Artistic Staff | State Street Ballet

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, and acclaimed choreographer William Soleau who was named Co-artistic Director in 2018. Mr. Gustafson and Mr. Soleau have 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: Executive 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 Antony 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.  

William Soleau: Co-artistic Director and Resident Choreographer

William Soleau, Co-artistic Director and 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. As Resident Choreographer at State Street Ballet over the past two decades he 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 film editor for the Antony Tudor Ballet Trust. Mr. Soleau is a graduate of Amherst College and was named Co-artistic Director of State Street Ballet in 2018.

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.

Leila Drake: Director of Communications

Leila Drake is from Santa Cruz, CA, and graduated from UC-Santa Barbara with a double major in Art History and Film Studies. Since joining State Street Ballet in 2005 she has performed in nearly every production in the company’s repertoire, including the principal roles in CarmenAn American Tango, Carmina BuranaAppalachian Spring, and Scheherazade. Leila has been a featured soloist in works by Robert Battle, Nancy Colahan, Autumn Eckman, William Soleau, Josie Walsh, and Edgar Zendejas, appeared as a Principal Guest Artist with The Ithaca Ballet in their full-length Swan Lake, and has toured extensively both nationally and internationally. She was the recipient of the Apogee Award for Excellence in Dance Performance for her work in Common Ground, Carmina Burana, and The Nutcracker and also received the Indy Dance Award for “Best Duet” for Arabian in The Nutcracker. Leila retired from dancing in 2018 and has transitioned into essential roles in the company's leadership. 

Marina Fliagina: Rehearsal Director

Marina Fliagina 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 Rehearsal Director in 2000. In addition to her duties as Rehearsal Director, she continues to appear in character roles such as the Stepmother in Cinderella and the Nurse Maid in Romeo and Juliet.

Denise Grimm: Company Manager

Denise Grimm 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.

Paola Hartley: Rehearsal Director

Paola Hartley grew up in South Africa and Chile, with parents that danced for Ballet de Santiago. She studied at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts before joining Ballet de Santiago where she was quickly promoted to soloist. In 1998 she was invited to join Ballet Arizona, under Artistic Director Ib Anderson, where she performed principal roles in nearly all of the major classical and contemporary ballets, including works by George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, and Dwight Rhoden. Paola has toured extensively throughout the world, performing in galas and dance festivals as well as teaching master classes and being on guest faculty at many training institutions. In 2013 she joined The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, performing principal roles in numerous iconic works by Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. Paola joined State Street Ballet as Repertory Director in 2018.

Sammy Jelinek: Production Manager and Lighting Designer

Sammy Jelinek is a graduate from Wright State University, where she received a BFA in Lighting Design. She is based in New York City, but works nationally and internationally designing and managing theatre, opera, dance, and other live events. Recent design credits include A Little Night Music (OPERA America’s Robert L.B. Tobin Director-Designer Prize), Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker (State Street Ballet), The Glass Menagerie and #yourmemorial (Pigeonholed Theatre Co.), Gala de Internacional de Ballet (Teatro Municipal de Los Condes) and Aspen Music Festival's 2018 and 2019 Feast of Music

Cecily MacDougall: Associate Executive Director

Cecily MacDougall is from Santa Barbara, CA and is also the Founder and Director of Library Dances, part of State Street Ballet’s educational outreach program. She danced professionally with New York Theatre Ballet, Allegro Theatre Company, Richmond Ballet, and State Street Ballet. Cecily has choreographed numerous pieces for State Street Ballet, as well as for The Bartered Bride, produced by Music Academy of the West, and El amor brujo, in collaboration with Opera Santa Barbara. She received the Indy Award for Anne’s Window in 2015, and in 2020 earned the Apogee Award for her successful arts outreach initiatives. Cecily graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in Performing Arts from St. Mary’s College and is an ABT Certified Teacher.

Tim Mikel: Managing Director

Tim Mikel 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 and Rehearsal Director

Megan 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 danced for BBBallet and was a soloist with the Staten Island Ballet and was on faculty at Dance New Amsterdam, Ballet Tech School, Ballet Arts, Connecticut Performing Arts Center, and the Staten Island Ballet School. In 2010 she graduated from NYU with a Master's Degree in Dance Education, focusing 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 Rehearsal Director for State Street Ballet. Megan also choreographs for the Professional Track and State Street Ballet, and her work has appeared in State Street Ballet's performances of The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and The Jungle Book. 

Nicole Thompson: Wardrobe Director

Nicole 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, Mozart's Requiem and the SSB Summer Intensive.