Instructors & Accompanists
"My goal as a ballet teacher is to work from a clean, strong alignment with a sense of movement and musicality that can help dancers adapt to many styles while developing a sense of artistry along the way. I teach Authentic Pilates, focusing on the 6 key principles Joseph Pilates intended: Control, Centering, Concentration, Precision, Breath and Flow."
Claire began teaching at the Lou Conte Dance Studio in 1975 and has been teaching dance in Chicago ever since. She was a founding dancer with Hubbard Street Dance Co. in 1978. In 2005 she became the associate director of the Lou Conte Dance Studio and was promoted to director in 2008. Claire received her Pilates certification from Romana’s Pilates in 2003.
Claire received the Ruth Page Award for Outstanding Dancer.
Victor Alexander a is native of Pinar del Rio Cuba. He trained at the National Dance School (Havana) and was a principal dancer for Danza Contemporanea de Cuba for 10 years. Victor has danced throughout Europe, the U.S. and the Caribbean and has participated in a dance festivals such as the American Dance Festival, The Holland Dance Festival in Amsterdam, Sintra Dance Festival in Portugal and the International Dance Festival in Germany. He was the first prizewinner of the 4th National Union of Writers and Artists Contest in Cuba in 1992. Victor has danced with Luna Negra Dance Theater; Concert Dance (CDI); the Lyric Opera of Chicago, as a Guest with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (2008) and the Houston Grand Opera. He was nominated for an Emmy for his role in the Ruth Page Foundation production of Billy Sunday. He Toured to China with CDI and taught at the Nanjing Normal University. Victor has been AWARDED a 2012 Illinois Arts Council grant and is a 2012 Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist. He has assisted London Choreographer Litza Bizler and recently has become the Artistic Director of the Contemporary Program at State Street Dance Studio. Victor has danced with Hedwig Dances since 2002.
"I'm able to incorporate the Latin in my dancing to make it easy to follow yet teach dance rhythms to people with no experience."
Alberto, a former Hubbard Street and River North dancer, has trained for 30 years in ballet, modern and jazz. Because Alberto grew up dancing salsa, cha cha, merengue and mambo at family gatherings, his style in teaching Zumba® is purely authentic. In 2005, Alberto was the first fitness instructor to teach Zumba® in Chicago.
Frankie began his Chicago company career with Hubbard Street 2, moving to River North for a year, and subsequently into Hubbard Street for three years. Frankie has been involved with numerous corporate industrials such as Adidas, Canon, Nike, Reebok, Asics, Nintendo and Aveda. Other professional credits include Celine Dion's A New Day, Newsies, Batman and Robin, Michael Jackson's Sisterella, Fame L.A. and The World Billboard Music Awards.
His choreography credits include Giannai Versace fashion show (Singapore), 10th Annual American Choreography Awards (Los Angeles), Nickolodeon’s Kid’s Choice Awards with Justin Timberlake, three pieces for Hubbard Street 2 in which one he won a national choreography competition. In the summer of 2007 while in Mexico City he choreographed Disney’s High School Musical La Seleccion, which led to Disney’s High School Musical Mexico-The Movie. He completed the first piece set on Danceworks Chicago entitled “Track 4” under the artistic direction of Julie Nakagawa. For Luna Negra's 10th anniversary, both he and Stephanie Martinez collaborated together and created their first piece "AviMar". Frankie is also the resident choreographer for "Digital 9" in Shibuya Tokyo, where he returns five times a year to set new works for a cast of 80 dancers. He choreographed "Yo Mexico" utilizing more than 350 artists including dancers, aerialists and musicians. It was performed in the Zocalo at the foot of the National Palace and viewed by over 1.5 million people.
Dancer, Choreographer Erin D. Barnett is a native of Chicago, Illinois. She began her formal training at age 6 at Mayfair Academy, then continued her training at Joel Hall and with Homer Bryant. By age 9, Erin focused her attention to classical ballet under the tutelage of Larry Long at the Ruth Page Foundation School of Dance. In 1987, Erin was selected as the first African American "Clara" in the Chicago Tribune Charities Production of the Nutcracker at McCormick Place. Ms. Barnett received a BFA in Theater Arts from Howard University in Washington D.C. Upon graduation, she performed and toured internationally with Garth Fagan Dance and Philadanco, and Armitage Gone Dance! After a three year run as "Sarafina" in Disney’s The Lion King in Las Vegas, Erin returned to Chicago to teach and share experiences with young dancers.
