SWBT’s faculty are the most sought after instructors in the valley. They bring their wide range of expertise and experiences to share with our aspiring dancers. Scroll down to read more about each faculty member and the expertise they bring to SWBT’s dancers. 

Tasha Stramecki – Artistic Director

Tasha Stramecki was born in La Jolla, CA. She trained with the Austin Ballet and studied with scholarship in the pre-professional division of the Boston Ballet. She earned a scholarship to the University of Oklahoma, where she graduated with a BFA in Ballet Performance.

Mrs. Stramecki’s early performing experience includes the Boston Ballet and the Granite State Ballet. She performed corps and principal roles with resident company Oklahoma Festival Ballet. Some of her favorite roles that she has performed are Odette in Swan Lake, Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, Sugar Plum in The Nutcracker, and the principal roles “Apassionata” and “Weill Songs” originally created on her by Mary Margaret Holt. She received special awards from Miguel Therekhov and Yvonne Chouteau and performed in France in 1995 and 1997. She also performed principal roles with Ballet New England under the direction of William Pizzutto, as well as corps and soloist roles with the Northern Ballet Theatre.

She has attended the Balanchine Intensive with classes from former NYCB principals, the Moscow Ballet Intensive taught by Andrey Klemm, the Ruth Petrinovic teacher training intensive, and the Dance Magazine Teacher Summer Conference in New York.

She has instructed and choreographed for all levels of ballet in New England area schools for over 20 years. After becoming the first New Hampshire resident to receive her ABT® certification in 2008, she took on the role of directing, developing, and implementing two ballet programs in New Hampshire. She produced and choreographed The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Raymonda, Sylvia, and Etudes as well as other original choreography while teaching ballet classes based on the ABT® National Training Curriculum.

Mrs. Stramecki has been invited to teach in several countries. The past two years, she has taught master classes with Ballet Municipal of Lima, with Ballet Concierto Cancun, and in Florianopolis, Brazil. In 2020, she started her own classes in Santa Catarina, Brazil. She was the first to offer ballet classes based on the American methodology in this region.

Her students have been accepted into the ABT® summer intensives, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, the professional division of the Boston Ballet School, Burklyn Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Alvin Ailey, and other prestigious ballet schools.

Mrs. Stramecki is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 5 of the ABT National Training Curriculum.

Photo credit: Victor Hugo Silva

Anthony Spaulding II – Instructor

Anthony Spaulding IIAnthony V. Spaulding II was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and began his dance training at Dance Incorporated under the direction of Hodgie Jo. He later studied with the School of Ballet Arizona under the direction of Mr. Kee Juan Han and Nadia Zubkov. Mr. Spaulding later moved to San Francisco, California to finish his studies and ballet training with the San Francisco Ballet School under the direction of Gloria Govrin, where he was named Apprentice with the San Francisco Ballet in 2004. Mr. Spaulding joined the San Francisco Ballet Company under the direction of Helgi Tomasson in 2006 as a Corps de Ballet member. In 2008, Mr. Spaulding was promoted to Soloist dancer.

Mr. Spaulding’s works include Giselle (Tomasson); King of the Snow, King of the Mice, Arabian, Spanish, and Party Guest in Nutcracker (Tomasson); Tybalt in Romeo & Juliet (Tomasson); Cavalier in Sleeping Beauty (Tomasson); Von Rothbart, Spanish, Aristocrat, and Mazurka in Swan Lake (Tomasson); Espada and Toreador in Don Quixote (Tomasson/Possokhov); Sylvia (Morris); The Little Mermaid (Neumeier); Fates in Cinderella (Wheeldon); demi-soloist in “Haffner” Symphony; the role of Johnny in Nanna’s Lied; demi-soloist in On a Theme of Paganini; and principal in Trio (Tomasson).  He also performed the pas de deux from Agon, Allegro Brillante, demi-soloist in “Diamonds,” 3rd Theme and Melancholic in The Four Temperaments, “Elegy” in Serenade, Arias II in Stravinsky Violin Concerto, as well as 4th movement principal and 1st movement demi-soloist in Symphony in C (Balanchine).  In addition, he has performed as demi-soloist, soloist, featured roles, pas de deux, and principal dancer in many other stage choroeographies.

