Learn - Appreciate - Create - Dance!
About Allegro Ballet Academy
Get to Know Us
Established in 2012, founders Nurlan and Aygul Abougaliev, both former Pittsburgh Ballet Theater Dancers, were committed to providing the finest classical ballet training in the Greater Pittsburgh Area, In 2021, they passed the baton to Interim owner Cathy Chis.
In 2022, Jessica Lilija took up the reigns as the new owner and director of Allegro Ballet continuing the long tradition of high quality ballet training and performance.
A school where dancers of all ages and skill level can learn to appreciate and excel in dance. A school where individuals push themselves to their own unique potential. A creative space for all to achieve personal goals where competition is against oneself and not against others.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Jessica comes from a family of artists. Her grandmother, Jackie Nicoll, was an award-winning play write and actress. Her mother Virginia Nicoll Hernandez, owned and directed Southwest Ballet School and company and founded other dance studios as well. Dance was the family business. From an early age, Jessica was teaching, training, choreographing and helping to run the studios.
Jessica received her dance education at Point Park College Conservatory dance department under the tutelage of Roberto Munoz. (Focus on Cuban Methodology) as well as private lessons with Ana Blum at Southwest Ballet. Her training has been primarily classical ballet but she is also highly trained in jazz, modern and character dance. Jessica also has a flair and passion for performance learning Flamenco and salsa. It brought the Latin in her. Her teachers included, Roberto Munoz, Anna Blum, Tome Cousin, Ron Tassone, and Laura Alonso.
In 2000, Jessica graduated with a BFA from Mercyhurst College under the directorship of Tauna Hunter. She had danced many full-length ballets, excerpts, and new works, performing in Copellia, (Sylvia and Best friend), (Blue Bird) Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella (Fall Lead), (Russian) in Balanchine’s Serenade, Flames of Paris (Pas de Duex). Swan Lake (Little Swans), Flower Festival (pas de duex.). In addition to dancing with the dance department, Jessica also performed with Erie Ballet Theatre as a company member. She guested and performed with the Slava dance company performing in the Cleveland Playhouse. Her own choreography, As Light Passes, placed and was showcased in the Point Works Competition in Canton Ohio in 2007.
Dancing lead roles in Ron Cunningham’s – Incident at Blackbriar inspired her to choreograph works that were showcased in the Phoenix Project at the New Hazlett Theatre After her performance career with Erie Ballet, Jessica returned to Pittsburgh and traveled as a quest artist with Ernest Tolentino. (former Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre principle) and was a substitute adjunct teacher at Point Park College dance department. Jessica was awarded full scholarship to Point Parks College school of Business and received her MBA. While earning her MBA, Jessica was the lead teacher and choreographer for South West Ballet’s School’s High-school early release program. There, her responsibilities included class development, managing the teachers and conducting rehearsals. The high school early release program was quite successful as all of her students went on to college dance programs or moved onto dance careers. When her children were younger, she was the intermediate and advance ballet teacher at the Civic Light Opera school.
In 2011, Jessica put her career on hold to manage the care of her daughter Eva who was diagnosed with autism at age 2. Because of her experience with her daughter, Jessica is considering programming for children with disabilities. Jessica is married to James and her children are Elijah 16 and Eva 14. For the past few years Jessica and her husband have been Co-owners of Smooth Finish Contracting company where she has used her creativity to design and flip homes. Jessica is very excited to begin this next chapter life as Owner and Director of ABA and considers it a privilege to pour her love for teaching and the arts into the students of Allegro Ballet Academy.
Kristi is an experienced ballet instructor, choreographer, and dancer. She has taught at several studios in the Greater Pittsburgh Area, including Pittsburgh Ballet House, Seneca Valley High School, and Ballet Baroque. In addition to teaching, Kristi has staged classics, such as Les Sylphides and La Bayadere for Ballet Baroque’s Spring performances. In 2006, she choreographed, staged, and performed in in Ballet Baroque’s production of The Nutcracker at Carlow College. A native of Pittsburgh, Kristi has performed in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s productions of Swan Lake, Giselle, La Bayadere, and The Nutcracker. She also performed in the Joffrey Ballet’s productions of Swan Lake and La Bayadere at Radio City Music Hall. In 1998, she performed Winter War with Ballet International Company at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Kristi also has performed as a guest artist in Ballet Baroque’s Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, and the pas de deux in Don Quixote.
