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Ms. Gilbert, began her training in Los Angeles at the Lichine Studio under the tutelage of Irena Kosmouska, later moving to Long Beach Ballet and eventually to the Orange County Ballet under the direction of Michael Panieff. While recovering from knee surgery, she obtained a BFA at the University of California, Irvine. It was there that she met Antony Tudor, the associate director of the American Ballet Theatre. Mr. Tudor became her mentor and changed the way she approached Classical Ballet. Ms. Gilbert became a member of Ballet Nacional de Panama. She continued to study with Jillana, former NYCB Principal and Wilhelm Burmann in New York City. In addition to founding Laguna Dance Theatre and Laguna Ballet, she continues to actively coach dancers of the New York City Ballet, Miami City Ballet and Nevada Ballet Theatre. Ms. Gilbert is also a member of the caDance Advisory Board and sponsor of the caDance Festival 2005 & 2006.

Lauren Richter Henry_edited.jpg

Ballet & Pilates

Founder of Richter Academy of Classical Dance. Lauren began her ballet training in 1996 in Orange County. In 2006, she moved to New York City to continue her training at ABT's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School and worked privately with Prima Ballerina Assouluta Eva Evdokimova. During this time, Lauren was awarded a scholarship through Youth American Grand Prix to continue her studies in Monte-Carlo at the Princess Grace Academy of Classical Dance under the direction of Marika Besobrasova. After spending two years there, Lauren received her first professional contract with the Prague State Opera Ballet in the Czech Republic and then went on to dance with the Bucharest National Ballet in Romania.


Lauren has competed in several competitions both nationally and internationally including LA Music Center’s Spotlight Awards, Orange County Performing Arts Center’s Stars of Tomorrow, Youth American Grand Prix, and Prague International Ballet Competition. During her professional career, Lauren’s repertoire included roles in such classics as Giselle, La Bayadere, La Corsaire, Don Quixote, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and George Balanchine’s Serenade.


Lauren is certified in levels 1-8 through the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Teacher Training Program. She is also a member of the International Dance Council CID at UNESCO, the official world-wide organization for dance. In addition to ballet, Lauren is a certified Pilates instructor with a dance specialization through BASI Pilates. Lauren has taught in several schools throughout Orange County as well as on Faculty at San Francisco Ballet School. Ballet is truly her passion and she loves to be able to share that passion with others.


Ballet & Contemporary

Linda-Joy “LJ” Tashiro Nafarrete, a founding member of the OC renowned Backhausdance
Dance Company, established in 2003, received a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Theatre and Dance while on scholarship at Chapman University. During her tenure at Chapman, she specialized in Dance performance and received several awards, including Freshmen of the Year, and was regularly honored with awards for Outstanding Choreography and Outstanding Performance.
Prior to Chapman University, Ms.Tashiro Nafarrete, attended the Orange County High School of
the Arts and graduated from their Commercial Dance Department. Additionally, she studied at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center in New York City on scholarship. She has extensive training in the genres of Modern/Contemporary, Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Dunham (Afro-Caribbean),
and Hip Hop dance techniques and holds a certification in Pilates from Body Arts and Science International.
In addition to concert performances, she has danced in a variety of modern media, including music and fitness videos and live television. Ms. LJ has taught in various seminars and master classes and has been teaching and choreographing throughout Southern California for over 25 years. As an award winning choreographer, her work frequently places at various competitions
such as Youth American Grand Prix, California Dance Classics, and Youth Ballet Masters. She gently shapes these compelling pieces through an organic and refreshing rehearsal process that highlights her dancers’ unique strengths. Ms. LJ finds great joy in sharing her passion for the art of dance. Her classes are balanced with an emphasis on proper technique and alignment, as well as the exploration of center of gravity
and use of space. With a keen awareness of each student’s needs, she incites a learning environment that fosters trust, where dancers can develop confidence in their creative instincts and themselves.


Lyrical & Contemporary

Natalie Jameson has been an Orange County competitive choreographer, dance instructor & coach for over 17 years, where she’s honed her craft at Dance Dynamics, PCAD, Oceanside Dance Academy, Richter, and many more. Natalie has trained in the commercial dance department at OCSA,winning best lyrical dancer of the year her senior year,  continuing as a dance major at OCC & Chapman University. She is currently a guest choreographer for TDC in Carmel, CA. She has created pieces for high schools such as Mater Dei HS, SJHHS, Esperanza HS & MVHS. Miss Jameson continues to judge for high school dance team auditions and competitions. Natalie was a Certified Move Competition judge in 2015. Having won multiple choreography awards, choreographing is her biggest passion. She headed her own pre-professional  dance company, Jameson & Co, created in 2016. In 2021-Jameson Dance Company for competitive dancers! She cannot wait to share her love of dance with the next generation!