Mr. Spaulding joined the Dance Theater of Harlem in New York City, New York, during the company’s 2018/2019 season under the direction of Virginia Johnson.

Anthony’s guest performances include, 2nd act pas de deux in La Bayadere at Scottsdale School of Ballet Student Showcase (2013), 2nd act of Giselle and the pas de deux from Possokhov’s Diving into the Lilacs, Bozeman, Montana (2012), Possokhov’s Diving into the Lilacs, Liang’s Somewhere in Time, and a pas de deux from Possokhov’s Magrittomania at the Hong Kong Galaxy Ballet Gala (2011), performed Diving into the Lilacs for Youth America Grand Prix Gala at New York City Center (2011), Diving into the Lilacs for Gala at Baadisches Staattheater, Karlsruhe, Germany (2010), and competed in the Eighth International Competition for the Erik Bruhn Prize, Toronto (2009).  Spaulding’s video/film performances include dancing the role of Arabian in “Great Performances” Dance in America: San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker (2007), and San Francisco Bay Area News KTVU interview segment “Bay Area People,” captured rehearsing Nutcracker‘s Snow Pas de Deux. He was also featured in PBS “Great Performances” John Neumeier’s Little Mermaid (2011), Calvin Walker’s Free Time (2015) and A Stroll in Paris, which won Dance Magazine’s Video of the Month in 2014.

Mr. Spaulding was a judge for the District’s Artist of Promise Dance Adjudication (2018).  He is an Alumnus of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix – MLB AZ D-Backs Branch and was a guest speaker at “Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Stars” Gala Benefit Performance with the Boys and Girls Club (2016)

Anthony always had great ambitions to maximize his skills and talents to be the best, and he takes pride in his exceptional work ethic.

Sydney Walker – Instructor & Assistant Operations Director

Sydney Walker started classical ballet at the age of four and completed several Royal Academy of Dance examinations with Arizona Youth Ballet under the instruction of Kelly Moul.  She earned exceptional marks in her classical performance and musicality, receiving one of the highest total grades in her studio in 2013. RAD, a worldwide classical ballet syllabus program, inspired her passion for character dance and its strong technique.  After ten years, she joined Southwest Ballet Theatre and has thrived dancing in their professional performances.  Her favorite roles include the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz, Pretty Bird in Tarzan, the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, and a Czardas soloist in Coppélia.

Sydney has five years of teaching and choreography experience. She enjoys her administration role at SWBT as it connects her with the staff and families while they collaborate in performance production.

Sydney plans to pursue her education in the medical field.  On the side, she plays piano recreationally with her 15 years of piano experience.  She hopes to continue teaching and dancing in the future.

Sydney is certified in adaptive dance by the Boston Ballet Company and has earned an Associate in Arts Degree.

Bernadette Gaxiola – Instructor

Bernadette GaxiolaBernadette Gaxiola began her dance training at age of 6 in Flamenco, Classical Spanish, Spanish Folk, Mexican Folk with Laura Moya/AZ. She began her professional carrier at the age of 13 with Laura Moya Hispanic Dance Company. Her studies also took her nationally and abroad to Spain, which includes flamenco artists Luis Montero, Oscar Nieto, Julia Lopez, La Meida, La Conja, Carola Zertuche, Yolanda Heredia, Isabel Bayón, Antonio “El Pipa”, Antonio Granjero, and Pastora Galvan, among many others.

Performance credits also include ‘ Zona Flamenca, Flamenco Ole/Antonio Granjero (PA), Ballet Etudes (AZ), Calo Flamenco Ballet de Martin Gaxiola. She has toured the throughout the US and debuted her Solo Solea’ por Buleria’s at the Hecksher Theatre at El Museo de Barrio, just to name a few. She founded Gitanitos del Sol student dance company and Zona Flamenca, also became director of Flamenco at Pepin Spanish restaurant. In 2016, she debuted her production at Arcosanti , Flamenco Meets Vivaldi. To name a few of her works include “Metropolis”/Ballet under the Stars, the Arizona Music Festivals, Orpheum Theatre, Herberger, presented her first Flamenco ensemble at YAGP 2019/ NY.

