The Nutcracker

Artistic Staff

Karl von Rabenau
Artistic Director

A Duluth native, Karl von Rabenau is delighted to return home to Minnesota, where he began his ballet career. Karl started training in the School of the Duluth Ballet, now Minnesota Ballet. He continued his training at Minnesota Dance Theatre, the San Francisco Ballet School, and the Boston Ballet School, where he was asked to join Boston Ballet II and, shortly thereafter, to apprentice with the Boston Ballet company. Karl joined the Omaha Ballet in 1987. In 1988, he accepted the invitation of renowned Balanchine ballerina Patricia Wilde to join the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre under her direction and with whom he toured to the famed National Theater & Concert Hall in Taipei, Taiwan. Karl danced his final 10 seasons as a soloist with the Milwaukee Ballet, most of those years under the direction of Michael Pink. His wide repertoire included soloist and principal roles in dance masterworks by such ballet luminaries as Alvin Ailey, George Balanchine, Jean-Paul Comelin, John Cranko, Agnes de Mille, Lisa  de Ribere, Choo San Goh, José Limón, Eugene Loring, David Parsons, Marius Petipa, and Bruce Wells.

As he began to transition away from performing, Karl followed his passion for teaching and choreography. For nearly three decades, Karl has taught master classes throughout the U.S. and has served on the faculties of: Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, 27 summers and two guest artist appearances under Founding Director, Marcia Dale Weary; Point Park University’s International Summer Dance intensive, 21 summers under Artistic Director, Susan Stowe; and Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy and Milwaukee Ballet II, 16 years as principal faculty. Karl’s choreography has been performed by Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet II, and in Regional Dance America festivals and in galas including: Erie, Harrisburg, Memphis, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh.

In 2013, Karl and his wife and former dancing partner, Jennifer Miller, founded Lake Arts Project, a non-profit collaborative dedicated to finding new and innovative ways to enhance arts education in high schools. Each year, Lake Arts Project collaborates with local high schools and professional artists to create one-of-a-kind performance experiences combining students’ visual art, written word, and personal stories in fully produced, professionally staged ballets and multidisciplinary works. Two recent productions incorporated DNAWorks and Feast of Crispian, a Milwaukee-based group that uses the works of Shakespeare to help returning veterans overcome trauma and challenges associated with reintegration, to unleash the power of dance and movement as a healing modality, for the veterans and the students, alike.

Karl looks forward to building upon these years of experience and collaboration to forge new and rewarding partnerships between Minnesota Ballet and the many excellent arts and community organizations in Duluth and throughout the region. Karl is humbled by the opportunity to lead the Minnesota Ballet, an organization dear to his heart, on this new leg of its journey. The artistry and potential of its talented dancers are matched only by the unwavering commitment of its dedicated staff and board of directors, all who inspire Karl on a daily basis.


Jennifer Miller
Ballet Master

Ms. Miller joins the artistic staff of the Minnesota Ballet as Ballet Master after completing nearly 30 years with the Milwaukee Ballet. Ms. Miller danced for the Milwaukee Ballet Company, rising through the ranks to the level of Principal Artist. She has had the privilege of dancing a wide range of featured roles in such ballets as Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Scheherazade, Giselle, Coppélia, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Sleeping Beauty; and works by Trey McIntyre, Choo San Goh, David Parsons, George Balanchine, Gerald Arpino, Peter Anastos, Antony Tudor, Lila York, Margo Sappington, Alvin Ailey, Bruce Wells, and Michael Pink. In the summer of 2005, Ms. Miller was invited to dance for the inaugural season of the Trey McIntyre Project, performing in Vail International Dance Festival and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Ms. Miller received her formal dance training from the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet under the tutorage of Marcia Dale Weary. Ms. Miller continued her studies at the Joffrey Ballet and with The San Francisco Ballet.

Upon her retirement from the stage, Ms. Miller went on to spend twelve years on faculty at the Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy. Ms. Miller also taught for Danceworks in Milwaukee, Dance Arts Center in Racine, and Steps of Grace in Brookfield. Massachusetts. She has had the honor to be invited back to teach at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet for more than 25 years, and also for Point Park University’s International Summer Dance.

Ms. Miller is an established private coach, working with professional and pre-professional dancers of all ages and levels including Youth America Grand Prix performers, ballroom dancers, gymnasts and Irish step dancers.

As a choreographer, Ms. Miller has created works for the Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet II, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Point Park University’s International Summer Dance, Dance Arts Center and Erie Dance Conservatory. She received the Monticello award for emerging choreographers. Ms. Miller is the co-founder and co-director, along with Karl von Rabenau, of Lake Arts Project established in 2013. As the current Managing Director, Ms. Miller produces multiple annual performances based on educational themes and community collaborations, hosts nationally acclaimed guest artists and choreographers, and manages touring opportunities for the group.


Lila Ann Coates White
Principal Teacher

A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Lila danced six seasons with the Minnesota Ballet before retiring from performing in 1993 to turn to teaching and choreographing. In the 2018–19 season she celebrated her 25th anniversary as Principal Teacher of the School of the Minnesota Ballet. Lila has choreographed works on the school, including a Tribute to the School, set to Alexander Glazunov’s Scènes de Ballet for thirty-six students in the Ballet’s 50th Anniversary Gala Performance, a stately work that the Duluth News Tribune pronounced “charmingly choreographed.” She has also set set classical excerpts on upper-level students, such as the exotic “Kingdom of the Shades,” from Marius Petipa’s La Bayadère.

For the Minnesota Ballet, she has choreographed such works as “Dear John,” which the News Tribune praised as “an immense challenge for a dancer and tremendously exciting to watch.” In 2015 she was awarded a Fellowship Initiative grant from the New York Choreographic Institute, an affiliate of the New York City Ballet, to create two works for the Minnesota Ballet: Appasionato, to the second movement of Johannes Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major; and Precarious, set to Max Richter’s On the Nature of Daylight.

An Assistant Professor of Dance at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Department of Theatre, she holds a B.A. in Health Sciences and an M.A. in Physical Therapy from the College of St. Scholastica. She has choreographed for UMD dance concerts and opera productions including Carmen and Die Fledermaus and was a guest choreographer for the American College Dance Festival in Iowa City, Iowa. She was chosen as one of twelve Midwest choreographers to participate in Jennifer Tipton’s and Dana Reitz’s “Workshop in Movement and Light.” Lila has also choreographed for Lyric Opera of the North, Arrowhead Chorale, and Dances on the Lakewalk.


Artistic Technical Staff

Cheryl Podtburg
Technical and Stage Manager

Cheryl has been keeping predictable backstage chaos to a minimum at the Minnesota Ballet since 2004. Fittingly, Cheryl often creates masks and props for some of the Ballet’s characters that create the most choreographed chaos onstage, such as the masks of the mice in The Nutcracker, the masks for the Monsters in Firebird, and Puck’s tree for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Before coming to the Minnesota Ballet, Cheryl has managed chaos for a University of Minnesota Duluth production touring to Sicily, as well as various productions in Missouri. Cheryl holds technical theater degrees from Cottey College in Missouri and UMD.

The position of Projects Coordinator was established in part by the Community Opportunity Fund of the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation.