Faculty and Staff

 

Train up a child in the way he should go [teaching him to seek God’s wisdom and will for his abilities and talents].

Even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

 

 

"Because we believe in more than just movement."

Dianna Jones received her early dance training from Margaret Powell and Donna Blanchard and continued her education at Louisiana State University under the direction of Dr. Terry Worthy. There she was a member of LSU's Tiger Band, performing with the LSU "Golden Girls" and served as Assistant Choreographer her senior year. Ms. Jones has studied professionally with David Howard, Finis Jhung, Mia Michaels, Joe Tremaine, Wilhelm Burmann, Alex Magno and Paula Morgan-Maddox. She has owned and directed the renowned Jean Leigh Academy of Dance for over 40 years and in 2007, co-founded Willow Oak Contemporary Ballet along with Artistic Director, Tamu Ortenzio.

 

Ms. Jones is a gifted master teacher whose students have been accepted to such prestigious universities as Boston Conservatory, NYU, Chapman University, University of Arizona, Marymount Manhattan, and the world-renowned Juilliard School. The School of American Ballet, The Rock School, Jacob's Pillow, Alonzo King Lines Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre are a few of the many esteemed continuing education programs her dancers have been chosen to attend. Dancers trained by Ms. Jones have performed with many classical and contemporary companies across the United States and have earned commercial success as well, appearing in films such as "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", "High School Musical", and "Pitch Perfect." Others have credits including "The Academy Awards", "The Ellen DeGeneres Show", and Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance.” Several of her students have graced the Broadway stage in productions of "Anastasia," "Les Miserables," and "For the Girls." Her dancers have performed in notable companies including Poz Dance Theatre, Wes Veldink Movement, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Willow Oak Contemporary Ballet, The Radio City Rockettes, Chloe Arnold's Syncopated Ladies, and L.A. Dance Project. Her dance company performed at the Tanzommer International Dance Festival in Innsbruck Austria, receiving rave reviews.

 

Ms. Jones’s expertise has been noted in Dance Teacher magazine in which she was one of only three dance educators chosen to address the subject of authentic artistic expression. Ever the student herself, in 2019 she became certified in Progressing Ballet Technique.

 

Ms. Jones is the mother of two, proud grandmother of three and is a member of Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge.

— DIANNA JONES

Executive & Artistic Director/Instructor

Tamu Ortenzio has over 25 years of experience teaching ballet technique, pointe, choreography and arts management. Tamu is an American Ballet Theatre® Certified Teacher in levels Pre-Primary through 5 of the ABT® National Teacher Training Curriculum and Progressing Ballet Technique, a supplemental strengthening program for dancers. Additionally, she has trained, mentored, and coached students now in prominent schools and companies including School of American Ballet, The Juilliard School, The Joffrey Ballet School, Nashville Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, State University of New York at Purchase, New York University Tisch School of the Arts, University of Arizona and Boston Conservatory.

 

Tamu began her dance training at Mobile Ballet (Mobile, AL) and also trained as a scholarship student at the Joffrey Ballet (NYC), Atlanta Ballet, International Rotaru Ballet School and Giacobbe Ballet School. After dancing, Tamu graduated from Spring Hill College and went on to own a ballet studio and professional company for many years. Tamu has staged full length ballets including The Nutcracker, Carmen, Scheherazade, The Fairy Doll, Les Sylphides, as well as many mixed bill programs. Tamu has organized various performance events and fundraisers as well as private coaching and choreography for professional dancers and companies. ​

 

Tamu’s experience in arts education and management include being a full time educator at several performing arts high schools, higher education and corporate fundraising, nonprofits and business development. Tamu is the Artistic Director Of Willow Oak Contemporary Ballet started in 2007 with Dianna Jones.

