Meet The Team

Eliza Gaynor Minden, Head of Design

Eliza Gaynor Minden, Head of Design

Eliza designed and developed the Gaynor Minden pointe shoe. The impetus to create a better pointe shoe came from her own extensive experience in ballet and her frustration with conventional pointe shoes. With her husband, John Minden, a former advertising executive, she formed Gaynor Minden, Inc. to produce and market her invention.

Eliza studied Cecchetti and Royal Academy of Dancing techniques at studios in her hometown of Southport, Connecticut and received further ballet training at Jacob’s Pillow and in New York. She grew up in a ballet-loving family with a dance studio in their home. Her mother was an R.A.D. ballet teacher who would go on to found the Connecticut Dance School; her sister graduated from the School of American Ballet and danced professionally.

After earning her B.A. degree from Yale University, Eliza worked in the management of dance companies and saw their ongoing money problems exacerbated by shoes that last only one performance—the typical life span of the traditionally made pointe shoe. Non-profit dance companies, always struggling financially, are further impoverished by the pointe shoe’s lack of durability, as are dancers themselves.

As a longtime skier, sailor, and windsurfer Eliza had witnessed the introduction of new materials into athletic equipment and apparel, and had personally experienced the tremendous benefits of that modernization. It seemed natural that pointe shoes could be similarly improved by the use of advanced materials. Her knowledge of her family’s business, which designs and manufactures energy-efficient lighting, provided familiarity with the process of researching and developing a new product.

The revolutionary Gaynor Minden pointe shoe was introduced in April 1993, after nearly a decade of testing and research. Eliza holds two patents on its design and manufacture; she has four additional patents on other ballet-related inventions. She and her pointe shoe have been featured on National Public Radio, CBS News, The Discovery Channel, the BBC, on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, in the New Yorker, and in many other publications. She was named “Inventor of the Week” at M.I.T.

Eliza has lectured on ballet and ballet history throughout the United States and Europe and has written an acclaimed hardcover reference book for ballet students, The Ballet Companion, (Simon & Schuster in 2005).

Currently, as Head of Design, Eliza designs all Gaynor Minden footwear and much of its apparel, and oversees product development. She lives with her family in New York City. Send e-mail to Eliza Minden at elizaminden@dancer.com.

 

John Minden, CEO

John Minden, CEO

John Minden, co-founder of Gaynor Minden, Inc., is a native of Manhattan. He holds a degree in Economics from Yale University and has an extensive background in marketing and advertising.

After a stint on Wall Street during the early nineteen eighties, Minden spent six years at MGA, the sales promotion subsidiary of Scali, McCabe, Sloves. There he was a pioneer in the field of joint (co-op) promotions, supervising the development and implementation of national promotion programs for numerous major brands and winning the prestigious Robbie Award for Best Promotion of the Year.

He formed his own agency, J Minden Co., in 1989 where he specialized in the design and execution of programs aimed at benefiting environmental and other causes. He served on the Board of Directors for AdNet, an association of advertising professionals working in the public interest; his pro bono clients included The Council on Economic Priorities, The Natural Resources Defense Council and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

In 1993, with his wife, Eliza Gaynor Minden, he started the company that would produce and market the Gaynor Minden pointe shoe. There he directs operations and oversees the company’s rapidly expanding wholesale business. The computer system he designed for the company permits a relatively small staff to manage an inventory of nearly three thousand size and style combinations in a “just in time” fashion, enabling Gaynor Minden to provide extremely quick delivery to its customers. A 2nd degree black belt in karate, Minden supplements his martial arts training with kick boxing, weight lifting, and yoga. He lives in Manhattan with his family. 

Send an e-mail to John Minden at johnminden@dancer.com

 

Kiley Stoker-Beatty, Senior Account Executive

Kiley Stoker-Beatty, Senior Account Executive

Kiley is originally from High Point, NC, and earned her BFA in Dance from East Carolina University. She was a founding member of High Point Ballet, and spent summers dancing at North Carolina School of the Arts. She joined Gaynor Minden in 2002, and is now their Sales Planning Manager. Kiley is a fabulous wife and proud mother of two adorable boys.

If you could invite any 3 people to dinner, who would it be? “I’d say Tory Burch (CEO of Tory Burch LLC), Cesar Milan (the Dog Whisperer), and Pat Conroy (famous author)!”

