Rob Olson

Nancy Schmieder
Vice President

Liana Yamasaki
Secretary / Treasurer

 | Artistic Director

Cynthia Young head shot.JPG

Cynthia Young received her for­mal train­ing with the San Fran­cisco Bal­let School and the Uni­ver­sity of Utah. Join­ing Bal­let West she rose to become the youngest prin­ci­pal dancer with a major Amer­i­can bal­let com­pany, tour­ing exten­sively through­out the United States and Europe, per­form­ing a diver­si­fied clas­si­cal reper­toire which included Cin­derella, Swan Lake, Cop­pelia, Ser­e­nade, and Les Syl­phide in addi­tion to mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary works by Michael Smuin, Jacques D'Amboise, Bill Evens, John But­ler and Robert Gladstein.  Ms. Young has been affil­i­ated with PDT since 1981. Appointed Artis­tic Direc­tor in 1996, Young founded the Con­ser­va­tory located at the cur­rent facil­ity on Locust Street and reor­ga­nized the Com­pany and school under the non­profit sta­tus. In 1999, she opened the Stu­dio The­atre, an inti­mate per­form­ing space for new works and con­cert per­for­mances. One year later, to help audi­ences develop a stronger under­stand­ing of con­tem­po­rary work, she launched Con­ver­sa­tion with the Chore­o­g­ra­pher. Pro­duc­ing the first Mas­ter Dance­Maker pro­gram in 2007, gave con­tem­po­rary and clas­si­cal chore­o­g­ra­phers an oppor­tu­nity to cre­ate new work in a uniquely chal­leng­ing atmosphere.  Young has cre­ated many orig­i­nal works for the com­pany and has been the recip­i­ent of numer­ous awards and hon­ors for her chore­og­ra­phy. In addi­tion to many con­tem­po­rary works, she chore­o­graphs the annual favorite The Nut­cracker and has chore­o­graphed and pro­duced full-length ballets of Cin­derella and Beauty and the Beast.  Ms. Young has taught mas­ter classes and chore­o­graphed for com­pa­nies through­out the South­west and West­ern United States. She chaired the Dance pro­gram for the Cal­i­for­nia State Sum­mer School of the Arts from 1996 to 2009. She currently holds the posi­tion of Asso­ciate Dean in the Sharon Dis­ney Lund School of Dance at the Cal­i­for­nia Insti­tute of the Arts.



 | Pre-Professional Division 


Jean-Marie Martz (Ballet | Pointe) holds a ballet master diploma from the Association Française des Maîtres de Danse Classique in Paris. During his 30-year career as a ballet instructor he has taught at the Centre International de la Danse in Paris, Colorado Ballet in Denver, Idyllwild Arts Academy in California, University of California, Riverside, and as a guest internationally.  After studying ballet in France at the Fédération Française de Danse Classique and in England at the Legat School of Russian Ballet, he performed in Germany with the Stuttgart Ballet and the Munich Ballet. He subsequently pursued his interest in modern dance in New York at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and the Merce Cunningham Studio, and studied dance kinesiology with Dorothy Vislocky. His studies in somatic movement modalities have included the Body-Mind Centering® certification program and the Feldenkrais® Method.  Presently based in Los Angeles, Jean-Marie has conducted anatomy-based ballet pedagogy workshops internationally for organizations such as the Theatre School in Amsterdam, the Chichester Institute of Higher Education in England, the Royal Academy of Dance in Mexico City, the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies in New York, and the European League of Institutes of the Arts.  He’s been teaching for PDT since 2008.

IMG_0954 copy.jpg

Julia Ortega trained at the School of Arts in Holguin, Cuba, and the School of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. She danced with the Ballet de Camaguey and the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, rising to the rank of soloist under the direction of Alicia Alonso. In 1989, she was named gold medalist in the International Ballet Competition in Peru.  Julia became a member of the Cleveland Ballet in 1992, performing a variety of Dennis Nahat’s works as a principal dancer, including the premiere of Blue Suede Shoes. She has performed the lead female roles in classical and contemporary pieces, including Giselle, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Le Corsaire, Paquita, Sleeping Beauty, Who Cares?, Allegro Brillante, Romeo and Juliet, Serenade, Tarantella and Pasadena Dance Theatre’s production of The Nutcracker.  Julia has been a member of PDT’s faculty since 1999.


