Founder and Artistic Director of the River City Youth Ballet Ensemble and School of Dance
Michelle graduated from Walnut Hill School of Performing Arts in Natick, Massachusetts with a major in ballet. She also holds a BS in Chemistry from West Virginia State University where she graduated Summa Cum Laude and was later featured on a television commercial as one of the University’s successful graduates.
Ms. Simon started the River City Youth Ballet Ensemble, in 1995. In 2007 it was named by the WV State Legislature as the Official Youth Ballet for the State of West Virginia. In 2002 she started River City School of Dance. Along with dance she has been passionate about collaborations with other arts organizations leading her to be an instrumental part of the formation of Y.O.U. (Youth Organizations for the Arts). She is also committed to her outreach program she started in Clendenin, WV in 2011.
Recently, Ms. Simon was featured in the Charleston Gazette-Mails ongoing section entitled Innerviews By Sandy Wells. In 2008 she was named and featured on the cover of WV Executive Magazine as a “Young Gun” and was featured again in the WV Executive Magazine as a “Young Gun Reloaded”. In 2015 Oxford University Press asked her to review the book Eight Female Classical Ballet Variations written by Nina Danilova former dancer with the Kirov. Part of her review is highlighted on the back cover of the published book. She has been asked by the Moscow Ballet to be their local children’s coordinator for the Great Russian Nutcracker and by the Clay Center to set choreography on a local children’s Munchkins cast for the traveling off -Broadway production of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Ms. Simon choreographs original works as well as classical ballets for the River City Youth Ballet Ensemble. She has studied with Nicholas Pacana and the Atlanta Ballet, David Howard, and Ecole de Dance de Quebec in Montreal. Ms. Simon was a member of the National Youth Ballet, an affiliate of the Boston Ballet, and the Charleston Ballet under the direction of Andre Van Damme.
Ms. Simon is a member of the Rotary Club of Charleston, the former Chair of Dance West Virginia and has been teaching ballet in West Virginia since 1993. She is the proud mother of Byron and McCartney and is happily married to her husband Sean.
Ballet/Pointe, Character Dance and Children’s Classes
Margaret Lieberman began studying ballet at the Marjorie Sturman studio in her native South Africa under the auspices of the Royal Academy of Dancing of London, England. She holds the prestigious Advanced level Certificate of the Royal Academy. In addition to her ballet studies she also holds certificates in National, Modern and Tap through the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance in England. While in South Africa she also had the opportunity to study Spanish Flamenco dancing. She graduated from the University of Natal in Durban South Africa, majoring in Theater Performance, French and English. She has acted in and directed many plays in our area, with the Light Opera Guild, the Kanawha Players and the Angevin Players. She is the Executive Director of Fund for the Arts and is currently Treasurer and a Vestry member of St John’s Episcopal Church in Charleston. She lives in a house more than one hundred years old on the West Side with her partner David, two dogs and three cats. Her hobbies include sewing (particularly costumes), reading, singing in her church choir and collecting antiques.
Specializing in Hip Hop, Tap, Broadway Jazz and Dance Fx
Abbie Payne began dancing at the age of 2 at January’s Academy of Arts. While at January’s she studied a wide variety of dance consisting of: Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Modern, Contemporary, Tap, and Hip hop. Along the years she spent dancing she began assisting/apprentice teaching at the age of 9. She continued doing so until she was evaluated and became a substitute/ apprentice teacher. She’s studied under many instructors, attended various dance competitions and conventions, along with multiple festivals and workshops based out of West Virginia. She attended Governor’s School For the Arts in 2012 and since then she was recently awarded a scholarship to study at The Alvin Ailey School Summer Program in New York City. She is currently attending University Of Charleston on a full academic scholarship as an Education Major. She is very excited to be teaching such a wide variety of classes at RCYB and is looking forward to getting to work with your children!
Meghan Wood began dancing at River City Youth Ballet in 2002. In 2017 she joined the faculty of RCYBE specializing in young children’s work. This year Meghan has started assisting with the Ensemble’s rehearsals. As a member of the company she has performed in many ballets including the leading roles in Snow White, Snow Queen, and Hazel and Gretel. She has also danced in multiple other productions including: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Moscow Ballet’s the Great Russian Nutcracker. Outside of dance, Meghan is proud to be a FOH Director at the Southridge Chick fil a.
