Artistic Team & Staff

Artistic Team

Sara Clayborne, Director/Co-Founder

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 2013 to devote her time to the growth of Charlottesville Ballet. 

Sara is an American Ballet Theatre Certified Teacher in Primary through Level 7 of the ABT National Training Curriculum and puts the ABT Curriculum into practice both at Charlottesville Ballet Academy and within the professional company. Sara is also a graduate of the Community Investment Collaborative (CIC) entrepreneurship program and currently serves on the CIC board of directors. Sara looks forward to nurturing the growth and appreciation for dance among peers and in the community.

Emily Hartka, Director/Co-Founder

Emily fell in love with ballet at the age of five in her hometown of Roanoke, VA and began dance classes at Roanoke Ballet Theatre then continued her training with Unurbat Gunaajav and Michele Goacher. She played violin in the Roanoke Youth Symphony and performed dance roles in collaborative shows with Opera Roanoke, Mill Mountain Theatre, and Radford University. Emily attended summer intensives at the Richmond Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and on scholarship with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. She spent her senior year of high school at the Virginia School of the Arts in Lynchburg, VA under the late Petrus Bosman and then joined the Richmond Ballet as a trainee.

In 2008, she relocated to Charlottesville to co-found the Charlottesville Ballet and to attend the University of Virginia, where she completed her Bachelor of Arts in Nonprofit Management & Arts Administration. She danced in the professional company throughout its first decade and retired from dancing in 2018. She continues to lead the organization’s marketing and development efforts and is thankful to all who have made this 16-year journey possible!

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

Mr. Lee hails from the Bronx, NY and began training at the High School of Performing Arts in NYC. In 1969, Mr. Lee was the first Black soloist to join the American Ballet Theatre and he went on to dance with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. His repertory included the choreography of such luminaries as Alvin Ailey, George Balanchine, Agnes DeMille, Lar Lubovitch, Jerome Robbins, and Antony Tudor, as well as performance credits in theater and broadway musicals. He has served as ballet master for Ailey and Dallas Black Dance Theatre, and Capitol Ballet, and has been teaching and choreographing for dance companies across the world.

Mr. Lee has called Central Virginia home since 1994, and he was named Artist Laureate by the City of Lynchburg where he continues to work as a freelance choreographer, master teacher, and performing arts coordinator. He has shared his vision and 50-year dance legacy with the Charlottesville Ballet since 2008, and he serves as Resident Choreographer and Director of Diversity & Inclusion for the entire organization. 

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 the Ballet, Caitlin is a licensed Realtor® in the state of Virginia. Caitlin is looking forward to her 16th 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. In 2019, Emily deepened her yoga practice at Fly Dog Yoga and became a certified Power Vinyasa teacher. She joined the faculty of Charlottesville Ballet Academy in 2021, and she is excited to be back for this upcoming year working with the professional company and trainee dancers!

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). 

In 2018, Kristina relocated to Richmond, Virginia where she teaches at Stavna Ballet, West End Academy of Dance, and as adjunct faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University. She has set works on both RADAR Dance and Stavna Ballet and is continuing her performing career with the newly formed Conflux Dance Theater. She enjoys spending her free time with her husband and two sons exploring Central Virginia.

Ty Cooper Grace, Artistic Associate and Choreographer

Ty Cooper Grace began their terpsichorean voyage at the Woodside High School and the Eastern Virginia School of the Performing Arts under the instruction of Dr. Mary Ann Laverty and Sandra Ballastrachi. After graduation, Ty spent several years in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Dance & Choreography Program while also dancing at Richmond Ballet. Ty has performed at the Black College Dance Festival, the American Dance Festival, and as a guest artist with EDGEWORKS Dance Theater and the Starr Foster Dance Project. In 2008, they relocated to Charlottesville to become a founding member of Charlottesville Ballet. Ty has served in numerous roles over the years including teaching in Chance To Dance programs and at CBA, costuming, administration, and choreography. In 2010, Ty created the “Candy Cane” dance for CB’s first Nutcracker production, and they have since created several works in the Charlottesville Ballet repertoire.

Jennifer Kelly, Artistic Associate

Jennifer has spent most of her life studying dance and movement. She was a member of the Zen Monkey Project and has performed with Chavasse Dance and Performance, and Cora Dance among others. Jen is an AmSAT certified Alexander Technique (AT) teacher. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Dance from James Madison University and a Master’s of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University. Jen has a certification in Jessica Wolf’s Art of Breathing and personal training credentials from National Academy of Sports Medicine and American Council on Exercise. She is a fellow clinical therapist at Riverbend Integrative Trauma Treatment (RITT) in Charlottesville working towards her licensure. At RITT, Jen will become certified in further somatic trauma-based intervention models such as EMDR and Parts Work. Jen has taught Alexander Technique for the Charlottesville Ballet trainees 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, New York Theatre Ballet, and Lydia Johnson Dance, where she also served as Associate Artistic Director. Kerry performed the classics as well as an extensive list of George Balanchine’s repertoire, plus a featured artist for the documentary Sensuality and Nationalism in Romantic Ballet. Graduating with high honors, Kerry earned her BFA in Ballet Performance from the University of Utah. She is passionate about training dancers with the proper biomechanics for peak performance, injury prevention, and rehabilitation. She is a certified Progressing Ballet Technique Teacher and Pilates Instructor, and this year she was honored to join Doctors for Dancers as an International Dance Specialist. Kerry enjoys coaching the Charlottesville Ballet dancers and teaching clients both virtually and in Charlottesville from her boutique studio Kerry Shea Pilates.

