Ballet Fantastique's team of expert faculty members is respected, passionate, and proven.
The Academy of Ballet Fantastique's small team of highly-qualified faculty have backgrounds not only in professional performance and in the Vaganova method, but also in dance pedagogy—so they not only know how to dance, but are also experts in working with young dancers. All are university-trained, with a combined dozens of years of professional experience. They are deeply dedicated to each Ballet Fantastique student, and are also highly approachable as dancers and parents have questions or concerns throughout their training.
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR + CHOREOGRAPHER-PRODUCER
COACH: ADVANCED BALLET, PROFESSIONAL DANCER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
Ballet Fantastiqe's Canadian-born Artistic Director, Donna Marisa Bontrager, is a choreographer and expert master teacher in the Russian Vaganova Syllabus. In New York, Ms. Bontrager worked closely for many years with Vaganova pedagogy experts Karl Singleterry and Marvin Askew (Buffalo City Ballet) and Bernadine deMike (Royale Dance Theatre New York). In Eugene, Ms. Bontrager had the opportunity to observe Howard and Kathleen Epstein, directors of the former Conservatory of Classical Dance. It was an invaluable experience for her to watch Howard Epstein train young students in the Vaganova teaching method as set forth by his teacher, internationally-renowned John Barker, the author of The School of Classical Dance. Donna says of her experience, “Studying the extensive written materials of John Barker and Oleg Briansky (author of 100 Lessons in Classical Dance), as well as watching Howard and Kathleen teach for three years changed my life.” She adds, “I could not be doing what I'm doing now without them.” Mr. Barker and Mr. Briansky have been influential in bringing Vaganova's syllabus to Amererican teachers, dancers, and training academies. Ms. Bontrager's performance résumé embraces work with New York companies, including Empire State Ballet, Buffalo City Ballet, Royale Dance Theatre New York, and Festival Choir Ballet. In addition, she was one of ten dancers invited to perform as part of the international Feast of the Tabernacles in Jerusalem, Israel, and has been invited to join the World Congress on Dance.
Out of her many years of teaching and performance experience, Ms. Bontrager has developed the complete curriculum for The Academy of Ballet Fantastique, directly following the notated Vaganova Syllabus. She works closely with all Professional Training Division Academy of Ballet Fantastique students in their training, choreography, and performance.
Ms. Bontrager has overseen Ballet Fantastique repertoire and productions involving partnerships with choirs, opera, and soloist vocalists, symphony and chamber orchestras, literary and visual artists, and composers. Ms. Bontrager has choreographed, produced, and staged the entire critically acclaimed all-original Ballet Fantastique repertoire, including: The Odyssey: The Ballet (with live looping electric violinist Cullen Vance, premiere 2015); American Christmas Carol (with Halie Loren & band, premiere 2014); The Book of Esther: A Rock Gospel Ballet (with the UO Gospel Choir, premiere 2014), Tales from the Floating World (with Portland Taiko and international koto player Mitsuki Dazai, premiere 2014); ZORRO (with the LA-based band Incendio and violinist-composer Kim Angelis, premiere 2013); Pride & Prejudice: A Parisian Jazz Ballet (with Gerry Rempel Jazz Syndicate, premiere 2013); The Misadventures of Casanova (premiere 2013); Cirque de la Lune (with Betty and the Boy, Mood Area 52, and Troupe Carnivale, premiere 2011);Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet (with Shelley and Cal and the Agents of Unity, premiere 2012); Arabian Nights (premiere 2011);As You Like It: A Wild West Ballet (including on Ballet Fantastique's Italy tour in 2013; original premiere 2011); Tales of Beatrix Potter (premiere 2010); Love at the Cafe Terrace (with composer Jeremy DeKyle Schropp and 25-part orchestra; premiere 2009); Carnival of the Animals (including with Eugene Symphony, premiere 2008); Breakfast at Tiffany’s; A Novel Experience (with the Oregon Mozart Players). Under Ms. Bontrager's leadership, Ballet Fantastique has toured nationally and internationally. Ms. Bontrager's love of the arts also extends to her design work as a graduate of the University of Oregon's School of Architecture and in the creation of Ballet Fantastique's critically-acclaimed costumes.
Ms. Bontrager's students have earned prestigious placements in internationally acclaimed programs, including the Kirov Academy of Ballet year-round training program, City Ballet School of San Francisco (only Northwest student accepted), and the University of Utah (full scholarship).
