Faculty

The Long Beach Ballet Academy is dedicated to a professional classroom atmosphere that provides each student with the optimum opportunity to progress to his or her full potential.
The faculty is comprised of skilled and highly motivated instructors, each of whom instills the highest standards of classical ballet and goals of the school.

Artistic Director

David Wilcox

Artistic Director Born and raised in the Los Angeles area, David Wilcox began studying the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus at the age of eleven. Having successfully completed all exams through the Advanced level, he continued his studies in London and at the age of nineteen began his professional career in Germany. He spent seven years dancing with the Berlin Ballet, the Nuremberg Ballet, and the Heidelberg Ballet. Returning home in 1978, he co-founded Long Beach Ballet and formed a professional company which became Southern California's most successful ballet company for 15 years. Mr. Wilcox has coached several of his students for international ballet competitions and many have gone on to join such companies as San Francisco Ballet, Hamburg Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Milwaukee Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, and others. Over the past several years he has produced and directed eight ballet tours to Asia and has staged three full-length ballets for the Classical Ballet of Guangzhou, China: The Nutcracker, La Bayadere and Cinderella. He is a prolific choreographer and has created numerous full-length ballets for the school and the company. He lives with his wife and daughters in Long Beach.

Teachers

Ellen Bigelow

Ellen Bigelow, from Torrance California, received her initial training from Palos Verdes Ballet. At age 12 she was encouraged by Alaine Haubert to audition for ABT’s televised version of Le Corsaire and landed a role as one of the garland girls in the “jardin anime” scene. In 2003, she placed in the top 12 at Youth America Grand Prix, performing Aurora’s third act variation from Sleeping Beauty. In 2008 Ellen earned her B.F.A. in dance from the University of Cincinnati where she danced for such choreographers and teachers as Vivi Flindt, Qi Jiang, Victoria Morgan, and Marat Daukayev. She danced professionally with Nevada Ballet Theater and Eugene Ballet before returning home to Southern California. In 2012 she was invited to teach master ballet classes for the Palos Verdes High dance team as well as West High School. In addition to teaching at Long Beach Ballet, she currently teaches ballet for gymnasts at Studio West in Torrance and at Fusion Dance Studio. Ellen hopes to instill a sense of grace and a love for dance in young students.

Hilde Byrne

Ms. Byrne ("Miss Hilde") received her original training from the Norwegian Ballet Academy. She continued her training in Rome and Paris, going on to perform featured roles in West Side Story, Cats and Chorus Line. After arriving in the United States, she taught for several ballet schools and then opened her own school for five years. In 1995 she joined the Long Beach Ballet faculty and currently instructs the Pre-Ballet and all Children's levels. Her skills also include costuming and theatrical hair and makeup.

Shani Englert

Ms. Englert began her training with Audrey Share at the age of five and continued her training with David Wilcox at Long Beach Ballet Arts Center. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Business and Marketing at Cal State Long Beach while continuing her ballet training with Rebecca Wright and Colleen O'Callahan, both former dancers with American Ballet Theatre. She is a principal member of the LBBAC faculty and co-founder of Long Beach Ballet Theatre, the school's resident junior performing company, for which she was acting artistic director for eight years.

Gillian Finley

Ms. Finley comes to Long Beach Ballet with over 22 years of teaching experience. She began her dance training in La Canada with Joyce Johnson and went on to train in Orange County with Judith Aaen, Richard Adama and Kristen Potts. Ms. Finley danced professionally with Ballet Pacifica, Nevada Dance Theatre and Eugene Ballet. She holds a B.A. in Dance from UCI and an M.A. in Arts Management from American University and, for ten years, she served as the director of Ballet Pacifica’s elite Conservatory program under company director, Molly Lynch. Ms. Finley is also a certified Stott Pilates instructor. She has been a long-time admirer of David Wilcox and Long Beach Ballet and is delighted to be a member of the LBB faculty.

Jessica Stone

Ms. Stone began her training at Fallbrook Civic Ballet at the age of ten before studying with Linda Yorth at American Ballet School in San Diego. She earned a full scholarship at Pacific Northwest Ballet to dance in the prestigious professional division. There she had the opportunity to perform in PNB’s iconic Nutcracker and Romeo and Juliet with the company. At age eighteen, Ms. Stone accepted a professional contract to dance with Eugene Ballet and Ballet Idaho under the artistic direction of Toni Pimble. During her seven years with Eugene Ballet and Ballet Idaho, she toured throughout the United States and Canada performing an extensive array of productions of both classical and contemporary ballet. Ms. Stone has nine years of experience teaching ballet and dance and is honored to join the faculty of Long Beach Ballet, where she has been teaching Pre-Ballet and in the Children’s Division since 2014.

Jacie Zhong

Jacie Zhong was born and raised in Long Beach, California. At a very young age, she started dancing and continued her ballet training with Long Beach Ballet. At the age of 11, she was Gretel in Hansel and Gretel and Clara in The Nutcracker at 12 years old. As she concentrated on ballet, her training became stronger and she was given principal roles in many productions; Snow Queen in The Nutcracker, Cinderella in Cinderella and Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. She also has placed Top 12 in the Youth America Grand Prix and performed at the Regional Dance America Festival five years in a row. After graduating from Polytechnic High School, she then moved to Portland to dance with Oregon Ballet Theater. With OBT she performed corps and principal roles in ballets such as a Soloist in George Balanchine's Who Cares? and Divertimento 15, a Willis in Lola de Avila's Giselle and a swan in Christopher Stowell's Swan Lake. She has toured throughout China as Odette in Swan Lake and to Seoul, South Korea as Marzipan in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Since returning to Long Beach, she is teaching Pre Ballet and is honored to be a part of the LBB's faculty.

Johnny Zhong

Mr. Zhong graduated from the Shen Yang Arts Institute in China and performed for seven years as a soloist with the Classical Ballet of Guangzhou. He was featured as the Golden Idol in La Bayadere Cupid in Don Quixote, the Court Jester in Swan Lake, and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, as well as many other leading roles. His father is a well-known Chinese choreographer and Mr. Zhong has continued in his father's footsteps by choreographing for and competing in several international ballet competitions, finishing in 8th place at the Shanghai International Ballet Competition in 2005. He recently immigrated to the U.S. as a free-lance ballet dancer and joined the faculty of the Long Beach Ballet.