State Street Ballet: About

Artistic Staff

State Street Ballet is a critically-acclaimed company of professional dancers from around the world. They are under the direction of former American Ballet Theatre dancer Rodney Gustafson, who founded the company in 1994. Mr. Gustafson has since elevated the company to a level where the dancers work an average of 30 weeks per season, are on tour for 2-3 months of the year, and sustain rave reviews and sparkling reputations at home and on the road. The Artistic Staff of State Street Ballet are dedicated to ensuring the highest quality of technique and artistry from the dancers, and are committed to providing artistic and cultural enrichment to the Santa Barbara community.

Rodney Gustafson: Founder and Artistic Director

Rodney Gustafson, Executive and Artistic Director, founded State Street Ballet in 1994 after a successful performing career with American Ballet Theatre. He holds Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Business Administration and Organizational Management, and combining these skills with the experiences of a performing career has allowed him to build a successful ballet company respected for its versatility, artistic excellence, and intelligently-designed productions. His innovative approach, mastery of the classics, and business savvy have empowered State Street Ballet to become an internationally acclaimed dance company that tours throughout the world. 

As a dancer with American Ballet Theatre, Mr. Gustafson worked with many of the greatest dancers and choreographers of the time, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Alvin Ailey, George Balanchine, Rudolph Nureyev, Jerome Robbins and Anthony Tudor.  He appeared in the films The Turning Point and Baryshnikov's Nutcracker, and performed in several Live from Lincoln Center specials airing on PBS. During his tenure as Artistic Director of State Street Ballet, Mr. Gustafson has created many original full-length ballets for the company, including The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and The Jungle Book.  


Brian Asher Alhadeff: Conductor

Brian Asher Alhadeff is an internationally recognized conductor of ballet, opera, symphony, and musical theater. Currently, he is Artistic Director and Conductor for Opera San Luis Obispo. Past conducting highlights include the Eastern Bohemian Philharmonic, Ballet Tucson, Beverly Hills Symphony, Opera Pasadena, Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, Tulsa Ballet, Karlove Vary Sinfonie, Albanian Radio and Television Orchestra, South Florida Opera Company, Eastern Sierra Symphony, Bourgas State Opera, Rio Hondo Symphony, St. Cloud Symphony and Long Beach Opera. He has conducted the Opera San Luis Obispo Orchestra for State Street Ballet's Nutcracker since 2012.


Marina Fliagina: Ballet Master

Marina Fliagina, Ballet Master, was born in Russia, and graduated with distinction from Perm State College of Choreography in Russia. In 1990, she was admitted to the Moscow State Theatre Kremlin Ballet where she worked with the renowned Vladimir Vasiliev and Ekaterina Maximova. She has performed roles in all of the famous classical ballets and has toured internationally with the Russian Imperial Ballet, Moscow Classical Ballet, and the Moscow Festival Ballet. Fliagina joined State Street Ballet as a dancer in 1998, and was promoted to Ballet Master in 2000. In addition to her duties as Ballet Master, she continues to appear in character roles such as the Stepmother in Cinderella and the Nurse Maid in Romeo and Juliet.


A. Christina Giannini: Costume Design

A. Christina Giannini, Costume Design, has designed for Broadway, off-Broadway, opera, and numerous dance companies. Her work can be seen in the repertories of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in NYC; Joffrey Ballet Chicago; Nevada Ballet Theater; North Carolina Dance Theater; Ballet Florida; and Buglisi Dance Theatre in NYC. She designed costumes for Vicente Nebrada's Ballet Nacional in Caracas, Venezuela, where she was twice awarded the Venezuelan Oscar for Design. Giannini has designed scenery and costumes for State Street Ballet's Seasons, Texas Fourth, Taming of the Shrew, 5 Tangos, Cinderella, The Nutcracker, The Jungle Book, Carmen, Carmina Burana, and An American Tango. 


Denise Grimm: Company Manager

Denise Grimm, Company Manager, was born in Switzerland where she danced for ten years in Ballet de Genève. Mrs. Grimm served under the artistic direction of George Balanchine, and as an assistant to Ballet Master Patricia Neary, she staged Mr. Balanchine’s ballets throughout Europe. After her dancing career Mrs. Grimm created and operated the world-renowned Swiss Ski School in Florida. Following her tenure in the world of competitive water skiing, she has now returned to her roots in the world of ballet. Using her numerous skills as a former dancer and business owner, Mrs. Grimm brings years of knowledge and experience to her role as State Street Ballet’s Company Manager.


Sammy Jelinek: Production Manager and Lighting Designer

Sammy Jelinek, Production Manager and Lighting Designer, graduated from Wright State University with a BFA in Lighting Design, and is now a New York-based Lighting Designer. Recent design credits include Carmen (State Street Ballet national tour), Fancy Nancy (Town Hall Theatre), Into the Woods (Dare2DefyProductions), and Peter Pan (Wright State University). Sammy has also worked extensively at New York Stage and Film, the Aspen Music Festival, and State Street Ballet productions in Santa Barbara, New Mexico, and Chile. 


Gary McKenzie: Ballet Master

Gary McKenzie, Ballet Master, is a California native. He received his primary training from Marguerite Phares, Vladimir Luppov, Alonzo King, and at Harkness House under David Howard in New York. While his performing career was primarily with Ballet Florida, he was also a member of the original Santa Barbara Ballet under the direction of Tamara Kinsell, Southwest Ballet, San Diego Ballet, and a founding member of State Street Ballet. In addition to teaching, McKenzie has choreographed numerous ballets for various companies as well as working as a choreographer for Opera Santa Barbara.


