Leadership & Staff
Celia Fushille has served as Artistic Director of Smuin Contemporary Ballet since 2007. From 2008-2014 she also served as Executive Director of the company. A founding member of Smuin Ballet and its principal dancer for more than 12 years, Fushille worked closely with company founder Michael Smuin. In a performing career spanning 25 years, Fushille appeared on stages in the U.S. and Europe, on television and in film. As Artistic Director, Fushille has created her own vision for the company while maintaining Michael Smuin’s legacy. She has expanded the repertoire of the company by commissioning 18 world premieres and including the work of renowned choreographers. Increasing the company’s stability and place in the arts community of San Francisco, she realized a 10-year goal with the company’s move into its permanent home in 2019. For the last decade Fushille has been part of the national discussion addressing diversity, equity and inclusion among leaders of U.S. dance companies. Fushille sits on the board of Dance/USA and is chair of the Artistic Directors’ Council for Member Companies with budgets of $3 million and greater. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree (summa cum laude) from Saint Mary’s College of California.
Lori Laqua brings 30+ years of experience to her role as Managing Director of Smuin Contemporary Ballet. Laqua oversaw the renovation of Smuin Center for Dance, the organization’s permanent home, which joined the rehearsal studios and administrative offices under one roof for the first time. Laqua previously served as project manager for the design and construction of the ODC Dance Commons and the ODC Theater during her 20 years there. She is especially pleased to have kept Smuin dancing during the pandemic having utilized the CARES Act and grant programs to help retain employees and to present programming on new platforms. Laqua holds a PhD (ABD) and MArch in Architectural History from the University of Virginia, a MA in Art History from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a BA in History and Art History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Laqua joined Smuin in 2017.
Ballet Master and Education Program Director
Amy London received her training in her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, from Karen Alwin and Shauna Bereska. She danced with Hartford Ballet, Diablo Ballet, and Smuin Ballet. Her favorite Smuin roles included: Eternal Idol, Q.a.V. and Hearts Suite. She has served on faculty for schools throughout the Bay Area and as Artistic Coordinator at Marin Ballet, where she has choreographed more than 20 works. As Smuin’s Ballet Master, she enjoys preserving Michael Smuin’s legacy, as well as collaborating with and being the caretaker of the works of Val Caniparoli, Trey McIntyre, Amy Seiwert, Ma Cong, Helen Pickett, Adam Hougland, Choo-San Goh, and Jiří Kylián. As the inaugural Education Program Director for Smuin Center for Dance, she oversees its successful community engagement, outreach and faculty development.
Company Manager and Wardrobe
Jo Ellen Arntz moved to San Francisco after receiving her BFA in dance from Creighton University (Omaha, Nebraska). She danced with San Francisco Ballet from 1981-1991 and has been teaching dance in the Bay Area since 1977, recently celebrating 20 years on faculty at Marin Dance Theater. She began at Smuin as Wardrobe Supervisor in 1996 and became Company Manager shortly thereafter. Working with Michael Smuin at San Francisco Ballet and later his own company prepared her for the multiple hats she wears in the organization today.
Jason Narin has been working in live entertainment by assisting patrons with their ticketing needs since 2001, and most recently with San Francisco Ballet. We are thrilled to announce that he now provides financial and accounting support to Smuin’s management. Originally from Southern California, he has found a home in the Bay Area after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley and continues to explore his passion for the performing arts.
Special Projects Manager
Originally from the Bay Area, Ellen Gaintner worked at Nashville Ballet and San Angelo Civic Ballet before joining Smuin as Special Projects Manager. A classically trained ballet dancer, she was a member of Nashville Ballet 2 from 2008-2010.
Director of Development
Alicia Tos rejoins Smuin after having served as Development Manager from March 2016-January 2020. Originally from Buffalo, NY, Alicia has a BA in Arts Management from Purchase College and focused in marketing and development for dance companies. She has worked with Garth Fagan Dance, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, and Ellen Jacobs Associates in New York City. She loves baking and soaking up the sunshine in Northern California’s wine country in her free time.
Development Operations Manager
Coral Bell comes to Smuin with over 7 years of experience in fundraising and database management. Prior to Smuin, she has worked for missions including early childhood education, transitional housing, the arts, and membership organizations. Coral holds a BA in Sociology with a concentration in Social Diversity from the University of Texas at Arlington and currently lives in the Rio Grande Valley area along the Texas/Mexico border. In her free time, she likes to watch scary movies, bake, and work on home improvement projects.
Patron Services Manager
Aja Hruby De Coudreaux has spent most of her career in the arts, enjoying varied experience in theater, live events, and the entertainment industry. Aja’s experience includes many behind-the-scenes aspects of stage and screen, from costuming to prop-making to box office roles. She has pursued her passion for costuming both academically and professionally, completing a degree in Fashion Design with a focus on historical costuming from the California Design College in Los Angeles and she has worked as a designer in theater, film and the fashion industry. Aja devotes her free time to her love of history, antiques, music, artistic expression, and the performing arts. She’s happy to be back in her hometown of Oakland and a member of the Smuin Ballet family.
Community Engagement Manager
Benjamin is thrilled to join Smuin Ballet to help build awareness and outreach for Smuin Center for Dance. Having danced with Smuin in 2016, he is enthusiastic about his return to assist the company from behind the curtain. A San Francisco-based ballet teacher, creative producer and artist, Benjamin is pursuing his M.A. in Arts Administration at Goucher College. He looks forward to using his wide variety of skills to highlight all Smuin Center for Dance has to offer and to further the company’s connection with the community.
Senior Development Manager, Individual Giving
Meagan Mod Thibodeaux is thrilled to be joining Smuin as Senior Development Manager. Originally from South Louisiana, Meagan received her BFA in Performing Arts with a focus on dance from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and has worked for the last five years in the arts and culture sector for nonprofit organizations. In her free time, she enjoys really good red wine and exploring the Bay Area with her tripawd pup.
KT Graham joined Smuin Ballet in 1997 after working as Production Stage Manager and Lighting Designer for Lewitzky Dance Company in Los Angeles, as well as Technical & Lighting Director for Washington Ballet in Washington, D.C. with whom she toured extensively both nationally and internationally. She also engages in freelance projects and has particularly enjoyed serving as Production Stage Manager for Amy Seiwert’s Imagery, Dances from the Heart benefits for The Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation, and for the National Dance USA showcase in 2012.
Michael Oesch is a professional lighting designer for dance, theatre, operas, and musicals. Since joining Smuin Ballet in 2004, he has designed the lighting for The Christmas Ballet, Be Here Now, The Poetry of Being, Tutto Ecceto il Lavandino, Madness, Rack, & Honey, Oh, Inverted World, Been Through Diamonds, Fly Me to the Moon, as well as many more Smuin Ballet productions. He also designs lighting for companies throughout the Bay area, where his designs have won a Theatre Bay Area Award, Shelly Award, and his work has been nominated for Bay Area Theatre Critics’ Circle Awards, and an Isadora Duncan Award. See more of his work at michaeloesch.com.
Over the past 20 years, Vincent has worked with Bay Area companies including Berkeley Opera, Lines Contemporary Ballet, ODC, Oakland Ballet, Amy Seiwert’s Imagery, and serving as Wardrobe Master for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for eight years. He has worked internationally for Opera Zuid in The Netherlands and Animazing at Chateau de Belcastel in France. His number one priority the last 20 years has been Smuin Ballet, and he prides himself on helping to create a family-like atmosphere within the company. Often asked, “What do you do for fun?” His response is always, “THIS is what I do for fun . . .”