Faculty Pictures and Bios


Margaret Swarthout
Artistic Director

Margaret Swarthout, born in Sydney, Australia, was admitted at a young age to the Royal Ballet Company in London, England, where she danced for nine years. As a soloist, she worked closely with many of the 20th century’s greatest choreographers, including Sir Frederick Ashton, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, George Balanchine, John Cranko, Dame Ninette de Valois and Madame Nijinska, and danced with such notables as Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn. Mrs. Swarthout’s teaching career began in 1966 when she joined the faculty of the Harkness House for Ballet in New York City, at the time, one of the world’s most respected dance training facilities. After moving to the Bay Area, she became affiliated with the Marin Ballet in 1975, first as a Master Teacher and Coach, and then as Artistic Director. Mrs. Swarthout has served as personal coach to dancers at the international ballet competitions in Jackson, Mississippi, and her record of placing dancers in the profession is exceptional. Over sixty graduates from her training program can be found in the ranks of ballet and dance companies throughout the United States.

In 1996, Mrs. Swarthout, along with her team of teachers, was invited to become the founding faculty of Marin Dance Theatre. Since MDT opened its doors in 1996, each year one of our senior dancers has been the recipient of the prestigious award given by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. Sixteen MDT graduates have joined professional dance companies, including San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Louisville Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Fort Worth/Dallas Ballet, Ballet San Jose, Ballet Florida, Richmond Ballet and Cincinnati Ballet.

Lynn Cox
School Director

Lynn Cox studied under such noted teachers as Erik Bruhn, Francoise Martinet, Alfonso Cata and Robert Barnett.  She was recognized by the National Federation of Music Clubs and received the first place honor in their ballet division.  Ms. Cox went on to dance professionally with the Atlanta Ballet for several years, performing such classics as Serenade, Sleeping Beauty, Carmina Burana, Raymonda, Allegro Brilliante and The Nutcracker.  She previously held the position of Ballet Mistress for two regional companies and was the Pre-Professional Division Head for the Marin Ballet. She is currently the resident choreographer and Associate Division Young Dancer Division Head at Marin Dance Theatre.  Ms. Cox is a vital part of MDT’s training program. She is skilled as a teacher on all levels: she now oversees and trains the faculty, creating an atmosphere for all the dancers that is both developmental and consistent. She has received numerous awards for her outstanding choreography.


                  Faculty and Staff

Julia Adams

Julia Adams grew up in Novato, California, training with Marin Dance Theatre. She continued her training in the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Graduate Program for 2 years and spent summers with Peridance Contemporary Dance Company's BLUEPRINT program. Performance highlights include original works by Igal Perry, Sidra Bell, and Alex Ketley; and excerpts from Études and Terrance Orr's Giselle and Swan Lake. In addition to her work as an early childhood educator for 2 years, Julia spent 5 years on the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School faculty, teaching for the Children's, Student, Pre-Professional, and Community divisions. Julia also served as the interim co-coordinator for the PBT Community Division during the 2020-2021 season. Additionally, Julia was heavily involved in the PBT Education Department as a co-instructor of Adaptive Dance for students and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other sensory sensibilities, as well as in university collaborations for dance curriculum building and writing. Julia serves as the contracted curriculum developer and course designer for the dance program collaboration between PBT and Chatham University. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member for Chatham University.

Julia 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. Julia completed her undergraduate BA in psychology from UC Davis on the Dean's Honor's List and as a member of the Golden Key International Honors Society and the National Society of Leadership and Success. Julia holds an MA in teaching and curriculum from Michigan State University, concentrating on educational psychology and connecting language and literacy instruction with dance education. She also holds an MA in education, concentrating on sports coaching and leadership and p-12 and postsecondary school leadership in addition to a graduate certificate in teaching and learning from Michigan State University.

Julia is incredibly excited to be a part of the Marin Dance Theatre faculty as the Young Dancer Coordinator!

Erica Allen

Erica Allen began studying ballet at the age of eight in Tempe, Arizona. She moved to Marin County to study with Margaret Swarthout. She has worked with Melinda Darlington-Bach, Lynn Cox, Val Caniparoli, Benjamin Harkarvy, David Palmer and Lawrence Pech. Erica is now a proud faculty member of Marin Dance Theatre.

