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Faculty & Staff

Our faculty share a common professional background, as well as educational philosophy. Our teachers and guest artists received their training and performance experiences in internationally recognized conservatories and dance companies, including American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, José Limon Company, Joffrey Ballet, The Harkness Ballet, David Howard, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, The Washington Ballet, The School of American Ballet, the Merce Cunningham Dance School, and the Radio City Rockettes. Together, they provide the highest quality dance training in a supportive environment that emphasizes communication and creativity between students and teachers.  Ballet Arts Studio is also proud to welcome guest artists and the diversity and fresh approach that they bring. 

Faculty

 


Katie Bissinger
Artistic Director; Lower School Ballet, Theater Dance, Tap, Choreography

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Katie Bissinger has been dancing since she was 7 years old. She began her classical ballet training with Powers Dance Art Centre of Newburgh and Marya A. Kennett Dance Centre of Goshen, where she was a member of their Ballet Company. She later trained in New York City with Phil Black, Germaine Salsberg, Frank Hatchett and Sheila Barker.

 

Katie is a former Radio City Rockette and was dance captain of the first national tour of The Who's Tommy. She has performed in numerous national and European tours including 42nd Street, Annie Get Your Gun, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and My One and Only.  She has directed and/or choreographed many musicals at Stagedoor Manor, The Philipstown Depot Theatre, and Haldane High School.  She is a member of Actors' Equity Association and also has a BFA in Film/TV Production from New York University.

 

Katie has been teaching dance, including tap, theater dance, jazz and ballet for over 35 years. 

 


Alex Bloomstein
Middle School Ballet, Upper School Ballet, Modern, Pilates

Alex Bloomstein began dancing in 1977. He was a full scholarship and fellowship student at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. He has studied ballet with Diana Byer, Benjamin Harkarvy, Choo San Goh, Marjorie Mussman, Janet Panetta, Igal Perry, and Rochelle Zide-Booth, among others. Alex studied modern dance at the Merce Cunningham Dance Studio. He also studied the modern technique of José Limon with Daniel Lewis and Hannah Kahn. He has studied the Martha Graham modern dance technique with Diana Hart, Mary Hinkson and Norman Walker.

 

Alex has also studied composition and choreography with a variety of teachers, including Bessie Schoenberg and Lynne Taylor-Corbett. Alex has performed his choreography, as well as the choreography of others, at numerous venues, including the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival and Dance Theater Workshop in New York City.

 

Alex has taught ballet technique, modern technique, composition and choreography, improvisation, and movement for actors in a wide variety of settings, including the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, the Williamstown Theater Festival, Williams College, and Simon's Rock of Bard College. He has also taught musculo-skeletal anatomy, kinesiology, and movement assessment.

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Claire Deane
Lower School Ballet, Middle School Ballet, Modern, Choreography

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Claire Deane began her ballet training at Scarsdale Ballet Studio under the direction of Diana White. She performed lead roles in various classical ballets including Kitri in Don Quixote and the Princess in Firebird, as well as soloist roles in works by George Balanchine, including Serenade, Who Cares?, Stars and Stripes, and La Source. Claire continued her dance education at the Conservatory of Dance at the State University of New York at Purchase, and graduated Magna Cum Laude.

 

Claire has been teaching ballet, modern dance and creative movement, to dancers of all ages, in Westchester County and the Mid-Hudson Valley since 2012. Claire is a founding co-director of A-Y/dancers, a repertory dance company based in Beacon, and is the company's primary ballet teacher on while tour. 

 


Deanna Ford
Middle School Ballet, Upper School Ballet, Jazz, Choreography

Deanna Ford began her classical training in Washington State. Upon her arrival in New York City, she continued her training, on scholarship, at the School of American Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, The Harkness Ballet and with David Howard. Deanna began her professional career as a soloist with the Hartford Ballet. She was also a member of the New Jersey Ballet. Deanna was a featured ballet dancer for Radio City Music Hall Productions, and was also a Radio City Rockette.

 

Deanna has been teaching classical ballet and jazz throughout the Northeast since 1998. 

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Mila Hartog
Lower School Ballet, Middle School Ballet, Choreography

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Milena 'Mila' Hartog was born in New York City and grew up in the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, she studied at the Dutch National Ballet Academy and had the opportunity to dance in various productions with the affiliated HET Nationale Ballet, including their Nutcracker and Mouse King, Romeo & Juliet, and the Hans van Manen Festival. 

