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Jennifer Cafarella Betts

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

Jennifer Cafarella Betts, BS Business Administration (Rivier College), MFA Dance (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Founder Director of Ballet Theatre of Phoenix, is a passionate educator, choreographer and dancer who is certified in the ABT National Training Curriculum Primary-Level 5, Progressing Ballet Technique, and Power Pilates Mat. Her professional career has taken her as far as Ballet de Cali in Colombia, Granite State Ballet where she performed soloist roles in the Nutcracker and Cinderella, Portland Ballet as a summer guest artist, and Jose Mateo’s Ballet Theatre.  Cafarella Betts founded Convergence Ballet in 2010 as a summer only ballet company which attracted dancers from Malpaso, Memphis Ballet, Ballet Arizona, Boulder Ballet, Palmetto City Ballet, Cleveland Ballet and Central Illinois Ballet.  It has now grown to a full-time company with a strong presence in the Metro Phoenix Area. Cafarella Betts has created full length ballets on the company such as The Nutcracker Swing! and Alice in Wonderland. In 2016, Cafarella Betts founded Ballet Theatre of Phoenix and since then, has molded the culture that defines the school and Convergence Ballet.

She is dedicated to understanding more about the brain and body connection, therefore updating a traditional method and creating a training program for each dancer and professional artist to reach their highest potential.  Her teaching methodologies are rooted in somatic exploration and neuro diversity. Her research background allows for individual analysis and a custom training program for each student to become the best dancer they can be. Cafarella Betts’ approach to dance pedagogy is influenced by her experiences at Walnut Hill School for the Arts where she trained under Sydelle Gomberg, the School of Ballet Arizona, and SUNY Purchase.  Her observations of the ever-changing movement patterns developed by technological advances, motivates her to explore and strengthen developmental movement for healthier dancers. She regularly presents her findings at the National Dance Educator’s Organization on creating better pedagogical practices through a neuro athletic lens within the scope of Classical Ballet. She has served on the faculties at School of Ballet Arizona, Arizona School for the Arts, Mesa Community College, Scottsdale School of Ballet and Plumb Performing Arts Center.

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Ilir Shtylla

BALLET MASTER

Originally from Tirana, Albania, Ilir’s early exposure to Albanian folk dancing led him to ballet lessons at age 11 at National Ballet School of Albania. Ilir graduated from the Baku Choreographic University of Azerbaijan, and then joined Azerbaijan Opera Ballet Theatre as a principal dancer. After moving to the United States in 1999, Ilir was given a full scholarship to The Rock School of Dance Education in Philadelphia and the School of American Ballet in New York City. Ilir danced with Carolina Ballet (2000-2003) and Oregon Ballet Theatre (2007-2008) as a soloist dancer, and as a principal dancer with Ballet Arizona (2003-2015). In addition, Ilir has been a guest artist with Miami City Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and North Carolina Dance Theatre. Ilir’s dance repertoire includes pieces by national and internationally known choreographers such as Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, George Balanchine, Michel Fokine, Marius Petipa, Dwight Rhoden, Alexei Ratmansky, Nicolo Fonte, Ib Andersen, Lynne Taylor-Corbett and Robert Weiss. Ilir has also been featured in works by Christopher Wheeldon and Alejandro Cerrudo. Ilir has performed at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with Oregon Ballet Theatre and with Ballet Arizona. Since moving to Arizona in 2003, Ilir has been a faculty member at many studios throughout the Valley including Yen-Li Ballet School, the School of Ballet Arizona, Ballet Etudes, Diverse Elements and Plumb Performing Arts Center faculty.

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Lainie Seretis

BALLET MISTRESS

Lainie has been teaching classical Vaganova ballet for over 20 years to children and adults. She has been teaching the Vaganova syllabus for both ballet and pointe to students for years. In addition, she was the first certified Progressing Ballet Technique (PBT) teacher in Arizona and has been teaching PBT for 5 years. Recently she added the Finis Jhung method to her repertoire.

As a teacher and choreographer, she has developed ballet programs for studios and staged classical and original ballets performed annually. Some of her direction and choreographic credits include Cinderella, Coppelia, Pinocchio, Snow White, and One Enchanted Christmas. In addition, she has choreographed and staged many pieces for competitions that have both choreographic and performance awards. Many of Lainie’s students have been invited to dance at the schools of American Ballet Theater, Joffrey, Complexions, Hubbard Street Dance, and the Bolshoi Ballet. In addition her dancers have gone on to accept positions in the New York Dance Project, Steps On Broadway Conservatory, Mercyhurst dance program, University of Utah (Modern Dance), and Chapman dance program.

Past Choreographers

- Aaron Gilbert

- Amber Willett

- Dana Metz

- David Maurice

- Diane McNeal Hunt

- Emanuel Vaceanu

- Eric Rivera

- Keven Jenkins

- Nicole Olson

- ReShawn Hart

- Tracy Marion

- Ryan Orion Beck

- Rusty Toth

- Thom Dancy