Staff and Faculty   


Jessica Kennedy, Executive Director, prior to joining OAB in 2017 represented The Wolfsonian – Florida International University (Miami Beach, FL), where she served as Assistant Director for Education and Public Programs. Jessica’s expertise is in nonprofit arts management, arts programming, and education. With over 15 years of experience in nonprofit management and arts education, she has also worked for the Norton Museum of Art (West Palm Beach, FL), Oregon College of Art and Craft (Portland, OR), The Arts Council of Southern Indiana (New Albany, IN), and The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL). She holds graduate degrees in art history, law, and teaching.

Penny Michonski, Operations Director, has worked in arts administration for over 10 years. After graduating from Creighton University with a degree in music and concentrations in business and dance, Ms. Michonski worked in marketing for Opera Omaha. She then moved to Minnesota and worked for Lifetouch National School Studios as their national headquarters’ Marketing Communications Associate. She has taught at Omaha Academy of Ballet for a total of sixteen years and has successfully completed exams in the ISTD system through the Advanced I level. She has performed with many local dance and theater groups.  


Liz Alford is a former dancer with the New York City Ballet and a recent arrival to Omaha. She received her early training in St. Louis and Louisville, KY, and as a student she performed with the Louisville Ballet. She attended summer study at the Chautauqua Ballet School, the School of American Ballet, the Houston Ballet Academy, and the Pacific Northwest Ballet school- all with scholarship. At age 16 she was invited to stay as a year round student at the School of American Ballet in New York City, the official school of the New York City Ballet. Liz was featured in the Columbia Pictures film, Center Stage. In November of 1998 she received her apprenticeship with the New York City Ballet. After retiring from her professional ballet career, Liz received her Bachelors from Gordon College then moved to China with her husband. During her 10 years there she taught, choreographed, and performed in various venues. Liz has taught students of all ages walks of life including teens living at a homeless shelter, adult students at the local gyms, dance studio students, and students at international schools. One of Liz’s greatest joys was teaching dance to victims of human trafficking living in safe houses. Learning how to dance was a healing part of their holistic recovery from abuse. While in China Liz was the first place winner of the 2006 Beijing TV “Arts in our Land” competition in Southwest China. Liz loves ballet and teaching and is thrilled to share this passion with the students at OAB.                    
Melissa Cass completed her RAD training on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. She also completed all exams in CSTD ballet, tap and jazz. Her training continued with the dance department of Queensland University of Technology where she completed a Bachelor of Dance and a Bachelor of Secondary Education. Melissa spent the next 13 years teaching dance in two different Queensland high schools, teaching students from Grade 8 to 12 the skills of performance, choreography and appreciation of many different styles of dance. She choreographed various stage productions, competitive group pieces and school musicals and served as year coordinator and head of department of the arts. Melissa has spent time teaching dance in preschool since moving to Omaha in 2015.                 
Isabelle Cutler is a student at Creighton University. Her dance training includes RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) through elementary school and then ballet, tap, jazz, tumbling, and lyrical through middle and high school. At Creighton University she is training in ballet, tap, jazz, and modern. Also, last year she completed the Theory of Teaching Dance to Children class under Patti Zukaitis, and this year is taking Dance Composition and Theory taught by Patrick Roddy. Her mission is to glorify God through dance and, by teaching, to spread her passion of it. 

Mary Gill is a graduate of Creighton University with a Bachelors in nursing and a co-major in dance. Mary has performed with OMDC, Creighton University and Omaha Community Playhouse.
 Kelly Hanneman began her career in Omaha, NE at the Omaha Academy of Ballet and Creighton University. She studied under the direction of Valerie Roche, A.R.A.D, Patti Zukaitis, and Lynne Nevin. She received her B.F.A. from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in 1989. She toured internationally with MOMIX and Pilobolus performing on stage, television, and film. After returning to Nebraska in 1997, Kelly served on the faculty of the University Nebraska Lincoln, Creighton University, and the University of Nebraska Omaha. She has also taught, choreographed, and/or performed for the Omaha Academy of Ballet, Opera Omaha, Mannheim Steamroller, Nebraska Shakespeare Festival, Bluebarn Theatre, Omaha Symphony, the Rose Theatre, Omaha Modern Dance Collective, and numerous other venues. Kelly is a Licensed Massage Therapist and Certified Yoga Teacher.
Juliette Henning grew up in Akron Ohio.  She received her training from the Dance Institute of Akron, Ballet Excel Ohio, Canton Ballet, Cleveland Ballet and North Carolina School of the Arts.  She performed in children's roles with the New York City Ballet and Atlanta Ballet as well.  Her professional career took her to Milwaukee Ballet, Ballet Omaha and the Cincinnati Ballet Company. Favorite roles include Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker and Balanchine's Serenade, under Suzanne Farrell.  She has also danced in music videos and with Opera Omaha.  Juliette has been teaching ballet and pointe for more than 15 years in Omaha.  She is also the Director of our own Omaha Dance Project.
Cheryl Lerner (former Executive Director) comes to the Omaha Academy of Ballet after many years of experience as a dance teacher and program administrator. A former dancer with the Omaha Ballet, she served as Dance and Performing Arts Director at the Jewish Community Center, where she continued to teach for many years after leaving that post. She received her early dance training with Tibor Zana in Madison, Wisconsin, later training with Maria Vegh and performing with the Marin Ballet in California. She also danced on scholarship at the Houston Ballet and Ruth Page Foundation in Chicago. She has worked as a program administrator for several non-profit organizations and has served as a panelist for arts councils in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota.
Sheila Nelson received her training at the Omaha Academy of Ballet and at Creighton University under the direction of Valerie Roche. She has performed with Creighton’s dance company and served as a faculty member in its dance department. She was selected by the Nebraska Department of Education as a team member for Frameworks, a program which brought dance education to Nebraska schools. She has completed many exams in both the RAD and ISTD systems and holds full membership status in the Royal Academy of Dancing. Sheila was Co-director of OAB from 2008-2014.
Lynne Nevin began her dance training in Lincoln with Flavia Waters Champe, and later continued her studies in Omaha with Valerie Roche. She received a BA degree in art history from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She holds the Associate Diploma through the ISTD Professional Teaching examinations and is a member and registered teacher with the Royal Academy of Dancing, London. Lynne has studied the Alexander Technique, a method for analyzing and improving movement patterns, in which she is preparing for International Certification. She teaches dance at UNL and has served as a teaching artist for Lincoln’s Arts Are Basic Artist-in-the-Schools program. In addition, she is a teaching assistant for “Dancing Classrooms”, a program of The Artery. Her choreography has been presented through the dance departments of University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Creighton University and by OAB’s Omaha Dance Project.
Allyson Pfortmiller is in her fourth year of receiving her dance training from Creighton University in jazz, tap, ballet, and modern styles. She has completed Theory of Teaching Dance to Children, taught by Patti Zukaitis, and Dance Composition & Theory, taught by Patrick Roddy. She has performed with the Creighton University Dance Company, as well as choreographed for the Creighton Spring Dance productions and Omaha Dance Project.
Robin Putnam is a retired dancer, dance teacher, company member and musical theater choreographer who wants more dance in her life.  Robin says, "My career took me away from dance, but now I am back for Act 3."  Her goal is to bring the joy of Broadway music and movement to dancers and non-dancers alike.
Mary Royer is a graduate of Creighton University with a degree in Social Work and a minor in dance. She performed in multiple ballets and shows with the Creighton Dance Department and took classes in modern, ballet, tap, and jazz. Mary has continued her dance education by taking classes at Omaha Academy of Ballet.
Lauren Wichert is a graduate of Creighton University wit a degree in English and a minor in dance.  While at Creighton Lauren studied ballet, tap, jazz and modern and performed with the Creighton Dance Company.  Following college she became a member of Maya Taylor Dance, a contemporary modern company that worked closely with Omaha Academy of Ballet.  Currently Lauren is an active member of tbd. an Omaha based modern dance collective.  
Patti Zukaitis received her BFA degree in dance from Creighton University in 1974 and graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with an MFA in dance in 1986. She has performed with The Omaha Ballet, Creighton Dance Company and various choreographers in New York City and Omaha. Patti has been a teacher at OAB and a faculty member in the dance department at Creighton University since 1991. She holds the Associate Diploma through the ISTD Professional Teaching Examinations and served as Co-director of OAB from 2002-2014.