ERICA DE LA O Artistic Director
Erica De La O was born in East Los Angeles, CA, and is a Principal Artist with The Louisville Ballet.
Erica’s impressive repertoire has included principal roles in much of the classical canon, including La Sylphide, Giselle, Swan Lake, Romeo, and Juliet), Cinderella, Coppelia, Don Quixote, Sleeping Beauty, Les Sylphides, Lady of the Camellias, and The Nutcracker. She also has performed leading roles in works by Balanchine, Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Adam Hougland, Lucas Jervies, Val Caniparoli, Ben Stevenson, Dave Ingram, Harrison McEldowney, Helen Pickett, Ma Cong, and many others.
Beyond ballet, she has also forged a career as a choreographer and collaborative artist in music, film, and graphic design. Her honors include the Sono Osatoaward, the John Orr Award from the Pasadena Arts Council, an award from the Kentucky Women Foundation to shed light on social topics, a fellowship from Hadley Creatives, and a silver medal at the Los Angeles’ Music Center Spotlight Awards.
Erica created Bunhead Talks, an educational vehicle for dance history, female empowerment in ballet culture, and parent/student dance education.
Erica holds an MFA from Hollins University. She earned an EMBA from the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky Schools of Business.
KRISTOPHER WOJTERA Associate Ballet Director
Kristopher Wojtera was born in Poland. Kristopher began ballet studies at the National Ballet School in Gdansk at age ten. He joined the Polish National Theatre in Warsaw and worked with prominent choreographers such as Lorca Miasin, Emil Wesolowski, Yuri Grigorovich, Krzysztof Pastor, and Mats Ek.
Throughout his 28-year career, Kristopher’s repertoire as a Principal artist included leading roles in Giselle (Albrecht), Swan Lake (Siegfried), Nutcracker (Cavalier), The Three Musketeers (D’artagnan), Don Quixote (Basilio), The Lady with the Camellias (Armand), Le Patineurs (Blue Boy), Theme and Variations, Billy The Kid, as well as contemporary works by Ma Cong, Val Caniparoli, Twyla Tharp, Antony Tudor, Harrison McEldowney, and many others.
While still performing, Kristopher completed a Master of Fine Arts degree in Dance from Hollins University in association with the Forsythe Lab and the Mousonturm in Frankfurt, Germany. He earned an Artist’s Diploma from The National Ballet School of Gdańsk in Poland and certificates in Vaganova Teaching methodology (levels 1 – 5) from Bryn Mawr College.
Kristopher’s awards include the Carolina New House Scholarship, the SonoOsato Award, and the Hollins University Fellowship.
EMILY LORENZ (Costumer, Administrative and Children’s Rehearsal Assistant, Children’s Division Ballet, Tap)
Emily started dancing when she was 3 years old and joined Salt Creek Ballet at the age of 9 where she received training from the former Artistic Director Sergey Kozadayev. While dancing at Salt Creek she studied a variety of different styles of dance including character, contemporary, jazz, and modern. She also studied tap for a number of years to enrich her musicality and dance knowledge. As a member of the company, she performed roles in performances including The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, La Sylphide, Flower Festival in Genzano, and Harlequinade. Emily is currently studying at College of DuPage.
MICHELE BROVIAK (Jazz)
Michelle owned and operated Gotta Dance Studio in Chicago from 1987-2003. She won the National and World Dance Champions choreography award and has also received Entertainment, Choreography and Top Teacher awards with various organizations. Michele was trained in ballet, pointe, jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, musical theater and baton by instructors from all over the world. She has had an extensive stage and film career, performing in shows such as Guys and Dolls, Bye Bye Birdie, They’re Playin our Song and A Chorus Line, and participating in Dancefest and Human Rhythm Project. She has worked with stars such as Jessica Lange, Chris O’Donnell, Ann Jillian, Joan Cusack, Robert Conrad and Patrick Swayze.
