Otto M. Budig Cincinnati Ballet Academy Faculty Biographies

Otto M. Budig Cincinnati Ballet Academy
Faculty Biographies

Catherine Batcheller, Academy Dean

Catherine Batcheller comes to Cincinnati Ballet Otto M. Budig Academy from the Ballet Conservatory of South Texas in San Antonio, a pre-professional ballet academy and company. She was the Artistic Director for both the company and the academy, where she served as principal teacher, designing curriculum, evaluating students, arranging performances and creating and staging choreography. She co-founded, co-directed and danced for Configuration Dance, now known as Configuration Dance Theatre (CDT) in New York. She was the director of Configuration Dance Studio, the school associated with CDT. She has taught ballet all over the country and in Germany, including Stuttgart Ballet, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Boston Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. [Read More]

Donna Anderle

Donna Anderle is an accomplished dancer, teacher and choreographer. She is nationally known as a Liturgical dancer, artfully weaving together elements of Scripture, ritual and liturgical movement.

For the last 20 years, Donna has performed, choreographed and given workshops for national and regional liturgical conferences around the country including the LA Congress, the National Middle School Convention, Mercy Trustee Seminars, the NPM, NCEA and OCEA, the National Catholic Youth Conference, the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry and the East Coast Conference. Her work is compiled in 4 choreography books and a video, which are published with OCP (Oregon Catholic Press) and is a member of the North American Academy of Liturgy.

Donna is the co-founder of The Good News Company, a touring performance troupe whose presentations are based on self-esteem and values building for children.

From 1989-2004 Donna was the Director Dance at the
Summit Country Day School where she directed and choreographed numerous musicals, liturgies and theatrical events. She operated her own dance studio in Anderson Township for many years and has been on the dance faculty of Northern Kentucky University and Midwest Theatre Ballet. 

Donna has a BFA in Fine Arts and graduated from Drake University where she majored in Theatre. Donna has been with the Dance Academy of The Cincinnati Ballet Company for the last 7 years and teaches Children’s and Main Division classes at the Blue Ash and downtown locations. She is part of their Educational Outreach and Cincy Dance programs and loves taking the DANCEFIX classes with her daughter, Essa.

Rosa Compostella

Born in Verona, Italy, Rosa Compostella graduated as a Ballet Teacher at the “Accademia Nazionale di Danza” (National Dance Academy) of Rome, Italy in 1987. She taught in different ballet schools in the Verona area (Italy) and took part in several performances and ballet events in northern Italy. In 1993 Rosa moved to the United States with her family and currently resides in the Cincinnati area.

In 1997, she resumed teaching ballet at a ballet school in Mason. For the following eleven years, Rosa has been part of the staff of teachers at “Ballet Tech Ohio”, a school in Cincinnati owned and directed by Claudia Rudolf Barrett teaching ballet primarily to young students age 6 to 14 and to adults. Since 2009, Rosa has been part of the faculty of Cincinnati Ballet Academy, teaching and substituting several classes.

Rosa has always enjoyed teaching ballet dedicating special attention to the fundamental basis and the correct posture, providing the foundations for the future learning. Rosa believes that it is very important to prepare the students with a solid and correct technique from the early stages.

Isabele Elefson

Born in Brazil, Isabele Melo Elefson began her Ballet training in the Royal Academy of  Dancing system and continued her studies with Halina Biernacka, a protégé of Bronislava Nijinska. Isabele danced with several companies in Brazil, including The Classical Ballet of Sao Paulo and Cisne Negro Cia de Danca, where she performed soloist roles in The Nutcracker. In the United States she has performed with Ballet Theatre of Chicago. As a guest artist she has performed with the Boca Ballet,The Civic Ballet of Chicago (under the direction of Larry Long), other Chicago local companies and at the Ravinia Fesival. She has danced lead roles in Giselle, Coppelia, The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, Les Sylphides, Paquita, La Fille Mal Gardee to name a few.  Additionally, she has performed in many contemporary ballets, including works set by Mr. Lou Conte, Paula Young David and others. Isabele has over 10 years of teaching experience in the area and is currently also working as one of the directors of Dance Academy of Libertyville (Chicago) and Ballet Theatre of Illinois. Isabele holds a Bachelors degree in Business Administration from FAAP University, Sao Paulo (Brazil).


