Award winning professional staff


Salwa Rizkalla’s artistic vision and community involvement led to the creation of Festival Ballet Theatre (FBT), and its precursor Southland Ballet Academy (SBA). Her credentials as a classical ballet dancer include an impressive list of leading roles in well-known classical ballets, as well as appearances in original contemporary pieces. During her distinguished career as a professional dancer, Rizkalla had the privilege of working under the direction of world-renowned choreographers Leonid Lavrovsky and Serge Lifar. Trained in the Russian Vaganova method and having studied with ballet masters of the Bolshoi and the Kirov, Rizkalla holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Ballet Pedagogy.

Under Rizkalla’s tutelage and guidance, dancres have achieved their greatest goals by joining prestigious national and international ballet companies. In addition to her responsibilities as the artistic director of FBT and her busy teaching schedule at the Academy, Rizkalla was a faculty member of several area institutions in Orange County.

A fully credentialed California teacher, she has been a dedicated educator, a tireless promoter of the arts, and an active participant in the cultural life of her community for more than 25 years. Her contributions have been recognized by The Orange County Music and Arts Administrators and Orange County Performing Arts Center with an Orange County Arts Educator of the Year Award for Secondary Dance (2003). Youth America Grand Prix has awarded Rizkalla Outstanding Teacher accolades for many years, including 2012.


Lana Brooks received her ballet training from Salwa Rizkalla at Southland Ballet Academy. She became a member of Festival Ballet Theatre in 1996 and appeared in principal roles in The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia and Swan Lake.  She was a semi-finalist in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion’s Spotlight Competition in 1997, 1998, and 1999.  Ms. Brooks joined Colorado Ballet in 1999, dancing multiple roles in The Nutcracker and Giselle.  She also was a part of CBII, Colorado Ballet’s apprentice company, and performed lead roles in La Bayadere and Paquita. In 2000, Ms. Brooks joined California Ballet where her repertoire included featured roles in Coppelia, The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, Dracula, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Paquita, and Alice in Wonderland.  At California Ballet, she had the opportunity to work with many famous choreographers including Michael Uthoff, Thor Sutowsky, Betsy Roe, Jean Isaacs, and Francisco Gella and was awarded “Dancer of the Year” for California Ballet’s 2002-2003 season.  Ms. Brooks was featured in a PBS documentary that showcased talented artists in Southern California.

While performing with Colorado Ballet and California Ballet, Ms. Brooks was deeply  involved in their student and community outreach programs.  She helped develop curriculum for presentations and performances.  Ms. Brooks received intensive training from the OCPAC’s “From the Center” program for community and student outreach.  She created Festival Ballet Theatre’s assembly program “How Ballet Tells A Story'”, which FBT continues to perform at Southern California schools today.

Ms. Brooks has taught at Southland Ballet Academy since 2003 and is a certified teacher in the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum. Lana strives to share her passion and appreciation for the artistry and technicality of ballet with all of her students.


Megan DiCostanzo began dancing at the age of seven, training in ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical and pointe in Orange County.  She was a four year member of the Troy High School Dance Team in Fullerton and was captain during her senior year. Throughout high school, Megan won numerous awards as both a soloist and team member including Miss Dance/Drill Team International 1st Runner Up.

Megan continued her dance education at California State University, Long Beach where she studied modern, ballet, jazz, and hip hop.  She has had the opportunity to work with choreographers Andy Vaca, Lorin Johnson, Sophie Monat, Susan McLain, Keith Johnson and many others.  She was also chosen to perform her own solo choreography in the Spring 2010 Student Contemporary Concert.  Megan graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance in 2010.

Currently, Megan teaches ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, hip hop and pointe throughout Orange County. She has also had the opportunity to perform on the dance ministry at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa for the past three years.  Recently, Megan joined Andy Vaca’s Jazzworks-Long Beach and performed in the L.A. So Cal Dance Invitational at the Ford Amphitheatre.


Elizabeth Farmen attended the University of California, Irvine, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics in 2007. Ms. Farmen received the Disney Creative Arts Scholarship and the Amanda Borad Dance Scholarship in 2001, as well as a full dance scholarship funded by Mr. William Gillespie. She has danced at the Irvine Barclay Theatre for the National Choreographic Initiative and was semi-finalist for the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Awards in 2000 and 2001. Ms. Farmen began her dance training in 1989 with Salwa Rizkalla at Southland Ballet Academy and was a member of Festival Ballet Theatre for eight years.


Marci Goedl received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from the University of California, Irvine. Representing UCI in the spring of 2006, she danced in Paris, France where she performed a piece choreographed by Douglas Becker. Ms. Goedl was a semi-finalist in the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Awards in 2001 and 2002 and was also a recipient of both the Disney Creative Arts Scholarship and the Amanda Borad Dance Scholarship in 2002. She has been studying under Salwa Rizkalla for 18 years at Southland Ballet Academy and was a member of Festival Ballet Theatre for eight years.


