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Teaching Staff

Rebekah von Rathonyi

​Artistic Director 

A native of Rochester, New York, Ms. von Rathonyi, her husband Joshua, and their children, have called Peoria home for over eighteen years. She began her dance training at the age of 8 with the Botsford/Orcutt School of Dance, the sister school to the American Ballet Theater, under the direction of Mikhail Baryshnikov. She studied under Luba Guleava and Maria Moglivesky, both graduates of the Kirov Ballet and Bolshoi Ballet. After her initial training, she studied ballet at the Draper Center for Dance Education, school to the Rochester City Ballet, under Timothy Draper and Sally Steppnes. As a young dancer, she received full scholarships to National Ballet School in Toronto Canada, Pittsburgh Ballet School, and Boston Ballet School. At fourteen years of age, Ms. von Rathonyi joined Compania Nacional de Danzá in Mexico City under the direction of Fernando Alonzo, husband to renowned Cuban ballerina, Alicia Alonzo. In 1994, she was accepted into the year-round apprentice/trainee program at The Rock School of the Pennsylvania Ballet. She enjoyed her time with the company, performing in many of Pennsylvania Ballet's productions, including several of George Balanchine's ballets. Upon returning to New York, Ms. von Rathonyi joined Rochester City Ballet as a principal dancer performing numerous principal roles in Nutcracker, Cinderella, Don Quixote, Firebird, and Gaite Parisian.  At this time, Artistic Director Timothy Draper suggested she start teaching ballet, thus began her extensive teaching career. 

Ms. von Rathonyi served as Acting Artistic Director to the Flower City Ballet for two years. During this time, she raised student enrollment, began an inner city scholarship program for underprivileged children and helped produce a full length Nutcracker and Spring production. She was invited to join the Rochester City School of the Arts public high school as an Artistic Consultant. While teaching dance to grades 9-12, she formulated a curriculum which included classical ballet technique, pointe, dance history, and music theory. 

Ms. von Rathonyi served as the Academy Director to the Peoria Ballet for almost ten years, she also served as Interim Artistic Director for two years. She performed principal roles in Nutcracker, Firebird, Giselle, Dracula, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Cinderella, Romeo & Juliet, and the Principal female in Balanchine’s Valse Fantasie. Ms. von Rathonyi raised the caliber of the Academy by instituting a pre-professional training program for the aspiring dancer and instituted a full class syllabus and curriculum for all levels of ballet. In 2010, she directed Peoria Ballet’s collaboration performance of “Youthful Fusion” with the Central Illinois Youth Symphony. Her students competed in the Youth America Grand Prix International ballet competition, in which many of them placed in the top 12. 

Ms. von Rathonyi attended the prestigous teacher training program at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Canada, where she focused on studying the Vagonova and Checchetti syllabus. She is an alumna of The Rock School for Dance Education and feels fortunate to have served as their Artistic Coordinator and a Faculty member.

Rebekah holds a special place in her heart for the Peoria community. She has enjoyed participating in local events including CASA's annual "Dancing with the stars", Luthy Botanical Garden's "I Love Luthy", IGNITE Peoria, Relay for Life, Frolic with the Fairies, and choreographed Cornstock Theater's 2011 production of "Cats". She is honored to be a 2006 recipient of Peoria's 40 Leaders Under 40 award.

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Jessie Williams

Associate Artistic Director, Soloist Dancer

Advanced, Intermediate, and Level 2 Ballet; Pre-Pointe; Pointe; Intermediate Modern; Homeschool Ballet 2

