Summer Ballet Intensive Program Faculty

Meet Our Faculty

Yukari Thiesen: Artistic Director: former soloist Matsuyama Ballet, Tokyo, Japan: Director Valley Performing Arts Council: Artistic Director Fresno Ballet Theatre. She has been the Producer of “The Nutcracker” with the Sacramento Ballet and also with the Russian Festival Ballet, “Snow White & Seven Dwarfs”, “Cinderella”, “The Jungle Book”, “The Secret Garden”, “Beauty & the Beast”, “Alice in Wonderland” and “Don Quixote” with State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara. She is the director/choreographer for outreach productions of “The Little Match Girl”, “Snow Queen”, ”The Red Shoes”, “Cinderella”, “From the Sleeping Beauty”, “Swan Lake Act III” , and other ballets for over 200,000-grade school students from 23 school districts. She is an artist in residence with four school districts and oversees ballet programs for three school districts. She was the recipient of the Fresno County Office of Education Artist in Residence grant in 2013. In September 2017 she was awarded the Outstanding Educator in Arts for 2017 by the FOUNDATION @ Fresno County Office of Education.

Aaron Smyth: born on the Gold Coast Australia, Aaron Smyth dancer, actor, and entrepreneur has been a company member with the American Ballet Theatre II in New York, The Royal Ballet in London where he created a role in Christopher Wheeldon’s Titian: Metamorphosis, a collaboration with the National Gallery, and The Joffrey Ballet in Chicago have he danced soloist and principal roles. He travels the globe as a guest principal artist. He has recently performed on London’s West End in Christopher Wheeldon’s New Musical An American In Paris. He’s danced on TV, appearing on two series of Got Talent. He appeared as the Snow Cavalier in Disney’s upcoming feature film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms in 2018. Mr. Smyth has also won numerous medals in International Ballet Competitions and is the Founding Director of his company “Dance For Humanity” and wellness house EC1 Studios in London. He was Basilio in “Don Quixote” in 2015, Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet” in 2017, and Cavalier in “The Nutcracker 2018 with the State Street Ballet Fresno tour and danced with Fresno Ballet Theatre. He was Prince Siegfried in “Swan Lake’ in 2018 and Frantz in “Coppėlia” in 2019, and Solor in “La Bayadėre” in Northwest Studio Recital 2021. By popular demand, he returned to perform as Cavalier in “The Nutcracker” 2021 Fresno Tour with State Street Ballet. He joined Northwest Studio Summer Program as a guest faculty member in 2019 and 2021. His broad experience not only as a ballet dancer but also as a Broadway and film performer will expand the student’s understanding of performing demands and quality.

Alexey Kulpin: Alexey Kulpin is a graduate of the Institute of Culture and Art in St. Petersburg, Russia. He holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in ballet pedagogy and choreography. In 1998, he was the Grand Prix winner at the Muse of St. Petersburg Ballet Competition. As a professional dancer, Mr. Kulpin has performed soloist and principal roles in both classical and contemporary ballets in Russia, Israel, and the United States. He danced professionally with St. Petersburg State Opera Ballet, St. Petersburg State Male Theatre by Mihailovsky, Ballet Israel, City Ballet of San Diego, Grand Rapids Ballet, Charleston Ballet Theater, Stars of St. Petersburg Municipal Theater of Music and Dance, and Krasnoyarsk Dance Ensemble. Mr. Kulpin specializes in teaching classical ballet, male and female variations, and character dance. His teaching career includes the Ballet Israel School, City Ballet of San Diego, Grand Rapids Ballet, and Charleston Ballet Company, where he taught company classes and served as director of the Charleston Ballet Young Artists Group. Most recently, he served as a principal ballet teacher for Northern California Dance Conservatory. He has staged classical variations and choreographed solos for performance and ballet competitions, including Youth America Grand Prix. Mr. Kulpin joined The HARID Conservatory’s faculty in August 2016. He remains active as a guest teacher and a ballet-competition judge. He joined Northwest Studio Summer Intensive Ballet as a guest faculty member in 2016, 2017, 2019, and 2021.

Leeza Domrachev: was born in Santa Barbara CA. She graduated with honors from International Perm State Ballet Academy – a professional Ballet School in Russia. In 2016 she became a finalist in the Russian National Talent TV show ” Blue Bird” in Moscow. In the spring of 2019 was a Second Place winner at the International Ballet and Contemporary Dance Competition “Domenico Modugno” in Italy, where she also received a “Special Jury Prize”. In the fall of 2018, she performed the main part of Liza in the ballet premiere of “La Fille Mal Gardee”, on the stage of the famous Perm Opera and Ballet Theater. Before moving to Russia to enter Perm Ballet, she was trained at the official school of State Street Ballet and Ballet Academy Ventura. While she was young she joined the performing tour with State Street Ballet to Fresno and performed in “Snow White“ in 2011 and “Cinderella” in 2012 with Fresno Ballet Theater students. She had five job offers while still with Perm Ballet Academy and graduated from Perm Ballet with honors. She joined Moscow State Theatre Ballet and had performing tours throughout Europe and China with the Company.

Grethel Raypon: grew up in the Philippines where she has performed and studied both Classical and Modern Ballet at Philippine High School for the Arts, the University of the Philippines Dance Department and Ballet Philippine. She was a soloist with Manila Metropolis Ballet and was a principal dancer with Diablo Ballet, Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley, Cleveland San Jose Ballet, and Ballet Philippines.

Yuliya Gamboni: a native Ukrainian from Odesa, Ukraine. She was trained in the classical Russian Vaganova Ballet method in Odesa Ukraine. In 1993 she received a bronze medal and the Title of Laureate at the Moscow International Ballet Competition of “Ballet Russ”.