Armour Dance Theatre provides dance training to over 850 students annually, with nearly 600 on scholarship in five locations. Through our programs, we work to remove obstacles and use dance as a vehicle to success. Over the last three decades, our programs have grown in scope and impact. To see where our alums are today click here.
We believe dance is merely the vehicle that transports children through doors that maximize their options in life. We are thrilled when one of our graduates is accepted into a major dance company; however, our ultimate goal is to give children choices beyond their present limitations.
The mission of Armour Dance Theatre is to create a pathway to educational and professional opportunities, for the youth of Miami-Dade County, through the study and performance of dance.
Serve youth regardless of income level.
Reflect the diversity of the community in all programming.
Facilitate the removal of obstacles that may impede success.
Offer inclusive programming for youth with or without disabilities.
was a world-renowned classical ballet dancer, trained in Paris by the legendary Olga Preobrajenska. During his career, he was a principal soloist with the Ida Rubenstein Company, the Nijinska Company, the Woijikowski Company, the De Basil Company, and finally, Leonid Massine’s famed Ballet Russe De Monte Carlo. His performing contemporaries included; Alexandra Danilova, Igor Youskevitch, Andre Eglevsky, Rosella Hightower, Alicia Markova, and Frederic Franklin. One of his most celebrated roles was Vaslav Nijinski’s “Spectre de la Rose”.
After being drafted into Military Intelligence during World War II, Mr. Armour’s performing career ended. In 1949, after the war, he returned to South Florida, where he took over a small ballet school. He started the Miami Ballet Guild, which became the Miami Ballet, with 501c3 non-profit status, in 1951. The Miami Ballet’s goal was to provide first-class training and stage experience for aspiring dancers, by presenting full-scale classical ballets, with professional guest artists, such as Cynthia Gregory, Edward Villella, Natalia Makarova, Peter Martins, and Violet Verdy, to name but a few. Ballets presented, including Giselle, Swan Lake, Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty, and La Bayadere. The Miami Ballet was also a co-founder of the Southeastern Regional Ballet Association (SERBA). Mr. Armour was honored with many awards over the years, most recently a “Lifetime Achievement” recognition from Dance For Life for his contributions to the South Florida dance community.
was a member of the Miami Conservatory faculty and administration for over 47 years. Mr. Pike received his dance training at the Chicago Conservatory of Music and Ballet, and later at the Ballet Theater school in New York with William Dollar and Anatole Vilzak. For several seasons, he performed with New York City Opera Ballet as a soloist and with the touring companies of ”The Student Prince” and “Bells are Ringing”. In 1953 Mr. Pike returned to Miami to study with Mr. Armour, and joined the faculty of the Miami Conservatory and the Miami Ballet Company as a dancer and choreographer. He danced in many ‘summer stock ‘ productions in Miami and in such musicals as “Red Head” and “Pal Joey”. For several years Mr. Pike performed on cruise ships sailing in the Caribbean. Mr. Pike retired from the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet in 2006.
CAMILA GIL, Executive Director
Born in Bogota Colombia, Camila holds a Masters in Global Governance from Florida International University and a Bachelors of Arts in International Studies & Political Science from the University of Miami. Ms. Gil trained at Armour Dance Theatre from the time she was 13 years old under the artistic leadership of Ruth Wiesen. Even though she no longer dances, she believes in the importance of dance education, having benefited from it firsthand. During her High School years, Camila became a volunteer for the organization and upon graduating began working as a Student Assistant. She has dedicated her professional career to Armour Dance Theatre holding multiple roles including Student Assistant, Executive Assistant, Director of Community programs, and more recently Associate Director. Ms. Gil has supported and led the growth of the scope and reach of Armour Dance Theatre for the past decade and is passionate about making arts education accessible to all children in the Miami Dade Community. To contact Camila click here.
