Jennifer Cafarella Betts
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.
L. Alexander Patrick, PhD., a Louisiana native and educator in the Social Sciences, is happily in his 6th year with the Convergence Ballet. Throughout his artistic timeline, he has continued to enjoy indulging in theater and dance performing, along with his visual artistry. Dr. Patrick began his dance training with the Baton Rouge Ballet and has since danced locally and nationally for a number of companies, such as Magnolia Dance Theatre, the Cangelosi Dance Project, the Atlanta Dance Connection, Scorpius Dance Theatre, Desert Dance Theatre, and CaZo Dance Company, just to name a few. He appreciates the arts in every way and continues to work towards a shared value for the experiences of every being and uses the arts to raise awareness of various issues impacting the human experience. He enjoys a large variety of dance styles and is very thankful for all of the amazing and inspirational teachers, dancers, choreographers, family, and friends that have supported and nurtured his talents over the years.
Mariana Pérez started dancing at the age of four following the Royal Academy of Dance Curriculum, which she concluded and earned the Solo Seal Award. In 2013, she moved to New York City to continue her training at the Joffrey Ballet School. After two years as a trainee, she was invited to join the school’s performance group, where she was given the opportunity to perform nationally and internationally. She has danced professionally with Verbs Ballet and North Pointe Ballet Company. Mariana has performed soloist and principal roles in ballets such as Swan Lake, Spring Waters, Suite Saint-Saens, The Nutcracker, Balanchine’s’ Walpurgisnacht and Valse Fantaise amongst others. She is a RAD teacher and a PBT certified instructor.
Cecelia is from Arvada, Colorado where she trained at Colorado Conservatory of Dance under the direction of Julia Wilkinson Manley and at Classical Ballet Academy under the direction of Elizabeth Shipiatsky. She then joined the University of Arizona’s School of Dance, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a BFA in Dance and a Minor in Finance in three years. Upon graduation, she joined Ballet Arizona’s Studio Company for two seasons where she most notably performed in Ib Andersen’s The Nutcracker and Cinderella, in Giselle, as well as George Balanchine’s Serenade, Bourree Fantasque, Emeralds, and The Four Temperaments. She also performed in soloist roles for The School of Ballet Arizona’s full length productions of The Sleeping Beauty and Raymonda.
Born in Southern California, JR Lagunas was first exposed to dance at the age of four with the Mexican Folklorico group, Xochipitzahuatl, where he learned various bailes regionales from Jalisco, Veracruz, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. This early introduction to dance lead him to Anaheim Ballet, where he began his classical ballet training, under the direction of Lawrence and Sarma Lapenieks Rosenberg. In 2011, he began working at the Disneyland Resort as a parade performer in A Christmas Fantasy Parade, Pixar Play Parade, and Paint the Night. He's also trained at Millennium Dance Complex, Boogiezone Utopia, and Playground LA to expand his urban dance skills. Now in Arizona, he is currently performing with Convergence Ballet and Ballet Folklorico Quetzalli-AZ.
Originally from Oregon, Grace started her ballet training at The Portland Ballet, under the direction of Artistic Director Nancy Davis. She has also trained at Oregon Ballet Theater, Portland Festival Ballet, and at the the Rockette Summer Intensive. Grace has danced in many ballets including John Clifford’s A MidSummer Night’s Dream, Swan Lake, Coppelia, Tom Gold’s Petrushka, The Nutcracker, Alice in Wonderland, and Giselle. Currently, Grace is obtaining her Bachelors in Dance Performance at Grand Canyon University. She is a PBT (Progressing Ballet Technique) Certified instructor in Levels 1-3 and an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 3 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum.
Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Julie began her ballet training in the Imperial Society of Teachers and Dance syllabus where she studied jazz, modern and tap. She continued her dance education at the University of Arizona graduating Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in dance. After graduating, Julie joined American Midwest Ballet for one season performing in Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and original works. She has danced for Princess Cruises traveling to over 30 countries and performing various shows including two directed by Oscar, Tony and Grammy award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz and choreographed by Emmy-nominated Al Blackstone. Julie then danced a season with tbd., an Omaha based modern and contemporary company. Currently, she has been teaching locally and certidied in the ABT National Training Curriculum Pre-Primary-Level 5, “Minding The Gap” mental health for dancers and Rhee Gold's Acro curriculum.
Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Sophia trained with Rena Backer and Nina Marlow at the Rena Backer School of ballet, where she taught and performed for many years before graduating in 2020. Sophia has attended summer intensives with Ajkun Ballet Theatre, where she was invited to perform with the company as a bridesmaid in Don Quixote and the Passion Fairy in Sleeping Beauty. In 2021, she became a trainee with State Street Ballet in Santa Barbara, CA. Sophia is currently a junior at Arizona State University, studying Family and Human Development.
An Arizona native, Brooke began her classical education at Scottsdale School of Ballet where she studied under former Balanchine dancers and artistic directors Sibylle Acatos-Dadey and Donald Dadey. During her 12 seasons at SSB, she trained in ballet, contemporary, jazz, Russian character, and Flamenco with elements of Spanish classical. At 15, she became the first youth soloist with the Julia Chacòn Flamenco Theatre and performed with the ensemble on numerous occasions, including two years at Scottsdale Center for the Arts in Flamenco Por La Familia. In 2020, Brooke moved to Ballet Theatre of Phoenix to further her knowledge of the American method. Upon graduation, she was a classical artist for Southwest Ballet Theatre where she performed soloist and principal roles in Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker.
During the 2022-2023 season, she taught primary, junior, and company levels at Harmony Dance Ballet, where she was also afforded the opportunity to write and stage the school’s first classical production, The Four Seasons. Brooke has found a passion for incorporating the movement education she’s received through her certifications in Progressing Ballet Technique 1-3, DancemED, Zhealth Performance Solutions, and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM-CPT) into her teaching philosophy.
Originally from Alabama, Abigail began her ballet training at Mobile Ballet at the age of three. She then moved to Georgia, and trained at Dance Arts for five years. At age nine, she moved to Arizona and trained at Arizona Conservatory for Arts and Academics, Master Ballet Academy and Ballet Arizona. Abigail has performed in The Nutcracker with Phoenix Ballet/Master Ballet, IB Anderson's Nutcracker, and has been a guest artist for The Arizona Nutcracker for three years. Abigail has also performed in Cinderella, Don Quixote, Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake. Abigail has competed at YAGP getting top 24 and Icon Dance Awards. While performing with the company, she will be teaching ballet classes at studios around the valley.
Originally from the island of Mauritius, Emilie started her ballet training at the age of 5 at the David Academy of Dancing under the direction of Teresa David and completed the Royal Academy of Dance examinations up to the Advanced 2 level. Over the years, she has performed in many school and commercial productions in her home country including in The Phantom of the Opera. In 2018, she was accepted into The Ailey School’s Scholarship Program in New York where she spent two years training in Horton, Graham, Taylor, contemporary jazz, and ballet and performed in The Global Harmony at the Ailey Citigroup Theater. As a RAD teacher, she has taught and coached students of various ages in multiple studios in Mauritius and was a faculty member at Ballet Theatre of Phoenix from 2020-2022.
Samantha started dancing at three and began her formal ballet training at New Jersey School of Ballet at age eight. She later became a member of the New Jersey Ballet Junior Company, where she performed and toured nationally with the New Jersey Ballet Company. There, she danced corps de ballet roles in Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Esmeralda, & soloist roles in The Nutcracker. Samantha graduated with honors from Alonzo King's LINES Ballet BFA program at Dominican University of California, where she performed original contemporary ballet works by Alonzo King, Maurya Kerr, Gregory Dawson, and Yannis Adoniou. Upon graduation, she moved to Arizona and joined Terpsicore Dance Company for three seasons. She performed classical and contemporary ballet works and was honored to dance principal roles in The Nutcracker and Paquita. She then took her leave of the dance world and has since become a trained pastry chef, wife, and mother. Watching her young daughter discover ballet rekindled her love for the artform and she is thrilled and grateful to have this opportunity to dance again.