Birute's training began with Richard Ellis, Christine DuBoulay, and Larry Long. She has danced with Chicago Ballet in France, Austria, and Germany. Past teaching credits include Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Lithuanian National Ballet Company, Ballet Moscow, Chattanooga Ballet, and as a guest teacher for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Grand Rapids Ballet. In addition to teaching at the Lou Conte Dance Studio, Birute teaches for Joel Hall Dance Center, Ruth Page Center for the Arts, and Luna Negra. Her class is a mix of Vaganova, R.A.D., and Cecchetti.
Since coming to the Chicagoland area in 1993, Barry has had his theatre/dance scores and other music heard as far away as Salzburg and as near as the seat in which you are sitting. This group of folks would include 16th Street Theater (resident artist), Chicago Dramatists (associate artist), The Aardvark, Steppenwolf, The Goodman, The Art Institute, Emerald City, National Pastime, Cindy Brandle Dance Company, PROP THTR, Chicago Moving Company (composer in residence), Estrogen Fest, Writers’ Theatre, Asimina Chremos, Breakbone Dance, and others.
Barry has released 5 albums between 1997 and 2008 with his group MiLkBabY (now defunct) and just released his first solo album, “Death to Death! and Other Tales of Uneasy Harmony”, on the Madison based imprint of Uvulittle Records.
Currently, Bennett is Artistic Director of THE IMPENDING BEHAVIOR ORCHESTRA, a modular sound/movement/light performance group.
"I am inspired by minimalist composers like Philip Glass, whose music lends itself so well to modern dance while laying a bed of rhythms to give students a clear pulsing push to drive them forward."
Evan has toured with Grammy and Tony award winning singer/songwriter, Duncan Sheik, and recorded with Atlantic Records recording artists, Jump, Little Children. He has played drum set for various South Caroline based artists including Bill Carson, Cary Ann Heast and Danielle Howle. He has written and performed for Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance's Welcome to Cabaret Kiki and The Many Deaths of Edward Gorey, the House Theatre of Chicago's All the Fame of Lofty Deeds and the Building Stage's The Ring Cycle. Evan has played drum set for numerous Chicago artists including Kevin O'Donnell, Andy Wagner and the Western Automatic, The Sons of Susan, Mar Caribe and Shu Shubat.
"I can look at a body and relate to swimmers, runners, people with leg injuries, all sorts of athletes...Other fitness classes are high impact and jarring but Pilates makes sense for all ages and all people."
Kym has been teaching ballet for 28 years. She trained with ballet masters such as Larry Long and Robert Joffrey. She started teaching ballet when she was 16 years old at the Academy of Movement and Music in Oak Park. After she stopped dancing in the late 80s, Costa soon discovered her interest in fitness. With over 600 hours of intense training for Romana's Pilates certification under her belt, Costa has taught Pilates for 12 years.
Chris began as a break dancer in 1998. He later joined the national hip-hop company Culture Shock Chicago. He has shared the stage with Ludacris, Kayne West, Cam'ron, Busta Rhymes, Chicago Dance Crash, Stick and Move, LIFE, Fivestar Boogie, and Common. His teaching credits include Columbia College, Beverly Arts Center, Old Town School of Folk Music, Grant Elementary School, Crunch Fitness Chicago, Chicago Cultural Center and Danza Viva.
Kathleen Darley is originally from Austin, Texas where she trained with Ballet Austin Academy. She studied under scholarship at Houston Ballet before dancing professionally with Ballet Memphis and The Joffrey Ballet. She then performed with Omaha Ballet Theater for two seasons as a soloist, before returning to Chicago to dance with The Lyric Opera of Chicago. She currently makes guest appearances with the Civic Ballet of Chicago and Chicago Festival Ballet. While studying ballet in Houston, she completed the Hatha Yoga Teacher training from The Yoga Therapy College in Houston. She is a recent graduate of University of Illinois at Chicago, where she graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in Movement Science/ Kinesiology. She will begin her Doctorate of Physical Therapy at Northwestern University this fall.
