Our Faculty

Our Faculty

Melissa Gramman
Jennifer Grapes Croughan
Founder

Jennifer Grapes is a former Principal Ballerina, Master Instructor, and the founder and owner of the Hinsdale Dance Academy located in Westmont, IL.  Ms. Grapes is an internationally traveled dancer, teacher, and choreographer. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Ms. Grapes grew up studying all forms of dance including ballet, modern/contemporary, jazz, and tap. She received her early training from Melissa Morris (Blue Springs Ballet), Yvonne Craig, Sharon Romine, Luba Gulyaeva, Michael Simms, and the Kansas City Ballet School as well as receiving scholarships to study at the Joffrey Ballet, Boston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and the Rock School. After high school, she was able to fine-tune her technique and artistry by studying extensively under the tutelage of former Milwaukee Ballet Principal, Paula Weber, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. There, she was able to also add Lester Horton’s and Martha Graham’s Modern technique to her technical repertoire. Ms. Grapes started dancing professionally at the tender age of 19 with the Albany Berkshire Ballet whilst also working toward completing her college degree. Since then, Jennifer has seen much success all around the globe performing as a Principal Artist, master teacher, and adjudicator. Her professional career includes most of the title roles in the traditional ballet repertory and also other classical, neoclassical, and contemporary works by Alvin Ailey, George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Antony Tudor, August Bournonville, Kevin “Iega” Jeff, Adam Houghland, Laura Dean, Margo Sappington, Stephen Mills, Salvatore Aiello, Stuart Sebastien, Mark Godden, Dermot Burke, Karen Russo, Gregory Robinson, and Michael Pink to name a few. Ms. Grapes has danced for many elite professional companies such as the Milwaukee Ballet, Montgomery Ballet, Dayton Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Albany Berkshire Ballet, Ajkun Ballet Theatre, Atlantic Southeast Ballet, Lexington Ballet, and Wylliams/Henry Contemporary DANSE Theatre. She has been a guest artist, master teacher, and adjudicator for several national and international dance festivals in Europe, Australia, and Canada and also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In 2006, she performed as the guest Principal Artist at the International Ballet Festival of Calabria (Italy) to rave reviews and in 2007; she portrayed the title roles in Carmen, Diana and Acteon, Karien, The Amazon (original creation), and Mozart: Epilogue of the Genius (original creation) at the legendary Symphony Space and City Center on Broadway in NYC. In 2008, she was selected to represent the Milwaukee Ballet at the Crossroads Ballet Festival in Kansas City, MO, where she danced one of her most popular roles, Black Swan Pas de Deux. Also in 2008, Jennifer toured throughout Australia’s east coast performing the leads in Paquita, The Sleeping Beauty, Alvin Ailey’s The River, as well as teaching several master classes and adjudicating the famous nationally acclaimed scholarship programs, Sydney Eistedfodd and the Marianne McIntyre Memorial International Scholarship Program.  