Artistic Director

Courtney Laves-Mearini

Courtney received her training in Houston, Texas, studying primarily under Anne and Nicolas Polajenko, Gilbert Rome, ABT’s Alexander Minz, Claire Duncan, and James Clouser. She trained for a year at the University of Utah under Li-Chou Chang. She had the opportunity to work with Sir Anton Dolin and Toni Lander, restaging Pas de Quatre in the role of Marie Taglioni. She danced with several companies, including Atlanta Ballet, South Carolina Ballet Theater, and Cleveland Ballet. She danced lead roles in SerenadePaquita, Sleeping BeautyConcerto BoroccoRaymonda Variations, and Lynn-Taylor Corbett’s Appearances. She has been teaching ballet since 1978 for various studios, including teaching at the University of Akron’s dance department. She received her B.A. in Anthropology and Communications from Cleveland State University in 1997 and has excavated for three field seasons on the Maya Mountain Archaeological Project in Belize, Central America, with Dr. Peter Dunham.

Executive Director

Heather Young

Heather Young holds a Master of Fine Arts in Contemporary Dance from Case Western Reserve University and a Bachelor of Arts from Hamilton College. In July 2022, she was promoted to Executive Director of City Ballet of Cleveland. Prior to that time, she served as the administrative assistant for the company. Mrs. Young is also the Office Manager and dance instructor at Cleveland City Dance and a yoga instructor at Yoga Roots. She has worked as an adjunct faculty at Lake Erie College, Case Western Reserve University, and Cleveland State University. Mrs. Young was a Teaching Artist with Groundworks Dance Theater and an instructor for the Read to Learn . . . Dance to Move program with DANCECleveland, and has taught Yes! I Can Move classes at InMotion.

Young has danced professionally with Antaeus Dance, Verlezza Dance Company, Marquez Dance Project, and Tikvah Company of Artists. She has performed in works by notable choreographers, including Martha Graham, Pascal Rioult, Carolyn Dorfman, May O’Donnell, Amy Miller, and Elisa Monte. She recently returned to performing with Ajayi Dance, Sarah Holmes Villanueva, and Marquez Dance Project.

Young is also a seasoned choreographer whose works have been performed at the Northeast Ohio Dance Festival, Case Western Reserve University, Allegheny College, and Hamilton College. In May 2013, she choreographed the 8th Grade Musical at Hathaway Brown School, and in March 2014 choreographed Shrek the Musical at Euclid High School. Her work, Let My Hero In, premiered at Cleveland Public Theatre’s DanceWorks’14. She was also a choreographer for Cleveland Dance Exchange’s Top Ten during Cleveland Public Theatre’s DanceWorks’ 15. Mrs. Young has also been blessed with the opportunity to set works for the company dancers for Youth American Grand Prix.

Mrs. Young resides in Cleveland with her husband and two boys. She is forever grateful for their support.

Administrative Assistant

Rachael Palermo

Rachael Palermo is a dance educator and choreographer from Northfield, Ohio. As a choreographer, she has enjoyed working with non-profit organizations, private dance schools, and community theaters throughout Northeast Ohio. Specializing in teaching ballet for both beginners and pre-professionals, Rachael has taught in the Cleveland area for over 20 years. She has worked with the students of Baldwin Wallace University, Lorain County Community College, Cuyahoga Community College, Youngstown State University, and Dance Institute at The University of Akron. She previously worked as a dance studio Owner/Director for 10 years, and is a member of the National Dance Education Organization. Rachael holds a B.F.A. in Dance from The University of Akron, where she performed with The University of Akron Dance Company. She went on to New York University for graduate studies, and received her M.A. in Teaching Dance in Higher Education and the Professions in 2013. Additionally, she holds her Statement of Eligibility for Alternative Resident Educator License in Dance from the Ohio Department of Education. Most recently, she served as Artistic/School Director at Ballet Western Reserve and also had the pleasure of choreographing Spring Awakening at Youngstown State University. Rachael is thrilled to join The University of Akron as Visiting Assistant Professor of Instruction-Dance/Ballet.

Guest Choreographers

Diana Braun

Diana Braun is an alumnus of Cleveland City Dance and has been training with the studio since she was 7 years old. She is a recent graduate of Otterbein College, where she received a B.A. in mathematics and a minor in dance. At Otterbein, she was able to work with Randy Skinner in Otterbein’s production of 42nd Street. She was also chosen to be the student choreographer for the 2009 dance concert “To Each, His Own.”

