A team of leaders/educators who bring diverse experiences and in dance and arts management.
Lena Forster trained at the prestigious School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet, under George Balanchine. She was one of a specially selected group to attend the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music in their first class of dance majors, also later performing with the Cincinnati Ballet. She taught in numerous schools in New York and has been executive director and ballet instructor with the Greenville Ballet and Ballet Spartanburg, acting as Host Coordinator with Greenville Ballet for the Southeastern Regional Ballet Association (SERBA), held in Greenville in 1990.
Lena and her husband, Jurgen, founded the International Ballet Academy and International Ballet in 2003. She has been awarded the Barbara Stone Foundation award for her work as director and instructor in the International Ballet Special Needs program, which provides a weekly adapted dance class for Special Needs adults in partnership with the Greenville County Disabilities and Special Needs Board (now Thrive Upstate).
Lena was given the 2022 International Ballet Standing Ovation Award for exceptional dedication and leadership since 2003. Click here to view the video featuring friends and associates thanking Lena for her years of teaching and service.
Vlada Kysselova is originally from Kiev, Ukraine. She graduated from the Kiev State College of Choreography and holds a bachelor’s degree from Kiev National Linguistics University and a master’s degree with honors in Dance Pedagogy and Choreography from the Ukrainian Academy of Dance at International Slavic University. She danced and toured as a soloist with the National Theater of Opera and Ballet in Kiev, Ukraine, and as a principal dancer with Kiev Theatre of Classical Ballet and Ballet Classique de Paris in France before immigrating to the United States in 2001.
Since May 2004, Vlada has choreographed and staged full-length productions for International Ballet such as Francesca da Rimini, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Lady and the Hooligan, Giselle, La Sylphide, Coppelia, Don Quixote, Paquita, and numerous short works including original choreography for the South Carolina Regional Ballet festival, as well as numerous collaborative works with the Greenville Symphony Orchestra. A founding instructor for International Ballet Academy since its inception in 2003, she has coached and traveled with students for such prestigious ballet competitions as Youth America Grand Prix (Regional and NYC Finals), Serge Lifar International Ballet Competition (Kiev, Ukraine), and the USA International Ballet Competition (Jackson, MS), and her students have received multiple top placements, including “Regional Grand Prix,” in YAGP regional as well as NYC final competitions, and Most Outstanding School in 2008.
© Jerry Finley Photography
Sarah Shoemaker brings over 25 years of experience in dance, education, business, and film to her role at International Ballet. Her introduction to IB in 2015 was as producer/director of Invitation to the Dance, a film about the special needs dance class at International Ballet that went on to win "Best Overall Film" at the 2020 Tryon International Film Festival, "Best Documentary Feature" at the 2021 Beaufort International Film Festival, and "Best Documentary" at the 2021 Reedy Reels Film Festival. She became the Marketing Director and Associate Executive Director in 2018 and Executive Director in 2019. Since that time she has helped the organization survive pandemic impacts, supported the needs of IB’s artistic team mounting full length productions of Giselle, La Fille mal gardee, La Sylphide, and this season’s upcoming production of Swan Lake. She has helped foster the growth of the Assemblé Guild as they continue to achieve record breaking fundraising goals each year. Most recently, she worked directly with IB Outreach Director Michelle Brown to find support for and launch Project Pirouette, IB’s new outreach prgram that teaches ballet to students in afterschool and summer programs around the city of Greenville. Mrs.Shoemaker is a former professional dancer, teacher and choreographer who has worked for Charleston Ballet Theatre, the Augusta Ballet, the Ensworth School and Brentwood Academy in Nashville, TN, and numerous projects as a teacher, choreographer, or associate choreographer. She holds a B.S. in Business Administration from The College of Charleston and is a member of Leadership Greenville Class 46. She is married to IB and SCSAH faculty member Thomas Shoemaker and has two children, Olivia and Sam, who is a member of IB’s Trainee Program.
ADMINISTRATIVE & PRODUCTION TEAM
A dedicated, collaborative and generous team cultivating an environment aimed to preserve and promote classical ballet and the arts.
Director of Artistic Operations
Kelley was born and raised in Greenville, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music Theory from Furman University. A lifelong musician, she has a passion and appreciation for all performing arts. Her business experience includes the New York Philharmonic, where she served as staff liaison to the Volunteer Council, planning major fundraisers and donor appreciation initiatives. She held positions at a record label and an artist management firm in NY, and led music programming for a senior living community in CT, where she was co-winner of the CALA Award for Best Practices. Most recently, she worked in Development for United Ministries after returning to Greenville in 2021.
As a student in Greenville, Kelley attended the Fine Arts Center to study voice and music theory, played violin in school orchestras, and studied piano for many years. Her background in music spans a wide range including musical theater, classical, pop and church music. For 12 years, she taught piano and voice, and recently recorded a collection of original piano compositions. She’s been a member of the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, Durham Choral Arts and the Connecticut Grand Opera Chorus. She is currently a member of the Greenville Chorale and the Herring Chamber Ensemble.
