Suzanne Pomerantzeff, fondly known by her students as Ms. P., is the Co-Founder and Artistic Director for the Academy. In 1969 Suzanne, along with Lester Jacobsen, founded the Academy and led the classes and summer intensives for the next forty years. ABA is home to the St. Petersburg Ballet Company and the St. Petersburg Folk Ensemble (Russian folk dance). Mrs. P. established a ballet program at St. Petersburg Junior College, (now known as St. Petersburg College), and was responsible for the development of the dance department at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts (PCCA) at Gibbs High School. She served as the Ballet Department Chairperson and was instrumental in bringing about the first annual Florida Dance Assessment, which was hosted for its inaugural year at PCCA.
Suzanne's background and training include the San Francisco School and the University of Utah, where she earned a Bachelor degree in Ballet. She performed with the San Francisco Ballet, Ballet West, Tampa Ballet, and Virginia Ballet.
Many of Ms P.'s students have been chosen to compete in the finals of Youth American Grand Prix, an international ballet competition that has been running since 1999. YAGP awarded her the Best Teacher award (2006 and 2007) and the Best Choreographer award (2006). In 2003, she received a grant from the SURDNA Foundation to travel to Ireland and produce a ballet on Irish history.
Dancers under her instruction have gone on to perform at prestigious ballet companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, American Ballet Theatre, Ballet Met, Cirque de Soleil, Cleveland Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, David Parsons, Frankfort Opera Ballet, Houston Ballet, Kiel Opera Ballet, Lion King (Simba, Broadway Co.), Milwaukee Ballet, Moiseyev Dance Company, Mummenschanz, Pennsylvania Ballet, Repertory Dance Theater, Riverdance, San Diego Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet.
Michelle received her early training at the School of the Tampa Ballet under the direction of Martin Freedman and Victoria Rockhill Schneider.
After attending many summer intensive programs including Houston Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Boston Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and Pittsburgh Ballet, Ms. Kuusela was offered a full scholarship to attend Pittsburgh Ballet’s year-round program. She spent her freshman year of high school training and performing with Pittsburgh Ballet under the direction of Patricia Wilde. Ms. Kuusela also had the privilege of working with many great teachers in Pittsburgh including Roberto Munez, Dana Arey, Gail Sullivan, and David Holladay.
Michelle spent her remaining high school years training at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts with Suzanne Pomerantzeff, Wagih Aboelella, Patricia Paige and Reginald Yates. Michelle also performed with Florida West Ballet for three years under the direction of Mervet Elanarbwi.
After graduating from PCCA’s Dance Department, Ms. Kuusela attended college at The Boston Conservatory. Her teachers included Ruth Ambrose, Yasuko Tokunaga, Anna Marie Sarazin, Leslie Koval, Jennifer Scanlon, Mary Wolff, Tommy Neblett, Julie Thompson, Samual Kurkjian, Donna Silva, and Denise Pons. Ms. Kuusela earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance with an equal emphasis on Performing and Teaching in Ballet and Modern.
Michelle spent four years performing with The Boston Conservatory Dance Company. She also performed as a guest artist with Ballet New England and Winchester Ballet. She performed in ballets including Sleeping Beauty, Who Cares, Sunflowers, Giselle, Swan Lake, Concerto Barocco, Nutcracker, Paquita, Coppelia, Apollo, and Don Quixote, as well as the original works Czerny Suite, Festival of the Streets, and Visions.
Ms. Kuusela taught and performed in Massachusetts for two years after graduation before returning to her Florida roots. She has been a teacher for the Academy of Ballet Arts since 2001. She was also an adjunct teacher for PCCA’s Dance Department.
Marsha Salzer Wilson
Marsha began dancing at the Academy of Ballet Arts under the guidance of Suzanne Pomerantzeff and Lester Jacobsen. While training at the Academy, she performed in many ballets including the Red Shoes, Bouquet de Vienne, Match Girl, Le Petite Riens, and Coppelia among others. She performed at the opening of the original Dali Museum and at the Museum of Fine Arts. Marsha spent summers studying with Ballet West, the Pennsylvania Ballet, and the Milwaukee Ballet. Marhsa's early high school graduation led her to New York to study dance with Melissa Hayden and Wilhelm Burmann.
Marsha attended the University of Utah as a dance major before accepting a position with the Milwaukee Ballet. Upon returning to Florida, she danced with Southern Ballet Theatre (now known as the Orlando Ballet) for several years. While there she enjoyed performing as one of the four little swans in Swan Lake along with roles in Les Sylphides, Valse Fantasy, Prince Igor, Allegro Brillante, and the Nutcracker.