Donna Grisez

Donna Grisez began her training in Tulsa Oklahoma with Ballet Russe dancers Moscelyne Larkin and Roman Jasinski.  She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts and Masters of Arts from the University of Cincinnati, College Conservatory of Music.  She danced as a soloist with the Andre Eglevsky Company and as a principal dancer with Tulsa Ballet, Cincinnati Opera, and the Cincinnati Ballet of which she was a member for nine years.  Donna is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky University. She teaches in the Cincy Dance and Ballet Foundations Education Outreach programs for the Cincinnati Ballet.  Donna is married and has four grown children.

Sasha Hart

Born in the Netherlands, Sasha Hart began her ballet training at the School of American Ballet and was cast by George Balanchine as “Clara” in the N.Y.C. Ballet’s Nutcracker as well as A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Harlequinade. She also studied at the Joffrey School and performed in Petrouchka and with the Ballet Company of Nassau County. After attending the Pennsylvania Ballet’s scholarship program, she attended Butler University’s dance program and received her Bachelor’s degree from Indiana University, majoring in dance performance. There, she performed the leading role in the ballet Graduation Ball under John Kriza and performed in Giselle and the Nutcracker under Marina Svetlova. She was engaged at the Bavarian State Theater in Munich, Germany where she danced in numerous ballets including: Coppelia, Don Quixote, Cinderlla, Abraxus, Undine and over fifty operas and operettas. There she received a Dance Pedagogy Degree from the Hochschule für Musik and became a certified instructor for children through adults. She moved to Los Angeles and headed her own dance department at The Country School in North Hollywood. During this time, she also choreographed a variety of shows for schools as well as professional dance events for American Eagle Productions. Currently, she is the owner of the Sasha Hart School of Ballet, heads the ballet department at Xavier University and teaches at Uptown Arts and The Cincinnati Ballet’s Academy. Sasha is fluent in German, Dutch and French. She is marred to Jim Hart and they have two grown children.

Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin has over twenty years of professional experience as a dancer, instructor and choreographer. He has performed throughout the world on cruise ships, at dinner theaters and theme parks, and in local and regional theater. Steve's teaching and choreography credits include Northern Kentucky University, Governor's School of the Arts, CCM, Contemporary Dance Theater, Playhouse in the Park, Wyoming Fine Arts Center, and ArtsWave.  He has been teaching at Cincinnati Ballet for 15 years.

Karen Williamson Kurelis

Karen Williamson Kurelis graduated from CCM where she studied ballet with David McLain, original director of Cincinnati Ballet and Oleg Sabline. While there her intensive study of the Lester Horton Modern Technique with James Truitte, the leading authoritative figure on the Horton Technique lead to her work in New York City with the Joyce Trisler Danscompany a company that specializes in Horton trained dancers, under the direction of Milton Myers a former Alvin Ailey member and leading teacher and choreographer. 

Later Karen attended George Mason University and received her MFA in Dance Performance. She remained at the University as adjunct instructor until obtaining a position as Associate Professor of Dance at Northern Illinois University near Chicago where she has been for the past eleven years.  Recently she has returned to her hometown of Cincinnati and is happy to be a part of the Academy. 

