OUR TALENTED STUDIO INSTRUCTORS

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MARIA SORENSEN

Studio Owner
Artistic Director

BIO

Maria has been part of dance and drill team for over 30 years.  Beginning with her high school experience where she was the Colonel of her dance team, Maria also studied flamenco dance in San Antonio, TX for eight years. After graduating from high school Maria worked for American Drill Team School for 13 years as an instructor, camp director, choreographer, and adjudicator. Earning her bachelors in Fine Arts,  Maria was a member of the University of North Texas Pom Squad. Her professional performance experience includes performing as a Dallas Mavericks Dancer for two seasons and dancing with the Anita Martinez Ballet Folklorico in Dallas, TX. Maria is a certified teacher and has taught at Coppell Middle School West and Westwood High School. In 1998 Maria established Star Dancers, a private junior dance team, and has been directing teams ever since. Her teams are award-winning and have received many accolades over the years. As her program continued to grow and advance in all genres of dance, Star Dancers studio was relaunched and The Dance Academy was born. The strong reputation her teams have is an extension of Maria’s personal belief that we dance for a higher purpose and set a higher standard of excellence in all that we do.

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KELLY YANKLE

Ballet - Ballet Company Director
Ballet Academy North

BIO

Kelly was  born in Canton, Ohio. She has been a professional ballet dancer and teacher for 13 years.  She began studying ballet at The School of Canton Ballet on scholarship at the age of ten, where she then received scholarships to prestigious ballet schools such as, Pacific Northwest Ballet, The School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and The Chautauqua Institution.  Kelly danced professionally in corps de ballet, soloist, and principal roles for The Cincinnati Ballet and The Sarasota Ballet. She choreographed a world premiere on The Sarasota Ballet Company in 2014, as well as solos and group pieces at multiple dance schools.  She taught at the Sarasota Ballet School, and Haven Dance School in Northport, Florida. She has been a regular guest teacher at The School of Canton Ballet, as well as many other schools all around the country. She is a faculty member of the national touring dance programs, Ballet Matters and TRIBE, directed by Jeff Wolfe and Seth Robinson, as well as a judge for their Fire and Ice Dance Scholarship Competition. Kelly is well versed in teaching all age ranges, ballet class, pointe class, variations, pas de deux, contemporary, choreography, as well as pilates and injury prevention classes.  She served as a faculty member at The Cincinnati Ballet School, and was heavily involved with outreach programs that focused on bringing ballet to struggling areas. While dancing professionally, Kelly also studied at the University of Cincinnati on full dance scholarship and was featured in Dance Teacher Magazine.  She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance performance and Pedagogy, as well as a heavy emphasis on the Spanish language (Kelly is a certified tutor) and emphasis on anatomy and physiology. She is well equipped to educate our dancers in Pilates, proper stretch and strength techniques and injury prevention. Some of her favorite roles include William Forsythe’s New Sleep pas de deux, “Russian Girl” in George Balanchine’s Serenade, and “Kitri” in Don Quixote.

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PALLAS SLUYTER

Ballet Teacher

BIO

A Los Angeles native, Pallas Sluyter started dancing at the age of four.

She received her first ballet scholarship at the age of eleven from The Ford Foundation/ New York City Ballet, followed by scholarships from The American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Ballet West, and a jazz dance scholarship from Dupree Dance Academy in Los Angeles. She’s had an extensive, international career performing in classical and neoclassical ballet, modern, and jazz dance companies, television, film, MTV videos, musical theater, and industrials.

Along with her performing career she has an extensive list of credits as a classical ballet and jazz dance teacher, choreographer, director and coach. In The Netherlands she directed her own school and production company, ”Pallas-Dance”. Pallas feels blessed to have received the finest training, from iconic teachers and choreographers, in various genres of dance. It is her aim to pass the torch of her knowledge on to her all of her students, from babies to professionals, to recreational dancers. Please read her dissertation on her philosophy and teaching style here:

https://pallassluyter.com/2016/01/18/philosophy-of-teaching-and-coaching-styles-in-classical-ballet-technique-for-professional-pre-professional-dancers-and-children/

In addition to her dance career, Pallas is also a producer, journalist, singer, writer, and musician.