Teaching credits include School of Ballet Arizona, Scottsdale Dance Academy, Arizona School for the Arts, and is currently on staff at Master Ballet Academy. Now, she instructs/choreographs/performs and remains committed to her goal of inspiring future generations of dancers through the artistic expression of Flamenco. She is an AVP for a national insurance brokerage, and in her spare time, she enjoys Salsa Dancing with her husband and spending time with her children and extended family.

Zoë Hunter – Instructor

Zoë HunterZoë Hunter is a dance teacher, performer, and choreographer out of Phoenix, Arizona. She has degrees in Dance (B.A.) and Psychology (B.S.) with a minor in Theatre and Honors College from Grand Canyon University (2022) where she studied Ballet, Modern, and Jazz. Her training also includes more than a decade in ballet, in addition to contemporary/modern, tap, and hip hop through multiple studios and intensives in California, including School of Classical Ballet (Santa Cruz) and SpectorDance. As a dance teacher for ballet, jazz, tap, and contemporary/modern for ages 3-adult, her approach trains dancers using holistic and psychology-influenced methodology to develop proper technical skills and individual artistry. She has also been blessed to choreograph and work on pieces for an intensive and residency with Ballet 5:8 (under Julianna Rubio Slager and Kevin Jenkins), Dream City Church’s Celebration of Christmas (audience of over 50,000 throughout run), a scene in a Tollywood film, Herberger Festival for the Arts, student dance showcases (Grand Canyon University), and Ethington Dance Ensemble. As a dancer and performer, Zoë has been featured in works by Greta Sugai and Janice Rosario, NRI -Nayana Rara Intiki (Tollywood film), Chandler Center for the Arts “Storytelling Through Dance”, as well as many others. She is thankful to be a part of Southwest Ballet Theatre!

Melissa Marshall – Instructor

Melissa MarshallMelissa Marshall started her dance training at the age of three, in Albany, New York. At the age of six, she began more serious ballet training with the Albany Berkshire Ballet under the direction of Madeline Cantarella Culpo. She performed in many ballets including Midsummer Night’s Dream, Cinderella, and the Nutcracker.

Melissa performed and travelled with the ABB company throughout the East coast and Canada performing several roles in the Nutcracker. She attended Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet for two summer programs under the direction of Marcia Dale Weary in 1995 and 1996. In 1997, she put her ballet career on hold to peruse a career in physical therapy at Springfield College, Massachusetts. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in 2001, and Master of Science degree in Physical Therapy in 2002.

Melissa worked as a licensed physical therapist in the state of New Mexico, in the school-age, early intervention, in-home pediatric, and geriatric settings for eight years. She moved to Rocky Point, Sonora, Mexico, in 2010, where she resumed dancing and began teaching with Destiny Dance Academy. In 2017, Melissa opened Elegante School of Dance and Therapeutic Center where she choreographed and taught ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, hip hop, acrobatics, yoga, toning and conditioning as well as provided physical therapy services and therapeutic massages to children and adults. In late 2017, Melissa moved to Goodyear, and became a licensed physical therapist in AZ, working with children with disabilities. In 2018, Melissa began dancing and performing with Southwest Ballet Theatre. She currently teaches, assists and performs with SWBT.

Melissa has a passion for uniting her physical therapy and dance backgrounds to serve children with special needs in the ballet studio.

Angela Brown – Instructor

Angela BrownAngela Brown is a seventh generation Arizona native, born and raised in Phoenix. She has studied dance since she was three years of age including, ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, acrobatics, hip hop and theater. The summer after her high school graduation in 2015, Angela worked at a camp in New York where she taught inner city children different dance techniques. She is now studying at Grand Canyon University for her bachelors in Business Administration with a dance minor.Angela has had the privilege of performing many times including performances at the Herberger Theater in The Snow Queen Ballet, The Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, and many local events and competitions. She started competing with a tap team and then continued to compete in other styles of dance throughout her high school career. Angela has performed with the Ethington Dance Ensemble in their first tap piece for their faculty show.

Angela believes that dance should be an escape and tool to express your feelings in ways that words cannot.