Ballet and Jazz Dance Instructor
Cecchetti - ACSC - CICB
Originally from Italy, Veronica began her professional training at the Open Dance Center in Milan. After studying various types of styles: ballet, pas de deux, modern, contemporary, jazz, tap, flamenco and acrobatic, she obtained her dancing and teaching diploma at the age of 17.
Veronica continued her studies in Madrid (Spain), attending the Escuela Victor Ullate and the Escuela de Ballet Carmina Ocana.
Veronica now holds a Cecchetti teacher (ACSC-CIBC) certificate in ballet and prepares students for ADAPT exams in Jazz, tap and acro.
With a strong professional dance career in Europe, the United States and Canada, Veronica has extensive stage experience in fields as diverse as entertainment, musical comedy and television. She worked in various environments such as theatre, television, casinos, entertainment parks and cruise ships.
She took part in many musical reviews, production shows and operas around the world. She has held the position of dance captain in some of the productions that she has worked for. Most recent performances: Best of Broadway (Tour of Quebec and Egypt Cairo Opera House), Holiday Extravaganza (Tropicana, Atlantic City), Les pêcheurs de perles (Opera de Montreal, Place des Arts) etc. Veronica has also developed the technique of tissue and aerial dance, where she mastered the free composition of two parts: body and tissues.
She has been teaching dance for several studios in Montreal as and is also choreographing for several competitions.
Veronica enjoys creating as much as dancing. She has been recognized as serious and professional dance teacher.
Veronica choreographed Ondek, a short dance film directed by Louis-Martin Charest. Set to "We Are Young" by the musical group FUN., the film unexpectedly uses hip hop and jazz dance as the medium to convey the narrative in our hero’s story.
Ballet and Pas de Deux Instructor
Luca Carano began dancing at the age of 9 at the oldest ballet school in Italy, the San Carlo Dance Theatre in Naples, under the Direction of Anna Razzi. In 1998, he studies at La Scala Theatre Ballet Academy in Milan, under the Direction of AnnaMaria Prina. He danced in ballet productions such as The Nutcracker, Bohémienne, Women, Hommage à Giuseppe Verdi, Pinocchio and La Bottega Fantastica.
He is awarded the San Carlo Foundation Bursary in 2001 in recognition of his exceptional technical and artistic talent. In 2003, he graduates as a Professional Dancer from Europe’s largest opera house, the Teatro di San Carlo, performing Raymonda. He also performed as a first dancer in Snow White, Le Spectre de la Rose, Les Sylphides and Romeo and Juliette. In 2003, Luca Carano dances with the Ballet des Jeunes d’Europe in France under the direction of Jean-Charles Gil.
In 2004, he joins the Royal Ballet Van Vlaanderen Company in Belgium as a soloist in The Nutcracker and La Bayadère with Director Robert Denvers. In 2005, Luca Carano dances with La Scala Theatre Ballet Company in Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Europa Riconosciuta and Excelsior, under the direction of Frederic Olivieri. He also performed in Roland Petit’s Production Ma Pavlova and since 2006, Luca danced in numerous productions and lyric opera including Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, Carmen, Onegin, Cantata, Napoli Zompa e Vola, Zorba il Greco, La Traviata, Carmina Burana, and La Vedova Allegra.
He also performed in one of Andrea Bocelli’s concert in Naples interpreting the role of Pulcinella. Throughout the years, Luca has been teaching and choreographing classical ballet, repertoire, pas de deux, contemporary and neoclassical pieces. He has judged dance competitions and assessed students’ technical progress in year-end exams. Since 2013, Luca has been part of Ballet Ouest Company under the direction of Claude Caron. He has performed in the Nutcracker, Couples and Mechanical Waltz.
Ballet and Contemporary Instructor
Born in Montreal, Danielle started dancing as early as four years old. She trained for a decade under the direction of Paula Urrutia, focussing primarily on ballet while continuing to pursue various dance disciplines, learning from Veronica Felisi and others.
Throughout her pre-professional years, Danielle attended several summer intensives in the U.S., including The Rock School and Alvin Ailey, and also completed her Advanced II Exam of the Cecchetti Method.
Upon graduation, Danielle moved to Austria to join Europaballett, where she danced as a company member for three years. This winter, she will return to Vienna to continue her passion pursuit, joining a new company in the cast of an upcoming musical opera.
Danielle is thrilled to be a part of her dance home’s faculty. She hopes to help our aspiring dancers gain confidence in their technique and help them marry it with their artistry and musicality.
Cecchetti - ACC-CICB
Stéphanie began her professional dance training at the Conservatoire de Danse de Montréal where she studied: ballet, pointes, repertoire, pas de deux, character, modern, jazz, tap, flamenco and african dance.
Passionate about ballet, she continued her studies with Paula Urrutia in various schools such as Ballet Montreal Performing Arts School and has completed her Advanced I exam in the prestigious Cecchetti method.
