Peoria Ballet Academy identifies and fosters Peoria-area talent—ensuring that the art of dance, particularly ballet, continues to be strong and vibrant long into the future. The Academy employs the area's best teachers, who instruct over 300 children and adults in our community each year.
Tamra has a BFA in Classical Ballet from Texas Christian University. There she studied ballet under Dr. Lisa Fusillo, Fernando Shaffenburg, Stephanie Woods Rand, Li-Chu Cheng and Thomas Enkle; jazz with Richard Walker and Dianne Clough West; and modern dance with Ellen Page Shelton, Jerry Bywaters Cochran, Bill Evans and Susan Douglas Roberts. She was also fortunate to attend master classes with Alvin Ailey Soloist Jame Truitt. Her early training was under Janet Hayslip Streenz. She was an original company member of Twin Cities Ballet under Karen Tjaden of Atlanta Ballet. There she danced the rolls of Tatiana in Eugene Onegin, Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, and Doll, Snow demi soloist, and Marzipan in the Nutcracker. In 2000, she became the Artistic Director of that company.
While at Twin Cities, Miss Tamra staged the following full length ballets: The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Peter and the Wolf, and Coppelia. She created an original ballet Alice in Wonderland with music by Peoria composer, Derek Childs.
Mrs. Challacombe has extensive training in tap, jazz, ballet, modern, acrobatic dance, dance history, kinesiology and acting. She has taught and choreographed at many area studios and theaters. She furthers her training as a member of the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters.
Tamra is also no stranger to the theatrical stage, having worked as a resident company member at Conklin's Dinner Theatre and Zellmer's Dinner Theatre. She also performed with Alphabet Soup Productions Children's theatre in Chicago. She continues to perform on occasion at Conklin's Barn 2 Dinner Theatre and in local community theatre performances. Favorite roles include Roxy in Chicago, Mabel in Chaps, Ruby in Dames at Sea and April in Company.
Elizabeth Ann Blackaby
Elizabeth was born and raised in Michigan City, IN and started dancing with The Studio of Dance Arts Unlimited at the age of 7 under the tutelage of Judith Joseph and Ken Brelsfoard. She became a member of the Youth Ballet of DAU as well as the Brelsfoard Dance Theatre. She moved with her family to Peoria, IL when she was 16 years old and immediately became a soloist with the Peoria Civic Ballet, dancing the role of "Snow Queen" in "The Nutcracker" for two consecutive years. After graduating from Bergan High School, Elizabeth attended Northern Illinois University, graduating with a B.A. in Dance Performance/Theatre Arts in 1988. She was a member of the Northern Dance Theatre under the artistic direction of Randall Newsom. While with NDT, she performed "In Memoriam," choreographed by Mr. Newsom, in the Gala Performance at the American College Dance Festival with high honors in 1987. She received the Alternate Scholarship to the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. In 1989, she spent the summer studying at the Martha Graham School Six Week Intensive and also attended the Alvin Ailey Dance Center in NYC. Professional credits include dancing, choreographing, and teaching with Afterimages Repertory Dance Company (Louisville, KY), Rockford Dance Company (Rockford, IL), The Dance Source Unltd. (Rockford, IL), and Pacific Coast Academy of Dance (San Clemente, CA). In August of 1998, Elizabeth was invited to teach a 2 week Master Class Modern Dance Workshop at the Claudia Cadena School of Dance in Medellin, Colombia.
While directing DSU, and having 2 children, she created and restaged many memorable ballets including "The Nutcracker," "Snow White," "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," "Pas de Quatre," "Hansel and Gretel," "Grinch Who?," and "An American In Paris." In the summer of 2005, Elizabeth moved to San Clemente, CA where she taught for the Pacific Coast Academy of Dance. Miss Beth, as students call her, returned to the Peoria Ballet in August of 2011 . She teaches all levels of classical ballet, as well as beginning jazz, and is thrilled to be back working in the Midwest.
Ms. Claudette has been teaching professionally for over 25 years. She holds a BAS in English Education with a dance minor from Illinois State University. While at ISU, Mrs. Seele performed with the University Dance Theater under Dr. Gayle Kassing. Upon receiving her degrees, Claudette opened her own School of Performing Arts. Mrs. Seele has extensive training in Jazz, ballet, tap, tumbling, and kinesiology. She is also an experienced fitness instructor. Ms. Claudette has previously been on staff at many school districts, park districts, and large ministries throughout Central Illinois. She has choreographed for many local groups and is currently choreographer for the "Guidance Dance Company". A certified teacher, she currently works for District 321 as a substitute.
Diane West, RN BSN, AFAA certified personal trainer, certified Pilates instructor, Body in Balance and Riverside Pilates has been teaching Pilates since 2008. She is a believer in the Pilates method and is committed to making each session a positive, rewarding experience.
Her training in classical Pilates began in 2001 with Body in Balance in Hinsdale, Illinois. She continued her training with Riverside Pilates in Riverside, Illinois and is pursing full certification. Diane has been in the fitness industry for over 25 years as personal trainer, group fitness and Pilates instructor.
Diane turned to Pilates as a means of conditioning her body for natural body building competition and rigorous workouts. With a background in nursing, Diane sees the strong rehabilitative as well as injury preventative nature of Pilates.
Pilates and dance both use the whole body in their movements, keeping muscles long and lean, increasing strength and flexibility. Other forms of exercise tend to put strain on the back, knees and hips, which often cause injury and decreased enthusiasm to be active.
Diane specializes in in-home personal training. In addition to Pilates, Diane is a Nurse Clinical Educator at OSF, enjoys yoga and hiking has 4 children and 5 grandchildren. She lives with her husband in Lake Camelot, Mapleton.
Peoria Ballet Academy offers classes to children beginning at age 3, up to adults of all ages. A wide variety of courses provide a complete education in classical dance—a pre-professional course of study for students who wish to pursue a career in dance, as well as a selection of classes in ballet, tap, jazz, and acting for those who wish to dance simply for the enjoyment and physical benefits.