Our Faculty & Staff
Our faculty includes current and former professional dancers who are dedicated to sharing their knowledge and joy of dance with their students.
Jessica Boelts joined The Ridgefield School of Dance from Ballet Austin, Austin, Texas where she both taught at the Academy and performed with the Company. Under the direction of Ballet Austin Master Teacher Truman Finney, Ms. Boelts has danced principal roles in Balanchine's Raymonda Variations, Who Cares?, and Valse Fantasy, as well as The Nutcracker, La Sylphide, and Le Corsaire. She has performed in Balanchine's Serenade, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Cinderella, Giselle, Romeo and Juliet and Peter Pan. She also danced with the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Massachusetts Youth Ballet.
Ms. Boelts teaches students from Pre-Ballet through the Ballet Company. In addition to teaching she has staged the Grand Pas from Paquita, selections from Swan Lake and Romeo & Juliet and choreographed many pieces for the Upper Level and individual dancers.
She has staged an original version of Alice in Wonderland, Carnival of the Animals and The Nutcracker for The Ridgefield School of Dance. Her choreography includes this year's premiere of "Untitled" a short, contemporary ballet performed by our Ballet & Jazz Company. Prior to taking the position of Artistic Director, Ms. Boelts served as Assistant Ballet Mistress for the school.
Ballet, Pointe & Company
Larisa Akinicheva was a soloist in the Tchaikovsky Ballet Company, one of Russia’s most distinguished artistic companies. A native of Russia, Ms. Akinicheva studied at the Perm Academic State School of Choreography and graduated from the State Academic Theater of Russian Opera and Ballet in Ekaterinaburg, Russia. She also was a soloist with the State Academic Theater of Russian Opera and Ballet Company in Perm. Ms. Akinicheva toured extensively throughout Europe with The Tchaikovsky Ballet Company and in the Far East with The Ballet of Russia Theatre. As a soloist, she performed in Swan Lake, Giselle, Bayadere, Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, Paquita, Les Sylphides, Romeo & Juliet, and The Cinderella Ballet, among others.
Ms. Akinicheva has taught ballet both in the United States and in her native Russia, where she was a teacher at the Young People’s School of the Performing Arts. In addition to teaching at The Ridgefield School of Dance, Ms. Akinicheva teaches at the BBT/School of Russian Ballet, and the Connecticut Ballet Center in Stamford, CT.
Ballet & Pointe
Kate Bennett joined the Ridgefield School of Dance in September of 2016 and teaches ballet technique and pointe to our intermediate and apprentice company dancers. Ms. Bennett began her ballet training at Princeton Ballet. As a teenager, Kate moved to Seattle where she trained and danced with the Pacific Northwest Ballet, appearing in Swan Lake, Carmina Burana, Firebird, Romeo and Juliet, Symphony in C, and multiple productions of The Nutcracker. Kate returned to New York in 2000 where she completed her degree at the New School / Joffrey Ballet. In addition to The Ridgefield School of Dance, Kate teaches ballet at the Broadway Dance Center and is the Ballet Mistress at the Pure Movement Dance Center in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. Kate is also a certified Pilates instructor and provides private classes in New York where she lives with her husband, David.
Ballet, Partnering, Contemporary & Lyrical
Michael Crawford is from Takoma Park, Maryland. He began dancing with the Maryland Youth Ballet and at the Kirov Academy with Vladmir Djoulahatze, spending summers at The Rock School and San Francisco Ballet. Mr. Crawford joined the Washington Ballet where he performed with the company under the direction of Septime Webre. Upon graduation, he went on to study in the Professional Division of The Pacific Northwest Ballet under Kent Stowell and Francia Russell. Since leaving PNB, he has danced with Dance Theatre of Harlem, Jose Mateo Ballet, Ballet Memphis, and American Repertory Ballet. He has been privileged to work on productions such as Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, Show Boat, Cats, and other musicals. Mr. Crawford has also performed at The Kennedy Center, and continues to tour throughout the US and Europe. He has been a guest principal with The Washington National Opera, Adam Miller Dance Project, Kinetic Dance Works, TranscenDance Group, Brooklyn Ballet, Ballet Neo, Connecticut Ballet, and Oakland Ballet.