Michelle is originally from Erie, Pennsylvania and located to Greenville with her family in 2015. She received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Allegheny College and a Master of Business Administration from Penn State University. For the last ten years, she has worked in higher education helping college students focus on the transition from high school to college and then to career, first at Penn State Behrend in Educational Equity as Disability Services Coordinator and then at Greenville Technical College as Adjunct Faculty in the School of Academic Advancement. She has served on the board of Glenridge Montessori, served as coordinator of the community garden at Belle Valley Elementary School, and has volunteered as a youth soccer coach. Her hobbies include watching her two girls, Gabrielle and Sophia, both IB company members, perform, gardening, and playing with dogs. She is married to Steve Brown.
© Jerry Finley Photography
Education and Outreach Director and
Susan is a native of Greenville, SC and brings a wealth of knowledge, having been a ballet dancer herself in middle and high school. She continued her dance career in college both teaching ballet classes and was a member of her college dance team . Susan served as a member of the IB Board of Directors from 2015 - 2018 and has over 8 years of marketing experience including working for local digital marketing agencies and national apparel brands. When she is not working Susan enjoys spending time with her husband and three year old son and one year old daughter. She also enjoys anything creative and trying new recipes.
© Jerry Finley Photography
Kristen has a master's in Music Performance, owned a successful photography business for ten years, and currently works at BLMC, Inc. in Greenville. Her daughter, Emma, trains at IB and Kristen says, "We feel like she has truly found her dance home." The arts have always been apart of Kristen's life and she is thrilled to be part of this wonderful organization and showcase all of the great things happening at IB on social media.
Social Media Coordinator
A native of Greenville, South Carolina, Liz Blackwood studied with Josée Beauséjour in Montreal, Canada where she successfully passed dancer and teacher exams with the Cecchetti Society of Canada. While in Montréal, she also worked with Odette Lalonde, Suzanne Plante, Victoria Yakobov, and other renowned teachers. She has attended workshops at Canada’s National Ballet School, l’École supérieure de ballet du Québec, Richmond Ballet, and other locations. She’s worked with numerous schools and choreographed dances for productions including The Wizard of Oz and La Boutique Fantasque.
Ms. Blackwood most recently taught for Ballet Spartanburg before returning to International Ballet Academy in 2015, where she teaches many intermediate level classes, including pre-pointe training, beginning pointe, as well as Open Adult classes and IBA Summer Camps.
© Jerry Finley Photography
Special Programs Director & Nutcracker Rehearsal Assistant
Josha Williams has been a dance educator in the Greenville community for the past 15 years. After completing her formal dance training at North Carolina School of the Arts, she returned to her hometown to begin her professional dancing career with Carolina Ballet Theatre in 2004 and teaching for Barbara Selvy’s School of Carolina Ballet Theatre. She continued training under the direction of Hernan Justo and the mentorship of Anita Pacylowski Justo, while dancing and teaching. One of the highlights of her career was having the opportunity to work with Alonzo King and to perform his originally choreographed piece, “MAP.”
Josha served as one of Carolina Ballet Theatre’s lead teachers for the outreach programs as well as an independent teaching artist in Greenville County Schools for over seven years. She has taught many levels but is best known for her love of teaching tiny ballerinas and specialized adult ballet/strengthening classes. Josha’s passion for exercise, fitness, and overall wellness is now stronger than ever. She currently works as an instructor for Greenville’s Pure Barre and has been since it’s opening in 2012. Josha is thrilled to start this coming year at International Ballet Academy teaching young ballerinas.
Trainee Program Director
Liz grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina Upstate. She has a background in business administration and also serves as the office administrator for International Ballet. Liz and her husband, Doug, who is the International Ballet Production Manager, have twin daughters, Lydia and Logan, who are students in the Honors College at the University of South Carolina majoring in Dance Performance.
Liz has extensive knowledge and experience in the ballet “parent” perspective of everything from pointe shoe purchasing to summer program auditions and is the organized face of the International Ballet Academy studios.
© Jerry Finley Photography
Doug has been a familiar, friendly face for many years at IB. He is everyone’s “studio dad,” and always has a kind word to the students. He can frequently be seen fixing the broken, encouraging the weary, and organizing the chaotic. Splitting his time between IB and the Peace Center, he is the man behind the scenes who makes the magic happen. He had a vision for the Somerville Center, IB’s new home for pre-professional training, years before it became a reality, and he served as Project Manager when the time came to build it. A South Carolina native, Doug is married to Liz Acker, Academy & Company Manager, and is the actual ballet dad of Lydia & Logan Acker, alumnae of IB.