Mila worked with State Street Ballet (Calfornia) and Portland Ballet (Maine), and performed as a guest artist for companies in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. In Portland, she also served as Assistant to Nell Shipman, the organization's Director. Mila moved back to NYC in 2021 and is currently working as a freelance dancer with various classical and contemporary companies and choreographers. She has been teaching students of all ages since 2014, choreographed children's pieces for Portland Ballet's professional productions, and led the rehearsals for young dancers in Opera Maine's The Magic Flute

 

Sara LaPadula began her dance training at 3 years of age in Westchester County. She is an alumni of Ballet Arts Studio, where she trained and performed with the Dutchess Dance Company as a Principal Dancer for 3 years. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and a Minor in Education.

 

Sara has performed works by renowned choreographers including Camille A. Brown, Uri Sands, and performed in a soloist role in Jose Limón's A Choreographic Offering. At UMass Amherst, Sara served on the Executive Board as President of Alive with Dance, where she worked to create a platform for presenting dance works and classes to students and members of the community. Sara is currently studying with the Limón Dance Company's Professional Training Program. She has a great passion and love for dance which she generously shares with our youngest dancers. 

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Sara LaPadula
Lower School Ballet, Contemporary, Choreography

 


Miriam Mahdaviani
Middle School Ballet, Upper School Ballet, Pointe, Choreography

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Miriam Mahdaviani began her classical training at the School of American Ballet, after which George Balanchine invited her to join the New York City Ballet (City Ballet). During her 14-year career at City Ballet, she danced in over 40 Balanchine ballets, and worked with other notable choreographers including Jerome Robbins, Lar Lubovitch, Twyla Tharp, Jacques d'Amboise, and Peter Martins. She performed leading roles in numerous Balanchine ballets, among them Jewels, The Sleeping Beauty, La Valse, Coppelia, and The Nutcracker. On screen, she appeared in the Dance in America series on PBS, and in City Ballet's movie of Balanchine's The Nutcracker.

 

Ms. Mahdaviani has choreographed several ballets for City Ballet as well as for major dance companies around the United States and internationally. Since 2004, Ms. Mahdaviani has been a visiting professor of dance at Vassar College, teaching ballet technique and pointe classes at the beginner through advanced levels. She also teaches master classes and workshops in Balanchine technique at ballet schools, college dance programs, and summer programs throughout the Northeast. 

 


Jennifer Nathanson
Middle School Ballet, Upper School Ballet, Pointe, Choreography

Jennifer Fuchs Nathanson began dancing at the age of 4, and was formally trained at The School of American Ballet. In 1989, Peter Martins asked her to join The New York City Ballet (City Ballet).

 

During her career with City Ballet, Jennifer performed much of the repertory of George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Peter Martins, as well as dancing in the work of resident choreographers for the Company. She performed as a demi-soloist and soloist in many ballets, including The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, The Four Temperaments, and Vienna Waltzes. Jennifer can be seen as a marzipan in the film version of George Balanchine's Nutcracker.

 

After her retirement from City Ballet in 1995, Jennifer began teaching children's classes at Studio Maestro in New York City. She has been a ballet teacher for more than 20 years, and has taught throughout the Hudson Valley, including at Vassar College, the Community Dance Center, the New York Academy of Ballet, and the Dutchess School of Performing Arts.

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Kelly Zitka
Hip Hop, Choreography

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Kelly Zitka is originally from Dallas, Texas. She trained at Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in ballet, jazz, contemporary, tap, and hip-hop, and went on to receive her BFA in Dance at Southern Methodist University. Kelly danced with Odyssey Dance Theatre's production of Thriller, A.D. Players' production of West Side Story, and with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines.

 

Kelly has taught at various studios around the country and was on faculty at Texas Ballet Theater School. Her choreography has been recognized regionally and nationally and she received a national award in choreographic excellence from Star Dance Alliance. She is thrilled to share her love of dance with her dancers. 

Staff

 


Mary Pesacreta
Administrative Assistant

Mary Pesacreta graduated cum laude from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York with a degree in the sciences. She formerly worked in the development office at IBM and is a lifelong resident of Poughkeepsie. 

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Fern Ricci
Administrative Assistant, Backstage Manager

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Fern Ricci joined Ballet Arts Studio staff as the Backstage Manager for the Spring Concert production in 2005. Since 2002, she has been the Choreographer and/or Costume Mistress for the Mahopac Middle School Theater Company's annual musical performance. She originated the role of The Mother with the Pinewood School of Dance Nutcracker and performed that role for 10 years. Ms. Fern has taken a variety of dance classes all her life and taught dance fitness classes at Allsport in Fishkill and Poughkeepsie. Happily retired from teaching school, she is enjoying her time sewing, reading, traveling, and dancing at Ballet Arts Studio.