Merle Sepel

Director of Academy of Dance;

President and Artistic Director of American Pacific Ballet Company;

Adjunct Faculty Member at California State University, Fullerton;

Author of the Enchanted Doorway, Adventures in Dance Program


Miss Merle’s early and extensive ballet training was under the tutelage of Mignon Furman in South Africa.  There she regularly performed in Miss. Furman’s productions and groups, and danced in a program that featured the International Flamenco Stars, Mercedes Molina and Enrique Segovia. After completing high school, she studied ballet at the University of Cape Town and Spanish dance with international performers Deanna Blatcher and Hazel Acosta.


At age 17, Miss Merle then attended the Royal Academy of Dance in London to train as a dance teacher. In a three year, in-depth program, her study placed special emphasis on anatomy as it pertains to the safety of young bodies in dance training.  She also completed studies in Ballet, Pedagogue, Notation, Character Dance, Folk Dance, Ballroom, Jazz, Modern, Spanish, Costume Making, Choreography, and Dance History.


Throughout her training, Miss Merle took open classes with many highly acclaimed teachers, such as:  Vera Volkova, Rosella Hightower, Marika Bessabrassova, Anna Northcote, Eileen Ward, Errol Addisson, Renee Bon and Gilbert Meyer.

Miss Merle taught in South Africa for 15 years where she trained numerous dancers that went on to dance professionally or teach.  She then relocated to the United States in 1988 where she taught in a private dance studio. 


In 1993 Miss Merle opened the Academy of Dance.  The studio’s quality team of instructors have now been working together to produce talented dancers for 20 years. Miss Merle’s belief is that a carefully selected group of teachers who work closely together will produce a well-rounded dancer. Some of Miss Merle’s finest and most fulfilling personal rewards have come from the many students she has trained achieving high levels of mastery as professional dancers as well as becoming successful teachers.


Miss Merle tested and trained in 1993 as one of the Royal Academy of Dance’s international assessors.  She had the distinction of being one of only eight R.A.D. international examiners in the United States and one of 188 worldwide for 14 years. She frequently traveled the globe assessing students and prospective teachers.


Miss Merle initiated a performing group in 1997, which later went on to become the American Pacific Ballet Company, a nonprofit group whose mission is to bring dance into the community and provide performing opportunities and a training ground for aspiring dancers.


In 2005 she became an adjunct lecturer in the Theater and Dance Department at California State University, Fullerton.


Under the directorship of Mignon Furman, Miss Merle was a faculty member of the American Academy of Ballet’s Summer School of Excellence for over 10 years as well as an international judge for the Performance Awards program. 


During the past few years, Merle has collaborated with Brian Sepel, one of the studio’s musical accompanists, to develop a new children’s program.  The purpose of the program is to inspire and stimulate the child’s and teacher’s imagination, encouraging creativity in an enthralling studio environment, and at the same time carefully preparing and teaching the young dancer the basics in an age-appropriate and safe manner.  “I want children to be excited about it, and look forward to coming back to ballet to experience the adventure once again,” says Merle. The Magic Carpet © is the first in a series of dance classes geared towards children aged 4-6 years.  The subsequent programs created were, The Jungle Adventure ©, Fantasy Sea Adventure ©, Fun Faire Adventure © and Toy Shop Adventure ©. A significant and unique feature is the especially composed music and sound effects, which relate directly to the themes of the program and are illustrative of the movements, emphasizing tempo, pitch, and the differing qualities of music.  The program launch was in New York in 2004, and the response was extremely favorable. Since its inception, the program has been successfully taught in South Africa, Israel, Singapore, Greece, England, Holland, and Switzerland as well as throughout the United States.