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Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy

Our Mission

Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy was established in the fall of 1997 to preserve the art of classical dance while providing professional instruction to aspiring professionals and recreational dancers in the community of Anchorage, Alaska and beyond. 


Our Vision

Our vision is to create a world where everyone shares our love for the classical art of dance. We have witnessed first hand how dance builds character, confidence, and friendships. We seek to inspire, enrich, and educate while creating an encouraging and positive atmosphere. Students at ACBA learn self-discipline and teamwork while gaining self-esteem. We strive to provide exceptional instruction and leadership to our students and instill the importance of etiquette and manners.


Our Values

Nurture - ACBA provides a constructive environment through positive reinforcement and encouragement of individual technique, performance development, potential, and the love of dance.

Respect - ACBA maintains a culture of mutual respect. ACBA respects a dancer’s personal qualities and contributions, enabling them to develop self-respect for their abilities and skills and their progress as a dancer.

Integrity - ACBA acts with honesty, integrity, and trust in offering all dancers opportunities to succeed.

Excellence - ACBA uses sound educational practices based on specific knowledge of dance education, child development, and the art of dance that ensures a safe, healthy, and appropriate environment for learning.

Commitment - ACBA is committed to the development of the dancer as an artist and a person, as well as an appreciation of the art of dance.

Community - ACBA is a community. We are a family. It is a place where all are welcome and all belong.


Sponsors of the Ballet

The Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy is funded in part by the Municipality of Anchorage as appropriated by the Assembly and Arts Advisory Commission, the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation, The Rasmuson Foundation, The Atwood Foundation, The Garold Gardner Scholarship Foundation, The Block Foundation, The Manning Family Foundation, The Alaska State Council of the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Artistic Staff

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Stephanie Brent - Executive & Co-Artistic Director

Born in Oroville, California, Stephanie Brent started her dance career at age three with the Stars National Dance Team in Monterey, California. Ms. Stephanie danced competitively for six years where she collected multiple titles and awards. She went on to study under Ms. Lucy Cederleaf at the Dance Ballet 2 in Roseville, California. Ms, Stephanie continued her dance education at the Roseville Academy of Dance in Roseville, California. Her studies have included ballet, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, modern, tap, character dance, ballroom, musical theatre, and hip hop. She has performed in countless shows. Her favorites were Giselle, Wizard of Oz, and Swan Lake. She danced in The Nutcracker with the San Francisco Ballet and Sacramento Ballet. She also performed in Disneyland, California for several years. Ms. Stephanie has taught dance worldwide, including: Dance Gallery 2, Roseville, California; Yokota Dance Company, Tokyo, Japan; and in Germany where she was the studio director at the Grace Academy of Dance in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Ms. Stephanie has trained dancers that have gone on to So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Next Best Dance Crew, and have choreographed for World of Dance. She has a Bachelors of Arts in Liberal Studies with an emphasis on child development and English language acquisition and minors in child development and English as a second language, as well as, a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from California State University Sacramento. Ms. Stephanie became the Executive/Co-Artistic Director of the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy in 2019 after being Academy Principal. As director, the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy placed multiple times in the NUVO dance competition and sent students off to prestigious dance programs and colleges. Ms. Stephanie has choreographed many pieces that have been repeatedly performed in the Anchorage Ballet’s repertoire. She is the co-creator of the Dance with Me and Bitty Bear Ballet curriculum for the Academy and an active member of the DSOA Inner Circle.

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Ryan Martin - Co-Artistic Director & Ballet Master

With a career expanding over 28 years, Mr. Ryan Martin has more than 25 years of experience as a professional ballet and contemporary dancer. He graduated from two prestigious ballet schools, the National Ballet of Canada and Mr. Ryan was the first American male dancer ever to be accepted into the Kirov School - now known as the Vaganova Ballet Academy. Ryan has danced with companies in Russia, Germany and the United States (Tulsa Ballet, Charleston Ballet Theatre, BalletMet, and Milwaukee Ballet) and worked closely with celebrated artists and choreographers. He has performed principal and solo roles in the classical repertoire as well as working with important choreographers of the 20th century. His own choreography is a reflection of his dynamic experiences and includes original works in both classical and contemporary styles. Mr. Ryan became the Co-Artistic Director and Ballet Master of the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy in 2020.

