MIAMI YOUTH BALLET SCHOOL

SCHOOL FACULTY

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.

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. Video credits include, (Bavaria Studios Star Gala), (Los Angeles Ballet, Pas de Deux) and (Dancing for Gold,” Moscow International Ballet Competition”). 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 his 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.

NATALIE AXLEY

Ballet, Modern

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 Mencia-Pikieris School of Dance since it’s inception in 1996.

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.

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.

STEPHAN FONS

Contemporary, Tap

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.

ALEXANDRA ROCHA

Jazz

Alexandra Rocha was born and raised in Miami, FL. She started dancing at the age of 8 and trained at the Mencia-Pikieris School of Dance under the direction of former Miami City Ballet principals, Marielena Mencia and Yanis Pikieris. Alexandra attended New World School of the Arts, where she was 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 at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York as well as the American Ballet Theatre Detroit Summer Intensive, and the Joffrey Jazz & Contemporary Summer Intensive. She attended the University of South Florida where she graduated Cum Laude with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance in 2014. In her 4 years at USF, she worked with renowned choreographers such as Doug Varone and Jennifer Archibald, and danced and performed in Paris, France. Upon her graduation from USF in 2014, Alexandra returned to Miami and began working with the Miami Youth Ballet as a choreographer and instructor. Alexandra recently graduated Cum Laude with a Master of Science in Arts Administration from Drexel University. 

DIANA FIGUEROA

Contemporary, Mini Company

Diana Figueroa was born in Miami, Florida she began her dance training at The Thomas Armour Youth Ballet at the age of 13 training with mainly Rosario Suarez, and Mariana Alvarez. She continued dancing at New World School of the Arts and later graduated from The Harid Conservatory. She has attended North Carolina Dance Theater, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and Burklyn Ballet summer intensives in past years on full scholarships. Diana has also participated in the Youth American grand Prix numerous times and has competed in the NYC finals.  She received a BFA from Point Park University with a concentration in ballet. Diana has performed lead roles in pieces choreographed by Emery Lecrone, David Morse, Balanchine,Septime Weber and Ronen Koresh. After graduation Diana danced with Merztanz Contemporary Ballet, Atlantic City Ballet, Roxey Ballet, and she will begin her first season this year with Dimension Dance Theatre of Miami. She is also currently enrolled at  Florida International University in pursuit of a masters degree.

SELAH OLIVER

Jazz

Selah Jane Oliver was born and raised in Miami, FL. She began her classical training at Miami Youth Ballet with Marielena Mencia and Yanis Pikieris, and is now a treasured faculty member at the school. She has danced in many of Miami Youth Ballet’s productions including The Nutcracker, Paquita, Giselle, and Le Corsaire, as well as in Yanis Pikieris’s Zheng Concerto and Concerto for Gamelan. Oliver also studied at NWSA and Modas Dance, where she received the bulk of her Modern and Contemporary training, including Graham, Horton, Cunningham and Taylor techniques. A winning competitor in the American Dance Competition, Selah was also invited to perform in the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix “Stars of Today Meet Stars of Tomorrow” Gala in Tampa, Florida. Oliver is currently one of Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami’s critically acclaimed Company members, and has performed with the company at some of the United States’ most celebrated dance festivals, including The Joyce Theater’s Ballet Festival, and the Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out Festival. She also performs regularly with DDTM at South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center, where the troupe is in local residence, and has been a featured soloist in audience favorites such as Pikieris’ Imagined Notions, Tania Vergara’s Fractales, and Emily Tedesco’s À Morgun.

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