RUTH WIESEN, Artistic Director
Born in Bethesda, Maryland, received her BFA in Dance from the University of Florida/New World School of the Arts. Ms. Wiesen trained at the Miami Conservatory with Thomas Armour and Robert Pike and with Judith Newman and Gerard Ebitz at New World School of the Arts. She performed as a soloist with the Miami Ballet and New World School of the Arts. Ms. Wiesen joined the faculty of the Miami Conservatory in 1984. She progressed from instructor to Ballet Mistress of the Junior Company and assumed the Directorship of the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet in 2003. In 1989, Ms. Wiesen founded the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet Scholarship Program which under her direction has grown from 20 students to over 500 students at five locations. In addition to her directorship of the TAYB, Ms. Wiesen is a member of the dance faculty of the New World School of the Arts. Ms. Wiesen has been honored by the Arts and Business Council for her contribution to encouraging diversity in the world of dance in Miami-Dade County and for the impact she has had on the lives of so many talented, underprivileged students. Dance is Ms. Wiesen’s second career. Prior to returning to her first love, dance, Ms. Wiesen held a variety of positions as a Registered Nurse, including Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Duke University Medical Center.
ADDYSON FONTE, Marketing Director
Born in Miami, Florida is a former Thomas Armour Youth Ballet student and attended New World School of the Arts and Miami-Dade Community College. Ms. Fonte joined the Armour Dance Theatre faculty in 2008 as a student assistant and has since held various positions within the organization. To contact Addyson click here.
TESSA MCDONALD, Community Programs Director
Tessa holds a Specialist Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of West Florida as well as a Master’s Degree in Guidance and Counseling from Florida International University. Ms. McDonald has over fifteen years of experience as a teacher in elementary, college, adult, and special education settings. She joined the ADT faculty in 2015 as a reading teacher, served as Program Administrator for ADT’s community programs, and is now the Director of Community Programs. To contact Tessa click here.
SCARLETT G. QUINTO, Administrative Assistant
Scarlett G. Quinto (Miami, FL) started dancing at the age of 4 and is educated in the styles of Jazz, Modern, Ballet, Hip-Hop, Tap, and Flamenco, as well as being trained in Modeling and Acting. She has been to multiple dance intensives such as American Dance Festival, Joffrey Ballet School in New York, and Ailey Camp Miami. She attended South Miami K-8 and South Miami Middle Community School in the dance program. Graduated high school at New World School of The Arts and has her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Florida and New World School of the Arts. She’s a current dance teacher at Armour Dance Theatre in the Outreach Program. Scarlett has numerous repertory work under her belt; pieces by the Batsheva Dance Company, Robert Battle, Peter London, Yara Travieso, Rebbeca Cannan, Jennifer Archibald, Paul Taylor, Ron K.Brown and Mark Morris.
A native of Cuba began her ballet training at the age of 11 in Miami at Ballet Concerto and continued her studies with Thomas Armour and Martha Mahr. At the age of 16, she received a Ford Foundation Scholarship to the School of American Ballet in New York. Ms. Alvarez performed for five years with The National Ballet of Washington where she worked with renowned choreographer, Ben Stevenson. She also performed as a soloist with the Ballet Nacional de Caracas in Venezuela and with the San Francisco Ballet. Ms. Alvarez has been honored for her choreography by the Association de Criticos y Comenristas de las Artes Teatrales Clasicas y Literaris in Miami. She has been a guest performer and adjudicator at the International Festival Mundial de Ballet in Lima, Peru. Ms. Alvarez joined the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet faculty in 1990.