During her tenure with the Milwaukee Ballet she had several roles created for her in works such as Michael Pink’s Aubade, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Peter Pan, Nelly Van Bommel’s Gelem! Gelem!, Timothy O’Donnell’s The Games We Play, Mark Godden’s Wonder Wild, and Adam Houghland’s K413. In 2011, Jennifer joined the Montgomery Ballet as a Principal Artist where she again danced the coveted role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake. That same year Jennifer was appointed Ballet Mistress of DManagement Dance Agency (an international artist agency representing the finest artists, teachers, and choreographers.) and co-directed the agency’s first international dance workshop, Performing in Chicago. She won glowing praise for her restaging of Giselle, Don Quixote, and her very own original work, Black Swan. In addition, Ms. Grapes has been featured in DANCEtrain magazine and photographed by former American Ballet Theatre star, Ted Kivitt, and acclaimed dance photographer, Dani Brown. She is also a member of the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) and has also worked with Bloch and Bunheads of New York to create new product lines for dancers. She was also featured in the documentary film, The Waiting, by Tomosol Digital. In the summer of 2012, Ms. Grapes hosted her own sold out summer dance workshop, Ballet JG, in Chicago as well as in New York at the Albany Berkshire Ballet. In the fall of 2012, Ms. Grapes was chosen by the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters (CNADM) to be on faculty for their Fall Workshop. Since opening HDA in the fall of 2012, HDA students have seen incredible success, with some achieving the highest accolades in the dance industry.  Since 2013, over 100 HDA students have qualified or attended the Youth America Grand Prix New York City Finals, with 15 of them placing in the Top 12 as soloists.  Students have placed 1st , 2nd, and 3rd in the classical category and advanced to the final round at Lincoln Center in NYC.  HDA was also presented with the coveted YAGP Outstanding School Award in 2018.  The exceptional training students receive at HDA has created five professional dancers and numerous scholarships to many prestigious colleges and schools, including the world- acclaimed State Ballet School of Berlin and the American Ballet Theatre.  This is a testament to the high caliber of classical dance training that Ms. Grapes and the faculty of HDA provides its students. Ms. Grapes has also directed and choreographed five full-length ballets for HDA: The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Giselle, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Little Mermaid.  All productions have included professional dancers from around the world.  Through its faculty’s connections in the dance industry, HDA has welcomed guest master instructors from prestigious companies such as Alvin Ailey, Australian Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Ballet Augsburg (Germany), Ballet Austin, Ballet Hagen, Ballet Idaho, Boston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Kirov Academy, Milwaukee Ballet, New York City Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet, and the University of Missouri- Kansas City. In 2015, Ms. Grapes began a partnership with Italian choreographer, Riccardo DeNigris, the former resident choreographer for Ballet Augsburg and graduate of the Teatro alla Scala.  Every other year, Mr. DeNigris comes to HDA to set a new work on the dancers and expose them to newest, most current choreography.  His work has seen great success by not only winning awards, but also winning over the hearts of audience members.  In 2017, Ms. Grapes introduced the Progressing Ballet Technique © to the academy in order to keep improving the dancers’ technique and understanding of their bodies and how they can work properly.  In 2019, she also added two more leading classical ballet instructors, rounding the leading faculty to 6 leading instructors (3 men and 3 women). In 2021, Ms. Grapes won the Youth America Grand Prix's Outstanding Teacher award. Ms. Grapes is looking forward to continuing to grow the young artists of the future by continuing to seek out the best education, opportunities, and performances for all of the students at HDA.

