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

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 webmaster and 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: Associate Director

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 has been SSB’s Associate Director since 2015, retired from full-time dancing in 2017, but continues to perform with the company on a project-to-project basis.


Marina Fliagina: Ballet Master

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 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.


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: Ballet Master

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 Ballet Master in 2018.


Sammy Jelinek: Production Manager and Lighting Designer

Sammy Jelinek 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. 


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 Coordinator

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 Coordinator of the Professional Track program, and choreographs and teaches for Gustafson Dance and SSB Young Dancers.


Lloyd Sobel: Lighting Designer

Lloyd Sobel 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 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.


Cecily Stewart: Education & Outreach Director

Cecily Stewart is from Santa Barbara, CA and received her dance training from Santa Barbara Ballet Center and Marin Dance Theatre. Since joining State Street Ballet in 2009 she has performed as Jean Veloz in An American Tango, “Russian” in The Nutcracker, and Micaela in Carmen. Cecily is the Founder and Director of State Street Ballet's arts education program Library Dances, and through this venture has co-created dance/theater productions throughout Santa Barbara, including A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Legend of Zorro, Romeo & Pirouette, The Great Gatsby, Hamlet(te), and The Scarlett Letter. She is also in partnership with the Léni Fé Bland Fund for the Performing Arts, which brings extensive workshops and performances to the Santa Barbara Unified School District, working in tandem with the SB Symphony. Cecily spearheaded SSB's "Everybody Dance Day", funded by an Exploring Engagement Grant from The James Irvine Foundation, bringing free days of dance classes and performances to underserved communities throughout California. She has choreographed numerous works for SSB and still performs with the company in specific roles and projects. 


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.