— TAMU ORTENZIO

Director of Studio Relations and Programs/Young Dancer's Conservatory Director/Instructor

Crystal Welch began her training under Ms. Dianna Jones at the age of 8. She worked her way to an assistant position to Ms. Dianna and eventually began teaching classes on her own. Crystal has studied under such master teachers as Doug Caldwell, Jackie Slight, Marcea Lane, Charlie McGowan and Joe Tremaine. She has been a teacher at Jean Leigh Academy of Dance for 23 years and is currently Associate Company Director. Her company dancers have won top awards at conventions and competitions over the past several years.
 
Crystal’s love for teaching Preschool and Primary dancers is evident, with her classes being some of the most requested, but Beginner Elementary holds a special place in her heart as it was her introduction to dance. Crystal has been a Licensed Esthetician for the last 17 years with On the Boulevard Salon in Baton Rouge and is very sought after in her profession.

— CRYSTAL WELCH

The Company Executive Director/Instructor

Growing up in New Orleans, Mercedez studied at New Orleans Ballet Association and New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. In 2012 she was selected to perform with Complexions Contemporary Ballet at the Joyce theater in NYC and Parsons Dance Company. Upon graduating in 2014, she enrolled in college at SUNY Purchase. Here she worked with choreographers such as Alex Ketley, Doug Varone, Kyle Abraham, Kevin Wynn, Nejla Yatkins, Sarah Mettin, and more. In 2016, Mercedez studied abroad in Amsterdam at Academie Voor Theater en Dans, where she worked with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Rosas and Emio Greco’s ICK. In 2017, Mercedez performed Doug Varone’s “Lux” at the Kuan Du Arts Festival in Taipei, Taiwan.

 

In May of 2018, Mercedez graduated Summa Cum Laude with her BFA from SUNY Purchase College. Post-graduation, Mercedez has had the pleasure of working with Margie Gillis and The Legacy Project at Springboard Danse Montreal. Currently Mercedez is a Pilates instructor and Freelance artist working with companies such as The Foundry, NIJAD, Uana Dans, and Wyckoff Collective.

— MERCEDEZ MIZE

The Company Artistic Director/Instructor

Kamryn Chambers has been a part of Jean Leigh Academy of Dance for 20 years. She is an alumni of Live Oak High school. She was a part of Live Oak's dance teams from grades 6th-12th. She is a recent graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University with a Bachelor's in Speech Communication. At Southeastern, Kamryn was a member of the Nationally recognized and award winning Lionettes and a recipient of the Lionheart award.

 

Her passion is helping children find their voice and using dance as a platform. Kamryn is very driven and focused and always looking for opportunities to share her love of dance through teaching. Kamryn is a diverse instructor, teaching all ages and disciplines.

— KAMRYN FREEMAN

The Industry Co-Director/Instructor

Headshot and bio coming soon...

— SHELBY JOHNSON

The Industry Co-Director/Instructor

Jean Leigh’s own, Summer Bonnecaze, has studied under master teachers such as Jackie Slight, Paula Morgan, Mia Michaels, Suzi Taylor, Jason Parsons and Joe Lanteri, to name a few. She is a past performing member of Willow Oak Contemporary Ballet. Summer was a guest performer at the 2002 Tanzsommer International Dance Festival in Innsbruck, Austria and a featured dancer for the Macro Fashion Showcase in New Orleans, LA under the direction of Ryan Auld. In New York, she performed with Perception Contemporary Dance Company and was a principal dancer in the show Rock On/Live for Music. Summer was an instructor at Westchester Dance Academy in Westchester, New Jersey and toured the US with both LADM and NYCDA dance conventions, as an assistant. She was a finalist on So You Think You Can Dance, Las Vegas.
 
Summer is a much sought after guest teacher and choreographer. Her choreography has received top awards at numerous dance conventions across the country. After judging for VIP Dance Competitions for numerous years, she was most recently asked to become a director for the company. She is a graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University and has been an instructor at Jean Leigh Academy of Dance for the past 10 years.