EDSON CABRERA (Modern)
Edson was born in Cuba and graduated from the highly regarded Escuela Nacional de Artein Dance in 2005. During this training period at the National School of Art in Havana, Edsonparticipated in the ITs Festival in the Netherlands under the direction of Feri de Geus and Noortje Bijvoets, Subsequently, he joined the Cuban dance company Ballet Rakatan, dancing as a soloist. In 2007, he became a member of Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, participating in several international tours to England, Mexico, Hungary, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands, Australia, and the USA. He has also performed in the Sziget Festival in Budapest, Mercat de Les Flors in Barcelona, Brisbane Festival, Manchester International Festival, The Bydgoszcz Opera Festival, and Virginia Arts Festival.
Edson was made Principal Dancer in 2010. During his tenure with Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, he worked with choreographers Rafael Bonachela, Carlos Junior Acosta, George Céspedes, Julio César Iglesias, Juan Kruz Díaz de Garaio Esnaola, Mats Ek, Itzik Galili, and Pedro Ruiz, and performed works by Jan Linkens, and Kenneth Kvarström. He joined artistic forces with Hedwig Dances in 2012.
ELIZABETH FRANCESCONI (Ballet)
Elizabeth began studying dance with previous Salt Creek Ballet instructor, Colette Gilbertson, at the Downers Grove Park District, and then at the Salt Creek Ballet Company under the direction of Sergey Kozadayev and Zhanna Dubrovskaya. At Salt Creek Ballet, she performed in many classical ballets such as The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Alice in Wonderland, and Paquita. Elizabeth graduated from Butler University in May 2010 with a Bachelors of Arts in Dance Pedagogy. At Butler, she had a chance to perform in classical works such as The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Coppelia, Giselle, and Cinderella, along with choreographic works by Marek Cholewa, Cynthia Pratt and Tong Wang. She also traveled with Butler Ballet to Saint Petersburg, Russia, where she performed and took various classes throughout the city. She spent the summer of 2008 at BalletMet’s Summer Intensive, studying with Gerard Charles and Rebecca Rodriguez while performing Serenade, and as a soloist in Colores de Alma. Since graduating from Butler University, Elizabeth has taught at several studios in the Chicagoland area. She is also a rehearsal mistress and performs as a guest artist in area productions of The Nutcracker. Elizabeth is extremely passionate about teaching and enjoys sharing her knowledge and love of dance with her students.
JENNY MASTIN (Children’s Division Ballet)
Jenny trained at Classical Ballet Center in Tampa, Florida at the age of 9 under the direction of Haydee Gutierrez and Miguel Campaneria. Roles performed included Odette in Swan Lake, Kitri in Don Quixote, Paquita, Grisi in Pas de Quatre, and Les Sylphides. Summers were spent at Joffrey Ballet New York and the School of American Ballet in New York City with performances in Saratoga Springs. She danced with Cincinnati Ballet, Knoxville Ballet Theatre and New Orleans Ballet while finishing high school. Performances included roles in The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and original choreography. Jenny attended the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and studied with Duncan Noble, Melissa Hayden, Franchon Cordell and Mabel Robinson. Roles performed included Sugar Plum in The Nutcracker, Russian Soloist in Serenade, lead in Symphony 13 and original choreography. She accompanied NCSA to Budapest, Hungary for a six-week performing tour. Jenny became Director of Classical Ballet Center for 7 years with students professionally contracted at Joffrey Ballet, Sarasota Ballet and Ballet Hawaii. She has been teaching classical ballet for 31 years to students of all levels and ages. Jenny is a Registered Nurse and has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Tampa.
