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School Faculty

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Marielena Mencia

Artistic Director, Ballet

Artistic Director, Choreographer, was born in Cuba and spent her childhood in Miami, receiving her early training at Ballet Concerto. In 1976, Ms. Mencia joined the International Ballet of Caracas as a principal dancer. In 1980, she became a principal ballerina with the Bavarian National Ballet being extremely well received by the European public and widely acclaimed for her interpretations of Juliet in John Cranko's "Romeo and Juliet”, Lise in Sir Frederick Ashton's “La Fille Mal Gardee”, Marie in John Neumeier's "The Nutcracker", as well as "Eugene Onegin", "The Taming of the Shrew", "Giselle", "The Sleeping Beauty" and an extensive contemporary repertoire. The Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet invited Ms. Mencia to dance the role of Katherina in Cranko's "The Taming of the Shrew" on tour throughout England where she won the hearts of audiences and critics alike. As a frequent partner of her husband, Yanis Pikieris, gold medal winner at the Moscow International Ballet Competition, Ms. Mencia appeared with various companies in Latin America, the United States and Europe. She was a principal guest of the Australian Ballet dancing the role of Giselle on tour through Australia. Ms. Mencia has also performed with the Ballet Centrum Berlin "Gala of Stars" all over Europe, as a guest artist with the Deutsche Oper Berlin and as principal ballerina of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Dusseldorf. In 1986 Ms. Mencia joined Miami City Ballet as a founding principal dancer. With this company, she performed most of the roles in its extensive Balanchine repertoire; She then joined the Ballet du Nord in France as principal dancer and ballet mistress. Returning to Miami, Ms. Mencia performed with Maximum Dance Company and founded, along with her husband, the Mencia-Pikieris School of Dance. She now also serves as Artistic Director of the Miami Youth Ballet.

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Yanis Pikieris

Artistic Director, Ballet

Dancer, Director, Choreographer, was the recipient of the silver medal at the first; Jackson International Ballet Competition in 1979. In 1981 he was the first dancer; from the western hemisphere to win the prestigious gold medal at Moscow’s; International Ballet Competition, launching an international career that would take; him to over 40 countries around the world as one of his generations’ premier dancers.He has danced as a principal dancer with the International Ballet of Caracas, Bavarian National Ballet, Deutsche Oper am Rhein-Dusseldorf, Miami City Ballet and Ballet& du Nord. As a guest principal dancer he has performed with the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Nagoya Ballet, The Australian Ballet, Los Angeles Ballet (1984 Olympic Games ), Hungarian State Opera, Latvian National Opera (Honorary guest for the 1st Dance Festival of the Baltics) and Teatro Massimo di Palermo among others. Other important appearances include venues such as Wolftrap, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Munich’sOlympic Stadium and Spoletto Festival in Italy. Mr. Pikieris has enjoyed enormous success throughout Europe and received various critics’ awards for his performances in John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet and Eugene Onegin as well as in a diverse classical and contemporary repertoire. In 1986 Artistic Director Edward Villella invited him to join a new company; Miami City Ballet. As a founding member he astounded with his power and passion on stage and was instrumental in the initial success of the company. From '86 to '89 and '91 to '94 he danced most of the ballets in that company’s extensive Balanchine repertoire. He will be mostly remembered for interpretations of The Prodigal Son, Apollo and Tarantella among others. As a choreographer he has created several works, including “Dischordia”, ”Still Waters” “Mephisto," ”Imagined Notions”, “Gargoyles,” and "The Four Seasons" (SunPost Winner- Best Dance Concert of the 2002-2003 Season). He has created works for the Bavarian National Ballet, Ballet Centrum Berlin, Ballet Randolph, Ballet du Nord, Ballet Theatre of Miami, Ballet Metropolitano de Medellin, Juegos del Arte Dance Ensemble, Maximum Dance Company, Ballet de Monterrey and Colleges around the U.S.A. He has also choreographed the dance sequences in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin for the Florida Grand Opera. Mr. Pikieris has also created works in collaboration with David Palmer, including “The Rite of Spring”, (SunPost Winner- Best Original Work of the 2002-2003 Season) "Spectrum", “Adiemus”, “Carnival of the Animals” and “The Elements” for Maximum Dance Company. In recognition for his outstanding contribution to the arts, Dade County and the City of Miami have proclaimed Nov 15th and 16th, 2002 as Yanis Pikieris Day. He is also the recipient of the New World School of the Arts Achievement Award. He previously served as Artistic Director for Ballet du Nord, Juegos Dance Ensemble and the Ballet Metropolitano de Medellin. Mr. Pikieris founded and directed Maximum Dance Company from, 1996 to 2005, with David Palmer. During the 06/07 season, he served as Program Director for Miami City Ballet’s Contemporary Dance Series and Young People’s Programming. He currently directs the Mencia-Pikieris School of Dance, the Miami Youth Ballet and works as a freelance master teacher and choreographer.