Melissa Gramman
Nicole Miller
Academy Director and HBT Director

Ms. Miller is a former Montgomery Ballet Soloist with experience teaching and dancing internationally since 2008.  She began her early training at the age of 10 with the Ballet Repertory Theatre of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  From there, she went on to study at the Public Academy for Performing Arts, where she attended high school, to focus on professional dance and injury prevention for dancers. Nicole's training includes many forms of dance such as classical ballet, jazz, modern, contemporary, hip hop, flamenco, and Ballet Folklorico. She has had the privilege of training with teachers specializing in the Vaganova technique, Bournonville technique, Cecchetti technique, and the styling of the great George Balanchine. Much of her professional training was received at The Joffrey Ballet with teachers such as Diane Orio, Eleanore D'Antuono, Willy Shives, and Trinette Singleton (who set an original piece with Ms. Miller performing the lead in 2007). In 2008, at the age of 18, Nicole became a Montgomery Ballet professional apprentice under the direction of Elie Lazar. During Mr. Lazar's tenure she performed many soloist roles including "Moth" in A Midsummer's Night Dream and "Bridesmaid" in Don Quixote, Sylvia Pas de Deux, and Rossini Pas de Deux.  In 2010, Nicole toured Italy with the Montgomery Ballet to perform in the Dance Festival, "Pietrasanta en Danza”, where the company received rave reviews.  By 2013, Ms. Miller had become a soloist in the Montgomery Ballet Company. During her tenure with the Montgomery Ballet, she has performed many works including, Carmina Burana, Swan Lake, La Bayadere, Sleeping Beauty, Le Corsaire, and The Nutcracker.  In addition, Nicole has performed several leading roles such as "Swanhilda" in Coppelia, "Arethusa" in Italian Choreographer Adria Ferrali's Alpheus et Arethusa, "Mercedes" in  Don Quixote, "Zulma" in Giselle, and "Aurora" in The Sleeping Beauty. In 2014, Ms. Miller was promoted to Director of the Montgomery Ballet School and acted as The Montgomery Ballet's Ballet Mistress for the Professional Company with director Foye DuBose. While directing the Montgomery Ballet School, Nicole re-staged and choreographed several works from Swan Lake such as "Cygnets," "Big Swans," and "Princesses." She also choreographed her own original excerpt from Le Corsaire, "Jardine Anime."  Ms. Miller's students have placed in the Top 12 at the regional and New York City Finals for the Youth America Grand Prix. Nicole Miller is a certified teacher for the Progressing Ballet Technique program.  PBT was created in Sydney, Australia by Marie Walton-Mahon and brought to the United States by Megan Berlint-Nicko. Ms. Miller is honored to begin her sixth season at HDA as the new director of both the academy and the Hinsdale Ballet Theatre.

Melissa Gramman
Melissa Gramman
Young Children's Program Director

Mrs. Melissa Gramann began her training in upstate New York at the age of five. She soon joined the School of Dance Arts for the Elmira-Corning Ballet under that direction of Mme. Halina Lutomski. She became a company apprentice at the age of 12. Melissa then joined the pre-company program at the Minnesota Dance Theatre, studying under director Loyce Houlton. In Minnesota, she went on to study with the Pacific Northwest Ballet, and The Zenon Dance Company at The University of Minnesota. Melissa went on to join The South Community Theatre with lead roles in “A Chorus Line”, “Pippin” and “Swing, Swing, Swing” (original choreography by Vance Holmes). Locally, she has studied with the Lou Conte Dance School and The Ruth Page Dance Center. Melissa holds a Bachelors of Arts from Loyola University of Chicago. In 2018, Melissa became certified by the Boston Ballet in their adaptive dance program, a program that brings the joy of dance to students of all abilities.  She is looking forward to beginning her fourth season with HDA and to be sharing her passion for dance with students of all ages.

Melissa Gramman
Patrick Willison
Master Instructor Classical Ballet, Director of Ballet Boys

Mr. Patrick Willison began his dance education at the Judith Lee Johnson School of Dance in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Upon entering middle school, Patrick began studying with the School of the Nashville Ballet on scholarship.  Mr. Willison finished his graduate studies at the prestigious Houston Ballet Academy on scholarship as well.  He also received full scholarships to study in the summer with the American Ballet Theatre, School of American Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Harrid Conservatory, Houston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet (New York City, NY),  and the Kirov Academy (Washington D.C.). Mr. Willison began his performance career with the Bay Ballet Theatre, under the direction of Christopher Fleming.  From there he went on to become a trainee with the Nashville Ballet where he performed in Paul Vasterling's The Nutcracker, Dracula, and Cinderella.  While at the Houston Ballet Academy, he danced with the Houston Ballet in Ben Stevenson's The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Cleopatra, L, Martinu 5th, and Swan Lake, Kenneth MacMillian's Mannon, Trey McIntyre's Peter Pan, as well as Graduation Ball, Vespri, and Le Diablo a Quatre.  As a member of the Alabama Ballet in Birmingham, Patrick performed in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, Serenade, and Stars and Stripes.  He also performed Carousel, Flower Festival Pas de Deux, Concert Fantasy, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, An American in Paris, and Don Quixote, as well as Leslie Browne's Brahm's Trio.  Mr. Willison finished his performance career, and spent eight seasons, with the Montgomery Ballet.  With MB, he toured Italy and all across the United States and Canada performing the leading roles in Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Le Corsaire, Giselle, The Nutcracker, Firebird, and Tim O’Donnell’s The Games We Play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, La Vivandiere, Snow White, The Phantom of the Opera, Fairy Doll, and Coppelia. Mr. Willison found his passion for teaching during his graduate studies at the Houston Ballet Academy.  From then, he began to hone his craft for teaching, coaching, directing, and creating syllabi for the next generation of dancers.  During his last season with the Montgomery Ballet, he was appointed as co-director/ballet master for the Montgomery Ballet Academy & Company.  Mr. Willison's students have placed in the Top 12 at the regional and New York City Finals for the Youth America Grand Prix.  Mr. Willison is excited to be co-directing the new Ballet Boys program at HDA, a program that explores men and ballet along with cross training for athletes.  This is Mr. Willison's sixth season at HDA.

