Directors and Faculty
Northeast School of Ballet’s faculty is an enthusiastic group of professional instructors whose backgrounds provide students with a variety of artistic influences. The faculty led by the school and companies Artistic Director, Denise Cecere, is comprised of mentors who have enjoyed professional careers and want to share their knowledge and love for the art with the next generation.
Founder, Registrar and Managing Director, Sandra Marie McNaught, has been a dance educator for over 50 years. She began her training, at the age of seven, in Melrose at the E. Virginia Sawyer School of Ballet where she later became an assistant teacher. Mrs. McNaught attended Melrose public schools and was president of Melrose High Schools Dance club. Upon
graduation, she attended the Boston Conservatory as a dance major. Mrs. McNaught has studied and taught at several ballet schools in the Boston area and is a gold pin member of the Dance Teacher’s Club of Boston associated with the American Society of Dance. In 1971, she founded Northeast School of Ballet (formally Sandra Marie’s School of Ballet) and along with her daughter and co-director, Denise Cecere, has been committed to maintaining high standards in dance education. Both McNaught and Cecere co-founded Northeast Youth Ballet, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities for young children and playing an active role in the cultural life of the communities they serve.
Mrs. McNaught feels priviledged to share her love of dance with NSB’s next generation of dancers.
Artistic Director, Denise Cecere, brings a wealth of experience to Northeast Youth Ballet. Born in Melrose, Massachusetts, Cecere began her dance training under the direction of her mother, Sandra McNaught, at the Northeast School of Ballet. Later she became a scholarship student at the Boston Repertory Ballet, under the direction of Samuel Kurkjian, Boston Ballet, under the direction of E. Virginia Williams and Violette Verdy, and the School of American Ballet, under the direction of George Balanchine. She performed with Boston Ballet, Ballet Theater of Boston and North Star Ballet in Fairbanks, Alaska. During her career she performed lead roles, including The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, Flower Festival, many galas and contemporary works. Her guest appearances have taken her internationally. In 1991 Cecere was a participant in Japan’s 1st International Choreographer’s Competition. In 1996 Cecere founded Northeast Youth Ballet. As Artistic Director, she is committed to the cultural development of future generations. It is her mission to educate, inspire and create opportunity for young aspiring dancers. Cecere has endeavored to provide programs and performances designed specifically for children. NYB has a repertoire of classical, neoclassical, contemporary and modern works. Cecere has choreographed over 30 ballets for the young company and has invited award winning choreographers to share their work with the school and company. Her collaboration with Boston Musica Viva, under the direction of Richard Pittman, has produced many full length ballets including “A Boston Cinderella”, “Three Little Pigs”, “Ma Goose” and “Paul Revere’s Ride” by composer Bernard Hoffer. For the past 22 years Cecere has continued to display the young company’s diversity both at home and abroad.
Cecere is currently director of the Northeast Youth Ballet, the official training school of the Northeast School of Ballet, where she has been teaching ballet technique for over 30 years. Her students have gone on to perform, teach and choreograph for world class dance organizations in the United States and abroad.
Joseph Jefferies (Resident Choreographer, Assistant to the Director in The Conservatory at NSB, Director of the Intensive Summer Dance Program)
Joseph Jefferies is Assistant Director to NSB’s Conservatory Program. He has served as director of Portland Ballet Summer Dance Program and has taught master classes and workshops at ballet schools across the country. Mr Jefferies is an award-winning choreographer creating over 30 works for companies including Ballet Memphis, Miami City Ballet, Peoria Ballet, Ballet Trockadero, Harid Conservatory, Ballet Yuma, Walnut Hill School for the Arts and Northeast Youth Ballet. He has won the RDA Emerging Choreographer scholarship twice and had his work selected and performed for New York City’s Ballet Builders Showcase and for the RDA National Convention in Montreal, Canada. As a professional dancer Joseph was a member of Ballet Memphis dancing the lead roles in Swan Lake, Giselle, Coppelia and Cinderella. As a member of Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo he toured the world performing in over 25 different countries. Mr Jefferies currently is on faculty at Northeast School of Ballet and Boston Ballet.
