“I have been crisscrossing America on summer audition tours for fifteen years. The students at Ballet Etudes are extremely well trained. It is clear they have outstanding teachers.”
- Michael Owen, Director of Dance, Walnut Hill School for the Arts
As its founding Artistic Director, Sharon Seder Meko has been the driving force and inspiration behind Ballet Etudes since 1986. Her foresight and vision are responsible for the company's tremendous growth and development and the artistic accomplishments of its dancers. Due to her efforts, many of the company's dancers have been accepted at the most prestigious schools and companies throughout North America. Ballet Etudes' stature in the southwestern United States has been achieved because of the dedication to excellence and the exceptional professional abilities of this most talented woman. Under her watchful eye, three of Sharon’s students have studied at American Ballet Theatre in New York City after having received the National Training Program Scholarships, two others have been accepted into the Professional Division of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s school, and countless others have gone onto professional dance careers and college-level studies with scholarships. Sharon began her training in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, with the Schuykill Valley Regional Dance Company. She then continued her formal ballet training in Philadelphia and later trained as an auditioned student under Edward Canton at the Pennsylvania Ballet. She continued her dancing career as a soloist and principal dancer. Some of her roles include: Sugar Plum Fairy, Waltz and Mirlitons in Nutcracker, Kitri in Don Quixote, Blue Bird, Lilac Fairy and Spanish in Sleeping Beauty, and roles in Coppélia. She has studied and taken master classes with teachers Margaret Craske, Hector Zaraspe, Pearl Lang and Martha Graham. In Denver she continued her professional career with the Colorado Concert Ballet Company and Ballet Now. Since 1979, Sharon has pursued her love of Ballet in Arizona. She danced with the Mesa Civic Ballet (presently Ballet Arizona) and has choreographed for the Arizona Metropolitan Ballet Junior Company and served as a guest teacher. She was on the faculty of the Dance Department at Arizona State University. A teacher of ballet for 30 years, Sharon is presently Director of BE School of Dance. Sharon Meko was honored by the Mesa Chamber for Commerce and by Arts in Mesa when she was named "Artist of the Year.”
Aliece Wright Bergen recieved her classical training under the direction of Sharon Seder Meko beginning at the age of 10. She was a company member of Ballet Etudes for 7 years where she performed such roles as Air in The Four Elements, Arabian in Nutcracker and Marie Taglioni in Pas de Quatre. She continued dancing company member of Center Dance Ensemble, a modern dance company of Phoenix. In 1995, Aliece was the Arizona winner of the National Society of Arts and Letters, Modern Dance Competition. In 2000, she earned her B.A. in Education from Arizona State University. She is married to her husband, Keith, they have 6 children, 1 daughter and 5 sons. She has taught modern, tap, jazz, and contemporary, focusing on ballet for over 25 years. She also enjoys working with Ballet Etudes during the Nutcracker season directing the fight scene which she has done for many years.
Jessica Blonde relocated to Arizona after living and working as a freelance dancer in New York City for over a decade. She received her primary training in her native Iowa, where she performed with Ballet Iowa and the Des Moines Metro Opera. She supplemented her training at the Kirov Academy in Washington, DC, the Colorado Ballet, the American Dance Festival, and as a scholarship student at the Paul Taylor School. In New York, Jessica was featured as a soloist in both contemporary and classical roles with Eglevsky Ballet, and performed throughout the state with tompricedance. She worked most extensively with contemporary ballet company Lydia Johnson Dance, for whom she originated many major roles in addition to serving as rehearsal director and costume designer. Jessica holds a BFA in Ballet and Modern Dance from Texas Christian University and a MA in Dance Education from NYU Steinhardt.
Mary Lou Edwards began her dance studies in Mesa, Arizona with Virginia Shelley and Merlyn Legge. As a child, she trained in both the Royal Academy of Dance and Cecchetti methods. She auditioned and danced in Ballet West’s production of The Nutcracker for several years when they performed in Phoenix. As a teenager, Mary Lou spent her summers at ballet intensives in both Arizona and Michigan. While living in Michigan, she joined the Ann Arbor Civic Ballet Company under the direction of Sylvia Hamer. After returning to Arizona, she was a member of the Mesa Civic Ballet Company(now Ballet Arizona) and also performed with Eastside Ballet and Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Constance Stine. Mary Lou performed in various ballets including Serenade, Swan Lake, Coppelia, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Hansel and Gretel, Les Sylphides, and Pas de Quatre. Mary Lou received her B.S. in Nutrition from Arizona State University and worked as a nutritionist with Mesa Public Schools. She has taught ballet for over 30 years, 11 of those years at Ballet Etudes. Mary Lou and her husband Tim have a daughter, Alyssa. She is married to Jeff and they have 2 sons. Mary Lou and Tim also have a son, Sean.
