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.
Originally from Russia, Victoria Lazareva has an array of experience performing and teaching folk dance, ballet and contemporary styles. In 2016, Victoria was a ballerina for the Moscow Classical Ballet performing in Russia, USA, Canada, Italy, China, and Germany. During the same year she was also a dancer in the Russian National Ballet “Kostroma” and a soloist in the folk dance ensemble. Academically as a teacher and choreographer, she has studied at the Moscow Provincial College of the Arts and the Moscow State Institute of Culture. She has danced roles such as Russian in The Nutcracker, Dance of the Little Swans in Swan Lake and the dance of the Red Riding Hood and the Wolf in Sleeping Beauty.
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.
Jacqueline Gionet is an Arizona native who started dancing at Scottsdale School of Ballet, then Scottsdale Dance Academy, where she was a student for ten years. She attended summer intensive programs at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington D.C., Ellison Ballet in New York City, and was a recipient of the Scottsdale Ballet Foundation summer scholarship. In 2016, she began training at Master Ballet Academy, from which she graduated. In 2019, she joined Colorado Ballet as a studio company member for three seasons, where she danced corps de ballet roles in company productions of Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, and Derek and Deane's Romeo and Juliet.
(Photo by Rahcel Neville Photography)
Originally from Oregon, Grace started her training with the Portland Ballet. As her dancing progressed, she also trained with the Portland Festival Ballet and at the Rockette Summer Intensive. She has danced roles in John Clifford's A MidSummer Night's Dream, Swan Lake, Copella, and Tom Gold's Petrushka. Currently, Grace is obtaining her Bachelors in Dance Performance at Grand Canyon University. She is a PBT Certified instructor and teaching ballet classes around the valley.