AYBT Director Lou Ann YoungLou Ann Young, Founder (1930-2017)

Lou Ann earned her B.A. at Butler University and has extended training at the National Ballet School, Toronto, Canada. She has been on the Faculty of Ball State University since 1987, on the faculty of IU Summer Music School and master teacher of ballet at the Academy and seminars throughout the mid-west. Her credits include Artistic Director/Founder and Choreographer of Anderson Young Ballet Theatre, thirty-three seasons. Artistic Director of Ball State Dance Theatre, sixteen seasons; Anderson University Musicals, twenty-six years; Highland High School, sixteen years; Professional Dancer, eight years and Ball State Summer Theatre, three years. Trained in Cecchetti and Russian Techniques, she was a student of Margaret Saul’s for over twenty-five years and is dedicated to her teachings and principles. Lou Ann was the recipient of the Deans Teaching Award for 1998 from the College of Fine Arts Ball State & presented the commencement speech for College of Fine Arts 1999. Nominated to WHO’S WHO Among America’s Teachers for 2000, 2005 & 2006. Lou Ann serves as Past President of Mid-States Regional Dance America and is one of the Directors-at-Large on the RDA National Board. Ms. Young also is a member of Ballet Corps Internationale and works to promote dance with the American College Dance Festival.

Staff teacherJennifer Thiemet, Artistic Director

Jennifer Weatherburn Thiemet is a former principal dancer with AYBT with extended studies at Canada’s National Ballet School where she trained intensely in the Cecchetti Syllabus and attended the teacher’s training program.  She has studies with such master teachers as Alexandra Danilova, Margaret Saul, Jurgen Schneider, George Verdak, Gus Giordano, & Luigi.  She has performed with Walt Disney productions, Indianapolis Ballet Theatre and was a principal dancer with Lexington Ballet.  during her dance career, she performed the leads in such ballets as The Nutcracker, Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, Raymonda, and Romeo & Juliet.  Her musical theater productions include West Side Story, Sugar, Bye Bye Birdie, The King and I, South Pacific, The Sound of Music, and productions with American Cabaret Theater.  She was the winner of the Margaret Sear Rosenblith and Carey Rose Winski Scholarship Awards, and was accepted to Interlochen Music Camp.

Mrs. Thiemet’s teaching credentials include Anderson Young Ballet Theatre Academy, School of Lexington Ballet, School for the Performing Arts of Kentucky, and National Academy. She is currently on staff with Anderson University Dance Department.  Jennifer is looking forward to teaching her 23rd season with AYBT Academy.

jayma2Dr. Jayma Lallathin, Assistant Artistic Director/Master Instructor/Biomechanics All Divisions

Dr. Lallathin grew up in Anderson, where she trained and performed as a company member with Anderson Young Ballet Theatre. She went on to receive a B.A. in Kinesiology from Purdue University with a minor in dance. It was at Purdue University where she was exposed to biomechanics and was inspired to improve the dance world through science. She continued her education in biomechanics, receiving a M.S. in Biomechanics from Ball State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. She has had the privilege of presenting her research on dancers at several regional conferences as well as the International conference for IADMS (International Association for Dance, Medicine, and Science). Her research interests include technique and performance improvement, injury mechanisms, and motor control.

Cathy Headshot B&WCatherine Sparks-Petraits, Choreographer in Residence/Costumer

Catherine Sparks-Petraits is a graduate of Ball State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Dance Performance in 1991.  With 37 years of dance training, Catherine danced eight of those years as a professional.  She was an apprentice and then resident guest artist with Dance Kaleidoscope from 1993-2000.  She also performed with American Cabaret Theater from 1992-1996 and Civic Theater in 2002.  As a costumer, Catherine was Assistant Costumer of Dance Kaleidoscope in 1992-1994.  Other companies she has designed for were Ball State University, Jordan Academy of Dance at Butler University, Dance Kaleidoscope, and Anderson University.  Catherine has continually done costuming for AYBT since 1992.

