Mitch Flanders

Artistic Director/Ballet/Pointe

Mr. Flanders began his training with the Atlanta Ballet and on scholarship at the School of American Ballet in New York City.  After graduation, he was invited to dance with the Eglevsky Ballet under the direction of Edward Villella.  There he danced leading roles in many Balanchine ballets including Serenade, Four Temperaments, Allegro Brillante and Swan Lake where he partnered  NYC Ballet principal dancer, Allegra Kent.  He later joined the Chicago City Ballet, directed by Maria Tallcheif.  While at CCB, he was a frequent partner of Suzanne Farrell, NYC Ballet Prima Ballerina.  He partnered Ms. Farrell in Cinderella as the prince in Paul Mejia’s acclaimed full-length version.  He was also featured with Ms. Farrell in a PBS “Dance in America” series special Eight By Adler.  also, while in Chicago, he was featured guest dancer with the Lyric Opera in Chicago.  

Mr. Flanders has been a principal dancer with the Los Angeles Ballet and worked as a guest artist throughout the U.S. touring with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland and in Europe performing in Rome, Paris, Berlin, Geneva, Vienne and Tunis Tunisia.  He performed with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City for five years sharing the stage with many of the world’s greatest singers including, Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, Mirella Freni and leading directors James Levine and Franco Zeffirelli.  His television credits include “Live at the Met” with the opera Aida, and Lyric Opera of Chicago’s “Eugene Onegion”.

His teaching experience includes The New Jersey Ballet School, New Dance Studio NYC, Providence Ballet, The Rock School in Philadephia PA, and ballet master for The Ballet Rotaru of Atlanta and the Georgia Ballet.  he has served as the grant panelist for the Georgia Council for the Arts for three years and for the last 20 years has been the artistic director of the Griffin Ballet Theatre, owner of Studio D School of Dance and director of Festival Dance Camp at the University of Georgia.  As artistic director of GBT, he has created and staged many full-length ballets such as Peter Pan, Robin Hood, Coppelia, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, The Armed Man, and Nutcracker.  The Griffin Ballet Theatre prides itself as being one of the top professional and pre-professional companies in Georgia.  His dancers have been accepted into the countries top dance schools such as American Ballet Theatre, Houston Ballet, The Rock School, Joffrey Ballet and Georgia Governor’s Honors Scholarship Programs.


Michael Vernon


Professor Michael Vernon from Indiana University started dancing at the Nesta Brooking School of Ballet in London before studying at the Royal Ballet School in London with such legendary teachers as Dame Ninette de Valois and Leonide Massine. He performed with the Royal Ballet, the Royal Opera Ballet, and the London Festival Ballet before moving to New York in 1976 to join the Eglevsky Ballet as ballet master and resident choreographer. He retained those positions under the directorship of the famed Edward Villella, and himself became artistic director of the Long Island-based company in 1989. He remained in that position until 1996.

Vernon choreographed numerous ballets for the Eglevsky Ballet, in addition to ballets for many professional companies in the United States and worldwide, such as BalletMet of Columbus, Ohio, and North Carolina Dance Theatre. Mikhail Baryshnikov commissioned him to choreograph the highly successful pas de deux In a Country Garden for American Ballet Theatre (ABT). His solo S’Wonderful was danced by ABT principal Cynthia Harvey in the presence of President and Mrs. Reagan and shown nationwide on CBS television. He also served as assistant choreographer on Ken Russell’s movie Valentino, starring Rudolph Nureyev and Leslie Caron.

Vernon has taught at Steps on Broadway (New York City) since 1980, working with dancers from New York City Ballet, ABT, and many other high-profile companies. He is an integral part of the Manhattan Dance Project, which brings New York-style master classes to all regions of the United States. He has been involved with the Ballet Program of the Chautauqua Institute since 1996 and is Artistic Director for the Ballet School of Stamford (Conn). In addition, he is a permanent guest teacher at the Manhattan Youth Ballet and has had a long association with Ballet Hawaii. He taught for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and its school for 18 years.

Vernon has been company teacher for American Ballet Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He has guest taught in companies all over the world, including the West Australian Ballet, the National Ballet of China, the Hong Kong Ballet, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Berlin Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, and the Norwegian Ballet. He has been a guest teacher for The Juilliard School and The Joffrey School, and recently joined the panel of judges for the Youth America Grand Prix regional semi-finals.

Since being appointed Chair of the Ballet Department at the Jacobs School of Music, Vernon has choreographed Cathedral (2006), Endless Night (2009), Jeux (2010) and the ever-popular seasonal ballet The Nutcracker. He has staged and provided additional choreography for the full-length classics Swan Lake (with American ballerina Cynthia Gregory) and The Sleeping Beauty. He re-choreographed Spectre de la Rose (the ballet that made Nijinsky famous) for New York City Ballet Principal Daniel Ulbricht.

He has choreographed for many IU Opera Theater productions, including Faust, Cendrillon, Rigoletto, and most recently supplied the movement for the world premiere of Vincent.


