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MEET THE DIRECTORS

 

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PETER (PETE) COMMANDER

Peter Commander, who was born and raised in South Jersey, began his dance training at the age of four at the Arts of the Dance Centre in Vineland, NJ. Here he studied several forms, including ballet, tap, jazz, modern, clogging, and Irish-step. After ten years, Peter began school at the Southern New Jersey Academy of Performing Arts at the Gloucester County Institute of Technology under the direction of David Kloss, Althea Leslie, and Norman Taylor. That same year, he joined Let’s Dance Studio in Glassboro, NJ, where he met and began to study under one of his mentors, Darrell Williams.
 
After high school, Peter attended Goucher College, where he trained with Chandra Moss, Glenna Blessing, Linda Garofalo, Laura Dolid, and Juliet Forrest. Along with taking classes, he also performed in several of the dance department concerts and events in both faculty, student, and guest artist works. For many years, starting in 2007, Peter was heavily involved in both running and performing in Footwerx, a weeklong tap intensive and performance based out of Philadelphia and run by Darrell Williams. Peter taught and choreographed for Mid Atlantic Youth Ballet for five years and taught and choreographed at A Step Ahead Dance Center for two years. He was also a guest choreographer for The Nutcracker with Harford Ballet Theater for two years and a guest choreographer for North County High School. He is the co-founder of Charm City Ballet and is currently directing, choreographing, and teaching for the company and academy alongside his wife, Rebecca Friedman.

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REBECCA (BECCA) FRIEDMAN

Rebecca Friedman was raised in Columbia, MD where she began her dance training, at the age of four, at the Howard County Ballet. She studied there through high school, and some of her roles there included: the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, performed with Anton Korsakov from the Mariinsky Ballet in 2007, Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Gretel in Hansel and Gretel, and Cinderella. In the summer of 2001 and 2002, Rebecca was a scholarship student at the International Summer Dance program at Point Park University. She was also named a 2005 Maryland Distinguished Scholar for both Academic Achievement and Talent in the Arts. Rebecca continued her dance education at Goucher College where she received a BA in Dance and a minor in Biology in 2009.
 
While a student at Goucher College, she performed in many original works by faculty and guest artists in residence, including Armando Luna, Dermot Burke, William Whitener, Alan Hineline, and Nilas Martins. Rebecca has served on the dance faculty at The Howard County Ballet, Teelin School of Irish Dance, and Mid Atlantic Youth Ballet where she taught and choreographed for four years. She was also a guest choreographer for Harford Ballet Theater for two years and a guest choreographer for North County High School. She is the recipient of a Governor’s Citation in recognition of her academic accomplishments and contribution to the arts in Maryland. Rebecca pursued graphic design in a graduate program at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in 2013. She is the co-founder of Charm City Ballet and is currently directing, choreographing, and teaching for the company and academy alongside
 her husband, Peter Commander.

FACULTY

 

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LAUREN AMRHEIN

 

Lauren Amrhein began training at Mid-Atlantic Center for Performing Arts before continuing her training at White Marsh Ballet Academy. While at WMBA, Lauren performed in the dance company in roles such as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker and Beauty in Beauty and the Beast. Lauren began teaching dance in 2011 at WMBA and continued to teach throughout her college education and beyond. Lauren attended the University of Maryland and graduated in 2016 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and graduated in 2017 with a M.S. in Chemical Engineering. Now, Lauren works as an Evaluator at the Army Evaluation Center while she is not teaching or dancing. Lauren has performed with CCB since 2019 in such roles as the Ghost of Christmas Past in A Christmas Carol, the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, and Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast. She continues to perform and train with CCB. Lauren has taught all ages of students from ages 2 through adult, in disciplines including ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, and modern. Lauren loves working with students to help them in their dancing journey.

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IRIS ANDERSEN GRIZZELL

 

Iris Andersen Grizzell is a graduate of the Baltimore School for the Arts and holds a B.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts. Her training began at the Peabody Preparatory Institute with Dale Center, followed by Caryl Maxwell Classical Ballet with Caryl Maxwell and Caroline Denzler, and then Kinetics Dance Theatre with Dottie Fried and Donna Pidel. She has trained with the Eglevsky Ballet, the Washington Ballet, and the Ailey School. During her four years at California Institute of the Arts, she was nominated for the Princess Grace Award and studied abroad in London at the London Contemporary Dance School.

 

Andersen Grizzell danced with the Pasadena Dance Theatre in California from 2003 to 2011, and from 2004 to 2011, she danced with the Francisco Martinez Dance Theatre in both concert and outreach performances throughout California. Andersen Grizzell received first place for her work in Howard County Ballet’s Young Choreographer’s Showcase in April 2011. Recently, she has performed with Bowen McCauley Dance, the Campbell Dance Experience and the Harford Ballet. After serving as the program manager of the TWIGS program at Baltimore School for the Arts for many years, in which she also taught ballet, pointe, and modern for the high school students, in 2022 Iris was appointed as the new BSA Dance Department Head.