Melissa Gramman
Julianne Wlodarski
Master Instructor Ballet, Modern, Contemporary

Originally from the Chicago suburbs, Julianne spent her early dancing years dedicated to the study of classical ballet. At age fourteen, she began training at Classical Ballet Academy with Catherine Bays (Ballet Arkansas) and Melinda Tobian (Joffrey Ballet, Ballet Arkansas) and joined the Classical Youth Ballet Company of Northwest Arkansas under the direction of Ms. Bays. During her time there, she performed in such ballets as The Nutcracker (Sugar Plum Fairy, Clara, Snow Queen), Raymonda (Raymonda), Swan Lake, Giselle, Graduation Ball, and La Bayedere. Julianne was privileged to study with guest artists George de la Pena, Konstantine and Arina Kolotov and attend the Joffrey Workshop, Texas to study with Diane Orio, Willie Shives, and Trinette Singleton. She has also choreographed works for the Classical Youth Ballet, Indiana University Dance Theatre and Project606 Dance. In 2016, her work was accepted to the Inaugural Choreography Showcase & Competition at the College of DuPage. Julianne graduated from Indiana University with High Honors. She received her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with a Major in Modern Dance and a Minor in Exercise Science. During her time at IU, she studied under Elizabeth Shea, Selene Carter, Roberta Wong, and Benjamin Wegman. In college, she worked with guest artists Connie Dinopoli and Liz Lerman, and performed in the works of guest choreographers such as Ben Munisteri, David Parsons, and Laurie Eisenhower. She has danced with Newfangled Dance, currently performs with Project606 Dance and continues her dance studies at Lou Conte Dance Studio. Julianne has been teaching ballet for 12 years and Contemporary for 5 years. She is passionate about sharing her love of ballet and dance with her students, while instilling in them a strong work ethic, building their confidence, and nurturing their excitement for the arts. Ms. Wlodarski is excited to begin her first season at HDA and share her love of dance with the HDA students, while instilling in them a strong work ethic, building their confidence and nurturing their excitement for the arts.

Melissa Gramman
Kristopher Estes-Brown
Master Instructor Ballet, Contemporary

Kristopher Estes-Brown is an American choreographer, composer, director, and educator.As a choreographer, he is best known for his athletic, expressive movement style, unique musicality, and eye-catching theatricality. Estes-Brown has created over 90 original dance works ranging from 8 full-length story ballets to a multitude of contemporary dance pieces.As a composer, Estes-Brown’s music melds a big cinematic sound with dance theater aesthetics. He has been commissioned by notable choreographers and theater producers nationwide to create original scores for new productions, and his musical compositions can be found in many short films and digital media offerings.Born in a rural town in the Midwest, Estes-Brown moved to Kansas City, Missouri as a child where he studied classical dance and music. Eventually he would go on to dance professionally in many ballet companies across the United States including Milwaukee Ballet, Sacramento Ballet, Oakland Ballet, and Eugene Ballet.From there, Estes-Brown developed his own choreographic lexicon that is the intersection of movement, music, and story- telling. His stage works have been performed all across the United States by numerous dance companies with great acclaim. In 2022, Estes-Brown was named Resident Choreographer of Mareck Dance as well as of UofK Dance Company. His choreography can also be found in the Sundance Short Film, Crude Oil.

