Interim Artistic Director, Instructor, Choreographer
Mikala Curless is a native of the world, having moved 28 times before the age of 25. She was born in China and adopted at age nine months. She currently makes her home in Bartlesville, Oklahoma but has called, Texas, Arkansas, Maryland, Tennessee, Missouri and New York home as well. Her world-travel experience has helped her gain new perspectives on culture, ethnicity and human character that she incorporates into her award-winning choreography and teaching style.
Mikala began dancing as part of a fitness program established by a soccer coach to help his team build stamina and improve footwork. She debuted as a dancer at age 10 with the international group, The Messiah Project. Based on her performance, she was offered a full scholarship to the Credo Dance Academy, where she trained for two years and became one of the first members of their premier ensemble. She went on to train with Susan & Buddy Trevino, principal dancers at Joffrey-Chicago; Desmond Richardson, formerly of Joffrey-New York and now with Complexions; Steve Rooks, protégé of Martha Graham; and under the direction of Paul Vasterling of Nashville Ballet. She received full scholarships to three programs offered by Joffrey Ballet School- New York and then joined them as an administrative assistant for 18 months before COVID closed the school to in-person instruction. Other professional work has included dancing with Moscow Ballet, Alamo City Dance Company, Dance Company of St Charles, and Missouri Ballet Theatre. She was a principal guest dancer with Ballet Hispanico de San Antonio when it partnered with Ballet San Antonio to premiere a new full-length ballet production (Blanca Flor) at the 2018 Fiesta world event. She was a winner in the annual Lights of St Charles Talent Show and the First Place winner (along with her sister) at the 2021 Bartlesville’s Got Talent. While in New York, she was part of the LIVE WITH KELLY & RYAN Show when a group of dancers set the Guinness World Record for having the most amount of dancers en pointe simultaneously.
For three years she was a dance model for San Antonio College’s Photography classes.
Mikala began her teaching career at age 13 and then moved on to working with several studios in Texas and New York City. She taught dance classes in China as part of her parent’s mission work with orphans and high school boarding school students. Her work has been featured and won awards at national competitions in ballet, jazz, and dance team. After opening her own mobile studio at the age of 19, she taught private lessons to ages 12-adult for two years while living in Texas. During that time she also worked for Kinderdance and Studio One Ballroom as an instructor at childcare and recreation facilities, teaching children ages 2 to 8 years. She has assisted with training dancers to pass the elite Cecchetti technical examinations in classical ballet. While in New York City, she was the lead instructor at the exclusive Ballet Club and an instructor at private schools for Kinderdance. When not teaching, she is the Director of Development for OKM Music.
At the age of eight, Miss Arvola was accepted to the Ballet Academy of the National Opera House in Helsinki, Finland. After graduating from the Academy at the age of 17, she was invited to join the National Ballet of Finland and toured with the company around the world.
While dancing with the San Francisco Ballet for 4 years, she and her husband Leo Ahonen started their partnership both on stage and off.
Among her numerous honors, Miss Arvola received a Bronze Medal and a diploma for high artistic achievement in Women's Senior Category (professional category) at the prestigious 1972 International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria. In 1975 she was chosen as an Outstanding Young Woman of America, she was the Texas State Winner. Miss Arvola has appeared as the featured guest artist with Finnish National Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Chicago Ballet, Houston Ballet, London's Royal Ballet Choreographic Group, Indianapolis Ballet Theatre, Ballet International de Ochi of Japan, and with numerous Symphony Orchestras, Opera Companies and Civic Ballet Companies throughout the United States and abroad. In 1972 Tokyo's NHKTV produced a half-hour special of Miss Arvola and Mr. Ahonen in their monthly program: "The World of Music". Her ballerina roles include: "Swan Lake", "Sleeping Beauty", "Giselle", "Romeo and Juliet", "Cinderella", "Coppelia", "Don Quixote" ... the list is endless.
Miss Arvola's partnership with her husband on stage lasted thirty years. And in 1976 on the Day of Constitution they became Citizens of the United States.
She also choreographs and stages most of the Classics, and lately she has become a creator of "new style" full-length ballets including: "Tarzan", "Dracula", and "Samson and Delilah". Miss Arvola not only choreographs her ballets, she also writes the libretto, chooses the music, and designs and makes the costumes herself.
She retired from performing in 2006 after a long, healthy career of 40 years, never cancelling a performance! In 2005 Miss Arvola received the first Marie Bollinger Vogt Achievement Award at Toledo Ballet's 65th annual "Nutcracker". In these performances, she also danced the role of "Sugar Plum Fairy" for the last time - the role she started portraying in 1970! In 2009, she was the adjudicator for Regional Dance America/Southwest.
Learn more about Miss Arvola’s amazing career at arvola-ahonen.com.
Gianna Curless was adopted from China in 2001, initially making her home in Texas. Since then, she has lived in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee and New York City. She now resides in Bartlesville.
Gianna debuted at age five in the international Christmas program sponsored by The Messiah Project. After coming to the attention of the Artistic Director of the Credo Dance Academy, she was offered a full scholarship to train at the Academy in classical ballet, tap, and liturgical movement. She went on to train in jazz, lyrical, musical theatre, contemporary ballet, modern, and hip-hop with some of the most prominent dance studios in each city where she lived — and always on scholarship. She also received specialized training with Susan & Buddy Trevino, principal dancers at Joffrey-Chicago; and Desmond Richardson (formerly of Joffrey-New York) of Complexions. She received scholarships to three programs offered by Joffrey Ballet School-New York then joined them as an administrative assistant for six months before COVID closed the school. Other professional work has included dancing with Moscow Ballet, Alamo City Dance Company, Dance Company of St Charles, Missouri Ballet Theatre, and as a demi-principal guest dancer with Ballet Hispanico de San Antonio in the premiere a new full-length ballet production called Blanca Flor at the 2018 Fiesta world event.
Gianna has been teaching since age 13. She began as an assistant with children under age five while completing three levels of Cecchetti dance exams. In Texas, she worked for Tippi Toes as an instructor at the Denton Parks & Recreation and at childcare facilities. She joined her sister in opening a training studio in San Antonio, teaching private lessons in hip-hop, musical theatre tap, and lyrical. She is a choreographer for Bravura Dansu, which she co-founded with her sister when she was only 15.
In addition to her dance career, Gianna is an award-winning writer and photographer. She owns GG Photography, which specializes in event and marketing photography. For three years, she was a model for the photography classes held at San Antonio College in Texas. Currently, she works at OKM in box office and marketing. Gianna likes to use her experience as a child of a missionary to infuse her classical dance training with progressive movements that honor both the traditions and the future of ethnic arts. She also likes to experiment with mixing conflicting musical pieces to create new understandings of human emotions and then inventing new movements to marry the traditional with the modern. She has used some of her award- winning poetry in her choreography pieces.