High Pointe Dance Staff
Arissa Sanders is the Director of High Pointe Performing Arts Studio. She started teaching as a sophomore in high school and gained a huge passion for working with dancers. Arissa is a graduate of Bentonville High School and has a degree in Exercise Science. She was Miss Arkansas Valley in 2008 and went on to compete for Miss Arkansas. Arissa was selected as a VIP (very important performer) for Dance Olympus and toured nationally with them working with amazing instructors including, Sarah Jo Fazio, Sam Fiorello, and Ian Klein. She was also selected for Junior and Senior dancer of the year throughout her competition years. Arissa had the pleasure of working with the great Ms. Peggie Wallis where she grew a love for ballet. Arissa went on to dance with the Tulsa Ballet Company and performed in their world premier of the newly choreographed, Nutcracker and in the North Carolina Dance Theatre version of Snow White, as the Blue Bird. She was then offered a spot and participated in their summer intensive. Arissa was a UDA (Universal Dance Association) Staff member and had the wonderful opportunity to work with multiple dance teams and amazing instructors from all over the country. Arissa has won numerous choreography awards and her students have won technique awards and top overall placements at competitions. She has choreographed for Bentonville and Rogers dance teams and is currently the Lincoln Junior High Assistant Coach and choreographer. Arissa continues her dance education by attending Broadway Dance Center over the summer and takes multiple convention/workshop classes throughout the year.
Elizabeth Dennen was born and raised in Oxford, Connecticut. She began her early dance training at Woodbury Ballet, under the direction of Randyl Errica, and went on to win the Connecticut Classic Ballet Grand Prize, Pas de Deux in May, 2011. She continued her training at Adelphi University under the direction of Frank Augustyn, earning a BFA in Dance, Magna Cum Laude, with a double minor in Marketing and Communications in May of 2015. While at Adelphi University, Elizabeth performed Acts Of Light, a piece by Martha Graham, at the Joyce Theater in New York City. She was the chapter President of Nu Delta Alpha, a dance honor society, which she brought to the University. She was also was chosen to appear in a series of video promotions for Adelphi University during her years as an undergraduate Dance Major. Following graduation, Elizabeth joined Kansas City Ballet for their 2015-16 season, as a member of the second company and performed in Devon Carney’s Premiere of The Nutcracker as snow and flowers. She also performed as a swan in Swan Lake with KCB. Elizabeth has attended summer intensives with Bolshoi Ballet, Festival Ballet Providence and Boca Ballet Theater. While at Boca Ballet Theater, Elizabeth performed in Serenade and most recently, as Moya in Giselle. She joined NWA Ballet Theatre as a Company Dancer in August and teaches barre at local studios. This is Elizabeth’s first season working with High Pointe.
Rachel Staff, ARAD, has trained in classical ballet since she was seven years old. She has been featured in roles in numerous local ballet productions such as “The Mother Fairy” in Sleeping Beauty and “The Dew Drop Fairy” in the Nutcracker, and she was also as a performer in the “Rejoice and Dance Ensemble” which offered performances in the Northwest Arkansas area. Rachel has passed all five major exams of the “Royal Academy of Dance” based out of London, England. She has performed in several of Mignon Furman’s Performance Awards through New York’s American Academy of Ballet and received silver with distinction, gold, and gold with distinction and completed Level 12 with gold with distinction. Rachel was the director of Adonai Ballet Academy and has been teaching for 13 years. She has enjoyed being artistic director/producer of numerous ballet productions over the years including “Change Me: A Cinderella Story”, “The Journey”, “Sophia”, and “Beauty: A Tale as Old as Time”. Rachel Staff is an ABT Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 3 of the ABT National Training Curriculum.
I was born in Belgium, where at age 7, I started training at Belgian’s only professional ballet school; Royal Ballet School of Antwerp. At 12, I was accepted to the Kirov Academy of Ballet in D.C. on full scholarship. After three years at the Kirov, exclusively training Vaganova, I spent a year at the Rock School in Philadelphia on full scholarship. When I was 17 I moved to Miami to attend the Miami City Ballet School, where I was exposed to Balanchine’s technique and ballets. I had the opportunity to understudy with the company for Nutcracker, and Giselle, as well as Balanchine’s ballets: Square Dance, and Allegro Brilliante. I have been intensively trained in Classical ballet, but have been exposed to Jazz and modern as well. Over the years I was accepted to prestigious summer programs such as The Kirov Academy of Ballet, School of American Ballet, ABT NY, Miami City Ballet, Royal Ballet school, and École de Danse Classique de Monte Carlo (France).
