SWBT’s faculty are the most sought after instructors in the valley. They bring their wide range of expertise and experiences to share with our aspiring dancers. Scroll down to read more about each faculty member and the expertise they bring to SWBT’s dancers.
Melissa Hahne – Artistic Director
Melissa Zervas Hahne was formally trained under Charlotte Lyke, Soili Arvola and Leo Ahonen in Bartlesville, OK. During her four years with Ballet Bartlesville she performed numerous soloist roles including The Nutcracker, Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Paquita, Touché, Classical Symphony, and Cinderella. She continued on to become a member of the Texas Christian University ballet company for four years where she danced several roles under direction of the late Fernando Bujones, choreographer in residence. While at Texas Christian Melissa was cast to dance La Bayadère – Kingdom of the Shades, To the Rhythm of Jazz, Forever 40s (in conjunction with Fort Worth’s Retrofest), and Raymonda – Act III. Melissa continued as a freelance professional dancing roles in The Nutcracker (Snow soloist, Rose), Giselle (Myrtha), Sleeping Beauty (The Lilac Fairy, Carabosse), Coppélia (Czardas, lead friend), Touché, and the original works of Soili Arvola, Samson and Delilah (Zura), and Tarzan (Chita).
Melissa enjoyed teaching at the Pennsylvania Dance Conservatory for three years and currently is the Artistic Director at Southwest Ballet Theatre. When Melissa is not dancing or teaching ballet she enjoys spending time with her husband and three children.
Daniel Baudendistel – Artistic Advisor
Daniel Baudendistel has been with SWBT since it’s founding and has choreographed a number of performances and led a variety of classes.
Daniel has trained with Jonathan Watts, Larry Long at the Ruth Page Foundation, Roger Tully in London, and David Howard in New York. He danced with American Ballet Theatre, The Joffrey Ballet, and the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company. He has been featured with the BBC of London and appears in the documentary film “Ballet Russes.” He was televised in Russia dancing with Ekaterina Maximova at the Kremlin Palace, as well as appearing with Gala Des Etoiles in Montreal. He is noted for his partnering skills and dramatic roles.
Mr. Baudendistel was awarded First Prize at the Saint Sauveur International Choreographic Competition. He has choreographed ballets for the ABT Studio Company, Oregon Ballet Theatre, and ABT Summer Intensive Programs. He has also directed and choreographed for the Hiroshima Opera Company. In addition to this he performs with the Ballet Arizona and has been featured in Don Quixote, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet.
As a teacher he has worked with students at the ABT Summer Intensive in New York, The Joffrey Ballet, and continues to coach dancers privately around the world. He is noted for his knowledge of kinetic principles, music theory, and understanding of the classical form as it relates to the dance. He was Professor of dance at the New School University Eugene Lang College in New York City. He takes great pride in his extensive dance collection.
Gillian George – Upper School Director and Ballet Mistress
Gillian George is a ballet dancer, teacher and yoga instructor in Phoenix. She has performed in full-length ballet productions with Ballet Arizona, Orange County’s Festival Ballet Theatre and Convergence Ballet in Phoenix. Her classical training was received at the Lauridsen Ballet Centre, Southland Ballet Academy and the San Francisco Ballet School. She also studied at the Royal Ballet School, in London, for a short-term. During summers, she studied ballet on scholarship in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Houston and London. In 2013, she was one of the original dancers to perform in Gala De Danza, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, an annual international dance performance. She was a YoungArtsDance winner in 2014 and competed in the Youth America Grand Prix finals, in New York, for three years. Gillian enjoys sharing her passion of movement to others and is furthering her education by pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology.