EDDY OCAMPO Resident Choreographer (Contemporary)
Eddy has danced with some of Chicago’s premiere dance companies such as the Joel Hall Dancers, River North Chicago Dance Company and Giordano Dance Chicago. Guest appearances include Kalamazoo Ballet, Augusta Opera, Cerqua Rivera Art Experience, Terpsichore Dancers, LaJazz Dance as well as many television and film cameos. Eddy worked and assisted Gus Giordano, the “Godfather of Jazz Dance”, to create Mr. Giordano’s last ballet, Le Firebird de Jazz, in which he played the lead role. He has also assisted Randy Duncan to create the choreography for The Caucasian Chalk Circle for South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa. CA. Eddy has served as the school director of the Giordano Dance Center, the director of Giordano II as well as the Giordano Merit Scholarship Program Director. His teachings have brought him to Europe, Mexico, Canada, Turkey, the Russian Republic, and throughout the U.S. As a choreographer, His works can be seen in such companies as Houston Metropolitan Dance Company, Odyssey Dance Theatre (Salt Lake City, UT), Kannon Dance (St. Petersburg, Russia), Lisa Clark Dancers (San Francisco, CA), Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, ThodosDance Chicago, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre (Chicago) and many regional ballet companies across the U.S. Eddy has worked with recording artists Josie Aeillo, Suzanne Palmer and London-based recording artist, Affe Adel. He is the recipient of the National Recognition for Outstanding Choreography Award in 2012 and 2014 by the Regional Dance America Association. His other awards include the Dance Chicago 2004 Outstanding Choreography Award, the Cliff Dwellers Arts Foundation Choreographer of the Year Award in 2005 and 2007, and the Gold Shoe Award for International Choreography Competition at the 2007 Jazz Dance World Congress. Eddy has been featured in Dance Magazine, Dance Spirit, Young Dance Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine. and numerous Chicago publications. IN 2005, Eddy was inducted into the Filipino Hall of Fame by the Filipino Association of America for his contribution to the arts. He teaches Contemporary Jazz and Studies in Asian Dance, among other dance-related courses.
AARON RENTERIA (Courtesy of The Joffrey Ballet, Ballet)
Aaron began dancing at the age of 8 in tap and immediately fell in love with performing. After a year of training, he began exploring other styles of dance including jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet, and started competing in regional dance competitions. During his competitive years, he also attended several ballet summer intensives such as Long Beach Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and San Francisco Ballet School. At the age of 14, after spending a summer with the San Francisco Ballet School he was asked to attend their year-round program. It was during this year of training that he saw the professional company, San Francisco Ballet, do many performances during their season which ultimately made him desire to pursue a career in dancing ballet professionally. Aaron studied under Lola de Ávila, Jean-Yves Esquerre, and Patrick Armand at the San Francisco Ballet School while spending three years in the school and two in the Trainee Program. Later, he became a member of the San Francisco Ballet after one year as an apprentice. At SFB, he danced in many ballets and works, including Helgi Tomasson’s Concerto Grosso, Caprice, Don Quixote, Giselle, The Fifth Season, and Nutcracker; Christopher Wheeldon’s Rush and Cinderella; George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, Symphony in C, and Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet; Liam Scarlett’s Hummingbird; Serge Leifar’s Suiteen Blanc; and Yuri Possokhov’s Swimmer, Firebird, and Rite of Spring. Aaron is featured in Lincoln Center at the Movies filming of San Francisco Ballet in Helgi Tomasson’sRomeo and Juliet. In 2016, he was asked by artistic director Ashley Wheater to join The Joffrey Ballet in Chicago and he graciously accepted the position. Aaron is now dancing in his 5th season with the company. Since joining the Joffrey, Aaron has danced in ballets and works such as Jerome Robbins’ Interplay and Glass Pieces; First Theme in George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments; Nicholas Blanc’s Beyond the Shore; Andrew McNicol’s Yonder Blue; Ballroom Manager in Yuri Possokhov’s Anna Karenina; Krzysztof Pastor’s Romeo & Juliet; Christopher Wheeldon’s Fool’s Paradise and The Nutcracker; Alexander Ekman’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and Episode 31, Justin Peck’s Year of the Rabbit and The Times Are Racing; Yuri Possokhov’s Anna Karenina and Bells; Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Mammatus; Liam Scarlett’s Vespertine; Stephanie Martinez’s Bliss; and Cathy Marston’s Jane Eyre. Aaron is also featured in the PBS Great Performances filming of John Neumeier’s collaboration with The Joffrey Ballet and Lyric Opera of Chicago Orphée et Eurydice and in the YouTube livestream of The Joffrey Ballet’s rehearsal of Yuri Possokhov’s Anna Karenina.
