Prima Ballerina Sherry Moray had an international career dancing for the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany. Her career continued as Principal Ballerina for the Chicago City Ballet, Ballet Chicago, as well as a guest artist with various ballet companies throughout the United States and Europe.

At the age of 12, in a master class given by Ballet Mistress Anne Woolliams, the legendary choreographer, John Cranko, took notice of Ms. Moray. She was then invited to come to Stuttgart, Germany where she was offered a full scholarship to train at the internationally renowned School of the Stuttgart Ballet (Cranko Schule) and became a member of the company at the age of 16. Upon returning to the United States, she joined the Chicago City Ballet as Principal Ballerina and was coached extensively by legendary Prima Ballerina Assoluta, Maria Tallchief over an 11 year period.

Throughout Ms. Moray’s distinguished career, she has triumphed with rave reviews for many of her poignant portrayals. Among the most significant roles from the repertoire she has performed include the title role of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella in Cinderella, as Rosalinda in Ruth Page’s Die Fledermaus, the lead in Allegro Brillante, 1st violin in Concerto Barocco, the Sanguinic section from The Four Temperaments, the role of Terpsichore in Apollo, and numerous other Balanchine works. During her partnership with International Varna Gold Medalist, Maximiliano Guerro, they were hailed for their performances in both Don Quixote and Le Corsaire. For the Famed Edinburgh Festival, the world premiere of the ballet Les Sirens was created for Ms. Moray. London critics declared Ms. Moray… “An enchanting Ballerina” and dubbed her as a “Star that was introduced to the Edinburgh Festival.”

As Director & Founder of The Academy of Dance Arts, Ms. Moray strongly believes a thorough education in all of the dance arts is highly valuable. Her 30 years of teaching and private coaching have produced dancers who are thriving as professionals in major world-class dance companies both nationally and internationally. Her students have been offered full scholarships to attend summer programs to such major dance schools as Pacific Northwest, Houston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, School of American Ballet, The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre, Alabama Ballet, Harid Conservatory, the Royal Ballet School in England, the Cranko Schule (school of the famous Stuttgart Ballet), School of the Ballets de Monte Carlo, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Dutch National Ballet School, National Ballet of Canada Ballet School, and Miami City Ballet, to name a few.

Ms. Moray’s choreographic endeavors have earned national recognition.  She won first place in the International Sarasota Ballet choreography Competition ('99) for her ballet Under the Shroud of Heaven.  Her ballet Delibes Variations was chosen as the closing ballet for the Regional Dance America Festival ('99) and was performed by the highly acclaimed Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet to a standing ovation. In 2000, Echoes of Romance was commissioned by the Sarasota Ballet of Florida, and her first story ballet, Once Upon a Dream was given its premiere in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at the Whitaker Performing Arts Center. In 2001, Ms. Moray featured her newest story ballet, La Boutique Fantasque, and the dynamic and sensual Pas de Deux All My Love to standing ovations. 2002 brought the newest larger work from Moray – the soaring Concerto Grosso that premiered at the Regional Dance America Gala in Dayton, Ohio. Ms. Moray re-staged the outstanding Echoes of Romance and premiered her award-winning work English String Suite in Chicago for The Academy of Dance Arts pre-professional program.

In 2006, Moray created the work Pandora’s Lesson as a 2-Act full Story Ballet, which teaches children and adults the importance of being grateful for one’s blessings and to heed and obey warnings that are meant to protect us. Recent works receiving accolades for their creativity have been Marché Militaire and Ancient Airs and Dances in 2008/2009. Ms. Moray is proud to also be the Artistic Director of the National Award-winning Academy Dance Alliance Competing & Performance Company, creating exciting, innovative, choreography for the Alliance dancers of all ages, and passing on to her students the love for Ballet and excellence in technique for all the dance arts. 