Carlota De Cardenas Benoit, International Sales Director

Carlota De Cardenas Benoit, International Sales Director

Carlota was born and raised in The Big Apple. Her early, mainly Cuban-based ballet training began with Elena del Cueto and she later trained at The Joffrey Ballet School in New York City. Carlota received her BFA in dance at Adelphi University. She later earned her MFA in dance from New York University: Tisch School of the Arts while dancing with many independent choreographers. She has worked for Gaynor Minden for the past 17 years as an integral part of the Domestic and International Sales Departments, and established Gaynor Minden Europe, Ltd. Carlota is a wonderful wife and a proud mom of two chitlens.

Carlota’s favorite GM memory? “One day Patrick Swayze came into the boutique with Desmond Richardson. We were all totally star-struck!”

Anna Crisci, Senior Account Executive

Anna Crisci, Senior Account Executive

Anna started dancing at the age of four and has trained in a variety of different styles such as ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, contemporary, and hip-hop. Anna graduated from Penn State University with a bachelor’s degree in Communication, Arts and Sciences. As college came to an end, Anna did not let her enthusiasm for dance fade. She continued to take classes, one of her favorites being the Radio City Rockette Summer Intensive at Point Park University. Anna has worked in the dance world since 2006 and absolutely loves it! 

If you could invite three people to dinner, who would they be? “Comedian Kristen Wiig, who’s insanely talented and would keep everyone entertained; Baz Luhrmann, director, who has such a creative and beautiful mind; and dance power couple Allison Holker and Steven “tWitch” Boss, technically two people but I’m counting them as one!”

Megan Gulla, Products Manager

Megan Gulla, Products Manager

Megan graduated from East Carolina University with degrees in modern dance performance and costume design. She then worked as wardrobe supervisor for Playmakers Repertory Company at University of North Carolina and taught pre-ballet at The Ballet School of Chapel Hill, where she was a student for many years growing up. She is currently the Products Manager at Gaynor Minden, Inc., after starting as Executive Assistant to Eliza Minden in 2008. She continues to work in costuming for New York City productions, and with her sparse free time she likes to bake and watch Tarheels basketball.

A funny Gaynor Minden memory from Megan: “One year during YAGP NYC Finals, there were so many dancers coming into Gaynor Minden that they were sitting all along our hallway, up the stairs in the building, and down the stairs in front of the building either waiting on friends or waiting to be fit. Our UPS delivery man came with a large batch of packages to deliver; you should have seen his face when he saw all the ballerinas he had to get through; he was a good sport!”

Mary Hodges, Administrative Director

Mary Hodges, Administrative Director

Mary is originally from Virginia, and studied dance at Richmond Ballet School and Virginia School of the Arts, among others. She was a dance major at Walnut Hill School in Massachusetts before moving to New York. She has worked at Gaynor Minden since 2006, doing everything from fitting dancers and taking orders to building budgets and developing databases.

Mary’s favorite Gaynor Minden items? “Sweater tights are my absolute favorite. I wear them as regular fashion tights in the cold weather, or even under my pants on the really blustery days. They are light weight, comfortable, and long lasting. The pointe shoes are also amazing, of course, and I wore them when I was a teenager but I don’t dance on pointe now. Also, the miniminden rosette dress is the classiest little cute gift for a girl I’ve ever seen. I gave one to a young cousin who is taking ballet, and she loves it!”

Karen Lacy, Senior Fitter & Dance Teacher Liaison

Karen Lacy, Senior Fitter & Dance Teacher Liaison

Karen Lacy graduated from Skidmore College with a B.A. in Dance and English.  She lived in New York City for 21 years, working as a professional dancer, teacher, and choreographer. She still keeps her teaching connections at Manhattan Youth Ballet and Garden State Ballet, and continues her work doing educational outreach with American Ballet Theatre. She now works for Gaynor Minden from the Philadelphia area and teaches at Dance Delaware and guest teaches at Philadelphia Dance Theatre. Karen has worked for Gaynor Minden for 20 years (she has seen a lot of feet!) and enjoys her role as Dance Teacher Liaison and Senior Fitter.

Karen’s favorite dancers? “I absolutely adore Marcelo Gomes, and when he dances with Diana Vishneva, it is heaven. Alessandra Ferri and Julio Bocca were amazing when they were still dancing. In my earlier years, nothing could beat Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natalia Makarova, and Gregory Hines. And then there’s Gene Kelly. When I want a boost, I just watch clips of him.”

