Meet Our Staff

Elizabeth Hester

Owner and Founder

Owner and Founder of the Wilmington School of Ballet & Dance, the Wilmington Preschool of Fine Arts, Glitz & Glam, and ZFitness Wilmington. She is, also, the Executive Director of the Wilmington Ballet Company. Her goal in establishing these companies was to provide many opportunities to students in the Lower Cape Fear Region of NC for quality dance education.

Hester was a soloist with Raleigh Dance Theater and a former faculty member of the Raleigh School of Ballet. Hester studied at the Atlanta Ballet as a scholarship student, the Walnut Hill School of the Arts, North Carolina School of the Arts, East Carolina Dance Program, and the Richmond Ballet, & has a degree in Civil Engineering from NC State. 

Read more about Hester in our Studio History.

Aunika Browne

Executive Director

Aunika fell in love with dance at age three after participating in a summer ballet camp. Her mom quickly enrolled Aunika in regular tap and ballet classes at the Tapestry Performing Arts Center in Boone, North Carolina. After moving to Sneads Ferry, NC at age ten, Aunika began dancing at Dance Theatre of Jacksonville, where Aunika expanded her training to include jazz, lyrical, tap, musical theater, hip hop, and contemporary. During this time Aunika began assisting other instructors and after teaching classes of her own fell in love with dance again, but this time as a teacher. Aunika was also one of the original dancers in the Dance Theatre of Jacksonville Ballet Company and danced soloist roles in the first two annual productions of The Nutcracker. After high school, Aunika went on to study Dance Performance and Choreography at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. After returning home to North Carolina, Aunika began teaching dance full time and traveling to competitions again, but this time as an instructor.

Aunika opened Studio A of Wilmington in 2017. With the vision of a studio that accepted kids of all backgrounds and levels, Studio A began to thrive in a family friendly atmosphere. After working with US International Ballet and Wilmington School of Ballet in USIB's production of The Great Wilmington Nutcracker, Aunika quickly fell in love with their mission of acceptance, as well.

 

Aunika is excited to bring her passion for dance and business experience together as she continues to share her love of dance within the next generation of students!

Debra Berger

School Director

Born and raised in New York City, Debra began her dance training at The School of American Ballet.  As a young dancer she performed with The New York City Ballet Company in The Nutcracker, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Harlequinade.  Her musical theater credits include A Chorus Line, Carmelina, and West Side Story, to name a few.
Throughout her career Debra has taught Master Classes nationally and in Brazil. Having recently moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, Debra is looking forward to contributing in the dance community.
As a Teaching Artist with Dancing Classrooms, she is very excited to pilot the program here in Wilmington and surrounding counties.  She also teaches and choreographs for Take the Lead Academy, a youth ballroom performance group.

Alexandra Gosiengfiao

Teacher

Alexandra is from Temecula, California. She began her ballet training at age 6 and studied with The Ballet Studio & Academy of Ballet Arts.  She attended summer intensives: American Ballet Theater, Boston Ballet, Washington Ballet, Ballet San Jose and State Street Ballet which led to Trainee positions with Ballet San Jose & State Street Ballet. In 2017, she joined USIB and has been featured in a variety of leading roles such as Mercedes in Don Quixote, Russian in The Great Wilmington Nutcracker, Wicked Witch in The Wizard of OZ, and Fairy Godmother in Cinderella. Alexandra is excited to return for her third season as a principal dancer for USIB.

Stella Johnson

Teacher

Stella, studied with Nicholai Morosov and Ludmila Morkovina, both graduates and professors of the Vagnova Institute and Maly Theater (Mikhaylovsky) in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Madame Morkovina also taught at Kirov Academy of Ballet and currently still teaches at the City Dance Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, MD. Mrs. Johnson also danced under the direction of Francoise Adret, Paris opera, French ballet dancer, teacher, choreographer, and company director of the National Ballet of Panama. She studied under Estrella Kadiaj, who had danced with Bejart. She studied with Henry Danton from the Royal Ballet as a guest Margot Fonteyn from Panama. Stella performed professionally with the National Ballet of Panama and Ballet Concierto. She performed in the following ballets:Swan Lake, La Bayadere, Les Sylphides, Paquita, Dying Swan, and many more.In addition to Mrs. Johnson's extensive ballet background, she acquired a B.S in Ecomomics and a Masters in Human Resources, which opened an opportunity for her to work for HR Information Systems with the Navy and Office of Personal Management for 30 years. Married with three children, Mrs. Johnson now resides in Wilmington and teaches at the Wilmington School of Ballet and Dance.

Rachel Taylor

Teacher

Rachel Taylor has trained in classical ballet for over 10 years, she began her classical training under Brantly Shapiro in Winston Salem. Rachel has performed with Ohio dance theatre in Oberlin, Ohio and with Gary Taylor's Winston Salem Festival Ballet. In 2016 Rachel graduated  Magna Cum Laude from The University of North Carolina in Charlotte with a BA in Dance performance. She is thrilled to be a part of the Ballet Company this season.

