Guest Mentors

Meet Our 2018 Summer Intensive Guest Mentors

Rebekah Diaddigo, Founder of Bluebird Uncaged and dancer at Ballet Southeast

As the founder of Bluebird Uncaged, Rebekah’s passion is to bring hope and dignity through dance. From sitting mesmerized by The Nutcracker as a toddler to training at the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education, she has experienced the joy of using dance to communicate. As a teacher, Rebekah seeks to instill the life skills of confidence and excellence in the next generation. Rebekah dances professionally with Ballet Southeast and is a guest artist for several area companies. Some of her favorite roles include Swanhilda in Coppélia and the Faun Couple in Alexandre
Proia’s Four Seasons. She has a BA in Communications from Thomas Edison State University. Whether using dance to serve internationally in countries such as Panama and Cuba or producing the annual production of Sterling’s Path, an original, multimedia fairytale of hope here in Atlanta, Rebekah is
grateful for the gift of dance.

Nathan Griswold, Co-founder of Fly on a Wall

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Nathan began his dance training under Kay Englert in Tacoma, Wash. He finished his formal dance training at the Ben Stevenson Academy in Houston, then danced professionally with the Houston Ballet, Alberta Ballet, and Atlanta Ballet, and as a guest with Los Angeles Chamber Ballet and North Carolina Dance Theater. In 2010, Nathan moved to Germany to dance for Ballet Augsburg and the National Theater Mannheim. Ballet Augsburg, the Augsburg Opera, Theater Ulm, and Atlanta Ballet’s Wabi Sabi have performed his choreographic works. When he returned to Atlanta in 2014, Nathan co-founded Fly on a Wall, an idea house that supports and presents innovative performance. Please visit to learn of his upcoming endeavors.

Aaron James, Professional Actor and Dancer

Aaron James was born in Georgia into a family of athletes, music lovers, and creators. So it’s no surprise that his favorite sport, basketball, had much to do with the professional dancer he is today. As he was on his high school varsity basketball team, his grades took a slight drop, and his parents decided to take him off the team to focus on school work more. Being the competitor he is, Aaron found he could use his competitiveness in dance. Entering himself and his group of dance friends in dance battles around the Southeast turned into forming his own dance crew, which eventually turned into a full-fledged professional dance career. Aaron has danced all over the world for various recording artists and has appeared in many movies and television shows as an actor and/or dancer. Some of his credits include America’s Best Dance Crew, Pharrell ,Little Big Town, TPain, CMT Awards, Jacob Latimore, and more. As Aaron is still a very active and working professional dancer, he likes to share what he has learned, experienced, and is currently learning as an industry dancer with his students, in order to help them reach their desired full potential as dancers.

Nina Markman, Faculty at BIO Gymnastics

Nina received her training at the Belorussian School of Ballet. She studied under the world renowned Russian prima ballerina Maria Mladinskaya. Nina has served on faculty at the Lovett School, the Smyrna School of Ballet, Prima Rhythmic Gymnastics, and the Russian Ballet School in Dunwoody, Georgia. She is currently on faculty with BIO Gymnastics.

Viktor Plotnikov, Former Principal Dancer with Boston Ballet and Current Resident Choreographer with Festival Ballet

Born in Kharkov City, Ukraine, Plotnikov received his training at the Kiev-Ukraine School and the St. Petersburg Vaganova Ballet Academy. From 1987 to 1990, he was a soloist with Donetsk Ballet Company in the Ukraine. Plotnikov held principal dancer positions at Ballet Mississippi and Tulsa Ballet Theatre between 1990 and 1993, before joining Boston Ballet as a principal dancer in 1993, where he performed until 2006. He has danced major roles in extensive classical and contemporary ballets by many of the major choreographers, and he has toured extensively in Russia and the US.

In 1998, Plotnikov’s extensive performance career lead to choreographic inspiration. Since then Plotnikov has created a myriad of original works for numerous organizations and individuals, often to great acclaim. These include solos and duets performed at international gala performances and as part of international ballet competitions, with musical taste ranging from Brahms to Pink Floyd. From 2002 to 2005, he received rave reviews for his choreography and as co-director and co-producer of the choreographers’ showcase Raw Dance in collaboration with Boston Ballet and Boston Center for the Arts. He has since created original, commissioned works for companies including Boston Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Pittsburg Ballet Theatre, Richmond Ballet, New Jersey Ballet, and the Bolshoi Theatre.

Awards include “Best Choreography” at the 2005 Helsinki International Ballet Competition and at the 2007 World Ballet Competition, Orlando; Outstanding Choreography Prize at the 2006 Youth American Grand Prix Competition; Second Prize winner of the 2007 International Choreographic Competition in Milwaukee; Best Choreography Award at the 2008 Ballet Competition in Perm, Russia; and Outstanding Choreographer Award at the 2009 Youth American Grand Prix.

