Current Faculty & Staff
Ms. Breanna Dvorak, Academy Director & Owner
Ms. Dvorak is a retired professional ballerina and ballet instructor in the greater metropolitan Minnesota. She received her ballet training in the Vaganova method from the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, Russia. Completing their courses and graduating as the 2nd American in 250 years, Breanna received her diploma as a Ballet Artist.
Breanna has received training from well-known instructors such as Vladilen Semenov and Irina Kolpakova, former Principal dancers with the Kirov Ballet St. Petersburg, Russia, and currently instructors for the American Ballet Theater. Dr. Marina Leonova, Dean of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Moscow, Russia, and former Prima Ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet. Dr. Irina Syrova, Acting Professor, Deputy Chair of the Classical Female Dance Department of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Moscow, and soloist of Perm Opera. As well as many others.
Breanna’s training consisted of Women’s Classical Ballet, Repertoire, Partnering (Pas de Deux ), Acting, Music, Character (Folk dance), Contemporary Dance, Historical Dance, as well as the History of Dance, History of Theatre, Theatre Make-up, History of Choreography and Russian Language.
Breanna has performed repertoire from classical ballets such as LaCorsaire, Paquita, Lafille Mal Garde, Don Quixote, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, and Giselle, as well as danced in many contemporary pieces.
After graduating, Ms. Dvorak danced as Soloist with the St. Paul Chamber Ballet and started instructing various ages. Ms.Dvorak has taught and choreographed for several studios around Minnesota and various award-winning dance routines for a prominent color guard. She has trained Jazz & Kick high school & college dance teams, and gymnasts have taught body strengthening and flexibility classes for children and adults, Creative Movement and Pre-Ballet classes, “Mommy & Me” classes for toddlers and the Pre-K age group, as well as ballet & on-ice private lessons for competitive figure skaters and gymnasts. Ms. Dvorak has worked with current Bolshoi Academy students and professional dancers, training them in technique & performance. Ms. Dvorak has also trained students for national and international competitions (Winning 1st place, 3rd, 6th, & Top 12 multiple times).
Ms. Dvorak has restaged Swan Lake, Giselle, Raymonda, Paquita, Le Corsaire, Les Sylphides, & Peter & the Wolf, Cinderella, & Sleeping Beauty, and four original productions. For the past 11 years, Ms. Dvorak has acted as Artistic Director & Choreographer for North Ballet's production of The Nutcracker, performed annually in front of thousands of audience members.
Ms. Dvorak's students have been accepted into prestigious dance schools & intensives such as Kirov Academy (with Merit Scholarships), Bolshoi Academy (with scholarships), Ellison Ballet, Harid Conservatory, American Ballet Theatre, North Carolina Dance Theatre, Boston Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Ballet West (Full Scholarship 2 years in a row), Ballet Idaho, BYU, Joffrey Ballet (with full scholarship-2 years in a row), Washington University Dance Program, Ballet Arizona, Canada National Ballet and San Francisco Ballet (full scholarship), Washington Ballet School, and Kaatsbaan Ballet Program (only 40 students selected nation-wide), Pennsylvania Ballet Full Scholarship, Boston Ballet (Full Scholarship), and the Royal Ballet School in London as well as gone on to professional dancer careers.
Ms. Dvorak's teaching style is more traditional, focusing on the traditional Vaganova technique, resulting in a more refined dancing style. She likes to keep each class upbeat and enjoyable. She prides herself on being an actively involved instructor. She desires North Ballet to be a place where students not only receive quality dance experiences and training in an atmosphere that is warm, welcoming, and encouraging. The North Ballet community is a very special one!
Outside of teaching & directing NBA, Ms. Dvorak loves to spend time with her husband & soon to be six children! She is a licensed foster parent and loves to volunteer in her church and local community in organizations such as CARE Food Shelf, Disabled American Veteran Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, STMA Foster Family Support, Cornerstone Health, & New Beginnings as a mentor supporting pregnant homeless mothers and their babies. Ms. Dvorak believes in delivering exceptional training opportunities for our dancers and building up the whole person- developing exceptional members of their communities.
Ms. Maddy Werner, Program Director, Ballet Instructor
Maddy Werner began her dance training with nine years at the Reif Center in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, most notably by Daniel and Julie Blake. During her time under their direction, she had the opportunity to perform multiple original works with James Sewell Ballet, who collaborated with the studio for several years.
