for Tina!

C
ongratulations on earning the part of Tina the Ballerina! How are rehearsals going?
R
ehearsals are going great! I think the part that is most challenging is having to go from the first dance straight to the second dance without coming off stage. I love the finale because it’s so much fun to dance and to a great song!
W
hen you’re not dancing or in school, what do you like to do?
I
like to spend time with my friends and family when I’m not at dance or school.
W
hat inspires you about dance?
D
ance has taught me not to give up on something that I’m pursuing, whether it be trying to get a certain turn down or improving technique.
W
hat’s a special item in your dance bag?
I
do have this key chain of a pointe shoe hanging on my bag that Sarah, our former jazz teacher, gave me.


Hannah Ezell and Morgan Love December 2015

This month’s Dancer Spotlight shines on the two talented young dancers who will be alternating the role of Clara in the upcoming production of The Nutcracker, presented by the State Street Ballet. Apprentice 2 dancers Hannah Ezell and Morgan Love spoke with us about the role of dance in their lives and preparing for Clara.

C
ongratulations on being cast as Clara! Is this a part that you’ve always wanted to dance, or a recent goal? What made you decide to audition?

H
annah
I
have always wanted the role of Clara! I’ve wanted it for as long as I can remember so it is a huge honor to be cast. When I was younger I would tie a pink ribbon in my hair and dance to the video of my sister as Clara! I decided to audition because I am now at the level where we are given the opportunity to audition so of course I took it!
M
organ
B
eing the role of Clara has always been a dream of mine ever since I’ve started dancing! When I was younger, I would always have my nutcracker out during the holidays and wish to have a dream like Clara did. I decided to audition because this has been my dream role for so long!
W
hat parts of the role do you find the most interesting or challenging?

H
annah
T
he most challenging part of the role would definitely be the pas de deux because I have never done it before! It has been a great experience, and I have learned so much from it. I’ve never had much of a solo before, so it is really interesting dancing on my own with everyone watching.
M
organ
I
love the beginning of the second act although it is very challenging! Partnering is very tough, especially because this is one of the first times I’ve ever done it. It’s amazing to have the opportunity to work with the professional company, especially when they give you helpful advice and compliments.
W
hen you’re not in dancing or in school, what do you like to do?

H
annah
I
really enjoy spending time with my friends and family when I can in my spare time.


M
organ
W
hen I get the chance, I like to hang out with friends! It’s hard to do that, however, because most of the time I am at school, dance, or studying. Although I do not have other hobbies, dancing is my absolute passion and I’m so happy that it’s my main interest.
W
hat advice would you give younger dancers who aspire to a lead role?

H
annah
W
orking hard always pays off! After every class or rehearsal I try to make sure there are at least three things I learned. It is also very helpful to write down goals, corrections, and achievements! Make sure you always put in 110% with everything you do, and good things will come!
M
organ
D
ancing is not about perfection! It is not about the number of turns, 180 degree turnout, or how high your extensions are. It’s about how much hard work and effort you put into it to make something beautiful. I believe if you have the passion and the dedication then you truly are an amazing dancer inside and out.

Anna Lebolt – October 2015

This month’s Dancer Spotlight shines on Anna Lebolt! Anna will be dancing the title role in the winter production of Rudolph. We asked the Dos Pueblos freshman a few question as she prepares for her big role:

C
ongratulations on being cast as Rudolph! How have rehearsals been going?
R
ehearsals have been going well! I feel a bit overwhelmed with all the choreography, but I feel confident that I will be able to remember everything and enjoy it. This is my first lead role, so I’d say I’m both very excited and nervous! Right now, I would say I am most nervous about blizzard, because there are so many people on stage, I’ve heard from others that it is quite stressful, and because I haven’t even started it learning it yet!
D
o you remember the first role that you ever danced in Rudolph?
M
y first role in Rudolph was a green elf. I believe I was 11, and it was my first year of jazz. I’ll always remember that part, because it was the first time I really experienced a dancing type other than ballet.
W
hat advice would you give younger dancers?
I
would remind them that even though it’s important to try their hardest, not everything they do has to be perfect! Ballet is supposed to be fun, and you can’t fully enjoy it if you’re putting yourself down all the time! Also, always put 100% effort in your dancing, it really pays off 🙂
W
here can you be found when you’re not dancing or in school?
I
n my free time, I love to draw, read, and go on my phone. I would call myself a fairly artistic person, and I basically like to do anything that has to do with art.
W
hat’s a special item in your dance bag?
W
ell, it’s nothing all that special, but I have all my name tags from RDA and the summer intensives I’ve been to in a pocket inside of my dance bag. I also always carry around lots of skirts- I think I have about 5 in my bag right now!


