MEET THE DIRECTORS
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 Rebecca Friedman.
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 Peter Commander.
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. She is currently the program manager of the TWIGS program at Baltimore School for the Arts, in which she also teaches ballet, pointe, and modern for the high school students.
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 in A Christmas Carol, the Rose in Beauty and the Beast, Abu in Aladdin, and Flounder in The Little Mermaid.
Tabitha began her training at The Dance Conservatory of Maryland and County Ballet Dance Studio. In 2011, she was accepted into the inaugural class of The School of Pennsylvania Ballet in Philadelphia, PA. While there, Tabitha performed with The Pennsylvania Ballet in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker as a “Peppermint Hoop” and in Jerome Robbins’ choreography in the role of “Tin Soldier”. Tabitha was one of a small group of PA Ballet students chosen by Sandra Jennings of The George Balanchine Trust to perform with The Pennsylvania Ballet in George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Following her studies with The Pennsylvania Ballet, Tabitha returned to Maryland, and danced regionally with Harford Ballet Company, Ballet Chesapeake, The Danse Macabre, and Charm City Ballet, as well as guest appearances with several other companies throughout the Baltimore-Washington area. Some of her principal roles have included the Genie (CCB’s Aladdin 2017), Scuttle (CCB’s The Little Mermaid 2018), Ghost of Christmas Past (CCB’s A Christmas Carol), Lion (CCB’s The Wizard of Oz 2019), and Sugar Plum Fairy. Tabitha is also an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 3 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum. Tabitha also received her Associates of Arts in General Studies with a concentration in Biology and Chemistry from Harford Community College in May of 2020 and hopes to become a nurse in the near future!
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.
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 premier of Aladdin and Ariel in Charm City Ballet's premier of The Little Mermaid. One of Eve's greatest joys has been teaching all levels of ballet and pointe technique for the last ten years. She currently dances with Bowen McCauley Dance.
Somaya Reda grew up in Odenton, MD where she began dancing at the age of 3. By 12, she was training in Millersville, MD at Spotlight Studio of Dance. During her time at Spotlight, Somaya was trained in the McGovern Method. She continued to train with world renowned teachers and award winning choreographers in different styles of dance including jazz, ballet, contemporary, tap and lyrical. This included Master classes with Denise Wall, Travis Wall, Rasta Thomas, Stacey Tookey, Destini Rogers and Ivan Koumaev, to name a few. Under the tutelage of Spotlight Artistic Director, Winnette McGovern, Somaya won numerous regional and national competition titles and scholarships, including Miss Dance of the United States (USTD) and Miss Dance Educators of America (DEA).
After graduating high school in 2012, Somaya continued her dance studies at Point Park University Conservatory of Performing Arts with a concentration in jazz. During her 4 years in Pittsburgh, PA, Somaya found her passion for teaching, choreographing and training young dancers for a career in the professional world. In September 2016, Somaya became an NBA dancer for the Cleveland Cavalier Girls Dance Team for the 2016-2017 season. While volunteering and being an ambassador to the community, she continued teaching and choreographing in Cleveland, OH. Somaya has been awarded choreography awards, while her students have won numerous technical and performance awards. She has also served as a judge and teacher for dance competitions and conventions. Somaya is so excited to currently be back in her home state of Maryland training young dancers.
Bonnie Schulman, Physical Therapist, has been practicing in the Baltimore area for 35 years specializing in manual therapies, performing arts therapy, and orthopedic concentration. She has taught a variety of classes for even longer, including fitness, dance, aerobics, Pilates, and all forms of dance related exercise at colleges and dance studios. She is happy to share her years of experience with Charm City Ballet.
Spenser was born and raised in Bel Air, Maryland. Her love for dancing began at the young age of three. She grew up training at Maryland School for Ballet and Modern Dance and Harford Dance Theatre where she trained with Laura Ward-Moran, Michelle White, Kim Pugh, and Jessica Treherne. She continued her training at Towson University where she got the chance to train under the direction of Runqiao Du, Erin Du, Linda Denise Fisher-Harell, Catherine Horta-Hayden, Nancy Romita, Malcolm Shute, Betsy Romer, Susan Mann, and Vincent Thomas. She went on to graduate from Towson University in May 2017 with her BFA in dance performance and choreography. Spenser has performed with Charm City Ballet in their performances of A Christmas Carol, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and The Wizard of Oz. She now shares her love for dance with her students at Charm City Ballet, Harford Dance Center, Epic Moves Dance Academy, and The John Carroll college preparatory dance program.
Gabrielle is a graduate of Goucher College with a major in Dance and a concentration in Secondary Education. Her training began at Towson University Children’s Dance Division. She then furthered her training at Sudbrook Magnet Middle school. Following, she attended Carver Center for Arts and Technology. Throughout high school Gabrielle was a member of the Inertia Dance Company as well as a member of the National Honors Society for Dance Arts. She also participated in many guest artist residencies and attended various dance festivals. Her studio training and studio teaching experience is credited to Mid Atlantic Youth Ballet. Additional teaching experience includes fieldwork in the dance departments at Jemicy Day School, Roland Park Country School, and Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts. Gabrielle serves on the board of Directors for MDEA (Maryland Dance Education Association) as the Social Media and Marketing coordinator. She was recently awarded the MDEA Emerging Leader Award for 2017. Currently, Gabrielle is the dance teacher at Old Mill Middle South in Anne Arundel County. She performed with Charm City Ballet from it's inception until 2018.