Nebula Dance Lab

Apogee Award Recipients & Honorees 2016

Celebrating Excellence in Dance 

Christopher Pilafian  performed on stage, television and in film with choreographers Jennifer Muller, Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison, Charles Moulton, Louis Falco, Matthew Diamond and others. He was awarded the Doris Humphrey Scholarship and the Louis Horst Fellowship at The Juilliard School and, as founding member, principal dancer and Associate Artistic Director of Jennifer Muller/The Works, performed in 11 NYC seasons and 10 international tours of Europe, The Middle East, North, Central and South America from 1974 to 1989. He has choreographed over 50 works for concert stage, film and theater and, as Artistic Director of Santa Barbara Dance Theater, has produced three seasons including A Leap of Faith (2013), Time in Motion (2014) and the company’s 40th Anniversary Season (2016). He first came to UC Santa Barbara as a guest artist in 1990 and serves as Vice Chair of the Department of Theater/Dance and Director of Dance. He is also a visual artist.

Leila Drake Fossek, Award Recipient- Performer

Leila, from Santa Cruz, CA, is a graduate of UCSB, double majoring in Art History and Film Studies. She joined State Street Ballet in 2005, and has performed the Principal roles in William Soleau’s Carmen, An American Tango, Carmina Burana, and Appalachian Spring, as well as Autumn Eckman's Scheherazade. She has been a featured soloist in works by Robert Battle, Nancy Colahan, Josie Walsh, and Edgar Zendejas, and has appeared as a guest artist with The Ithaca Ballet, dancing the dual roles of Odette/Odile in their full-length Swan Lake. Recently promoted to Associate Director of SSB, Leila is embracing a graceful transition into an essential role in the company's leadership. Married to local guitarist Chris Fossek since 2013, she is grateful and humbled to be a part of the wonderful arts community in Santa Barbara.

Adam Phillips, Award Recipient - Collaborator

Adam Phillips (Composer) Musician & Producer Originally from Buffalo,NY, Adam is a classically trained tenor and songwriter who fell in love with the sounds of old time acoustic Americana music. He is currently the Director
of Music and Worship at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church of Goleta, Worship Leader at the El Montecito Presbyterian Church’s Tapestry Service and a voice and guitar teacher at his home studio. Adam is a finalist for his work composing, arranging, and performing the score for The Inquisitor by Nebula Dance Lab. 

Edgar Zendejas, Award Recipient - Creator 

Mexican born Edgar Zendejas, fueled by a passion for dance that began in his native country, Zendejas was drawn to the United States where he received a bursary to study at the United States International University in San Diego. Edgar’s interpretive career began in Chicago where he performed with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Giordano Jazz Dance. In the early nineties, Edgar joined Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, now BJM Danse, where he found himself evolving as an artist and choreographer. After the successful premiere of Zendejas's first work, "Breve Enlace," Louis Robitaille, artist director of BJM, promoted Edgar to associate choreographer with a commission for a new work: "Besame. Besame Mucho!" which was applauded by Montreal audiences. Recognition of this new work as well as awards from the Festival Danse Encore in 2001 and 2003, led to choreographic commissions in Mexico and the United States, most notably from Jacob's Pillow; Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Ballet Hispanico, DanceWorks Chicago; Luna Negra Dance Theater, State Street Ballet, Richmond Ballet, Northwest Dance Project and Ballet de Monterrey, Mexico. Edgar Zendejas’s North American acclaim continued to grow: he won the Hubbard Street 2 National Choreographic Competition in 2010, competed as a finalist for the Milwaukee Ballet’s choreographic competition “Genesis” in 2011, and won the Outstanding Choreographer Award from Youth American Grand Prix in 2012. 
In January 2006 when he co-founded ezdanza. Since then the company has evolved as an open space focused on research, creation and dissemination. Following this objective, ezdanza open its doors for PERPETUA, ezdanza’s creation by three Mexican choreographers; Mauricio Nava, Victor Quijada and Edgar Zendejas.
Edgar Zendejas latests choreographic collaboration in  2015  was"Common Ground". This work, recomposed music by Max Richter for  the 4 Seasons of Vivaldi included a total of 20 dancers on stageand was presented by three american companies,  Eisenhower Dance Company, Santa Barbara Dance Theater and State Street Ballet.

Nikki Pfeiffer, Honoree- Performer

Originally from Santa Barbara, CA, has received awards from the Santa Barbara Dance Alliance and the city of Santa Barbara for her accomplishments in dance.  In 2013, she graduated from California Institute of the Arts, attaining a BFA in Dance and Choreography with additional training abroad on scholarship in Barcelona, Spain.  Some of Nikki’s various performance experiences include dancing in works by Ohad Naharin, Twyla Tharp, Daniel Charon, Glen Eddy, and Colin Connor.  Nikki is currently dancing with Santa Barbara Dance Theater.

