Pilates Staff and Certified Instructors
Vicki Parsons, Butler Center for Dance & Fitness and Pilates Center Director
Vicki helped design and develop programming that now offers dance and fitness classes to over 11,000 adults annually. Health, fitness, and overall wellness are a priority, and through classes, community-based programs, and BeWell (workplace wellness) Talks she helps promote health and well-being in the Austin community.
Vicki joined Ballet Austin in 1997 after years of experience working in the field of Long Term Care, specifically in direct care as a Recreation Therapist, using therapeutic recreation as a treatment intervention to improve overall wellness. Vicki taught at Austin Community College and worked with several non-profit organizations to develop and present workshops on health and well-being. Promoting physical activity and wellness to people of all ages continues to be one of her greatest interests and passions. She is an avid believer that recreation is therapeutic.
She holds the professional designation of Certified Brain Health Trainer (CBHT) as well as certifications in Senior Fitness Programming, Group Exercise, Advanced Sports Nutrition, and is a certified Fitness Business Manager. Vicki developed curriculum for and teaches the Better Balance & Movement Workshop, a falls prevention program for adults as well as other aging classes promoting physical and cognitive functions. In 2015 Vicki implemented the free BeWell Healthy Living Talks and is a requested speaker at area businesses, organizations, and conferences.
Her advice is simple, “Find your recreation. It’s your life, your health, YOU are in control. Be active. Be resilient, Be well!”
Follow Vicki: Twitter @VickiBeActive Instagram @Vicki_BeWell
Vlada Sheber, Pilates Program Director & Master Instructor
Originally from the Ukraine, Vlada Sheber received her training in classical ballet from the State Classical Ballet College of Russia (Voronezh.) Vlada performed as a soloist in the Donetsk Ballet Theatre before immigrating to the United States. She was a company member with Ballet Austin from 1992-2003.
In 2002, Vlada received her diploma as a Certified Core Connections® Pilates Instructor from the Core Connections® Comprehensive Teacher Training Program at the Pilates Center of Austin. There she studied under Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle.
In 2007 Vlada was named Program Director for Ballet Austin’s Pilates Center, participating in both the original design of the Center and expansion in 2015.
In 2009, she attended a training under Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle and Michele Larsson providing insight and approaches into working with older clients. In 2010 Vlada attended the Pink Pilates Program training in Houston, Texas and became a certified Post-Rehabilitative Breast Cancer Exercise Specialist. Having worked with breast cancer survivors continuously since 2010, she further developed a specialized rehabilitative workout for breast cancer survivors to include humor and compassion; Ballet Austin’s Pink Pilates.
Vlada also has trained extensively in a physical therapy clinic under Allison Bennett (Women’s Health specialist) which expanded her knowledge of anatomy and Pilates rehabilitation. She has developed Pilates workouts specifically for osteoporosis, scoliosis, and chronic back pain.
In 2005 she was acknowledged as a “Pre-eminent Purveyor of Pilates” by Austin Monthly Magazine. In recognition of Ballet Austin’s commitment to excellence, Ballet Austin’s Pilates Center was a past recipient of “Best Pilates Studio in Austin” by Rare Magazine and Austin Fit Magazine. In 2021 Vlada was voted BEST PILATES INSTRUCTOR in Austin by Austin Fit Magazine.
Vlada’s knowledge and approach to her practice of Pilates make her a highly requested master Pilates instructor.
April Nygaard, Certified Pilates and Barre Instructor
April is a Minnesota native who was introduced to Pilates about 15 years ago when she was on a quest to gain more energy, flexibility and strength. Not only did she see a positive transformation of her body but also truly looked forward to working out. In 2014 April began her journey to become certified Pilates instructor by taking the STOTT Pilates Mat and Reformer courses. She loves to teach both group and private lessons and share her passion for mindful movement with others to help them reach their goals and improve their wellness.
Currently April is certified in all levels of Pilates Mat, Reformer and Barre. Her goal is to continue taking courses and workshops to expand her knowledge of Pilates and improve as an instructor. When not teaching, April enjoys studying and learning about nutrition, holistic healing and alternative medicine. She also loves traveling, music (especially 80’s New Wave), animals, cooking, reading and spending time with her family.
