Founder & Executive Director
(Ballet, Character, Partnering, Pointe, Variations) - Born in Transylvania, Romania, Mr. Petrutiu graduated at the top of his class with the highest degree in the field of dance from the Romanian Academy of Fine Arts. Following graduation, he immediately joined the Romanian National Opera and Ballet in Bucharest and later accepted an invitation to join The Classical and Contemporary Ballet of Romania as principal dancer and toured extensively throughout Europe, Canada and the United States. In 1982 he defected while on tour in USA. In 1984 Mr. Petrutiu established his residency in the United States and later got his US citizenship. His distinguished career includes the title of principal dancer with noted companies Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Cleveland-San Jose Ballet, Dallas Ballet, Tulsa Ballet Theatre, Nevada Dance Theatre, Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Alberta Ballet, and encompasses an extensive repertoire of leading roles in classical ballets and contemporary pieces. Mr. Petrutiu has also acted as artistic director, master teacher, school director, and choreographer for several companies, most recently Southern Ballet Theater (SBT), now Orlando Ballet. Under his direction SBT successfully eliminated its trailing deficit of over 400K, tripled season subscriptions, and earned a surplus of 125K by his third year of leadership. In 2000, Mr. Petrutiu founded and incorporated The Ballet Academy of Central Florida and the Central Florida Ballet (CFB), guiding the two organizations to great success. The Academy reached an enrollment of over 300 students in just four months and in 2003, Mr. Petrutiu’s Nutcracker production received international recognition being featured in USA Today and CNN Headline News as “one of the five outstanding productions in the nation”. In 2007, Central Florida Ballet was recognized for its original production of “9/11 An American Moment” by The House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. as ”the only company in the nation to have created a ballet on 9/11 this fateful day in American history”. In 2007, Mr. Petrutiu inaugurated the World Ballet Competition, which became the first ballet competition to be entirely broadcast on the internet. The WBC has since generated more than 7.5 million internet views worldwide and has been featured in numerous magazines internationally, including five multiple page layouts in Dance for You Magazine (based in Europe). Mr. Petrutiu is excited to continue working with professional dancers and students throughout the world as well as to bring quality in dance to Central Florida and abroad.
(Ballet, Character, Partnering, Pointe, Variations) - Mr. Bykov graduated from the Kiev State Ballet Academy (Ukraine) in 1988 and joined the Malyi Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Kiev as a principal dancer. In 1995, he received a Master's Degree from the Kiev National Institute of the Arts. Vladimir has performed in leading roles including The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Harlequinade, Romeo and Juliet, and the Rite of Spring. Vladimir toured throughout Europe and came to the U.S. in 1996 where he danced with El Paso Ballet, New Mexico Ballet, Albuquerque and Dallas Metropolitan Ballet. He has been a ballet instructor at the University of Texas and was awarded Outstanding Male Newcomer by the El Paso Association for the Performing Arts in 1988. Before joining Central Florida Ballet as Ballet master, Mr. Bykov danced with Southern Ballet Theatre (now Orlando Ballet) and also served as a teacher and coach for the company. In year 2004 Mr. Bykov was appointed and accepted the Artistic Director’s position with Central Florida Ballet. In 2007, Mr. Bykov accepted the Artistic Director position with the World Ballet Competition.
(Ballet, Pointe, Variations) - Born in Russia, Bashkatova trained at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow and Bolshoi Ballet University. She became a principal dancer for the prestigious Bolshoi Theater Grigorovich Ballet from 1989-1994 and immediately after was a guest principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. Her repertoire included many title roles in the great classics including Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, Kitri in Don Quixote, Swanhilda in Coppelia, Odette/Odile in Swan Lake among many others. Awards include "Best Ballerina of the Festival" at the 1992 Spoleto International Arts Festival held in Spoleto, Italy. She has toured worldwide to countries including Holland, Greece, Egypt, Hong Kong, France, and Belgium among many others. After moving to the United States, she joined the Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas as a lead dancer in Mystere. In 1998, she moved to Orlando to perform in Cirque du Soleil's "La Nouba" where she currently performs. She has been featured in numerous television commercials, interviews, and videos with Cirque du Soleil.
