Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance Mission
Our staff is dedicated to providing both the serious and the casual dance student with excellent training. We want all of our students to experience the incredible joy of movement through the study of dance. Our completely graded system of instruction guarantees the steady progress of each individual. Dancing will provide increased muscular strength, improved rhythm, better coordination and posture control, discipline of mind and body, self-confidence, and aesthetic values that last for a lifetime. We keep dance clean, fun, dynamic, exciting, challenging and suitable for the whole family. All members of our staff follow the same syllabus of instruction under the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum. Children ages 3-6 years of age participate in the Children’s Division. A variety of coursework is available in our student and adult division. Visit the classes portion of our website to learn more about the opportunities offered in each division. Please contact us if you have any further questions
Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance Faculty
Lacee Sandgren, Artistic Director
Lacee began her dance training at the age of 3 at Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance located in Topeka, Kansas. Under the direction of Barbara Ebert, she joined the civic company, Ballet Midwest when she was 12. As a junior in high school, Lacee was a Topeka Performing Arts Center Young Artist of the Year scholarship recipient. She continued dancing with Ballet Midwest through college, when she was promoted to the Assistant Artistic Director. Lacee also trained with Sean Duus, Stefani Schrimpf, and Kimberly Cowen at the Kansas City Ballet as well as Krystyna & Jerel Hilding at the University of Kansas. Each summer for 10 years, Lacee attended Ballet Magnificat’s Summer Dance Intensive to study under the direction of Kathy Thibodeaux, Sol Nazario, and Jiri Sebastian Voborsky. Lacee was honored to dance in their pre-professional division several of those years, receiving multiple full merit scholarships and completing their teacher’s certification.
After graduating high school, Lacee attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City in their Conservatory of Music and Dance on scholarship, primarily studying under Paula Weber, Ronald Tice, Sabrina Madison-Canon, DeeAnna Hiett, Michael Simms, Jamal Story, and Gary Abbott. As a conservatory dancer, Lacee performed many classical and contemporary works by well-known guest artists and faculty members. While in college, she served as a leader for Campus Crusade for Christ. She received the honor of being asked to dance and share her testimony for thousands of college students at both the Denver Christmas Conference and the Big Break Conference. In May 2012, Lacee graduated with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance with a ballet emphasis and a Business Administration minor.
Upon graduation, Lacee was invited to join Paradosi Ballet Company located in Washington State. For two seasons, she danced professionally and toured extensively with the company, both in the states and internationally. While on tour, Lacee was asked to teach many Master Classes offered by Paradosi in the cities they performed. Lacee’s degree in dance and teaching experience was highly regarded by Paradosi’s directors. They hired her to head the company’s school, Surrendered School of the Arts, both as Principal and as a primary instructor. Under her direction, the school doubled in size and expanded to five campuses. Her business minor also proved advantageous as she was employed as Assistant Business Manager. In the spring of 2014, Lacee was hired to tour with The Thorn Productions Tour Cast across the United States in their nationally recognized, multi-million dollar production. She also organized and led dance classes for the communities where The Thorn performed.
Lacee Ebert is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 5 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum.
Lacee is very excited to be in her hometown of Topeka to expand her career as director of Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance and of Ballet Midwest. She brings to Topeka many new and exciting ideas to enhance the professionalism of the school and the company. “I am thrilled to be able to use the knowledge I obtained from my degree in dance; to instill the invaluable skills I learned by teaching and choreographing in many studios across the nation; and to share my experience as a professional dancer with my students here in Topeka.”
Barbara Ebert, Artistic Director Emeritus
Barbara Ebert was born in Topeka, where she studied music and took her initial ballet training under June Horwitz. She continued her study of dance and received her early performing experience in Kansas City, Lawrence and Tulsa, Oklahoma, throughout her junior high and senior high school years. At the University of Utah, she trained in all major styles of dance with a major in ballet with an emphasis in choreography and teaching. The ballet program at the University of Utah is one of the top ten in the world and is of an extremely vigorous and professional nature. While at the University, Mrs. Ebert studied all major styles of dance. Supplementary classes equally important to a well-rounded teacher were included in her college training. Some of the most important, she feels, were dance analysis, teaching techniques, choreography, anatomy for dancers, lighting and production, contemporary trends in dance, pantomime, dance history, and French as well as a variety of classes in music, art, and theater. Out of Mrs. Ebert’s freshman class of approximately 200, only 7 were accepted to complete their degree. Earning her degree in 1973, Mrs. Ebert was the first ballet major allowed to complete her degree in three years. While attending college, she also performed for Ballet West and taught classes as a Teaching Assistant at the University for two years. In addition, she has studied with Dinna Bjourn (Royal Danish Ballet), John Callander (New Zealand Ballet), Eugene Collins (Ballet Russe), Bill Evans (Utah Repertory Dance Theatre), Phillip Keeler (San Francisco Ballet), Bruce Marks (Amerian Ballet Theatre), Toni Lander Marks (Royal Danish Ballet), Ruth Page (Ruth Page Ballet), Kathy Thibodeaux (Ballet Magnificat), Terry Thomas (Royal Winnepeg Ballet), and Andrea Vohdenal (Ballet Russe).