In 2009, I danced the full lenghth swan lake ballet with The Royal Ballet of Flanders in Antwerp, Belgium as a company apprentice.
In 2010, I was offered a contract with Ballet Arkansas as a professional ballet company member, and danced with them for 4 seasons. Dancing soloist roles in numerous ballets choreographed just for Ballet Arkansas by world reknown choreographers. I’ve also performed both Sugar Plum, and snow queen in the annual Nutcracker, as well as the wedding pas de deux from Don Quixote, and the famous Black Swan Pas de deux.
After welcoming our first baby in 2014, I decided to retire from my professional career, and focus on teaching full time. I was the ballet program director for 7 years at Ms Karens Dance Studio in North Little Rock. Teaching technique, pointe, and repertoire classes.
I am so grateful to pass on the technique and knowledge, I was lucky enough to receive, to my students. It’s amazing to see students’ progress, both in technique and work ethic. You can see their passion for ballet and dance in general grow over time. That’s how I fell in love with teaching ballet!
Emily Starnes is a teacher at High Pointe Preforming Arts Studio. She danced on the two time state champion Bentonville varsity dance team. She has gone to UDA nationals in Orlando Florida and competed, placing 9th in the nation on this team. She has also participated in programs such as Go Pro, preforming shows in Branson and training with names such as Janet Langer, Helene Phillips and Paul Kirkland, receiving this scholarship multiple years in a row. She has gone to Broadway Dance Center to take classes in the summer to learn and grow as a dancer and choreographer. She is classically trained in Cecchetti, and has received awards of technical excellence at multiple competitions. Emily has won overall high point and first place overall senior elite soloist, Emily loves to dance and compete. She choreographs for Fulbright Junior High, a team who has won first place awards for her jazz choreography. Emily will be teaching ballet, jazz, and pom classes.
Lexi Deleon is a dance teacher at High Pointe Performing Arts Studio. She has been dancing for 15 years and competing for 10 years winning multiple technique and intensity awards as well as many category cups and top 5 over all solo awards. She danced on the 2 time state champion Bentonville Varsity Dance team as well as competing at UDA Nationals in Orlando, Florida with them placing 9th in the nation. She has received the Top Stars invitation, Solo Challenge scholarship and Go Pro Scholarship at recent competitions. Lexi is also a choreographer for Fulbright Junior High, winning 1st place overall with her jazz choreography. She has been teaching and assisting dance for multiple years. Lexi will be teaching tap, jazz, hip hop tricks, and pom classes.
Laura Russell is a Junior at the University of Arkansas. She has danced with Shuffles and Ballet II in Little Rock since the age of 3. She was a member of Ballet Arkansas Junior Company from 2009 to 2012. She performed in Ballet Arkansas‘ production of the Nutcracker for 10 years. Her most recent roles have been Snow demi-soloist, Flower demi-soloist, Spanish and Ballerina Doll solo. She also performed in Ballet Arkansas’ 2009-2012 Fall and Spring performances. She has studied under the world-renowned ballet teacher, Arleen Sugano, for nine years. She also studied for four weeks at Joffrey Ballet Summer Intensive in New York City; Texas Ballet Theater Summer Intensive; Shreveport Dance Academy Summer Intensive, and Ballet Arkansas Summer Intensive. She was a semi-finalist at the world’s largest ballet competition, Youth American Grand Prix. Laura was also a test subject for Denison Universities pirouette experiment. Laura was a member of the Rockette Dance Team at Mount Saint Mary’s Academy, where she was 1st Lieutenant. She is currently crowned Miss North Little Rock, and competed for the title of Miss Arkansas 2015.
Gracie Blanchard is a teacher at High Pointe Performing Arts Studio. Gracie is from Oklahoma City Oklahoma, and has grown up dancing her whole life with 17 years of experience. Gracie danced competitively for her home studio for a number of years. She then dance on her high school pom squad for four years, competed with them, and was captain for two years. Gracie continued her dance career on the Arkansas Razorback pom squad. She is a part-time choreographer for high schools in Edmond, Oklahoma. This past summer Gracie was a finalist for the Oklahoma City Thunder Girls, and will continue to pursue a future in NBA dance.
