Laveen Naidu, Artistic Director
Laveen Naidu was born in Durban, South Africa, and began studying South Indian classical dance at the age of 10 and classical ballet at age 14. He graduated from the University of Cape Town Ballet School with a diploma in ballet performance and pedagogy, and subsequently performed with the CAPAB Ballet Company, featured in many soloist roles. While still a student, Mr. Naidu became the first dance teacher in a project started by David Poole, then artistic director of the Cape Performing Arts Board (CAPAB) Ballet, designed to introduce young people in the nearby “black townships” to ballet.
Mr. Naidu then received before a scholarship from the Dance Theatre of Harlem School and in 1992 joined the Dance Theatre of Harlem Company and toured internationally. He appeared as guest soloist and teacher with several companies including Cynthia Gregory’s Gala Ballet USA, Lubbock Ballet Theater, and the Dallas Opera. He has been featured in works by Arthur Mitchell, George Balanchine, Marius Petipa, Alvin Ailey, Robert Garland, Garth Fagan, Michael Smuin and other well-known choreographers.
Following his performing career, Mr. Naidu led the DTH School and education programs including groundbreaking projects with the Royal Ballet in London and the Kennedy Center. During his tenure Mr. Naidu chaired the faculty, taught extensively, choreographed and mounted several performances while developing a number of innovative arts educations programs and increasing enrollment by 20 percent. Simultaneously, he directed the performing arm of the DTH school and built a robust pipeline of talent for DTH and other professional companies. Mr. Naidu’s choreographic credits include: Viraa and South African Suite commissioned by DTH, Bullfight commissioned by the Kennedy Center and several other works. In addition, Mr. Naidu served as Adjunct Dance Professor and choreographer at Barnard College and panelist at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
In December 2004, Mr. Naidu became executive director for DTH and was part of the leadership team that revived the professional Company after financial crises forced their hiatus for nine years. Mr. Naidu completed professional leadership development programs at both the Columbia University School of Business and Harvard Business School.
Jenna Ward, Managing Director
Jenna Ward’s experience as an arts administrator encompasses a wide range of arts organizations and programs. In 2006, she was Events Director for the Coldwell Banker Miami Beach Festival of the Arts; she brought performing arts and cultural programs for the first time to that event and it attained record-breaking attendance. She went on to work as Program and Events Manager for the City for Hollywood, Florida, where her team revivified several arts festivals including Global Groove, which found new life as an event interweaving performing arts with environmentalism. Jenna was also Executive Director for Miami Children’s Chorus, and most recently, Assistant Managing Director of the Publick Playhouse in Cheverly, Maryland. Her experience with dance companies includes freelance work for Miami Contemporary Dance Company, engaging dance ensembles for arts festivals, and supporting numerous dance performances and festivals at the Publick Playhouse. Because Jenna has experienced first-hand the power of the arts to profoundly transform lives, especially the lives of youth, she is delighted to join BalletNova, an organization that so deeply cherishes the importance of teaching the whole person.
Constance Walsh, Director of Enrichment and Adult Programs
Constance Walsh is a faculty member, as well as the Associate Artistic Director at BalletNova. Ms. Walsh began her training in New Jersey with Michael Fokine Jr., continuing at the French School of Ballet. She attended the New Jersey School of Performing Arts with William Inglis. After working with Daniel Nagrin, Ms. Walsh moved to New York City in 1971 to attend the Martha Graham School on full scholarship for 8 years.
Ms. Walsh danced with Martha Graham, Pearl Lang, Sara Rudner and John Goodwin. In New York, she started her own company Lacey/Strom. Her work was chosen by Martha Graham to be in the Young Choreographers Series in 1975. She began her teaching career in the 1980s after moving to DC to perform with Larry Ensign.
In 1991, she started her own studio Classworks in Easton, MD. Designing a 4 studio/theater space, she created a new company, Dance Harrison Street. Her work was honored by Governor and Mrs. Glendening at the Governor’s Mansion in 1998. She was appointed by the Governor to the Maryland State Arts Council where she served for six years. After moving back to DC she became a member of the great faculty at BalletNova Center for Dance. Ms. Walsh has choreographed several pieces on BalletNova including “Blue Sox," "Sigame," and City Thoughts.” As the Associate Artistic Director, she assists the Artistic Director in growing studio curriculum, performances and other activities, addressing issues, and communicating with dancers and parents.
Deko Ruch, Registration and Front Desk Manager
Deko Ruch was born, raised and educated in Tokyo, Japan. As a child she took piano lessons and is now married with three dancing daughters. Mrs. Ruch has been on the part-time desk staff since 2008. Prior to this, Deko was a Freelance English / Japanese translator for Nippon Business Translations and the Office Manager at Classical Ballet Academy in Herndon. Her position is responsible for all registrations and payments, front desk management, box office management, and assisting with special events.
Kacie Peterson, Program Manager
Kacie Peterson holds a BA in communication and dance from Slippery Rock University. Her dance story began at Mid Maryland Performing Arts Center with Kimberly Price and continued at SRU under the direction of Nora Ambrosio, Jennifer Keller and Ursula Payne. She studied the classical Indian dance form Bharathanatyam with Jaya Mani and traveled to India to study further under Revathi Ramachandran. Simultaneously,Ms. Peterson spent three years on staff of SRU’s student-run newspaper, The Rocket.She brings experience from her internship in the Grants and Individual Giving departments at Dance Place in Washington, D.C. Prior to BalletNova, she served as the membership and grants coordinator for the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, MD. Ms. Peterson is thrilled to join the BalletNova staff and continue to share her passion for dance.
Elizabeth Spatz, Development Associate and Education Outreach Coordinator
Ms. Spatz brings a wealth of arts and administrative experience to BalletNova Center for Dance. Born and raised in the Chicago area, she began her study of dance at the Ruth Page Foundation with Larry Long and the Chicago City Ballet with Maria Tallchief. Upon graduating from Columbia College Chicago where she studied both arts management and dance, she relocated to New York City where she danced with Dura Mater, Joanna Mendl Shaw and Randy James Dance Works (RJDW). As a founding member of RJDW Ms. Spatz performed with the company for nine years, eventually assuming the administrative roles of development assistant, rehearsal director and associate director. As an educator, she has taught nationally and internationally at festivals, colleges and universities including George Mason University, Roger Williams University, and Northern Virginia Community College. Elizabeth completed her M.F.A. at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Hassan Sultan, Finance Manager
Hassan Sultan, CPA in Finance and Accounting provides financial services to BalletNova. Mr. Sultan and his staff at Reckenen provide regular accounting, tax, payroll, audit and budgetary services. For more information about accounting and financial services with Reckenen, visit http://reckenen.com.