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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

ssbyd-full-group

Company Level

company-group

Apprentice 2 Level

apprentice-2-group

Apprentice 1 Level

apprentice-1-group

Junior

juniors

Our Dancers

Kaylee Kooyman

Company

Kaylee is 17 years old and has been dancing with Gustafson Dance since the age of nine. She is a homeschooling senior, and this is her sixth 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 Nutcracker, and many others. Her favorite contemporary works she has performed are To Build A Home by Kassandra Taylor Newberry and Origami by Fiona Chandrasekrean. She can’t wait to learn more amazing choreography and participate at Regional Dance America for a sixth year. In addition to dancing, she enjoys playing the piano, reading, singing, going to the beach, and hanging out with family and friends. Kaylee is so excited to perform and enjoy her last year with SSBYD.

Afton Gustafson

Company

Afton has been dancing since she was very young and has been in SSBYD for six 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 relationship that figure skating has with ballet. Afton has enjoyed sharing her love of dance with her students. She found teaching in the Lion King Dance Camp this past summer especially fun and rewarding.

Sophia Vraciu

Company

Sophia Vraciu is a 16 year old sophomore at Santa Barbara High School. She has been dancing with Gustafson Dance for fourteen years, and has participated in State Street Ballet Young Dancers five years, now entering her sixth. 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 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 second 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 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 either law, politics, or medicine.

Sarah Block

Company

Sarah is 16 years old and is a junior at San Marcos High School. She has been dancing at Gustafson Dance since the age of three and this will be her fifth 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. In January of last year she was a finalist in Santa Barbara’s Teen Dance Star and placed in the top three of the competition.

Isabel Clark

Company

Isabel Clark is a senior 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. She has attended RDA festivals in Montreal, Phoenix, Sacramento, Spokane, and is excited for nationals this year. She has been an instructor since summer 2016.

Sophia Caldwell

Company

Sophia Caldwell is 16 years old and currently a junior at San Marcos High School. Sophia has been dancing since the age of 3 and this is her 5th year in SSBYD. Sophia has had the honor to dance the lead role as Clara in SSB’s Nutcracker, as well as both lead roles Rudolph and Heidi in Gustafson Dances winter production “Rudolph”. Sophia has attended State Street Ballet summer intensive for 2 years receiving a scholarship. Outside of dance, Sophia is on the San Marcos High School varsity cheer and dance team, as well as the varsity competition cheer team. In the future Sophia wants to attend college and pursue the career of a surgical nurse and continue to dance on a college dance team.

Kate Winterbauer

Company

Kate is 17 years old and currently a senior at San Marcos High School. She has been dancing with Gustafson Dance for over nine years and this is her fifth year as a member of SSBYD. This year she is one of SSBYD’s Dance Captains. 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. Two years ago her emerging piece, “The World Would Be A Better Place If We Helped Each Other”, was recognized at the school, district, and state level. Last year she choreographed a second piece titled “Elevate” for SSBYD apprentice dancers. This year Kate is excited to be working with the company level 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

Company

Anna is 15 years old and a sophomore in the Engineering Academy at Dos Pueblos High School. She has been dancing with Gustafson since age 2 and a half and has attended the State Street Ballet summer intensive for the past three years as well as the Junior Intensive program. This will be Anna’s 4th year with SSBYD, and she is thrilled to be in company this year. She also looks forward to dancing the roles of the blizzard queen in Rudolph and a princess and waltz in The Nutcracker. When not dancing, Anna can be found reading, listening to music, or drawing.

Karlise Loza

Company

Karlise is a 15 year old Junior at San Marcos High School. 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 is excited to perform as Clara in Nutcracker this year. She has attended summer programs at The Montecito School of Ballet, State Street Ballet, and received a full scholarship to the Sacramento Ballet summer intensive. Outside of ballet Karlise is the junior class secretary, is enrolled in San Marcos’s Entrepreneurship Academy, and enjoys playing the recorder in her spare time.

