March 19, 2014


Rafik Hegab

Rafik Hegab, Artistic Director, is an experienced international professional Dancer and Choreographer. Originally from Egypt, he received his Diploma from the Higher Institute of Ballet in 2000, and his Bachelor Degree in Dance Pedagogy and Choreography from the Academy of Arts in Cairo in 2009. He joined the Cairo Opera Ballet Company in 1999, won 1st place in the Egyptian National Ballet Competition in 2000, became Soloist in 2002, and was promoted to Principal Dancer in 2004. As a Principal Dancer, Mr. Hegab toured with the company in China, Lebanon, the Czech Republic, Jordan, Turkey, Germany, Italy, Austria, Spain, India, Greece, and Russia. He danced the Matador in Don Quixote with Julio Bocca, John in Zorba the Greek, Ali in Le Corsaire, Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, Siegfried in Swan Lake, the principal dancer in Carmina Burana, and the Cavalier in The Nutcracker. He was guest dancer for the USA Ballet Company (Cavalier in The Nutcracker) and was also a company member of Baltimore Ballet. Mr. Hegab is an accomplished choreographer. He was the Assistant Artistic Director, Ballet Master and Choreographer for the Mystic Ballet, where he created The Nutcracker, Moulin Rouge, Under Control, and Moon Light, among others. Mr. Hegab is an experienced teacher and coach. He was a teacher and trainer with the Cairo Opera modern company, as well as many private ballet schools in Cairo. He was an Assistant Professor of Ballet in the High Institute of Ballet, and coached award winning ballet dancers who won first place in the Egyptian National Ballet competition. He is fluent in Arabic, Russian, and English.

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Savanna Alfanos is a native of Brighton, Michigan, and received her performing arts education at Dance Dynamics Performing Arts Center with Dori Matkowski and Amy Pronovost.  As a young dancer she was also invited to share the stage with the Moscow Ballet, Cincinatti Ballet, and Joffrey Ballet companies.  Savanna graduated Cum Laude from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in dance. There, she performed with The Mercyhurst Dancers and was an active leader, taking on roles such as Outreach Coordinator, Vice President of the Liturgical Dance Ensemble, and Volunteer Coordinator for the campus wide event Arts on the Hill.  While at Mercyhurst she studied with Tauna Hunter, Michael Gleason, Lesley Bories-Scalise, C. Noelle Partusch, and Melissa Bobick and during summers trained at Joffrey, American Ballet Theatre, Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Bodiography Contemporary Ballet intensives. Her repertoire includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream, La Fille Mal Gardée, Coppélia, and numerous contemporary works by recognized choreographers, such as José Limón and Ursula Payne, as well as emerging choreographers. When Savanna is not dancing, she loves to step into a Pilates or yoga class. Savanna spent 5 years educating students in creative movement, jazz, tap, and ballet classes at Dance Dynamics Performing Arts Center in Michigan. Throughout her college career, Savanna intensely studied choreography. She completed the highest level choreography course offered at Mercyhurst, and her work was featured in an abundance of in-studio, on-stage, and dance for camera presentations. Much of Savanna’s senior year was devoted to her Capstone project, in which her extensive research was translated into a choreographic project presented at the end of the year.  She is thrilled to be joining Gainesville Ballet for the 2016-17 season.

Esmae Gold grew up in Petoskey, Michigan and began her dance training at the Crooked Tree Arts Center, taking classes in ballet, modern, and jazz. She went on to attend numerous summer programs including those at American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, and Oklahoma City Ballet and spent a year training full-time at the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet in New York City. Esmae continued her studies, on both dance and academic scholarships, at Mercyhurst University, graduating summa cum laude with a B.F.A. in dance. While performing, for three seasons, with Mercyhurst Ballet Theatre, Esmae had the opportunity to appear at the Joyce Theater for the NYCDA Destiny Rising 2014 Gala and perform the Flower Festival Pas de Deux with guest artists from the Liaoning Ballet of Shenyang, China. Other performance highlights include the role of Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. Esmae has choreographed for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive, shown a piece in the adjudicated concert of the American College Dance Association East-Central Conference, and presented two original works at the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center, Erie, PA. She has additional experience as a summer intensive resident assistant, served as treasurer for the Mercyhurst chapter of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts, and worked as a research assistant for Mercyhurst dance chair, Tauna Hunter. As an instructor, Esmae has taught ballet, jazz, and dance fusion. She is excited to join Gainesville Ballet for the 2016-17 season.


Sakura Oka, coming soon, originally from Japan, trained under Maiko Uemura at the Ecole de Ballet MU, and the Kirov Academy of Ballet on scholarship. In 2013, Sakura graduated from the Kirov Academy and joined Columbia Classical Ballet, where she became Principal Dancer, and danced for three seasons. She has received numerous important ballet awards including the Varna International Competition 2014 Semi Finalist, Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition Silver Medal 2013, ADC IBC SR Grand Prix 2013, and Japan Grand Prix 2012 second place. Her repertory includes Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Kitri in Don Quixote, and Odile in Swan Lake.  She is an experienced teacher in the Vaganova Method of Ballet.


Saaya Pikula received her ballet training at Central Florida Ballet, Russian Ballet Academy of Orlando and The Rock School of Dance Education, where she studied two summers on full scholarship. She danced with Teatrul de Ballet Sibiu in Romania from 2012-2014 where her repertoire included Gulmare in Le Corsaire, Juliet in Romeo & Juliet, Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, Snow Queen, Shepherdess, Waltz of the Flowers Soloist in The Nutcracker, Spanish Whim, Four Seasons, Coppelia, and Cenusa Timpulu. Saaya danced with Columbia Classical Ballet in the 2015-16 season in the following roles: Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, soloist roles in The Nutcracker, Cinderella, and contemporary ballets.  She is an experienced teacher in the Vaganova Method of Ballet, having taught at numerous schools in Florida.  She is excited to be joining Gainesville Ballet.


Madeline Sosna has a B.F.A. in Dance Performance with a Minor in Business Administration, Cum Laude, from Butler University. She also trained at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Kaatsbaan International Dance Center, Ballet Met, Miami City Ballet, Joffrey Ballet (with scholarship), and Kansas City Ballet. She performed many roles with Butler Ballet in The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Giselle, Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty, and contemporary works. Most recently, Madeline danced with the Lexington Ballet in Kentucky, in The Nutcracker, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Giselle. She is an accomplished teacher, having started as a Dance Assistant with Patzius Performing Arts in St. Louis, Missouri. In 2014, she started teaching at Bluegrass Youth Ballet in Lexington, Kentucky under the direction of Adalhi Aranda. For the past two years, Madeline has taught ballet, Pointe, modern, character, Pilates, and creative movement to students ages 2-19. At Bluegrass Youth Ballet, she has had to opportunity to choreograph for such original ballets as “Rapunzel” and “Arabella’s Journey.” Madeline is thrilled to start her first season dancing and teaching with the Gainesville Ballet.