Instructors

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Instructors

Eryn Michlitsch – Artistic Director

Children’s Division Ballet, Youth Division Ballet, Pre-Professional Division Ballet and Pointe

Eryn began her 28 years of dance experience with Kay Englert, founder of Washington Contemporary Ballet in Tacoma, Washington. Eryn was asked to join the Company and was the youngest member at the age of 12. She has been accepted to many professional summer programs, including: Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Kirov Ballet Academy, North Carolina School of the Arts, Houston Ballet Academy, Hartford Ballet School, Oregon Ballet Academy, Pennsylvania Rock School of Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet.  Eryn attended Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), San Francisco Ballet School and North Carolina School of the Arts (NCSA) and was asked to stay on at PNB and NCSA. Eryn has had the opportunity to study under such prestigious names as Melissa Hayden, Flemming Halby, Patricia Barker, Frank Bays, Dale Merrill and Sara de Luis. Her performance opportunities include many original works by Kay Englert, Dale Merril and Sara de Luis.  She was featured as many roles in The Nutcracker such as, Snow Queen and Sugar Plum Fairy. Academically, Eryn has received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, with a Concentration in Marketing from Bethany Lutheran College. Her instruction places a large emphasis on the history, terminology, and structure of true classical ballet.

Riley Thomas Weber – Ballet Master

Youth Division Ballet, Pre-Professional Division Ballet, Pointe

Originally from Fargo, North Dakota, Riley received his primary ballet training under Marnee Brant at the Brant School of Dance Arts, and spent summers performing at Trollwood Performing Arts School where he studied ballet and musical theatre. Riley holds his B.A. in Dance from the University of Minnesota where he performed repertoire by HIJACK, Maggie Bergeron and Shapiro and Smith. He has performed in the 2008 Scottish Fringe Festival and in the 2011 Minneapolis Fringe Festival. Professionally, Riley has danced as a Soloist and Principal dancer with Cities Classical Dance Ensemble, Saint Paul City Ballet, Ballet Minnesota and Continental Ballet. Riley has danced numerous contemporary and classical ballets including Beethoven’s 6th Symphony, Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Morning in Beijing, Rite of Spring, Don Quixote, Raymonda, Cinderella, Peter and the Wolf, Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, and Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Swan Lake and La Esmeralda. He was the dance captain for “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and danced in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” at the Old Log Theater. He is currently a dancer with Collide Theatrical Dance Company where he has danced leads in Romeo and Juliet, “Class of ’85”, “Zoot Suit Riots”, CLU” and “Dracula”.

Lori Holmes

Children’s Division Ballet, Youth Division Ballet

Originally from California, Lori started her dance training at a young age with Bobbie’s School of Performing Arts. She became a member of the company and had the opportunity to perform all over California and Nevada. While in Los Angeles, Lori taught private ballet lessons to many of the stars’ children and ran the children’s ballet division at the studio. With 25 years of dance experience in ballet, tap, jazz and lyrical she has choreographed many musical theatre shows including Westside Story and Grease. She moved to Mankato, MN with her husband and three children in 2015 and her love for ballet brought her to Mankato Ballet Company.

Kelsey Chester – Assistant to the Director

Tap and Jazz

Sample ImageKelsey has been dancing since she was three-years-old. Her training started with Dance Conservatory of Southern Minnesota, in Mankato. Kelsey has eleven years of teaching experience beginning with the Dance Conservatory of Southern Minnesota, and currently the Mankato Ballet Company. Her 25 years of dance experience has given her a strong background in Ballet, Jazz, Tap and Modern. Kelsey attended Minnesota State University, Mankato where she graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations and a Minor in Dance. While there she participated in MSU Theater and Dance’s 2009 Spring Collection and the 2009 Fall Collection Dancing Communities. She also staged the production of Little Shop of Horrors for Merely Players.  Kelsey is extremely excited to share her love of dance with Mankato Ballet Company.

Abigail Okoneski

Children’s Division Tap and Jazz

Originally from Eagan, MN, Abby Okoneski started dance at a young age at Monique School of Dance in Apple Valley, MN. She was part of their Elite Company and had the opportunity to work with many choreographers from all over, including L.A. and New York. During her early years of dance, Abby also had the opportunity to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2011, as well as at First Avenue in Minneapolis. In 2014 Abby moved to Mankato to per-sue her undergraduate degree in Athletic Training and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance at Minnesota State University, Mankato.  As she finishes her last year, she has been very grateful for all the teachers and professors she has worked with so far. Abby was able to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. with a piece called, Television; and Now Our National Anthem choreographed by Daniel Stark, a professor at MNSU-Mankato.  Dance has taught Abby many things, but most importantly it has made her the person she is today.

Regan O’Connor

Modern

Regan O’Connor is a native of Sioux Falls, SD. She started her training at the age of three, because she had too much energy for her parents to handle! Regan danced at Balleraena Dance Studio for 15 years. She was apart of their pre-professional dance company. While training at Balleraena, she was given lots of opportunities to dance with choreographers such as Eric John Campros, Tracie Stanfield, Mike Peele, Dana Alexa and Matt Steffanina to name a few. After her senior year of high school, she took a break from dancing, and went to college at South Dakota State University. After lots of thought, Regan transferred schools to attend Minnesota State University, Mankato in the fall of 2014, to pursue a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance with a minor in marketing. While at school, Regan was able to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. in a piece called, Television; or And Now Our National Anthem choreographed by Daniel Stark, one of her professors at MNSU-Mankato. She has also been a company member of LiRa Dance Theatre Company, which is the first dance theater company of South Dakota, for two seasons. As Regan gets ready for her senior year of college, she is very appreciative of every opportunity that the MNSU-Mankato dance program has given her.

