Pamela Taylor Tongg, Artistic Director
Artistic Director Pamela Taylor Tongg began her early training in Chicago. She subsequently studied with Martha Mahrin Florida and the American Ballet Center in New York.
Ms. Taylor Tongg enjoyed a ten-year association with the Atlanta Ballet from 1975 to 1985 as a Soloist, Ballet Mistress and Director of the apprenticeship program, which prepared young dancers for professional careers. She credits much of her training to Atlanta Ballet’s Artistic Director Emeritus Robert Barnett.
Ms. Taylor Tongg moved to Hawaii in 1985 and joined Ballet Hawaii. Under her guidance, Ballet Hawaii has grown from a handful of students to an average of more than 400. In 2010, Ms. Taylor Tongg was given the Outstanding Teacher Award at the Youth American Grand Prix competition. In addition, she received certificates of appreciation from the City and County of Honolulu and the State House of Representatives for her outstanding contributions to Hawaii and Honolulu’s cultural presentations.
As a result of Ms. Taylor Tongg’s leadership, internationally acclaimed guest artists and master teachers travel to Hawaii to participate in Ballet Hawaii productions and training programs. In 2012, she was appointed to the Mayor’s Commission on Culture and the Arts as a dance expert.
Regina Ahlgren is a native New Yorker. Her dance training includes Phil Black, Feld Ballet, David Howard, and the Joffrey Ballet. Her career began at 18 with a national tour of Sugar Babies staring Pinky Lee. Ms. Ahlgren continued to tour first nationals and Broadway productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoats, Ragtime, and Saturday Night Fever. She has been seen nationally and internationally in musicals such as A Chorus Line directed by Baayork Lee, Babes in Arms staring Kristin Chenoweth, Oklahoma and Phantom. She was “dance captain” of the European tour of 42nd Street. Ms. Ahlgren has also directed and choreographed professional productions of West Side Story, Annie, Caberet, Sound of Music, Kiss Me Kate, and Pippin. In 2016, Regina directed and choreographed a CJ Entertainment production of 42nd Street in Seoul Korea.
Nataliya is originally from Ukraine and has been dancing since she was 9 years old. Nataliya received her choreographic education from Kherson Cultural College in Ukraine where she studied ballet, historical ballroom, modern, and character folk dance. Beginning in 1993 she performed at various venues in the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Lebanon, Greece, and Macedonia. Before moving to Hawaii she danced at the Kherson Musical Dramatic Theater in Ukraine. In Honolulu, Nataliya has been a dancer and choreographer with the Mardi Gras Follies, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hawaii Opera Theatre, and ACT. She teaches ballet, tap, jazz, and character dance classes locally at different schools. Nataliya is delighted to be working with Ballet Hawaii.
Born and raised in Carlsbad, California Vanessa Brooks had a passion for dance and movement since a very young age. Brooks grew up performing and competing in dance and has won several awards over the years, such as Solo Sweepstakes winner and National Champion. She was voted most “Well Rounded Dancer” at the Urban Jam Dance Convention. Brooks has danced and performed with the CHS Lancer Dancers, Future Shock, Culture Shock, Pulse Hip-hop Company, Unity Dance Ensemble, PAC Modern, and Malashock Dance. Brooks performed in the movie trailer “Dance Ten” by Johnny Smith, Maya’s music video “Like Whoa”, and in Super Bowl XXXVVII pregame and half-time shows.
Vanessa has had the privilege to train under multiple professionals such as: Tessandra Chavez, Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo, Brian Friedman, Mark Meismer, Susan McClain, a former Martha Graham Dancer, and Lorin Johnson, from American Ballet Theatre. In the summer of 2006, Vanessa received her Pilates Certification through B.A.S.I. with an emphasis on Dance Specialization, under the direction of Karen Clippinger. In 2008 Brooks, received her Bachelors of the Arts degree in Dance from California State University Long Beach. She has taught at several dance studios and college campuses throughout southern California, including Mira Costa College and Cal Poly Pomona. Her unique choreography has been featured by high school dance teams, collegiate shows, dance competitions, dance showcases, and musicals. Her choreography has won many awards in jazz, tap, contemporary, and acro. Brooks has also taught Pilates for multiple gyms, Pilates studios, and dance intensives/workshops, such as California Ballet.
Vanessa now teaches P.E. at Lanakila Elementary and also teaches Pilates and fitness. She hopes to spread creativity and inspiration through movement to her students, and is honored to be a part of the Ballet Hawaii staff.
