The PAB faculty all employ the same Vaganova teaching method assuring indispensable continuity and providing students with a precise technique, musicality and complete body awareness and control.
John White, Founder and Teacher
Growing up in Southern California, John White began his ballet training with Oleg Tupine and Michel Panaieff. Encouraged to pursue a career as a professional dancer, he moved to New York where he continued his training with Antony Tudor and William Dollar. The opportunity to dance professionally came when Mr. White was invited by Alicia Alonso to join the Nacional Ballet de Cuba. While performing in Cuba, he received in-depth instruction on teaching the Vaganova syllabus from visiting Russian ballet masters. Upon retiring from the stage, Mr. White took on the role of Ballet Master teaching the company men’s class and conducting rehearsals. After marrying Cuban ballerina Margarita de Saá, Mr. White left Cuba with his wife and young son, returning to Southern California where he continued teaching. After several guest-teaching assignments, Mr. White and his wife were invited by Barbara Weisberger to join the Pennsylvania Ballet Company. Five years later in 1974, they opened their own school, the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet.
As an authority on the Vaganova teaching method, John White has given teacher-training seminars to hundreds of novice and experienced teachers on this syllabus. He has written two books, Teaching Classical Ballet and Advanced Principles in Teaching Classical Ballet which have received enthusiastic acclaim as important books for serious teachers of classical dance.
Margarita de Saá White, Founder
Born in Havana, Cuba, Margarita de Saá began her ballet training studying under Fernanado and Alicia Alonso. Offered a position with the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, Ms. de Saá rose through the ranks of the company to attain the title of Prima Ballerina. Along with several other leading dancers, Ms. de Saá was chosen to form the faculty of Cuba’s new National Ballet School. The teachers received instruction on teaching the Vaganova syllabus from visiting Russian ballet masters. After marrying John White, Ms. de Saá decided to leave Cuba with her husband and young son and settle in southern California, where she continued to teach and perform. Ms. de Saá and her husband were invited by Barbara Weisberger to join the faculty of the Pennsylvania Ballet Company where they remained for five years until founding their own school, the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet, in 1974.
In 2001, Ms. de Saá, Melinda Pendleton, and Tatyana Shargorodsky formed Whitefeather Productions. Their company produces high quality piano accompaniment for ballet classes and students at all levels. Their CDs have received high praise from teachers nationally and internationally. In 2003, Margarita was featured in the PBS documentary Mirror Dance.
Melinda Pendleton, Owner and Teacher
Ms. Pendleton began her ballet training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet under the guidance of her parents, John White and Margarita de Saá. As a teenager, Ms. Pendleton won first prize at the Carey Rose Winski competition and was invited by special audition to participate in the International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. A few years later, she began her professional career dancing for companies in the United States, Europe, and Japan. Her decision to retire from the stage came after she began teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet. After a few years as a faculty member, she was offered the position of Assistant Director. In this capacity she oversaw the curriculum of the teaching staff, conducted rehearsals, and helped with the overall duties of running the affairs of the Academy. In 2013, Ms. Pendleton became the second-generation owner of the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet.
Nino Gvazava, Teacher
Nino grew up in Tbilisi, Georgia (Europe), where she studied ballet performance following the Vaganova method at the Vakhtang Chabukiani State Ballet School. She attended the Shota Rustaveli Film and Theater State University, majoring in Ballet and Folk Dance Education, and wrote her senior thesis on theatrical choreography. After graduation, Nino began working as a choreographer, dancer, and dance instructor. She was a member of the Georgian State Ballet and Opera Theatre, and appeared in numerous venues in Tbilisi, including the Vaso Abashidze Music and Drama State Theater. Nino’s choreography has been performed at the Akaki Khorava Actor House theater, as well as at her alma mater. She has also performed with and choreographed for the Tengiz Avalishvili & Company musical theatre company, among others. Nino taught ballet, musical theater dance, and movement at schools and universities around Tbilisi including the State Acrobatic School, her alma mater, and the Sulkhan Tsintsadze Art School, where her choreography received top prizes for musical theater performance in the Tbilisi Mayoral Art School Competition. Nino has choreographed flash mob events for the non-profit Coalition for Justice and the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia. Nino is the founder and director of “The Living Word” drama group, which stages dramatizations of the lives of Georgian historical literary figures through excerpts from their written works.
Lauren Hirsch, Accompanist
Ms. Hirsch studied classical piano throughout her childhood with Rose Light and Janet Pearson. Ms. Hirsch later graduated the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in the biological sciences, and earned her Juris Doctor from Temple University. A practicing attorney, Ms. Hirsch returned to the study of piano under the instruction of Tatyana Shargorodsky in 2012, and began to focus on the field of ballet accompaniment shortly thereafter. After an apprenticeship with Ms. Shargorodsky in 2015, Ms. Hirsch joined the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet in 2016 as an accompanist. Ms. Hirsch has also completed John White’s Vaganova Seminar for ballet teachers. In her spare time, Ms. Hirsch enjoys ballet and playing chamber music. She lives in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, with her husband and three children.