When she was 15, she was accepted into Houston Ballet Ben Stevenson’s Academy Summer Intensive Program. While attending the summer program, she was offered and accepted a full scholarship into the year-round program. She trained with the Houston Ballet Academy for two years, during which she had the opportunity to perform in the Nutcracker with the professional company. Maddy also completed one summer program with the Orlando Ballet in Orlando, Florida, where she was offered a Traineeship, but she ultimately declined.
When she was 18, she accepted a position with the Lexington Ballet Company in Lexington, Kentucky. She performed roles in The Nutcracker and Cinderella, but, unfortunately, her career came to an end before her first season even came to a close due to an injury. The following year, Maddy took a position as the head ballet instructor at Diamond School of Dance in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. During her time there, She instructed students from age five up to adult classes in Ballet, Jazz, Tap, and Conditioning classes.
While Maddy enjoyed teaching, she desired a change in her life, and she ultimately ended up attending college in Minnesota for Law Enforcement. She graduated in 2016 from Alexandria Technical and Community College with an AS in Law Enforcement. She accepted a job with South Lake Minnetonka Police Department in Shorewood, Minnesota, in February 2017, and held the position of Patrol Officer and Field Training Officer for nearly four years before retiring. During her time as a Police Officer, she continued to be a guest teacher at studios throughout the metro area.
Ms. Werner joined the North Ballet Academy team in 2021 instructing dancers in the Complete Classical Ballet Program, choreographing for Nutcracker, and acting as Artistic Director producing and staging the classical ballet, Cinderella & Sleeping Beauty.
Maddy is very excited to be a part of the North Ballet Academy team again this year as Program Director.
Ms. Mary Hegrenes, Ballet Instructor
Mary Hegrenes began her ballet training at the age of three at North Ballet Academy, the same year that the studio was founded. She has been an up-and-coming dancer since the very beginning of the academy. All of her classical ballet training has been instilled by the many talented instructors, past and present, at North Ballet, with the majority of her training under the instruction of Ms. Breanna Dvorak, the owner and artistic director of North Ballet. In addition, she has taken classes from previous teachers, such as Stephanie Heston, Allison Clawson, Luke Tucker, Maylu Pena, Jadyn Reddy, and others.
In addition to all of the performances she has participated in with North Ballet, such as Nutcrackers, Spring Shows, Award Ceremonies, and Summer Intensive performances, she was selected as a finalist at the age of 14 to perform a self-choreographed ballet piece for the Catholic Schools Center of Excellence performance under the guidance of Jane McMonagle. Ms. Hegrenes lives in St. Michael, Minnesota. She is currently enrolled at St. Cloud State University. As a ballet instructor, she focuses on teaching Vaganova-style ballet technique. She aims to be very engaging, detail-oriented, and hands-on, and she is honored to be able to pass on her knowledge and love of dance to her students.
Ms. Briannah Kocinski, Ballet Instructor
Ms. Briannah Kocinski began her classical ballet training at North Ballet Academy at the age of three when the studio opened and trained in Vagonova ballet for fifteen years under the expertise of many high caliber instructors such as Ms. Stephanie Heston, Mr. Alexander Smirnov, Ms. Breanna Dvorak, Ms. Maddy Werner, Mr. Luke Tucker, Ms. Katherine Hesterberg, and Ms. Jadyn Reddy. In 2023, Briannah completed the Vaganova syllabus and was among North Ballet Academy’s first full program (Creative Movement through Level 8) graduating class. She has performed in many ballets with North Ballet Academy through her years of training, including the annual Nutcracker, Coppelia, Les Sylphides, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and many others. She has performed in soloist roles such as Dew Drop, Snow Queen, Stepsister, and Lilac Fairy. In addition to her training in Vagonova ballet, Briannah has received training in the styles of contemporary, jazz, various styles of modern including Horton and Cunningham, as well as Pilates and PBT (Progressing Ballet Technique). Briannah is drawn to all styles of dance and has enjoyed experience a variety of styles of dance throughout her training at North Ballet Academy.
Briannah currently lives in Dayton, Minnesota and plans to study internationally at the University level in the near future. Briannah maintains an immense appreciation for the art of dance and strives to provide the same quality instruction she has received throughout her life to her own students. She values correct execution of technique and therefore is passionate about taking the time to notice the small details of choreography and technique in order to build a strong and accurate foundation in there students. Ms. Kocinski is excited to pass on her knowledge to the next generation of dancers and hopes that each dancer she has the opportunity to work with will grow to share her appreciation and passion for the beautiful and intricate are of ballet.
