Academy of Ballet Staff
Summer 2022 Guest Instructors
Brittany De Grofft was born in Tucson, Arizona where she began studying classical ballet under the direction of Linda Walker at the age of six. In 2003 she participated in the Regional Dance America Festival and won full scholarships to several leading ballet schools in the country including Pacific Northwest Ballet, School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and San Francisco Ballet among others. After winning a scholarship to attend American Ballet Theatre’s summer intensive in Austin, Texas, she was named an International Training Scholar and continued to attend ABT’s intensives in New York City for four consecutive summers. In August of 2008 she was invited to join the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School and in 2009 she joined ABT II (now ABT Studio Company) under the direction of Wes Chapman.
She became an apprentice with the main Company in February of 2011 and was promoted to the Corps de Ballet in September of the same year. She was named one of the Top Ten Dancers to Watch by Dance Spirit Magazine and was presented the honor of the Margaret King Moore Dancer Award by Marcelo Gomes, former Principal Dancer with American Ballet Theatre, in her first year with the main company. This award honors a new member of the Corps de Ballet with outstanding promise. In 2018 she was named the Jennifer Alexander Dancer of American Ballet Theatre which recognizes a Senior female member of the Corps de Ballet who best represents the professionalism, perseverance and generosity that Jennifer herself embodied. A very high honor within American Ballet Theatre.
During her time with ABT, she has personally worked with and created many roles with leading and legendary choreographers and Ballerinas including Twyla Tharp, Natalia Makarova, Alexei Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon, Wayne McGregor, Jessica Lang and many more. She has received extensive private coaching and training in Soloist roles for ABT with legendary Russian Prima Ballerina, Irina Kolpakova, and has trained with other leading former Principal Ballerinas including Cynthia Harvey, Julie Kent, Susan Jaffe and Leslie Brown. She has traveled extensively on tour with ABT across the country and has performed on many of the world’s leading stages including The Opera Bastille in Paris, Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo and the greatest, ABT’s home stage, The Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in New York. She has been featured in Glamour Magazine, Brides Magazine, Quest, Pointe
Magazine, Capezio Catalogues and appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live dancing with ABT Principal Ballerina Misty Copeland and other select dancers of ABT.
She has performed several featured, Soloist and Principal roles with ABT including works such as Twyla Tharp’s Deuce Coupe and In the Upper Room, a Principal role in Jessica Lang’s Garden Blue and Merce Cunningham’s Duets and Principal Acting and Soloist roles in Kevin McKenzie’s staging of Giselle, among others. She has performed and has acquired great experience in dancing with the corps de ballet in many short and full length classics including but not limited to Swan Lake, Giselle, La Bayadere, Les Sylphides, Onegin, Don Quixote, Manon, Sylvia and many more.
She specializes in classical ballet training and coaching and has taught Master Classes for the American Ballet Theatre William J. Gillespie School, Ballet Theatre United Kingdom and has been a staff member for the Kaatsbaan Ballet Intensive directed by former Principal Ballerina of ABT, Stella Abrera. She strongly believes that having a strong source of guidance in the dance world is fundamental in the development of proper training in classical dance and she very much enjoys providing that guidance and assistance to any and all aspiring young dancers whether they hope to become professionals or just enjoy dancing for themselves.
We are thrilled to have Ms. DeGrofft as the Artistic Director for Tucson regional Ballet and its Academy of Ballet.
Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Patrick Ogle began his ballet training at the School of Ballet Oklahoma at the age of eight. He attended various summer and year-round programs, including a summer intensive at the University of Oklahoma. During the summer of 2000, he participated in American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive Program and joined ABT’s Studio Company that same year. Patrick became a member of the Company’s corps de ballet in April 2002, and continued to dance with American Ballet Theatre through 2017.
