Who we are2019-01-22T18:23:50+00:00

Meet Our Teachers

Cynthia Dragoni
Cynthia DragoniArtistic Director & Founder
Born in Philadelphia, Cynthia began training at the Wissahickon Dance Academy. She studied on scholarship at The Rock School of the Pennsylvania Ballet, Boston Ballet, and Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet. She has studied under renowned teachers Gloria Govrin, Gelsey Kirkland, Wilhelm Burmann, and Barbara Sandonato.

She danced with the International Ballet Theater in Philadelphia until 2004 when she was invited by internationally acclaimed dancer and director of The Donetsk Ballet, Vadim Pisarev, to join the Donetsk Ballet Company in Ukraine.

She has performed throughout Europe and the United States and her repertory includes: Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Giselle, La Bayadere, Spartacus, The Nutcracker; Sleeping Beauty; and Le Corsaire. She has performed on tour throughout western and eastern Europe and studied privately in St. Petersburg Russia with prima ballerina Elena Marchenko. She danced with Marilyn Klaus’ avant garde ballet company, Ballets With a Twist, and with Henning Rubsam’s contemporary ballet company, Sensedance.

Cynthia was the head of the dance department at Bravo Performing Arts and Language Center in Philadelphia and has served on the faculty at The Barbara Sandonato School of Ballet. She has taught for Ballet Arts at City Center, and Eliot Feld’s Ballet Tech in New York City. Cynthia Dragoni was appointed Ballet Mistress and Rehearsal Director of Henning Rübsam’s SENSEDANCE in January 2012.

Cynthia studied at the University of Pennsylvania and The New School and in 2014 she was awarded a place as a member of the Arts Management / Capacity Building Program at The Kennedy Center under the leadership of Michael Kaiser. She has recently been invited to become a member of: International Dance Council, or Conseil International de la Danse (CID). CID was founded in 1973 within the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, where it is based.

“Cynthia Dragoni is that rare type of teacher with intuitive knowledge. Her ability to assess the individual student is uncanny and her ability to thus make the correction is spot on. Her knowledge of dance is very deep and her love for the ballet is endless. Passing along her insights to her many students allows for future “ballerinas” to be born. Gentle, nurturing and exacting, Cynthia brings to the dance floor a quality matched by only the best.”

Dale Sherman, parent of former student.

CLAIRE FRANÇOISFrench Program Director & Co-Founder
Born and raised in Paris to French and American parents, bilingualism was a way of life from the start. Claire has been part of the faculty at École Internationale de New York. She oversaw the development of the French language curriculum and the launching new programs in multiple schools, in addition to teaching immersive French academic classes for Éducation Française à New York. Before focusing her talents on bilingual education, she enjoyed a successful career in P.R. for fashion houses Céline in Paris, Thierry Mugler Parfums, Clarins, and AmorePacific in New York.

Claire also studied dance at Conservatoire du Vésinet, École Marie-Ange Vila, and École de Danse Agnès Faure in Paris. She holds a B.A. in Communications from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and an M.A. in Human Development from Teachers College, Columbia University.

With more than a decade of experience as a teacher, Claire’s classes are completely immersive with a strict French only policy. She creates a dynamic and engaging environment, utilizing conversation, songs, games and academic work in the the space of a single class. Both Francophone and Anglophone students experience a linguistically and academically challenging class. Her experience and devotion to bilingual education, her deep love of classical dance and background as an international professional, make her the perfect guide for the dancers studying French here at the Ballet Institute.

“I’ll never forget the joy and wonder as a child, dancing alongside the cast of dancers from the Opéra Garnier in Paris. It has endured not only as a happy memory of childhood, but as an endless source of inspiration and passion.” – Claire François

PAULINE BOULFROYFrench Language Instructor:
Pauline was born in Amiens, France – hometown of the world famous author Jules Verne – a small city north of Paris. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and Italian, a Master’s degree in English and Italian applied to business affairs from the University of Paris La Sorbonne, and a Master’s degree from the Skema Business School.
Pauline had a professional career in Paris as a publicist.

In 2016, she moved to New York where she started her teaching career, an ambition she had long nourished throughout her education and first professional experiences. She now teaches in several institutions around the city including: Fordham University, The New School, Mercy College, JP Linguistics, The International Ballet Institute NY

ELLY SARFERTTap/Musical Theater
Elly Sarfert is a North Carolina native. She began her training at Michelle Nicholson’s In Motion Dance Center, and went on to study at the North Carolina School of the Arts. Elly graduated from Point Park University with a degree in Dance Performance and a concentration in Jazz. She has performed all over the country in both dance and Musical theater works. Her favorites include The Little Mermaid, Young Frankenstein, and Rock of Ages. She has performed Trisha Brown’s Solo Olos at the American Dance Festival. Elly continues to perform and train in New York City. She hopes to impart a love of story telling and rhythm to her students.
ISABELLE SEILERBallet Instructor, Choreographer, Repertory Coach
Isabelle began her ballet training at Philadelphia Dance Theatre with Joy Delaney Capponi, before moving to New York City at age 16 to study under scholarship with the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of American Ballet Theatre. While in New York she also studied privately with Fabrice Herrault. She went on to complete her training in Toronto with Canada’s The National Ballet School.
During her time with JKO, she performed with the Studio Company in ballets such as “Napoli” and “Les Carnivale des Animaux”, featured as “L’Elephante.” She has performed featured roles at The National Ballet of Canada School in such ballets as William Forsythe’s “The Second Detail” and “In The Middle Somewhat Elevated.”

