Directors & 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 Artistic Director, Denise Cecere, is comprised of mentors who have enjoyed careers in the arts and want to share their knowledge and love for dance with the next generation.
NSB's diverse and distinguished faculty includes former dancers from Paris Opera Ballet, New York City Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Boston Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem, Ballet West, Colorado Ballet, Charlotte Ballet, Ballet Met, Memphis Ballet, Eliot Feld Ballet, Ballet British Columbia, Harid Conservatory, Limon Company, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Elisa Monte Dance, Parsons Dance Company, Chautauqua Dance Insitute, Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo, and Buglisi Dance Theatre, among many others.
SANDRA MARIE MCNAUGHT
Founder & Registrar
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 School's 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.
Artistic & Executive Director
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.
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 Chautautqua Dance Institute.
Resident Guest Artist & Coach to The Conservatory at NSB
Born in France, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux joined the Paris Opera Ballet at age 14 and was named Danseur Etoile at 21. He has danced with the Bolshoi and Kirov Ballets and in 1970 became a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet under the direction of George Balanchine. In 1977, Bonnefoux joined the faculty of the School of American Ballet, the official school of the New York City Ballet, and began to realize his lifelong ambition of training young dancers. His final performance was in 1980, after which time, he dedicated himself to work as an artistic director, choreographer, and teacher.
Bonnefoux’s choreography includes works commissioned by the New York City Ballet, The Lincoln Center Institute, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company, and the Pennsylvania Ballet. Bonnefoux has served as choreographer and ballet master for the Pittsburgh Ballet, as Chairman and Artistic Director of the Ballet Department in the School of Music at Indiana University. He has served as the President of the Jury at the Prix de Lausanne (2005 and 2007). He came to the Charlotte Ballet and School of Charlotte Ballet in 1996 where he served as the President until 2016. Bonnefoux has been the Artistic Director of the Chautauqua’s Summer Dance program since 1983 and actively coaches the next generation of dancers.
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 and nurture my students.” – Lorraine Chapman
Ms. Cornelius began her ballet training at the early age of three 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.
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.
CAITLIN O’CONNOR PESCE
Ballet & NYB's Rehearsal Assistant
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.
Erika Lambe is a Boston native who began her training at the Boston Ballet School and later studied at the School of American Ballet, and the Dance Theatre of Harlem school. She danced professionally with the Dance Theater of Harlem, Miami City Ballet, and Boston Ballet where she was Boston Ballet’s first black Sugar Plum Fairy. Over her extensive career, her repertoire includes a number of Balanchine works including Concerto Borocco, Bugaku, Serenade, Stars and Stripes, The Four Temperaments, Square Dance, Jewels, The Nutcracker, Scotch Symphony, Valsse Fantasies, Divertimento 15, Symphony in C, Theme and Variations, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, Ballo de la Regina, and Raymonda Variations. Classical repertoire includes Swan Lake, Movanissimanoble, Flower Festival at Genzano, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, Les Corsaire, LA Bayadere, Don Quixote, and Paquita. She has also performed “Creole Giselle”, The Fall River Legend, Firebird, Les Biches, Les Noces, Holberg Suite, and Voluntaries and works by Mark Morris and Lyla York.
Ms. Lambe was featured in a PBS special, “I’LL MAKE ME A WORLD”, which chronicled the lives of African Americans in dance. Since retiring from the stage, Ms. Lambe has taught ballet at Boston Ballet School, Walnut Hill School, Boston Arts Academy, Charles River Ballet Academy, and Acton School of Ballet. As a coach and choreographer, Erika has worked with many dancers in the greater Boston area and is currently teaching at Tony Williams Dance Center, Brookline Academy of Dance and Intergarte.
Ms. Lee 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. Lee 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 the Northeast School of Ballet. Her favorite role is mother to her three beautiful children, Olivia, Quinn, and Isabelle.