Patrick’s repertoire with American Ballet Theatre includes the pas d’action in Natalia Makarova’s staging of La Bayadère, Greens in Brief Fling, The Officer in Gaîté Parisienne, Hilarion in Giselle, The Standard Bearer in The Green Table, a Stomper in In the Upper Room, one of Manon’s admirers in Lady of the Camellias, The Jailer in Manon, The Mouse King, Arabian Man and the Spanish Dance in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker, a Lover-in-Experience in Pillar of Fire, the Grand Pas Classique in Anna Marie Holmes’ full-length Raymonda, Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, Lorenzo in Don Quixote, a Celestial in Shadowplay, the Indian Prince in The Sleeping Beauty, von Rothbart and the Lead Czardas in Swan Lake, Antonio in The Tempest, Ladislav Slivovitz in Whipped Cream and roles in Airs, Bach Partita, Baker’s Dozen, Black Tuesday, Company B, Duets, From Here On Out, Jardin aux Lilas, Jeu de Cartes, The Leaves Are Fading and Raymonda Divertissements, the third movement in Symphony in C and a soloist role in Theme and Variations. He created the Wolf in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Sleeping Beauty and roles in One of Three and Rabbit and Rogue.
Patrick has worked with a wide range of choreographers, including Lar Lubovitch, Christopher Wheeldon, Alexei Ratmansky, Aszure Barton, Stanton Welch, Jessica Lang, James Kudelka, Jorma Elo, and David Parsons. He has worked extensively with Twyla Tharp in the creation of the Broadway production Come Fly Away and in 2005, was part of the PBS filming of “American Ballet Theatre in Swan Lake” starring Principal dancers Gillian Murphy and Angel Corella.
Patrick holds a Bachelor of Arts in Performing Arts from St. Mary’s College of California, in which he graduated Summa Cum Laude. He has also been a guest teacher and performer for various schools and companies across the United States.
Alexis Salmen began her dance training at the Academy of Ballet at the age of seven. Over her decades with Academy of Ballet she has studied with Linda Walker, Carolyn Haatainen-Wallace, Gary McKenzie, Sheri Giller, Deborah Kenner, Jeffrey Hughes, & Pamela Reyman-Hughes, as well as at summer intensives instructed by Daniel Catanach and Anton Labuschagne. She was accepted to Long Beach Ballet and State Street Ballet summer intensive programs on partial scholarship and was also accepted to the Ballet Arizona summer intensive. She was a member of Tucson Regional Ballet’s Senior Company from Fall 1997 through Spring 2002, and has participated in 20 productions of A Southwest Nutcracker.
Alexis attended multiple Regional Dance America Festivals as a member of TRB, week-long intensive workshops with multiple daily master classes in ballet, jazz, and other dance styles, as well as nutrition, terminology, and character dancing. Highlights of this instruction were choreology taught by Richard Holden and jazz taught by Alonzo King. She performed with TRB Senior Company for RDA adjudications 1998-2002. Dances were set on her by Daniel Catanach, Anton Labuschagne, Jon Cristofori, & Carolyn Haatainen-Wallace, and she performed with Senior Company at the invitational Festival Gala Night and two RDA Festivals.
Alexis began her training as a dance teacher as a teaching assistant from Fall 1994 through Spring 2002. She also was a substitute teacher for Academy of Ballet from Fall of 1999 through spring of 2003. She returned to teaching for Academy of Ballet in March of 2016, teaching dancers 3 through advanced pointe. In Fall of 2018, Alexis took on the role of Rehearsal & Staging Assistant to Linda Walker, assisting in staging and rehearsals for A Southwest Nutcracker and TRB’s Spring Spectacular. In Fall 2019 she accepted the further responsibility of Rehearsal & Staging Mistress for TRB. Alexis is currently on staff at the Academy of Ballet teaching ballet at all levels as well as beginning tap and jazz, and is the Ballet Mistress for Tucson Regional Ballet
Geri Salmen began her dance training at the age of fifteen. She studied with Zuleka’s School of Belly Dance, Fritschy’s Dance Academy, and Academy of Ballet, where she has performed in annual school recitals. She has performed in Tucson Regional Ballet’s production of A Southwest Nutcracker since its inception and is currently the TRB’s Wardrobe Director. It was in the fall of 2002, when Geri began working as a teaching assistant with the younger children, that her natural abilities as an instructor were revealed. This revelation led to an invitation to be on staff at Academy of Ballet as an instructor. Geri brings nearly two decades of experience to teaching beginning through intermediate ballet to children, teens, and adults.