Sherry Moray

Founder & Artistic Director

  • Founder & Artistic Director - The Academy of Dance Arts

  • Master Instructor & Coach - The Academy's Ballet Conservatory

  • 5 Time Winner Youth America Grand Prix "Most Outstanding Studio" (2000, 2003, 2013, 2014, and 2017)

  • 5 Time Winner Youth America Grand Prix "Most Outstanding Teacher" (2000, 2009, 2012, 2017, and 2020)

  • Choreographer

  • Artistic Director - Academy Dance Alliance and the Academy's Professional Ballet Conservatory

  • Alliance Director - Ballet Teams

  • Dance Magazine Award, "Outstanding Teacher of the Year"

  • 1st Place Winner - International Ballet Choreography Competition (1996 - "Under the Shroud of Heaven")

Sherry Moray, Casimere Jollete
 
Dance-Teacher-June-2003.jpg

Sherry Moray working with Casimere Jollete

Ricky Ruiz

Master Instructor/Choreographer/Coach
Academy Dance Alliance Director
Alliance Jazz & Contemporary Jazz Teams Director

Ricky Ruiz received his initial dance training in Miami, Florida, and was a graduate of Miami’s Coral Reef Senior High Magnet Dance.  He attended the University of South Florida on academic and talent scholarships and graduated Cum Laude with a BFA in Dance Performance.  While in college, he was an apprentice at Ann Reinking’s Broadway Theatre Project for two consecutive summers.  In 2007 Ricky moved to Chicago and danced for four seasons with River North Dance Chicago.  During his time there, he performed works by Robert Battle, Lauri Stallings, Sidra Bell, Harrison McEldowny, Frank Chavez, and others.  He toured the United States, Europe, and South America.  Since moving on from the company, he has also danced with Elements Contemporary Ballet, performed for Thodos' Annual New Dances, and performed for and with numerous Chicago-based choreographers on various projects and performances. 

Ricky is a remarkable teacher and choreographer.  Among the many teams and schools, he has worked with are Coral Reef High School in Miami, Chicago Academy for the Arts, Roosevelt University, Jacksonville University, The University of Wisconsin, Florida State University, and others.  He is a guest teacher throughout the U.S. and works at Focal Point Dance Studios in Miami and was just recently added to the faculty at Hubbard Street/Lou Conte Dance Center in Chicago.  Ricky also has the privilege to be a guest teacher for Chicago-based professional companies Danceworks Chicago, Thodos Dance Chicago, and River North, as well as Visceral Dance Center.  He has continued his work with River North through their summer intensive and mentorship programs.  Ricky is also on faculty for VIP Dance, teaching workshops, and judging their national conventions.

In 2013, Ricky was chosen as the Emerging Choreographer of the Year by the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company.  Also, in 2013, Ricky was voted in the Top 5 of Chicago's leading dance teachers.  On the horizon, he is one of the founding choreographers of Mosaic Dance Project, an up-and-coming professional dance company based in Miami, FL.  He is looking forward to helping build the company and help get it to the forefront of South Florida's cultural radar. 

In 2010, he began teaching at The Academy of Dance Arts where he is the Co-Director of the Academy Dance Alliance.  He teaches Jazz and Contemporary classes as well as progression classes focusing on technique and skill.  Ricky also creates numerous pieces for Alliance for their yearly repertoire, ranging from Contemporary to Jazz and Musical Theatre, and everything in between.  Ricky absolutely loves his students at ADA and is honored to work with Sherry Moray, helping to train young artists and pre-professionals.

Ricky Ruiz
 
Alexis Caruso

Academy Alumni 

Ballet & Pilates Instructor

Alexis Caruso was born in Chicago, Illinois, and began her ballet training at the age of four. Competing at the renowned Youth America Grand Prix, under Sherry Moray, she won the prestigious Hope Award at the age of ten. In 2010 she was accepted into the Joffrey Ballet Trainee Program in Chicago.  After a year there she suffered a foot injury, which required foot surgery. Determined to continue to dance, she returned to rehab with her former coach, Sherry Moray. During her rehab, she discovered Pilates, which helped her gain strength both physically and mentally. Once fully recovered, Alexis was accepted as a second company member with Ballet Austin. There she performed Swan Lake, Nutcracker & Argelina Pas De Deux. In 2015 she joined the Nevada Ballet Theatre (Las Vegas) as a company member.  She was grateful to perform the lead in The Nutcracker, and Balanchine’s, Serenade, and Who Cares.  While in Nevada, because of her love for Pilates, Alexis became certified in classical Pilates under Elena Bartley.  After a long and painful decision to stop dancing, Alexis returned to Chicago where she is majoring in Diagnostic Medical Sonography at College of DuPage. She is happy to share her ballet and Pilates knowledge at the studio she once attended.

