The Professional Company

Header Company

The Professional Company

Roanoke Ballet Theatre is pleased to be the home of the Professional Company.  Members of RBT’s Professional Company have undergone many years of extensive training and have danced professionally with other companies at a variety of levels. Some members of the company are guest artists; they travel from other cities to work with Roanoke Ballet Theatre.

This professional company is featured in all Roanoke Ballet Theatre performances.  As well, the Company performs throughout the year both in the Roanoke area and in surrounding communities.  One benefit of the company is that it is an opportunity for dancers who perform at a professional level to work alongside the staff and students of Roanoke Ballet Theatre. We believe that young, aspiring dancers need role models, and that our students need to see what professional dancers do in order to achieve principal roles.

Bethany Cooke

Franklin, Pennsylvania

Ms. Cooke trained with The New Castle Regional Ballet before attending Friends University in Wichita, KS where she trained with Stan and Sharon Rogers, graduating with a B.F.A. in Ballet (Summa Cum Laude). Upon graduation, she accepted the position of Company Dancer with Manassas Ballet Theatre in Northern Virginia for both their 2013 and 2014 seasons where she performed many and various roles including: Clara in The Nutcracker, Can-Can Doll in La Boutique Fantasque, Don Quixote, Dracula, Gaite Parisienne, and The Sleeping Beauty. Other past roles she has performed are: Firebird in The Firebird, Chinese Soloist and Marzipan in The Nutcracker, Fairy Demi-Soloist in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the role of Sister in The Prodigal Son, and Topaz in The Sleeping Beauty. In addition, she has attended summer programs with companies such as The Washington Ballet and Nashville Ballet where she was privileged to work with many outstanding instructors including, Kee Jaun Han, Carlos Valcarcel, Vladimir Djouloukhadze, Helanius Wilkins, David Palmer, Paul Vasterling, Allison Zamorski, Sharyn Mahoney, John Upleger, and Christopher Stuart among others. Other notable teachers and choreographers she has been fortunate to work with are, Charmaine Hunter, Dominic Walsh, Shawn Stevens, Clara-Cravey Stanley, Caleb Mitchell, Steve Rooks, Robert Wesner, James Wallace, Melonie Buchannan-Murray, Ashley Dangos-Brittingham, Leslie Bories-Scalise, and Will Smith. Ms. Cooke joined the Professional Company in 2014.

LeeAnn Elder

Yorktown, Virginia

Mrs. Elder began her training at the Academy of Dance with Patricia Sorrell and further continued her training with Ballet Virginia International. She spent several summers training with the Allegheny Ballet Company, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, the Boston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. With BVI her repertoire includes The Nutcracker, Serenade, Firebird, Coppelia, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Pas de Quatre, Swan Lake, Il Distratto, Petrouchka, Fractured Fairy Tales, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and La Sylphide. She graduated in 2014 from Radford University with a B.F.A. in Dance and a B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics. Her work with the Radford University Dance Department includes Queen of the Dryads from Don Quixote, Raymonda, Esmeralda, Frescoes, Clara, Ballerina Doll, Spanish, and Crystal in Inessa Plekhanova’s The Nutcracker, Mikhail Ronnikov’s Heads or Tails, Christopher K. Morgan’s Encountering the Shadow, Wesley William’s Face to Face, Deborah McLaughlin’s Sounds of Stories Dancing and The Shadow Waltz, and Bob Boross’s Mercy Street, Magic, and Get With It. Mrs. Elder joined the Professional Company in 2014.

