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Founding Artistic Directors

Marielena Mencia

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

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 1996 together with his wife Marielena Mencia he founded the Mencia-Pikieris School of Dance. 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 State of Florida Choreographic Fellowship and 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. Also in 2006 he founded the Miami Youth Ballet which is a non-profit organization with the mission of providing opportunities for local young artists. He serves as National Dance Panel Chair for the YoungArts and is a member of the jury for the World Ballet Competition in Orlando, Florida. Mr. Pikieris also serves as Executive Director of the Nebrada Foundation, who's mission is to oversee the licensing and production of works choreographed by Vicente Nebrada. 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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