MEET OUR FACULTY
Benicia Ballet's faculty is comprised of a group of devoted professionals who are committed to the success of their students.
Teresa Taylor devoted her life to ballet and teaching. Guided by discipline, tradition, passion and intuition she inspires her students to achieve their personal best. A dedicated teacher for nearly 30 years, Teresa continues to expand her knowledge to better help her students. Certifications include ABT® National Training Curriculum ABT® Certified Teacher who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Primary through Level 5, Balanced Body Pilates Instructor certified in all Apparatus, Progressing Ballet Technique certified Levels 1, 2 and 3 and Lisa Howell of the Ballet Blog Level 2 Pointe, Core and Flexibility training. She recently spent 3 years volunteering with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Dance Medicine Program where she helped Physical Therapists better understand the demands of young dancers during their rehabilitation after injury, while gaining a better understanding of multiple dance related injuries and the treatment protocols administered by PT’s. Upon graduating from college with honors and two degrees, she went on to perform with Ballet Theatre of Boston, Ballet New England and Boston Dance Company while teaching for Boston Ballet's Center for Dance Education. She strives to see her students gain a better understanding of their bodies, enjoy the strength, power and beauty that is within each of us, and reach their artistic dreams.
Associate Artistic Director, Choreographer, Project Manager for Company Programs
Ms Zilka started with Benicia Ballet the year the school was founded in 1986. She danced in the very first Benicia Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker and continued to perform annually in the Nutcracker and additional spring and summer performances. Ms Zilka also participated in yearly Royal Academy of Dance, completing her major exams. In addition, she attended summer dance intensives in both Canada and New York. Ms Zilka furthered her education at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television studying musical theater, and received her BS in Human Development from UC Davis. She returned to Benicia Ballet in 2009 to teach and direct the children’s division of Benicia Ballet School (now Benicia Academy of Performing Arts). She was quickly promoted to Associate Artistic Director of Benicia Ballet Theatre that same year. Ms Zilka helps behind the scenes as the lead project manager for both BBT & BAPA productions but can also often be found onstage performing with our dancers. She loves that her family is also involved with Benicia Ballet Theatre. Her two children love to perform with BBT, while her husband prefers to stay backstage working as the Assistant Stage Manager. Ms Zilka is overjoyed to be part of the Benicia Ballet family. She considers it her second home.
Ballet & Tap Faculty
Tina found her love of dance at a very young age. She began her formal ballet training in her mom’s studio at the age of three. As a young child, she spent her summers in New York City performing with Jackie Gleason. She also studied ballet, tap and acrobatics at the June Taylor Dance Studio. Upon moving to California, she continued her studies with her mom at Stamps School of Classical Ballet in Albany while attending summer courses at San Francisco Ballet School. She’s had the privilege of taking classes with accomplished teachers and dancers including Harold Christensen, Roberta Meyer, Sally Streets, Tilly Abbe and Carmalita Maracci, among others. She began teaching at the age of fifteen in her mom’s dance studio and found her passion. Upon her mom’s retirement, she took over the responsibility as owner and artistic director of Stamps School of Classical Ballet. As artistic director, she taught classes in classical ballet, tap, acrobatics and many other forms of dance for 21 years. She resumed her career at Susie Harper School of Dance as ballet director for 20 years while guest teaching locally.
Ms. Risi started her dance training at age 5 and quickly joined Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle where she studied for 10 years. During that time she also studied with Suzanne Farrell at the Kennedy Center, Hartford Ballet, and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Ms. Risi was granted full scholarship at the University of Utah were she
danced with Utah Ballet and Ballet West. During her college training in Utah she was also hired to perform in the 2002 Winter Olympic's Medal Ceremonies.
Completing her BFA in Dance she continued to dance with City Ballet of San Diego for 7 years as a Soloist. Professionally she performed soloist and principle roles in Balanchine's Apollo, Stars and Stripes, Serenade, Who Cares?, Four Temperaments, The Nutcracker, and Swan Lake. Alexis retired to mother two daughters, yet continues to support contemporary productions with Indelible Dance in New York City annually.
About 2 years ago, Alexis moved to Benicia and started teaching here at Benicia Ballet and loves being a part of our dance family and surrounding community.
