Our highly qualified and internationally recognized faculty have been chosen to provide the best possible dance training that there is to offer. They understand the importance of the development of young people as well as dancers.


Martha Leebolt

co-artistic director

Martha trained at Black Mountain Dance Centre under the direction of Sylvia Palmer-Zetler and Ahita Ardalan. After graduation she attended the professional training program at BalletMet, Columbus under the tutelage of Yoko Ichino and a year later she joined Northern Ballet in Leeds, England where she rose through the ranks to become a principal dancer.

The numerous roles created for her at Northern Ballet include Cleopatra in Claude-Michel Schonberg and David Nixon's “Cleopatra”; Daisy in “The Great Gatsby”; Beauty in “Beauty and the Beast”; Cinderella in “Cinderella”; Pas de Deux for Galas include “Yorkshire Trilogy” by Jonathan Watkins; “Powerhouse Rhumba” by David Nixon and “We Never Said” by Kenneth Tindal. In 2015 she created the role of Julia in the South Bank Award winning “1984” by Jonathan Watkins, which was filmed by the BBC for international broadcast.

Other roles performed include Sugar Plum Fairy in “The Nutcracker”; Odette and Odilia in “Swan Lake”; Mina and Lucy in “Dracula”; Cathy in “Wuthering Heights”; Constance in “The Three Musketeers”; Juliet in Jean Christophe Maillot’s “Romeo & Juliet” and also Massimo Morricone’s “Romeo & Juliet”; Ondine in the ballet “Ondine”; Madame Butterfly in “Madame Butterfly”; Marquise De Merteuil in “Dangerous Liaisons”; Nikita in “La Bayadere” and Titania in the award winning “A Midsummer Nights Dream”.

She has worked with some of the world’s top choreographers including Hans Van Manen, Christopher Hampson, Mark Godden, Dame Gillian Lynne, David Nixon, Jonathan Watkins, Cathy Marston and Jean-Christophe Maillot.

A recipient of the Outstanding Female Classical Performance Award, 2010 National Dance Awards, England and nominated for the same award in 2016; She was named a “Dance Highlight of 2010” by the Guardian newspaper in the UK and repeatedly included in Dance Europe magazine's list of the world’s top dancers.

Martha has been a guest artist around the world including the 23rd International Ballet Festival, Havana, Cuba; The 2014 European Ballet Awards, Berlin; The Salzburg International Dance Gala; The 2012 BalletMet Gala, Columbus; Wayne Sleep’s Dancestars Gala at the Royal Opera House, London; and has toured extensively to China, Thailand and around Europe with Northern Ballet.

Toby Batley

Co-Artistic Director

Toby was born in Manchester, England and trained at the Hammond School of Dance in Chester and the Royal Ballet School, London. After graduating, Tobias joined the Jeune Ballet de Cannes, in France, under the direction of Paris Opera Etoile, Monique Loudiere. He then joined Northern Ballet, England in 2004 where he rose to the rank of Principal Dancer.

The many roles created for him at Northern Ballet include Marc Anthony in David Nixon and Claude Michel Schonberg's “Cleopatra”; Jay Gatsby in “The Great Gatsby”; Prince Mikhail in “Cinderella”; Charles Darnay in Cathy Marston’s “A Tale of Two Cities”; Adam in Kenneth Tindal’s “The Architect”; Numerous Pas de Deux for Galas including “Yorkshire Trilogy” by Jonathan Watkins; “Powerhouse Rhumba” by David Nixon and “We Never Said” by Kenneth Tindal. He also created the role of Winston Smith in the award winning “1984” by Jonathan Watkins, which was filmed by the BBC for international broadcast.

Other roles performed include The Cavalier in “The Nutcracker”; Anthony in “Swan Lake”; Dracula and Harker in “Dracula”; Heathcliff in “Wuthering Heights”; Aramis in “The Three Musketeers”; Romeo in Jean Christophe Maillot’s “Romeo & Juliet” and also Massimo Morricone’s “Romeo & Juliet”; Brand in “Ondine”; Pinkerton in “Madame Butterfly”; Valmont in “Dangerous Liaisons”; Hamlet in “Hamlet”; Albrecht in “Giselle”; Young scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”; The Prince in “Beauty and the Beast” and Oberon in the award winning “A Midsummer Nights Dream”.

