Biographies for the Teachers of The School of the Sacramento Ballet
Melanie began her training at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet under the world reowned direction of Marcia Dale Weary. Her performance experiences included dancing at the International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi in both 1994 and 1998 as well as having the opportunity to partner with artists such as Albert Evans and Marcelo Gomes in George Balanchines, The Nutcracker. Melanie joined The Sacramento Ballet as an apprentice in 2000 and immediately got offered principal and soloist roles, Blue Bird Pas de Deux in Sleeping Beauty and the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. As a company member the following year, other principal roles included The Four Tempermants, Concerto Barocco, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, Tarantella, Agon, Serenade, Stars and Stripes, Allegro Brillante, A Midsummer Nights Dream, as well as Ron Cunninghams Carmina Burana. After six seasons with the company, Melanie began teaching for various ballet schools within the region and enrolled with Sacramento City College. Not only has Melanie been affiliated with The Sacramento Ballet, she has also performed with Music Circus in their 2006 production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum as Tintinabula and choreographed two productions for The Sacramento Opera. Melanie is thrilled to step into the role of School Prinicpal and looks forward to working with the students at every level atThe School of the Sacramento Ballet.
Vanessa Bautista has danced for Red Bucket Dance Theatre, and performed student through pre-professional roles with Pacific Northwest Ballet and Sacramento Ballet. Vanessa studied on full scholarship with Pacific Northwest Ballet and The Rock School of the Pennsylvania Ballet, in addition to attending summer sessions with David Howard, Finis Jung, and Ballet Academy East. Vanessa attended both U.C. Davis studying Chicano Art, and CSUS where she earned her B.A. in Theatre and Dance, and was awarded the Merit Scholarship in 2010. During her time at CSUS Vanessa founded the contemporary dance company Ballet Underground, and her choreographic work was showcased at the Cesar Chavez Art and Music Festival. Her choreography was also chosen to represent CSUS at Mayor Kevin Johnson’s For Arts Sake presentation in 2012. Vanessa served as a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist for the Any Given Child initiative, and currently coordinates Education and Outreach for Sacramento Ballet, in addition to her position on Faculty with the School of the Sacramento Ballet. Vanessa lives in Sacramento with her three wonderful children.
Maia Wilkins trained with the Joffrey student and apprentice companies before joining The Joffrey main company. During her 18-year history with The Joffrey Ballet, Maia Wilkins danced featured roles that showcased her artistic range and physical versatility. From Balanchine pointe to Pilobolus bare feet; favorite ballerina fairies to flying on a trapeze, she has gotten to work with numerous répétiteurs and choreographers. Maia Wilkins is honored to continue Gerald Arpino’s legacy as a repetiteur for his works and the Gerald Arpino Foundation. In 2006, along with Gerald Arpino, Wilkins was named one of the Chicagoans of the year for her important contribution to the arts in Chicago. She can be seen in the feature films Save the Last Dance and Robert Altman’s The Company. As a freelance artist, Wilkins enjoys performing and teaching throughout the country. Maia loves dancing both on stage and off with her husband and fellow artist Michael Levine.
Michael Levine is from Grass Valley, California. He trained and danced with Sacramento Ballet and San Francisco Ballet before joining The Joffrey Ballet. As a principle with the Joffrey Ballet Levine had the pleasure of dancing numerous leading and historical rolls. He has been involved with many world premier collaborations with The Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and other independent choreographers. Levine has received recognition for his technical ability and classical line as well as for his excellent character portrayal. As a freelance artist, Levine enjoys performing teaching, coaching and helping lead workshops throughout the country. Micheal Levine’s photography captures moments from his unique, experienced dancer perspective. Levine enjoys sharing time both on stage and off with his beautiful wife Maia Wilkins.