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a form of exercise, developed by Joseph Pilates, which emphasizes the balanced development of the body through core strength, flexibility, and awareness in order to support efficient, graceful movement. Figure skaters and ballet dancers have successfully incorporated Pilates into their training programs to strengthen their bodies and lengthen their careers. 

Why Pilates?

The greatest benefit comes from strengthening the core. Pilates helps to improve body awareness as well as aiding in injury prevention. It keeps the upper body and lower body connected allowing dancers to move through movements in transitions with ease.

Alexis Caruso is available to teach Private Pilates Sessions at The Academy of Dance Arts by appointment.  She can be reached at 630-495-4940.

 
Samantha DeBenedictis

Samantha DeBenedictis began her training at The Academy of Dance Arts under the tutelage of Sherry Moray and Irina Starovoitova. She has enjoyed a successful professional career with Ballet Arizona, Alabama Ballet, and the Cincinnati Ballet where she was cast in key roles in their productions of Swan Lake, Giselle, Alice in Wonderland, Balanchine’s Nutcracker, Midsummer Night Dream, Sleeping Beauty, Serenade, and Paquita. Samantha was also cast in Speaking In Tongues, an original piece choreographed by Devon Carney of Cincinnati Ballet. She was chosen to perform in B Major an original piece choreographed by Roger Van Fleteren of Alabama Ballet. Samantha was a member of Illinois Ballet Theatre and is certified in Cecchetti Method through Level V. Samantha was a top finalist in the Youth America Grand Prix Ballet Competition and has received scholarships to The Washington Ballet, Orlando Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Houston, and Pacific Northwest Ballet. Samantha is a gifted performer and is excited to be back at The Academy to share her knowledge, talent, and love of dance with her students.

 
Samantha DeBenedictis

Academy Alumni
Ballet/Pointe Instructor

 
Lindsay Pekny
Lindsay Pekny

Ballet/Jazz/Tap Instructor

Alliance Mini Ballet Team/Teen Team Ballet Instructor & Choreographer

Lindsay Pekny is a native of Houston, Texas, and began her performing career at the age of 4 in the national revival of Jesus Christ Superstar under dance captain Patsy Swayze. At the age of 9, she was accepted for year-round study at the Houston Ballet Academy, under principals Claire Duncan and Rosemary Miles, and was honored to perform in the inaugural run of Ben Stevenson’s Nutcracker.  In addition to her ballet and modern studies at the Academy, she continued to pursue her interest in tap and jazz, attending workshops with Sam Weber and Ben Vereen and was one of only 6 dancers chosen from that workshop to perform with Mr. Vereen while he was in Houston.

Lindsay’s family relocated to Los Angeles when she began high school, where her focus shifted to contemporary dance as she attended classes at The Edge. Ballet was still a large part of her training and a particular highlight for her was dancing the role of the Sapphire Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, as staged by Pat Farmer for the Pacific Dance Company and the Pacific Foundation for the Performing Arts. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from the University of Southern California and spent 3 years as one of the world-famous USC Song Leaders. During that time, Lindsay choreographed for the squad and performed regularly on national television and around the world, most notably in the Monday Night Football opening theme with Hank Williams, Jr., and dancing at the U.S. Pavilion at Expo ’98 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Unable to pursue a performing career after suffering knee and foot injuries, Lindsay welcomed the opportunity to hone her teaching and choreographic skills, as well as start a family. Drawing on her collegiate background and previous work in orthopaedic research, she infuses her classes with information about anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and injury prevention/rehabilitation. She enjoys working with dancers of all ages, skill levels and interests, and prides herself on developing each individual to their fullest desired potential. She currently teaches ballet, tap, jazz, poms, and stretch and strengthen classes.  Lindsay has been delighted to call The Academy of Dance Arts home since 2009 and considers it a true privilege to work alongside Ms. Sherry Moray and her accomplished faculty. In addition to her work at the Academy, Lindsay is a registered Music Together teacher and Dailey Method instructor.