Jessie Williams, a graduate of Butler University with a BFA in Dance Performance, was born and raised in Suwanee, Georgia. She began training at a young age at Northeast Atlanta Ballet under the direction of Jennifer Gordon and shortly after accepted a traineeship with Next Generation Ballet under the direction of Peter Stark. While at Butler, Jessie was given the opportunity to perform corps, soloist, and principal roles in full-length ballets including The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Cinderella, and Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments. She was also given the opportunity to perform soloist and principal roles in various contemporary works including a work by David Ingram showcased at the Indiana Governor's Arts Awards. Jessie found her love of choreography after spending a summer training alongside Sidra Bell working on a premiere piece titled “Middle Prayer.” During her later years at Butler she was able to tour Eastern Europe with two of her own contemporary works which premiered at the National Opera House in Warsaw.  Soon after college Jessie accepted a company position at Central Illinois Ballet under the direction of Rebekah VonRathonyi and within a year was promoted to Soloist. During her time at CIB she has had the pleasure of performing many soloist and principal roles alongside the company. Jessie's favorite roles include Phlegmatic in Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, Dracula in Central Illinois Ballets production of Dracula, and Sugarplum Fairy in Central Illinois Ballet's The Nutcracker. Jessie is so grateful to have been given the opportunity to stage a production of Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty in 2021 and a production of Giselle in 2022 for Cornerstone Academy’s Student Gala. In 2021 she premiered her first professional full length ballet Sweeney Todd at the Scottish Rite Theater. This will be Jessie’s 7th season dancing with Central Illinois Ballet and her second season as Associate Artistic Director. 

Maya de Leon

Principal Dancer, Instructor

Pre-Ballet and Tap; Dance with Me!; Adult Ballet; Level 1, 2, Intermediate and Advanced Ballet; Level 1 and 2 Jazz and Tap; Homeschool Pre-Ballet/ Ballet 1; Creative Movement

Maya de Leon is a Filipino-American dancer who began her training at the age of 4 at Greater Lansing Academy of Dance and Greater Lansing Ballet Company under the direction of Barbara Banasikowski Smith. As a student, she received scholarships to many summer intensives including the National Choreography Intensive, Colorado Conservatory of Dance, and Alma College Summer Dance. In 2014, she was selected to perform with Regional Dance America at the International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. Maya continued her dance training at Point Park University where she graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2019. At Point Park, Maya had the pleasure of being cast in pieces by Jae Man Joo, Matthew Powell, Helen Simoneau, Christopher Wheeldon, and Edwaard Liang among others. She began her professional career at the age of 19 touring Michigan with Third Coast Dance Company and has since danced with Ballet Quad Cities. Maya is a certified Youth Protection Advocate in Dance and is excited to see dance taking strides toward wellness and inclusion. 

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Dyson Ramey

Soloist, Instructor

Advanced Ballet; Advanced Modern; Hip-Hop; Advanced and Intermediate Jazz, Adult Fitness, Men's Class


Dyson Ramey is a dancer and dance teacher born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. He has studied dance in all genres for 15 years including Ballet, Jazz, Modern, Contemporary, Tap, Hip-Hop, and Musical Theater. Dyson started his journey as a competitive dancer, but started focusing on ballet and theater dance his freshman year of high school. He attended Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School in Midland, PA for his high school years, where he did several performances including The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Swing!, Matilda, and Singin’ in the Rain. At Lincoln Park he was trained by Jennifer Verba, Krista Shovlin, Stephanie Anderson, Mindy Silver, and Jeremy Czarniak. His musical theater training was by Justin Fortunado and Sharon Schaller. Dyson has performed with Allegro Ballet Academy in The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, where he met Rebekah Von Rathonyi and Joshua Gullet and was asked to join their company in

Peoria, IL as a soloist. Since joining Central Illinois Ballet, Dyson has performed numerous characters in numerous performances such as, The Nutcracker and Cavalier in The Nutcracker, Monsieur Marius in Les Misérables, Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, and Romeo in Peoria Symphony’s Romance. He also debuted his choreography titled Aura in CIB’s performance of Illuminations. Dyson is an academy instructor with Cornerstone Academy for Performing Arts where he teaches jazz, ballet, hip-hop, modern, and men’s technique. He has choreographed jazz and contemporary pieces for the students in their spring gala. Dyson is so excited for his third season with Central Illinois Ballet!