Specializing in Ballet/Pointe/Variations, Contemporary and Broadway Jazz
Emily Hanna began her study of dance at the age of 3 in Charleston, WV. At a young age, she showed a talent and passion for classical ballet. While she continued her studies of jazz, contemporary, and lyrical, her primary focus became ballet and pointe. It was during this time that she joined the American Academy of Ballet, which led to her invitation to join the Charleston Ballet, under the direction of Kim Pauley. After several seasons with the Charleston Ballet she moved to Carlisle, PA to further her study of ballet with the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, under the direction of Marcia Dale Weary. Her performance credits include Paquita, The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Les Sylphides, among others.
Emily attended dance intensives in Saratoga Springs, NY (Summer home of the New York City Ballet); Myrtle Beach, SC, under the direction of William Starrett (American Ballet Theatre), The Charlotte City Ballet in Charlotte, NC and with the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet prior to her relocation to study in Pennsylvania full-time. Emily also studied under renowned ballet instructors David Howard, Oleg Briansky, Katrina Killian, Olga Dvorovenko, Serge LaVoie, and Miguel Campaneria.
Emily has a bachelor’s degree in Government and resides in Charleston with her family. She is pleased to be joining the RCYBE family.
Specializing in Ballet/Pointe/Variations, Contemporary and Children’s Classes
Julianna Hanson danced with the Charleston Ballet as a company member for three years after having danced with River City Youth Ballet for five years. She has had extensive training in classical ballet, modern, and jazz styles. Ms. Hanson attended a summer dance intensive for three years at Ballet Magnificat! in Jackson, MS. While there, she was selected as one of 20 dancers for the Pre-Professional level classes out of a group of 300, performing the full length work, WILL YOU OR WON’T YOU? in theaters around the area. She has studied with many internationally known guest teachers such as Nina Danilova from NCSA, Valery Vandertrov, former NY City Ballet principal Peter Frame, ABT’s Misty Copeland, Ashley Tuttle, Lorraine Graves, David Howard, Maki Onuki, modern dancer Donald Laney, Christopher Fleming, Kathy Thibedeaux, Jiri Voborsky, Beckley Dance Theater’s Jerry Rose, Leah Copley Summers, Broadway dancer Ronnie Demarco, and Radenko Pavlovich.
Her performances with River City Youth Ballet included CINDERELLA, THE WIZARD OF OZ, SLEEPING BEAUTY, THE SNOW QUEEN, and PETER AND THE WOLF. She’s also danced in SNOW WHITE, POETRY AND MUSIC IN MOTION, COPPELIA, and The Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian NUTCRACKER. As a member of the Charleston Ballet, she has performed in full-length classical ballets LA BAYADERE, ROMEO AND JULIET,SWAN LAKE, and various roles in THE NUTCRACKER with the WV Symphony Orchestra. She has danced contemporary roles in Christopher Fleming’s JANIS AND JOE SUITE, ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL to Maestro Grant Cooper’s original score, and was selected to perform in Jerry Rose’s ADRIFT. Ms. Hanson has participated with the Charleston Ballet in many additional smaller performances at various venues.
Sarah Howell is from Charleston, WV. She attended West Virginia State College on a music scholarship and was a member of the Marching Yellowjacket Auxiliary Corps & Dance Team. She was an assistant teacher with Groovez & Movez hip-hop & ballet/tap at All About Kids in Comfort, WV for three years and taught beginning ballet, tap, jazz, and baton an additional 5 years. She is a busy mother of 3, who have all participated in classes or shows at RCYBE since 2011 and is happily married to her hubby Chad. She is excited to join our teaching team!
Mary Spradling has been dancing since she was 4 years old. Since that time, she has enjoyed learning and teaching a wide variety of styles of dance including Hip Hop, Jazz, Broadway and Contemporary. She has been at River City for 11 years and has danced for George Washington High school’s dance team and West Virginia State’s dance team. Currently, she is a fulltime Psychology student at Marshall University and plans on obtaining her doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology. In her spare time, she babysits with several area children. With her love for children and passion for dance, Mary can’t wait to start teaching this season!
Specializing in Ballet/Pointe/Variations
Rhiannon Turley Bailey began her ballet training with Kim Pauley at the American Academy Ballet at the age of 12. She was quickly taken into the Charleston Ballet early on and performed in numerous classical works, including traditional full-length ballets Coppelia, La Fille Mal Gardee, and Les Sylphides.
