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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

Sophia Dodd

Company

Sophia Dodd is 17 years old and a senior at San Marcos High School, and dually enrolled at Santa Barbara City College. She began her early training with Gustafson Dance and has danced with them for eight years. She has also danced with Ballet Arizona, under the direction of Ib Anderson, for six years. She has attended summer intensives at Saratoga Springs (under the direction of New York City Ballet dancers and alumni), Ballet Arizona, State Street Ballet’s Summer Intensive, with scholarships, and this past year at the Joffrey Ballet. Sophia is also a member of State Street Ballet’s Professional Track Program. This is her fourth year with SSBYD.

Kaylee Kooyman

Company

Kaylee is 16 years old and has been dancing with Gustafson Dance since the age of nine. She is homeschooling as a junior in high school. This is her fifth year being a part of SSBYD. Kaylee has danced the part of the Bird in Peter and the Wolf, Waltz of the Flowers and Princesses in The Nutcracker, the Frog Queen in Thumbelina, and many other contemporary works and classical pieces. In addition to dancing, she enjoys playing the piano, reading, singing, art, and hanging out with family and friends. Kaylee has been to Regional Dance America for the past four years and is very excited to participate again this year!

Grace Quittner

Company

Grace is 16 years old and currently a junior at San Marcos High School. She has been dancing at Gustafson Dance since the age of three. Grace has been a member of SSBYD for six years, and this is her third year as a company member. During the summers Grace has continued her dance training at intensive summer programs locally, as well as in New York. She has received scholarships to State Street Ballet, Ballet Austin, Ballet West, and Joffrey contemporary and jazz summer intensives. In December of 2014, Grace danced the role of Rudolph in the winter performance, Rudolph.

Natalie Mohr

Company

Natalie is 17 and currently a senior at Santa Barbara High School. She has been dancing with Gustafson Dance for ten years. She loves contemporary and modern dance, in addition to ballet. She is really looking forward to attending the Regional Dance America (RDA) festival for her seventh year, and performing in the SSBYD piece there for the sixth time. In 2014, she was chosen to represent SSBYD in the RDA piece “Intricate Blue,” which was performed at the International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. This past summer, she attended the Alonzo King Lines Ballet intensive in San Francisco, and had an amazing time. She has also served for two years as SSBYD dance captain. She’s looking forward to another great year!

Lily Conroy

Company

Lily is 17 and a senior at San Marcos High School. In addition to dancing with Gustafson Dance and SSBYD, this is Lily’s third year in State Street Ballet’s Professional Track Program. In 2012, Lily was cast in State Street Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker to dance in the role of Clara. In April 2013, she participated with SSBYD at Regional Dance America in Phoenix, where she was awarded the RDA Scholarship to Joffrey Ballet School’s Summer Intensive 2013 in New York City. She also trained at the five-week summer intensive with The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia, and Joffrey Chicago in 2014. This past summer she trained at Joffrey Chicago. 2014 marks Lily’s fifth year with SSBYD. Lily volunteers at the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and hopes to be a surgeon.

Kira Hopkins

Company

Kira is 18 years old. She has been dancing since the age of three and has studied exclusively with Gustafson Dance, SSBYD and State Street Ballet. She has been in SSBYD for six years and a performing company dancer with SSBYD for four years. This year Kira has also had the opportunity to join the State Street Ballet Professional Track, where she is furthering her work on Balanchine, classical, and modern techniques. She has been featured in several pieces with SSBYD and Gustafson Dance. Highlights include Corps de Ballet parts in Modern works by Kassandra Taylor Newberry, as well as classical roles including Snow, Waltz of the Flowers, Princess Aurora, Rudolph, Clarice, and The Spirit of Winter. She has been the recipient of scholarships from Santa Barbara Dance Alliance as well as Gustafson Dance and SSB.

Afton Gustafson

Company

Afton is 16 years old and a junior at Santa Barbara High School. Afton has been dancing since she was very young and has been in SSBYD for five years. She has performed in various ballets but her favorite is The Nutcracker. In addition to being a dancer, Afton trains as a figure skater, and loves the relation that figure skating has with ballet. Afton looks forward to the upcoming year of dance and performing new choreography.