— SUMMER BONNECAZE

Instructor

Michele Ball fell in love with ballet at the age of 7 years old and has not stopped dancing since. Originally from Pennsylvania, Ms Ball began her serious ballet training at the School of the Pennsylvania Ballet. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Ballet from the University of Utah and apprenticed with Ballet West. The rigorous curriculum in the ballet program at the University of Utah was anchored in Cecchetti ballet technique, which was designed by Italian born dancer, Enrico Cecchetti. This method, focused on promoting proper body alignment and development of each component of ballet technique, results in graceful movement that appears effortless.

 

After earning her BFA, Michele was hired into the American Festival Ballet repertory company. As a full-time company dancer, she performed throughout the United States with a yearly national tour and extensive performance schedule throughout the Pacific Northwest. Upon leaving the company, Michele returned to the University of Utah where she earned a Master of Science Degree in Nutrition while she resumed work with Ballet West as a dancer in the company’s outreach program, “Ballet for Children.” Prior to moving to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in June 2020, Michele lived in Baton Rouge and worked with the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre (BRBT) as a soloist performer, teacher, choreographer, and associate director. Over the past 30 years Michele has taught intermediate and advanced young dancers along with adults ranging from the beginner to professional level. She loves to share her joy of moving to music, and the ballet studio is clearly where she feels most at home.

— MICHELE BALL

Instructor

Christy Womack Boston, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, started her dance journey when she was 2 1/2 at Jean Leigh Academy of Dance. Her training intensified when becoming a member of the JLA Dance Company from 1996 to 2004. She had the opportunity to dance in the New York City Disaster Relief Benefit and performed in the prestigious Tanzsommer Dance Festival which showcased in three different cities in Austria.

 

In 1999, she became an instructor for Jean Leigh in multiple dance genres. From 2002 – 2012, she acted as the Company Tap Director, where her dancers were awarded Overall Performance high scores. She continued to uphold the legacy that had been set in previous years by her Artistic Director and dance teacher, Dianna Jones.

 

Academics has always been a high priority to Ms. Boston. She graduated 8th in her class from Belaire High School in the Medical Magnet Program, and in 2004, graduated Magna Cum Laude from LSU with a Bachelor of Science. In 2005, she began teaching first grade at North Corbin Elementary and has continued nurturing this age for the last 16 years. During this time, she has been a teacher of the year nominee and received the Teacher of the Year award in 2017.

 

Christy has continued to work with Company dancers as a Tap choreographer and instructor, and in 2019, received a Choreography award for her overall-winning, Junior Tap piece "Jelly’s Jam." Dance is a part of her and teaching will always be her passion. “Why Fit In When You Were Born To Stand Out!”

— CHRISTY BOSTON

Instructor

Erin is a former senior company member with Mobile Ballet where she danced in featured roles in Winthrop Corey's productions of The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty, among others. She attended summer intensives at the American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Magnificat. Mrs. Brown has performed with the Indiana University Ballet Theatre and Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre. She enjoys working as a nonprofit development consultant for organizations fighting for children’s health and welfare and is a proud graduate of Indiana University and the University of Texas.

— ERIN BROWN

Instructor

At the age of four, Rachel began her dance education at Jean Leigh Academy of Dance. By eight, she had developed a deeper love for the art and began training intensively with the JLA Company. During her seven year tenure as a Company member, she competed at the highest levels, performing in national, award-winning ensembles and earning numerous regional scholarships. She then excelled as the captain of the Denham Springs High School dance team performing under Friday night lights for three years.

 

Currently, she is enjoying her second year as an LSU Golden Girl, performing for hundreds of thousands of screaming fans every Louisiana Saturday night. She joined the Jean Leigh staff in 2021 in hopes to continue sharing her love for dance and instilling the Jean Leigh standard of excellence in her students for years to come.

