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About Us

                              Sondra Forsyth
Ballet Ambassadors Founder 2001 and Artistic Director 2001-2013

She began her
arts-in-education work in the 1980s when she was a Co-Director of the Huntington Ballet Theatre on Long Island. In 1992, after returning to Manhattan, she originated the Harkness Ballet Outreach program under the auspices of the 92nd St Y and served as principal Teaching Artist for six seasons before leaving to found Ballet Ambassadors.


Sondra has served as a guest teacher for the American Ballet Theatre open classes and on the faculty of the School at Steps on Broadway, the SUNY Purchase Youth Ballet, the Harkness Dance Center of the 92nd Street Y, the Interlochen Center for the Arts, and Studio de Ballet Opera in Beirut, Lebanon. During her performing career, she danced principal and solo roles with Thalia Mara’s Ballet Repertory, the Huntington Ballet Theatre, the New York Dance Theatre, and Dance Vectors, a multicultural company in NYC. In addition to studying ballet and modern with top teachers, she has studied Character Dance (folk dance from around the world) as well as Flamenco, including castanets, while in Spain, and Chinese Classical Dance. She has taught Character Dance at the SUNY Purchase summer session and at the Huntington School of Ballet. Her articles have appeared in Dance Magazine, Dancer Magazine, and many major publications. She is the author or co-author of twelve books and holds an M.A. from Harvard.


Andrei Kisselev trained in his native Russia and performed for several years with the legendary Moiseyev Dance Company. He went on to join the cast of "Riverdance on Broadway" and later toured with the show for five years. He received a rave review in the New York Times for a performance with Rebecca Kelly Ballet. Andrei holds a degree in education from the College of Art in Vladimir, Russia. He is a Professor of Ballet at Manhattanville College.

Yana Volkova dances principal roles with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet at Lincoln Center. Prior to that, she was a featured dancer with her husband, Andrei Kisselev, in “Riverdance on Broadway” as well as the touring production. Yana has appeared on television here and abroad and she has extensive teaching experience. She was trained in the Vaganova Ballet Method in her native Russia by Valentina Narozhnaya and she holds a B.A. in Choreography, Ballet, and Character Dance from the Russian Academy of Theatrical Arts in Moscow.

Nile Jamaal Baker will graduate in May 2011 from the prestigious Ailey/Fordham BFA Program in Manhattan. He began his formal dance training as a teenager in Detroit and went on to spend his freshman year as a dance major at the University of Michigan. Nile spent the summers of 2007 and 2008 as a fellowship student in the Alvin Ailey School's summer Intensive after which he was accepted as a BFA transfer student. He has performed in Alvin Ailey's "Landscapes" and Paul Taylor's "Runes" as well as in works by other important choreographers including Elisa Monte, Donald McKayle, Francisco Martinez, Bradley Shelver, Scott Rink, Preston Miller, Christopher Huggins, Edisa Weeks, and Peter London.

Laura Di Orio performs professionally with Lydia Johnson Dance and the Staten Island Ballet. She has also danced with Cirque de Soleil, Albano Ballet, and Roxey Ballet. Laura began her training at the Mill Ballet School in Pennsylvania with Mark and Melissa Roxey. During summer programs at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City and in the Joffrey/New School University BFA program, she studied with notable teachers including Eleanor D'Antuono, Francesca Corkle, Trinette Singelton, and John Magnus. Laura has extensive teaching experience for such respected schools as the Ailey Extension, Battery Dance, and Arias Dance NYC. She holds a B.A. in journalism from Fordham University and is a contributing writer for Pointe Magazine, among other dance publications.


Cierra Cotton is a 2011 graduate of the Ailey/Fordham B.F.A. Program in Dance. She has performed works by Robert Battle, Troy Powell, Elisa Monte, Francesca Harper, George Faison, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Christopher Huggins, Earl Mosley, Paul Taylor, Joyce Trisler, and Scott Rink. Cierra also performed with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey’s “Memoria” in 2009 and 2010. She spent her summers training at the prestigious Rock School for Dance Education and Boston Ballet School. As a freelance dancer Cierra has worked with various companies in NYC including the Francesca Harper Project, Laurie M. Taylor/Soul Movement, Creative Outlet Dance Theatre of Brooklyn, and for R&B artist Chrisette Michele. Her dance career has allowed her to perform at venues such as the APOLLO Theater, New York City Center, Rialto Theater in Atlanta, New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Ailey Citigroup Theater, Best Buy Theater, Princeton University, and State Theatre at New Brunswick. Cierra has taught and assisted classes in ballet, jazz, tap, and modern to students of all ages at various schools in New York, Connecticut and Maryland including the Ailey School, Downtown Dance Factory, and Highbridge Recreation Center. Currently she is on faculty at Connecticut Ballet and Newburgh Performing Arts Academy and a ballet instructor for the Harlem YMCA's after-school program.

