Directors & Faculty
Artistic Director and Founder, Northeast Youth Ballet
Denise brings her life's 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. Her principal roles include The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, Flower Festival, many neo-classical 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 opportunities 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 35 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”, "The Wrong Child", "Druddigon" and “Paul Revere’s Ride” by contemporary composers. For the past 25 years, Cecere has continued to display the young company’s diversity both at home and abroad.
Cecere is currently director of the Northeast School of Ballet, the official training school of the Northeast Youth 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.
SANDRA MARIE MCNAUGHT
President and Managing Director
Sandra has been a dance educator for over 55 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 privileged to share her love of dance with NSB’s next generation of dancers.
Resident Choreographer & Assistant Director of The Conservatory at NSB
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 Guest Faculty for Chautauqua Dance Institute.
CAITLIN O’CONNOR PESCE
NYB’s Nutcracker Rehearsal Director
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 currently serves as Rehearsal Assistant during Northeast Youth Ballet’s, The Nutcracker each season.
JEREMY RUTH HOWES
Contemporary Ballet & Resident Choreographer
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.