SCHOOL FACULTY & STAFF

Rachel Butler, School Director

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Ms. Butler has most recently served as Ballet Mistress for New Haven Ballet. 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 Ballet’s for New Haven Ballet, and served as assistant ballet mistress of children’s roles for Kent Stowell’s and Maurice Sendacks world renowned production of The Nutcracker. Ms. Butlers 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.

 
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Phillip Otto, Artistic Director

Mr. Otto has most recently served as New Haven Ballet’s artistic director. 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


Deborah Bailey

Mrs. Bailey is a native of Maitland, Florida, she studied at The School of Performing Arts under Patty Watson Walsh, Ellie Potts Barrett, Ari Bloustien, George Kolher, Phyllis Watson and Russell Sultzbach. She also studied under Barbara Wiggins and Kip Watson of Southern Ballet Theatre, now the Orlando Ballet. Deborah started dancing for Walt Disney World at the age of 10 in their Christmas Spectacular, and became a cast member at the age of 15. She danced for the opening of EPCOT Center, was a Can-Can dancer for the French Pavilion, and worked as a swing performer for many shows. She attended Brenau Women’s College earning a minor in Dance Theatre. While at Brenau she danced with the Gainesville Ballet Company and the Atlanta Ballet. Choreography awards include Honorable Mention; Five Points Choreography Competition of Atlanta, Best of Show; Florida Thespian State Competition, Best Choreography; Performing Dance Teachers Association; Best Choreography Dance Educators of America. Since moving to Alabama She has taught with area studios including The Dance Factory, Athens; Performing Dance Arts, Huntsville; and Dancers, Inc, Decatur. Deborah also served as the Interium Artistic Director for Hunstville Ballet Company in 2007- 2008. She currently serves as an instructor for Huntsville Ballet School.

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Melissa B. Barnett

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Mrs. Barnett began her dance training at the age of 4 in her hometown of Douglasville, Ga. Her training includes ballet, pointe, jazz, and tap from some of the best studios and instructors in the Atlanta area. She is graduate of Birmingham-Southern College and holds a Bachelor of Art in Dance Pedagogy with a minor in Business Administration. While at B-SC, she studied Vaganova ballet technique with Mira Popovich, Ruth Henry, George Lysensko, and John Summer. She has performed roles in Les Sylphide, Con Amoré, and many original works by faculty, guest artists, and dance students of B-SC. During her time at B-SC she served as the Student Coordinator for the Spring Dance Performance which was solely original works choreographed by dance majors. In her senior year she was awarded the Nina Kirsanova Award for Academic and Creative Excellence in Dance. In addition to classes and performing she began her teaching career for a variety of studios in Birmingham. After college, she moved back to her hometown to serve as the Ballet Director for two metro Atlanta studios. In 2000, Mrs. Barnett moved to Huntsville with her husband. Since arriving in Huntsville she has taught ballet for local studios, served as the Associate Artistic Director for Pointe Station, Inc., choreographed for Ovation Arts, served as the Stage Manager for the Choreography Competition of the Panoply Arts Festival, and has been nominated for a Wings Award for her choreography. She opened Huntsville Dance Academy in 2003 and was the owner/director for 6 years. After closing the studio in 2009 to spend more time with her husband and sons, she joined the staff at Huntsville Ballet School and The Dance Company, Inc. In addition to teaching ballet with HBS, she is a member of Huntsville Ballet’s Outreach team, teaching Arts Integration to elementary school children in the Huntsville City School System. Mrs. Barnett loves sharing her passion with her students, challenging them to work to their highest potential, and watching them grow into amazing young dancers. When she is not at the studio, she is a wife, mother, taxi driver, and cheerleader for her two sons who are competitive swimmers with Huntsville Swim Association.

 

Vicki Butler

Ms. Butler began her ballet training with Imogene Wheeler in the Cecchetti method. She received a scholarship to Harkness House in New York where she studied with David Howard and Maria Veigh. She toured Italy as soloist with the Alabama Ballet and was Director of Dance for the American Youth Asso. in Germany. She has been teaching in Huntsville since 1975. With the Huntsville Ballet Co., Vicki has danced the principal role in The Nutcracker, La Sylphide, Coppelia, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. She won the classical division of the Panoply choreography competition (1988), modern division (1991), and contemporary division (1996). She has also choreographed several Fantasy playhouse productions. Her professional enhancement studies include: American Dance Festival at Duke University: Somatics, Stepping into History, and several dance professional workshops; Doris Humphrey Intensives in Oak Park, Illinois where she learned and performed Water Study; Skinner Release at Florida Dance Festival in Miami; World Dance Alliance in Philadelphia; Ballet Magnificat - teachers training; Glenwood Springs Dance Festival in Colorado, a three week intensive of ballet, modern and yoga under the direction of Doug Varone; AFFA Mat Science Workshop at the Huntsville Wellness Center; and The Little People's Creative Dance Workshop in Greenville, North Carolina. From 2006-2008, Vicki was the Interim School Director of Community Ballet School.

