Kit Ashleigh-Dean 

Kit Ashleigh-Dean received her earliest dance training at Juline’s School of Dance in Modesto, California. At age seven, Ms. Ashleigh-Dean began a strict program of classical ballet with Edna Austin at Ballet Arts of Modesto, continuing there until graduating from high school. Ms. Ashleigh-Dean was a member of Modesto Children’s Ballet Theater for six years and a principal dancer for five years. In addition to her ballet training, Ms. Ashleigh-Dean studied modern dance with Lori Bryhni from ages fourteen to eighteen. Her dance training was supplemented through summer programs across the United States, which included opportunities to study with world-class teachers including Jillana, Joanna Berman, Evelyn Cisneros, and Violette Verdy.

Ms. Ashleigh-Dean received her BFA in Dance from the University of California at Irvine. Her teachers and choreographers include Donald McKayle, Danilo Radojevic and Alonzo King. While at UCI, Ms. Ashleigh-Dean was introduced to the Pilates technique and its benefits to the dancer’s body. Ms. Ashleigh-Dean graduated Magna Cum Laude from UCI with a double emphasis in Dance Performance and Dance Education.

After graduation, Ms. Ashleigh-Dean continued her study of ballet and began performing regularly as a freelance artist. She also trained to become a certified teacher of the Pilates method during this time. After twenty-two years dancing on stage, twelve spent dancing principal roles, Ms. Ashleigh-Dean felt called to follow her true passion of teaching and directing young students. She began teaching full time in 1996 at Jensen’s School for Performing Arts and Alyce Porter Dancers (the future location for SBDC). In 1999, Ms. Ashleigh-Dean founded South Bay Dance Center, and in 2004 established the company, South Bay Ballet Arts, named in honor of her teacher Edna Austin, and Modesto Ballet Arts. Ms. Ashleigh-Dean and her husband, Joe, have three young boys, Johnny, age 12, Matthew, age 10 and Joey, age 7. She lives with her family and two dogs, Clara and Charlie, in San Jose.



Sonya Duffin

Sonya earned her Bachelor of Arts in Theater and Dance from Santa Clara University and has been passionately teaching dance for over 20 years! Recently, Sonya has returned to the Bay Area and South Bay Dance Center after spending ten years in Portland, Oregon. While in Portland, Sonya founded Pure Dance Company, a professional jazz and contemporary dance company offering training and performance opportunities for professional dancers in the Portland area. Sonya also co-coached the NBA TrailBlazer, Junior BlazerDancers from 2004 to 2012 as well as choreographed for many Oregon and Washington State Champion dance teams. In addition, Sonya taught at Elite Dance Studio for almost ten years, where her choreography for the Elite Competitive Teams won many prestigious awards. Sonya’s choreography and performance skills have blessed her with the opportunity to perform on many grand stages from the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, CA. to internationally at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. Sonya is passionate about instilling a deep respect and dedication to the art and sport of dance in her students, which is evident by the number of her students that have continued onto successful dance careers, attained college scholarships and won prestigious awards for their contributions to the dance world. In addition, Sonya is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer as well as a Pilates and fitness instructor.  After years in the fitness industry, Sonya has developed a dance teaching methodology and dance training foundation that uses her expertise of the body and muscular system to help dancers train their bodies effectively, correctly and with the knowledge foundation to be injury free!


Natalie Duong

Natalie Duong began her dance training at South Bay Dance Center. Ms. Duong was a member of the student company, Pure Dance Productions, for two seasons and has been a soloist with South Bay Ballet Arts since 2012.  Soloist roles include Snow Queen and Swanilda. Ms. Duong has performed with local contemporary companies Moving Sculptures and Nhan Ho Project since 2012. Ms. Duong attends school at Santa Clara University where she is minoring in Dance.



Jazon Escultura

Jazon Escultura graduated from San Jose State University in 2006 with a B.A. in dance. At SJSU, Mr. Escultura trained in Modern, Ballet, Hip Hop, Tap, and was honored to study Jazz technique with fellow South Bay Dance Center teacher Jill Yager-Rumpf. While at SJSU, Mr. Escultura was a member of the University Dance Theater, a modern dance company directed by Gary Masters in which he performed a solo from “The Unsung” by Jose Limon. While with UDT, Mr. Escultura traveled to Sacramento and San Francisco to dance premiere works at the American College Dance Festival.

