Sandra Rubi has been an active member and creator of Albuquerque’s dance education culture for almost 50 years. Born and raised in Albuquerque, Sandra began her dance career at the age of 15 with classical ballet and jazz classes at Suzanne’s School of Classical Ballet where she studied under the founder of the New Mexico Ballet Company, Suzanne Johnston. Looking to expand her dance knowledge, Sandra learned flamenco under Clarita Garcia de Aranda whose daughter is the founder of the National Institute of Flamenco.
At the age of 16, Sandra distinguished herself as a leader and innovator by creating and captaining the Rio Grande High School’s first dance team, the Castanets in 1969. Sandra’s first teaching position came in 1971 when she created the Westside Community Center’s first children’s dance program where she taught ballet and jazz while continuing her own dance training and finishing her senior year of high school.
Sandra furthered her education at the University of New Mexico majoring in Special Education with a minor in dance. Due to the success she had received as a teacher, The New Mexico Girls School approached Sandra to create their first gymnastics and dance program in 1975. In 1978 Sandra trained with Ed Androse at the Soutwest Ballet Company where she also initiated the Children’s Dance Program. In 1980 Sandra began her career teaching dance in the private sector by teaching ballet and jazz at the Dorothy Knight School of Dance and Suzanne’s School of Classical Ballet. She continued her training with Nathalie Krassovska and Leo Ahonen and his wife Soili Arvola at the New Mexico Ballet Company. She performed in The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Swan Lake, several jazz performances and Mack and Mable at the Albuquerque Little Theater.
After training and teaching in the Albuquerque area for almost 20 years Sandra established Sandra’s School of Dance. Since the inception in 1983 Sandra has had to expand her school 7 times because of consistent growth. Sandra’s School of Dance has trained 1000’s of dancers and has been a leader in the dance community. After creating the competitive teams, her school has been recognized as the top Elite Studio in Albuquerque by numerous competitions. Sandra’s School of Dance has continuously received award for Best Technique, Best Costume, Best Choreography, Most Entertaining and Dancer of the Year Awards. SSD has been recognized as one of the top 50 Dance Schools in North America by Dancer Magazine. Our latest achievements have been Best Dance School for 2015 and 2016 by Best Businesses and 2017 Small Business Excellence Award for Dance Schools.
Dona Sosa has been a performer, teacher, and choreographer for over 25 years. Starting her dance training at Sandra’s School of Dance at the age of 2, Dona trained extensively in ballet, tap, jazz, and gymnastics. She was one of the original members of the Dance Sensations, Sandra’s first competitive dance team. During her competitive days, Dona received several scholarships from numerous competitions and conventions to continue her training.
Dona began assisting Sandra at the age of 11 and began teaching at the age of 14. When she was 16 years old, Dona started choreographing for the competitive team. Her choreography has won copious awards throughout the years including Best Choreography at several competitions. Some of Dona’s credits include the Nutcracker with Dance Theater of the Southwest for a few seasons and several tap shows with Bill Evans and Skip Randall. She also danced in and choreographed a few local commercials, and a music video for a local artist. Dona was also a back up dancer for Weird Al Yankovic.
After graduating from the Albuquerque Academy, Dona attended the University of New Mexico where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Mulitcultural Education with a Minor in Dance. Dona has been teaching in the Albuquerque Public Schools for the past 16 years and currently teaches NM State Pre-K at Bel-Air Elementary School. Dona is also a consultant with the Santa Fe Opera’s Early Childhood Initiative and the Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix. Dona is the Assistant Director for Sandra’s School of Dance and is very involved in all aspects of the recreational and competitive programs.
