The Michigan Youth Ballet Theatre is a pre-professional youth ballet company, dedicated to the development and preservation of the great art of ballet, and to providing young people in West Michigan with a premiere ballet company experience.
Michigan Youth Ballet Theatre is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation.
Sean France, Artistic Director
Sean is a third generation performer and teacher who was raised in a well-known theatrical family including grandparents and vaudevillians Jerome & France, Sean’s father Richard France, a renowned Broadway performer, and Sean’s mother, performer Ellen Ray, who worked with Sean’s late godfather, Gene Kelly. Sean began dancing at the age of 9 with his parents as his teachers. He was awarded full summer scholarships with the San Francisco Ballet and Houston Ballet. He finished his studies with Rosella Hightower in Cannes, France. Sean has danced principal and soloist roles with the following ballet companies: the Royal Swedish Ballet, the Norwegian National Opera Ballet, Ballet Nuevo Mundo of Caracas, the National Ballet of Venezuela, the Athen’s Ballet of Greece, Cleveland Ballet, Oakland Ballet and the Grand Rapids Ballet. In addition, he has been principal guest performer with numerous regional, civic and international companies and ensembles. After turning towards directing, Sean worked as a Professor of Dance at Grand Valley State University, Ballet Master for Cedar Lake 2 ballet company, and co-founded the Missouri Contemporary Ballet. He opened Studio France School of Dance in 2011 and in 2014 started Michigan Youth Ballet Theatre. Sean teaches all levels of ballet, pointe technique, men’s ballet technique, variations and partnering.
Erin France, Executive Director
Erin is a third generation graduate of Montague High School and grew up in the White Lake Community where she is a hairstylist at The Vintage Salon in Montague. She has a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Theater from Grand Valley State University. Erin is currently the costume mistress for MYBT and has previously worked as costume mistress for the Missouri Contemporary Ballet company. Erin and her husband, Sean, are owners of Studio France School of Dance in Montague. Two out of three of her children take ballet and are involved in MY Ballet Theatre.
Jennifer Green, Ballet Mistress
Jennifer has lived in the White Lake area most of her life: raised in Montague and now resides in Whitehall. A ballet dancer in her youth, she has taught dance (primarily ballet) for 11 years and has a strong background in dance and the arts. Jennifer has owned a Photography Business for the past 13 years and is currently the Official Photographer for MYBT. Her love of classical ballet and passion for sharing it with our youth drives her work and commitment to our mission. Jennifer is dedicated to expanding our program further in order to reach more youth in Muskegon County and west Michigan and to assist dancers’ in achieving a career dancing in a professional company.
Elissa Penczar, President
Elissa lived in the area as a child, attending Montague schools, began a career as a professional chef in western Massachusetts, and returned to Oceana county as an adult to better enjoy Lake Michigan and start a family. She is a parent, chef, teacher at the Career Tech Center, and a lifelong lover of the arts. Elissa has an AOS in Culinary Arts, BA in Applied Liberal Studies, MA in Career and Technical Education Leadership, and a Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. She assists the Costume Mistress, coordinates the MYBT Hospitality team, and fulfills all other duties as assigned. Elissa is passionate about creating and strengthening MYBT partnerships with area schools, arts, civic, and cultural organizations to grow the cooperative spirit of our community. She is positive that to increase access to classical ballet for all area youth and to engage dancers, their families and community members in ballet theater will contribute to the vibrant, diverse arts culture of Muskegon county and the west Michigan area. Elissa has twins who take ballet and are MYBT company members.
Adera Merriam, Vice President
Adera is a wife, mother, and registered nurse working in the emergency department at Trinity Health in Muskegon, and has been Vice President of Michigan Youth Ballet Theatre since 2020. First generation Kenyan, she spent her youth in Kansas, moved to Lansing, Michigan, in 1996, and recently relocated to the White Lake area in 2018. Adera has fallen in love with this community; her three children attend Montague Public Area Schools, and her 9-year-old daughter has danced at Studio France for five years. As newcomers, Adera and her family have been welcomed with open arms by the entire White Lake Area/Community, and she could not be prouder to raise my children here. Adera was blessed to grow up in a family that valued music and the arts; as a child, she started taking ballet lessons around five years old and competed in tap in jazz as an adolescent; although Adera lived in a small town, her father always exposed her family to plays and attending the Nutcracker Ballet was a Christmas tradition. In addition, as a teenager, she took piano and voice lessons and played the violin until leaving high school. Adera serves on the board to give to the community that has already given so much to her and her family. Her vision for Michigan Youth Ballet Theatre is that it can enrich this already welcoming and beautiful community by exposing the youth in the area to ballet and all that it has to offer.
Michelle Morrison, Treasurer
Michelle is a business owner and proud mother of four beautiful children. She and her husband own and operate Morrison Transportation, a non emergency wheelchair transportation company. Michelle’s three youngest have been a part of dance since they were four years old and she has two boys and one girl that love to perform! Michelle is motivated to serve on the board by her children’s love of Michigan Youth Ballet Theatre’s performance opportunities, she hopes to spark that love in children across our community.
Elizabeth Hecht, Secretary
Elizabeth and her family are transplants to the White Lake area, but after twelve years of working, living, and playing in the community she feels as though it is her forever home. After seventeen years in public education as a full-time Speech-Language Pathologist, she recently had the opportunity to pursue her passion of becoming a stay-at-home mom of two children and has embraced the flexibility this has allowed to become more involved with the Michigan Youth Ballet Theater. Elizabeth signed her daughter up for dance at a local studio, at the age of three, because it was one of very few activities offered for young children in the area during the early evening hours (when busy working moms were available for transportation!). Five years later, the experiences provided through dance have shifted from simply an incredible social opportunity for a preschooler to the beginning of a life-long appreciation and love of dance and the arts for an eight year old. Elizabeth is driven to support local organizations that provide opportunities for children in the area. She would love to see Michigan Youth Ballet Theatre continue to grow to become a unifying, collaborative organization for dancers and instructors living in the west Michigan area seeking unique ballet theater opportunities as an extension of their participation with local studios.
Jennifer Klaus, Member at Large
Jennifer is a local businesswoman and mother of three children. She is the past president of MYBT and is our resident expert in set design, logistics, and backstage magic. Jennifer’s daughter currently takes ballet classes and is a company member.
Lorah Miller, Member at Large
Lorah was born and raised in Alpena, MI. She moved out of Northeast Michigan and attended Michigan State University, GO GREEN, where she studied elementary education! When looking for a job after college, Lorah stumbled upon the White Lake area and fell in love with the town. She has lived in the area for eight years and has taught third grade for the past seven years in Whitehall. Growing up, Lorah always had a love for the arts. She was a dancer as a child but due to lack of resources in Northeast Michigan, was never able to take her love of dance and the arts to the next level. Lorah has a daughter who is a lover of dance. She has been dancing since the age of three and has been a member of MY Ballet Theatre for the past five years. She is grateful for the opportunity to dance. Lorah’s motivation for board service is the chance to improve youth organizations in the area and provide children with access to experiences. Her vision for Michigan Youth Ballet Theatre is to provide children with an unique opportunity to explore the art of dance and theater at a young age. She would also love to see local studios become more collaborative and join together in giving children access to ballet theater.
Jacquelyn Kosters, Member at Large
Jacquelyn was born and raised in the White Lake area. She is now a mother of two. She is brandnew to dance but loves everything about the company! Her youngest has been attending since fall 2022.