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Daniela Buson

Judge & Master Teacher

Daniela Buson is the assistant artistic director of the Tulsa Ballet, following a career as a principal dancer and guest artist for many international ballet companies. Born in Palermo, Italy she received her training from maestro Jacques Beltrame. Upon graduation she joined Maggio Danza in Florence under the direction of Evgeny Polyakov. In 1983, she joined the Deutsche Oper Berlin in Berlin, Germany as a soloist, then joining Northern Ballet Theater, England as a principal dancer the following year. Ms. Buson has appeared as guest principal artist with the English National Ballet; Basel Ballet, Switzerland; Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Montreal, Canada; Cincinnati Ballet; Ballet West and Ballet Arizona in the US as well as having danced with the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Italy. As a principal dancer of Tulsa Ballet, under her husband's (Marcello Angelini) artistic directorship, Ms. Buson danced leading roles in the classical ballet repertory as well as having worked with many of the important contemporary choreographers of our time. Upon her retiring from the stage, Ms. Buson became ballet mistress of the Tulsa Ballet before assuming her present position.

Rie Ichikawa

Judge & Master Teacher

Rie Ichikawa started her ballet training in Nagano, Japan, under the direction of Teruyo Kurashima. After winning gold medals in Japanese competitions in 1990 and 1991, she left Japan to study in London at the Arts Educational Ballet. While in London she won the prestigious Markova Award. She was then invited to study at the Houston Ballet School under the direction of Clara Cravey and Steve Brule.


Her professional career started with Ballet Arizona under the directorship of Michael Uthoff, who featured her in a variety of principal parts. From there, Ichikawa moved to Boston Ballet where she was promoted to soloist by Mikko Nissisen. In Boston she danced a diverse repertoire of contemporary and classical leading parts. Her signature ballet was the leading role in Jiri Kylian's Bella Figura, which was performed internationally to critical acclaim.

Ichikawa danced for seventeen seasons at Boston Ballet. In her last few years, she began transitioning to teaching. Her teaching experience includes master classes and summer dance programs in Japan, Hawaii, and Boston Ballet School. Ichikawa is also certified in Gyrotonic and sees private clients throughout the week.

Inessa Plekhanova

Judge & Master Teacher

Russian-born Inessa Plekhanova graduated from The State Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia receiving her Master of Fine Arts. She has danced with Estonian National Ballet, and Colorado Ballet companies.

Ms. Plekhanova has performed principal and solo roles in The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, Swan Lake, La Sylphide, Raymonda, Giselle, La Bayadere, Theme and Variations, Serenade, Apollo, Concerto Barocco, Sleeping Beauty, Rubies, Configurations, and many others. Ms. Plekhanova taught at the Vaganova Ballet Academy for two years on an assistantship, the College of Dance and Choreography in Tallinn, Estonia for three years, and at the Academy of Colorado Ballet from 1991-2005 where she also served as an Artistic Director of the Academy and Colorado Ballet-II from 1999-2005.

Ms. Plekhanova is often invited as a guest teacher and choreographer to numerous ballet events in Russia, United States, and Japan. Inessa Plekhanova has won the “Outstanding Teacher Award” from the Youth America Grand Prix Ballet Competition in 2001, 2002, and 2003.

In May of 2005 Ms. Plekhanova accepted a professorship in the Radford University’s Department of Dance as Director of the Ballet Program and Artistic Director of RU Ballet Theatre where since 2005 she has produced a numerous of full-length ballet productions including her original choreography of Nutcracker.

In 2006 Ms. Plekhanova established the Radford University Ballet Youth program known as RUBY. Since June of 2007 RUBY offers an International Summer Intensive Program for young dancers from United States and Japan.

In 2014 the prestigious Radford University Foundation Distinguished Creative Scholar Award was awarded to Ms. Plekhanova for her consistent record of creative contributions to her academic discipline.