In 2003, Festival Ballet Providence Artistic Director Mihailo Djuric commissioned Plotnikov to create an original version of Carmen, his first full-length ballet. That success lead to numerous ensuing commissioned works by the company, including The Widow’s Broom (2004, based on the story by Chris Van Allsburg, with original score by Novi Sad native Alexandra Vrebalov), Loof and Let Dime (2006), Viktorations (2006), Bre (2007), the overwhelming critically acclaimed Coma (2007), Cinderella (2007), Atom (2009), Sun Dust (2009), and Surrender (2010), Orchis (2013), and Sharps and Flats (2014). In 2010, Djuric named him Festival Ballet Providence resident choreographer.

Mr. Plotnikov is married to Boston Ballet’s Larissa Ponomarenko.

Larissa Ponomarenko, Former Principal Dancer and Current Ballet Master at Boston Ballet

Larissa Ponomarenko joined Boston Ballet’s artistic staff as ballet master in 2011 and is a graduate of Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg. After working with Donetsk Ballet in Ukraine, she danced with Mississippi Ballet and Tulsa Ballet before joining Boston Ballet as a principal dancer in 1993.

Ponomarenko danced with Boston Ballet for 18 years. Her versatile repertoire includes Odette and Odile in Swan Lake, Kitri in Don Quixote, Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Tatiana in Onegin, Kate in the Taming of the Shrew, the title roles in Giselle and Cinderella, Medora in Le Corsaire, Swanhilda in Coppélia, Nikiya in La Bayadère, and countless others. Ponomarenko has also performed a wide repertoire of George Balanchine’s works, including Symphony in C, Who Cares?, The Four Temperaments, Diamonds, Emeralds, Mozartiana, La Valse, Divertimento No. 15, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Serenade. She has danced works by John Cranko, Jiří Kylián, Nacho Duato, Kenneth MacMillan, Antony Tudor, Paul Taylor, Mark Morris, Christopher Wheeldon, and Twyla Tharp, among others.

Over the years, Ponomarenko has worked closely with Boston Ballet Resident Choreographer Jorma Elo and has served as a muse for many of his ballets. She has also created roles in original works, including Rhyme, choreographed for her by her husband, Viktor Plotnikov.

Ponomarenko has appeared internationally in galas and as a guest artist with English National Ballet in London, NBA Ballet Company in Tokyo, Opera Theatre of Rome, and Teatro Comunale of Florence in Italy. She was nominated for the Benois de la Danse award in 2005 and is a recipient of the E. Virginia Williams Inspiration Award. Photo courtesy of Boston Ballet.


Julianne Spratlin, Retired Solist at San Francisco Ballet and Director/Owner of The Dance Training Center/San Francisco

Julianne Spratlin received her training at the Atlanta School of Ballet under the direction of Tom Pazik and Robert Barnett. She continued her studies at both the School of American Ballet and Boston Ballet. Ms. Spratlin danced with the Atlanta Ballet for eight years under the direction of John McFall. She performed principal roles in works by Balanchine, as well as the lead roles in many story ballets. She also worked with many contemporary choreographers and created roles in ballets by John McFall, Michael Pink, Lila York, David Parsons, Donald Byrd, and Stanton Welch.

In 2002, Ms. Spratlin joined the Joffrey Ballet. During her time there she danced a wide range of principal roles in the Joffrey repertoire to critical acclaim, including works by Ashton, Cranko, Balanchine, Kylian, Tharp, Joffrey and Arpino. In 2004, she was chosen as Chicagoan of the Year by the Chicago Tribune. In 2007, Ms. Spratlin joined the San Francisco Ballet, where she danced principal and soloist roles in ballets by Robbins, Taylor, and Balanchine and worked to create ballets with choreographers Caniparoli, Welch, Kudelka, Wheeldon, and Adam. In the spring of 2010, she was honored to be a guest artist with the Estonian National Ballet, performing with SFB principal Tiit Helimets. Ms. Spratlin joined the Milwaukee Ballet in 2010 as a principal dancer. Ms. Spratlin also had the great honor of being named one of 2011's "25 To Watch" by Dance Magazine and fellow artist Tiit Helimets.  

Ms. Spratlin began her teaching career at the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education, teaching and coaching Pre­-professional Division students, many of whom went on to join Atlanta Ballet and other professional companies. During her time in Chicago, she taught at the Lou Conte Dance Studio of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. In San Francisco, Ms. Spratlin taught at The Ballet Studio since 2010 and became TBS sssociate artistic director.  

Sensing the need for a new kind of ballet school in San Francisco, Ms. Spratlin established the Dance Training Center/San Francisco in January of 2014.  A school with the highest quality of training, smaller classes, and a less competitive environment than some larger schools, DTC/SF strives to give individual attention to students in a healthy, positive atmosphere. DTC/SF is also a place where professional dancers and students from other ballet schools come to tune­up and work on their technique when recovering from injury. Ms. Spratlin regularly teaches company class for Smuin Ballet and has taught for Amy Seiwert's Imagery.  She was also thrilled to return to the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education in 2016 as a faculty member for both the Advanced and Professional Summer Intensives.