top of page


MD in Napa.jpg

Maliwan Diemer

Artistic & Executive Director
Ballet 5, Ballet 6, Ballet 7, Ballet 8, Pointe, Senior Ensemble Director

Maliwan (Molly) Diemer began her dance training in Columbus, Ohio at the age of three. She continued her studies with RAD certified teacher, Ng Siew Fong while her family lived abroad. Ballet became her passion and by the age of thirteen Molly had been invited to study and perform with Indiana University's Ballet Theater, where she trained with Violette Verdy, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, Patricia McBride, Jacques and Virginia Cesbron, Leslie Peck and Doricha Sales, along with notable guest choreographers, teachers and artistic directors.


A long time instructor for Indiana University's Pre-College Ballet Program, she also spent a year as Associate Instructor for the African American Dance Company under the direction of Iris Rosa. Molly served on faculty at Chicago's first public arts high school, The Chicago High School for the Arts for nine years. She was formerly on faculty at the Lou Conte Dance Studio from 2005 until its closure in 2020 and at the Joffrey Academy of Dance. Molly is currently on faculty at Visceral Dance Center and is a guest instructor for Empower Dance Company. She has taught company class for DanceWorks Chicago, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater and Visceral Dance Chicago, and has been a guest coach and teacher for the University of Chicago's UBallet. 


With her husband, Matt, Molly competed professionally as a ballroom dancer. She is a 2-time U.S. National Rising Star Smooth finalist and a U.S. National 10-Dance finalist and has won Professional Rising Star and Open events across the country in Smooth, Latin and Standard. 


She holds a M.A. in Arts Administration and a B.S.O.F. in Ballet and Political Science, magna cum laude, both from Indiana University.


Molly joined CBA in 2007 as Performance Project Director. She was honored to begin her new role as Artistic and Executive Director in August of 2020. 


Maan Almodovar

Ballet 8, Pointe

Maan Almodovar was excited to join the CBA family in 2020, to share her passion and love for ballet. An integral component for the higher levels, Maan recently taught as a Pre-Professional ballet instructor, teaching and mentoring students levels IV - VI at the Joffrey Academy of Dance. While at the Academy, she staged classical variations and corps de ballet work for performances, and coached dancers for Youth America Grand Prix. Maan is currently on faculty at The Chicago High School for the Arts, teaching Body Conditioning and Ballet.

She received her dance training from Sherry Moray and Homer Bryant. In 2000, Maan placed 1st in the regional Junior Classical division at Youth America Grand Prix. The following year she placed top 12 in the overall Senior division, as well as, top 12 in New York for the Senior Contemporary division. From 2002-2004, Maan danced with the Alabama Ballet under the guidance and directors Wes Chapman and Roger Van Fleteran. There she performed Arabian in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker and various roles in Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet, and Swan Lake. Following her time at Alabama Ballet, Maan returned to Chicago and performed with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, working with choreographer, Daniel Pelzig in Die Fledermaus. In addition to her dance background, Maan is a Stott-trained Pilates instructor, previously managing a Pilates studio in Lakeview, One Hundred Fitness, from 2010-2018, where she managed and taught Adult Ballet, Zumba, and Pilates.


Mai Claypool

Ballet 2, Ballet 3, Ballet 7, Ballet 8, Pointe

Mai Claypool was born in Saitama, Japan. She trained at Kishi Ballet studio, The Matsuyama Ballet School in Tokyo, Japan, The Joffrey Ballet School and Steps on Broadway in NYC under the direction of Yoko Kishi, Yoko Morishita, David Howard, Finis Jhung, Michael O’Brian, Francesca Corkle and Eleanor D’Antuono. She has received awards from ballet competitions, such as the Hope Award and Achievement of Excellence. Mai danced with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Florida Dance Theatre and Metropolitan Ballet.


