Sharyn Mahoney joined Nashville Ballet as a company dancer in 1989. Since her retirement from performing, she has continued to work with the organization as School of Nashville Ballet faculty, Artistic Associate, Director of Education and Outreach, Rehearsal Director, Director of Artistic Operations, and currently, Company Manager. During her nine years as Director of Education and Outreach, Ms. Mahoney worked closely with Artistic Director Paul Vasterling to develop and fine tune NB2, Nashville Ballet’s official second company. While in that same position, she initiated the ballet’s educational outreach program, which proudly reaches over 12,000 children and families each year. Appointed to Rehearsal Director in 1998, Ms. Mahoney returned to the studio full time to lend her talents to staging and rehearsing the Company’s ballets. She also created the procedures for all Nashville Ballet youth casts and continues to oversee those programs today. In 2010, Mr. Vasterling charged her with creating a program that concentrated on strengthening and preparing dancers over 18 for a professional career. The Professional Training Division was launched in the fall of 2010 with the focus of giving dancers the tools to become healthier and stronger artists. She spent many years representing Nashville Ballet across the country as a guest teacher and auditioner, bringing new students to experience School of Nashville Ballet’s Summer Intensive. She has also staged Mr. Vasterling’s ballets on other companies in the United States and Argentina. Up until leaving Nashville Ballet, Ms. Mahoney continued overseeing artistic operations and took up the role of COVID Compliance Officer to help navigate Nashville Ballet safely through the pandemic.
Director of School Operations
Cora Hedgis' passion for dance began at an early age, training in ballet/pointe, jazz, tap, and modern with several studios and local ballet companies in Wichita, KS. She attended Belmont University where she minored in Dance, performed with the Dance Company, and was awarded the Belmont Dance Legacy Award. During her time at Belmont as a Religion and the Arts major, Cora was introduced to Rejoice School of Ballet, where she began teaching ballet, and fell in love with the mission and sense of community at Rejoice. Feeling a call toward further education and preparation for larger roles within the non-profit space (and a hope that she might return to Rejoice in the future), Cora earned a Master of Divinity with a concentration in Community Development at Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta, GA (and continued teaching ballet on the side at several Atlanta studios). In a turn of life events, Cora and her husband James then relocated to Denver, CO, where Cora began working in education technology, helping universities expand into the online space, and working directly with university students, faculty, and staff. During the pandemic, Cora was able to shift her job to be fully remote and they moved back to Nashville, where she reconnected with Rejoice and has been teaching ballet and tap, and volunteering with the pre-pro classes. Now, after several years building her business skills in the technology industry and a more corporate environment, Cora's role as Director of School Operations at Rejoice combines her knowledge from the tech industry with her background in dance at an organization she is truly passionate about.
Tonya Young has been involved with Rejoice School of Ballet since it began over 20 years ago. Originally as a mom of a student, she fell in love with the mission and work that Rejoice does after experiencing it first-hand. Tonya worked alongside the faculty in the studios as a teaching assistant for several years before joining the administrative side as School Associate. She aids communication with and the onboarding of new families, while serving as a welcoming presence in the Rejoice lobby.
Amber Manning Givens
Smith Springs Children Classes
Amber Manning obtained her degree in speech pathology from Tennessee State University and practices in Smyrna, TN. She specializes in speech, language and swallowing disorders in patients. However, many of her patients do not know that she trained extensively in classical ballet while growing up at School of Nashville Ballet. She received a full tuition scholarship while there and was featured as Clara in Nashville Ballet’s production of Nutcracker during her youth. When approached by her former teacher, Sharyn Mahoney, she jumped at the chance to join Rejoice School of Ballet faculty. Her previous training and her current work with children make her an ideal addition to our children’s classes at Smith Springs community center.
Dalewood Children's Classes, Levels 1 and 2
Josie Meiss is a performer, choreographer, and dance educator from Mishawaka, Indiana. After fifteen years of training at Flint’s Dance Studio, Josie continued her studies at Ball State University, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BFA Degree in Dance, Honors College distinction, and a minor in Psychology of Human Development. Post graduation, Josie participated in SALT's Link Festival, Boston Dance Theater's Winter Immersion Projects, as well as RAD Fest and the Indiana Dance Festival, where she performed works choreographed by Ball State professors. After spending a year in Indianapolis as a dancer/choreographer with Crossroads Dance Indy and a dance instructor at Indy Dance Academy, she relocated to the Nashville area in the Fall of 2019. Here, she is a company member with FALL, a local, contemporary aerial dance company. In 2020, she helped produce FALL's only outdoor, socially distant performance Windows and performed alongside Blue Moves in Building Hope. Getting to share her passion for dance with students is one of Josie's greatest joys, and she is grateful to Rejoice for the opportunity to do that.
