Our faculty is comprised of experienced dance-educators who have immersed themselves in the art of dance. BTP teachers continue to educate themselves and grow as artists in order to maintain the highest standard of excellence in dance education. The teachers at BTP are dedicated to passing on the generations of tradition and knowledge that have made ballet the enduring and captivating art that it is. All of our staff bring professional performing and choreographic experience, as well world-class training with an emphasis on pedagogy.
Jennifer Cafarella Betts - Director
Jennifer Cafarella started her formal ballet training with the Nina Marlowe School of Ballet and The School of Ballet Arizona and graduated from the prestigious Walnut Hill School for the Performing Arts. Her professional performance includes Ballet de Cali in Colombia, Ballet New England, Granite State Ballet, Jose Mateo’s Ballet Theatre, and Convergence Ballet. The combination of a BS in Business Administration, an MFA in Dance, Power Pilates certification, and ABT teacher certifications has empowered and educated Ms. Cafarella to develop with her own teaching methods. She has been on faculty at Scottsdale School of Ballet, Paula Carr Dance Academy, Arizona School for the Arts, Mesa Community College, and The School of Ballet Arizona and has presented her teaching methodology to various conferences across the nation.
Ms. Cafarella has also choreographed Bye Bye Birdie for Arizona School for the Arts, Carousel for Mesa Encore Theater (Awarded MET Best Choreography for a Musical) and Billy Elliot for Mesa Encore Theater. She has a passion for teaching and seeks constant education for herself and her faulty to develop dancers from the inside out.
Lainie Seretis - Ballet
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.
Emilie Sheung Chun - Primary Ballet
Emilie started teaching in 2014 at different studios including one for under-privileged students on the West Coast of Mauritius and choreographed for several end of year school shows over the years. In 2018, she then decided to pursue her dream of dancing abroad. She attended The Ailey School starting in the fall 2018 to learn diverse styles of dance other than ballet namely Horton, Graham, contemporary, jazz and Taylor. She graduated from the Scholarship program in May 2020 having trained with an amazing faculty such as Caridad Martinez, Mikhail Ilyin, Guillermo Asca, Earl Mosley and Carolyn Adams. During her time in New York, she has had the opportunity to perform for Global Harmony at The Ailey Citigroup in February 2020 and was an apprentice at Neville Dance Theatre, until she recently moved to Arizona and joined the Ballet Theatre of Phoenix family.
Julee Leathers - Creative Movement
Julee was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and moved to Arizona at the age of nine. She began her ballet training under Tamara Gladikova and danced as a member of the Junior American Folk Dancers. In Arizona, Julee trained with Mary Moe Adams, studying the Royal Academy of dance curricula. She went on to dance and study with Ballet Arizona under the directorship of Malcolm Burn and Jean Paul Comelin. Julee won first place at the Arizona Dance Guild competition at the age of 11 and left home to study with University of Utah and Ballet West at the age of 14. She has performed in classical ballets such as Coppelia and The Nutcracker as well as original works like Bruce Marks’, Abdallah and Malcolm Burn’s, A Christmas Carol.
Life after ballet has included working for the State of Arizona with the Division of Developmental Disabilities, The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and The Greater Phoenix Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. She became a certified Zumba instructor in 2008 and taught classes throughout the valley for 8 years. Julee and her husband have two kids. Their youngest, a daughter, is what lead Julee back to the ballet studio.
Tracy Thomason - Creative Movement
Tracy has been an Independent Teaching Artist since 2007, bringing dance education programs to hundreds of Arizona school children. She began with Opendance under the direction of Michele Ceballos Michot and has been teaching dance and yoga to K-6th grade students with InMotionAZ since 2012. Tracy has been inspiring the littlest of dancers as a Creative Movement Instructor at Ballet Theatre of Phoenix since 2017. She received her Yoga Alliance Certification in Kids and Family Yoga in 2018. She is co-founder and company member of Ignite Collaborative, a Phoenix-based dance performance company, since 2011. Tracy’s greatest joy as an instructor is knowing that every interaction with her students is an opportunity to nurture self-discovery and build confidence in their unique abilities.
