Uptown Dance Centre’s Faculty

Beth Gulledge-Brown, Founder and Artistic Director   International choreographer, instructor, and dancer Beth Gulledge-Brown began her lifelong relationship with dance at the age of three under the instruction of her mother, Carolyn Gulledge. She holds a degree in dance from the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa. She has performed with companies around the world, including UCT Ballet Company and the CAPAB Ballet Company in South Africa, as well as Delia Stewart Dance Company, Texas Dance Theatre, and Joan Karff’s New Dance Group in the United States.  Ms. Gulledge-Brown opened Uptown Dance Centre in 1999, and formed a pre-professional dance company to provide a performing outlet for her advanced students. In 2008, Gulledge-Brown launched Uptown Dance Company, a professional dance company.  A talented and versatile choreographer, Ms. Gulledge-Brown has set choreography for multiple projects and festivals, including the Texas Tanzsommer Festival, Jazz Dance World Congress, Choreographer’s X 6, JCC SummerDance Repertory/Performance Project, Dance Houston, and Dance Month. In 2013, Gulledge-Brown choreographed her first opera for the University of Houston Moore’s School of Music’s production of Shoshtakovich’s  Moscow Cheryomushki . Her choreography has been presented internationally in Mexico, Costa Rica, Austria, and China.

Beth Gulledge-Brown, Founder and Artistic Director

International choreographer, instructor, and dancer Beth Gulledge-Brown began her lifelong relationship with dance at the age of three under the instruction of her mother, Carolyn Gulledge. She holds a degree in dance from the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa. She has performed with companies around the world, including UCT Ballet Company and the CAPAB Ballet Company in South Africa, as well as Delia Stewart Dance Company, Texas Dance Theatre, and Joan Karff’s New Dance Group in the United States.

Ms. Gulledge-Brown opened Uptown Dance Centre in 1999, and formed a pre-professional dance company to provide a performing outlet for her advanced students. In 2008, Gulledge-Brown launched Uptown Dance Company, a professional dance company.

A talented and versatile choreographer, Ms. Gulledge-Brown has set choreography for multiple projects and festivals, including the Texas Tanzsommer Festival, Jazz Dance World Congress, Choreographer’s X 6, JCC SummerDance Repertory/Performance Project, Dance Houston, and Dance Month. In 2013, Gulledge-Brown choreographed her first opera for the University of Houston Moore’s School of Music’s production of Shoshtakovich’s Moscow Cheryomushki. Her choreography has been presented internationally in Mexico, Costa Rica, Austria, and China.

Adrian Ciobanu, Co-Director   Adrian Ciobanu was born in Cluj, Romania, where he graduated with honors from the Liceul de Choregrafie, Octavian Stroia, under the direction of his father, Florin Ciobanu. He performed with the Romanian Opera Ballet for one year then moved to the Hungarian Opera Ballet for five years, where he achieved the rank of principal dancer. He toured throughout Europe including France, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Romania, and the Czech Republic.  In 1996, Mr. Ciobanu became a member of the Sarasota Ballet, dancing major principal roles as well as creating many roles. His repertoire includes major classical and contemporary ballets by such choreographers as Robert North, Alberto Alonso, Katherine Posen, Steven Mills, Todd Allen, and Ament Istvan. Beginning in 2002, he taught and coached for Sarasota Ballet School, Dance the Next Generation, and local and regional schools throughout Florida. In 2003, Mr. Ciobanu was promoted to Principal of Academy, Sarasota Ballet, where the number of students doubled and the budget increased significantly under his direction. He staged full-length productions for the Academy, including  Cinderella ,  Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, The Nutcracker, La Boutique Fantasque,  and  Paquita . In 2008, Mr. Ciobanu was promoted to Ballet Master of Sarasota Ballet and worked extensively with the Academy. He worked with such stagers and choreographers as Hans Van Manen, Monica Parker, Alexander Grant, Dominic Walsh, Sandra Jennings, Joyceanne Sidimus, Julian Moss, Andre Prokovsky, Gilles Maidon, Jackie Hollander, Donald Mahler, and Margaret Barbieri.  Mr. Ciobanu has been the Co-Director of Uptown Dance Centre and Uptown Dance Company for the past seven years.