Jo Ellen Arntz

Jo Ellen Arntz received her earliest dance training in Des Moines, Iowa. She received a BFA in dance from Creighton University before moving to San Francisco. A member of SFB from 1981-1991, she performed in over 100 ballets including pieces by Balanchine, Robbins, Christensen, Smuin, De Mille, Ashton, Tomasson, Tudor, Caniparoli, Kudelka, Bintley and Forsythe. She joined Marin Ballet faculty in 1991 under the direction of Margaret Swarthout and Lynn Cox, then followed them to Marin Dance Theater in 1996.

Joining Smuin Ballet in 1996, first as Wardrobe Supervisor and shortly thereafter as Company Manager, Ms. Arntz loves being a part of a team that shares the joy and passion of dance and continually creates new art.

Tessa Barbour

TESSA BARBOUR, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, trained at Alwin School of the Dance before studying abroad in Warrington, England on a scholarship awarded to her at the Cecchetti International Competition. She has danced with New Mexico Ballet, Connecticut Ballet, and San Diego Ballet. Her favorite past performances include Man in Black by James Kudelka and Indigo by Stanton Welch.

Since joining Smuin in 2016, Barbour has performed works by Val Caniparoli, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Trey McIntyre, Helen Pickett, and Amy Seiwert.

Joanna Berman

Joanna Berman was born and raised in San Rafael, California, where she received her dance training under Maria Vegh and Margaret Swarthout at the Marin Ballet. In 1984, after one year at the San Francisco Ballet School, she joined the company, and was promoted to soloist in 1987.

In 1988, Ms. Berman became a principal dancer and was one of the most celebrated members of the San Francisco Ballet, until her retirement in 2002. During her tenure, she danced the lead role in full-length ballets such as "Giselle", "Swan Lake", "Sleeping Beauty" and "Romeo and Juliet", in addition to numerous contemporary and classical works.

Joanna had works created for her by choreographers including Mark Morris, Christopher Wheeldon, Helgi Tomasson, William Forsythe, David Bintley, Julia Adams, Yuri Possokhov, Val Caniparoli, and many others.

She is the recipient of two "Isadora Duncan Awards" (1994 and 2000). In addition to her extensive performance credits, Ms. Berman is in demand as a teacher, and has served as a guest teacher and regisseur for San Francisco Ballet, Australian Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theater, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Ballet British Columbia, Les Grands Ballet Canadiens, Houston Ballet and Atlanta Ballet.

Maggie Calegeri

From the age of 3, Maggie had a love for dance and movement, and after moving from Southern California to the South Bay Area, started intensive ballet classes at San Jose Dance Theater and ultimately decided to go to an independent study High School Program and spent her days in a Pre-Professional training program. At the age of 16 she began teaching in the pre-ballet division and found that she had a true gift and passion in this role. She went on to become Director of Dance Theater 7 for several years, teaching all ages 3 to 17. It was at this time that DT7 merged with Roco Dance and Maggie moved on to become Master Teacher Trainer for The Dailey Method barre franchise for 10 years as well as receiving her certification in kids yoga.

After launching her own online fitness platform in January 2019, she is excited to come back to the ballet studio and introduce ballet to her now 5 year old daughter.

Valerie Harmon

Valerie is from Lompoc, California, where she trained primarily at Lompoc School of dance. She began her professional career with State Street Ballet. She later joined Milwaukee Ballet in 2008, after completing The Milwaukee Ballet II Program. There she performed Odette in Michael Pink's Swan Lake, Marie in The Nutcracker, Wendy in Peter Pan, Mina in Dracula, and Prayer in Coppélia.

She has also enjoyed dancing in original works by Cameron McMillan, Mark Godden, Timothy O'Donnell, Mauro de Candia, Darrell Grand Moultrie and Petr Zahradnícek. She danced for Smuin Contemporary Ballet from 2106 - 2019, where she danced in works by Amy Seiwert, Val Caniparoli, Helen Pickett, Garret Ammon, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, and Trey McIntyre.