In 2007, Stéphanie had the chance to dance in Ballet Ouest production of the Nutcracker and performed numerous shows on tour with the company.
While taking teacher’s training courses with Paula Urrutia, in preparation for the Cecchetti teacher certificate, Stéphanie has discovered a great passion for teaching. Since 2011, she has been teaching creative movement, pre-ballet, ballet and pointes to students of all ages in recreational and competitive studios around the Montreal region.
After completing her Cecchetti Associate certificate, she continues to take teacher’s training courses and workshops regularly. Additionally, Stéphanie is a certified teacher of Progressing Ballet Technique (PBT).
Stéphanie is thrilled to be part of Ballet Montreal’s faculty and excited to share her passion with her students!
Ballet and Contemporary Instructor
Daria Kruszel began her ballet education in the West Island, and later perfected her training
studying under Daniel Seillier (formerly of Marquis de Cuevas and Paris Opera ballets, former Ballet Master of NBoC and LGBC) for ten years. She joined Ballet Ouest de Montreal as a corps de ballet member and was promoted to First Soloist, as well as a Principal dancer for Les Ballets Contemporains de Montreal (defunct). She also danced in films, such as The Audrey Hepburn Story, The Greatest Game Ever Played, and The Reagans and was honoured to dance as The Ballerina at Québécois celebrity Rachid Badouri’s wedding ceremony.
She began her teaching career almost 20 years ago, and has taught every level of ballet at several Montreal-area schools and has choreographed neo-classical pieces for competitive students.
She has also had the pleasure of teaching specialized ballet classes for figure skaters for the past 15 years, and had the privilege of teaching such renowned skaters as Canadian, World, and Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, as well as French, European, World and Olympic Champions Gabriella Papdakis and Guillaume Cizeron, among others.
PBT certified, Daria continues to teach skaters, young dancers and mature students alike, and is very happy to be joining the incredible team of instructors at Ballet Montreal.
Jacqueline Van Aelst
Ballet, Tap and Jazz Instructor
Cecchetti - ACC-CICB
After starting at the age of 7 and entering the Ballet Montreal Performing Arts School a few years later, Jacqueline Van Aelst confirmed her passion for dance. She joined the vocational program at the age of 15 and is currently training 35 hours per week in this program as she approaches a professional ballet career. Jacqueline is skilled in ballet, pas de deux, contemporary, modern, jazz and tap. She has attended several prestigious summer intensives – including at the Royal Ballet School in London (2023), the Dutch National Ballet Academy (2022) and the Houston Ballet Academy (2019) – during which she had the opportunity to work with many different world-renowned choreographers, teachers and professional dancers, including Mayara Magri and Itziar Mendizabal.
At the distinguished ballet competition, Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP), Jacqueline was awarded top 12 in the senior classical category and top 24 in the senior contemporary category. She also received 1st place for a neo-classical duet with an invitation to the YAGP finals.
Jacqueline has performed in numerous full length ballets in the Ballet Montreal Junior Company. Starting as a member of the corps de ballet, she made her way up to a soloist and then to the role of the principal dancer. She has performed the roles of Myrtha in the production of Giselle, Kitri in Don Quixote and Nikiya in La Bayadère.
After completing the Intermediate and Advanced level Cecchetti examinations, Jacqueline successfully completed her Cecchetti Associate certification while continuing her training at the Ballet Montreal Performing Arts School.
Dance is Jacqueline’s greatest passion in life and it brings her so much joy to share her love of dance with younger generations.
A third generation dancer with B.A. in Dance Kinesiology, Saxon has the versatility to work with companies like Cirque du Soleil, Moment Factory, W&M Physical Theater (Poland), DJD and Blueprint Dance Company.
Her choreography has been featured in the film Athletes in Motion for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. One featured at InShadow Film Festival and the Radio-Canada series, Les Dieux de la Danse. She has worked as Artistic Director for Art-Terre and Soul Projexions before starting her creative company Juxtapose.
Saxon has collaborated with the fashion industry choreographing for Y!D.N.A. Collection, Saco
International, Loreal, Filler Magazine, X- presion (Madrid) and Noize (London). Her creations have been presented for Royal Albert Hall in London, Dragonfly Orchestra in China, le Zenith in Paris and a career highlight at the incredible Kremlin Palace in Moscow.
Elljay embarked on his professional dance journey at 18 in Calgary, following his training at esteemed institutions such as the Alberta Ballet School, Edmonton School of Ballet, and L'École supérieure de ballet du Québec. He has had the opportunity to perform in the most prominent productions in Quebec, working alongside prestigious companies such as Ballet Ouest de Montréal, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Festival d'Opéra de Québec, Ballet Montréal Performing Arts, Compagnie Kunal Ranchod and Piedmont Dance Theatre. In 2019, he took on the position of lead male dancer at Kittiwake Dance Theatre, performing choreography created by Martin Vallée, Edgar Zendejas, and Nicola Hawkins. Continuing to develop his artistic expertise, Elljay remains an active and influential figure within the local dance community, now situated in Montreal.
