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 Betts, BS Business Administration (Rivier College), MFA Dance (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Founder and Artistic Director of Convergence Ballet, 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 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. In 2016, Cafarella Betts founded Ballet Theatre of Phoenix and since then, has molded the culture that defines the school. 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 to reach their highest potential.
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 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. 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.
Lainie Seretis - Ballet & Performance Director
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.
Mariana Pérez - Primary Ballet
Mariana Pérez started dancing at the age of four following the Royal Academy of Dance Curriculum, which she 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. In 2017, she joined Verb Ballets in Cleveland, Ohio and danced with them in the 2017-2018 season. She has danced as a freelancer with some schools nationally and internationally. 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 has worked directly with choreographers such as Gabrielle Lamb, Desmond Richardson, Tyler Gilstrap, Tommie Waheed, and others.
Chandler Hancock - PLIES Program
Originally from Arizona, Chandler started her training in ballet but decided to increase her abilities by joining Chandler-Gilbert Community College’s modern dance company Transcendance where after 2 years she graduated with her associates of arts degree. After graduating she transferred to Brigham Young University where she completed her bachelor’s degree in dance education. While at BYU she was an Arts Bridge Scholar where she created and taught lessons to teach academic concepts through dance in public schools. She also was a member of one of BYU’s top touring companies, Theatre Ballet, where she performed in many roles such as the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, soloist in Gerald Arpio’s Birthday Variations, and Sapphire variation in Sleeping Beauty. In the summer of 2017, she trained at San Francisco Conservatory of Dance where she studied ballet, contemporary, and gaga with prestigious faculty members. Chandler has danced professionally with SALT Contemporary Dance for 3 years on their second company. She was a guest artist in Oquirrh Mountains Ballet performance of The Nutcracker as the Dew Drop fairy and Sugar Plum.
Chandler continues to share her passion for dance education through teaching at local dance studios, summer dance camps, and SALT Contemporary Dance’s outreach program. As a dance educator, Chandler strives to provide high quality education so every student can receive the cognitive, physical, and emotional benefits from dance. She believes dance not only teaches technique but life skills that will inspire growth in all aspects of her students’ lives.
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.
Lauren Jimenez - Contemporary
In May 2022, Lauren graduated from Arizona State University (ASU) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts (HIDA); with a minor in Film and Media Studies, and a certificate in Homeland Security. Lauren has danced in the works of renowned choreographers: Mark Dendy and Kayla Farrish, Adam McKinney, Nicole Klaymoon, Michael Sakamoto, Joan Rodriguez, Taimy Miranda, Alicia Nascimento Castro, and Nicole Bradley-Browning. She completed an Arts Administration internship with SALT Contemporary Dance and LED Boise, where she worked closely in choreographic process with Lauren Edson and Cameron McKinney. Currently, she is a professional dance artist with Safos Dance Theater (Yvonne Montoya), administrative assistant with SALT Contemporary Dance, operations assistant with Third Space Dance Project, and a contemporary teacher at Ballet Theater of Phoenix. She is also currently working on freelance dance projects with Jordan Pelliteri (NYCDA and NDT2), Sam Arrow, and Ellen Sickenberger (Depth Dance).
Ilir Shtylla - Upper Division, Pas de Deux and Adult Ballet
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.
Ellen Sickenberger - Adult Contemporary
Ellen is a professional dance artist with roots in NYC and currently based in Phoenix. In her freelance career, she has performed for many international and NYC-based artists including Mathew James (URBAN/TRIBE), Yoshito Sakuraba (Abarukas), Danté Brown, and Luke Murphy (Attic Projects), and has been a touring cast member of Nadine Bommer’s “INVISI’ball” since 2015. Ellen is a certified instructor of Nadine's renowned movement method Kinetica , and was invited to Israel for two years to teach this method to other professional dance artists from around the world while touring with the primary company there. Ellen has performed and presented work in venues including the Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater, Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, Dixon Place, Salvatore Capezio Theater, The Huntington Theater (Boston), Southwest Arts Center (ATL), Dock11 in Berlin, and Suzanne Dellal in Israel. She has been commissioned for multiple split-bill shows and has taught guest artist and master classes to universities and studios along the east coast. Upon her return to the U.S. in Jan, 2022, she relocated to Phoenix, AZ to serve the community via arts programming while continuing her freelance career as the Artistic Director of Depth Dance.
Katie Moser - Ballet, Upper Division
Katie grew up in Annapolis, Maryland. She began her formal ballet training with Hortensia Fonseca at Maryland Youth Ballet. At 16, she continued her training with Peter Stark as a Trainee with Next Generation Ballet in Tampa, Florida. She then entered Houston Ballet’s professional training program where she was granted many opportunities to perform in company productions and various choreographic pieces, including those of Stanton Welch and Ben Stevenson OBE. After graduating, Katie joined Ballet Arizona. There, in addition to the honor of performing George Balanchine choreography, especially Serenade and Emeralds from Jewels, she enjoyed performing a varied repertoire from Sleeping Beauty to Nutcracker to La Sylphide.
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.
Lindsay Van Deest - Creative Movement & Open Tap Classes
Lindsay is a Texas native but began her dance training in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at age four. When her family moved back to Texas, she kept dancing and transitioned to a competitive dancer by age twelve. She began competing with Lonestar Collective Dance in Boerne, Texas, in 2013 under talented directors Michelle Hackbeil and Mary Rae Moy. At LCD, Lindsay trained in ballet, pointe, progressing ballet technique (PBT), jazz, contemporary, modern, lyrical, tap, and more. She competed on LCD’s Elite Company, where she won scholarships and awards at numerous conventions and competitions. In the summer of 2017 and 2018, she studied at Quenedit Ballet School in San Antonio under directors Catalina Garza and Ernesto Quenedit, where she further developed her ballet and modern technique. Lindsay was in LCD’s Ambassador program (2018-2020) where she gained instructional experience in creative movement and both beginner and intermediate ballet. Lindsay is now a junior at Grand Canyon University, where she is studying to obtain her bachelor’s in nutritional science and minor in dance performance.
Terry Seretis - Accompanist
Terry started playing violin in 3rd grade where her love of music began. She continued as a violin major with a minor in piano, at the University of Indianapolis, where she was the concertmaster of the orchestra. After her second year, and much debate, she changed her major to math. After college she used her skills to obtain jobs in the computer industry, as a technical representative, a field dominated by men. During college she worked as a church organist, but then relocated to Chicago and later to Phoenix. In 1994, she was a ballet pianist at one the larger dance studios in Phoenix. Then in 1997, she was the keyboard player in a gospel rock band until 2014.
Since 1985, Terry has been the co-owner of a recreation areas cleaning service for homeowner associations and has also been the organist at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix since 2015. Terry retired 5 years ago, but didn’t want to sit home. Her love of music took her to the School of Ballet Arizona as a ballet pianist. It is a true joy for her and she loves watching the kids as they progress through the various levels. We are thrilled to have Terry join us Saturday mornings for the Level 5-7 ballet class!
Gregory Bench - Accompanist
Greg is a classically trained pianist and accomplished ballet accompanist. He has played for ballet schools in Northern Utah, Southern California, and Phoenix, and has accompanied numerous musicals, choral groups, weddings, and other events. He is fond of Romantic-era music and classical ballets, and when he is not playing the piano, he enjoys reading, cooking, yoga, and staying active. Join Greg Tuesday evenings from 6:30 - 8pm in our Intermediate Ballet Open Class!