Rebecca Crawford Harman

Rebecca Crawford Harman, founder and director of The Neighborhood Ballet, has decades of experience as both a professional dancer and a teacher. As a child she was constantly dancing and performing in the living room, and her parents figured ballet training would be a productive way to harness such energy. An Atlanta native, she trained at Ruth Mitchell Dance Theatre, Atlanta School of Ballet, Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education, the Joffrey Ballet School, and the Kirov Academy of Ballet under scholarship. She has performed professionally with Miami City Ballet, American Repertory Ballet, and Ballet Arizona. Rebecca has been teaching ballet and serving as a rehearsal coach and choreographer in the Atlanta area since 2004. She has served as a guest teacher at numerous summer intensives and has coached a student to the finals of the Youth of America Grand Prix for two consecutive years. Rebecca and her husband, Steven, live in Grant Park with their two boys. 

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Maria Hooper

Maria Hooper received her classical ballet training at The Maryland Youth Ballet in Bethesda, MD with Tensia Fonseca and Michelle Lees and at The Washington School of Ballet with Victoria Leigh.

Maria enjoyed a short professional career with Houston Ballet and Hartford Ballet before pursuing her first passion, academics, in college at UT Austin. With her beloved literature degree in hand, she naturally went on to teach ballet. :)

She absolutely loves it, finding the experience of instructing and supporting students along their dance journeys to be a true source of joy and fulfillment. Maria has taught advanced dancers at Atlanta Ballet, Gwinnett Ballet Theater, and Dancer’s Studio Backstage and is now very happy to teach the talented students of The Neighborhood Ballet!

She lives in Decatur with her husband Jonah, their two kids Sylvie and Austin, and two dogs, a cat, two chickens, and three bunnies.

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Emily Lemons

Emily graduated Cum Laude from Brenau University in 2016 with a B.A. in Dance Studies. Her early training took place at Sawnee School of Ballet under the direction of Joan Kall Stewart, where she joined the Sawnee Ballet Theatre in 2006 and stayed until 2012. After graduating from high school, Emily received talent and academic scholarships to attend the Brenau University’s Department of Dance. While there, she was able to train with several resident and guest artists including Carol Teitelbaum, Tara Lee, Peter Swan, Kassandra Taylor Newberry and Diane Callahan among others. During her time at Brenau, she also spent two years as an assistant teacher at the Gainesville School of Ballet as a part of the teaching practicum program unique to Brenau’s Department of Dance. Emily’s goal is to be a dynamic, fun and nurturing teacher for students of all ages and she is excited to be a part of The Neighborhood Ballet family!

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Catherine Messina

Catherine Messina, a graduate of Emory University, has been dancing since the age of two, training in ballet, modern, tap, and jazz. A scholarship recipient, she has studied at the Bates Dance Festival in Maine, Staibdance Summer Intensive in Italy, and Bates Winter Intensive in New York. She has performed in the Modern Atlanta Dance Festival and the American College Dance Association, performing the work of Trisha Brown. She has been teaching for over three years in both Atlanta and Philadelphia and has experience in arts administration, choreography, and technical production. In the past year, she has worked with Jessica Bertram, the Catellier Dance Projects, Little Minute, Core Dance, andhe Immerse ATL program. She currently dances professionally with the Atlanta based companies Kit Modus and Staibdance.

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Olivia Rowe

Olivia Rowe is the founder and artistic director of The Esthete Collective. She is also a professional dancer, choreographer, teacher, and stage manager in the Atlanta area. She graduated from Kennesaw State University in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance.

Olivia's professional performance endeavors include companies Fuerta Dance Company, City Gate Dance Theater, Ballet Southeast, and Gotta Dance Contemporary where she has performed both classical and contemporary works. In high school, Olivia trained at Atlanta Academy of Ballet, Balletmet Columbus, and Nashville Ballet. She received her early dance education at Impact Dance of Atlanta. In college, she was privileged to study Gaga dance technique at the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Olivia was chosen as a 2019 Palette Project emerging choreographer, and worked in association with Dance Canvas to produce a new work, entitled "Is time passing, or is it just me?" She was commissioned to set her work "Matutine" on professional company Ballet Southeast in their inaugural mixed repertory showcase in 2018. Her senior capstone project, a choreographic work entitled "Dichotomic," was one of six works selected out of twenty KSU dance student works to be professionally produced at the Spring Dance Concert in 2018.

As an educator, Olivia has fostered a love of dance in students of all ages. She incorporates pedagogical and kinesiological principals learned in her collegiate studies into all classes, encouraging safe and healthy practice. Olivia has taught for Impact Dance of Atlanta, Atlanta Academy of Ballet, The Esthete Collective, Westchester Elementary, Little Forest Preschool, Spirit of Dance Company, and Smyrna Community Dance. She looks forward to sharing her passion with the dancers at The Neighborhood Ballet!

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Jessica Russo

Growing up in coastal Maine, Jessica began training in the classical Vaganova methodology under Cheryl Libitzki who received her teacher’s training at the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in St. Petersburg. Learning under the esteemed Sharon Dante, Jessica was accepted as part of the exclusive year-round, intensive program at The Nutmeg Ballet Conservatory. Jess earned her degree in Elementary Education from the University of Maine, where she continued her dance education while finding time to compete as a NCAA Division I cheerleader. Jess has lived and taught in the Atlanta area since 2011, and loves being part of The Neighborhood Ballet family as both faculty and parent.

Where does your passion for the arts stem from? I grew up in a very small town in rural Maine and there wasn’t much exposure to the arts. When I went to ballet school, I got to really explore cities and a world so much bigger than what I knew, especially the arts. Now, living in Atlanta metro, I make it a point to take my kids to the theater, my daughter has been going to The Fox since she was 18 months old. I think it’s so important to experience musicality and dance, and the entire spectrum of arts.

