Ballet Austin Academy

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Directors

Stephen Mills, Artistic Director (Bios)
Cookie Ruiz, C.F.R.E.,
Executive Director (Bios)
Michelle Martin,
Associate Artistic Director and Academy Curriculum Director (Bios)
William Piner,
Academy Director (Bios)
Vicki Parsons, Butler Community School Director (Bios)

Stephanie Locklear Albrecht, Project Coordinator & Customer Relations
Eve Anderson,
Academy Registrar & Schools Customer Relations
Lucy Wilson, Schools Customer Relations
Rachel Beale, Schools Customer Relations

Toni Bravo, Pre-Ballet Curriculum Director (Bios)
Vlada Sheber
, Pilates Program Director (Bios)
Joan Wolfe, Creative Ballet Curriculum Director (Bios)

Joshua Piper, Pianist Coordinator (Bios)

Faculty

Ian Bethany
Orlando Julius Canova

Ed Carr
Jennifer Hart
Melanie Hovis
Libby James
Robyn Keller
Nick Kepley
Chelsea Renner
Lisa del Rosario
Ashley Lynn Sherman
Christopher Swaim
Jennifer Turner
Jaime Lynn Witts
Carla Wright


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William Piner, Academy Director
Mr. Piner graduated from Butler University's prestigious dance program in 1982 and had a wide and varied professional performing career with companies such as Ballet Austin, the Hartford Ballet and Dance Kaleidoscope, Indiana's only professional modern company. A member of Actor's Equity Association, Mr. Piner also enjoyed a career in musical theatre before retiring to direct Ballet Austin Academy. He has been teaching extensively since 1982, including seven years on faculty at Butler University's Jordan College Academy of Dance in Indianapolis. In 1992, Mr. Piner was appointed Director of Ballet Austin Academy. Under his direction the Academy has grown to become one of the largest classical ballet schools in the country.

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Vicki Parsons, Butler Community School Director
Vicki Parsons is the Director of Ballet Austin's Butler Community School. Her primary role is to develop, implement and manage dance and fitness programming in the Butler Community School, and through classes and community-based programs, promote the value of life-long health and well-being through a wide variety of movement styles to a multi-generational enrollment.

Ms. Parsons joined the staff of Ballet Austin in 1999 after working as a Ballet Austin volunteer for two years. Ms. Parsons has over 25 years of experience working in the field of Long Term Care, specifically in direct care as a Recreation Therapist, using therapeutic recreation as a treatment intervention to improve overall wellness. Promoting physical activity to people of all ages continues to be an interest to her. Ms. Parsons taught at Austin Community College for 13 years and worked with several non-profit organizations to develop and present workshops on lifelong health and well-being.  She holds current certifications as a Senior Fitness Instructor, a Youth Fitness Specialist, and a Group Exercise Instructor.  She is also a certified Fitness Business Manager, and has completed her certification in Advanced Sports Nutrition.

Ms. Parsons’ love for developing programs and people is an enjoyable part of her role at Ballet Austin. She is currently teaching the Off Campus Physical Education TEKS classes for the Ballet Austin Academy, and teaches the BCS Better Balance & Movement Workshop.

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Toni Bravo, Pre-Ballet Curriculum Director
Ms. Bravo is originally from Mexico City and holds a Master's Degree in Theatre History and Criticism, with a minor in Dance Pedagogy (University of Texas, 1987). Since 1975, she has taught and performed as a professional dance artist in Mexico, England, Israel, Costa Rica, Germany, Spain and throughout the United States. Ms. Bravo began teaching for the Ballet Austin Academy in 1990 and, since 1991, the City of Austin has funded her performance and educational projects. In 1991, 1992 and 1998, she received awards from the Texas Commission on the Arts for her workshop projects with the Travis County Juvenile Court and Austin Housing Authority Education Department. Ms. Bravo spearheaded Ballet Austin's in-school movement programs, which are currently conducted in a number of school districts throughout the Greater Austin area. She continues to develop curriculum as well as train and monitor Academy Pre-Ballet curriculum and faculty.

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Vlada Sheber, Pilates Program Director & Certified Core Connections® Pilates Instructor

Originally from the Ukraine, Ms. Sheber received her training in classical ballet from the State Classical Ballet College of Russia (Voronezh). Vlada performed as a soloist in the Donetsk Ballet Theatre before immigrating to the United States. She was a member of Ballet Austin from 1992-2003 and danced a variety of classical and contemporary roles, including the original Lady Capulet in Stephen Mills' Romeo and Juliet.