Melissa Gramman
Samantha Lyons
Petite Company Director and Project Elite Team Director

Ms. Samantha Lyons began dancing at the tender age of two; she knew then that dance would be a lifelong passion of hers! She has studied ballet, tap, jazz and contemporary for over twenty years and performed in local and national dance competitions for over eight years. During those eight years, she has won numerous awards for her solo and group performances. When Ms. Lyons was a sophomore in high school, she also competed with her Dance Team at Hinsdale South High School. Samantha was one of the primary choreographers for the team, leading them to three State Championships! She continues to study dance at the Lou Conte Dance Studio in Chicago. Samantha loves working with young children and is looking forward to incorporating her love of dance into her classes at HDA.

Melissa Gramman
Shannon Hershman
Junior Company Co-Director, Choreographer

Shannon Hershman, a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, began her early dance training with the Laurel Youth Ballet, Johnstown Concert Ballet, and BalletMet in Columbus, OH. She left high school a year early to double major in both dance and biology at La Roche College in Pittsburgh, PA. While in college Shannon was a dancer with American Entertainment Productions performing throughout the northeast at theme parks & special events. She was then was offered a position with Bodiography Contemporary Ballet in 2002. She was promoted to soloist in 2004. That same year, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from La Roche and was a featured dancer in a televised PBS tribute to director and choreographer Rob Marshall. Upon graduation, in addition to dancing with BCB, she worked as an ABA Therapist for children with autism and became certified in Pilates mat through PHI Pilates. In 2007, despite being offered a company position with GroundWorks Dance Theater in Cleveland, OH, she decided to move to Chicago. Here she danced on scholarship with River North Chicago Dance and Giordano Dance Chicago. Shortly thereafter, she danced with Cerqua-Rivera Dance Theater and completed her professional dance career with Inaside Chicago Dance from 2009-2013. In 2014, she completed the BASI™ Comprehensive Pilates Program. She was the runner up for the Kathy Grant Scholarship. Shannon was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, an autoimmune disease, in 2001. At the time, multiple doctors said it was incurable and that she would be on medication for the rest of her life. If left untreated, it could cause blindness and spinal fusion. Thankful that she danced professionally, movement and pain management techniques kept her going for the next 12 years. In pursuit of modalities that would ease chronic pain, she became certified in TriggerPoint Foam Rolling, Yamuna Body Rolling®, and Yamuna Foot Fitness®. In 2013, at the age of 30, Shannon was determined to find a permanent solution to her disease. She began researching and soon discovered the power of a low fat, whole food plant-based diet. Her symptoms were completely gone in just a few weeks and she was permanently off medication within 1 month. She remains in remission to this day. Fueled by the misinformation given to her and discovering the power within herself to heal, Shannon became devoted to helping others. Since then her continuing education has been extensive. She holds a Plant Based Nutrition Certification from eCornell. Shannon is a Level 2 Frederick Stretch Therapist. She was trained directly by Ann and Chris Frederick, the founders of Frederick Stretch Therapy and the Stretch to Win institute. Shannon is also a certified Level I & II Usui Holy Fire® Reiki Instructor and Craniosacral Therapist. After taking a 14 week Quantum Catalyst Healing™ MasterCourse in 2022 led by Darren Starwynn, she experienced amazing results through the Quantum Field. She is now enrolled in the year certification course. In addition to being on various webinars and podcasts, she was a guest speaker at a webinar co-hosted by the Stretch to Win institute and the Bridge to Mastery Institute. Here she shared her client's healing success stories through the integration of energy work and FST. Shannon has taught dance for over 20 years and is the co-director of the Junior Company at Hinsdale Dance Academy. Her choreography has been featured multiple times in the top 12 of the Youth America Grand Prix. Her choreography with HDA's Junior Company has received "1st Place Overall" multiple years in a row in numerous competitions throughout Chicagoland. Shannon shares her love of movement and healing for all ages. She hopes her dance students learn valuable lessons in how to stay healthy from the inside out and helps adults manage & heal from the daily stresses that life can bring. Book a private lesson or healing session now and be inspired!