Daphne Hargrove began her training at the School of American Ballet. In 1993 she performed with the New York City Ballet in its Balanchine celebration. The following year, Hargrove graduated from the High School of Performing Arts and joined the Miami City Ballet where she performed various soloist and principal roles. During this time, she performed in Washington D.C at the Kennedy Center Honors for President Clinton and other distinguished guests.
In 1998, Hargrove left Miami to become a founding member and principal dancer with Carolina Ballet. During the next four years in North Carolina, she created many principal roles in world-premiere ballets by renowned choreographers such as Lynn Taylor-Corbett and Robert Weill, as well as being featured in many classic works. Her repertoire includes Balachine’s Rubies, Conncerto Barocco, Who Cares, and Steadfast Tin Soldier, Anthony Tudor’s Lilac Garden, Jose Limon’s Moor’s Pavane, and Peter Martin’s Valse Triste. Hargrove has been living in Honolulu for many years and has become an avid photographer and has performed in many of Ballet Hawaii’s productions.
Born and raised in the Canadian prairies, Brooke began dancing at the age of 5. She has trained extensively in ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, contemporary, musical theatre, and acrobatic arts. Her syllabus work includes examinations with the Royal Academy of Dance, Associated Dance Arts for Professional Teachers, and the Canadian Dance Teachers Association.
Brooke credits much of her training to Canadian dance masters Tanja Rosner, Brian Foley, and Eloise Sitter. As a competitive dancer, she immersed herself in several competitions across Canada where her strive for perfection earned her numerous awards and scholarships. She has attended master classes and teacher training workshops with Derick K. Grant, Anthony Russo, Carla Earle, Frank Augustyn, the Alberta Ballet, the JUMP faculty, and Acrobatique’s founder Melissa Klassen.
Since moving to Hawaii, Brooke has served as the Artistic Director of Manoa Dance Studio, choreographed for Waikiki’s “Steptaculars”, co-produced multiple Nutcracker performances, formed several competition teams, and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from Hawaii Pacific University. With over a decade of teaching excellence, her attention to detail continues to leave marks of distinction on both her students and choreography. She is honored to be a part of Ballet Hawaii and their mission to teach, present, promote, and produce dance across the islands.
Willie Dean Ige received his early ballet training with Rhonda Kimura from 1969 to 1971. From 1975 to 77, he studied with Professor of Ballet Yasuki Sasa at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he developed his skills and appreciation for ballet, and danced the principal roles in Paquita, Ocean and Pearl, and Firebird.
Mr. Ige joined Honolulu City Ballet in 1977, first as an apprentice then as a company member in 1978. In 1980, he co-founded the Hawaii Ballet Theater with Charlys and Dennis Ing, where he co-directed and co-choreographed the company’s early repertoire including the Hawaiian version of well-known classical stories such as the Ka Manu Ahi (The Firebird), Pekelo & Pua’a (Peter and the Wolf), and La Boutique Fantasque (Toyshop Fantasy).
Mr. Ige traveled to Japan where he danced the principal roles in Les Sylphide (1985) and La Sylphide (1987) at Shinjuku Bunka Theater in Tokyo. During this time, he also instructed students in dance at Iolani School. He also travelled and studied in New York with Wilhelm Burmann of Steps on Broadway, David Howard of the Harkness School of Ballet, Vladmir Dokoudovsky New York Conservatory of Dance/Ballet School, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Center and School.
In 1988, he began working with the Friends of the Ballet and Ballet Hawaii under the direction of Pamela Taylor-Tongg. While working with Ballet Hawaii, he danced the featured role in an original ballet choreographed by Mathew Wright with music by Takashi Koshi titled Urashima Taro. He was also featured in Sonya Arova’s Giselle, Tom Paizak’s Carmen and Romeo & Juliet. Mr. Ige continues to perform Ballet Hawaii’s annual Nutcracker.
Kaleigh Jones is a freelance dancer, teacher and choreographer hailing from New Hampshire. She is known as a versatile artist and has a true passion for sharing her knowledge and creativity through the art of movement and dance. She started her training at New England School of Dance where she studied Royal Academy of Dance (R.A.D), a ballet syllabus. She continued on to train at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA where she received a B.F.A., majoring in Jazz Dance and Dance Education. While in Philadelphia she also worked with local dance companies. She performed with Danco II (Philadanco’s second company), Project Moshen Dance Company (a Jazz Dance Company), performed and choreographed for PINK HAIR AFFAIR (a Modern Dance Collective) and also trained with Koresh Dance Company. Kaleigh then traveled as an entertainer with Disney Cruise Line for three years and is currently on Disney’s Northeast special events team. An ever-evolving artist and lifelong learner, she continues to train, teach and perform throughout the country. Her teaching and choreography has adapted a mixture of styles from traveling in places such as NYC, London, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Toronto; ranging from contemporary, modern, hip hop, musical theater, jazz with a strong foundation of ballet.
