Summer Intensive 2014 Guest Faculty

Deborah Damast

Deborah Damast began her dance training in CT with the Ballet Etudes Repertory Company. She has been busy dancing, teaching, and choreographing in NYC for over 15 years. Deborah holds an MA in Dance and Dance Education from NYU, a BFA in dance from SUNY Purchase, and has received a certificate from the Dance Education Laboratory at the 92nd St. Y. Deborah holds a faculty position in the Dance and Dance Education Department of NYU. She currently is Artistic Advisor, Adjunct Professor, and Artistic Director of Kaleidoscope Dancers in the Dance Education Program. She recently co-created a creative movement video for children eintitled Movengroovekids (

She has danced with a number of companies including Peridance Ensemble, Dance Collective, Isadora’s Dance Legacy, Nayo and Friends, and directs her own company, Deborah Damast and Dancers. She has taught extensively to adults and children, and has been on the faculty of New York City Ballet, Peridance, the 92nd st, Y, Little Red Schoolhouse, Temple Habonim Nursery School, the JCC Manhattan, and The Dance in Education Fund. Deborah is a member of the Kappa Delti Pi, an international honor society of educators, and is a member of the National Dance Association. She recently presented research at the NDEO conference in New Mexico, and will be on a panel at the next conference in Michigan. She is director of the Dance Department at the Harvey School’s Cavalier Summer Arts Camp in Katonah, NY, and has conducted workshops for outreach programs with at-risk youth.

From 1995-2005, Deborah has choreographed for the Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Project F.I.N.D. as a guest choreographer and teacher. She has choreographed and danced for the International Festival of Dance in Italy and the Aizu Wakamatsu Cultural Center Theatre in Japan. Deborah has enjoyed collaborations with distinguished composers Dennis Tolly, William Wade, Sammy Carr, John Gilbert and Dinu Ghezzo. Her work has been shown at over 20 venues in NYC including The World Financial Center, Riverside Church, Peridance, Washington Square Church, the 14th St. Y, Context, University Settlement, Nikolais Louis Choreospace, the 92nd St. Y, and many others. She has coordinated children’s dance programs at Peridance and at the Dance in Education Fund.

XiJun Fu

XiJun Fu was born in Qing Dao, China, and began his dance training at the distinguished Beijing Dance Academy. He was viewed as a special talent at an early age and proved his gift by receiving the highest marks in his class throughout his academy career. He was rewarded for his hard work and dedication at age 18 when he was asked to join China’s premiere ballet company, the National Ballet of China, as a soloist dancer.

He was then promoted to become the leading dancer at age 19 and continued to excel and impress everyone in the dance world with his skill and performance. Fu then left China in 1985 to become a guest artist in a cultural exchange program with Ballet de Santiago in Chile under the direction of former ABT star Ivan Naggy. Fu returned to China a year later with the intent to focus his energy on becoming an instructor at the Beijing Dance Academy.

Then in 1988 he was asked to join the Cincinnati Ballet. Fu and his wife, Fang Li, left China to take this opportunity with the vision of expanding his knowledge of dance into directing and became director of several companies. Afterwards, Fu and his wife moved to Washington to pursue their dance shoe company FUZI.

Fu currently stays in touch with the dance world by teaching and coaching. He says “It’s very important to know what a dancer needs, I can’t know that unless I’m in their world.” Using his own experience, and that of current dancers, FUZI continues to grow and develop shoes that are designed by a dancer, for dancers.

Leslie Hench

Leslie Hench, a native of Mt. Holly, PA, brings over 30 years of experience in training professional dancers. After dancing with Harlequin Ballet in London, Leslie returned to her alma mater the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet where for 30 years she trained some of ballet’s greatest stars.  Currently, Leslie teaches and coaches at her own school Ribbon Mill Ballet in Carlisle PA, as well as guest teaching at Eglevsky Ballet throughout the year.

Gretchen Patchell

Gretchen Patchell, originally from Pennsylvania, received her early training at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet.  At age fourteen, she was invited to attend the winter program at the School of American Ballet on full scholarship. Gretchen has performed a vast assortment of ballets with the New York City Ballet, the Dutch National Ballet, and the former Fort Worth Dallas Ballet. While continuing to dance, Ms. Patchell accepted an invitation from Paul Mejia to teach at the Fort Worth School of Ballet in 1996. Gretchen continues to enrich the lives of many children, both through her instruction and choreography.

Jeffrey Polston

Jeffrey Polston, a native of North Carolina, began his formal training at the North Carolina School of the Arts, Winston-Salem, NC. Upon graduation, he joined the Boston-based Impulse Dance Company, Dir. Adrienne Hawkins. During his tenure with Impulse, he worked with noted choreographers such as Donald Byrd and Dwight Rhoden, and performed in works by Warren Spears, Rael Lamb, Clover Mathis, Consuelo Atlas, and Fred Benjamin. During this time he also worked in Tokyo, Japan with F.E.N. Promotions Company, a nationally broadcast television show.

