City Ballet Theater

Emerson Mertens

  • Artistic Director, City Ballet Theater Company, CBT II, and City Ballet Theater School
  • Bachelors degree, Liberty University
  • Certified Instructor, Progressing Ballet Technique (based in Australia, associated with Royal Academy of Dance)

Emerson has over twenty years of experience in the performing arts with extensive training in classical ballet, Progressing Ballet Technique, contemporary, modern, tap, jazz, ballroom & Latin dance styles, dramatic and comedic acting, improvisational acting, and mime technique.

She also has multiple years of personal cross-training in various kinds of physical fitness genres such as Pilates, Gyrotonic®, strength training, and dance-based workout classes.

– Teaching, Directing, & Adjudicator Credentials
– Choreography & Production Work
– Training & Performing History
– Instructors
– Featured Roles & Favorite Performances
– Fibromyalgia & hEDS


TEACHING, DIRECTING, & ADJUDICATOR CREDENTIALS

Emerson has been teaching for over a decade at a variety of schools throughout the Midwest and Florida, as well as through her own online dance school, Emerson Online Studio, where she teaches students from all across the country. Having taught a vast array of styles and techniques to all ages and skill levels from young children to professional dancers, she has always emphasized technical proficiency and performance within every class.

Emerson graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Biblical and Theological Studies from Liberty University and continues to enhance her education through ongoing study of a variety of interests, including the arts and anatomy, which has helped her with her own personal experience as a dancer with fibromyalgia and hEDS. Emerson is a Progressing Ballet Technique Certified Instructor (Junior, Senior, and Advanced), having trained in all levels of the program and successfully completed the PBT Certification Teachers Workshop under the direction of their Official Tutor of the USA, Robyn Segel Shifren.

Emerson has had the privilege of serving in top company positions over the years, including directing her own contemporary dance company, Anazao Dance, which she officially founded when she was only seventeen years old. At age nineteen, she became one of the youngest Ballet Mistresses of the Missouri Contemporary Ballet, teaching weekly company class for the professional company members.

Her other teaching credits include Missouri Contemporary Ballet SchoolElevate Art in Kansas City, East Coast Ballet School in Florida, Muriel Battle High Arts DepartmentCoMotion Dance, and Studio B in Missouri. In the past Emerson has also been a teacher’s assistant to Bill Hotaling for his mini-jazz class at the 2009 Manhattan Dance Project workshop in Kansas City, as well as an instructor at East Coast Ballet Summer Intensive and Dance for the Theater Arts Intensive, designed to teach dance to young actors, singers, and musicians. She is currently an ongoing faculty instructor and choreographer for the Columbia Summer Ballet Intensive since 2018.

Emerson has also served as a judge and consultant for both program and production auditions with several arts organizations, including Battle Arts DepartmentColumbia Summer Ballet Intensive, and Steps Dance Studio in Missouri.


CHOREOGRAPHY & PRODUCTION WORK

Emerson’s choreography has been featured in multiple productions throughout the years, including the Störling Dance Theater Artist Development Program ShowcaseReflections In a Puddle Arts Series, four of Columbia Summer Ballet Intensive’s showcases, two Dance for the Theater Arts Intensive showcasesProject Dance, and the Indiana University Intensive program, at which her Sherlock Holmes-inspired piece, Discombobulate, was chosen by the Chair of the Jacobs School of Music and Professor of Ballet Michael Vernon as the only student-choreographed work to be presented at the intensive showcase that year. She has also served as the sole choreographer for entire musical productions of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Disney’s Tarzan for Battle Arts Department, and has choreographed for several church performances, including the Christmas production Arrest These Merry Gentlemen and an Easter production of The Whip, Hammer, and Cross.

Emerson’s experience as a choreographer began when she performed her first self-choreographed solo work at the Manhattan Dance Project weekend showcase at only ten years old for an audience that included world-renowned performers, instructors, and choreographers. She continued to create unique pieces both as a student and a professional from that point forward, and at fourteen Emerson had the honor of choreographing and dancing a very special Easter performance of the Revelation Song for Southland Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky for five of their Easter services with a congregation of over 15,000.