Maliwan (Molly) began her dance training in Columbus, Ohio at the age of three. She continued her studies with RAD certified teacher, Ng Siew Fong while her family lived abroad. Ballet became her passion and by the age of thirteen she had been invited to study and perform with Indiana University’s Ballet Theater, where she trained with Violette Verdy, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, Patricia McBride, Jacques and Virginia Cesbron, Leslie Peck and Doricha Sales, along with notable guest choreographers and directors. A long time instructor for Indiana University’s Pre-College Ballet Program, she also spent a year as Associate Instructor for the African American Dance Company under the direction of Iris Rosa. Maliwan is now on faculty at the Lou Conte Dance Studio, the Chicago High School for the Arts and at Chicago Ballet Arts where she also serves as Performance Project Director. In addition she has worked with the Joffrey Academy, the University of Chicago’s UBallet and has taught company class for DanceWorks Chicago. She currently competes as a professional ballroom dancer, specializing in International Latin and Standard. She holds a M.A. in Arts Administration and a B.S.O.F. in Ballet and Political Science, magna cum laude, both from Indiana University.
"This is where old school jazz with a Broadway influence meets Grahma/Alvin Ailey."
Ariane's training began at the Academy for Movement and Music and Lou Conte Dance Studio. Her film/TV credits include Save the Last Dance (Julia Stile's ballet double) and PBS's Love in Four Acts. She has appeared in several musicals throughout the country and served as the principal dancer at Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre. Ariane has choreographed for multiple shows at Drury Lane Theatre and Don't Dress for Dinner at the Royal George Theatre. Ariane received the Ari Zoni Award for best performance in a musical in 1997.
Krista was born and raised in Le Mars, Iowa. She moved to Chicago after receiving her B.B.A in Business Management, Dance Minor, and Performing Arts Entrepreneurship Certificate from The University of Iowa. She started dancing at the age of 5 and she has trained in variety of styles over the years. Krista has also worked as a dance instructor and choreographer for several years. She became a certified Dance Masters instructor in 2009 and began teaching Zumba® in 2011.
"The influences shaping my class are both the Balanchine technique (Wilde, Tallchief, Hayden, Duell) and the classes of the late Larry Long."
Patti, originally from Palos Verdes, CA, trained at the American Ballet Theatre School and Maryland Youth Ballet. Her professional career included dancing for the Lyric Opera Ballet, Chicago City Ballet, Ballet Chicago, and the Ruth Page "Nutcracker." Patti has served on the Joffrey Ballet Women's Board since 2005, as well as the Board of Audience Architects, a dance service organization. Other teaching credits include the School of Ballet Chicago and Chicago City Ballet School. Currently, she serves as the Co-Director for Chicago Ballet Arts and teaches for Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre.
Kristina Fluty is in her ninth year as a movement collaborator with Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak, and has been honored to work with many other talented choreographers in Chicago, Nashville, and New York. She holds a Master of Arts in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling, as well as a Graduate Laban Certificate in Movement Analysis (GLCMA), from Columbia College Chicago, where she is now an adjunct faculty member. Her BA in Dance is from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA, where she frequently returns to teach and choreograph. She has also been an adjunct faculty member at The University of Chicago, and teaches dance regularly throughout the city. Other influential training includes Trisha Brown Dance Studio and many downtown NYC dance artists such as David Dorfman, Miguel Gutierrez, and K.J. Holmes. Kristina currently works with individual professional artists and dance companies in Chicago in the facilitation, support, and research of personal creative process. In addition to the framework of Laban/Bartenieff studies, her influences include the Feldenkrais Method, Body-Mind Centering, Authentic Movement, Continuum, and Contact Improvisation.
