Laura Armistead – Grand Jeté Founder & President
Grand Jeté barre fitness and boutique is an offering imagined by dancer and artist, Laura Roy Armistead. Wanting to serve others while remaining passionate about her life’s work, Laura decided to open Grand Jeté in the picturesque English Village of Mountain Brook, Alabama. Laura desired to create a beautiful studio and boutique environment where anyone would feel welcome and excited about engaging in an intense, fun workout. It is with great happiness that Laura opens Grand Jeté and introduces a superb team, eager to lead you through a workout like no other!
Gauen Rhys Alexander – Guest Instructor
Gauen Rhys Alexander began his dance training at the age of four in Marin County, California. He continued at Ballet Pacifica in Orange County, California; at the Washington Academy of Performing Arts in Seattle, Washington; and at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Gauen studied with many notable teachers including Alaine Haubert, Janek Schergen, Molly Lynch, Charles Maple, Dennis Marshall, Marjorie Grundvig, Janet Popeleski, Marianna Tcherkassky, and Dana Arey. He also studied at numerous summer programs including Boston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and American Ballet Theater Orange County. Gauen has danced with Alabama Ballet since 2007 and also works for local modern dance company Southern DanceWorks. When not dancing or teaching Gauen attends classes at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Last November, Gauen was lucky enough to get engaged to beautiful fellow dancer Kelly Marie Walsh. They are planning their wedding for 2012.
Johanna Dobbin – Instructor
At the age of three, Johanna Dobbin began dance classes at Children’s Dance Foundation located in Birmingham, Alabama. After several years of studying various forms of dance, she completed her training in classical ballet under the instruction of Roger Van Fleteren, and her mother, Tara Fasshauer, at the state’s premier ballet school, Alabama Ballet. Continuing her dedication to health and fitness, Johanna branched out into other forms of exercise and added pilates, yoga, and weight training to her regimen. While attending college at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, she worked as an accountant for several years, receiving recognition and awards for leadership abilities. Interested in law, she is continuing her education at UAB, and in the summer of 2011 she married MD/PhD student, Zachary Dobbin, and they’re expecting their first child in 2013. With knowledge of various techniques and methods, Johanna”s focus is to encourage a mind and body connection through her teaching.
Christi Myers – Instructor
Christi is a senior sports medicine major and nutrition minor at Samford University. She is on the colorguard at Samford, and a former member of the Varsity Track and Field Team. She spent fourteen years as a competitive gymnast, and is passionate about music, fitness, and serving others. Christi’s plans to attend medical school and hopes to open a sports medicine clinic of her own someday, as well as travel to under-served countries to perform medical missions.
Whitney Wright Owenby – Instructor
Whitney is excited to share her love of health, movement, and style at Grand Jeté. She has been dancing since the age of 4 and now enjoys Kinesis, yoga, and any upbeat fitness routine. Growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, she studied ballet at a local studio and continued practicing tap and jazz. Whitney was a Dorian at Mountain Brook High School and danced in her spare time while attending Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. She graduated with a degree in Psychology and has since spent her time working with children. Her hobbies include interior design, cooking, Auburn football, and playing Wii with her husband. Whitney and Jason were married in October 2010 and attend Mountain Brook Community Church, where they met. Whitney is passionate about eating disorder awareness and prevention and hopes to support women in their struggle. She is eager to help you look and feel your best while experiencing all Grand Jeté has to offer.
Jenna Witcher – Instructor
Growing up I was a dancer for six years and a cheerleader for nine years, but it wasn’t until college that my passion for living a healthy lifestyle developed. I began running on a daily basis, and ran my first half-marathon as a junior in college. I have learned to love exercising, and I look forward to helping other women truly enjoy getting in shape and accomplishing their goals. In May of 2011, I graduated from Samford University with a degree in Marketing and Public Relations, and a concentration in Health Care. The following June I married my best friend and the man of my dreams, Adam! I’ll go ahead and tell you that these classes will be tough, but I look forward to meeting you and taking this big leap with you!
Kelly McNair – Instructor
My interest in health and wellness, as well as my passion for serving others, has led me to Grand Jeté. I’m a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies with an emphasis in Therapeutic Recreation. Since 2001, I have worked at Lakeshore Foundation providing individual and group aquatic exercise to people with physical disabilities and/or chronic health conditions. My husband and I are blessed with two beautiful girls, reside in Homewood and attend All Saint’s Episcopal Church. I am also an active member of The Service Guild of Birmingham. Grand Jeté has allowed me to reconnect with my childhood love of dance, while incorporating the necessary fitness components of a healthy lifestyle. I am honored to be a part of this amazing team and look forward to sharing with you the beauty, strength and grace of Grand Jeté.
Katie Dudley – Instructor
Katie has more than 10 years of intense dance training at such institutions as American Ballet Theater, Alabama School of Fine Arts, Goucher College, DanceAspen and also professional performing experience with the Alabama Ballet. She attended Goucher College and then earned her Masters in Business Administration from UAB. After working for a number of years in retail merchandise planning at such companies as Gap Inc., Southern Progress and Hibbett Sports, Katie had a son and decided to take some time to focus on family and fitness. She also loves cookies!