She produces the podcast and Youtube channel “Pallas On Air” where she presents filmed interviews with famous and up and coming performing artists, with an emphasis on musicians and rock stars.

Additionally, Pallas has studied hatha yoga for many years, and as of June, 2018, her goal of becoming a certified yoga instructor is becoming realized.

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APRIL JAMERSON

Ballet & Modern Instructor
Children's Classes

BIO

April Fry Jamerson is originally from northeast Ohio where her love of dance began at a young age. April began dancing at the age of 5 eventually winning numerous Showstopper and regional competitions throughout her high school career. April went on to study dance at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, under the direction of Gladys Bailin. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with her BFA in 1989. After college, she moved to Los Angeles, California, where she studied and performed with the Rudy Perez Dance Company and was a company member of the Long Beach City Dance Theater. April also taught at the The Art of Dance in Carson during her time in California. The summer of 1992 brought a lot of changes for April as she married Dave Jamerson, a professional basketball player with the Houston Rockets, on July 25th and moved to Houston, Texas, in August of that year. She immediately began teaching and performing at The Christian Dance Center and was a founding member of His Company International—an international Christian dance company based out of Houston. Her work with His Company became a launch pad for teaching and performing throughout the country and around the world. April has been blessed to perform in places like St. Petersburg and Moscow, Russia; Auckland, New Zealand; Izmir, Turkey; Nairobi, Kenya; Lima, Peru; Highgate, Jamaica; and Oaxaca, Mexico, as well as in numerous events and conventions like the Hurricane Katrina Relief Benefit with T.D. Jakes and Lakewood Church. She is also a gifted choreographer and has set pieces on numerous dance teams nationally and internationally, most notably, Janie Parker, prima ballerina with the Houston Ballet. April was also the founder and director of Arts Alive—a youth performing arts camp in Austin, Texas, and the founder and director of Renovate Dance Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. April was blessed to see Renovate grow to include 180 students during her time leading the center. April is known for her contagious spirit and is passionate about instilling a love of movement into students and seeing each student reach their potential and become the best “they” can be. She is also passionate about seeing students develop a strong self worth, identity, and confidence through their work. April currently is planting Renovate Church in Leander, Texas, with her husband Dave and serves as the director of women’s and children’s ministry. April and Dave have been married for 24 years and have four children, Bret, age 22; Elijah, age 20; Trey, age 14; and Mia, age 12.

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SHELBY CARR

Contemporary Teacher
TDA Company Assistant Director

BIO

Over sixteen years of dance experience, much of which was spent at In-Step Dance, located in Spring, Texas under Dana Loving-Sparks.  I credit several teachers with instilling within me a deep love of dance including the late Steven Boyd, Lauren Anderson, Sheila Milner, Doug Caldwell, Derrick Schrader, Dorrell Martin and many others. I am trained in all styles of dance to include ballet, tap, jazz, modern, lyrical, contemporary, hip-hop and musical theater. I have danced all across the country in showcases, and most recently I performed in Beyoncé’s music video “Blow”. I have also danced with Evolution Dance Ensemble, a continuation of Steven Boyd’s Ensemble, and competed with In-step Dance Company, and Progressions Elite. I was a dynamic force in the dance competitive circuit for several years, winning multiple titles at regional and national competitions and conventions including top scholarships and awards at Tremaine, NUVO, LADM, WCDE, JUMP, Pulse, The Dance Awards, and The Streetz.

I have assisted world renowned choreographers at many of these conventions such as, Mandy Moore, and Doug Caldwell to name a few. I have taught master classes, camps, and choreographed at many studios in the Houston area. Teaching and choreographing is my passion, my technical background and flair for dramatic artistic interpretation has proved to be beneficial to the dancers I have worked with.  I love working with kids and teaching them the art of dance while instilling strong work ethics and technique in my dancers. I have received multiple choreography awards at both drill team, and dance competitions on the regional and national level, including “Choreographer of The Year” at KAR nationals in Biloxi, MS, July 2014.