COACH: ADVANCED BALLET, INTERMEDIATE BALLET
Hannah Joy Bontrager has studied the eight levels of the Vaganova Syllabus and Vaganova pedagogy with Donna Marisa Bontrager (Ballet Fantastique) while creating and performing works locally, and instructing classes at Ballet Fantastique for over fifteen years. In addition to spending two summers at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C. under Artistic Director Oleg Vinogradov (also Artistic Director of the Kirov Ballet in Russia), she was one of five students invited internationally to join renowned Kirov prima ballerina Mme. Alla Sizova's advanced class.
Hannah graduated in 2003 from the Academy of Colorado Ballet's professional division under St. Petersburg Vaganova Academy graduate Inessa Pakri-Plekhanova, while concurrently training and performing with the company’s apprentices. In Fall 2006 she was invited by internationally-recognized master teacher Oleg Briansky to join the summer staff of his New York summer intensive program as a teacher and student mentor. Hannah graduated summa cum laude and phi beta kappa from the Robert D. Clark Honors College of the University of Oregon, where, as a full scholarship student, she earned concurrent degrees in Dance and English Literature and a minor in Community Arts through the graduate Arts Administration program. Her honors thesis, “Moving Education: Building an Integrated In-School Dance Curriculum for Elementary School Classrooms,” explored the challenges and opportunities of dance education under the No Child Left Behind Act.
In addition to her work as a principal dancer with the Ballet Fantastique professional contemporary chamber company since 2007, Hannah has performed as a guest dancer and/or contributing choreographer with a number of companies, including: Colorado Ballet Company, Manassas Ballet Theatre, Co-Art Dance Company, Traduza Dance Company, Rose Children's Theater, and the Staton Foundation. Hannah has also been privileged to be coached by Dina Fadayeva. Hannah has earned rave critical reviews in choreographic, soloist and principal roles for Ballet Fantastique, including: Cindy in Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet set in 1964 (with Shelley & Cal and the Agents of Unity, 2015 performances); Kalypso and Circe in The Odyssey: The Ballet (with live looping electric violinist Cullen Vance, premiere 2015); Christmas Future in American Christmas Carol (with Halie Loren & band, premiere 2014); The Spirit in The Book of Esther: A Rock Gospel Ballet(with the UO Gospel Choir, premiere 2014), The Moon Princess in Tales from the Floating World(with Portland Taiko and international koto player Mitsuki Dazai, premiere 2014); Juliana de Romeo, the prissy heartthrob in ZORRO (with the LA-based band Incendio and violinist-composer Kim Angelis, premiere 2013); the flippant Lydia Bennette inPride & Prejudice: A Parisian Jazz Ballet (with Gerry Rempel Jazz Syndicate, premiere 2013); Henriette, the feisty writer in The Misadventures of Casanova (premiere 2013); Simone, the Adventurous Dreamer in Cirque de la Lune (with Betty and the Boy, Mood Area 52, and Troupe Carnivale, premiere 2011); the Dancing Diva and Motorcycle Girl in Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet (with Shelley and Cal and the Agents of Unity, premiere 2012); Scheherazade in Arabian Nights (premiere 2011); Rosie, the lead in As You Like It: A Wild West Ballet (including on Ballet Fantastique's Italy tour in 2013; original premiere 2011); Peter Rabbit in Tales of Beatrix Potter (premiere 2010); Marguerite, the siren inLove at the Cafe Terrace (with composer Jeremy DeKyle Schropp and orchestra; premiere 2009); Aviary in Carnival of the Animals (including with Eugene Symphony, premiere 2008); the Nymph from Rusalka in “Song to the Moon”; and the Lover in “La Vie en Rose” (Visions d'Amour, premiere 2009).
