Sarah Melli Ballet Master
Born in Madison,Wisconsin, Sarah began her ballet training at the Wisconsin School of Ballet with Tibor Zana. At 14, she received a full scholarship to the Milwaukee Ballet and was asked to stay and dance with the company. Sarah was awarded scholarships and danced with Ballet West, Burklyn Ballet Theatre, Joffery Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet, Houston Ballet, Cleveland Ohio Ballet, and Cincinnati Ballet. While performing with the Burklyn Ballet Theatre, she was invited to audition for the Boston Ballet Company where she began her professional dance career. Sarah went on to dance professionally with Chicago City Ballet (Director, Maria Tallchief), Joffery II (Director, Sally Bliss), San Antonio Ballet (Director, Vladimir Marek) and Dayton Ohio Ballet (Director, Stuart Sebastian).
She has performed leading roles in Concerto Barocco, Serenade, Jewels, Stars and Stripes, Apollo, Coppelia, Swan lake, Tarantella, Tchaikovsky Pas De Duex, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, and Graduation Ball. While Dancing in the Jillana School in Taos, New Mexico, Sarah was asked personally by Jillana to be her Choreography Assistant for the Summer Programs. Jillana was one of George Balanchine’s first Prima Ballerinas, and an exclusive authorized teacher of the Balanchine Technique® & Balanchine Style®, and she is happy to give Sarah her personal recommendation.
Sarah now teaches Master Classes at California State Fullerton, Mt. Sac College, Malibu by the Sea, Jillana’s Summer Intensives, Huntington Academy, Tustin Ballet Academy, Bare Dance Company, and Inland Pacific Ballet. She also does private coaching, and was hired to coach Miss California 2010, Kristy Cavinder, for her talent competition in the Miss USA 2011 Pageant. Kristy won First Place performing ballet in the Talent Competition, and 1st Runner-Up overall for Miss USA.
Sarah’s students have gone on to receive scholarships and company contracts from Miami City Ballet, School of American Ballet in NYC, San Francisco Ballet, Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Suzanne Farrell, Arizona Ballet, Houston Ballet, Lou Conte’s Hubbard Street, and the Jillana School.
Alissa Bratz Faculty
Alissa began her training with Eugene Ballet and Salem City Ballet in Oregon state before moving to Wisconsin in 1988. She continued her ballet training with Jim Moore and Joan Karlen at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point Conservatory, where she began teaching ballet classes. During this time, Alissa also trained at the Milwaukee Ballet's summer intensive programs. In 1993, Alissa moved to Madison to pursue a Linguistics degree at the University of Wisconsin where she continued her dance training. During this time, she continued to teach ballet at several local studios. In 1999, she joined the Madison Ballet Studio Company and performed with Madison Ballet until 2005. Favorite roles with Madison Ballet include Snow and Spanish in Nutcracker, and Drunken Fairy in Peter Pan.
Alissa is also a licensed Wisconsin K-12 teacher and teaches French at Milton High School. In 2011, Alissa achieved National Board Certification by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and in 2012 was recognized by Senator Herb Kohl for excellence in teaching with a Kohl Teacher Fellowship Award. Alissa is also the Director of Wisconsin Parkour, and one of only six ADAPT-qualified parkour instructors in the state of Wisconsin. When not dancing, Alissa can often be seen around Madison, leaping tall buildings in a single bound.
Rachelle Butler Faculty & Company Member
A Madison native, Ms. Butler's training includes dance with Ballet Chicago, Miami City Ballet School and The Rock School of the Pennsylvania Ballet. Formerly with Sacramento Ballet, she has enjoyed performing previously with Madison ballet in its productions of The Nutcracker and Cinderella. Her favorite roles include principle couple in Balanchine's Allegro Brilliante, Second Violin in Balanchine's Concerto Barrocco, and Who Cares? pas de deux. Rachelle would like to thank her mother, father and sister for their constant support and Earle Smith for his guidance and support.
Morgan Davison Faculty & Company Member
Morgan Davison grew up in Southern California, and began her formal dance training at Ballet Pacifica studying with Amanda McKerrow, John Gardner and Evelyn Cicneros-Legate. She went on to train at the University of Utah as part of Utah Ballet, studying with Bene Arnold, Conrad Ludlow, Misha Tchoupakov. and Sharee Lane. While at the university, Morgan was chosen to perform in a work choreographed by Edgar Zendejas involving dancers from both the Ballet and Modern Departments to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the College of Fine Arts. Morgan supplemented this schooling by attending summer intensives at the Kirov Academy of Ballet, the School of American Ballet, Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell, Ballet West and Lar Lubovitch Dance. Morgan made her professional debut at the age of 17 with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, performing Scotch Symphony and Slaughter on Tenth Ave at the Kennedy Center Opera House. She later performed Pas Classique Espagnol (an excerpt from Balanchine’s Don Quixote), Ballade, and Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet with Ms. Farrell’s company. Morgan also had the opportunity to perform in Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Gina Patterson’s Anne Frank with Nashville Ballet. Morgan is excited to become a part of Madison Ballet.