ANNA SPELMAN (Ballet)
Anna began her rigorous ballet training and performing career at the San Diego Ballet at the age of nine. By eleven, with the influence of NYCB principal dancer Jillana, Anna attended and received scholarships to the School of American Ballet summer intensives in New York City. Under the artistic co-directorship of renowned Bulgarian ballerina Sonia Arova and her husband Thor Sutowski, Anna thrived in classical ballet training and Thor’s contemporary choreography. She enjoyed performing “Clara” in The Nutcracker, “Four Little Swans” and later, “Big Swans” in Swan Lake, the 2nd Shade variation in La Bayadere, Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet and the Bournonvilleballets Napoli, La Sylphide and Etudes. At twelve, Anna along with twenty San Diego Ballet dancers experienced a summer abroad at L’ Ecole Supérieure de Danse de Cannes Rosella Hightower and performed Raymonda and La Sylphide on the French Riviera. At fifteen years of age, Anna was given an opportunity to join a Columbia Artist Tour, performing ballet every night in a different city in the northwest. During the summer, Anna competed as a junior at the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria. In the fall, after her ballet teachers were appointed Directors of the Alabama School of Fine Arts Dance Department in Birmingham, Anna was invited to continue her demanding artistic training. Anna performed in outreach projects at high schools in Alabama to educate students in the arts, as well as, onstage in August Bournonville’s The Flower Festival in Genzano Pas de Deux and leading roles in Michel Fokine’s Les Sylphides which prompted her to win an Obelisk award for best female dancer. Later, while on scholarship at American Ballet Theatre School, Anna had the opportunity to perform Richard England’s Vivaldi Pas de Deux with ABT’s 2nd company on the Metropolitan Opera House stage. The very next day, she was asked to join American Ballet Theatre to perform in Mikhail Baryshnikov’s Nutcracker, which marked the beginning of her career with ABT. During her ten-year professional career with ABT under the directorship of Mikhail Baryshnikov, Anna toured the major cities of the US as well as France, Italy, Japan, and Israel. In Israel, Anna performed Michel Fokine’s Le Spectre de la Rose, Emilia in Moor’s Pavane by Jose Limon and Paquita under the direction of Elena Tchernichova. Anna danced and acted in the films Hair, directed by Milos Forman and choreographed by Twyla Tharp, and Dancers, directed by Herbert Ross and filmed in Livorno, Italy. Her television credits include: Live from Lincoln Center, PBS special Twyla Tharp with ABT, and American Ballet Theatre in San Francisco, and Don Quixote ABT with Mikhail Baryshnikov at the Met, and the David Gordon television special Dance in America where Anna was featured as The Woman in White in Gordon’s ballet Murder, dancing with Baryshnikov. Anna has worked closely with choreographers in both ballet and modern dance including George Balanchine, Kenneth MacMillan, Jerome Robbins, Antony Tudor, Frederick Ashton, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Merce Cunningham, David Gordon, Paul Taylor, and Twyla Tharp. Anna continues to fuel her passion for dance by teaching her craft. She completed intensive training in the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum and is ABT certified to teach Primary thru Level 7 & Partnering. After acquiring her ABT certification, Anna has been teaching ballet in the Chicago land area at dance schools, such as Faubourg School of Ballet, Plainfield Dance Academy, Steps Dance Center, Ruth Page Center for the Arts, Salt Creek Ballet and Chicago Ballet Conservatory. Last year, in 2020, YAGP awarded “Outstanding Studio” to the Chicago Ballet Conservatory where Anna has been an integral part of the ballet foundation.
SUSANNE CARROLL WREN (Adult Ballet)
Susanne, originally from New York, trained with many prominent teachers including those at the High School of Performing Arts in New York City. She has appeared on a variety of television shows originating from New York and California and has also performed in several Broadway and National Companies working for renowned choreographers such as Bob Fosse in Sweet Charity, Ron Field in Cabaret, and Michael Bennett in Promises Promises. Other Equity stage credits include Fiorello, West Side Story, New York Shakespeare Festival in the Park children’s show Lollapooza, Funny Girl, Boys from Syracuse, The Apple Tree, Jimmy Shine, and Pal Joey. Susanne appeared on several T.V. commercials and Industrial shows was a featured dance act with a partner on seven different cruises and danced with the Bob Hamilton Trio on T.V. and in various hotels and nightclubs. Locally, Susanne has performed in shows at the Shubert Theatre, the Goodman Theatre, the now defunct In the Round Dinner Theatre, and Candlelight Dinner Playhouse. Susanne has been on the faculty since 1978 and was Assistant Artistic Director of Salt Creek Ballet from 1986-1998.