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Cathy Curry

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Ms. Curry began her dance training in Huntsville and became a member of Huntsville Ballet Company at age 12, where she performed many principal roles. After being awarded a full scholarship, Cathy received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from Florida State University where she had the opportunity to study and perform with renowned faculty such as Suzanne Farrell, Buglisi/Foreman, Doug Varone, and Jowole Zollar, the director of Urban Bush Women. During this time, Cathy was also a member of the Dance Repertory Theatre, a performing company dedicated to community outreach. Since college, Cathy has continued her dance education, including participating in NYU’s Summer Dance Program and summers at the American Dance Festival’s Professionals Workshop. She has recently received her Pilates certification from Balanced Body University. Cathy is also a certified K-12 teacher and was Director of Dance at the Academy for Academics and Arts, the arts magnet school in Huntsville.

 

Pilar Delany

Mrs Delany started dancing with Academia de Bailes Zaida Varas in Puerto Rico at the age of 5. She received training in  ballet, Spanish dances (Jotas, Paso Doble, Zapateado, flamenco) and participated in Zarzuelas and Folkloric Dance festivals, and television productions.  She also assisted and taught at the beginning levels ballet and Spanish dance until her first year in college. During her undergraduate studies she entered the newly created company Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico. There she studied under Lolita San Miguel, Jose Pares, Carlota Carrera and other masters and performed in productions of Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Coppelia, Giselle and their Coreographers’ Workshop Presentations.  She left the company to pursue graduate studies in I/O Psychology and continued taking classes during that time and afterwards wherever her husband’s military career took their growing family.

Her and her children have been part of Community Ballet since moving to the Huntsville area in 2004 participating in The Nutcracker and other productions.


 

Gina Guerrera

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Originally from Connecticut, Gina has studied dance for over twenty years. While at the University of Connecticut, she was selected as a member of the Uconn Dance Company, where she choreographed and danced in a number of pieces in varying dance styles. Gina has participated in choreography workshops as well as dance conventions in New York City and New Jersey. After graduation, Gina taught and assisted at The Dance Workshop in Monroe, Connecticut. Gina has choreographed a piece for two seasons of the Huntsville Ballet Company’s "Unplugged" performances. She counts it a privilege to be a part of the Huntsville Ballet organization.

 

Catherine Hampton

An alumnus of Huntsville Ballet School and former company dancer with Huntsville Ballet Company, Catherine is excited to be able to teach alongside the people who have been so influential in her dance career. She recently graduated with a B.F.A. in Dance from Belhaven University where she had the privilege of training under teachers such as Ravenna Tucker-Wagnon (Royal Ballet), Caleb Mitchell (Houston Ballet) and Laura Morton (Milwaukee Ballet, Houston Ballet School Faculty). While at Belhaven, she worked with her peers and students from a local arts magnet middle school teaching dance and choreographing, then, when home, taught at HBS and Huntsville Ballet's Summer Intensive. Over the years, Catherine has had the opportunity to work as a dancer under guest artists such as Dede Barfield (Pennsylvania Ballet), Catherine Batcheller (Stuttgart Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet), and Timothy Fox (NYCB, San Francisco Ballet) among others. Whether she's teaching, coaching, or choreographing, the impact of these and many more teachers carries through into Catherine's care and approach inside the classroom. 

 

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Lucille Hunt

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Lucy began dancing at the age of four with the School of Music and Dance in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Since then, she has attended many summer programs and trained with studios along the east coast including Eichelburger Performing Arts, Westminster Ballet Theatre, Gettysburg Dance Center, and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. In 2008 and 2011 she performed in the Moscow Ballet’s American tour of “The Great Russian Nutcracker”.

This is Lucy’s third season with Huntsville Ballet and she is very excited about teaching for the children’s program and performing alongside the company. 

 

Laura Orand

Laura Orand began her dance training at the age of 5 with Bobbie Hall in Huntsville, AL. Throughout her youth she performed at countless art festivals and won awards at many dance competitions. Laura augmented her training with nationwide workshops and master classes presented by numerous well renowned choreographers. At the age of 12, she was named "Huntsville's Tap Dance Kid" for her age division as part of a promotion for the Broadway Musical "The Tap Dance Kid". During her adolescence, Laura was also a fashion model and appeared in many professional runway shows and national newspaper advertisements. She was asked to become a student teacher at 13 where she was allowed to teach tap, jazz, and ballet under supervision of her mentor, Bobbie Hall.  After several years of training, Laura accepted her first position as a dance instructor/choreographer at the age of 17. Laura continued to develop and nurture her own unique style of choreography and instruction by attending workshops and classes nationwide. Her dance and instructional training includes a variety of styles to include tap, jazz, contemporary, ballet, hip-hop, and musical theater. Laura is very pleased to have instructed and choreographed many award winning solo, duo, trio, group dances and full productions at Dance Masters of America, Dance Educators of America, Showstoppers, Jump, Dance Makers Inc., Tremaine, and Panoply. In addition to her positions in dance instruction and choreography, Laura holds Bachelor Degrees in both Communication Arts and Psychology. She has an extensive background in advertising, marketing, and sales which led her to open her own marketing and advertising agency, Invoke Strategies, LLC. Laura is very excited to part of the Huntsville Ballet family. Her expertise and enthusiasm combined with her love for dance and teaching will certainly be enjoyed by all her students.

