Allyson Lewis (Founder/Owner/Choreographer/Ballet & Jazz Instructor) studied dance at the Fine Arts Center in Greenville, where she danced for the Greenville Ballet and attended the SC Governor’s School for the Arts. She received a talent scholarship to attend New York University’s prestigious Tisch of the Arts, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. In New York, she danced professionally and performed works by nationally acclaimed artists such as Twyla Tharp, Ronald K. Brown, and Doug Varone. Skilled in ballet, jazz, modern, musical theater, and tap dance styles, Allyson danced professionally in New York and Japan. She was among the last of the American casts featured at Seagaia’s Ocean Dome in Miyazaki, Japan where she performed in over 900 shows and danced the feature role of the Fish Queen. She has traveled as far as Portici, Italy to teach ballet as a volunteer at Casa Materna Orphanage for children ages 3 – 16. Allyson has been teaching for 14 years, specializing in pre-ballet, creative dance and jazz for musical theater. Allyson formed Once Upon a Ballet in 2004 upon her return to SC.
Courtney Sarre (Co-Founder/Artistic Director) is the artistic director and co-founder of our sister school, The Musical Theater Center. She graduated from the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, which was named the 2012 National Grammy Signature School. She received her BA in Theatre for Youth from the College of Charleston and has performed professionally for Walt Disney World. Prior to founding the Musical Theater Center, Courtney taught and directed musical theatre in Washington D.C. where her students performed at a number of iconic venues including the White House and National Zoo.
Laura Turner (Music Director) received her B.F.A. in Dramatic Writing and an M.F.A. in composition for Music Theater concurrently from New York University. Since 1994 she has been Associate Professor of Theatre at the College of Charleston where she began the Theatre for Youth program and a Masters program preparing theatre teachers. She is a playwright and composer of many musicals for family audiences which she writes with her husband. In 2007 she began a program for special needs theatre alongside her students, which was featured at the S.C. Very Special Arts regional conference and helped contribute to a national award for special arts programming in South Carolina. Beyond her teaching and production work, she plays the organ and piano at her church.
Lara Allred (Choreographer/Stage Manager/Musical Theater, Tap & Creative Ballet Instructor) was trained in New York City at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. She has performed in the Village Repertory Co. productions of Xanadu (Kira), The Marvelous Wonderettes (Cindy Lou) Winter Wonderettes (Cindy Lou), Ring of Fire, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. With Charleston Stage she has appeared in Legally Blonde, Joseph, 9 to 5, and Cabaret. Some of her other local performances include Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker (Footlight Players), Charity in Sweet Charity (Flowertown Players), Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie (Threshold Repertory), Janine in Waiting on You (Actor’s Theatre of SC), Angela Normellino in Perfectly Normel People (Footlight) and Lily St. Regis in Annie (Charleston Music Hall). Lara reprised the role she originated in Perfectly Normel People off-Broadway during the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival. She has been teaching/choreographing at Once Upon a Ballet/Musical Theater Center since summer of 2011.
Leah Megli (Assistant Music Director/Glee Instructor) is a recent transplant to Charleston from Bloomington, IL where she graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University with a degree in instrumental and choral music education and worked for three years as music director with the Normal Parks and recreation music theater program for high school students on shows including Les Miserables, The Secret Garden, and Oliver!. Leah currently holds an accompanist position at Charleston Southern University, and is studying as a mezzo under tenor Scott Flaherty. Recent local credits include playing and/or music directing for Footlight Players productions A Christmas Carol, School House RockLive!, and Miracle in Bedford Falls as well as Midtown Productions’ Pippin for which she was nominated for Best Musical Director. In addition, she enjoys singing with the Taylor Festival Choir and performing with her husband, Daniel. This is her first season of MTC productions and she’s thrilled to be here!
