Meet Our Team

MaryElizabeth Ameal, Director

Master Teacher / Choreographer / Studio Business Consultant & Coach

MaryElizabeth Ameal (formerly MaryElizabeth Mock) began her formal training in Ballet, Modern, and Jazz at Florida Ballet Arts School, where she trained for twelve years under the direction of Lynn Winslow. At the age of 14, Mrs. Ameal was selected by Jean Allenby-Weidner and Eddy Toussaint to join the former Sarasota Ballet Junior Company under the direction of the world acclaimed Monsieur Toussaint and the tutelage of Ballet Masters Sasha Yapparov and Alexei Dovgopolyi. At the age of 16, she furthered her training at Connecticut’s prestigious Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts under the tutelage of Sharon E. Dante, Joan Kunsch, Eleanor D’Antuono, DeniseWarner- Limoli, and Scott Thyberg, where she studied Vaganova Pedagogy in depth.

As a student, she received invitations to train at highly respected summer intensives including Boston Ballet and Princeton Ballet where she was offered scholarships, Washington Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Nutmeg Ballet, and Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick, MA where she was awarded a full scholarship and had the opportunity to train under Denise Pons, Michael Maul, David Howard, and Sydelle Gomberg. In addition to Summer Intensives, she has had the great privilege of participating in intensive workshops under Alex Ursuliak (former Ballet Master for Germany’s Stuttgart Ballet), Azari Plissetski (Ballet Master for the Rudra Bejart School in Lausanne, Switzerland), and Galina Shlyapina (former Prima Ballerina of the Moscow Classical Ballet).

At the age of 17, MaryElizabeth embarked upon her professional dance career, performing for Sarasota Ballet of Florida under the associate direction of company founder Jean Weidner and ballet masters Pavel Fomin and Sasha Yapparov, Classical Ballet Theatre under the direction of Mark Mejia, guest performances with Miami City Ballet, Ballet South, and Southern Ballet Theatre, and Starpointe Productions under the direction of Fletcher McClendon, where she performed for Festivals, Benefits and for the Oxy Chem Corporation’s National Convention on Sanibel Island.  In 1997, Frank Hatchett, “Master of Jazz” and owner of the world famous Broadway Dance Center in NYC, spotted MaryElizabeth’s talent and invited her to serve as the choreography demonstrator for a series of his Jazz and Contemporary Master Classes.  During her ballet career, her most memorable ballets performed were Walpurgis Night from the opera “Faust”, Giselle, Raymonda, Paquita, “Arabian” Pas de Deux and “Marzipan” Pas de Deux in The Nutcracker, Serenade, variations from La Bayadere, “Wheat Fairy” from Sleeping Beauty, Pas de Quatre, the principal role of “Peter” in Mejia’s Peter and the Wolf, and the soloist role as a bride in Mejia’s production of Dracula.

From Dancer to Teacher: In 1994 while intently focused on her dance career in the Washington D.C. area, MaryElizabeth was asked to serve as a private ballet coach to a group of Olympic gymnast trainees in Bethesda and Gaithersburg, MD.  Not long after, she realized her abilities as a teacher.  Since then, she has taught and choreographed for highly respected schools and professional companies including Florida Ballet Arts, West Florida Ballet, San Diego Ballet, Hammond Studio of Dance in Solana Beach, CA, Brandon Ballet, School of Russian Ballet in Sarasota, and has conducted Master Classes across the country.  She has coached national Ice-Dancing medalists training for the Winter Olympics, fitness professionals, and has maintained a faithful following of ballet students throughout the past two decades who have sought her out for classes, private coaching, and choreography.

From Teacher to Artistic/Executive Director: In the year 2000, MaryElizabeth’s career took a sharp turn as she set out on an unexpected mission to save Florida Ballet Arts, the school she called ‘home’ as a child.  FBA, under the previous owner, had seen some rough days and closed its doors for good…or so they thought.  Two weeks later, a determined 24 year old reopened the studio doors and breathed new life into what had been Sarasota’s first and longest standing ballet school.   As the new President and Artistic/Executive Director, Mrs. Ameal successfully restructured the business, the training curriculums, and everything in between.  Within the first four months, she grew business by 320 percent and within the first five years, by a steady 835 percent.  She carried on the traditions of the company and school that first introduced the art of ballet to Sarasota, while taking the school to a higher level of training and performing for the enrichment of the students.  During that time, she founded the Florida Ballet Arts Ensemble, through which she dazzled Sarasota audiences with cutting edge performances.  She revived the Florida Ballet Arts Foundation, which brought scholarship opportunities to promising students with financial need and brought holiday performances to nursing homes throughout Sarasota, while also bringing residents of retirement and assisted living facilities to the theaters for FBA’s annual Nutcracker performances.  For more than a decade as Artistic/Executive Director of Florida Ballet Arts Academy and the Florida Ballet Arts Ensemble, MaryElizabeth demonstrated her creativity, business acumen, and sharp attention to detail on a broad and diverse scale, consistently turning visions into reality and earning great respect from the community through her expertise, commitment to excellence, and strong integrity.

