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Aya Kaneko
Modern Dance Instructor

Ms. Kaneyo is originally from Japan, where she began her classic ballet training. She was awarded the vocational examination syllabus certificate at The Royal Academy of Dance in London. She built her professional career as a ballet dancer and teacher in Osaka and Kobe, has worked with ballet companies, projects, and schools. She moved to NYC in 2006, had opportunity to perform for choreographers such as Milton Myers, Dwight Rhoden, Helen Pickett, Edgar Zendejas, Aszure Barton, and Tero Saarinen, to name a few. She participated in Jacob’s Pillow Contemporary Program in 2008 and 2009, where she received a full scholarship and the Professional Advancement in Dance Award. Aya studied Horton technique under Milton Myers and she is currently his assistant/demonstrator at The Ailey School, The Juilliard School, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, ImpPuls Tanz Dance Festival, Steps on Broadway, Peridance and for company classes with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Philadanco. This is Aya’s third year on the faculty of Connecticut Ballet Center.

Larisa Akinicheva
Stretch & Floor Barre and Character Dance Instructor

Miss Akinicheva studied at the Perm (Russia) Academic State School of Choreography. She graduated into the State Academic Theater of Russian Opera and Ballet in Perm, dancing soloist and principal roles in the entire Russian repertoire, including Swan Lake, Giselle, La Bayadere, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Don Quixote.  She has toured to Italy, Belgium, Austria, Australia, Yugoslavia, France, and Japan with Tchaikovsky Ballet Company and other touring ensembles. Ms. Akinicheva has been a member of Connecticut Ballet Center’s faculty since 1996.

Chien-Ming Lin
Ballet Instructor

Mr. Lin completed a ground-breaking Master of Arts degree in Teaching Dance in Higher Education and the Professions with a concentration in American Ballet Theatre (ABT) Ballet Pedagogy at New York University (NYU). Mr. Lin is certified in the American Ballet Theatre® National Training Curriculum (Primary to Level 7 and Partnering). He has successfully presented students for the American Ballet Theatre® National Training Curriculum affiliate exams up to level 4B, and achieved Affiliate Teacher status. He also holds an M.A. degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Steinhardt School at NYU.  Mr. Lin started his dance training in both ballet and traditional dance in Taipei, Taiwan. He was a first-prize winner for Traditional Dance in the Senior division and received the Best Technique award in the traditional dance category in Taiwan. Mr. Lin has performed with troupes in Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan and New York City and with Roxey Ballet in New Jersey. As an instructor, Mr. Lin served as ballet program director at Dance Vision in Johnston, Iowa from 2010-2017. He has also guest taught at schools in Chicago, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Maine, and Florida. As a coach, Mr. Lin has taught and staged works for students in both ballet and traditional dance performances and competitions in Taiwan. In addition to teaching at Connecticut Ballet Center, he serves on the faculty at Princeton Ballet School in New Jersey and Huntington Center for Performing Arts on Long Island. This is Mr. Lin's first year on the faculty at CBC. 

Claire Mazza
Ballet Instructor

A native New Yorker, she 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. Claire joined Connecticut Ballet in 2011 and was promoted to soloist in June 2014. Her repertoire with Connecticut Ballet spans the classics to contemporary works, including Dewdrop in The Nutcracker, Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Lynne Taylor-Corbett's Full Moon. 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.  This is her sixth year on the faculty of Connecticut Ballet Center. Claire was recently featured in 'Dressing to Teach,' a feature article in Dance Retailer Magazine. To read the full article, click here.

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

                             ~ William Arthur Ward

Brett Raphael
Director, Ballet 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 and 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, Coppelia, The 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.

Nicole Gaston
Ballet 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 ninth year on the faculty of Connecticut Ballet Center.   

Eve Chan
Ballet 3A, Adult Ballet

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 staged her ballet, Secret Heart, on Connecticut Ballet where it toured to seven locations in Connecticut and Westchester for the annual Summer Dance Caravan. This is Eve’s third year on the faculty of Connecticut Ballet Center.


Brett Raphael, Director