Leadership and Faculty
Rachel Butler School Director
Melissa B. Barnett
Phillip Otto ~ Artistic Director
Mr. Otto has most recently served as New Haven Ballet’s artistic director. Born in New York, Mr. Otto has trained at the School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre School, and the Joffrey School, among others. As a child Mr. Otto was a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s children’s chorus and danced with New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, London’s Royal Ballet, the Stuttgart Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet.
As an adult Mr. Otto danced principal and soloists roles with Milwaukee Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet. After retiring as a featured soloist from Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1996, Mr. Otto was the first company member ever to be asked to join the faculty of Pacific Northwest Ballet School and went on to direct Pacific Northwest Ballet’s student company as well as the companies outreach and educational programs for which he was nominated for the State of Washington’s Golden Apple award for excellence in education.
Mr. Otto has worked and trained with such distinguished artists as George Balanchine, Peter Martins, Jerome Robins, Kent Stowell, Francia Russell, Bojan Spasoff, Robert Weiss and Lynn Taylor- Corbett, Violette Verdi, Richard Thomas, Alexandra Danilova, Lar Lubavitch, Andre Eglevsky and Ted Kivitt, among others.
Mr. Otto’s dancing credits include principle roles in (George Balanchine’s)“Who Care’s”, The Four Temperaments, Western Symphony, Concerto Borocco, La Valse, Symphony in C, Nutcracker, Prodical Son, Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, (Cranko’s) Romeo and Juliet, (Limons) Moor’s Pavane, (Forsythe’s) Love Songs, (Lynn Taylor- Corbett’s) Brahms Sonata’s, Code Of Silence, The Quilt, Tunes Great Galloping Gottschalk and Final Draft among others. In addition, Mr. Otto serves as permanent guest faculty for the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia and has taught master classes for Vassar College, Yale University, the Kennedy Center and the Edinburgh Festival among other schools and companies throughout the United States and Scotland
Rachel Butler ~ School Director
Ms. Butler has most recently served as Ballet Mistress for New Haven Ballet. Ms. Butler trained with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and the Atlantic Contemporary Ballet Academy. As a professional Dancer Ms. Butler danced Soloist and Principle roles with Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Pennsylvania Ballet and has been sought after as a guest artist throughout the United States. Ms. Butler has trained and worked with Bruce Wells, Violette Verdy, Richard Tanner, Robert Weiss, Kent Stowell, Francia Russell, Patricia Neary, Bart Cook, Lynn Taylor-Corbett, Suzanne Farrell, Bojan Spasoff and Stephanie Wolf, among others.
As A ballet mistress Ms. Butler has set Ballet’s for New Haven Ballet, and served as assistant ballet mistress of children’s roles for Kent Stowell’s and Maurice Sendacks world renowned production of The Nutcracker. Ms. Butlers dancing credits include (George Balanchine’s) Four Temperaments, Ballet Imperial, Divertimento #15, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Symphony in C, Who Cares, Stars and Stripes, and Western Symphony. (Kent Stowell’s) Firebird, Nutcracker, Swan Lake. (Jerome Robins) Fanfare and ballet’s choreographed by William Forsythe, Peter Martins and Paul Taylor among others. Ms. Butler’s teaching credits include Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Rock School for Dance Education, Mid-Atlantic Ballet and Albany Dance Institute. Ms. Butler has also traveled the world dancing and teaching in China, Turkey, Australia, London and Scotland and has performed for The Kennedy Center and New York’s City Center.
Mrs. Bailey is a native of Maitland, Florida, she studied at The School of Performing Arts under Patty Watson Walsh, Ellie Potts Barrett, Ari Bloustien, George Kolher, Phyllis Watson and Russell Sultzbach. She also studied under Barbara Wiggins and Kip Watson of Southern Ballet Theatre, now the Orlando Ballet. Deborah started dancing for Walt Disney World at the age of 10 in their Christmas Spectacular, and became a cast member at the age of 15. She danced for the opening of EPCOT Center, was a Can-Can dancer for the French Pavilion, and worked as a swing performer for many shows. She attended Brenau Women’s College earning a minor in Dance Theatre. While at Brenau she danced with the Gainesville Ballet Company and the Atlanta Ballet. Choreography awards include Honorable Mention; Five Points Choreography Competition of Atlanta, Best of Show; Florida Thespian State Competition, Best Choreography; Performing Dance Teachers Association; Best Choreography Dance Educators of America. Since moving to Alabama She has taught with area studios including The Dance Factory, Athens; Performing Dance Arts, Huntsville; and Dancers, Inc, Decatur. Deborah also served as the Interium Artistic Director for Hunstville Ballet Company in 2007- 2008. She currently serves as an instructor for Huntsville Ballet School.
