Teresa Taylor devoted her life to ballet and teaching. Guided by discipline, tradition, passion and intuition she inspires her students to achieve their personal best. A dedicated teacher for nearly 30 years, Teresa continues to expand her knowledge to better help her students. Certifications include ABT® National Training Curriculum ABT® Certified Teacher who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Primary through Level 5, Balanced Body Pilates Instructor certified in all Apparatus, Progressing Ballet Technique certified Levels 1, 2 and 3 and Lisa Howell of the Ballet Blog Level 2 Pointe, Core and Flexibility training. She recently spent 3 years volunteering with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Dance Medicine Program where she helped Physical Therapists better understand the demands of young dancers during their rehabilitation after injury, while gaining a better understanding of multiple dance related injuries and the treatment protocols administered by PT’s. Upon graduating from college with honors and two degrees, she went on to perform with Ballet Theatre of Boston, Ballet New England and Boston Dance Company while teaching for Boston Ballet's Center for Dance Education. She strives to see her students gain a better understanding of their bodies, enjoy the strength, power and beauty that is within each of us, and reach their artistic dreams.
Founder, Director of RAD Program
Ms. Jeanie Pors began her early ballet training with Maria and Sergei Dare of Portland, Oregon. At age 17, she was awarded a Ford Foundation scholarship to San Francisco Ballet School and trained with Herald Christensen and Ruby Asquith. She performed with Pacific Ballet under the direction of Alan Howard (former Ballet Russe). She received teacher training with the Royal Academy of Dance and Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. She is a registered teacher with the Royal Academy of Dance and has entered students from grade 1 to Solo Seal Award. Jeanie settled in the North Bay where she owned and operated Benicia Ballet School for 21 years and produced the annual BBT Nutcracker. Teaching dance is Jeanie’s passion; she has taught ballet, creative movement, character dance, and strength and conditioning classes for the past 40 years.
Associate Artistic Director, Choreographer, Project Manager for Company Programs
Ms Zilka started with Benicia Ballet the year the school was founded in 1986. She danced in the very first Benicia Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker and continued to perform annually in the Nutcracker and additional spring and summer performances. Ms Zilka also participated in yearly Royal Academy of Dance, completing her major exams. In addition, she attended summer dance intensives in both Canada and New York. Ms Zilka furthered her education at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television studying musical theater, and received her BS in Human Development from UC Davis. She returned to Benicia Ballet in 2009 to teach and direct the children’s division of Benicia Ballet School (now Benicia Academy of Performing Arts). She was quickly promoted to Associate Artistic Director of Benicia Ballet Theatre that same year. Ms Zilka helps behind the scenes as the lead project manager for both BBT & BAPA productions but can also often be found onstage performing with our dancers. She loves that her family is also involved with Benicia Ballet Theatre. Her two children love to perform with BBT, while her husband prefers to stay backstage working as the Assistant Stage Manager. Ms Zilka is overjoyed to be part of the Benicia Ballet family. She considers it her second home.
Ballet & Tap Faculty
Tina found her love of dance at a very young age. She began her formal ballet training in her mom’s studio at the age of three. As a young child, she spent her summers in New York City performing with Jackie Gleason. She also studied ballet, tap and acrobatics at the June Taylor Dance Studio. Upon moving to California, she continued her studies with her mom at Stamps School of Classical Ballet in Albany while attending summer courses at San Francisco Ballet School. She’s had the privilege of taking classes with accomplished teachers and dancers including Harold Christensen, Roberta Meyer, Sally Streets, Tilly Abbe and Carmalita Maracci, among others. She began teaching at the age of fifteen in her mom’s dance studio and found her passion. Upon her mom’s retirement, she took over the responsibility as owner and artistic director of Stamps School of Classical Ballet. As artistic director, she taught classes in classical ballet, tap, acrobatics and many other forms of dance for 21 years. She resumed her career at Susie Harper School of Dance as ballet director for 20 years while guest teaching locally.