Christina Sanchez, Honoree- Performer

Christina studied dance on scholarship at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. She was invited to join the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble by Director Sylvia Waters. It was there she performed the works of Alvin Ailey as well as many other notable choreographers touring and teaching extensively throughout the U.S. and abroad. She continued her performing career dancing with Ballet Hispanico of NYC, Complexions Contemporary Ballet (under the direction of Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson) and Buglisi/Foreman Dance (under the direction of Jacqulyn Buglisi, former Martha Graham principal). She was then accepted into the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater where she performed and toured throughout Europe, South America and the U.S. Christina is currently a member of UCSB’s resident dance company, Santa Barbara Dance Theater under the direction of Christopher Pilafian. And she also teaches Modern Dance technique at Westmont College. Christina resides in Santa Barbara,CA is married and has two beautiful girls.

Shelby Lynn Joyce, Honoree - Performer

Shelby, began her dance journey at a very early age in her hometown of Norfolk, VA. She trained at the Governors School for the Arts during high school and began her professional career with Todd Rosenlieb Dance in 2006. Shelby earned her BFA in Modern dance performance with an emphasis in dance composition at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. She was also granted multiple scholarships while studying at the university and awarded for excellence in performance upon graduating. During her time in Philadelphia, Shelby worked as a freelance dance artist and choreographer and collaborated with numerous companies and choreographers. In 2010 Shelby joined Brian Sanders’ JUNK, an acrobatic aerial based company that bridges the gap between dance and physical theater, and toured nationally with the company. In 2013 Shelby returned to her hometown of Norfolk Va. where she performed with Todd Rosenlieb Dance for their 2013-2014 season.

After relocating to Santa Barbara, CA in July 2014, Shelby joined Nebula Dance Lab. Most recently she choreographed 'push and pull' for Nebula collaborating with Devyn Duex. In addition, she is currently working with Weslie Ching Dance. Also, a visual artist, Shelby has shown her paintings throughout the Santa Barbara county, and brings her visual art into her dance works as well.

Shelby is humbled to be recognized for her performance in Push & Pull & The Inquisitor, by being nominated for anApogee Award.


Olivia Mitchel, Honoree - Collaborator

Olivia Mitchel is a junior at the Urban School of San Francisco.  A native San Franciscan born in 1998, she began her musical education at the age of four when she entered the Dalcroze Eurhythmics class at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.  Olivia began taking piano lessons at the Conservatory with Lauren Cony at age six.  She studied with Lauren for nine years while progressing through the Conservatory's musicianship program.  Three years ago, Olivia transitioned to another Conservatory teacher, Jerri Witt, with whom she currently studies. For the past two years, Olivia has participated in Music History and Analysis classes at the Conservatory, building on her music theory knowledge. Olivia attended the Conservatory's summer chamber music program, Summer Music West, for three consecutive summers (2009-2011), gaining experience playing with other musicians. For the past three summers, Olivia has attended Rocky Ridge Music Center (2-week program in 2013, 5-week program in 2014 and 2015).  Currently, Olivia is enrolled in the Conservatory's pre-college chamber music program, in which she meets weekly with her trio (piano, violin and cello).  The trio performs throughout the year.  Olivia has performed solo pieces at multiple venues, including outreach performances, studio recitals, and frequent pre-college division recitals at the Conservatory.

Meredith Cabaniss, Honoree - Collaborator

Meredith Cabaniss is a multi-creative artist based out of southern California. She recently graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. During her studies she was a Regent’s Scholar; member of the UCSB Dance Company; and received undergraduate honors including an Undergraduate Research Award for her departmental Honor’s Project,  the Corwin Award for choreography, and other achievements in the department. She has also studied with Batsheva Dance Company during their summer dance intensive in Tel Aviv, Israel and at the Dance Education Laboratory at the 92Y in New York City. As the founder, artistic director, and choreographer of Santa Barbara-based company selah dance collective, Meredith has presented works throughout the United States in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and New York City as well as abroad in Europe. She is on staff at various dance schools in the Santa Barbara area and travels internationally and nationally as a dance educator.

Joining Nebula Dance Lab in 2014 Meredith has shown her talents in many forms including Lighting Design for four shows including the inaugural year of the HHII Dance Festival lighting over 30 works in a 3 day period, Choreography beginning as a guest choreographer and progressing into a resident choreographer, and Dancer showcasing her strengths in last year's premiere of "The Inquisitor" as The Baker.