She has turned her passion for dance towards teaching and spreading the joy of dance. She has been teaching ballet, pointe, variations, modern and contemporary at several schools in New York, Illinois, Florida and Japan. She has taught at Hubbard Street's Youth Program and The Joffrey Academy of Dance. Mai is an American Ballet Theatre® Certified Teacher in levels Primary through Level 7 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum.


Melanie Cortier

Ballet 3, Ballet 4, Pointe, Adult Division, Adult Ensemble Director

Melanie Cortier (Choreographer/ Artistic Director Eidolon Ballet) has danced professionally with several companies and choreographers throughout the U.S. and abroad, including Michael Mao Dance, Dances Patrelle, Lydia Johnson, Stamford Ballet, American National Ballet, and Gen Horiuchi, for whom she was dance captain at the Opening Ceremonies of the 1998 Winter Olympics (Nagano, Japan).  She graduated cum laude from Marymount Manhattan College with a BFA in Dance and has choreographed for Phoenix Productions (Evita), The Puppeteer Cooperative, as well as over 20 ballets for Eidolon Ballet where she has been resident choreographer since its inception.

She has been on faculty at Chicago Ballet Arts, Ballet Academy East New York, and has guest taught at Steps on Broadway, the 92nd St Y Harkness Dance Center, American Youth Dance Theatre, and Ball State University. Her choreography has been has performed at The Joyce SoHo, Ailey Citibank Theater, Lincoln Center’s Clark Studio Theater, Lincoln Center’s Out-of-Doors Festival, New York City Center, Dance Parade’s Dance Fest at Tompkin’s Square Park, The Downtown Dance Festival, Merce Cunningham Studio Theater, Steps on Broadway, The Bridge for Dance, Dixon Place, The Brecht Forum, Borders Bookstore at 57th Street, Summerstreets, the CBS morning show, White Wave Cool NY Dance Festival, Dumbo Dance Festival, Dance Tracks Choreography Showcase, the 92nd St Y Harkness Dance Center, The New York Fringe Festival, Chicago Freelance Dance, Link's Hall, Chicago Ballet Arts at Dance in the Parks, and The Inside/Out Series at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. 


Photo Credit: Lois Greenfield


Patti Eylar

CBA Director Emeritus
Ballet 7, Ballet 8, Pointe, Conditioning

Patti Eylar started ballet in California as a child and later trained at the Maryland Youth Ballet.  At 17 she moved to NY to study on scholarship at the American Ballet Theatre School with Patricia Wilde, Leon Danielian and Valentina Pereyaslavec. After a summer of study with Melissa Hayden, she moved to Chicago in 1977 to join the Lyric Opera Ballet and was a founding member of the Chicago City Ballet, directed by Maria Tallchief and Paul Mejia.  Her favorite ballets there were George Balanchine’s  Rubies, Valse Fantasie, Four Temperments, Concerto Barocco and Divertimento #15 and Paul Mejia’s Cinderella.  She then danced with Ballet Chicago, directed by Daniel Duell, from its inception in 1987 until 1993.  Notable ballets there include Balanchine’s Square Dance and Allegro Brillante, Gordon Pierce Schmidt’s By Django and Duell’s Octet a tete, which was shown on WTTW.  She was also a soloist in Ruth Page’s Nutcracker at the Arie Crown Theater, dancing the roles of Columbine Doll and Marzipan, directed by Dolores and Larry Long.

She was a faculty member and accountant at the School of Ballet Chicago from 1995 to 2001, and started teaching at Chicago Ballet Arts in 2002.  In 2005, she and Leslie Saunders became Co-Directors of CBA.  Patti has also been on the faculty of the Lou Conte Dance Studio since 2002, and teaches company class for Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre and Giordano Dance Chicago. 


Patti has served on the Boards of the Chicago Dance Coalition, Chicago Dance and Music Alliance, and the Civic Ballet of Chicago. She is currently a Board member of the Joffrey Ballet Women's Board, Chicago Dancers United and Audience Architects, Chicago’s dance service organization.  In 2011 she received the Ruth Page Award for her contributions to the Chicago dance community, and in 2014 she and her husband, Charles Gardner, received the JUBA award from the Chicago Human Rhythm Project. She is amused to be a recognizable extra in the film, The Company, seen in a box seat at the Auditorium Theatre with Malcolm McDowell as the credits roll.