Jennifer Goodman was born in Romeo, Michigan and received her training in the Detroit area under the direction of Mary Kashinsky, Mary Geiger, and Cornelia Sampson. After graduating from high school she attended the Joffrey summer program on scholarship in NYC and was then asked to join The Joffrey II dancers under the direction of Jeremy Blanton and Gage Bush. After a year with Joffrey II she was asked to join The Joffrey Ballet with former director Gerald Arpino. Jennifer moved to Chicago with the company and continued her career there for 16 years. With The Joffrey, Jennifer has toured internationally with the world renowned rock-ballet Billboards and appeared in Robert Altman's The Company. Jennifer has performed an extensive repertoire including ballets by Gerald Arpino, Robert Joffrey, George Balanchine, Anthony Tudor, Leonard Massine, Agnes de Mille, Nijinsky, Vicente Nebrada, Frederick Ashton, Jerome Robbins, John Cranko, Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, Pilobolus, and had a role created for her by Donald Byrd. She has performed numerous roles in Robert Joffrey's Nutcracker including Clara and The Sugar Plum Fairy and has danced soloist roles in Giselle, Cinderella, The Dream, and Romeo and Juliet. She left the Joffrey in 2009 to pursue a freelance career, subsequently performing with The Metropolitan Opera , Ballet X, Avi Scher & Dancers, Ballet NY, The Lyric Opera, The Chicago Opera Theatre, Dallas Opera, and San Diego Opera and has danced as a guest artist for principal roles in many classical ballets such as The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, Cinderella, Swan Lake, Le Corsaire, Don Quixote, and Paquita.
Jennifer also has a deep passion for yoga and is a certified yoga and barre instructor.
Jeff Hancock is an original founding member of River North Dance Chicago. He also danced with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, was Co-Artistic Director of Same Planet Different World Dance Theatre, and has performed and toured nationally and internationally with numerous companies, ranging from opera to musical theatre, including the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Disney, and many others. His choreography has been seen on River North Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street 2, the Edinburgh Festival, Same Planet, Northwestern University, Columbia College, Dance Crash, The Dance COLEctive, and numerous other companies. He is a Lecturer at Northwestern University, Adjunct at Columbia College, and also designs and constructs costumes with his company -ish by jeff hancock.
Winifred is the Founder and Artistic Director of Winifred Haun & Dancers. She trained with Richard Ellis, Christine DuBoulay, Randy Duncan, and Harriet Ross, as well as dancing with Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre. Other professional teaching credits include Chicago Academy for the Arts, The Dance Center at Columbia College, University of Nevada, and Illinois Wesleyan University.
Winifred has won numerous awards for her dancing and choreography, including a Ruth Page Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Dance Community.
A ballet dancer for 15 years, Rachel has long admired the artistry of movement. Upon graduating from Indiana University with degrees in art history and journalism, Rachel quickly learned that post-graduate life was an unpaved road teeming with challenges. She longed for the creative, expressive outlet the dance world provided and sought respite from her challenging job as a writer in the art world. A friend of Rachel's had begun practicing yoga around this time and encouraged Rachel to take a class, given her background. Rachel was instantly drawn to the yogic path, desiring more of the light and peace she cultivated during her practice. She respected the yoga community's desire to create a harmonious, compassionate place for all. She needed more of this goodness. With the encouragement of her mom, Rachel enrolled in Moksha Yoga Chicago's 200-hour teacher training and in-depth studies certification program in June 2011 and was certified in the fall of 2012. Enrolling in Moksha Yoga's certification program proved to be one of the most invaluable decisions she has made in her life. She uncovered her genuine love of sharing yoga with others through teaching. Rachel believes acceptance and self-love equal beauty. Central to Rachel's classes is aligning each movement with the breath in order to foster growth through acceptance and self-love. She regularly weaves poetry into her sequencing. She lives in Chicago, and when she's not on her yoga mat, you can find her listening to the Rolling Stones, at a fair trade store, wearing rainbow yoga pants, or reading anything Patti Smith-related.
Shannon was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She graduated from Howard University (Washington, D.C.) and received additional dance training with Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, and Jacob's Pillow Jazz/Musical Theatre Program. Shannon is on faculty at the Lou Conte Dance Studio, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Youth Program, and Mindful Practices.