Cybil Gilbertson/NECTAR, Honoree - Creator & Collaborator

Cybil Gilbertson received her BA in Dance from UCSB in 1997. Upon graduating she was awarded The Alice Condodina Performance Award and Dean’s Honors. Cybil has danced with Santa Barbara Dance Theatre (1997-2011), SB Museum NIGHTS, Robin Bisio (for stage, film and site specific projects), Monterey Dance Collective, Esalen Int’l Arts Festival, LA Music Awards and Cirque Destino. She a certified yoga and Pilates instructor and California Massage Therapy Council licensed massage therapist, practicing in SB since 1999. She holds certificates for yoga from The White Lotus Foundation, Erich Schiffman, and The Esalen Institute as well as in-depth studies with Denise Zaverdas, Heather Tiddens and Paul Wehrman. She holds certificates for Pilates from BASI (Body Arts and Science International), and The Pilates Center, Boulder, Summer Program, as well as studying with Pat Guyton, Rael Izacowitz, Siri Dharma and a year long apprenticeship with Simpatico Studio in Montecito CA. Cybil is the Artistic Director and Founder of, NECTAR (2009-present); a quarterly professional-level artists’ forum that highlights the work of local organizations through the arts and education. She was awarded the Profant Foundation for the Arts Award in 2002 for Dance Performance, and most recently, The SB Arts Collaborative grant (2010) and The SB County Arts Grant (2011 and 2012) in support of NECTAR and her communitycentered vision. Please to read more about Cybil.

Louise Reichlin, Honoree - Creator

Louise Reichlin began her career in NY in concerts & Broadway, performed and choreographed throughout the USA, with her choreography also seen in six countries. Since 1972 she has worked from her LA base, founding LOS ANGELES CHOREOGRAPHERS & DANCERS, the non-profit base of Louise Reichlin & Dancers in 1979. Since 1995, many of her concert works include multimedia. One is "Tap Dance Widows Club", a 50' video and live multimedia work from "The Baggage Project". In June 2012, Reichlin was one of 7 national artists selected by Marc Bamuthy Joseph to present her creative impulse behind her work for the closing portion of the Dance USA conference, Vision 20/20. Reichlin also is Producer & Dance Director for the San Pedro ♥ Festival of the Arts. Louise has been a National Performance Network (NPN) artist, also receiving an ARC grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation and a Pennington Dance Group SPACE award. Her company receives multiple grants from LA County Arts Commission, DCALA, and the LAUSD, and last season had a REACH Demonstration Grant through CHC from the CDC. See www.LAChoreographersAndDancers.orgfor more.

Additional accomplishments include multiple CA Arts Council grants, a Milestone Dance Co. Horton Award, Gary Bates Horton Award for creativity, sustained professional achievement, & service to the community, multiple Horton choreography nominations, a USC Faculty Research/ Innovation Fund Grant of $14,000, & the CyberSpace Media Access Award for Production/ Collaboration for The E-Mail Dances.  

ArtBark International/Misa Kelly, Honoree - Creator

Misa Kelly is an award winning multi-disciplinary artist who has been active professionally in the field since 1996. Her work as a choreographer has been celebrated on the West Coast, East Coast, and in Europe in Turkey, Austria, France, and most recently in Slovenia where her work was described as "perfect poetry" by Parada Plesa (Slovenia's dance magazine.) She publishes as an indie author under the pen name Ginger Freedom and exhibitions of her brut outsider art has been displayed under the auspices of Dylan & Friends in Vienna, Santa Barbara, and Brooklyn as a testament that light always wins-period.
Misa is nominated and honored as a finalist for her pivotal Alma Karlin Project through Artbark International a cross collaborative project between ArtBarkers from Santa Barbara, New York and Slovenia. Alma Karlin Project, Alma Alone premieres at the Cankarjev Dom to sold out houses and rave reviews. 

Photo Credit: Paull Wellman

Janos Feledi, Honoree - Creator

Feledi Project was established by Feledi János, multi-faceted, choreographer and performer, graduating from the Hungarian Dance Academy in 2003 [Ballet].

His initial career began as a member of Győri Ballet, working as a solo dancer and choreographer. After mastering in ballet Feledi became a member of PR-Evolution Dance Company and BaDora Dance Company. In 2010, through the presentation of Feledi’s first choreographic work the Feledi Project was born. Since the initial opening of the company Feledi has created 7 plays, all of which are constantly on schedule in the National Dance Theater, Skéné Theater and all the famous Hungarian festivals, with sold out tickets. The company and the project is characterized by high level skill, excellent artistic composure, professionalism, energy and uniqueness. His choreographies are mature, unique themed. They combine classical ballet and modern dance in a unique way. The quality work in numerous performances earned the enthusiasts' love and acknowledgement. The proof of this is that in 2014 Feledi Project was chosen to be a member of the Hungarian Dance Association and the Society of Hungarian Choreographers.

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