Laura James – Instructor
Laura began dancing as a child at Mobile Ballet School in Mobile, Alabama. As Laura advanced her training she was selected as a member of the Mobile Ballet Junior Company where she performed in various classical ballets such as The Nutcracker. In high school Laura diversified her dancing experience as a member of her school’s dance team and as a cheerleader. Laura graduated magna cum laude from The University of Alabama in May, 2004 with a major in Finance and a minor in Economics. After college Laura’s love of dance and fitness transitioned into running and strength training. Laura’s strong belief in goal setting and continuously pushing your limits led to her completion of two half marathons. In 2007 Laura received her Certified Financial Planner’s designation; currently she works as a financial advisor at Chappelle Consulting Group. Laura’s strong belief in social commitment led to her participation in various community activities such as Junior League, Rotaract, and the Financial Planning Association. Laura currently serves on the board for the FPA of North Alabama as the Program Director and is a member of the Junior Board for the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. She lives in Mountain Brook with her husband Clarence James. Laura can’t wait to share her love of dance and fitness with all of Grand Jeté’s clients as she works to help them meet their individual fitness goals.
Allison Porter – Instructor
Hey! I’m Allison! I am so honored to be a member of the Grand Jeté team and more excited than you know to be able to share our technique with you! Rogersville, Alabama is my hometown, yet I am currently working towards my undergraduate degree at Samford University. I have been immersed in the world of dance since I was 3 years old and have been teaching the art for many years; however, riding horses is my passion, and Three-Day Eventing is my sport. It was a blessing to find a place of fitness that incorporated the strength training that my riding requires while still allowing me to enjoy the more graceful and controlled side of working out. Between the amazing team of instructors we have here and the equally amazing space, you will walk away feeling like you could just dance all the way home. Grand Jeté will change your body and your life: in the grandest of ways!
Caitlin Stone – Instructor
A native of Birmingham, Caitlin began studying classical ballet at Children’s Dance Foundation. She continued her training with Alabama Dance Academy, Alabama Dance Theater, and Alabama Ballet School where she studied under notable instructors including Tara Fasshauer, Pamela Merkel, the late Dame Sonia Arova, Kitty Seale, the late Haynes Owens, Roger Van Fleteren, and Wes Chapman. Caitlin is a graduate of Auburn University where she earned her Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology and currently works as a full-time SLP with nursing home and rehab patients. Aside from Grand Jete, she enjoys other forms of fitness such as pilates, crossfit, and cycling. She enjoys spending time with her friends and family, her husband Paul, and their Great Dane puppy. Caitlin looks forward to sharing her love of ballet and fitness with the Grand Jete team!
Paige Price – Instructor
I’m a student at Samford University, majoring in biology with a minor in nutrition. Growing up, I participated in ballet, gymnastics, and cheerleading – however, I was diagnosed with an unfortunate illness that separated me from doing the activities that I love. A few years down the road, I discovered “barre fitness”, and found that it not only helped to heal me physically, but mentally as well. I have a continuously growing passion for the technique and I truly believe that with time and effort, Grand Jeté will benefit anyone! Grand Jeté is an ‘all-in-one’ regime: incorporating grace and beauty with an incredibly effective work-out!
Caroline Russell – Instructor
I was born in Albany, Georgia where I began dancing at a young age. My love of dance took me to Atlanta where I attended Georgia State University and joined their ballet company. I later moved to Athens, continuing my education at the University of Georgia, and met my husband, Jason. While there, I discovered pilates and yoga. We now live in Birmingham with our three-year-old son, Jameson. I’ve been practicing barre at Grand Jeté since April 2011 and am excited to join the team of instructors. In my free time, I enjoy long walks with my sister, trying new recipes, and entertaining friends. I look forward to having each of you in class soon!
Susanna Whitsett – Instructor – Yogalates
Susanna brings a life-long love of movement and dance to yoga instruction. Beginning at age 4, Susanna began ballet in her hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama and continued dancing throughout her youth with the Tuscaloosa Community Dancers. Later, she studied dance at Birmingham-Southern College, graduating 1992. For many years following, Susanna taught ballet, gymnastics, aerobics, yoga and Pilates to various ages and stages of dancers and fitness-seekers. She has taught and led workshops for the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, McWane Center, Homewood Community Center, Creative Montessori, the Girl Scouts, the Altamont School, the JCC, Head Over Heels, Villager Yoga, and Children’s Dance Foundation. Susanna teaches regularly for the Mountain Brook YMCA and weekly classes through her own community yoga organization, “Yoga Friends”. Since 2001, Susanna’s focus in teaching has rested with yoga and Pilates. She holds certifications through AFAA, Yoga Kids, and Yoga Ed. Susanna has an appreciation of the changes and challenges brought on through aging and physical circumstances; careful attention to postural alignment, core strengthening, and self-awareness are fundamental in her approach to teaching.