Jessica Pyatt Martin
Artistic Director, The Rockbridge Ballet
Executive Director, TheStudio for Dance & the Arts
Under the Direction of Jessica Pyatt Martin, the Ballet has entered a phase of explosive development. With energy, vision and determination, Martin initiated an apprentice company, hired multiple professional dancers, introduced live music, staged aerial flight work, and has begun collaborations with other performing arts organizations.
Her projects for The Rockbridge Ballet include “A Day for Dancing” community collaboration in 2010; “Signs of the Season” Movement and Language Project with the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind in 2011, the “Military Outreach Project” in December 2012, sending hundreds of postcards to active military, and The Kendal project in 2013 which celebrated the healing and inspirational power of movement. In 2014, Martin worked with Washington & Lee University teacher education department to produce “Where the Page Meets the Stage” a creative collaboration between young authors, choreographers and company dancers. Additionally in 2014, Martin brought world renowned flight company ZFX INC. to Lexington for the Ballet’s premier of Peter Pan. In her tenure with the Ballet Martin has staged: Cinderella, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, Firebird, Snow White, Don Quixote, Peter Pan and Romeo & Juliet.
Mutual support/cross promotion among local performing artists is a theme that underlies her vision. It was her inclusive philosophy that led to the birth of TheStudio, a shared space for artists to learn, partner, and perform.
Jessica graduated from James Madison University with a double major in Dance and English. While at JMU, she was a member of its pre-professional performance group, The Virginia Repertory Dance Company as well as its Contemporary Dance and Associate Dance Ensembles. She was the Student Co-Director of JMU’s Associate Dance Ensemble and choreographed works that have been presented on the stages of JMU as well in local studio concerts. Jessica was awarded the “Most Dedicated to the Art Form” award from JMU’s Dance Theatre. She was also awarded the “JMU Dance Faculty Award”, given by dance professors to honor the student excelling in three areas: performance, choreography and teaching. Jessica has taught dance in Northern Virginia, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Salem, Harrisonburg, New Castle, Virginia Beach, and Lexington, Virginia.
Audrey Fenske began her dance training at Bounds Dance Studio/Triangle Youth Ballet in Chapel Hill, NC. She continued her studies in high school at the Virginia School of the Arts under the late Petrus Bosman, and received the Service Award upon graduation. She received additional training with Houston Ballet, BalletMet Columbus, and Pilobolus. She graduated from Duke University as the university’s first Dance major with a double major in Developmental Psychology. While at Duke, Audrey received the Louis Sudler Prize in the Arts and the Julia Wray Memorial Award for her choreography and performance work.
Audrey has performed professionally with Keith Lee Dances, concorDance contemporary, Charlottesville Ballet, and Gaspard&Dancers. Audrey has also taught and performed as a freelance artist for numerous schools and groups in both Virginia and North Carolina. An advocate for the arts in Central Virginia, Audrey has taught master classes for schools such as Piedmont Virginia Community College and community events such as the TomTom Founders Festival, and served on a panel discussion for the 2012 Virginia Film Festival.
Audrey’s choreography has been commissioned by groups including the Charlottesville Ballet, Duke University Dance Program, and the Nasher Museum of Art. Her work has been presented at various venues nationally, including the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC; the Southeast Regional Ballet Association festival in Montgomery, AL; and at the 10th Annual Richmond Choreographers’ Showcase in Richmond, VA. Audrey has been a committed dance teacher in NC and VA for over 10 years, and her students have gone on to study at UNCSA, Joffrey Ballet, Richmond Ballet, and more. Audrey is 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.
Meagan has danced for over thirty years, beginning her career as a child in Colorado under the guidance of Christina Noel, Eve Paris and Lisi Elsey at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. As a young dancer she rose to the rank of soloist performing in ballets such as Peter & the Wolf, Coppelia, Paquita, Pas de Quatre and Hansel & Gretel. During this time Meagan began to focus on teaching ballet and started apprentice teaching in 1988 under the watchful eye of Eve Paris. She was quickly elevated to teaching her own classes once she turned 18. Over her summers, she chose to train with James Clouser focusing on refining her training and which eventually led to a passion for working with beginning pointe students and nurturing an interest in injury prevention.
Throughout her training, she has studied many ballet styles including the Vaganova, Cecchetti and French methods. Although she uses all of these styles to benefit the unique needs of each student, she prefers to teach using the Vaganova method which focuses on empowering the students to learn from their mistakes. Meagan considers ballet to be an education for the mind as well as the body, reflective of the Vaganova style, spending time to discuss the intent behind the combinations given in class. She feels this is especially important in the years preceding a dancer being placed on pointe.
In addition to ballet, Meagan enjoys mathematics. The earned her doctorate from the University of Utah in 2007 and is a professor in the department of Applied Mathematics at the Virginia Military Institute. She has even been known to emphasize the importance of mathematics to her ballet students who have to learn to work within the realm of physics to create the illusion of defying gravity.
Acrobatics & Dance Instructor
Tara Rodi is originally from San Diego, California where she received her dance training at the Christa Mitrovich School of Dance in Tap, Jazz, Ballet, Lyrical and Acrobatics.
Tara’s semi-professional career began with Super Bowl XXII, which gave her the opportunity to dance with the New York City Rockettes.
As a professional she danced for USA Productions and was a professional cheerleader for the NFL San Diego Chargers. Later moving to Florence, Alabama, Tara owned and operated Tara Rodi School of The Dance for 13 years. Her competition teams and dancers earned many high score awards and scholarships throughout the Southeast. Many of Tara’s students have gone on to have professional careers in dance.