Originally from Leonia, New Jersey, Brooke moved to Arizona in 2018 to pursue her new career as a teacher. Since the age of 7, Brooke danced and competed in tap, jazz, and hip-hop. At the age of 10, Brooke was placed in advanced classes (14-16 year olds) to challenge herself becoming the youngest company member in her dance school's history to skip levels. At the age of 13, she was asked to choreograph a tap number for a high school's production of Damn Yankees. Brooke attended Syracuse University to earn a BFA in Theatrical Stage Management, but still pursued her love of dancing by taking musical theatre tap classes throughout her college career. After pursuing her first masters at Indiana University in Arts Administration, and working in marketing, Brooke eventually moved back to New Jersey to become the co-director and choreographer of her high school drama club, the Leonia Limelights, working on such shows as Cabret and Bye Bye Birdie. In 2019, Brooke was placed in Chandler Unified School District as an English teacher at Hamilton High School where she ran the speech and debate team for 3 years. Brooke recently was the production stage manager for the Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert, Arizona working on the shows Chaps!, Nunsense, and Brigadoon. Now, Brooke will be head of the theatre department and teaching English at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix.
Ashley was born and raised in Orange County, CA and relocated to AZ in 2015. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from California State University, Fullerton. Her dance training began at Inland Pacific Ballet where she had the opportunity to perform in ballets such as The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle and Coppelia. During her time in college she was able to study many other genres of dance and be featured in annual dance concerts as well as receive a Dance Scholarship for her choreography piece Nocturnal Visions. She also spent two summers training at American Ballet Theatre in New York City as well as a summer training with the Jose Limon Dance Company. When she was 17 years old Ashley started a thirteen year career with the Walt Disney Company in Anaheim. She spent the first six years as a performer doing shows and character work as well as being featured in the 50th anniversary parade, Parade of Dreams. From there she went on to work with the Disney Performing Arts program assisting with workshops, guest performances, special events and production coordination. Her last three years were spent as an Administrative Assistant to the Entertainment Division Operations Manager. Since then she began doing theater and has performed in shows such as: The World Goes ‘Round (Downey Civic Light Opera), Evita (GEM Theater), Legally Blonde (Covina Center for the Performing Arts), and the following shows here at the Hale Theatre in Gilbert: Anything Goes, West Side Story, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Joseph, Meet Me in St. Louis, Christmas Carol, No No Nannette, Annie, Singin’ in the Rain, Newsies, Hello Dolly, Guys and Dolls and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. She has been teaching for sixteen years at dance studios all over Southern California and in Arizona in all styles and genres of dance. In addition to teaching and performing Ashley choreographs musical theater locally and has choreographed such shows as: All Shook Up (MCC), Young Frankenstein (MCC), Bye Bye Birdie (MVHS), Seussical (HAQC), Shrek (MCC), Beauty and the Beast (HAQC), Mamma Mia (MCC), Company (MCC, Sound of Music (Zao), and Little Shop of Horrors (CVHS). Ashley absolutely loves teaching and is excited to share her passion for the arts with the students at Ballet Etudes.
Kanako began her training in Fukuoka, Japan, and later joined the Reiko Matsuoka Ballet Institute, with which she toured Russia, China and Japan. She was awarded a scholarship to train in Paris, and further studies took her to the Beijing Ballet School, Joffrey Ballet School, City Ballet School in California, and to Petaluma, California with Maria Vegh. Kanako has performed professionally with Peninsula Ballet Theatre, Idaho Ballet, Alaska’s North Star Ballet, Ballet Hawaii, Tau Dance Theatre, and Reiko Matsuoka Ballet. Since joining Ballet Arizona in 2001 Kanako has originated featured roles in Ib Andersen’s Indigo Rhapsody, Elevations, Mosaik, Preludes and Fugues, Play, and A Midsummer’s Night Dream (Hippolyta). Principal roles have included Myrtha in Giselle; Ib Andersen’s The Nutcracker (Sugar Plum Fairy) and Don Quixote (Mercedes, Street Dancer, Queen of the Dryads); and Apollo (Polyhymnia), La Sonnambula (Coquette), Divertimento No. 15, Serenade (Dark Angel), Allegro Brillante, and “Rubies” from Jewels, all by George Balanchine, and Bournonville’s Konservatoriet. Kanako has performed soloist roles inSwan Lake, Coppélia, Les Sylphides, and Ib Andersen’s Romeo and Juliet (Lady Montague), and in Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, and La Valse. She frequently travels to Japan as a guest artist and dance coach. Kanako certified Gyrotonic. And she learned Dancer’s Gyrotonic, Tennis player’s gyrotonic and Scoliosis Gyrotonic. She is doing session for Ballet Dancers.
