About Us:

Clairobscur Dance was founded by Artistic Director and resident choreographer, Laurie Sefton.  It's name is the French translation of chiaroscuro, a 17th century painterly term which means an effect of contrasted light and shadow created by light falling unevenly on an object.  Movement is obvious, (the light) but also contains a subtext (the shadow), which must be sought out and discerned by both the creator of movement and its spectator.

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Clairobscur Dance creates and presents issue based, emotional performance and accessible work for a global audience.  Through collaborations with compelling artists, designers, composers and creative technologists we pursue innovation, produce artistically excellent and relevant programming.  We create works for traditional theater venues, film, VR360 and site specific performance in which we utilize dance as a medium to address, examine and discuss universal question, emotions and conditions of humanity.

Clairobscur Dance is a register 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization, and all contributions are tax deductible to the extent provided by law.


Photo by Denise Leitner

Photo by Denise Leitner

Ellen Akashi began her training at Southland Ballet Academy under Salwa Rizkalla where performed with their studio company, Festival Ballet Theatre and guest artists Irina Dvorovenko, Maxim Beloserkovsky, Jennifer Tinger and Carla Korbes.  She has attended summer programs with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, LINES Ballet, San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, Springboard Danse Montreal, Axis Connect and BODYTRAFFIC.  Ellen received her BFA in Dance Performance from Chapman University where she performed in original works by Jiri Kylian and Merce Cunningham.  After graduation, Ellen attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance's year-round program.  She has performed with the San Diego Opera, Fuse Dance Company and Backhaus Dance.  This is Ellen's third season with Clairobscur.

Camila Arana is Cuban-American dancer and choreographer born and raised in Miami, FL. Camila graduated with honors from New World School of the Arts/ University of Florida with a BFA in Dance Performance.  She has performed works by Robert Battle, Gerard Ebitz, Lara Murphy, and Ana Gonzalez. Camila has also, performed showings with Sidra Bell Dance New York, San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, and at the American Dance Festival in 2015.  This is Camila's first season with Clairobscur.

Samantha Blaz was born and raised in San Jose, California.  Her early training was with Cheryl Copeland's pre-professional company and work with such choreographers as Cindy Salgado and Shaneeka Harell.  Sam received her BA in Dance from Loyola Marymount University where she worked and train with Rosalynde LeBlanc, Cherice Barton and Lillian Barbieto.  She has completed summer programs with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and the Bill T Jone/Arnie Zane Company.  Sam has had the opportunity to learn repertorie of Alejandro Cerrudo, Nachu Duato, Hofesh Shechter, Crystal Pite.  In 2016 Samantha was featured in Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane's work "D-Man in the Waters, Part 1," and in the documentary "D-Man," which shares the story of the making of the origial work.  Sam joined Clairobscur in 2017.

Sophie Diamond was born in Newcastle, Australia and received her early training at Marie Walton Mahon Dance Academy. Sophie went on to obtain her Diploma in Dance Performance at the National College of Dance, one of Australia’s most prestigious schools. Shortly after, Sophie moved to New York City to attend the Joffrey Ballet School where she was able to tour performing Balanchine’s Serenade. Sophie then moved to Boston to dance with Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre before moving to Los Angeles in 2016. Sophie has danced two seasons at the Sydney Opera House and trained with the Australian Ballet and Sydney Dance Company. Throughout her career she has worked with names such as Darcie Bussell, Lillian Barbeito, Tara Keating, Josie Walsh, and Rafael Bonachela.  

Jessica Gadzinski is originally from Riverside, California where she began dancing at the age of three. At the age of ten she turned her focus to classical ballet, training under Glenda Carhart, Kathleen Riker and David Allan at Riverside Ballet Arts. In 2006 she moved across the country to study under Marcia Del Weary, Leslie Hench, Laszlo Berdo and Darla Hoover at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Jessica received additional training and performing experience at Carolina Ballet, Ballet Academy East and the Richmond Ballet, performing soloist roles. Jessica has taught at the Eglevsky Ballet and has danced at the MTV Video Music Awards for the artists Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora.  While attending Ballet Academy East Jessica interned at Pointe Magazine in New York City and wrote for their online blog at Pointemagazine.com

Photo by Denise Leinter  

Photo by Denise Leinter


Samantha-Jane Gray was born in South Africa, but currently resides in Los Angeles.  She has performed roles in classical and contemporary projects and with companies in Canada, USA, Germany and South Africa including the South African Nation Dance Trust, The Olympic Opening Ceremonies, 2010, Vancouver City Dance Theater, the Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada, and plastic orchid factory. In collaboration with lighting designers and musicians, she has choreographed and performed in her own works in Bancouver, Halifax and Calgary for Interplay Projects, Kinetic Studio and IGNITE! Festival as well as creating 2 dance films in Los Angeles.  She appeared in an international documentary "Beyond Boxes" which aired at Bumble in 2012 and Swenden in 2011.  Samantha loves teaching Pilates and GYROTONIC.  This is her third season with Clairobscur. 

Jonathan (JP) Stanley began dancing at the age of 13 in Orlando, FL at Shooting Stars School of Performing Arts where he trained in ballet, jazz, partnering, lyrical, contemporary, hip-hop, and musical theatre and attended national conventions and competitions.  He was accepted into the Orlando Ballet School when he was 17. His credits include Alabama Shakes, The Mowglis, the Los Angeles Opera, Los Angeles Ballet Academy, Clairobscur Dance, and more! He is featured as a model with national brands such as Apple, American Crew, Janie & Jack, and more. JP assists and works creatively with choreographers such as Jeff Dimitrou, Nick Lazzarini, Sarah Brinson & others. When he’s not dancing, JP works as the Director for Inspire Dance TV - a workshop that travels the continent helping young dancers make a positive shift in their confidence and self-image.  This is JP’s first season with Clairobscur Dance. 


Photo by Denise Leinter

Photo by Denise Leinter

Evan Swenson left home at 16 to complete his professional training with Houston Ballet Academy.  Since then he has worked with companies such as Houston Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, and New York Theatre Ballet.  Evan moved back to California in 2008 where he became a ballroom instructor and continued his career as a freelance dancer.  He continually works with Luminario Ballet, Helios Dance Theatre, Long Beach Ballet, Westside Ballet, Barak Ballet and many other companies in the Southern California area.  Evan has had the pleasure of working with some world-renowned choreographers such as:  Ben Stevenson, Ty McIntyre, Stanton Welch, Lyla York, Melissa Barak and Christopher Hampton.  Evan joined Clairobscur in 2012.