  Lauren Jaeger is a member of the critically acclaimed Buglisi Dance Theater, a contemporary company that tours extensively here and abroad. She holds a BFA in Ballet Performance from Marymount Manhattan College which she attended on full scholarship. An alumna of the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance in Connecticut, she is a past recipient of the Patricia Schuster Scholarship. Ms. Jaeger appeared in numerous principal roles as a member of the Ridgefield Civic Ballet, Bare Bones Dance Project, Contemporary Dance Ensemble, and for the Danbury Music Centre's "Nutcracker." She is an experienced teacher who has held faculty positions at Ballet Hispanico, Manhattan School of Ballet, and Peridance.

Lisa Fitzgerald is a graduate of the Residency Program of the Nutmeg Conservatory of Dance in Connecticut where she studied with Sharon E. Dante, Alexei Tchernichov, Eleanor D’Antuono, Scott Thyberg, and Victoria Mazzerelli. After moving to New York City, she continued her studies with Elena Kunikova and Natalya Stavro. Lisa is a co-founder with her husband, Roman Baca, of the Exit 12 Dance Company. While with Exit 12 and as a free-lance dancer, she has had the opportunity to perform at venues such as Lincoln Center, The Ailey Citigroup Theatre, and SUNY Purchase. She is an experienced teacher for studios in the tri-state area.

Alice Murphy is an alumna of the School of American Ballet in New York City, the premiere training ground for ballet dancers in the country. She has appeared with the New York City Ballet and the Royal Ballet of England and is a founding member of Ballet Ambassadors. Alice holds a B.A. from Goucher College with a minor in dance and an M.A. from New York University with a major in art history. In addition to dancing, she works at Sotheby's one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine and decorative art, jewelry, and collectibles.

Vitali Krauchenka has been a member of the American Ballet Theatre since 2004. His roles have included the Rajah in La Bayadère, a dancer in Duets, the Father in Fall River Legend, the Duke of Courland in Giselle, The Man She Must Marry in Jardin aux Lilas, Armand's Father in Lady of the Camellias, the Mouse King in Alexei Ratmansky's The Nutcracker, Prince Gremin in Onegin, the Father in Prodigal Son, the Lead Spanish Dancer in Raymonda, Lord Montague in Romeo and Juliet, Gallison and the Russian Prince in The Sleeping Beauty and Von Rothbart and the Spanish Dance in Swan Lake, as well as other roles in the Company's repertoire. He created Mother Ginger in Ratmansky's The Nutcracker. Born in Minsk in the Republic of Byelorussia, Vitali Krauchenka trained from the age of six at the Byelorussian Choreographic School and performed with the Byelorussian Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet. After graduation, he joined the National Ballet Theatre of Belarus and later the Latvian National Opera and the Atlantic Ballet Theatre and Ballet Jorgen in Canada. He holds a teaching certificate from the ABT Teacher Training Curriculum and has extensive arts-in-education experience. Vitali is married and is the father of two schoolage children.


Lisa Woods performed with the Seiskaya Ballet, and BalletNY. She was trained by Valia Seiskaya, Maggie, Black, Wilhelm Bormann, and Alonso King, among others. She has extensive teaching experience including the Movement Workshop Group, and the Berkeley City Ballet. Lisa holds a BA with a concentration in acting from Emerson College.

Shelby Traum has performed professionally with Peconic Ballet Theatre, DanceCore Performing Arts, and Continuum Contemporary Ballet. She received her early training with the Maryland Youth Ballet and spent summer intensives with the Kirov Academy and Eastern Shore Ballet Theatre. Shelby serves as an assistant teacher for the JKO School of the American Ballet Theatre. She holds a BFA in dance from Marymount Manhattan College.


Kerry Allen, Loretta Barrett, Ann Cynthia Diamond, Bill Dyszel, Sondra Forsyth