2014 Summer 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.
Richard Ashworth began dancing at the age of 2, receiving most of his training at the Legein Dance Academy of Performing Arts and conventions around the New England Area. During his time at University of Buffalo, Richard performed and choreographed for the university's Zodiaque Dance Company (dir. Tom Ralabate) as well as the Zodiaque Studio Ensemble and Young Choreographers Showcases. He has apprenticed with the Lehrerdance Company, was a guest principal of the Configurations Dance Theatre, and has performed with the Pick of the Crop dance company. He has also established himself as a teacher, joining the faculty of several dance education organizations including Dance Masters of America and the Interdanza organization of Mexico. Richard participates in international hip-hop battles and has professionally busked (street performed) on street corners around the world.
Annette AtWood-Piper has been teaching dance correctives and anatomy for teachers and dancers for over 35 years. She was a pioneer in the field of dance medicine having treated dancers’ injuries and technical problems in both the physical therapy clinic and the dance studio. Annette is a licensed physical therapist, a member of the American Physical Therapy Association, the International Association of Dance Medicine Science, the Royal Academy of Dancing, Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. She was a faculty member for the American Dance Festival, the University of Minnesota Dance Department in Minneapolis and a frequent lecturer at dance organizations.
Connie Fagan-Sweeney has been dancing for 19 years. She has advanced level mastery in the art of Tap, Jazz, Ballet, Modern and Hip Hop. Growing up in LaGrange, IL, with Jo’s Footwork Studio, she trained under Jay Fagan (Tap), Jackie Farina (Ballet), Corey Nagel (Modern), Mari Jo Irbe (Jazz) and Kirby Reed(Hip Hop). She continues her training at Lou Conte’s Studio. She is currently on staff at Jo’s Footwork Studio in Western Springs, and Dance Workshop in Orland Park. She has worked with “Kirby Reed/Ascension Project,” been a member of “Matrix Dance Improv,” and “Rhythm Iss,” an all female tap ensemble. She is also one-half of “Sibling Rivalry,” a tap duo featuring her brother Jay Fagan. She has been a member of Same Planet Different World for 4 years.
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.
Josh Manculich has had the opportunity to perform works by Douglas Bentz, Jennifer Keller, Kiesha Lalama-White, Peter LeBreton Merz, Whitney Moncrief, Caroline Skjorshammer, and Paul Sutherland. Joshua's performance credits include The Pillow Project, an innovative Pittsburgh-based company under the direction of Pearl Ann Porter, and JMT-JLS Productions, under the direction of The A.W.A.R.D. Show! winners Jessica Miller Tomlinson (2009) and Jacqueline Stewart (2010). While in Chicago, he has danced three seasons with Thodos Dance Chicago, participated in Autumn Eckman's Dance Chance, and in the summer of 2012, was fortunate to be a founding performance member of Pursuit Productions, an up-and-coming dance theater force, under the direction of Ahmad Simmons and Kacie Smith. Josh's choreography and class structure are known throughout the Chicagoland area for their emotional resonance.
Jeremy Plummer is a director, choreographer and aerial creator and choreographer with shows running all around the world that feature his unique blend of aerial artistry and live performance. His company C5 has had their work featured as a part of Chicago’s Dance for Life for the past 5 years. Jeremy Plummer was a full company member with River North Chicago Dance Company where he danced for several years performing the choreography of Sherry Zunker, Frank Chaves, Randy Duncan, and Daniel Ezralow in addition to choreographing for the company himself. He may also be seen in the company’s Emmy nominated documentary River North Rising and is featured in the films Vanilla City, The Visitor, and Road to Perdition. Jeremy has directed and choreographed over 15 shows and musical reviews, also numerous product launches and national sales meetings for Fortune 500 companies.
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." Jeremy was recognized with CNADM's 2013 Artistic Achievement Award.
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.