— RACHEL BUECHE

Instructor

Giulia Fedeli grew up in Padova, Italy and has been dancing since the age of 5. She graduated from the Ballet Academy of the Teatro Carcano in Milan and later graduated with honors from the Certificate Program of The Ailey School in New York. While at Ailey she also performed with the Alvin Ailey Students Performance Group.

 

After graduation, she worked with Francesca Harper, performing in New York City and Venice, Italy. She danced as a soloist with Rome, Italy based "Danza Prospettiva" - ARSlab Production from 2010 to 2016, touring in the United States, France, Germany, Bulgaria and Italy. While based in Rome she completed her studies and obtained her law degree in 2015.

 

After spending one year in Shanghai, China, dancing and teaching, she moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and since then has been performing with New Orleans Ballet, Baton Rouge Ballet and Of Moving Colors Productions and teaching in several local schools. In 2019, she completed her Antigymnastique teacher training and became a certified practitioner.

— GIULIA FEDELI

Instructor

Rachel Forte was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and began dancing at the age of two. She received training in many disciplines of dance such as ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, modern, and musical theatre. In 2009, Rachel began her professional career as a Dance Educator and has enjoyed teaching many generations of students at Jean Leigh Academy of Dance.  

 

Continuing her love and education for dance, Rachel graduated with her Fine Arts Degree in Dance from Southeastern Louisiana University where she choreographed and directed multiple performance pieces and productions. She was accepted and attended the American College Dance Association where she studied Graham technique in depth as well as other well noted modern masters. Upon graduation, Rachel received her Progressing Ballet Technique certification and has most recently become the Assistant Teacher Director at Jean Leigh Academy of Dance. Upon accepting this role, Rachel mentors and supervises all class assistants and under her thoughtful direction, she inspires the upcoming generation of dance educators.  

 

Rachel's outstanding choreography can be seen during JLA's annual revue. She also choreographs for several dance teams, bands, and beta clubs in the local area. You can find Rachel teaching ballet, tap and jazz to Jean Leigh’s preschool, primary, elementary, secondary and company students.

— RACHEL FORTE

Assistant Teacher Director/ Instructor

Deborah Ross is a Minister of the Gospel of Christ for 22 years, at The Church of God. She accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior August 25, 1978, at age 19. As a minister, aside from pulpit ministry, she enjoys intercessory prayer and encouragement for those that God places in her life. Ms. Deborah loves to work with young people. She was the youth leader in her church 30 plus years, and the youth choir director.

 

Ms. Deborah is a graduate of Southern University with her Bachelor’s degree in Print Journalism and her Masters in Broadcast Journalism. She interned at the Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce in Public Relations; a passion that is true to her heart.

 

Ms. Deborah is the mother of three biological children and other children that God has blessed and placed in her life. She is a grandmother and a great-grandmother.

— DEBORAH ROSS

Studio Chaplain

Misty Stewart has been a part of the Jean Leigh family since 2008 after enrolling her daughter, Camryn for classes. She is a New Orleans native and a married mother of three. She attended college at Southeastern Louisiana University where she studied Kinesiology and in 2003 served as an Orientation Leader.

 

For the past 15 years, Misty has been working in Project Administration and Cad Design at a local engineering firm. Since 2020, she has also enjoyed being a part of the Jean Leigh team and feels blessed to have such a fun and rewarding job. She loves getting to know the families and dancers at the studio!

— MISTY STEWART

Administrative Assistant

Jessica was born and raised in Baton Rouge and currently lives in Denham Springs. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Special Education, grades 1-5 from Southeastern. She is currently teaching in Livingston Parish. Her daughters have danced at Jean Leigh for the past 14 years. She has been involved in many aspects of Jean Leigh over the years that include but are not limited to, embellishing costumes, coordinating quick changes, front desk tasks, social media, and merchandising. The studio is truly her family's second home. She values the positive impact that Jean Leigh continues to have, both in and outside the classroom.

— JESSICA WALKER

Administrative Assistant/Marketing