Hadley Park Children's Classes
Originally from Los Angeles, California, Raquel Smith began her training at age six at Lauridsen Ballet Centre. Later, she went on to train privately with Roberto Almaguer, where she developed a true love for dance. As a young dancer in LA, Raquel had the opportunity to work with Debbie Allen and perform in her prestigious show “The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker” at the Dorthy Chandler Pavilion.
Smith continued her training on a three-year scholarship at San Francisco Ballet School. While there, she had the privilege of dancing alongside the company in several classic and contemporary performances, such as, Helgi Tomasson’s The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, Yuri Possokhov’s Don Quixote, and Helgi Tomasson’s Little Waltz.
In 2019 she joined Richmond Ballet II, where she worked with choreographers such as Val Caniparoli and Levi Marsman. In 2021, she joined Nashville Ballet as a company apprentice. When she’s not in the studio, Smith loves to write.
She joins Rejoice School of Ballet faculty this year and will be teaching children’s classes.
Levels 3 and 4 Ballet
Daniel Rodriguez began dancing through the renowned non-for-profit National Dance Institute as a young child. Through his years in that program, he discovered ballet and began his formal training at Manhattan Youth Ballet while attending Laguardia High School. During this time, he performed a wide variety of renowned works, including George Balanchine’s Valse Fantasie, Who Cares?, and Elegie. He also won the Jacques D’Amboise Award for Exceptional Male Dancer.
Shortly after, he began his professional career at North Carolina Dance Theater II (now Charlotte Ballet) and was promoted into the main company the following season, where he danced alongside the company in mainstage productions across the country. Later, he worked with The Sarasota Ballet, The Dayton Ballet, and Kansas City Ballet before joining Nashville Ballet in 2018.
He began teaching for Rejoice School of Ballet last year and currently works with our most advanced dancers.
Level 4 Lead Teacher, Youth Cast Choreographer and Artistic Director
Imani Sailers was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and began her dance training at the Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center at age three. During her early years, Sailers had the honor of dancing at the White House for Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2010 Inaugural White House Dance Series and performing in Alvin Ailey’s Memoria with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Sailers attended various summer courses at institutions like Pacific Northwest Ballet, Charlotte Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and The School at Jacob’s Pillow. For advanced training, Sailers attended and graduated from Indiana University’s (IU) Jacobs School of Music in 2017 with a B.S. in Ballet with an Outside Field in Political Science and a Philosophy minor. At IU, Sailers performed works by George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, and more.
Sailers joined NB2 in 2017 and was promoted to company apprentice after one year. In 2018, she was named one of Pointe Magazine’s “Stars of the Corps”. After one season as a company apprentice, Sailers was promoted to company dancer in 2019. During her time at Nashville Ballet, Sailers has performed roles in Nashville’s Nutcracker, Artistic Director Paul Vasterling’s Lucy Negro Redux and Carmina Burana, Christopher Stuart’s Seven Deadly Sins, Val Caniparoli’s The Lottery, and more.
Named one of Nashville Lifestyles Magazine’s “25 Most Beautiful People” in 2019, Imani Sailers has taken to Nashville and enjoys teaching aspiring dancers at Rejoice School of Ballet. In her free time, Sailers loves to explore the city and trying new local restaurants.
Level 3 Lead Teacher, Level 3 and 4 Modern
Originally from Texas, Michelle Sipes is a choreographer, educator, and arts administrator with a passion for cross-disciplinary collaborations, dynamic pedagogical practices, and aiding emerging artists in honing their craft. Michelle has an MFA in dance from the Ohio State University and a BFA in dance from Belhaven University.
Michelle performed and toured with Inlet Dance Theatre (Cleveland, OH) as a Company Member for five seasons. During her time with Inlet, she taught and choreographed for Inlet’s many education programs including the trainee and apprentice program, annual summer dance intensive, residency programs, and for masterclasses, festivals, and conferences across the country. Additionally, she served as the company’s Administrative Artist Liaison for the Cleveland Foundation’s Creative Fusion granting program. Following her retirement from performing, Michelle taught ballet, contemporary, partnering methods, and arts management for Ohio State University’s Department of Dance and served as an artist-in-residence at the Wexner Center for the Arts for two of their Learning and Public Practice programs teaching arts integration for high school students.
Alongside her teaching practice, Michelle works as a fundraising and strategic planning consultant for artists and nonprofits nationally. Most recently, she worked as the Arts Learning Specialist for the Tennessee Arts Commission helping to fund and manage arts education initiatives in Tennessee. Before her work at TAC, she worked as a Development Associate for the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, OH. Michelle believes wholeheartedly in the transformative power of the arts inside and outside of the dance studio and is eager to work with the students at Rejoice.