SCHOOL OF NASHVILLE BALLET Leadership & FACULTY
Nicole Koenig danced professionally with Nashville Ballet for over a decade, performing numerous soloist and principal roles in ballets by Balanchine, Petipas, Choo San Goh, Lynne Taylor-Corbett and original roles by Paul Vasterling. A passionate teacher, Ms. Koenig received her Certificate in Ballet Teaching Studies from the prestigious Royal Academy of Dance in London in 2007 and attended the teacher’s seminar of Canada’s National Ballet School in 2008. Emphasizing anatomical correctness, musicality and artistry, Ms. Koenig’s philosophy fosters longevity and artistic success in her students’ careers. She has received an outstanding teacher award from the Tennessee Governor’s School as well as the Outstanding Dance Educator award from the Tennessee Association of Dance. She has coached dancers for Youth American Grand Prix, Boston International Ballet Competition and the Jackson International Ballet Competition. She has also coached principal couples in Nashville Ballet’s productions of Sleeping Beauty and Nashville’s Nutcracker.
Ms. Kastelnik has been a professional performer for more than 11 years. She received early training with Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and Kathleen Magyar before pursuing a Bachelor's Degree from Point Park University's Conservatory of Performing Arts. She studied and performed with Laura Alonso's Centro Pro Danza in Havana, Cuba in 1996 and after completing her B.A. in 1999, Ms. Kastelnik danced with Nashville Ballet for 10 years. She has performed in various notable works by George Balanchine, Frederick Ashton, James Canfield, Stephen Mills and Salvatore Aiello, as well as in world premieres by Paul Vasterling, Julia Adam and Heather Maloy. She has been featured in many classical soloist roles in Swan Lake, Giselle, and The Sleeping Beauty. Ms. Kastelnik has also performed with Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance in Asheville, NC and is a founding company member of Nashville in Motion. Previous teaching experience includes Middle Tennessee State University, Franklin School of Performing Arts, and Classic Steps School of Children's Ballet in Clarksville, TN. Ms. Kastelnik is also a frequent guest master teacher at Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. A certified Pilates instructor, Ms. Kastelnik is passionate about helping clients feel strong and heal their injuries, and incorporates this practice into her ballet teaching.
A Nashville native, Mr. Ujima first studied dance at Nashville School of the Arts (1995-1996) and Nashville Ballet (1996-1999). He continued his training at New World School of the Arts (1999-2001) in Miami, FL and went on to dance in Nashville Ballet’s Second Company (2002-2003) before enjoying a successful career in contemporary dance with Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble (2003-2007) and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (2008-2014) under his stage name, Hershel Deondre Horner III. Mr. Ujima has performed works by choreographers such as Alvin Ailey, Donald McKayle, Milton Myers, Matt Maddox, Susanna Linke, Jose Limon, and Christopher Huggins.
Kathy Callaghan came to the School of Nashville Ballet after working for 35 years as a teacher and Artistic Director of Centennial Youth Ballet. During that time she staged productions specifically geared toward young people including abbreviated, narrated Mini-Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty as well as youth friendly versions of Coppelia, Raymonda and Paquita.
Ms. Callaghan received her early dance training in Oak Ridge, TN. She majored in ballet at Butler University, where she was a principal dancer with the University Ballet Company. Her career as a professional dancer included Pennsylvania Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Dayton Ballet, and the Oakland Ballet. She danced the lead role in Giselle with the Tennessee Dance Theatre in 1981.
She was accredited as a Certified Teacher after completing the national training curriculum at the American Ballet Theatre in New York. She has spent four summers studying the Vaganova syllabus with John White and has completed teachers’ courses at Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Canada’s National Ballet School and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Additionally, she has studied with Dmitri Roudnev, Stanislav Issaev, Andre Ustinov, Bryan Koulman, Finis Jhung and Ruth Petrinovic.
Ms. Callaghan has served on the board of the Tennessee Association of Dance where her duties included chairing the organization’s scholarship committee. In 2009 TAD recognized her with the Tennessee Outstanding Dance Educator award.
Katelynn Cofer received her BFA in Theater and Dance from the University of Wyoming in 2010. While in college, she had the privilege of working with several guest choreographers including former member of Pilobolus, Peter Pucci, and Graham Lustig from The American Repertory Ballet. She was also featured in an original contemporary ballet, Six Songs from Ellis Island, which was selected as the runner-up performance for the American College Theater Festival at the Kennedy Center.