Ms. Butler began her ballet training with Imogene Wheeler in the Cecchetti method. She received a scholarship to Harkness House in New York where she studied with David Howard and Maria Veigh. She toured Italy as soloist with the Alabama Ballet and was Director of Dance for the American Youth Asso. in Germany. She has been teaching in Huntsville since 1975. With the Huntsville Ballet Co., Vicki has danced the principal role in The Nutcracker, La Sylphide, Coppelia, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. She won the classical division of the Panoply choreography competition (1988), modern division (1991), and contemporary division (1996). She has also choreographed several Fantasy playhouse productions. Her professional enhancement studies include: American Dance Festival at Duke University: Somatics, Stepping into History, and several dance professional workshops; Doris Humphrey Intensives in Oak Park, Illinois where she learned and performed Water Study; Skinner Release at Florida Dance Festival in Miami; World Dance Alliance in Philadelphia; Ballet Magnificat - teachers training; Glenwood Springs Dance Festival in Colorado, a three week intensive of ballet, modern and yoga under the direction of Doug Varone; AFFA Mat Science Workshop at the Huntsville Wellness Center; and The Little People's Creative Dance Workshop in Greenville, North Carolina. From 2006-2008, Vicki was the Interim School Director of Community Ballet School.
Ms. Curry began her dance training in Huntsville and became a member of Huntsville Ballet Company at age 12, where she performed many principal roles. After being awarded a full scholarship, Cathy received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from Florida State University where she had the opportunity to study and perform with renowned faculty such as Suzanne Farrell, Buglisi/Foreman, Doug Varone, and Jowole Zollar, the director of Urban Bush Women. During this time, Cathy was also a member of the Dance Repertory Theatre, a performing company dedicated to community outreach. Since college, Cathy has continued her dance education, including participating in NYU’s Summer Dance Program and summers at the American Dance Festival’s Professionals Workshop. She has recently received her Pilates certification from Balanced Body University. Cathy is also a certified K-12 teacher and was Director of Dance at the Academy for Academics and Arts, the arts magnet school in Huntsvill
Mrs. Montanus, a Russian native, attended the Performing Arts School in Svobodnyi, the College of National Art Creativity in Blagoveshchensk, and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Saint Petersburg University of Arts in Saint Petersburg, Russia. She received a Vaganova Syllabus Degree from the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. She has been a principal dancer with the Philharmonic Society Dance Company and danced featured roles in The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, La Esmerelda, and Blue Bird. She has studied and taught ballet, pointe, traditional folk dance, modern dance and Historico-genre dance. She has also taught at the E&S Arts English School in Suwon, Korea.
Mrs. Weisberg grew up in New York and trained with the American Ballet Theatre School, American Ballet Center (Joffrey), Melissa Hayden Ballet Center, Steps, and North Shore School of Ballet. Debbie performed with the North Shore Ballet Company in many lead roles including Cinderella, The Toy Princess, and Hansel and Gretel. She later received both her B.F. A. and M.F.A. in Ballet, Performance, Choreography and Pedagogy from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. While in Texas, she danced with Ballet Concerto and TCU Ballet Company and served as adjunct ballet faculty at the TCU Department of Ballet and Modern Dance and several local ballet schools. She also was on the Dance Department faculty at the Interlochen Arts Camp in Interlochen, Michigan, for six summers. Her performance credits include leading roles in The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Chopin Etudes, Caracol, Le Corsaire and The Secret Garden. After moving to California in 1988, she joined the California Dance Theatre Festival Ballet and Francisco Martinez Dance Theatre. She also was on the faculty and choreographed for California Dance Theatre for 12 years, where a number of her students have gone on and pursued professional dance careers throughout the country. Debbie moved to Huntsville with her family in 2001, and joined the Huntsville Ballet School faculty in 2006. Debbie has recently choreographed for the Huntsville Ballet Company, Huntsville City Schools, and Early Childhood Music. She has also performed with Huntsville Ballet Company in Phillip Otto’s The Nutcracker and Romeo and Juliet. Debbie wants to continue to share her love and passion for dance with our students here at HBS and HBC.