Grigori Arakelyan's dance training began in Armenia where he studied ballet and folk dance. He also studied at the famed School of American Ballet.  Upon arriving to the United States he continued his training with Cynthia Young and Laurence Blake at Pasadena Dance Theatre.  In 2004 he was the recipient of the Music Center's Spotlight Awards. By 2006 he joined the Nevada Ballet Theatre and took on lead roles in Bruce Steivel's acclaimed ballet, Dracula, and in Val Caniparoli's Lambarenga, and in George Balanchine's Who Cares?  His favorite dance styles are contemporary, the Bournonville technique and Spanish.  Arakelyan's favorite roles include Cavalier in The Nutcracker and Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream


Jessamyn Vedro trained with Cynthia Young and Laurence Blake at PDT, on scholarship at San Francisco Ballet School, at ABT New York, Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, and with Alonzo King's Line Ballet School in San Francisco.  She danced as a Soloist with ABT's Studio Company in New York where she performed in premieres of contemporary ballets by Dominic Walsh, Stephen Mills and Brian Reeder.  Her roles with PDT include Sugar Plum Fairy, Snow Queen, and Arabian Soloist in The Nutcracker, Tatiana in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Beauty in Beauty and the Beast, a lead role in Cinderella, and she has performed in many contemporary ballets by Laurence Blake, Charles Anderson, Scott Putman, Jodie Gates and Francisco Martinez.  Ms. Vedro has received several awards for her choreography, including RDA/Pacific Award for Outstanding Choreography.  Her work, some thousand hundred million more bright worlds was premiered in Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York.  She is a graduate of UCLA Law School and is an active member of the California Bar.


Emily Ambuul raised in Pasadena, Emily Ambuul began her training at Pasadena Dance Theatre with Cynthia Young. She was awarded a scholarship to San Francisco Ballet School, where she continued her training for one year.  She was asked to join the San Francisco Ballet in 1998. She danced with them for seven years, performing internationally in venues like the Paris Opera and the Royal Opera House in London.  Emily has performed in works by Tomasson, Balanchine (soloist in The Four Temperaments and Allegro Brillante), Martins, Christensen, Morris, Wheeldon and others and has appeared in PDT’s The Nutcracker in many roles over the years.  She has taught at Pasadena Dance Theatre since 2005.


Ashleigh Doede (Ballet | Pointe) began her training at Le Studio under the direction of Philip Fuller, Charles Fuller and Gilma Bustillo.  Along with her ballet training, she attended Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, where she began to broaden her dance techniques and versatility.  Ashleigh worked professionally with Anaheim Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet’s Second Company and Nevada Ballet Theatre. While in Nevada , she choreographed The Velveteen Rabbit for NBT as well as The Vertical Hold in the Cirque du Soleil collaboration with NBT. She's also attended San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, Hubbard Street Dance Company, Northwest Professional Dance Project and Springboard Dance Montreal during various summers as a professional dancer. She is currently associate artistic director and dancer of Nancy Evans Dance Theatre as well as a yoga instructor with 500 hours of training through YogaWorks. Ashleigh joined Pasadena Dance Theatre in 2009 where she has not only had the opportunity to dance soloist roles from classical to contemporary work but has also choreographed Surrender in 2014 for PDT’s Master DanceMaker series Conversation With the Choreographer.  That year the Company Edition carried the title of PASSIONmoves.  She currently teaches in PDT’s Conservatory.


Mark Harootian (Boys Ballet) A native of Worcester, Massachusetts, Mr. Harootian received his early dance training at the Performing Arts School of Worcester and the Burncoat Senior High Dance Department. His main line of training was in classical ballet, but he also had extensive training in Modern and Jazz dance, as well as Musical Theater. He attended the University of Utah on scholarship and graduated with a BFA in ballet performing and teaching. At this time, he also became a member of Utah Ballet. While he was with Utah Ballet, he performed and choreographed in many of the department’s seasonal shows while dancing leading roles, including the company’s tour to Taipei, Taiwan in 2001. Mr. Harootian also performed at Disney’s Epcot Center, the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics Medal Plaza and the Festival of White Nights in Pushkin, Russia. From 2004-2011 Mr. Harootian was a company dancer and choreographer for Festival Ballet Providence. From 2010 -2012, he was the company’s Director of Educational Outreach as well. Mr. Harootian captivated Festival Ballet Providence’s Up Close on Hope performance series audiences annually with his choreography and has presented a number of notable premieres there.

Mr. Harootian was awarded the Fellowship Choreography Grant Award from the Rhode Island State Council of the Arts in 2007 and 2011. He also was awarded the distinguished Alumni & Friends of the Worcester Public Schools Achievement Award in 2014 and the Career Transition for Dancers Graduate Scholarship in 2018. Mr. Harootian was an adjunct professor at Dean College and Salve Regina University and taught and choreographed at Island Moving Company, Hanover Theater and Performing Arts Conservatory, and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, among others.  Mr. Harootian moved to Los Angeles with his wife in July 2017 and is currently studying to obtain an MFA degree in Dance through Montclair State University’s low-residency program. Since moving to L.A., Mr. Harootian was Artist in Residence at Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) and teaches at California School of the Arts-San Gabriel Valley (CSArts-SGV), Elite Dance Academy of Orange County, Pasadena Dance Theater, Elements Dance Space and is an adjunct professor at Chapman University.