 

In 2002, Vlada received her diploma as a Certified Core Connections® Pilates Instructor from the Core Connections® Comprehensive Teacher Training Program at the Pilates Center of Austin.  There she studied under Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle.  In 2002 Vlada worked in a physical therapy clinic with Allison Bennett (Women’s Health specialist) and joined the Ballet Austin Pilates Studio as an instructor.  In 2005 she was acknowledged as a "Pre-eminent Purveyor of Pilates" by Austin Monthly Magazine.  In 2007 Vlada was appointed Director of the Butler Community School’s Pilates Program.  She also designed the layout of the Pilates studio.  In the summer of 2009 Vlada attended a workshop conducted by Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle and Michele Larsson that gave her additional insight into working with older clients. In 2009, Ballet Austin’s Pilates studio was chosen as “Best Pilates Studio in Austin” by Rare Magazine.

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Joan Wolfe, Creative Ballet Curriculum Director
Joan Wolfe is the director of the Creative Ballet Division at Ballet Austin Academy. In this role she guides children ages three through five in her thematically based Creative Ballet classes, as well as oversees and trains Ballet Austin Academy instructors in her creative movement curriculum. In partnership with Ballet Austin Academy and the University of Texas, Ms. Wolfe also advises Dance majors in a six week Creative Ballet pedagogy practicum.

Ms. Wolfe's teaching methods center around the needs and sensitivities of the young child, an insight gained through her extensive experience as an early childhood educator.

Prior to moving to Austin, Ms. Wolfe resided in San Francisco and the Bay Area teaching in private preschools and dance studios, as well as performing with independent choreographers. Ms. Wolfe received her BFA in Dance from the University of Colorado at Boulder and continued her studies in Dance Therapy at JFK University in Orinda, California. Ms. Wolfe joined Ballet Austin Academy in 1997.

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Joshua Piper, Pianist Coordinator
In his role as Pianist Coordinator for Ballet Austin, Joshua Piper accompanies dance classes and manages accompanist schedules for the Ballet Austin Company, Ballet Austin Academy, and the Butler Community School. In addition to working for Ballet Austin, Joshua is also the pianist for the Tosca Tango Orchestra, works with the Vintage 15 jazz big band, is staff organist and pianist for Asbury United Methodist Church, plays for Royal Academy of Dance exams, and teaches a small group of piano students ranging from children to adults. A dog-lover and avid runner, in 2011 Joshua completed the Austin Marathon, and one can often find him running along the Town Lake Trail, or at the Auditorium Shores Dog Park with Samantha, his corgi-mix. He holds a BA in Piano Performance from Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas.

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Jennifer Hart, Ballet Instructor and Curriculum Leader for Levels 1-4B
Jennifer Hart came to Ballet Austin from Minnesota Dance Theatre in 2007. Ms. Hart trained with Minnesota Dance Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Maggie Black and Toni Pierce of Alvin Ailey. She danced professionally with Minnesota Dance Theatre, Ballet of the Dolls, L.A. Chamber Ballet and numerous independent choreographers. She has been commissioned for choreography by: Minnesota Dance Theatre, the Walker Art Center for its Momentum Series, James Sewell Ballet as part of the Jerome Foundation Grant, Ballet Arts Minnesota's Springboard program, and Metropolitan Ballet in Minneapolis/St. Paul. She has also been selected twice by New Choreographers on Point in New York to present work as part of their Ballet Builders series. In the spring of 2007, she choreographed a full-length production of A Midsummer Night's Dream for Metropolitan Ballet.

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Melanie Hovis, Creative Ballet & Pre-Ballet Instructor
Melanie Hovis starting studying ballet in her home town of Columbus, Texas at Live Oak Dance Center. She began pursuing a professional career in ballet by attending summer intensives with Ballet Austin, Texas Ballet Theater, the Joffrey Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre. She continued her ballet training with Ballet Austin Academy's Upper School and Trainee Program. While studying in Austin, Ms. Hovis also had the opportunity to begin a teaching career, training under Joan Wolfe to teach Creative Ballet. She also trained with Toni Bravo and Lynne Short which allowed her the opportunity to teach Pre-Ballet and Lower School classes. An injury inspired Ms. Hovis to transition from pursuing a performing career to a career in teaching.  Ms. Hovis is excited to teach at Ballet Austin where she can continue to expand her teaching experiences and opportunities.

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Libby James, Ballet Instructor
Libby James graduated magna cum laude with a B.F.A. in Ballet from Texas Christian University. She danced with the Colorado Ballet for two years, performing in ballets such as Romeo and Juliet, The Sleeping Beauty, Serenade, Stars and Stripes, and Alvin Ailey's The River. Ms. James was a member of Texas Ballet Theater (formerly Fort Worth/Dallas Ballet) for three years. She performed roles such as the Spring Fairy in Cinderella, Clara in The Nutcracker, and one of the couples in Ben Stevenson's Four Last Songs.