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BRITTANY MORIN

Jazz - Contemporary
TDA Mini Company Director
Wedding Dance Choreographer

BIO

A former Star Dancer Member herself, Brittany was on the very first Star Dancers Competition Team in 1998.  After being a member of Star Dancers Teams for 5 years, she went on to become a McNeil Majestic.  She then moved to Tennessee where she continued her dance training working with teams in local schools, teaching and studying in a ballroom studio, and directing her own team in a local high school.  She was inspired by her experience and moved back to Austin where she worked as a studio teacher for four years.  Her expertise lies in her knowledge of both the studio and drill team world of dance.  She is able to very successfully combine the two and help her students reach their personal goals in dance at school and in the studio.  She is very driven to help her students improve.  Her work includes teaching, directing teams, choreography for teams, ensembles, and solos, as well as working as a judge and staff member for American Drill Team School at many competitions statewide.  Brittany’s greatest passion is to share her love of dance with others and to share in the process with her students as they learn and grow as dancers and young people. She is so honored to have been a part of the evolution of Star Dancers Studio into The Dance Academy.

 

 

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NATALIA BALINA-ZBOROWSKA

Ballet Teacher
Character Dance Teacher

BIO

Natalia is a native of Russia, where she graduated from Lidia Gilevich School of Ballet in her home town Tobolsk (Siberia). She then went on to graduate from the Institute of Fine Arts in Perm, Russia. Following, Natalia studied Choreography and Dance at University of Arts and Culture in St. Petersburgh, Russia. She later continued her education at Tulane University in Louisiana.

Natalia has performed at Panfilove’s Ballet, Perm , Russia (modern dance company), Wroclaw’s Musical Theater in Poland, Vanderbilt Dance Group in Nashville, TN, Sabato Gigantes TV Show, Komenka Ethnic Ensemble and the D-Project Modern Dance Company in New Orleans, La.

She taught Ballet and Character Dance at the New Orleans Ballet Association, and also taught at various Summer Intensives around New Orleans. Founder ,director and dance instructor of the Jay Dance Studio in North Country (NYS) where she taught Character Dance at Lake Placid School of Ballet and Dance. Natalia also taught ballet for Figure Skaters at the Lake Placid Olympic Center summer intensive. She has collaborated with North Country Ballet Ensemble and choreographed their Polichinells Dance for Production of Nutcracker. Natalia has worked as the choreographer for the children’s musical theater “Mountain to Mountain ” and has done choreography for Mitheir productions.

Natalia just recently moved to Austin with her husband and is looking forward to sharing her love of dance with the local dance community.

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JACLYN LEFEBRE

Tap & Jazz Instructor

BIO

Jaclyn LeFebre is originally from Dripping Springs, TX where she grew up training at Fusion Dance Company.  She passed commended Grade I- Advanced on the Cecchetti Council of America exams.  Upon graduating high school, Jaclyn was awarded a dance and academic scholarship to the University of Arizona. During her time at University of Arizona, Jaclyn performed works choreographed by George Balanchine, James Clouser, Susan Quinn, Michael Williams, and Sam Watson. Jaclyn graduated summa cum laude with a B.F.A. in dance and moved to Chicago for a spot in the Hubbard Street Scholarship program at Lou Conte Dance Studio. Jaclyn is a member of Actor’s Equity Association and has performed in many Chicago area theatre productions including 42nd Street, The Music Man, Timon of Athens at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Shout!, My One and Only, Now and Forever, and Mary Poppins at the Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire. Her favorite roles include Cha Cha DeGregorio in Grease, Cassandra in Cats, and Kristine in A Chorus Line at the Paramount Theatre. Jaclyn was a back up dancer for Beyonce on Oprah’s Farewell Episode, the leader of a flash mob for Estee Lauder, and performed in Chicago Freelance Dance. She is also a certified yoga and yoga sculpt instructor. Jaclyn taught at numerous studios around Chicago and most recently served as Director of Tap at The Academy of Dance Arts. Since moving back to Austin, Jaclyn has taught at various studios in the Austin area, and loves to spread her love and knowledge of dance with the next generation.

