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MEET OUR TEAM

The Influence Of A Great Teacher Can Never Be Erased

KARA TESTA (OWNER) began her dance training at the age of four in the Philadelphia area. She grew up studying Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary, Lyrical, Modern, Tap, Hip Hop, Gymnastics, Ballroom and Theatre. Throughout her years of training she actively participated in dance competitions where she received numerous scholarships. In 2004 Kara was "one of thirty" dancers chosen in Pennsylvania to attend (PGSA) Governor's School of the Arts on a jazz scholarship. She went on to study as a dance major at the prestigious SUNY Purchase conservatory, known for their rigorous and competitive program. Kara joined

ASH Contemporary Dance Company in 2005 where she performed many original works by Braham Logan Crane (of Artists Simply Human) and a piece set by Mia Michaels. She has performed in many events including Marian Anderson awards ceremony honoring Gregory Peck, Carnival Ball, Annenberg Theatre, City Center, APAP, Tangerine Bowl halftime show ESPN, Lincoln Center, Joyce Theatre, 6 ABC Boscov’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Sunoco Welcome America 4th of July Parade, Republican National Convention, Fringe Festival, and Penns Landing concert featuring BaHa men. She was cast as an extra in the movie Transformers 2 and Limitless. 

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MAKENZIE CRANE is a third generation dancer and master teacher, and is proud to keep the tradition of a family of dancers alive into the 21st century. Makenzie trained at her mother’s dance studio in Pennsylvania as well as North Carolina School of the Arts, Interlochen Arts Center in Michigan, Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts, River North Chicago and Broadway Dance Center in New York City, where she was on full scholarship. Performance credits include: Jammin’ Gold Dancer, Tap Team II, ASH Contemporary Dance, DRA’s Remember Project, “The Best of…” and Broadway Dance Center’s Performance Outlets. While living in New York, Makenzie served as a sound technician and lighting designer for various performances throughout the city.   She has also been on the staff and crew of a national dance convention.  Makenzie has taught and choreographed for numerous schools and companies including the children’s program at Broadway Dance Center, NYC.  Many of Makenzie’s students have gone on to pursue careers in dance including becoming members of professional dance companies, being awarded college dance scholarships, attending Pa. Governor’s School for the Arts, and winning regional and national dance competitions.  She is also proud to have former students teaching and directing their own dance companies, and making their mark on Broadway, in Las Vegas shows, and cruise ships.  Makenzie holds a degree in Health and Physical Education from West Chester University.

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Alexis Roberto Curiel is an Afro-Latino Dominican American dancer and choreographer, born and raised in Miami, Florida where his love for dance compelled him to begin training at 11 years old. He embraces a multidisciplinary background including Hip Hop, Contemporary, Jazz,  Modern, Ballet, African, Afro-Caribbean dance, as well as music editing and video making.  Accompanied with his passion to create, Alexis utilizes his leadership skills to coach, organize, and choreograph for various dance schools and studios. As he pursued an education at Miami Dade College Kendall Campus he was a member of the pre-professional dance company Jubilation Dance Ensemble under the direction of Michelle Grant-Murray, while dancing competitively with the Next Level Dance Company Supremacy Hip Hop team under the direction of Alain Marquez and Adriana Rizzo . Continuing his education with the University of the Arts in  Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Alexis has performed in various concert works by Maleek  Washington, Bill T. Jones, Juel D. Lane, Thom White, and Pearl Primus before receiving his  BFA (2021). His passion is to shine a light on the world as he continues to enter new spaces, create new connections, and pour his heart into every opportunity to indulge in his artistry.

OLIVIA MAILEY started dancing at the age of nine, training at numerous studios throughout the Philadelphia area. She has studied ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical/contemporary/modern, musical theater, and hip hop. While training at her home studio, Olivia participated in many dance competitions and conventions where she received numerous titles and scholarships. She was given the opportunity to assist Brandon Bryant and Sasha Forde from So You Think You Can Dance as well as be the choreography assistant for Hollywood Dance Shoot. Performances and parades include the 6ABC Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade, QVC Old Fashion West Chester Christmas Parade, and the 6ABC Philadelphia 4th of July Parade. Olivia was accepted into Broadway Dance Center’s Professional Semester in NYC for two months, which culminated with a performance at the infamous Alvin Ailey Theater. She performed with Nickerson Rossi Dance with works by Boston Ballet principal dancer, John Lam and Vertical Shadows Dance Company director, Stephen Agisilaou. Most recently, she was the featured dancer in River Pier’s “Who I Am” music video and was awarded the choreography award by the West Chester University Alumni Chapter. She is now currently a company dancer for Project Moshen, a female jazz company based out of Philadelphia. Olivia also holds a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics from West Chester University.