Adrian Ciobanu, Co-Director

Adrian Ciobanu was born in Cluj, Romania, where he graduated with honors from the Liceul de Choregrafie, Octavian Stroia, under the direction of his father, Florin Ciobanu. He performed with the Romanian Opera Ballet for one year then moved to the Hungarian Opera Ballet for five years, where he achieved the rank of principal dancer. He toured throughout Europe including France, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Romania, and the Czech Republic.

In 1996, Mr. Ciobanu became a member of the Sarasota Ballet, dancing major principal roles as well as creating many roles. His repertoire includes major classical and contemporary ballets by such choreographers as Robert North, Alberto Alonso, Katherine Posen, Steven Mills, Todd Allen, and Ament Istvan. Beginning in 2002, he taught and coached for Sarasota Ballet School, Dance the Next Generation, and local and regional schools throughout Florida. In 2003, Mr. Ciobanu was promoted to Principal of Academy, Sarasota Ballet, where the number of students doubled and the budget increased significantly under his direction. He staged full-length productions for the Academy, including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, The Nutcracker, La Boutique Fantasque, and Paquita. In 2008, Mr. Ciobanu was promoted to Ballet Master of Sarasota Ballet and worked extensively with the Academy. He worked with such stagers and choreographers as Hans Van Manen, Monica Parker, Alexander Grant, Dominic Walsh, Sandra Jennings, Joyceanne Sidimus, Julian Moss, Andre Prokovsky, Gilles Maidon, Jackie Hollander, Donald Mahler, and Margaret Barbieri.

Mr. Ciobanu has been the Co-Director of Uptown Dance Centre and Uptown Dance Company for the past seven years.

Laura Catherine Hilley, Faculty   Laura Catherine Hilley began training at Mobile Ballet at age three. As her passion for the art grew and her performance opportunities increased—under the artistic direction of Winthrop Corey—she became singularly focused on dance.  After multiple summer intensives in New York City, first with American Ballet Theatre and then with The School of American Ballet, Ms. Hilley relocated to Houston to train full-time with Houston Ballet Academy on merit scholarship. While there, she had numerous opportunities to perform works by Stanton Welch and Ben Stevenson O.B.E. with Houston Ballet.  Ms. Hilley then became a member of Cincinnati Ballet, where she worked with choreographer Adam Hougland and toured with the company to The Kennedy Center. Some of her favorite reps include Val Caniparoli ’s Lady of the Camellias , Victoria Morgan’s  Cinderella , and Septime Webre’s  Alice in Wonderland  and  Peter Pan .  With her love of teaching and performing, she is sought as guest performer and master instructor throughout the Houston community and region. She teaches a variety of genres and ages at Uptown Dance Centre as well as adult ballet at Houston Ballet. Ms. Hilley is a second-year member of Uptown Dance Company

Laura Catherine Hilley, Faculty

Laura Catherine Hilley began training at Mobile Ballet at age three. As her passion for the art grew and her performance opportunities increased—under the artistic direction of Winthrop Corey—she became singularly focused on dance.

After multiple summer intensives in New York City, first with American Ballet Theatre and then with The School of American Ballet, Ms. Hilley relocated to Houston to train full-time with Houston Ballet Academy on merit scholarship. While there, she had numerous opportunities to perform works by Stanton Welch and Ben Stevenson O.B.E. with Houston Ballet.

Ms. Hilley then became a member of Cincinnati Ballet, where she worked with choreographer Adam Hougland and toured with the company to The Kennedy Center. Some of her favorite reps include Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias, Victoria Morgan’s Cinderella, and Septime Webre’s Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.

