Meet the dancers of Verb Ballets.
Lieneke Matte grew up in the Bronx and received her early training at Ballet Tech and the School of American Ballet. She then attended Fiorello H. La Guardia High School for the Performing Arts in New York. Lieneke studied for a semester at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and graduated summa cum laude with a B.F.A in dance from SUNY Purchase College in May of 2013. There she also received the President’s Award for the dance conservatory. She has performed in works by George Balanchine, Paul Taylor, Lar Lubovitch, Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, Nicolo Fonte, Nicholas Villeneuve and Xiao-Xiong Zhang. Lieneke was also a dancer in the documentary No Dominion: The Ian Horvath Story which included re-stagings featuring dancers from Verb Ballets, Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, Boston Ballet and Ballet Tucson. Lieneke joined Verb Ballets in 2013 and has been featured in works such as Duet and Laura's Women.
Antonio is a first-generation Cuban American born in Orlando, Florida. He received his Associate of Arts in Dance Performance from Valencia College and his BFA in Dance Performance from the University of South Florida. Antonio has performed with the Patel Conservatory’s Next Generation Ballet as well as Tampa City Ballet. He has performed works by Jon Lehrer, José Limón, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Robert Moses’ Kin, and Maurice Causey. Antonio joined Verb Ballets in 2016 and has been featured in works such as Andante Sostenuto and Aposiopesis.
Kate Webb grew up in Richmond, Virginia where she danced both as a student and as a trainee with Richmond Ballet. She trained around the country at numerous intensive programs such as Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Boston Ballet, and Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Upon graduating from Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for the Arts, she attended Butler University on both dance and academic scholarships. While dancing with Butler Ballet, she performed in Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. After fulfilling her degree in three years, she graduated cum laude in May of 2015 with a BS in Dance-Arts Administration and high departmental honors. Kate joined Verb Ballets in 2015 and has been featured in works such as Peter Pan and Aposiopesis.
Benjamin Shepard began dancing in Annapolis, Maryland and trained with Ballet Theater of Maryland, as well as attending summer programs at The Washington School of Ballet, The Kirov Academy, and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. He then continued his training and education on a full tuition scholarship at Butler University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Arts Administration and Dance. He had the privilege of performing as a guest artist during his time at Butler with Ballet Theater of Indiana; he performed the role of Gurn in La Sylphide as well as Dr. Seward in Dracula. While performing with Butler Ballet, his favorite roles were Rothbart in Swan Lake, The Flower Cavalier in the Nutcracker, a soloist in Viva Vivaldi by Gerald Arpino, and the Second Movement Soloist in George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments. Benjamin joined Verb Ballets in 2018 and has been featured in works such as Paganini Rhapsody.
Kelly Korfhage, a native of Cleveland, began her training at age 10 under Joanne H. Morscher and Ana Lobe. She attended summer intensives at ABT Detroit, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, BalletMet, Cincinnati Ballet, and North Carolina Dance Theatre. She furthered her dance education at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music as a Corbett Award scholarship recipient and graduated cum laude with a BFA in ballet performance. Following graduation, Kelly became a member of Kansas City Ballet’s second company, KCB2, for two seasons where she had the opportunity to perform with the company in repertoire such as Septime Webre’s Alice (In Wonderland) and Adam Hougland’s Rite of Spring. Kelly joined Verb Ballets in 2016 and has been featured in works such as Andante Sostenuto and Schubert Waltzes.
Emily Dietz grew up in Mountain View, California, receiving most of her training at Western Ballet under Alexi Zubiria. She attended summer programs with ABT, Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet, Colorado Ballet, and American Repertory Ballet. She continued her dance education at Butler University, graduating with a BS in Dance Arts Administration in 2016. During her time at Butler, she performed in ballets such as Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake and toured with Butler Ballet to Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Following graduation, she has danced professionally with City Ballet of San Diego and American Contemporary Ballet, where she danced in repertoire such as Betsey Wistrich’s Raymonda, Balanchine’s La Source, and Geoff Gonzalez’s Four Seasons. Emily joined Verb Ballets in 2018.
Robert Carter has been an American primo donna ballet dancer for Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo for over 25 years. As a lead dancer and its most senior member, Carter is the public face of the all-male dance troupe. Carter was born and was raised in Charleston, South Carolina. He started dancing at age eight, and first saw the Trocks at age ten, which inspired him to dance like them, en pointe, around age 12. He trained at the Ivey Ballet School and the Joffrey Ballet School. He has performed with a number of dance groups, including the Florence Civic Ballet, Bay Ballet Theater, and the Dance Theater of Harlem. Robert is dancing as a guest artist courtesy of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.
International Cultural Exchange Program
Sikhumbuzo Hlahleni is from South Africa and began his training at Cape Academy of Performing Arts and then later participated in an intensive at South Africa International Ballet. He studied in the United States, training in California at Dance for All and went to Kaatsbaan International Dance Center under the guidance of Stella Abrera. Professionally, he has danced with the Joburg Ballet and Mzansi Ballet. Sikhumbuzo joins Verb Ballets in 2021 as a part of Verb’s International Cultural Exchange Program. He will be sharing South Africa’s dance traditions with Verb Ballets.
