Diane (Yelenosky) Spinelli was a member of the Houston Ballet from 1978-1985 where artistic director, Ben Stevenson, choreographed featured roles on her–Helga in Ben Stevenson’s “Peer Gynt”, and Clara in “The Nutcracker”. She performed the roles of Fanny Cerrito in Sir Anton Dolin’s “Pas de Quatre”, a Russian girl in Balanchine’s “Serenade”, and the Wedding Dance pas de deux in Act. III of “Coppelia”.
Prior to that, she danced with the National Ballet of Iran in Tehran, Iran (1976-1977) after completing her training at the Royal Ballet School in London, England.
Repertoire includes Peter Wright’s “Giselle”; Ben Stevenson’s “Swan Lake”, “The Nutcracker”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Cinderella”, and “Peer Gynt”; George Balanchine’s “Serenade” (Helgi Tomasson); Frederick Ashton’s “Two Pigeons”; as well as “Coppelia”, “Raymonda Act III”, “Firebird”, “Prince Igor”, “Scheherezade”; David Lichine’s “Graduation Ball”; Harold Lander’s “Etudes”; John Cranko’s “the Lady and the Fool”; Ronald Hynd’s “Papillon” and “Rosalinda”; Glen Tetley’s “Daphnis and Chloe”; Barry Moreland’s “Prodigal Son in Ragtime”; and Doris Humphrey’s “Water Study.”
Following her career, Diane has mostly home educated her 7 lively and delightful children with her husband Don’s passionate support. She has taught ballet at Metropolitan since its formative years, and is presently director of the Homeschool Program.
Heather Gifford, Music
Heather graduated from James Madison University, earning a Bachelor Degree in Music Industry, with a concentration in vocal performance. After graduation she enjoyed traveling and performing aboard Holland America Cruise Line as a singer/dancer for multiple contracts, while serving as company manager and production assistant. She has performed in productions at theaters in Myrtle Beach and Atlantic City. She spent four years in Las Vegas where she performed as a singer/dancer with several companies and venues, such as Legends in Concert, and enjoyed traveling to perform for corporate events in several cities. During this time, she was the Entertainment Manager for artistic programs at the Venetian/Palazzo and Planet Hollywood Resorts. After moving back to her hometown of Alexandria VA, she worked in convention services and special events at Gaylord National Resort, before discovering Metropolitan School of the Arts. She is excited to be able to share her love of performing arts with the students of MSA, and encourage the next generation of performers.
Barbara Schwartz, Drama
Barbara Schwartz holds an M.F.A. in Acting from Catholic University of America and a B.F.A. in Theatre from Transylvania University. Her thirty-eight year theatrical career has led her to work professionally in acting for stage, film and television as well as almost all other aspects of theatre including director, production manager, technical director and Equity stage manager. She has worked for fledgling companies that have grown into starring companies including Lexington Children’s Theatre, Olney Theatre and Potomac Theatre Project. Some of her favorite acting roles include Nora in A Doll’s House, Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday, the title role in Antigone and Mrs. Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor. She founded her own company in 1999 specifically for area homeschooled students and taught hundreds the craft of acting while directing over fifty productions. She and her husband of 35 years are very proud homeschool parents of four, three of whom have or are pursuing degrees and careers in the arts.
Marilyn York, Dance
Marilyn York has been teaching all levels of jazz dance and ballet at the Metropolitan Fine Arts Center for the past eight years. She has developed and directed dance programs at several other major area dance studios, and has been directing, choreographing, teaching, and nurturing young dancers for more than thirty years. Ms. York is the Artistic Director of Dancin’ Unlimited, a professional jazz dance company established in 1973. Dancin’ Unlimited is well known for creating new and exciting programs each year with an emphasis on artistic excellence, broad variety and professionalism. She is the inspiration behind, and the producer of the annual Jazz & Tap Dance Festival, coordinating the talents of many area dance ensembles into fun and lively performances of superb dance entertainment.