Acro and Tap Instructor
Meghan has been teaching competitive dance for 10 years, winning several choreography awards and overalls. In recent years she has pursued casting and choreography for music videos with Montreal and Toronto-based artists. Her passion is to bring dance opportunities to her students so they too can enjoy what dance has to offer. She holds a business degree from John Molson School of Business and believes that well-rounded education is important for individual development.
Originally from Grande-Prairie, Alberta, her passion has brought her east, in which she trained and graduated from the Quinte Ballet School of Canada’s Professional Training Program in Belleville, Ontario. She later moved to Toronto, obtaining a performance dance diploma from George Brown College while performing and training with contemporary and ballet companies; Cadence, Pro-Arte Danza, and Ballet Nacional De Cuba. While training, she studied ballet, pas de deux, modern, contemporary, contact improv, lyrical, jazz, tap, flamenco, musical theatre, and hip hop. Following training, she taught at the Quinte Ballet School of Canada while under the Artistic Direction of John Ottmann. She taught in the recreational division, the Professional Summer Program and assisted Francine Liboiron in the Audition Tours. She has been in Montreal for the past 10 years, where she taught competitive teams at Sheila Parkins Academy of Dance. Meghan is certified to prepare students for Acrobatic Arts exams in acro. She is thrilled to be joining the Ballet Montreal Faculty!
Penny worked as a registered Physiotherapist for 8 years before moving to Montreal. She is an avid competitive-recreational runner and has completed 13 marathons including the Boston marathon.
She has always been passionate about fitness and strongly believes that core strength is the foundation to efficient movement in sports and physical activities.
As a former physiotherapist, she is a stickler for proper technique, alignment & slow controlled movement. Maximizing the effectiveness of each exercise is her mission!
When she is not running or at the pilates studio, Penny enjoys skiing, tennis, yoga & hiking. She also has a personal interest in healthy eating & holistic wellness.
Young Children's Program Coordinator
Marie-Noëlle started dancing at the age of five. She began her professionnal training at L’École Supérieure de Danse du Québec at eleven. She then trained with Mr. Daniel Seillier at the Conservatoire de Danse de Montreal. She also attended summer intensives at the National Ballet of Canada, and at Banff Center.
She began her professionnal career dancing with Ballet Ouest de Montréal, and performed classics such as the Nutcracker, Coppelia, and Sleeping Beauty. She was casted as the principal dancer for Giselle. She also danced for many independent projects in the styles of classical ballet, and contemporary. In 2002, she joined Les Sortilèges Danse du Monde, under the direction of Denise Biggi. Within her time with the company, she had the opportunity to explore a wide range of international dances, and worked with esteemed choreographers, such as Noël Strazza, Benjamin Hatcher, and Jean Léger.
In 2007, she signed a contract with Cirque du Soleil, as part of the Zaia creation as a dancer. She thus left Quebec for China, and performed over a thousand shows during the four years that followed, in Macau. She was then introduced to aerial hoops and acrobatics by being with Cirque du Soleil. During her years in Asia, she also taught latin dance.
As she returned to Montreal, Marie-Noëlle took part in the creation and production of the Voix show held at the Ecuries Thèatre from 2014 to 2015, as a co-author, as a choreographer, and as an interprete. She also completed her teaching certification training (200 hours) with Ashtanga Yoga Montreal.
Since teaching has always been an important aspect of her professional life, she is thrilled to join Ballet Montreal’s faculty as the Young Children's Program Coordinator, sharing her passion with students and teachers!
The Guest Teachers
Keita Youssef Bellali
Keita Youssef Bellali grew up in Montreal, Canada, and trained at Ballet Montreal Performing Arts School under the direction of Paula Urrutia before completing his training at the Paris Opera Ballet School. Throughout his education, he actively participated in diverse summer intensives, including those with Canada's National Ballet School and the San Francisco Ballet School.
Following his graduation, Bellali was offered a permanent position as a dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet. His time with the company has
given him the opportunity to perform in a wide array of ballets, including works by Rudolf Noureev, George Balanchine, Roland Petit, Harald Lander, Bournonville, and other esteemed choreographers. Notably, he contributed to Pierre Lacotte's world premiere production
of "Le Rouge et le Noir" and has showcased his versatility in contemporary pieces by Crystal Pite and Wayne McGregor.
Keita is deeply committed to sharing the knowledge and experience he has gained throughout his time in France. He takes immense pleasure in sharing the intricacies and foundational elements of the French Ballet technique to aspiring dancers.
Natsumi Sophia Bellali
Contemporary and Ballet instructor
Cecchetti - ACC-CICB
Natsumi Sophia Bellali grew up in Montreal, Canada, and trained at Ballet Montreal Performing Arts School under the direction of Paula Urrutia. She graduated from the Certificate Program at The Ailey School. She is a founding member of all-women improvisational based contemporary company based in Brooklyn, and worked with Ephrat Asherie, Brice Mousset, Matthew Rushing, Clifton Brown, Jon Ole Olstad, Jacqulyn Buglisi, and performed works by Alvin Ailey. Bellali worked with the Mark Morris Dance Group as an understudy dancer for The Hard Nut last holiday season. Recently, Bellali premiered Calling: a dance with faith at Downtown Arts in Manhattan, an evening length duet production directed by Jesca Prudencio, as part of the Undesirable Elements series with Ping Chong + Company.
Bellali enjoys creating musically specific movement through her technical training to sounds from the African diaspora and to Jamaican rhythms, as she continues to explore music from around the world.
Ballet, Tap and Jazz Instructor
Cecchetti - ACC-CICB
Born in Montreal, Sarah has been dancing since the age of four. She has had the opportunity to train in various styles of dance over the years including ballet, contemporary, tap, jazz, and hip hop at Ballet Montreal Performing Arts School. Her love of dance led her to train in New York City with the legendary Radio City Rockettes, as well as being accepted into various professional training programs across Canada and the United States.
One of Sarah's professional career highlights thus far has been hired as a dancer for an upcoming Disney movie.
Sarah holds credentials within the A.D.A.P.T. syllabus in both Tap and Jazz. As well, she successfully completed her Associate certification in the Cecchetti classical ballet syllabus this past year.
Sarah always looks forward to sharing her passion for dance with her students!
Sophie, who is of Ukrainian origin, was born and raised in Montreal. A proud alumna of Ballet Montreal, she also trained at L’École supérieure de ballet du Québec and Alberta Ballet School. Sophie participated in various summer programs at Ballet West Academy, Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School, Joffrey Ballet Academy and Cincinnati Ballet Academy. She completed her Advanced 2 exam with the Cecchetti Society of Canada. In Montreal, Sophie has had the opportunity to work with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal as well as with Ballet Eddy Toussaint.
Sophie then continued her professional dance career in Europe. From 2014 to 2016, she worked at Opera Wroclawska in Poland where she had the opportunity to perform, amongst others, in Anna Karenina, Don Quixote, La Fille mal gardée, Romeo and Juliet, Coppelia, Nutcracker, Firebird and Swan Lake. During her two seasons in Poland, she also performed in various operas such as Samson and Delilah, Carmen and La Traviata. In 2016, Sophie worked with the English National Ballet, in London, and performed numerous shows at the Royal Alberta Hall for their Swan Lake in-the-round production. Furthermore, Sophie worked with Ballett Dortmund, in Germany, where she had the opportunity to perform classical and contemporary repertoire, such as Alice in Wonderland by Mauro Bigonzetti. In 2019, she was thrilled to return to Montreal to dance in Les Grands Ballets Canadiens’ newest production of Giselle. To complement her passion as a dancer, Sophie has discovered a great love of teaching. She enjoys spending her days teaching at Ballet Montreal, transmitting her knowledge and love of dance to students.
Benny Draier began tap dancing in 1981 with Montreal’s own tap master John Stanzel at les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Over the years, Benny also studied various styles of dance including Ballet, Jazz, Ballroom, Swing, Afro-Caribbean and Folk dance.
He was the artistic director of Montreal’s foremost professional tap dance company “Tapotage” which performed over 200 shows in and around Montreal. Through his various experience and workshops with the great tap masters, Benny excels at a variety of tap dance styles including Rhythm, Jazz and Broadway tap.
Benny’s career highlights include performing on Television, at the Montreal Jazz Festival, several times on stage with the late Gregory Hines at Place des Arts and, most recently, doing “Singing in the Rain” for a national American TV commercial.
Benny has contributed to the art of tap dancing in Montreal, teaching at various dance schools for almost twenty years.
In the course of years, Tina had the chance to train in many dance schools in Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver and most recently in France.
Since 2006, she was able to work in the art world and find contracts that inspired her. In 2008, she was selected to be one of the dancers for Royal Caribbean Productions. She had the chance to perform and travel during this 10-months contract. Then, in April 2011, Tina presented a show of Michael Jackson at the Cairo Opera House in Egypt. She also had the opportunity to perform in several musicals with production Groupe Bazz.
Tina presented a contemporary piece with the company of the choreographer Gyslaine Doté, Virtuose. She also took part of the casting for the opera Manon.
Tina continues to evolve and inspires herself by the multiple talent that surrounds her. She is thrilled to be part of the Ballet Montreal’s teaching Team and looks forward to share her knowledge and passion with her students.