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Natalie Axley

Ballet, Pre-Ballet

Natalie Axley, a native of Miami, she trained with Thomas Armour and Robert Pike at the Miami Conservatory and was a member of the Miami Ballet Company for six years. She is a graduate of the Performing Arts P.A.V.A.C. program that later became the New World School of the Arts. She was a member of the Milwaukee Ballet Company for two years and performed with the Miami City Ballet for two seasons in "The Nutcracker" and "Serenade." Natalie also danced with Freddick Bratcher Dance Company for five seasons. She has been teaching with Miami Youth Ballet since it’s inception in 1996.

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Jennifer Kronenberg

Ballet

Jennifer Carlynn Kronenberg was born in Queens, New York where she trained with Teresa Aubel, Nicholas Orloff, Norman Walker, and Barbara Walczack; continuing her studies on scholarship at the School of American Ballet before joining Miami City Ballet as an apprentice in 1994 at the age of 17. She moved steadily through the ranks achieving the title of Principal dancer, which she held with the company from 2001-2016. Ms. Kronenberg danced leading roles in the majority of MCB’s diverse repertoire; including Balanchine's "Rubies", Who Cares?, Allegro Brillante, Duo Concertante, Sonatine, Swan Lake, and Stravinsky Violin Concerto, as well as the classics - Grand Pas Classique, Coppélia, Don Quixote, Giselle, and John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet . Also in her repertoire are numerous Jerome Robbins, Paul Taylor and Twyla Tharp works, as well as Antony Tudor, Trey McIntyre, Christopher Wheeldon pieces. New to her curriculum are roles she created in recent world premieres, including Liam Scarlett’s Viscera and Alexei Ratmansky’s Symphonic Dances. She performed with MCB to great critical acclaim at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1997, at the Jacob's Pillow and Aspen Festivals, Torino’s Danza Festival in Italy, the Kennedy Center’s International Ballet Festival and Balanchine Celebrations, the Vail International Dance Festival, the NYC City Center’s Fall for Dance performance series, and at Les Etes des Danses at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, France. She also proudly joined Miami City Ballet in their recent premiere at Lincoln Center’s Koch Theater, receiving acclaimed reviews. In March 2011 she was featured in PBS’s Great Performances “Dance in America: Miami City Ballet Dances Balanchine and Tharp, and has also been featured on numerous occasions in Pointe Magazine, DanceView Times, Dance Spirit Magazine, as well as gracing the cover of DANCE Magazine’s October 2010 issue - being the subject of its feature article. She has written a “From the Heart: Why I Dance” essay, published in DANCE Magazine’s April 2011 issue, the first edition of her book entitled “So, You Want to be a Ballet Dancer?” has been published electronically by Diversion Books, and the second edition has been published in paperback by The University Press of Florida. She also serves on the Advisory Board for Florida’s own World of Dance Magazine. Ms. Kronenberg was a regular faculty member of the Miami City Ballet Summer Intensive Program, and has been an invited guest teacher with numerous schools throughout the United States and abroad, including Conchita Espinoza Conservatory of the Arts, Ballet East, The Cary Ballet Conservatory, Ballet Concerto, Ballet Chicago, Ballet Arts of Jackson Tennessee, El Ballet de Monterrey Curso de Verano, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and Naples Dance Conservatory, among many others. This fall she will assist world renowned ballet icon Edward Villella in teaching a master class series for Florida Atlantic University’s Department of Dance. She is married to fellow dancer and partner Carlos Miguel Guerra, and together they have a lovely three year old daughter.

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Gabriella De Lima

Jazz, Company

Gabriella Delima was born in Miami, Florida and began her dance training at the age of 5. Growing up she has performed with many artists and after thirteen years as a competitive dancer she attended and received her BSA in Business Management from Point Park University. Gabby is now a Head Co-Coach for the Maverick Legacies Dance Team and is currently on staff with the Universal Dance Association traveling and working with different dance teams all throughout the east coast. She has taught numerous Master classes and has choreographed through-out the state of Florida as well. Gabby has been teaching at MYB for 3 years and directs the Mini and Junior company.