Melissa Gramman
Grace Koznarek
Instructor Ballet, Contemporary

Grace Koznarek, also known as Mary Grace Koznarek, grew up in the Chicago area and began learning dance at the age of eleven at Hinsdale Dance Academy. With the guidance of the academy's teachers, Koznarek participated in competitions and took on lead roles in ballets like Cinderella, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Nutcracker. At 16, she received a scholarship to study at Staatliche Ballettschule Berlin, where she learned from experienced instructors including Viara Natcheva and Merek Rozycki. During her time there, she had the opportunity to rehearse La Bayadère with the main company, giving her a taste of the professional dance world. After returning to HDA for her senior year, Grace achieved notable success at several international ballet competitions. She earned the Senior Bronze medal at YAGP Finals and the Youth Grand Prix Award at the Chicago Semi Final. Her classicaland contemporary performances also earned her the Senior Gold and Bronze awards respectively at ADC/IBC. Grace went on to secure a contract with the Finnish National Ballet’s Youth Company, performing in ballets like Sleeping Beauty, Wayne Eagling and Toer van Schayk’s rendition of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, along with the world premiere of a brand new staging of Spartacus. Unfortunately,an injury led Grace to return home, where her long-time coach and HDA’s founder and director, Jennifer Grapes Croughan, invited her to rejoin the HDA community as a teacher, coach, and administrator. Grace is thrilled to be back at Hinsdale Dance Academy and is relishing the opportunity to share her knowledge and skills with the upcoming generation of dancers.

Melissa Gramman
Emily Stephenitch
Master Instructor Young Children's Program

Emily Stephenitch, a St. Louis native was trained under Alexandra Zaharias and Amy Scheers. She was a company member to the pre-professional company Alexandra Ballet Company. Emily developed her artistry by attending many master classes and summer programs including; Miami City Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadians, North Carolina School of the Arts, and Kansas City Ballet. She graduated from Butler University with a B.S. in Dance and Arts Administration, training under Marek Cholewa and Michelle Jarvis. While at Butler University, she had the opportunity to study in St. Petersburg at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory. After graduation, she was chosen to be a member of Nashville Ballet 2. The Alabama Ballet, under direction of Tracy Alvey, offered her a contract where she danced for two seasons. She was also on faculty at the Alabama Ballet School. Relocating back to the Midwest in 2009, she was thrilled to join the faculty of the Joffrey Academy of Dance. She worked with the Academy Directors to further the development of the curriculum of the Children’s division of Dance. Emily has also taught at Salt Creek Ballet, A&A Ballet, and School of the Performing Arts. Emily’s passion to teach young dancers is by trying to instill the love of dance, nurturing each student’s self-artistry, and progressing upon the building blocks of ballet technique.

Melissa Gramman
Tessa Gramman
Instructor Young Children's Program

Tessa is thrilled to be joining the faculty this year of Hinsdale Dance Academy. She is one of the founding members of the academy and Hinsdale ballet theater. She has a life long love of dance and has performed in HDA’s Nutcracker as Arabian as well as Little Mermaid, Cinderella and Mid Summers Nights Dream . In addition, Tessa competed in 3 YAGP competitions as a soloist and with 2 award winning ensembles. She ascended to the role of team captain of the Montini Catholic High School’s Dance team her senior year. While on the team, her and her teammates placed top three at IHSA State all 4 years that she competed. Tessa is currently pursuing a career in nursing and is excited to share her love for dance at HDA.