After retiring from her professional career, Marsha continued to perform in the Tampa Bay area with Ballet Theater International under the direction of Christopher Fleming. She also danced with Andrei Ustinov and Elena Martinson, performing Jewels from Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake in concert with the Tampa Bay Symphony. More recently, she has found a passion in teaching, coaching, and choreographing. In 2007, one of her works was awarded third place at the Youth America Grand Prix Competition (YAGP). Marsha also won the YAGP Outstanding Choreographer Award in 2009. She continues to choreograph works for performances and ballet competitions and to teach her love of dance to her students at the Academy.
Adult Ballet & Acting Instructor
Judi Jemison graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in technical theater. She has worked in the Tampa Bay area for many years as an actress, dancer, mime, and costume and set designer. She has taught children and adults, ballet, mime and acting on a regular basis for over 30 years. Her students have gone on to win Fulbright Scholarships in mime, and have appeared on Broadway and world tours with Mummenchantz.
Judi has appeared in many productions including Spoon River Anthology, The Great Cross Country Race, Royal Hunt of the Sun, Alice, I Didn’t Know That, and Flashback. Her design credits include Appleseed, See How They Run, Guys and Dolls, Out of the Frying Pan and Brighton Beach Memoirs. She was a member of Dancemakers Classical Jazz Company and a demi-soloist with Ballet Classique, both in St. Petersburg. Her choreographic credits include Pippin and Once Upon a Mattress.
Judi was the artistic director and a performer with MIMUS, A Classical Mime Troupe. The troupe performed stage shows, street mime, school tours, and taught classes and workshops throughout Florida and Georgia. They appeared at Medieval and Renaissance Festivals, American Stage Company, the Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville, First Night, Mainsail, and the Sarasota Film Festival.
She was an artist-in-residence for the Pinellas County Arts Council for seven years, teaching mime to students with special needs as well as general population students. Her students performed at the Very Special Arts Festival for many years. Currently Judi is the Director of Walden School, a private middle school where she teaches academics as well as acting. She continues to teach ballet and acting at the Academy of Ballet Arts where she has taught for many years.
Daniel Johnson graduated from Gibbs High School/PCCA/Dance in 2008. He attended The Boston Conservatory on a full tuition scholarship and graduated in 2012 with a major in Dance. Daniel then moved to New York City and joined the Nai Ni Chen Dance Company, where he remained for two years. They performed a style of modern contemporary dance mixed with martial arts and tai chi. Daniel then relocated to Asheville, North Carolina, where he taught in several local studios and performed in local productions.
He is grateful for the opportunity to return to St. Petersburg and perform for his beloved home studio. Daniel would like to dedicate his performances to his precious young daughter, Izabella.
Jazz Instructor (summer)
Born and raised in the Largo/Seminole area, Abby has been dancing since the age of 3. She has studied from countless ballet, jazz, modern, tap, hip-hop, and cultural dance instructors at institutions including The Ailey School, the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts (at Philadanco), Broadway Dance Center, Steps School of Dance, the Koresh School of Dance, the Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio and among many others. She is a graduate of the Pinellas County Center for the Arts Dance Department and continued her education at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance with an emphasis in Jazz. While at the University of the Arts, she continued her well-rounded education in jazz, ballet, modern, tap, hip-hop, and African dance.
Abby has been dancing and choreographing professionally around the Central Florida area for over 8 years in a multitude of capacities such as Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Sea World Orlando, Universal Studios Orlando, Event Show Productions, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, productions at the Straz Center, O’liviers Carbaret and the Florida Dance Theatre in addition to directing her own group of dancers in community performances and events.
Abby believes in the importance of a well-rounded dancer and continues to study and train in all styles of dance. She focuses strongly on proper placement, technique, and execution of movement.
Hip-Hop Instructor (summer)
Tai has choreographed various high-scoring works for the Youth America Grand Prix competition. He is a natural born performer, thought his intense training did not start until his mid-20's (thanks to Suzanne Pomerantzeff and Ferdinand DeJesus via full scholarship). Through a local St. Petersburg dance group, he won $500 and then later $5000 on BET's 106 & Park.
In addition, Tai is the choreographer, director, and producer of his own production Shadows of the Mind. It is a divine display of countless dance styles and the area's rising artists, all blended into a show that brilliantly delves into our mind's inner mechanisms.
Tai would like to thank God, his family, and all who have believed in him.