NATALIE AXLEY, Ballet & Jazz faculty
A Miami native, trained with Thomas Armour and Robert Pike at the Miami Conservatory. She was a member of the Miami Ballet for six years and a graduate of the Performing Arts P.A.V.A.C. program that later became the New World School of the Arts. Ms. Axley danced with the Milwaukee Ballet Company for two years and performed with the Miami City Ballet for two seasons in the Nutcracker and Serenade. Ms. Axley also danced with Freddick Bratcher Dance Company for five seasons. She has been teaching with Mencia Pikieris School of Dance since 1996. Ms. Axley joined Miami Conservatory of Ballet in 2005 to and heads the outreach program in Perrine
MICHELINE CACCIATORE, Ballet Faculty
Micheline Cacciatore moved to Miami in 2010 from Massachusetts where she was the owner and founder of The Ballet Space. After much success and over 300 students, she sold her school to be able to spend more time with her husband and two young children. Micheline was a well-respected teacher in the Boston area for over 20 years. Before opening her studio, her teaching credits included Walnut Hill School for the Arts, Brookline Academy of Dance and the Acton School of Ballet. After graduating from Walnut Hill School for the Arts in 1991, Micheline continued her training at The Rock School, Ballet West, and the University of Utah’s BFA program. She has performed many classical and contemporary ballets under the direction of Willam Christensen, Conrad Ludlow, and many other world-renowned teachers. Micheline began teaching for Alison Hesh/Soul Purpose Studio in Miami in 2011, to whom she loaned the name The Ballet Space until June of 2021. With ballet and teaching as her passion, Micheline is thrilled to join the faculty of Armour Dance Theatre.
KAREEN CAMARGO, Ballet Faculty
Kareen Pauld Camargo was born in Haiti and came to the United States at the age of two. She grew up in New York, where she trained at the American Ballet Theater School, The School of American Ballet, and The Dance Theatre of Harlem Workshop Ensemble, as well as attending The High School of Performing Arts. She performed with The Dance Theatre of Harlem Company for several years, dancing works by Arthur Mitchell, Balanchine, B. Nijinska, Agnes de Mille, Geoffrey Holder, and many others. She moved to South Florida, to join The Miami City Ballet in 1990. She was a featured dancer in many classical, and contemporary pieces such as Lynn Taylor -Corbett’s Mystery of The Dancing Princesses and Paul Taylor’s Three Epitaphs, Esplanade, and Company B. She also had the privilege of dancing soloist and principal roles in many of George Balanchine’s masterpieces, including The Nutcracker, Raymonda Variations, Scotch Symphony, Valse Fantasies, and Agon, among others. After retiring from the stage in 1998 Ms. Camargo taught ballet at The Miami City Ballet School for many years(1998-2006) and has resumed her position there since 2012. She was rehearsal and ballet mistress for the children in Miami City Ballets production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker in 2005. Ms. Camargo continues to stage and rehearse The Thomas Armour Youth Ballets version of The Nutcracker since 2008.
Ms.Camargo returned to the stage when she joined Miami Contemporary Dance Company in 2005, and later on, became Company Manager in 2009. Ms. Camargo joined The New World School of The Arts adjunct faculty in 2009, where she currently teaches ballet in the Musical Theater Department and ballet in the college Dance Department since 2018. In 2011 she joined the staff of The Thomas Armour Youth Ballet, where she served the community of Miami Gardens Florida, as outreach coordinator and ballet instructor until 2013. In 2011, and 2012 Kareen directed and taught at Dance Theatre of Harlem Summer Intensive in Detroit, Michigan. She has taught Summer Intensives for Tallahassee Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem in New York, and ICPA Dance in Texas. Ms. Camargo became certiﬁed in 2014 as a “barre ﬁtness” instructor, which incorporates elements of ballet, pilates, and yoga along with strength and stretching elements. She taught these classes at Barre Motion in Miami Beach, Florida as a Master Instructor until the studio closed in summer 2016. For the past 4 years, Ms. Camargo has had the pleasure of teaching The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company classes when the company tours in Florida. Ms. Camargo recently became certiﬁed in Progressive Ballet Technique (PBT) An innovative technique to help students develop muscle memory to enhance dance training. In October 2019 Kareen was asked to participate as a mentor and teacher in MOBBallet (members of blacks in ballet) Inaugural Symposium in Philadelphia, hosted by Pennsylvania Ballet. Ms. Camargo was generously sponsored by and represented Miami City Ballet. A few weeks later she was invited by Jonathan Stafford, Wendy Whelan, and The School of American Ballet to join SAB’s Alumni Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.
is a Miami native and a former TAYB scholarship student. Ms. Carroll joined the TAYB faculty in 2019 teaching the creative movement, mommy & me, and pre-ballet levels. She graduated from New World School of the Arts High School in Dance and earned a Bachelors in Dance from FIU. She danced freelance for two years in New York. She has been a member of the interactive performance group CircX, Crystal Peattie’s The Haunted Ballet, and Jenny Larsson’s Wild Beast Collective.