Micki was born in Pusan City, South Korea and adopted by American parents. She grew up in upstate New York where she began her ballet studies with the Ithaca Ballet. She attended and is a graduate of The Kirov Academy of Ballet where she studied with Jacqueline Achmedowa and Alla Sizova. Micki began her pre-professional career under the instruction of Truman Finney in Ballet Austin’s trainee program. She danced professionally with the Louisville Ballet in Kentucky and Ballet Black in London, England. While in the UK, she performed as a guest artist in Wales with Ballet Russe’s Swan Lake. In 2007 Micki moved to Honolulu, HI where she has been dancing with Ballet Hawaii and Onium Ballet Project.
Micki is an experienced registered 200 hour yoga teacher, Ayurvedic Health Educator, and formerly certified Foundation I, Level I GYROTONIC(R) instructor. She has taught ballet classes for the Ithaca Ballet, Chambersburg Ballet Theatre, Tri-Coastal Ballet, Gateway Ballet, and the Boston Conservatory. Micki was the dance director at Sacred Hearts Academy in Honolulu, HI from 2008-2016 where she developed and led the dance program for students in grades 7-12, directed various performances, and choreographed a full-length version of The Nutcracker.
She currently teaches with Ballet Hawaii.
Elisabeth Kurashige received her early training at Ballet Hawaii, under artistic director Pamela Taylor-Tongg, where she performed in works choreographed by Peter Rockford Espiritu, Minou Lallemand and Marie Takazawa.
In 2015, Ms. Kurashige graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance with a Minor in Psychology from Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi. While at Belhaven, she had the privilege of working with choreographers Ryan Corriston, Randall Flinn, Dorrell Martin, Caleb Mitchell, Cynthia Newland, Stephanie Powell and Laura Morton-Zebert, performing in various pieces, including Donald McKayle’s historical work, Songs of the Disinherited.
Additionally, she has furthered her training at workshops with Ad Deum Dance Company and Doug Varone and Dancers, as well as at the 2012 American Dance Festival, where she gained practical experience in technical theater as a stagecraft apprentice. Ms. Kurashige hopes to pursue a Master of Arts in Dance/Movement Therapy, blending her love for dance with a desire to integrate the arts into our society as a practically and aesthetically valuable means of reaching local communities.
Originally from Riverside, California, Giselle Laurie began her dance training at Riverside Ballet Arts. She went on to succeed in company schools such as California Riverside Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The Rock School for Dance Education, Burklyn Ballet Theatre and the dance department at University of California, Irvine.
Her professional career started in traditional Russian folk dance for The All Authentic Russian Souvenir Dance Co. She then went on to dance in various shows and parades at Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, and The Walt Disneyworld Resort. Ms. Laurie also worked for various entertainment companies based in Los Angeles, which gave her the opportunity to perform on cruise ships, at conventions, and other various productions. She enjoys sharing her love and knowledge of dance through her life mantra: Live your dream!
Mareva Minerbi’s very first performance was with Ballet Hawai‘i in The Nutcracker at age four, which set forth her passion for the performing arts. She holds an MFA in Dance from the University of Hawai‘i where she was awarded the Graduate Teaching Fellowship from 2013-2015. She holds a BFA from the University of Iowa and has taught at their Youth Ballet from 2009-2011. She has danced in Italy and the United States with Compania d’Opera Italiana, Duarte Dance Works, Poetic Rebound Performance Co., Diana Carter and Dances and Dancers In Company.
She has worked with choreographers including Joe Goode, Tim Miller, Jennifer Kayle, Chris Masters, Lucas Crandall, Deanna Carter, Amy Schiffner, Armando Duarte, Kara Miller, Eloy Barrigan, Charlotte Adams and Cheryl Flaharty. She danced in Hawai‘i State Ballet Junior Company under the direction of John Landovsky and studied at Mid-Pacific Institutes’ School of the Arts. Mareva also enjoys theatre and has performed in local productions of Big Love and La Strada. She sang backup vocals for the reggae band Public Property that opened for bands including Steel Pulse and Toots and The Maytals.
Mareva is currently a Lecturer in Dance at Kapi‘olani Community College and is directing Saint Francis School’s musical. She is also a certified yoga instructor. Mareva looks forward to sharing her passion in dance at Ballet Hawai‘i.