International Ballet’s mission is to represent classical and contemporary ballet by offering world-class productions and training to the Greenville community. With a focus on professional quality performances and a commitment to fostering local talent and meaningful outreach programs, International Ballet continues to transcend boundaries and cultures to inspire audiences with a performing arts experience unlike any other.
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).
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.
Sarah Shoemaker brings over 25 year of experience in dance, education, business, and film to her role at International Ballet. Her introduction to the organization was in 2015 as a film producer for Invitation to the Dance, a film about the special needs dance class at International Ballet. The film was awarded the top prize of "Best Overall Film" at the 2020 Tryon International Film Festival.
As a former professional dancer, teacher and choreographer, Mrs. Shoemaker has worked in professional ballet companies, private dance studios and independent schools in South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. Her resumé includes serving as Director of Dance at the Ensworth School and Brentwood Academy in Nashville, TN, Marketing Director at the Augusta Ballet, and dancer at Charleston Ballet Theatre. Since moving to Greenville in 2014, she served as the choreographer for TD Bank’s Annual Wow! Awards tour before joining the team at International Ballet. Ms. Shoemaker holds a B.S. in Business Administration from The College of Charleston and recently graduated from Leadership Greenville Class 46.
ADMINISTRATIVE & PRODUCTION TEAM
A dedicated, collaborative and generous team cultivating an environment aimed to preserve and promote classical ballet and the arts.
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.
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 Dustin and her 1 year old son doing anything outdoors.
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
Adult Program Director & 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
Gabriel trained at International Ballet and performed with the company for six seasons, two of them as a professional. He danced the principal role of Franz in Coppélia, in numerous soloist roles in The Nutcracker, and in Giselle’s “Peasant Pas;” and he performed in numerous lead roles in excerpts from Don Quixote, La Bayadere, Swan Lake, Markitenka, Fairy Doll, Little Humpback Horse, Sleeping Beauty, La Fille mal gardee, and Nayada and the Fisherman. He performed in original contemporary works by Clarence McDorman, Alexander Tressor, and Juliana Jordan. He danced with Ballet Magnificat’s Pre-Professional Level in full productions of Face to Face, The Prodigal’s Journey, and The Scarlet Cord, and he appeared as a dancer in the book trailer for the #1 New York Times Bestseller Serafina and the Splintered Heart by Robert Beatty, which premiered on Entertainment Weekly. Gabriel placed third in the Senior Classical Division at the Youth America Grand Prix in Atlanta, and he earned a Teaching Certificate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. He teaches Ballet I and Boys’ Class at IBA and will be assisting the Artistic Director and Production Manager during the 2020-2021 season.
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.
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.
Production & Facilities Manager
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.
Academy & Company Manager
Board of Directors
Michael Hildebrand, Chairman
Michael Dodd, Past Chairman
Kerry Bannister, Vice Chairman
Jim Kudless, Treasurer
Beth Lee, Secretary
© Jerry Finley Photography