 
Jamie Salas

Alliance Master Tap Instructor & Choreographer

A native from San Antonio, Texas, Jamie grew up performing all genres of dance and quickly developed a love of rhythm tap. She was exposed to the technique early on while training with Nicholas Young at TJ's Dance Factory and Barbara Phillips as a member of the critically acclaimed Rhythm and Percussion in Motion Youth Ensemble. While dancing with R.P.M, she was lucky to work and learn from tap masters Acia Gray, Lane Alexander, and Jason Janas to name a few, and continued her studies with Tony Coppola while at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. After earning her BFA in Dance from UNLV Jamie moved to Chicago to train as a scholarship student with Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, where she met and studied with Chicago Tap Theatre artistic director Mark Yonally. She could never put all her focus on one style of dance for too long before becoming intrigued with the challenge of learning more from another great opportunity. Since moving to Chicago, Jamie performed professionally as a member with Inaside Chicago Dance, Chicago Tap Theatre, Esoteric Dance Project, and Dance in the Parks and performed independently in Dance Chicago, Chicago Freelance Dance, and Thodos New Dances performances. Her choreography was featured at the historic Chicago Theater by Inaside Chicago Dance and presented at several showcases such as Dance Chance, Dance Chance: Redux and Dance Chicago. When Jamie is not dancing, teaching, or choreographing she can be found at the barre studio. She has taught Pure Barre since 2013 and is currently the General Manager of Pure Barre Willowbrook. Always eager to continue learning, she recently became certified in Progressive Ballet Technique. Jamie has enjoyed teaching students from all over Chicagoland for over a decade and is thrilled to continue to share her love and knowledge of tap dance with the eager students at ADA!

 
Irina Starovoitova
Irina Starovoitova

Master Ballet & Character Instructor

Choreographer
 

Irina Starovoitova is an achieved professional dancer, teacher, and choreographer. She graduated from the Belarusian State Choreography College, one of the few ballet schools in the world that has preserved and follows The Vaganova Method - a famous ballet technique and training system.

As a lead dancer at the Belarusian State Dance Company Irina worked with the world-renowned choreographer Valentine Elizariev, the head of the ballet troupe of the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus.

Irina also teaches members of the United States Rhythmic Gymnastics National and Olympic teams.

  • Winner Youth America Grand Prix "Most Outstanding Teacher" 2012, 2017, 2020

 
Diana Stetsura

Master Ballet Instructor

Diana Stetsura trained at Russia’s Perm Ballet School under Professor Ludmila Saharova.  After graduating with honors, she was accepted as a soloist into the Kremlin Ballet Theatre in Moscow where she was coached by the world-class ballerina, Ekaterina Maximova.  While dancing in the Kremlin Ballet, Diana was invited to represent the company in Maya Plisetskaya’s gala at the Bolshoi Theatre.  Ms. Stetsura was a principal dancer at the Bolshoi Theatre of Belarus, Columbia Classical Ballet in South Carolina, and also danced as a soloist with Ballet Internationale in Indianapolis, where she was coached by Irina Kopakova, ABT’s Ballet Mistress.  Diana was a Principal dancer for the Milwaukee Ballet for seven years.

Ms. Stetsura has performed lead roles in productions such as Don Quixote, Carmen, La Sylphide, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Allegro Brillante, Agon, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, La Bayadere, Raymonda, Scheherazade, Esmerelda, Cinderella, and Le Corsaire among others.  She earned the prestigious Diaghilev Prize at the first international competition in Moldavia.  She also received the highest award in the country of Belarus for the best stage debut for her performance of the title role in Giselle.  She also appeared in three films in Belarus and while dancing with the company on Belorussian television.  Diana earned second place at the prestigious ballet competition, “Arabesque” for her contemporary piece, which was created for her by the same choreographer who choreographed all of the dancing for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Ms. Stetsura was the lead dancer in Samson et Delila at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, performing a role that was created for her by world-renowned choreographer, Ken Von Heidecke.  He also created the title role in Cinderella for her, which she performed with the Chicago Festival Ballet.  She also had the privilege of a lifetime to work with the Prima Ballerina Assoulta, Maria Tallcheif, on these roles.  While performing with the Milwaukee Ballet, Ms. Stetsura danced leading roles such as Odette in Michael Pink’s Swan Lake, Marie, Snow Queen and Arabian in The Nutcracker, Gertrude in Hamlet, Dulcinea in Don Quixote, Lilac Fairy, Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, Nikiya in La Bayadere, Titania and Helena in Midsummer Night’s Dream, Raymonda, Agon, Esmeralda, and Fleur des Leis in Esmeralda.  She also worked with choreographers, such as Val Caniparoli, Stephen Mills, Bruce Wells, Kathryn Posin, and Margo Sappingon, who created a piece for Ms. Stetsura in her world-premiere ballet, Common People, a project started by William Shatner.

