Karla Kovatch, Artistic & Executive Director
A native of Mountaintop, PA, Karla began her dance training with Peter and Kristin Degnan at the age of 8. When she was thirteen she moved to Connecticut to train with the Nutmeg Ballet Company under the direction of Sharon Dante. While there Karla worked extensively with Eleanor D’Antuono. She was afforded lead roles in The Nutcracker, La Fille Mal Gardee and Paquita. In 1990 she was a semi-finalist at the IV Paris International Ballet Competition and in 1992, a semi-finalist at the 20th Prix de Lausanne.
Shortly after high school graduation, Ms. Kovatch joined Boston Ballet II where she performed in Etudes, Don Quixote, and Cinderella. She was promoted to the honor of full company member in 1993. While with the Boston Ballet, she performed such roles as Dew Drop Fairy in The Nutcracker, the Pas de Trois and Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, Zorema in Corsaire, Myrtha in Giselle, the Lark in Lark Ascending, The Duet in Paul Taylor’s Company B and the Siren in Prodigal Son. Other standout performances include The Taming of the Shrew, Onegin, Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra, Serenade, The Four Temperments, Twyla Tharp’s Waterbabay Bagatelles, Merce Cunningham’s Breakers, Eliot Feld’s Contropose, and Mark Morris’ Maelstrom.
After eleven seasons with the Boston Ballet, Ms. Kovatch became a principal dancer with Rhode Island Festival Ballet where she danced lead roles such as Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Michaela in Viktor Plotnikov’s world premiere of Carmen, Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, and Mercedes and the Queen of the Dryads in Don Quixote.
Ms. Kovatch retired from the stage in 2006 and began teaching full time for Festival Ballet’s professional training school. She also directed the Festival Ballet Community Outreach Program and was the director of the Company’s Summer Dance Intensive Program.
Ms. Kovatch took over as Artistic Director for the 2014-2015 season, and in July of 2015 was also named Executive Director of the organization.
Sarah Polansky, Associate Artistic Director
Sarah Polansky began her dance training at the age of 11 and joined Ballet Northeast as a company member at age 15, shortly after moving to Pennsylvania. Sarah danced with Ballet Northeast until she graduated high school, where she then continued her training at Point Park University. She later earned her degree in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in dance from East Stroudsburg University. Once she graduated Sarah returned to Ballet Northeast where she has performed as soloist in many of Ballet Northeast’s productions including Swan Lake, Paquita, Cinderella, and The Nutcracker.
She has utilized her educational background as well as her ballet background to become an excellent mentor and coach to the students. Currently she holds the position of rehearsal assistant at Ballet Northeast.
Kaitlyn Keller, Associate Artistic Director
Kaitlyn, a native of Dallas, PA, began her ballet training at the Degnan Ballet Center at the age of 13. After one year, Mrs. Keller (formally Moody) was asked to join Degnan Ballet Center’s performing company, Ballet Northeast. At Degnan Ballet Company, Kaitlyn had the opportunity to be trained by Kristin Degnan, Sarah Gravine, Barbara Weisberger, and Joseph Fritz. Kaitlyn danced many roles with Ballet Northeast including Klara in The Nutcracker, Swanhilda in Coppelia, and the title role in Cinderella. She had the opportunity to dance the principal role in Degnan’s world premieres of Greensleeves and Nessun Dorma, as well as principal roles in Jopliniana, Etudes, Concerto Borocco, and Beethoven’s 7th.
During her dance training, Kaitlyn attended summer programs with Encore at Wilkes University, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Boston Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Butler University and the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory in St. Petersburg, Russia. While in Miami, Kaitlyn was featured in the soloist role in Diamonds. Kaitlyn also had the chance to perform for audiences in both St. Petersburg and Warsaw, Poland dancing in pieces choreographed by Marek Cholewa and Thaddeus Davis.
In 2004, Kaitlyn attended Butler University and graduated with a degree in Dance Pedagogy. While at Butler, she was trained by Michelle Jarvis, Marek Cholewa, Rosanna Ruffo, Tong Wong, Stephen Laurent, Derek Reid, Susan McGuire, Cynthia Pratt and Jane Weiner. Kaitlyn danced corps de ballet, soloist and principal roles including Klara, lead Chinese, Spanish, Waltz of the Flowers and Snow in The Nutcracker, soloist in Karelia Suite, corps member in premieres such as 1st in 3 in 17 by Cynthia Pratt, Lost Objects by Thaddeus Davis, and White Offerings by Marek Cholewa.
Kaitlyn attended Indiana University School of Dentistry and graduated with a degree in Dental Hygiene in 2012. While living in Indianapolis, Kaitlyn continues to teach ballet and pointe, as well as choreograph. Mrs. Keller is thrilled to be back teaching at her hometown school with her mentor, Kristin Degnan and hopes to pass on the love of ballet and improve the artistry and techniques of our students. Kaitlyn also practices dental hygiene in Nanticoke.
Kristin Degnan Boonin, Founder & Artistic Liason
Kristin Degnan Boonin, Director of Dance in the Division of the Performing Arts at Wilkes University and co-founder of Ballet Northeast with Peter Degnan, is the company’s former Artistic Director. A native of the Wyoming Valley, Ms. Degnan Boonin commenced her training with Jozia Mieszkowski at the age of five. She subsequently pursued advanced study with Andre Eglevsky and with Benjamin Harkarvy, Lupe Serrano and Barbara Weisberger at the School of the Pennsylvania Ballet. Later, her professional mentors were Kenneth Johnson, Mary Petrov, and Nicolas Petrov in Pittsburgh.
Ms. Degnan Boonin began dancing professionally with the Louisville Ballet Company at the age of seventeen. After earning a B.A. degree, cum laude, from Point Park University, she performed with Ballet Metropolitan in Columbus, Ohio. Subsequently, she and her future husband Peter were principal dancers with the American Dance Ensemble and Ballet Petrov and were also guest soloists with El Ballet de Suleano (Venezela), the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, and the Pittsburg Symphony.
Kristin’s contributions to dance design include original choreographies for Ballet Northeast’s holiday guest appearances with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic. She also choreographed and staged dances for many of Misericordia University’s Madrigal Dinner celebrations during the 1990’s and numerous pieces for Wilkes University’s annual Spring Dance Concerts.
She has taught at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts, Point Part Conservatory, Kings College, and the Wyoming Valley Montessori School. She was also recently recognized by the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader as one of the Wyoming Valley’s most “intriguing” women.