Ashley Johnson

Preparatory Division

A native of Chicago, IL, Ashley began her dance training at Ballet Legere in River Forest, IL, and at the Chicago Multicultural Dance Center (CMDC). She earned her high school diploma at The Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) where she continued to study dance. Ashley graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA in Dance and a minor in criminology from Webster University. While at Webster University, Ashley has worked with artists such as Michael Uthoff, Maggi Dueker, Dawn Karlovsky, Betsy Brandt, Xi Zhao, and Beckah Reed. She has also been privileged to perform works by Ballet Hispancio, José Limón, Tara Webbe Filomena Cacciatore, Monica Newsam, and Gregory Dawson. During college, Ashley served as a company member with the K/P Project under the direction of Kameron Saunders and Prince Lyons. She has also had the opportunity to present her self -choreographed solo “Resilience” at the American College Dance Association Conference in 2022.  Recently, Ashley traveled to Accra, Ghana to study traditional West African dance and Noyam techniques. Ashley is a teaching artist with South Chicago Dance Theatre and a performing artist with The Rooted Space Company. She is also currently in her second season as company member with Dance in the Parks. 


Arden Lapin


Arden Lapin began her dance training at Chicago Ballet Arts. She continued her studies at Western Michigan University, where she graduated with a B.F.A. in Dance and minor in Gender and Women's Studies with magna cum laude honors in 2019. While at WMU, Arden performed choreography by artists such as Kyle Abraham and Aszure Barton and was in the original cast of works by Christian Denice and Joshua Manculich. She created several pieces at WMU, including a self-choreographed solo "Forget Me Not," which was selected for performance at the Winter Gala Dance Concert, the American College Dance Association East-Central Conference, Chicago's Dance in the Parks, and the Detroit Dance City Festival in 2019. While dancing with COMMON conservatory, Arden choreographed two works for the company and performed in several pieces created by Alice Klock, Anna Long, Terence Marling, Jackie Nowicki, and many others. 


Kim Sagami

Ballet 6, Pre-Pointe, Pointe

Kim Sagami’s professional background began with American Ballet Theater II, she then joined The Joffrey Ballet under the directorship of Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino and completed her career with the National Tour of Phantom of the Opera. With The Joffrey Ballet for fourteen years, Kim participated in many historical dance restorations and revivals, as well as newly commissioned works by a wide range of choreographers such as Ashton, Arpino, Cranko, Kudelka, King, Nijinsky, Nijinska, Massine, Tudor, Taylor, Dean, Moulton, Pucci, Kylian, Morris, Sander, Joffrey, and Balanchine.


Presently, she teaches in Chicago during the school year and also travels around the country teaching ballet summer intensives. In the fall of 2010, Kim joined the dance conservatory faculty at The Chicago High School for the Arts, where she taught for many years. 

In 2004, she received her professional Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Kim maintains time between both architecture and dance.


Leslie Saunders

CBA Director Emeritus

Ballet 5, Ballet 6, Ballet 7, Pre-Pointe, Pointe, Junior Ensemble Director

Leslie Saunders is from Columbia, S.C., where she received her early training from Ann Brodie and frequent guest teachers Michael Lland and Igor Schwetzoff.  Before attending the School of American Ballet, she spent her summers studying at SAB, American Ballet Theater (Patricia Wilde), Harkness House (David Howard), and at Melissa Hayden’s NY Studio.  While at SAB Leslie performed with small troupes lead by Jacques d’Amboise and Jean-Pierre Bonnefous, and participated in the SAB Workshop Performances and Lecture-Demonstration Program.  