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ELLEN BAST

 

Ellen Bast began her dance training in her hometown of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. While in high school, she performed with the Oak Ridge Civic Ballet Association in roles such as Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. In addition to dancing with ORCBA, she was a head counselor for their dance outreach summer camp and served as a teacher assistant for their pointe intensive. She also taught Pre-Ballet and Tap. Ellen then continued her dance training at Goucher College and received her BA in Dance in 2014. Since graduating, Ellen has performed locally with Chorégraphie Antique, Vaught Contemporary Ballet, and Howard County Ballet in roles such as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. She also served on the faculty of HCB and taught a variety of classes ranging from Creative Movement to Pointe, as well as open classes for adults. Ellen has been involved with Charm City Ballet since its founding and has appeared as Want and Belle in A Christmas Carol, the Rose and Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast, Abu in Aladdin, Flounder in The Little Mermaid, Toto in The Wizard of Oz, and Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland.

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DEBORAH ENGERMAN

 

After returning from touring Europe as Ballet Mistress with Rock the Ballet, Mrs. Engerman took on the role of Director of Maryland Classical Dance Academy at Centre Pointe Performing Arts and also teaches at Susquehanna Dance Center near Lancaster, PA. She trained early in life with the Baltimore Ballet in the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) tradition, passing her graded exams. Later while pursuing her BA in International Policy at Dickinson College, she continued her study of classical ballet with the teachers of Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Her dance training also includes Vaganova Technique, French Methodology, and the Dance Education Program at Towson University. Mrs Engerman has staged ballets to include the Nutcracker and Swan Lake, Act II. Dancers trained by Ms. Engerman have earned professional contracts and danced with Universal Ballet, ABT, Complexions, The Washington Ballet, The Vienna Opera Ballet, Boston Ballet, Nashville Ballet, Ballet Inc, Texture Ballet, Hubbard Street, and on Broadway, among numerous others. She has also been a coach to dancers succeeding at numerous international ballet competitions, such as The Prix de Lausanne, the Varna IBC, and The Youth America Grand Prix. Her student, Adrienne Canterna, took the Junior Gold Medal at the 1998 Jackson USA International Ballet Competition. She is currently happy to continue to train dancers in MD and PA, while living with her husband and two dogs, in South Central PA.

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AMANDA FAIR

 

Amanda, a graduate of The Baltimore School for the Arts dance department, is a full time dance and spoken word artist living in Baltimore Maryland and working in the Maryland/DC area. She is a performer, choreographer, dance educator, dance coach and a mentor to children and adults in her community. She received her BFA in dance with a concentration in Ballet Performance from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and spent her senior year in New York City on internship at The Dance Theatre of Harlem School as a full scholarship recipient and assistant teacher in DTH’s Community Outreach Program. Amanda has additional training from the MFA dance program at The University of Maryland, College Park and has performed with a number of different companies that include The Washington Reflections Dance Company, which was under the Direction of the late Fabian Barnes. She is also founder and director of Poetic Xpressions Dance Company. Amanda is in her 27th year of teaching and teaches ages 3-65 in all levels and a variety of techniques. She has taught in Baltimore City Public and Private Schools (preK-12th grade), in community outreach classes, in after school programs, at numerous studios and at community colleges and universities in Maryland, Philadelphia, DC and Virginia. Some of those include The University of the Arts, The Dance Institute of Washington, Morgan State University, The University of Maryland, College Park, The Community College of Baltimore County, Howard County Ballet and Metropolitan Ballet Theatre. She is currently on faculty at The Washington School of Ballet, The Baltimore School for the Arts, The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Howard Community College, and Peabody Prep at the John’s Hopkin’s Institute. She enjoys teaching dance technique and other dance related courses to movers of all ages, genders and abilities. She is a lifelong student of the art form, a proud mama to an amazing 11 year old boy and is excited to work with the students here at Charm City Ballet. 

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EVE HOLMES VARNER

 

Eve Holmes Varner began her dance training at the Edna Lee Dance Studio in Linthicum, Maryland where she studied ballet, tap, and jazz for 11 years. During those years, Eve competed at the local and National levels, culminating in her participation at Youth America Grand Prix in 2007. While in high school, Eve was active in Glen Burnie High School's nationally recognized Dance for the Athlete Program as both a dancer and choreographer. Eve entered Goucher College as a Dance Performance major in 2009 and graduated Magna Cum Laude in May 2013 after dancing abroad at the prestigious arts conservatory, Taipei National University of the Arts, in Taipei, Taiwan during her senior year. Eve danced with Ballet Theatre of Maryland for three seasons where she enjoyed such roles as the Snow Queen in The Nutcracker and Diamond Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty. She appeared as Jasmine in Charm City Ballet's premiere of Aladdin and Ariel in Charm City Ballet's premiere of The Little Mermaid. She also danced with Bowen McCauley Dance for several years. One of Eve's greatest joys has been teaching all levels of ballet and pointe technique for the last twelve years.