Joanna Summerhays began lessons with Marguerite Phares at age five, and in these early years discovered her love for dance. At age ten she joined Phares Theatre Ballet and danced with this company for the next several years. In 1985, Joanna also joined Laverne Krei’s tap company, and was awarded scholarship and first place in local and national competitions. For the past 18 years Joanna has worked for several dance studios as teacher and choreographer for ballet, tap, musical theatre, and lyrical dance. Among the hundreds of students Joanna has taught, many have received scholarships and have become professional dancers and teachers. Joanna is a caring and devoted teacher, guided by her love for the arts and a desire to inspire in her students ~ the joy of dance.
Jessica Lawrence, born and raised in the Sacramento area, began her dance training at the age of 3. By the time she was 14 years old she was training on scholarship and performing professionally with the Sacramento Ballet. She also trained at the San Francisco Ballet School, American Ballet Theatre, Washington Ballet School, and at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC as a student at the Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell program. In the fall of 2009 she joined the Suzanne Farrell Ballet as an apprentice and was promoted to corps de ballet the following season. She has performed numerous Balanchine ballets across the United States as well as internationally in Bulgaria and Oman. When she is not touring with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet she frequently performs with the Sacramento Ballet and Folsom’s E:motion Dance Ensemble. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s of Arts in Liberal Education at Saint Mary’s College of California. As a teacher, Jessica strives to pass on her love of ballet to her students through encouragement, determination, and expression.
Born and raised in Sacramento, Karen began her dance training with Pennie Davies. She trained locally with Bobbi Bader, Sue Geller, Cliff Klein, and Carol Pompei. Karen graduated with honors from San Jose State University with a B.A. and M.A. in Theatre Arts/Dance. Karen has studied and performed works by MIna Garman, Greg LIzenberry, Claire Whistler, Kay Clark, Duncan MacFarland, Bill Evans, and Cliff Keuter. She has performed with Janlyn Dance Company as well as other regional modern companies in the San Francisco/Bay Area. Karen has over 35 years of teaching experience. She has taught all ages ranging from pre-school to pre-professional students as well as at the college level and senior adults. Karen has a passion for teaching dance and is thrilled to be on staff at The School of the Sacramento Ballet.
Michael Separovich was born and raised in Sacramento, California. He trained with Marguerite Phares until continuing his training at The Juilliard School where he received his BFA in 1996. Upon graduation he moved to Chicago to dance for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. He then moved back to his home town of Sacramento and danced for Sacramento Ballet for 7 seasons. He then moved to San Francisco and danced for Robert Moses’ Kin, Amy Seiwert’s im’ij-re, Mark Foehringer and the San Francisco Opera until his retirement. He is now a faculty member of both the Sacramento Ballet and Hawkins School of Dance.
Gina Domenichelli-Illingworth trained at the San Francisco Ballet School and the San Francisco Conservatory of Ballet. Her career began with the Oakland Ballet Company under the direction of Ron Guidi. She was a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Norway and worked with many renowned classical and contemporary choreographers/instructors dancing roles such as, Kitri in Nureyev’s Don Quixote, Lise in Heinz Sporeli’s La Fille mal Gardée, the Sylph in La Slyphide, Brian McDonald’s Firebird, and also principal roles in choreography by George Balanchine, Jiri Kylian, Alvin Ailey, and Glen Tetley. Ms. Domenichelli-Illingworth also worked with the Cleveland Ballet and Eugene Ballet as a principal dancer. She was one of the founding members of the Diablo Ballet in Walnut Creek, choreographing and dancing with the company during their initial seasons. She also danced with the Lawrence Pech Dance Company in its formative years.
Ms. Domenichelli-Illingworth directed the Lake Erie Ballet in Erie, PA producing original choreography for The Nutcracker, Cinderella, and Hansel and Gretel, and taught dance at the Berkley Ballet, Contra Costa Ballet, Brigham Young University, Ballet Tucson, Motion 41 Dance (Omaha, NE), and Mercyhurst University. She created the Mercyhurst North East Dance Institute in 2006, a professional dance training program for aspiring young dancers in the community. In addition to this extensive experience, she also holds a B.A in Dance and an M.S. in Organizational Leadership.