Tara has 30 years’ experience as a dance teacher and choreographer and is a member of Dance Educators of America. She has a degree in Art from the University of North Alabama. Tara is also Executive Director of the Rockbridge SPCA. When not at the studio, you can find her at the shelter helping dogs and cats find their forever homes.
Kitty Burke is a Lexington native who studied at the Lexington School of Dance from age three and joined The Rockbridge Ballet at age ten. In the summer of 2006, she was selected to attend the Virginia Governor’s School Summer Residential Program for Visual and Performing Arts and served as the dance representative and speaker for the closing ceremonies.
Kitty graduated from Goucher College in 2011 with a BA in Dance, with concentrations in Dance Therapy and Dance History and Criticism, and two minors in Psychology and Communications. While at Goucher, she trained and performed with an incredible selection of faculty, students, and guest artists. Following graduation, Kitty served a joint internship with the Development and Communications offices at Dance/USA in Washington D.C.
In addition to teaching all levels and styles of dance at TheStudio, Kitty is currently the Primary II Lead Teacher at Woods Creek Montessori School in Lexington.
Born and raised in upstate New York, Devin began his dance training at the age of 4 with the Fokine Ballet Company. He spent his summers in Saratoga Springs training with the New York City Ballet before enrolling at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. During his time at UNCSA, he studied under the tutelage of many great teachers, including Warren Conover, Gyula Pandi, Ethan Stiefel, Frank Smith, Melissa Hayden, and Christine Spizzo.
After spending several years dancing professionally, Devin shifted his focus toward teaching, coaching, and freelance performance work. Currently Devin continues to perform and teach with schools and companies across the east coast. Devin has been working with the Rockbridge Ballet for 5 season as the Artist-In Residence and this will be his second season as a faculty member. He has recently been certified in Acrobatic Arts: module one. He is looking forward to his continued work with the Rockbridge Ballet, both on the stage and in the classroom.
Adult Dance Program Coordinator
Nancy has been an avid student, performer, and choreographer of dance for over 45 years. Her formal training began with Coralease Wells in Richmond, VA, studying ballet, jazz, and tap. While attending the College of William and Mary, Nancy studied modern dance with professors Carol Sherman and Shirley Roby. After moving to the Shenandoah Valley in 1977, she studied and performed with the then recently formed Roanoke Ballet Theatre under the direction of Barbara Muller, and in Lexington, VA she was a founding member of the Rockbridge Ballet and a longstanding performer, dancer, and/or choreographer with the Henry Street Playhouse, Washington & Lee University theatre, and now (540) Productions.
In more recent decades, Nancy studied and taught for a number of years with Pamela McCray at the Staunton Academy of Ballet, and then, for four years, she performed with and worked as the Adult Ensemble Dance Instructor and Rehearsal Mistress for the Community Dance Connection Theatre in Lexington, VA under the direction of Nancy Saylor. Nancy returned to the Roanoke Ballet Theatre from 2008–2010 as a performer and choreographer with the modern dance division. Since the fall of 2010, Nancy has been happily back dancing at the home of the Rockbridge Ballet, TheStudio, and teaching Adult Jazz/Modern and Adult Ballet there.
During her summers, Nancy has enjoyed trips to New York City where she studied with such greats as Luigi and Bob Audy and with the talented staff of the Broadway Dance Center taking classes in ballet, jazz, hip hop, and musical theatre as well as “For Teachers Only” workshops.
When not in a dance studio, Nancy can be found in her private practice office in Lexington, VA where she is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioner treating adolescents and adults. Or she can be found at her home writing books: www.nancyljohnston.com.
When she took her daughter to her first ballet lesson over 20 years ago, Joanna never dreamed it would become such an integral part of her family. As a founding board member of The Rockbridge Ballet, Joanna was instrumental in securing its federal non-profit status as an organization independent from Fine Arts in Rockbridge (FAIR). She served in multiple positions of the fledgling organization from 2003-2006 including President. During her tenure, Joanna was integral in seeking out and receiving essential grant opportunities from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and Wells Fargo. In 2010, Joanna continued to work behind the scenes securing a space for what would become Rockbridge County’s first and only not-for-profit dance school, TheStudio.
After serving two more years as a board member, Joanna stepped down to serve as office manager in 2012. She shares a diverse skillset serving as bookkeeper, receptionist, registrar and marketing consultant for the sister organizations. With an eye for graphic and web design, Joanna has professionally designed programs, websites, brochures, and other promotional items for both TheStudio and The Rockbridge Ballet. As a parent and lifelong patron of the arts, Joanna takes pride in the opportunity to serve future generations of dancers. Joanna holds a BA in History from Mary Baldwin College and served in several capacities for over 18 years at the Stonewall Jackson House, including Museum Curator. She currently serves as a Records Specialist to the University Registrar at Washington & Lee University and resides in Rockbridge County with her husband, John.
Assistant to the Director – Service Associate
Before becoming a part time consultant in the small business arena Denise worked in the technology industry for more than 18 years. She has 2 daughters and has been living in Lexington with her family for 4 years. She most enjoys being a mom, volunteering in various local organizations, meeting new people and traveling to new places. Her daughter Sydney is a second year member of our company and has had such a positive experience at The Studio and with the company. Denise is excited to join our team and be more involved with The Studio and its dance family for the 2016-2017 season.
Assistant to the Director – Work Study Student
Brianna is a sophomore at Rockbridge County High School and a senior member of our pre-professional performance company, The Rockbridge Ballet. Brianna has been taking dance lessons since she was 3 years old. She studies ballet, pointe, modern, jazz, and tap. This is Brianna’s second season in this position. Brianna loves assisting the younger classes. Her positive, outgoing, sunny personality makes her a favorite among our students. When Brianna is not in her own dance classes, assisting classes, or at our front desk, she is very active in her church and dedicated to her schoolwork.