Tim Mikel: Managing Director

Tim Mikel, Managing Director, is a Founding Member of the State Street Ballet Board, was Board President for thirteen years, and has been Managing Director of the company since 2007. He has danced professionally and semi-professionally for Plexus Dance Theatre, Channel Islands Ballet, and Pacific Coast Ballet, among others, and continues to attend ballet class daily. He is a professional Marine Biologist involved in water pollution research, and is the President and Owner of Aquatic Bioassay and Consulting Laboratories in Ventura. Mr. Mikel holds both a Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Marine Biology.


Megan Philipp: Professional Track Program Director

Ms Philipp was born and raised in Southern California. She graduated from Butler University in 2002 with a degree in Dance Pedagogy. After receiving her Simonson Jazz Teaching Certification in 2003, she spent eight years in NYC teaching, performing, and choreographing. She was on faculty at Dance New Amsterdam, Ballet Tech School, Ballet Arts, Connecticut Performing Arts Center, and the Staten Island Ballet School.

She danced for BBBallet and was a soloist with the Staten Island Ballet. In 2010 she graduated from NYU with a Master's Degree in Dance Education, with a focus in ABT Ballet Pedagogy, and relocated to Chicago to become a full-time faculty member and curriculum coordinator for the Joffrey Academy of Dance. After three and a half years at the Joffrey Ballet, Megan and her husband returned to southern California. She joined the SSB faculty in 2013, serves as Director of the Professional Track program, and choreographs and teaches for Gustafson Dance and SSB Young Dancers.


Jean-François Revon: Set Design

Jean-François Revon, Set Design, grew up in Paris and has lived and worked in the United States for the past two decades. He made his State Street Ballet debut in 2004 with his scenic designs for Cinderella, and in 2009, designed the sets for the world premiere of The Jungle Book. His credits list over 300 productions for opera, ballet and musical theatre, including the world premiere of Earthquake in San Francisco for Diablo Ballet, and Once Upon a Ballroom. His designs for Opera Santa Barbara include Cavaleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, The Elixir of Love, Tosca, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi, La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, Così fan tutte, and Lucia di Lammermoor, among others. He designed the world premiere of The Tale of the Nutcracker for Opera San Jose, The Magic Flute for the opening of West Bay Opera’s 50th season, and The Barber of Seville, Carmen, Don Pasquale, The Consul and The Tales of Hoffmann. 


Lloyd Sobel: Lighting Designer

He graduated from the University of Hartford and received his Masters Degree from the New School for Social Research in New York City. He has done the lighting design for the Aspen Music Festival’s opera program for the past 25 summers. Other credits include Peter and the Wolf for the Colorado Ballet, The Liar for TheaterWorks in Colorado Springs, Of Mice and Men at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, Carmina Burana in Santa Barbara, and The Nutcracker for State Street Ballet.


William Soleau: Choreographer

William Soleau, Resident Choreographer, has created over 100 ballets on companies around the world. As a principal dancer and resident choreographer with several companies, he performed in over 30 countries while personally working with such notable choreographers as Alvin Ailey, John Butler, Toer van Schayk, Antony Tudor, Joyce Trisler, Gray Veredon and Norman Walker. His works can be seen in the repertories of Ballet BC, Shanghai Ballet of China, Ballet de Montreal, Ballet Austin, The Icelandic Ballet, Richmond Ballet, American Ballroom Dance Theater, Ballet Florida, Sarasota Ballet, Dance Kaleidoscope, Ballet Met, Ballet NY, and The Louisville Ballet, among many others. Besides concert work, he has also created choreography for Film, Theater and Opera. His long association with State Street Ballet over the past two decades has produced such popular productions as An American Tango, Appalachian Spring, Carmen, Carmina Burana and Starry Night. Mr. Soleau was the recipient of the Choo San-Goh Award for Choreography in 2006.

He presently serves as the Executive Director for the John Butler Foundation, Inc., dedicated to preserving and protecting the master works of this influential American Choreographer. He is also the webmaster and film editor for the Antony Tudor Ballet Trust. Mr. Soleau is a graduate of Amherst College.


Nicole Thompson: Wardrobe Director

Ms Thompson is from Santa Barbara and has a BA in Apparel Design and Merchandising and a BA in Business Administration from San Francisco State University. She has been State Street Ballet’s Wardrobe Director since 2015, designing and creating costumes for The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, Women’s Work, An American Tango, Modern Masters, and the SSB Summer Intensive. 


Edgar Zendejas: Choreographer 

Mr. Zendejas, Choreographer, was born and raised in Mexico City. He has held positions with The International Ballet Company of USIU, Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and finally, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal where he danced for 15 years. His choreographic works Sonata De Luna and I and Other garnered critical acclaim at both the 2002 and 2003 Festivals Danse Encore in Trois-Rivières, Québec. He has since created several pieces for Les Ballet Jazz—notably Besame...Besame Mucho—and been commissioned by Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Luna Negra Dance Theater, Ballet de Monterrey, Playhouse Dance Company, Eisenhower Dance, State Street Ballet, the National Circus School in Quebec, and Cirque du Soleil.