Abby Marchesseault
Lyrical and 'Dance for All' Instructor

Ms. Marchesseault began her formal dance training in Chantilly, Virginia as a member of the Fairfax Ballet.  She graduated summa cum laude with degrees in Dance Performance and Applied Physiology from Southern Methodist University, studying ballet, Graham, Horton, Limon, Taylor, and jazz techniques. She has worked with choreographers Adam Hougland, Joshua L. Peugh, and Danny Buraczeski, and performed with Tina Croll + Company, Kaleidoscope Dance Theatre, Heidi Latsky Dance, MachineH Dance, and for the PBS Masterpiece feature film, The Chaperone. She regularly choreographs for Avoir Motion Dance Collective, and her work has been featured at Dallas Catholic Youth Conference, in official music videos for singer, Emmeline (on Manhattan Neighborhood Network), and SPARK Summer Film Festival.  She joined Connecticut Ballet in 2015. Abby has taught both classical and contemporary dance at schools and exchange programs in Virginia, Texas, Panama, Indonesia and Australia. 

Ayaka Taniguchi
Modern Dance Instructor

Miss Ayaka Taniguchi was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. At the age of five, she began ballet training at Studio Benus. As she continued her training, she studied pointe, jazz and Gyrokinesis. She studied pointe work and modern dance privately under Luis Villanueva, improving greatly under his training. Ayaka went on to study Lester Horton Technique with Mitsue Miyake at Hip Dance Arts Entertainment in 2012. She received a scholarship to attend Alvin Ailey School and studied intensively at Ailey from 2013-2016. During that time, she also attended the Winter Intensive at Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Her teachers have included Manuel Vignoulle, Matthew Rushing, Hope Boykin, Carlos Dos Santos, Saya Harada, Ronni Favors, Sean Aron Carmon and Elizabeth Roxas. She joined Saya Spring Dance Theater in 2015, worked with I KADA Contemporary Dance Company and Judah International Dance Theater during 2016-2017, Grind Arts Company in 2017 and worked with New York Theatre Ballet during the 2017-2018 season. Still very much a working professional dancer, she looks forward to her first year on the faculty of Connecticut Ballet Center.

​​​​Claire Mazza
​Creative, PreBallet, Primary, Ballet 2, Ballet 4 Pointe Instructor

A native New Yorker, Ms. Mazza began her training at the School of American Ballet. After having been immersed in the Balanchine style, she attended Studio Maestro to focus on classical French technique under the direction of François Perron. As a child, she performed with New York City Ballet, Dances Patrelle, Boston Ballet SDP, Manhattan Youth Ballet Studio Company, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, Brooklyn Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theatre, and Staten Island Ballet. Her repertoire spans the classics to contemporary works. Claire has been featured in Dance Magazine, The Dancer’s Book of Ballet Crafts, Italian magazine Donna and Pointe magazine and has been seen dancing in television productions such as Kings and Royal Pains. Claire joined Connecticut Ballet in June of 2011, and was promoted to soloist in June of 2013. This is her eighth year on faculty of Connecticut Ballet Center. 

Ayaka Taniguchi

"The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires."

                             ~ William Arthur Ward

Natalia Sheptalova

Character Dance Instructor

Miss Sheptalova studied at Moscow Classical ballet academy under Gennady Ledyakh. She completed her bachelor’s degree in theater history and journalism from the Russian Academy of Theatrical Arts, formerly known as GITIS. She danced as a corps de ballet member and then demi-soloist with Russian National Ballet and Moscow Festival Ballet with whom she toured nationally and internationally. Since coming to the United States, she has performed with several smaller companies in the metro NY region and now teaches at Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet, JKO School, and Hariyama Ballet in New York City. This is her first year on the CBC faculty.

Brett Raphael
Ballet, Pointe, and Variations Instructor

Mr. Raphael founded Connecticut Ballet and Connecticut Ballet Center. He has taught all levels of ballet, pointe, pas de deux, and repertoire since 1981. He has served on the faculties of Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, Harkness House in New York City, and Purchase College along with guest teaching at conferences and residencies in New Orleans, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Maryland. He was chosen by George Balanchine at age ten to receive a Ford Foundation Scholarship to the School of American Ballet, studying intensively under Stanley Williams and Richard Rapp. He subsequently studied with Hector Zaraspe, Valentina Pereyaslavec, Leon Danielian, Errol Addison (in London) and performed with the touring ensemble, Stars of American Ballet. With Connecticut Ballet, he danced leading roles in classic full-lengths as well as contemporary works by Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Lila York, Danny Buraczeski, Anna Sokolow, and Milton Myers. He has choreographed sixteen original works for Connecticut Ballet along with stagings of the full-length Romeo and Juliet, Giselle, Coppèlia, Nutcracker, Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Brigadoon and an original ballet, La Belle Otero. In 2000, his ballet, Blue Light, won second prize in the St. Sauveur Choreography Competition in Canada. Mr. Raphael’s choreography was recently shown at the 2017 Tel Aviv Festival in Israel.

Nicole Gaston
Primary, Ballet 2, Pilates Instructor

Nicole began her training at the age of six under the tutelage of her mother, Lydia Madarang Gaston.  A scholarship grant to Ballet Philippines Summer Dance Workshop paved the way to an apprenticeship to the company. Among the many roles she played were Gamzatti in La Bayadere, Lisa in Ang Pilya, William Morgan's adaptation of La Fille Mal Gardee, multiple solo roles in full-length ballets such as Swan Lake, Giselle and Sleeping Beauty. After a decade with Ballet Philippines, Nicole moved on to Hong Kong Ballet to dance for two years.  In 1993, she came to the United States, dancing with various companies, including Bay Ballet Theatre in Tampa, Florida, Connecticut Ballet, and Ballet New York in Sea Cliff, Long Island. Nicole also performed in the musical, The King and I, at the Westchester Broadway Theatre and the Sacramento Musical Circus where she danced the role of "Eliza,” the "Fan Dancer" and "Little Topsy" in the ‘Small House of Uncle Thomas’ ballet within the musical.  This is Nicole's eleventh year on the faculty of Connecticut Ballet Center.   

Eve Chan
Primary, Ballet 3, Ballet 4, Ballet 5, Variations, Adult Ballet Instructor

Ms. Chan received her ballet training at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. She then performed with the Hong Kong Ballet as Demi-soloist and was appointed as one of three resident choreographers by former artistic director, John Meehan, in 2007. She holds an MFA in Dance from SUNY Purchase, where she taught Ballet and Pointe classes in the Conservatory of Dance and Introduction to Ballet classes through the School of the Arts. As a choreographer, her works have been presented in festivals and events in New York, including Spring Rhapsody at the Skirball Center (2013), CounterPointe at the Astor Fund Arts Center (2012), TRANSLATE at Dixon Place (2012), Novas and Nocturnes at the Rose Theater, Lincoln Center (2012), WestFest Dance Festival at the Cunningham Theater (2011), and Fall Movement at the Centre for Performance Research (2011). She was Ballet Mistress with Mystic Ballet for the 2013-2014 season. Currently, she is a company instructor with Connecticut Ballet and serves on the faculty of Purchase College SUNY.  This past summer, she created her third ballet, To the Moon, for Connecticut Ballet. This is Eve’s fourth year on the faculty of Connecticut Ballet Center.


Brett Raphael, Director