Born in Bethesda, Maryland, received her BFA in Dance from University of Florida/New World School of the Arts. Ms. Wiesen trained at the Miami Conservatory with Thomas Armour and Robert Pike and with Judith Newman and Gerard Ebitz at New World School of the Arts. She performed as a soloist with the Miami Ballet and New World School of the Arts. Ms. Wiesen joined the faculty of the Miami Conservatory in 1984. She progressed from instructor to Ballet Mistress of the Junior company and assumed the Directorship of the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet in 2003. In 1989, Ms. Wiesen founded the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet Scholarship Program which under her direction has grown from 20 students to over 500 students at five locations. In addition to her directorship of the TAYB, Ms. Wiesen is a member of the dance faculty of the New World School of the Arts. Ms. Wiesen has been honored by the Arts and Business Council for her contribution to encouraging diversity in the world of dance in Miami-Dade County and for the impact she has had on the lives of so many talented, underprivileged students. Dance is Ms. Wiesen’s second career. Prior to returning to her first love, dance, Ms. Wiesen held a variety of positions as a Registered Nurse, including Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Duke University Medical Center.
A Russian native and obtained a Master’s Degree in Linguistics and Certification in International Product from a London based Global Distribution Company, Worldspan, Inc. Ms. Ilinskaya speaks several languages and has an extensive experience in business development, daily operations, translation/interpretation and teaching foreign languages having been employed by a number of International companies. Ms. Ilinskaya joined Miami Conservatory in 2002.
Born in Bogota, Colombia is a former TAYB scholarship student and holds a Masters in Global Governance from Florida International University and a Bachelors of Arts in International Studies & Political Science from the University of Miami. Ms. Gil joined the TAYB faculty in 2008 as a student assistant and has since held various positions within the organization.
Born in Miami, Florida is a former TAYB scholarship student and pursuing a Bachelors of Arts in Art Communication at Florida International University. Ms. Fonte joined the TAYB faculty in 2008 as a student assistant and has since held various positions within the organization.
Mariana AlvarezLead Ballet Instructor
A native of Cuba, began her ballet training at the age of 11 in Miami at Ballet Concerto, and continued her studies with Thomas Armour and Martha Mahr. At the age of 16, she received a Ford Foundation Scholarship to the School of American Ballet in New York. Ms. Alvarez performed for five years with The National Ballet of Washington where she worked with reknowned choreographer, Ben Stevenson. She also performed as a soloist with the Ballet Nacional de Caracas in Venezuela and with the San Francisco Ballet. Ms. Alvarez has been honored for her choreography by the Association de Criticos y Comenristas de las Artes Teatrales Clasicas y Literaris in Miami. She has been a guest performer and adjudicator at the International Festival Mundial de Ballet in Lima, Peru. Ms. Alvarez joined the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet faculty in 1990.
Rosario SuarezLead Ballet Instructor
Was born in Havana, Cuba, where she completed her dance studies at the National School of the Arts. She was a recipient of the Gold Medal at the International Ballet Competition of Varna, Bulgaria, among other prestigious awards. She has danced as a Principal Dancer with the National Ballet of Cuba (1968-1995) and has performed in more than 50 countries as a guest artist. One highlight of Suárez’s career is her performance of Odette-Odile in Swan Lake at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris in 1983. Acclaimed in Cuba as the greatest and most popular ballerina of her generation, Ms. Suárez is famous as a versatile interpreter who prefers to build her stage characters around expressive musicality. Ms. Suarez joined the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet faculty in 2008.
Lucia AbattemarcoBallet Instructor
Was born in Caracas Venezuela where she began her dance training at the age of 6 under French and Russian instructors Madame Jaqueline Locci and Irina Yvanova. Her training was based in the Checccetti and Vaganova methods of ballet. At the age of 10 Lucia was a soloist for the Pleyel Dance Company, dancing roles in the ballet “Sylvia” and an original piece called “A Birds Life”. Lucia was corps de ballet member in the ballet Les Sylphide and Swan Lake, featuring Rudolf Nureyev. At the age of eleven Lucia was the recipient of a full 5 year scholarship from the Bolshoi. At age 16 she travelled to the U.S. where she furthered her studies under teachers Richard Croskey, Mrs. Irena Lynn, Dr. Dorothy Floyd, Cathy Fox, Dr. Gene McCutchen, etc. She danced professionally as a soloist and principal dancer around the country and has taught and choreographed in many schools in and out of the United States. Lucia directed her own school and pre-professional company in Knoxville Tennessee for many years prior to relocating to Miami. She also has a degree in Education and Dance from the University of Tennessee.