Arianni Martin began dancing at nine at the Vocational Art School in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. When she was fifteen years old, she was selected for further studies at the National Ballet School, Habana, under the supervision of Ramona de Saa. In 2010 Arianni joined the National Ballet of Cuba under the direction of Alicia Alonso. During her 3rd season with the company, she held the rank of soloist and performed in Ballets like Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, and Cinderella. She also participated in National and International Contests. Arianni’s accomplishments include bronze and silver medals at National and International Competitions in 2009 and 2010 in Cuba. Martin came to the United States in 2013 and joined the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, where she performed leading roles in La Sylphide and Le Corsaire. Later that year, she joined Ballet Arizona under the direction of Ib Anderson. With this company, she had the opportunity to go to the 2014 USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi, where she was one of the finalists. While dancing with Ballet Arizona, she had the opportunity to dance principal roles in Ballets such as Cinderella, La Bayadere, The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Napoli, and George Balanchine’s Walpurgisnacht, Western Symphony, La Sonnambula, Apollo, Serenade, Bourrèe Fantasque, Four Temperaments and Symphony in Three Movements. As well as original works by Ib Anderson, Nayon Lovino, and "Increases" by Justin Peck.
Laine began training with Ballet Etudes at the age of 12. She was a member of Ballet Etudes’ company for five years, where she enjoyed performing as Chinese Tea, Clara, and Court Fairy in The Nutcracker, and senior corps in various other full length productions and repertory pieces. Laine began teaching at Ballet Etudes in the fall of 2019 and has loved sharing her love for ballet with children ever since. She has been privileged to volunteer backstage and in rehearsals for many of the company’s productions. Ballet Etudes has not only provided her with incredible performance opportunities and ballet training, but it has become a family that has developed her further as a person. She is looking forward to graduating in May of 2023 from Arizona State University with a BA in Psychology.
Sally’s earliest memories of ballet class were in Marsha Russell’s home studio. She then went on to learn the RAD method at Adam’s Academy before her training at Ballet Etudes as a company member for eight years. As a student at Arizona School for the Arts, Sally also studied at the School of Ballet Arizona. Throughout her youth, she took classes in modern, jazz, contemporary, and flamenco dance. As a student at Brigham Young University, Sally took ballroom courses, until she discovered and fell in love with international folk dance. As a member of the BYU Performing Arts Company and Clog America, Sally was fortunate enough to tour the USA, China, France, and Portugal as a dancer and U.S. representative. Along with her husband, she has taught and choreographed for BYU and multiple high schools. Most recently, Sally has enjoyed exploring musical theatre as a performer at Hale Centre Theatre. Sally is delighted to be returning to her ballet roots as an instructor at Ballet Etudes.
Bella began dancing with Ballet Etudes at age five and first performed in The Nutcracker as a baby mouse at age seven. As a company member, she performed Clara, Snow Queen, Spanish, Dew Drop, and Sugar Plum in The Nutcracker. A highlight of her time with Ballet Etudes was performing the title role in Cinderella. In 2014, BalletMet’s ballet mistress, Susan Dromisky, invited her to join the trainee program on scholarship. While at BalletMet, Bella toured with the company to perform in The Nutcracker and subsequently performed in other full-length ballets. Her most influential mentor there was Dmitri Suslov, a Bolshoi Academy graduate. She then joined the Conservatory program at Atlanta Ballet under the new direction of Gennadi Nedvigin. Since then, Bella has returned to Arizona, graduated summa cum laude with a BSE in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University and will complete her master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering in December 2022. Most excitedly, she recently married Conner King, another BE alumni, and is ecstatic for what the future holds.
