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Cornerstone Academy Instructors

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Jessie Williams

Artistic Director

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

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 von Rathonyi 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, Ms. Lovett in Central Illinois Ballets production of Sweeney Todd, and The Sugarplum Fairy in Central Illinois Ballets 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. During Jessie’s time dancing with Central Illinois Ballet she has served two years as Academy Director and two years as Associate Artistic Director.

Maya de Leon

Academy Director and Principal Dancer

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

Principal Dancer and Resident Choreographer, Instructor

Advanced Ballet; Advanced Modern; Hip-Hop; Advanced & 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 CIB 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

Conditioning

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

Instructor

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; Intermediate Tap​; Level 1 Ballet

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.

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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.

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 after many years of study, performance 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 and 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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