Mary Van Dyke, Artistic Director
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Mary Van Dyke trained in classical ballet for 10 years with Pat German, Memphis Ballet under Michael and Judy Tevlin, and at the Alabama School of Fine Arts under Nureyev’s former dancer partner Dame Sonia Arova. Ms Arova was one of Ms Van Dyke’s biggest inspirations for Children’s Ballet Theater’s teaching style based in the French and Russian ballet schools. Ms Van Dyke hand selects teachers carefully based on their knowledge of these styles. Furthermore, it is imperative that all instructors must be kind and uplifting to children and teens as they teach the discipline of classical ballet.
Erin Walter is an instructor and choreographer of ballet and modern for Children’s Ballet Theater. She is Artistic Director of Tennessee Ballet Theater, CBT’s own contemporary and classical performance troupe. Mrs Walter’s Memphis themed These Walls: Tales from a Juke Joint at Ernastine and Hazel’s downtown received high acclaim and strong local “buzz”.
Anna Palazola was born in the Ukraine. She has been teaching for Children’s Ballet Theater for since 2007. Mrs Palazola began studying ballet and character dance at the age of three years old at Yatran, a professional character dance and ballet school, in Kirovograd. She traveled throughout the USSR performing with the ensemble-performing group of her school. After graduation, she studied acting and musical theater at the Tuz Theater. Ms. Palazola received her B.A. in Nursing from the Kursk State University of Education. At this time she also worked as a teacher at the Theater and studied modern dance.
Ms Van Dyke danced professionally with Memphis Concert Ballet (now titled Ballet Memphis) under direction of Dorothy Gunther Pugh, the Tennessee Ballet Company, and the Appalachian Ballet. Her principal roles have included Tatiana in Midsummer's Nights Dream, the Dew Drop Fairy, Snow Queen, Dew Drop and Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker, Swan Queen Odette in Swan Lake and Lady Tybalt in Romeo and Juliette.
Alyssa Abbas Lucero is an instructor for Children’s Ballet Theater and Associate Director of CBT’s Tennessee Ballet Theater. Ms Abbas is Director and Concept Director for fall and spring productions of Memphis Youth Musical Theater and one of the choreographers for MYMT’s annual summer show, “ANNIE in a Week. Ms. Abbas began her training at Classical Ballet School in Memphis. In addition to her 10 years of classical ballet background, she studied lyrical, jazz, broadway musical theater, and tap.
Nora Curran is Ballet Mistress for Tennessee Ballet Theater, and an instructor in the upper levels for Children’s Ballet Theater. Mrs Curran received her early classical training from her mother, Vera Sohr, formerly of the Oslo Ballet, Norway. She has trained with renowned teachers from around the world, including Helena Kerolinska (Kirov Ballet, Russia), Roberta Chesnul, Christine DuBoulay and Richard Ellis (Royal Ballet, England), Vivi Flindt (Royal Danish Ballet), Patricia Sigurdsen (American Ballet Theater, New York), Alexandria Zaharius, (Missouri Concert Ballet), Jurgen Schneider (Stuttgart Ballet, Germany). She also received jazz training while performing musical theater in New York from Bob Fosse, Robert Durkin, and Suzanne Carol.
Curran directed her own school in Dallas, Texas, was Artistic Director of the Salt Creek Ballet western locale in Chicago, founder and Co-Artistic Director of The American School of Russian Ballet in Memphis, founder and Artistic Director of the Oakland Youth Ballet, Fayette County. Ms Curran’s students have gone on to professional careers with the San Francisco Ballet, Houston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Missouri Concert Ballet, Zurich Ballet (Switzerland), Ballet Met, Duluth Ballet, Alabama Ballet, Denver Ballet, Harkness Ballet, Joel Hall, Gus Giordono, Hubbard Street, Cirque du Soleil, and many other classical ballet, Broadway and television productions.
Memphis Youth Musical Theater Vocal Coach Myra Brindley brings vast experience as a performer and voice teacher to MYMT. She is lead coach for MYMT’s annual “ANNIE in a Week” summer performance onstage. It brings her great happiness to bring students the joy and confidence of performing on stage. Mrs. Brindley received her certification in Orff-Schulwerk at the University of Memphis and is a licensed teacher of Music Education. She is an Orff Music Specialist at the Memphis City Schools. Mrs. Brindley began her love of theater and music in high school where she took leads in Captain Lovelock and West Side Story, and the title role in Annie.
Cami Curran is an instructor for Children’s Ballet Theater. Camilla Curran is a Vaganova trained ballet dancer and teacher. She studied with her mother, Nora Curran, beginning at age 7 and continued through her graduation from the Allegro Youth Ballet at age 18. She has attended numerous intensives and received private coaching from Russian’s famed ballet dancers Vadim Pijikov and Philip Velanov. Her performing repertoire includes Snow Queen and Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker, the White Swan Odette in Swan Lake, soloist roles in Don Quixote, Coppelia, and Swan Lake, and Nora Curran’s original choreography as well as her own.