Anna Sides, Artistic Associate

Anna Sides danced professionally for 14 years and has taught for over 30 years throughout the United States. The bulk of her training was from The National Academy of Arts in Champaign, Illinois under the direction of Petrus Bosman. Anna danced professionally with Ballet West, Ballet Memphis, Maryland Ballet, and Festival Ballet of Rhode Island.  Highlights of her performing career were Sir Frederick Ashton’s Monotones II, Swanhilda in Coppelia, Flower Festival Pas de Deux, and the Maiden in The Maiden Who Descends from Heaven, as well as several Balanchine ballets. Anna was also a guest Ballet Mistress with Missouri Ballet Theatre and ran her own traveling ballet school in Highland and Pocahontas counties. Anna has been an Artistic Associate since 2015 and is delighted to continue her work with the professional company.

Katherine Nies, Accompanist

Katherine Nies is a classically-trained musician with a passion for the visual arts, languages, and storytelling. Her passion for music traces back to early memories of her mother’s Peruvian and Puerto Rican folk songs on the guitar and listening to her father composing jazz piano late at night. Originally from the DC area, Katherine received her classical training under Hsien-Ann Meng, Gerda Bansleben, and Marianna Prjevalskaya. She studied creative writing and playwriting under award-winning authors Susan Letzler Cole and Sarah Harris Wallman. Katherine’s finesse with improvisation and collaboration has allowed her to perform with creatives from all over the world including the Metropolitan Opera, the Kennedy Center, Richmond Ballet, and Broadway. Katherine’s film and music projects with Charlottesville Ballet include Dancing through the Looking Glass (a collaborative art film about women artists during the pandemic), RBG (a choreographed work inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsburg), and Sorrowful Songs (influenced by Henryk Gorécki’s work about a young girl finding hope while in a Gestapo prison cell). Katherine has released singles from her first album Storms in My Attic (coming October 2024), and you can also find her directing theater and choral music, and spending time outside in the Blue Ridge with her daughter. Katherine is honored to celebrate 10 years with the Charlottesville Ballet, and you can see her latest projects on her website:


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.

Lori Jablonski, Company Manager

Originally from Rochester, NY, Lori began dancing at the age of 7. She trained in and taught multiple genres and completed Boston Ballet’s Adaptive Dance Teacher Training program. Lori holds a B.A. in Dance with a minor in Entrepreneurial Studies from Muhlenberg College. She was a member of the Muhlenberg Dance Association, Copasetic Rhythms tap company, and Muhlenberg Ballet Ensemble. Lori danced for the Walt Disney World Company in 2004-2006. She then moved to Charlottesville dancing with inFluxdance, R Squared, UpRooted Dance, and Miki Liszt Dance Company (MLDC). Lori’s previous arts administration experience includes Director of Operations for MLDC, Office Manager for Charlottesville Performing Arts School, and Academy Manager at Charlottesville Ballet since May 2016. Lori became a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) this past summer and is excited to take on her new role this year as Company Manager.

Amy Martel, Concierge & Facilities 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 joined the Charlottesville Ballet team in 2021 and brings enthusiasm and warmth to her role as Concierge & Facilities Manager, with a special fondness for relationship building.

Kathryn Tokar Conley, Patron Services Coordinator

Kathryn began her training at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood, Ohio, under the tutelage of Melanie Szucs. She continued training at Ohio Dance Theatre, completed summer intensives at Cincinnati Ballet, Next Generation Ballet, and ABT, and graduated from Mercyhurst University summa cum laude with a B.A. in Dance Performance and a minor in Biology. She began her career as a founding member of the new Cleveland Ballet, and then Lake Erie Ballet with her mentor Lesley Bories-Scalise. Kathryn joined Charlottesville Ballet in 2017 as a Trainee and is thrilled to begin her seventh season with the company.  She also performs with Deos Contemporary Ballet in Michigan over the summers, teaches at CBA, and serves as the Patron Services Coordinator. Kathryn helps lead the Movement For Parkinson’s program and will soon complete a master’s degree in Arts in Medicine through the University of Florida.

Cordelaine Klyne, Stage Manager & Academy Manager

Originally from Marshall, VA, Cordelaine began her dance training at the age of three. She studied under Cynthia Kiehnau at Virginia Civic Ballet, and she is certified through Grade 7 in the Cecchetti Council of America syllabus. Cordelaine recently graduated from the University of Virginia, receiving a major in Commerce with concentrations in Marketing and Management and a minor in Dance. Cordelaine had the honor of being named a J. Sanford Miller Family Arts Scholar for dance. In 2021, she started as a summer intern with Charlottesville Ballet and she has worked as an Administrative Assistant and Stage Manager over the past two years. Cordelaine was promoted to Academy Manager in 2023 and she also continues her role as Stage Manager making magic happen from backstage!

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.