Not limited by traditional dance styles, Mrs. Cofer has a strong background in aerial dance, which has taken her to open air performances at Vedauwoo, one of Wyoming’s most visited National Parks. While living in Maryland, she spent a season dancing with Ballet Theater of Maryland and two seasons with Bowen McCauley Dance Company. She was privileged to have performed three original works on the Kennedy Center stage, Lucy's Local Playlist, Fire and Air and Tableaux. Mrs. Cofer has had the joy of teaching and choreographing for Bowen McCauley Dance’s outreach program, Maryland Performing Arts Center, Maryland Youth Ballet and Prima Performance Studio of Franklin, Tennessee. She has also expanded her teaching practices into fitness classes such as Barre, Pilates and Zumba. All of Mrs. Cofer's experiences have shaped her dream of becoming a well-rounded teacher, performer and choreographer, and she is inspired to continue her dream with School of Nashville Ballet.
Krissy Johnson Dodge has spent the last decade of her life as a professional ballet dancer with the Nashville Ballet. She began dancing 23 years ago and has been practicing yoga for the past eight years. She was first introduced to yoga as a recovery method after sustaining an injury while dancing. After falling in love with the practice and discovering the numerous benefits of yoga, Mrs. Dodge decided to further her dedication by becoming a licensed instructor.
She has studied with Leah Lillios King, Liz Workman Mead and Rachelle Martinez and received her certification from the Kali Yuga Yoga Teacher Training Program. Mrs. Dodge has a 13 year teaching career in classical ballet and contemporary dance with students ranging from the age of three to mature adult.
Ballet, Musical Theater
Julia Eisen started her dance training at The Ballet School of Chapel Hill, N.C. where she studied ballet, modern and jazz. She was also a member of the internationally recognized North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble. Her extensive preparation to become a professional dancer led her to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, N.C. After graduating, Ms. Eisen went on to become a trainee with the Richmond Ballet in Virginia, and was invited to perform with Terpsicorps Theater of Dance in Asheville, North Carolina.
In 2010, Ms. Eisen moved to Nashville to become a member of Nashville Ballet’s second company, NB2. She was promoted to Apprentice in 2012 and became a full Company Member in the spring of 2013. She has performed in memorable works such as Paul Vasterling’s Carmina Burana, Jirí Kylián's Petite Mort, Christopher Bruce's Moonshine, Salvatore Aiello's Afternoon of a Faun and Gina Patterson’s …but the flowers have yet to come.
Eric Harris started teaching dance at a very young age. When he was 15 years old he converted his mother’s garage into a dance studio where he taught clogging to neighborhood children. A year later he took his tape deck and tap shoes on the road to teach clogging in small towns throughout northern Utah and southern Idaho.
Like all cloggers at that time, it was Mr. Harris's goal to travel to Nashville to compete in the National Clogging Championship. His dreams for a national clogging title never came to pass however, due to a newfound love for the art of ballet. After a short period of taking ballet classes for adult beginners, he made the decision to leave home to study ballet at the North Carolina School of The Arts. It was there that Mr. Harris trained under Duncan Noble and Melissa Hayden among other illustrious instructors.
He returned to northern Utah where he finished his training under the legendary dance pioneer Willum Christensen. In an odd twist of fate, Mr. Harris found himself in Nashville, the place of his childhood dreams, where he spent more than a decade performing with Nashville Ballet. During his time in Nashville Ballet, he performed many roles and found his specialty in dramatic character roles including Carabosse the Wicked Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet and, most notably, Uncle Drosselmeyer in Nashville's Nutcracker.
Eventually Mr. Harris returned to his teaching roots and has spent the past three years on the faculty of the School of the Nashville Ballet where he teaches other adult students who have discovered their love for the art of ballet.
Mollie Sansone began her ballet training with Melissa Hale-Coyle, Claudia Folts, Lisa Leone, Rebecca and Daniel Wiley, and Maniya Barredo. She also studied at the Joffrey Midwest Workshop, the Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory, and Atlanta Ballet.
When Ms. Sansone first joined Nashville Ballet's second company, she performed with the main company in several series. Since joining the main company in 2006, she has performed works by renowned choreographers such as Jirí Kylián, Christopher Bruce, Brian Enos, Salvatore Aiello, Paul Vasterling, Gina Patterson, and Christopher Stuart. Some of Ms. Sansone’s feature roles include Juliet in Vasterling’s Romeo & Juliet, Lady Macbeth in Vasterling’s Macbeth, The Chosen One in Aiello’s Right of Spring, and the Sugar Plum Fairy in Vasterling’s Nashville’s Nutcracker.