What is a memory that stands out to you as a student? I had a teacher that was very hard on me when I was starting out in a professional ballet at 15. He was so hard on me, I found myself in tears at the end of many days. One day, after 6 weeks of training, he walked into the room and gave us a plie combination. He looks over at me as I begin the combination and yells across the room, “She’s awake!” He then yelled that through the studio doors, out in the hallway. I was mortified at the time, but after, I realized that he was recognizing a breakthrough. He had been pushing me to limit for those 6 weeks so that I could grow in a professional environment. For better or worse, it stands out to me as my most vivid memory and a turning point for me and my ballet career.

What is your dream role to dance? The Lilac Fairy from Sleeping Beauty. The Lilac Fairy is a challenging role for a number of reasons. She is the main storyteller throughout the ballet so is really embedded in the main story. It’s a very powerful, strong role.


What is your wish for your students? I want my students to feel like the studio is their space, not just their teachers’ space. When students feel like the studio is “our” space together, they can leave all their worries behind at the door – whether it’s a disagreement with a friend or parent, or a B+ they just got in math. I want them to come in to the studio and let go, be themselves or whomever they want to be.

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Ericka Shannon

Ericka Shannon is a native of Atlanta, GA, where she received her dance training from the Atlanta School of Ballet, studying under the direction of Thomas J. Pazik and Kathryn McBeth. Ericka danced professionally over a decade with the Nashville Ballet, Lexington Ballet, Augusta Ballet and Ohio Dance Theatre. While performing, she enjoyed dancing a wide variety of soloist and principal roles. Ericka has been working in the metro-Atlanta area for the last ten years, teaching at numerous studios including, Georgia Dance Conservatory, Rhythm Dance Center and Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education. Ericka is the ballet mistress for the TNB Youth Company and is our Enrichment Program Coordinator.

Where does your passion for the arts stem from? I grew up as a professional dancer with the strict precision of pure ballet, and I learned that it's not just about a tendu or plié, it's about how you think. I truly believe arts education is how we will make thinkers of tomorrow.

What is a memory that stands out to you as a student? I remember my first Nutcracker audition when I was 12 years old. I remember everything about it – the students everywhere, the look of it, the smell of it, it activated all of my senses. During the run of the show, I got a pair of pointe shoes from my favorite dancer in the company. This dancer wasn't a soloist, it was just a dancer that I loved in the company, but it was just so lovely and just made me feel pure love of the art form.

What is your dream role to dance? Juliet. Dancers, and probably all artists, plan for the dramatics and I love that role for it – how meaty it is to play. I only ever did the pas de deux in the balcony scene, but it was my favorite role to dance.

What is your wish for your students? I wish that they are all bold. I say that to them almost every week. Just be bold to who they are, whatever that is. I want them to do whatever they choose out to do out in the world fully, completely and boldly.

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Madeline Whitehead

Madeline began dancing at the age of three, where she trained at Gwinnett Ballet Theatre for fifteen years under the instruction of Lisa Robson, Rebecca Harman, David Blumenfeld, and Wade Walthall. She also spent summers training at The School of American Ballet, Next Generation Ballet, and Miami City Ballet School, where she was offered a spot in their year round pre-professional division. Madeline is now a sophomore at Kennesaw State University where she is a part of the dance company, and is majoring in Dance with a Ballet concentration.

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Gwynn Wolford

Raised in Jonesborough, Tennessee, Mrs. Wolford received her training at Johnson City Ballet/CYB in East Tennessee, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, in Carlisle, PA, and various summer intensives. She studied privately under Pat Holden, Christina Fagundes Turner, Marvin Askew, and others. After graduating high school, she joined the Louisville Ballet as a trainee and member of the corps de ballet. She afterwards danced with Columbia Classical Ballet, then as a fellowship dancer with Atlanta Ballet. For the last three years she's been a member of Festival Ballet Providence, where she has danced such works as in The Firebird, The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Allegro Brilliante, Rubies, Rite of Spring, in Christopher Wheeldon's The American, in Up Close on Hope productions and in Viktor Plotnikov’s House of Bernarda Alba, The Widows Broom, and Carmen. Her full repertoire also includes Coppelia, Giselle,The Brown-Forman and Atlanta Ballet Nutcrackers, La Bayadere, Swan Lake, Etudes and also works by Tudor, Limon, Helen Pickett and Val Caniparoli.

She has been on staff at several ballet and dance schools as well as a guest teacher, ballet coach and guest artist for a number of organizations in New England, Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia. As a choreographer, she has set original works on both students and professionals. She has recently married and moved to Atlanta, Georgia to be with her husband, Trevor Wolford, a guitarist, composer and producer.

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Erilyn Wiltshire-Beer

Erilyn Wiltshire-Beer (Austin, TX) began dancing under the direction of David and Dahlia Dvir of the Israeli Ballet. Her supplemental summer training was spent at the Salzburg International Training Academy and touring with Young Tanzommer through Europe. From there, Erilyn studied at the University of Missouri Kansas City majoring in Dance technique. Performing choreography by Edgar Clause, Sabrina Madison-Cannon and DeeAnna Heitt. Continuing her international experience at Delfos Danze Contemporanea (Mazatlan, MX) and Centre National de Danse Contemporanie (Angers, FR). Now expanding her knowledge in business, assisting, and supervising at multiple Dance Camps including the American Ballet Theatre (2014, 2015). Upon moving to Atlanta in 2017 her goal is to bring inspirational arts and developmental fitness into hearts and lives of all ages.