is trained in ballet, lyrical, modern dance, and Middle Eastern dance; these styles are coalesced into her work as a soloist and choreographer. With a passion for community engagement, she has performed and volunteered with Arts 4 Humanity, cultivating creativity and empowering people with developmental disabilities and at-risk youth. Currently, she teaches Pure Barre--a ballet-barre based workout--and partners in two businesses: Lee Corkett Photography (leecorkett.com) specializing in performance portraiture and Printologie (printologie.com), a printing and graphic design company for the creative class.
Gigi has been a member of Gulistan since 2013.
's love of dance began at age four with ballet and she later pursued competitive figure skating. Age 13 was when her “World Dance” education began. She has had extensive training and performed with many dance companies such as Zadruga Bulgarian Folk Ensemble, Otea Polynesian Folk Ensemble, Bel Air Liturgical Dancers, Karpatok Hungarian Dance Ensemble, and Viviane’s Egyptian Dance Theater where she was also Assistant Director. For 15 years she toured locally and nationally with the AMAN International Music and Dance Ensemble as a principal dancer and vocalist. She is a Teaching Artist with the Los Angeles Music Center and Segerstrom Center for the Arts and has taught dance workshops for numerous area school districts. She also served on the “Arts For All” committee for the Santa Monica Unified School District 2008 - 2010. In addition to performing with Gulistan, which she joined in 2009, she is currently pursuing competitive ballroom dancing.
began her ballet training in Pittsfield, MA -- first with Terpsichore Dance Studio, then Canterella School of Dance, moving into company roles with Berkshire Ballet, 1984-1988. She left formal dance for eight years, returning to perform with Lexington Ballet in Kentucky in 1996 and 1997. Injuries led her to bellydance with Rakadu Gypsy Dance, also in Lexington, KY. Here in Los Angeles, she joined Pars National Ballet in 2000, Gulistan Dance Theater in 2002, and co-formed Subee Djinn in 2001. She danced "Kali" both in the 2004 and 2005 productions of Desert Sin's "Musee des Femmes." She is now also a member of Elysium Dance Theatre and is a costume and clothing designer. Her remarkable creations are featured throughout Gulistan's repertoire and in many company photographs.
Aygul Maksutova’s love for the performing arts bl
ossomed at an early age. A member of Gulistan since 2014, she is a Russian native of Tatar and Uzbek descent. Aygul spent her early years in a small settlement in the Republic of Komi in Northern Russia where her family’s mountain home, nestled in a snowy forest landscape, was cut off from the outside world. Aygul and her family created entertainment by dancing to Tatar songs and singing along with her mother’s accordion playing. Videos of folkloric dances provided her mother with ideas for dances and costumes and Aygul performed these dances at school gatherings and celebrations. Summers were spent in Uzbekistan visiting her father’s family in Tashkent, Margelan and Ferghana. Aygul completed her B.A. degree in English and Literature at Vegu University in Russia, which included a semester of study in London where she fell in love with and began to study Middle Eastern dance. When Aygul moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting, she continued her dance classes as well. After three years of rigorous full-time acting training at HB Studio NYC (Herbert Berghof), Aygul moved to Los Angeles where she continues her dance training and works in film and theater.
Donna Speckman fell in love with Middle Eastern dance as a child after attending a performance featuring a Lebanese dance soloist. She began studying Middle Eastern cabaret-style dance and was performing and teaching by the age of 18. Her dance training expanded to include ballet, Modern jazz and Latin jazz, and she has been a member of several Los Angeles-based companies including Jazz Dancers, Inc., AMAN International Music and Dance, and Viviane's Egyptian Folk Art Ensemble. Donna has also performed with the Persian dance company, SABA, and is a Founding Member of Gulistan Dance Theater.
With ten years of classical ballet training in Tokyo, Japan, Akiko Tanikawa has been exposed to various world dance styles since the age of three. After moving to the United States, she was introduced to Middle Eastern dance in 2005 and has continued to pursue cultural learning through dance. She began performing with Jenna's ensemble--now known as Phoenyx Bellydance Rising--in 2008, and has been a member since. She also danced in theatrical productions with Zahra Zuhair's Po Na Na Dance Theater in 2009 and 2010, along with other performances around the state. She has studied such other traditional forms as Bharatanatyam, Turkish Roma, and Moroccan Guedra. She has also been a member of Abdulla Nazemi’s Persian dance company, Pars National Ballet, since 2009. Akiko joined Gulistan Dance Theater in 2013.
Gulistan's repertoire and vision are built upon the efforts of its devoted, regular members. Former members include Founding Member Laurie Buenafe Krsmanovic (pictured), Tara Gurung, Trina Hetherington, Zarina Kobilova, Rizvan Mamet-Bush, Alexandra Rozo, Founding Member Monica Ramos, and Chi Zhang.
Gulistan's larger productions depend upon the special skills that quality guest artists bring to the stage. Guests have included Cynthia Beckert, Paul Boynton, Eli Danker, Judi Garratt, Diana Goodwin, Kathy Inscore, Arthur Kusuhara, Marguerite Kusuhara, Michael Lee, Laurie Miller, Sina Muckenfuss, Sayaka Pereira, Marie Silva-Alexander, Kate Slepicka, Pawan Tulachan, Silas Willis, David Yohe (pictured), and Zahra Zuhair.
Gifted singers and instrumentalists have appeared with Gulistan performing both accompanying and featured musical repertoire. Musicians who have performed with Gulistan are Nancy Cappelle, Joe Carson, Michael Cox, Chris Henry, Donavon Lerman, Kathy Inscore, Tolkin Isakov, Richard Johnson, Nina Kaufman, Abbos Kosimov, Linda Levin, Dr. Tanya Merchant, Maurice Mitri, Ian Price, Susan Rudnicki, Ron Wagner (pictured) and Jeff Willis.