At the request of two separate producers for two different productions, Emerson has also performed her contemporary ballet piece, Slow Me Down, which she had originally choreographed at the age of sixteen for The Culture House Conservatory of the Arts’ Summer Stage showcase. She has also had the privilege of choreographing and performing multiple pieces at a charity fundraiser presented at Finke Opera House.

Alongside her own choreography and performance work, Emerson has helped produce several performances over the years. She has also gained a wealth of knowledge as a backstage and prop coordinator for both school and professional productions, including Störling Dance Theater’s Underground.


TRAINING & PERFORMING HISTORY

Throughout the past twenty years, Emerson has had the honor of performing with The Minnesota BalletMoscow BalletLexington Ballet CompanyStörling Dance TheaterVidaDance CompanyInfinity Youth Company, the Kansas City Ballet School, and The Culture House Conservatory of the Arts. She also had the pleasure of performing her own choreographic works with her contemporary company, Anazao Dance.

Emerson has had the honor of training with instructors from all around the world, including LondonRussiaFranceChinaNorwaySouth AmericaMexicoItalySouth AfricaCanadaSan Fransisco, and New York City, many of whom have directly trained under or worked with Mikhail BaryshnikovRudolph NureyevRobert JoffreyBob FosseJerome RobbinsTwyla TharpGus GiordanoEugene Louis “Luigi” FaccuitoSavion Glover, and Gregory Hines.

Her pre-professional and intensive training includes BalletMetIndiana UniversityKansas City Ballet SchoolKansas School of Classical BalletLexington Ballet SchoolThe Culture House Conservatory of the ArtsMiller-Marley School of Dance and VoiceCoterie TheaterAllegro BallroomManhattan Dance ProjectAlanzo King Lines Ballet, and Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, having been offered seven different scholarships for both year-round and intensive training over the years. Her training was also enhanced by taking numerous classes and workshops with a heavy emphasis in physical fitness and body conditioning taught by respected trainers of Progressing Ballet TechniqueGyrotonic®Pilates, and the Franklin Method®.

After graduating high school at age sixteen, Emerson began her professional career with Störling Dance Theater in Kansas City as one of their youngest trainees. She completed the Störling Artist Development Program (now known as the Conservatory of the Arts Program), a daytime training program in which she studied performing, theatrical, and visual arts five days a week, taking daily classes with the company and performing in their professional and accompanying school productions.

Emerson also attended collegiate level ballet classes at the University of Missouri, Kansas City by invitation of Conservatory Dance Chair Paula Weber and trained with the Kansas City Contemporary Dance (Kacico) company as a summer apprentice. From there Emerson went on to become a full company member with VidaDance CompanyEast Coast Ballet Company, and Anazao Dance Company. She continues to perform as a freelance and guest artist alongside her teaching and choreography work.


INSTRUCTORS:

BALLET, MODERN, and CONTEMPORARY:
(Ballet emphasis in Russian (Vaganova), Italian (Cecchetti), & RAD)
(Modern emphasis in Limón, Horton, & Graham)

Michael Vernon –

  • Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Professor of Music (Ballet)
  • Youth America Grand Prix judge
  • Former dancer: Royal Ballet, Royal Opera Ballet, London Festival Ballet
  • Instructor: New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Steps on Broadway, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Metropolitan Opera Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, The Juilliard School, National Ballet of China, Hong Kong Ballet

William Whitener –

  • Former Artistic Director of Kansas City Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal
  • Principle roles in ballets by Alvin Ailey, George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Twyla Tharp
  • Original Broadway cast of Bob Fosse’s Dancin’
  • Former leading dancer with the Twyla Tharp Dance Company

Dmitri Suslov –

  • BalletMet Associate Director of Trainees and Performance Ensemble
  • Former soloist with Bolshoi Ballet
  • Former principle dancer with Renaissance Ballet Theater, the Sacramento Ballet and BalletMet
  • Guest adjudicator for Bolshoi Ballet Academy’s annual exams

Hisham Omardien –

  • Former dancer with Cape Town City Ballet, State Theatre Ballet, BalletMet
  • Former Ballet Master with BalletMet
  • Two-time recipient of the South African Balletomanes Award