COACH: ADVANCED BALLET, INTERMEDIATE BALLET, CONDITIONING
Ashley Bontrager has studied classical ballet since she was four years old, and trained at Buffalo City Ballet, the Conservatory of Classical Dance, Ballet Fantastique, and the University of Oregon. With the Ballet Fantastique chamber company, Ashley has performed many roles, including: the Muse and Princess Nausicaa in The Odyssey: The Ballet(with live looping electric violinist Cullen Vance, premiere 2015); Marilyn in American Christmas Carol (with Halie Loren & band, premiere 2014); Princess Cassandane in The Book of Esther: A Rock Gospel Ballet (with the UO Gospel Choir, premiere 2014), the Tennyo/Celestial Maiden and Princess Taema in Tales from the Floating World (with Portland Taiko and international koto player Mitsuki Dazai, premiere 2014); Isabel de Romeo, the tomboy in ZORRO (with the LA-based band Incendio and violinist-composer Kim Angelis, premiere 2013); Lizzy Bennette, the bold lead inPride & Prejudice: A Parisian Jazz Ballet (with Gerry Rempel Jazz Syndicate, premiere 2013); Angela Catterina Tosello, the priest's niece in The Misadventures of Casanova (premiere 2013); Chiara, the Alluring Lion Tamer in Cirque de la Lune (with Betty and the Boy, Mood Area 52, and Troupe Carnivale, premiere 2011); Stepsister Stasia in Cinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet (with Shelley and Cal and the Agents of Unity, premiere 2012 + 2015 performances); the Genie in "The Tale of the 7th Night," part of BFan's Arabian Nights (premiere 2011); Annie Oakley in As You Like It: A Wild West Ballet (including on Ballet Fantastique's Italy tour in 2013; original premiere 2011); the Fox in Tales of Beatrix Potter (premiere 2010); Wanda, the floozy in Love at the Cafe Terrace(with composer Jeremy DeKyle Schropp and orchestra; premiere 2009); Fossil in Carnival of the Animals (including with Eugene Symphony, premiere 2008); Audrey in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; A Novel Experience (with the Oregon Mozart Players); and live with dozens of groups at home and on tour, including the LA-based band Incendio and the nationally-acclaimed Trio Voronezh. Ashley has appeared in Ballet Fantastique chamber company concerts touring in venues across the Northwest.
In addition to her work with Ballet Fantastique, Ashley completed a Journalism-Broadcasting major at the University of Oregon in 2008 with specializations in both news and documentary.
The Academy of Ballet Fantastique, including classical and contemporary variations. She prioritizes artistry, personality, presentation, and a sense of confidence in the movement in each of her advanced students--and believes that strength and power through cross-training are invaluable to advanced dancers and aspiring professionals.
COACH: YOUNG DANCER PROGRAM, BALLET, VARIATIONS
Amanda grew up in Eugene, training at the Eugene School of Ballet. As a student, she attended Regional Dance America Festivals both regionally and nationally. There, she was awarded the title “honor student” and consecutive scholarships to prestigious CRAFT of Choreography workshops. Amanda attended summer intensives on scholarship at prestigious schools such as Joffrey Ballet School NY, Pacific Northwest Ballet School, Ballet Austin, and Portland Festival Ballet. At age 16, Amanda began her professional ballet career as an Apprentice with the Eugene Ballet Company. She spent two performance seasons with EBC, touring across the the Northwest performing Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, Dracula, American in Paris, The Nutcracker, and original works by Toni Pimble and Gillmer Duran. Amanda first danced with Ballet Fantastique for the 2011 season, performing as the Macaw Bird in Northwest composer Charles Gurke's "Cincuenta Años de Soledad/50 Years of Solitude" in Ballet Fantastique's bossa/brasil (premiere 2011) and as CeCe in As You Like It: A Wild West Ballet (premiere 2011). Amanda then moved to Portland to study under the late John Magnus, where she performed roles such as Sugar Plum Fairy, Dew Drop Fairy, Snow Queen, and Arabian in The Nutcracker, Fairy Queen in Hansel and Gretel, and original choreography by Les Watanabe. Amanda presented her own production of contemporary choreographic works, Chiaroscuro, with Emily Schultz, Amelia Unsicker, Melissa St. Clair, and Lavinia Magliocco. Amanda danced as a company member with Moxie Contemporary Ballet under Artistic Director Gina Candland. She performed the soloist role La Lune in the holiday production of Noel, and in "Water Wheel," "Brain Crane," and "Monsters" in A La Mode. In addition, Amanda performed original pieces by internationally-recognized choreographers such as Michele Oliva, Jourdan Epstein, Emery LeCrone, Doug Baum, Marie Zvosec, and Drew Jacoby. Amanda is very excited to reunite with Ballet Fantastique.
