Our Director

Rebeca Russo Columna

CEO / Founder

Rebeca has had extensive training and was coached and trained by prominent artists. At an early age, she was on scholarship with the Miami Ballet Company and at the age of 13, was awarded a full merit scholarship from the Ford Foundation to attend the National Academy of Dance in Champaign, IL. At that point, she resolved to be a dancer and attended their boarding school. For three consecutive years, she was awarded first place in the U.S. National Merit Scholarship competition.

She also received a full scholarship to the Banff Center School of Fine Arts in Banff, Alberta. While in Canada, Rebeca was spotted by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s director and was asked to dance and tour with Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet. She has danced many soloist roles and has performed in Coppelia (pas de deux), Sleeping Beauty (Bluebird & pas de trois), Grand Pas de Quatre (Taglioni), Paquita, Swan Lake, Sylphides, Giselle, Nutcracker, Monkayo, Strike Up the Band, and Exuberance, to name a few. Rebeca’s extensive training was not limited to classical works only. She has also won numerous competitions, contests, toured throughout the United States and Canada and performed in multiple music videos, commercials, and many televised events with well known entertainers including Don Johnson, Willie Nelson, Paul Shaffer, Jay Leno, Barbara Eden and many more. After spending several years dancing professionally, teaching and choreographing for special events, other schools and studios, Rebeca founded Academy of Arts in 1994.

Since its inception, Academy of Arts has offered a warm, caring, family environment where students have an opportunity to nurture their love of the arts. The focus at the Academy has never been on dance recitals, or competitions, but rather the training offered by an excellent dance education. Ms. Rebeca is involved in the enhancement of each and every student at the Academy. She is at the school from opening to closing, and all students can benefit from her extensive training and experience. She develops talent regardless of income, making it possible for everyone to enjoy the art of dance.

Ms. Rebeca is committed to creating disciplined, confident students, who will develop their training whether their goal is to achieve a career in dance, or to apply the knowledge they gained in other professions. Rebeca’s hard work and dedication has paid off in the quality of her dancers and the success of the school.

Academy of Arts incorporates elements of the French, Italian and Russian schools of training. This provides dance students with a rich knowledge of classical ballet technique and the ability to adapt to all styles and techniques of dance making it possible for students to branch into many areas of dance. Ms. Rebeca has formed a professional company, Metropolitan Ballet of Florida, which includes additional performance opportunities and compensation for company members. Many dancers in her company have also been selected by audition to attend at top schools in the nation. They include; American Ballet Theatre, School of American Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet, Washington Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Orlando Ballet, The Rock, Walnut Hill, Alonso Kings Lines Ballet, Nutmeg Conservatory and North Carolina School of the Arts. They have also been accepted and/or earned scholarships to the Hartt School of Music, Chicago College for the Performing Arts, Florida State University, and New World School of the Arts, University of Central Florida, and more. Her love for dance, being a mother of two daughters and a grandmother of four, has allowed Rebeca to instill a true sense of dedication, knowledge and experience that make teaching dance a rewarding and challenging career. Rebeca is a certified teacher and has been professionally teaching since 1979.

Vanessa Russo-Schenker

 

Office Manager 

Ms. Rebeca's youngest daughter who has been assisting her mother since the Academy opened its doors in 1994. She trained in Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Tap, Modern, Flamenco, Musical Theater, Drama, Voice, Belly Dancing, and Hip-Hop. She holds a Master’s degree in Mental Health and Counseling from Nova Southeastern University. During her Mental Health training she acquired skills, such as: client/assessment evaluations, development/implementation of effective treatment plans, mentor/support/facilitate group counseling therapy sessions. Upon completion of her Masters degree she worked with dementia care patients, visually impaired patients and conducted grief counseling for caregivers. Vanessa also holds an online English teaching certification through VIPKid and ITutor. When not at Academy of Arts, she manages her husbands business, E's Coast Customs, Inc. in Lauderhill, Fl. She and her husband Eric, have two sons, Andres-Justin and Dylan who have grown up at Academy of Arts.

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