Mr. Escultura has been a member of Visual Rhythm Dance Company, a theatrical jazz company directed by Judy Pearson since 2007. Credits include i-Time, My Darkness, My Gift, and Open The Door. He has also worked with Cabrillo Stage, a professional musical theater company in which he was an ensemble member for Guys and Dolls in 2006 and Kiss Me Kate in 2007, both under the direction of Janie Scott. In 2009, Mr. Escultura was sanctioned to perform a masterpiece by Donald McKayle, Songs of the Disinherited, in which he was part of the trio “I’m on my way” and the group piece “Shaker Life”, which was presented at the Visual and Performing Arts Center at DeAnza College. Working with M Production, under the direction of Michelle Dirck, he has performed her contemporary piece “Everything Must Change” for Dance Effects, Winter Showcase and Dancin’ Downtown, all in 2010.

Mr. Escultura is proud to have also been part of SBDC’s Pure Dance Productions and South Bay Ballet Arts, where he not only choreographed, but also performed. Credits include Spanish Chocolate in Nutcracker 2006 and 2008. His strength is Hip Hop, but he also uses the training he has gained to teach Contemporary at Morgan Hill Dance Center and Castro Valley Performing Arts, and Jazz at Dance Theater International and Ballet San Jose. He is also Zumba certified and has several Zumba classes a week at SBDC, Sapphire Studios, Studio Rincon, and the corporate facility, Santa Clara Towers. Mr. Escultura has been a teacher at SBDC since 2005.

Jennifer Hansen

Jennifer Hansen was a member of University Dance Theatre (UDT) under the direction of Gary Masters from 2003 - 2008 while working towards her degree in dance at San Jose State University. While a member of UDT, Ms. Hansen attended the American Dance Festival and was honored to represent the company in the Gala Performance. While attending San Jose State, Ms. Hansen was awarded a scholarship for performance excellence and had the opportunities to study with many talented instructors such as: Fred Matthews, Janet Von Swoll and Andre Reyes, among others. As a professional dancer, Ms. Hansen has been a featured performer for the Margaret Wingrove Dance Company. For the past 23 years, Ms. Hansen's home has been at South Bay Dance Center as performer, choreographer and instructor in all forms of dance. As a performer, some of Ms. Hansen's leading roles include Pandora in Pandora, Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker and Dawn in Coppelia, all under the direction of Kit Ashleigh-Dean. Ms. Hansen's choreography has been showcased in dance venues across the Bay Area, and her passion for dance is shared with her students each and every day.


Elizabeth Lemberger

Elizabeth Lemberger has been studying dance since the age of five, and has spent over 20 years partaking in this magical art form. After starting her training at Alyce Porter Dancers in 1992, she continued taking lessons at the same location when Kit Ashleigh-Dean founded South Bay Dance Center in 1999. Her studies have included all genres, but especially enjoys tap. Not only has Elizabeth just taken and taught classes at SBDC, she has also taken part in every annual story ballet and Spring Repertory Concert. From dancing, choreographing, graphic design, music editing, stage managing, to assisting in production, Elizabeth has done it all. Elizabeth is a member of Dance Masters of California and currently serves on their board of directors. She has been certified by test to teach tap, ballet, jazz and acrobatics through Dance Masters of America, Inc. Elizabeth is also proud of her academic excellence. Being able to balance a full dance schedule and school studies throughout her childhood, she graduated valedictorian of her junior high and high school classes. After spending a year continuing her education at Cal State Fullerton, Elizabeth came back to her hometown to attend San Jose State University. She graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting Information Systems and currently works for one of the Big 4 accounting firms. Elizabeth loves teaching at South Bay Dance Center and directing Pure Dance Productions. She is honored to work with such great students.

Elizabeth has been teaching at South Bay Dance Center since 2003.  


Erica Pacheco

Erica Pacheco has studied dance at South Bay Dance Center since its inception in 1999. Performances at SBDC include Pandora, The Nutcracker 2000 and 2002, Swan Lake and annual June Showcases. As a Soloist of South Bay Ballet Arts from 2004 – 2008, she performed regularly. Ballets include The Nutcracker 2004, 2006, 2008, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. Principal roles include Clara, Butterfly, Lilac Fairy and Fairy Godmother. Ms. Pacheco has studied additional genres of dance at South Bay Dance Center such as jazz, tap and modern dance with a variety of teachers including Sonya Duffin and Jill Yager-Rumpf. She was a member of Pure Dance Productions, a jazz and tap performing company, from 1999 to 2009.

In 2007, Ms. Pacheco was invited and traveled to Portugal to perform in the show Danca Dos Sentidos Memonas Em Movimento in Terceira, Azores. Seven dancers of Portuguese descent were picked from Canada, the United States and Brazil. The only female candidate chosen from the United States to perform ballet was Ms. Pacheco. In 2010, Ms. Pacheco was asked to return to Azores as the sole American representative to perform.