Sally was born and raised in Vallejo, CA. She began ballet at the age of 4, at Lodena’s School of Dance, and she dabbled in tap, jazz, and acrobatics Eventually, she made it to pointe! Sally wanted to dance like her sister, who is 3 years older than her. Her dancing was interrupted at 13 years of age, as she decided to devote her time to becoming an equestrian. Sally came back to dance in her twenties, and danced ballet, but focused on jazz and modern dance, and in 1977, she moved to Benicia. In her thirties, Sally had an opportunity to travel to NY, and experience some ballet theatre, which changed her life forever and completely hooked her on ballet! Her children were teenagers at the time, and she began ballet classes several times a week, later adding modern dance, the dances of Isadora Duncan, and Flamenco, while continuing her ballet studies. Sally began to perform the dances of Isadora Duncan with a small company, and began performing in homeless centers, prisons, and various places in the community. She was also part of a flamenco troupe that performed all over the bay area in 1992. Ballet is a part of Sally, and she enjoys sharing her love for dance with the students at Benicia Academy of Performing Arts, and the Benicia Ballet Theatre.
Contemporary and Adult Ballet Faculty
Ms. Morris began her dance education as a teenager right here at Benicia Ballet School under the direction of Jeanie Pors and Sally Babson. She was inspired to pursue her love of dance in college and had the privilege to study with Broadway performer Janie Scott, ballet and theatric choreographer Janet Van Swoll, and with Fred Mathews and Gary Masters of Jose Limon Dance Company. While in school, Ms. Morris danced for Opera San Jose, SJSU’s resident musical theatre dance company “Company One”, and Visual Rhythm Dance Company. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from San Jose State University and graduated as Outstanding Senior of her class. Ms. Morris went on to play “Ruth” in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (West Valley Light Opera), “Winnie Tate” in Annie Get Your Gun (Saratoga Drama Group), and “Bianca” in Kiss Me Kate (Cabrillo Stage). Upon moving to Las Vegas, NV, Ms. Morris continued her career performing professionally in “Marriage Can Be Murder” (Fremont Street), as “Riff’s girlfriend” in West Side Story (Super Summer Theatre), and in Christmas spectaculars with Face Productions. She has traveled around the country dancing and singing in various productions for “Legends in Concert”, including “Elvis Lives”. Ms. Morris also choreographed and performed in many liturgical experiences for her church in Las Vegas. She is very happy to be returning to the world of dance back where she began in Benicia! Dance is a part of her soul and she hopes to help dancers of all ages and levels reach their dance goals - whatever they may be. She also hopes to help dancers see the best in themselves and others through the powerful
beauty and peace dance can bring!
Contemporary Dance Faculty
Montrell Smith began dancing at 16, but it wasn’t until he was a senior in high school that he began to hone in on his talent and love for modern and contemporary dance. This will be Montrell’s third season teaching with BBT. Montrell is Currently attending Diablo Valley College, working on obtaining an A.A. in dance and a transfer in biology. After DVC Montrell hopes to continue his passion for dance and science by attending UCI. After graduating from university Montrell hopes to become a geneticist while also continuing his dance training and traveling the world, expanding his knowledge of dance and different cultures with his closest friends.
Maddie began her ballet training here at Benicia Ballet at age 4 and immediately fell in love with dancing. She soon began performing in Benicia Ballet Theatre's annual Nutracker and Spring productions and continued performing up through her recent high school graduation in 2021. Throughout high school, Maddie spent her summers away at ballet summer intensives in New York and Texas, including programs with Bolshoi Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Joffrey Ballet School. Currently, Maddie is attending Diablo Valley College while maintaining her involvement with Benicia Ballet by teaching and continuing to take classes. She is so thankful to be a part of the Benicia Ballet community!
Lauren started dancing recreationally at the age of 2. For the next 8 years she would continue multiple forms of dance from ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary, lyrical, hip hop and even Hula and Tahitian. She was in competitive dance for a few years before realizing it was time to dive deeper into the world of Ballet. In the spring of 2009, she danced her first performance with Benicia Ballet, Swan Lake. Later that year she would perform her her first of many Nutcracker performances over the next decade. She attended summer intensives each year at Diablo Ballet, Contra Costa Ballet and in the summer of 2016 was accepted into San Francisco Ballet at the age of 13. In the following years to come she would teach summers programs at Benicia Ballet and also taught private lessons for a year. After graduating she continued her love of dance by teaching level ¾. Since then, Lauren has been part of the Benicia Academy of Performing Arts family as a faculty member. She enjoys every day of teaching and looks forward to seeing her students grow.