Michael BW PicMichael Worcel, Master Instructor/Jazz & Musical Theater/Choreographer

Michael Worcel is an honors graduate in dance from Butler University. He has performed   professionally in dinner theatres, summer stock and on cruise ships in such shows as A Chorus Line, West Side Story, Can Can, Cabaret, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and George M., to name a few. He also spent eighteen months with the Broadway national tour of 42nd Street. His choreography credits include revues for theme parks, cruise ships and musicals for Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre. He has directed and choreographed for summer stock and has spent a season performing with Dance Kaleidoscope. Michael has over twenty-three years teaching experience and is on the Dance Faculty at Ball State University. He has received awards from the Kennedy Centre and Regional Dance   America for his choreography plus choreographed and directed “Le Voyage”. He will be directing/choreographing the fall musical at Ball State plus preparing new choreography for AYBT & BSDT¹s seasons.


Cole Companion, Master Instructor/Ballet

Cole Companion began his training at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham, Alabama. After graduating with their highest honor, the “Prix D’excellance De Danse,” he has been a performing member of Alabama Ballet, The Arova Foundation, Birmingham Ballet Reparatory Company, Oakland Ballet Company, and Bay Pointe Ballet. Previous roles include Albrecht in Giselle, Tea Man in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Principal in Alfonzo Figeroura’s Changes, Hues and The Awakening, Furbo In Graham Lustig’s Pulcinella, Russian in Bruce Steivel’s The Nutcracker, Michael in Bruce Steivel’s Peter Pan, and Puck in Bruce Steivel’s A Midsummer Nights Dream. As a choreographer he has created numerous works including The Allegory of the Cave, Our Best Decision, El Dorado, Les Biches, and The Cask of Amontillado. He is also an adjunct professor for choreographic composition at Anderson University, as well as Ballet Master and Technical Director for Ballet Theatre of Indiana.

george bWGeorge Salinas, Master Instructor/Graham Technique

George Salinas comes to AYBT and Anderson University after a 10 career with Indiana’s own, Dance Kaleidoscope. While under the tutelage of the Director David Hochoy for his tenure in the company, Mr. Salinas not only performed as a dancer, but was asked to be a choreographer as well. Mr. Salinas has been teaching for over 15 years nationally and internationally, from Universities to programs for underprivileged youth. Salinas is a native of Dallas, Texas, where he attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Later, he received his formal dance training from Denise Vale and Austin Hartel at the University of Oklahoma, where he earned his B.A. in Modern Dance Pedagogy. While at the university, he was a guest dancer with several dance companies throughout the country, and a scholarship student with the American Dance Festival from 2001 through 2003. Salinas has worked with renowned artists and choreographers: Tatiana Baganova, Kevin Brown, Chuck Davis, Bill T. Jones, John Jasperse, Peggy Lyman, Luis Montero, Earl Mosely, Dennis Marshall, and Donald McKayle. He also has danced with Ballet Dallas, Ballet Hispanico, Oklahoma Festival Ballet, Mexico Lindo Dance Company, SD Prism Dance Company, Anita Martinez Ballet Folklorico Company and the Modern Repertory Dance Theatre.

RachRachel Kuhn, Instructor/Preschool

Rachel Kuhn is an AYBT company alumni who is honored to teach at AYBT Academy and to share her love of dance with a new generation of dancers.  Rachel completed her senior year with AYBT in 1990 while simultaneously apprenticing with Indianapolis Ballet Theater. Rachel then went on to study with Ball State University in the Dance Department, before majoring in psychology, a choice that led her into the field of social work and into her career as a behavioral therapist.  Throughout the years, she has been a substitute with AYBT Academy and especially enjoys working with the pre-school and lower elementary aged students.  Rachel is excited to work with our young dancers and hopes to pass along some of what Miss LouAnn taught her: an appreciation and respect for dance. 

