Ballet Etudes Artistic Staff
Marnell Himes-Ushijima, Artistic Advisor and Founding Member, With over 40 years experience training dancers and teachers of the highest caliber, Ms. Himes-Ushijima is a leader in classical dance. She is a Fellow of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, Cecchetti Branch, Cecchetti USA and Cecchetti Council of America. Ms. Himes-Ushijima received her training at the National Ballet School in Toronto, Canada and has extensive professional performing experience. Marnell travels throughout the United States and internationally to teach master classes and as an Examiner for the Cecchetti USA. Ms. Himes-Ushijima’s students have gone on to train with well known ballet companies such as American Ballet Theater, Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Jose Ballet, and Miami City Ballet to name a few. Ms. Himes-Ushijima has also trained teachers who work in university dance departments, own their own dance studios and direct ballet companies. Ms. Himes-Ushijima is Director Emeritus of Huntington Academy of Dance and continues to serve Ballet Etudes as an advisor.
Kimberly McEachern is the Owner and Artistic Director of Huntington Academy of Dance and the Director of “DANCE HB!” for Huntington Beach Parks & Recreation. She is the former director of Newport Dance Academy. Ms. McEachern received her training from Brenda Joyce, Marnell Himes, Gary Joyce, and Rebecca Wright of ABT. Ms. McEachern received a Bachelor of Arts from UCLA in 2000 and holds her Licentiate certification with Cecchetti USA. Ms. McEachern is a member of Cecchetti USA’s western committee and serves as part of the leadership for the organization. As a teacher and choreographer, Ms. McEachern and her students have won numerous top awards at both local and national competitions. She recently accepted an award from the Allied Arts Board for Excellence in Arts Administration. Ms. McEachern enjoys teaching and coaching students and is committed to promoting classical ballet in Orange County!
Sasha Robertson (Artistic Director), has been a part of the Ballet Etudes’ artistic staff for 7 years. Ms. Robertson began her ballet training with Marnell Himes-Ushijima and Gary and Muriel Joyce at Huntington Academy of Dance at age 5, studying and examining in the Cecchetti method. She continued her training with advanced commercial dance in high school and college. In high school, Ms. Robertson’s love for dance blossomed into a desire to share her knowledge, experience, and passion with others and she made the transition into teaching. After over 12 years, Ms. Robertson remains on HAD’s faculty. She has obtained her Associate teacher certification through Cecchetti USA and has submitted many students of different levels for their Cecchetti examinations. Ms. Robertson’s teaching experience also included a 6-year tenure at Endeavor School of the Arts, formerly Kimberly McEachern’s Newport Dance Academy, where she headed the ballet and pointe programs as well as the studio’s Cecchetti program. As an alumna of Ballet Etudes, Ms. Robertson has performed in the company’s Nutcracker countless times, dancing roles from Mouse to Snow Princess to Spanish lead, just to name a few…her roles have even included Maid and Party Parent! She has also danced lead roles in other Ballet Etudes productions, such as Cinderella, the Little Mermaid, and Snow White and the Magnificent 7. Ms. Robertson has directed and/or helped produce many Ballet Etudes productions, including Alice in Wonderland (2012), Nutcracker 2012, Nutcracker 2013, Snow White in the Old West (2014), and Coppelia (2014). Ms. Robertson graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre and Environmental Social Sciences. While at USC, she performed in several School of Theatre productions, including Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” and Tom Stoppard’s “On the Razzle.” Ms. Robertson was also fortunate to be selected to choreograph a full dance accompaniment to the Greek tragedy, “Agamemnon.” Ms. Robertson also holds her J.D. from USC Gould School of Law and works as a Project Development and Finance attorney at Troutman Sanders LLP. She is grateful to be able to balance out her legal career by sharing her love of dance with the upcoming generation of ballerinas as Ballet Etudes’ Assistant Artistic Director. Ms. Robertson brings strong professionalism and organization as well as a wealth of teaching and directing experience to Ballet Etudes’ artistic team and is excited to continue to help the company’s young dancers thrive.