Ms. Sansone has danced in residency with MOTION Dance Theater for several summers, where she has performed works choreographed by Nick Kepley, Gabrielle Lamb, and James Gregg.
Jon Upleger began training seriously in 1997 under the direction of Petrus Bosman and David Keener at the Virginia School of the Arts. Upon graduation, he received the school's prestigious Dean's Award and then joined Nashville Ballet as an Apprentice in 2000.
During his time at Nashville Ballet, Mr. Upleger has performed roles from such varied repertoire as Romeo in Paul Vasterling's Romeo & Juliet, the Sugar Plum Cavalier in Nashville’s Nutcracker, Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake and Albrecht in Giselle. Other leading roles include Salvatore Aiello's Satto, Sarah Slipper's Ploughing the Dark, Vasterling's Awaiting Redemption, the Protagonist in Vasterling’s Firebird, Twyla Tharp's Sinatra Suite, Vasterling’sCinderella, Carmina Burana, Peter Pan, and The Ben Folds Project.
In addition to performing with Nashville Ballet’s company, Mr. Upleger also performs with Configurations Dance Theater in New York, Missouri Ballet Theater and Terpsicorps Theater of Dance in Asheville, N.C. He also recently taught men’s class and pas de deux to students from across the country at Nashville Ballet’s Summer Intensive.
Judson Veach trained for 11 years with Columbus Dance Theatre (CDT) where he studied under his father and Artistic Director, Tim Veach, as well as teachers Anne Adair, Kennet Oberly, Roberta Taylor, Scott Brown and other CDT faculty. After completing two years as an apprentice at CDT, he went on to a year of study on full scholarship at the School of American Ballet. While there, he danced the principal role in Atonement by Canadian choreographer Josh Bemish as part of the New York City Ballet's Choreographic Workshop.
Mr. Veach attended The Julliard School Summer Dance Intensive in 2007. In the summer of 2008 he attended the Chautauqua Summer Dance Institute where he was awarded the Chautauqua Dance Circle Scholarship. In 2009 he received a full scholarship to the summer and year round programs at the School of American Ballet studying under Peter Martins, Jock Soto, Andrej Kramarevsky, Sean Lavery, Johnathan Stafford and Peter Frame.
After attending the summer intensive program at Nashville Ballet in 2010, he joined the company as an apprentice the same year, and was promoted to full company member in 2011. His credits at Nashville Ballet include dancing Sugar Plum Cavalier and Snow king in Paul Vasterling’s Nashville’s Nutcracker, Dracula in Vasterling’sDracula, Mercutio in Vasterling’s Romeo & Juliet, Dark Angel in George Balanchine’s Serenade, and Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort, as well as appearing as a soloist in the world premiere of Vasterling’s The Ben Folds Project. Mr. Veach has also performed in works choreographed by Christopher Bruce, Gina Patterson, Brian Enos and Christopher Stuart.
Gerald Watson began his formal dance training at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School and the Academy of Ballet Arts in St. Petersburg, Fla. Upon graduating high school, he continued his studies at the Boston Conservatory and graduated in 2012 with a BFA in Contemporary Dance. While at the Conservatory, Mr. Watson performed works by Jose Limon, Ohad Naharin, David Lichine, Kathy Posin, Parren Ballard, and Danielle Agami. He has also been a guest artist with Commonwealth Ballet Company, BalletRox Urban Nutcracker, and The Diva Day Foundation, as well as creating his own works for the Juventas Music Group and Berklee College of Music.
Mr. Watson also attended multiple summer programs on scholarship, including Boston Conservatory Summer Dance, Alonzo King Lines Ballet, BalletMet Columbus, Nashville Ballet, Bates Dance Festival, and the Academy of Ballet Arts.
In 2012, Mr. Watson joined Nashville Ballet’s second company, NB2, and has performed works by Paul Vasterling, Banning Bouldin, Christopher Stuart and Bat Abbit. Mr. Watson became a Nashville Ballet Apprentice in 2014 and was promoted to Company Member in 2016. He is currently on faculty with School of Nashville Ballet's Children's Program.