Sophia Vraciu

Company

Sophia is 15 years old and a sophomore at Santa Barbara High School. She has been dancing with Gustafson Dance for thirteen years, and has participated in State Street Ballet Young Dancers four years, now entering her fifth. She has danced roles such as the title role in Tina the Ballerina, Clarice in Rudolph, Snow and Princesses in The Nutcracker, and lead roles in more contemporary work. She has also received scholarships to summer programs such a s Ballet West, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Joffrey Ballet School, and has attended State Street Ballet’s Santa Barbara and Durango Programs. She also placed second in the Santa Barbara Ballet competition, and has participated in the Youth America 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 pursue a career in law and politics.

Emma Nelson

Company

Emma is 17 and is currently a senior at Dos Pueblos High School. She has enjoyed dancing at Gustafson Dance since she was three years old. This will be her sixth year in SSBYD, and sixth year attending Regional Dance America. Emma has performed in shows with Gustafson Dance and State Street Ballet such as Rudolph, The Nutcracker, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, as well as numerous spring shows. She has attended summer intensives at State Street Ballet, the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington DC, Pacific Northwest Ballet on scholarship, San Francisco Ballet, The Rock School for Dance Education on scholarship, and Ballet West Academy on scholarship. She has also competed in Youth America Grand Prix at the regional and national levels, recently placing third in the San Francisco regionals. Last year, she began teaching classes to the primary and pre-ballet levels at Gustafson Dance. She is very excited to finish her last year in high school with SSBYD.

Sarah Block

Company

Sarah is 15 years old and is a sophomore at San Marcos High School. She has been dancing at Gustafson Dance since the age of three and this will be her fourth year with SSBYD. Sarah has attended the State Street Ballet Summer Intensive for four consecutive years and in the summer of 2013 she attended the Idyllwild Arts summer program. She is a multi year recipient of scholarships awarded by Santa Barbara Dance Alliance. She has also received scholarships from multiple dance companies at Regional Dance America/Pacific including Ballet West.

Isabel Clark

Company

Isabel is 16 years old and a junior in the Dos Pueblos High School Engineering Academy. She has been dancing since the age of three, and has studied ballet, jazz, flamenco, and character at Gustafson Dance and FlamenColores in Santa Barbara. In addition, Isabel studied at DanceForce in Kingston, England -UK. Isabel has attended summer intensives at the State Street Ballet, Long Beach Ballet Theater, the Joffrey Academy- Los Angeles and Chicago, and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. This is Isabel’s fifth year in SSBYD and she is looking forward to Festival in Phoenix.

Fiona Chandrasekaran

Company

Fiona is a senior at San Marcos High School. She has been dancing with Gustafson Dance for fourteen years, and has been a part of SSBYD for six years. Fiona has choreographed six pieces for the school as an emerging choreographer. Three have been adjudicated, and one was performed at the Regional Dance America/Pacific Festival in 2014. She attended the Craft of Choreography intensive in Utah in the summer of 2014. This year she is excited to be working on another piece for the SSBYD Company, and to serve as dance captain.

Jenna Comstock

Company

Jenna is 16 years old and a senior at Santa Barbara High School, where she is a member of the Visual Arts and Design Academy. She has been dancing for eleven years, and this will mark her fifth year in SSBYD. Jenna has performed in many shows with SSBYD and SSB, her favorites being The Nutcracker, Beauty and the Beast, and the annual Celebration of Dance performance. In 2014 Jenna’s emerging piece, Time Forgotten, was selected to be performed at Regional Dance America in Spokane, Washington. Jenna loves having the opportunity to collaborate with and take inspiration from her peers, and is excited to choreograph her third piece this year. Jenna attended the State Street Ballet Summer Intensive in 2010, 2012, and 2013, and in 2014 and 2015 she attended the Alonzo King LINES Ballet Summer Program. Jenna plans to focus her studies on neuroscience, literature, dance, and choreography in college.

