Mission Statement: Ballet Guild of the Lehigh Valley, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization dedicated to fostering the art of theatre dance, primarily classical ballet, through education and performances.
Ballet Guild of the Lehigh Valley, Inc. was founded by Marjorie Berlin Fink in 1958 and serves as the umbrella organization for the Pennsylvania Youth Ballet school and performing company. Miss Fink invited Alexi Ramov, former dancer with the Ballets Russe de Monte Carlo, to serve as the organization’s second Artistic Director, succeeding James Fender. Mr. Ramov served in that capacity for over 30 years. He founded the Northeast Regional Association of NARB (National Association of Regional Ballet) now known as Regional Dance America. Alexi Ramov and colleague Barbara Weisberger, founder of the Pennsylvania Ballet, helped organize the very first regional festival, of which The Ballet Guild is a charter member. In 1987, he established the Ballet Guild’s first school and was its first Director. Alexi Ramov directed the Lehigh Valley’s first “Nutcracker” production in 1968 – a beloved holiday tradition which continues to this day. Among the professional dance luminaries he invited to conduct master classes and to guest teach were internationally respected dance educators Oleg Briansky and Mireille Briane.
Mireille Briane and Oleg Briansky were named Artistic Directors in 1994, and served with distinction through 2006. After graduating from the Paris Opera Ballet School, Mireille Briane became a Principal Dancer – at age 16 – at the Grand Theatre of Bordeaux, France, and also enjoyed an extensive international dancing and teaching career. She has served on the faculties of the School of American Ballet, Alvin Ailey Dance Center, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Ballet de Rio de Janeiro, and others. Ms. Briane directed highly successful children’s ballets for Radio Television Francaise and created a year-long series of educational ballet programs for Britain’s Independant Television Network.
Oleg Briansky’s career included extensive performing as a world-renowned premier danseur, choreographer, teacher, and coach. Mr. Briansky danced with Ballets des Champs Elysees, Ballets de Paris, London Festival Ballet, New York Metropolitan Opera Ballet, and others, partnering many leading ballerinas including Margot Fonteyn, Maria Tallchief, and Violette Verdy. He served as the Artistic Director of The Children of Theatre Street, the Academy Award-nominated feature film documentary about the Vaganova Choregraphic Institute in Leningrad. Mr. Briansky was awarded the prestigious Nijinsky Medal in 1995. He has served on the jury of the Youth America Grand Prix Ballet Competition since its inception, and has translated 100 Lessons in Classical Ballet by Vera Kostrovitskaya of the Vaganova Institute and Classes in Classical Ballet by Asaf Messerer, ballet master of the Bolshoi Ballet.
The Brianskys are Founders and Directors of the Briansky Saratoga Ballet Center, a professionally oriented summer dance program in Saratoga Springs, New York. In 2006, they received the Award for Individual Excellence in the Arts from the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission.
Karen Kroninger Knerr was named Artistic Director in 2007. She began her training with Marie Schneck in Allentown, Pennsylvania and continued with Alexi Ramov at the Ballet Guild, where she was a member of the performing company. She is a graduate of The Juilliard School Dance Division with a BFA and was a Principal Dancer with Albany Berkshire Ballet and Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company. Karen is also an ABT Certified Teacher, having completed intensive training in the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum, a high quality artistic training that is combined with the basics of dancer health and child development.