Lorraine Chapman (Ballet, Modern) Resident Guest Faculty
Lorraine Chapman danced professionally with Eliot Feld Ballets/NY and Ballet British Columbia (under the Artistic Direction of Balanchine muse Patricia Neary) as well as for several Boston-based choreographers including Amy Spencer, Richard Colton, Diane Arvanites, Jose Mateo, and Marcus Schulkind. As a choreographer Chapman has received several grants and has created works for numerous festivals and companies, officially forming her own company, LCTC, in 2002. LCTC (http://lorrainechapman.org) is one of Boston’s most notable contemporary dance companies and was represented by Pentacle – a NYC-based management support organization 2013-2016. Chapman’s awards include a Boston Dance Alliance Rehearsal & Retreat Fellowship, a Brother Thomas Fellowship from The Boston Foundation, a Boston Center for the Arts Dance Residency and a Summer Stages Dance/Baryshnikov Arts Center Residency as well as being featured in Dance Magazine as one of “25 To Watch”. Chapman received her training at The Royal Winnipeg Ballet School and L’Ecole Superieure De Danse Du Quebec as well as from Boston veterans Frances Kotelly and Samuel Kurkjian. With equal training and professional experience in all of the classical ballet forms as well as in many of the modern and contemporary dance modalities, Chapman brings a particular and unique knowledge into her classroom. She also teaches at the Ballet Arts Centre of Winchester where she is co-director of their pre-professional performing groups. “As a young dance artist, I always took my training seriously and I gravitated toward those teachers who I knew would advance me at the pace I desired – but not only the teachers. I also gravitated toward other young dancers like myself who wanted nothing more in the world than to dance professionally. The combination of the dance educators I thankfully found and the students I trained side by side with (including Denise Cecere) fueled my ambition and drove me to constantly strive for an ever-elusive perfection. It is with this philosophy that I inspire, train a
nd nurture my students.” – Lorraine Chapman
Kim Cornelius (Ballet)
Ms. Cornelius began her ballet training at Northeast School of Ballet, formerly known as Sandra Marie’s School of Ballet. She then became a student at Boston Ballet and performed in many of their productions including, The Nutcracker, Fourth of July at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade, and their 25th Anniversary Gala at the Colonial Theater. She is a 1990 graduate of Suffolk University holding a BS/BA in business management. Ms. Cornelius has been a faculty member at Northeast School of Ballet for over 30 years where she feels privileged to introduce the wonderful world of ballet to all her creative movement, pre-ballet and beginner students.
Kurt A. Douglas (Modern)
Kurt A. Douglas graduated from New York’s famed high school of music art & performing arts. Originally from Guyana, South America Kurt earned his Master’s of Fine Arts degree in dance from Hollins University in association with The American Dance Festival, Frankfurt Conservatory of Performing Arts and the Forsythe Company in Frankfurt, Germany. He attended and earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in Dance from the Boston Conservatory. There he was the recipient of the Ruth Solomon Ambrose Scholarship Award and the Jan Veen Dance Award. He performed with the Boston Dance Theater and The Boston Conservatory Dance Theatre in works by Jose Limon, Sean Curran, Paul Taylor,Martha Graham, Lar Lubovitch, and Murray Louis. After graduating from the Conservatory in 2001 he joined the Limon Company where he performed in many of Limon’s most influential works. During his second season with Limon he received a 2002 Princess Grace Award and was honored by an invitation to performing for His Serene Highness Crown Prince Albert of Monaco and The Royal Family. While a soloist with the Limon Company. Kurt has performed in works by Yuri Kililan, Donald Mckayle, and Billy Singenfied. In 2007 Kurt became the first African American to portray”Iago” in “The Moor’s Pavane”,José Limón’s most famous work. Kurt was named one Dance Magazine’s TOP 25 TO WATCH” in the January 2006 issue. He danced from 2002-2007 in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the world famous Rockettes. In 2009 he joined the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company for it’s 40th anniversary season touring throughout the United States and Asia. In 2011 joined the Graham based Buglisi Dance Theater, and began touring with the Tony award winning musical “A Chorus Line” throughout United states, Japan, and Australia. He has been a Guest Artist with The Thang Dao Dance Company, Ballet Hispanico, and the Sean Curran Dance Company . Kurt has been guest faculty and conducted Limon Dance workshops in Boston, South Dakota, New York, Oregon, Dallas , Porte Au Prince, Haiti, Guadeloupe, France, Bristol, England, Sydney Australia, Harvard University, The Juilliard School, Suny Purchase , and the BostonConservatory. Kurt has been on faculty with the “Limon for Kids” program and has re-staged “The Winged” for the Limon Company’s 2014 Gala in New York City. Kurt is currently a professor of dance at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, directs the BoCo Summer Dance Intensive for teens and is on faculty at Northeast School of Ballet.