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Sensei Shawn Worthington

Shawn trained at WSB as a young person and then went on to train at North Carolina School of the Arts. Shawn graduated from NCSA and graduated with a degree in contemporary dance in 2006. Shawn continued to perform and choreograph freelance. He went on to focus on Karate and is happy to be back at WSB offering both Karate and Partnering.

Guest Faculty

Christine Spizzo

(Summer Faculty)

Christine began her lengthy and distinquished career under the guidance of Petrus van Muyden in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She later recieved a Ford Foundation scholarship to San Fransisco Ballet School where she began dedicated training with Harold and Ruby Christensen.

She continued her training in high school on scholarship at North Carolina School of the Arts, and the School of the American Ballet in New York. Upon graduation, she joined the National Ballet of Washington (DC) under the direction of Frederic Franklin and Ben Stevenson.  Later she joined Richard Englund and Gage Bush at the Ballet Repertory Company

In 1975, she joined the American Ballet Theater where she was noted for her "soubrette" roles in Don Quixote, Graduation Ball,  Sleeping Beauty, Romeo & Juliet and virtually every pas de trois in the ABT classical repetoire. Christine also performed with Mikhail Baryshnikov in Appollo and appeared in ABT Live from Lincoln Center telecast and in several "Dance in America" programs between 1975 and 1988.

She appeared in both Herbert Ross/ABT motion pictures The Turning Pointe and Dancers. She was also in Phantom of the Opera for ten years on Broadway. Christine is widely recognized for her teaching, and has been quoted as an authority in ballet and in pointe publications. She is currently a full time ballet faculty teacher for North Carolina School of the Arts

Stacey Slichter

(Since 2001)

Stacey is in her seventh season with North Atlanta Dance Theatre.  Stacey most recently danced the lead Wench and lead Topaz in Mr. Garrison's Pirates of the Phantom Waves, as well as, Sugar Plum in NADT's Nutcracker.  

In 2008 Stacey Slichter performed Myrtha in NADT'sGiselle.  In 2007, she performed the Grand Pas De Deux in Aurora's Wedding from Sleeping Beauty.  In 2005 and 2006, she performed Fate in Michael Garrison's Carmen.  She has also performed Michael Garrison's Echa Pa'Lante solo in NADT's Spring Concert 2005 and Snow Queen and Russina in NADT's Nutcracker 2005 and 2006.

 

Stacey began training in Miami, Florida under the direction of Lynne Dresson, Gloria Gaither and Victoria Leigh.  She spent her summers training at The Houston Ballet Academy.  After attending and graduating from The Harid Conservatory, Stacey joined The Sarasota Ballet of Florida as a company member.  She has also danced professionally with Ballet Eddy Toussaint USA, Ballet Memphis, and Atlanta Ballet, in addition to performing with The Sarasota Opera.  Stacey is currently on the faculty of North Atlanta Dance Academy.  She enjoys teaching ballet to students of all ages.  Stacey is the proud mother of eight year old Maren!

Adam Schiffer

(Guest Artist)

Adam Schiffer is a native of Budapest, Hungary where he graduated from the Hungarian Dance Academy in 2005. In the following seasons, he performed with the Vienna State Opera, the Slovakian National Opera, and the Columbia Classical Ballet. While at Columbia Classical Ballet, he performed principal roles and was invited to perform as a part of Ballet Builders in New York City by Rick McCullough. In 2007, Mr. Schiffer was awarded the Viktor Fulop Scholarship from the Hungarian Ministry of Culture. He has participated in summer intensive programs at North Carolina Dance Theatre in Charlotte, North Carolina; Pergine Spettacolo Aperto in Milan, Italy; and the Ballet des Jeunes d'Europe in Marseilles, France. Additionally, he has been a Principal Guest Artist with Ballet New England, A.V.A. Ballet Theater, Covington Regional Ballet, Dance Theater Jacksonville, Appalachian Ballet, City Youth Ballet and Carolina Youth Ballet. Mr. Schiffer has toured in Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, France, and in the USA. He joined Carolina Ballet in 2008.

Jaime Robtison

(Guest Artist)

Alex Kedrov

(Guest Artist & Master Teacher)

Born and raised in Moscow, Russia, Mr Kedrov graduated from Moscow Choreographic Institute.
He was a Ballet soloist with The State Bolshoi Theater, Moscow, and toured extensively around the world with them until the Bolshoi Theater USA Tour where he accepted an invitation from Boston Ballet Co. to join the company as a soloist. Here he had the chance to work with known Western choreographers and broaden his repertoire. Throughout his career, Alexander has worked with many different companies as a guest artist, teacher and choreographer in dance and musical theater productions in the USA, Canada, Spain, Germany, Japan, Taiwan. A few of them include: a tour in Germany as a guest artist with “Russian Ballet Stars” Company, staging of “Nayada and Fishermen” ballet in Japan with Myaki Dance Theater in Tokyo, and choreography and participation as a featured artist in various fragments from American Musicals with Jean Ann Ryan Productions Co. on the Asuka Cruise Ship in Japan. 

