Staff & Faculty
Virginia received her professional dance training at the San Francisco Ballet School, under the tutelage of American ballet pioneers, Willam and Lew Christensen. She began touring with the San Francisco Ballet Company and the San Francisco Opera Company in 1961, performing in such works as Swan Lake, Symphony in C, Connamore, Caprice, and Concerto Barocco. Eventually switching focus from performance to instruction, Virginia embarked on an extensive teaching career, instructing advanced and master classes for Jane Stamps Studio in Albany and the Petaluma Ballet, and eventually developing a dance program for the San Anselmo Recreation Center. In 1988, Virginia founded the Stapleton School of the Performing Arts with the unique mission of providing professional dance training, while incorporating a compassion for students as whole individuals. Since the inception of the Stapleton School, enrollment has grown steadily, and currently over 500 students are enrolled in the Ballet Division. In 1998, Virginia developed the Stapleton Youth Company to provide a semi-professional experience for the school's advanced students helping to bridge the prep-professional to the professional level.
Sharon joined the organization as Managing Director in January, 2006. Sharon has been associated with Virginia Stapleton / The Stapleton School for twenty-six years. Sharon grew up in New Jersey and attended St. John's University, majoring in communications. In 1984 she was hired as Office Manager of The Loric Corporation, a national direct mail catalog house, which was subsequently named one of INC Magazine's "500 Fastest Growing Privately Held Companies." In 1988, when the corporation moved to San Rafael, Sharon agreed to relocate for a one-year contract to assist with the transition. She fell in love with Northern California and never went back to New York City (although she frequently visits). As Managing Director Sharon manages the school's business affairs, including programming, communications, marketing, finance and production management. Sharon's extensive management experience also includes sixteen years in the public sector, including serving as Recreation Supervisor for the Town of San Anselmo. Sharon's arts management experience includes eight years as Executive Producer of the award-winning community theatre group, The Town Players, now known as The Stapleton Theatre Company. Sharon has produced over forty full-length ballet and theatrical productions in Marin County. Sharon is an active community volunteer and has coached girls' softball, volunteered with Ross Valley Schools, the San Anselmo Chamber of Commerce, the Novato Theatre Company, the Ross Valley Players and the Mill Valley Film Festival. She has served on: Wade Thomas School Parent Association (President), California Parks and Recreation Society (Board Member at large), Millennium Playground Team (Steering Committee), and the YES Foundation Theatre Arts Committee.
When she's not providing administrative support to Stapleton, Lily Jackson is a performer, director, and educator (who got her start with Stapleton Theatre Co.!). She received her B.A. in Theatre from Occidental College, and completed training at the London Dramatic Academy as well as programs with A.C.T. and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Returning to her native Bay Area after graduating, she now teaches and directs with theatre companies such as 142 Throckmorton Youth Theatre, the Yes! Foundation in the Ross Valley School district, and the Montessori de Terra Linda. Lily has performed with companies throughout the Bay, including Central Works, 3Girls Theatre, Novato Theatre Company, and 142 Throckmorton.
Lauren Duchene's love of ballet began at the age of 3 with her first dance lessons under the instruction of Virginia Stapleton. She danced at The Stapleton School of Performing Arts up into her teen years. She later went on to train at Marin Dance Theatre where she furthered her studies of classical ballet technique. Lauren received her BFA in dance with an emphasis on ballet performance at the University of California, Irvine. Lauren is very passionate about working with children. She loves to share ballet technique and to foster a child's creativity in the dance setting. Lauren is the proud mommy of two beautiful boys and brings her understanding as a parent to her teaching.
Instructor, Upper Division
Lacey Helen Escabar, a Fairfax native, received her training from Dance Theater Seven and the San Francisco Ballet School. She danced professionally under Helgi Tomasson at San Francisco Ballet as a member of the company. She performed in San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker, Giselle, Onegin, Romeo & Juliet, Swan Lake and Don Quixote. She appeared in the U.S. Premier of Christopher Wheeldon's Cinderella. Lacey was a recipient of the 2011 Richard Barker Scholarship Award and was featured in Pointe Magazine's "In the Wings" in 2009. Lacey has also done extensive print work as a model and appeared in film, tv and commercial spots. She is thrilled to be home in Marin and teaching at the Stapleton School.
Megan Cherry Gmelin
Instructor, Lower Division
Megan is a native of Marin County and began her dance training with Virginia Stapleton at age 4. While dancing with Stapleton School of Performing Arts for 14 years, Megan performed in 11 Nutcrackers; La Fille Mal Garde, Coppelia, David McNaughton's Tom Sawyer, and numerous repertory pieces. She later returned to perform with the Offspring Company. Megan earned her BA in dance in May 2004 from Denison University in Granville, Ohio. While at Denison, she received training in classical ballet as well as contemporary dance. Megan performed in various repertory pieces and danced in a collaborative performance with Bobby McFerrin. She was a teacher and director of the Creative Movement Program at Denison, introducing dance to children ages 3-8. Megan began her teaching career with Stapleton in Fall 2004 and has loved instilling her passion for dance in her students.