Mr. Crawford is an award winning teacher and choreographer. He has been teaching and choreographing nationally and internationally for 10 years, and has coached many prize winning students for competitions such as Youth America Grand Prix, NYC Dance Alliance, and Showstoppers dance competition. He continues to teach masterclasses at studios including, Broadway Dance Center, Metropolitan School of the Arts, and Princeton Ballet.
Ballet, Adult Ballet & Modern
Jillian Foley grew up in Niskayuna, NY, training at Northeast Ballet Company under the direction of Darlene Myers. She graduated from The Hartt School under the direction of Stephen Pier with a BFA in Ballet Pedagogy, and minors in Psychology and Performing Arts Management. At Hartt, Ms. Foley worked with classical and contemporary choreographers, including a solo by Emily Schoen performed in November 2015. She also had the opportunity to dance with the Henny Jurriens Foundation in Amsterdam, Holland.
In summer 2016, she choreographed and danced in Orpheé et Eurydice at Des Moines Metro Opera, taught at Joffrey Ballet School in New York, and performed with Amy Marshall Dance Company at the Battery Park Dance Festival. Ms. Foley has been teaching ballet and modern dance for the past four years and is currently teaching our beginning ballet level for both children and adults. She will also be adding Modern classes to our dance curriculum.
Julia Galanski is a dancer and choreographer based in Brooklyn. She is a company member with Katelyn Halpern and Dancers and has worked with Angie Moon Dance Theater. Galanski received her BFA in Dance from NYU Tisch where she studied ballet, contemporary dance, and choreography and has performed the works of choreographers Deborah Jowitt, Sean Curran, and Gregory Dolbashian among others. She received additional training and performance experience at the Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance and the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. Prior to NYU, Miss Galanski danced with the Ridgefield School of Dance from the age of 3 through graduation, where she performed the roles of Cinderella, Sugar Plum Fairy (Nutcracker), Juliet (Romeo and Juliet), and Odette (Swan Lake).
Grace, Posture, & Strength
Carol Hosdale has been teaching exercise and fitness for over 40 years. She is certified in many areas of fitness including Aerobic Dance, Yoga, Pilates Mat, Step, Strength Training, Senior Exercise, Basic Nutrition, and trained in Gyrotonic®. She has taught students from 2 to 102. Ms Hosdale was instrumental in setting up the Chappaqua Park and Rec. Department where she taught all ages and levels of fitness. She taught for PepsiCola for 20 yrs. She also created and taught classes for disabled children in the Chappaqua area, as well as the Psychiatric Unit in Northern Westchester Hospital for over 20 years. She notes that maintaining and understanding our health is an important part of enjoying all that life has to offer. Ms. Hosdale received her dance training from Steffi Nossen and Iris Solomon and graduated from Syracuse University with a BS in Special Education.
Ballet & Partnering
Mitchell Kilby is a native of Newcastle, Australia. He began his training at the Marie Walton Mahon Dance Academy at age 16. After two years, he was accepted at and received a full scholarship to The Joffrey Ballet School in New York. Mitch has danced with The Vanava Caravan, Ballet V, The Paris Opera, and is a frequent guest performer throughout out the United States. He continues to dance with New York Theatre Ballet most recently as a stepsister in Cinderella and in Alice in Wonderland.