Mark E. McCullough

(Guest Artist & Yogi)

Certified, YogaFit, Inc., Fitness First, Inc.; Yoga and Tai Chi Instructor, The Fitness Center at Kernersville; Yoga Instructor, Gramercy Research Group; Yoga and Tai Chi Instructor, ABT Summer Intensive Programs (at UNCSA)
In 2010, McCullough established the Mobile Yoga Company, with the intention of bringing yoga to forward-thinking individuals and corporations, at their homes and places of business. His Winston-Salem clientele included Orthopaedic Specialists of the Carolinas, NC Baptist Hospital, Bishop McGuiness High School (women’s basketball team), Gateway YWCA, Fulton YMCA, and Gold’s Gym. Currently, in addition to his Studio Eleve’ classes, Mark teaches yoga at The Fitness Center @ Kernersville, the Gramercy Research Group, and occasionally at the UNC School of the Arts. He is the yoga instructor for American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive Programs at UNCSA (2012-2016). Mark also teaches yoga-for-dancers at various dance schools throughout North Carolina (Charlotte, Monroe, Chapel Hill, Apex, Wilmington), as well as in New Mexico and Arizona, and 2018 Southwest Regional Ballet Festival in Dallas.
Mark’s yoga practice is primarily influenced by the traditional Vinyasa style of yoga. His classes are intended for student practitioners of all levels and sports interests. He, himself, continues to take classes in yoga and Tai Chi, in order to expand and share his knowledge of the physical and philosophical aspects of holistic health. Mark is the co-founder, along with Christine Spizzo, of Studio Elevé.

Emily Bannerman

Teacher

Emily was born and raised in Whiteville NC, where she began dancing at the age of 3. She trained at The Wilmington School of Ballet and was part of The Wilmington Ballet Company from 2001-2005. Bannerman attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for high school and college as a ballet major and, later, as a contemporary dance major where she performed in their annual Nutcracker, Twyla Tharp's Torelli, and world premiere piece, Holden C, created for UNCSA students by acclaimed French choreographer, Eric Oberdorff.

Bannermans's education at UNCSA and summer intensives at both Boston Ballet and ABT New York provided her with extensive training in classical ballet alongside many internationally known dancers and teachers and taught her several modern techniques such as Limon, Cunningham, Nikolais, and Graham.

Currently, Bannerman is a member Cape Fear Dance Theatre as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher, representing dance on film in the Southeast and our Assitant Director.

Kevin Lee-y Green

Teacher

Kevin Lee-y Green trained with the Theater Dance Workshop of Wilmington under the instruction of Judy Greenhut & Nicole Bennett at the Wilmington School of the Performing Arts. He is a graduate of the University of NC School of the Arts, where he studied dance. During the summer, Kevin works as a dance teacher with “Broadway on Second Street,” a children’s arts camp in Wilmington. Kevin keeps busy choreographing and directing full-length musicals for the Wilmington Thalian Association, Journey Productions & South Brunswick High School. Kevin created and runs a small dance & theater company, TECHMOJA. His company made their debut theatrical appearance with their production ofDreamgirls and have also put on the production of The Wiz. He recently staged an original work for Black History month entitled The House That Gordy Built. Kevin performed the “Harlequin Doll” and Russian variation in the Wilmington Ballet Company’s 2012 and 2013 production of Nutcracker.

Anne Firmender 

Teacher

Anne Firmender is orignally from Stratford, CT and has called Wilmington home since 1998. She has trained at a number of prestigious schools including The School of American Ballet, California Institute of the Arts and Cornish College of Arts(where she received her BFA in Dance summa cum laud). She has taught dance in both public and private schools to students of all ages and backgrounds since 1982, including New Haven's Performing Arts High School Educational Center for the Arts (her alma mater). Additonal teaching residencies include New Haven Ballet, the Wilmington School of Ballet & Dance, the Educational Center for the Arts of New Haven, and DREAMS of Wilmington, an arts education program serving impoverished youth. Anne's choreography has been performed in a wide range of venues, including North Carolina Dance Fesitval, Dance-a-lorus, and innumerable benefits and community showcases. A founding member of The Dance Cooperative ,where she served as a School Director for many years, Anne organized two annual events: Community Dance Day and the Emerging Choreographers Showcase, for which she has mentored multiple young dancers. In addition to her artistic background, Anne has many years of experience working with special needs youth, including children on the autism spectrum and with mental health issues. She continues to choreograph and teach throughout Wilmington.