Melissa B. Barnett
Mrs. Barnett began her dance training at the age of 4 in her hometown of Douglasville, Ga. She received her training in ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, and lyrical from some of the best studios and instructors in the Atlanta area. In 1994 she entered Birmingham-Southern College asa dance major where she studied with Mira Popovich, Ruth Henry, John Summer, and George Lysensko. While at B-SC she performed roles in Les Sykphinde, Con Amore, and many orginal works by the faculty and students. As well as performing, she also taught ballet for a variety of studios in Birmingham. She served as Student Coordinator for the Spring Dance Performance at Birmingham-Southern College in 1997-98. In 1998 she was awarded the Nina Kirsanova Award for Academic and Creative Excellence in Dance. That same year she graduated from B-SC with a Bachelor of Art in Dance Pedagogy. After graduating from B-SC she returned to her hometown where she served as BalletDirector for Stacy's Dance Centre and The Dance Factory. She served as the Associate Artistic Director of Pointe Station, Inc. from 2001 to mid 2003 and was co-choreographer of Alabama Jubilee a full length ballet celebrating musical artist from Alabama. In 2003 she was nominated for a Wings award along with her co-choreographer for Alabama Jubilee. Melissa has also choreographed for the Ovation Arts production of The Chorus Linebackers. For the past six years Melissa has been the owner and director of Huntsville Dance Academy. Melissa is married to Paul Barnett, an Assistant District Attorney for Madison County. They have two sons, Evan and Parker.
Ms. Federico studied some jazz and tap as a child, then primarily ballet at a small studio in Western New York. She went on to major in Dance Education at Hope College, in Holland, MI, where she studied under Maxine DeBruyn, Linda Graham, Steven Iannacone, Julio Rivera, Thommie Retter, and Terri Filips among others. Ms. Federico completed her student teaching at Franklin Fine Arts Center (a magnet school), in Chicago. After returning to West Michigan, Ms. Federico taught at several dance studios, as well as the Holland Area Arts Council, and summer camps. She even served as Assistant Director of the Academy of Dance Arts, in Comstock Park, MI for a year before moving to start the dance program at Pinckney High School. At PHS, Ms. Federico built a dance program from scratch. By the end of her tenure there, she was instructing approximately 150 students per year in tap, jazz, modern, ballet, lyrical, improvisation, and choreography. Her students performed at Michigan Dance Day and Wayne State Dance Day. They were adjudicated for a statewide arts festival, and performed with Peter Sparling Dance Company. In addition to teaching and presenting twice-yearly dance concerts, Ms. Federico also choreographed the annual musicals, including Oklahoma!, Once Upon a Mattress, Footloose, Guys and Dolls, Grease, Thoroughly Modern Mille, and Urinetown. She also served as assistant director on several non-musical shows, including Lascaux...Dawn of Art which was performed on the main stage at the International Thespian Festival.
In 2008, Ms. Federico moved to Huntsville to take the Dance Director position at the Academy for Academics and Arts. While at the Academy, her dancers have performed at Lee High School, Panoply, and Walt Disney World. In the last seven years, she has also taught dance at Soles Dance Studio, Fantasy Playhouse Children's Theatre, and since 2011 at Huntsville Ballet School. Active in the local theatre scene, she has been on stage in A Christmas Carol, The Laramie Project, and Cabaretamong others. She has also been active backstage as assistant director, working on sets, painting, choreographing for Fantasy Playhouse's Dragon of Nitt (which was a Wings multi-award winner), and most recently directing Fantasy's Aesop's Foibles.