Ballet Initiative

 Ballet INITIATIVE is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise the profile of dance in the Saint Louis community through preservation, promotion and the presentation of affordable exposure and access to quality ballet. We teach students to dance, help them excel in dance and educate the public about ballet in an effort to help sustain the art form for generations to come. Ballet INITIATIVE strives to make the art of ballet accessible, understood, supported and enjoyed by our community.

Founded In 2009 by St. Louis native Jennifer Welch Cudnik, Ballet Initiative is a supplement to students' year-round training. We are not a studio. BI presents intensive ballet programs in which renowned guest artists are brought to our community to share their knowledge and teachings with the students here in Saint Louis. Students are exposed to new dance styles, new teachers and other dancers they may not know. Students are able to excel in new ways just by being exposed to these experiences. 


BI Director and co-founder, Jennifer Welch Cudnik, is a native of St. Louis and studied with teachers Berkeley Evans, Nathalie LeVine, and Alexandra Zaharias. At age 15, she moved to New York City to study on full scholarship at the School of American Ballet’s year-round program. There she studied under renowned teachers Stanley Williams, Kay Mazzo, Suki Schorer, Susie Pilarre, Antonina Tumkovsky, Elise Reiman, Helene Dudin, Richard Rapp, Olga Kostritsky, Andre Kramrevsky, Peter Martins, Violette Verdy, Jock Soto, Adam Luders, and Darci Kistler. She performed in ballets by George Balanchine, August Bournonville, and originated roles in ballets by Christopher Wheeldon and Damien Woetzel. Jennifer also trained under David Howard, Willy Burmann, and Nancy Bielski while in NYC.  She spent summers training on full scholarship with the School of American Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Kansas City Ballet.   

Upon graduation from SAB, Jennifer joined the Pennsylvania Ballet, under the direction of Roy Kaiser. She performed in numerous classical and neo-classical ballets while in the company including Swan Lake, Coppelia, the Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, as well as Balanchine’s the Four Temperaments, Serenade, and Who Cares? Jennifer returned home to St. Louis in 2003 and was invited to join the Saint Louis Ballet. As a principal dancer with SLB, Jennifer’s roles included Waltz Girl and Russian in Balanchine's Serenade, the principal in Allegro Brillante, principal in Valse Fantaisie, and principal in Divertimento No. 15, principal roles in Dennis Nahat's Brahams Quintet, Francis Patrelle's Swan Lake and Rhapsody in Blue and originated numerous roles in ballets by Gen Horiuchi. She was featured as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Dew Drop Fairy, lead Marzipan and Spanish lead in The Nutcracker, the title role in Giselle, and as Aurora in the Sleeping Beauty. Jennifer has been a guest artist with Stamford City Ballet, Montana Ballet, and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.

A teacher for twenty years, Jennifer has taught ballet at numerous schools in the Philadelphia area, as well as at Montana Ballet, Yellowstone Ballet, Saint Louis Ballet School, Grand Center Arts Academy, Washington University, and Webster University. She is on faculty at COCA in St. Louis. She is a commissioned choreographer who has created 15 original works. She is a career consultant for aspiring professional ballet dancers. Her students have been accepted into such prestigious schools as the School of American Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Company, Boston Ballet School, Houston Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Miami City Ballet School, Charlotte Ballet, Nashville Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School, Ballet Chicago, Kansas City Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, the Rock School, and Perry-Mansfield. She is currently a candidate for a Masters of Fine Arts in Dance through Hollins University. Jennifer has been awarded a grant from Career Transition for Dancers as well as a fellowship through Hollins University. Jennifer is an ABT Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 3 of the ABT National Training Curriculum. 

Jennifer has been featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Ladue News, Suburban Journal and St. Louis Magazine. She has been a guest on WMMR in Philadelphia, NPR’s All Things Considered, KTRS 550, KMOV news,  and HEC-TV.Jennifer believes in preserving the etiquette and tradition of the art form of ballet and enjoys passing along the teachings of her influences and mentors. She is committed to her hometown of Saint Louis and wants to share her passion for dance throughout the community in order to help sustain the love of the art form for generations to come.


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