Brigid Hoag

Brigid Hoag began her career in her native New Orleans and went on to dance with both ballet and modern dance companies in the United States and Canada. While living in New York, she danced with Peridance Ensemble and taught at the Peridance Center. In the Bay Area, she performed with the San Francisco Opera Ballet and with a variety of independent choreographers.

Ms. Hoag’s teaching and dancing have taken her to such places as the Juilliard School, Israel and Korea and she now enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with all her students from pre-ballet to pre-professional at Marin Dance Theatre.

Lisa Le Lievre

Lisa completed her classical ballet training at the Eduard Borovansky Memorial Ballet Academy (EBMBA) in Sydney Australia. She performed as a freelance dancer in Australia, and for choreographic art residencies in Italy and Spain. Since moving to the USA in 2007 she began to explore dance theatre and performed with Bodigram Dance Theater Company in San Francisco.

Since completing teacher training with EBMBA in 1992, she has taught classical ballet to children and adults, most recently teaching for four years at Menlo Park Academy of Dance. She is influenced greatly by Augusta Moore, whom she considers a mentor.

In 2005 she received a Graduate Certificate in the Pilates Method from the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. She has furthered her Pilates training by working extensively with Tom McCook, a master level teacher in the Pilates Method. In 2014 she completed Franklin Method Level 1 Teacher Training and has incorporated this method into her classes.

She also works as an independent film maker, in the dance and documentary genres.

Lisa is excited to bring all her passions to the Pilates studio at Marin Dance Theatre.

Pamela Martin

Pamela Martin holds a Master of Music Degree in orchestral conducting from the University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Music Degree in Piano Performance from the Peabody Conservatory of Music. Pamela was the Assistant Conductor for the Cleveland San Jose Ballet now Ballet San Jose for four years. Pam has conducted for Oakland Ballet, and is presently the assistant conductor of the Vallejo Symphony and is a regular guest conductor with the Master Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra.

Pam has extensive experience as a dance pianist having played for San Francisco Ballet, Ballet Austin, Marin Ballet and for Marin Dance Theatre since the beginning.

Ilona McHugh

Ilona McHugh grew up in Southern California. She attended a small ballet school and spent summers at national training institutions. Ilona moved to Marin Dance Theatre from where she joined American Ballet Theatre in 1997. She continued to study while dancing with the company, receiving coaching from Charla Genn, David Howard, and Susan Jaffe. Some of her memorable roles with ABT include "Big Swans" in Swan Lake and "Olga" in Kenneth MacMillan's Anastasia, dancing hand-in-hand with such ballet greats as Viviana Durante and Alessandra Ferri. Ms. McHugh enjoyed working with Paul Taylor and Mark Morris as a member of the original casts of Black Tuesday and Gong.

Since retiring, Ilona has earned a Bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley. She was Artistic Director of Berkeley Ballet Theater for six years during which her coaching lead to an invitation for the BBT Youth Company to perform with the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra in 2013 and in 2010, NY Times Dance Critic, Alastair Macaulay featured BBT in his Nutcracker Chronicles. Ms. McHugh is a certified teacher with the ABT National Training Curriculum. She has enjoyed being a part of the San Francisco Ballet faculty since 2015 and teaching at Oakland Ballet School, Benicia Ballet Theatre, and Marin Dance Theatre.

Katie Meyers

Katie Meyers is a professional dancer, movement educator, activist, and choreographer. She received her training at the Vertigo International Dance Program in Israel and the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance under the direction of Summer Lee Rhatigan. During her training she performed repertory by Ohad Naharin, Bobbi Jene Smith, Noa Wertheim, Alex Ketley, Tom Weinberger, Andrea Miller, Robert Moses, and Christian Burns. She also studied Naharin’s movement language Gaga.