Fenna Roukema

Company

Fenna is 16 years old and a junior Ay Dos Pueblos High School. She has been dancing at Gustafson’s since the age of 3, and this will be her fourth year in SSBYD. She had danced the parts of Donner in Rudolph and the Wolf in Peter and the Wolf, among other classical and contemporary parts. She is choreographing her first emerging piece this year but has danced in a few in the past. She is looking forward to another fun and exciting year in SSBYD.

Hannah Ezell

Company

Hannah Ezell is 15 years old and a junior at Santa Ynez High School. This will be her 4th year being apart of SSBYD and her third year attending RDA. She has been lucky enough to perform the past two 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, and Ballet West Academy Summer Intensive for the past two years. Her most major role performed was Clara in The Nutcracker this previous year, and is extremely thankful for the opportunity to play the role again this year. It is also her third year assisting in a ballet class. When she is not at the studio, Hannah spends most of her time on schoolwork, and trying to spend time with family and friends.

Tori Fay

Apprentice 2

Tori is 15 years old and a sophomore at Dos Pueblos High School. She has been dancing with Gustafson Dance for many years, and she is looking forward to her 4th year with SSBYD. Recently, she attended the summer intensive for the Long Beach Ballet, and has also danced in intensives for the State Street Ballet and Gustafson Dance. She is looking forward to being Yukon Cornelia in Rudolph this winter, and dancing roles in Dolls and Waltz of the Flowers in The Nutcracker this year. Outside of dance, Tori is in the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy and volunteers for Build On, an organization that raises money to build schools in developing nations. Tori hopes to raise enough money to travel to Nicaragua with this organization this summer.

Emily Hillebrandt

Apprentice 2

Emily is 15 years old and currently a sophomore 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 second year participating in SSBYD. She also has a love for musical theater and singing. Emily has attended Gustafson Dance Junior Intensives for three years as well as attending Long Beach Ballet’s Summer Intensive this past summer.

Nina Schaeffer

Apprentice 2

Nina is 15 years old and is a sophomore at San Marcos High School. She has been dancing with Gustafson Dance for 12 years, and this is her 3rd year in SSBYD. This past summer, Nina attended Long Beach Ballet’s Summer Intensive. She is very excited to be participating in the National Regional Dance America Festival, in Phoenix this coming spring! Outside of dance, Nina enjoys reading, and playing the piano.

Chloe Babcock

Apprentice 2

Chloe has been dancing with Gustafson dance for the past 6 years and has been a member of SSBYD for the past two, also attending both 2015 & 2016 RDA festivals. She is 15 years old and a sophomore at Santa Barbara High School. There, she is in the Multimedia Arts and Design academy as well as a member of ASB leadership. Chloe has participated in 6 Gustafson Dance Junior Intensives, as well as multiple summer intensives at Santa Barbara Dance Arts and Momentum Dance Company. Outside of dance, she enjoys photography, art, swimming, hiking, and being with family and friends.

Amelia Miller

Apprentice 2

Amelia is 15 years old and is a sophomore at San Marcos High School. This will be her third year in SSBYD. She looks forward to dancing with the State Street Ballet company in Waltz of the Flowers in this year’s Nutcracker. Amelia was accepted to American Ballet Theatre’s North Carolina Summer Intensive, as well as a Joffrey Chicago Summer Intensive. She has attended the State Street Ballet 2015 Summer Intensive and three Junior Intensives. She looks forward to being in Adjudication this year as well as performing in Bill Soleau’s piece. Amelia is very excited to attend her third Regional Dance of America this year. Outside of dance, she enjoys hanging out with friends and going on adventures.

Clara Morando

Apprentice 2

Clara is 14 years old and a homeschooling freshmen. She has been dancing at Gustafson dance since the age of two. This will be her third year of SSBYD. Clara attended State Street Ballet Summer Intensive last summer and Gustafson Dance Junior Intensive the last six years. Clara is extremely excited to be an SSBYD Apprentice 2 and dance the role of Rudolph in the upcoming Rudolph show!

