Our Mission


Ballet Conservatoire XIV is Historic Ellicott City’s official ballet school, an elite ballet coaching facility under the co-direction of preeminent teachers Donna Pidel and Hans Nelson.  Ballet Conservatoire XIV offers an intensive ballet program for the serious dancer from the age of 10 years, as well as a children's program from age 2½. Choosing a limited number of students who display the determination, passion, discipline, and talent necessary, Ballet Conservatoire XIV offers training and personal coaching that cultivates the soon-to-be professional dancer, prompting companies and universities to offer our dancers positions, scholarships, and jobs. 

That is our mission.

Ballet Conservatoire XIV follows a specific, graded curriculum as outlined in American Ballet Theatre's National Training Curriculum. Each level is designed to be sensitive to the developmental needs of the age group, fostering discipline and creativity while encouraging each child to reach their highest potential. The curriculum combines scientific principles with elements from the French, Italian, and Russian schools. Classes focus on building a solid foundation in ballet technique with an emphasis on proper placement and safe progressions of movement while remaining sensitive to the developmental needs of younger dancers.


Registration for 2018-2019 is now open.


Donna Pidel

Executive director, arc barre body director

Trained in the UK, Ms. Pidel came to the USA in 1982 to teach at The Baltimore Ballet School and Company. She subsequently taught at The School of Washington Ballet with Mary Day and Baltimore School For The Arts before opening her own school, Ballet Royale Institute of Maryland, which she directed for 25 years. During the summers of 1998, 2001, and 2003, Ms. Pidel studied as a teacher at the Vaganova Choreographic Institute in St. Petersburg Russia. She is also an affiliate teacher of American Ballet Theatre. In 2012 she was appointed examiner of the American Ballet Theatre's National Training Curriculum by Franco DeVita, principal of the JKO School at American Ballet Theatre, and Raymond Lukens, Director of the National Training Curriculum. She serves as proctor for American Ballet Theatre's own examinations.

Ms. Pidel has been awarded many accolades, including YAGP (Youth America Grand Prix) outstanding teacher and choreographer; inclusion in YAGP recommended choreographers list; and the Capezio Award for choreography at the New England Classical Ballet Competition. A personal highlight was the performance of her choreography at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia by Principal Dancer Alicia Graf Mack, receiving an audience from Vice President Al Gore. Ms. Pidel's choreography has featured dancers Michele Wiles, Alicia Graf Mack, Ashley Fitzgerald, Katherine Williams, Charo Bishop and Rebecca King--all leaders of the dance world today.

During her years as founder and director of Ballet Royale, Ms. Pidel produced gala performances that included principal dancers and stars of classical ballet such as Gillian Murphy, Paloma Herrera, Ethan Stiefel, Joseph Gorak, Stella Abrera, Maxim Beloserkovsky, Irina Dvorovenko, and more. She has been a guest teacher for Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Towson University, The Washington Ballet (faculty), Baltimore School for The Arts (faculty) and more. In 2014 and 2015, Ms. Pidel was featured in Dance Mogul Magazine and has been included in additional publications such as Pointe and Dance Magazine.

A highly sought-after teacher, Ms. Pidel's passion is producing world-class dancers, which she continues to do.

Hans Nelson

Artistic Director

Mr. Nelson began his training at the Frederick School of Classical Ballet and continued full-time at the School of American Ballet in New York City, the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, DC, and the Ecole-Atelier Rudra Béjart in Lausanne, Switzerland.  At the Vail International Dance Festival in 2000, he studied with Jacques Namont of the Paris Opera Ballet School and Pyotr Pestov of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.  

As a dancer, Mr. Nelson's répertoire included Les Sylphides (Poet), Giselle (Peasant Pas de Deux), and Swan Lake (Pas de Trois), among others.  He has taught at The Washington School of Ballet and Mercersburg Academy, as well as at Ballet Royale Institute of Maryland under the direction of Donna Pidel.  While at Ballet Royale, he choreographed and directed The Nutcracker, with additional Act 2 choreography by Mrs. Pidel.  Additional staging credits include Les Sylphides and original choreography.

In 2015, Mrs. Pidel and Mr. Nelson co-founded Ballet Conservatoire XIV, bringing conservatory-style training to a small group of carefully selected dancers.  Graduates of BCXIV have been accepted to the highest quality university dance programs and summer ballet intensives.  The school continues to be recognized for providing superior ballet training.

Mr. Nelson is an ABT Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT Teacher Training Intensive in Primary through Level 7 and Partnering of the ABT National Training Curriculum. 

Jennifer Boothe


Jennifer Boothe trained under the direction of Caryl Maxwell at Caryl Maxwell Classical Ballet and then performed with the Ellicott City Ballet Guild for 6 years.  Her répertoire includes soloist roles in Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, Coppélia, Cinderella, The Nutcracker, and various others including original works of Caryl Maxwell.  Ms. Boothe has taught at various ballet schools, most recently exclusively for Ballet Royale Institute of Maryland for 12 years as a teacher and choreographer, and also as Assistant Director for several years. 

Ms. Boothe is an ABT Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT Teacher Training Intensive in Primary through Level 3 of the ABT National Training Curriculum.

Cyra Duncan


Cyra Duncan started her dance training at the age of 3.  Throughout her early years she trained with various schools in Maryland, including Ballet Royale Institute of Maryland under the direction of Donna Pidel.  Ms. Duncan has studied at The School of American Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet School, The Boston Ballet School, and The Dance Theatre of Harlem School, all on scholarship.  She is an award-winning dancer who has performed in the Pro Bowl halftime show in Honolulu, Hawaii.  During her senior year of high school, Ms. Duncan was a part of The Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble Company in New York.  

Ms. Duncan is certified as a teacher by the Cecchetti Council of America.  She is also a certified Progressing Ballet Technique instructor.  She enjoys coaching young dancers and cultivating each of her student’s talents.

Laurie Dodge


Laurie Dodge is pursuing her Bachelors of Arts in Dance Performance on a full tuition scholarship as a CAPA Scholar at the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.  She performs regularly at the University and most recently performed at the Kennedy Center and at the ACDA Mid Atlantic North Conference. 

Ms. Dodge has taught multiple master classes at College Park and has choreographed many pieces on student and collegiate companies, her works having received special accolades in the field.  She recently volunteered as Master Teacher at St. Johns Catholic School and has directed Dancers for Cancer Awareness, a benefit workshop and showcase featuring several Maryland student, collegiate, and professional companies, which raised funds for a local cancer center. She always strives to give back to her community, and takes every opportunity to empower youth through dance.  Ms. Dodge specializes in Modern, Contemporary, Musical Theatre, and Jazz. She has a strong focus in jazz choreography, mixing classical jazz with a west coast style.  

Lauren Hawkes

First Steps, Pre-Primary Ballet

Lauren Jurd Hawkes is from Columbia, Maryland. She has been dancing for over twenty years. Her background includes studying ballet, modern and jazz. She is in the process of completing her Masters in Leadership of Education from Notre Dame University of Maryland. She is a certified Mommy and Me instructor and is certified in pre/post-natal fitness.

Ballet Conservatoire XIV students have been accepted to the following institutions:


Summer Intensives

American Ballet Theatre

Bolshoi Ballet Academy

Ellison Ballet

The HARID Conservatory

Houston Ballet Academy

University of North Carolina School of the Arts


University Dance Programs

Boston Conservatory at Berklee

Pace University

University of North Carolina School of the Arts

University of South Carolina

University of Southern California