BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Members at Large
| Artistic Director
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.
FACULTY & STAFF
| Pre-Professional Division
Laurence Blake (Ballet) graduated from the North Carolina School of the Arts and joined Joffrey II and the Joffrey Ballet, working with notable choreographers Glen Tetley, Sir Frederick Ashton, Gerald Arpino, Robert Joffrey and Twyla Tharp. After moving to Los Angeles, he was guest artist with the Pacific Northwest Ballet, California Ballet, and Nevada Dance Theatre. Mr. Blake has set original works throughout the West and has been resident choreographer for the Los Angeles Chamber ballet, and Hawaii Ballet Theatre, and Pasadena Dance Theatre where he also served as Associate Director from 1996 to 2016. His choreography has been nominated for numerous awards, including the Lester Horton Awards in 1992, 1993, 1995 and 1997. In 1998 he received the Regional Dance America National Choreography Plan Award for his ballet Holberg Suite. Mr. Blake has appeared in several television dance specials, and has been on the dance faculty of the California Institute of the Arts since 1982. He was the recipient of an individual artist grant from the Pasadena Cultural Affairs Division for his collaborative work with Pasadena composer Cary Belling and several local musicians. Laurence served as interim dean of the Sharon Disney Dance School of Dance at the California Institute of the Arts from 2016 to 2017.
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.
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 has performed in many contemporary ballets by Laurence Blake, Charles Anderson, Scott Puttman, 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.
Alissa Curtis (Ballet | Pointe) trained with Pasadena Dance Theatre under Cynthia Young and Laurence Blake. She was a scholarship student at the Houson Ballet School and the San Francisco Ballet School, where she performed in both school and company works by Helgi Tomasson, Tom Ruud, Lou Christensen, Avi Scher, George Balanchine, Mark Morris and Val Caniparoli. She performed in the San Francisco Ballet’s production of Helgi Tomasson’s Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. Mrs. Curtis has performed as a Soloist in the Waltz of the Flowers and in the roles of the Snow Queen and the Sugar Plum Fairy in PDT’s The Nutcracker, as well as in the role of Cinderella in Cynthia Young’s Cinderella.
Ashleigh Doede (Ballet | Pointe | Yoga) 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 then went on to work professionally with Anaheim Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet’s Second Company and Nevada Ballet Theatre. While in Nevada , she had the opportunity to choreograph 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.
| 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.
Sheila Gonzalez (Creative Movement Substitute) was trained as a dancer at the National Ballet School of Havana, Cuba. After graduating in 2008, she immediately became a faculty member of the National Ballet School, where she had the privilege to work alongside great masters of dance in Cuba. At the same time she was dancing with a television entertainment ballet company in Cuba directed by Cristy Dominguez. There she became involved with new styles of dances like tap, modern dance and folkloric dances. From 2011 to 2013 Sheila danced, taught and choreographed at the Ecuadorian academy ballet and jazz company Pam Dance Theatre, where she trained several students for international competitions such as WBC in Orlando, Florida, Danzamerica in Villa Carlos Paz, Argentina, and UDA in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Before she came to the US she worked as a dancer and ballet instructor at the Prodanza Cuban ballet company under Laura Alonso’s artistic direction. At that time she was selected to perform Dracula in the annual dance festival in Tamaulipas, Mexico. In 2014 Sheila moved to Los Angeles and started teaching in Li’s Ballet studio and joined Pasadena Dance Theatre, performing in PDT’s annual Nutcracker ballet. In 2015 Sheila also became a PDT faculty member.
| 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).
Jose Luis Trujillo (Boys Dance Too! Program Director | Operations Manager | Contemporary) trained at Hollywood High Performing Arts Center, Los Angeles Valley College and The Ailey School before earning his BFA in dance from the Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at the California Institute of the Arts. While working toward his degree, he taught for CalArts’ Community Arts Partnership (CAP) Program at Plaza de la Raza, Lula Washington Dance School and Grand Arts High School. Along with teaching contemporary, he has taught jazz, improv and dance composition. Trujillo has been a Pasadena Dance Theatre company member since 2009. He is also a member of MULTIPLEX DANCE and has performed with the Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Media City Ballet and the Silayan Dance Company, Carla's Movers & Shakers to name a few. He has performed the works of Cynthia Young, Laurence Blake, Stephanie Nugent, Chad Michael Hall, Natasha Middleton, Anne C. Moore and Trisha Brown's timeless Set & Reset/Reset. Trujillo’s choreography was featured at REDCAT in 2012, the same year he received the Beutner Award for Excellence in the Arts at CalArts . Currently, he holds several positions at Pasadena Dance Theatre.
Jeff Baskin (Office Manager) has been very happily 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.
Lyndsi Zapata (Administrative Assistant) Lyndsi Zapata is a Portland, Oregon native and has been passionate about dance since childhood. After dancing with pre-professional companies in her hometown, she pursued her dance education and in performance and choreography in California. She earned her BFA at California Institute of the Arts in May of 2016. Over the years, dance has taken Zapata to study abroad in Seoul, South Korea at Korea National University of Arts, as well as Lucca, Italy as of Dance Italia. In the past, she has worked administrative positions both at CalArts and seasonal employment at Mark Morris Dance Center in New York City. In December of 2016, her dance company SIZA emerged into its debut season in Los Angeles. Zapata teaches modern classes for teens at Inspire Dance Studio, Zumba classes at CalTech and partners with Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre's educational outreach program, DuckEd. She believes in the power of dance education, and that art in all forms can create a measurable difference in people of all ages and backgrounds. Zapata is thankful for all opportunities to exchange knowledge with everyone she works with, and looks forward to what the future brings at Pasadena Dance Theatre.