Izela Espinoza

Miss Izela, SBDA student for over a decade, has studied ballet, lyrical, jazz, modern, character, contemporary, pantomime, folklorico, and variations for 12 years, was a ballet and jazz student-instructor at SBDA for two years, and previously a dance helper for five years. Her training also includes San Francisco Ballet and New Ballet San Jose summer intensives, acceptance into the ABT intensive, various master classes and conventions. She trained pre-professionally at The New Ballet San Jose, and dances part-time at SBDA as well, dancing in SBDA's The Nutcracker production.

STUDENT Instructors


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Elizabeth Mendoza

Guest Instructor & Choreographer for SBDA's The Nutcracker

Miss Elizabeth has been dancing for 16 years in a variety of styles. Her primary dance training is in classical ballet, and has also studied jazz, lyrical, modern, contemporary, ballet mime, broadway jazz, and character. Other styles she has taken include Bollywood, hip hop, Chinese-classical, afro-cuban, partnering, and Horton at various master classes and summer intensive programs. Ms. Elizabeth was a student helper for ballet from when she was ages 8-11, and began student instructing in classes of her own classes at 12 years old. In her past five years of teaching, she has taught ballet, lyrical, jazz, and ballet technique. In addition to dancing at San Benito Dance Academy, she has also been training with Ballet San Jose / The New Ballet School for seven years. She has attended seven summer intensives with NBS (summers 2012-2018) and Alonzo King Lines Ballet Summer Program (2017). Aside from her regular training she enjoys expanding her knowledge with master classes both at NBS and AKLB, Choreography Workshop with Fred Mathews, Discovery Projects at AKLB, Jump dance convention, and Gyrotonics. Elizabeth has been studying Gyrotonics for a year and hopes to soon start the instructor certification process.

What are Gyrotonics?

She has also choreographed "Dance of the Reed Flutes" (Sheep & Shepherdess) for the SBDA Nutcracker (2015-2017), and taught dance at Kids Rule theater camp for 4 years, as well as San Benito Stage Company's Theatre Camp. She participated in a leadership capacity in San Benito High School's Circle of Friends club, and was Fundraising Chair for her Senior Class Office, as she has been involved in ASB and class office for the last couple years of her high school career, graduating in 2018.

In the dance room, Miss Elizabeth wants her students to truly experience what it feels like to dance with their hearts, express themselves through movement, and leave feeling like they can do anything. “To touch, to move, to inspire. This is the true gift of dance.” - Aubrey Lynch.

SBDA has been very blessed to have Miss Elizabeth dancing with us since the very beginning, over 14 years ago, and are looking forward to seeing what the future brings for her, as she embarks in her next chapter of life in New York, having been accepted to the Joffrey Ballet School's training program for the next four years!.

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Grace Richards

Miss Grace has been dancing her entire life, but started taking classes 9 years ago. She started her dance career at Suzanne’s School of Dance in Utah. Two years later, she moved to California and started dancing at San Benito Dance Academy. She has studied ballet, lyrical, Broadway jazz, jazz, modern, contemporary, and tap, and has loved every style, especially ballet. She enjoyed trying out many different styles recently at Jump Dance Convention. This last year, Miss Grace had the honor of being advanced to Ballet 6 Pointe and getting her first pair of pointe shoes. Dancing on pointe has been an amazing experience for her to learn, grow, and push herself even harder. In addition to taking her own classes, Miss Grace has been student teaching for two years, and before that, she was a helper for two years. Her teaching experience has been mostly centered in ballet and jazz, but she has taught lyrical and modern classes as a substitute and for summer camps. When Miss Grace is not dancing or teaching, she is acting or singing. She has taken four years of drama at San Benito High School, and has performed in five high school plays, two of which she choreographed. Additionally, Miss Grace was involved in an a capella group with a few friends who had a passion for music. Through her Church, she has had many opportunities to sing solos, duets, and in the choir. Miss Grace has been Circle of Friends President for three years now, and has loved the opportunity to work with students who have developmental disabilities. Currently a senior in high school, Miss Grace is an AP student, who has managed to keep above a 4.0 GPA despite her busy schedule.