Fareedha AppahWest African Dance Instructor
Born in Miami, FL. She received her BFA in dance from New World School of the Arts/University of Florida and her MFA in dance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. While in school, she received full scholarships to the Florida Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow, Bates Dance Festival, and the Urban Bush Women Dance Festival. She has performed internationally with the New World School of the Arts Dance Company to Australia and Taiwan. She has also worked with some of the dance worlds prestigious dance teachers such as: James Truitte, Daniel Lewis, Milton Myers, Anne Marie Forsythe, Reginald Yates, Janet Lilly, Karen Stewart, and Chuck Davis. Fareedha toured extensively with Chuck Davis’ African American Dance Ensemble, 1998-2001. During her tenure in the North Carolina Public School System she taught ballet, modern and West African dance at Durham School of the Arts, West Cary Middle School, East Millbrook Magnet Middle School, and Lumberton High School.
Natalie AxleyJazz and Tap Instructor
A Miami native, trained with Thomas Armour and Robert Pike at the Miami Conservatory. She was a member of the Miami Ballet for six years and a graduate of the Performing Arts P.A.V.A.C. program that later became the New World School of the Arts. Ms. Axley danced with the Milwaukee Ballet Company for two years and performed with the Miami City Ballet for two seasons in the Nutcracker and Serenade. Ms. Axley also danced with Freddick Bratcher Dance Company for five seasons. She has been teaching with Mencia Pikieris School of Dance since 1996. Ms. Axley joined Miami Conservatory of Ballet in 2005 to and heads the outreach program in Perrine
Started dance training in Orlando, Florida at The School of Performing Arts and later became a part of their student company, Ballet South. Continuing her education and dance training she moved to Miami to attend New World School of the Arts college and graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. Currently, Meredith is part of the professional contemporary ballet company, Whole Project, residing at Sixth Street Dance Studio in Little Havana. This is Meredith’s first year teaching for TAYB as the Ballet and Composition teacher at the Morningside Elementary site.
Angelica DiazBallet Instructor
A native of Havana, Cuba and studied classical ballet for eight years at the National School of Art in Havana and Camaguey, Cuba. In 1981, Ms. Diaz joined the Ballet of Camaguey under the artistic direction of Fernando Alonso where she danced as a soloist and toured throughout Europe, South America, Africa and China. Ms. Diaz came to the United States in 1990 and has lived in Miami ever since, where she has danced with Miami Ballet, Ballet Rosario Suarez, Momentum Dance Co, Creation Ballet Co, and Ife-Ile Afro-Cuban Dance & Music Ensemble. Ms. Diaz has also appeared the featured film, The Lost City (2005). Ms. Diaz has taught at Jill Mallory Dance Studio, Creations Art Center, Florene Litthcu’s t Inner City Children’s Touring Co, Ballet at your School and Martha Mahr School of Ballet. In 2004, Ms. Diaz received her B.A. in Dance Education from Florida International University, receiving an award for Outstanding Academic Achievement in Dance. In 2007, Ms. Diaz received a certificate of appreciation for her contributions to the community of Liberty City while working under Ms. Litthcu’st’s Inner City Children’s Touring Co. from the Miami-Dade County Office of the Mayor and Board of County Commissioners. Ms. Diaz has been on the faculty of the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet since 2009, teaching creative movement through advanced classes.
Maite Diz LeonBallet Instructor
A native of Cuba graduated from the National School in Cuba. She was a soloist in the Joven Guardia of the National Cuban Ballet, performing featured roles of classical and contemporary works under the direction of Laura Alfonso, Ballet Mistress of NCB. In 1994 she was a finalist in the Fifth International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi, where she was highly praised for her technique and artistic quality. She was invited to join the Taller Coreograficio de la UNAM in Mexico, where she danced touring with the Company in New York and Los Angeles. Maite was also ballet instructor and repetiteur at the CUBALLET in Cuba, as well as in Argentina, Peru and Mexico. Ms. Diz danced with Momentum and Maximum Dance Companies as well. She danced with Ballet Rosario Suarez, and performed as a guest dancer with ballet companies throughout the United States.
