Avant Chamber Ballet brings exceptional live dance and chamber music together for audiences in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.  We present our performances exclusively with live music, as well as regularly commission new works of choreography and score.

Artistic Staff

Katie Puder

Artistic Director

Katie is the founder of Avant Chamber Ballet and serves as its Artistic Director and primary choreographer. She started ballet with Wichita Falls Ballet Theater and moved to Fort Worth at age 13 to continue her training on scholarship through Fort Worth-Dallas Ballet. She spent her summers at Boston Ballet or training privately with Paul Mejia and Maria Terezia Balogh before joining Metropolitan Classical Ballet. For the next six years at MCB, she danced in classics such as Raymonda, La Bayadere, Paquita, Don Quixote and Spartacus as well as a dozen Balanchine ballets including Agon, Four Temperaments and Bugaku. In 2007, she moved to Athens, Greece and studied ballet and contemporary dance at D.A.N.C.C.E. She founded Avant Chamber Ballet in 2012 and has developed it into a professional company known for exciting new commissions and live music. As a choreographer, she has made more than a two dozen one-act ballets for Avant Chamber Ballet as well as a full-length productions of Alice in Wonderland and A Ballet Christmas Carol.

Eugene Barnes III

Associate Director of Training

Eugene studied dance for five years at Baltimore School for the Arts before joining Carolina Ballet. He spent two summers at Miami City Ballet Summer Intensive; one summer with San Francisco Ballet and one summer with the Dancer Theatre of Harlem. Carolina Ballet artistic director Robert Weiss invited Mr. Barnes to audition for the company after he participated in a master class Weiss was teaching in Baltimore in 2003 and joined as an apprentice in August 2004. Promoted to the corps de ballet in the spring of 2005 and in 2009 he was promoted to soloist. Mr Barnes was also Carolina Ballet's Princess Grace Nominee for 2007 and 2008. Mr Barnes has also danced as a guest artist with Paul Mejia Ballet (under the direction of Paul Mejia), Avant Chamber Ballet (under the direction of Katie Puder), and the Grand Rapids Ballet (Under the direction of Patricia Barker).

Brad Everett Cawyer

Principal Conductor

Brad first collaborated with Avant Chamber Ballet for the 2014 premiere of Alice in Wonderland, and has directed all conductor-led performances in for the company since 2017, including Nutcracker, Who Cares?, Walpurgisnacht Ballet, Raymonda Variations, and Katie Puder’s Appalachian Spring. In addition to a three-year tenure as Music Director of the Mesquite Symphony Orchestra, he has led opera, ballet, and symphonic orchestra performances in the US and internationally, premiering works for ensembles of all sizes. He also has served as a cover or assistant conductor for the Dallas Symphony, the Houston Symphony, as well as the Plano and Princeton Symphony Orchestras. Brad started conducting in high school and began his first music director tenure while still an undergraduate. In 2011, he completed a five-year course in opera and orchestral conducting at the Saint Petersburg State Conservatory in Russia, leading performances in the Opera and Ballet Theatre and, also, the Saint Petersburg Philharmonia. Brad studied in Russia with Alexander Alexeev, and in masterclasses with Marin Alsop, JoAnn Falletta, Helmut Rilling, Victor Yampolsky, and Kirk Trevor.

Michele Gifford


Michele grew up in Dallas, Texas. At the age of sixteen, she moved to New York City to attend the School of American Ballet. Two years later, she became a member of the New York City Ballet. In her twelve year career at NYCB, Michele had the opportunity to perform many soloist and principal roles including: Balanchine’s Apollo, Rubies, Agon, Symphony in Three Movements, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Stars and Stripes to name a few. Michele also originated many roles including Jerome Robbins’ West Side Story Suite, Peter Martins’ Echo, Christopher Wheeldon's Slavonic Dances, and David Parsons’ Touch. She is currently a Repetiteur for Christopher Wheeldon and the Balanchine Trust. Since 1999, Michele has been a certified GYROTONIC instructor and owns her own studio, Studio G, in Fort Worth, TX.

Charlton Gavitt

Production Manager and Lighting Design

Charlton Gavitt is a teacher at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Among his many duties, he is the resident Light Designer and light design teacher. He has designed lights at Booker T. Washington, the Winspear Opera House, and the Meyerson Symphony Center. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University he has performed with Karamu Theater, Beck Center, Forth Worth Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare Dallas, Dallas Children's Theatre and Stage West to name a few. Charlton is also a Fight Choreographer and stage combat teacher. He has attained Advanced Actor Combatant status with the Society of American Fight Directors.

Board of Directors

Loree Conrad

Sean McAloon

Katie Puder

Caitlin Rhodes

Stefan Smith

Christy Trang

Advisory Board

Michele Gifford

Jenny Johnson

Alex Kerr

Demarre McGill