Jeremy Ruth Howes (Contemporary Ballet)
Jeremy Ruth Howes is a professional dancer, choreographer and educator in the Boston area. She graduated from the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Dance with a BFA in Dance Performance and received her MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College.. While at Hartt she performed soloist roles in La Bayadere, Guernsey Fields, Martha Graham’s Steps in the Street and numerous other classical and contemporary works. She has danced professionally with Northern Ballet Theatre and Virginia Ballet Theatre dancing soloist roles in The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and George Balanchine’s Serenade. Currently she is a principal dancer with Anna Myer and Dancers creating roles in Myer’s original choreography. Jeremy Ruth is currently on faculty at Dean College, teaching ballet and dance composition, Northeast School of Ballet and Walker’s Dance. Her choreography has been set on several schools and companies in the Boston area and abroad.
Lisa Kostur (Ballet, Modern) Resident Guest Faculty
Alumna of Northeast School of Ballet, Lisa studied classical ballet and other forms of dance under the skilled instruction of Sandra McNaught and Denise Cecere. During her training, she appeared in performances with Ballet Theatre of Boston and the North Star Ballet in Fairbanks, Alaska, and she attended summer programs at the Boston Ballet and the Pennsylvania Ballet. At age fifteen she was accepted to study at St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH, from where she graduated with Dance Distinction honors before joining Barnard College’s class of 2001. Barnard initiated Lisa into the world of modern dance, where she would perform repertory from the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and origial works by Donlin Foreman and Rebecca Stenn. She earned departmenal and cum laude honors for her studies in French literature and dance. Upon graduation Lisa was offered a contract with theFrench-Hungarian Compagnie Pal Frenak. For ten consecutive seasons, Lisa was a soloist and toured extensively. While on tour, she taught master classes throughout Europe and in Russia, and gained experience teaching contemporary dance to marginal populations such as autistic children, and the physically and mentally handicapped. In 2005, she received the attention of Ballet Tanz Magazine in which she had the honor of being noted “Young Dancer to Watch Out For”. In addition to working with Compagnie Pal Frank, Lisa has also toured original works by Suzanne Linke and Stefanie Batten-Bland. She was awarded a scholarship to the Centre National de la Danse in Pantin,France and received a Diplome d’Etat de Professeur de Danse Contemporaine in 2010. Six years ago, Lisa and her family moved to Raray, France, where Lisa continued to teach and choreograph at the major cultural institutions of the Region : l’Echangeur Centre de Development Choregraphique des Hauts de France, la Faiencerie Scene National de Creil, Le Parc Jean-Jacques Rousseau, L’Ecole Municipal de Senlis. In 2014, Lisa co-founded the Atelier des Arts de Raray, a multi- discipline performing arts company and school. Their premier of Jean Cocteau’s La Voix Humaine launched an artistic partnership with actress Marie-Catherine Conti, Soprano Marie Atger and Pianist Madjid Mohia that would become her defing project of the past two years. The Atelier des Arts was honored to host the Northeast Youth Ballet’s cultural exchange program at the Chateau de Raray in 2015, an unforgettable experience which forged lasting friendships for all involved. Lisa returns to her native Melrose after sixteen years of life abroad and is thrilled to reunite with the NYB, the very institution that sparked her love of dance.