Ms. Lily Conforti, Swan Squad Director, Contemporary & Jazz
Lily Conforti is an artist from the twin cities, currently pursuing degrees in Dance and Physiology at the University of Minnesota. Lily has 13 years of dance training from Escalate Dance and Theater Studio where she competed both locally and nationally. Since then, Lily has performed and choreographed many works around the twin cities. Most recently, she choreographed and danced in a nine minute piece for a show at the University of Minnesota that incorporated the use of paint and visual art into dance. She has performed works choreographed by Carl Flink of BLM dance company, Kjara Wurst, and other local dance artist. As an artist, Lily is interested in articulated movement. Seeing and feeling the groove is an important aspect of her work.
She is the director and choreographer for her dance collective, LCcreations. The group has performed locally in the University of Minnesota's BLUEPRINT show, FUTURE INTERSTATES curated by HAIJAK, ArtBox's annual show INBOX@ARTBOX, and yearly in the MN FRINGE FESTIVAL. August 2022, the collective premiered a new evening length work in the Minnesota and Indiana fringe festivals with a local alternative/rock band, Oister Boy. Through Lily’s art she wishes to cultivate an experience that is new to the audience, and continue to create knowledgeable work that provokes thoughtful conversation. Aside from her own dance collective, Lily performs and teaches around the twin cities. She has performed in works by world-renowned choreographers such as Carl Flink, Kjara Wurst, Andrea Miller, and others.
She has been teaching dance for 6 years and lives to share her love for dance with all students.
With the combination of Lily’s experience and education in dance, Ms. Conforti is excited to re-join the North Ballet Academy Family for the fifth year and bring a fresh approach to her teaching that will allow dancers to investigate new possibilities while learning how to operate the human anatomy efficiently.
Ms. Makayla Wiser, Assistant Swan Squad Director
Jazz, Contemporary & Tap Instructor, Director of Acrobatic Arts Program
Makayla Wiser grew up in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, where she spent her first few years of dance at Debra Miller's World of Dance, and spent 8 years at Dancin’ On Broadway where she competed nationally for eight years. Ms. Wiser trained in Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Musical Theater, Lyrical, & Contemporary Dance, competed against the world-renowned team from "Dance Moms", and trained under Kaleen Miller.
In addition to 3 years of teacher training, Ms. Wiser has taught students of all ages for over five years. At her previous studio, she acted as Head Contemporary Instructor, introducing it into the program, as well as the Head Tap Instructor in addition to Ballet Technique, Strength and Core, Stretch and Strength classes, Jazz routines, Lyrical, and Competitive Kick routines.
Outside of teaching at North Ballet Academy, Ms. Wiser is in her sixth year of serving in the Minnesota Army National Guard along with her husband. She has had the honor of receiving a personal Governor's Award for outstanding service during the events of 2020 & 2021.
Ms. Wiser is very excited to join the team at North Ballet Academy for her second year as Assistant Swan Squad Director! Last year Ms. Wiser took home 6 choreography awards & a national title for her choreography. This year she is also the Director of the NEW Acrobatic Arts Program. She hopes to uphold our North Ballet culture that strives to make everyone feel welcome and a part of our North Ballet Family. Ms. Wiser hopes to challenge her dancers in the classroom & on the stage, growing both in technique and artistry.
Ms. Laura Wilkerson, Swan Squad Choreographer,Tap, Jazz, & Contemporary Instructor
Having been in the dance world for almost 30 years Ms. Laura brings Knowledge of all aspects pertaining to dance. She grew up competing on her studio's top teams, as well as performing on her high school dance team at football games. After graduation Laura was an Assistant teacher later becoming a lead teacher at Studio One Dance for both recreational and competitive divisions as nd has taught for several competition studios around Minnesota.
Laura also has experience in Customer Service working at a local dance costume company, Kelle Company. She has worked with many local and international customers helping place orders, register accounts, and help in the creative process. Laura has been selected to attend Trade Shows in New Jersey, Illinois, and Georgia, as well as work behind the scenes for photo-shoot help.
Laura's excited to share her knowledge with all things dance with North Ballet Academy!