Stephanie Marini joined The Ridgefield School of Dance teaching Ballet and Pointe. Originally from Boston, her early training was with Albert and Diane Pesso in modern dance and choreography. At the age of 12, she won a choreographic competition and was given a rare scholarship to study at The Boston Conservatory, followed by an invitation from Miss E. Virginia Williams to attend The Boston School of Ballet as a Ford Foundation scholarship student. Within weeks of joining the school she was asked to join the Boston Ballet Company. After seven years dancing with the company she turned her passion for ballet toward teaching and mentoring young dancers. Ms. Marini has taught at The Boston School of Ballet, The Boston Conservatory, The Walnut Hill School, Children’s Ballet Workshop, Stamford City Ballet, and, the Chautauqua Institute. In recognition of her high standards she was approved by the Balanchine Trust to act as assistant director for the Balanchine Nutcracker that was performed in Stamford, and she did so for 15 years. In 1999, Ms. Marini became the Artistic Director and co-founder of The Ballet School of Stamford. Many of her students have been accepted to major universities and joined professional ballet companies.
Jazz & Jazz Company
Stevi Van Meter
Jazz, Musical Theatre Dance, & Tap
Stevi comes to The Ridgefield School of Dance by way of Radio City Music Hall, where she was a Rockette for 15 years. She has performed and served as dance captain on musicals including Damn Yankees, Bubbling Brown Sugar, 42nd Street and Mame, to name a few. Stevi has also performed in national commercials and worked with many stars including Liza Minnelli, and Bette Midler. She has appeared in over 20 MTV videos and has been choreographer for regional productions of The Fantasticks.
Ballet and Adult Classes
An accomplished instructor, performer, and choreographer, Irene Zimmerman specializes in teaching ballet to our youngest dancers. She also teaches NIA and adult ballet.
Irene trained in New York at the Neubert Ballet Institute, the International Dance School and Ballet Arts at Carnegie Hall, Steps, and Broadway Dance Center. Her studies included both the Vagonova and Cecchetti methods and she holds a brown belt in NIA.
In addition to her extensive ballet training with such luminaries as Stephan Hoff, Sandra Balestracci, Lisa Danias, Primavera Boman, David Howard, George Tomal, Michele Assof, and Susie Taylor, Irene also studied jazz with Lillian Heitzman.
Irene’s performance credentials include dancing New York City Opera Ballet, New Jersey Ballet (The Nutcracker), and Dig-Pointe Ballet Company. She has toured extensively and appeared in The Music Man, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma, Annie, Little Shop of Horrors, and West Side Story. In addition to her teaching, Irene has choreographed and directed local musical theatre productions.
Alison Brown became executive director of the Ridgefield School of Dance in July 2014 after working as the school business manager for the previous 9 years. She has always enjoyed the business side of entertainment working with creative teams and clients to ensure smooth operations. Managing the school and interfacing with the instructors, parents and dancers provided Ms. Brown with the experience and dedication needed to continue the excellence for which the school is known.
Ms. Brown was one of the founders of Blue Sky Studios (Ice Age, Robots, Rio), a world-class computer-generated animation and effects studio, and she was the executive producer for its award-winning commercial division. She also served as executive producer for the New York division of Kleiser-Walczak, an animation and visual effects studio formerly located in the Berkshires, New York and Los Angeles.
Nancy Andrews - 1941 - 2017
Ridgefield School of Dance Founder
Nancy Andrews founded The Ridgefield School of Dance in 1997, and brought her love of dance to hundreds of students as both director and teacher. She shared her talent and experience, which included dancing with The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Merce Cunningham, and the Martha Graham School, with all of her students including Skidmore College where she was the department director. Nancy also began the Lebanon School of Dance, where she served as director and teacher for over 15 years.. Her teachers included Maria Swoboda, Leon Danielion, Anatole Vilzak and Casimir Kokitch.
Nancy directed and taught at The Ridgefield School of Dance until 2014, when she sold the school, and continued teaching through 2106. Teaching was her great passion, and she followed the progress of her students through graduation and beyond. Her creative spirit and devotion to her students established the strong foundation for the school, which continues to grow and excel, building on her legacy.
The 2017 Spring performance was dedicated to her memory.