Jeffrey moved to Philadelphia after being invited to become a First Company member of Philadelphia Dance Company, affectionately know as “Philadanco”, Dir. Joan Myers Brown. He worked with and performed in works by Milton Myers and Talley Beatty.

As an original member of Complexions Contemporary Ballet Company, Co-Dirs. Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, Jeffrey toured extensively throughout the world, including most recently a two week engagement at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. He was a Soloist/Principal dancer as well as dance captain with the New Royal Ballet of York, better known as “The New Boys” , an all male cast of men on pointe. They toured extensively throughout Japan three times to sold out audiences. During this period, Jeffrey was invited to make two guest appearances performing for a nationally broadcast television show in Tokyo. He also performed for Pope John Paul II for World Youth Day, in Toronto, Canada, with the Boston liturgical Dance Ensemble for an audience of over 600,000.

Jeffrey continues to teach and choreograph at numerous colleges and dance studios throughout the country. He has most recently returned from Anchorage, Alaska, where he taught, choreographed and performed for the Alaska Dance Theatre in the spring of 2010. Additionally, he is invited for annual engagements in Phoenix, Arizona, and Bristol, Virginia as a performing/teaching artist.

Heather Waldon

At the age of 16, Heather Waldon joined Boston Ballet where she had the opportunity to perform a range of repertoire from the classics like Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty to works choreographed by Twyla Tharp, Mark Morris, Bill T. Jones and Ralph Lemon. After seven years with Boston Ballet, Waldon went on to join Hubbard Street Dance. At Hubbard Street Dance, she performed Tharp’s Bakers Dozen and was a featured dancer in a work by Margo Sappington and Lou Conte. Waldon than went on to San Francisco and was a founding member of Robert Moses’s Kin and did works by Arturo Fernandez and Kate Foley. She then moved to New York City. In NYC, she was a founding member, dancer and rehearsal director for the Sean Curran Company. She has worked with Mr. Curran for the past sixteen years. Besides dancing for Curran, Heather set many of his works at universities: Barnard College, Alvin Ailey/Fordham, Roger Williams University, Boston Conservatory, NYU Tisch , Marymount and on Wylliams/Henry Contemporary in Kansas City, Mo. Waldon has taught at The Boston Conservatory, Bucknell, DNA, Peridance, Mark Morris Dance Group and NYU Tisch. She also performed with Richard Move, Molissa Fenly, Liz Gerring and The Met Opera. Currently,Waldon is volunteering and teaching for Dance for PD ( Parkinson’s patients) which is associated with the Mark Morris Dance Group.

Gabriella Yudenich

A native of southern New Jersey, Gabriella Yudenich began her dance training at age seven at The Rock School for Dance Education. She also trained under the guidance of her mother, Barbara Sandonato, who was the first dancer hired to be a member of Pennsylvania Ballet in 1963. Ms. Yudenich attended The School of American Ballet under full scholarship for two years. She also completed summer sessions at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, The School of American Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre and performed with Dances Patrelle in New York City, dancing soloist roles in the Yorkville Nutcracker.

Ms. Yudenich performed with Pennsylvania Ballet in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and John Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew before becoming the first member of Pennsylvania Ballet II, the Joyce and Herbert Kean Trainee program. As a member of Pennsylvania Ballet II for two seasons, she performed in lecture demonstrations throughout the region, as well as in the Company’s full-length productions. She became an Apprentice in September 2003 and was promoted to the Corps de Ballet in September 2005 and to Soloist in 2007.

Ms. Yudenich has performed in many classical and contemporary ballets including Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake and Polyphonia, Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room and Push Comes to Shove, Matthew Neenan’s Carmina Burana, Jiří Kylián’s Forgotten Land (Black Couple), William Forsythe’s Artifact Suite (Pas de Deux 1), and many pieces from the Balanchine repertoire, including Who Cares?, The Four Temperaments (Choleric), and Agon (First Pas de Trois). Her lead roles include Myrta in Giselle, Lilac Fairy and Diamond in The Sleeping Beauty, Titania and Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Sugarplum Fairy and Dewdrop in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™. She also created a role in the world premiere of Jorma Elo’s Pulcinella.

Ms. Yudenich is a true product of Pennsylvania Ballet history. Her mother, Barbara Sandonato, was a star member of Pennsylvania Ballet throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, and her father, the late Alexei Yudenich, was also a leading member of the Company during that time. Her husband is former Company Member Thomas Baltrushunas. They welcomed their first son in February 2012.