Joseph Kerwin 

Joseph Kerwin was born in Washington DC, he currently resides in Finland and is Ballet master for the National Finnish Ballet under Director, Kenneth Greve.  He has worked with Alberta Ballet with Director, Mikko Nissinen, Deutsch Oper Berlin with Director, Ray Barra, and Malmö Balleten with Director, Jonas Kåge. As a dancer, Mr. Kerwin danced with Zurich Opera Ballet, Director, Patricia Neary, Louisville Ballet Theater, Director, Alun Jones, Indianapolis Ballet Theater, Director, George Verdak and Fiona Ferrie Ballet Company with Director, Fiona Ferr. Joseph Kerwin has studied at Georgia State University, Georgia State University Dance Department under Director, Katie Shane, Maggie Black and David Howard, in New York City.


Bala Sarasvati


Jane Willson Professor in Arts, Artistic Director and choreographer, CORE Concert Contemporary and Aerial Dance Company at the The University of Georgia Department of Dance. Bala is a Certified Movement Analyst (CMA) specializing in the application of movement theory to dance training and performance. She holds a B.S. and B.F.A. degrees from the University of Utah, M.A. and M.F.A. from The Ohio State University. She has served on the faculty for the José Limón Dance Institute, the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies, Seattle Dance Centre. She serves on the faculty for the Universidad Nacional Graduate Program in Dance, Heredia, Costa Rica (2007, 2009, 2011 and 2017) and guest artist for University of Costa Rica in 2015. Her dance training approach has been presented at several Laban conferences including El Contro Laban and Global Laban 2008, Rio de Janeiro, International Council Kinetography LabanLaban Centre, London, and at numerous universities and intensive summer dance programs. Bala has choreographed over 60 full-length dance pieces. Her choreography has been shown throughout the U.S. and China, and in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, France and Taiwan. She has presented choreography at Judson Church and St. Marks’ Church in New York City; Seattle Bumbershoot Art Festivals, Seattle, WA; Piccolo Spoleto Festivals in Charleston, SC. In addition, presented choreography at National Dance Association and American College Dance Festival Association regional and national gala performances, and performed at two National Society for Literature and Science conferences. Shakti-The Force of Destiny, one of the many interactive computer and dance projects, was presented as a Cultural Olympiad Event during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Springbreak, was selected for the Quinto Festival International Video Danza ‘99, Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has served on the board for the National American College Dance Festival Association 1995-2001, and currently, US-China Cultural and Educational Foundation,  UGA Ideas for Creative Exploration (ICE) steering committee and the Laban Institute of Movement Studies, NYC.  Bala served as Head, Department of Dance at The University of Georgia 1998-1999 and 2000-2006. Bala recently completed teaching certification for Yoga Trapeze.  Her work samples can be viewed on You Tube Baladance Channel.


Regina Willoughby

Regina Willoughby began dancing at the age of 8 at Ballet Midland while growing up in West Texas. At the age of 15, she was awarded a scholarship to study at Virginia School of the Arts, where she went on to graduate. She also studied at Westside in Los Angeles and on scholarship with the Joffrey Ballet School in New York.

Regina’s professional career began at Ballet Austin, where she danced solo roles, including Stephen Mills’ “Four Mortal Men.” In 1997, she joined Columbia City Ballet, dancing such roles as the Arabian, Dew Drop Fairy, Snow Queen, and Sugar Plum Fairy in Nutcracker; Maiden and Lucy in Dracula: Ballet with a Bite; title roles in Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet; and Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty.

Director William Starrett  created many roles on her for his original ballets, including Mina in Dracula’s Revenge and the “Sand Dance” pas de trois and “Daughters of the South” from Off the Wall & Onto the Stage.  The title role of Cleopatra was created on Regina receiving rave reviews. Critics have lauded her commanding stage presence, stating “Willoughby, as one of City Ballet’s up and coming stars, was exotically arrogant as Arabian,” and “the showstopper was Regina Willoughby with her sultry stage presence.”  Free Times said that “Willoughby is the company’s most enchanting female performer, both technically and dramatically,” and “Willoughby possesses that special it quality that makes a performance so riveting.”  Regina was made a Soloist of the company in 2001, Principal dancer in 2006, and Ballerina in 2010. She is married with two daughters. Regina is an ABT National Training Curriculum certified teacher in Primary through Level 7 with over 20 years teaching experience.  She is the Artistic Director of The Academy of Lexington Youth Ballet in South Carolina.


Q Harper

Hip Hop

Known for his diversity and footwork, Q Harper has amazed crowds while preforming with Royal Flush. He showed off his wide range of styles, while performing on MTV’s Americas Best Dance Crew. His combination of B-Boying, hip- hop choreography, and original tricks, has given him the opportunity to work with many artist such as T-Pain. He has performed on multiple TV programs, and taught at some of the top studios across the US. His down to earth charm, versatility, and experiences, have molded him into the well rounded creative he is today.


Gaye Baxley


As a student, Ms. Baxley trained with Bojan Spassoff and Stephanie Wolf, both directors of The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia. She also studied with teachers from New York City Ballet as well as Karena Brock Carlyle of American Ballet Theater. While in London England, Ms. Baxley studied at Covent Garden and continued her studies in New York City with David Howard and Michael Vernon of The Royal Ballet as well as Edward Villella of New York City Ballet and Gabriela Taub-Darvash of the Vagonova School in St. Petersburg, Russia. She won scholarships to The Alvin Ailey Ballet, The Harkness Ballet and The Joffery Ballet under the directorship of Robert Joffery.