 | Threshold Division 


Sarah Halpin (Pre-Ballet) danced with Le Studio under the direction of Cynthia Young, Philip and Charles Fuller from age 6 to 18.  In high school, Sarah was a member of the Pasadena Dance Theatre Company performing in the Nutcracker and the annual Spring performances.  After high school she went on to study Classical Liberal Arts at Thomas Aquinas College during which time she taught ballet at a local community center.  A few years after graduating from college, Sarah returned to Pasadena Dance Theatre to teach PreBallet and has been enjoying teaching at PDT since 2001.  Sarah has two sisters, Emily Ambuul and Alissa Halpin, that also teach ballet at PDT and her daughter Zoe is currently enrolled at the dance studio.  Sarah is a licensed Real Estate Broker with Markey & Associates in South Pasadena, helping sellers and buyers throughout the San Gabriel Valley.


Prior to dance, Noel Dilworth (Creative Movement) was an international-level Rhythmic Gymnast.  After retiring, she transitioned into dance and began training at Contra Costa Ballet in Northern California.  Dilworth's training continued at Pacific Northwest Ballet School, The Ailey School/Fordham University, and North Carolina Dance Theatre as an apprentice before joining their second company.  She has also danced professionally as part of ARC Dance Seattle, San Diego Opera, and most recently Pasadena Dance Theatre.  Miss Noel holds a BFA in Dance Performance from UC Irvine, and received second prize at the Washington D.C. National Society for Arts and Letters', Mary Rich Peery Fife Dance Competition.  She currently teaches ballet and Pilates in Orange County and the greater Los Angeles area.

 | Adult Division 


Richard Bradley danced as a principal dancer with Oakland Ballet, Ballet West and Nevada Ballet Theatre for over 15 years performing in works by leading choreographers Eugene Loring, John Butler, Kurt Jooss, Michael Smuin, Bruce Stieval and George Balanchine, among others.  He performed the role of Billy in Loring's Billy the Kid, Romeo in Michael Smuin's Romeo and Juliet, and Prince Siegfried in Stieval's staging of Swan Lake.  Other principal roles he has danced have included Albrecht in Giselle, Dracula in Jill Bahr's ballet of the same name, and all of the principal roles in The Nutcracker. From 1999-2001 he danced in Jubilee! in Las Vegas and several productions for the Norwegian Cruise Lines.  In 2003-04 he appeared as a dancer in the Los Angeles Opera's productions of Orpheo and Eurydice and A Little Night Music.  He has been on faculty for Pasadena Dance Theatre since 2004.


Helga de Kansky (Adult Ballet) received her basic training in New York from Mme. Anderson-Ivantzova, former prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet. Throughout her career she studied in Europe with Mmes. Preobrajenska, Nijinska, Volkova, Nora Hightower and John Taras.  Helga was engaged by the Colonel de Basil Ballet Russe for seasons in London (Covent Garden) and Paris in 1947.  She then joined the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas, being named soloist after three years and remaining with the company for eight years.  She worked with choreographers Massine, Nijinske, Dolin, Lichine, Balanchine, Taras and Dollar.   Her roles included Queen of the Willis in Giselle (Perrot/Dolin), Taglioni and Grisi in Pas de Quatre (Perrot), the Prelude in Les Sylphides (Fokine) and prominent roles in Princess Aurora (Petipa), Sebastian (Caton), Petrouchka (Fokine), Jeux (Lichine), Dessins pour les Six (Taras), etc. In 1956 Helga danced for a year with The Netherlands Ballet as a principal ballerina.  She began teaching in Paris in 1957 and has been teaching in California since 1960, giving master classes for Dance in Action, Pasadena City College and Pasadena High School, and was an associate professor of dance at Cal State LA (1985/86). She founded Concert Ballet of California in 1981, for which she choreographed Designs (Czerny), Bach Concerto, Five Dances (Chopin), A Tale of Undines (Poulenc), A Celebration (Pachelbel) and Clouds (Halpin).

 | Staff


Jeff Baskin.jpg

Jeff Baskin (Office Manager) has been very happy working at Pasadena Dance Theatre for nearly three years, but his relationship with PDT goes back several years further, when he began helping with the marketing of the annual Nutcracker production.  Jeff began his career as a newspaper copy editor, reporter and theater reviewer in Japan and Oregon before becoming a publicist for several Hollywood film studios. He joined PDT after working at USC for a number of years as the director of communications for an anti-tobacco use research institute.  He is a longtime resident of South Pasadena, where his wife, Ellen, teaches second grade.