2014 National Ballet Forum Faculty
Tom Alexander is an instructor of Jazz, Tap and Lyrical along with Judging and Choreographing nationwide for Dance Makers Inc., Chicago National Association of Dance Masters, Southern Association of Dance Masters, Dance Teachers United, Jazz On Tap Festival and Jazz On Tap Tour. He began dancing at age 13 with Ray Hollingsworth and has worked with stars such as Debbie Reynolds, June Allison, Dolly Parton, Rita Moreno, Marie Osmond, Ella Fitzgerald and Bob Hope. Tom’s beginnings on the professional stage were with Carowinds, Busch Gardens, Sanrio Puroland & Tokyo Disneyland theme parks. Tom also taught in Japan for Shojiku Kageki Dan and Osaka Kageki Dan dance companies. His most recent work for Crystal Cruises was choreographing their newest million dollar musical entitled “Standing Room Only.” Tom teaches for Buffa’s Dance Studio, a prestigious studio in the Washington DC area since 1984.
Melissa Anderson joined DanceWorks Milwaukee in 2002 and has had enjoyed every step on this creative, expressive, and kinetic journey. She has performed in Soloist and Principal roles with companies as diverse as the Milwaukee Ballet, Ballet Teatro Municipal de San Juan, Southern Ballet Theatre, and the Icelandic National Ballet, among others. Melissa’s early dance training was the Central Wisconsin School of Ballet in Wausau, Wi. She continued her studies at the Chicago City Ballet School, the Ruth Page Foundation and was a trainee with the Milwaukee Ballet and the direction of Ted Kivitt. Some of Melissa’s acclaimed roles include the dramatic title role in Donald Mahler’s The Little Mermaid, the dual role of Clara/Sugar Plum Fairy The Nutcracker, the lively French ballerina in Anthony Tudor’s Gala Performance, the virtuosi Rye and Wheat variations from Michael Smuin’s The Tempest, the playful Swanhilda in Coppelia, Cerrito in Robert Joffrey’s Pas De Deeses and the athletic pas de deux by Asaf Messerer Spring Waters and the adorable shepherdess Doll in Lisa de Ribere’s The Nutcracker.
Michael Foley is considered a master teacher in the field of modern dance, and has been teaching and choreographing internationally for over 20 years. His work has been commissioned by major international dance companies from the U.S., Mexico, Ireland, Italy, Cuba, Panama, and by the Cirque du Soleil organization. He is a long-time faculty member at the Bates Dance Festival, as well as teaching at the National Ballet of Cuba, Steps/NYC and The Amsterdam Dance Center. Michael is the recipient of a Fulbright Award, a Kennedy Center/American Theater Festival Award, and was the Ruth Page Visiting Artist at Harvard University. He currently divides his time between Paris, France where he directs a major study abroad program for college-age dancers, and the University of South Florida, where he is a Professor of Dance. Michael received his MFA from the University of Washington.
Laura Gates grew up in the Chicago suburbs and holds degrees in Dance and Psychology from the University of Iowa. While at Iowa, she was privileged to have worked with many gifted artists including: Francoise Martinet, David Berkey, Randy Duncan, and Mauricio Wainrot. In 1999, she joined Thodos Dance Chicago. Highlights of her six year performance tenure with TDC include performing in Dance for Life, meeting and working with Ann Reinking, and touring with the company to Turkey. Laura is passionate about teaching dance and has taught in the Chicago area for over 15 years. She has been an adjudicator for the State Wide Dance Competition and on guest faculty at Northeastern Illinois University and CNADM. She is proud to be working with the talented artists of Thodos Dance Chicago as rehearsal director and ballet mistress.
Brandon Koepsell is a native of Detroit, MI where he began his training at the age of 7 at the Turning Pointe School for the Performing Arts. After high school, he spent time performing with Companie Coline in Istre, France, where he was able to perform in several historic theaters throughout the south of France. Brandon also spent time training in Los Angeles and assisting choreographer Denise Leitner. He recently worked as the assistant choreographer on the movie set of “Oz, the Great and Powerful” where he was able to work with director Sam Raimi and actors James Franco and Mila Kunis. Brandon’s true passion is teaching and has been training and choreographing for students of all ages for the past 7 years in the areas of ballet, contemporary jazz and partnering.
Reagan Marie Leonard is an innovative educator, choreographer and motivator. Her DVD series Kidgroovz, Theatrix, and Jazz Across the Floor, were #1 sellers and are considered “must haves” by teachers across the country. Versatile and energetic, Reagan’s teaching style is sincere, bold, and from the heart. Her passion is shaping the dancers of tomorrow and continuing the importance of arts education. Reagan’s students have gone on to professional dance careers, winning national dance competitions, receiving college scholarships, and most importantly, carry a love of dance and a strong work ethic every step of the way. Her dance studio, Dance Space Performing Arts Academy not only fulfills a life-long dream of Reagan’s, it allows her to share her spirit, joy, and passion with her students and their families.
Libby Lovejoy holds a BFA and MFA in Dance from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. She has a diverse background of study in many dance idioms including classical ballet jazz, modern, tap, character, musical theatre, ethnic, period movement, effort/shape techniques and Labanotation. Libby’s many years of classical ballet include study at the American Ballet Theatre School and the Royal Academy of Dancing in London. She grew up in southwest Louisiana where she trained with Lady Leah Hathaway and was a charter member of the Lake Charles Civic Ballet. Many of Libby’s 30+ years of teaching have been spent honing her skills in the classroom at Dancers Workshop in Austin where she has taught classes to students ranging in age from 1st grade through adult. She co-directs Ovation, a youth ballet company in residency at Dancers Workshop. Libby is a former Miss Louisiana and a 4th runner-up to Miss America.
Nick Pupillo currently holds the position of Artistic Director of Visceral Dance Chicago. Pupillo graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science in Ballet, under the direction of Jacques Cesbron, Virginia Cesbron, Leslie Peck and Violette Verdy. Additional performance credits include various roles with the Ruth Page Foundation Nutcracker, Brass Theater featuring the Star of Indiana, Dance Chicago, Schaumburg Dance Ensemble, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Stars of Dance Chicago, and Dance for Life. He has worked personally with many esteemed choreographers, including Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Ron DeJesus, Randy Duncan, Mark Godden, Jon Lehrer. He has received various awards for his choreography, including "The Dance Chicago 2005 Outstanding Choreography Award" and "The Dance Chicago 2012 Outstanding Choreographer Award, Body of Work."
Tom Ralabate is an Associate Professor of Dance at University of Buffalo where he served as Assistant Chair, Dance Director and director of Zodiaque Dance Company. He has taught for every major dance organization throughout the United States and Canada including Joffrey Ballet Midwest and Bermuda Union of Teachers. Honored for his contributions to dance and establishment of educational standards for dance, he is the recipient of CNADM’s Artistic Achievement Award and Adele Artinian Awards; the prestigious Ivy Hall Foundation Award, first awarded to Gene Kelly, and presented to him by DMA; twice awarded the Angel Award by Jazz Dance World Congress; the recipient of the first College of Arts and Sciences Award for Excellence in Teaching in the area of Arts at UB; and in 2006, he was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities. DMA has established an educational scholarship in the name of Thomas P. Ralabate.