Christa Ferguson

Johnson City, Tennessee

Christa began her training at the age of 12 at Susan Pace White’s City Youth Ballet, in Johnson City, TN.  During this time, Christa received training from Aaron Jackson of Washington DC Ballet, Fernando Moraga of Houston Ballet, Marvin Askew of Buffalo City Ballet, Kevin Martin of Nutmeg Conservatory of the Arts, and Joffrey Ballet.  Throughout her time in CYB, Christa participated in performances such as Cinderella, A Christmas Carol, Dracula, The Best of Ballet, Hans Christian Anderson, and The Nutcracker.  With roles such as Snow Queen and Sugar Plum Fairy, and Pas de Deux excerpts of Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and Romeo and Juliet in The Best of Ballet.  After graduating high school in 2011, Christa decided to further her education as a double major in Dance (B.A.) and Nursing (B.S.N) at Radford University.  There, she was able to perform in Fall Dance Fest, Evening of Ballet, The Nutcracker, Opera Hansel and Gretel, and Dancing on the Edge along with student choreographed works each semester.  Roles including Frescos pas de quatre, Esmerelda pas de quatre, Marzipan, Snow Crystal, Clara, Cupid from Don Quixote all choreographed by Inessa Plekhanova. Other choreographed works consisting of Heads or Tails  by Mikhail Ronnikov, Face to Face by Wesley Williams, Hansel and Gretel Opera choreographed by Deborah McLaughlin, Gamines by Maragret Devaney, and A Sunny Day by Bob Boross. After college, Christa joined the Professional Company in 2015 where she started as a Trainee and has now advanced to a Company position.  Here she has been able to perform in various shows including Don Quixote, Sleeping Beauty, Dracula, the Nutcracker and many others with various roles and opportunities from Sandra Meythaler.

Nick Holtz

Mr. Holtz began dancing under Amanda M. Irwin at South Florida Dance Company. He furthered his training at Milwaukee Ballet’s summer intensive in 2016 and Chautauqua Ballet in 2018. Upon leaving Chautauqua, Mr. Holtz accepted a position with Charlotte Ballet as a Senior Trainee where he trained under Patricia McBride. Mr. Holtz performed the role of Prince Desiree in Sleeping Beauty with Vero Classical Ballet, and Prince Charming in Cinderella with South Florida Dance Company. In Balanchine’s Who Cares, Mr. Holtz shared the lead male role.  He has also preformed roles in contemporary ballets such as male soloist in Variations choreographed by Mark Diamond, and Winter, choreographed by Jerome Robbins. Mr. Holtz has joined Roanoke Ballet Theatre in the fall of 2019.

Sara Kosuth

Carbondale, Illinois

Sara Kosuth began dancing at the age of 3 at Susan Barnes Dance Studio, in Carbondale, IL. When she was 13 she started taking weekly ballet classes at the Alexandra School of Ballet, in St. Louis. MO, under Alexandra Zaharias. During this time she attended two summer intensives with Katherine Dunham where she instructed classes in East St Louis. The next year she was accepted into Virginia School of the Arts (VSA), in Lynchburg VA. where she attended for three years until her graduation. While at the Virginia School of the Arts she trained under Petrus Bosman, Martha Faesi, Tyrone Brooks, Adam Sage, Dominique Angel, and Lisa Thomas. When she was 18 she attended the North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet)’s Conservatory Program in Charlotte, NC, under the direction of Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride. The following year she received an Apprenticeship at Montgomery Ballet in Montgomery Alabama where she danced under the direction of Elie Lazar for two years. She received additional training with Milwaukee Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Orlando Ballet, and Richmond Ballet, Montgomery Ballet and Dance Theatre of Tennessee’s Summer Programs. Sara is a Part- Time Marketing Assistant, a founding member of the Professional Company joining in 2011, and teaches in the Roanoke Ballet Theatre’s school. 

Kirsten Linnen

Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

Ms. Linnen started her training at Nan Klinger’s Excellence in Dance at the age of five years old. She began her training under the direction of Mia Klinger and Erich Yetter. Ms. Linnen was also an eight year member of the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet Company. She continued her ballet studies at the University of Cincinnati- College Conservatory of Music under the direction of Qi Jiang and Deirdre Carberry. She graduated in 2017 with a B.F.A. in ballet while also receiving The Suzanne Farrell Award upon graduation. She spent summers training at Chautauqua Institute, Ballet Met, Saratoga Springs Summer Intensive, American Ballet Theatre NYC, Cincinnati Ballet, Carolina Ballet, and City Ballet of San Diego. Some of her repertoire includes Swan lake, George Balanchine’s Serenade, Concerto Barocco, Raymonda, La Bayadere, Giselle, Etudes, and The Nutcracker. Ms. Linnen came to the Professional Company in August of 2017.