Sophie Henderson

Apprentice 2

Sophie is a freshman at Laguna Blanca School. She has been dancing at Gustafson Dance since she was three years old. This past summer she attended State Street Ballet’s Summer Intensive. In years past she has attended Long Beach Ballet’s Summer Intensive and State Street Ballet’s Summer Intensive. In SSBYD’s Celebration of Dance in 2014, Sophie danced the role of Marie, the Little Dancer in Degas and the Little Dancer. Sophie is excited to be an Apprentice 2 with SSBYD, and she is looking forward for her third year attending Regional Dance America.

Morgan Love

Apprentice 2

Morgan is 14 years old and currently a freshman at Bishop Diego High School. She has been dancing at Gustafson Dance since the age of three, and this is her third year participating in SSBYD. Morgan attended the Joffrey Ballet International Summer Dance Intensive located in Chicago this past summer. In the previous summers, she’s attended Long Beach Ballet’s and State Street Ballet’s Intensives. In the previous Celebration of Dance performance, Morgan played the roll of Little Red Riding Hood. Morgan is very excited for the year ahead, especially to be casted as the roll of Clara in this year’s production of The Nutcracker.

Kate Winterbauer

Apprentice 2

Kate is 16 years old and currently a junior at San Marcos High School. She has been dancing with Gustafson Dance for over eight years and this is her fourth year as a member of SSBYD. She has had many roles in the Gustafson Dance productions of Thumbelina, Madeline Lost in Central Park, Tina the Ballerina, Rudolph and State Street Ballet productions of The Nutcracker including the soloist role Yukon Cornelia. Along with being an avid dancer, Kate is an award-winning choreographer. Last year her emerging piece, “The World Would Be A Better Place If We Helped Each Other”, was recognized at the school, district, and state level. This year Kate is excited to be working on another emerging piece as well as learning new choreography from professionals. Outside of dance Kate also is a thriving student and puts much effort into her educational career, much like her dancing.

Anna Lebolt

Apprentice 2

Anna is 14 years old and a freshman at Dos Pueblos High School. She has been dancing with Gustafson Dance since age two and a half and has attended the State Street Ballet summer intensive and the Gustafson Dance junior intensive for the past few years. This will be Anna’s third year with SSBYD, and she is extremely excited to be an Apprentice 2 and to dance the role of Rudolph. In her free time, Anna can be found reading, drawing, or listening to music.

Karlise Loza

Apprentice 2

Karlise is 15 years old and a sophomore at San Marcos High School. She danced for six years at the Montecito School of Ballet and this is her second year with SSBYD. She has enjoyed performing in Rudolph, The Nutcracker, Madeline-Lost in Central Park, and Celebration of Dance. She has participated in summer intensives for the Montecito School of Ballet and State St. Ballet. She has performed during Old Spanish Days at Noches de Ronda,and attended RDA in Sacramento last spring. Outside of dance, Karlise likes to eat apples and play the recorder. She is looking forward to another year of working hard, having fun, and growing as a dancer.

Fenna Roukema

Apprentice 2

Fenna is 15 years old and a sophomore at Dos Pueblos High School. She has been dancing with Gustafson Dance for thirteen years, and this is her third year in SSBYD. Outside of dance, she attends the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy and loves to read. She volunteers at ballet, helping out in a younger girls class, and is dancing the part of Donner this year in Rudolph. This year, she attended State Street Ballet’s Summer Intensive, and has attended Gustafson Dance’s Junior Intensive in prior years. She’s excited to be in Apprentice 2 this year, and hopes to continue to steadily improve her technique and strength.

Hannah Ezell

Apprentice 2

Hannah is 14 years old and a sophomore at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School. She has been dancing since the age of two, and this is her third year with SSBYD. Hannah enjoys doing stuff with friends and family. She hopes to dance ballet professionally when she’s older and after she attends college. For the past two years now, Hannah has been a class assistant for Ballet level 2A at Gustafson Dance. She has danced several group roles with Gustafson Dance, and this year Hannah looks forward to playing the part of Clara in The Nutcracker. Hannah has attended Long Beach Ballet Summer Intensive, Walnut Hill Youth Intensive, and Ballet West Academy Summer Intensive.