(Modern) - Certified by Dance Educators of America, Ms. Branch is a guest lecturer at colleges across the state and teaches master classes throughout the country. Ms. Branch is a native New Yorker and graduate of the world-renowned LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts. She holds a BA in Media and Communications from State University at Old Westbury. Ms. Branch was a soloist with the Bernice Johnson Dance Company and a scholarship student with the Ailey School, the official school of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She studied under the tutelage of Madame Darvarsh, Penny Frank, Denise Jefferson, Kevin Austin Hunt and Kevin Iega Jeff, Founder and Artistic Director of the Chicago-based Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre and artist-in-residence at Ballet Chicago.
Ms. Branch’s career highlights have included co-choreographing with Michael Peters for “On Stage America,” performing in New York City with Ben Vereen at Avery Fisher Hall and with Diana Ross in Central Park. She was the rehearsal director for The Chocolate Nutcracker (Orlando, FL), the co-Artistic Director of Momentum Arts (Longwood, FL) and performed with Moore Dance Project, the area’s first African-American professional contemporary dance company, founded and operating out of The Center for Contemporary Dance.
In May of 2012, Ms. Branch founded Dawn Branch Works Contemporary Ballet Company, a professional ensemble that emerged out of a project sponsored by The Center for Contemporary Dance. She is also the Founder and President of Dawn Branch Master Dance Series and Performances, a workshop program which gives Central Florida dancers the opportunity to work with master instructors from the New York City area. She is also the director of the NAACP’s local division of the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO), a yearlong achievement program designed to recruit, stimulate, and encourage high academic and cultural achievement among African-American high school students.
(Ballet, Pointe, Variations) - Born in Hawaii, Melissa received her early training at Ballet Hawaii and later studied with Nolan Dingman in Orlando and at the Julliard School in New York City. She attended summer intensive programs at Ballet West and the National Ballet of Canada. Melissa has performed with Ballet Hawaii, Honolulu Dance Theater, American Festival Ballet and Ballet Idaho as well as dancing at Walt Disney World, Sea World and as a featured artist with Euro Circus. She has been teaching in the Orlando area for 15 years and pleased to share her passion of ballet with the Ballet Academy of Central Florida's students.
(Pilates, Body Conditioning) - Originally from Queens, New York, Lorraine has been living and working in Orlando since 1997. Along with having a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and being a registered nurse, she has always had a passion for health and fitness. A former long distance runner, she has completed multiple marathons, half-marathons, and many other races over the years. She has been working in the fitness industry for the past 12 years. What started as a part time job in order to raise her family, blossomed into a full blown career. Lorraine is an AFAA certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor and holds multiple other certification including Spinning, yoga, sports nutrition and pilates. Her extensive pilates training is through STOTT PILATES and includes mat work, reformer, Cadillac, chair, barrels and props. Lorraine absolutely loves working with the dancers and feels it has brought an entirely new perspective to her fitness career.
(Ballet, Tap, Jazz) - Originally from Gainesville, FL, Ms. Benton began her dance training at a very young age and has studied Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Lyrical, Modern, Contemporary, and precision competition dance. She trained with many renowned teachers, including Keith Cross, Pamela Bolling, Dorothy Lister, Travis Wall, Denise Wall, Mandy Moore, and Anthony LoCascio. Ms. Benton served on the faculty of DANCE Sun Country in Gainesville from 2007-2016, where she taught Creative Movement, Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Lyrical, Contemporary, and Hip-Hop. She served as the as primary instructor for all intermediate through advanced levels of tap and jazz with the program. She also organized and directed many specialty dance camps.
Ms. Benton has served as an assistant director, rehearsal coach, staff choreographer, and frequent performer for the non-profit regional performing company, Sun Country Dance Theatre (SCDT) since 2008. Her choreography has been selected to be featured in many productions, including SCDT’s annual Spring Youth Concerts, the Florida Dance Association Young Dancer’s Workshop Showcase, Spotlight on Youth benefit production, Pensacola State College Summer Dance Workshop Showcase, and the Merging Forces Dance Concert in Houston, Texas. Ms. Benton continues to serve as a frequent Guest Choreographer for the company. As a staff member of Sun Country Dance Theatre, Ms. Benton was instrumental as an organizer, director, and teacher for their educational outreach program, “Reach Out And Dance” (R.O.A.D), which, through collaborations with Alachua County Title I Elementary Schools and Head Start Program, provides interactive performances, workshops, and summer dance camps to underserved youth in the community.
Ms. Benton moved to Orlando at the end of 2016 with her son Tanner, who is a dancer. They are both thrilled to join this amazing faculty and dance program. She is excited to be able to continue to share her love and passion for dance with our next generation of dancers and the youth of our community.