Kyle Klaas, Modern Dance & Pilates
Ms. Klaas, originally from Nebraska, spent sixteen years studying the Cecchetti style of ballet, as well as tap, jazz, and lyrical dance styles. Ms. Klaas received her BFA in Education from the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, MN. While at the College of St. Benedict, Ms. Klaas studied the modern dance techniques of Merce Cunningham and Jose Limon under the direction of Leigh Dillard. Since college, Ms. Klaas has done summer intensives with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Merce Cunningham Dance Company of New York City, ARENA Dances (Minneapolis), and the MN Dance Project. In addition to her studies in Dance, Theater and Education, Ms Klaas is a certified Balanced Body Pilates Instructor and a Certified Horton Modern Instructor.
Ms. Klaas has created the Modern Dance program at North Ballet Academy to be an essential supplement to classical ballet training. The Horton Modern Technique was developed with ballet dancers in mind and focus's on lengthening and strengthening muscles to keep them strong for intense ballet training. This pairs beautifully with the focus of Pilates for dancers, where injury prevention, core strength, proper alignment, and breath are key to a strong body.
Ms. Klaas's professional experiences include, owning and operating a dance studio in Nebraska. She is a trained artist through the “Dancing Heart Program,” which is a specialized dance program for elders with dementia and Alzheimer’s through dance and storytelling. Ms. Klaas has spent 15 years in Minneapolis artfully and passionately bringing dance experiences to diverse populations as a Special Education Dance Instructor and has studied the Ann Green Gilbert style of teaching Creative Movement under Maria Genne at Kairos Dance Theater, where she also performed for three years. She has choreographed many shows for the College of Saint Benedict, Newman Grove High school, Kairos Dance Theatre, Bloomington Community Education Music Avenues Dance Program, PCAE High School, the DanceXchange, DanceXcel, and North Ballet Academy for 10 years!
Ms. Klaas's passion for teaching stems from her love of dance. She is motivated to share the joy of dance and movement with all of her students. Ms. Klaas is thrilled to be teaching at North Ballet Academy again this year!
Ms. Amanda Hooper, Ballet Instructor Young Dancer Division
Amanda Hooper has been dancing since she was three years old. Coming from a Military family, having dance was a way for Amanda to always have a way to make friends and fit in while moving around the country. When Amanda was in middle school her family settled in the midwest where she continued her dance training with a few small studios across Illinois and Wisconsin. Amanda’s passion in dance was always ballet and she loved the years she spent dancing en pointe. Her passion for dance traveled over into her Musical Theater world over the years. In her High School and College years, Amanda earned many different awards in the world of the Arts from local to national level recognition. She loves being able to share a passion for dance with her two girls who have been attending North Ballet Academy since the moved to the area.
Ms. Hooper’s own dance career and passion took a back seat when she decided to enter the US Army. Amanda Hooper spent eight years in the US Army with a deployment to Iraq from 2003-2005. Her time in the service was spent as a combat medic for a fuel refilling unit. Due to injuries occurred during her deployment, dancing was not able to be a dream moving forward. Amanda learned that she loved to teach others the joy and passion of dance. She has taught everything from beginner level ballet, to tumbling, tap, musical theater, and even some dance team coaching.
Currently Ms. Hooper resides in Elk River, MN with her three kiddos and husband. She has recently graduated with her Masters of Psychology degree in Military Psychology. She works as a Senior Outreach Specialist for Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans working to house homeless veterans every day.
Amanda is very excited to be teaching students at North Ballet Academy for the second year!
Ms. Jennifer Bicknese, Administrative Director
Jennifer Bicknese resides in Otsego, MN along with her husband and two children. Together they enjoy the outdoors and love spending summer weekends traveling and adventuring in their camper. Jennifer enjoys being a part of her children’s activities including Ballet, Baseball, and Fishing.
Although Jennifer did not grow up dancing, she has always enjoyed and appreciated the arts. At the age of five, her daughter asked to study Ballet, and together they found North Ballet Academy. It didn’t take long for both Jennifer and her daughter to fall head over heals for the art of Ballet and for the North Ballet community!
After 15 wonderful years in Public Education as a fifth-grade teacher, Jennifer decided to pursue new dreams which lead her to a position on staff at North Ballet Academy. Her experience as a North Ballet parent over the years lended itself well to a transition into a staff role. As the Administrative Director of North Ballet Academy, Jennifer will be able to continue to use her organizational and administrative skills acquired during her years in Education. Jennifer is also pleased to be able to continue to work with and inspire the next generation of leaders and artists through her interactions with the dancers of North Ballet.