Ethan Kirschbaum, originally from Oakland, CA, began his dance training under Reginald Ray-Savage, a longtime student of the late Larry Long, and the San Francisco Ballet School. He continued his training with scholarships to summer programs at Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet and the Juilliard School. Travelling to New York City to attend the Ailey School/Fordham University B.F.A. program, Ethan studied the movement techniques of Lester Horton and Martha Graham as well as the improvisational modalities of William Forsythe. While in his junior year, he joined Hubbard Street 2, dancing and teaching workshops around the globe while concurrently completing his degree. He has performed with the Santa Fe Opera, worked with Nacho Duato, danced in the Holland Dance Festival as well as at New York City Center and the Apollo Theater, and been on faculty at The Ailey School and the Joffrey Academy. Upon graduating summa cum laude with departmental honors in Dance Performance, Ethan moved toSaarbrücken, Germany to dance with Donlon Dance Company at the Saarländisches Staatstheater under the direction of Marguerite Donlon. Ethan is delighted to be back in Chicago performing with River North Dance Chicago and honored to share his varied experience of movement as a member of the faculty of LCDS.
Anna Long is a freelance dancer, choreographer, and Gaga teacher based in the United States.
Anna was born in Boston, MA, and began dancing at the New England Dance Academy of Attleboro at the tender age of three. She also trained with Festival Ballet of Providence, RI and Spindle City Ballet of Fall River, MA.
She completed her degree in dance and biology at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY and has continued to perform and teach contemporary dance at home and abroad.
Domé Lorusso was born In Valencia, Venezuela and came to live in Chicago at the age of 6. However, he didn't find his passion for dance until he was 19, when he started his dance career with One World Dance Theater under direction of Rebbecca Huntman. Domé was fortunate enough to dance with One World for two years where he trained in various styles such as; Latin, Contemporary, jazz, and hip hop. He left One World Dance Theater to Direct the Jai Wil project where he danced and Choreographed for R&B artist Jai Wil's promotional tour. Once the tour was complete Domé came back home to Chicago and started his own Hip Hop dance company, Pure Renditionz. Since the start of Pure Renditionz, Domé has went on to work on various projects such as becoming artistic director of Hip Hop ConnXion Chicago, Manage/Choreograph/Dance for Dance2XS Chicago, and later founded Vicious dance crew. Domé has also taught at several schools such as The Joffrey Academy of Dance, Lou Conte Dance Studio, and The Alvin Ailey Dance Camp. He has also been blessed to dance with such artist as Fall Out Boy, Black Eye Peas, Mannheim Steamrollers, Drew Sidora, and reggae sensation Ms. Triniti. Currently Domé is still working on various projects in Chicago like D.D. Dance Workshops, Anti-Bullying Campaigns, and promoting a positive environment through dance. For now, you can still find Domé teaching at Lou Conte Dance Center every Saturday at 2:45pm.
Aly M'Baye is a native of Dakar, Senegal, West Africa. For the past 20 years hehas gained multiple knowledge of teaching many rhythms, dances and songs from Mali, Guinea and his native culture. Aly is an energetic and dynamic Major Percussionist to the Djembe, Doundon (Sangban, Kenkeni), Kutero, Conga and the Sabar (drums of the Wolof people of Senegal). He is an artistic teacher, composer and choreographer nationally throughout the United States and internationally.
Lizzie MacKenzie is the Artistic Director of Extensions Dance Company and founder of Extensions Dance Center. She enjoyed 6 years dancing and touring internationally with River North Dance Company following 5 years doing the same with Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago. She has most recently been seen dancing with Ron De Jesus Dance Company and Chicago Repertory Ballet, as well as continuing her work with various independent choreographers, Dance For Life and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She has worked closely with various choreographers, some of the most influential being Laurie Stallings, Sidra Bell, Harrison Mceldowney, Kevin Iega Jeff, Robert Battle, Frank Chaves, Mia Michaels and Ron De Jesus. She has studied under Alexandra Wells and Amy Shullman at Springboard Danse Montreal, where she also had the opportunity to work with Coleman Lemieux Dance Company, performing the work of resident choreographer, James Kudelka.
In August of 2002, Lizzie was featured on the cover of DANCE magazine and has since been featured in various magazines as a model for Leo’s Dancewear and Illinois Theatrical. Lizzie spends most of her free time teaching and choreographing all over the U.S and her contemporary class has been listed in Dance Spirit magazine as one of the top 3 dance classes to take in Chicago. Outside of the Lou Conte Dance Studio, she is on faculty at Extensions Dance Center, ChiArts and Steps Dance Center in Naperville.