Charmaine Hunter –

  • Former Ballet Mistress with Dance Theatre of Harlem
  • Former casting director and talent scout for Cirque du Soleil
  • Former dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem for 25 years
  • Instructor: Texas Ballet Theater, Orlando Ballet

Jenny Siu-kan Chiang –

  • Former prima ballerina with Northern Ballet Theatre
  • Former soloist with China National Ballet
  • Instructor: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Juilliard School

Luis Dominguez –

  • Artistic Director of Lexington Ballet Company
  • Former soloist with Dance Theatre of Harlem for 18 years

Nancy Dominguez –

  • Director of Lexington Ballet School
  • Former dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem, Atlanta Ballet, State Ballet of Missouri, Ballet New England

Mona Störling-Enna –

  • Artistic Director and Founder of Störling Dance Theater
  • Co-founder of The Culture House Conservatory of the Arts
  • Former Ballet Mistress and soloist with Eternia Dance Theater

Tobin James –

  • Adjunct Professor for The University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance
  • Former Associate Artistic Director of Störling Dance Theater
  • Former dancer with The Martha Graham Ensemble (Graham 2) and Philadelphia Dance Company

Jennifer Owen –

  • Artistic Director and Co-founder of Owen/Cox Dance Group
  • Recipient of a 2000 Princess Grace Honorarium
  • Former dancer with Russian State Ballet, Moscow Renaissance Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, BalletMet, National Ballet of Turkmenistan

Juan Pablo Trujillo –

  • Director of Kansas School of Classical Ballet
  • Former dancer with Ballet de Cali, Ballet Nacional de Caracas, Ballet Contemporaneo de Caracas, Hartford Ballet, Cleveland/San Jose Ballet, BalletMet, Kansas City Ballet
  • Guest Ballet Master with National Ballet of Colombia/INCOLBALLET

Ken Braso –

  • Ballet Master and Rehearsal Director for Missouri Contemporary Ballet
  • Former dancer with Louisville Ballet, Southern Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Ballet Austin, Boca Ballet, Cincinnati Opera Ballet, Walt Disney Productions
  • Film credits: The Magic of Christmas and Flash Dance
  • Instructor: Louisville Ballet School, Governor’s School for the Arts, Missouri Contemporary Ballet

TAP, JAZZ, HIP HOP, MUSICAL THEATER, and ACTING:

Christine Colby-Jacques –

  • Principle in the original cast of Bob Fosse’s Dancin’
  • Worked with Bob Fosse and performed in the Broadway revival and First National Tour of Sweet Charity
  • Former Radio City Music Hall Rockette
  • Film appearances in Annie and A Chorus Line

Chet Walker –

  • Originally conceived the 1999 Tony-Award-winning musical Fosse
  • Tony nominated choreographer for a revival of Pippin
  • Broadway performer in On the TownThe Pajama GameDancin’Sweet CharityPippin

Joshua Bergasse –

  • Emmy-Award-winning choreographer for television; Tony nominated choreographer for Broadway
  • Choreographer for So You Think You Can Dance
  • Broadway performer in Movin OutHairspray, and West Side Story
  • Instructor: Broadway Dance Center, Manhattan Dance Project

Bill Hotaling –

  • Founder and Director of Manhattan Dance Project
  • Performed at Radio City Music Hall and the World Design Expo in Japan
  • Instructor: Broadway Dance Center, Steps on Broadway, Central Park Dance Studio, Dance Masters of America, Disney American College, Centre International de Danse Jazz in Paris

Eugene Fleming –

  • Broadway performer in fifteen productions including A Chorus Line, The Wiz, and Fosse
  • Featured in multiple commercials, sitcoms, and films, including Catch Me If You Can

Shannon Durig –

  • Starred on Broadway as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray (longest running in over 1,000 shows)
  • Film, television, and voice-over actress, including the Disney Channel

OTHER ESTEEMED INSTRUCTORS:

