Ms. Brianna Furnish, Founder is a native of Dallas, Texas and the daughter of a classically trained modern dancer who taught Martha Graham technique at Southern Methodist University. After dancing alongside her mother from an early age, Furnish, following in her mother's footsteps, began formal studies in the Graham technique at age 5, under the tutelage of Juilliard graduate, Ms. Jerry Bywaters Cochran. At age thirteen, Furnish was encouraged to begin ballet training as a means for augmenting her chances for a professional modern dance career. She began private studies with Denise and Evelyn Brown and a year later began training on talent scholarship with Dallas Ballet’s professional program, under the direction of Royal Danish Ballet‘s Flemming and Vivi Flindt. It was there that she first met and trained with the late great Madame Nathalie Krassovska, former prima ballerina with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, who became a significant mentor in Furnish’s personal and professional life. A year later, after relatively little ballet training, Furnish was accepted to the acclaimed School of American Ballet in New York, where she had the exceptional opportunity to study with such ballet greats as Mme. Alexandra Danilova, Suki Shorer, Mme. Antonina Tumkovsky, Andrei Kramerevsky and Stanley Williams. She was then accepted to train an additional year at North Carolina School of the Arts, where she studied under the careful attention of former New York City Ballet principal dancer, Ms. Melissa Hayden. Furnish danced for several regional companies in Dallas and Tennessee, including Krassovska’s Ballet Jeunesse and Tennessee Ballet (Memphis), while continuing private instruction with both Mme. Krassovska and the late Robert Scevers (Harkness Ballet). It is Krassovska and Scevers, along with Danilova, Hayden and Bywaters, who Furnish attributes with having shaped her own teaching style most profoundly. After moving to Detroit to pursue medical studies at Wayne State University, Furnish became involved with the Maggie Allesee Department of Dance, where she taught ballet for the college and was given the opportunity to stage a ballet for Detroit Public School's "All City" High School dancers and teach a special ballet outreach series. Inspired by the passion of Detroit students, Furnish founded Ballet Renaissance in June of 1997, as a means of fostering local talent and inspiring community. She taught college ballet as Adjunct Professor for Wayne State University’s Maggie Allesee Department of Dance (1996-2004), served as full time high school ballet instructor for Fraser’s Arts Academy in the Woods (2006-2007), and as Ballet Master Class Instructor throughout the Detroit Public Schools (1996-2011). In 2006, after ten years of work in the city, Furnish completed a degree in Dance from Wayne State University's Maggie Allesee Department of Dance, the school through which her inspiration for “Ballet Renaissance” had originated. In 2011, along with Co-Director, Mr. Radoslaw Kokoszka, Furnish had the opportunity to establish a second branch of Ballet Renaissance in northern Colorado.
Mr. Radoslaw Kokoszka is a native of Wodzislaw Sl., Poland. He began his early ballet training as a boarding student at the Ludomir Rozycki Ballet School in Bytom, Poland . At age 13, he moved to the United States with his family, settling in Hamtramck, MI, and was introduced to Ballet Renaissance through the 1999 American Ballet Theatre Summer Intensive. He trained and performed as Furnish’s ballet partner and founded the first annual Ballet Renaissance Summer Intensive for Kids. He received numerous talent scholarships and trained at a number of prestigious professional schools including: the Harid Conservatory (FLA), Boston Ballet (MA), Kirov Academy (Washington, DC) and the renowned School of American Ballet (New York), from which he graduated. Mr. Kokoszka was part of New York Choreographic Institute before dancing professionally for Carolina Ballet, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, and the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, where he had the great honor of performing George Balanchine’s Don Quixote for the annual acclaimed Edinburgh Dance Festival in Scotland (2006). Kokoszka has trained and performed alongside the world’s greatest talents, and brings a wealth of knowledge and resources to Ballet Renaissance.