Tara Gusman has achieved many honors, titles and awards throughout her 10 years of training,: finalist at Youth Grand Prix Nationals, Teen Miss Dance of America 2004, Dance Masters of America; and National Training Scholar for ABT. At age 16, Tara was offered a full scholarship to ABT and an apprenticeship with Washington Ballet. She has performed as a lead ballet dancer in the popular filmStep Up; and has danced in Le Corsaire with ABT and various other ballets. She has worked with Florence and the Machine and performed on the hit TV show, Dancing with the Stars, as part of an ensemble feature dance.


Kathy Kahn holds a degree in dance from United States International University. For many years as a soloist, ballet mistress, and resident choreographer for Ballet Pacifica, she received her early training from Ballet Pacifica founder Lila Zali, formerly of the Colonel de Basil Ballet Russe. Thousands of Orange County children are familiar with Kathy’s choreography through her many whimsical and humorous ballets such as Mixed Vegetables and Winnie-the-Pooh performed on Ballet Pacifica’s Ballet for Children series.

Other companies that have performed Kathy’s works include Dance Peninsula Ballet in Palos Verdes Estates and DanceCorps of Pasadena. Kathy has also choreographed Pinocchio and The Twelve Dancing Princesses for South Coast Repertory’s Young Conservatory Players, and The Music Man for Laguna Playhouse. In addition, her choreography has been seen three times at the Regional Dance America/Pacific Ballet Festival.

Kathy is the former director of Laguna Beach Ballet Studio and has taught all ages and levels for more than 40 years at numerous dance schools throughout Orange County. Besides Southland Ballet, she currently is on the dance faculty of Orange Coast College and has taught in the Coast District since 1981.


Marina Kalinin is the Founder of the Kalinin Dance Academy in Huntington Beach. While a student of the Bolshoi Academy, she danced as a soloist in over 60 countries with the most prestigious ballet and character dance companies, including the Moiseyev and Berioska. In recognition of her outstanding performance, she received the Award of the Honored Artist of the Russian Federation. She graduated from the prestigious Moscow Bolshoi Ballet Academy and was taught by Elizabeth Gerdt, the famous teacher of Plesetskaya and Maximova.

Mrs. Kalinin immigrated to the United States in 1981, and has performed on stages in New York, Las Vegas, Reno, Australia and throughout Southern California as a member of the Kalinin Dance Company, formed by her husband. Ms. Kalinin comes from a well known Russian family of artists. She has taught dance for over 20 years in the US as well as abroad.

Hanna Przyludzka-Karacic was born in Poland where she start to take ballet classes at an early age and later entered The Polish State Professional Ballet School in Bytom ( Silesia) for nine years. After graduating Ballet School she received Polish scholarship to study in Russia at the Sankts Petersburg Conservatory, where she was taught by more prominent ballet dancers, ballet teachers and choreographers in Russia (P.Gusev, N. Boyartchikoff, N. Dolgushin, O.Berg….). In 1991 she received M.D. as a ballet master and returned to Poland where she started to work at the Ballet school in Bytom and later she was invited to work at the one of the biggest Opera-Ballet Theater in Poland. At The Wroclaw Opera-Ballet Theater , except dancing, she taught company classes ( male and females), rehearsed Corps de Ballet, soloist and ballet sequences in operas, she helped restage traditional classical choreography and made own choreography works for the company. Beside The Wroclaw Opera-Ballet Theater, she made choreography for Polish Television and Theater and Bytom Ballet School. In 1999 she moved with her husband to U.S.A. (California) where she soon started to work at Southland Ballet Academy.


Askar Kettebekov received his dance training from the National Ballet School of Kazakhstan and graduated from the National University of Kazakhstan with a degree in ballet pedagogy and choreography. After graduation, he was asked to join the National Ballet Theatre of Kazakhstan and performed with the company for eight years as a soloist, after which he joined Moscow Festival Ballet. Upon coming to the United States, Kettebekov served as a principal guest dancer with the Ballet Theatre of Boston and the Tulsa Ballet. For three years, he was a principal dancer with the San Diego Ballet before accepting a position as artistic director with the Media Dance Center in Los Angeles. Kettebekov has been teaching with Southland Ballet Academy for a year and a half. As a dancer he has toured through Asia, Europe and North America, including China, Japan, Germany, France, England and Italy. His professional repertoire includes The Nutcracker, Le Corsaire, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Fountain of Bakhchisaray, Legends of Love, Giselle, Don Quixote and the role of Rothbart in Swan Lake.