Katie Kocinski is an accomplished educational leader, entrepreneur, and community builder with an unwavering dedication to fostering growth and excellence. Her journey began at the University of Minnesota, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Family Social Science. With a thirst for deeper knowledge, Katie went on to attain a Master of Arts in Education with a focus on Elementary Education from the University of St. Thomas in 2006.
Katie's foray into the professional world commenced with roles as support staff in Early Childhood Education at Mt. Olivet Church's Child Learning Center and as a substitute teacher for K-8 grades in Rockford and Osseo-Maple Grove Public Schools. These experiences provided her the foundation to launch her own childcare service in 2005, where she creatively curated play and sensory-based learning experiences for young children.
While working in early childhood settings, she discovered gaps in Arts education in the Twin Cities’ Northwest Suburban area. Her entrepreneurial spirit ignited, and in 2009, she founded the North Ballet Academy. Here, she carved a niche for youth to experience exceptional ballet instruction, establishing the academy as a community pillar through meticulous planning, collaborative fundraising, and intentional relationship-building.
Balancing her professional commitments, Katie has been a homeschool educator since 2006, bringing a tailored, multi-grade level education to her five children. Her approach is not just academically based but also incorporates faith and life skills, making education a holistic experience.
In 2020, Katie took the helm as Principal at Avail Academy High School, steering the institution towards academic excellence and community building. Her hands-on and collaborative leadership style involved regular communication and creative problem-solving with parents, students, and staff. During her time at Avail, she contributed to the development of institutional processes & systems, grew in her ability to encourage and coach teachers, and remainded dedicated to faith integration in curricula.
In addition to her professional and personal commitments, Ms. Kocinski has remained an active volunteer in the community. She has held leadership positions in Avail Academy’s Parent Teacher Fellowship and Gateway Church’s Pastoral Search Committee. Currently, she volunteers at CROSS in Rogers, MN, helping with food distribution and other community needs.
Ms. Kocinski is more than a list of titles or achievements; she embodies a relentless drive to uplift others — be it students, teachers, or the community at large. Through various roles and across different domains, her work continuously resonates with her core values of faith, growth, and community. Her life is a testament to her belief in the transformative power of education and community engagement.
For Katie, the journey is far from over; she continues to explore avenues where she can make a difference, uphold her Christian values, and champion the cause of holistic education. Ms. Kocinski is very excited to be returning to North Ballet Academy this year as Executive Director!
Ms. Kristy Hegrenes, Marketing Director & Parents En Pointe
Ms. Hegrenes began her journey with North Ballet Academy in 2008 when she enrolled her three-year-old daughter in the academy. It was also the very first year the studio opened its doors. She quickly knew she had found something special, from the exceptional ballet training to the heartfelt community. After her second daughter also joined the academy, it was easy to become more involved in parent volunteering, including dancing in the Nutcracker as a Party Parent. She and her husband have even had the privilege of playing the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Stahlbaum, which she thoroughly enjoyed!
Although she was never a dancer, playing the role of Mrs. Stahlbaum was certainly not her first time on stage. Her formal training is in vocal, choral, and chamber music performance. She sang the lead roles of Serafina in the opera Il campanello (The Night Bell) by Gaetano Donizetti, and Violetta in the famous opera La Traviata, by Giuseppe Verdi. Her choral performing groups have
allowed her to perform in some of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe, as well as Carnegie Hall in New York City. In the next chapter of her life, after becoming a mom, she realized her dream of staying home for 18 years to raise her three children.
After many years of volunteering at the studio, taking a staff position at North Ballet Academy was a natural next step for her. She is emotionally invested in North Ballet Academy’s continued success and growth and feels humbled and honored to be joining the staff and coordinating the Parents En Pointe program.
Ms. Racheal Montoya, Administrative Assistant & Volunteer Coordinator
Ms. Montoya began her journey with North Ballet Academy as a “ballet mom” in 2014 when her little dancer was just two years old.
During her years at North Ballet Academy, Racheal became known as a chaperone extraordinaire, happily attending to dancers backstage at every show. She quickly became a go-to person for studio families!
Ms. Montoya’s experience as a “ballet mom” helped her to become familiar with the happenings of North Ballet Academy, making her transition to Administrative Assistant a natural one.
Ms. Montoya has always had an affinity for the arts, including music, dance, and the visual arts, including the art of makeup. Racheal studied Theater and Stage makeup and Prosthetics/Special Effects makeup, and worked professionally as a makeup artist. She is always happy to share her expertise with North Ballet students and families!
Racheal is happy to be a part of the North Ballet Academy team!