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Tara Brooker - Assistant Director

Originally from Florida, Ms. Tara Brooker’s love of ballet started at age four. Ms. Tara studied ballet, jazz, and tap at The Dance Academy in Tampa, Florida. In addition, she was lucky to attend two high schools that offered excellent dance programs. She also studied ballet at Sell’s Broadway Company under Chris Sell. After high school, she was a teacher assistant in Riverview, Florida. Ms. Tara moved to Oklahoma in 2005 with her husband and two kids, where she continued her dance education and began teaching ballet.  She has performed in Chicago, Anchorage Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker and with The Gemini Dance Band for five years. She has studied under Courtland Weaver, Michelle Katcher, and many others. Since joining the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy in 2018, Ms. Tara has choreographed many pieces and is the co-creator of the Dance with Me and Bitty Bear Ballet curriculum for the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy. Ms. Tara is also an active member of the National Dance Education Organization.

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Kathryn Gabel - Associate Director

Kathryn Gabel began her ballet career at the Lake Erie Ballet Academy at the age of four. Ms. Kathryn spent the next five year training under Statia Sublette, founder of the Lake Erie Ballet, Youngstown Civic Ballet, Buffalo Ballet, and Head of Chautauqua Dance Department. Ms. Kathryn had her first opportunity to perform at the age of six in the annual Lake Erie Ballet’s Performance of The Nutcracker as a party child. At age 10, Ms. Kathryn enrolled in the Sylvia Clay Ballet Academy. She continued to study in Haverhill, Massachusetts, during the week and took Saturday classes with Boston Ballet. Wherever Ms. Kathryn lived, she always managed to find a ballet class to take. After having her two sons, she enrolled in an adult class and began teaching at Pacific School of Dance. Ms. Kathryn spent the next 20 years working with Connie Hogge, a Eugene Ballet Academy Instructor; Christine Rader of Ballet West: Mary Paual, the former owner of Petaluma School of Ballet; and Joan Sanders-Seidel, a Master Program Instructor at the North Carolina School for the Arts. In addition, Ms. Kathryn rehearsed the Party Scene and Waltz of the Flowers for the Eugene Ballet Coos Bay performance of The Nutcracker for 18 years.

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Alice Bassler Sullivan - Ballet Mistress

Studying with Lynda Lorimer and Steve Primis. In 1975, Ms. Sullivan earned a BFA from the University of Utah Ballet Department, graduating magna cum laude, while performing with Ballet West. She danced with the First Chamber Dance Company, and five seasons with the Minnesota Ballet. Alice returned to Alaska in 1982 and led Alaska Dance Theatre in unprecedented achievements through June 2009 as its Founding Artistic Director. In recognition of her outstanding leadership within the community, Ms. Sullivan was named a finalist in the BP Women of Achievement Award and the Athena Awards. In 2010, Ms. Sullivan was awarded the Lorene Harrison Lifetime Achievement Award by the Mayor’s Arts Award. Sullivan was also honored with a Rasmuson Individual Artist award in 2013.

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Amy Black - Instructor

Originally from Oklahoma, Ms. Amy Black started studying ballet and jazz at the age of five. Ms. Amy has studied at the La Mesa Dance Academy, Dance Works of Enid, and the Broadway Bound Academy of Dance. She has done summer intensive with the Washington Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet. She has trained under Trey Pickett, Cecelia Jarmillo, and Debby Alllen and has worked with the New Mexico Ballet Company and Ballet Repertoire Theatre of New Mexico. She began teaching ballet in 2017. She also trains as a figure skater. Ms. Amy relocated to Anchorage, Alaska in the spring of 2021 and is proud to be a part of Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy.

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James Ackermann - Instructor

Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Mr. James Ackermann has been dancing since he was five years old. He started his dance study in Ballet, Jazz, and Tap, later adding Musical Theatre, Hip Hop, and Contemporary to his repertoire. Mr. James has trained under Ms. Celia Aramillo and Ms. Jennifer Boren, and developed a strong sense of technique while dancing in companies like Festival Ballet. Musical Theatre is his passion and he has been featured in shows such as Footloose, West Side Story, and Chorus Line. Mr. James started teaching multiple genres of dance in 2010 and has performed in over 70 Musicals, he is excited to pass his passion on to the next generation.

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Kiara Bringhurst - Instructor

Born in Utah, Ms. Kiara Bringhurst’s love of ballet started at the age of seven when she took lessons in her friend’s basement. With her dad in the military, her family moved around the west and eventually ended up in Alaska. She didn’t pick up her dancing dream again for ten years, dancing at the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy. She has been with the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy since January of 2021 studying under Ms. Kathryn Gabel. She graduated from Chugiak High School and Family Partnership Charter School with a dual enrollment in May of 2021. Ms Kiara has been studying dance at the Brigham Young University-Idaho with plans to graduate with a major in Family Studies and a minor in Dance.