MARIA TERESA DEL REAL, Ballet faculty
Maria Teresa del Real received her early ballet training at Ballets de San Juan, and later studied at the School of the American Ballet, NYC, and with Vaganova specialist Gabriella Taub-Darvash. She held the position of Principal Ballerina with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, the Royal Ballet of Flanders, and the English National Ballet and has been partnered by Rudolph Nureyev, Fernando Bujones, Carlos Acosta, Jose Manuel Carreño, and Kevin O’hare among others. In 1983, Ms. del Real won a bronze medal at the Varna International Competition, bringing the United States its first medal in nearly 10 years. Upon her return to the U.S., she was extended an invitation to meet with the President at the Oval Office to receive his personal congratulations. After retiring from performing, she joined the full-time teaching staff at the Central School of Ballet in London. Ms. del Real now lives in Miami, Fl where she is an adjunct professor at New World School of the Arts.
ANGELICA DIAZ, Ballet faculty
A native of Havana, Cuba, and studied classical ballet for eight years at the National School of Art in Havana and Camaguey, Cuba. In 1981, Ms. Diaz joined the Ballet of Camaguey under the artistic direction of Fernando Alonso where she danced as a soloist and toured throughout Europe, South America, Africa, and China. Ms. Diaz came to the United States in 1990 and has lived in Miami ever since, where she has danced with Miami Ballet, Ballet Rosario Suarez, Momentum Dance Co, Creation Ballet Co, and Ife-Ile Afro-Cuban Dance & Music Ensemble. Ms. Diaz has also appeared in the featured film, The Lost City (2005). Ms. Diaz has taught at Jill Mallory Dance Studio, Creations Art Center, Florene Litthcu’s t Inner-City Children’s Touring Co, Ballet at your School, and Martha Mahr School of Ballet. In 2004, Ms. Diaz received her B.A. in Dance Education from Florida International University, receiving an award for Outstanding Academic Achievement in Dance. In 2007, Ms. Diaz received a certificate of appreciation for her contributions to the community of Liberty City while working under Ms. Litthcu’st’s Inner City Children’s Touring Co. from the Miami-Dade County Office of the Mayor and Board of County Commissioners. Ms. Diaz has been on the faculty of the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet since 2009, teaching creative movement through advanced classes.
PETEGAY LETREN, Contemporary Faculty
Passionate about art, choreography, and life, Petagay Letren is a multidisciplinary artist. Her primary medium is choreography. She possesses childlike curiosity and a love for play. These are key elements of her choreographic process.
Through her, work Petagay expresses what it’s like to be a 3rd culture kid/adult. Third culture kids are those that are raised outside the culture(s) of their parents or in a country other than their nationality. Petagay’s multicultural upbringing is demonstrated through her exploration of African, Caribbean, and Western movement aesthetics. Via her work, she aspires to promote fun, connection, creativity, and healing. Petagay believes that creativity and play can facilitate the courage and strength of vulnerability, and highlight the human capacity for growth and connection.
Petagay holds an MFA in Dance/ Choreography from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a BA in English from New York University. She also has an Arts and Cultural Enterprise Management Post Graduate Diploma from the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago.
LARA MURPHY, Ballet & Contemporary Faculty
Lara began her training with Martha Mahr and Thomas Armour and is a graduate of New World School of the Arts High School. She holds a BA from New York University and an MA from the University of Miami. She is a full-time faculty member and choreographer at New World School of the Arts. She has performed with several professional companies, most recently with Maximum Dance Company and Miami Contemporary Dance Company, and choreographed the Nestor Torres’ Concert for a New Renaissance.