He has worked with some of the top choreographers in the world including Hans Van Manen, Christopher Hampson, Dame Gillian Lynne, David Nixon, Jonathan Watkins, Cathy Marston and Jean-Christophe Maillot.

He was nominated for a National Dance Award in 2010 , 2012, 2015 and 2016 and has been included in Dance Europe magazine’s list of top dancers in the world every year from 2010 to 2016.

He has guested in galas around the world including the 'International Ballet Gala' Salzburg, Austria; ‘The International YBS Fundraising Gala’ Sadler's Wells, London, UK; ‘The Taglioni European Ballet Awards’, Berlin; ‘The 26th International Choreographic Competition’ Hanover, Germany; ‘Wayne Sleep’s Dancers Benevolent Fund Gala’, The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, UK; And performed with Northern Ballet in China, Thailand and around Europe.

Sylvia Palmer-Zetler

DirectoR Of Cecchetti Studies & Founder of Southern California Ballet

Performing on stage with ballet greats such as Rudolph Nureyev and Eric Bruhn, performing professionally with the National Ballet of Canada, touring internationally, attending receptions given by President John F. Kennedy and Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau are just a few of the exciting highlights of the life of teacher Sylvia Palmer-Zetler. 

From performer, Sylvia transitioned to the role of teacher by earning her Licentiate from the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing in London, England in 1974 with special commendation and furthered her teacher training with the National Ballet School of Canada. She taught at the U.S. International University for 6 years. She obtained her Fellowship with Cecchetti USA in June, 2008, is on the board and is one of only 6 examiners in the United States. She is Assistant Director of Dance for the California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA). For over 30 years, she ran Black Mountain Dance Centre which recently merged with Southern California Ballet, the 501(c)(3) she founded at about the same time. 

Over 2,000 of her students have earned diplomas in various levels, including teaching certificates. 

Sylvia has choreographed numerous ballets for the company including Carnival of the Animals, The Magic Flute, Babar the Elephant, Masquerade Ball, Peter and the Wolf and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as reconstructing popular ballets such as CoppéliaLes Sylphides, and The Nutcracker, to name just a few.

Suzan Stone

Associate Artistic Director of
Cecchetti Studies & Repetiteur

Ms. Stone earned a BFA from U.S. International University and has worked with Alicia Alonzo, Anthony Dowell, Christopher Newton and John Butler while performing with USIU and San Diego Ballet Company. She was soloist at San Diego Ballet, performing in Giselle, Swan Lake, Carmina Burana, Firebird, Raymonda, The Nutcracker and Cinderella. Ms. Stone has her Cecchetti Associate and has successfully entered students through grade 9 into Cecchetti exams. Currently, Academy Vice-Principal, Southern California Ballet.


Kaitlynne Birkholtz

At age six, Kaitlynne Birkholtz began developing her love for ballet at the Royal Academy of Dance in South Africa, and upon moving back to the United States in 2005, she joined Southern California Ballet and spent the next few years dancing in shows and cultivating her education of the Cecchetti Method. As a passionate advocate for early childhood dance education, she began teaching ballet in 2007, and three years later obtained certification to professionally help children achieve these same goals through their affection and devotion to ballet. Dedication to dance soon accompanied Kaitlynne back to South Africa, where she founded an institution devoted to the advancement of ballet education for young children. Upon returning to the United States three years later, she now continues to pursue her teaching career; initially a student with a love for dance, now a devoted teacher of the art of ballet for over ten years. Her goal in the near future includes earning her Associates in Cecchetti Ballet