Natalie Kapeluck is a graduate of Point Park with a BA in Dance. Natalie danced for eight seasons with the Mary Miller Dance Company here in Pittsburgh. During her professional career she performed with several regional ballet and modern companies in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. In 2002, she started her own company Slava Dance. In addition to her work in the modern dance world, Natalie's second love is Ukrainian folk dance. She is the Artistic Director of the Kyiv Ukrainian Dance Ensemble & School of Dance.
Natalie has extended her love of dance by teaching ballet, modern, and folk at Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School, Southwest Ballet, Point Park University, and various other schools in the area and workshops around the country and Canada. She has also taught adaptive programming for the W. Pennsylvania School for the Blind, W. Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and the Move for Life program for the Kane Community Living Centers.
Larissa is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Slippery Rock University in 2015. She began her classical training as a young dancer at Southwest Ballet School of Pittsburgh. She studied under the direction of Ana Blum, Jessica Lilja, Virginia Nicoll-Hernandez and Natalie Kapeluck Nixon (Kyiv Ukrainian Dance Ensemble). She continued her ballet training under the tutelage of Nola Nolen Holland at Slippery Rock University. A few highlights from her time in the dance department include performing works by Ursula Payne, Helanius Wilkins, Lindsay Fischer, as well as performing at The American College Dance Festival. Larissa is excited to be teaching at Allegro Ballet Academy!
Meghan Phillips began her dance training at South Dayton Dance Theater, an RDA affiliated pre-professional company in Dayton, Ohio. She later earned her BFA from the SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance graduating Summa Cum Laude. There she performed works by George Balanchine, Merce Cunningham, Michelle Thompson Ulerich, Stuart Loungway, Brian Enos, and Taryn Kaschock-Russel. She was also selected to study at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts for a semester where she performed choreography by Kim McCarthy and Graeme Murphy.
From 2018-2021 Meghan worked as a company member with Ballet Quad Cities. During her time at BQC she performed the featured roles of Sugar Plum Fairy (The Nutcracker), Mina (Dracula), Alice (Alice in Wonderland), and Aurora (The Sleeping Beauty) in addition to lead roles in original works by Courtney Lyon and Emily Kate Long. As a choreographer Meghan created several works for Ballet Quad Cities and her work, On the Night Plain, was chosen to be presented at the 2018 American Dance Guild Festival in NYC.
Currently, Meghan is delighted to work as a company member and choreographer with Confluence Ballet for their inaugural season. She is also a passionate teacher who enjoys sharing her knowledge and encouraging future generations.
Virginia received her training through the Royal Academy and Point Park Conservatory.
After many years of dancing she started her own company and school Southwest Ballet. For nearly 20 years she trained 100 of students, many of which went on to professional careers. Southwest Ballet Company created a plethora of new choregraphic works and hosting guest performers from around the world.
After the closing of Southwest Ballet, Virginia became the owner and manager of D.A.P Co-Op for Dance & Arts, Photography as well as beginning the ballet program at the Spenser Family YMCA.
Virginia has also guest taught for multiple school and summer programs. In addition, she taught for Miller Dance and their Move 4 Life program. This inspired Virginia to begin her Dance in Chairs program and become certified to teach for Delay the Disease.
Amongst Virginia's many talents, she is theatrical costume designer and seamstress. She worked for Pittsburgh Ballet Theater under Patrick Franz.
She is currently using her costuming skills in theater & film.
Cait has always loved dancing and creating. She began her training at Ballet and Dance of Upstate NY in Syracuse, NY at the age of 4 and immediately fell in love with ballet! She expanded her training to include not only ballet but jazz, tap, contemporary and Irish dance. Cait spent several summers training at Peridance Studios in NYC and was a member of the Corps de Ballet with Syracuse City Ballet during high school, performing ballets like The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Cinderella, Dracula and Peter and the Wolf.