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Shannon Wellmann - Instructor & Soloist

Ms. Shannon Wellmann is a born and raised Alaskan. The Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy, has been her second home since the age of three. She has had instruction in the Vaganova ballet technique from Mr. Ryan Martin and Ms. Holly Steadman. She splits her ballet education between Anchorage and New York City. Ms. Shannon has also been trained in the French ballet technique under the direction of Mr. Francois Perron at the French Academie of Ballet. She has studied contemporary dance and choreography from Mr. Juan Rodriguez, instructor for the Broadway Dance Center and the Juilliard School.  She has completed several summer intensives, including: American Ballet Theatre and America’s National Ballet Company. She has studied under Mr. Sascha Radetsky, Mr. Ethan Brown, and Ms. Hollie Wright. Shannon has danced in many Anchorage Ballet productions. She has been cast in several featured roles in the Nutcracker, including the Snow Queen, Caribou Doll, Soldier Doll, and the Chinese Empress. She was featured as a soloist in Chopiniana in 2021. Her many other performances have included Aurora and the Northern Lights, Stars and Stripes, and Coppelia.


Charlotte Letner - Instructor

Born in Tennessee, Charlotte Letner is a graduate of Chugiak High School. Her education includes the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School Professional Division Teachers’ Program Intensive. She has undergone extensive education under Holly Steadman and Stephanie Brent at the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy in the levels of Dance with Me, Creative Movement, Bitty Bear Ballet, and Pre Ballet. Ms. Charlotte is a specialist in early childhood education. Since 2003, Ms. Charlotte has worked in the early childhood education field as  a Lead Preschool Teacher at the Sunshine Schools and as a private childcare provider. She joined the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy in 2017.

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Mary Claire - Instructor

These classes are for individuals age 14 and up with little or no previous ballet experience. Classes move at a moderate pace so that all participants can learn the beginning technique concepts in a relaxed and non-competitive environment. Dancing improves posture and flexibility, and is a fun and different way to exercise. Participants may choose how many classes they attend per week. The adult/teen ballet class is a non-performing class.

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Avery Canale - Instructor

Born in Fort Worth, Texas Avery Canale started dancing at age four at Act One Ballet Studio. Mx. Avery has studied Ballet, Jazz, Modern, and Contemporary dance. Mx. Avery is also an accomplished figure skater and continues to train under the director of Ms. Lisa Henry. Mx. Avery studied at the North Central Ballet Studio and the Nytex Ice Rink under Ms. Jennifer Anderson and Ms. Beth Zeoli. Mx. Avery has earned several first place awards at regional and district Color Guard competitions under the direction of Ms. Lara Rogers. Mx. Avery has undergone extensive education under Ms. Stephanie Brent and Ms. Tara Brooker at the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy in the levels of Bitty Bear Ballet and Pre-Ballet.

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Layla Brent - Teaching Apprentice

Originally from California, Ms. Layla Brent started her dancing journey at age five at the Grace Studio of Dance in Kaiserslautern, Germany under the Direction of Ms. Jenny Doyle and Mr. Sobir Utabaev. She relocated to the Anchorage and the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy at age seven where she joined the Pre-Professional Program at age 10. She has studied Ballet, Jazz, Modern, Hip Hop, Musical Theatre, Contemporary, Lyrical, Tap, and Character Dance. Ms. Layla has trained under Mr. Ryan Martin, Ms. Holly Steadman, Ms. Stephanie Brent, Ms. Michelle Katcher, Mr. Colby Damon, Ms. Victoria Jaini, and Mr. James Kirby Rodgers. She attended Sacramento Ballet Senior Summer Intensive in 2022 under the direction of Mr. Jorge Laico and Mr. Anthony Krutzkamp on a merit scholarship. Ms. Layla has performed in Anchorage Ballet’s productions of Coppelia, Carnival of the Animals, Chopiniana, Dracula, Stars and Stripes, The Ugly Duckling, Sleeping Beauty Fairies as the Lilac Fairy, and in The Nutcracker as the Dew Drop, a Harlequin Doll, and Chocolate Dance. She has competed at Youth America Grand Prix Semi - Finals twice, once in San Francisco and once in Seattle. Ms. Layla has placed several times at NUVO Anchorage and in 2021, she was awarded NUVO Junior Break Out Artist. From 2018 - 2022, Ms. Layla was a Teaching Assistant at the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy. She also has a Teaching Certification from the International Dance Teacher Association and a Certification in Toddler and Preschool Dance from Once Upon a Ballet.