Instructor, Lower Division
Isabella Qureshi was born and raised in Marin County. She was raised in a family of artists including her father, world-renowned percussionist Zakir Hussain, and her mother, Kathak dancer/choreographer Antonia Minnecola. Isabella spent her toddler years amidst the great musicians of our age, including her grandfather Ustad Alla Rakha, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Pandit Ravi Shankar, John McLaughlin, Mickey Hart, to name a few. She began her early dance training at age 4 at Dance Theatre 7 in Fairfax under Jody White, David Roxander, and Georgia Ortega. At Dance Theatre 7 Isabella studied ballet and jazz extensively. Isabella also studied West African dance, Brazilian, Character, Modern, and Yoga as a supplement to her classical training. Isabella went on to earn her Bachelor of Arts degree in dance with a concentration in visual media at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City. While at Marymount she continued her training in ballet and jazz, and began her training in modern technique.. In 2003, Isabella was given the opportunity to perform in London at Queen Elizabeth Hall "Riverborn," a piece she co-choreographed with Antonia Minnecola and accompanied by Zakir Hussain and Taufiq Qureshi. Upon graduating, she returned to Marin to teach jazz, contemporary, & ballet at Dance Theatre 7, RoCo Dance & Fitness, and Marin Ballet. She is also a choreographer for Yes Theatre youth productions and joins the Stapleton Theatre Company to choreograph the 2015 production of A Christmas Carol.
Instructor, Upper Division
As a world-renowned dancer, Shelley is one of the last 4 dancers to work with and be personally trained by George Balanchine. She was a lead dancer with the New York City Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet, appearing at Covenant Garden, Paris Opera, Kennedy and Lincoln Centers, and danced on Broadway with Marakova & Co. Shelley trained at the School of American Ballet with premiere ballet teachers and as a professional dancer, she worked with notable choreographers Jerome Robbins, Rudolph Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Michael Smuin, Mark Morris, Twyla Tharp, Robert Joffrey and others. She is dedicated to teaching, choreographing and passing on the traditions of classical ballet from Balanchine. Shelley is the director of Ballet Califia in Cotati. "I dance because without it, there would be no beauty, inspiration, or reason to exist."
Instructor, Adult Ballet
Sandra Tanner is a seasoned dance professional whose hallmark is demystifying ballet for dancers whether they are children, teens or adults. She received her early training with the San Francisco Ballet School and later with Leona Norman at Marin Ballet. Her continued training included modern, jazz, musical theater dance and acting while completing both a B.A. and M.F.A. in dance at University of California, Irvine and New York University, respectively. While in New York, Sandra studied intensively with Zena Rommett and learned her world renowned Floor-barre© technique, directly from her. Sandra served as Assistant Professor of dance at Wright State University in Ohio. During her tenure there, the dance department grew from 10 to 40 majors and she was instrumental in creating a dance scholarship partnership with the Dayton Ballet, which is still thriving today. Sandra has also enjoyed an active career as a choreographer having most recently created original choreography for Ross Valley Players' production of Cabaret. Her choreographic works have included dozens of fully produced musicals and operettas for collegse, theaters and opera companies.
Instructor, Lower Division
Casey Lee Thorne was born and raised in Taylorsville, North Carolina, and received her early training at American Repertory Ballet's Princeton Ballet School in New Jersey. In 2010 she graduated from the Alonzo King LINES Ballet/Dominican University of CA B.F.A. Program as part of the inaugural class. She has performed the work of notable choreographers including Graham Lustig, Shinichi Iova-Koga, Muriel Maffre, and James Graham. In 2012 she founded Inside Out Contemporary Ballet (IOCB), a professional dance company located in the North Bay of San Francisco. As the Artistic Director of IOCB she has received a Fulbright Fellowship to Israel for the 2014-2015 academic year, the Fall 2014 Theatre Bay Area Ca$h Grant, the Audience Select Award at New Ground Dance Theatre's Emerging Artists Dance Showcase, and a commission from the 22nd Annual West Wave Dance Festival. Casey has choreographed original works for the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, Dominican University of CA, and Marin Ballet, among others. She is currently an M.F.A. candidate at Mills College, set to graduate May 2018.
Resident Director, Stapleton Theatre Company
Bruce Vieira, a California native, started his acting training at the College of Marin. He continued his studies in acting at the Circle in the Square Theatre School in New York City. After several years acting in Chicago, Vermont and Denver, Bruce returned to school at the University of Iowa to study directing and acting. In 2001 he returned to Marin County where he has appeared in many productions including several Mountain Plays and numerous performances with the Ross Valley Players. Along with acting and sound design, in 2006 Bruce returned to directing with a production of I Hate Hamlet at the Ross Valley Players and again in 2010 with RVP's production of The Miser. In 2007 he directed his first production with Stapleton Theatre Company. As of July 2016, Bruce has directed sixteen Stapleton Theatre Company productions.