ARTISTIC DIRECTOR PHILLIP OTTO
Mr. Otto has served as the Artistic Director for the Huntsville Ballet since 2008. Born in New York, Mr. Otto has trained at the School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre School, and the Joffrey School, among others. As a child Mr. Otto was a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s children’s chorus and danced with New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, London’s Royal Ballet, the Stuttgart Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet. As an adult Mr. Otto danced principal and soloists roles with Milwaukee Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet.
After retiring as a featured soloist from Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1996, Mr. Otto was the first company member ever to be asked to join the faculty of Pacific Northwest Ballet School and went on to direct Pacific Northwest Ballet’s student company as well as the companies outreach and educational programs for which he was nominated for the State of Washington’s Golden Apple award for excellence in education. Mr. Otto has worked and trained with such distinguished artists as George Balanchine, Peter Martins, Jerome Robins, Kent Stowell, Francia Russell, Bojan Spasoff, Robert Weiss and Lynn Taylor- Corbett, Violette Verdi, Richard Thomas, Alexandra Danilova, Lar Lubavitch, Andre Eglevsky and Ted Kivitt, among others. Mr. Otto’s dancing credits include principle roles in (George Balanchine’s)“Who Care’s”, The Four Temperaments, Western Symphony, Concerto Borocco, La Valse, Symphony in C, Nutcracker, Prodical Son, Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, (Cranko’s) Romeo and Juliet, (Limons) Moor’s Pavane, (Forsythe’s) Love Songs, (Lynn Taylor- Corbett’s) Brahms Sonata’s, Code Of Silence, The Quilt, Tunes Great Galloping Gottschalk and Final Draft among others. In addition, Mr. Otto serves as permanent guest faculty for the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia and has taught master classes for Vassar College, Yale University, the Kennedy Center and the Edinburgh Festival among other schools and companies throughout the United States and Scotland.
BALLET MISTRESS RACHEL BUTLER
Ms. Butler has served as Ballet Mistress for the Huntsville Ballet Company since 2008. Ms. Butler trained with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and the Atlantic Contemporary Ballet Academy. As a professional Dancer Ms. Butler danced Soloist and Principle roles with Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Pennsylvania Ballet and has been sought after as a guest artist throughout the United States. Ms. Butler has trained and worked with Bruce Wells, Violette Verdy, Richard Tanner, Robert Weiss, Kent Stowell, Francia Russell, Patricia Neary, Bart Cook, Lynn Taylor-Corbett, Suzanne Farrell, Bojan Spasoff and Stephanie Wolf, among others.
As A ballet mistress Ms. Butler has set ballets for New Haven Ballet, and served as Assistant Ballet mistress of children’s roles for Kent Stowell’s and Maurice Sendack's world renowned production of The Nutcracker. Ms. Butler's dancing credits include (George Balanchine’s) Four Temperaments, Ballet Imperial, Divertimento #15, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Symphony in C, Who Cares, Stars and Stripes, and Western Symphony. (Kent Stowell’s) Firebird, Nutcracker, Swan Lake. (Jerome Robins) Fanfare and ballet’s choreographed by William Forsythe, Peter Martins and Paul Taylor among others. Ms. Butler’s teaching credits include Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Rock School for Dance Education, Mid-Atlantic Ballet and Albany Dance Institute. Ms. Butler has also traveled the world dancing and teaching in China, Turkey, Australia, London and Scotland and has performed for The Kennedy Center and New York’s City Center.
Ms. Butler is also the director of the Huntsville Ballet School.
Lisa Ordway, Wardrobe Mistress
Lisa Ordway joined the artistic staff of Huntsville Ballet Company as its Costume Designer and Head Costumer in the fall of 2012. Lisa has had a lifelong love of playing “dress up" and making beautiful things, a talent she has been lucky enough to practice and develop in 20+ years working as a volunteer with her children's schools and several local performing arts organizations in Huntsville, Alabama and Wellington, New Zealand. Lisa has designed and costumed The Sleeping Beauty, The Firebird, Pulcinella, Carnival of the Animals, The Nutcracker, Peter Pan, Snow White, George Balanchine’s Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, Phantom of the Opera, The Letter, Anything Goes, and Disney’s Little Mermaid and Mary Poppins among many other performances, and was honored to receive the Wings Award for her costuming of Cinderella in 2014. Lisa is married to Fred Ordway and they have two children, Sarah Katherine and John.
Susan Herder, Wardrobe Assistant
Susan began sewing in middle school when her mother signed her up for sewing lessons. As a result, she grew to enjoy sewing and has sewn formal clothing, casual clothing, and home décor. In 2005, she began to use her sewing skills to costume for the ballet groups her daughters were involved in. In 2016, she began to work with Huntsville Ballet and oversees costume fittings and maintenance.
Aimee Fincher, piano
Pianist Aimee Fincher, an Alabama native, is in her third season with Huntsville Ballet. She is currently a doctoral candidate in collaborative piano at Arizona State University, where she held a teaching assistantship for three years. Ms. Fincher earned performance and pedagogy degrees from the University of Alabama and the University of South Carolina, where she frequently performed with distinguished guest artists including Timothy Smith, Kenneth Tse, and Mariano Garcia. She is active in national conferences and international chamber music festivals, most recently the College Music Society National Conference, the Society of American Music Conference, and the Vianden (Luxembourg) Chamber Music Festival. Together with her duo partner, violinist Hannah Leland, Ms. Fincher recently released Duo Odéon’s debut album, Specter. The album, released on the Sono Luminus label, features premiere recordings of unpublished manuscripts by the composer George Antheil and the violinist Werner Gebauer. Ms. Fincher can also be heard on Summit records’ album, “Table for Three,” in collaboration with ASU brass professor John Ericson and professor emeritus Douglas Yeo.
Melissa (Birdie) Jones, Production Stage Manager
Birdie is a life-long student of the arts, having studied everything from ballet to choral and instrumental music, theatre, and ballroom dance. She began her adventures in stage management at the University of Alabama in Huntsville under the tutelage of David Harwell. Her credits with the university include Shakespeare's The Tempest, Gian Carlo Menotti's The Consul, and Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George. In the summer of 2012, she began her professional career at the Mountainside Theatre in Cherokee NC, where she served as Assistant Stage Manager for Unto These Hills and A Cherokee Family Reunion. While in Cherokee, she was able to take advantage of training opportunities in pyrotechnics, stage combat, and stage firearms. In 2014, she was hired by Phillip Otto at the Huntsville Ballet Company, and currently serves as Production Stage Manager and Lighting Designer. Birdie also works professionally with other arts organizations around the city including the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, Theatre Huntsville, Fantasy Playhouse Children's Theatre and the chamber choir Ensemble Namárië. Birdie resides in South Huntsville with her husband Charlie and three angels masquerading as cats. When not making cue sheets and chasing dancers, she enjoys baking, making music, yarn crafts, and drinking entirely too much coffee.
Additional Artistic Staff
Monica Yother (My Designs), Graphic Design
Kent Stowell, Artistic Adviser
Francia Russell, Artistic Adviser
Bojan Spassoff, Artistic Adviser
Stephanie Spassoff, Artistic Adviser
David Harwell, Technical Advisor
Karl King, Technical Advisor