Mrs. Ebert established a private dance studio, Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance, with students coming from all over NE Kansas to study. Through her fifty years of teaching dance in the Topeka area, Mrs. Ebert has had many students attend prestigious summer intensives, many with full merit scholarships. These include Alvin Ailey, Ballet Magnificat, Ballet West, Boston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Antonio Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, and many others. Many of her students have continued on in professional dance careers or with college degrees in dance. She has also been employed to teach ballet classes at Washburn University, Cair Paravel Latin School, and Topeka Latin School and is available for teaching Master Classes.
Inception of Ballet Midwest, Inc.
Because of the emerging potential in dancers who attended her private studio, Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance, and that which she saw in other community dancers, Mrs. Ebert with the help of family and interested friends, formed Ballet Midwest, Inc. in January 1977. “I danced and studied through my high school and college years with the dream of coming back to Topeka to develop a school and company where serious as well as casual dance students could receive the finest classical training. That dream has become a reality,” she said. Mrs. Ebert became Artistic Director of Ballet Midwest at its inception and continued to choreograph and stage for the company through it’s fortieth season in 2016-17. The company, now under the artistic director of Lacee Ebert, is run by a volunteer Board of Directors independently from Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance. Mrs. Ebert remains actively involved as an Artistic Director Emeritus.
Mrs. Ebert choreographed and directed the first Topeka production of the “Nutcracker Ballet” for Dance Arts of Topeka, Inc in 1974 and 1975. She also choreographed, directed, and performed in “Ballet for Children”, a lecture demonstration series that was taken to 26 elementary schools. Ballet Midwest repeated this series in 2000 and 2001. As Artistic Director, Mrs. Ebert was responsible for the overall artistry of the Company. She has choreographed or staged fifty-eight repertory pieces and ten full-length classics for Ballet Midwest. Assisted by company dancers, she also enjoys doing educational programs for interested groups.
Mrs. Ebert, over forty of her students and nine of her teachers have attended a summer intensive at Ballet Magnificat, America’s premiere Christian Ballet Company, in Jackson, Mississippi. Inspired by the company, Mrs. Ebert added nine levels of liturgical classes at Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance. These classes, as well as the studio’s touring company, Cleargold, have performed at area churches, nursing homes, and present a concert each Christmas and Easter that is open to the public.
Mrs. Ebert retired at the end of the 2017 season, but still enjoys teaching ballet and pas de deux two nights a week at Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance.
Bio to come
Makaela was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. She started dancing at the age of five at the YMCA. At the age of nine, she moved to Kansas Dance Academy and then Jill Landrith’s School of Dance to further her ballet training. She performed with Ballet Wichita for several years in their productions of the Nutcracker, spring performances, and different ballet variations. In 2018 and 2019, Makaela spent part of her summer dancing in Auburn, New York at the New York Dance Festival. After graduating from Eisenhower High School (Goddard,KS) in 2020, she moved to Topeka to attend Washburn University. She is finishing her last semester of undergrad in the fall and will be starting at Washburn Law School in the Spring of 2024.
Makaela began teaching dance last year here at Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance and absolutely loved it. She knew she wanted to return again this year, and hopes to continue teaching through law school. Her favorite styles of dance have always been ballet/pointe and tap, but also studied jazz, lyrical, and modern for several years. Makaela is beyond excited for the new year of teaching, and is ready to meet new dancers and welcome back returning students!
In 2000, Christina began taking ballet and tap classes at Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance. Since then she has studied in various forms of dance, including: ballet, pointe, tap, liturgical, jazz, lyrical, modern, and Broadway jazz. Christina has been an instructor for Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance since 2011.
Christina was accepted into the Ballet Midwest Company in 2008. During her time as a company member she served two years as a company representative to the Ballet Midwest board. Her time with Ballet Midwest provided her with the incredible experience of performing in several full length classical ballets, including: The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Romeo & Juliet, Billy the Kid, Coppelia, Giselle, and Don Quixote.