Ryan Pixler (Assistant Director/Actor’s Workshops/Acting Instructor) is a graduate of the College of Charleston with a BA in Theatre for Youth. He is a local performer. Regional credits include Pinocchio in Shrek the Musical (Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival), Carmen Ghia in The Producers (Charleston Stage), Robertson Ay in Mary Poppins (Charleston Stage), Grempkin/Fighting Prawn in Peter and the Starcatcher (Charleston Stage), Phil D’Armano in Wild Party (Village Repertory Co.). He began his time at Once Upon a Ballet in the summer of 2010 assistant directing the first full production, Beauty and the Beast, Jr. Ryan directs our Jr. Company’s annual musicals, teaches acting classes and began the Actor’s Workshop program, offering full performance opportunities to both new and experienced students with less time commitment.
Lily Watkins (Choreographer/Dance Instructor/Creative Ballet Instructor) Columbus, OH native Lily Watkins studied as a scholarship student in the Advanced Division of The School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet, under renowned faculty including Peter Martins, Kay Mazzo, Katrina Killian, Darci Kistler, Sean Lavery, Susan Pillar and Suki Schorer, among others. During her time there Ms. Watkins performed numerous times at the David H. Koch New York State Theater alongside New York City Ballet, including principal roles in 2 & 3 Part Inventions and Fanfare (both, choreography by Jerome Robbins). In 2009 she was one of four promising young choreographers invited to create works for the New York Choreographic Institute’s Spring Session. Ms. Watkins is a graduate of Beloit College with a BA in Creative Writing and was the 2012 recipient of the Chavey Family Endowed Award in Dance for outstanding contributions to the dance program. In addition to her dance training at The School of American Ballet and Beloit College, Ms. Watkins has attended summer programs with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Orlando Ballet and BalletMet Columbus.
Daniel Megli (Vocal Instructor) is an American Baritone and is a recent transplant to the Charleston, SC area. He recently performed the role of Boaz in a new opera “Ruth”, which had its world premiere performance at Charleston’s Gailliard Center during the College Band Directors National Association convention. Daniel has also appeared on the operatic stage in several states across the US as Marcello in La Bohéme, Count Almaviva in La Nozze di Figaro, Leporello in Don Giovanni, Mr. Gobineau in The Medium, and Peter in Hansel and Gretel. Daniel is also a frequent concert performer. He was featured as the baritone soloist in Franz Liszt’s seldom performed masterpiece “Via Crucis”. Before this Daniel appeared as part of the Piccolo Spoleto Festival as a featured soloist with the Charleston Spiritual Ensemble during their concert in homage to black classical composer R. Nathaniel Dett. He has also sung the baritone solos from Brahms’ A German Requiem, Händel’s Messiah, Vaughn Williams’ Five Mystical Songs, Rutter’s The Mass of the Children, and Holsinger’s Easter Symphony. Daniel’s training began in Illinois where he received his BM in Vocal Performance from Illinois Wesleyan University. After graduation he studied with Metropolitan Opera tenor Harold Meers before moving to Charleston, SC to study with renowned vocal instructor Scott Flaherty. When not performing Daniel maintains a busy teaching schedule, boasting a private studio as well as holding staff voice teacher positions at Cane Bay High School and Musical Theatre Center.
Nick Brown (Acting Instructor) Nick is a student at the College of Charleston getting his degree in Theatre with a concentration in Theatre for Youth. He has been in eight performances at the College of Charleston playing Pedrolino in a production of Lovers and Players and as Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream among others. He has been involved with theatre since he was in the third grade and is continuing his love of theatre by sharing it with students through teaching.
Rachel Spitzmiller (Dance Instructor) Rachel began her dance training at the age of 4 at Dancers Corner in Greenville, SC under direction of Whittney Niemi and Carrie Crawford. During her years dancing competitively, she trained in jazz, contemporary, ballet, and hip hop. Rachel also attended the Fine Arts Center, a magnet arts high school, with curriculum in ballet, modern, composition, and improvisation. In 2015, the National Dance Education Organization named Rachel the national winner of the Artistic, Merit, Leadership, and Academic Achievement Award. Rachel is currently the dance captain of the Crawford Jazz Project and is majoring in Dance at the College of Charleston. She is so excited to share her love of dance with her students at Once Upon A Ballet!