Melissa Gramman
Takara Fukushima
Master Instructor Classical Ballet

Born in Osaka, Japan. Takara Fukushima began her ballet training at the age of eight. After she joined Kentucky Ballet Theatre (USA) as a professional dancer in 2013, she performed most of productions as a soloist and principal. She is also a guest dancer and instructor in both of American and Japanese ballet companies and schools. She performed the Saint Petersburg State Ballet (Japan tour) in 2007. At the age of fifteen she studied in the Academie de Danse Classique Princess Grace, under Marika Bezobrazova in Monaco. In 2011, she received a Scholarship to study at the Central School of Ballet in London, England.

Melissa Gramman
Avery Cable
Instructor Young Children's Program

Avery is a native of Downers Grove where she began her ballet training at Midwest Ballet Theatre. She completed the majority of her classical and artistic development under the guidance of the faculty at the Hinsdale Dance Academy. While at HDA she performed lead and corps de ballet roles in productions such as The Nutcracker, A Midsummer Nights Dream and Cinderella. Avery is excited to give back to the academy that instilled within her a great love of dance by instructing our youngest dancers in our young children's program.

Melissa Gramman
Nadia Thompson
Guest Master Instructor Classical Ballet

Nadia Thompson was trained in Australia by her mother, Frances Davis Thompson, and graduated from the Royal Ballet School after winning the bronze medal at the Adeline Genee Awards. Before moving to the United States and to Boston Ballet, she worked with Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet, Northern Ballet Theatre and London City Ballet, performing for such dignitaries as HRH Princess Diana, Princess Margaret, the Duchess of York and Her Majesty the Queen at the Royal Command Performance.Nadia has danced principal roles in Swan Lake, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Coppélia, Don Quixote and Abdallah, Twyla Tharp’s Upper Room and Waterbaby Bagatelles. In addition, Lila York created Brown Girl in Celts and Principal Lady in Ode to Joy on her. Her vast Balanchine repertoire includes Russian and Elegy in Serenade, Principal Lady in Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #2, Divertimento #15, Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux, Mozartiana, Rubies and Choleric in The Four Temperaments.Nadia has worked as a guest teacher with Trey McIntyre Project, White Oak, Colorado Ballet, Boston Ballet, Queensland Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Harvard University, Wellesley College, West Australian Ballet and Queensland University of Technology Australia. She also works as a répétiteur for Michael Pink’s ballets, setting Dracula and The Hunchback of Notre Dame for Atlanta Ballet, Colorado Ballet and Kansas City Ballet, and stages Ballet Augsburg's House Choreographer, Riccardo DeNigris' works and Milwaukee Ballet's Resident Choreographer, Timothy O’Donnell’s works.  Ms. Thompson is currently serving as the Co-Director of Ballet Hagen, Germany.

Melissa Gramman
Riccardo DeNigris
Choreographer and Guest Faculty

Graduate of Las Scala Di Milano, Riccardo’s professional dance experience has included 10 years performing to principal level in International companies and 7 years working as a guest choreographer. He has performed leading roles in many new creations from some of the most outstanding choreographers on the world circuit.