Shawn Burgess


Shawn is native to San Diego and an alumni from UC Riverside in world history. In 2000, he began studying classical ballet from a small school after several years of sports & martial arts. While training, he worked regionally for both Welk Resort Theater and Moonlight Amphitheater in San Diego, then joined Tokyo DisneySea in 2004 with Mystic Rhythms.  Afterward he settled in New York, danced in the film Across The Universe, inspired by music from The Beatles, and then joined Universal Studios Japan in their company production Wicked in Osaka for two years. He's also very fortunate to have performed on Broadway in the revival of West Side Story by late Arthur Laurents, as well as internationally, in Paris, London, Zurich, Amsterdam, Vienna, Kuala Lumpur, et al. for three years as Pepe in the 50th Anniversary International Company of West Side Story. Then in 2011, Shawn went on hiatus from the stage & show business, left New York and returned to his hometown to rest & settle, and later joined Southern California Ballet as a resident artist & teacher. Since then, he has performed around town with San Diego Ballet in Seven Beauties, The Nutcracker, Sweet Synergy, & in A Midsummer Night's Dream as Bottom; in The Great Gatsby with California Ballet; and in Great Scott with San Diego Opera. He continues to dance locally, on occasion, and gives regular instruction in ballet, music theory & pas de deux, while currently training in piano accompaniment for ballet.

Wendy Cormier, MFA Ballet

Mrs. Cormier earned her MFA in Ballet with a specialty in Character dance from The University of Utah where she trained with Yurek Lazowsky, William Christenson, Mattlyn Gavers and others.  She danced with the College University Ballet Ensemble, Ballet West and was a featured soloist for the character dance ensemble.  Upon completion of her degree, Wendy returned home to dance with Honolulu City Ballet and was also cast in many television programs, including Magnum P.I..  In 1986, she moved to San Diego and worked extensively within the Poway Unified school district developing innovative dance programs for children; produced and directed children's variety shows; and received the California State PTA Honorary Service and Continuing Service Awards.  Mrs. Cormier has been teaching at Southern California Ballet since 2001, is a certified Cecchetti teacher and adjunct professor in the Dance Department at Palomar College teaching both lecture and studio classes.

Claudia Dyson-Hightower

Claudia credits her artistic energy to her six major mentors: Johnson, Vivian Valade, Day Power, Eileen Figliolino, Louis McKay and Bill Heiden. She's continually performing, choreographing and teaching both nationally and internationally, and taking dance class herself. (Heaven forbid if she ever became a Dance Droid Stiffo.) She is certified in her profession and teaches ages 3-73. Her students can be seen on Broadway, on TV and in the movies.

Katherine Hirsh, D.E.C. Dance/Ballet

Katherine (Kate) Hirsh, a native of Montreal, Canada, trained at L’Ecole Superieure de Danse de Quebec. She danced for Alberta Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Le Jeune Ballet de Quebec, Banff Festival for the Arts, and Vinok Worldance. Key teachers were Daniel Sellier, Christine Clair and Benjamin Harkarvy. Lead roles include Romantic Girl in Graduation Ball, Aurora in Sleeping Beauty's wedding pas de deux, and Lucile Grahn in Pas de Quatre. An arts management graduate of Grant MacEwan Community College, she worked for Edmonton Opera as Artistic Administrator; for Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, she produced a 10 day music festival to mark the opening of the Winspear Centre for Music and became Director of Marketing and Communications for ESO and Winspear Centre. Kate also delved into choreography for opera and ballet. She is Artistic Director of "Dance with Kate", creative dance curriculum for a child's world of play.

Ian Isles, BFA Dance

Ian is a native of San Diego and is an instructor of Dance, Pilates, and Movement for Non-Dancers. He finished his training in Pilates from the Body Arts Science International headquarters under the direct instruction of Rael Isacowitz. Ian holds a degree in Dance from UCLA’s Department of World Arts & Cultures, is finishing certification in Laban Movement Analysis and Bartenieff Fundamentals under the instruction of Peggy Hackney, and is also and avid practitioner of Ohad Naharin’s movement language, Gaga.  He was blessed to have had the opportunities to work with such artists as Vic Marks, David Rousseve, Jesse Zaritt, Maria Gillespie’s Oni Dance, Alexx Makes Dances, Los Angeles Movement Arts, and IN/EX Dance Project. Ian’s own work has been presented at UCLA, San Diego Dance Theater, and the Hollywood Fringe Festival.