Isabelle danced professionally with the Dresden Semperoper Ballett and Les Grands Ballets des Canadiens.

MARISSA FREYPrincipal Ballet Instructor, Choreographer, Repertory Coach
Marissa Frey grew up in York, Pennsylvania where she began her dance training at Greater York Youth Ballet under the direction of Lori Pergament and Pennsylvania Regional Ballet under the direction of Sandra Carlino. As a former member of Regional Dance America, she has been awarded many training scholarships.
She has worked with choreographers Rodney Rivera, Alejandro Ulloa, Laszlo Berdo, Jessica Lang and Luis Fuentes. In 2009, she graduated from SUNY Purchase achieving a BFA in Dance. She has performed works in premiere theaters, including The Beacon Theatre, Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, Stage 48, Bucks County Playhouse, Cleveland Playhouse Square, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival the Tenth Anniversary Dumbo Dance Festival among others. Marissa has been a company member with Janusphere Dance Company, DeMa Dance Company, Yesid Lopez Contemporary Dance: The Collective, Neville Dance Theatre, Eglevsky Ballet and is currently dancing with Ballets with a Twist, Connecticut Theater Dance and Brooklyn Ballet. She has taught at numerous dance schools including Long Island City School of Ballet, Ballet Academy East and Chrystie Street Ballet Academy. She is currently a ballet teacher at International Ballet Institute in Brooklyn.
During her time with JKO, she performed with the Studio Company in ballets such as “Napoli” and “Les Carnivale des Animaux”, featured as “L’Elephante.” She has performed featured roles at The National Ballet of Canada School in such ballets as William Forsythe’s “The Second Detail” and “In The Middle Somewhat Elevated.”

Isabelle danced professionally with the Dresden Semperoper Ballett and Les Grands Ballets des Canadiens.

GUYONN AURIAU Ballet Instructor, Choreographer, Repertory Coach
Guyonn completed her ballet training in Paris at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris. After graduation she became a member of the Ballet de Lorraine in France. While in Ballet de Lorraine her repertory included: “The Vertiginious Thrill of Exactitude” by William Forsythe, “Sketches from Chronicle” by Martha Graham, “Sounddance” by Merce Cunningham and “Corps de Ballet” by Noé Soulier.

In 2015 she came to the United States to become a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company. Where she interpreted many Graham masterpieces such as: “Appalachian Spring”, ” Conversation of Lovers”, ” Night Journey”, “The Rite of Spring”, “Maple Leaf Rag”, ” Acts of Light” and “Chronicle”.

She has also performed works by Kylian, Nacho Duato, Rudolf Nureyev, George Balanchine and Sir Kennth MacMillan.

LILY BALOGHBallet Instructor, Choreographer, Repertory Coach
Lily studied on scholarship at The School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Pacific Northwest Ballet and under Marcia Dale Weary at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Lily danced professionally with New York City Ballet before becoming a soloist with Michelle Wiles’ Ballet Next and Marilyn Klaus’ Ballets With a Twist.
ANDREW SKEELSArtistic Advisor
Andrew Skeels is the artistic director of Skeels Danse Montréal. His work has been presented at Paris Opera’s Amphithéâtre de l’Opera Bastille, Grand Théâtre de Genève, TanzTheater International Festival Hannover, Palais des Festivals Cannes, Théâtre de Suresnes Jean-Villar, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, Kansas City Ballet, Festival Quartiers Danses Montréal, Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur, WestWave Dance Festival San Francisco, Colorado Ballet, and Festival Ballet Providence.

His production for the Théâtre de Suresnes, Finding Now was the Grand Prize Winner for Best Show of the Year at the 2018 Grands Prix de la Critique in Paris. He is the winner of the 2015 Hannover Think Big Choreographic Residency Competition and received the 2013 Prix Coup de Cœur du Public from the Festival Quartiers Danses Montréal.

He is a former dancer with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal and has performed works by Jiri Kyliàn, Mats Ek, Ohad Naharin, Stijn Celis, Didy Veldman, Marco Goecke, Stephan Thoss, Christopher Wheeldon, George Balanchine, and numerous other choreographers.

His choreographic language reflects his ever-expanding curiosity and love for the art of dance. He draws influence from his training as a film editor and applies a cinematic approach to his choreography. He challenges dancers, asking that they move with daring speed, breathtaking fluidity, and bold release. His work is detail-oriented, and he works patiently to perfect movement quality, musicality, and nuance inside his work. He provides a supportive, collaborative work environment, which enables dancers to take bold chances.

He offers multiple points of entry into my work in order to connect with his public – story, dynamic performance, innovative movement, and powerful music.

“The audience is the final element that gives life to a dance.” Andrew Skeels