Mary Van Dyke, Artistic Director
Erin Kenny Walter
Alyssa Abbas Lucero
Myra Ferracci Brindley
Debra Wexler is an instructor for Children’s Ballet Theater. Mrs Wexler began her early training in Buffalo, New York with Maris Battaglia and later as a Ford Foundation scholarship winner for two years from the School of American Ballet. She attended summer training with the Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theater, and Harkness House. Later she was trained in the Russian method of the Vagonova syllabus at the Buffalo Ballet Center, under the direction of Kathleen Crofton, former protégé of Anna Pavlova.
Her teaching career includes faculty for Baltimore School of The Arts, guest teacher for Maryland Ballet, faculty for Tennessee Ballet Company, and her own schools including Germantown Academy of Ballet, Plie, Pump and Palette, Jewish Community Center and Cordova Academy of Ballet. She has received the Tennessee Governor's School for the Arts award for Outstanding Teacher four times. She has been the local children's co coordinator for the Moscow Ballet's Nutcracker in 1999 and 2000.
Evelyn Smith is an instructor for Children’s Ballet Theater. Mrs Smith has taught dance for over 20 years including running her own Community Dance School in the United Kingdom, Dance On-Studio, for 8 years Her students performed at competitions gaining top marks & trophies. After her move to Memphis, this past year she has taught Pre-Ballet and Ballet classes for Children’s Ballet Theater.
Miss Curran currently enjoys dancing with contemporary company Performance Art Network as well as the Tennessee Ballet Theater. She served for several years as the Director of Dance for House of Talent. Miss Curran is also a model for AMAX and a fashion stylist and enjoys working in all areas of the arts.
She graduated from Briarcrest High School and earned a B.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame in 1993. Her roles include Arabian, lead Mirleton and the Dew Drop Fairy in The Nutcracker, and solos in Les Sylphides, Raymonda and The Colors of Mozart. She has taught for Children's Ballet Theater since 2004. Mrs Walter is on faculty for ballet for the 1st-3rd grades at St. Mary's School.
While with the company, Elena Tchernichova, former ballet mistress for ABT, set her production of Romeo and Juliet, starring Natalia Makarova and Ivan Nagy. Debra was honored to be asked to understudy Makarova's role. Ms Wexler appeared in the documentary, Peter Martins, A Dancer, and was profiled in Dance Magazine's spread of the Maryland Ballet.
Evelyn has a wealth of experience, qualifications and enthusiasm that she is keen to pass on to students of Children's Ballet Theater.
Ms Van Dyke had extensive summer training during high school and college in ballet, jazz and modern including four summers at the Boston Ballet School, at Joffery in NYC, Stanley Holden in LA, and in Russian Vaganova training in Belgium with famed ballerina Irina Kolpakova.
Ms Van Dyke had a passion for musical theater so while studying Communications at the University of Tennessee she also studied theater classes and musical theater style jazz. She worked as a model for the Colors Modeling Agency in Memphis in runway, print and music videos. Ms Van Dyke added the Memphis Youth Musical Theater program several years ago to bring the joy of the classics to young performers. Students taught by Ms Van Dyke and Ms Alyssa in the MYMT program have received corps and lead roles in local theater companies and school musicals
Ms Van Dyke was cofounder and instructor of a school for Russian classical ballet for six years in downtown Chicago. During that time, DePaul University invited the school to open a satellite at their on-campus Fitness & Recreation Center. Ms Van Dyke designed, co-directed and produced the USA National Youth Ballet Competition presented by Russian Pointe as well as the Ballet Intensive from Moscow Summer Program and Russian Teacher Seminar at Northern Illinois University and Michigan State University. She returned to Memphis to be help with her parents and they also enjoyed every minute of grand-parenting! Ms Van Dyke started Children’s Ballet Theater 12 years ago in Memphis and each year the children in her Children’s Ballet Theater Nutcracker and recital still bring tears to her eyes!
Ms Walter began her ballet training with Judy and Michael Tevlin at Memphis Ballet. Mrs Walter performed with Youth Concert Ballet and Tennessee Ballet Company. Mrs Walter attended intensive summer sessions at Ft. Wayne Ballet, Burklyn Ballet Theater in Vermont and at the San Francisco Ballet School.
Curran has performed and choreographed for the Chicago Youth Ballet, Illinois Ballet, Chicago Dance, Hinsdale Opera Ballet (Chicago), Fox Valley Theater (Chicago), Gateway Theater (New York), Salt Creek Ballet (Chicago), Principia College (St. Louis), North Central College (Chicago), Vanderbilt University. She has performed leading roles in Swan Lake, Nutcracker, and Don Quixote. Curran has been a guest teacher at North Central College (Chicago), College of DuPage, (Chicago), the Salt Creek Ballet, (Chicago), Vanderbilt University, University of Memphis, Steiger Studios (Minneapolis, St. Pau).