Alyssa Gunsolus Faculty & Program Service Coordinator
Alyssa Gunsolus graduated with a BS in Dance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She started her formal training with Madison Ballet in 2000 under the direction of W. Earle Smith and has performed corps and soloist roles in The Nutcracker and Cinderella. From 2001-2005, she trained with the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City and the Sarasota Ballet in Sarasota, FL on full scholarship. Ms. Gunsolus has studied under Dorothy Lister, Cheyhun Ozsoy, Francesca Corkle, Deborah Dawn and Pavil Fomin. She lived in New York City for several years where she attended school at Fordham University and studied dance at STEPS on Broadway with Alexander Tressor and Wilhelm Burmann. Ms. Gunsolus has also spent many years dancing and choreographing on the competition circuit, competing in Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, Minneapolis and Atlanta. She has had the privilege of working with world renowned choreographers such as Mia Michaels, Tyce Diorio and Travis Wall. Ms. Gunsolus has had over 10 years experience working in arts administration for different arts organizations and non-profits around southern Wisconsin. She is very excited to be a part of a job share between Madison Ballet and Madison Youth Choirs as the Program Service Coordinator for both organizations!
Maelanie Kuzma Faculty & Education Outreach Facilitator
Maelanie Kuzma began her ballet training here in Madison with Charmaine Ristow, Susan Marsden, Salvador Barillas, and Bess and Tibor Zana. She continued her training with the Milwaukee Ballet School, The Joffrey Ballet, and Boston Ballet School. Maelanie received her BS in Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison while performing and studying with the UW Dance Program. Performances include many Nutcracker’s and Nutcracker roles with Wisconsin Dance Ensemble, Madison Ballet, and Milwaukee Ballet, performances in Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Sylvia, Peter Rabbit’s Ballet, as well as many musical theatre roles, and countless student concerts.
Maelanie began teaching ballet in 1992 and has choreographed for many community theatre and high school musical theatre productions as well as working with school show choirs, and spent two summers directing the dance program at Camp Birch Knowll, a girl’s summer arts camp in Northern Wisconsin.
In 1995, Maelanie assumed ownership of A Step Above Dance Studio in Monona, growing and directing the school’s dance and music programs for 9 successful years. During that run her choreography received numerous awards at regional conventions, and she continued to work with the Wisconsin Dance Ensemble and Madison Ballet as a rehearsal assistant for their productions.
Maelanie lives in Monona where she and her husband spend most of their free time trying to keep their 80 year old house from falling apart, while chasing after their two little boys. She enjoys gardening, volunteering in the Monona Schools, and of course, trips to Menards.
Marguerite Luksik Faculty, Company Member & Education Outreach Coordinator
Marguerite Luksik is a native of Johnstown, PA. She trained with the Allegheny Ballet Academy under Deborah Anthony and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Graduate Program. In June 2002, Ms. Luksik participated in an exhibition performance at the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. This is Marguerite's fourth season with Madison Ballet, where she is on faculty. While at Madison Ballet her repetoire includes Puck in Peter Anastos's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Spring Fairy in W. Earle Smith's Cinderella, as well as Clara in Smith's Nutcracker. She has also danced with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Ballet Austin, Chicago Ballet, and Peoria Ballet, performing works by choreographers such as Steven Mills, Stanton Welch, Ben Stevenson, Terrence Orr, Thaddeus Davis, and Paul Gibson.
Jessica Jaye Mackinson Faculty & Company Member
Jessica received her training at the Milwaukee Ballet School. She has also studied with the School of American Ballet, Boston Ballet School, the Vail International Dance Festival, and was a member of the ProTrack dance program at BalletMet Columbus. Jessica has performed with the Milwaukee Ballet Company, BalletMet Columbus, Chautauqua Ballet Company, and the Rockford Dance Company. She was the recipient of the 1999 Peter Schetter Scholarship at the Milwaukee Ballet School, and was awarded 1st place at the 2001 Carey Rose Winski Dance Scholarship Competition. Ms. Mackinson has performed with the Milwaukee Ballet Company, BalletMet Columbus, Chautauqua Ballet Company, the Rockford Dance Company, and was a back up dancer for Werid Al Yankovic. She received a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology & Sociology at Rockford College in 2009, and later served at the College as an adjunct faculty member, teaching ballet and jazz for the Performing Arts Department. This is Ms. Mackinson's second season with Madison Ballet.
Shannon Quirk Faculty, Company Member & Education Outreach Facilitator
Shannon Quirk, from Orange, California, began her classical training with Orange County Regional Ballet and continued her studies at the University of California, Irvine where she earned a BFA in Dance Performance. During her tenure, she worked with distingushed faculty members David Allen, Evelyn Cisneros, Jodie Gates, Molly Lynch, and Donald McKayle and performed various works by William Forsythe, Jodie Gates, and Molly Lynch. After graduating, she worked with Pasadena Dance Theatre under the direction of Cynthia Young and Laurence Blake. Additional training also includes Alonzo King's LINES Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Ballet Austin. She is excited to be returning to Madison Ballet for her second full season.
Courtney Stohlton Faculty & Company Member
Courtney Stohlton was born in San Jose, CA. She was trained by Ron Guiddi at the Oakland Ballet Academy, Jonas Kage at the Ballet West Academy, and Susan Pillar and Suki Schorer at the School of American Ballet. From there she was admitted into the University of Utah's Ballet program at age 15 with the William C. Christensen scholarship and danced and toured in South Korea and Japan with Utah Ballet under the direction of Conraid Ludlow and Attilla Ficzere. From there she went on to dance with Orlando Ballet in 2009 under the direction of Robert Hill. In 2010 she joined the Cuban Classical Ballet under the direction of Pedro Pablo Pena as a corps member and then was promoted to soloist the following year. Courtney went en tour with Cuban Classical Ballet to Spain performing some of her favorite ballets including Paquita and Swan Lake. From there she went to Texas Ballet Theater under the direction of Ben Stevenson where she just finished her completed her second season. This is Ms. Stohlton's first season with Madison Ballet.