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Bridget Payne

began her Ballet training in Manitowoc Wisconsin with Jean Wolfmeyer. At 14 years old she began training at the National Academy of Arts in Champaign, Illinois. After graduating in 1987, she began an 8 year performing career with Ballet West in Salt Lake City, Utah. She has performed soloist and leading roles in Ben Stevenson's Cinderella; Willam Christensen's the Nutcracker; Paul Taylor's Company B; Sleeping Beauty; Swan Lake; multiple works by Balanchine; and more. In 1995 she was invited by Ben Stevenson to teach at the internationally aclaimed Houston Ballet Academy, where she received the distinction of Principal Teacher in both their Pre-professional and Professional Divisions. She shares over 24 years of performing and teaching experience with our students.


(Program Director)
trained with legend Michael Fokine's great niece, Nina Marlow , in Phoenix Arizona, and on scholarship at the San Francisco Ballet School. His performing career spanned 11 years, beginning with Ballet West in Salt Lake City. In 1994, he was invited by Ben Stevenson to join the world renowned Houston Ballet where he ended his performing career as a Soloist in 2000. He has performed the roles of Albrecht in Giselle; the title role of Eugene Loring's Billy the Kid; the Prince in Cinderella; the prince in Ben Stevenson's the Nutcracker; the principal male role in William Forsythe's In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated; soloist role in Glen Tetley's Rite of Spring; as well as Principal and Soloist roles in works by Ben Stevenson, Christopher Bruce, Paul Taylor, Sir Kenneth McMillan, Helgi Tomasson, Peter Martins, Willam Christensen, Val Caniparoli, Trey McIntyre, Balanchine, and Petipa.

Michelle Harper

began dancing at the age of six and has taught for over 30 years. She owned a dance studio in Metairie, Louisiana for 10 years prior to moving to Houston, Texas in 1994. Since then, Michelle has taught all age levels and genres of dance. She particularly enjoys teaching young dancers, as she finds it rewarding to instill the love of dance in her students. Michelle's goal is to always have a healthy mix of fun and learning in each class she teaches. She has three daughters who are also very involved in the dance world.

Hannah Ueckert

began her training in The Woodlands, TX at Excelsior School of Dance. She enjoyed ten years of training with Excelsior as well as traveling to China with the company. As seasons changed, Hannah's path led her to Payne Academy of Ballet. Studying under Jim and Bridget Payne she performed in The Nutcracker, Coppelia, and Swan Lake. Upon graduating from High School, Hannah joined Ad Deum Dance Company training with Randall Flinn in Houston, TX. She danced in Houston, Spain, and North Africa with Ad Deum II. In 2015 she joined the staff at Payne Academy of Performing Arts. Hannah is an ABT? Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT? Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 3 of the ABT? National Training Curriculum. Hannah Ueckert Headshot

Julie Voelkel

began studying ballet at the age of 3 1/2 in Houston under the love and patience of Mary Margaret Niland at the Niland School of Dance. She eventually entered the Houston Ballet Academy and studied under the instruction of Carla Post and Claire Duncan. She performed the role of Clara in Houston Ballet's?The Nutcracker?under the supervision of Ben Stevenson. And she was a child guest of the Royal Ballet when they toured Houston with?Sleeping Beauty. After moving to Ohio, Julie studied at the Betsey Mills Club Ballet School and performed with the Ballet Workshop Betsey Mills directed by Marge Loreman a former dancer with Crescent City Ballet of New Orleans and a student of Lelia Haller of the Paris Opera Ballet. Julie studied one semester under scholarship at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA before transferring to Marietta College where she earned a double bachelor of arts in Marketing and Business Management. She joined the teaching staff at Payne Academy in 2005. Julie and her husband Karl make their home in The Woodlands.

Shizu Yasuda

started her dance training at Sakiko Ichinomiya Ballet School in Japan. After she moved to New York, she performed with several choreographers and dance companies such as Slam and Sensedance Company.?She joined Ad Deum Dance Company in 2004. She danced as a principal dancer with the company and performed at numerous dance events nationally and internationally. She got awarded as one of stunning performers by Dance Houston – City Wide Dance Festival 2008. In 2013, she was invited to Minsk in Belarus as a guest dancer and judge by Chelz Extreme Games. As a dance teacher, she has been teaching Modern and Ballet classes in the Houston dance community at such places as Ad Deum Dance Company, Houston Ballet Academy summer intensive (Modern only), Mitsi Dancing School, Payne Academy of Ballet, Studio of Dance, West University Dance Center and Houston Academy of Dance. Her?choreographic works have been presented at “East Meets West” at Miller Outdoor Theater since 2008.?In 2014, she became an artistic director of Ad Deum II.

Jenna Gooden

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