Raleigh School of Ballet Staff

Mary LeGere

(Guest Artist from RSB)

A native of Rotterdam, NY, Ms. LeGere began her ballet training at age 9.  In 1976 she won a scholarship to the Pensylvania Ballet where she studied with Barbara Weisburger, Benjamin Harkavy, and Lupe Serrano.  In 1980 she joined the company and in 1986 was promoted to soloist.  While with the Pennsylvania Ballet, she danced principal roles in Balanchine's Nutcracker, Seranade, Stars and Stripes, Four Temperments, and Concerto Barocco.  In addition, she was featured in works by Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham, Lynn Taylor Corbett, Robert Weiss, and Peter Martins.

In 1990 she retired with an acclaimed performance of Myrta in Giselle.  After moving to North Carolina with her husband, Ms. LeGere became Associate Director of the Raleigh Dance Theatre in 1992 and became Artistic Director  in 1994 when Raleigh Dance Theatre founder Anne Vorus resigned to concetrate her energies directing the Raleigh School of Ballet.  It was under Ms. LeGere's tenure that the company changed its name to Carolina Ballet and reached the final step in becoming a professional company. Choosing to no longer direct the Carolina Ballet, Ms. LeGere is once again directing the re-established Raleigh Dance Theatre, where she contnues to uphold the tradition of high standards and excellence.  Ms. LeGere has choreographed several works for Raleigh Dance Theatre that have been chosen to be performed at the RDA/SERBA annual festival.  She was honored with the 2006-2007 North Carolina Dance Alliance Annual Award.  This prestigious award honors individuals who have made significant lifetime contributions to the growth and development of dance in NC.  Ms. LeGere lives in Durham with her husband and two children.

Megan Marvel

(Guest Artist from RSB)

Megan Marvel grew up in Raleigh and trained at The Raleigh School of Ballet until moving to Pittsburgh at sixteen to study with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School-Schenley High School Program.  Other training included The School of the Atlanta Ballet, and the Houston Ballet Academy.  Ms. Marvel returned to Raleigh to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from NCSU, and became a member of the NCSU Dance Company under the direction of Robin Harris.  She has continued to perform and choreograph for the NCSU Dance Company since 1994, and keeps a Master of Fine Arts in Liberal Studies Degree from NCSU, focusing on Choreography and Dance Design. Ms. Marvel also served as the Assistant Director of the NC State Dance Program. Ms. Marvel joined The Raleigh School of Ballet’s faculty in 1997and became Associate Director of RDT in 2006.

Jaime Robtison began her classical ballet training in Salem, VA, under the direction of Terri Post, a former dancer with Joffrey Ballet.  Ms. Robtison was awarded scholarships to prestigious schools, including the Nutmeg Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet, and The Kirov Ballet in Washington, DC.  In addition to guest performances with other companies and the Roanoke Opera, her professional career has included the Richmond Ballet, Roanoke Ballet and Dance Alive touring company.   Some of her favorite roles include Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Sugar Plum Fairy and Arabian principal in The Nutcracker.

Ms. Robtison was Artistic Director of the Covington Regional Ballet, supported by the Covington Arts Association in Covington, GA, for ten years.  She created her own Snow White and The Little Mermaid.  In addition, she staged and choreographed other new works and story ballets like Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Coppelia, and The Nutcracker.

Ms. Robtison has years of experience teaching dance, as well.  She co-founded and formerly owned Mainstream Dance Inc, a highly respected school for dance training in Covington, GA.  Ms. Robtison has studied the Vaganova syllabus of classical ballet and is certified in Grades 1-3.  She also attended the teacher conference for the Royal Academy of Dance Exam Syllabus, Grades1-3.  In addition to offering summer programs just for her own studio dancers, Ms. Robtison created programs open to other dancers. Recognizing the value of individual coaching and performance opportunities beyond corps work, Ms. Robtison developed Summer Dance Company, a unique program that includes classical and contemporary partnering workshops and a 4-week company-like experience.  During each workshop, students work one-on-one with professional dancers and choreographers.  Students take company class, rehearse and perform with professional dancers. Sustaining this program is a priority for Ms. Robtison.

Our mission at the Wilmington School of Ballet is to use ballet as a tool to nurture health, confidence, kindness, and discipline in each dancer. This is achieved by excellent classroom instruction and theatrical performance opportunities. We value and strive to teach technical excellence, overall wellness, creative artistry, character development, & community service. To help achieve our goals, we offer dance lessons & ballet classes to both youth and adults in the Wilmington, NC (Cape Fear) area which include pointe; pre-pointe, ballet, tap, jazz, choreography, kids only classes, pre-school classes, and so much more!

Operational hours 3:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Office Hours 12:30 pm - 5:30 pm

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