KATHY STARK DIA
Kathy Stark Dia danced professionally with Ballet Met in Columbus, OH and was a principal dancer of Southern Ballet Theatre (now Orlando Ballet). She is currently on the faculties of Acton School of Ballet and the Conservatory at Northeast School of Ballet in Boston. She served as Director of Walnut Hill School’s Community Dance Academy for 14 years and was the Founder and Director of their Youth Summer Dance Program.
She has been a summer faculty member at Pittsburgh Youth Ballet, Boston Ballet, and Chautauqua Institution, where she taught for five summers. Ms.Stark received her dance training at North Carolina School of the Arts, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School, and as a child in Pittsburgh with Jean Gedeon and Eduard Caton.
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!
He’s currently a professor at Boston University after dancing professionally for twenty years in NYC. He proudly began his training at the age of seven in Worcester, Massachusetts with Jo-Ann Warren. He has danced with Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Elisa Monte Dance, Parsons Dance Company, and Buglisi Dance Theatre. He is a Guest Choreographer and Teacher at The Fine Arts Center in Greenville, South Carolina, and continues to conduct Master Classes and workshops alongside his National and International touring. Brian has had the opportunity to perform at Jacob’s Pillow, Lincoln Center, Cultural Center of the Philippines, The Bolshoi Theatre, American Dance Festival, The Joyce Theatre, NYC CIty Center, Spoleto Festival, Italy and The Kennedy Center. In 2009, Brian co-created and presented a commissioned evening-length work of Romeo and Juliet-a death marked love at The Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina.
He holds his Bachelor of Fine Arts from The Juilliard School under the directorship of Benjamin Harkarvy and an Associate’s Degree in Occupational Science for Massage Therapy. Brian is currently a professor at the Boston Conservatory and on faculty at Northeast School of Ballet.
KURT A. DOUGLAS
(Modern) Resident Guest Faculty
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 perform 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 of 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 Boston Conservatory. 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.
Ryan P. Casey is a performer, teacher, choreographer, and dance writer formerly named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch.” He trained primarily under Thelma Goldberg and Kelly Kaleta in Lexington, MA. In addition to his solo work, he has danced for Michelle Dorrance, Aaron Tolson, Billy Siegenfeld, Lorraine Chapman, and Adrienne Hawkins. As an educator, he has worked for colleges, festivals, studios, and arts programs throughout the country and with Summer Performing Arts with Juilliard in Switzerland. He has presented work throughout the Northeast with his company, Off Beat, including the Inside/Out series at Jacob’s Pillow.
A frequent contributor to Dance Magazine, Ryan was formerly on faculty at Boston University and is an alumnus of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, NYU, The School at Jacob’s Pillow, and the National Young Arts Foundation.
Pilates & Cross-Training
Jodi Fitzgerald grew up playing sports and dancing ballet, tap, and jazz with Jacqueline Casey in North Reading. Always active, Jodi has been teaching fitness classes since 1997. She is a Certified Health Coach and passionate about health and wellness. Jodi has certifications from AFAA, Mad Dog Spinning, Pilates, TRX, and Personal Training.
Jodi received a degree in Business Finance from Northeastern University and has been a licensed real estate agent for 30 years. Jodi works in the family business, Fitzgerald & Associates, with her mother and has received the professional designations of CBR (Certified, Buyer Representative) and GRI (Graduate, Realtor Institute).
Jodi has been NSB's Pilates and Conditioning Coach since September 2019 and loves sharing her cross-training techniques with such passionate and athletic dancers.
IEVGENIIA (JENYA) DIDENKO
Jenya Didenko started dancing at the young age of four in Ukraine. In addition to ballroom dancing, Jenya studied ballet, contemporary dance, and hip-hop. She has loved choreography and teaching since the age of sixteen. 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 and is currently a faculty member at ILTA Dance studio in Framingham. She is happy to share her passion for ballroom dance with the versatile and talented students at Northeast School of Ballet.