Ballet & Pilates

Katherine is an alumna of Laguna Ballet, where she trained under Shery Gilbert.  She continued her training at SAB, PNB, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and Dallas Fort Worth as a scholarship student and trainee. Katherine developed an interest in The Pilates Method and studied and taught under Master teachers Diane Diefenderfer and Ron Fletcher. In addition to running FyneLine Body Conditioning, Katherine continued to teach and perform throughout Orange County and Colorado for Defores, Ballet Pacifica, The Crystal Cathedral and Belliston Ballet Academy. In 2015, Katherine returned to Laguna Dance Theatre as a teacher and choreographer; and currently directs The Sugar Plum Tea for Laguna Ballet.


Ballet & Contemporary

Chloe started dancing as soon as she could walk. She started as a commercial dancer. At age 12 she discovered her passion for classical ballet under the guidance and mentorship of Lauren Richter. She embraced the Vaganova ballet technique and attended summer intensives with the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. During her training, she was selected on scholarship as an ambassador to the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) in Moscow, Russia. At the completion of her program she was invited to attend the Bolshoi Ballet Academy year round program in Moscow trained by Olga Dozortseva, Natalya Revich, Nika Sergeeva and other staff. Chloe continued broadening her training studying various techniques at the Paris Opera Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, Brussels International Ballet, Arizona Ballet, Colorado Ballet and State Street Ballet.  Chloe has performed principal and soloist roles in ballets such as the Nutcracker, Le Corsaire, Giselle, Paquita, Grad Ball and various neo-classical and contemporary works. Chloe received awards from Youth American Grand Prix as a dancer and choreographer. She choreographed an excerpt for the Colorado Philharmonic Symphony’s performance of Rodeo and has created various contemporary and jazz pieces for Colorado Ballet’s Saturday Soirees. Chloe has taught dance at various studios in Orange County emphasizing artistry and technicality. Chloe enjoys teaching, choreographing, and inspiring artists! She looks forward to sharing her knowledge and love for the beautiful art form of dance!



Born and raised in Baltimore MD and started formal ballet training at the Baltimore School for the Arts. Thel moved to Connecticut at the age of 15 to finish training at the Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory. While training Thel had the pleasure to learn from ballet legends Eleanor D’Antuono and Kirk Peterson as well as Victoria Mazzarelli who worked with William Forsythe in Frankfurt Ballet. Thel was invited to perform at the Inside/Out theater at Jacob’s Pillow where he performed a mixed rep. Upon graduating he took his first job with the second company at Charlotte Ballet under the direction of Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux. After one season hemoved to Richmond VA and joined the Richmond Ballet, where he spent 5 seasons with the company. Thel has had the pleasure to work with many incredible choreographers and artists such as Patricia McBride, Desmond Richardson, Ma Cong, and Val Caniparoli. As well as performing in works such as “Who Cares?” “Theme and Variations” “Carmina Burana” and many story ballets and performing the second pas de deux in Jerome Robbins’ “In The Night”. Thel always knew he had a passion teach. He has taught at the Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory summer intensive and various schools in Virginia


Pre-Ballet, Tap, Jazz

Mrs. Cretti is a former Manhattan Rockette who toured cross-country with Bob Newhart, Ricky Nelson, The Four Seasons, and the New Christy Minstrells. Ellen has choreographed and performed in numerous musical and dance productions including Rosie in Bye Bye Byrdie, The Boyfriend, Mame. South Pacific, Oklahoma. She played the lead roles in original musical productions of Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella at the PAF Playhouse in New York. She performed in Guys and Dolls under the direction of Brian Dennehy. She trained in musical theatre and assisted in classes at Hurbert Berghof Studio in New York City. She was the Founder/Director of the Hillside Studio, for Dance and Drama in Huntington, New York for ten years. She taught at the Royal Dance Center in Florida from 1985-1999. Ellen relocated to California and has been with Laguna Dance Theatre for fourteen years. She has a gift to teach preschoolers and has successfully developed a dynamic children’s dance program here at LDT.


Adult Ballet

An Orange County native, Sara trained in Orange County and on full scholarship at Stanley Holden Dance Center in LA. She attended summer intensives in San Francisco Ballet, Paris, France, and Pacific Northwest Ballet and studied privately with Rebecca Wright and Patrick Frantz. She was awarded a Full scholarship to Pacific Northwest Ballet School and performed with the Company in Symphony in C, Midsummer’s Nights Dream, Nutcracker, Brahms Schoenberg and a world premier ballet by Kent Stowell. She joined Hartford Ballet as an apprentice and then spent many years as a Principal dancer with Anaheim Ballet. Sara performed lead dance roles locally in The Glory of Christmas, West Side Story, and Pippin and was featured in an Oingo Boingo MTV music video. Sara graduated from UCLA with BA in English Literature and did graduate work in New Testament studies. She has been teaching ballet since 2000 and has been teaching at LDT since 2006.

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