Our Faculty

Diana Madrigal-Barnitz (Artistic Director) began her training at the Myra Mier School of Ballet under the direction of Myra Mier at the age of 3. After many years of training, Diana joined the Jefferson Ballet Theatre where she performed many roles, including Spanish Coffee from The Nutcracker, Jeremy Fisher from Tales of Beatrix Potter, Summer Fairy from Cinderella, and Wicked Stepmother from Hansel and Gretel. She spent her summers studying with several distinguished teachers of the dance community, including Edward Villella, Anna-Marie Holmes, Susan Anderson, Marcus Alford, Stanislav Issaev, and Cindy Flach to name a few.

At the age of 15, Diana started her instructor training in the Vaganova Method under Myra Mier and in 2016 completed her training with Mr. John White and Mrs. Margarita de Saa White of the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet. In 2020 she received her certification in the Cuban Ballet Teaching Methodology under the direction of Laura Alonso and Reynaldo Muniz Delgado. Diana attended Loyola University New Orleans where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations with a minor in Marketing. After graduation, Diana worked with Centerplate at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Smoothie King Arena as Suite Sales Executive Assistant. She coordinated many events including, NCAA Final Four, Sugar Bowl, BCS Championship, and Super Bowl XLVII.

In the fall of 2013, Diana rejoined the dance community by opening the doors to The Studio School of Dance. As a teacher and coach, her students have been accepted to pre-professional summer intensive programs that include Houston Ballet, Orlando Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Boston Ballet, The Rock School for Dance Education and American Ballet Theatre. Diana’s students have also participated in internationally renowned ballet competitions such as Youth American Grand Prix, Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition and World Ballet Competition. Diana’s ensemble work titled, Ave Maria, placed top 12 in the Dallas Regional YAGP, making it The Studio’s first nationally recognized choreography.

In the fall of 2017, Diana founded NOLA DANCE PROJECT, a non-profit youth dance company with a mission to enhance and enrich the local dance community. With its creation, Diana has explored the idea of choreography and has premiered three unique works entitled, Ballet Sinfonia, The Stories of Mother Goose and Chromatics, Milonga, Four Seasons.


 Derwin May Jr. was raised in Jackson, Mississippi where he was introduced to performing arts at a young age. He later pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Dance at Belhaven University studying classical ballet and contemporary where he received the Daniel Award for Outstanding Achievement. During his time at Belhaven, he performed several guest artists’ works from choreographers such as Ryan Corriston of Doug Varone and Dancers, Vincent Hardy of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and Bobby Wesner of Neos Dance Theatre. He also performed several historical works such as Songs of the Disinherited by Donald McKayle and Negro Spirituals by Helen Tamiris. During his time at Belhaven, he traveled to workshops and conventions where he received hip-hop training from well-acclaimed choreographers such as Sean Bankhead, Ki Ely, and Jungle Boogie.

Derwin has used his training to offer the first adult-level pre-professional and professional hip-hop lessons at Epic Dance and Fitness Studio in Ridgeland, Mississippi. Derwin has also used his performing arts education to choreograph works for various social events, ministry, and outreach programs: such as the Young, Gifted, and Empowered Gala, Women Rock Awards, Autism Awareness Gala, and Shining Light Ministries. Derwin traveled to Malawi, Africa in the summer of 2017 with the Kinetic Etchings Dance Project to teach and perform with the African Bible College and Salama Africa Dance group.

As a member of the Marigny Opera Ballet, he created a new full-length Big Easy Award-winning contemporary ballet inspired by Shakespeare’s A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream for the company. He continues to grow and use his experiences as his inspiration on stage and within his choreography. Derwin is excited for what is to come in his journey.

Katherine Claxton (Modern) is originally from Little Rock, Arkansas. She began dancing at the age of 11, training in ballet, tap, and jazz. In 2018, she began pursuing her BFA in dance at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi. During her time at Belhaven, she received the Bezalel Award for artistic achievement and graduated with honors in the Spring of 2022. Claxton is excited to start her professional career as a dancer with Marigny Opera Ballet and a teacher and choreographer for surrounding dance studios.

Jaci Granger (Jazz & Contemporary ) – Since the age of 12, Ms. Granger has been dancing at her home studio in Sulphur, LA. She has trained in many different styles including tap, jazz, ballet, contemporary, lyrical, hip hop, and musical theatre. She grew up as a competitive dancer in Southwest Louisiana, earning numerous scholarships and best dancer titles from various competitions and conventions. Throughout high school, she participated in competitive dance, conventions, and summer intensives such as the Houston Met and Joffrey Ballet. She continued her training in college by traveling with companies for conventions such as Streetz Dance and LADM. With this experience she was able to tour the country, helping to run shows, as well as, dance and assisting choreographers such as Albert Cattafi, Jackie Sleight, and Jim Nowakowski. During this time, Jaci also taught at several studios in Lafayette. At the beginning 0f 2022, Ms. Granger moved to New Orleans to seek new adventures, becoming a full-time teacher and recovering from hip surgery. Jaci Granger is currently attending school online and officially back to dancing with a local dance company in addition to teaching at The Studio. Ms. Granger is excited to be able to share her passion for dance with her students and looks forward to growing more into the arts and in life!