Catherine Pizzinat

Apprentice 2

Catherine is 14 years old and a freshmen at San Marcos High School. She has been dancing at Gustafson Dance since the age of two. This will be her third year in SSBYD and her third year going to RDA. She has attended the State Street Ballet Summer Intensive, the Long Beach Ballet Summer Intensive and has been in four Junior Intensives at Gustafson. She has danced the role of Tina in Tina the Ballerina and is excited to dance the role of Clarice in Rudolph. Outside of dance she likes to hang out with friends and go to the beach. Catherine is looking forward to another year of dance.

Shaylee Steffen

Apprentice 2

Shaylee is 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. She has been dancing at Gustafson Dance for five years and this year will be her second year of SSBYD. She is very excited to be in Apprentice 2 Level this year. Shaylee has attended the Gustafson Dance Jr. Intensive for the past four years. She is also excited to attend Regional Dance of America, this spring, for the second time. Outside of dance Shaylee enjoys going to the beach and spending time with friends and family.

Claire Raynor

Apprentice 2

Claire is 15 years old and is a sophomore at San Marcos High school. She has been dancing with Gustafson for about 6 years. This is her second year in SSBYD and first year attending RDA. Other than dance she likes to hang out with friends, go to the beach and learn new things. Her favorite show is the nutcracker and hopes to one day be in Waltz of the Flowers. Claire has attended several Junior Intensives with Gustafson dance during the summer. She has assisted many classes of children’s ballet and jazz. She is excited for another great year with SSBYD!

Jessica Chalk

Apprentice 2

Jessica is 15 years old and is a Sophomore at San Marcos High School. She has been attending Gustafsons Dance for 5 years and is doing her first year of SSBYD. Jessica has attended three years of Gustafson Dance’s Junior Intensive summer program, and has been in many shows including the yearly productions of Rudolph, The Nutcracker, and all spring shows. She has worked as a teacher’s assistant for the lower levels and this year has the opportunity of creating an Emerging Choreographer’s piece for the Apprentice 2 level in SSBYD. At her school she is included in the Health Academy and is planning to go into the medical field. Jessica is planning on continuing dance for as long as she can, to keep herself involved in something she loves.

Kate Dalforno

Apprentice 2

Kate is 15 years old, a sophomore in high school and a dual enrolled student at SBCC.
She has been dancing with Gustafson Dance since the age of three. She has enjoyed performing in The Nutcracker, Rudolph, Madeline Lost In Central Park and Tina the Ballerina. Kate is excited to be part of SSBYD and looks forward to performing in Celebration of Dance and attending Regional Dance America. Outside of dance, Kate enjoys playing the violin, taking art classes and being with her friends and family.

Isabella Fuentes

Apprentice 2

Isabella began dancing at the age of 9 although later than most in her class she quickly excelled, she studied with the Royal Academy of Dance (Santa Clarita) for the past 5 years which gave her a wonderful foundation in classical ballet, she currently holds her Royal Academy of Danace Intermidiate Advanced certificate. This will be her first year dancing with Gustason and being a part of SSBYD she has come to love being with the company and attending class with her teachers. This past Summer Isabella fulfilled one of her biggest dreams dancing with San Francisco Ballet it was a very enriching experience, she met teachers and students from all over the world, while the program was challenging she took away so much and applies what she’s learned everyday in class. Her favorite method of dance is Balanchine, the dancers she most admiers are Misty Copeland and Isabella Boylston she has been lucky enough to meet both of these talented dancers and it was a wonderful experience. She hopes to dance on the same stage as them one day. She looks forward to what this year with SSBYD will bring and will attend her first RDA Festival with the company this year, Isabella loves expressing her feelings and stories through ballet to her it is a way to communicate with people from around the world even if you don’t speak the same language her ultimate goal is to dance professionally with a company after she retires she would love to open her own school so that she may share what she’s learned and her experiences in the world of ballet.

Camille Berger

Apprentice 1

Camille is 14 years old, attending eighth grade at La Colina Jr. High. She pursues her passion for dance while successfully balancing her interest in music. Cami began dancing at the age of four and is thrilled to be in her second year with SSBYD. She enjoys all forms of dance, but is particularly enthusiastic about ballet. Her fondest memory was performing as a Battle Toy in The Nutcracker. Cami has attended three Summer Intensives with Gustafson and looks forward to attending SSBYD Intensive next year. In addition to dance, Cami enjoys singing and is especially excited to perform alongside LCJH’s Show Choir, Outburst.