– Shirley Marley

– Todd Shanks

– Kristin Sudeikis

– James “SugEasy” Singleton

– Constance Ramos

– Daniel Boothe

– Susan Dromisky

– Stefani Schrimpf

– Suzanne Ryanstrati

– Elizabeth Hartwell

– Van Ibsen

– Paula Weber


FEATURED ROLES & FAVORITE PERFORMANCES:

– Spring Showcase (Columbia Performing Arts Centre – Guest Artist)

  • Swanhilda (Lead, Featured Soloist – Excerpt from Coppelia; ballet)
  • Dream of Dreams” (Soloist, Ensemble; contemporary ballet)

– Spring Showcase (Columbia Dance Academy – Guest Artist)

  • “Moonlight Sonata” (Duo, Ensemble; contemporary ballet)

– Spring Performance (Steps Dance Studio – Guest Artist)

  • “Slow Me Down” (Soloist; contemporary dance)

– Into the Night (VidaDance Company)

  • “Beginning Again” (Soloist, Ensemble; contemporary dance)
  • “Sweet Sorrow” (Ensemble; contemporary ballet)

– Project Dance (Anazao Dance Company)

  • “Learning to Fly” (Soloist; neoclassical ballet/contemporary dance)
  • “Something Beautiful” (Ensemble; contemporary dance)

– Transitions (Reflections In a Puddle Arts Series)

  • “Clair de Lune” (Ensemble – one of five dancers chosen by choreographer; ballet)
  • “Improv” (Ensemble – one of eight dancers chosen by choreographer; contemporary/modern/hip hop dance)
  • “Carry Me” (Trio; contemporary dance)
  • “Janjara” (Trio; modern dance)
  • “Deep Cries Out” (Ensemble; modern/contemporary dance)
  • “The Prayer” (Ensemble; modern dance)

– Butterfly (Störling Dance Theater)

  • City Scene (Ensemble; contemporary/modern dance)
  • Wedding Scene (Ensemble; contemporary/modern dance)

– DANCE Showcase (Störling Dance Theater)

  • “Slow Me Down” (Soloist; contemporary dance)
  • The Fairies” (Soloist, Pas de Deux; ballet)
  • “Carry Me” (Trio; contemporary dance)
  • “Janjara” (Trio; modern dance)
  • “Deep Cries Out” (Ensemble; modern/contemporary dance)
  • “The Prayer” (Ensemble; modern dance)

– Fundraiser Performance (Finke Opera House)

  • Raymonda (Soloist – Excerpt from Raymonda; ballet)
  • Lilac Fairy (Soloist – Excerpt from Sleeping Beauty; ballet)
  • Arabian (Soloist – Excerpt from The Nutcracker; ballet)
  • Angel (Soloist; ballet)
  • “Over the Rainbow” (Soloist; ballet)

– The Nutcracker (The Minnesota Ballet Company)

  • Clara (Lead, Featured Soloist; ballet, acting)
  • Party Guest (ballet)
  • Shepherdess (Pas de Trois; ballet)

– The Nutcracker (Moscow Ballet Company)

  • Butterfly (Pas de Deux; ballet)

– The Tales of Beatrix Potter (Lexington Ballet Company)

  • “Jeremy Fisher” (Corps de ballet; neoclassical ballet)

– The Nutcracker (Lexington Ballet Company)

  • Russian (Corps de ballet; traditional Russian dance)
  • Flower (Corps de ballet)

– Conservatory Showcase (Infinity Youth Company)

  • Way Over Yonder” (Featured Soloist; modern/contemporary dance)
  • Little Serenade Suite: Corps Piece” (Featured Soloist, Corps de ballet)
  • Little Serenade Suite: Allegro Solo” (Featured Soloist de ballet)
  • Little Serenade Suite: Finale” (Featured Soloist, Corps de ballet)

– St. Joseph Charity Performance (Infinity Youth Company)

  • Way Over Yonder” (Soloist; modern/contemporary dance)

– New Year’s Eve Ball (Infinity Youth Company)

  • Masquerade” (Ensemble; contemporary ballet)

– Cinderella (The Culture House Conservatory of the Arts)

