“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.”
Daniel has trained with Jonathan Watts, Larry Long at the Ruth Page Foundation, Roger Tully in London, and David Howard in New York. He danced with American Ballet Theatre, The Joffrey Ballet, and the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company. He has been featured with the BBC of London and appears in the documentary film “Ballet Russes.” He was televised in Russia dancing with Ekaterina Maximova at the Kremlin Palace, as well as appearing with Gala Des Etoiles in Montreal. He is noted for his partnering skills and dramatic roles.
Mr. Baudendistel was awarded First Prize at the Saint Sauveur International Choreographic Competition. He has choreographed ballets for the ABT Studio Company, Oregon Ballet Theatre, and ABT Summer Intensive Programs. He has also directed and choreographed for the Hiroshima Opera Company. In addition to this he performs with the Ballet Arizona and has been featured in Don Quixote, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet.
As a teacher he has worked with students at the ABT Summer Intensive in New York, The Joffrey Ballet, and continues to coach dancers privately around the world. He is noted for his knowledge of kinetic principles, music theory, and understanding of the classical form as it relates to the dance. He was Professor of dance at the New School University Eugene Lang College in New York City. He takes great pride in his extensive dance collection.
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 30 years. Mary Lou and her husband, Tim, have a daughter, Alyssa, who graduated from Arizona State University in 2013, and is married to Jeff. They also have a son, Sean, who recently graduated from Arizona State University.
I was born and raised in Orange County, California and recently relocated to Arizona. I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from California State University, Fullerton. My dance training began at Inland Pacific Ballet where I had the opportunity to perform in ballets such as The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle and Coppelia. During my time in college I was able to study many other genres of dance and be featured in annual dance concerts as well as receive a Dance Scholarship for my choreography piece Nocturnal Visions. I 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 I was 17 years old I started a twelve and a half year career with the Walt Disney Company. I 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 I went on to work with the Disney Performing Arts program assisting with workshops, guest performances, special events and production coordination. I spent my last three years as an Administrative Assistant to the Entertainment Division Operations Manager. From my time spent in New York City I developed a passion for Musical Theater. Since then I have been doing theater and continue to do so here in Arizona. I have been featured in shows such as: The World Goes ‘Round (Downey Civic Light Opera), Evita (GEM Theater), Legally Blonde (Covina Center for the Performing Arts), Anything Goes (Hale Centre Theater), West Side Story (Hale Centre Theater) Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Hale Centre Theater), Thoroughly Modern Millie (Hale Centre Theater) just to name a few. In addition to theater I was also a featured dancer at the Mattel Awards in Los Angeles, CA. I have been teaching for twelve years at dance studios all over Southern California in all styles and genres of dance. I have choreographed routines for regional and national competitions and those routines have been placed in the top 10 at Move, Spotlight and Showstoppers. I also received an award for “Outstanding Choreography” at Spotlight Dance Cup in 2015. I absolutely love teaching dance and I am excited to share my 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. Bio From Ballet Arizona
Heather began dancing with Ballet Etudes in 2004 as a baby doll in The Nutcracker. In 2007 She became a member of the company and has performed various roles with BE including Party Girl, Junior and Senior corps, Chinese, and Party Mother in the annual production of The Nutcracker. Heather has also been cast as a Lost Boy in Peter Pan, Ballroom corps and Toujour Relies in Cinderella. Some of her favorite pieces include Tarentella, Steps of St. Paul’s and Long Drum.
After graduating high school, Heather danced with Chandler-Gilbert Community College and continued to volunteer with Ballet Etudes while starting her nursing education. In December 2016 Heather graduated from Mesa Community College as an RN and has started her career as a postpartum nurse. Heather is excited to continue to be a part of the BE family and to share the love of dance with some of the youngest ballerinas at Ballet Etudes!
Arianni Martin began dancing at the age of nine at the Vocacional Art School 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 where she held the rank of soloist for three years, and competed in National and International Contests .
Arianni’s accomplishments include bronze and silver medals at National and International Competitions in 2009 and 2010 in Cuba. From Cuba, Arianni came to the United States in 2013 and began working with Ballet Arizona. With this company she has 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 has had the opportunity to dance principal roles in Cinderella, La Bayadere, The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Napoli, and George Balanchine’s Walpurgisnacht, Western Symphony, La Sonnambula, Apollo, and Symphony in Three Movements.
Maureen Pray has been teaching dance students of all ages for almost 20 years and is thrilled to be at Ballet Etudes. Maureen grew up in the midwest and started taking dance at age 6 at South Dayton School of Dance in Centerville, OH. She became a 2nd company member at age 8 at South Dayton Dance Theatre, a pre-professional dance company, and then a 1st company member at age 13. She performed in The Nutcracker for 8 years and her roles included the Snow Queen, Mouse Queen, Dew Drop Fairy, and the lead Spanish pas de deux. She also performed in several Spring Concerts and Regional Dance America Festivals performing works by Gina Gardner-Walter, Debbie Blunden-Diggs, and Ronen Koresh. She studied at various summer dance intensives including Pointe Park College and University of the Arts. She was accepted into Southern Methodist University’s dance program and continued to study ballet, pointe, Horton, and Graham and had the opportunity to perform works by Max Stone, Larry White, and members of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. She transferred to The Ohio State University for her sophomore year and was introduced to other modern dance techniques including Cunningham and Limon. Ms. Pray graduated from OSU with a bachelors in psychology and a minor in dance. She went onto graduate school at OSU and received her Masters in Counseling in 2017. From there, she began working as a school counselor in the public school system. Throughout her career, Maureen has always taught dance and has been at several studios as she has moved across the country with her husband. Maureen now works as a Personal Trainer in addition to teaching dance and says her dance background has greatly helped train clients. Maureen and her husband, Chip, and their 5 year old daughter McCartney, also a Ballet Etudes student, recently moved to AZ and reside in Chandler. She is thankful to have found a dance home at Ballet Etudes.
Anna had begun her training in Burbank, California and has been training/ performing for sixteen years. She is now continuing her training at Grand Canyon University working to complete a double degree track in Dance Performance and Sports/ Performance Psychology. The university has offered Anna the opportunity to perform under scholarship and further her training in both concert and commercial dance. Since attending Grand Canyon University, Anna has been a part of every department showcase working with the artistic staff. She has also had her own choreography showcased in multiple performances lead by the Dance department, some of which have been offered to be showcased at outside performances within the Phoenix community such as the Herberger festival. These past years she has also had the opportunity to work with many guests artists that have auditioned students to set work on and these artists include Jessica Blonde, Miguel Perez, Paradosi Ballet, Moncell Durden and Amy Allen. Since she is currently training with artists such as Susannah Kieta, Kevin Godfrey, Alicia Nascimento- Castro, and Angel Crissman that have helped her to redefine herself as a dancers and grow in her own skillset constructing her into the dancer, choreographer, and performer she is. Anna’s primary focus as a dancer and choreographer derives from a contemporary movement quality that is discovered through improvisation. The sense of understanding intricate musicality and challenging the body to push boundaries applies to every style she trains and teaches in. Anna strives to make sure that her dancers are challenged both mentally and psychically so that they stay driven to always become better, faster, and stronger as well as understand that lessons in dance can also apply for lessons in life. Anna is thankful that she has been now a part of the Ballet Etudes staff for two years and has the opportunity to work with such beautiful dancers.
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.
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.