Tammy Mader has made a career appearing in and choreographing musicals in the Chicagoland area. Her work has been seen at Drury Lane Theatres, Marriott Theater, Court Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Light Opera Works, Theatre At The Center and Porchlight Theatre and has earned her several Joseph Jefferson Awards. She began her training at Russell School of Ballet and earned a BFA in Musical Theater from Point Park College.
Nadia started her training in the USSR in 1970. Since than she has accompanies for numerous ballet schools both in the United States and USSR. Nadia plays for school concerts every year at the Ruth Page School of Dance.
Terence was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and trained at the Ruth Page School of Dance with renowned ballet teacher Larry Long. Following his professional work with Patricia Wilde and Terrence S. Orr at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and at Germany’s Nationaltheater Mannheim with director and choreographer Kevin O’Day, Marling became a member of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. During 16 years onstage, he performed works by George Balanchine, Nacho Duato, Johan Inger, Jiří Kylián, Ohad Naharin, Paul Taylor, Glen Tetley and others, originating numerous roles. Beginning in 2010 as Hubbard Street Rehearsal Director, Marling taught, coached and maintained works and premieres by Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo, Duato, Naharin, Aszure Barton, Mats Ek, William Forsythe, Alonzo King, Susan Marshall, Victor Quijada and Twyla Tharp. Marling’s own creations have been performed by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre as well as both of Hubbard Street’s ensembles, and he co-choreographed with Robyn Mineko Williams the company’s first family-oriented production, Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure. Marling became Director of Hubbard Street 2 in April 2013.
"I play in order to communicate with dancers through the beauty of music."
In 1968, Slava received his MD in piano as soloist/accompanist teacher at the Riga Conservatory (Latvia). He received first and second place multiple times at Latvian Republican Competition, as well. Other professional credits include the Boitsov Classical Ballet, Ruth Page Center for the Arts, Joffrey Ballet and Academy, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.
"I am able to leverage my experience and understanding of ballet and modern dance to ease non-African dance practitioners into African dance forms."
Olumuyiwa has choreographed in Chicago (*Langsodo Dance Theatre of Chicago), Nigeria and Germany. He gained the title of best choreography at the National Youth Dance Festival in Nigeria.
Wilfredo Rivera, Artistic Director of Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, was born in Honduras. Mr. Rivera is a former soloist and founding member of River North Dance Chicago and a featured dancer in River North’s Emmy award-winning PBS TV special: Reality of a Dreamer.
Mr. Rivera was honored with the 2009 Cliff Dwellers Arts Foundation Choreography Award for his body of work with CRDT. He is also the recipient of a 2001 After Dark Award and received a Jeff Citation Award in 1997. Additional theatrical and musical theatre choreography includes productions for The Goodman Theatre, Bailiwick Theatre, The Metropolis Arts Center, Columbia College, ATC, APT, Porchlight Theater and Pegasus Players among others.
Commercially, Wilfredo was a featured dancer in various music videos for recording artists and has performed in productions featuring Diana Ross, Oprah Winfrey, Liza Minnelli, Jon Secada and Ben Vereen. He served as Talent Coordinator for the Mannheim Steamroller and was featured choreographer for Nordstrom's store's grand opening Gala in Chicago and for the Chicago Latino Film Festival Gala. He has choreographed and performed in numerous industrials, fashion shows, corporate and commercial events both regionally and nationwide.
Mr. Rivera also directs a series of after-school dance programs in Chicago's underserved communities.
Born and raised in Omaha, NE, Sarah Schafer began her professional career as a dancer with Ballet Omaha at the age of 17. After moving to Chicago in 1996, she continued her career dancing in Ruth Page's "Nutcracker" and with companies such as Paul Abrahamson's Moose Project, Luna Negra Dance Theater, The Civic Ballet of Chicago and the Alma Dance Company. Sarah has also danced for the Dallas Opera, Omaha Theater Ballet and most recently with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. In 2003 she choreographed "Momentum is a Vector" for the Omaha Theater Ballet. Having taught ballet for many years, Sarah also became a certified Pilates instructor in 2004. Sarah is currently teaching ballet as an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College Chicago, at Lou Conte's Dance Studio, and at The Jillana School Summer Ballet Intensive in Taos Ski Valley, NM.