Jessica Padilla began her dance and gymnastics training at the age of three at Sandra’s School of Dance. At the age of 8, she became a part of Sandra’s School of Dance’s award-winning dance team, and began traveling with the team to regional conventions and competitions in Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Colorado, and California. At the age of 14, Jessica was chosen as a VIP dancer with Dance Olympus, and at 15, competed as a final contestant for Dance America’s Dancer of the Year Competition in Las Vegas, Nevada. From the ages of 15 to 18, Jessica was a member of the New Mexico Ballet Company in addition to her SSD competitive team, and performed in productions of Nutcracker, Dracula, Balanchine’s Serenade, and other Ballet Showcases with the company. During high school, Jessica received many scholarships and awards from numerous dance competitions and conventions including West Coast Dance Explosion, Dance America, and Showbiz. Before her senior year of high school, Jessica attended a summer-long Ballet intensive with the Joffrey Ballet Company in New York where she trained daily in Ballet Technique, Pointe, and Partnering. After High School, Jessica continued her Ballet and Jazz training for four years at the University of California at Irvine, and at the Edge Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles. During this time, she was also a member of the university’s collegiate Hip-Hop crew (CADC), and became an employee with Plaza Production 1. As a part of Plaza Production, Jessica traveled to preschools and elementary schools throughout Orange County, California to teach movement, dance, and gymnastics to children as part of their regular school curriculum or after-school programs. In California, as a member of CADC, IDT, and Pulse Dance Crews, Jessica attended and performed in Hip-Hop showcases around Los Angeles and Southern California. In 2009, Jessica returned to Albuquerque, and became a regular Ballet instructor and competition coach for Sandra’s School of Dance. When not at the dance school, Jessica works as an LMSW (Licensed Master Social Work) whose work is primarily focused on childhood development and assessment. This is also her second year as a professor teaching undergraduate Social Work classes as well.
Jolie Simballa began her association with Sandra’s School of Dance in 2000 where she has taught ballet and pointe for the past 17 years. A native of Albuquerque, Jolie Simballa was trained at Alwin’s School of Dance by Karen Alwin, Lynn Cox (Marin Ballet), Leslie Schrieber (Royal Academy of Dancing) and Tamara King Amsden (Boston Ballet) where she received her examination certificates in Cecchetti grades 1-6. She began performing with The Performers at age ten and at fourteen was one of three girls selected to begin performing with the University of New Mexico Dance Ensemble as a member of the corps de ballet. She expanded her training at the University of New Mexico in modern dance, pedagogy and choreography under Bill Evans and Spanish Classical under Pablo Rodarte while continuing her studies in classical ballet under Suzanne Johnston and Amy Duda. In 1996 she received her B.F.A in Dance from UNM where a scholarship was named in her honor and she was UNM’s first candidate to receive a M.F.A. in Dance.
She began performing professionally at the age of 15 with The New Mexico Ballet Company while also appearing with the Santa Fe Opera and Ballet Repertory Theatre among others. She was featured with Southwest Civic Ballet as Gamzatti from Le Corsaire and in The Nutcracker as the Sugar Plum Fairy. She continued performing as a soloist with NMBC before hanging up her dance shoes in 2002 to serve as the company’s Resident Choreographer and Assistant Artistic Director. During this time she was selected to serve as rehearsal master for NMBC’s Balanchine repertory, working with NYCB repetiteur Jillana, casting, setting and rehearsing Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco and Serenade.
She served as Artistic Director for The New Mexico Ballet Co. from July 2008 to June 2015 and was responsible for creating a new full-length Nutcracker and Don Quixote in addition to producing new shows for the company showcasing choreography from Peter Pucci, Philip Neal, Karen Price, Candy Smith, Suzanne Johnston and many others. During her tenure she also created the Choreographers Collective to allow the dancers a chance to create their own show and continued to bring in choreographers to create and set new works. Ms. Simballa oversaw an expansion of NMBC’s Balanchine repertoire by bringing in NYCB principal dancers Philip Neal, Maria Kowroski, Teresa Reichlen and Tyler Angle to perform and teach and had new productions of Valse Fantaisie and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux set on the company. A classically-trained pianist, she also spearheaded NMBC’s annual collaboration with the New Mexico Philharmonic, producing a new Romeo and Juliet and Spartacus with her original choreography set to live orchestra. She retired in 2015 after 25 years with the company.