Jessica Seiboldt began dancing the age of three and began competitive dance at the age of eight under the instruction of Joel Harrison, America’s Got Talent finalist and member of All That! power tap group. Jessica went on to receive numerous solo and group awards in tap, jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, contemporary and clogging throughout her competitive dance years. At the age of sixteen, Jessica was selected to an intensive training program at Radio City Music Hall with the Radio City Rockettes. While there she was trained in tap, high kick and precision movement. Throughout high school, Jessica was a member of the Bentonville High School Varsity dance team. She led her team to Bentonville’s first dance state championship as both a captain and choreographer. She went on to be selected to the Arkansas All-State dance team where she received the highest title of Arkansas Athletic Association Outstanding Dancer of the Year. Jessica has choreographed for and worked with numerous dance teams in the area including Bentonville High School, Fulbright Junior High School, Lincoln Junior High School, and Lakeside Junior High School. She has received numerous choreography awards in all genres of studio and school dance disciplines. Currently, Jessica is the head coach of the Fulbright Junior High School dance team. Jessica graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in Educational Studies and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in middle school education.
Maggie Jones is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas where she trained 15 years in classical ballet, tap and jazz under the direction of Jana Beard, Allison Stodola Wilson, and Arleen Sugano. Maggie also trained and performed with Ballet Arkansas under the direction of Michael Bearden and Laura Babcock. She has performed in numerous dance productions in Central Arkansas, including shows at the Repertory Theatre, and dancing various roles in Ballet Arkansas’ Nutcracker over a 12 year period. Furthering her ballet training, Maggie spent her junior year in high school at Houston Ballet Academy under the direction of Stanton Welch. While at the Houston Ballet Academy she performed in multiple of the companies shows including Ben Stevenson’s Nutcracker, Claudio Munoz Studio Series, Cheryne Bushce’s adaptation of Sylphide, John Neumeier’s Yondering, as well as Stanton Welch’s Manon and A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Maggie has also attended numerous ballet summer intensive programs including Texas Ballet Theatre, American Ballet Theatre, and Houston Ballet’s summer intensives. Maggie continues to further her dance education while studying Architecture at the University of Arkansas.
Mary Jane McConnell
Mary Jane McConnell is a teaching assistant at High Pointe. She began dancing at the age of 3. Mary Jane travels as a member of the Tremaine Performance Program, under the direction of Mr. Joe Tremaine, and assists leading choreographers in the dance world including Meghan Sanett, Keri LaGrand, Emily Zachary Smith and Derrick Schrader. She won Jump Teen VIP 2017, StageOne Standout Teen Dance and scholarship, Tremaine Teen Scholarship 2016, Talent on Parade GoPro Scholarship and many other awards during her tenure competing. She tested for the Cecchetti Council of America and passed commended or highly commended for grades 1-3. The past two summers Mary Jane trained at Tulsa Ballet during their summer intensive and attended the Tremaine Summer Intensive in 2016. Recently Mary Jane made the cut for Juilliard’s 2017 summer intensive and was accepted into Tulsa Ballet’s summer intensive and Joffrey’s pre-professional program. Mary Jane’s performances include the Tremaine Closing Show, during the 2016-2017 Green Light Tour, Tulsa Ballet summer intensive showcase, Kids Rock Show in Branson, MO and other various recitals, competitions and demonstrations. Mary Jane is a member of the National Honor Society, Central United Methodist Church and the Southern Association of Dance Masters. Mary Jane was accepted into Ballet West in Utah for summer intensive training and will be taking classes this summer. She currently home schools to train and will be attending Fayetteville Virtual Academy beginning the fall of 2017.
Peyton Jobe is a teaching assistant at High Pointe and began dancing at the age of 3. Peyton is a former Golden Tamer at Bentonville High School. She has trained under Arissa Sanders for many year as well as gone through Cecchetti ballet testing with Beth Hickman. Peyton has excellent leadership skills from being a dancer team captain to representing her class in Student Council. She has recently been selected as a J.U.M.P VIP finalist, which was chosen by some of the top professionals in the business, such as Misha Gabriel, Nick Lazzarini, and Colby Shinn. Peyton was also a Talent on Parade T.O.P Starz in 2013. She has won numerous overalls and judges choice for her solos and unique style and was selected as an All-American Dancer.