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MIKAELA MALLIN

 

Mikaela Mallin holds a BA in dance from the University of Iowa and has over 20 years of formal studio training in modern, jazz, hip-hop, ballet, and tap dance, beginning her training at Fusion Dance in Waterloo, IA. She has performed across the US, including at the 2015 NCAA Orange Bowl, and has toured with notable groups such as Innovative Soul Dance Company and Dancers in Company, the latter for which she choreographed pieces addressing issues such as environmental sustainability and feminism. Mikaela is currently pursuing a PhD in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and is interesting in using dance as a form of communication that invites audiences to engage with scientific and medical topics. Most recently, she partnered with filmmaker and psychiatrist Dr. Nathan Yueh to create Facing Shadows, a screen dance featuring her original choreography and performance depicting the experience of clinical depression. Facing Shadows premiered at the 2022 Vox Film Festival and is now available for public viewing at www.facingshadows.com.

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JULIE PECK

 

Julie Peck began her dance training at Arabesque Dance Studio in Columbia, Maryland, where she studied ballet under the direction of Maureen MacNeill Wheeler and trained in various other dance styles. At Arabesque, Julie performed in the annual production of The Nutcracker (in many roles including the Sugar Plum Fairy) as well as yearly spring shows culminating in The Wizard of Oz (Dorothy) in 2011. From 2011-2017, Julie attended the University of Maryland, earning B.S. degrees in Physics and Astronomy and a M.S. in Aerospace Engineering - she now works full time as an aerospace engineer. While at UMD, she performed with and was president of Ballet Company M, a student-led ballet organization. Julie joined Charm City Ballet in 2016 for their first spring production of Beauty and the Beast, and since then has performed with CCB in Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland (Cheshire Cat), and 2023’s Beauty and the Beast (Cogsworth). She has also performed in every CCB production of A Christmas Carol since 2017, in various roles including the Ghost of Christmas Present, Ghost of Christmas Future, and Mrs. Fezziwig.

Julie taught ballet at Arabesque Dance Studio from 2015-2017, and has frequently stepped in as a substitute teacher at Arabesque and Charm City Ballet over the years. She is delighted to be teaching again more regularly with CCB and is excited to help her students achieve their goals while sharing her love of dance.

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SARAH SCHWARTZ

 

Sarah grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and started dancing at Karen Sachs Academy of Dance in Reisterstown, Maryland when she was 3 years old. She competed in dance competitions through high school, taking classes and competing pieces in ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, and modern. Sarah began dancing with Charm City Ballet in 2015, performing in their first A Christmas Carol performance, as well as their productions of Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. She attended George Washington Carver Center for the Arts and Technology, graduating in 2017 from the dance prime, where she performed in works including The Firebird and Petrushka, among many other faculty and student choreographed works. After graduating high school, Sarah attended The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where she graduated in 2020 with a bachelor's degree in both Dance and English. At UA, Sarah performed in classical ballets such as Giselle and excerpts from Sleeping Beauty, among performing in the student choreographed show, Dance Alabama! and numerous faculty/guest artist choreographed pieces. 

 

After graduating undergrad, Sarah earned her teaching certification in Grades 7-12 English, and is currently an English and Creative Writing teacher at Dundalk High School in Baltimore County. After moving back to Maryland in 2021, Sarah resumed performing with Charm City Ballet as the March Hare in their Spring 2022 production of Alice in Wonderland. She is the sponsor of the Dundalk High School dance team and is passionate about helping students grow and achieve their goals both inside and outside the dance studio.

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REBECCA VOELPEL

 

Mrs. Rebecca Voelpel, formerly Rebecca Houseknecht, is a dance and fitness instructor residing in Baltimore, MD. Rebecca grew up performing and competing in the DMV area and attended the Kirov Academy of Ballet school. In 2011 she was a cast member of the award-winning documentary film “First Position”. After graduating high-school, she became a company member of the Washington Ballet in Washington, D.C., where she performed soloist roles, such as, the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, The Pas de Trois in Le Corsaire, and Miss Liberty in Septime Webre's The Nutcracker. In search of becoming a well-rounded dancer and professional, Rebecca enrolled at Towson University. While there she led the 18-time National Championship winning dance team to 4 consecutive titles during her time as the Captain. Upon graduating with a B.S. in Healthcare Administration, Mrs. Voelpel, taught at multiple studios across the nation, teaching various classes including ballet, jazz, contemporary, conditioning and technique. During her time teaching at various studios, Rebecca fell in love with coaching and developing dance technique in children of all ages. Rebecca currently assists Wyndee McGovern, creator of the McGovern method, nationally. As a McGovern Method assistant, Rebecca has travelled to various studios and ballet academies throughout the United States educating both students and teachers about the McGovern Method. In addition to teaching dance, she is a certified barre, Pilates, cycle, 200 HR-YTT, and group fitness instructor.

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