This is Ms. James seventh season with Ballet Austin Academy.

 

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Robyn Keller, Ballet Instructor
Robyn Keller began her ballet studies at age 4 under the direction of Maria & Marjorie Tallchief and continued her training at Etgen-Atkinson School of Ballet. Summers were spent studying at Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, WA and The School of American Ballet in New York City. At age 16, she left Dallas to become a full-time scholarship student at Pacific Northwest Ballet to further her training. Beginning her professional career at age 19 as an apprentice with Pennsylvania/Milwaukee Ballet, she later returned to Texas accepting a position with Ft. Worth/Dallas Ballet (aka Texas Ballet Theater) under the direction of Paul Mejia. Her career included many soloist roles and tours of Japan, Taiwan, New York, Chicago, the Kennedy Center, and various cities throughout Texas performing with the country music group, the Dixie Chicks. 
Ms. Keller has been training dancers for 17yrs at the pre-professional level specializing in ballet, pre-pointe, and pointe technique. She recently relocated from the Dallas area where she was an instructor at Chamberlain School of Ballet for the past 11 yrs. and contributed to the success of many students who have gone on to become professional ballet dancers and/or were awarded multiple colligate scholarships across the nation. Ms. Keller now resides in Lakeway, TX and is very excited to continue her passion for teaching at Ballet Austin Academy.

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Nick Kepley, Ballet Instructor
Born in Asheville, North Carolina, Nick Kepley studied with Sandra Miller and attended summer programs at the School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and Juilliard. He danced professionally with Ballet Austin and Kansas City Ballet, performing works by George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp and Dwight Rhoden, among others. In 2008, he relocated to New York City where he has performed with the New York Philharmonic in Camelot (PBS Great Performances) and on Broadway in Mary Poppins.

As a choreographer, Mr. Kepley has created works for Ballet Austin II and Ballet Austin’s Trainee Division, Kansas City Ballet’s “In the Wings” program, Manhattan Youth Ballet, Northeast Ballet and Quixotic Performance Fusion. He recently worked as an assistant choreographer of the Tony-Award winning Broadway production of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Mr. Kepley is the founder and artistic director of MOTION Dance Theatre, a summer dance company and choreographic laboratory based in Asheville, NC. He joins the artistic staff of Ballet Austin a second season as ballet master of Ballet Austin II ballet instructor in the Academy.

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Lisa del Rosario, Pre-Ballet & Certified Feldenkrais® Instructor
Lisa del Rosario began her dance studies at the Margo Marshall School of Ballet and the Cleveland San Jose School of Ballet. She continued her training as a Heywood “Woody” McGriff Presidential Scholarship student at the University of Texas at Austin where she received her BFA in Dance. She also studied classical piano and violin for many years and in her later years Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, qigong, Droznin System, Vipassana Meditation, and the Feldenkrais Method® of movement education.

She currently is a member of DA! Theatre Collective and Sheep Army/Elsewhere Dance Theatre, and also performs her own solo work, along with independent choreographers, locally, nationally, and internationally.  Lisa has taught and choreographed at the Dougherty Arts School, the McCallum High School Fine Arts Academy, Tapestry, and the Texas Arts Project at St. Stephen's Episcopal School. Lisa is thrilled to be in her tenth season teaching at Ballet Austin Academy.

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Jennifer Turner, Ballet Instructor

Jennifer Turner began her dance training in her home state of Michigan with Diane Newman at the Happendance School, and Interlochen Center for the Arts.  She continued to pursue her professional development at an assortment of schools across the United States, most notably the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet under the direction of Marcia Dale Weary, Ballet Academy East, and the School of American Ballet in New York.  Jennifer performed as a Trainee for Miami City Ballet focusing on a wide range of Balanchine repertoire, and continued to dance as a Trainee for Ballet Austin performing works by Stephen Mills.  One of the highlights of her career was having the opportunity to perform with members of the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg Russia.  Jennifer holds an Associate of Arts degree in Art History from John Cabot University in Italy, and a Bachelors of Cultural Anthropology from the University of Michigan.

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Carla Wright, Pre-Ballet Instructor
Carla Wright received her training at the renowned Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet under the direction of Marcia Dale Weary. In 2000, she joined Pacific Northwest Ballet's Professional Division program on a full scholarship, performing in many PNB productions. Carla began teaching at Ballet Austin Academy in 2005.

She has also taught adults and children of all ages at the Ballet Performing Arts Center in El Paso, Texas, and has enjoyed teaching ballet and Ballet Fit at Ballet Austin's Butler Community School. One of her favorite classes to teach is Absolute Beginning Ballet for adults.

 

 
 
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