Sara Lawrence-Sucato

Sara Lawrence-Sucato hails from Columbus, OH, and graduated with Honors from Mercyhurst University (Erie, PA) with a degree in Dance Teaching and Choreography. She has over ten seasons as a professional dancer with Cleveland’s The Dancing Wheels Company. She is also the company’s Tour Manager, and Sara teaches at several local dance studios. With Dancing Wheels, Sara has performed works by Nai Ni Chen, David Dorfman, Christopher Fleming, Heidi Latsky, Stuart Pimsler, David Rousseve, Robert Wesner, as well as renowned choreographers Donald McKayle and Dianne McIntyre. She has performed with Columbus, Ohio’s Columbus Dance Theatre, and The Dance Cure, as well as Erie’s Mercyhurst Dancers, Lake Erie Ballet, Shen and Bones Performance Group, and SoMar Dance Works. Sara’s choreographic credits include dances performed as part of Cleveland Public Theatre’s DanceWorks (2015) and Big [Box] Series (2009, 2010), “Revolutions” (2012) and “2” (2017) for The Dancing Wheels Company, and “Concerto Impressioniste” (2016) and “Ocean Stories” (2017) for City Ballet of Cleveland. Sara joined the Cleveland City Dance faculty in 2014.

Amy McKenney

Amy began her ballet training as a child in Tallahassee, Florida, with Helen Salter, Nancy Abbey (Tallahassee Civic Ballet company). With Richard Sias and Gwynn Ashton at Florida State University as a high school student. She spent summers at the North Carolina School of the Arts. At 16, she became a Joffrey Ballet Trainee and moved to New York City. She trained with Jonathon Watts, Trinette Singleton, and Francesca Corkle and enjoyed the opportunity to perform with the company in occasional works, including Romeo and Juliet. She left the trainee program to study with Wilhelm Burman as a scholarship student and traveled Europe, where she enjoyed learning new styles of contemporary ballet. Amy left ballet in 1988 and went to Brown University, where she graduated with honors in Biology, and enjoyed studying modern dance with Julie Strandberg, choreographing and performing with the dance company “Extension.” She went on to Harvard Medical School, a career in academic medicine as a Pathologist, and raising a family. She now enjoys the chance to take ballet class again at Cleveland City Dance and create dances as a freelance choreographer.

Jeffrey Marc Rockland

Entering his third year as Associate Professor of Dance at Kent State University, Jeffrey Marc Rockland enjoys helping students expand, discover, and excel. Rockland brings his professional experience into the classroom. He sets a professional standard by which technique and artistry are achieved. Rockland had the great fortune to train with master teachers such as Laura Alonso, Robert Barnett, William Griffith, Constance Hardinge, Benjamin Harkarvy, David Howard, Robert Joffrey, Donald Mackayle, and Lupe Serano. As Soloist with Atlanta Ballet, Universal Ballet, and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Rockland danced an established repertoire of Balanchine, Bournonville, Feld, Fokine, Najinska, Petipa, and Tuder and had new works choreographed for him by choreographers including Anastos, Bahr, Barnett, Kudelka, McFall, Munroe, Pazik, and Taylor Corbitt among others. As Ballet Master for Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, Rockland was asked to give master classes in cities worldwide. This led to his establishing connections in Asia that many years later have helped build Kent’s East Meets West Program. Today, besides enjoying his teaching at Kent State, Rockland is a guest teacher for several professional schools, including Joffrey Ballet’s New York Summer Intensive.

Previously, Rockland was Associate Professor and Director of UNC Dance Theatre within the department of theatre and dance at the University of Northern Colorado. While in Colorado, Rockland directed the University‘s ballet program and was Founding Executive Artistic Director of Colorado Dance Theatre and The Greeley Conservatory of Dance. Working with business partners, Rockland renovated a 10,000 square foot building (now The Conservatory Building) as a center for the arts in Greeley’s historic downtown.

Rockland holds a Bachelor of Arts and Teacher’s Certification in Ballet from Virginia Intermont College, a Master of Arts in Arts Management from Concordia University, a Master of Fine Arts in dance from the University of California Irvine, where Rockland was Chancellor’s Fellow and Graduate Teaching Assistant. Rockland completed a Secondary Teacher’s Certification in Dance from Pima Community College and holds national certification as a personal trainer from the American College of Sports Medicine.