Ms. Baxley began her professional career in New York City. Edward Villella principal dancer with New York City Ballet and director of Miami City Ballet, invited Ms. Baxley to join his company, Eglevsky Ballet and his touring company Edward Villella and Dancers. During this time she danced many principal roles. Among them, Balanchine’s Square Dance, Concerto Barrocco, and Allegro Brilliante. She danced as Mr. Villella’s partner in Shenandoah pas de deux, which he choreographed. She also received excellent reviews in the New York Post for her performance as The Blue Girl in John Clifford’s Fantasies.

As a dancer, Ms. Baxley has toured the United States with such stars as Mikhail Baryshinkov, Gelsey Kirkland and Natalia Makarova. Roles created especially for Ms. Baxley includes Edward Villella’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs, Michael Vernon’s Recollections and New York City Ballet choreographer Richard Tanner’s La Peri.

Gaye loves sharing her knowledge of dance with her students. As a teacher, her students have been accepted into the most prestigious dance programs in the country. She is currently owner and director of the Madeleine Walker Coastal Ballet Theater in Savannah Georgia, where she has been training dancers of all ages for over twenty-five years.

Gaye is a guest teacher for schools and colleges throughout the southeast.

She is also a certified Vaganova syllabus instructor as well as a certified teacher of the American Ballet Theater’s National Training Curriculum Primary through Level Five. While serving on the Georgia Council for the Arts Individual Artist Panel she has reviewed and allocated funds for artists’ grant applications.


Ashley Barnes


Ashley is originally from Griffin, Georgia where she began her dance training at the age of four under the direction of Mitch Flanders. She has been a teacher for the past fourteen years at Studio D. Ashley has been a company member of The Griffin Ballet Theater for the past nineteen years where she has taught extensively as the Ballet Mistress for the past five years and held the position of Assistant Ballet Mistress for the previous 2 years. Ashley has been a staff member and ballet instructor for the past ten years with Festival Dance at UGA. She has had the honor to serve as an adjudicator for the Governors Honors Dance program over the past several years. She continues her dance education studying under various teachers such as; Kat Wildish, Patricia Miller, Paulo Manso De Sousa, Finish Jhung, David Howard, Carol Szkutek and Anne-Sophie Rodriguez. Ashley helps with the establishment of new companies such as Phyzix Urban Dance Theater and Lamorris Namari.

Ashley has had the honor to dance the title roles in Cinderella, Firebird, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, The Little Mermaid, Giselle. As well as Swanhilda in Coppelia, the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, Wendy in Peter Pan, Sugarplum in Nutcracker, Lilac Fairy and Soloist role in Don Quixote. Ashley also has performed as Peter Pan and in Giselle with Savannah Danse in Savannah, Ga. Also as the principal role in Griffin Ballet’s performances of Columbia City’s Dracula and The Lion King.

Along with her dance career, she has also been involved in commercial modeling and music videos. Ashley also serves as the Choreographer and Assistant Director for the past five years at Oak Hill Baptist Church for an annual cast of 75 performers.


Lorraine Casablanca


Lorraine began her diverse dance training at age 7 with the Doris Russell School of Performing Arts. There she had the great opportunity to study with Doris Russell herself, one of the original Rockettes to perform in New York City. She continued her studies under the direction of Magdalena Maury at The Studio – Home of The Georgia Youth Ballet Company, of which she was a founding member. There she studied with prestigious teachers such as Jonsie Pollock, Finis Jung, Tom Clower, Julianne Kepley, Carol Skutek, Ellie Lazar and Alicia Alonso. Lorraine also spent many summers at ballet intensives such as Ballet Magnificat! and Fort Lauderdale Ballet Classique, under the direction of nationally recognized master ballet instructor Magda Aunon.

Looking to further her dance career, at age 15 she accepted a highly coveted spot as a student in the pre-professional program at the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education, receiving many opportunities to grow as a dancer and performer. Lorraine then continued her training, on a full scholarship, to Brenau University, in Dance Performance.

Then, for 9 years, Lorraine taught ballet, modern and jazz with the Classical Dance Theatre, under the direction of Yasmin Hassaan. There she was also a principal dancer with the Southeastern Ballet Company, a professional company directed by Ms. Hassaan.

In addition to teaching ballet, jazz and modern, at Dance Contempra, for the past 5 years, Lorraine was also an instructor at Woodward Academy. There she has worked with the Honors Dance Program, for 4 years, teaching and choreographing original works. She continues to choreograph pieces, including one which won her the Grassroots Award for Choreography. In addition to teaching at surrounding studios, Lorraine gives private instruction as well as creating independent choreography. She continues to perform professionally and is currently part of the Southern Arc Dance Theater professional company, under the direction of Paulo Manso de Sousa. Lorraine is enthusiastically looking forward to her first year teaching with both Studio D and Southern Arc Dance.