Natalie Shively, Instructor/Youth nat bw

Natalie M. Shively is an AYBT Company alumnus, and graduated with us in 2015. Miss Shively has extensive training in the art of ballet, pointe, jazz, tap and modern dance. After graduating, Miss Shively has been pursuing a degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in Kindergarten/Primary, while also studying as a Dance Minor. With Ball State’s Dance Program, Miss Shively has studied the art of the Russian, Luigi, Matt Mattox, Cunningham, World Dance, and various other techniques and was chosen to perform in Sidra Bell’s collaborative work in the Spring of 2016. She has studied with such master teachers as Anne Beck, Audra Sokol, Vladimir Stadnik, Sidra Bell, Nan Giordano, George de la Pina, Mary Corsaro, and David Reuille to name a few. Her musical theater productions include: Anderson Mainstage Been There Scene That and GYPSY, Muncie Civic Theatre production The Wizard of Oz, Booth Tarkington production Swing!, and A Family Reunion to Die For. She has performed in such ballets as well as excerpts from The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, Raymonda, and Don Quixote. She was the winner of academic and artistic honors such as the Three Little Angels Scholarship in memory of Whitney Mason, a recipient of the Madison County Federal Credit Union Scholarship, and the Rex’s Dedication to Education Scholarship. Natalie is excited to work with our young dancers and hopes to pass along her studies in college of both elementary studies and dance studies to them.

 Amber (Huffman) Crull, Instructor/Youthamberbw

Amber received her dance training with AYBT Academy and is an AYBT alumni. She has also studied at Nutmeg Conservatory for the arts from 1995-1999. She performed La Bayadere, Les Patineurs, and Don Quixote along with many others under the direction of Sharon Dante, owner and founder of Nutmeg. She later returned to AYBT and continued her study of ballet, pointe, tap, jazz and modern dance. She has studied with such Master Instructors as: Victoria Mazzarelli, Joan Kunsch, Eleanor D’Antuono, Alexei Tchernichov, Kennet Oberly, Audra Sokol, and Michelle Kriner. Amber was given the opportunity to perform in such ballets as The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Paquita, and Sleeping Beauty. She was the recipient of the Kim Rheam Memorial Scholarship. Amber attended Ball State University majoring in dance. She has returned to share her love and knowledge that Lou Ann Young has given her, into the next generation of dancers.

britBrittany Gaither, Instructor/Youth

Brittany (Branson) Gaither grew up in Anderson, where she trained and performed as a company member with Anderson Young Ballet Theatre Academy. She went on to receive her B.A. from Columbia College Chicago where she majored in Dance Performance and Choreography. There she performed works by the great Merce Cunningham and Mark Morris. Afterwards, she went onto receive her masters in Teaching Education from Dominican University. She is a public school teacher for KIPP where she founded the dance program and created her own curriculum based on jazz and ballet technique as well as creative movement and modern.

DaniDanielle Jones, Instructor/Youth Division

Danielle Jones is an alumnus of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. While studying in Florida, she was a principle performer, instructor and choreographer for Essence Dance Theater from 2009-2011. She was also a guest dancer for Orchesis Contemporary Dance Theater in Tallahassee, Florida. Her training began at AYBT Academy in the art of ballet, pointe work, jazz, tap and modern dance. As an AYBT principle dance she has had the opportunity to perform in ballets including The Nutcracker, Raymonda, and excerpts from Cinderella and Don Quixote. Danielle has received both academic and artistic honors such as the Kim Reahm- McCormick Memorial Scholarship, the Bernard Hebdricks Award, and The Life Gets Better Scholarship.

jesseJessica Cookston, Instructor/Adult

Jessica was born and raised in Anderson.  She is a former principal dancer of AYBT and was blessed to dance under the expert tutelage of Miss Lou Ann Young for over 20 years.  She danced, sang and taught at the Academy.  She performed the leads in such ballets as The Nutcracker, Nosferatu and Sleeping Beauty.  She was a member of the Highland High School Singers for 3 years. She was blessed to be the lead dancer in the premier of Le Voyage featuring Sandi Patty and Rick Vale.  She attended Ball State University where she majored in Early Childhood-Primary Education and minored in Dance. She was a 4 year member of Ball State Dance Theater and was honored to travel to Washington DC to perform at the Kennedy Center.  She also participated in Ball State University Singers her sophomore year.  Jessica Is also a talented musical theater performer and has been involved with Anderson’s Mainstage Theatre for the past 6 years.  She has graced the stage in many of their productions and is an award winning choreographer for the theater.   By day Jessica has been a Kindergarten Teacher in Pendleton for 16 years and by night she is a wife to Joel Cookston (recital photographer for the academy) and mother to her 4 children, Aaron, Alaina, Aiden and Austen.