VERA ZHUKOVA (Character)
Vera trained and received her diploma in the pedagogy of ballet and character dance from the prestigious State Academy of Art and Culture in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Vera was a principal dancer with the State Ural Folk Choir and Dance Ensemble from 1975 to 1981, performing in several countries around the world. She was the artistic director of the Municipal Children’s Dance Theater in Ekaterinburg, Russia, for thirteen years. Under her direction, students of the dance theater successfully participated in competitions in the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Turkey, and Finland. She received the Russian Federation’s honorable dance teacher award in the year 2000. Several of Vera’s former students have pursued dance careers, either as professional performers or dance instructors. She is also the author of a book on dance teaching methods, which has been well-received by dance instructors in her native Russia. Prior to founding Ballet Academy in Lincoln Park, she was the artistic director of the Dmitri Roudnev Ballet School of Chicago, where she taught ballet and character dance. Her ballet teaching is based on the Vaganova syllabus, which has proven to be highly successful with young children. Vera enjoys working with children and strives to help her students achieve their full dance potential.
Yuliya is a long-standing accompanist at Salt Creek ballet company. Born and raised in Minsk, Belarus, she started playing piano at the age of 3. She continued her studies at the Republican college at the Belarusian State Academy of music and later was accepted to the Belarusian State Academy of music. While at the Academy, Yuliya won several regional piano competitions and graduated with honors. She holds Masters’s degrees in Piano Performance and Education. After graduation, Yuliya immigrated to US, Chicago. She has worked as an accompanist at Salt Creek Ballet for almost 20 years, playing for all levels and at special events. Outside of Salt Creek, Yuliya gives private piano lessons to students of all ages and continues to perform.
Svetlana was born and raised in Yekaterinburg, Russia. She received a music performance and piano teaching degree from the School of music and Ural Teacher’s training university. Svetlana began her musical career as a piano teacher and an accompanist for different choirs, vocalists, and instrumentalists. In 2016 she joined Salt Creek ballet as a pianist.
Alina was born in Vilnius, Lithuania. She is a graduate of the Belarussian State Conservatoria. For twenty years, Alina worked as a pianist/ accompanist in Specialised Music School at the Belarussian Conservatoria where she also worked as an accompanist for international music competitions. She has been a pianist/ accompanist with the Salt Creek Ballet since 2015. In addition to Salt Creek, Alina is also an accompanist with Ruth Page School of Arts, Columbia College Dance Department, and Visceral Ballet.
GILBERT KIRBY Executive Director
Gibby is a lifelong resident of Illinois, having been raised in Central Illinois. He attended Parkland College in Champaign, receiving an Associate’s Degree in Theatre and Accounting. He then attended Illinois State University in Normal, receiving a Bachelor’s in Dance Performance. While at Illinois State, he was a company member with the Illinois State Dance Theater, under the direction of Laurie Merriman, performing in numerous company productions, in the Chicago Dance Festival, and the American College Dance Festival. He was a company member of the Champaign Urbana Ballet, under the direction of Deanna Doty, where he performed numerous roles in Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. He moved to the suburbs eleven years ago, and began working at Realty Executives Success as the Operations Manager. He has been a part of several local theatre productions, including Cabaret, A Chorus Line, and RENT. He currently lives in Joliet.
DR. KELLY STOKES Community Engagement Coordinator
Dr. Stokes received her Ed.D. in Dance Education from Temple University. She received both her B.A. and M.A. degrees in Physical Education and Dance Education at the University of Southern California. She is currently a humanities instructor at College of DuPage.