Over the past six years in the Bay Area she has worked for Alex Ketley’s The Foundry, Kathryn Florez’s Fullstop Dance, Khala Brannigan’s Brannigan Dance Works, and Claudia Hubiak Anata’s The Anata Project. She has taught at Mobu Dance, Dance Mission, LEAP, and Shawl-Anderson Dance Center where she also choreographed on the Shawl-Anderson Youth Ensemble. At Dance Attack Studios Katie re-staged Ketley’s work on the teen performing company and choreographed a solo that placed Platinum in the Art of Movement dance competition in 2017.

Currently, she works for Alex Ketley’s The Foundry, Fullstop Dance, The Invisible People Dance Project, and teaches at Marin Ballet. As a founding company member and program director of Fullstop Dance, she is committed to bringing guest artists from around the country and globe to the Bay Area dance community. As lead educator and choreographer for The Invisible People Dance Project she is working with professional dancers and people currently unhoused to use dance as a vehicle for storytelling, connection, and change. Through the Anata Wellness Program, she taught Mindful Movement classes to Redding Elementary’s after school program and most recently she taught a five-week Mindfulness for Dancers class series based off the book Mindfulness for Dancers written by Corinne Haas.

Katie believes dance has the ability to empower, heal, change, and transform lives and communities, and she is so looking forward to working with the students of Marin Dance Theater.

(Photo credit Nick Korkos)

Ben Needham-Wood

Ben Needham-Wood is an Emmy Award-winning choreographer and dance educator based in San Francisco. His works have been presented nationally by professional companies, TV networks, commercial airlines, film festivals, and galas. In 2018 Ben co-created the dance film, BaseBallet: Into the Game, which was awarded 4 regional Emmy Awards and recognized by film festivals across the country. This feature was preceded by the short film, BaseBallet, which was also recognized with a regional Emmy Award and was later exhibited at the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, NY.

Ben's choreographic voice emerged during his celebrated 12-year performance career. Ben was fortunate to perform a diverse range of repertoire over his years as a company artist with the Louisville Ballet (2008-2013), Amy Seiwert's Imagery (2011-2020), and Smuin Contemporary Ballet (2013-2020). His classical highlights include the titular character in Alun Jones's "Romeo and Juliet", Armand in Val Caniparoli's "Lady of the Camellias", and Porthos in Andre Prokovsky's "Three Musketeers". It was in the realm of contemporary ballet that Ben truly thrived. Ben was featured in works by choreographers Val Caniparoli, Adam Hougland, James Kudelka, Jiri Kylian, Trey McIntyre, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Amy Seiwert, Michael Smuin, Twyla Tharp, and Stanton Welch, among others. In 2018, Ben was nominated for an Isadora Duncan Dance Award in Individual Performance for his work in Trey McIntyre's "Be Here Now" with Smuin Contemporary Ballet. Ben also received a favorable review from the New York Times for his gala performance in the 10th New York International Ballet Competition.

Darby Perrin Darby Perrin was born in Napa, California, and has lived there all her life. She started dancing when she was 5-years-old and became a part of Marin Dance Theatre in 2011. Since then, she has performed many roles in Sophie and the Enchanted Toyshop, Springfest, and Summerfest. Darby has been accepted into various summer intensive programs including the American Ballet Theatre, Houston Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet, as well as Ballet West. She has also placed in the top 12 of the senior contemporary division of Youth American Grand Prix in 2018.

Throughout her years of training, Darby has been a demonstrator for younger students with several MDT teachers, and has assisted in Julia Adams's Intro ballet classes. She currently attends Napa Valley College and is interested in the subject of psychology. She also has training in Pilates.

Darby has a passion for the art form and enjoys working with kids. Her hope is to share that love of dance with her students.
Dawn Perrin Dawn Perrin was born in Madrid, Spain and was raised in Lee, Massachusetts where she began studying ballet at the age of 7. She received her early training at The Cantarella School of Dance. Training some summers at Pennsylvania Ballet School, School of American Ballet, and The Joffrey Ballet School on scholarship.

Ms. Perrin's professional career began with American Ballet Theatre II. She then went on to dance with The Joffrey Ballet and The Houston Ballet. She enjoyed traveling the world and dancing many leading roles throughout her career. Some highlights include being chosen to dance the role of Juliet in John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet her first year in the company. She was also selected by James Kudelka to create the lead role in the Heart of the Matter and danced the role of the Sugarplum Fairy in the World Premiere of The Joffrey's Nutcracker.