Amy Symonds - Contemporary
Amy Symonds first began dancing at the age of 13 and discovered a true love for the art a few years later. She has received numerous scholarships and awards at conventions and competitions, including a national title, and her choreography has been recognized both regionally and nationally. Amy danced with the Youth American Ballet Company for two seasons performing both soloist and principal roles in The Nutcracker, Firebird, Giselle, and Paquita. Currently, she is training and performing around the valley with Scorpius Dance Theatre, Rogue Dance Theater, Instinct Dancecorps, and Convergence Ballet.
Aaron Gilbert - Ballet
Aaron began his training under the direction of Kelly Roth, Constance Stine and Madame Xenia Chlistova. He danced professionally with Ballet Jude, Desert Dance Theatre, and Grounding Pointe Dance Company. During his tenure with Ballet Jude he had the opportunity to perform in numerous contemporary and classical ballets and worked one year as the company's rehearsal director. He also performed in various musicals and had the opportunity to choreograph a few musicals such as, Bye Bye Birdie and Little Shop of Horrors.
After retiring from his professional dance career Aaron began teaching. He spent 13 years teaching dance at Corona del Sol High School. Additionally, he has been teaching ballet and choreographing at local dance studios and ballet schools for the past 18 years. Aaron is also the founder and Artistic Director of the AGBalletProject. His students have been accepted into training programs with the Washington School of Ballet, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, Austin, Ballet Arizona, Tokyo the Academy, Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet and many more. He is thankful to have worked and continue working with so many wonderful and passionate young dance artists both as an educator and as a choreographer.
Paola Hartley - Adult Classes
Paola Hartley was born in Bonn, Germany and grew up in South Africa and Chile where her parents danced with the PACT Ballet and Ballet de Santiago. In 1993 Ms. Hartley joined Ballet de Santiago. In 1997 Ms. Hartley was promoted to the rank of soloist by Ballet de Santiago’s artistic director, Ivan Nagy after performing the role of Myrtha in Giselle. In 1998 Ms. Hartley joined Ballet Arizona rising to the rank of principal dancer. In 2013 Ms. Hartley joined The Suzanne Farrell Ballet as a soloist where she performed the role of Juliet in Paul Meijia’s Romeo and Juliet, Odette in George Balanchine’s production of Swan Lake Act II, and principal roles in Balanchine’s Episodes, Agon, Tempo di Valse, Allegro Brillante, and Pas de Dix.
In 2011 and 2012 Ms. Hartley was a guest faculty member for the Goh Ballet Academy’s Summer Intensive in Vancouver, Canada. In 2014 Ms. Hartley was a guest faculty member for the Shreveport Dance Academy’s Summer Intensive. Ms. Hartley has also taught ballet at several dance academies in Arizona including the Tempe Dance Academy, the Master Ballet Academy, Scottsdale School of Ballet, Studio R and the School of Ballet Arizona.
Luis Martinez - Ballet, All Levels
From Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico. He earned a degree in Classical Dance at the Superior School of Music and Dance of Monterrey (ESMDM). During his time at school, he won second and third place in the Youth America Grand Prix 2010 and 2012 in New York Finals in the category of ensembles with the choreographies "Doscientos" and "Voces del Cuerpo", both by Rosario Murillo. He also took the intensive of Character Dances with Master Rafael Ibatullin and Horton Technique with Victor Talledos (Alonzo King Lines Ballet) at the ESMDM where he graduated 2010.
That same year he started his professional career and he joined Ballet de Monterrey under the direction of Luis Serrano (Miami City Ballet) where he performed in major productions such as "Giselle", "Don Quixote", "Swan Lake" and "The Nutcracker”. In 2017, he danced in the production "The Phantom of the Opera” and also in the program "Homenaje a México" where he played "Huapango". During those eight years with Ballet de Monterrey he had the opportunity to be coached by renowned Ballet Masters and Mistresses like Ileana Lopez (Miami City Ballet), Phillip Balmain Beamish (La Scala Theatre Ballet), Galina Alvarez (National Ballet of Cuba), Franklyn Gamero (Miami City Ballet), Analia Sosa Guerrero (Teatro Colon), Lazaro Carreño (National Ballet of Cuba) and Lourdes Font (Opera National de Paris).
