Christi currently serves as the Director of The Ballet Academy, bringing over 10 years of teaching experience to this enhanced Ballet training program. The Ballet Academy has proudly presented Paquita, Sleeping Beauty, Conversations in Choreography, and A Midsummer Night's Dream. In 2022 she formed Encore, The Ballet Academy’s performance company. Christi launched the Tutu Fundraiser in 2021 with the goal of bringing 32 hand sewn tutus to The Ballet Academy. These high quality tutus will last The Ballet Academy for years, and give dancers the professional ballerina experience when they perform on stage.
Christi Varvel began her ballet training at Le Studio Dance in Los Angeles, CA under the instruction of Philip and Charles Fuller of Ballet West, and Julia Ortega, and Roberto Almaguer of Ballet Nacional de Cuba. During her time at Le Studio she performed in the Nutcracker, dancing the roles of Chinese, Spanish, Mirliton, and Waltz of the Flowers. Continuing her education, she danced under the direction of Cynthia Lawrence of Ballet West and Lawrence Blake of The Joffrey Ballet at Pasadena Dance Theater. As a member of Pasadena Dance Theater’s Company, she performed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Nutcracker, and original works by Lawrence Blake.
With an eye towards teaching, Christi received her Bachelors degree in Dance, from the University of Colorado, Boulder with a focus in pedagogy, ballet, jazz, and modern dance. During these years, Christi taught Ballet at a Boulder area studio and creative movement at a Montessori school. Through her work at the Montessori school, she taught creative movement and dance as a form of therapy for students with ADHD.
After moving to College Station, TX, in 2014, Christi began teaching at Suzanne’s School of Dance and has served as the Director of Apprentice AbunDance, Mini Company, and the Ballet syllabus program. In 2017, she redeveloped the ballet curriculum at Suzanne's School of Dance to focus on rigor, art, and dedication. She is a certified Progressing Ballet Technique (PBT) instructor.
She also enjoyed serving as a choreographer and rehearsal instructor for Ballet Brazos' annual production of the Nutcracker, and subsequent Spring productions.
It is her hope through teaching, performance, and passion, that her students will be inspired by the discipline and art of ballet.
John Henry Reid
Born in Houston, Texas, John Henry Reid began his training at the Houston Ballet Academy under the direction of Ben Stevenson. He started his training in a young men's program at the age of 10 and graduated from Houston Ballet Academy at the age of 20. While there he studied many different dance styles including classical ballet, partnering, character, modern, jazz, and many others, and he was also the first to receive the Ben Stevenson Scholarship award. Upon his graduation from the academy, John was asked to join Texas Ballet Theater. At Texas Ballet he performed many principal roles from the Nutcracker Prince, Franz in Coppelia, Peer Gynt in Ben Stevenson's Peer Gynt and Ben Stevenson's End of Time pas de deux. He spent the next seven years dancing for companies like Colorado Ballet, where he met and danced for Martin Fredmann, to Complexions Contemporary Ballet in New York, and City Ballet of San Diego. He has guested for Cincinnati Ballet, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, Twin City Ballet Theater, Houston Ballet Rep Ballet, Uptown Street Dance Company, Ballet Artisan, and the University of Oklahoma.
His repertoire includes leading roles in Dracula, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Celts, Company B, 9 Sinatra Songs, Swan Lake, Walpurgisnacht, and many more contemporary ballets choreographed by choreographers such as Dwight Rhoden, Igal Perry, Jessica Lang, Darrell Grand-moultrie, Jo Funaki and others.
Mr. Reid has spent the last eight years continuing to expand his extensive repertoire while dancing, teaching, choreographing, and coaching in Japan. His choreographic works have been set on companies and schools across Japan. While in Japan John and Aya opened their own school Elements Academy of Dance.
Born in Osaka, Aya Ota began her ballet training at Homura Tomoi ballet school in Osaka. She was trained in Vaganova. Her teachers were Makio Homura, Toyoko Miyamoto, and Emiko Inoue. During that time she attended The School of Kirov Ballet Vaganova Ballet Academy. While there she studied Classical Ballet with Zagurskaya Margarita, Character dance with Averkina Larissa, Historical Dance with Apadiakos Natalya, and Mime with Stiopio Alexander.
She has also studied in RAD, Royal Academy of Dance, and has received high marks in Elementary, Intermediate, and Advance 1 exams. She has attended the London Studio Centre and studied under teachers Barry McGrath, Margaret Barbieri, Anita Yang, Jane Sang, Sue Booker, and others.
After Graduating from the London Studio Centre, Aya returned to Japan and joined Ballet Chambre Ouest in Hachioji Tokyo, under the direction of Hiroaki Imamura. Over her 16 years at Ballet Chambre Ouest, Aya danced Principal and soloist roles in many classical ballets and original works. Her repertoire consists of lead roles in The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Le Corsaire, Thumbelina, Gisselle, Swan Lake, Raymonda,Tenjyo no uta, Pas de deux from Donizetti, Fairy tale, and Luna. She has also performed at the Bolshoi Theatre with Ballet Chambre Ouest.
For the past 15 years Aya has been teaching ballet technique, pointe, variations, and pas de deux. Many of her students received 1st place, 5th place, and finalist in competitions such as, Educational Ballet competition, YAGP in Japan, Japan Dance Competition, Japan competition in Hachioji, Japan Grand Prix, and the All Japan Competition.
Mariah began dancing when she was 7 years old focusing primarily on classical ballet. She had the opportunity to train at the Ballet Conservatory of South Texas and participated in their pre-professional ballet company. She is now continuing her education as an instructor by attending various trainings such as Marie Walton-Mahon’s Progressive Ballet Technique and Discover Dance courses. Mariah has been a part of Suzanne's family for 6 years and is excited to start her 7th year of teaching at the studio. In addition, Mariah has been on the SSD Customer Care Team for three years and is excited to step into a leadership role in this area. Mariah is so grateful for her studio community and she is eager to see all the year holds in store!
Natalie Robinson is from Texarkana, Texas. She has danced for 20 years and studied ballet, pointe, contemporary, modern, and jazz. In high school, she performed lead roles in “The Nutcracker,” most notably Sugarplum Fairy. She starred as Odette in “Swan Lake.” Natalie trained in the Ballet Arkansas Pre-Professional Division for three years. She attended Youth American Grand Prix three times performing “Bluebird,” “Gamzatti,” and “Lilac Fairy” variations, as well as two contemporary solos. In May 2021, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from Belhaven University with a BFA in Dance. In College, she was cast in a variety of works and received starring roles as Snow demi-soloist in “The Nutcracker,” soloist in “Frontiers” pas de deux, and soloist in “Frescoes,” restaged by Henry Danton. While earning a dance degree, she gained knowledge in dance health, pedagogy, dance production, teaching methods, and kinesiology. She had opportunities to choreograph and stage works. Natalie was inducted into the National Honor Society for Dance Arts in March 2021, which is a program for the National Dance Education Organization recognizing artistic merit, leadership, and academic achievement. She received Youth Protection Advocates in Dance certification and CPR training through Suzanne’s School of Dance. Natalie is passionate about sharing and cultivating the love of dance through teaching. She is excited to continue educating her students in technical proficiency and artistry, while managing SSD Social Media, directing Mini Company, and joining The Ballet Academy staff this year.