Melissa Mohan, Purchasing and Inventory Manager

Melissa Mohan, Purchasing and Inventory Manager

Originally from Missouri, Melissa went to college in North Carolina and earned her BA in Dance from Meredith College, and her MFA in Dance from UNC-Greensboro.  In Greensboro, she performed with Gamble/Van Dyke Dance for a season before deciding to move to NYC.  A lot has happened since that move in 1995!  She met her now husband, started working for Gaynor Minden, taught modern dance, performed with Donna Goffredo & Dancers, became a mother to twin daughters, taught modern dance again and found her love of hiking.

If you could invite any three people to dinner, who would it be? “I would have loved to have dined with Martha Graham, Isadora Duncan, and Katharine Hepburn. They were such strong women!”

Maria Montanez, Marketing Manager

Maria Montanez, Marketing Manager

Maria is originally from Columbia, SC, and grew up studying ballet (also tap/jazz/modern), playing the piano and violin, and trying desperately to find time to go to friends’  sleepover parties that always seemed to happen during Nutcracker season! She danced with the Carolina Ballet for 10 years, and performed many soloist and principal roles. She graduated from Florida State University, where she received a BFA in Dance Performance with a concentration in dance administration. Maria started working at Gaynor Minden in 2008 as boutique manager and fitter, and has been the company’s Marketing Manager since 2011.

Maria’s favorite dancers? “I could watch Marcelo Gomes dance anything; there aren’t many dancers I can honestly say that about. Sara Mearns also takes my breath away every time I see her perform; she is truly inspirational. On the non-ballet front, I love Yanis Marshall — his ability to work a pair of heels is seriously impressive!”

Jeanne Share, International Sales Director

Jeanne Share, International Sales Director

Jeanne was born in Atlanta, and grew up in North Carolina. She trained in ballet from the age of 6 to 20, including summer intensives and zillions of Nutcrackers. She earned a bachelor’s degree in French with a minor in Art History from Wake Forest University. She studied abroad in Europe before moving to France for two years to teach disobedient school children. While at Wake Forest, Jeanne worked at Carolina Dancewear (one of Gaynor Minden’s first customers!). Visiting an old friend at the Gaynor Minden office in early 2005 led to an international sales assistant position, and the rest is history. She is now one of Gaynor Minden’s International Sales Directors, and lives in Amsterdam, spreading the GM love throughout Europe, Russia, and beyond.

Top three Gaynor Minden products? “GM Tank in Blue Mist, Sweater Tights in Charcoal and our Totally Toes Kit. Our pointe shoes are a given!”

Renell Stevens, Quality Control Manager

Renell Stevens, Quality Control Manager

Dance has always been an influential part of Renell’s life; as a little girl growing up in the Bronx it was a way of expression and liberation, and she took her first lesson at the age of 6! She pursued many styles including jazz, hip-hop, salsa, and merengue, and was very involved in her high school’s performing arts department, singing and dancing in multiple shows. Renell attended college at Bronx Community College, and began working at Gaynor Minden in 2001. She is married with three lovely children (who also work at Gaynor Minden from time to time!), and enjoys going to plays, shows, and concerts in her free time — anything that has to do with entertainment!

Renell’s favorite dancers? “Lacey Schwimmer, because she can perform multiple styles of dance and is very confident in the most complex routines. I also loved Melissa Sandvig; I noticed her for the first time on So You Think You Can Dance and was blown away by how beautifully she danced!”

Olivia Woodall, Senior Account Executive

Olivia Woodall, Senior Account Executive

Olivia has been in love with the art of ballet for 30 years and has been fitting pointe shoes for over 20 years! She was born and raised in Elgin, Illinois, where she studied ballet under the instruction of a very strict, German woman by the name of Lisa Boehm. At 18 she moved to Chicago to pursue a career in dance, taking classes all over the city while also working as a professional pointe shoe fitter, manager, and buyer for Motion Unlimited. Olivia was also a ballet mistress for three ballet schools, where she was responsible for teaching and choreographing for multiple levels of ballet.  

What’s Olivia’s favorite Gaynor Minden product? “My favorite Gaynor Minden product is the Full Sockliner. It may sound boring, but it is a nice solution to many difficult foot problems!”