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Madison Kohler - Teaching Apprentice

Ms. Madison Kohler was born in Anchorage, Alaska and started dancing at age four at the Children Dance Theatre. She started her formal dance training at the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy at age eight and joined ACBA’s Pre-Professional Program in 2018. She then went on to study at the Kirov Academy of Washington D.C. under the direction of Ms. Joan Boada. She also attended Los Angeles Ballet Summer Intensive in 2022 under Ms. Colleen Neary and Mr. Thordal Christensen. Ms. Maddie has studied Ballet, Jazz, Modern, Contemporary, and Character Dance. She has been extensively trained by Mr. Ryan Martin, Ms. Stephanie Brent, Mr. Runqiao Du, and Ms. Michelle Katcher. Ms. Maddie has performed as Marie in Anchorage Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. She has also danced in the ballet’s Coppelia and Carnival of the Animals. In 2021, Ms. Maddie received third place and a DJ’s Pick award at NUVO Anchorage. She also competed at Youth America Grand Prix Semi - Finals in Seattle in 2020 and 2021.

Teaching Assistants

Ms. Kinley Kohler

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Ms. Araceli Ardern

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Ms. Julia Wagner

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Ms. Lia Zender

Guest Artists


Amy Herchenroeher

A native of Pennsylvania, Amy Herchenroether attended Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School under the direction of Marjorie Grundvig and Dennis Marshall. She continued her studies in Boston Ballet School’s trainee program as a Pao scholar for two years. Since joining Saint Louis Ballet in 2013, Ms. Herchenroether has danced numerous principal and soloist roles including the title role in Giselle, the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Tall Girl in George Balanchine’s Rubies, Mercedes in Don Quixote, and Fairy Godmother in Cinderella. She has also had the pleasure of performing in Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs and originating featured roles in Amy Seiwert’s Other View, Tom Gold’s Oasis, and several works by Saint Louis Ballet’s artistic director, Gen Horiuchi.


Matthew Ragsdale Rusk

Born in Tucson, Arizona, Matthew trained at Houston Ballet Academy and the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, where he graduated with honors in dance.  He also spent summers at School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and the Royal Ballet School.  A graduate of Indiana University, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Ballet with an Outside Field in Psychology in 2015.  While at IU, he was the recipient of the Premier Young Artist Award and the Ken C. Whitener Fund for Ballet Excellence, and performed principal roles in George Balanchine’s Emeralds, Four Temperaments, Divertimento No. 15, and Swan Lake, and Marius Petipa’s La Bayadere (Kingdom of the Shades).  Professionally he joined Cincinnati Ballet in 2015 before transferring to Saint Louis Ballet in 2016, where he is in his seventh season.  His repertory at SLB includes Romeo (Romeo and Juliet), Prince (Cinderella), Cavalier and Snow King (The Nutcracker), and principal roles in Balanchine’s Who Cares?, Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs, and Peter Martins’s Hallelujah Junction.  He has also guest performed with Nevada Ballet Theatre, Houston Repertoire Ballet, and Deos Contemporary Ballet.

Story of The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker story told by the Anchorage Ballet is based on Alexander Dumas’ revision of the original story  written by ETA Hoffmann.


The Holiday Party

The Stahlbaums’ and their children, Marie, Franz, and Fritz, are hosting their annual Christmas Eve party at their home. Family and friends have come to decorate the Christmas Tree, as well as, enjoy the party. As the giant clock strikes 8:00, Marie’s godfather, Drosselmeyer, enters the Stahlbaum’s home. Drosselmeyer brought a special toy for one of the children, a wooden Nutcracker, that Marie was immediately taken by. After the party ends and Marie is sent to bed. She sneaks back to the Christmas tree to check on her beloved nutcracker. Suddenly the clock strikes midnight and mice begin to fill the room as the Christmas Tree grows to an enormous height. Marie finds herself in the midst of a battle between an army of soldiers, led by her now life-sized nutcracker, and the mice, led by the mouse king. In an effort to save her Nutcracker Prince, Marie pulls on the Mouse King’s Tail. The distraction leads the Nutcracker to victory.

The Land of the Snow

The Nutcracker Prince takes Marie on a journey through the Land of the Snow. The Land of the Snow is an enchanting forest full of magic and wonder. Once they arrive the Snow Queen and her dancing snowflakes welcome them. The Nutcracker Prince and Marie depart on a sleigh pulled by magical caribou.



The Land of the Sweets

The Nutcracker Prince escorts Marie to the magical Land of the Sweets. Upon arriving at the gates, Marie and her Prince are greeted by angels and introduced to the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. The people of the Land of the Sweets entertain Marie and the Nutcracker Prince with a Spanish Dance, a Raven Dance, a Snow Dragon, a Trepek, Mother Ginger and her Polichinelles, a Dance of the Northern Lights, and a Waltz of Flowers. Before Marie and the Nutcracker Prince leave, the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier perform a beautiful pas de deux. Marie and the Nutcracker Prince say good-bye to all of their new friends and Marie’s dream comes to an end. She wakes to find herself by the Christmas tree with her beloved Nutcracker doll.




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