Bonnie Calvert – Lower School Director
Bonnie Calvert began her study of ballet at the age of seven, training within The Royal Academy of Dance syllabus. Following her completion of the RAD program, she began studying at Master Ballet Academy in Scottsdale, Arizona, under Slawomir and Irena Wozniak. During her time at MBA, Bonnie had the privilege of dancing with Phoenix Ballet in their productions of The Nutcracker and Graduation Ball and was a member of Phoenix Ballet’s touring company. In 2015, Bonnie moved to Tacoma, Washington, after being accepted into the training program of Paradosi Ballet. She completed Paradosi’s training program with honors and was extended an invitation to join Paradosi’s professional touring company in 2017. As a member of Paradosi Ballet, Bonnie has traveled and performed throughout the United States as well as internationally. Her tenure at Paradosi included leading daily classes for the company and trainees, choreographing pieces for Paradosi’s performance repertoire, and guest teaching at workshops and in studios along the west coast. Bonnie has also taught students from around the world in ballet, contemporary, conditioning and character dance, as a faculty member of Paradosi’s Summer Intensive. Since 2016, Bonnie has also led the ballet department at the Mel Korum YMCA, in Puyallup, Washington. While at Korum, she created their current pre-pointe and pointe programs, and developed and trained new dance teachers. Bonnie is excited to now be a part of Southwest Ballet Theatre and bringing quality dance education to the West Valley.
Jennifer Benham began dancing at the age of 4. Her formal training took place at The School of Oregon Ballet Theatre under the direction of Damara Bennet and Christopher Stowell. After attending Pacific Northwest Ballet’s summer intensive on scholarship, she joined the company Oregon Ballet Theatre as an Apprentice. There she had many opportunities to tour and perform with the company, particularly Balanchine works such as The Nutcracker, The Four Temperaments, Who Cares, and La Source, as well as world premieres by Kent Stowell and Christopher Stowell. Later she continued her education at Brigham Young University on a full dancing scholarship where she received a degree in Dance and Athletic Training. With the University’s ballet company, she toured and performed with Theatre Ballet to the majority of the western states many lead roles from Swan Lake (Odette/Odile), to Cinderella (Cinderella), to La Bayadère (Nikiya). Upon graduation, she danced for a season with Utah Regional Ballet as a soloist.
Jennifer has been teaching for over 10 years all around the world. She most recently has returned to the States from living and teaching abroad in Japan. As much as she loves to dance and perform she is enjoying this phase of life being a teacher of the art form she loves so much, a supportive wife to her husband who serves as a USAF pilot, and a mother to their three kids.
Angela Brown is a seventh generation Arizona native, born and raised in Phoenix. She has studied dance since she was three years of age including, ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, acrobatics, hip hop and theater. The summer after her high school graduation in 2015, Angela worked at a camp in New York where she taught inner city children different dance techniques. She is now studying at Grand Canyon University for her bachelors in Business Administration with a dance minor.
Angela has had the privilege of performing many times including performances at the Herberger Theater in The Snow Queen Ballet, The Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, and many local events and competitions. She started competing with a tap team and then continued to compete in other styles of dance throughout her high school career. Angela has performed with the Ethington Dance Ensemble in their first tap piece for their faculty show.
Angela believes that dance should be an escape and tool to express your feelings in ways that words cannot.
Erica Lizotte – Jazz and Modern
Erica Lizotte graduated in 2000 from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a BFA in Dance. She then moved to Chicago and worked with Zephyr Dance Company and Cindy Brandle Dance Company where she had the opportunity to tour throughout the US. Erica also taught dance in the Chicago Public Schools as well as many after school programs. Since moving to the Valley with her husband she has worked with Desert Dance Theater, Dulce Dance Company, and is now in her seventh season with Center Dance Ensemble. Erica had the opportunity to travel throughout the Valley schools with CDE’s educational outreach program, Poetry ‘n Motion. She has also had the privilege of being a part of the Wolftrap performances. Erica is excited for the opportunity to share her love of dance to the children of the community.
Sydney Walker – Administrative Assistant
Sydney started classical ballet at the age of four, and completed several Royal Academy of Dance examinations with Arizona Youth Ballet under the instruction of Kelly Moul. After ten years, she joined Southwest Ballet Theatre and has enjoyed dancing in their professional performances. Her favorite roles include the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz, Pretty Bird in Tarzan, the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, and a Czardas soloist in Coppélia. She also enjoys her administration role at SWBT, and loves helping others find joy in dance.
Sydney is currently in college studying to be a dental hygienist. On the side, she teaches piano lessons to several students with her 14 years of piano experience. She hopes to continue teaching and dancing, as well as grow her photography business in the future.