LAUREL BALLET PROPRIETORS
Eleanor Viecelli Tornblom~ Artistic Director, Master Teacher
Ms. Tornblom was born into an Italian family whose belief in rounding out the children's education with participation in the arts lead her toward a career in dance. She has trained throughout her life with many Masters including Karl Heinrich, the younger Folkeim, Kolpokova, Asfaf Messerer, Galina Ulanova, Marowski, Ginnadi Vostrikov, and Edward Caton. Her odyssey began with the opening of Eleanor’s Dance Studio in 1957, later to be renamed Laurel Youth Ballet Theatre in 1974. When Ms. Tornblom welcomed her first students, Pittsburgh Ballet had not yet been formed. She had grown a school of almost 500 students and like many local instructors, taught a variety of genres including tap and jazz. Then Nicolas and Mary Petrov came to Pittsburgh to build and direct PBT. Ms. Tornblom was delighted by the opportunity to further her own education and that of her students. She was afforded the unusual privilege of being able to observe classes and in doing so, she devoted herself to learning from every Master Teacher available, to become a Master herself. She was first aided in this endeavor by Nicolas and Mary Petrov who not only grew to respect her but have remained her life long friends. Shortly after she began attending classes with Nicolas and Mary, Ms. Tornblom reduced her school's curriculum to ballet only, her enrollment dropped to less than 100 students, but those 100 students got something rare and wonderful; a real education. This tradition of excellence still exists today. Ms. Tornblom has passed this along to her two daughters, Judy Rae and Joy, and demands it from every guest teacher who is invited into the studio. Ms. Tornblom continues to attend seminars and participate in summer programs dedicated to teaching the Vaganova syllabus. As a result, the small rural school she began over half a century ago has produced students who have receive scholarships, summer workshop acceptances, and entrance into some of the worlds most prestigious ballet companies. Her students perform classics and contemporary works regularly as part of their superior education and many have gone on to professional careers. Artist Director Eleanor Tornblom's aspiration for perfection, dedication to the art form and genuine affection for her students is the foundation of a school that is definitely a local treasure.
Judy Rae Tubbs~ Resident Choreographer, Teacher
Ms. Tubbs began her studies with Eleanor Tornblom then went on to study and perform with Pittsburgh Ballet as well as with the American Dance Ensemble and several regional ballet companies. She studied with world renowned masters including Asaf Messime, Richard Katon, and Edward Van Muden. At the tender age of 16 she developed a love for choreography and began to develop short pieces for herself and fellow dancers. By the age of 20 she was teaching and choreographing for Laurel Ballet and was doing guest work with many local companies. In the late 1980's she received a grant from the Pittsburgh Dance Council and produced her first contemporary work entitled Revoltade. Since that time Ms. Tubbs has put original choreography to six classic ballets including The Nutcracker which has been performed annually with the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra since the early 1990's. She has also choreographed over two dozen original ballets and many contemporary works which has given Laurel Ballet the incredible distinction of being a small regional youth company with a vast repertoire. Judy Rae Tubbs continues to educate herself in the quality instruction and presentation of ballet. She takes great pride in her students and their accomplishments.
Joy Uschak~ Company Manager, Teacher
Ms. Uschak began her training with Eleanor Tornblom and went on to study ballet with such Master teachers as Nicolas and Mary Petrov, Messerer, Folkeim, Marowski, Caton and Vostrikov. She found that she not only had a gift for instruction but also for Arts Management and eventually used those talents to participate in the founding of Laurel Youth Ballet. Ms. Uschak has used her extensive dance education to instruct the schools youngest students, giving them a rock solid foundation on which to build while using her extraordinary management skills to keep this invaluable young company afloat. Her contributions to the performing company have included forays into choreography as well as being responsible for much of the costume design and production. Ms. Uschak is the most well rounded and invaluable of the Laurel Ballet partners.
LAUREL BALLET STAFF
Nichole Waugaman-Slavin Modern and Choreography - earned her Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelpia. Her college career also includes Tisch School of Arts in
New York and the Laban Center in London, England. She was accepted in to many summer intensive programs including Cleveland Ballet and the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts on full scholarship.
LAUREL BALLET COSTUMER
Margaret Gilfillan received her BFA from The Art Institute of Chicago and The Goodman Theatre School. While attending classes at Carnegie Mellon University Ms. Gilfillan’s talents were quickly recognized and she was awarded a full scholarship, earning her MFA in Costume Design. She has been a teacher at East Carolina University, Seton Hill University, and The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. Ms. Gilfillan has been a freelance designer for over 15 years. In addition to working with LBPC, she is currently creating full scale productions with St. Vincent professional Summer Theater and Apple Hill Playhouse. Ms. Gilfillan’s work demonstrates that she is a true master in her art form.