Eldar Valiev graduated from the famous Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, and received additional training at the Kirov Ballet Company. He has more than twenty years of experience as a professional ballet dancer and fifteen years of experience as a ballet master. Eldar has appeared as a principal dancer in numerous ballet companies, including The State Theater of Opera and Ballet of Bashkortostan in Ufa, Eifman Ballet Theater in St. Petersburg, and the Icelandic National Ballet. He has performed leading parts in the ballets Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Giselle, Don Quixote, Coppelia, Les Silphides, The Nutcracker, and many others. Eldar had the privilege to work with famous American choreographers such as Robert La Fosse, William Soleau and Lambros Lambrow. He danced in Iceland, as Frans in Coppelia, in which he partnered with world-renowned Prima Ballerina Assoluta, Eva Evdokimova. He has performed with the stars of Bolshoi and Kirov Ballets in England, Germany, France, Holland, Switzerland, and Iceland and shared the stage with Alexander Bogatyrev, Nadezhda Pavlova and Lyubov Kunakova. Eldar spent thirteen years at the Cumberland County Playhouse in Tennessee. He rehearsed for five years as the ballet master, and for eight years he performed the duties as Director of Dance Program. Eldar moved to Denton, Texas in August 2011 to assume the position of Co-Artistic Director of Festival Ballet of North Central Texas, and Director of Denton Ballet Academy.
Melissa Glenn has been dancing since the age of four, receiving the last ten years of her formal training, (2002 to 2012) under Hugh Nini, founder of the Denton Ballet Academy and Artistic Director Emeritus of the Festival Ballet of North Central Texas. For the past 19 years, Melissa has performed in the Festival Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, dancing principal and soloist roles such as Lead Chinese, Snowflake, Flower, and Spanish corps. At the age of 16, Melissa began teaching classical ballet and tap at the Denton Ballet Academy to students ranging from three to fourteen years old. There she drew upon the foundations of technique given her by Mr. Nini. In May 2012, Melissa graduated from Texas Woman’s University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fashion Design. In 2013, Melissa joined Gaudium Dance Movement, under the direction of Gina Lee.
Melissa currently designs custom wedding gowns and special occasion garments for her private clients in the Dallas area. She has loved seeing her former students continue to grow and develop the technique she helped instill in them, and she feels so blessed to return to the classrooms of DBA.
Kelly Taiclet, born and raised in San Angelo, TX, is currently attending the University of North Texas and majoring in Fashion Design. Kelly has studied dance since the age of three and has studied ballet seriously since the age of seven. Kelly began her ballet training at the San Angelo Civic Ballet (SACB) under the direction of Meghann Bridgemann. During her eleven years of studying ballet at SACB Kelly has been in Swan Lake, numerous performances of The Nutcracker, as well as new works by Meghann Bridgemann including Sweet Irene, The Jazz Affair, Philosophy in Motion, and many more. Kelly also spent two summers studying ballet with the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet during their five week long Summer Intensive. Kelly is passionate about ballet and spreading appreciation of ballet, and is very grateful for the opportunity to work with and teach at the Denton Ballet Academy.
Melissa Gonzalez is currently working towards a Major in Nutrition Major and a Minor in Dance from Texas Woman’s University. Dancing almost as soon as she could walk, Melissa has trained at several
pre-professional schools including Tuzer Dance Center, Texas Ballet Theatre School Dallas, and Royale Ballet Dance Academy. She has participated in the American Ballet Competition in Austin, Youth American Grand Prix, and JUMP competitions, as well as taking part in master classes from Mia Michaels, Teddy Forance, and Benoit-SwanPouffer. Melissa has completed the Royale Academy of Dance’s Intermediate and Advanced 1 Exams. While her primary dance experience is with ballet—classical (Royale Ballet and Vaganova) and contemporary—Melissa has also studied jazz, modern, flamenco, and tap. She is always looking for ways to learn and gain experience in new styles of dance. Melissa is a member of The Festival Ballet of North Central Texas, and in 2014 participated in their production of The Nutcracker Ballet. As of the 2015-2016 season, Melissa will dance as a company member for Gaudium Dance Movement. Melissa is looking forward to being a part of the faculty at DBA, and is excited to work with the younger students as they explore ballet, tap, and jazz.
Jana Stukanov, originally from Fort Worth, Texas began her early training at the Svetlana Stanova Ballet Academy. After graduating
high school in 2008 she went directly to Tarrant County College NE District where she was part of the resident company Movers Unlimited, under the direction of Kihyoung Choi. After her time at TCC she transferred to the dance department at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas where she received a BA in Dance Studies. During her time at TWU she was gifted the Excellence in Performance award along with a scholarship. She has attended and performed at many conferences and workshops including American College Dance Association, Texas Dance Improvisation Festival, and most recently a performance development workshop with renowned choreographer Deborah Hay. Jana is very excited to be teaching and sharing her knowledge of Modern dance here at Denton Ballet Academy.
Hugh Nini founded The Denton Ballet Academy in 1979. He credits his favorite teachers, Arnold Spohr and David Moroni of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, with his foundational training and understanding of the art of classical ballet. While a scholarship student at the Banff Centre for Fine Arts, he was invited to join the Professional Division of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet by the Artistic Director of that company, Arnold Spohr. Though his training and professional career were interrupted early on by a debilitating automobile accident, Mr. Nini was later able to do limited performing with regional ballet companies in the Southwest. In 1979 he founded the Denton Civic Ballet and, by the end of his eight-year term as its Artistic Director, had choreographed over 30 ballets. These include his original full length three-act version of the Hans Christian Anderson short story, "The Snow Queen." Under Mr. Nini's directorship, the Denton Civic Ballet was accepted into the National Association for Regional Ballet.
In 1988 Mr. Nini charted a new direction to pursue a more ambitious dream, which is now called The Festival Ballet of North Central Texas, and served as its Artistic Director for twenty-five years. Having established Festival Ballet as a ballet company with a reputation for excellence and consistency, Mr. Nini now holds the title of Artistic Director Emeritus. One of Mr. Nini's proudest achievements is to have been the 2010 recipient of the Greater Denton Arts Council CARA award. Currently Mr. Nini works as a freelance ballet instructor in New York City.