Patricia Lampe

Patricia Lampe has been dancing ballet, tap, jazz and acrobats since the age of five.  She trained at Rita & Leo O’Niel’s as well as Cunningham’s Dance Studio.  She has taught for ballet several years for the Cincinnati Ballet as well as Kings Dance, a program through the Kings Local Schools PTO.  Pat is also a certified DANCEFIX instructor.  Pat feels that the love of dance is something to be shared, especially with our children!  As she expresses “I've been very privileged to be able to teach children & share my passion for dance with them for many years”

Ka-Ron Brown-Lehman

A choreographer, teacher and former artistic director for the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts dance department. A featured muse for well-known choreographers like Miguel Godreau, Tom Hansen, Joe Layton, Donald McKayle Joseph Rickard, Jamie Rodgers, Claude Thompson, Andre Tremaine, Rob Iscove, and a host of others, she gained a rich legacy of credits on concert stages, TV Variety Series, Award Specials, Broadway, Theatre, Film, and Commercials. A dedicated educator of forty-seven years, known throughout the US, Finland, Canada and Australia, for spotting talent, motivating students, and helping students unlock their emotions through dance. Her numerous awards include the American Choreography Educator Award, the Distinguished Teacher Award from the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars; NAACP Award for Choreography and Educator of the Year, and a Drama Logue Critics Award for her dance roles in Jon Hendricks’ “Evolution of the Blues”, Oscar Brown JR.’s It’s About Time, and Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope. The founder of the Annual Lehman Dance Awards, produced and directed S.O.S. Katrina, raising $13,000 for recovery and rebuilding. Participated in Cincinnati’s Choreographers without Companies at the Aronoff; Co-Director for Cincinnati Choreographers Collective; adjudicated Overture Awards semifinals; and an Advisory Board member for Blue Ash Montgomery Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Lehman is presently a part of the prestigious faculty rosters for the Otto M. Budig Academy of Cincinnati Ballet, In addition to being an Adjunct Dance Instructor for the Dance Division Majors at CCM, School for Creative and Performing Arts at Erich Kunzel Centerfor Arts Education, and Claudia Barrett’s Ballet Tech Ohio. Ms. Lehman was invited by Victoria Morgan, to choreograph a premiere work, on the Cincinnati Ballet Company for the 2010 New Works’ Project; entitled “The Periapt”, a fable danced to original music composed by CCM Professor Michael Chertock.

Kodee Van Nort

Kodee Van Nort began her dance experience on the plains of Western Nebraska with Vaudeville veteran, Iris Besaw. Ms. Besaw’s intense training formed Kodee’s interest in dance as a craft, art, discipline, and language.  Kodee has an extensive background of dance including a wealth of education that includes a BFA in Theater and Dance from the University of Wyoming and MFA in dance performance, choreography, and pedagogy from Sam Houston State University. During her performing career she was able to explore a variety of roles from ballet to musicals to theater.  Her favorites include the original role of ‘White Buffalo Woman’ in the ballet Cattle Kate;  classical roles such as ‘Pimpinella’ in Pulcinella; World Premier contemporary role of ‘Meander’ in The River; and character work in Le Bourgeois Gentihomme by Molière.  In addition to performing as the "Phoenix" in The Cherokee National Heritage Center’s “Trail of Tears" she also served assistant choreographer and while in England, she joined Ad Hoc company where she was able to explore performance and choreography through improv with the community.  Following her desires for pedagogy she has shared her passion for dance with students at the University of Wyoming, Western Nebraska Community College, Western Oregon University, Sam Houston State University, Austin Dance Company, Silverton Ballet and Performing Arts, Contemporary Dance Theater,  Academy of Dance Arts, Mason Dance Center, Miami Valley Ballet Theatre, and the Otto M. Budig Academy of Cincinnati Ballet.  Kodee also serves on the executive committee of Ohio Dance.

Dena Morley

Dena began her training and danced professionally with the Toledo Ballet Company. Dena is the Dance Program Director and Instructor for the Wyoming Fine Arts Center.  She currently teaches in the Cincinnati Ballet’s Otto M. Budig Dance Academy Children’s Division as well as her own Ballet School, Tiny Dancers Ballet with Ms. Dena.  As a certified teacher for grades K-8, Dena is a familiar face in Wyoming as she has been serving as a long-time tutor for the Wyoming City Schools. Dena’s dance background paired up with her teaching experience enables her to truly connect with her students through dance.  Her creative teaching style shines through her ballet classes, making them fun for a student of any age or ability.  Dena is a resident of Wyoming and is a mother of three.