Gillian Letonoff

Company Artist, Instructor


Gillian started dancing in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. From second grade to eighth grade, Gillian attended Southern Delaware School of the Arts in Selbyville, Delaware. While at SDSA, she studied visual art, instrumental music, vocal music, acting and dance. In 2006, she began training with Kate Downes Walker at Sussex Dance Academy. There, she concentrated on ballet but supplemented her dance education studying jazz and contemporary. During the summers, Gillian trained at the Rock School for Dance Education, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Ballet Theatre of Maryland, and Oklahoma City Ballet to which she received a scholarship. Throughout her high school years, Gillian attended classes at First State Ballet under Pasha Kambalov.


Upon graduating high school, Gillian accepted a trainee position with Ballet Theatre of Maryland where she danced with the company through 2018. In 2018, Gillian accepted a trainee position with the Oklahoma City Ballet where she danced two seasons. From 2020-2022 Gillian danced with American Repertory Ballet under the direction of Ethan Stiefel. During her summers, Gillian dances with Burklyn Ballet under Joanne Whitehill, in Johnson Vermont. This is her second season with CIB.

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Don Coven


Advanced Tap and Ballroom

Don Coven is a native Peorian who began tap lessons at the age of three at the Merkel-Ford Studios in 1950. He danced professionally with Ann Miller in "Anything Goes", Gene Kelly in "Take Me Along", and Ruby Keeler in "No No Nanette". Mr. Don's dance expertise won him a complete scholarship for his Master of Fine Arts in Dance from S.M.U’s Meadows School of the Arts in 1983. Mr. Don's dance students in Peoria have won first place awards in dance competitions throughout the country. Central Illinois Ballet and Cornerstone Academy has also had the honor of having Mr. Don in many of our main stage productions such as The Nutcracker and Les Misérables!

Isabella Weeks

Junior Apprentice, Instructor

Creative Movement and Intermediate Tap​

Isabella Weeks has been blessed to have grown up in Peoria, IL and to have had many opportunities to perform and share her love of dance. Isabella is trained in ballet, tap, jazz, modern, and contemporary. She has also taken lessons in classical piano and the Spanish language. She began her dance training at Peoria Ballet, and she values her time learning from Fabiana Fadlala-Poulis. In 2016, Isabella transitioned to Cornerstone Academy for Performing Arts. At Cornerstone, she’s had the privilege of training under Rebekah von Rathonyi and has attended Cornerstone’s summer intensives every year, one of which was led by Laura Alonso. During her eight years of outstanding training with Don Coven, Isabella discovered that tap is her favorite non-balletic style of dance. She is thankful for all of her time and instruction at Cornerstone, and was thrilled to be invited to Central Illinois Ballet’s trainee program in 2022 and is now honored to be joining the company and faculty as a Junior Apprentice! Throughout her time with CIB, she has had the privilege of performing some of her favorite roles, including the Tap Soldier Doll in The Nutcracker, Little Red Riding Hood in The Sleeping Beauty, the Tin Woman in The Wizard of Oz, and Swanhilda in Coppélia. Isabella hopes to inspire other dancers to challenge themselves and aspires to be a light inside and outside the dance community.

Rylee Ray

Company Trainee, Instructor

Combo Class

Ms. Rylee Ray began her training at Cornerstone Academy at age 8 and is entering her second year as a Company Trainee with Central Illinois Ballet under the direction of Rebekah von Rathonyi. Rylee has had the pleasure to perform corp de ballet and featured roles in many CIB productions including The Nutcracker, Anne Frank, Dracula, and Phantom of the Opera. Her favorite roles include Clara in The Nutcracker and the ensemble in Les Misérables. Rylee has taught at Lakeview Recreation Center and has served as a substitute teacher at Cornerstone Academy for many years. She is passionate about dance education and is thrilled to enter this season as a full time teacher and Company Trainee.

