Beth Gulledge Brown – Artistic Director
Beth began dancing with her mom at the age of 3. She continued her training with Joseph Giacobbe (Delta Festival Ballet) in New Orleans, Margo Marshall (City Ballet) of Houston, and Leo Ahonen and Soilie Arvala (Texas Ballet). Beth studied jazz with Delia Stewart and Keith Cross, and later received scholarships with Broadway Dance Center in New York and Joe Tremaine in Los Angeles. Beth received her dance degree from the University of Capetown in South Africa. While there she performed with U.C.T. Ballet Company and the CAPAB Ballet Company. Beth’s performance experience in Houston includes Delia Stewart Dance Company, Texas Dance Theatre, and Joan Karff’s New Dance Group.
Beth has had the opportunity to teach with many studios in Houston, South Africa, and New York City. Beth has set choreography for the Texas Tanzsommer Festival, Choreographer’s X 6, and JCCSummerDance Repertory/ Performance Project. Beth’s choreography has been accepted for presentation at Jazz Dance World Congress held in Monterrey and, recently, Chicago. The company has also attended Jazz Dance World Congress in Costa Rica. In 2001 her student company performed her choreography in three cities in China, and was broadcast nationally over Chinese television. Her choreography was showcased in Austria at the Tanzsommer Festival in the summer of 2002. She has most recently been invited to perform at “Four in the Mix” as part of Dance Month for the Jewish Community Center.
Carolyn Gulledge – Co-Director
A talented and experienced teacher and choreographer, Carolyn has taught all levels of students in the Houston area for 30 years. She has trained with top teachers in ballet as well as tap. Before founding the Uptown Dance Centre with her daughter, she worked with children and adults at the Jewish Community Center.
Florin Adrian Ciobanu – Co-Director
Mr. Ciobanu was born in Cluj, Romania where he graduated from the Liceul de Choregrafie, Octavian Stroia with honors, under the direction of his father, Florin Ciobanu. He then went on to work with the Romanian Opera Ballet for one year before moving to the Hungarian Opera Ballet. During his five years there, Mr. Ciobanu was promoted to Principal dancer. He toured extensively throughout Europe including France, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Romania, and the Czech Republic. In 1996, Mr. Ciobanu moved to Sarasota and became a member of the Sarasota Ballet dancing many major Principal roles and creating many roles as well. His repertoire includes many major classical ballets, and many contemporary ballets by such choreographers as Robert North, Alberto Alonso, Katherine Posen, Stephen Mills, Todd Allen, Ament Istvan, and many others. Since 2002 Mr. Ciobanu has been teaching and coaching for the Sarasota Ballet School, Dance the Next Generation, and many local and regional schools such as: Brandon Ballet; The Dance Center: Brandon,Fl.; West Florida Ballet, St. Petersburg, Fl.; Florida Ballet Arts; and Alyson’s in Bradenton, Fl. In 2003, Mr. Ciobanu was promoted to Principal of Academy, Sarasota Ballet. He doubled the number of students and increased the budget significantly since his direction. He has staged many full-length productions for the Academy, such as: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, The Nutcracker, La Boutique Fantasque, Paquita, and others. In 2008, Mr. Ciobanu was promoted to Ballet Master of Sarasota Ballet and still worked extensively with the Academy. He worked with such stagers and choreographers as: Hans Van Manen, Monica Parker, Alexander Grant, Dominic Walsh, Sandra Jennings, Joyceanne Sidimus, Julian Moss, Andre Prokovsky, Gilles Maidon, Jackie Hollander, Donald Mahler, Margaret Barbieri, and others.
Laura Catherine Hilley – Teacher
Bio coming soon…
Nao Kusuzaki – Teacher
Born in Ehime, Japan, Nao Kusuzaki was raised in Japan, Washington D.C., Boston, and joined Houston Ballet in 2004 where she was a soloist from 2009-2016. Some of her favorite roles from the repertoire includes: The Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Nikiya in La Bayadere, Madame Butterfly in Madame Butterfly, The Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, as well as contemporary works by Kylian, Forsythe, Welch, Tharp, and Wheeldon. Nao produced Dance for Hope, a benefit concert in reaction to the 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. In 2015, she co-created and featured in TSURU at Asia Society Texas Center, and in July, 2017, she directed and danced in Japan Dance Project: Stanton Welch x Kenta Kojiri x Dancers from Houston Ballet held in Chiba City, Japan. In November, 2017, she directed and danced in the revival of TSURU at the Miller Outdoor Theater, Houston, TX, where Nao was also commended by the Consulate General, Japan. Nao is Founder of Creative Minds Collaborative Inc., a nonprofit organization which seeks to create meaning across artists, educators, and support- ers of the arts.
Claire Westerman – Teacher
Claire began dancing when she was ten years old at Northern California Dance Conservatory (NCDC), under Jen Bradfor and Theodore Constant. At age thirteen, Claire enrolled at the Houston Ballet Academy, and trained there for three and a half years on a merit scholarship. During her time at HBA, she danced choreography by Ben Stevenson, Claudio Munoz, Oliver Halkowich, and Stanton Welch including ‘Ladies’ (soloist), ‘Long and Winding Road,’ ‘Paquita’ (pas de trois), and ‘Don Quixote’ (pas de quatre). Some of her favorite performances include the solo in Jane Weiner’s ‘Pink Ribbons Project’, Clara in Sacramento Ballet’s Nutcracker, and the Peasant pas de deux variation from ‘Swan Lake ‘at Houston Ballet’s Solo Night. Claire joined UDCII in 2016 and had the opportunity to tour with them to Austria for the Young Tanzsommer Dance Festival. Claire also teches Pre-K ballet at Uptown Dance Centre.