Niobe Engman began her dance training at the age of eight at Academy of Ballet, studying ballet, jazz, and tap under Linda Walker, Gary McKenzie, Sheri Giller, Deborah Kenner, Jeffrey Graham Hughes, Pamela Reyman-Hughes, Stacey Morgan, and Kristin Jensen. She was a member of Tucson Regional Ballet’s Senior Company from Fall 2007 through Spring 2011; her roles with TRB included Snow Queen in A Southwest Nutcracker and Swanhilda in Coppelia Act II, and her choreographic debut, Euphoria, was performed by the company in Spring of 2011. She continued on to teach the top levels of tap and jazz at the Academy.
Niobe furthered her training in ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, and gymnastics at Studio One in Rita Ranch, working extensively with Rachael Reyes-Berriman, Justin Pereira, and Jared Baker among others, and competed with their Senior Company for two years, earning multiple top awards for solo and group performances. She also spent several years teaching ballet, tap, jazz, and contemporary at Studio One and choreographed several solo and group works for competition. In addition, Niobe took numerous classes at BreakOut Studios, studying jazz, tap, hip-hop, contemporary, lyrical, and femme with Jordan Marquez, Todd Wilson, and Jeze Zankich among others.
During this time, Niobe was also a dance major on full scholarship at the University of Arizona, where she studied ballet, jazz, modern, pointe, tap, dance history, biomechanics, improvisation, choreography, and nutrition. She studied with Doug Neilsen, Amy Ernst, James Clouser, Elizabeth George, Melissa Lowe, Michael Williams, Sam Watson, Tamara Dyke-Compton, and Chris Compton. Niobe performed in Doug Neilsen’s Show Me the Place and Wreck a Pair and Tamara Dyke-Compton’s 98-¾, as well as numerous pieces by student choreographers.
Niobe then moved on to Los Angeles, where she spent several years participating in the vibrant LA dance scene and taking classes at Movement Lifestyle, EDGE Performing Arts Center, Debbie Allen Dance Academy, and Millennium Dance Complex. Niobe was an active participant in the improv/session/battle scene, primarily with dance crews The FLooridians and The Gentle Ladies. Highlights of her time in Los Angeles include performing choreography by Hans Pierre in World of Dance, creating video performances with choreographer Allie Costello, and creating a music video with filmmaker Connor Colebrook.
In addition to her regular studies, Niobe has taken master classes from a wide variety of renowned instructors including Andrew Winghart, Galen Hooks, Stacey Tookey, Travis Wall, and George Zoritch.
Niobe is thrilled to return to Academy of Ballet to teach Tap, Jazz, and Contemporary for the 2021-2022 Season.
A native of The North Shore of Boston, Cecily Winslow Bressel studied with Miss Harriet James in Salem, MA and E. Virginia Williams, founder of the Boston Ballet in her Malden Studio, before joining AGMA – the American Guild of Musical Artists – at age 14 – and The Boston Ballet Company.
The recipient of a Ford Foundation Scholarship, Cecily performed with many of the great Ballet Artists of the day including, Margot Fonteyn, Maria Tallchief, Melissa Hayden, Patricia McBride, Edward Villella, Marcia Haydee, Richard Cragen, Natalia Makarova and many more. Dancing Balanchine Ballets such as Four Temperaments, Serenade, and Symphony in C are some of her career favorites, in addition to appearing in Romantic Classics such as Giselle, Swan Lake, Coppelia and Les Sylphides.
Cecily also danced in the Gruppe at The Deutsche Oper Berlin, West Germany, performing with Legendary Ballerina Eva Evdokimova, and American Ballet Star, Robert Blankshine among other dance luminaries. Performing at The Herod Atticus Theatre in Athens below the Parthenon was a ballet dream come true and a career highlight.
Miss Cecily has been teaching Ballet for over 40 years, to Adults and children of all ages and abilities. She looks forward to sharing her passion for ballet with like minded students in the beautiful years to come.
