Who We Are
Helene Nilsen has been active in the dance community for thirty years, from modern dance classes in Denver, Colorado to classes with the Wolcott Ballet in its beginning in 1977. She was active on the board of the Wolcott Ballet and was instrumental in its transition to an integrative arts program called On the Rise. For the last ten years, Helene has taught creative movement to 4-7 year old children integrating dance with children’s creations of their own fairy tales set to classical music and accompanied with narration.
Helene believes that the arts are critical for the development of each child’s sense of his/her creative self. The arts afford children a grounding in self discipline and focus. She believes that dance as the artistic modality and the teacher-student relationship are the key elements for the developmental benefits to occur.
Helene is a psychotherapist with a Psy. D. in clinical psychology. She integrates the arts and the creative process in her practice, working with children, adolescents, and adults. She also works part time as an adjunct professor in the graduate clinical psychology program at St. Michael’s College. She has the firm commitment and belief that the instrument to enriching people’s development is in the relationships created between each other.
She is committed to the Ballet Wolcott mission of creativity and dance through the community connection.
Steffi Thomas was born and raised in England and trained at the Central School of Ballet in London. Steffi has worked and performed with Peter Schaufuss Ballet, English National Ballet, Scottish Ballet and The National Ballet of Ireland. A few of Steffi’s other credits include dancing for the Queen at the Royal Variety show, performing in Shanghai China and Kazakhstan for Jaguar and performing at many corporate events such as The Discovery Channel, Bvlgari, Audi, Honda and QVC. Steffi is also a Pilates instructor and has taught ballet, and Pilates in several different Pilates studios/dance schools in England, Ireland and America.
Jennifer Ruest has been teaching dance in VT since 2003. A Connecticut native, she graduated from ECSU and Hartford Conservatory with a focus on all dance forms. She fell in love with tap and the history behind it. Jennifer has had the privilege of learning from many of taps historic greats. She continues to keep challenging the norm of her choreography while keeping history alive. She is very much looking forward to teaching at Wolcott and is looking forward to a year of dance!
Mary Chudzik has decades of ballet experience. When she was 11 years old she competed in “Competition 80” in Mobile Alabama and was awarded a full ballet scholarship to Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA), where she attended middle and high school. While at ASFA she performed and toured with the Alabama Ballet. She has studied with renowned teachers and schools such as Boston Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Joffery Ballet, David Howard and Rosella Hightower Centre de Dance Cannes, France. She is certified in Revolutionary Principals of Movement for ballet teachers. She has over 25 years of experience as a physical therapist treating dancers and presently works at Pinnacle Physical Therapy in Stowe. She recently attended Principles of Dance Medicine: Clinical Management of the Dancer Patient hosted by the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries in New York City.
Joanne Whitehill became Artistic Director of Burklyn Ballet Theatre in 2003. At 17 she was asked to join Vermont Ballet Theatre Company. She went on to danced professionally as a soloist with Allegro Dance Theatre, Nevada Dance Theatre, Oregon Ballet Theatre and as a guest Artist with New England Ballet Company as well as a Soloist with The Scottish American Ballet. She grew up in Connecticut dancing with Connecticut Ballet and New Haven Ballet. She has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Minor in dance. It was during her summers at Burklyn Ballet Theatre where she was inspired to create her ballet Midnight Blue, which received acclaim at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland. In 2001, her co-choreography for “Cinderella and the Flower Fairies” was the recipient of The Scotman’s Readers’ Choice award for “Best Dance and Physical Theatre” on the Fringe. She served as a judge for the Artistic Dance, Inc. “Raising the Barre” Competition and the Rhapsody Performing Arts Center and Vineland Regional Dance Company, company auditions. Ms. Whitehill has served as Vice President and Artistic Advisor on the New England Ballet Company Board of Directors. She is also on the advisory board for County College of Morris and has taught at the American College Dance Association’s Northeast Conference. In 2020 she was a member of the faculty at Regional Dance America’s Southwest Festival.
Charlene Sroka, Acting Executive Director
Contact for classes and registration information.
Board of Directors
Tim Yarrow, Chair
Joanne Whitehill, Vice- Chair and Secretary
Heidi-Lauren Duke, Tresurer
The Ballet Wolcott Board of Directors meets monthly to ensure the organization is fulfilling its mission while growing for the future.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please contact us.
Visit our Board of Directors web page for meeting minutes and information.
Many hands make light work
In order for the studio and performances to run smoothly, parent/guardian volunteers are absolutely necessary. So that numerous tasks are not placed on the shoulders of only a few, parents/guardians from all class levels will be asked to assist with specific tasks throughout the year. Individual talents and capabilities will be kept in mind.
Please contact us if you are interested in helping out.
As a 501(c)3 charitable non-profit organization we rely on tax-deductible donations.