Since 2017, Christina has served as an Assistant Artistic Director for Ballet Midwest’s Nutcracker Ballet and several spring ballets. Under the leadership of Owner and Artistic Director, Lacee Sandgren, Christina choreographed and taught rehearsals for several productions. She is greatly looking forward to the next season and its anticipated excitement.
Christina graduated from Washburn University, in 2017, with her Bachelors of Business Administration, majors in Management, Marketing, & Entrepreneurship, and a minor in music. In 2019, she completed her Masters of Business Administration. Christina has been employed by Washburn University, since 2017, as the Student Success Technology Administrator. She also enjoys teaching WU101: The Washburn Experience to incoming freshmen each fall semester.
Dance has taught Christina many life lessons through the years. Many of which have served her in every area of life. The most notable include: diligence, determination, respect, hard work, and creativity.
Bio to come.
Alexandria Huskey began her dance training at Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance at the age of seven. She instantly fell in love with ballet and enjoyed performing in Ballet Midwest’s productions under the direction of Barbara Ebert. She has performed a number of leading roles, including Clara in The Nutcracker and Juliet in Romeo & Juliet. While in high school, Alexandria served as a Company Representative on the Ballet Midwest board, received the Melinda Oberhelman Award, as well as the TPAC Young Artist Award and Scholarship in the dance category. Alexandria has spent her summers studying at Kansas City Ballet, The Rock School for Dance Education, and Ballet Magnificat. During her second summer at Ballet Magnificat, she received a merit scholarship and was in their Pre-Professional Program.
Alexandria furthered her training at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance. She studied closely with Paula Weber, David Justin, Sabrina Madison-Canon, DeeAnna Hiett, and Gary Abbott. While at UMKC, she was selected to represent the conservatory at two Kansas Dance Festivals and the American College Dance Association Festival. She also had the honor of dancing the role of the First Violin and Pas de Deux in Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco, set by Nilas Martins. Alexandria graduated in May 2018 from UMKC with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and Choreography, and a minor in Business Administration.
After receiving her degree in dance, Alexandria moved to Hartford, Connecticut to dance professionally with Ballet Hartford. She had the opportunity to work closely with wonderful choreographers, including Silas Farley of New York City Ballet, and Michelle Thompson Ulerich of Ballet Austin. While in Connecticut, Alexandria also had the opportunity to co-found New England Ballet Collective. She enjoyed touring the New England area performing at festivals and serving as the treasurer for the company.
Upon returning to Kansas in 2020, Alexandria returned to teaching at Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance and resumed dancing with Ballet Midwest, under the direction of Lacee Sandgren. During the production of Don Quixote Alexandria caught the eye of fellow company member, Drew Huskey. The two started dating and quickly fell in love. After they were engaged, they had the honor of performing the lead roles in Giselle together. Drew and Alexandria were married on September, 4th, 2022, and still enjoy their date nights at the studio when they’re not dancing together in the kitchen.
Teaching has always been a passion for Alexandria. She enjoyed teaching and assisting classes at Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance in high school. She continued to teach during her time in college, and even taught master classes while living in Connecticut. She is so happy to be back in the Midwest to share her passion of dance with her students. In February of 2020, Alexandria went to New York City to participate in American Ballet Theatre’s teacher certification program. Alexandria Brant is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 3 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum.
Drew Huskey was introduced to ballet and Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance in 2012 through his wonderful boss, Troy Butcher. He was invited to practices at first but was quickly hooked and began small roles in performances. Drew’s background includes multiple sports and activities that have helped develop his dancing, including basketball, baseball, cross country, soccer, drama, and forensics.
Since starting at Ballet Midwest, Drew has been honored to be part of the Nutcracker every year as well as Spring ballets. He has been fortunate to be cast in lead roles in many of these performances. Ballet has become a major passion in his life!
Drew was first introduced to yoga in 2004 and has been practicing through multiple studios and online videos since. He obtained his 200-hr yoga teacher certification in 2020. He has experience teaching at ReadySetFlow, Karma Tribe Yoga, and chair yoga through Turning Point at the University of Kansas. He currently offers a 45-minute vinyasa yoga class at Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance.
Outside of dance and yoga, Drew is a clinical oncology pharmacist at the University of Kansas. When not at the studio, Drew is frequently found on pickleball courts, in the gym, or spending time with his 9-year old son, Atticus.
Drew and Alexandria Brant started dating in 2020. They were lucky enough to dance together in Don Quixote, the Nutcracker, and even cast as the leads in Giselle. As their relationship and dancing progressed, they were engaged and recently married on September 4th, 2022. They hope to continue dancing together as long as possible
Lexi Lemons Williams
Lexi began her training at the Knoxville Performing Arts Institute in Tennessee with Jackie Crabtree who studied under Bob Fosse. Once back in Kansas, Lexi found a dance home here at Barbara’s Conservatory where she excitedly jumped into her first Nutcracker starting at the age of 9 until she was 17. Lexi was a Ballet Midwest Company member and Company Representative from age 11 through 16 when she started college.