Bethany Dreste

Company Trainee, Instructor

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Bethany has trained at CAPA since age thirteen, and is currently dancing as a company trainee with CIB under the direction of Rebekah von Rathonyi. She has performed corps de ballet and featured roles in many CIB and CAPA productions including The Nutcracker, Dracula, Little Red Riding Hood, and Anne Frank. Some of her favorite roles include Russian in The Nutcracker and Nadya in Dracula. In addition to her dancing, she developed and is teaching a beginning ballet curriculum for after school students at ART Inc, where she developed her passion for teaching. She is passionate about enriching the lives of children through the arts, and creating accessibility to dance for as many children as possible, regardless of their eventual careers. Bethany is thrilled to continue educating young dancers here at CAPA!

Josh Gullett

Board President, Instructor

Joshua began his early ballet training with Ballet Met on full scholarship under the watchful eye of Yoko Ichino and David Nixon. He continued with Ballet Met for eight years in the pre-professional program performing in the companies productions of "The Nutcracker", "Romeo and Juliet", "Cinderella", and "Giselle". In BalletMet's Student Showcase, Mr. Gullet was featured as Daniel in Alvin Aileys "Daniel". He spent his summers on full scholarship with many prestigious schools including Virginia School of the Arts, Pittsburg Ballet Theatre, and Chautauqua with North Carolina Dance Theatre. In 2002, Mr. Gullett was accepted into Pittsburg Ballet Theatre Graduate Program where he studied and trained under Artistic Director Terrance Orr and Ballet Mistress Marianna Tcherkassky. He enjoyed working with the company as well as performing in many of their productions including "The Nutcracker" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Mr. Gullett joined Peoria Ballet Company in 2004 dancing many soloist and principal roles such as Jonathan Harker in "Dracula", Snow King in "The Nutcracker", and the Principal Male in George Balanchine's "Valse Fantasie". Mr. Gullett has been  a Guest Dancer with USA Ballet and  has toured with the company to Chicago and Michigan. Mr. Gullett also served on the faculty at the Peoria Ballet Academy teaching the Boys ballet class and pas de duex class for pre- professional students. 

Artistic and Academy Consultants
Carole Krohn

Youth Program and Business Development Consultant

Carole Krohn, a central Illinois native, formerly of Peoria Ballet and long time Colorado resident, is thrilled return to the greater Peoria area. She spent many years studying, performing, and teaching classical ballet in Chicago and Colorado. In Colorado, Carole performed and received pedagogical training under Mrs. Julie Sneden Carlson, Artistic Director of Ballet Northwest, and performed several seasons with Steamboat Dance Theater. Highlighting her repertoire are roles as soloist, character, and corp de ballet in many classical works including The Firebird, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, Dracula, Rodeo and The Nutcracker, in addition to many contemporary and original works. As a dedicated student of classical ballet for over 40 years, Carole has received training at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts under the direction of Mr. Larry Long; Steamboat Springs Ballet under the Master Classes of Michael Vernon; Hubbard Street Dance Chicago; The Joffrey Ballet; Aspen-Santa Fe Ballet; Perry Mansfield Performing Arts Academy; Denver Dance Center; Vail International Festival of Dance; The Academy of Colorado Ballet; Dance Aspen; Purdue University; Colorado Mountain College; and the University of Illinois. Carole received a Bachelor of Science degree with Honors from Purdue University, Phi Beta Kappa, where she was a member of the Purdue Golduster Dance Team and a founding member of the Purdue Gymnastics Club. 

She received her Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois College of Law in 1989. In addition to being a sought after ballet instructor in both Colorado and Illinois, Carole has maintained an active law practice for over 25 years and has served as Guardian ad Litem for the State of Colorado, Office of the Child’s Legal Representative. Carole teaches all levels of ballet from the very youngest of students to adults and professionals. She is particularly interested in early grade ballet program and curriculum development as well as nurturing and guiding the youngest students in their first steps on stage to and to instill in them a life long appreciation for music and performing arts as part of early and middle childhood development.