Rhonda Miller (Ballet)
Ms. Miller received her early training with Phillipa Annesley in Scottsdale, Arizona. At the age of thirteen she attended The National Academy of Arts in Champaign, Illinois where she studied under Michael Maule, Lupe Serrano, Gwynne Ashton, Peter Franklin-White, Antony Valdor, Stella Applebaum, Chester Wolenski, Gemze DeLappe, and Buzz Miller, among many others. Upon graduation, she joined the National Ballet of Illinois for two years as Principal Dancer, touring nationally and abroad. Ms. Miller went on to dance with Ballet West under the direction of Bruce Marks, touring extensively throughout the United States. As a principal dancer, she performed leading roles in both classical and contemporary ballets including Romeo and Juliet, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Billy the Kid, Bugaku, Symphony in C, Inscape, Don Quixote, and Coppelia. She had the honor of performing at the Kennedy Center twice in Washington DC and at New York City Center. She has taught at Boston Ballet School and Christensen Academy and has been a guest teacher at Walnut Hill School for the Arts and the University of Utah. Rhonda is currently a faculty member at Northeast School of Ballet. Her favorite role is as mother to her three beautiful children, Olivia, Quinn, and Isabelle, and as wife to her old dance partner, Clay.
Caitlin O’Connor Pesce (Ballet, Pilates)
Ms. Pesce began her early training at Northeast School of Ballet under the direction of Sandra McNaught and Denise Cecere. Later she attended Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA working towards her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She has danced with Northeast Youth Ballet, Erie Ballet Theatre, North Star Ballet, Roxey Ballet and Colorado Ballet. She performed many full length classic ballets as well as contemporary works. Her favorites include The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, Sleeping Beauty, Balanchine’s Serenade, and Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes. Caitlin has been a faculty member of NSB since 1996 and also currently serves as the Assistant Artistic Director of Northeast Youth Ballet’s, The Nutcracker.
Carmella Tomeny (Ballet)
Sandi Duncan (Jazz, Modern)
Tabitha Rodgers (Modern)
Tabitha Rodgers, from Andover MA, began her training at the Andover School of Ballet and continued her training in the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio’s Boston Youth Moves program. Tabitha received her BFA in Modern Dance from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. There she had the pleasure of performing works by Bob Fosse, Louis Johnson, Merrian Soto and Brian Sanders among others. She was also a member of the first college group to perform Martha Graham’s “Panorama” within a Graham Company program. She was a part of the university’s Choreography Emphasis Program and received the Dance Faculty Recognition Award for Excellence in Dance. Tabitha has attended dance workshops and festivals including Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival, Windhover Spreads its Wings, and The Limon Summer Workshop. Tabitha has been a member of the Windhover Dance Company in Rockport MA performing works by Doris Humphrey. She has also performed with Dusan Tynek Dance Theater, and spent 3 years as a soloist with Urbanity Dance. Tabitha currently dances with Deadfall Dance, Ipswich Moving Company, and Sokolow Now. She is also a Certified Yoga Teacher.
Jennifer (Jen) Passios (Jazz)
Jen began dancing at age five at Michelle Goodwin’s School of Dance (Townsend, MA) and graduated from DTCB’s Dance Education Training Course with recognition in ballet in 2009. She continued her training at Mount Holyoke College, graduating magna cum laude in 2013 with a BA in dance and biology. While in college, she performed works by choreographers such as Ohad Naharin, Adrienne Hawkins, Terese Freedman, and Billbob Brown. Upon graduation, she received the Helen Rogers Award for her enthusiasm and contributions to the dance department. Outside of school, she has had the privilege of participating in a number of dance workshops and events including the Radio City Rockette Summer Intensive (New York, NY), Jazz Dance World Congress 2012 (Pittsburgh, PA), Dance For World Community Festival (Cambridge, MA), CheckUsOut Dance Festival (New York, NY), the ICA/Louis Boston First Fridays Fashion Show (Boston, MA), and the Giordano Dance School Advanced Month Intensive (Chicago, IL) where she studied on scholarship in July 2013. Currently, Jen performs with Boston based company, Urbanity. She is excited to bring her energy and passion for jazz dance to NSB.