Nina Schaeffer

Apprentice 2

Nina is 14 years old and is a 9th grader at San Marcos High School. She has been dancing with Gustafson Dance for eleven years. She is very excited to be participating in SSBYD for the second year, and is particularly thrilled to be attending Regional Dance America’s National Festival in Phoenix, Arizona, this spring. Outside of dance, Nina studies the piano and loves to read (especially Harry Potter)! She is looking forward to another great year of dance, and will be playing the part of Blizzard and a Reindeer in Rudolph, and a Party Girl in The Nutcracker.

Tori Fay

Apprentice 1

Tori is 14 years old and is a Freshman at Dos Pueblos High School. She has been dancing with Gustafson Dance for many years, and is excited to be dancing with SSBYD for her third year. She has attended the State Street Ballet summer intensive as well as the Junior Intensives at Gustafson. She has appeared in several shows with Gustafson and is excited to be a party girl this year in The Nutcracker. She is looking forward to attending RDA for the second time this year, as well as performing in all of the shows. Outside of dance, Tori enjoys spending time with friends and family, traveling, and photography.

Emily Hillebrandt

Apprentice 1

Emily is 14 years old and currently a freshman at San Marcos High School. She has been dancing since she was three and came to Gustafson Dance at the age of seven after she moved to Santa Barbara from San Diego. This is her first year participating in SSBYD and she is very excited about it. She also has a love for musical theater and singing. Emily has attended Gustafson Dance junior intensives for three years and plans to participate in the State Street Ballet summer intensive this coming year.

Alegra Zuchowicz

Apprentice 1

Alegra is 16 and a sophomore at Santa Barbara High School. She has been dancing with SSBYD for one year. She attended State Street Ballet Intensive over the summer and hopes to do many more intensives.

Chloe Babcock

Apprentice 1

Chloe is 14 years old and attending Santa Barbara High School. She has been dancing for four years, and this will be her second year with SSBYD. Outside of dance, she enjoys swimming, hiking, and being with her friends. Chloe hopes that in the future she can dance more roles or a lead role in Rudolph. She has attended the junior intensives at Gustafson Dance and a summer intensive at Momentum Dance Company.

Amelia Miller

Apprentice 1

Amelia is in ninth grade at San Marcos High School. She has been dancing since she was eleven years old. This summer she attended the State Street Ballet summer intensive and in the spring, she attended Regional Dance of America. Her favorite ballet is The Nutcracker and she hopes to be in Waltz of the Flowers next year. In addition, she has attended three Junior Intensives with Gustafson Dance.

Clara Morando

Apprentice 1

Clara is 13 years old and an eighth grade homeschooler. She has been dancing at Gustafson Dance as long as she can remember. Clara is very excited to be starting her second year of State Street Ballet Young Dancers! She has attended Gustafson Dance Jr. Intencive for the last four years and State Street Ballet Summer Intensive last summer. She is looking forward to The Nutcracker dancing the role of party girl and Rudolph in which she will be a reindeer. Clara hopes to grow in ballet technique this year.

Catherine Pizzinat

Apprentice 1

Catherine is 13 years old and attends La Colina junior high school. She has been dancing since she was two years old. Besides dance she likes to swim and hang out with friends. This will be Catherine’s second year in SSBYD. She has attended the State Street Summer Intensive this past summer and has attended the Gustafson Dance junior intensives for three years. She hopes to get more parts in the next couple years.

Shaylee Steffen

Apprentice 1

Shaylee is 14 years old and is a home schooled freshman in high school. She has been dancing with Gustafson since the fifth grade, and has attended Gustafson’s Summer Jr. Intensive for the past three years. This is her first year in SSBYD as an Apprentice 1 dancer. Shaylee is excited to be a part of SSBYD this year and for all of the performances that she will be participating in. When she is not dancing, Shaylee also enjoys going to the beach, hanging out with friends, and creating art.

Sophia Wolff

Apprentice 1

Sophia is 14 years old and a freshman at Trivium Charter Highschool. She has been dancing since she was five and this her first year in The Nutcracker and SSBYD. She hopes to become a dance choreographer when she graduates from UCI. On her days when she’s not dancing she loves hanging out with her friends and watching football with her family. Summer of 2015 she completed State Street Ballet’s Summer Intensive and next summer, in 2016, she would like to go to American Ballet Theatre or Joffrey Chicago.