Connie Bourgoyne (Tumbling) is a former gymnast and cheerleader. She attended Southern Indiana Gymnastics. Connie started her career as an instructor in 1988 where she worked in after-school gymnastics recreation programs and Tumblebus in New Albany Indiana. In 1993 she started teaching at Tops Gymnastics in La Place, La. In 1995 Connie was invited to Indianapolis, In to participate in an ad hoc committee to develop the Kinder Accreditation for Teachers. There she became the first KAT accredited instructor in the state. Connie launched her own Tumblebus in 1997 and also began teaching tumbling for St Charles Parish Community Education. From 2012 to 2021 Connie has been the tumbling instructor and also the 20-21 studio operating manager at Dancetera in Norco. She is certified in Safety/Risk Management through USA Gymnastics and has completed the MELPD and Preschool Fundamentals Theory. We are thrilled to have her join our staff this year.

Vivian Palmer (Adult Ballet) is a New Orleans native that first discovered classical ballet when she attended the Myra Mier School of Ballet and Jefferson Ballet Theatre under the direction of Myra Mier. At the age of 9, she joined Encore Dance Studio where she not only began pursuing dance seriously but was also introduced to Tap instructor, Heidi Malnar. At the age of 13, Vivian returned to classical ballet when she joined The Studio School of Dance. In 2016, Vivian attended The Rock School for Dance Education’s Summer Intensive. She has also been selected for American Ballet Theatre’s Fall Workshops for Le Bayadere and Sleeping Beauty, Texas Ballet Theater’s Summer Intensive in June, and Kaatsbaan Extreme Ballet Intensive. She has represented The Studio in several competitions including, Youth America Grand Prix, Junior Philharmonic Society of New Orleans, World Ballet Competition, and Universal Ballet Competition. In the fall of 2017, Vivian joined NOLA DANCE PROJECT as a principal dancer. As one of its founding members, she has danced the roles of Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, and Mother Goose in The Stories of Mother Goose.

Peter Barnitz (Production Manager) is a contemporary painter, sculptor, and installation artist. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (2004) from Loyola University of New Orleans and his Master of Fine Arts degree (2011) from the University of New Orleans. He currently works as the resident artist and head varsity basketball coach at Kenner Discovery Health and Sciences Academy High School. In 2012, he established the Barnitz Academy of Fine Arts at The Studio School of Dance, where he instructs art workshops for children and adults. In 2014, Mr. Barnitz was appointed to the Kenner Rivertown Arts Council, where he serves as the Chairman. His exhibition portfolio spans both nationally and internationally in more than 40 select exhibitions (solo, group, collaborative). He was born and raised in Metairie, LA, and currently lives and works out of his home studio in Kenner, LA.

Since 2013, Mr. Barnitz has worked with his wife Diana Madrigal-Barnitz as a stage, production, and facility manager of The Studio School of Dance. Mr. Barnitz has created the sets for Dolle Shoppe, The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Ave Maria, Hoe Down, Mother Goose, Chromatics, and Le Boutique over the years. Mr. Barnitz has also portrayed lead roles, such as the Nutcracker and Drosselmeyer in the full-length ballet The Nutcracker

Guest Instructors


Leigh M. Brockman Horowitz ( Guest Teacher, Sassy Southern Ballet Mama, Founder and Artistic Director) began her classical ballet and character training under Bobbe Willard at the Lelia Haller School of Classical Ballet. Ms. Horowitz continued her movement and theater training at Mount Carmel Academy by performing and working backstage through their STK program (theater and musical theater), at that time under the direction of Liz Argus. Ms. Horowitz, while attending Mary Washington College (Fredericksburg, VA), also studied and performed in Swing Dance, in MWC’s Theater for Social Justice and in the MWC Chorus under Dr. Stephen Burton. Upon graduation, Ms. Horowitz moved to Omak, WA as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, where she began teaching children Musical Theater style dance, as well as beginning ballet through the JVC program. She also studied, taught, stage managed and performed for the LFW School of Dance, The Traveling Globe Shakespeare Theater and the OVAC Orchestra and Chorus, appearing and/ or working shows such as “The Nutcracker,” “Cinderella,” “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” “The Man of La Mancha,” “As You Like It” and “Crazy for You.” After returning to the New Orleans area in 2000, Ms. Horowitz began her training in the Vaganova Syllabus (Russian Syllabus) at Loyola University New Orleans under Gayle Parmelee and Laura Zambrano.

Ms. Horowitz continues her Vaganova Syllabus teacher training under Maestro Vladimir Issaev at the Arts Ballet Theater of Florida (Miami, FL), earning her teaching certifications in Years I-IV of the Vaganova Syllabus. Ms. Horowitz taught at Dance, Etc. in Reserve, LA from 2003-2011, where her students and choreographies won many Platinum (and higher) and Special Recognition Awards at competitions such as Showbiz Talent Competition, Showstoppers and Hall of Fame Dance Challenge. Ms. Horowitz also danced for and toured both nationally and internationally, as a soloist and corps member, with the Komenka Ethnic Dance and Music Ensemble for 13 years.

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