After receiving a Bachelor or Fine Arts in dance performance from Adelphi University in Long Island, NY, Cait returned home to dance and choreograph for Syracuse Contemporary Dance Company. She also began teaching for Syracuse School of Dance, where she was the Head of the Ballet Department for 5 years. Cait has spent the last 13 years teaching students of all ages and technique levels.
Cait’s Personal Mission Statement and Teaching Philosophy:
“I truly enjoy teaching, it is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done through dance. Helping a student find something they love to do and pursue it with passion and direction is an amazing thing. I believe that the performing arts can be an incredible outlet. It allows students to explore their creativity and talents in an environment that is both supportive and nurturing.”
Chelsea was trained at Southwest Ballet School. Her teachers included: Roberto Munuz, Ana Blum and Jessica Collazo Lilija. Chelsea went on to continue her training at California University Dance Department.
She later joined the Southwest Ballet Company and the Kyiv Ukrainian Dance Ensemble performing many classical and contemporary works. She taught the advanced students at the Kyiv school for three years.
Chelsea has been a company member of Slava Dance Company since 2010.
Chelsea also teaches part-time for
In addition to her dance career, Chelsea has worked as a professional model.
Guest Instructor - Pas De Deux
After being an All-City High School football player and a violinist in the El Paso Texas All-City Orchestra, Ernest Tolentino combined his athletic and music abilities in college.
Ernie received a B.M. in Music and Ballet Performance from the University of Texas at El Paso, he danced with Milwaukee Ballet and then the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for fourteen years rising to rank of soloist.
Ernie danced numerous major and principal roles in all Pittsburgh Ballet productions and was featured in classical and contemporary works by Marius Petipa, Patrick Fantz, Ohad Naharin, Domy Reitersoffer, Agnes DeMille, Anthony Tudor and George Balanchine, just to name a few.
An audience favorite, Ernie’s athletic ability, dramatic characterizations, sensitive and skillful partnering have won acclaims from critics all over the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Taiwan.
In 1992 Ernie founded The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Dancers’ Trust, a career transition fund for retiring PBT dancers and remains the executive director.
He is currently on the teaching staff of the Conservatory of Performing Arts at Point Park University and Carnegie Mellon University Pre-College Drama.
Ernie is married to former Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre principal Tamar Rachelle, and they have two children.
Cathy has been an enthusiastic supporter of Allegro since 2015. Cathy took ballet as a child for six years and resumed taking ballet at Allegro in 2015. She advised the previous owners as a volunteer in various capacities including marketing, financial and business management. Cathy was the co-founder, former owner and President of Power Conversion Technologies, Inc. for 30 years, a manufacturer of power electronic equipment for the defense industry. Cathy has a BS in Electrical Engineering from Lafayette College and an MBA from CMU.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Andrew’s first ballet teachers were Cynthia Young, and Charles and Phillip Fuller, at the Pasadena Dance Theatre. He also received full scholarships to study with the Pacific Northwest Ballet School, San Francisco Ballet School, and Houston Ballet Academy. In 1996 he was invited by Patricia Wilde to join the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre where he danced until 1999 when he founded The Move, a company dedicated to bringing new and contemporary works to the stage.
As a choreographer, Andrew’s work has been commissioned and performed by such companies as Ballet NY, Louisville Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Central
Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and Pittsburgh Youth Ballet Company to name a few. He
created a number of works for The Move over its lifetime, and more recently for a group of dancers that performed an evening of his choreography, called Ballet Blight.
Andrew has also made special pieces for the Andy Warhol Museum, the NewMoves festival and the International Association for the Study of Dreams.
Since 2015, Andrew has been the company ballet teacher for STAYCEE PEARL dance
project. He has served on the faculty of Millenium Dance Complex Pittsburgh and Dance Alloy, and has been a guest teacher for Ballet Preljocaj, Verb Ballets, and the University
Andrew believes that dance can be healing and should be enjoyed by people from all walks of life. He has taught outreach classes at Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, The Pittsburgh Women’s and Children’s Shelter, and The Children’s Home-Child’s Way Program.