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Yanelis Estevez

Pre-Ballet

Born in Santa Clara, Cuba, Yanelis began her training in 1986 at the Vocational Arts School and finished it with honors in 1999 at the Institute of Fine Arts (ISA) in Havana, Cuba. In 2004 she got her degree as Master of Arts. Miss Estevez was a Soloist Ballerina and Specialist Professor at the Danza del Alma and Danza Abierta Companies in Cuba. She has also been teaching different levels in Ballet, Contemporary Dance and Cuban Modern Technique. During (2005-2007) she worked as a Contemporary Dance teacher at Universidad Michoacana in Mexico She has taken different international workshops such as: Flying Low Technique, Butoh, Graham Technique, Improvisation and Contact Improvisation.

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Stephan Fons

Tap, Stretch & Strengthening

Stephan Fons began his ballet training at the Mencia-Pikieris School of Dance. Because of his outstanding qualities as a dancer, he is now principal dancer of the Miami Youth Ballet and will perform the role of Cavalier in the company’s annual production of the “Nutcracker." Stephan has also performed with Maximum Dance Company and is currently pursuing a career in dance.

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Alexandra Rocha

Contemporary, Ballet

Alexandra Rocha was born and raised in Miami, FL. She trained at the Mencia-Pikieris School of Dance, now Miami Youth Ballet, under the direction of former Miami City Ballet principals, Marielena Mencia and Yanis Pikieris. Alexandra attended New World School of the Arts, where she trained in ballet, pointe and modern techniques such as Horton, Graham and Limon. While at New World, she had the opportunity to work with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director Robert Battle and guest choreographer Darshan Buhler. During the summers of her high school years, Alexandra attended summer programs with the Joffrey Ballet School, American Ballet Theatre and the Joffrey Jazz & Contemporary program. She attended the University of South Florida, where she graduated Cum Laude with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance in 2014. While at USF, she worked with renowned choreographers Doug Varone and Jennifer Archibald and worked with company members from Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company and The Batsheva Dance Company. In 2013, Alexandra danced and performed in Paris, France, where she worked with company members from Nederlands Dans Theater and learned repertory by William Forsythe. Upon her graduation from USF in 2014, Alexandra returned to Miami and began working with Miami Youth Ballet as a choreographer and instructor. Alexandra holds a Master of Science in Arts Administration from Drexel University and an Executive Certificate in Nonprofit Fund Development from the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame.

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Yanis Eric Pikieris

Ballet

Yanis Eric Pikieris is a native of Miami, Florida and began his dance training with his parents, Marielena Mencia and Yanis Pikieris, at the Miami Youth Ballet. He also trained at Miami City Ballet School and with Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride at Charlotte Ballet Academy. While at Charlotte Ballet, Yanis Eric performed in several company productions including works by Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, Dwight Rhoden, Alonzo King and George Balanchine’s ‘Tarantella.’ Yanis Eric joined Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami in 2016 as an inaugural member of the company where he has since been featured in works by George Balanchine, Gerald Arpino, Septime Webre and Ivonice Satie, among others. As a choreographer, he has created several original works for Dimensions Dance Theatre's mainstage series; including a commission for their sister company, Ballet Vero Beach; and a world premiere collaboration with Miami-based Illuminarts and Philidelphia-based Variant 6. In 2022, Pikieris choreographed a work for National Water Dance, encouraging ongoing engagement between dance and the environment. Pikieris is now one of DDTM’s Artists in Residence and is a recipient of the 2021 (DMC) Dance Miami Choreographers’ Program award.

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Stephanie Walz

Ballet

Stephanie Walz grew up in Virginia where she received her early ballet training at the Degrasse Dance studio, and then at the Washington School of Ballet under Mary Day. She was chosen by Mikhail Baryshnikov to attend his elite School of Classical Ballet for two summers, and also attended The School of American Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet School, and Ballet West at Snowmass, all on full scholarships. Stephanie is also the recipient of prize scholarships from the Princess Grace Foundation, the USA International Ballet Competition at Jackson, Mississippi, and the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (now known as YoungArts). She was awarded First Prize at the national level of the National Society of Arts and Letters competition, and the Professional Prize at the Prix de Lausanne. In 1991, President Bush named her a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, recognizing her dual artistic and academic achievements.
That year, Stephanie was invited to attend the Golden Plate Awards in New York City, where she had the honor of interacting with iconic mentors including George Lucas, Audrey Hepburn, Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, General Colin Powell, sports figures and Nobel Prize winning scientists.