Heather Holajter, Teacher
Heather Holajter studied at Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet and later joined their Society program, getting to perform a wide variety of roles throughout the area. She also was accepted on scholarship for David Howard’s summer program. Heather later performed professionally with Colorado Ballet where she had the opportunity to perform Cupid and Giselle with the tour of Stars of Russian Ballet. She has now happily returned to PAB teaching and guest performing in the area with various companies, including Opus 1 Contemporary, First State Ballet, Pages to Pirouettes, to name a few.
Bryan Koulman, Teacher and Ballet Master
Mr. Koulman began his study of classical ballet while attending Swarthmore College. After dancing with the Milwaukee Ballet and North Carolina Dance Theatre, he expressed an interest in teaching and the choreographic process. Mr. Koulman was offered a position as an Academy faculty member and given the title of Ballet Master. As Ballet Master he choreographs new ballets for the Academy dance ensemble and also conducts rehearsals. Mr. Koulman received his Masters degree in dance from New York University.
Linda Karash Mintzer, Teacher
Linda Karash Mintzer attended the School of the Pennsylvania Ballet, where she trained under Barbara Weisberger, Robert Rodham, Richard Thomas, John White and Margarita de Saá. While still a young student, she performed with New York City Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, and Pennsylvania Ballet. She made her professional debut with Pennsylvania Ballet at age 13 in Balanchine’s Symphony in C and joined the company in 1971 at age 17. Ms. Mintzer interrupted her dance career to attend Harvard University as an English and American literature major, returning to Pennsylvania Ballet in 1974, where she danced until 1982. She completed her undergraduate degree at the Gallatin Division of New York University in 1984 and later attended Drexel University’s Nesbitt school of Design. She worked again for Pennsylvania Ballet in 1984, serving as Special Projects Coordinator. Ms. Mintzer is a graduate of John White’s Vaganova Seminar, and has been teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet since 1988. She was invited to join the faculty of Bryn Mawr College’s Dance Program in 1996.
Sally Rothschild, Teacher
Sally Rothschild grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts where she received her early dance training. She studied summers in New York City at The Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theatre School and Ballet Arts. Sally was a scholarship student at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Boston, MA. She performed with The Children’s Ballet Repertory Theatre and later with The Reagle Players Theatre and the Bay State Ballet Company in Boston. Sally graduated from Aquinas College and did continuing coursework at Harvard University and Temple University. While living in Boston, Sally was the owner of a fitness studio. Upon moving to Philadelphia, she designed dance based fitness programs for several area gyms and began a personal training business. Sally has taught dance and fitness at several area studios and was director of the Youth Dance and Musical Theatre Company, Mainline Performing Arts. Currently, Sally choreographs for the King of Prussia Players and Piodanco, the Conestoga High School dance club.
Edie Saltzberg, Accompanist
Edie Saltzberg began her career as an accompanist playing for the choir when she attended Girls’ High in Philadelphia. As an 11th grader, she began to play for dance classes at the Settlement Music School, as well. While a student at the University of Pennsylvania, Edie played for the Penn Players, the Men’s Glee Club, and Mask and Wig … and she met the man who would become her husband and the father of their three children. Over the years, Edie played for the Pennsylvania Ballet, Joan Kerr, Rosemont College, and Bryn Mawr College. Throughout her 27 year career of teaching English at three different Philadelphia high schools, Edie worked on countless school productions. After her husband passed away, Edie earned her Masters at Temple University and taught Music History there for 15 years before discovering PAB and joining our staff as an accompanist where she plays for our Adult and advanced level classes.
Tatyana Shargorodsky, Accompanist and Teacher
Tatyana Shargorodsky was born in the former Soviet Union, where she received her elementary music education in the Ukrainian city of Lvov. Upon completing her education in Odessa, she was engaged as an accompanist with Vodnic, a prestigious rhythmic gymnastics school. In 1982, Ms. Shargorodsky immigrated to the United States where she began working as an accompanist for Margarita and John White, directors of the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet. To further her understanding of the Vaganova teaching method, she attended John White’s teacher seminar. She was offered the opportunity to teach and presently divides her work at the Academy between teaching and accompanying. In 2001 Ms. Shargorodsky joined Melinda Pendleton and Margarita White to form Whitefeather Productions. Their company produces high quality piano accompaniment for ballet classes and students at all levels. Their CD’s have received high praise from teachers nationally and internationally.
Ryan Michael Tuerk, Teacher
Ryan Michael Tuerk is a teacher, choreographer, and dancer from Philadelphia. Ryan holds a Master of Fine Arts from Temple University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of the Arts. To further his understanding of the Vaganova teaching method, he attended John White’s teacher seminar focusing on syllabus years 1-6. Ryan has performed for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Carnival Cruise Lines and has performed the role of Doody in GREASE. He has performed works by choreographers such as Brian Sanders, Roni Koresh, and Roberta Mathes. Ryan teaches at several local Universities and privately owned studios. Since 2011, Ryan has been a visiting guest artist for Dissonance Dance Theatre in Washington D.C., creating three original choreographic works for the company and instructing students for DDT’s summer DANCELAB at the University of Maryland. Ryan believes the position of a teacher is awarded through an unyielding commitment to excellence; he notes that success achieved by students in any field of study requires a high level of capacity and dedication from their teachers. Ryan is proud to be on faculty at the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet.