Artistic Team & Staff

Artistic Team

Sara Clayborne, Director

Originally from New York, Sara trained at the Ballet School of New York under the direction of Diana Byer and Sallie Wilson. In 2001, she graduated from the Professional Children’s School in New York City and began to dance professionally with New York Theatre Ballet. While dancing with NYTB, Sara had the opportunity to tour the United States and perform at the Florence Gould Hall in New York City. In 2004, Sara moved to Richmond, Virginia to join the Richmond Ballet trainee program. While at the Richmond Ballet, she performed with the professional company in such ballets as The Sleeping Beauty, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and original choreography by Richmond Ballet faculty. She danced with Richmond Ballet for two years before being asked to join Starr Foster Dance Project. In 2007, Sara co-founded the Charlottesville Ballet, putting her myriad of experiences to work while keeping her love of performance alive in her dual role as dancer and director. She retired from the stage in 2012 in order to devote her time to the growth of Charlottesville Ballet.

Emily Hartka, Director

Emily Hartka fell in love with ballet at the age of five and began dance classes at Roanoke Ballet Theatre in her hometown of Roanoke, VA. She attended summer intensives at the American Ballet Theatre and on scholarship with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Emily spent her senior year of high school at the Virginia School of the Arts in Lynchburg, VA and danced as a trainee with the Richmond Ballet. In 2008, she relocated to Charlottesville to found the Charlottesville Ballet and to attend the University of Virginia, where she completed her Bachelor of Arts in Nonprofit Management & Arts Administration. Emily serves as Co-Director and leads the marketing and development efforts of Charlottesville Ballet. In 2019, she completed training in the Dance for PD® program by the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn, NY and is excited to grow the CB’s Movement for Parkinson’s program. Emily is thankful to all who have made this journey possible and looks forward to the Ballet’s 15th season.

Keith Lee, Artist Laureate, Director of Diversity & Inclusion, and Resident Choreographer

Keith Lee–Artist Laureate, Resident Choreographer, and Director of Diversity & Inclusion–is a master teacher and choreographer originating from the Bronx, New York where he trained at the High School of Performing Arts in NYC. In 1969 Mr. Lee joined American Ballet Theatre and was promoted to the rank of soloist the following year. He then pursued his career at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre as their ballet master. He has choreographed works for American Ballet Theatre, the Washington Ballet, the Geneva Ballet, the Oakland Ballet, the Garden State Ballet, Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, the Lexington Ballet, and the Charlottesville Ballet. Mr. Lee now calls Central Virginia home, and continues to work as a freelance choreographer, teacher, and performing arts coordinator. Mr. Lee is excited to expand his role of Director of Diversity & Inclusion for the Charlottesville Ballet.

Caitlin Lennon, Artistic Associate & Director of Repertoire

Caitlin Lennon, originally from Bozeman, Montana, began her intensive training at the Queen City Ballet in Helena, Montana. She spent her summers studying at Juilliard, American Ballet Theatre in New York, Atlanta Ballet, Houston Ballet, and Ballet West on scholarship. Her travels across the country ended at the Richmond Ballet, where she was accepted into the trainee program on full scholarship and danced for two seasons. She also taught dance in the public schools with Richmond Ballet’s Minds In Motion program from 2007-2015. In 2008, Caitlin joined the Charlottesville Ballet as a founding member of the professional company. From 2015-2019, Caitlin worked as the Company Manager for the professional company, in addition to continuing her performances as a dancer. In March of 2019, Caitlin retired from the stage and accepted the role of Director of Repertoire, continuing her work with the professional company and trainee program. In addition to her work with Charlottesville Ballet, Caitlin is a licensed Realtor ® in the state of Virginia. Caitlin is looking forward to her 15th season with Charlottesville Ballet!

Emily Cloyd, Artistic Associate

Emily Cloyd grew up in Vienna, VA, training at The Russell School of Ballet. After receiving her high school diploma with a concentration in ballet from The University of North Carolina School of the Arts, she performed with Ballet Austin, first as a trainee and then as an apprentice, before joining Nashville Ballet’s Second Company, NB2. She then returned to her home state of Virginia, receiving her BA and Master of Public Health from the University of Virginia. While at UVA, Emily performed with the university’s Dance Department and served as the president of Rhapsody Ballet Ensemble, a student-run ballet performance organization. She joined CBA’s faculty in 2021 and is excited to be back for this upcoming year!

Kristina Edwards, Artistic Associate

Kristina Ancil Edwards, originally from Pittsburgh, PA, received her formal training with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School, where she completed both the Schenley High School and Graduate Programs. She has performed professionally with the Pittsburgh Opera, Louisville Ballet, American National Ballet, Chicago Ballet, Albany Berkshire Ballet, Peoria Ballet, Nomi Dance Company, Chicago Folks Operetta, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Winifred Haun & Dancers, ClancyWorks Dance Company, I.C. Movement Project, Company E, and Motion X Dance DC.  Kristina has had the pleasure of teaching ballet and contemporary extensively throughout the Chicago and the Washington D.C. metro regions. Her credits include Visceral Dance Center, The Washington School of Ballet, BalletNova, and adjunct faculty at George Mason University. In addition to performing and teaching, her choreography has been featured on the dancers of Nomi Dance Company (2012, 2013), Classical Repertory Dance Ensemble (2016, 2017, 2018), Errant Movement (2016), and Motion X Dance DC (2018). Kristina, along with her husband and son, recently relocated to Richmond, where she serves as adjunct faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University and guest teaches in the city. She is absolutely thrilled to be part of the Charlottesville Ballet faculty and enjoys leading company class!

Jen Kelly, Artistic Associate

Jennifer Kelly has been energized by the study of movement for her entire life. She holds a BA in Dance from James Madison University. After college, she joined the modern dance scene in the San Francisco Bay Area until relocating to Charlottesville. She spent over ten years exploring dance/theater performance with the Zen Monkey Project. In 2003, her entrepreneurial spirit inspired her to create The Hip Joint, a dance and yoga boutique. After running the shop for twelve years, she sold it to a local family, and is proud that (under a different name) it continues to serve the local arts community. Jen is a NASM certified personal trainer and an AmSAT certified Alexander Technique teacher. She is currently getting certified in The Art of Breathing with Jessica Wolf of Yale University and will graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2023 with a Clinical Master of Social Work degree. Jen has been the Alexander Technique teacher for the trainees at the Charlottesville Ballet since 2014.

Mari Mori, Artistic Associate

Mari Mori began her ballet training at the Yasuko Miyashita Ballet School in Kyoto, Japan. She studied with Hideo Fukagawa and subsequently joined his ballet company. She continued her studies with Madam Nora Kiss, Jean Clould Ruiz, and Finis Jhung. Mari danced with the American Repertory Dance Theatre and the Covenant Ballet Theatre in New York. After moving to the East Coast, she taught at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Wake Forest University, and the North Carolina Dance Festival. Mari moved to Lynchburg, VA in 2009 to teach at Sweet Briar College and the Virginia School of the Arts (VSA). Upon the closure of VSA, she founded Central Virginia Ballet in 2011 to continue to provide instruction to her Lynchburg-area students. She is very happy to serve as Artistic Associate this season.

Kerry Shea, Artistic Associate

Kerry Shea’s company credits include Ballet West, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Sacramento Ballet, CONTINUUM Contemporary Ballet and Lydia Johnson Dance. She served as Associate Artistic Director of LJD. Kerry performed the classics as well as an extensive list of George Balanchine’s repertoire. For the documentary “Sensuality and Nationalism in Romantic Ballet”, and Ballet Archives, Kerry performed the solo “L’esmerelda” and pas de deux “L’torrolene”. Graduating with high honors, she earned her BFA in Ballet Performance from the University of Utah. She is a Certified Progressing Ballet Technique Teacher and Pilates Instructor. She is passionate about training dancers with the proper biomechanics for peak performance, injury prevention and rehabilitation. This year she was honored to join Doctors for Dancers as an International Dance Specialist. In Charlottesville, Kerry enjoys teaching from her boutique Pilates studio.

Ruth Sherman, Artistic Associate

Ruth Olga Sherman was Miss Dance of New England 1999. She performed with Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Company and Chicago Tap Theater for four seasons. After graduating from Northwestern, Ruth returned as an Adjunct Faculty Jazz teacher. As well, she taught at Giordano School and Master classes in Hawaii, Florida, Latvia, Germany, Mexico and Bruges. In 2008 Ruth moved to Berlin, Germany where she performed with Schindowski Ballet and Sidi Larbi Eastman Company in the Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, Germany and La Scala in Milan, Italy. In 2019, Ruth was the Resident Supervisor for the Alonzo King Lines Summer Program, and in 2020 Ruth received her Masters in Dance pedagogy and choreography from Mills College. In addition to teaching in the Academy, Ruth works with the professional company and will be choreographing for the trainee program this season.

Anna Sides, Artistic Associate

Anna is from Raleigh, NC and attended The National Academy of Arts in Champagne, Illinois. While at the academy she trained under Petrus Bosman, Christine Hennessey and Robert Dicello among many others. Anna danced professionally for 14 years with companies throughout the US. Some of her favorite principle roles include contemporary pieces such as A Maiden Who Descended from Heaven and Graceland to story ballets such as Coppelia and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. After retiring from Ballet West in 2001 Anna moved to Virginia to be closer to home. She has been teaching for over 30 years, all levels from children through adults and professionals. Anna is thrilled to be teaching in Charlottesville on a regular basis now!

Pedro Szalay, Artistic Associate

Szalay was born to Hungarian parents and is a native of La Guaira, Venezuela where he started dancing in local school by Ms. Machado.  He received a scholarship at Ballet Nacional of Caracas, coached by Vladimir Isayev and many other national and international teachers. There he danced many of Nebrada’s choreographed pieces.  Later he traveled to New York City to be coached by Madame Darvash and performed with New York Dance Theatre directed by Frank Ohman. After New York, Szalay was company dancer with Richmond Ballet from 1996 to 2006 where he was an inspiration for many choreographers and he danced pieces from Balanchine, Burn, Canaporoli, Lang, Soleau, Stevenson, Orff, Wainrot, Winslett and many others. He was also a guest performer and choreographer with the Latin Ballet of Virginia.

Katherine Nies, Accompanist

Katherine Nies is a classically-trained musician with more than 17 years of experience in piano performance, vocal performance, and accompanying. She graduated summa cum laude from Albertus Magnus College with a Bachelor of Arts in English, Spanish, and Creative Writing. After spending a summer studying linguistics at Georgetown University, Katherine combined her love of music and visual arts by diving into cinematography, producing two short films, acting and singing in West Side Story, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and performing with orchestras and other ensembles. She has been a resident of New England, D.C., and Honolulu, and is now back in Virginia, collaborating with musicians and performing. She is thrilled to be a part of Charlottesville Ballet’s wonderful community of artists.


Ali Brent, Finance Manager

Ali Brent grew up in Greene County and fell in love with ballet at a young age. She studied dance in Charlottesville at “The Dance Studio” under Nan Rennie and Daphne Sandridge, and at Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington). After college, Ali enjoyed working with children at a home for abused and neglected youth, and then with the elderly at an assisted living home. She then worked at Capital One, which led to a position in finance with the Marine Corps, where she met her husband. In 2005, the Brents moved back to Greene County to raise their family. As Charlottesville Ballet’s Finance Manager, Ali enjoys serving the community and furthering the organization’s goal to make dance accessible to everyone.

Cassidy Burk, Communications Coordinator

Cassidy Burk, a native of Leesburg, Virginia, trained for 15 years at The Dance Academy of Loudoun where she fell in love with all styles of dance. While in high school, in addition to her dance training, Cassidy was her school’s yearbook editor-in-chief where she developed a passion for graphic design and book layout. After attending Point Park University and graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in ballet and jazz, Cassidy joined the Charlottesville Ballet as Company Artist and CBA Faculty member. After helping to make the performance programs on the side during her first years at Charlottesville Ballet, Cassidy pioneered the role of Communications Coordinator, and is excited to continue that role this season!

Amy Martel, Operations Manager

Amy Martel loves athletic endeavors of all kinds and deeply appreciates the combination of athleticism and beauty of expression that dance communicates between participants and audience. Originally from Massachusetts, her family moved to Greene County when she was 6 years old. She took several years of ballet in her youth, and has enjoyed basketball, track, rugby, triathlons and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Amy has spent most of her career serving children and families as the front office manager for a K-8 private school and most recently as assistant manager of a mixed martial arts gym. After living in Minnesota for the last 20 years, Amy is thrilled to be back in Greene with her family. She brings enthusiasm and warmth to her role as development coordinator for Charlottesville Ballet, with a special fondness for relationship building.

Claudia Strawderman, Development Coordinator

Claudia Strawderman has loved ballet for as long as she can remember. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, she began taking ballet classes with CityDance at the Music Center at Strathmore. At 13, she moved to Istanbul, Turkey, and while there trained in the Royal Academy and Vaganova methods at Etiler Sanat Merkezi. After completing her BA in History at Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, United Kingdom, Claudia moved to Charlottesville and began employment with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello in the Guest Relations Department. Claudia joined Charlottesville Ballet in 2022 and is thrilled to combine her lifelong passion for dance alongside her work on the Development Team.

Kathryn Tokar, Patron Services Coordinator

Kathryn Tokar began her early training at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood, Ohio, under the tutelage of Melanie Szucs. She continued her training at Ohio Dance Theatre and completed summer intensives at Cincinnati Ballet, Next Generation Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. Kathryn also holds a B.A. in Dance Performance and a minor in Biology from Mercyhurst University. Kathryn began her professional career as a founding member of the new Cleveland Ballet and also danced with Lake Erie Ballet and North Pointe Ballet. Kathryn joined Charlottesville Ballet as a Trainee for the 2017-18 season, and she is delighted to share her love of dance by performing with the professional company, teaching in the Academy, and assisting with the growth and development of the organization.