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Linda Soulé

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Linda Soulé is the founder and director of Covenant Dancers. From age 10, she trained at Huntsville’s Community Ballet School under Loyd Tygett’s direction. She appeared in Educational Television programs and starred in Fantasy Playhouse plays, where she received acting as well as dancing honors.

Linda received full summer scholarships with the American Ballet Theatre School and the Joffrey Ballet in New York City. After high school, Linda continued her dance training at Birmingham Southern College under a full tuition scholarship.

Linda has 40 years of teaching experience. She has taught for Community Ballet, Bobbie Hall, Dance Elite, Valley Fellowship's Christian Academy, Covenant of Peace Church, Covenant Christian Academy, Ben Wilcoxon Ice Plex, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She founded Covenant Dancers in 1996 as a Christian dance academy dedicated to developing students who honor the Lord through their dancing. Each year, Covenant Dancers presents a concert of liturgical, contemporary, and classical works. Linda’s choreography has also been featured in local dance productions, church services, and Panoply of the Arts.


 

Joseph Alexander Villalobos- a native Texan, Joseph began his training in Dallas, Texas following a stint in competitive martial arts. He supplemented his training with time spent at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and the International Ballet Competitors Training Program. The latter earned him the honor to represent the United States at the 4th International Ballet and Modern Competition in Nagoya, Japan.

Joseph's professional career has taken him all over the country. He has danced for Ballet Arkansas, Northern Plains Ballet, Nevada Ballet Theatre, Inland Pacific Ballet, Ballet Oklahoma, Ballet Theatre of Maryland, Kentucky Ballet Theatre, and Montgomery Ballet. Joseph has originated a number of featured roles in neo-classical and contemporary pieces, while also enjoying major roles in the classics. He also had the privilege of representing the Montgomery Ballet at the Dance Festival in Pietrasanta, Italy. Joseph also has an extensive repertoire in musical theatre. He has performed in productions of The King and I, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Aesop's Follies and A Christmas Carol.

A teacher as well as a dancer, Joseph has been able to enrich many students' lives. He has taught for company-affiliated schools, as well as schools highly regarded on the competition circuit. A number of students have received scholarships to prestigious summer intensives; others have also enjoyed scholarships to universities with lauded dance programs. Many have gone on to dance professionally with nationally recognized companies. Because of a performing career that provided a variety of opportunities, Joseph has been able to implement a number of styles and techniques into his teaching, and focuses on training to prevent injury and promote longevity in the dance field.

Most recently, Joseph and his wife Laura were the Artistic Directors of the Montgomery Ballet, premiering 4 new works over 3 seasons. They also owned their own school in San Antonio, Texas, and helped found a non-profit, Dance Elan, which focused on dance outreach opportunities for those with special needs and community-fundraising.

Joseph and his wife Laura have 2 beautiful children, and look forward to continuing to be a part of dance and dance education in the Southeast.

 

Debbie Weisberg

Mrs. Weisberg grew up in New York and trained with the American Ballet Theatre School, American Ballet Center (Joffrey), Melissa Hayden Ballet Center, Steps, and North Shore School of Ballet. Debbie performed with the North Shore Ballet Company in many lead roles including Cinderella, The Toy Princess, and Hansel and Gretel. She later received both her B.F. A. and M.F.A. in Ballet, Performance, Choreography and Pedagogy from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. While in Texas, she danced with Ballet Concerto and TCU Ballet Company and served as adjunct ballet faculty at the TCU Department of Ballet and Modern Dance and several local ballet schools. She also was on the Dance Department faculty at the Interlochen Arts Camp in Interlochen, Michigan, for six summers. Her performance credits include leading roles in The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Chopin Etudes, Caracol, Le Corsaire and The Secret Garden. After moving to California in 1988, she joined the California Dance Theatre Festival Ballet and Francisco Martinez Dance Theatre. She also was on the faculty and choreographed for California Dance Theatre for 12 years, where a number of her students have gone on and pursued professional dance careers throughout the country. Debbie moved to Huntsville with her family in 2001, and joined the Huntsville Ballet School faculty in 2006. Debbie has recently choreographed for the Huntsville Ballet Company, Huntsville City Schools, and Early Childhood Music. She has also performed with Huntsville Ballet Company in Phillip Otto’s The Nutcracker and Romeo and Juliet. Debbie wants to continue to share her love and passion for dance with our students here at HBS and HBC.



School Staff

 

Ilya Lytal
School Administrator

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Aimee Fincher
Administrative Manager

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Susie Swanson Fortner
School Manager

 
 

Jessica Claire Hall
Social Media/Website Manager