She has performed with Ballet Memphis, Theater Memphis, Ballet on Wheels and dances and competes professionally in ballroom dance. She recently performed a lead in Oklahoma at the Harrell Performing Art Center. Ms. Abbas is a performing member and choreographer of Tennessee Ballet Theater and has performed the Doll, Snow Queen, Dew Drop Fairy, and Bo Peep in the annual Children’s Ballet Theater Nutcracker.
While receiving her M.S. degree in education, she received 5 years of practicum teaching experience. Ms. Palazola is a classical pianist and is pursuing her degree in music from the University of Memphis. Ms. Palazola has lived in Memphis for seven years and she and her husband have two children.
With completion of her BA degree in Music Education from Delta State University, she served as choir director for New Hope Christian Academy, Memphis City Schools, Memphis Catholic Diocese, and Trinity United Methodist Church. Ms. Brindley has vast theater and performing experience including her work with the Memphis Vocal Arts Ensemble as a Soprano Soloist, Delta State University Opera Theatre, the Delta Chorale, and the Madrigal Singers. She also performed in the Divine Spiritualettes Gospel Group and in Trinity Dinner Theater.
Jade Primicias is an instructor for Children’s Ballet Theater and Associate Creative Director of Tennessee Ballet Theater. Ms Primicias is a performer, choreographer, and instructor of dance and theatrical acrobatics. She holds two Bachelor’s Degrees in Dance and English with a Creative Writing concentration, and has been teaching dance for nine years. Jade enjoys all types of movement, specializing in the Russian methods of ballet; Limón modern technique; Ohad Naharin's Gaga movement language; and Pilobolus Dance Theatre's acrobatic, athletic, and collaborative style of creation. With additional training at the Joffrey Ballet School, she has performed pieces by Desmond Richardson, Bob Fosse, José Limón, Colin Connor, Dante Puleio, and Bradley Beakes. Her research and choreography have won national awards and have been presented internationally.
In 2013, Jade directed, produced, and performed in three concerts combining dance and original poetry, two of which took place in the United Kingdom. Here in Memphis, Jade is excited to celebrate two full seasons with Tennessee Ballet Theater, having performed the roles of Clara and Arabian in The Children’s Ballet Theater Nutcracker and having served as dancer, choreographer, and producer in the company’s contemporary shows, including the site-specific These Walls: Tales from a Juke Joint. Jade is also a contributing choreographer and artist to Project: Motion Modern Dance Collective.
Evelyn believes in continually learning and is currently attending classes studying Russian and the Vafanova method of Ballet with CBT. In the Summer of 2017 she successfully completed her Licentiate (Advanced Teacher) status with the National Association of Teachers of Dancing (Len Goodman is a member!) adding to her current Associate Ballet Teacher status.
She is also an Associate member of the United Kingdom Alliance of Dance, Drama and Exercise and holds a Contemporary Dance Degree from Roehampton Institute of London. Evelyn teaches Ballet, Tap, Modern, Jazz, Contemporary, Disco Freestyle, Street & Song and Dance to children ages 18 months to adult.
At age 15 she joined the affiliated Niagara Frontier Ballet, as corps and then soloist. At age 17, Debra was accepted into the Joffrey II Company in New York City. After an injury sidelined her she later joined American Ballet Theatre's apprentice program. Ms Wexler performed as soloist and principle dancer for ten years with Maryland Ballet Company including as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet with ABT principle dancer Clark Tippet, Swan Lake, Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker, and MacMillan's Concerto Pas de deux.
Guyla Wanderman Mezz is the vocal teacher and coach for Memphis Youth Musical Theater. Ms Wanderman is a soprano, and specialized in the operatic roles of Carmen in Bizet's Carmen, Charlotte in Massenet's Werther, Delilah in Saint-Saen's Samson and Delilah, Dido in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, , Euridice in Gluck's Orfeo among many famed operas, in various cities around the country before returning home to Memphis to raise a family.
Guyla Wanderman Mezz
Guyla is a founding member of The Red Thread Opera Company based in Minneapolis/St. Paul MN. One of the personal highlights of Ms. Wanderman's Operatic career was working at the Como Opera Guild in the Mississippi Delta blues town of Como, Ms. where she was not only a featured performer but worked in all aspects of creating an opera production including touring the Delta teaching vocal master classes, presenting opera lectures, directing performances, working as artistic director, designing costumes ,sets and posters, and building scenery. It was with the Como Opera Guild that Guyla discovered her talent in the visual arts as well as her true passion for bringing opera to young audiences who have had zero exposure to the classical arts.
Guyla got her head start in the performing arts with the Poplar Pike Playhouse at Germantown High School, where she sang and danced in many musical productions before beginning her classical training and career.
Guyla also plays the violin and has played professionally in string quartets and ensembles while training as an Opera singer. In addition to having performed as a classically trained singer, Guyla has had the opportunity to perform professionally in almost every musical genre including art songs, madrigals, chant, a cappella, jazz, choral, ancient, atonal, pop, rock, gospel, folk ballads, standards, country, vocalise, blues, and musicals.