Throughout the past decade, MaryElizabeth has served as an Audition Site Liaison-Coordinator and Conductor of Auditions for Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts, selecting students coast-to-coast for their Summer Intensive and Year-round Residency Programs, and as an Audition Conductor for Jose Manuel Carreno & Robert DeWarren’s “Carreno Dance Festival” Summer Intensive Program.  While teaching for San Diego Ballet, she served as a Master Teacher to Unity Dance Ensemble, a Los Angeles-based professional company founded by Emmy Award Winning Choreographer, Tessandra Chavez (best known from “So You Think You Can Dance” & “Dancing with the Stars”).  MaryElizabeth is the Founder of Imaginique Contemporary Ballet and continues to choreograph and train students in both private and group settings in Sarasota and beyond.  She measures her success by that of her students, who have been finalists in the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix Competition, have graduated from Fordham, Southern Methodist University, and NYU, to name a few, and have gone on to dance professionally for Boston Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal, Texas Ballet Theater, Ballet West II, Ballet Theatre of Maryland, and most notably, the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen, Denmark.   Mrs. Ameal’s highly effective teaching styles and extensive training in the Vaganova Syllabus, combined with her passion for artistry in dance, make her one of today’s most highly sought after Master Teachers, Private Coaches, and Choreographers.

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Stefan Gernaga

Ballet / Contemporary / Modern / Pas de Deux

Stefan Gernaga began his dance career at the age of 11, with the Ukrainian dance company Kashtan. During his time with Kashtan he decided to further his ballet training at the University of Akron, where he received a B.F.A. in Dance and performed in productions of Turondo, My Fair Lady, Tales of Hoffman, Pirates of Penzance, Carmen, Giselle, Swan Lake, La Bayadare, Graduation Ball, Choreographic Offering, Nutcracker with the Cleveland Ballet under the direction of Denise Nahat and the Cleveland Opera. Upon his graduation, Stefan moved to Sarasota to dance with Sarasota Ballet under the direction of Eddy Toussaint where he performed in Cantate, Concerto Por Sophie, Bodies, Alexei le de Trotuerand, Florida Suite. Stefan’s desire to further his artistic expression took him to the Charleston Ballet Theater under the direction of Jill Ethourne Barr where he performed as a soloist in Sleeping Beauty, Firebird, Ballet One, Romeo and Juliet, Dracula, Captured Angel and Nutcracker. Stefan later joined Ballet Eddy Toussaint as principal in Requiem, Beethoven 7th symphony, Dracula, Souvenance, Concerto en Movement. Stefan also had the opportunity to train with the ballet master of Bejart Ballet and Jacque Daimios, which added to artistry and performance. Mr. Gernaga has been performing and guest teaching with the Florida Ballet Arts Ensemble and Academy since 2001, and joined Florida Ballet Arts as a faculty member and choreographer in 2009.



Sybil Manzano

Ballet / Classical Repertoire Coach

At the age of thirteen, Sybil Manzano began her formal ballet training at the Florida Ballet Arts School under the direction of Lynn Winslow. During that time, her summers were spent at the Boston Ballet School and the Nutmeg Conservatory, earning many scholarships along the way. As a student, Mrs. Manzano had the opportunity to perform with the Cecchetti Students Ballet Company, the former Sarasota Ballet Junior Company, and the Nutmeg Ballet.

Mrs. Manzano began her professional career with the Bay Ballet Theatre under the artistic direction of Christopher Fleming in Tampa. Later, moving on to the Sarasota Ballet of Florida under the direction of Robert DeWarren. At that time, she performed soloist roles in ballet such as Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Firebird, Gisells, Sleeping 
Beauty, The Nutcracker, Balanchine’s Rubies, and Alvin Ailey’s 
Streams. Mrs. Manzano joined the Columbia City Ballet under the direction of William Starrett and performed soloist roles in Dracula, Dracula’s Revenge, Swan Lake, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Coppelia, Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty, and de Mille’s Rodeo. Mrs. Manzano has been a faculty member and artist with FBA since 2001.