Nancy Robinson

Company Ballet Mistress

Nancy Robinson studied ballet in Los Angeles with Robert Rossellat, a student of Preobrajenska and Espinosa in Paris. At the age of fifteen she received a Ford Foundation Scholarship to San Francisco Ballet School and was accepted into San Francisco Ballet Company the following year. Ms. Robinson danced as a soloist there for seven years, then as Principal dancer with the City Center Joffrey Ballet Company, which made her an internationally acclaimed ballerina. She has toured Vienna, London, and several major United States cities. During her career, she danced in principal roles such as Astarte Pas de Deesses (Joffrey), Moves and Interplay (Robbins), Time Cycle (Bolender) several works by Arpino, Nutcracker-Sugar Plum Fairy (Christensen), and other works by Fokine and Ailey. Later she was Ballet Mistress at Pacific Northwest Ballet Company and The Los Angeles Ballet.

Andrea Rose

Andrea Rose trained in classical ballet, jazz, modern and character at BMDC for eleven years. She received the California Arts Scholarship to train at CalArts in Valencia in 2003 and 2004 and was a member of the Varsity Tour de Force Dance Team at Rancho Bernardo High School. She was awarded Palomar College's Dancer of the Year in 2009 where she was a featured dancer and choreographer in various performances. Andrea is graduating from CSU San Marcos with a degree in Medical Anthropology and intends to obtain a graduate degree in Food Studies. She is currently a member of CSUSM's highly ranked competition dance team and performs as a guest artist with Axxiom Dance Collective.

Jonathan Ross

Jonathan is a native of San Diego and an alumnus of San Diego State University, with a Bachelors of Science in Foods and Nutrition. He attended Chula Vista High School, where he graduated in Vocal Music through their School of Creative and Performing Arts program. In 2011, Jonathan began training in hip hop at studios all over San Diego County. Since then, he has been a part of several different professional hip hop dance companies, including: Urban FX, Culture Shock San Diego, and Super Galactic Beat Manipulators (SGBM). Jonathan has also worked for Seaworld San Diego since 2013, in their Entertainment Department, performing as a costume character and dancer. Jonathan currently helps direct the hip hop dance team Intrinsic and still dances competitively with SGBM.  

Allan Smith


Mr. Smith was awarded a Junior Exhibition to the Royal College of Music, London, which was followed by a 4 year Foundation Scholarship in Clarinet Performing and Composition, and concurrently worked as a dresser at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden during the Nureyev and Fonteyn Years. Time in Canadian Theatre and the U.S. led to the composition of film scores for ensembles from solo bass clarinet to full orchestra. Allan currently plays for Modern and Ballet classes for numerous San Diego Dance Companies.

Mary Vaughn

Acting Coach

Mrs. Vaughan is an international artist who has been a dancer/actress on Broadway and was one of the featured members of the record breaking Cabaret cast that included Joel Grey. In San Diego, she has performed with the International Ballet Company, San Diego Opera, Starlight, and Southern California Ballet. She teaches the Stanislasky acting technique; works in commercial and local theater; and she is a professional musician and theatrical performer.

Mark Zetler

Lighting Design & Production 

Mr. Zetler has been Lighting Designer for SCB since its inception. He was nominated for a “Tommy Award" for his Lighting Design of Erling Sunde's Cinderella. He toured with Metropolitan Educational Theater as Stage Manager and Lighting Designer for Annie, Secret Garden, Bye Bye Birdy, Music Man, Fiddler on the Roof, Christmas, Carol, Big River, and others. Mr. Zetler has been commended for his work as Technical manager at POWPAC and is currently Technical Theatre Coordinator at Poway Centre for the Performing Arts.

Terry Worley

Volunteer Costume Mistress

Mrs. Worley has created and managed hundreds of costumes for SCB over the past decade.  She is also the owner of Tutu Terry, where she designs and sews professional tutus for ballet competitions and performances.