Amanda began her teaching career at The Academy of Ballet Fantastique, assisting Hannah Bontrager with the Young Dancers Program. In Portland, with Kim Smiley as her Mentor, Amanda began teaching young dancers with Ms. Smiley’s syllabus. The next year Amanda assisted Les Watanabe with Adult classes, observing dynamics of teaching from a new perspective. After two years, John Magnus promoted Amanda to being a Rehearsal Director for young students through Trainees for The Nutcracker. At Moxie Contemporary Ballet, Amanda taught a new syllabus established by Gina Candland and Laura Belle. There, Amanda gained experience teaching ballet age 2-adult. Amanda created choreography on MCB young students in holiday show Noel as well as Summerfest performances. Amanda has extensive experience teaching Mommy and Me, Pre-Ballet, Classical Ballet, Contemporary, Conditioning, Adult, Pointe, and more! Amanda's teaching style is warm, detail oriented, and emphasizes creativity through one-on-one attention with each student.
COACH: YOUNG DANCER PROGRAM, BEGINNING BALLET, INTERMEDIATE BALLET, CONDITIONING, JAZZ, MODERN
Kendra Elliott started dancing at the age of three, training in the Vaganova Syllabus at Hosanna Dance Studio of Eugene, where she studied classical ballet, jazz, and contemporary technique, and had the privilege to be coached by Jennifer Knight Dills and Ballet Fantastique's Leanne Mizzoni. While at Hosanna Dance, Kendra danced in many soloist roles. She has also competed in many dance competitions in the state of Oregon, receiving an award for choreography and dance in her solo piece “Gravity.” From a young age, Kendra has participated in many performances, including as guest dancer in New Hope College’s debut of the Disney musical, Tarzan.
Kendra started as a teacher assistant in 2011, and continued as a lead teacher at the age of 18, coaching at various schools in the Eugene area. In addition, Kendra is currently pursuing a degree in English at the University of Oregon.
Kendra is one of The Academy of Ballet Fantastique's most sought-after coaches for her ever-patient attention to detail, creative choreography, and drive for perfection, especially for BFan's youngest dancers.
COMPANY/ACADEMY MANAGER + DANCER
COACH: ADULT BALLET PROGRAM, ADVANCED BALLET, INTERMEDIATE BALLET,
Leanne Mizzoni is a native of the DC metro area, where trained with Metropolitan Ballet and Virginia Ballet Company with Ballet Russes dancers Oleg Tupine and Tania Rousseau. Leanne has also studied at Virginia School of the Arts and Joffrey Ballet. She holds a BFA in Dance Pedagogy (cum laude). She has been trained under Peggy Lyman, Peter O’Brian, Hilda Morales and Susan Brooker. Leanne taught professionally for seven years in Connecticut and Virginia and was the children’s assistant for Kirk Peterson’s production of Nutcracker with American Ballet Theatre. Leanne’s students have gone on to internationally-recognized summer programs.
Leanne is also a professional dancer, and was a soloist with the Manassas Ballet Theatre for four years. There, she performed roles in many ballets including The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Carmen, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Coppelia, and Dracula, as well as original contemporary ballets and the Russian folk ballet Markitenka. Leanne joined the Ballet Fantastique chamber company as a principal dancer in 2009, and has appeared at home and on Ballet Fantastique tour in a number of soloist roles with the company, including: Mercury in The Odyssey: The Ballet (with live looping electric violinist Cullen Vance, premiere 2015); Judy in American Christmas Carol (with Halie Loren & band, premiere 2014); Esther in The Book of Esther: A Rock Gospel Ballet (with the UO Gospel Choir, premiere 2014), Miyuki, the samurai's daughter in Tales from the Floating World (with Portland Taiko and international koto player Mitsuki Dazai, premiere 2014); Light in the Night inZORRO (with the LA-based band Incendio and violinist-composer Kim Angelis, premiere 2013); Kitty Bennette, the raucous little sister inPride & Prejudice: A Parisian Jazz Ballet (with Gerry Rempel Jazz Syndicate, premiere 2013); Faustina, the famous opera singer in The Misadventures of Casanova (premiere 2013); Estrella, the Lonesome Diva in Cirque de la Lune (with Betty and the Boy, Mood Area 52, and Troupe Carnivale, premiere 2011); the Sunnydale Fairy Godmother inCinderella: A Rock Opera Ballet (with Shelley and Cal and the Agents of Unity, premiere 2012 + 2015 performances); the Diamond Statue in Arabian Nights (premiere 2011); Cupid inAs You Like It: A Wild West Ballet (including on Ballet Fantastique's Italy tour in 2013; original premiere 2011); Squirrel Nutkin in Tales of Beatrix Potter (premiere 2010); Chloe, the waitress in Love at the Cafe Terrace (with composer Jeremy DeKyle Schropp and orchestra; premiere 2009); and many others.