Diana was a three-time participant in the International Gala, “The Evening of Stars”, in Denver, Colorado. She shared the stage with stars from English National Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Houston Ballet, and many others.  Diana performed many leading roles around the world, in countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Spain, China, Japan, Ireland, France, Poland, Taiwan, Canada, Ukraine, and others. She has made many guest appearances in both teaching and dancing, all over the United States.  Since she moved to Chicago, after giving birth to a baby girl, she became a principal dancer with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Diana is also a principal guest artist for Chicago Festival Ballet, where she appeared on two major TV stations in Chicago dancing the lead in Swan Lake. She also teaches at the world-renowned Chicago Festival Ballet, which Maria Tallchief helped found.  She is a master instructor for their prestigious, multiple award-winning Academy of Dance Arts. She is a lead ballet teacher on the faculty of the world-class A&A Ballet of Chicago.  She is also a guest teacher for the Academy of Russian Classical Ballet of Michigan. Recently Diana was in a short film which placed her name in the IMDb. Diana is also a judge on the prestigious International Ballet Competition WBAC-Grand Prix. Two years ago Diana started to work privately with many of her students in preparation for the ballet competitions. Her students have already placed in first second and third places as well as in the top 12 in two major competitions, YAGP and WBAC.

 

In addition to her performance and teaching accomplishments, Diana is very proud of having earned her law degree from Kuban State University in Russia.

Carrie Nicastro Ruiz
Carrie Nicastro-Ruiz

Modern & Contemporary Jazz Instructor
Alliance Teen Team Instructor & Choreographer

Carrie Nicastro Ruiz, originally from Northbrook, IL, received her initial training under Cheri Rose, studying the Cecchetti Method of Ballet. Carrie continued her education at the University of Iowa and graduated with honors in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in both Dance and Psychology. After graduation, Carrie moved back to Chicago to accept a Company position with Same Planet Different World Dance Theatre, while also accepting a full scholarship to train at the Lou Conte Dance Studio, under the tutelage of Claire Bataille. After dancing with SPDW, Carrie participated in the work/study program at Visceral Dance Center and continued on to hold positions with Hedwig Dances, Thodos Dance Chicago, Giordano II, LeveL Dance, and Hanna Brictson and Dancers. Carrie has also enjoyed dancing as a freelance artist and has had the honor of performing numerous times in Dance For Life, Thodos Dance Chicago New Dances, Dance Chicago, Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival, Danceworks Chicago’s Dance Chance, Carnival Choreographer’s Ball Chicago, and for many independent choreographers including Autumn Eckman, Becca Lemme, Lizzie Mackenzie, Jessica Miller-Tomlinson, and her husband, Ricky Ruiz. Additionally, Carrie is featured in the New York Times Bestseller, “Dancers Among Us” by Jordan Matter Photography. Carrie still performs when she can and is extremely grateful for every opportunity she has received in the Chicago dance community, and is especially grateful to Claire Bataille, Joanna Rosenthal, and Nick Pupillo for opening the door to her professional career. 

 
Joanna Wozniak

Master Ballet Instructor
Soloist with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago

Joanna Wozniak joined The Joffrey Ballet as a seasonal dancer in November 2001 and became a full company member in August 2003.

Raised in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, Ms. Wozniak trained with Sherry Moray, The Chicago Academy of Arts, and The Harid Conservatory. Prior to joining the Joffrey, she was an apprentice with Alabama Ballet. 