Sally was born and raised in Vallejo, CA. She began ballet at the age of 4, at Lodena’s School of Dance, and she dabbled in tap, jazz, and acrobatics Eventually, she made it to pointe! Sally wanted to dance like her sister, who is 3 years older than her. Her dancing was interrupted at 13 years of age, as she decided to devote her time to becoming an equestrian. Sally came back to dance in her twenties, and danced ballet, but focused on jazz and modern dance, and in 1977, she moved to Benicia. In her thirties, Sally had an opportunity to travel to NY, and experience some ballet theatre, which changed her life forever and completely hooked her on ballet! Her children were teenagers at the time, and she began ballet classes several times a week, later adding modern dance, the dances of Isadora Duncan, and Flamenco, while continuing her ballet studies. Sally began to perform the dances of Isadora Duncan with a small company, and began performing in homeless centers, prisons, and various places in the community. She was also part of a flamenco troupe that performed all over the bay area in 1992. Ballet is a part of Sally, and she enjoys sharing her love for dance with the students at Benicia Academy of Performing Arts, and the Benicia Ballet Theatre.
Ms. Risi started her dance training at age 5 and quickly joined Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle where she studied for 10 years. During that time she also studied with Suzanne Farrell at the Kennedy Center, Hartford Ballet, and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Ms. Risi was granted full scholarship at the University of Utah were she
danced with Utah Ballet and Ballet West. During her college training in Utah she was also hired to perform in the 2002 Winter Olympic's Medal Ceremonies.
Completing her BFA in Dance she continued to dance with City Ballet of San Diego for 7 years as a Soloist. Professionally she performed soloist and principle roles in Balanchine's Apollo, Stars and Stripes, Serenade, Who Cares?, Four Temperaments, The Nutcracker, and Swan Lake. Alexis retired to mother two daughters, yet continues to support contemporary productions with Indelible Dance in New York City annually.
About 2 years ago, Alexis moved to Benicia and started teaching here at Benicia Ballet and loves being a part of our dance family and surrounding community.
Modern and Ballet Faculty, Choreographer
MILISSA PAYNE BRADLEY
Milissa began her professional performing career in 2005 with The Oakland Ballet under the direction of Ronn Guidi. Her choreographic work has been referred to as “American Chic” by the Huffington Post. She was hailed as a “New Name to Watch” in Dance Europe Magazine’s 2016 Critics’ Choice accolades, and in the 2017 Critics’ Choice, her two-part work Enough Said was named among the year’s “Best Premieres.” She began choreographing in 2010 and founded the San Francisco based The Milissa Payne Project the same year. In 2011, Payne Bradley’s The Game is Afoot was chosen as a semi-finalist for the Company C Contemporary Ballet’s New Commission Project. Payne Bradley has set work on New York Theatre Ballet and in San Francisco for Dance Theatre of San Francisco, ODC Theater’s Music Moves Festival and the West Wave Dance Festival. She has participated in the Round Antennae Choreographic residency with ODC Associate Artistic Director, K.T. Nelson and Elizabeth Farotte Heenan, and through the Center for New Work at the Harvey Milk Center for the Arts. Payne Bradley was an Artist in Residence at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, SOTA. She is a current doctoral candidate at California State University, Stanislaus in Educational Leadership. Payne Bradley is an Adjunct Dance Professor at San Joaquin Delta College, Contra Costa College, and Los Medanos College.
Hip Hop Faculty
Brandin started his dance career at the age of 12, gaining most of his early experience in hip-hop battles at street events alongside friends. It was not until he attended James Logan High School that he began classical training, after being coaxed by close friends to join the dance program on campus. During those 4 years, he danced alongside young ladies whom had competed with Dance Makers, and Yoko’s ballet in Fremont California. He also developed his technique and craft with a wider scope than just hip hop.
In 2008, Brandin joined the dance crew FTC (Dance For The Cause), In 2010 after a series of personal life events, Brandin left FTC to pursure full-time work, and to put more time and focus in learning about what truly made him happy. After an almost 10 year hiatus from dance, Brandin has not only decided to continue dancing but is now pursuing a double major in zoology & animal behavior AND A MINOR IN DANCE at DVC, with the intent of continuing his dance career. With his first year of dance completed, he has performed for the first time since 2010, and is currently completing numerous sections in different styles of dance.
Brandin has a background in cultural dance, being of mixed African, Spanish, and Asian-South East Asian descent, and prides himself on his skill in cultural fusions of hip hop, modern, and Jazz. Brandin’s hope is to make an impact at the community level teaching children and adults. He believes that that "even with channge all around us, you do not have to leave your traditions behind."
ADDITIONAL STAFF & FACULTY INCLUDE
MICHELE J GANZON-BONNIT
Hawaiian & Tahitian Dance Faculty
Contemporary Dance Faculty
Costume Designer & Administrator