Nicole received a BFA in Dance from Barat College's Conservatory of Dance and has gone on to perform with Cerqua Rivera Dance Theater, Chicago Opera Theater, Danzs Loop Chicago, apprenticed with River North Dance Chicago, and toured Europe with LaTour Productions. Nicole was introduced to Pilates in 1996 and was certified through Romana's Pilates in 2004.
"I have studied drumming with Africans and African Americans, incorporating all I’ve learned and playing with passion."
Cynthia has received musical training from Atiba Jali, Akeem Ayanniyi, and various West African master drummers. She has performed with Agalu, a Nigerian drum ensemble in Santa Fe, NM. Cynthia teaches drumming in the Oak Park Arts District's Kids Camp. Formerly the percussionist for Weave Soundpainting Orchestra in Chicago, IL, she has performed at festivals, parties, and drum healing workshops.
"I match the step and teacher's style - a Swedish waltz, a Joplin rag, a Scottish strathspey, a show tune, maybe some Gershwin or Beatles - variety and surprises."
Patricia moved from Seattle to Chicago in 2010. She has performed in various shows, bands and performances for 44 years. Her professional experience includes Pacific Northwest Ballet, Evergreen City Ballet, Spectrum Dance Theatre and Evansville Dance Theatre.
Jumaane Taylor, a Chicago native, has been tap dancing since the age of 7. He began his training at the Sammy Dyer School of the Theatre where he currently teaches. He has had the esteemed opportunity to perform and study with Idella Reed Davis, Martin Dumas III, Jimmy Payne Jr., Sarah Savelli and George Patterson III. Jumaane made his professional debut with the group M.A.D.D. Rhythms founded by Bril Barrett. He now serves as Assistant Director of the company.
Performing and teaching both locally and internationally, Jumaane most recently traveled to Europe to choreograph and perform Rasta Thomas' "Tap Stars" which premiered in Germany. He was featured in "Dance Spirit Magazine" as One of the Top 20 Hoofers under 20 and in 2006, he was proclaimed in The Chicago Tribune as one of the top five dancers in Chicago. Taylor was apart of the ensemble for "Imagine Tap!" which was directed and choreographed by Derick Grant. He was also a principal dancer for a production entitled "Wonderland: A Tap Tribute To Steve Wonder" directed and choreographed by Sarah Savelli and Ayodele Casel.
In Chicago, the Bearded Hoofer is a tap instrumentalist in the band Sidewalk Chalk. All the while, recording tap on various albums and performing at music or dance events throughout the country and abroad.
"Hip Hop is not something you do, its something you live"
Trae Turner is one of the most popular Instructors/choreographers in the Mid-West, he will entertain and energize a diverse group of students with positivity, a patient personality, and dance techniques.
Trae Turner embraces multiculturalism, as he is a recognized and highly regarded choreographer/Instructor at Hubbard Street dance studio, Visceral dance studio, University of Chicago, and Trae is also a part of the teaching Faculty at Columbia College. He travels to dance studios all over the country, and has trained with some of the top choreographers in the world such as Marty Kudelka, Sky Hoffman, Kevin Maher, Wade Robson, Laum and others. Trae has danced for recording artist Kelis, New York rapper Fat Joe, Phenix Phenom, and Andre McCray. Over his 13 year career he as opened for Ne-Yo, Rod Stuart, Janet Jackson and more. In 2009 he created and is Artistic Director of his own Hip Hop Company BOOM CRACK! However it is not his role as an artistic director that he prides himself on, but rather his hard work to inspire and train young dancers to be positive hard working professionals that are aware that they have the ability to inspire others. "Hip Hop is not something you do, its something you live" is a statement that Trae Turner not only believes in, but lives by. Trae works closely with D.A.R.E, Kumba Linx, ASM, and other High School and College organizations to bring together people of all races, not simply to dance and express love for the culture of hip hop, but to learn to respect one another. It is this kind of open attitude and desire for his craft that makes Trae one of the best choreographers in the Mid West, not just known for his movement, but for his ability to teach hip hop technique, and how to perform. With packed classes and dedicated students he is inspired by dancers and they are challenged and inspired by him.