Ms. Wozniak has performed feature roles in Joffrey’s productions of Celebration, Crossed, Confetti, Le Sacre du Printemps (The Chosen One), Light Rain, Lilac Garden, The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, Suite Saint Saëns, Monotones, The Man in Black, Incantations, The Green Table, and Nine Sinatra Songs. She has also performed in Lar Lubovitch’s Smile With My Heart and Othello (Emilia), as well as Yuri Possokhov’s Bells and Don Quixote (Mercedes). She has performed in George Balanchine’s Square Dance and a featured role in Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto.

Ms. Wozniak was selected to be in Pointe Magazine's article “Standouts: Our 12 favorite performances of 2009” for her performance of “The Chosen One” in Nijinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps. In 2011, she was highlighted in the magazine Marie Claire. 

She can be seen as a dancer in the feature film Save the Last Dance. Ms. Wozniak has a Bachelor's Degree in Business and Leadership from Northwestern University and is currently working on her Masters at the University of Chicago. Her other interests include music, books, teaching, running, yoga, cooking, and traveling.

 
Cyx Wynne
Cyx Wynne

Alliance Master Hip Hop Instructor & Choreographer

Cyx started his professional career with Dance2xs International in Chicago in 2003. In 2007, he along with three friends founded the Chicago Onyx Dance Alliance better known as CODA. In 2009 Cyx joined Hip Hop Connxion and in 2011 was named director of the Chicago branch. Cyx has performed on the Soul Train Music Awards, The Grammys, The American Music Awards, the MTV music awards, and the VMAs. Cyx has danced background for Syleena Johnson, B2K, Marques Houston, Missy Elliott, Usher, and Omarion. Cyx has also choreographed and performed in China, Japan, Australia, Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, England, and Austria along with a multitude of cities in the U.S.

 
Tom Mattingly
Tom Mattingly

Master Ballet Instructor

Inspired by Baryshnikov and Fred Astaire, Tom Mattingly began dance classes at the age of 4.  At 17 he signed his first professional contract with Richmond Ballet.  By 25 he was a principal dancer with Ballet West.  In 2016 he toured the US with Christopher Wheeldon's 4x Tony Award-winning musical An American in Paris  In 2019 he became ballet master for Madison Ballet. Now splitting his time between Madison and Chicago, Tom has developed into an insightful teacher and creative choreographer. From ballet to Broadway he's done it all and the next generation is benefitting from his expertise.

 
Penny Bovelli

Creative Dance & Tap Instructor

Penny Bovelli has been involved in all aspects of dance for over 40 years.  She was the Founder and Owner of The Dance Centre in Lombard, IL which was in operation for 34 years. Her dance programs included classes, recitals, and competitive performance opportunities for ages 2-adult.  Penny has taught tap, jazz, and ballet, but her passion is teaching the youngest of dancers as they learn to explore the joy of dance and creative movement. Her students have received scholarships to attend the Chicago Human Rhythm Project and The Chicago Academy of the Arts, received top honors at various competitions, danced in college programs, NBA dance teams, and for professional dance companies, such as Luna Negra.  Penny has studied with Lou Conte, Joel Hall, Lane Alexander, Bruce Stegmann, Birute Barodicaite, Kirby Reed, and Claire Bataille, as well as the Chicago Human Rhythm Project.  She has choreographed musicals for community theater and has judged “Miss Windy City” and “Chicago’s Little Miss” pageants.  Penny also served on the Board of Directors for Chicago Tap Theatre for seven years and continues to be a guest teacher at Iowa State University.

 
 