Stephanie FuentesBallet Instructor
Born and raised in Miami, Florida graduated from the University of Florida/New World School of the Arts with a Bachelors in Fine Arts (Dance). She trained at Rosario Suarez Dance Academy, Thomas Armour Youth Ballet, New World School of the Arts/ University of Florida in Graham, Horton, Limón, Ballet and Contemporary and at The Martha Graham School under the direction of Virginie Mecene, Denise Vale and Peggy Lyman. She is a former dancer of Peter London Global Dance and Martha Graham 2. Ms. Fuentes is a certified Graham Teacher and a Choreographer; she has received outstanding recognition and reviews for her work. Her professional experience include works from Martha Graham, lead roles like Chronicles, Temptation Of The Moon and El Penitente, works by Darshan Singh Bhuller, Peter London, Jamar Roberts, Micheal Foley and Micheal Uthoff.
Kelly RobothamBallet Instructor
Born in Bronx, New York raised in Miami is an alumni of New World School of the Arts and holds a Bachelors in Fine Arts from The Juilliard School. Ms. Robotham danced with Ailey II for one year and was promoted to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater where she danced from 2011-2014. In 2014 Ms. Robotham returned to her city Miami, and worked briefly at Miami City Ballet as Executive Assistant and Development Coordinator. Ms. Robotham joined the TAYB faculty in 2015.
Jessica Shults-FigueroaBallet Instructor
A native of Miami, Florida, began her early formal classical ballet training with Thomas Armour, Ruth Wiesen, and Robert Pike at the Miami Conservatory. She continued her studies as a scholarship student at Miami City Ballet School, School of American Ballet in NYC, and American Ballet Theatre. During her years as a student and a dancer she had the opportunity to study and work with such distinguished mentors as Stanley Williams, David Howard, Violette Verdy, Allegra Kent, Edward Villella, Twyla Tharp, Christopher Wheeldon and many other legendary-teachers, choreographers, and artists. At the age of 16 she became Miami City Ballet schools first student to be asked to join the company where for the next ten years she was featured in soloist, corps de ballet, and principal roles in much of the company’s vast classical, neo-classical, and modern repertoire. While dancing with the Miami City Ballet she traveled extensively both on domestic and international tours that included performances in world renowned theatres and Festivals such as Edinburgh Festival, Teatro Regio Torino,Teresa Carreno Theater, Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival, and the Kennedy Center’s Balanchine Festival. After leaving the company Ms. Shults became a member of the Miami City Ballet School’s Children’s Division faculty and outreach teacher. She is currently a company member with Miami Contemporary Dance Company and joined the Miami Conservatory faculty in 2007.
Natasha WilliamsTap Instructor
Graduated from New World School of the Arts High School, Dance Division in 2004. She completed her Bachelors in Business Management in 2008 and her MBA in 2012, both at Florida International University. Natasha has studied with renowned tappers including, her mentor Katherine Kramer, Dianne Walker, Derick Grant, Sarah Reich, and many more. Natasha is also an alumni of Jacob’s Pillow Tap Program for 2010. Natasha joined the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet in 2007 and started their first ever Tap Team in 2011. The TAYB Tap Team participated in the Young Talent Big Dreams Contest held at Actors Play house in 2012 and won for Group Dance. Natasha, along with the TAYB Tap Team, presented at TEDx Youth Miami at the Adrienne Arsht Center in 2012. Natasha began teaching at Dance Empire in the fall of 2013. Natasha also started a Tap duo with Chrissy Palmieri in 2014, called 2Tap Miami, that performs at various venues around the city.
Board of Directors
Daniel Lewis, President
Dennis Edwards, Vice President and Treasurer
Quashone Perry, Secretary
Stephanie R. Altman
Oliver Von Gundlach
Mary Lynn Young