About the school
Piedmont Ballet was founded by Jeff Stuart and George Latimer in 1998 who served as artistic directors until 2010. Robin Costa-Gustafson was owner and artistic director from 2010 to 2018. Neela Reed has been owner and artistic director since August 2018.
Although not a Pre-Professional Ballet school, we strive to offer quality training that includes professional etiquette and habits. We value traditional technique but also gentle, progressive teaching, body type and racial inclusivity, and community.
Performance opportunities include Nutcracker in December and our annual recital at Holy Names University in the Spring. Adult dancers are included in the spring recital. The school places a value on composition practice and productions often include student created works.
Piedmont Ballet Academy has been long known in Piedmont and beyond to be a place where children and adults alike can relax, make friends, and grow as dancers. Many families describe our school as one of their child's happiest places.
Crystaldawn Bell (level 5) earned her BFA from California Institute of the Arts. Since relocating to the Bay Area she has worked with Labayen Dance/SF, Anne Bluethenthal and Dancers, Stranger Lover Dreamer, Paufve Dance, Nina Haft & Co, Todd Eckert, Garret + Moulton Productions, and ODC. She received an Isadora Duncan Award (Izzie) for Outstanding Achievement in Performance-Ensemble for her performance in Eckert's duet "First Stab at Closure" and has been nominated on two other occasions for Outstanding Performance - Individual. Crystaldawn was recognized as a Refinery 29: 30 under 30 and was the recipient of the Aninstantia Grant. She is currently working with Robert Moses' Kin where she serves as both company memeber and rehearsal director as well as Post: Ballet. Crystaldawn loves teaching and is on faculty at Saint Mary's College of California and Shawl-Anderson Dance Center.
Andrea Gaudet (level 5) was born in Berkeley California and has been teaching all levels of classical ballet for over 30 years. Her training began with Jane Stamps and continued with Grace Doty's Berkeley City Ballet. Ms. Gaudet danced as a soloist with Ballet Idaho and Sacramento Ballet, where she performed roles in Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Don Quixote, The Firebird, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Cinderella. She has had the pleasure of dancing roles in George Balanchine's Allegro Brillante, Rubies, Four Temperaments, Theme and Variations, Prodigal Son, Donizetti Variations, and Concerto Barocco. Ms. Gaudet taught the pre-professionals at Sacramento Ballet and served as Ballet Mistress for the company. She was the artistic director of Berkeley City Ballet and has taught at Marin Ballet, Berkeley Ballet Theater, and San Francisco School of the Arts. She is currently on staff at Ah-Lan Dance Studio, Shawl-Anderson Dance Center and Piedmont Ballet and is the School Principal at Diablo Ballet.
Cookie Harrist (modern technique and composition) is a dancer and choreographer based in Berkeley. She has performed with Joe Goode Performance Group, LEVYDance, Sara Shelton Mann and many others. She teaches regularly at Motion Pacific Dance in Santa Cruz and Shawl Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley. She is a former faculty member at ODC School where she taught professional level contemporary. Her work incorporates improvisation, contact improvisation and release technique. She graduated from Marlboro College in Southern Vermont.
Elena Martins (level 4/5) is a dancer, dance instructor, and arts administrator from Boston, MA. She received her early training at Donna Miceli Dancer Center and The Academy of Ballet Arts and went on to graduate from SUNY Buffalo with a BA in Dance and minor in speech and hearing science. She has taught at many prestigious dance schools including The School of Classical Ballet, Jeannette Neill Dance Studio, Dana Hall Upper School, Boston Dance Company, and Berkeley City Ballet. Elena is currently a teaching artist at Shawl-Anderson Dance Center and Piedmont Ballet Academy. She has performed extensively with Boston, MA and San Francisco Bay Area based dance companies including Prometheus Dance, Lorraine Chapman The Company, Axis Dance Company, RAWdance, West Edge Opera, and Bellwether Dance Project, among others. Elena is currently a company dancer with Robert Moses' KIN. elenamartins.com
Neela Reed (artistic director, pre-ballet, levels 1-4, adults) received her early ballet training from Mary Paula, Ann Derby, and Robert Nichols at the Petaluma School of Ballet. She left Ballet at 16 due to feeling overwhelmed and discouraged by impossible body standards and oppressive ideas of femininity. She was able to approach dance again while working toward a second bachelor's degree in sculpture at UT Austin through "modern for non-majors". A light bulb went off and she began to pursue the study and performing of modern dance in earnest and was able to perform with several companines in Austin. She noticed, however, that ballet was still calling to her. Professionally she had always been a teacher and at the time was loving working with children with cognitive delays and visual impairments.
Upon returning to her native California in 2013 she began studying ballet again more seriously than she had since her adolescence, and decided to become a teacher. She found as an adult a depth and transcedence in the practice that had been hidden by ballet's more shallow aspects, and was able to find a relationship to her own particular beauty that was healing and closer to what she now sees as the truth of the art form. She now works to promote this deeper vision of ballet and beauty diversity and to support others in finding their freedom.
Neela has performed locally with Ballet Afsaneh, Ruth Botchan, Joan Lazarus, and Chingchi Yu. She studied Vaganova Pedagogy with Carol Roderick and is certified in American Ballet Theater's National Training Curriculum levels Pre-Primary through Five, where she studied on scholarship. She teaches adult open classes at Shawl Anderson Dance Center and has been the artistic director of Piedmont Ballet since 2018.
Sarah Stroin (pre-ballet, level 1, level 2, pilates) started dance classes at three years old and by the time she turned eight, knew she wanted to focus soley on ballet. Shortly thereafter she began training a Contra Costa Ballet Centre in Walnut Creek, under the direction of Zola Dishing, Richard Cammack, Charles Anderson, Rachel Greenwood, and Nikolai Kabaniaev. There, she studied classical ballet technique encompassing Vaganova and Balanchine style, Petipa and Balanchine repertoire, and character dance. Sarah also trained at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington D.C. She has performed various roles in the classical ballets La Sylphide, Paquita, La Bayadere, and The Nutcracker, as well as in several contemporary pieces.
The desire to share her love of ballet and movement is a driving force in Sarah's life and teaching career. She was introduced to Pilates for rehabilitation as an injured teenage ballerina. As a pilates instructor, she knows firsthand the benefits of targeted strengthening and dynamic flexibility and loves to train dancers for both injury prevention and rehab. Sarah's vision of her pilates practice is to work with all ages, body types, and fitness levels to help people gain and maintain balance, strength, and flexibility, along with ease and efficiency of movement.
Sarah teaches all levels of ballet, pilates, and character dance classes at Piedmont Ballet in Oakland and Conservatory of Classical Ballet in San Leandro. She teaches Pilates at several studios in the Bay Area, from home, and on Zoom. Sarah has a bachelor's degreee from UC Berkeley and is also a community organzier in Contra Costa County focusing on anti-racism.