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LAURYNN PAYNE is from West Chester, PA and has danced for 10 years in various styles such as; Hip-Hop, Contemporary, and Jazz. Laurynn attended High School at Bayard Rustin High School, where she was on the dance team for 3 years and was named captain her senior year. In 2013, Laurynn was a member of the Philadelphia 76ers Teen Dream Team where she performed at various games, and events. From there she joined the Philly Phresh Crew, ran by Dana Smith Tavares, a former 76ers dancer. After being on the team for 3 years, she was named the first ever captain of the organization. Along with her Sixers background, she has backup danced for numerous artists from Radio Disney such as; Jordan Fisher, DJ Kool, Betty Who, and more. Currently, Laurynn is a Junior at Drexel University earning her bachelor’s in Hospitality Management with a minor in Sports Marketing. While juggling school she also teaches at various dance studios around the tri-state area such as; Monarch School of Dance (NJ), On Edge Movement (PA), and Dance Arts Conservatory (PA). She is also one of the Coaches at Garnet Valley High School. Due to Laurynn’s determination and professionalism she was hired by Dana Smith Tavares to be a choreographer for Philly Phresh Crew. She has choreographed dances for several of their performances which include; Sixers Games, Wings Games, and a Walt Disney World performance. In order to continue her training and deep passion for dance, she continues to train in L.A and Philadelphia, with some of the best dance choreographers.

RYAN MICHAEL TUERK holds a Master of Fine Arts from Temple University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of the Arts. Ryan has been granted certification in the Vaganova methodology in classical ballet. Born just outside of Philadelphia Pa, Ryan began his early dance training at the age of 17 at a small local studio in Quakertown Pa.  First as a martial artist and later as an acrobat Ryan discovered his true passion for dance and movement and committed himself to pursuing a career in the field of dance as a performer, a teacher, and choreographer.  After realizing his calling as a dance artist, Ryan went on to pursue a degree in dance at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia Pa.  Upon graduation Ryan was hired by several cruise lines including Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and Princess Cruise Lines.  While living in Fort Lauderdale Fl, Ryan performed the role of Doody in the musical "GREASE."  Ryan's classical performance repertoire includes "The Flower Festival of Genzzano,"" Grand Pas Classique," and the "Blue Bird" variation from "The Sleeping Beauty."  He has performed works by choreographers such as Brian Sanders, Roni Koresh, Roberta Mathes and Dr. Laura Katz-Rizzo.  Ryan is on faculty at The Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet where he instructs adults and pre-professional students.  In addition to technique classes Ryan has choreographed contemporary work for students at the academy who have entered the Youth American Grand Prix competition.  At Montgomery County Community College Ryan instructs various movement based and academic courses in the college's dance department.  He has helped the department to develop and include new course work and curriculum in Jazz Dance Studies.  Ryan continues to make appearances at several local Universities and teaches at privately-owned studios in the Philadelphia area.  Since 2011 Ryan has been a visiting guest artist for Dissonance Dance Theatre in Washington D.C., creating three original choreographic works for the company "RAPTURE,"" SCARS ON MY MEMORY," and "THE 13TH HOUR." Ryan also instructs students for NGOMA Center for Dance's summer DANCELAB at the University of Maryland.  In 2013 Ryan was accepted into Temple University's Boyer School of Music and Dance's graduate program.  While pursuing his MFA Ryan focused his research on understanding heteronormativity in dance performance, gender norms and embodied expression, body politics, and challenging hegemonic cultural assumptions of male bodies.  The result of Ryan's research was his master's thesis "Deciphering: He, Choreographing Contemporary Masculinities."  In the fall of 2017 Ryan joined forces with the Philadelphia Circus School and CIRCADIUM School of Contemporary Circus to develop the first ever fully accredited circus program in America. Ryan has produced over 20 original choreographic works that have been performed across Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Washington D.C. Currently, Ryan has been working on developing PURSUE THE CRAFT INTENSIVES, a training program that visits schools to bring in some of the industry's top working professionals to assist schools in offering the highest caliber of dance education for students and teachers alike. Currently Ryan is on faculty at Temple University’s Musical Theater Department and tours nationally with Starbound National Talent Competition. As a choreographer Ryan has been recognized for his unique choreographic style.  His choreography manifests as a sinewy combination of classical line blended with soft and fluid movement trajectories with a jazz influence.  His movement becomes an emotionally palpable dialogue between classical technique and contemporary dance that is rooted in the human condition. Ryan believes the position of a teacher is awarded through an unyielding commitment to excellence; he notes that success achieved by students in any field of study requires a high level of capacity and dedication from their teachers. 