Victoria Schneider

Judge & Master Teacher

Victoria Schneider studied at the School of the Garden State Ballet. She danced professionally with the Garden State Ballet as a soloist, and with the Pennsylvania Ballet. She has been on the faculty of the School of the Pennsylvania Ballet and principal teacher at La Scuola di Danza Classica in Prato, Italy. Together with Martin Fredmann, she established the School of the Tampa Ballet and served as ballet mistress of the Tampa/Colorado Ballet, she studied the teaching of Russian Classical Ballet with her late husband, Jurgen Schneider and later completed the methodology program at Vaganova Academy of Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. Since 1995 she has been a member of the faculty of The HARID Conservatory. Her students have won major awards in numerous ballet competitions and can be found dancing in major ballet companies in the United States and abroad. She has served as a jury member for the JGP since its inception in 2002. She remains active as a guest teacher and lecturer of Russian Ballet Pedagogy.

Taeko Nishino

Artistic Advisor

Born in Japan, Taeko Nishino received her classical ballet and choreography training under the direction of Ms. Kimie Sasamoto.  She began her professional career at the tender age of 19 with Japan Ballet Association and Sasamoto Ballet, where she toured with their performing companies throughout Japan.  In 2006, Ms. Nishino assumed the position of Artistic Director of Chula Vista Ballet where she has staged and directed excerpts and the full length of major classical ballets.  She has also produced a full-length version of Snow White (2008), Thumbelina (2009), Cinderella (2010), Alice in Wonderland (2011), and Peter and the Wolf (2013).  Since 2003, Ms. Nishino has served as the Master of Ceremonies for Japan Grand Prix International Ballet Competition in Tokyo, Japan.  In 2007, she was officially appointed as Administrative Director of the Japan Grand Prix.

Amy Brandt

Editor in Chief, Pointe Magazine

Amy has been the editor in chief of Pointe magazine since 2014, following a 19-year dance career. She danced professionally with the Milwaukee Ballet and The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, among others, and performed in honor of Ms. Farrell at the 2005 Kennedy Center Honors. While pursuing her college degree part-time, she began writing extensively for several dance publications, including Pointe's "Ask Amy" advice column. Amy graduated summa cum laude from Marymount Manhattan College with a BA in English and World Literatures, and currently serves on its advisory board. Before joining Pointe, she was an associate editor for Dance Teacher and Dance Magazine.

Dr. Sara Hickmann

Olympic Peak Performance Psychologist

Dr. Hickmann is a Clinical and Sport Psychologist who is trained to manage the spectrum of psychological issues, from performance enhancement to clinically based conditions. She has worked with college and professional athletes for the past 20 years. She served as the Director of Player Assistance Services for the NFL for five years; and was the Clinical and Sport Psychologist for the New York Jets for 5 years and the Brooklyn Nets for 4 years. Dr. Hickmann has also worked with high performance military populations and provided Executive Coaching to professionals and organizations. She is trained in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Meditation and EMDR. Dr. Hickmann helps athletes who are focused on making it to the next level, recovering from injury or want to maximize their production.

Lisa Howell

Physiotherapist for Dancers

Lisa is a physiotherapist, author, speaker and creator of The Ballet Blog, which has revolutionised how dancers think about their own body, injuries and performance enhancement. She is a well-respected international author and educator, developing numerous programs drawing on her 18 years of clinical experience working almost exclusively with dancers.  All of her resources focus on injury prevention whilst maximising performance and are utilised by hundreds of thousands of dancers worldwide. Alongside her day-to-day clinical work with local dancers, Lisa has created a series of advanced teacher training workshops, completed by over 1000 dance teachers and health professionals from 28 different countries, empowering them to create a new generation of healthy dancers. 


She has lectured throughout Europe, The United Kingdom, The United States, Scandinavia, South-East Asia, Australia and New Zealand on Dance Anatomy, Injury Prevention, Recovery and Performance Enhancement. Additional speaking appearances include Dance Teacher Summit (USA), Studio Owner University Conference (USA), Clint Salter's Inner Circle Retreat (AUS), RAD International Summer School (NZ), ATOD Come Together Conference (AUS), VDF Conference (AUS), IADMS (AUS, USA, CH, UK), Leading Edge Dance Summit (USA), Cecchetti Ballet (AUS), Pacific Northwest Ballet Intensive (USA), and Anything Dance (AUS). For further information click here.

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