Patty Pille

Patty was born and raised in Cincinnati. Patty began studying dance at the age of 7 with Rita and Leo O’neill where she was trained in ballet, tap and jazz. She also attended some classes at CCM during her career. In 1980, she began teaching and found she really loved working with the students. Throughout her career, she has taught at many studios, such as O'Neill Dance Studio, Robertson Dance Studio, Mt. Airy School District, Carol Young’s School of Dance and Cincinnati Ballet. She has also guest taught classes at SCPA. Patty has run her own studio since 1992 and has taught at the Cincinnati Ballet’s Intensive Program for the last four summers. Patty has performed and choreographed many recitals across the city and has won awards for her choreography. She has also worked with the Queen City Gymnastics Team, as well as, choreographed some of their floor routines. She has choreographed many ballets such as Wizard of Oz, Cinderella, Harry Potter, Jungle Book, Lion King and many more. Patty has also had a small competitive dance team for the last 10 years. She keeps up on her dance training by attending Adult Ballet classes, as well as, Hip Hop, Modern and DANCEFIX Classes. Patty loves teaching and enjoys seeing the students progress and grow! Patty has been married to her husband Tom for 22 years and had two children, Brody, 21, who teaches hip hop and Samantha, 14, is dancing as a trainee for Cincinnati Ballet.

Ashley Walton

Ashley Walton, a native of Dayton, Ohio, began her training at Dayton Ballet and South Dayton School of Dance. She received additional training at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, The Rock School, Pittsburgh Youth Ballet, International Summer Dance, National Choreography Intensive, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Ashley attended Point Park University, under the direction of Susan Stowe, where she worked with faculty and guest choreographers Darla Hoover, Margo Sappington, Christian Holder, Alan Hineline, Ron de Jesus, Doug Varone, Lynne Taylor-Corbett and Ron Tassone. The highlight of her time at Point Park University was earning the opportunity to perform at The Kennedy Center, where she was awarded Northeast Performer of the Year. Ashley danced professionally with both Atlanta Ballet and Dayton Ballet and had the opportunity to perform principal roles in George Balanchine’s Serenade, Alan Hineline’s Thresholds, William Whitener’s Caprice, and Stuart Sebastian's Dracula. During the 2009 Regional Dance America Northeast Festival, Ashley received the Monticello Award for Best Emerging Choreographer and the Barbara Weisberger Award for Best Choreography for her piece Aloft. During the 2010 and 2011 RDA festivals she earned both the Project Tier Award, as well as the National Choreographic Award two years in a row for her pieces Sudden Impulse and Guerriere. Distinguished adjudicators chose four of her ballets to be presented at the 2012 National Festival in Montreal, Quebec. Since then Ashley was granted four additional National Choreographic Awards for her work throughout the Northeast and Pacific regions.

Melissa Wood

Melissa Wood, known to many by her maiden name Misse Allen, has had a long and fun career. Starting young, she starred in a television series produced by Jack Rouse called “Pumpkin Creek” at the age of 12 and the same year danced as Clara in Cincinnati Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. She soon joined the company at the young age of 16 and rose to the rank of Soloist. After 8 years of dancing with Cincinnati Ballet Company, she danced for two years with Tulsa Ballet before joining the National Broadway tour of The Phantom of the Opera.  For almost 10 years, she toured the US and Canada playing the role of Paris Opera Ballerina and understudying the lead role of Meg. She is a graduate of Cincinnati’s School for Creative and Performing Arts and trained on full scholarship during the summers at the School of American Ballet. She has also been a featured dancer with Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Pops and played the role of Anybodys in Knoxville Opera’s production of West Side Story. She has returned to Cincinnati to raise a family, is the proud mother of two beautiful boys and is excited to share her talents with all those who love to dance!

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