Ms. Pacheco graduated from San Jose State University with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Business Management and a Minor in Dance. Performances at SJSU included Senior Portfolio, UDT in the rough, student choreographed shows and Images. Ms. Pacheco is currently attending cosmetology school with a planned graduation date of December 2013.

She has been a teacher at South Bay Dance Center since 2005.


Anton Pankevich

Anton trained at the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, School of American Ballet in New York City, and San Francisco Ballet School. He has danced with New York City Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, Royal Ballet in London, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Ballet San Jose. As a teacher, Anton has taught as a ballet master at English National Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Leipzig Ballet, Hanover Ballet, Wiesbaden Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Ballet San Jose. Recently, Anton prepared Daniel McCormick for the YAGP competition where Daniel was the 2013 Junior Men’s Gold winner.

Click to see Anton in Action


Melissa Sennewald

 Melissa Sennewald is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, where she received a BA in Dance. Originally from San Jose, California, Melissa began dancing at age of four, and trained with teachers Kit Ashleigh-Dean and Kelly Shenefiel Velasquez. She has extensive training in ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, improvisation, jazz, modern, and tap. Melissa has performed with South Bay Dance Center’s performing companies, South Bay Ballet Arts and Pure Dance Productions, as well as performed in SBDC’s ballet productions of Coppelia, with leading roles in The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. While at CSULB, Melissa trained with many choreographers, as well as performed and presented work at the Martha B. Knobel Dance Theater in Long Beach, CA. She is currently performing with Perspectives Dance Company, based out of San Jose, CA, and enjoys being able to perform and create art in the Bay Area.  Along with performing and choreographing, Melissa also loves teaching, and has been instructing dance since the age of 15. Her main teaching positions have been with Webby Dance Co., Starting Arts, Dance Attack!, and South Bay Dance Center, where she is the director of their competition teams.


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Alexandra Venter

Alexandra Venter was one of the founding dance students of South Bay Dance Center in 1999. Ms. Venter became a member of the regional ballet company South Bay Ballet Arts in 2004 and was a Soloist from 2005 - 2009. Ballet credits include The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. Principal roles include Clara, Snow Queen, Sugar Plum Fairy, Butterfly, Fairy of Grace, Princess Florine, and Cinderella. Ms. Venter has attended summer intensive programs at Contra Costa Ballet, City Ballet in San Diego, Marin Dance Theatre, and received a scholarship to Boston Ballet School’s summer program. She has had the privilege to study with many distinguished teachers including David Howard, Alonzo King, Susan Jaffe, and Andre Reyes. Through her experiences with South Bay Ballet Arts, Ms. Venter has been able to partner with many talented dancers such as Jekyns Pelaez, Eric Bourman, and Charles Torres. In addition to ballet, Ms. Venter also dances jazz, tap, modern and hip hop. She has been a member of Pure Dance Productions, a jazz and tap performing company, for nine years. At age 14, Ms. Venter had her first professional ballet role when she was hired by Brentwood Ballet Theatre to perform the role of Sugar Plum Fairy. Since that time, she has danced professionally for the Chambersburg Ballet in Pennsylvania, Oakland Ballet and Peninsula Ballet Theatre.

Ms. Venter has taught at South Bay Dance Center since 2007. 

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Arielle Cole

A Bay Area native, Arielle started dancing at the age of 3. Throughout her life Arielle has trained in Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Tap, Improvisation, Hip-Hop, Ballroom, Modern and Contemporary. In high school, she was a member of her high school dance team, the Lincoln Convertibles and studio performance company, the Fancy Dancers. Arielle received her BFA in Dance from SUNY Buffalo where she studied under Tom Ralabate, Kerry Ring, Anne Burnidge and John Lehrer. Arielle also attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance where in addition to receiving a choreographic residency, she studied Ballet, Modern, and Improv under Summer Lee Rhatigan, Alex Ketley, Chris Burns and Thomas McManus. After college, Arielle danced in Israel where she continued training under the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company. Dance brought Arielle to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she was a member of Keshet Dance Company and taught Jazz and Ballet in their community classes. While at KDC, Arielle danced for Shira Greenberg, Peter Bennet, Vladamir Conde Reche and Sarah Williams. Arielle now teaches, choreographs and dances all around the Bay Area. In addition to being a certified dance teacher through Dance Masters of California, Chapter 13, She is also a licensed Zumba instructor. Currently Arielle dances for Perspectives Dance Company, Cabaret San Jose and is the Artistic Director of Montage Contemporary Company. Arielle has been teaching at SBDC since 2015 and is very excited to share her passion of dance. 