Lexi graduated from Washburn University with her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree with an emphasis in photography and is currently working freelance in that field. While there Lexi was a member of the Washburn University Dancing Blues dance team for a 4 year term and acted as Captain during her 4th year.
Lexi spent several extended visits in LA training at the highly acclaimed Millennium Dance Complex. Millennium is known as the hub for professional dancers and choreographers to find their backup dancers, take classes, teach workshops, and practice for their tours and videos. Lexi took professional level classes and participated in the certification courses taught by instructors like Shane Sparks, David Moore, Super Dave, and Michael Menna; all leading artists and choreographers in the hip hop and pop industry. Lexi also spent this last summer participating in Virtual Instructor Workshops through international dance companies to expand her ideas and creative style to provide an even more unique experience for her students.
In her dance career, Lexi won several awards for her choreography in both state and national competitions for both solos and group dance. She loves to work with students to both further their skills and techniques as well as to choreograph routines for their competitions and contests. Last year, Lexi had the great honor to Choreograph the Topeka Performing Arts Center production of A Chorus Line, where she got to work with local talent to create a unique and powerful production.
Lexi is beyond excited to begin this new year and to work with all of the new and returning students that come into her classroom. Dance and teaching have been a passion and a way of life for Lexi since she was very young and she is honored to be able to pass that love on to others who share that passion! In this double anniversary year, she is excited to celebrate 10 seasons of Hip Hop being a part of the studio as well as her 15th season of teaching.
“If you feel yourself hitting up against your limit… remember why you started down this path, and let that memory carry you beyond your limit” – Toshinori Yagi
In 1999 Madison began her ballet education at Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance and performed in Ballet Midwest’s Nutcracker as the Candy Cane Doll the following year. She has had various amounts of training in ballet, pointe, pas de deux, tap, lyrical, and liturgical.
In her formative years as a dancer and teacher she had the privilege of attending a Summer Dance Intensive by America’s Premiere Professional Christian Company, Ballet Magnificat! in 2011, 2012, and 2013. Years later she is still gleaning knowledge from her time there and implementing the technical expertise and life lessons she learned into her own classes. Her mission every single time she is in the studio is not only to produce dancers who are tenaciously pursuing excellence in the art, but to inspire an excellence in life that will help her students thrive outside of the classroom!
When she is not in the studio she enjoys traveling, cooking, teaching her dog Aggie dance steps, homeschooling her three kids, and long walks with her high school sweetheart and husband, Michael, whom she met through the studio!
Madison is thrilled to be on staff for her fifteenth year at Barbara’s Conservatory and hopes to be a blessing to your student as they are to her. To God be the Glory!
Maddie started dancing in 1999 at Barbara’s Conservatory of Dance. She trained in all styles of dance several days a week. She has performed in Ballet Midwest’s The Nutcracker since 2002. In 2006, she joined the company with Ballet Midwest and loved the extra performances she was a part of each year. Maddie served as a company representative for the Ballet Midwest Board of Directors for three years during high school. With the company, she performed so many dynamic roles and her most cherished always had an acting component to them— her favorite roles included being one of Clara’s friends in The Nutcracker, a harlot in Romeo and Juliet, one of Swanilda’s friends in Coppelia, and her favorite being a stepsister in Cinderella.
In high school, Maddie was a member of the Shawnee Heights dance team for four years. She was a choreographer during her junior year and the captain of the Thunderettes her senior year. Maddie was nominated for the All American team at National Dance Alliance summer camp.
Maddie took several years off from ballet during college but she didn’t stop dancing in that time. She danced on the dance team at Washburn University for four years; as a member of the Dancing Blues, Maddie was a captain for two years. The Dancing Blues were invited to attend the UDA College Nationals in Texas twice during her time at Washburn and the team won first place in the jazz category both times.
Maddie began teaching dance at Barbara’s Conservatory in 2012. Although Maddie grew up training in ballet, she loved learning and performing jazz and other stylized genres. She has taught dance team preparation workshops for middle school and high school aged students and judges dance team tryouts for several high schools in the Topeka area.
Maddie is a nurse at Stormont Vail and enjoys helping patients get better and leave the hospital. When she isn’t at work or teaching, Maddie loves traveling with her husband and eating her way through new places and cuisines.
Student Teachers from Ballet Midwest’s Company
Joining the teaching staff this year are several high school dancers who are all principal dancers in Ballet Midwest’s Company.