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KIMBERLY DAVIS

Acro Teacher
Dynamic Acro Director

BIO

A former Star Dancer member herself, Kimberly was on the Star Dancers team for two years in the early 2000s. After being a member of Star Dancers for 2 years, she returned to competitive gymnastics and competitive golf. Kimberly competed in gymnastics for 15 years herself, in both the Artistic discipline and the Trampoline and Tumbling discipline. She started coaching Artistic gymnastics at the age of 15, as well as coaching recreational tumbling classes. She took over her first girls USAG competitive team at age 19. Throughout college she coached competitive gymnastics teams in College Station, TX and traveled to competitions all over Texas with her teams. Upon returning to Austin in 2013, Kimberly began coaching at her native home gym once again. From 2013 to July 2018 she coached team Artistic gymnastics and USAG Trampoline and Tumbling. During her 16 years of coaching competitive gymnastics, her athletes won a combined 23 individual US National Trampoline & Tumbling titles, and her Artistic teams won a combined 50 Gold medals, 42 Silver medals, and 45 Bronze medals. While coaching competitive gymnastics, she also worked privately with competitive dancers to help them gain and master necessary acrobatic skills for their respected dance routines.

Kimberly has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Biology with a minor in Health Education, and a Master’s Degree in Health Education. She maintains USA Gymnastics Professional Instructor certifications in Artistic gymnastics, Acrobatic gymnastics and Trampoline and Tumbling.  Kimberly is USA Gymnastics Safety certified and SafeSport certified. The combination of her experience as both an athlete and a coach in multiple gymnastics disciplines (including the dance required in gymnastics), has aided her in her ability to breakdown skills and explain them in ways that work best for each athlete’s learning style. Kimberly’s greatest passion is watching athletes grow not only in their acrobatic and/or dance skills, but as a champion of life. She believes that teaching athletes resilience, discipline and good sportsmanship will not only help them to achieve success as an athlete, but also achieve great success throughout their life.

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BRITTANY GARZA

Children's Class and Jazz Instructor

BIO

My mission is to share the love and passion I have for dance with my students and to encourage them to follow their dreams and live their passions everyday.

Brittany’s love for dance began to shine at a young age. She put on performances for her family at home and loved to turn up the music and dance. At the age of 5, she began taking dance classes at Betty Johnson’s Dance Studio, now known as Bender’s Performing Arts Center. She loves all styles of dance and enjoyed dancing every day.

At the age of 12, her passion for ballet began to shine, and she transferred to a performing arts school, Arizona School for the Arts. There she studied ballet intensely while taking jazz and tap classes after school. At the age of 13, she received a scholarship to an after school program at Ballet Arizona. There she continued her ballet training directly after school while continuing to study jazz and tap at Betty Johnson’s.

During high school, she received full and partial scholarships to Ballet Arizona, Scottsdale School of Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, and Indiana University’s summer programs where she trained under successful professionals such as Donald Dadey, Sibylle Acatos-Dadey, Kee Juan Han, and Jamie Alexander. After transferring in her last year of high school, she graduated from Foothills Academy as Valedictorian and received a full academic scholarship to the University of Arizona.

She graduated from the University of Arizona in 2011 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance with Distinction where she studied from Susan Quinn Williams, Michael Williams, Amy Ernst, Melissa Lowe, Sam Watson, and Elizabeth George.

Brittany has performed in such roles as Chinese, Snow Corps, and Flowers in the Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Snow Queen, and several contemporary and graduate pieces while at the U of A.

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RAFAEL VILLASANA

Hip Hop Teacher, Quinceanera Dance Choreographer

BIO

Bio Coming Soon