In addition to his career as an educator, Rockland has enjoyed a long performance career starting at the age of 4, playing Sasha in the MGM classic, Dr. Zhivago. In his late teens, Rockland began a dance performance career which included working with Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, Les Grands Ballet Canadiens, the Atlanta Ballet Company, the Universal Ballet (Seoul, South Korea), the Scottish-American Ballet, and the Bristol Ballet Company. For more than 25 years, he has choreographed, directed, and produced dance at the professional, collegiate and high school levels.

Shannon Sterne

Shannon Sterne has more than 20 years of experience as a movement educator. She taught courses in ballet, modern dance, and kinesiology at dance studios, colleges, and universities across Northeast Ohio and has presented at dance medicine conferences nationally and internationally. During her tenure as an assistant professor in the Department of Dance at Case Western Reserve University, Shannon was introduced to the GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM® and was immediately hooked. She retired from dance and dove into her training with GYROTONIC® Master Trainer Lisa Lansing and soon became a Certified Instructor in both the GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® methods.

In 2019, Shannon had the great pleasure to travel to Münstertal, Germany to participate in a Breathwork Intensive with Gyrotonic creator Juliu Horvath. She has also completed specialized training courses for working with shoulder and hip issues, osteoporosis, and the unique needs of dancers.

Shannon is an ACE Certified Medical Exercise Specialist, a Licensed Massage Therapist, and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She combines these practices to help her clients cultivate a movement education practice that is informed by the latest research on wellness, pain science, and neuromuscular re-education.

Rehearsal Directors

Alison Dubsky 

Ms. Dubsky began her ballet training at the Ashtabula Arts Center and finished her studies at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School and the Joffrey Ballet School. Upon graduation, Alison embarked on a professional career where she performed throughout North America. During Ms. Dubsky’s tenure as a professional ballet dancer, she danced with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, the Joffrey Ensemble Dancers, the Sarasota Ballet, the Richmond Ballet, and the Alberta Ballet. Some of Ms. Dubsky’s favorite roles include the Black Queen from ​Checkmate​, the Sugar Plum from ​The Nutcracker​, Jiri Kylian’s ​Forgotten Land​, and the principal couple in George Balanchine’s ​Allegro Brillante​.

Alison is married to Mike Keating and they have two adorable boys.

Mike Keating

Michael, a New Jersey native, trained under the direction of John White and Margarita de Saa at the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet. While studying under John White and Margarita de Saa, he also had the privilege of working with choreographers Bryan Koulman and Lina Early performing a variety of classical, modern, and contemporary works. During Michael’s time at the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet, he was involved in a small ensemble called Pages to Pirouettes. The ensemble’s purpose is to take storybook ballets, such as Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and Cinderella, to grade schools in the entire Philadelphia area and teach school children about ballet and dance in general. Michael also spent several months studying at the Boston Ballet School prior to joining a professional company. Michael joined The Sarasota Ballet of Florida as an apprentice in 1999 and retired as a principle in 2008.

Including Sarasota Ballet’s full repertoire, he performed many leading male roles including Lysander and Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Siegfried, as well as Rothbart, in Swan Lake, Othello in Othello, and the Cavalier in the holiday favorite The Nutcracker. Michael also had the distinguished honor of portraying Don Jose in Alberto Alonso’s Carmen, not only on stage but also in the documentary project Dancing in Freedom’s Shoes portraying Alberto Alonso’s illustrious life and career in ballet. Michael’s contemporary repertoire includes many pieces by James Buckley including Business Casual, Centaur, The Rite of Spring, and Anne Frank. He also reset Mr. Buckley’s Anne Frank on The Sarasota Ballet in January of 2006. In 2002, Michael had the honor of working with choreographer Christopher Fleming to celebrate the artist Jean Claude Gaugy’s’s inspirational masterpiece ‘The Awakening’. The work was revealed in Santa Fe, New Mexico to a ballet that reflected the artist’s struggle to overcome impossible odds. Michael has received pedagogy training based upon the Vaganova Syllabus, which is the same syllabus he trained under at The Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet.

Ethan Lee

Ethan Michael Lee is an Ohio native from North Canton and started his training at Canton Ballet under the artistic direction of Cassandra Crowley at the age of 12. He has also trained at schools such as Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Chautauqua, and Joffrey Ballet to name a few. Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival 2013 was Ethan’s first performance with Neos Dance Theatre making this his fifth year with Neos Dance Theatre. He has been performing roles for Neos ballets such as Bobby Wesner’s original Snow White, Dracula, and an array of contemporary pieces he has choreographed. Currently Ethan is the Artistic Director of A Time to Dance Junior Company, and over the years has choreographed numerous pieces including four ballets. When not performing with Neos or choreographing, Ethan also guests throughout North East Ohio to perform with local ballet schools, such as Ballet Theatre of Ohio, Canton Ballet, Great Lakes Youth Ballet, and many others.