Susan began her dance studies in California where one of her most influential teachers was Eugene Loring. In Junior High School she was accepted on scholarship at Colorado Collegeʼs Dance Department, studying with Professor Norman and Dorothea Cornick, formerly principals with the Memphis Ballet. She was a soloist in the Collegeʼs performing company. Susan began her training with American Ballet Theater under Francesca and Dimitri Romanoff, the companyʼs Regisseur. She went on to perform in American Ballet Theatreʼs corps and was promoted to soloist. As a soloist her repertoire included the ballets Les Sylphides, Les Patineurs, Swan Lake, Nutcracker and Giselle.
After coming to Arizona she completed her exams in the Dance Education Syllabus of the Royal Academy of Dancing and now is a certified and registered teacher of the Royal Academy of Dancing, London, England. Susan is a member of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. Susan is also a ballet instructor at BE School of Dance.
Kleiton Sistelos was born in Recife, Brazil. He studied Classical Dance in the Royal Method and graduated in 2006. He studied the Techinique Cubana from 2005 to 2007. Kleiton has trained in Brazil, the United States, and at the Teatro Carcano in Milan, Italy. He has studied Jazz and Modern, specializing in the Horton Technique and certified at Alvin Aylin in NYC. He has danced in festivals throughout Brazil and Europe, including the Latin American Tour in Milan, the Dell’Art Festival in Genova, the Nice Festival in France, and the Festival of Valencia in Spain. He has performed in major productions on the stage and on television in Rio de Janeiro Brazil.
Audrey Bergen Slade started dancing with Ballet Etudes in 2008 as a baby mouse in The Nutcracker. She later went on to join the company and enjoyed various roles such as Party Girl, Lady in Waiting, Bon Bon, Junior Corps, and Chinese Tea in The Nutcracker as well as King's Court in Cinderella. Having throughly loved the teachings and atmosphere of Ballet Etudes, she continued as a volunteer in productions such as Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, alongside her husband Brandon. Audrey began teaching at BE in the fall of 2019. When not at the studio she is a stay at home mom growing her small business, Gail Designs. She is also Barre Above and Zumba fitness certified. Audrey loves teaching and is grateful for all the opportunities Ballet Etudes has given and continues to give her. She looks forward to the many years to come!
Amy received her Bachelors at Brigham Young University in Dance Education with an emphasis in Contemporary and Modern Dance. While at BYU Amy was a top student recognized on the Dean’s list and was chosen by BYU faculty to be hired by BYU as undergraduate dance department teaching staff, where she taught for two years. After graduation Amy was the Dance Department head for American Fork High School in Utah as well as the competitive team coach for their dance and drill team and Artistic Director for the Performing Dance Company. After moving to Texas, she was the Contemporary and Jazz director for Jim Payne, former principal for Houston Ballet, at the school he founded, Payne Academy of Ballet. After a move to Arizona, Amy was hired on with Ballet Etudes and has loved teaching Contemporary, Lyrical, and Broadway Jazz for the last 8 years. While at Ballet Etudes Amy has enjoyed doing choreography for the Arizona Dance Festival, Repertoire, and Showcase, as well as being Showcase coordinator for the school. In her formative years, Amy lived in Texas and was a member of The Woodlands Dance Company, and was a talent scholarship recipient of the Woodlands Living Arts Council. Amy is married and has four wonderful children. Teaching is her passion and she loves to see every student succeed and find joy in movement.
Astrit received his training from the National School of Albania and the University of Oklahoma, and has since been a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Albania, Miami City Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet. He has received several awards, including the Gold Medal in the 1994 Eastern European Ballet Competition in Kazanluk, Bulgaria, and first prize in Albania’s 1995 National Ballet Competition. In 1998, Astrit was a finalist in the Paris International Ballet Competition. His repertoire includes many of his favorite ballets: Swan Lake, Giselle, Raymonda, Esmeralda, Cinderella, Nacho Duato’s Rassemblement, Ib Andersen’s Romeo and Juliet and George Balanchine’s Agon, Apollo, Theme and Variations, The Four Temperaments, “Rubies” from Jewels, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, and Who Cares?. Since joining Ballet Arizona in 2003, Astrit has originated principal roles in Ib Andersen’s Preludes and Fugues, Coppélia, Mosaik, Play, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and danced principal roles in La Sylphide, Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, and Twyla Tharp’s Sinatra Suite, Dwight Rhoden’s Ave Maria, and Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia. Astrit has made international appearances with National Ballet of Croatia, Jorgen Ballet of Canada, and in 2009 represented Ballet Arizona in the Miami International Dance Festival. Most recently Astrit danced at the Kennedy Center in D.C. for the première of Andersen’s Diversions.