HERMAN PAYNE, Musical Theater & Jazz faculty
Juilliard graduate in Ballet, Herman Payne has appeared in a number of theatrical productions. A few of such include: the Aspen Ballet Company; the Second National tour and the International tours of Ann Reinking’s Tony Award-winning show “Fosse”, choreographed and directed by Debra McWaters; the International tour of West Side Story, under the Direction of Joey McKneely; 9 to 5 on Broadway, choreographed by Tony Award-winning Andy Blankenbuehler; The New York City Center Encore’s productions of The Wiz, choreographed by Tony Award-winning, Andy Blankenbuehler; House of Flowers choreographed by Tony award-winning Kathleen Marshall; Pajama Game, choreographed By Tony Award-winning JOHN CARRAFA; THE ID of BOB, directed by HINTON BATTLE; and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, choreographed by LINDA HABERMAN, where Herman worked for 14 years (2000 – 2013).
In addition to Herman’s copious theatrical work on Broadway, internationally and with the Rockettes, he has spent many hours working in a completely different language of dance. He has performed in; Michael Jackson’s 30th Anniversary Special; with Mariah Carey, Usher, Mya, Destiny’s Child, Whitney Houston, Deborah Cox, Thalia, Tony Moran, Lisa Lisa, Kevin Aviance, Love INC., and Camp LO, among others.
Herman has choreographed various industrials, and corporate events and has worked for a number of summer intensives, such as The Broadway Theatre Project, where he is now the Co-Artistic Director with Debra McWaters, the Miami City Ballet, the Springfield Ballet, Performance Edge 1 and 2, The Theatre Arts and Minds, and The New World School of the Arts. Industrials Herman has choreographed and directed include such events as LANA MARKS; Herbal Life; and The International Hustle and Salsa Competition Corporation.
Herman’s extensive and formal education in dance, other than Juilliard, is rounded out by his studies at; Interlochen School of the Arts, The Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Houston Ballet, Alvin Ailey, The Boston Ballet, and Jacobs Pillow. He is an ARTS winner, (Recognition and Talent Search which is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts), where he won the 2nd award level in Modern Dance and an Honorable Mention In Jazz Dance. He also received a 4-year partial scholarship to attend The Julliard School where he received his Bachelors in Fine Arts.
Ultimately, Herman’s Dance studies have made him far more than proficient In Ballet, Modern, Jazz, a Theatrical Approach to all types of Dance, and Hip Hop / Jazz Funk. His work experience has made him one of the most popular choreographers and instructors in today’s dance world.
He is an Adjunct Professor at the New World School of the Arts, University of Florida, and Miami-Dade Colleges, and a Resident Faculty member at the world-renowned Miami City Ballet school.
KELLY ROBOTHAM, Ballet, Contemporary, & Hip Hop faculty
Born in Bronx, New York raised in Miami is an alumni of New World School of the Arts and holds a Bachelors in Fine Arts from The Juilliard School. Ms. Robotham danced with Ailey II for one year and was promoted to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater where she danced from 2011-2014. In 2014 Ms. Robotham returned to her city Miami, and worked briefly at Miami City Ballet as Executive Assistant and Development Coordinator. Ms. Robotham joined the TAYB faculty in 2015.
JERON SANDERS, Jazz Faculty
MELISSA VERDECIA, Ballet faculty
is from Miami, FL, and received her early training from Mencia-Pikieris School of Dance and New World School of the Arts where she graduated summa cum laude in 2008. In 2012, Melissa went on to earn her BFA in dance from The Juilliard School under the direction of Larry Rhodes. While attending The Juilliard School Melissa performed works by Sidra Bell, Alex Ekman, Nacho Duato, and Jerome Robbins among others. In 2008, Melissa was selected as a modern dance Finalist in the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (NFAA) YoungARTS competition. She was also featured in the HBO series “Master Class.” In 2012 Melissa joined Ballet Hispanico of New York City and had the joy of being presented along with her Ballet Hispanico colleagues in Lincoln Center at the Movies Great American Dance Series in 2016 where she performed lead roles in works by Gustavo Ramirez Sansano and Pedro Ruiz. During her 9 seasons with Ballet Hispánico she toured nationally and internationally performing works by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Eduardo Vilaro, and Michelle Manzanales among others. Melissa has also choreographed several works for the Peter London Global Dance Company in Miami, FL, and Dimensions Dance Theater of Miami. Currently, Melissa has returned to her hometown of Miami and is excited to be an educator in the community as well as a new mom to her son.