Noe Iwamatsu was born in Japan and began her ballet training at Prendre Ballet Studio in Japan. In 2014, she was chosen to attend the summer intensive of Central School of Ballet in London. She moved to London after acceptance to the Central School of Ballet where she graduated with honors with a BA in professional dance and performance. She performed with Ballet Central, the junior company of Central School of Ballet, and toured the United Kingdom. Most recently, Noe was a trainee with American Repertory Ballet in New Jersey. She performed with the American Repertory Ballet Company directed by Douglas Martin in various roles in the Nutcracker and Coppelia. She is excited to join Verb Ballets as an apprentice for the 2019-2020 season.
Hunter Hoffman is a first generation American raised by his Cuban family and born in Miami, Florida where he trained at the Mencia Pikeiris School of Dance and the Miami Youth Ballet. While studying on scholarship to receive his BFA in Dance Performance from Mercyhurst University, Hunter had the opportunity to work with The Mercyhurst Dancers, Lake Erie Ballet, New World Connection, and Ballet Concerto performing roles such as The Cavalier and Spanish in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. He also spent a summer in Texas studying under Margo Dean, founding member of Texas Ballet Theatre. He has trained under other prominent dancers and choreographers such as Nilas Martins of New York City Ballet, Maria Caruso of Bodiography, and Tauna Hunter of Ballet West. He is excited to join Verb Ballets as an apprentice for the 2019-2020 season.
Julie Russel was born in China and raised in Cedar, Michigan, trained at Dance Arts Academy under the direction of Betsy Carr. Julie spent summers training at the Washington School of Ballet, BalletMet Columbus, and Cecchetti Council of America. Julie graduated from the University of Oklahoma in May of 2019 with a BFA in Dance Performance and BA in Environmental Sustainability. While at the University of Oklahoma, Julie had the pleasure to perform works by Merce Cunningham, Ilya Kozadayev, Sonia Dawkins, David Hochoy, Trey McIntyre, Jean Guillaume Weis, Kevin Iega Jeff, Nilas Martins, Amy Hall Garner, and Raimondo Rebeck. She has also performed with Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre. Julie is excited to join Verb Ballets as an apprentice for the 2019-2020 season.
Emani Drake is from Cleveland, Ohio where she began her dance training at Revolutions Dance Academy under the direction of Lisa and Tricia Bires. Simultaneously she trained at the Cleveland School of the Arts as well as Tri-C Creative Arts Academy under the leadership of Jessica Spurlock, Antonio Brown, and Kay Eichman. She has also studied at various summer intensives including The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and Deeply Rooted as a scholarship recipient. Emani graduated with a BFA in Dance from The University of the Arts. While being a full-time student at UArts, she was a member of Eleone Dance Theatre from 2017-2019. Additionally, Emani has performed in the work of Amy Hall Garner, Christopher Huggins, and Juel D.
Ashley Forché is originally from Pickerington, Ohio. She received her dance training from BalletMet in Columbus, Ohio. She spent summers training with Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Nashville Ballet, Oklahoma City Ballet, Festival Ballet Providence, Orlando Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and BalletMet. Ashley moved to Nashville, Tennessee for her senior year of high school to be a trainee with Nashville Ballet. Following graduation, she began pursuing a business degree through Belmont University while simultaneously continuing to dance with Nashville Ballet. Last season, Ashley was a trainee with Oklahoma City Ballet. Ashley will graduate Summa Cum Laude receiving her business degree in December 2019. She has had the opportunity to perform in many professional works, including The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake. Ashley is very excited and honored to be joining Verb Ballets as a trainee this season!
Elizabeth "Betsie" Schaeffer was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan before returning home to New Hampshire at the age of 11. She began her dance career with Northeastern Ballet Theatre. Schaeffer attended Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi where she received awards for outstanding artistic and scholastic achievements. Schaeffer has attended the Bates Dance Festival, guested in local theaters as Sugar Plum and Princess Florine, and performed for adjudicators at the Alabama Dance Festival and the National American College Dance Association Festival at the Kennedy Center. After graduating from Belhaven in 2018 with a BFA in Dance, Schaeffer danced professionally with Ballet Hartford in Connecticut. She is excited to join Verb Ballets as a trainee for the 2019-2020 season.
Demetriuis Lee was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio where he began his dance training at Cleveland Inner-City Ballet under the direction of Chandra Ford-White. Later, he studied at the Cleveland School of the Arts then went on to the Tri- C Creative Arts Dance Academy from 2015-2020 while being a full-time high school student. He has also studied at various summer intensives on scholarship including San Francisco Ballet, Houston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, and American Dance Festival. Lee just graduated from Cleveland School of the Arts, in the top 10 of his class. This year, Demetrius is a recipient of the Presidential Scholarship Award for the dance division at Boston Conservatory at Berklee where he will be receiving his BFA in dance in 2024. Furthermore, he has performed works by Christorpher Huggins, Darrell Moultrie, Troy Powell, Kay Eichman, Deshona Pepper- Robinson, and so many more. Demetrius is so excited and blessed to be able hold a place as an junior apprentice at Verb Ballets for the 2020-21 season.