Natalie Matsuura began her training with Mrs. Hanna Karacic at the age of six and came to Southland Ballet Academy at the age of fourteen. She completed her BFA in dance performance and choreography with a minor in Spanish at the University of California, Irvine, graduating with honors and awards that included Excellence in Dance Performance (2015); Medici Circle Award (2015); William J. Gillespie Scholarship in Ballet Studies (2013-15); Phi Beta Kappa (2015); and Campuswide Honors (2015). As a dancer with Festival Ballet Theatre, Natalie has performed numerous principal and soloist roles, including Queen of the Dryads in Don Quixote; Sugar Plum Fairy, Dew Drop, and Snow Queen in Nutcracker; and Monya in Giselle. As a choreographer, Natalie has staged work at the University of California, Irvine and Youth America Grand Prix. Natalie has been teaching at Southland Ballet Academy since 2011 and will begin teaching and choreographing at Azusa Pacific University in September 2015.


Natasha Miroshnyk, graduated in 1988 from the Kiev Academic Choreography School, where she was trained under the Honorable Ukrainian Actress A.G. Calchenko.  After graduation, she was invited to join the Odessa Academic State Opera and Ballet Theater.  She toured Japan, China, Taiwan, Germany, Spain, Finland, Lebanon, and other countries and performed there until 2000. From 2001 to 2003 she became a principal dancer with the First State Ballet Theater in Delaware.  In 2003, Natasha became a soloist for the Moscow Ballet where she remained until 2013.   She has performed in a number of performances including The Nutcracker, Giselle, Swan Lake, Flames of Paris, The Sleeping Beauty,Walpurgis Night, La Bayadère, The Little Humpbacked Horse, Carnival in Venice,Chopiniana, Carmen Suite, Pas de Quatre, Don Quixote and more.

Natasha began her teaching career in 2000 at Dance Elite ballet school in Doylestown, PA, where she taught pre-ballet, basic levels, advanced ballet classes and pointe. She prepared choreography for their annual performance of “The Nutcracker” and “The Wizard of Oz”.  She continued teaching and  choreographing while working with students at MediaDance School in Media, PA and the Russian Ballet Center in Newport, DE before taking her role in 2003 as soloist with the Moscow Ballet.


Lauren Shavitz was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has been dancing since age 5 and professionally for 26 years. She has taught extensively in South Africa, Georgia and California in Jazz, Tap, and lyrical. Lauren has performed in various TV shows, Industrials and stage productions.

In her native country she performed with The Performing Arts Modern Dance Theater Company, as well as Jazz Dance Theater South in Atlanta and Jazz Spectrum in Orange County. Lauren performed with choreographer Mike Esperanza in Friends in Dance Showcase 2007 as well as for choreographer Linda Simmons in Pulse ’07. Lauren worked with Tesoro Dance Team and Color guard 2008-2010, she was Dance Commissioner for the 2007 Maccabi Games and the Artist in Residence for the 2009 & 2013 Maccabi Artsfest in Orange County.  Lauren continues to choreograph competition groups and solos for several high schools in Orange County, including choreography for San Juan Hills High Spring Shows 2011-2013. She is a member of California Association of Dance/Drill Team Directors (CADTD) and United Spirit Association (USA) where she judges for the high school competition circuit. Lauren continues to expand her creativity and passion for dance. She is blessed with her amazing husband and is very proud of her 22 year old daughter and 11 year old son.


Stella Viorica, a former principal dancer with National Bucharest Opera of Romania, has been featured in a variety of roles from classical ballets including Don Quixote, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, La Fille Mal Gardee, Giselle, Les Sylphide and Sleeping Beauty, as well as numerous contemporary works done by, Anna Sokolov, Alexa Mezincescu, Oleg Danovsky, Amato Checiulescu and Ion Tugearu.

Miss Viorica is a graduate of the State Academy of Ballet of Romania where she was trained in a comprehensive ballet program of nine years. Among other wonderful teachers she had the opportunity to study under Yury Umrihin of the Vaganova Institute.

After touring extensively throughout Europe, Ms. Viorica relocated to California where she began extending her career into choreography, staging, teaching and coaching. Miss Viorica strives to offer students the highest quality of ballet instruction. Under her guidance, her students have been awarded scholarships at world renowned training programs such as National Ballet School of Canada, Kirov Ballet school in Washington DC, American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet.

As Stella Dance Company’s residential Choreographer since 1990, Ms. Viorica has created seven full-length productions including Alice and Wonderland, Mary Poppins, A Christmas Carol, Open Audition, as well as numerous other works, including Black and White in 1994 to celebrate the opening of Hoag Hospital’s Cancer Research Center. She received the special award of Outstanding Choreographer at the prestigious Grand Prix Ballet Competition in 2000 in Long Beach and at the Festival of Dance in Laguna Beach in 2003.

Her goal is to promote, preserve and de-mystify the art of dancing in the community, to provide a training ground for aspiring professional dancers, and to be a resource for education and entertainment in Orange County.