"My class is a somatic approach to ballet – using physics and musicality to find the biggest, danciest movement."
Laura is originally from Toledo, OH, and has choreographed for advanced students at Northwestern University, Evanston School of Ballet, Ruth Page Foundation and Youth Performing Arts School. She was the artistic director for Akasha Dance Co. and is the present assistant artistic director at Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago. Other professional and teaching experience includes River North Dance Chicago, Visceral Dance Center, MoMing Dance and Arts Center and Stephens College.
Melinda Wilson holds a M.Ed. from DePaul University (Chicago) and an M.A. from the University of Illinois with additional course work at Northwestern Illinois University. She has trained at Lou Conte Dance Studios, The Dance Center of Columbia College, the Joel Hall Dance Center, Moming Dance Center, Pineapples (London), The Dance Works (London), Centre de Danse de Paris (Goube of the Paris Opera Ballet), Batsheva Dance Company (Tel-Aviv), and Centre de Danse du Marias (Paris). Melinda has danced locally with David Dorfman, Urban Bush Women and Timothy Buckley. She has choreographed 15 full musicals, 6 full ballets, 13 dance concerts and over 37 concert dance pieces which have been performed and taught throughout the world. Her awards include the Golden Apple Award, Dance Chicago Outstanding Choreographer (New Voice) Award, three consecutive Suave Performance Plus Teacher Awards, two first place choreographic trophies from Barcelona Dance Grand Prix, Who’s Who Among Teachers, nine Oppenheimer Teacher Incentive Grants, Dance Teacher Magazine’s 2007 Honor Roll for Outstanding Teacher, National Honor Roll’s Outstanding American Teachers for Exceptional Performance in the Motivation and Empowerment of Today’s Youth, BP+ Educational Grant Award Recipient, Katy Memorial Foundation, and the Successful Strategies Award for Dance Curricula (Volume IV). She is a member of International Dance Council CID-UNESCO, has served as a dance curriculum specialist for the Chicago Board of Education, a test writer for the Illinois Board of Education’s Dance Certification section and a passing score reviewer for the National Evaluation Systems, Inc. She is a presenter for The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University and travels throughout the world teaching master classes. Currently, Wilson is a teacher of Ballet, Modern and Jazz at The Lou Conte Dance Studios of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Dance Artistic Director at Curie Metropolitan High School for the Performing and Technical Arts.
"I bring a lot of energy to my ballet classes. I want everyone who takes my class to leave feeling like they learned something, they got a workout and they have a new found love for dance."
Jessica Wolfrum is currently in her 9th year with River North Dance Chicago. While with River North, she has performed works by Frank Chaves, Sherry Zunker, Kevin Iega-Jeff, Lauri Stallings, Robert Battle, Sidra Bell, Harrison McEldowney, Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Daniel Ezralow, and Julia Rhodes. Jessica received her early dance training from various schools in Buffalo, NY, including The David DeMarie Dance Studios, The Royale Academy of Ballet, Buffalo City Ballet Company, Buffalo Ballet Theater, and Empire State Ballet Company. She went on to receive a double BA major in Dance and Psychology at the State University of New York at Buffalo, under the direction of Thomas Ralabate and William Thomas. While at UB, she performed with the Zodiaque Dance Company. In Buffalo, Jessica was a member of the Buffalo City Ballet Company for 6 years, performing such ballets as The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Giselle, Cinderella, Coppelia, The Dying Swan, La Fille Mal Garde, and Dracula, in which she co-choreographed. Jessica has performed as a guest artist in productions of The Nutcracker Ballet in Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Chicagoland area. She has also been in the national touring commercials of "The Producers" and "The Wedding Singer".
Sherry Zunker is Founder of BeMoved®---a movement product designed for adults of all movement abilities—Artistic Director of the Mature Dance Project (MDP), Co-Artistic Director Emerita of River North Chicago Dance Company, and CCO of Aylet Creative. Sherry Zunker is an established Director and Choreographer whose work covers the concert dance realm, musical theater, corporate entertainment, production shows, television, video, and film. Sherry’s teaching career spans 30 years and is as diverse as the works she has created.