Elise Pekarek, Certified Pilates Instructor
Originally from the Chicago area, Elise began her ballet training with Judith Svalander in Crystal Lake, Illinois. In 2007 she was accepted into Ballet Austin’s Trainee Program and moved to Austin to further her dance education. In 2009 Elise joined Ballet Austin II and became a Ballet Austin company member in 2011.
Elise had utilized Pilates as a part of her ballet training and as a means of injury prevention and rehabilitation, but after moving to Austin Elise found a passion for Pilates, fitness and wellness. In 2009, Elise studied with Ann Arnoult and became certified in the D.K. Body Balancing Method of Pilates mat instruction. She finished her Balanced Body Pilates training with Lisa McKenny in 2011 and has a BA in Business Administration through Columbia College of Missouri.
Elise firmly believes in how Pilates supports well being and movement at any stage in life and enjoys sharing that passion through her work in the Pilates center at Ballet Austin.
Ashley Piper, Certified Pilates Instructor
Ashley recently retired from Ballet Austin after 22 years as a professional dancer. During her time with the company, she danced principal roles in works by Stephen Mills, George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, Pontus Lidberg, Lar Lubovitch, and Christopher Wheeldon, and enjoyed performing leading roles in full-length ballets such as Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Swan Lake and Giselle. Ashley grew up outside of Chicago where she began her dance training with Ms. Sherry Moray-Marsala.
Ashley was first introduced to Pilates as a young dancer, and it has continued to support her dancing, fitness, and wellness goals throughout her life. In 2019, she began training to become a certified Pilates instructor to share the benefits of this wonderful movement practice with her community. She is certified through Balanced Body and has trained with Master Instructors Julie Lushington and Karen Sanzo. She completed a specialized certification in Prenatal/Postnatal Pilates as well as continuing education in anatomy and physiology for women’s health. As a mother of two, Ashley is especially passionate about supporting women to keep moving through pregnancy and beyond.
Ashley has a BA in Dance and The Humanities from St. Edward’s University. She is a member of the Ballet Austin Academy Faculty and is also a 500hr certified Dharma Yoga instructor with additional certifications in Prenatal/Postnatal Yoga, Restorative Yoga, and Ayurvedic Wellness. She believes in promoting wellness through movement for every body through all ages and stages of life.
With her background in dance and Yoga, Ashley has enjoyed teaching movement for almost 25 years and is excited to be a part of the team at the Pilates Center.
Megan Richard, Certified Pilates Instructor
Balanced Body trained and PMA® Certified Pilates Instructor.
Megan began training in ballet at the age of four in Lake Charles, Louisiana. She was first introduced to Pilates in 2001 through her studies in dance. She quickly noticed how effective the exercises were in strengthening and toning the body, as well as helping enforce proper alignment and aiding in injury prevention. Recognizing the compliment to her ballet technique, she continued practicing Pilates throughout her performing career.
In 2008, Megan received her Bachelors Degree in Visual Arts with a concentration in Photography from McNeese State University, and began teaching ballet while continuing to dance.
Megan is enthusiastic about pursuing a career that promotes a healthy, active lifestyle for herself and others, while staying involved in the Arts. She began her Balanced Body Comprehensive Training with Susan Clark in 2017. She attended Pilates on Tour in 2018 and had the opportunity to recieve continuing education from Shari Berkowitz, Diedra Manns, Karen Clippinger, Tom McCook, and Joy Puleo.
Morgan Stillman, Certified Pilates Instructor
Morgan Stillman is originally from Fort Wayne, Ind., and joins the Ballet Austin company for the 2017/18 season after dancing two years with Nevada Ballet Theater where he was featured in a variety of classical and contemporary roles. Morgan received most of his formal training at Indiana University Ballet Theater under the guidance of Michael Vernon, Violette Verdy, Jacques Cesbron, Guo Pin Wang, Victoria Lyras, and Shawn Stevens.
Morgan is also a certified Pilates instructor, having received his training and certification at Las Vegas’s Classical Pilates Comprehensive Pilates Training Program.