Megan Pulfer (Artistic Director), Born in Omaha, Nebraska, she started dancing at age 3. Megan moved with her family to Huntington Beach, California at age 8; and received most of her training at Huntington Academy of Dance studying under Marnell Himes-Ushijima and Gary & Muriel Joyce. At 16 she was accepted to North Carolina School of the Arts to study ballet, earning her high school diploma. Immediately after, Megan began her dancing career with Cedar Lake 2 and worked with choreographers such as Benoit-Swan Pouffer, Laurie Stallings, and Adam Hougland. In 2006 she started dancing with Missouri Contemporary Ballet. She worked with Quixotic as a freelance dancer in 2009. Megan was accepted to the MASA Dance Journey with Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in Israel in 2010, where she lived on a kibbutz for a year. She was then hired by Kamea Dance Company and lived in Be’er Sheva, Israel for another two years. She moved back to Southern California in the summer of 2013 with her Israeli dog, Mila. Megan began working with a company in L.A. called Clairobscur Dance Company in June 2014. She is excited and thankful to be on staff at Huntington Academy and working as Co-Artistic Director of Ballet Etudes this year. Megan is also the artistic director and choreographer of Emergent Dance Company.
Sean L. Crawford (Associate Director), Ms. Crawford’s early training began at Goleta Civic Ballet of Santa Barbara, California with Bob and Carol Hanlin, former alumni of San Francisco Ballet & Opera and American Ballet Theater. Ms. Crawford’s additional training continued at Westside Academy of Dance, Houston Ballet Academy, Chicago School of Ballet and Joffrey Ballet of New York City. Ms. Crawford performed in several Nutcrackers at the Arlington in such roles as Ballerina Doll, Mirlitons, Dewdrop, Spanish and Snow Queen. She danced in contemporary works along with classical ballets through the Pacific Regional Ballet Association. Her dance experience has taken her all over the US and given her the opportunity to work with several pioneering artists such as Maria Tallchief, Allegra Kent, Melissa Hayden, and Jacques d’Amboise. Ms Crawford holds a BA in Dance from UC Irvine and an Associate in teaching certificate from Cecchetti, USA (ACUSA). She has submitted students for Cecchetti exams the last eight years and continues to pursue her Licentiate in teaching in the Cecchetti method. Ms. Crawford has created several children’s ballets such as Fairytale Dreams (2006), A Bug’s Adventure (2009), Dancing Princesses (2010), Mulan (2012) Snow White in the Old West (2013), and The Enchanted Forest (2014) and developed and staged several classics such as Coppelia, Les Sylphides, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and La Bayadere. Ms. Crawford is pleased to return for her second year with Santa Barbara Festival Ballet (SBFB) as Co-Artistic Director and is excited to participate once again with their 40th production of Nutcracker at the Arlington Theatre. She looks forward to another productive year and appreciates another opportunity to work with such talented dancers and faculty. Ms Crawford is very excited to also return to Ballet Etudes of Huntington Beach as Co-Artistic Director. She formerly worked for them eight years and is thrilled to return once again in such a role alongside Kimberly McEachern, Megan Pulfer and Sasha Robertson. She is looking forward to becoming a part of the Ballet Etudes and Huntington Academy of Dance family once again. Ms.Crawford brings her experience and love of dance to both Santa Barbara and Huntington Beach communities with her unique vision and enthusiasm for sharing the love of dancing, teaching and choreographing. She thanks her parents John R. Crawford and Emmy Lou Crawford for instilling a love for dance and performance and feels blessed to work alongside her mother once again.
Gary Joyce, received his early training from Richard Adama and Marnell Himes in Orange County. He went on to attend the San Francisco Ballet School. At eighteen he joined American Ballet Theatre II, and began a thirteen-year career of dancing with the companies of Nevada Dance Theatre, Keil Ballet and Munich Ballet. He has performed numerous solo and principle roles and also has two film credits with appearnaces in “Six Weeks” and “Footloose.” Mr. Joyce is currently teaching at Dwyer Middle School in Huntington Beach. He is also a faculty member of Huntington Academy of Dance and coaches Ballet Études’ company dancers.
Julie Ertl, former Artistic Director, trained at the Houston Ballet Academy and received a dance scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Dance. While at the University, she was a member of the Dance Repertory Theater and danced as an extra with Ballet Austin. Since moving to California, Ms. Ertl has performed in several community theater projects, including “Cole”, “Annie” (Lily St. Regis), “42nd Street”, (Peggy Sawyer), and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. She served as choreographer for the theater department at Hope International University from 1996-2000. Shows include: “Perfectly Frank”, “Kiss Me Kate”, “He Loves Me”, and “Into the Woods”. Ms. Ertl holds her Associate certification with Cecchetti USA and has completed the Grade 9 ballet exams. She is currently on staff at Huntington Academy of Dance, and Ballet Études is pleased and honored to have her as our Artistic Director!