  • Molly Mouse (Lead, Featured Soloist; ballet, acting)
  • Princess of Norway (Lead, Featured Soloist, Pas de Deux; ballet, acting)
  • Fairy (Corps de ballet)

– La Vie de Cosette/Les Miserables (The Culture House Conservatory of the Arts)

  • Sister Simplice (Lead, Featured Soloist; ballet, acting)
  • Valjean’s Emotion (Featured Soloist; ballet, acting)
  • Revolutionary (Featured Dancer, Pas de Deux, Ensemble; ballet, acting)
  • Bridesmaid (Featured Soloist, Corps de ballet)

– Studio Red LIVE! (The Culture House Conservatory of the Arts)

  • Comedic Improv Group: Storytelling (Ensemble; vocal acting)
  • Comedic Improv Group: Audience Participation (Duo, Trio, Ensemble; vocal acting)
  • “Slow Me Down” (Soloist; contemporary dance)

– Summer Stage (The Culture House Conservatory of the Arts)

  • “I Gotta Feeling” (Ensemble; hip hop dance)
  • “C’mon Everybody” (Featured Dancer, Ensemble; dance, singing)
  • “Man In the Mirror” (Ensemble; singing)
  • “Slow Me Down” (Soloist; contemporary dance)
  • Firework” (Soloist, Ensemble; singing)

– Alice In Wonderland (Ibsen Dance Theater)

  • Garden Flower (Ensemble; vocal acting)
  • The Queen of Heart’s Pawn (Ensemble; vocal acting, singing)

– Spring Showcase (Kansas City Ballet School)

  • “Les Sylphides” (Pas de Deux, Corps de ballet)
  • “The Disappeared” (Ensemble; modern dance)
  • Character Polka” (Ensemble; traditional Russian dance)
  • “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (Ensemble; jazz/ballet dance)

– Spring Recital (Mid Missouri Dance Theatre)

  • Duo (chosen by H. Perlman, ballet)
  • Trio (chosen by H. Perlman, ballet)
  • Ensemble (ballet)

– Intensive Showcase (Indiana University)

  • “Entrance of the Shades” (Corps de ballet – excerpt from La Bayadère, staged by Hisham Omardien)
  • Classical Ballet Piece (Pas de Quatre, Corps de ballet; choreographed by Michael Vernon)
  • Neoclassical Ballet Piece (Corps de ballet – choreographed by Michael Vernon)
  • Classical Ballet Piece (Corps de ballet – choreographed by Jenny Siu-kan Chiang)
  • Classical Ballet Piece (Corps de ballet – choreographed by G. Wang)
  • Classical Ballet Piece (Corps de ballet – staged by Michael Vernon)
  • Classical Ballet Piece (Corps de ballet)
  • Modern Piece (Ensemble; dance)

– Intensive Showcase (BalletMet)

  • “Swanhilda’s Friends” (Corps de ballet – one of twelve dancers selected by Dmitri Suslov; ballet)
  • “Jai Ho” (Ensemble; jazz dance)
  • “Modern Suite” (Ensemble; dance)

– Intensive Showcase (Kansas City Ballet School)

  • Neoclassical Ballet Piece (Corps de ballet – choreography by Todd Bolender, staged by James Jordan)
  • Character Piece (Ensemble; traditional Russian dance)
  • Modern Piece (Ensemble; dance)
  • Jazz/Contemporary Ballet Piece (Ensemble; dance)


Fibromyalgia and hEDS

In her early twenties, it was discovered that Emerson has a physical condition called hEDS (hypermobile type Ehlers-Danlos syndrome) which had caused an unusual amount of pain and fatigue in her muscles and joints throughout her life. Several years later, she was also diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a disorder that affects the entire body – particularly the central nervous system – which developed into additional physical issues that can progress over time, including an even greater level of chronic widespread pain and fatigue than she already experiences with hEDS.

The discovery of these two conditions and the effect both have on her physical abilities and overall health eventually lead to her stepping away from full-time company work. She still thoroughly enjoys teaching and choreographing workshops, summer intensives, and private lessons, as well as performing as a freelance artist and teaching her students at City Ballet Theater.