Gwendolyn Seckers

Gwendolyn Seckers is a seasoned dance educator who has taught students of all ages in a variety of settings. Trained in both commercial and conservatory settings, she holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Georgia and was an inaugural member of the UGA Ballet Ensemble. Originally trained as a gymnast and competitive Irish dancer, Gwendolyn began ballet studies in Rochester, NY with her mother, who later relocated to Cleveland, Ohio. She studied at the School of Nashville Ballet with Elaine Thomas (Royal Ballet), Paul Vasterling, and Janek Schergen. While a musical theater student at Northwestern University, she studied jazz dance with Nan Giordano at the Gus Giordano Dance Center.

As a young teen, Gwendolyn was chosen to perform with the New York City Ballet during its summer residency at Saratoga Springs. Gwendolyn was an adjunct faculty member at Middle Tennessee State University, a teaching artist for the Cumberland County Playhouse, and ballet instructor for the Rutherford County Youth Ballet. She is currently a faculty member at other area arts programs, teaching ballet and early childhood classes, outreach education, and created a curriculum for Head Start outreach programming. Through a partnership between BCA and Lutheran West High School, Gwendolyn will be creating and teaching a syllabus for a new dance class. Gwendolyn has taught outreach education for DANCECleveland’s Read to Learn . . . Dance to Move program and has also worked as a certified fitness instructor. Most recently, Gwendolyn has completed Silver Swans training with the Royal Academy of Dance.

Outside of dance, Gwendolyn volunteers as a tutor with The Refugee Response has served on the board of the Winterhurst Figure Skating Club, and was appointed to the City of Lakewood’s Community Relations Advisory Commission. She also holds a K-12 substitute teacher license.

Kristi Tichenor

Kristi is an alumnus of the Academy of Ballet and the Fredericksburg City Ballet Company. She studied under the instruction of Melissa Gregory, Julie Drennan, and Nikolai Balatsenko. Kristi has spent time training with many different Ballet Companies including The Richmond Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet School in New York, and was selected for a Trainee position with the Joffrey Ballet Company in Chicago.

Kristi has an extensive performance repertoire. She has performed as Aurora and the Lilac Fairy in ​Sleeping Beauty​, the Black Swan in ​Swan Lake​, the “Raymonda Grande Pas De Deux in ​Raymonda​, Clara, the Snow Queen, and the Sugar Plum Fairy in ​The Nutcracker​ and Kitri in ​Don Quixote​.

Kristi found her passion for teaching in 2014 when she moved back to Fredericksburg. She has since choreographed award-winning contemporary ballet works for competition dancers and has staged and directed full-length ballets, including ​The Sleeping Beauty​ and ​The Nutcracker​.

Main Costumer

Raymond J. Zander II

Raymond J. Zander II was born & raised in the Northern Chicago suburb of Northbrook, IL. He did his undergraduate work at Northern Illinois University and began his professional career at John Kenley Players nearby in Warren, OH.  This was followed by three seasons working in the Costume Shop of the Tyrone Guthrie Theater and then a year of Graduate work at New York University.  While living in New York, he worked at several of the major costume houses, including Michael-Jon Costumes and Grace Costumes. Grace Costumes constructed the designs of David Guthrie for the Cleveland Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. Artistic Director Ian (Ernie) Horvath and Dennis Nahat invited him to join the Cleveland Ballet staff for a 20-year career as Costume Supervisor before financial woes caused the company to close its doors and move to San Jose. Mr. Zander has designed for The San Jose-Cleveland Ballet (Dying Swan, Corsaire, Flower Festival, Black Swan, A Fairwell to Ian Horvath), The Illusion Mime Theater, Groundworks Dance, and the Tom Evert Dance Company. The latter garnered a review from the New York Times dance critic of “genius” for his costume design of Pigs and Roses. He is a proud member of Wardrobe Local 883, which has allowed him to work with many of the national Broadway tours, as well as Radio City Music Christmas Spectacular. Due to the fine work of Playhouse Square, he has been able to work on national tours such as Footloose, On the Record, and The Drowsy Chaperone, which began their tours in Cleveland. Living in Cleveland also has allowed him to work in commercials and film, including A Christmas Story and Welcome to Collinwood (George Clooney Producer).