Sophia Weelborg

Children’s Division Ballet

Sophia began dancing when she was two years old, and is currently in her 9th season with Mankato Ballet Company. She has attended summer intensives at the Minnesota Ballet and Collide Theatrical, as well as intensives at MBC. Sophia has participated in many performances with the company, including additional performances with the Mankato Ballet Performing Company. Some of her favorite roles include Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker and Glinda in Dorothy. This year she is a senior at Saint Peter High School, and plans to attend college next fall to major in Neuroscience and Psychology. She plans for a future career in healthcare, but she hopes to always keep dance a part of her life.

Shannie Rao

Children’s Division Ballet

Shannie began dancing at Mankato Ballet Company in 2009, after spending years watching performances of The Nutcracker from the audience, awestruck.  She has since attended summer intensives at Collide Theatrical and The Studio Atlanta Dance along with those offered at Mankato Ballet.  Shannie has taken part in many performances over the years, including The Nutcracker, especially enjoying her role as the Arabian lead, and those with the Mankato Ballet Performing Company.  She is currently a senior in high school with plans to attend college in the fall of 2018 where she will major in English and Creative Writing.  Over the course of her life, she hopes to combine her passions for writing, dance, and film-making in creative ways and to use them to help those around her.

Channa Puhrmann

World Fusion, RakStar Fusion Bellydance Troupe Leader

Channa Puhrmann has been involved in dance since 1984 and started teaching at The Dance Conservatory of Southern Minnesota in 1995. Her interest in other culture’s dance forms led her to take Middle Eastern dance classes at Sun/Moon Yoga. Soon after, she became a founding member of the Sun/Moon Bellydancers, as well as a Middle Eastern dance instructor. In 2004, Channa formed the RakStar Fusion Bellydancers performance troupe. To further her study of world dance, Channa has traveled the country to take workshops from some of the biggest names in the belly dance culture, including several of the Bellydance Superstars. She has taught classes and workshops of her fusion style in Mankato, New Ulm, and the surrounding area. “I’m excited to bring a fun new dance form to Mankato Ballet Company. I hope to shake things up a bit.

MaDonna Flowers Sheehy

World Fusion

MaDonna began dancing at the age of six at the Dance Conservatory of Southern Minnesota in Mankato, where she took jazz, tap, and ballet classes. She started taking belly dance classes over five years ago,and she has been a part of the RakStar Fusion Bellydancers troupe since 2010. With RakStar, MaDonna has had a chance to perform at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, with members of the Guild of Oriental Dance in the twink, and many other events around the state. She’s loved learning from and assisting Miss Channa with Middle Eastern dance and is excited to begin teaching her own classes and help grow the belly dance community in the area.

 

Wendy Betters

Children’s Division Ballet, Youth Division Ballet

Sample ImageWendy’s dance experience began when she was 3 years old at Larkin Dance Studio learning tap, jazz and ballet. Her love for ballet grew and at the age of 13 she moved on to continue her training with Classical Ballet Academy (CBA), under the direction of Andrew and Cheryl Rist. Her repertoire includes Ballet Minnesota’s “The Classic Nutcracker” with roles in Snow, Flowers, Russian and Party Scene, “Giselle,” “At The Museum,” and many other contemporary works choreographed by Andrew Rist. After graduating in 1997 Wendy went on to study Art at the University of Minnesota, Duluth and was a dance minor under Doris Ressl. In the spring of 1999, her first choreographic work debut called “Welcome to Heaven,” in the Collaborative Spirits in Motion, Duluth, MN. Academically, Wendy has received a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art from the College of Visual Arts, St. Paul, MN. Today, Wendy owns a local business, Swaddlebee Photography and is a graphic designer for Envision in St. Peter, MN. In our community she has served on the Mankato Ballet Company board of directors for 8 years and in the past has been a weekly volunteer with Partners for Affordable Housing.

 

Jenn Pray

Summer Intensive Instructor –  Yoga, Pointe, Ballet

Jennifer is a Twin Cities based dancer, choreographer, and teacher. Her choreography has been featured at the Minnesota Dance Festival, the Minnesota Fringe Festival, the Ritz Theater’s Choreographer’s Evening, by the Minnesota Museum of American Art, the University of Iowa Museum of Art, and Iowa Dance Theatre’s International Dance Festival. Jennifer has performed professionally with James Sewell Ballet, Threads Dance Project, and Iowa Dance Theater. As a company member with Ballet Minnesota in St. Paul, MN, she created principal roles in Andrew Rist’s Cinderella and The Rite of Spring, and performed as Swanhilda in Coppélia, in addition to soloist roles in The Classic Nutcracker, Beijing Morning, Messiah and Grosse Fugue.

Liza Rod

Summer Intensive Instructor –  Modern, Pointe, Ballet

Liza began her dance training at a young age in Geneva, Illinois. She continued her studies in Northfield, Minnesota and at Danceworks Performing Arts Center in Lakeville under the direction of Denise Vogt. She also received summer training at the Kansas City Ballet School and spent a summer as an administrative intern at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago where she was able to learn and dance with a variety of teachers. In 2013 Liza earned her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance Performance from the University of Missouri-Kansas City where she trained under Paula Weber, Mary Pat Henry, DeeAnna Hiett, Sabrina Madison-Cannon, Ronn Tice, and Gary Abbott. While there she was thrilled to perform many works, including George Balanchine’s ‘Serenade,’ Paula Weber’s ‘Carmina Burana,’ and The Kansas City Ballet’s production of ‘The Nutcracker.’ Currently, Liza is entering her second season of teaching and performing with Riet Velthuisen’s Continental Ballet Company in Bloomington, Minnesota.