"My dance teachers have had a major impact on my life, and I would not be the person, or dancer, I am today without their help. They taught me that despite my relatively late start, I could become a talented dancer if I set my mind to it. They taught me that I can not only push through, but dance through, any physical or mental 'limitations' I have. I hope to have a similar impact on the girls and boys I teach, and I want them to know that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to and work hard at."

“You can start late. Look different. Be uncertain. And still succeed.” -Misty Copeland

Miss Grace is teaching ballet classes to some of our younger dancers, in addition to taking her own Ballet 6, Pointe, and other elective styles.

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Natasha Blankenship

Miss Natasha has danced with SBDA for eight years, in all styles, and also has experience in gymnastics. She has attended summer intensives at the San Francisco Ballet as well as the Joffrey Ballet in San Francisco and Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, and has taken classes at a variety of other ballet schools around the Central Coast, in addition to various master classes and dance conventions. Continuing with her education at SBDA, she is taking time to focus on her studies, as well as exploring other pre-professional training options.

Xochitl Azcona

Miss Xochitl has been dancing for 14 years, starting at the age of 3 and has been with the SBDA family for 10 years. Starting with ballet, she later explored various dance styles including tap, jazz, folklorico, lyrical, modern, and broadway jazz. Miss Xochitl has performed onstage numerous times for recitals and Nutcracker performances as well as smaller performances within the community. While very passionate about dancing, she is extremely dedicated towards her education, currently being a senior at Gilroy Early College Academy. In her spare time, she enjoys to volunteer for various organizations and helping out around the studio. Miss Xochitl was a helper in Ms. Kim's younger classes for four years. The past two years, she was provided with the amazing opportunity to teach tap classes of her own. Xochitl has taught children's intro, intermediate, and advanced Tap and Teen/Adult tap classes, and is happy that those experiences contribute to improving her teaching style and current classes. Miss Xochitl is pleased to instruct ballet classes this year and wishes everyone a great time and fun experience dancing with us.

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About our Student Instructor Program...

Student Instructors at SBDA are advanced, mature dancers who have years of experience as classroom helpers (under guidance of professional instructors), and demonstrate responsibility, respect, and a passion for dance. Oftentimes juggling heavy academic schedules, extracurricular activities, and rigorous dance classes of their own, they teach 1-2 classes per session at the studio, to gain classroom and teaching experience that will aid them in their professional development and future careers. 
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101 McCray Street, Suite 104 Hollister CA 95023 USA        


Alissa King

Miss Alissa has been dancing for 11 years - eight of those at San Benito Dance Academy. She has taken multiple styles of dance, including modern, lyrical, jazz, Broadway jazz, and contemporary. She has enjoyed teaching for the past two years, primarily in the Lyrical Program at SBDA. Besides being student instructor at San Benito Dance Academy, Miss Alissa is now a Senior at San Benito High School. She participates in several clubs on campus at school, and loves being involved in her community and helping others, which is part of why she loves to teach her students at San Benito Dance Academy. Miss Alissa hopes to be a good role model for her students, as well as the younger boys and girls here at the studio. She cannot wait to see her students continue on their dance journey and grow as dancers!

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Katelyn Vass

Katelyn came to San Benito Dance Academy when she was just three years old as a Petite ballet dancer. SBDA has always been Katelyn’s home studio and as she has continued her dance education by taking other classes like Lyrical, Modern, Tap and Ballet en pointe, SBDA's dance academy has evolved into her second home. Miss Katelyn was cast as Clara in the 2017 SBDA production of The Nutcracker. With much performance experience, poise, and personality, she is a great role model at the studio. She is a pointe dancer in Ballet Level 6, and also takes a variety of other styles. Miss Katelyn has been a faithful and responsible helper in classes for the past four years. She has led audition classes, and taught during summer dance camps, been a reliable substitute instructor when called on in a pinch, having the most experience with little ones. After 4 years of helping and one year of being a substitute instructor, receiving training and guidance along the way, she is so excited to be teaching as a Student Instructor.
“Change the world by being yourself.” -Yoko Ono

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