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Fabiana Poulis

Permanent Adjunct Faculty and Artistic Associate

Born in Paraguay and raised in Argentina, Fabiana Fadlala-Poulis has been teaching ballet for over 20 years. She received her training at Estudio Coreografico Bonnin, the Teatro Colon and received her Masters in Ballet Pedagogy from the School of the National Ballet of Cuba. She studied under Olga Ferri, Miguel Bonnin, Ileana Balmori, and Raul Candal. Fabiana danced professionally with the Teatro Municipal de Asuncion, Teatro General San Martin, Ballet Arlington, and Ballet Concerto. Fabiana has taught at the Margo Dean School of Ballet in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and Ballet Conservatory in Lewisville, TX where she also served as the assistant director of Lake Cities Ballet Theatre II. Her choreography for YAGP, “It’s a Good Day”, placed 2nd in the regionals and performed at the finals in New York City. She also served as the Outreach Coordinator for the Desert Youth Ballet Foundation, taught for the Arizona School of Classical Ballet, Tempe Dance Academy, and The Louisville Ballet. Additionally, she has served as the ballet mistress for the Louisville Ballet Youth Ensemble; Sacred Heart School for the Arts in Louisville, KY; Wynn Twins School of Dance in Kansas City, MO; and Peoria Ballet. She has been a sought out guest teacher throughout the United States and South America.

Jennifer Reiter Hand

​Artistic Consultant

Following in her mother's footsteps, Ms. Reiter began dancing at the age of six at the Peoria Ballet. She danced in numerous productions of Nutcracker and held the role of Clara from 1984-1986. She received her Masters degree in dance from New York University's Tish school of Arts and her BFA in dance from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Both of her degrees are in dance and choreography. Ms. Reiter has taught and produced choreography for private studios, universities, summer intensives, and theater companies in the Midwest including: DanceArts in Champaign; Champaign Ballet Academy; Millikinn University in Decatur; and University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana. Her work in the Northeast includes: D'Valda & Sirico in Fairfield CT; Longwood Performing Arts Academy in Kennett Square PA; and in New York City at Ballet Hispanico, Broadway Dance Center and Ballet Arts. As a teacher she specializes in ballet, pointe/variations, modern, 

improvisation, choreography, adult beginner dance, dance vocabulary, and movement for actors. Her students are presently performing in national tours, in ballet and modern dance companies, for Disney, and on Broadway. Ms. Reiter believes that to learn to dance well, dancers must find joy in the simple act of moving. To that end, she constructs an environment that encourages a sense of play, experimentation, community, and humor while working in an organized and respectful way not only towards everyone participating in the class, but also to the noble tradition of dance, a tradition she believes is beautiful and worthy of reverence. "Dance should never hurt the body or force it into feelings of strain or tightness. Instead, I believe dance can open the body and create a freedom from within that can be pleasurable for your emotional and spiritual self, as well as the physical."

Guest Instructors

All of our professional company dancers regularly are guest instructors for our academy. The following teachers are frequent guest instructors for our students.

Kaylie Bullock 

Kaylie found a new passion in classical ballet after training to be a gymnast.  She began studying at Kansas Dance Academy, while there she received a grant from the Kansas Cultural Trust. She graduated from The School of Classical and Contemporary Dance at Texas Christian University. Along with the talented TCU faculty, Ms. Bullock crossed paths with many accomplished dance professionals.  These include Susan Jaffe, Ben Stevenson, and Clifford Williams. She credits TCU for expanding her ballet vocabulary with contemporary movement and the encouragement to teach in conjunction with performing. 

Upon graduation Ms. Bullock danced for Ad Deum Dance Company, where she worked with Alvin Aliey's Rehearsal Director Matthew Rushing and Martha Graham Principal Steve Rooks.  She also performed several solo roles choreographed by Director Randall Flinn.  During this time she had the opportunity to guest teach for the Houston Ballet Academy.  She was also on faculty for Mitzi's School of Dance, featured on America's Got Talent. Wanting to be closer to family, Ms. Bullock accepted a position with Storling Dance Theater and the Director of Ballet at a local dance academy. As a company member she had the privilege to perform numerous principal and soloist roles.  As the Director of Ballet she fostered the growth of a successful program including restaging The Nutcracker.  Ms. Bullock then danced for Common Thread Contemporary's

Artistic Director Jennifer Medina, who quickly became a mentor in dance artistry.  The following summer, Ms. Bullock worked with Drew Jacoby, whose credits include Lines, Nederlands Dance Theater, and Complexions.  