Lauren Flower was born in Fresno, California and began dancing at the age of three. In 2002, Flower moved to Tucson, Arizona and continued their training with Tucson Regional Ballet and Ballet Arts. After attending summer intensives at The School of American Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Houston Ballet, she accepted a full scholarship in 2011 to continue her training with Houston Ballet II where she had the opportunity to perform internationally in Lausanne, Switzerland and Toronto, Canada.
In 2013, Flower returned to Arizona and joined Ballet Arizona as a company member. With Ballet Arizona, some of their favorite works to perform included Alejandro Cerrudo’s Second to Last and George Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements (Principal). While Flower enjoyed dancing in various repertoires, she had the opportunity to choreograph two works: ONE and An Ending, A Beginning in Ballet Arizona’s 2015 and 2016 Dancers’ Choice performances.
After four seasons with Ballet Arizona, Flower moved to Massachusetts to join Boston Ballet as an Artist in 2017. With Boston Ballet, some of Flower’s favorite works to perform included William Forsythe’s Blake Works I, Leonid Yakobsin’s Rodin, and Larissa Ponomarenko’s restaging of Petipa’s Giselle. She also enjoyed touring to Paris, France and Ottawa, Canada. While dancing with the company, Flower was a choreographer for the inaugural Boston Ballet ChoreograpHER Initiative in 2018 where she created their work, Momentous, on Artists of Boston Ballet.
In 2019, Flower was selected through the ChoreograpHER Initiative to choreograph on Boston Ballet II where she created Passing Through. After three seasons with Boston Ballet, Flower was accepted to choreograph a new work in December 2020 for Dance Lab New York’s Nexus Lab where she virtually created with four select dancers.
Flower’s newest work, Seen, premiered on artists of The Rosin Box Project in San Diego, California for their 2021 August Series.
A native of Southern California, Sheri Giller began her ballet training in the private residence of Marie Hite in La Habra, Ca. where she trained intensively in the Vaganova method. In 1991 she joined Ballet Pacifica, in Laguna Beach and Irvine, Ca., as a company dancer under the directorship of Molly Lynch. She continued to dance and teach for the company until 2003. Throughout her dancing career she had the privilege of working with many well known ballet masters and choreographers. Her performance credits include many of the classical ballets such as The Nutcracker, Les Sylphides, and Paquita as well as works by George Balanchine, Anthony Tudor, and many more contemporary works by both well established and up-and-coming choreographers. Many of the roles she performed throughout her career were created on her and she was recognized for her precise footwork, musicality, and the strength and fluidity of her movement.
With a teaching career that has spanned over 30 years, Ms. Giller has continued to fine tune her teaching skills through education, careful study, and her own dancing experience. Her knowledge and instruction of classical ballet technique includes the instruction of all levels and abilities. She has held the positions of Co-Artistic Director and Ballet Mistress of both Tucson Regional Ballet in Arizona and Piedmont Ballet Theatre in North Carolina respectively. Many of her students have been accepted to and attended such summer intensive programs and year-round schools as Juilliard, Harid Conservatory, Ballet West, The Bolshoi Academy, School of American Ballet, Ballet Austin, Houston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Conservatory, The Ailey School, Ballet Met, The Joffrey Ballet School, and American Ballet Theatre. Many of those students have continued on to achieve professional dance careers with their adjacent companies.
In 2013 Ms. Giller completed a 300 hour Dayton Hot Yoga Certification and most recently gained her certification in Progressing Ballet Technique, both of which she uses to enhance her student’s learning experience. As a dance educator she is committed to providing high-caliber ballet training for all students regardless of future career goals and a motivating environment that promotes dance’s unique ability to increase each person’s self-assurance through discipline, physical awareness, and the joy of movement.
Madelyn “Mae” Lever moved to Tucson from Portland, OR in 2017 to pursue a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance at The University of Arizona. Since then, she has fallen in love with the city of Tucson so much so that she decided to stay for her Masters of Fine Arts in Dance and will be graduating from university in May of 2022. Having attended the university for five years, she is well versed in ballet, modern, jazz, and contemporary dance. In the summer of 2021 she obtained her 200-hour yoga teacher certification at YogMantra Bali Ubud, and is passionate about her practice in vinyasa, yin, hatha, and ashtanga. In her free time, Madelyn enjoys reading, spending time with loved ones, and petting dogs.