Elizabeth Knight

Ballet Instructor

Elizabeth Knight is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  She trained on scholarship at Milwaukee Ballet School, Houston Ballet Academy, San Francisco Ballet School, Pennsylvania Ballet School, Princeton Ballet School, the School of American Ballet, and Steps on Broadway, as well as with her coach, Yves de Bouteiller.  Ms. Knight was trained by renowned and diverse instructors, including Margaret McLaughlin, Clara Cravey, Lola de Avila, Gloria Govrin, Jeffrey Lyons, Suki Schorer, Stanley Williams, Nancy Bielski, David Howard, and Willy Burmann.  As a high school senior, Ms. Knight was one of six ballet dancers chosen, nationwide, to be a National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts awardee.  Ms. Knight also participated in the Prix de Lausanne international ballet competition in Lausanne, Switzerland, the U.S. International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi, and was a finalist in The Second Japan International Ballet and Modern Dance Competition in Nagoya, Japan.  Ms. Knight has danced with Milwaukee Ballet, American Repertory Ballet, Eglevsky Ballet, Dance As Ever (NYC), Chicago Festival Ballet, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Alma Dance, Ballet Legere, Elements Contemporary Ballet, Schaumburg Dance Ensemble, and Dallas Opera.  Her repertoire includes leading roles in Nutcracker, Cinderella, Esmeralda, Grand Pas Classique, and Swan Lake, as well as roles in Stars and Stripes, The Four Temperaments, Serenade, Billy the Kid, Where the Wild Things Are, Carmina Burana, and the operas Aida, Samson and Delilah, and Carmen.  Ms. Knight previously taught for VH Dance Center, Salt Creek Ballet School, and Hinsdale Dance Center.  She also has her Master's in Teaching from National-Louis University and was previously an elementary school teacher and elementary school dance teacher for Chicago Public Schools.  Ms. Knight lives with her husband and two young children in Naperville.  She is looking forward to sharing her knowledge, experience, and love of ballet with the students of ADA!

 

Andrea Bergeman Rak

Ballet Instructor

In her career as a professional ballet dancer, Andrea Bergeman Rak danced for Ballet Memphis, Peoria Ballet, Minnesota Dance Theatre, Tulsa Ballet, and English National Ballet. Principal roles she has danced professionally include the title role in Firebird; Snow Queen, Sugar Plum, and Dew Drop in The Nutcracker; Don Quixote pas de deux; Emilia in Jose Limon’s Moore’s Pavane; and principal roles in Loyce Houlton’s Carmina Burana.  Andrea has also performed works by noted choreographers including George Balanchine, Dwight Rhoden, Lila York, Frederick Ashton, and Trey McIntyre.  With English National Ballet, Andrea performed in Derek Deane’s Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Albert Hall.

 

Andrea has taught at the Ballet Memphis School, Indianapolis School of Ballet, Minnesota Dance Theatre School, Seiskaya Ballet Academy on Long Island, the School of Classical Ballet and Dance in Des Moines, IA, Los Gatos Ballet in California and DanceWest Ballet in Naperville, IL. Andrea is also a comprehensively certified pilates instructor, a certified yoga instructor at the 200 hour level, and has worked as a master instructor for Peak Pilates.

 

Jeanne O'Connell

Musical Theatre Instructor

As a teacher, choreographer, and performer Jeanne O'Connell has worked in all areas of entertainment and has over 30 years of experience.  She has performed in Broadway shows, national touring companies, television shows, and Disneyland. Dancers Ms. O'Connell has trained have gone on to dance professionally in shows from Broadway to Ballet companies to cruise ships and beyond.  She has choreographed for professional theatres, television shows, dance companies, and more.  

 

Dancing since a young child at her mother's dance studio, she moved to Los Angeles at age 18 to begin her professional career.  Training with teachers from Los Angeles and New York City prepared her for the vigorous career ahead.  Ms. O’Connell performed in the Broadway and National Touring Companies of 42nd Street, and other AEA productions such as Singing in the Rain, Sweet Charity, Joseph, Music Man, and Me and My Girl.  She has also been seen in a variety of shows at Disneyland as a featured performer on the Videopolis Stage.  Along the way, Jeanne worked as a magician’s assistant for Mark and Greg Wilson, appeared on various television shows with guest dance spots, and has appeared in national commercials.

 

Jeanne's choreography/directing credits include a number of shows for professional equity theatre, community theatre, and high school.  Television shows such as General Hospital and Saved by the Bell, videos for production companies including Wishheart Productions and Luminate Productions, and dance companies such as Mid Columbia Regional Ballet and The Julie O’Connell Dancers.

 

Throughout her career, Jeanne has been an owner/director of several studios and has taught dancers of all ages.  Her teaching always has an underlying theme of proper technique and placement, with an encouraging and nurturing approach that provides a positive and safe environment for her students.  Her energy and enthusiasm is contagious which brings an element of fun and freshness to class.  Most importantly, her commitment to each student helps to bring out the best in each person.