Raised as a classical ballet dancer, Kaylie embraces the tradition of ballet.  Having been given the opportunity to work with many successful contemporary ballet and modern professionals of our time, she believes that today's ballet dancers have no choice but to be versatile.  Her goal is to give her students an understanding of the dance forms and techniques, while creating a firm foundation in classical ballet.  She considers her students' acceptance into dance programs across the country as some of her proudest achievements. She also coached the recipient of 2016 Miss Kansas Overall Talent award.

Taylor Walper

Taylor Walper graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance in 2019. She studied under Susan Shields at George Mason University and under Judith Chitwood at Northern Illinois University. She began her dance studies in 2000 with pre-professional training from 2007-2016 at Peoria Ballet under the direction of Eric Yetter, Rebekah Von Rathonyi, Servy Gallardo, and Ian Poulis. Taylor also supplemented her training by attending summer intensives at Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Ballet Magnificat (Costa Rica), Bates Dance Festival, Grand Rapids Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance, Perry Mansfield Performing Arts School, River North Dance Chicago, and the Suzanne Farrell Workshop for Young Dancers at Florida State University. Taylor has long had an interest in dance pedagogy. She began as a teacher’s assistant in 2010 and started teaching independently in 2014. In 2016, she co-developed the curriculum for Peoria Ballet’s Creative Movement through Pre-Ballet (age 3-6) classes and served as a rehearsal director/assistant for the annual production of The Nutcracker. As a Freshman honors student at George Mason University, Taylor was selected as a university-wide finalist for the Schwartzstein Award for her research on dance student retention and dropout trends. She was able to continue her dance pedagogy research throughout her collegiate studies. While attending the Bates Dance Festival Intensive, Taylor took classes in dance pedagogy and worked with other teachers and studio owners. She attended the 2018 and 


2019 Self-Employment in the Arts conferences in Chicago where she networked with many successful art professionals from around the country. In August of 2019, Taylor moved to Florida to complete an internship with the Walt Disney World company. There she was able to learn from choreographers and other entertainment leaders throughout the company. Outside of teaching and dancing, Taylor has been heavily involved in the inner-workings of operating a dance studio business. Taylor interned as an office assistant at Peoria Ballet from 2014-2016 and at Ballet 5:8 during the summer of 2017. Backstage Taylor has a passion for stage managing and performance directing. She has stage managed several dance productions from 2017-2019 and directed two full productions while in college.  

Alexandra Buchko

Ms. Buchko began her ballet training at the age of five at Peoria Ballet where she was first taught by Rebekah von Rathonyi. With Peoria Ballet, she danced in numerous Nutcrackers, the world premier of Wings, Cinderella, and Giselle. She attended Youth America Grand Prix twice and spent two summers at the American Ballet Theater summer intensives. Ms. Buchko has been an active participant in Peoria theater for years, performing roles such as Jenny in The Shape of Things, Rosie in Bye Bye Birdie, Madam Giry in the Phantom of the Opera, and Tantomile in Cats. After high school, she attended Millikin University as a musical theater major where she was selected to understudy and perform a piece with Thodos Dance Chicago. She was a member of the dance ensemble her sophomore year. Ms. Buchko transferred to Bradley University in January of 2014 where she is currently majoring in theater performance and English. She made her debut with Cornerstone Academy as Alice in Alice in Wonderland. Ms. Buchko gives all glory and thanks to God. She also feels much gratitude toward her family and friends for their love and support and deep appreciation for Ms. Rebekah and her continued inspiration and encouragement.

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