Addul Manzano

Principal Dancer, Charlotte Ballet
Ballet / Pas de Deux

Addul Manzano began his ballet training at the age of eleven in Santiago de Cuba. Shortly after, he was selected to attend the National School of Ballet in Havana, Cuba. Upon graduation, Mr. Manzano was offered a position with the National Ballet of Cuba under the direction of Alicia Alonso. During that time, he toured North and South America perfoming many soloist roles in Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Cinderella, Giselle, Coppelia, Themes & Variations, Poema de Fuego, and Canto Vital.

Since arriving in the United States, he has danced for Columbia City Ballet as a Principal, Arthur Mitchell’s Dance Theatre of Harlem in NYC where he toured the U.S., England, Ireland, Scotland, and Greece, Washington Ballet, BalletNY, and the Sarasota Ballet of Florida where he danced principal roles such as Seigfried in Swan Lake. He joined North Carolina Dance Theatre, now Charlotte Ballet, as a Principal Dancer in 2006.   Mr. Manzano has been a member of the FBA team of artists since 2004.


Sabirjan “Sasha” Yapparov

Ballet / Pas de Deux

Sabirjan “Sasha” Yapparov was born in Russia and received his academic and ballet training from the Institute of Choreography in Perm, Russia. He studied with some of the best teachers in the country, including Honored Artist of the Russian Republic, Julius Plaht, a student of the celebrated Professor Agrippina Y. Vaganova (founder of the present system of Russian ballet training).

From 1972 to 1974, Mr. Yapparov was a soloist with the Opera and Ballet in Sverdlovsk. From 1974 to 1976, he worked with Bolshoi Ballet Uzbekistan. From 1976 to 1990, he was a principal with the Odessa State Opera and Ballet Theatre. During his career, he was also a guest principal and worked with many great choreographers and dancers including Gordeyev, Vasiliev, and Plisetskaya. An experienced dancer in the neo-classical and contemporary repertoires, Mr. Yapparov has had such leading roles as Albrecht in Giselle, Siegfried in Swan Lake, Prince Desiree in The Sleeping Beauty, Ivan in Hunchback Horse, and Prince Star in Masquerade. He has danced throughout the former Soviet Union as well as Italy, Spain, India, Portugal, Hungary, Finland, and Canada. In 1979, Mr. Yapparov won the prestigious Ukranian Ballet Competition in Kiev. In 1980, he was a winner of one of the top prizes in the All-Union Competition of Choreographers and Ballet Dancers in Moscow. In 1984, he was awarded the rank of Honored Artist of the Ukraine. Mr. Yapparov joined the faculty of Florida Ballet Arts Academy in 2006. In September of 2009, he relocated to Washington D.C. for the position of Ballet Master at the world renowned Kirov Academy and in 2011, Mr Yapparov joined the faculty of the Portland School of Ballet as their Director of CORPS.


Kevin Frey

Dancer, Lady Gaga World Tour
Hip Hop

Kevin Frey grew up in the beautiful city of Oceanside. Since birth he has always had a passion and a deep connection with music. With dreams of becoming an entertainer, he got himself into dance classes at the age of 10. Training at Dance Unlimited, Kevin studied in Hip Hop, Tap, Jazz, and Ballet. Following his love of dance, he later moved to train at such studios as Studio 429, Culture Shock Dance Center, and Rising Star Dance Academy. With a passion for the hip hop community, Kevin found his way to grace the stage with some of SoCal’s biggest dance groups including: Flipside, Breakthrough, FutureShock SD, Formality and Choreo Cookies.

Kevin eventually grew hungry for more and in his pursuit of something new and meaningful he found Unity Dance Ensemble by Tessandra Chavez. A member since 2007, Kevin has worked his way up from Unity 2 directed by Tarua Hall to Unity LA, with whom he currently dances with. Kevin’s eclectic style is based on a strict Hip Hop foundation and ventures to new areas of movement far and beyond the imagination. Kevin hopes to take his style to new heights and push the dance community to another level. Kevin was on the NBC show ‘America’s Got Talent’ and had the opportunity to work with Brian Friedman. He has also worked with Rosero McCoy, NappyTabs, Tessandra Chavez, and Dave Scott. Kevin currently resides in LA and is dancing on a world tour with Lady Gaga. He hopes to not only achieve his own goals, but to inspire others to do what they love and to never compromise their dreams.