Jenna Comstock – June 2015

Zachary-Wells

This month’s Dancer Spotlight focuses on Company dancer Jenna Comstock. This is Jenna’s second year choreographing a piece for SSBYD’s annual Celebration of Dance. We talked to the Santa Barbara High School junior about her experiences in ballet and choreography:

H
ow did you get started in choreographing dances and what is the most satisfying and challenging aspects of it?
I
‘ve always been inspired by music. Since I was young, my family has played music around the house and my sister and I have always loved making up little dances to all different kinds of music. But I had never really thought about choreographing until last summer. I realized how much I enjoy expressing my ideas through movement and patterns, and how much I love working with other dancers. The hardest part for me is to simplify my ideas and decide what I want the piece to look like.
W
here do you get inspiration for the pieces you choreograph?
I
am often inspired by the evolution of relationships and group dynamics. I’m also interested in the balance of nature in contrast with the disproportionate focus on appearance of popular culture. All of our dancers are very smart and perceptive, and I really enjoy playing around with ideas and patterns with them. My piece this year communicated a fear of comfort and was also inspired by the contrast between clarity and confusion. I also love creating movements and patterns based on interesting questions I’ve heard!
T
his year you are Dance Captain, Emerging Choreographer, and a member of your high school’s Visual Arts and Design Academy. How do you balance all of the different parts of your life?
I
am very interested in and passionate about these things, and that really helps me balance academics and dance. When I do get stressed out, I remind myself to keep a good perspective and make sure that getting everything done isn’t as important as enjoying what I’m doing, and doing it well.
Y
ou have danced the lead role in Madeline. Any advice for this year’s Madeline?
T
he best advice I’ve ever gotten was to remember that it’s an incredible opportunity to be able to share such a wonderful story through dancing, and that people really just want to see you enjoying yourself! Also, to remember what an honor it is to be picked to dance a lead role, and that you deserve to enjoy
W
hat’s a special item in your dance bag?
I
always have chocolate!


Zachary Wells – January 2015

Zachary-Wells

This month’s Dancer Spotlight focuses on Company dancer Zachary Wells, who is choreographing his first piece in the upcoming Celebration of Dance in March. We caught up with the busy San Marcos junior to ask him a few questions:

H
ow does it feel to be choreographing your first dance?
I
t is very exciting but also a little scary to be choreographing my first piece. It is exciting to combine music and movement to make my vision come to life. It’s so inspiring to work with the young dancers. I also really look forward to presenting my piece and finding out how audiences respond to my work. The experience has also given me huge respect for the great choreographers that we get to work with at SSBYD: choreographing a new dance is really hard and fun work.
W
hat is the piece about, and where did you get your inspiration for it?
T
he piece is about overcoming miscommunication to make meaningful connections and the support good relationships can give you through hard times. It’s also simply about the beauty of movement: creating a dance that the dancers and the audience will (hopefully) find beautiful and entertaining.
B
ased on your experiences, do you have any advice for younger dancers, particularly boys?
I
would advise boys to give dance a chance! It is a great workout and teaches important skills such as balance, strength and flexibility.
Y
ou are a member of San Marcos’ AAPLE Academy. How do you balance your studies with dance?
T
he AAPLE Academy focuses on rigorous academics and leadership. We take lots of AP classes and participate in many activities outside of the classroom so it is pretty time-consuming. It’s not easy to balance the demands of SSBYD with school, but all the SSBYD dancers have busy lives so we all have to deal with this challenge.


Grace Quittner – November 2014

Grace-Quittner-

This month’s Dancer Spotlight shines on Grace Quittner, who will be dancing the title role in next month’s production of Rudolph. We asked the San Marcos High sophomore a few question as she prepares for her big role.

Y
ou sustained an injury last year and had to miss some shows. How does it feel coming back and starring in Rudolph?
I
t feels great to come back from an injury feeling stronger than ever. I am so excited to star as Rudolph for my first big role (other than Clarice, which I was unable to do last year due to my fracture). This year is a new opportunity and I am looking forward to the show!
W
hat are you most excited about in playing Rudolph? Are you nervous about any scenes?
I
am especially excited for my first solo or “birth” scene in the show. Although it is fairly short, this is the first time that I will dance on stage alone and be able to express myself individually. On the other hand, I am somewhat nervous for blizzard because there are a few pirouettes.
D
o you remember the first role you ever played in Rudolph? What has been some of your favorite roles in the show?
M
y first role in Rudolph was a Red Elf. When I was younger, instead of Rudolph, we did either the Holiday show or Nutcracker at the Lobero. Some of my favorite roles in Rudolph have been Ballerina Barbie and being one of the Misfit Toys for jazz.
D
o you have any advice for younger dancers who someday hope to dance in a lead role?
I
would encourage young dancers to keep striving for their best and pay attention to corrections and input from teachers. Most importantly, I would advise them to practice performance and incorporating emotion into their dancing. It is helpful to remind yourself to stay positive and not let any criticism or doubt make you feel incapable of being great.
W
hat’s a special item in your dance bag?
F
or Christmas my grandma gave me a ballet slipper charm that I hang on the outside of my dance bag. 🙂


RDA Festival Information

Regional Dance America/Pacific Festival 2016


Origami – Emerging Piece by Fiona Chandrasekaran


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The pieces chosen to be performed at festival are Rodney Gustafson’s “Intersection” and Emerging Choreographer, Fiona Chandrasekaran’s “Origami” set to a award winning poem Paper People by Harry Baker.

fiona

The adjudicator for 2016 Festival is Michael Uthoff and he chose SSBYD dancers Emma Nelson(left) and Sophia Vraciu(right) for the Honors class at festival. We have 30 dancers and 5 chaperones attending festival this year.

emmasophia


Intersection


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RDA

Visit the Regional Dance America website for more info about RDA

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RDA Pacific

Visit the Regional Dance America Pacific website for more info about RDA’s Pacific region.

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State Street Ballet Young Dancers

Gustafson Dance, 2285 Las Positas Road, Santa Barbara, California 93105
info@gustafsondance.com

(805) 563-3262

Contributing Photographer

johnconroyimages.com
johnconroyimages@gmail.com

(805) 563-4798






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