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JODY HAGGERTY began her training at the age of three in Philadelphia studying ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, musical theater, hip hop, lyrical, acrobatics and ballroom and participated in the Teacher Training Course at her home studio receiving the Choreography Award for her class. At the age of 5 she started traveling to train in New York City and various other cities participating in dance conventions for many years and was part of the group chosen to represent Pennsylvania in the first Young Americans Dance Festival. She has produced, choreographed and danced performances for Philadelphia venues and events including Shampoo Night Club and City of Hope. Jody also became involved in theater, performing roles such as Connie in A Chorus Lineand Louise in Carousel, and choreographing many productions including Oliver, Sound of Music, Annieand Brigadoon. She has recently worked at Media Theater, choreographing for the summer camp and directing/choreographing their production of Hansel & Gretel. She is currently serving as Resident Choreographer for Merion Mercy Music Theater were she has choreographed many shows including 42nd Street, Phantom of the Opera, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Crazy For You, West Side Storyand Beauty and the Beastfor which they received the 2006 Cappie award for Best Song at the Greater Philadelphia Critics and Awards Program for their performance of Be Our Guest.

MADISON BARKER has been dancing since the age of three around the Philadelphia area. She made the decision to train more vigorously in all areas of dance when she made the switch to On Edge Movement for her high school career.  She competed with OEM's competitive company for four years.  The past two summers, Madi has headed the performing arts summer camp, where she has taught dance and basic acting skills.  Madi had the pleasure of performing with the tap group called “Footwerx” for two years where they had the honor of performing at the Wilma Theater. Madison danced  numerous times in the 6ABC Thanksgiving Day Parade, 6ABC Philadelphia 4th of July Parades and QVC West Chester Christmas Parade.  Madi has a passion for working with children as she has worked at Stepping Stone Education Center for the past four years. She recently graduated from Eastern University with a Bachelors in middle level education.  

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GILLIAN SPAYD attended Point Park University for dance. From there, she became the first female to perform as the American tap dancer in Busch Garden’s Celtic Fyre, which went on to win USA Today’s Best Amusement Park Show in America. Gillian also has been seen as a pro dancer in the Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade, and in Fiends (Busch Gardens), Oktoberzest (Busch Gardens), Boneyard Battleground (Cedar Point), The Nutcracker (Pages to Pirouettes), and Coppèlia (Pages to Pirouettes). In addition, she was a featured tap dancer on the Showboat Branson Belle in Branson, Missouri, and is most recently seen in the film Triple Threat (2021). In her time in New York City, Gillian has performed with entertainment companies such as High Caliber Entertainment, 26 Stars & a Mohawk, Tropicana Queens, SambaSalsa, and Cutting Edge Entertainment (Philadelphia). Gillian is certified by the American Red Cross in adult, child & baby first aid/CPR/AED, the CDC HEADS UP Concussion Training, and is USAG Safesport Trained.

SARAH SHAULIS sought out dance at a very young age at Oxford Center for Dance under the direction of Dina Gazzerro-Kinney in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Throughout the years she has studied at numerous dance studios and trained in many styles such as Modern, Contemporary, Jazz, Lyrical, Ballet, Tap, and Hip-Hop. While maintaining her busy dance schedule, she also performed as a child actress at several professional theaters including Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster, PA and Hershey Park’s Music Box Theater. Sarah participated in several competitions and conventions growing up where she received numerous overall awards and scholarships such as Artist Simply Human’s invitation to ASH theCOMPANY national convention in Las Vegas. In 2012, Sarah auditioned for the Koresh Youth Ensemble in Philadelphia and began her pre-professional training with Melissa Rector, Assistant Artistic Director of Koresh Dance Company. Performances included opening for Koresh Dance Company’s home seasons, Come Together Dance Festival, Philadelphia Youth Dance Festival, Artist showcases, and more. After graduating high school, she was offered an apprenticeship with Koresh Dance Company and continued her training with Artistic Director, Roni Koresh. Sarah officially joined the company in 2017. She continues to train and take class whenever she can and loves to share her passion of dance with her students. 