Kelly Seibold (Jazz)
Kelly started dancing when she was two years old at her mother’s (Susan Wood) dance studio in Stoneham, MA. She trained with Susan Woods, Lindsay Fresco, Nancy Boudreau, Katie Pesce, David Connolly, and Ashley Macleod. She began teaching dance in Stoneham and has taught at various schools in Massachusetts; she also had the opportunity to be a guest teacher on the island of St. Maarten, NA for Motiance Dance Center. Kelly lived in New York City, where she was fortunate enough to find STEPS on Broadway to be her home away from home. There, she participated in their Work/Study program and trained under master teachers Pamela Pribisco, Dawn Hillen, Lonne Moretton, Nancy Koch, Richard Pierlon, Debbie Roshe, Lisa Harvie, Mindy Upin, Matt Lopez and master classes with Camille Brown, Sidra Bell, and Kenny Wormald. Kelly performed with Matt Lopez and his hip hop dancers on “The Today Show” in May of 2013.
Susan Woods (Tap)
A dancer since age three and a graduate of the Dance Teacher’s Club of Boston in 1981, Susan Woods has had the joy of training thousands of dancers from age 2 through senior citizens, many of whom have gone on to careers as professionals in the world of dance. She began her teaching at the E. Virginia Williams School of the Boston Ballet where she had previously been a student and performed annually in their Nutcracker Suite. As the former owner of her own dance studio (1984-2010), she is versatile in teaching several disciplines of dance and is a choreographer whose students have won countless awards on both regional and national levels. She is also the proud mother of three dancers. With local roots, Ms Woods has done volunteer work in the field of dance and musical theatre over the years for the public school systems in various communities in addition to Bishop Fenwick High School, St. Patrick’s Church in Stoneham, The Perkins School for the Blind and the Town of Stoneham. Most recently Susan had the opportunity to spend a season teaching for the non-profit Motiance Dance Studio Foundation on the island of Dutch Sint Maarten. She delights in the smiles on the faces of her students as they reach each new level of accomplishment in their training!
Andrea Fanikos (Hip-Hop)
Andrea Fanikos began her dance training at the Dance Studio of Wakefield. She trained in ballet, contemporary, jazz, hip-hop, tap, and Latin ballroom. In 2010 she graduated from DTCB’s Dance Education Training Course. From 2011-2013, she toured with Excel in Motion dance convention as an Elite Dancer assisting So You Think You Can Dance Stars headliners such as: tWitch, Lauren Froderman, and Alison Holker. Andrea continued her dance career throughout college at Boston University as a member of the schools Division 1 Varsity dance team. During her time on the team she won two NDA National Championship titles for D1 Hip-Hop and Jazz. Some of her recent performances include: Wayfair commercials, Boston Community Dance Project’s Internalize, the Liberty Hotel’s Illuminate Gala, and Boston’s Contemporary Dance Festival with Urbanity Dance Company. More than anything Andrea loves sharing her passion for the art of dance with others and is excited to join the Northeast School of Ballet family!
Jenya Didenko started dancing at the young age of four in the Ukraine. In addition to ballroom dancing, Jenya studied ballet, contemporary dance and hip-hop. Since the age of sixteen, she has always loved to choreograph and teach. Her students went on to win many Ukrainian competitions and talent shows. In 2010 Jenya moved to the USA where she became a professional dancer and instructor. Her accomplishments include, National Ukrainian Finalist in 10 Dance, Quarter Final in Juveniles at Blackpool Dance Festival, Twin Cities Open Ballroom Champion, The Commonwealth Classic Champion, Dancing a la Carte Champion, Nashville Stars Champion. World Masters Finalist in Open Professional Latin Category and many others. Jenya has a passion for dance is currently a faculty member at ILTA Dance studio in Framingham. She is happy to start her first season with the versatile dancers at Northeast School of Ballet.