Norbert Nirewicz

Gdansk, Poland

A native of Poland Norbert began his ballet studies at the National Ballet School in Gdansk. He was a finalist in Poland’s national Ballet Competition in 1993 and obtained a silver medal in the same competition in 1995. As a Dancer for the Polish National Theater he portrayed roles in a variety of classical ballets such as”Swan Lake”,”Giselle”,”Sleeping Baeuty” and “La Fille Mal Gardee” in Warsaw and throughout Europe. In 1997 Mr. Nirewicz joined Ballet Classico de Camara in Venezuela, as a Principal Dancer adding “La Bayadere”, “Le Corsaire”and many more to his repertoire. After Mr. Nirewicz competed at the 1998 US International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi, he was offered a contract to join Cleveland/San Jose Ballet. He performed with the company for two seasons in Nahat’s “Blue Suede Shoes” and Roland Petit’s “Carmen” garnering public and critical acclaim. In the Summer of 2000 Norbert competed in New York International Ballet Competition where he was a finalist. After two seasons with Cleveland/San Jose Ballet Mr. Nirewicz joined Columbia City Ballet with a Principal contract where he performed in “Don Quichote” and “Dracula” among the others. During his spare time, Mr. Nirewicz also enjoys his time as owner and professional photographer at Noriphotos.

Michaela Pence

Buena Vista, Virginia.

Michaela Pence is a native of Buena Vista, Virginia. Michaela grew up studying under Missy Belcher Floyd at the Shenandoah Academy of Dance. She also studied with Mr. Valery Lantratov during his winter and summer tours in the United States and at the Richmond Ballet Summer Intensive. She performed extensively for many years with the Shenandoah Ballet, her home studio company. Miss Pence has been a guest artist with the Northern Neck Youth Performing Arts Foundation in Northumberland County, Va as well as a returning guest artist with the Shenandoah Ballet. Some of her guest roles have included soloist and principal roles in The Nutcracker, Coppelia and Hungarian Rhapsody and Cinderella.

Miss Pence currently teaches several levels of ballet at the Shenandoah Academy of Dance. She is proud to be returning for her second season with Roanoke Ballet Theatre where she started as an apprentice in 2018.

Caitlin Smith

Omaha, Nebraska

Ms. Smith trained with Ballet San Antonio and Omaha Theater Ballet before graduating with a B.F.A. from Butler University where she trained under Derek Reid, Susan McGuire and Tong Wang among others. While at Butler, she had the opportunity to participate in international tours to Poland, Russia, and China. She has studied with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Nashville Ballet and began her professional career dancing with the Minnesota Ballet from 2011 until 2013. She then moved to Virginia and spent two seasons with Manassas Ballet Theatre. Ms. Smith came to Roanoke Ballet Theatre with husband and fellow dancer in September 2015.

Will Smith

Camden, New York

Originally from Camden, New York, Mr. Smith started dancing under Delia Foley (A.R.A.D.) and completed the Royal Academy of Ballet’s advanced syllabus with merit. He then attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City on a talent and merit scholarship. Mr. Smith graduated with a B.F.A. in dance, ballet emphasis. Mr. Smith has danced with the Kansas City Ballet, Montgomery Ballet, Albany Berkshire Ballet, Richmond Ballet, and Ballet Theater of Maryland. He has choreographed several Ballets and He was awarded the Virginia Commission of Arts Fellowship for Choreography in 2014.

Rachel Yinger

Dover, Pennsylvania

Ms. Yinger joins Roanoke City Ballet after dancing professionally with Columbia Classical Ballet. She trained at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Viktor Yeliohin International Ballet Academy, and Greater Dover Dance Academy. She spent summers training at Boston Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet NY and Moscow, the Rock School for Dance Education, Kirov Academy of Ballet, and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. During the summer of 2013, Ms. Yinger was one of fifteen Americans selected to study at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, Russia under an NSLI-Y full scholarship. She was later invited by the Academy to continue training in Moscow as a full time student. Rachel competed in YAGP and was invited to compete in the 2014 Serge Lifar International Ballet Competition. Ms. Yinger has performed with three professional companies including Columbia Classical Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and the Donetsk Ballet of Ukraine. Some of her repertoire includes The Nutcracker, La Sylphide, George Balanchine’s Serenade, Le Corsaire, Wizard of Oz, Beauty and the Beast, and The Sleeping Beauty.

Meet Our Apprentices

Gabrielle Moore

Meet Our Trainees

Sarah Epstein

Wenzori Moody

Obinna Morton

Carrie VanOsten