Leslie danced with Columbia City Ballet (Ann Brodie), the Los Angeles Ballet (John Clifford), the Chicago Lyric Opera Ballet (Maria Tallchief), and the Richmond Ballet (Stoner Winslett). She danced featured roles in The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Cinderella, Copélia, Don Quixote, La Sylphide, Les Sylphides, Paquita, Divertimento # 15, Allegro Brilliante, Concerto Barocco, Handel Celebration, Aubade, and The Green Table.  

Leslie began teaching ballet at her first ballet school, Calvert-Brodie School of Dance, and later taught at the School of the Richmond Ballet while dancing in the Richmond Ballet. In 1991 Leslie began teaching with Clare Carmichael at Chicago Ballet Arts, then known as Montay. At CBA, Leslie has performed several times in the school’s concerts and benefits, most memorably in 2002 in The Eye of the Beholder where she danced works created for her by Ms. Carmichael and Terence Marling.  Leslie became Co-Director of Chicago Ballet Arts in 2005 and served in this role through July of 2020.


Julia Schaeffer

Adult Division

Julia Schaeffer, originally from California, began dancing at age 13. She received her BFA in Dance Performance from Chapman University where she studied ballet, jazz, modern, and contemporary. After graduation, Julia danced with the Lineage dance company for four years where she had the privilege of performing and teaching community outreach classes. She relocated to Chicago in summer 2019 and has enjoyed getting to know the wonderful Chicago dance community.


Since moving to Chicago, Julia has danced for South Chicago Dance Theatre at ‘Night Out in the Parks’, Joel Hall Dancers and Center in ‘Dances in the Hall’, Kaela Norwood in ‘Fused’, Mariah Eastman in ‘Patternalia’, and is currently a company dancer with Winifred Haun and Dancers. She teaches various ages and styles at local studios such as Dance on Broadway, Design Dance, and Chicago Ballet Arts. Julia is very grateful to be involved in the vibrant Chicago dance community.


Maribel B. Yadao

Primary Ballet, Ballet 1

Maribel Yadao, also known as "Miss Mari" began her ballet training at the age of 6 with Clare Carmichel and Leslie Saunders at Chicago Ballet Arts (CBA). She continued her training at CBA with Amy Rose and Calvin Kitten. In addition to CBA, Miss Mari trained with Larry Long at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts. In her youth, Miss Mari performed in Coppelia with Ballet Chicago, The Nutcracker with The Ruth Page Center for the Arts as well as The Nutcracker with the Joffrey Ballet. She also danced at a summer intensive in Detroit, Michigan with the American Ballet Theater. Additionally, Miss Mari performed cultural, Filipino dancing with the Philippine Performing Arts of Chicago around the city and Springfield, IL. She performed and competed with a hip-hop crew called Infamous in college. Miss Mari also had the opportunity to perform in Paris with the Universal Dance Association with other All-American dancers around the U.S. Miss Mari has been happily teaching Pre-Ballet and Beginning Ballet at CBA since 2003. 


Outside of CBA, Miss Mari is a full-time, National Board Certified Teacher with Chicago Public Schools at Sauganash Elementary School. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education with an endorsement in English Language Arts from DePaul University as well as her Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Digital Teaching and Learning from the American College of Education. Later, Miss Mari obtained her endorsement in English as a Second Language from the University of St.Francis. Additionally, Miss Mari worked and lived with children with exceptional needs for several summers at Camp Starfish in Rindge, New Hampshire.


She has been teaching with Chicago Public Schools in kindergarten and 1st grade since 2006. Miss Mari enjoys assisting and watching all her students grow.

Piano Keys


Pre-Professional Division

Emily Barrett

Natalia Kushnir
Florence Mak

Kyle Nelson

Hedra Rowan
Alina Rulinskaya

Anya Rumbold

Anatoliy Torchinskiy

Fox Notebook and Pens

Support Team

Additional Team Members

Ellen Aldridge, Front Desk Team

Sofia Porta, Administrative Associate & Front Desk Team
Sydney Raucher, Preparatory Division Intern

bottom of page