Caeley Moore began studying latin and ballroom dancing at Ilta Dance Studio under the direction of Tamaz Shiloshvili, Jenya Didenko, and Erik Linder. She has also taken class by guest coaches Armen Tsaturyan, Andrey Borovski, and Dirk Heidemann. She has placed in many competitions including the Eastern United States Dancesport Championships, Commonwealth Classic, and the Tri-State Dancesport Championships. Caeley is happy to share her knowledge and love of dance with the next generation at NSB.
Musical Theater (Resident Guest Faculty)
A native Bostonian and former scholarship student and apprentice with the Boston and Joffrey Ballets, Ms. Mazzulli received her BFA with a major in Theatre/Jazz Dance and minor in Dance Education from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA where she was presented with the “Outstanding Jazz Dance Performance” Award in her senior year. Upon graduation, Ms. Mazzulli returned home to Boston and, in 1992, joined the ranks of Rainbow Tribe, The Dance Company in its first year of existence performing under the direction of fellow Boston native, the late great Carleton T. Jones. She has since transformed the ensemble into Rainbow Tribe, Inc., a 501(c)(3) Massachusetts non-profit organization dedicated to embracing and celebrating diversity by educating through the art and joy of dance in all its different shapes, forms and sizes. As a recipient of a choreographer’s grant for the 1999 “Boston Moves” sponsored by Dance Umbrella, Ms. Mazzulli is known for her innovative and original choreography which has been showcased at diverse venues throughout the East Coast. In 2003, she was honored to be guest speaker at the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers (EACE) Conference ”Pathways to Success in the Arts”. Ms. Mazzulli was appointed to the Executive Committee of The Boston Dance Alliance in March 2006, and passionately served until December 2010. Concurrently, she served 15 years as Rainbow Tribe, Inc.’s Executive Artistic Director and President and retired her position in June 2012 after celebrating the organization’s 20 th Anniversary milestone.
Today, she holds the titles of Rainbow Tribe, Inc.’s Artistic Director Emerita and Honorary Trustee and remains an active Member on the organization’s Board. Ms. Mazzulli is also a freelance choreographer, dance instructor, movement coach, advisor and mentor for Lynnfield High School Music Department, Northeast School of Ballet, Center Stage Dance Academy, Lyric Stage Company of Boston, City Year, DEA Youth Dance Program (a part of the DEA Educational Foundation) and Youth Protection Advocates in Dance (YPAD), as well as a proud Foster Parent for Quincy Animal Shelter. She happily lives in Boston with two beautiful felines, Taquitoes and Elsa.
Ashley Talluto has been a professional dance educator and performer in New York City for over 12 years. Originally from North Reading, Massachusetts, Ashley is an alumni of Northeast Youth Ballet. Ashley continued her early training at The Boston Ballet School and furthered her education at the Boston Conservatory, where she received a BFA in Dance. She has performed throughout the world in various Broadway Touring Productions and dance companies. She has served as the dance captain for the revival Broadway touring company of West Side Story and most recently as a swing in Christopher Wheeldon’s International Tour of An American in Paris. Ashley has toured the US, Canada, Asia, and Europe; most notably performing at the historic Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, France, The National Theatre in D.C., and New York’s Radio City Music Hall. As a stage performer and actress, Ashley has performed in Flashdance The Musical, The Music Man, Oklahoma!, The Prince of Egypt and The New York Spring Spectacular featuring the Radio City Rockettes. On television, Ashley has made several appearances on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, including performances with JLO and Paul Rudd. With over a decade of experience as an educator, Ashley has been on faculty at Manhattan’s premiere studio's, Ballet Academy East and Long Island City School of Ballet. As a guest artist, mentor, and educator, Ashley has taught master classes throughout the country and continues to serve as an adjudicator for Energy National Dance Competitions and Conventions. In addition, Ashley continues to perform synchronized swimming as a team member and captain of the International Aqualillies team as seen in Glamour Magazine. Ashley is very excited to join the faculty at NSB.