Ms. Elizabeth Crall MaWhinney began her dance training in Mansfield, Ohio, at the Ethyl Battin Dance Academy and attended summer programs at the School of American Ballet in NYC and Jacob's Pillow in Massachusetts. She received a B.A. degree in dance and an M.A. degree in theatre, respectively, from Butler University and The Ohio State University. Her performing credits include dancing with the Ruth Page Chicago Opera Ballet, Radio City Ballet, Emily Frankel Dance Drama Company of NYC, Indianapolis Ballet Theatre, and summer stock companies under Equity contract in Minneapolis, Seattle, Ohio, New Jersey, and Indiana. In Detroit she is a member of the adjunct faculties of Marygrove College, Wayne State University, and Ballet Renaissance. Previous faculty positions include teaching and/or developing courses in dance and theatre movement for Radford University in Virginia, University of Oregon, Butler University, and Wayne State University where she was also a faculty member of the American Ballet Theatre Summer Intensive for several years. While tenured at Butler University she was resident choreographer for the Butler Ballet and received grant support for dance history research conducted in France. After moving to Detroit in 1987, she served on the Board of Directors of the former Michigan Dance Association and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Detroit Dance Collective. She is a long time supporter of, and instructor for, Ballet Renaissance, and a member of Ballet Renaissance's Advisory Board.
Ms. Lisa Levy is a metro Detroit native who grew up in Farmington Hills, MI. She discovered dance at age 4 years old, falling in love with ballet immediately and insisted that her parents sign her up for classes. She attributes the bulk of her early studies to Detroit’s Carole Cotter (a former Boston Ballet ballerina), for whom Levy also taught children’s classes. Later, Levy studied with the late acclaimed ballet instructor, Mr. Iacob Lascu (Marygrove College and Oakland University Dance Departments), and as a high school student, had the privilege to perform as a corps de ballet member for Lascu’s well-respected production of “The Nutcracker.” Levy supplemented her classical training with various Summer Ballet Intensives, including those at Marygrove College and the International Ballet Seminar (instructors: Gelsey Kirkland, Janina Cunova, Mikhail Lavrovsky, Audre Deckmann Mendel, Ute Mitreuter, Victoria Rockhill-Schneider, Jurgen Schneider, Mark Spivak, Margarita Zagurskaya). She holds an Associate Degree in Social Work and a Bachelor’s of Science in Behavioral Science (Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology). She has a long history of work with agencies that assist children facing particularly difficult challenges, including agencies which assist children in crisis and children with autism. At Ballet Renaissance, her passion for ballet meets her commitment to help children. Levy has taught for Ballet Renaissance since 2011 and is a particularly generous, patient, committed and significant member of our Michigan Ballet Renaissance family.
Ms. Alex D’Abreu-Hines is a native of Detroit, Michigan and an alumna of Ballet Renaissance who began her training with Ballet Renaissance at age 4. She is an experienced dancer and committed instructor who is very invested in the mission and vision of Ballet Renaissance and enjoys participating and assisting in many areas of the organization. She is a senior Public Health Major at Wayne State University, pursuing a career in medicine. Ballet has been an important part of Ms. Alex’s life. She shares that it has developed within her the discipline to stay focused and organized, the motivation to work hard, and the confidence and poise to be herself no matter where life takes her. Ms. Alex enjoys teaching because it provides the opportunity to pass on the beautiful training she has received and the joy of dance she feels every time she steps on stage.
Ms. Mecca Muhammad is a native of Detroit, MI who began her dance training at age 9. She is a Ballet Renaissance alumna who also studied at the O’Day School of Dance and with Karen Prall’s African Dance program at Wayne State University. In addition to teaching for Ballet Renaissance, Ms. Mecca works for The Greening of Detroit, a nonprofit organization that “enhances the quality of life for Detroiters by re-purposing vacant land to create beautiful and productive green spaces” (see: www.greeningofdetroit.com). Ms. Mecca loves ballet because it is a beautiful art that helps her express her feelings, and helps bring out her own confidence and strength. She finds teaching ballet is meaningful because it provides an opportunity for her pass forward the freedom of movement and confidence she
feels when she dances.
Ms. Caitlin Wagner was born in Grosse Pointe, Michigan and grew up in Richmond, north of Detroit. She began her classical training at age 3, and began taking Cecchetti exams at age 6. Along with ballet she also studied tap, jazz and lyrical dance before continuing her training at Rosemary Floyd School of Dance and Academy in the Woods and, later, on talent scholarship, at Marygrove College. There she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts and taught ballet at the collegiate level before moving to Los Angeles where she taught ballet to students of all experience levels ages 3 to 64. Teaching is a dream come true for Ms. Caitlin who hopes her classes not only instruct students in classical technique but also help to develop core values like discipline and self-esteem.