Sydney Coffman

Apprentice 1

I recently turned 12 this fall and am attending my first year in junior high in Ojai, so far so good. I have been dancing since I was 3 and can’t imagine dance not being a part of my life. This will be my 2nd year with Gustafson dance and SSBYD. I am happy to have moved up to an apprentice 1 level. I am really excited for this year of growth, and so excited to be a party girl in the nutcracker!!

Adrienne Cruse

Apprentice 1

: Adrienne is 13 years old and has attended Gustafson Dance since she was 7. She is in her second year of SSBYD and is a part of Apprentice 1. Last summer was her first year participating in the Sate Street Ballet Summer Intensive, but has been a part of the junior intensive for 4 years. Adrienne is a 8th grader at La Colina and can’t wait to be a student at San Marcos.

Ella Rotondo

Apprentice 1

Ella is 13 years old . She is currently an eighth grader at La Colina Jr. High School. This is her eighth year dancing with Gustafson Dance. Over the years Ella has participated in several Junior Intensives.This past summer she enjoyed the experience of her first State Street Ballet Intensive. Ella is very excited to begin her second year with SSBYD as an Apprentice 1. Other than dance she enjoys art, music and spending time with her family and friends.

Audrey Biles

Apprentice 1

Audrey is 12 years old and in the 7th grade at Crane Country Day School. This is her first year dancing with Gustafson after recently moving to Santa Barbara with her family. Audrey has been dancing since she was 5 years old and is experienced in tap, jazz and contemporary, but ballet is her passion. Audrey has attended summer intensives at San Francisco Ballet and Ellison Ballet in New York City. Outside of dance, Audrey likes to play golf and tennis, and is learning to surf. She is excited to be a part of SSBYD and looks forward to performing with a new studio.

Bennett Ruehlman

Apprentice 1

Bennett is 13 years old and an eighth-grader at Goleta Valley Jr. High. Bennett started dance at Santa Barbara Dance Arts but desired a more technicL instruction and joined Gustafson’s 1 year ago. He is delighted to take part in his first year of SSBYD as Apprentice 1 and play the role as Fritz in the Nutcracker this winter. He enjoys classical ballet but also appreciates contemporary dance. Bennett looks forward to attending this year’s national RDA festival. In addition to dance, Bennett is an active participant in student council and enjoys theater.

Lyndie Knispel

Apprentice 1

Lyndie is 12 years old and in the 7th grade. She has been dancing since she was five. Lyndie has loved dancing with Gustafson since being in her first summer intensive dance “In My Own Little Corner” from Cinderella. She is excited to be a part of the State Street Ballet Young Dancers and is looking forward to dancing in the Nutcracker and Rudolph. Lyndie also enjoys ice skating, singing and acting, but dancing is her dream that has come true!

Tessa Storr

Apprentice 1

Tessa is 13 years old and is an 8th grader at La Colina Junior High. This is her second year dancing with Gustafson Dance and she previously danced with Santa Barbara Dance Arts for 2 years. Tessa attended the State Street Ballet Summer Intensive this past summer and has previously attended the Gustafson Dance Junior Intensive. Outside of dance she is a member of the show choir Outburst at La Colina, and enjoys soccer, singing, reading, and hanging out with friends. Tessa is very excited to become a member of SSBYD this year.

Emilia Thomas

Apprentice 1

Emilia Thomas is 13 years old and attends Laguna Blanca School. She has been dancing for three and a half years and this is her first year at Gustafson Dance and first year in SSBYD. She I loves working with kids, over the summer she volunteered to be a camp CIT at the Natural History Museum and is now assisting in a younger ballet class. She loves music and she plays the guitar and the piano. When she is older she would love to attend a large university and continue to dance throughout her life.

Lauren Polito

Apprentice 1

Lauren is an eighth grader at La Colina junior high school, and she has been dancing for three years now. In her free time Lauren enjoys horseback riding being with friends and hiking. Before dance Lauren did gymnastics for seven years. She is really looking forward to her first year in SSBYD.

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

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