About The Ballet School of Stamford


The purpose of The Ballet School of Stamford is to foster the Art of Ballet. Toward this end, it will undertake the following activities:

  • Offer excellent ballet training to all levels of students
  • Work with other educational institutions to develop outreach programs on ballet
  • Develop a community awareness of the value of dance education
  • Promote and encourage cultural diversity in ballet training
  • Strengthen the connections between visual and performing arts by working with other arts organizations
  • Engage in cultural activities that will enhance the quality of life in Stamford


The Ballet School of Stamford was founded in1998 as a non-profit organization. Currently we have two hundred and eighty students attending classes in our studios in Stamford's Old Town Hall. We have earned a reputation of nurturing young dancers through a disciplined and focused training program that brings out the best of their natural talent. Our faculty led by Artistic Director Michael Vernon is a dedicated and knowledgeable group of professionals who are passionate about teaching. Our outreach program "Dance for All began the first week we opened our doors with a class at St. Lukes LifeWorks and has continued successfully by partnering with other social service organizations to ensure we are reaching young people who can benefit from our programs. We are proud in the last twelve years that 100% of our graduates have gone on to college including those who dance professionally.


Michael Vernon
- Artistic Director
Michael Vernon studied at the Nesta Brooking School of Ballet and the Royal Ballet School in London with such legendary teachers as Dame Ninette de Valois and Leonide Massine.    ..more

Marti Etter
- Executive Director
Marti Etter's professional career encompasses over twenty years of experience as a production manager and coordinator for theater, opera, concerts, film, dance and multi-media projects.    ..more

Heather Hawk
- Assistant Artistic Director
Heather Hawk grew up in Munster, Indiana. She received her early ballet training in Chicago, including Chicago City Ballet.    ..more

Renee Robinson
- Administrator
Renee Robinson has held the position of administrator at The Ballet School of Stamford for the past twelve and a half years. She has held varied positions in the past in both the corporate and retail industries.    ..more




Roland Culler - Ballet
Roland Dwight Culler II hails from New York City, where he began dancing at the age of 9 years old.    ..more

Lauren Etter
- Ballet and Modern
Lauren Etter trained at the The Ballet School of Stamford where she began teaching and choreographing under the mentorship of Stephanie Marini, along with Michael Vernon and Peter Anastos.    ..more

Dieter Riesle
- Ballet and Jazz
Dieter Riesle was trained at the John Cranko Ballet Academy in Stuttgart, Germany.    ..more

Eliza Sherlock-Lewis
Eliza Sherlock-Lewis - Ballet
Eliza Sherlock-Lewis, native of Weston, MA, trained at Walnut Hill School for the Arts and spent summers at School of American Ballet, Miami City Ballet School, and Boston Ballet School on scholarship.

Karilyn Surratt - Ballet and Jazz
Karilyn is thrilled to join the faculty at The Ballet School of Stamford after a great year that included performing in Goodspeed Musicals' Anything Goes as Virtue, teaching dance for Goodspeed's Arts Education Program, performing a new ballet by Graham Lustig, artistic director of Oakland Ballet, and teaching the awesome BSS students at the summer intensive.  


Dana Thomas - Ballet
Dana Thomas is from Centreville, Virginia. She studied with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Dance Institute of Washington, spent summers at Debbie Allen Dance Academy and Mark Morris Dance Group.   ..more

Guest Faculty

Carol Bryan
Jessica Kilpatrick
Flavio Salazar
Tiffany Williams


Peter Anastos
Alex Brady
Lauren Etter
Tom Gold
Megan McCool
Francis Patrelle
Michael Vernon


Samara DiMattia - Physical Therapist in Residence
Samara DiMattia MSPT has been practicing physical therapy in Fairfield County for over 10 years.    ..more


Lilia Khanina
- Music Director
A native born of Russia, Lilia Khanina, earned Master’s Degree in Conducting and Ph.D degree in Musicology from the Moscow Tchaikovsky State Conservatory.    ..more

Kwame' Henry Jones - Percussionist
Kwame' Henry is a professional multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who was born and raised in New York City.


Board of Directors

President Judith Ellenthal

Cacace, Tusch & Santagata
Marti Gibson Etter - The Ballet School of Stamford
Cindy Shumate - Regeneron Pharmaceuticals
Ben Wheeler - Wheeler and Co.
Peter Buck - Creative Pension and Design
Chris Curti - Blue Wolf Capital Partners 
Melinda Cloobeck - Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
Marita Martiney - Janssee, Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson and Johnson
Paula Bell - High Ridge Brands 
Irene Ricci

Interns - Brittny Adebowale, Grace Savage, Bridget Piel, Devon Ostheimer, Maura McHugh, Franki Mastrone