Ms. Perrin has been teaching in the Bay Area since 1995 and enjoys sharing her experience and love of the art form with students of all ages.
Pierre Vilanoba Born in Lille, France, Pierre trained at the Conservatoire de Lille and The Paris Opéra Ballet School, beginning at age seven. After dancing with Paris Opéra Ballet for eight years, rising to the rank of Sujet, he joined San Francisco Ballet as a soloist in 1998 and was quickly promoted to principal dancer in 1999. His lead roles in Paris and San Francisco include the Prince in John Neumeier’s The Little Mermaid and Aminta in his Sylvia, Onegin in John Cranko’s Onegin, Othello in Lar Lubovitch’s Othello, Orion in Mark Morris’ Sylvia, Benvolio in Rudolf Nureyev’s Romeo & Juliet, Abderam and Jean de Brienne in his Raymonda, and Rothbart in his Swan Lake, Albrecht in Helgi Tomasson’s Giselle, Romeo in his Romeo & Juliet, Prince Desiré in his The Sleeping Beauty, Prince Siegfried and von Rothbart in his Swan Lake, Espada in his Don Quixote, and the Nutcracker Prince and Snow King in his Nutcracker. While in Paris and San Francisco he participated in the creation of principal roles in works by Neumeier, James Kudelka, Jorma Elo, Alexei Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon, Val Caniparoli, Tomasson, Yuri Possokhov, Matjash Mrozewski, and others.

Vilanoba’s broad repertory includes ballet’s by Rudolf Nureyev, Roland Petit, Maurice Béjart, George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Marius Petipa, Serge Lifar, Vaslav Nijinsky, Leonide Massine, Serge Diaghilev, Victor Gsovsky, Nacho Duato, William Forsythe, Hans van Manen, Angelin Preljocaj, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Sir Frederick Ashton, David Bintley, Harald Lander, Anthony Tudor, Jacques Garnier, Lila York, Caroline Carlson, and Mats Ek. He has performed at galas around the world and in several ballet films with the Paris Opéra Ballet, including Nureyev’s Romeo and Juliet. In December 2008, Vilanoba was featured as the Snow King in the PBS Great Performances broadcast of Tomasson’s Nutcracker.

In 1999 Pierre worked with famed fashioned photographer Herb Ritts on a collection produced for the French Vogue's millennium issue. His images have appeared in several books of Herb Ritts' photography as well as the traveling exhibition, HERB RITTS L.A. STYLE, curated in 2012 by The Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Since 2012, Pierre has been teaching and coaching in the San Francisco Bay Area and abroad.
Amanda Wells

Amanda Wells began her formal dance training at the San Francisco Ballet School and continued with Boston Ballet and Richmond Ballet Company. In 2001 she relocated to New York City to attend New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Immediately upon graduation, Amanda was selected to join the Stephen Petronio Company, a contemporary touring company based in New York. For a decade she had the pleasure of creating and performing new works, as well as touring and teaching master classes across the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Australia. During her time in New York, Amanda became a certified yoga instructor through OM Yoga Center and was a member of the Third Klein Technique™ Teacher Certification Program.

In the summer of 2011, she was selected by Benjamin Millepied (former NYC Ballet principal, choreographer of Black Swan, and former director of the Paris Opera Ballet) to become a founding member of LA Dance Project, prompting a move back west. While with the company, Amanda performed in some of the most beautiful proscenium theaters in the world, including Châtelet in Paris and Sadler Wells in London. Amanda also performed with the company as a guest on FOX TV's So You Think You Can Dance, created a short film with Academy Award winner Alejandro Inarritu (Birdman, 21 Grams), and performed site-specific work at The Museum of Contemporary Art. She has held faculty positions at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) and the highly esteemed California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Amanda enjoys teaching her morning adult/open classes at Marin Dance Theatre, and in addition, offers personalized coaching and support services for all dancers.

More info at AmandaWells.com