Leanne's highly experienced teaching style is up-beat and down-to-business. Students praise her as one of the best teachers they've ever had.
Carolin Koepplin began her training at the Idaho Falls School of Ballet, under director Deborah Bean and Mariko Kim-Downs. As a member of the Idaho Falls based Ballo Capesso performing ensemble, she performed “The Swan” in Carnival of The Animals, and the Dragonfly in Bugs and Ballet, among others for the community and for local students as part of outreach programs. Her dance education continued at the prestigious University of Utah Department of Ballet, where Cari earned a B.F.A in Ballet cum laude with a dual emphasis in Performance and Teaching. At the University of Utah, Ms. Koepplin performed extensively with Utah Ballet under the directorship of Regina Zarhina and Jay Kim. In addition to making her mark in numerous ballet Showcases and Ballet Ensemble performances, Carolin danced featured roles in La Vivandiere, "Four Little Swans" in Swan Lake, "Russian" in The Nutcracker, and in premieres by Professor Maureen Laird, Eldon Johnson, and Dr. Jung Sik Roh. Ms. Koepplin was also a member of the Character Dance Ensemble, and was featured in an excerpt from La Fille Mal Gardee on tour to San Jose, Costa Rica. Since graduation, Ms. Koepplin spent two seasons with Central West Ballet, where she quickly advanced to soloist. Carolin's favorite roles include Moyne in Giselle, Jewel Doll, Spanish Coffee Lead, Chinese Tea Lead, and Waltz of the Flowers Pas de Duex in The Nutcracker, Eva in Rene Daveluy's premiere of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, "the Chick" in Ol' MacDonald and "Sway" for Rat Pack in Revue. She has also performed George Balanchine's Serenade as a guest with Ballet Idaho. Cari is thrilled to be joining Ballet Fantastique.
Natanael originally hails from Rio de Janerio, where he was a principal dancer at Companhia de Ballet do Rio de Janeiro from 2013-2014, and a soloist with Casa da Rua do Amor from 2010-2014. Natanael won multiple bronze and silver medals at the international FESTINCOAA, a leading dance festival and competition in South America. He holds a graduation certificate from both Centro de Arte e Dança, where he was a full scholarship student, and Miami City Ballet School’s Pre-Professional Program, where he was also a full scholarship student. Natanael’s performance experience includes soloist and principal roles at Companhia de Ballet do Rio de Janeiro and Centro de Arte e Dança in a range of classical and contemporary works, from Don Quixote andSleeping Beauty to Elements, and ensemble and demi-soloist roles with Miami City Ballet, including Paquita, Giselle, Coppelia, Who Cares? and Miami Heat. Natanael is excited to be joining Ballet Fantastique because of its commitment to new work.
Gustavo joins Ballet Fantastique from his work as a soloist with Gelsey Kirkland Ballet in New York. Gustavo originally began his training in Cali, Colombia at the prestigious Colombian Institute for Classical Ballet (Incolballet). During his eight years at this prestigious school, Gustavo’s studies included extensive work in ballet, modern, folklore and character dance. He obtained dance degrees from ballet-centered secondary and higher-level institutions, where he was educated by ballet masters Gloria Castro, Helena Cala, Maria del Carmen Hechavarria, and Rolando Candia as well as teachers from the National Ballet of Cuba. At the age of 17, Gustavo joined the company of Instituto Colombiano de Ballet Clasico (Incolballet), under ballet masters Gaetano Petrosinio, Flávio Salazar, and Juan Carlos Peñuela. He then moved to New York to complete his ballet training at the Gelsey Kirkland Academy (GKA) as a full scholarship student; he also holds scholarships to international summer programs, including American Academy of Ballet and Nashville Ballet. After graduating from GKA, Gustavo danced soloist and principal roles in the Gelsey Kirkland Ballet, including Faust, Paquita, Wedding Procession, Nutcracker, and Les Sylphides. Gustavo also has experience as a supernumerary with both American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House and with Mikhailovsky Ballet Theater at the David H. Koch Theater. Gustavo looks forward to his first season with Ballet Fantastique.