NATASHA WILLIAMS, Tap faculty
Natasha Williams is a professional tap dancer and teacher born and raised in Miami of Cuban descent. She is a graduate of New World School of the Arts High School Dance Division and holds a Masters in Business Management from Florida International University. Natasha is also an alumni of Jacob’s Pillow. Natasha has performed at various venues in Miami including Ball and Chain, El Tucán, The Wynwood Yard, the Miami Herald, Art Basel, and more. She has also performed in New York City, Los Angeles, Wisconsin, and Washington DC. In 2012 Natasha presented at TEDx Youth Miami at the Adrienne Arsht Center. In 2015 Natasha had the pleasure of tapping alongside Billy Stritch, accompanist of Liza Minnelli, at The Cabaret South Beach’s CAST Party. Natasha has been teaching for Armour Dance Theatre since 2007 and is the director of the Tap Team. The Tap Team has been producing their own shows and performing at locations such as Faena Miami Beach, the Biltmore Hotel, the Adrienne Arsht Center and more.
MEREDITH BARTON, Ballet Faculty
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Daniel Lewis, President
Oliver Von Gundlach, President Elect
Dennis Edwards, Treasurer
Jacqueline Calderin, Secretary
Stephanie R. Altman
The School was founded
The Thomas Armour Youth Ballet, now known as Armour Dance Theatre was founded in 1951 as a school of classical ballet named The Miami Conservatory, and a non-profit performing company called The Miami Ballet.
Scholarship program created
A scholarship program was created, to help talented children from low-income neighborhoods to access placement in Miami-Dade County Public School Dance Magnets.
Summer in New York program
Armour Dance Theatre formerly known as Thomas Armour Youth Ballet began to send advanced students to intensive summer programs with professional companies in New York City. Armour Dance Theatre covers all expenses.
Opened first community program
The first community program site was opened in Little Haiti at Morningside Elementary School.
Building purchased and new site
Armour Dance Theatre is formerly known as Thomas Armour Youth Ballet purchased the historic South Miami building in which it was housed. This main site serves over 800 children and holds administrative offices.
The second site was opened within the Redland Christian Migrant Association campsite and Homestead Housing Authority in South Miami Dade County.
Opened third community program site
The third community program site was opened in the West Coconut Grove at Elizabeth Virrick Park.
Opened fourth community program site
Thomas Armour Youth Ballet now Armour Dance Theatre received the Arts & Education Impact Award from the Arts & Business Council.
Award from Miami-Dade County
Thomas Armour Youth Ballet now Armour Dance Theatre received an award from Miami-Dade County’s “In the Company of Women” in Arts and Entertainment.
Award from Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County
TAYB received the prestigious “Excellence Award in Youth Programming for School & Life Success” from the Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County.
Fourth community program site opened
August- The fourth outreach site was opened in Miami Gardens at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Center.
Relocated Homestead site
2014 – Thomas Armour Youth Ballet now Armour Dance Theatre relocated Homestead outreach site to South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center.
2015 – Relocated South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center location to Robert Russa Moton Elementary School.
Celebrated 40 years of the Nutcracker
Relocates Elizabeth Virrick Park location to Frances Tucker Elementary School.
Celebrated the 40th Anniversary of its production of the Nutcracker
Changed name to Armour Dance Theatre
The organization became Armour Dance Theatre to better reflect the organization’s artistic quality and communicate its community, mission-focused work.