Stephanie joined the American Ballet Theatre at age 17, where she was featured in many prominent classical and contemporary roles over the next eight and a half years. She worked personally with choreographers Agnes de Mille, Lar Lubovitch, Mark Morris, Twyla Tharp, Glen Tetley, Ulysses Dove, and Robert La Fosse , and was also featured in Anthony Tudor, Sir Kenneth Macmillan, George Balanchine, and numerous full length classical ballets. Coaches and mentors included Kevin McKenzie(AD), Natalia Makarova, Gelsey Kirkland, and Georgina Parkinson,and David Howard, among others. Stephanie performed with ABT across Europe, Asia, Mexico, South and North America in the world’s greatest Opera Houses and theaters.
Stephanie then joined Miami’s own Maximum Dance Company, founded by Yanis Pikieris and David Palmer where she had the opportunity to perform in numerous new creations by them and also Ivonice Satie, K.T. Nelson, Nikoli Kabanaiev, Danny Rosseel, Paolo Mohovich, and Eveyln Cisneros, in Miami, through the US and internationally .Stephanie regularly enjoyed appearing as a guest artist. Some of her principal classical roles have included Giselle, Swan Lake, Coppelia, Esmerelda, Paquita, Carmen, Pelleas and Melisande and The Nutcracker (Sugar Plum Fairy and other roles). She’s performed with the Lemon Sponge Cake Contemporary Ballet, American Repertory Ensemble, Stars of the American Ballet Theatre, Young Arts Foundation (gala), and in Germany with choreographer Jean-Christophe Blavier of the Stuttgart Ballet. She performed a principal dancing role in Aida with the Florida Grande Opera for their premier at the Miami Performing Arts Center. She also was invited to perform at the opening of the Hong Kong Performing Arts Center. Some of her esteemed partners have included David Palmer, Yanis Pikieris, Marcello Gomes, Ethan Brown, Gil Boggs, and Sascha Radetsky.

Stephanie is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Primary through Level 7 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum. She also attended ABT® workshop Port de Bras. Stephanie was invited to join the faculty of The Washington School of Ballet by internationally recognized master teacher, and TWSB Director Kee Juan Han. She was distinguished by Mr. Han and Artistic Director Septime Webre (TWB) for her knowledge and ability to instruct students of all levels from pre-ballet through the professional company, The Washington Ballet. At TWB she coached dancers in ballets including Twyla Tharp’s Push Comes to Shove, The Nutcracker ,and Romeo and Juliet. Her duties also extended to choreography for the school; she was on part then full time faculty for 8 years.While in Washington, Ms. Walz also presented Broadway Bound International workshops, bringing current and professional instruction of a variety of dance styles with guest teachers and directors from NYC and Canada to the DC area. Most recently Stephanie taught and coached at The Draper Center for Dance Education in Rochester , NY, a school which has produced scores of professional dancers and other high level professionals, and garnered awards at YAGP and other competitions. Stephanie primarily worked with the pre-professional students in classes, and also to prepare their solos for competitions. In 2020, she accompanied a student to the internationally prestigious Prix de Lausanne, where the student was offered scholarships to multiple top tiered European ballet schools. She also taught company class regularly for The Rochester City Ballet.
Stephanie is happy to be teaching at the Miami Youth Ballet, with friends and in studios where so many of her professional and personal memories were forged. Her daughter, Sydney Palmer is a student of MYB, and she also has another daughter, Jacquie, with her husband David Palmer.

Stephanie has received her higher education at Fordham University , Miami- Dade Community College, and St. Mary’s College of California’s LEAP (Liberal Education for Arts Professionals) program. She has also contributed to articles for Dance Magazine, and composed a chapter to Elvi Moore’s compiled biography, Mary Day, Grande Dame of Dance in the Nation’s Capitol. Stephanie danced, while at ABT, in a P.B.S. Dance in America film and also in an independent documentary about the company, and was also chosen to be the featured artist from ABT in the children’s reality television show, “Scratch”.

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Luis Villar

Jazz, Company

Bio coming soon!