In 2018, Luis moved to the Phoenix Metro area, where he has been leading an active teaching career, becoming a sought-after teacher and choreographer. In 2020 he won the YAGP Outstanding Teacher Award and three of his students made it to the final round.
Ilir Shtylla - Upper Division and Pas de Deux
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.
Aubree Dagilis - Ballet, Conditioning, Upper Division
Aubree Dagilis started dancing at a young age at the Dance Studio in Prescott, Arizona. Her attendance to the Southwest Classical Dance Institute Summer Intensives, directed by Natasha and Joshua Brooksher, sparked her interest in ballet, thus starting her classical ballet training at The School of Ballet Arizona under the direction of Nancy Crowley. She continued her training at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet under the direction of Marcia Dale Weary for a year. In 2011, she returned to Arizona to continue her training under Daniel Baudendistel. She eventually began to study under Slawomir and Irena Wozniak at Master Ballet Academy while attending New School for the Arts and Academics in Tempe under Tricia LaRoche and Angel Castro. She has previously danced for Terpsicore Dance Company and currently dances for Convergence Ballet, Scorpius Dance Theatre, and CaZo Dance Theatre.
Aubree has taught ballet at Grand Canyon University. She received her Personal Trainer Certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, has been certified by American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum in Levels Pre-Primary through 3, and has been certified through Alixa Flexibility. She currently teaches ballet at Ballet Theatre of Phoenix, Paradise Valley Community College, and CaZo Dance Center.
Autumn White - Creative Movement & Community Coordinator
Originally from Sandusky, Ohio, Autumn began her dance training at the age of 17. As her education continued, she participated at competitions, receiving various awards and traveling to New York City, to train with Broadway and ABT professionals. In 2019, she obtained her B.A. in Communications with a minor in Dance from Bowling Green State University (BGSU). She was featured in numerous showcases and a part of the University Dance Alliance, a student run organization. She has experience teaching jazz, lyrical, and creative movement for all ages. While obtaining her degree, she had the pleasure of working as a Media Assistant for the BGSU Recreation and Wellness Center, as well as assisting the planning of Festival of Sail, Sandusky's Bicentennial Event. After graduation, Autumn spent her summer at Lakeside Chautauqua, a nonprofit organization, as the Education Program Coordinator, where she created promotions and coordinated programs throughout their season. In January of 2021, she moved to the Tempe area, and is thrilled she found her way to the Ballet Theatre of Phoenix.
Samantha Correa - Front Desk Coordinator
Sam fell in love with dance through her high school’s dance program after studying Laban Movement Analysis and Pilobolus. She went on to receive Bachelor of Arts in Dance from UNC Greensboro. While at UNCG she had the opportunity to study at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, UK. While in college, she worked with Helen Simoneau, Loren Gronendaal, and performed in Martha Graham’s ‘Steps in the Street’ under the direction of Duane Cyrus. Following graduation, she was awarded a place at the University of Chichester’s MA Dance Performance program in 2010. Sam danced with and taught for The Dance Cooperative in Wilmington, NC from 2010 to 2019, serving as school director from 2014-2017, falling in love with arts administration. In Wilmington, Sam danced for Forward Motion Dance Company, Linda Ann Webb, Kate Muhlstein, Brittany Patterson, Sue Meier, Melissa Pihos, co-produced the Dance-a-Lorus event for the Cucalorus Film Festival, assisted in founding the Wilmington Dance Festival, and choreographed work for the North Carolina Dance Festival and Wilmington Dance Festival. Sam has also completed her 200 hour RYT with the Kunga School, studied Ariel Silks and Lyra with Cape Fear Circus Arts, and has participated in the Stage Manager training seminar with Pilobolus. After moving to Phoenix, Arizona is 2019, Sam enrolled in the Master of Arts Administration program with Southern Utah University and is expected to graduate September 2022.