Camille Berger

Junior

Camille is 13 years old and is in seventh grade at La Colina Jr. High. She pursues her passion for dance while successfully balancing her academic demands. Camille began dancing at Gustafson at the age of five and is thrilled to be in her first year as a Junior with SSBYD. She enjoys all forms of dance, but is particularly enthusiastic about ballet. Camille has attended two Junior Intensives with Gustafson and looks forward to attending State Street Ballet Summer Intensive next year. She is also excited about gaining additional experience as a class assistant. In addition to dance, Camille enjoys singing, playing the piano, and spending time with family, and friends.

Sydney Coffman

Junior

Sydney is 11 years old and attends school at Topa Topa Elementary school in Ojai. She has been dancing in Ojai for seven years. She attended the Gustafsons junior intensive last summer and fell in love with the studio. Her dream is to become a professional dancer. She has wanted to be a part of the Santa Barbara State Street production of The Nutcracker since she was three, and she goes every year. She is very excited to be a part of the SSBYD family.

Adrienne Cruise

Junior

Adrienne has been dancing with Gustafson for seven years. She was a gymnast for two years and a soccer player for three. Now she is a student at La Colina and enjoys extra curricular activities.

Evyn Dalforno

Junior

Evyn is 12 years old and in the seventh grade. She has been dancing with Gustafson Dance for nine years. Evyn has attended the Gustafson Ballet Junior Intensive for two years. She is very excited to be a part of SSBYD this year. When she is not dancing, Evyn enjoys soccer, sailing, surfing and playing the cello. Evyn is also looking forward to performing in this year’s production of The Nutcracker and Rudolph.

Karina Kranz

Junior

Karina is 13 years old and a seventh grader at La Colina Jr High. She has been dancing at Gustafson Dance since she was three years old. She grew up in Santa Barbara, and is part Hawaiian. Her other hobbies are skiing, snorkeling, paddling, and skateboarding. She is a member of Santa Barbara’s Outrigger Club, SBOCC, where her mom is club president. She used to do gymnastics starting at two years old until she was eight, but quit so she could focus more on her dance. She has two dogs, two birds, and one cat.

Annalena Rai

Junior

Anna is 12 years old and an honors student at La Colina Jr High. She was born in Connecticut and moved to Santa Barbara when she was three. At the age of three, she started dancing with Gustafson Dance. Anna has participated in and enjoyed the year long program for nine years. Performing in The Nutcracker each year has helped her progress as a dancer, and has always been a highlight of each year. Anna has also done nine years of the Gustafson dance camps and has played various main roles, including Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins, Mrs. Hannagin in Annie, and Mufasa, in the Lion King. Anna has also participated in the Junior Intensive program since 2011. Anna is very excited to be part of SSBYD this year and hopes to improve and grow as a dancer. At La Colina, Anna is in the performing arts program and is loving it. Anna hopes to have a career in the arts; if not a dancer, she hopes to be an actress.

Claire Raynor

Junior

Claire is 14 years old and is a freshman at San Marcos high school. She has been dancing since she was ten years old and this is her first year dancing with SSBYD. Other than dance she enjoys hanging out with friends, going to the beach, learning new things. Her favorite show to perform in is The Nutcracker. In The Nutcracker she hopes to be a party girl. She has attended several junior intensives in the summer with Gustafson dance. She has 4 siblings and a big family.

Ella Rotondo

Junior

Ella is 12 years old and a seventh grader at La Colina Jr. High. This is her seventh year dancing with Gustafson Dance. Ella is looking forward to being a Jr. member of SSBYD this year. Over the years Ella has attended multiple Gustafson Dance camps and has enjoyed Jr. Intensive the past two summers. This past summer she helped with the mini dance camp Annie, as well. Outside of dance Ella really enjoys art, music and spending time with her family and friends.


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

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johnconroyimages@gmail.com

(805) 563-4798

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