Since 1992, Ms. Simballa has taught at many of the dance establishments in the Albuquerque area. She served an adjunct professor of Ballet II at the University of New Mexico for ten years and taught dance programs at Vista Grande and Los Vecinos community centers, Kirkland Air Force Base and Santa Fe Community College among many others. A previous member of the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, she was asked to present a study she co-authored about bilateral aspects of teaching ballet at the IADMS Annual Conference. She has also guest taught at UNM, presenting Dance History lectures about the Balanchine repertoire and teaching advanced ballet courses.
Ms. Simballa has choreographed nearly 100 works for UNM, NMBC, Opera Southwest, Dance Theatre Southwest, Sandra’s, and Keshet among many others. Her students have danced and received scholarships to work with Cincinnati Ballet, Nashville Ballet, Nevada Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet School, Kansas City Ballet, JKO, School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Los Angeles Ballet, Oakland Ballet, Joffrey Ballet School, Robert Moses, Miami City Ballet and Austin Ballet. Several have appeared in commercials and videos and many have gone on to teach, choreograph and direct their own companies.
Annmarie Laura Sheahan is a native New Mexican and an avid lover of dance. She trained in tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical, hip hop, and gymnastics at Sandra's School of Dance from the age of six, and was a member of the studio's nationally recognized competition team, Sandra's Dance Sensations. She continued to study tap and flamenco at the University of New Mexico, where she pursued a double major in English Literature and American History, and graduated Summa Cum Laude. Annmarie then went on to pursue an M.A. in English Education, and has taught Language Arts at Highland High School for the last eight years, where she has also coached dance and cheer. Annmarie has been the primary tap teacher at Sandra’s School of Dance for the past eleven years, where she also teaches jazz. She is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of New Mexico in Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies, and has several publications in national journals such as English Education and Race Ethnicity and Education. Annmarie continues to pursue her professional dance career as a choreographer, teacher, and Core A dancer in New Mexico’s only tap company—the Alley Kats Tap Company—and as a performer and choreographer for Musical Theater Southwest.
Francine Carrasco Wiltgen resides in Albuquerque with her husband of 3 years. Francine began her training at age 2. She at a young age of 7 began competing, and it was there that she discovered her love for dance. Francine has training in many disciplines of dance in which include jazz, tap, acrobatics, gymnastics contemporary, lyrical, Cecchetti certified, and many different styles of modern. She received her training at Fishback's Studio of the Dance, as well as attend many master classes, and workshops to enhance her education in dance. With Francine's great experience in many disciples she has taught many classes, as well as choreographed many numbers for high school dance teams, and may studio dancers that have won, regional and national competitions. This incudes Francine's expertise in teaching for more than 10 years across New Mexico. In 2016 Francine joined Sandra's School of Dance, and she has loved working with the staff in building confident, passionate, and kind artists.
Amy has had an extensive presence as an instructor and dancer in the Albuquerque area over the last 30 years. She performed classical and contemporary works with companies in Texas, Nevada, and Oklahoma before returning to New Mexico. Locally, she performed in numerous works with the New Mexico Ballet Company (George Balanchine, David Chavez, Vassili Sulich), Ballet Theatre of New Mexico (Celia Dale), and the University of New Mexico (Jolie Sutton-Simballa, Joetta Jercinovic). She served on the teaching staffs of the University of New Mexico, Ballet Theatre of New Mexico, Lana’s School of Dance, Dance Factory, Keshet Dance Company, and New Mexico Dance Academy. She also served as a rehearsal coach with Ballet Theatre of New Mexico and as Associate Artistic Director with New Mexico Ballet Company. This is Amy’s second year with Sandra’s School of Dance.