Denise Paavola, Founder

Advanced Ballet, Intermediate Ballet, Pointe, Variations
Denise Paavola, a Flint native, founded Young People’s Ballet Theatre (YPBT) and served as its’ Artistic Director for twenty-four years until her retirement in 2012. Between 1980 and 2012, she also owned and directed Paavola School of Dance, the primary training school for YPBT dancers. Her early dance training with Lena Pelio led her into a professional career with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Ballet Michigan. Teachers who influenced her success include Edward Caton, Frano Jellencic, Nicolas Petrov and Ismet Mouhedin. Her extensive training with Gayla Zukevich while dancing with Ballet Michigan gave her additional performance experience and the knowledge base to open her school and performance company. She holds a BA degree in Elementary and Deaf Education from the University of Michigan and a Masters degree in Learning Disabilities from Eastern Michigan University. Denise developed Young People’s Ballet Theatre on the premise that all inspired dancers in Flint and surrounding areas should have a chance to study with professional choreographers and perform classical ballet.

Dan Thompson, School Director

Boys Class, Partnering
Dan Thompson studied ballet in his early years with Robert Davis. He has taught and danced with YPBT, Ballet Michigan, Flint Institute of Music and University of Michigan-Flint. Dan is Vice-President of Trust Theatre Ensemble and works as an IT Manager at Landaal Packaging Systems. He has a degree in computer science but has also studied technical theatre at the University of Michigan-Flint.

Megan Brady

Intermediate Ballet, Pointe
Megan began dancing at the age of seven years old with Janet Richards in Clio, and began dancing at Paavola School of Dance with Denise Paavola the following year. After joining Young People’s Ballet Theatre, Megan had several performance opportunities dancing lead and soloist roles – having worked with professional guest artists and choreographers including Addison O’Day, Ruth Leney-Midkiff, Scott Heinrich, Guiseppe Canale, Judd Gibbs, and Christina Mangia. During her senior year of high school she began her study of nutrition and became certified as a Nutritional Counselor. Continuing her study of the body, Megan also became a Certified Massage Therapist. Working alongside a chiropractor and physical therapist, Megan has gained a greater understanding of the body and function.

Diane Clift

Advanced Ballet, Pointe, Variations, Stretch & Tone
Diane Clift grew up studying with the Fort Wayne Ballet, under the direction of Michael and Judy Tevlin. While there, she worked with several choreographers from Julliard, New York City Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Charleston Ballet, among others. She performed roles in the Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Firebird, Les Sylphides, to name a few. After graduating she went on to teach ballet in Los Angeles, CA before starting her college career at Wright State University. Diane danced on scholarship with the Dayton Ballet Company while working on her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Wright State. Her college career gave her opportunities as the Dance Captain of the Broadway show Cabaret, Oklahoma, My Fair Lady, as well as many works by guest choreographers. During Diane’s junior year in college she met, and married her husband, Jason Clift. Upon graduation they moved to Atlanta where he attended Life Chiropractic University. While there, Diane danced in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the ’96 Olympics. Soon after she began dancing professionally with the Georgia Ballet. She then began dancing with the renowned Christian Ballet Company, Praise in Motion. It was there that Diane found her biggest fulfillment. She continues to dance and teach and is honored to be teaching at Young People’s Ballet Theatre.

 Ashlynn Feige

Young Dancers, Outreach Programs
Ashlynn Feige began her dance training, at age three, at the Flint School of Performing Arts, where she took ballet, pointe, and modern dance. She also student assisted many classes for the younger children when she was in high school at FSPA. After graduating high school in 2012, she explored other dance forms such as lyrical, tap and jazz, at Dolores’ School of Dance, where she was asked to teach the ballet and pointe classes after several months at the school. She is currently pursuing a B.A. in Dance at the University of Michigan-Flint.

Christina Stefanic

Christina is an alumna of the Young People’s Ballet Theatre and School where she received extensive ballet training from Denise Paavola. Christina has also studied at the Pelio School of Dance and with Sandra Burns. She has taught ballet and jazz for eleven years, and coached a national award winning competition dance team. She has a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Michigan-Flint. Currently, Christina teaches at YPBT, manages Toe To Toe Dance Wear, and is a judge for regional and national dance competitions.

Brianna Phillips

Level 1 Ballet, Pre/Beginning Pointe, Adult Ballet
Brianna is an alumna of the Young People’s Ballet Theatre and School where she received extensive ballet training from Denise Paavola. Brianna studied this summer with Carolina Ballet. She has participated in the Youth America Grand Prix and has starred in many leading roles with Young Peoples Ballet Theatre.

Shannan Walton

Mommy & Me, Into Ballet for Homeschoolers, Outreach Programs
Shannan is an alumna of the Young People’s Ballet Theatre and School where she received extensive ballet training from Denise Paavola.