With her love of teaching and performing, she is sought as guest performer and master instructor throughout the Houston community and region. She teaches a variety of genres and ages at Uptown Dance Centre as well as adult ballet at Houston Ballet. Ms. Hilley is a second-year member of Uptown Dance Company

 
Nao Kusuzaki, Faculty   Born in Ehime, Japan, Nao Kusuzaki began her training at Yatsuzuka Ballet School. When her family relocated to the United States, she trained Washington School of Ballet and Boston Ballet. Shejoined Houston Ballet in 2004, where she performed as a soloist from 2009–2016. Some of her favorite roles from the repertoire includes: The Sugarplum Fairy in  The Nutcracker ; Nikiya in La Bayadere ; Madame Butterfly in  Madame Butterfly; The Lilac Fairy in  Sleeping Beauty ; as well as contemporary works by Kylian, Forsythe, Welch, Tharp, and Wheeldon.  Ms. Kusuzaki produced Dance for Hope , a benefit concert in response to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami of Japan. In 2015, she co-created and was featured in  Performing Asia: Tsuru at Asia Society Texas Center. In July 2017, she directed and danced in  Japan Dance Project: Stanton Welch x Kenta Kojiri x Dancers from Houston Ballet held in Chiba-City, Japan. In November 2017, Ms. Kusuzaki directed and danced in the revival of  Tsuru at Miller Outdoor Theater, Houston, TX, where she also was commended by the Consulate General, Japan.  Ms. Kusuzaki is founder of Creative Minds Collaborative Inc., a nonprofit organization which seeks to create meaning across artists, educators, and supporters of the arts.

Nao Kusuzaki, Faculty

Born in Ehime, Japan, Nao Kusuzaki began her training at Yatsuzuka Ballet School. When her family relocated to the United States, she trained Washington School of Ballet and Boston Ballet. Shejoined Houston Ballet in 2004, where she performed as a soloist from 2009–2016. Some of her favorite roles from the repertoire includes: The Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker; Nikiya inLa Bayadere; Madame Butterfly in Madame Butterfly;The Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty; as well as contemporary works by Kylian, Forsythe, Welch, Tharp, and Wheeldon.

Ms. Kusuzaki producedDance for Hope, a benefit concert in response to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami of Japan. In 2015, she co-created and was featured in Performing Asia: Tsuruat Asia Society Texas Center. In July 2017, she directed and danced in Japan Dance Project: Stanton Welch x Kenta Kojiri x Dancers from Houston Balletheld in Chiba-City, Japan. In November 2017, Ms. Kusuzaki directed and danced in the revival of Tsuruat Miller Outdoor Theater, Houston, TX, where she also was commended by the Consulate General, Japan.

Ms. Kusuzaki is founder of Creative Minds Collaborative Inc., a nonprofit organization which seeks to create meaning across artists, educators, and supporters of the arts.

Claire Westerman, Faculty   Ms. Westerman began dancing at the age of ten at Northern California Dance Conservatory. Three years later, she was invited to train on merit scholarship at Houston Ballet Academy, where she performed works by Ben Stevenson O.B.E., Stanton Welch, and Claudio Munoz. Ms. Westerman then became a member of the second company at Uptown Dance Centre, which afforded her the opportunity to tour to Austria’s Young Tanzsommer Dance Festival.  Some of her favorite performance opportunities include: Clara in the Sacramento Ballet’s  Nutcracker ; soloist in  Ladies  by Stanton Welch;  Swan Lake  pas de trois first variation at Houston Ballet Solo Night; Jane Weiner’s  Pink Ribbons Project  solo; and the Sugar Plum Fairy at Uptown Dance Centre’s  Nutcracker . She returns for her second year as a member of Uptown Dance Company. Ms. Westerman also teaches creative movement, ballet, tap, jazz, and hip-hop for young dancers at Uptown Dance Centre.

Claire Westerman, Faculty

Ms. Westerman began dancing at the age of ten at Northern California Dance Conservatory. Three years later, she was invited to train on merit scholarship at Houston Ballet Academy, where she performed works by Ben Stevenson O.B.E., Stanton Welch, and Claudio Munoz. Ms. Westerman then became a member of the second company at Uptown Dance Centre, which afforded her the opportunity to tour to Austria’s Young Tanzsommer Dance Festival.

Some of her favorite performance opportunities include: Clara in the Sacramento Ballet’s Nutcracker; soloist in Ladies by Stanton Welch; Swan Lake pas de trois first variation at Houston Ballet Solo Night; Jane Weiner’s Pink Ribbons Project solo; and the Sugar Plum Fairy at Uptown Dance Centre’s Nutcracker. She returns for her second year as a member of Uptown Dance Company. Ms. Westerman also teaches creative movement, ballet, tap, jazz, and hip-hop for young dancers at Uptown Dance Centre.