Nhan Ho

Nhan Ho is a 2008 graduate of the Dance Program at SJSU where he was “Outstanding Graduating Senior.” He ventured into the world of dance at the age of sixteen under the guidance of Kellye Dodd, Director of the Dance Program at Independence High in East San José. During that time, he was a member of IndepenDANCE, the school’s performing ensemble and part of the Mentoring Program, under the direction of Gary Masters, where he had the opportunity to perform José Limón’s masterwork, The Unsung, as part of the Around the World Festival at the Mexican Heritage Plaza Theatre in 2002. In 2005 he was honored to have his choreography, Echoes, selected for adjudication at the American College Dance Festival with SJSU's University Dance Theatre. Eager to explore his creativity in new ways and to share his passion for dance, Nhan became a member of the SBDC faculty in 2005 and East West Music and Dance in 2007. Professionally, Nhan has most recently worked with BodyArt Dance Company, Sasha Soreff Dance Theatre, I-Danse, and Faye Driscoll in New York. He had also performed with Facing East Dance & Music of Oakland & Berkeley and performed with the Margaret Wingrove Dance Company of San José, Push Dance Company of San Francisco, sjDANCEco of San José, and KTDavisDance in Modesto.



Jekyns Pelaez

A native of Colombia and Graduate from Incolballet. His professional credits include a wide range of Principal work in the classical repertoire like Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Corsaire, Gisselle, Romeo and Juliet, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Coppelia, Apollo, Who Cares? to name a few. He also has worked with Ballet San Jose, Diablo Ballet, Ohio Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theatre, Ballet Arizona, Chautauqua Ballet, Western Ballet, Ballet de Cali, Colombia, among others. A few of his lengthy list of contemporary works include Carmina Burana, Esplanade, Carmen, Lady of the Camellias, Midsummer's Night Dream, Diadorim. A number of countries he has toured include the USA, Thailand, Cuba, Japan, Colombia and Puerto Rico. After obtaining his BA from the LEAP Program in St. Mary's College, he currently pursues his MFA Degree in Film, Theatre and Television at CalState L.A. He also has worked with San Francisco Opera in La Traviata and Cyrano de Bergerac to name a few, L.A Opera, American Conservatory Theatre's The Tosca Project. As a dancer, as well as an actor, some of his theatre and films appearances include, Love Hurts, Hemingway and Gellhorn, Untitled Woody Allen (2013), and recently No exit.


Charles Torres

Mr. Torres was born in Mesa, Arizona. He began his ballet training under Judy Churma and Florence Davich. From there he received full scholarships to San Francisco Ballet School, Cleveland Ballet School, Royal Danish Ballet School Workshops, School of American Ballet, Arizona State University, and recently earned his Master’s Degree in 21st Century Leadership from Saint Mary’s College. His wide range as a performing artist encompasses the contemporary works of Balanchine and other 20th century choreographers as well as the full-length classics. Since 1998, Mr. Torres has been a principal guest artist with several bay area companies: Peninsula Ballet Theatre, Diablo Ballet, and with Company C under Charles Anderson. He has danced or created principal roles for Smuin Ballets/S. F. for internationally renowned choreographer and director Michael Smuin. In addition to his work with Smuin Ballets/S.F. he danced as a principal with Ballet West Arizona, Ballet Austin, The Carlisle Project, Chautauqua Ballet under the direction of Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, and with the Sacramento Ballet (as Principal Dancer and Ballet Master). He also is a frequent guest artist with several companies in the Los Angeles and bay area, including appearing with the San Francisco Opera Ballet as a principal guest artist. He has danced principal roles in Rubies, Allegro Brillante, Donizetti Variations, Scotch Symphony, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and the son in Prodigal Son. Full length classics include Romeo and Juliet, Nutcracker, Don Quixote, Cinderella, Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, La Fille Mal Gardee and Swan Lake.

Jill Yager-Rumpf

Jill Yager-Rumpf is an alumni of San Jose State University with a BS in Kinesiology and a minor in Dance. Ms. Yager-Rumpf has choreographed for SJSU's modern dance company, University Dance Theatre, for the past six years under the direction of Gary Masters and is a guest artist in residence with San Jose State University where she teaches beginning, intermediate and advanced jazz. In 2006, Ms. Yager-Rumpf's piece, Evensong, choreographed for UDT, was selected for adjudication at the American College Dance Festival in Arizona and was chosen out of numerous pieces to be performed at the Gala Concert. Ms. Yager-Rumpf has taught at South Bay Dance Center since 2002 and she continues to inspire and challenge her students daily. Ms. Yager-Rumpf lives in San Jose with her husband, Eric, and their daughter, Grayson.