She has participated in many West Virginia Dance Festivals, Festivall, and attended summer intensive programs at Point Park College’s International Summer Dance, Boston Ballet Summer Intensive, Atlanta School of Ballet, and The School of Cleveland San Jose Ballet. She has studied under many notable instructors including: David Howard, Duncan Nobel and Gyula Pandi of North Carolina School of the arts, Dennis Nahat, Gladisa Guadalupe, and Karen Gabay of Cleveland San Jose Ballet, Laura Alonso, Miguel Campaneria, Olivier Wecxsteen, John McFall, and Oleg Briansky, and Jerry Rose. In the summer of 1996 she was invited to study under Robert Barnett and Maniya Barredo of the Atlanta School of Ballet where she was coached extensively. While a student in Atlanta Ms. Turley returned to the Charleston Ballet to perform Blue Bird pas de deux in Sleeping Beauty Act III, Epitafio, and the March Hare in Alice In Wonderland, choreographed by Milwaukee’s Yves de Bouteiller.
During her time with the Charleston Ballet, Ms. Turley created the role of Clara in the Nutcracker performed with the WV Symphony Orchestra. She danced the title roles Ondine with partner Ariel Cisneros, soloist with the Cleveland San Jose Ballet and Istar with guest artist Freddie Fourie, both created for her by Kim Pauley, director of the Charleston Ballet.
In addition, Ms. Turley has appeared in the opera productions of WV Symphony’s Carmen and West Side Story and also collaborations with Womansong and Montclaire String Quartet. She most recently performed in Marry Poppins with the Charleston Light Opera Guild.
Specializing in Contemporary and Hip Hop
Kristen L. Pennington-Hackman started dancing at the early age of 3 years old. She was a competitive gymnast with Maverick Gymnastics for 10 Years and danced with numerous instructors within. She was head of the Contemporary Dance Company at Capital High School while she attended school and then went to college on a dance scholarship to BYU-Idaho and Utah Valley State University. While Kristen was in college she went on “Extravadance” Dance Tours to other countries such as Brazil, New Zealand, Fiji, and the Ukraine. She danced on professional dance companies on the west coast such as Contemporary Dance Theater and Synergy Dance Company. When she came back to the east coast she has taught many dancers who have gone on to professional dance careers. Kristen has studied dance under famous choreographers such as Wade Robson (BU dancer for Michael Jackson), Mia Michaels ( So You Think You Can Dance choreographer), Shane Sparks, Brian Friedman ( BU dancer for Britney Spears, etc. ), Dave Scott (choreographer of Stomp The Yard), Cris Judd ( BU dancer for Jennnifer Lopez ), Laurie Ann Gibson (MTV’s Making The Band), and many more. Kristen danced numerous summer intensives with The Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Company of Chicago. Kristen has a BA Degree in Business and resides in South Charleston with her 10-year-old son Kayden Alexander Hackman. Kristen loves the opportunity of sharing her love for dance with the students at River City.
Alicia Holloway grew up in Morgantown WV. She has studied extensively with SAB (School of American Ballet) in NYC as well as with numerous world renowned teachers. Currently, she is a professional ballerina with the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Valery Lantratov is a graduate of the Moscow Academic Choreographic College, Lantratov was selected as a first soloist with the State Musical Theater K. Stanislavski and V. Nemirovich-Danchenko (Moscow Stanislavski Ballet). With the theater, he danced principal rôles in such ballets as Don Quixote, Coppélia, Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet.
In 1986 Lantratov was awarded the title “Honored Artist of Russia,” and in 1997, Russian president Boris Yeltsin named Lantratov “People’s Artist of Russia,”the Russian Federation’s highest artistic honor.
In 1991, he was one of eight soloists in Rudolf Nureyev‘s “Farewell Tour” of the United Kingdom. During an engagement of this tour in Sunderland, England, Reuters reported that the music broke down during a solo “leaving… Lantratov dancing to silence.”In 1993, Lantratov began working for the Kremlin Ballet. There he danced the rôle of Napoleon Bonaparte in the ballet Napoleon, Ruslan in a production based on the work Ruslan and Ludmila directed by A. Petrov, Basil in Don Quixote, production by Vladimir Vasiliev, Tibald in Romeo and Juliet by U. Grigorovich, and Coppelius in Koppelia, production by A. Petrov. This same year, Lantratov formed the Russian National Ballet Foundation, a Moscow-based charitable organization with the purpose of promoting the traditional art of the Russian classical ballet and providing aesthetic education. Its creation was supported by the Moscow Actors’ Charitable Foundation under the guidance of Galina Ulanova and the Stanislavsky and Nemorovich-Danchenko Moscow Musical Theater.
In 1997 he was named People’s Artist of the Russian Federation.