Riccardo De Nigris was born in Trani Southern Italy and trained with the prestigious La Scala Di Milano, where he performed with the company in his graduate year. Riccardo continued his professional career with Dominic Walsh Dance Theatre in Houston Texas, the Czech National Theatre Brno and is currently a soloist with Augsburg Ballet in Germany under the direction of Robert Conn. During his career Riccardo has been featured in numerous works from world renowned choreographers, including, William Forsythe, Mauro Bigonzetti, Itzik Galili, Robert North, Young Soon Hue, Michael Pink, Mauro De Candia, Bridget Breiner, Mario Schroder, Kevin O’Day, Christian Spuck, Amanda Miller, Maurice Causey, Demis Volpi, Alejandro Cerrudo, Georg Reischl, Angel Rodriguez, Jiri Kylian, Mats Ek, Marco Goecke. and Francesco Ventriglia. Many of these artists created roles for him and have had an influence on him following his passion of also choreographing. In the 2012/13 season, the Augsburg Allgemeine awarded Riccardo the prestigious theatre award for outstanding artist.  As a choreographer, Riccardo has already showcased his talents in several creations for the Augsburg Ballet, among them a series of solos, Po Poff, Modo, and Summer from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, as well as several ensemble pieces for the young choreographers series, Destillationen. His versatility lends itself to the theatre's yearly Opera Ball and Augsburg's annual International Ballet Gala, where he charms the crowd with vibrant crowd-pleasing finales each year. Stepping into the realm of Opera and Musical Theatre, Riccardo choreographed the State Theatre's season finale musical, My Fair Lady and the Operas’, Die Fledermaus and Carmen.  In February 2015, Riccardo was awarded the audience prize for his choreography, Can I Say Something?, at the Genesis International Choreographic Competition for the Milwaukee Ballet in the USA. His choreography, Dove Sei, Chiribim, To be….Continued, Samba 4 Us, and Tico Tico have featured in numerous galas throughout Germany and the Czech Republic.  This past season, Riccardo premiered his new work, Ascending Glide, for Augsburg Ballet's triple bill, Of Men and Gods. He shared the evening alongside two choreographic greats, Edward Clug and George Balanchine. Riccardo was hailed as one of the young new choreographers to watch in 2016 after his premiere of Ascending Glide.  Riccardo recently premiered his new Narcissis/Bolero for Augsburg Ballet on April 7th 2017.

Melissa Gramman
Nilas Martins
Bournonville Repetiteur and Guest Master Instructor Classical Ballet

Nilas Martins, born in Copenhagen, received his early dance training at the Royal Danish Ballet School. As a student he performed with the Royal Danish Ballet in such works as John Neumeier’s Romeo and Juliet, August Bournonville’s Konservatoriet, A Folk Tale, Napoli, and Glen Tetleys’s Firebird. In 1984, he moved to New York and enrolled at the School of American Ballet. In September 1986, he became a member of New York City Ballet. In 1991, he was promoted to the rank of soloist and in 1993 to Principal dancer.  In New York City Ballet, Mr. Martins danced numerous featured roles and worked closely with choreographers: John Alleyne, Lynn Taylor Corbett, Boris Eifman, William Forsythe, Peter Martins, Trey McIntyre, Kevin O’Day, Jerome Robbins, Susan Stroman, Richard Tanner among others.

Mr. Martins credits include: “Live from Lincoln Center” broadcast of Ray Charles in Concert, “The Nutcracker” released in 1993 by Warner Brothers, “Dance in America” telecast of “Dinner with Balanchine” where he danced the role of Apollo with Paris Opera Etoile Isabel Guerin. “Lincoln Center Celebrates Balanchine 100” where he danced ‘The Man I Love’ from Who Cares? featuring Wynton Marsalis.

Mr. Martins was one of ten fellows selected from both domestic and international applicants to study under Michael Kaiser as a Devos Institute for Arts Management fellow from 2010-2011. Mr. Martins ‘teaching resume’ include Armitage Gone Dance, BalletMet, Baltimore School for the Arts, Goucher College, Harvard University, Indiana University, Joffrey Ballet School, Miami City Ballet School, National Ballet of China, NBA Ballet (Japan), New York City Ballet, Novosibirsk Ballet (Russia), NYSSA Summer Intensive, Princeton University, Royal Danish Ballet, School of American Ballet and Washington Ballet.  Since 1996, Mr. Martins has been a Repetiteur for the George Balanchine Trust and stages ballets for companies and schools domestically as well as internationally.