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Paige Devitt, originally from Clarkston, Michigan trained at Spotlight Dance Works under the direction of Liz Schmidt during her adolescent years. She also trained at Steps on Broadway and Complexions Contemporary Ballet during the summers in High School. She then studied at Point Park University and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance in 2018. There she performed works by Adam Hougland, Sonya Tayeh, Alexandra Damiani, Jessica Hendricks, Troy Powell, and Garfield Lemonius. In 2017, Paige had the opportunity to perform works by Paul Lightfoot & Sol León and Václav Kuneš at Nederlands Dans Theater Summer Intensive, as well as a work by Ohad Naharin at Springboard Danse Montreal. She has also trained at programs such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Movement Invention Project, San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, and Launch Northwest Dance Project. In 2018, Paige joined Koresh Dance Company, under the direction of Roni Koresh in Philadelphia. This is her third year with the company.

Sydney Bennett began her dance training in 1998 at the Rock School West, later transferring to The Dance Center in West Chester, PA, founded and directed by Donna Muzio.  She soon joined Brandywine Ballet Company (the official company of The Dance Center) as a student member at age 11.  Miss Bennett worked her way through BBC, joining the professional branch of the company in 2012 and performed such roles as Dew Drop and Snow Queen in The Nutcracker (Chor. Nancy Page.)  She has performed other notable roles in Nancy Page's Never Ending Road, Carmina Burana, and Lucy in Dracula, Meredith Rainey's Birdland and Make Haste Slowly, and even the role of 'Dark Angel' in George Balanchine's Serenade, among other works.  Miss Bennett began her teaching career in 2014, focusing on ballet and pointe technique.  Her own choreography has been featured in many Dance Center student recitals and the Chester County Dance Festival.

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Jennie Rose Dillon has been dancing since the age of 3 and teaching since the age of 15. A native of Lansdowne, PA she performed in many local performances such as The Nutcracker as Arabian, Snow Lead and Dewdrop and local theater. She also was named an apprentice with Opus 1 Contemporary Ballet Company at the age of 14.  Jennie danced competitively in both regional and national competitions.  She was named NYCDA Best Dancer in 1997.  During her high school career, she also spent time studying at Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway with teachers such as Frank Hatchett, Sheila Barker and Joe Lanteri.

 

Jennie went on to work professionally while getting her bachelor’s degree at Saint Joseph’s University in Fine and Performing Arts.  While at SJU, Jennie was a member of Opus 1 Contemporary Ballet Company, studied dance at Temple University and spent 4 years with the Sixers Dance Team.  With the Sixers Dance Team, she had many highlights of her performing career such as dancing with Pink, Destiny’s Child, Will Smith, Ludicrous and Jermaine Dupree as well as working for MTV, NBA’s All Star Events and touring with the USO.  Throughout this time, she continued as a dance educator and choreographer.

 

Once graduated from SJU, Jennie continued to shift gears more towards education, choreography and curriculum.  Jennie continued with Opus 1 Contemporary Ballet Company until welcoming her first child in 2008.  From there, she took on the position of Company director at Touch of Class dance studio in Broomall, PA. While there, she also created and implemented curriculum for an Improvisational dance program and remained an instructor of ballet, jazz and jazz conditioning, tap and improv as well as a choreographer. During her time as Company director, Jennie had the amazing opportunity to further her dance education studying extensively with teachers such as Denise Wall, Francisco Gella and Jason Parsons. She built a supportive network of progressive dance teachers across the country who helped shape her curriculum and foundation as a dance educator. Using progressive teaching techniques, Jennie now focuses on body awareness, building foundational muscle memory and understanding both the unique and whole (mind and body) dancer.

Elias Alfau, born & raised in Long Island, NY, has a very diverse background of training. Growing up a competition dancer at MB Dancers, Eli seeked extra training through the Long Island High School for the Arts as well as the Eglevsky Ballet school to further his understanding of dance. Eli has assisted for Miles Keeney, Ian Eastwood, Tom Richardson, Alex Wong, and Mollee Gray when he was awarded Prodigy All-Star with Artistic Dance Exchange. Currently, Eli is a company member with AbstraKT BEINGS ran by Theresa Stone, where he has performed with Todrick Hall at Choreographers Carnival. He is also in school working to get his BFA in dance at University of the Arts.

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