Convention 2013 Faculty
Victoria Barlow began her training in Rockford, IL with Janet Quilici, Ken Van Heidecke, and Joy Xu, former principal of the Shanghai ballet. During her tenure with the Rockford Dance Company, she danced soloist and principal roles and toured China, performing at the International Ballet in Bejing. She was a member of Bryant Ballet for six seasons as well as Chicago Ballet for two. As a freelance artist, Victoria has been seen in numerous productions of the Nutcracker throughout Chicagoland. She is currently in sixth year on faculty at Dance Center Evanston and celebrating sixteen years of teaching for Dancecenter North, where she is also head of the ballet department. Her guest teaching credits include Thodos Dance Chicago and Midwest Cecchetti Council Workshops.
Alex Black grew up dancing at his family owned dance studio, Dean/Black School of Performing Arts, in Midland Michigan. Always a successful competitor Alex was also a featured dancer for the Hip Hop choreographer Shane Sparks in Los Angeles at Carnival. Alex began auditioning for Broadway shows which led him to one of his proudest credits, a role in the North American tour of the Broadway show Movin’ Out, choreographed by Twyla Tharp. After the tour ended, Alex began dancing for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, which allowed him to see most of the world. In doing so he ended up assisting Tabitha and Napoleon of NappyTabs, Shane Sparks, John Crutchman, Alan Shirfield and Jamie J. Alex then began teaching master classes and workshops throughout Canada and the United States.
Margie Dziadzka has been dancing, teaching, and choreographing for over 30 years. She studied music, dance and theater at Illinois Wesleyan University, where she received her BA in Music. Margie has studied with renowned Spanish dancers Edo, Ciro, Paco Alonso, Juanjo Linares, Timo Lozano, Carmela Greco, Vida Peral, Manolo Rivera, Libby Komaiko, and Teresa Cullen, and was a performing member and soloist with “Teresa y los Preferidos” for many years. Besides continuing to teach Flamenco, tap, and modern at The DanceXpress Dance Studio in Arlington Heights, she is currently the Artistic Director and choreographer for Flamenco Expresivo Dance Ensemble, in residence at The DanceXpress.
Heather Fraelick began her professional life as a dancer after graduating with honors from Columbia College Chicago in 2000. Her performing credits include Thodos Dance Chicago, Estradanza, and she had the privilege of working with Colleen Halloran, Jon Leher, Altin Naska and Amy Wilkinson. Throughout her career, Heather experienced several dance related injuries that left her unable to perform and move with freedom.As a result, she decided to learn about healing by expanding her knowledge of human anatomy, kinesiology and massage therapy.In pursuit of this interest, Heather attended the New School for Massage; Bodywork and Healing in Chicago, IL. Since her graduation in 2004, Heather has worked in wellness centers, chiropractic offices and high end spas, providing clients with sessions that are relaxing yet therapeutic in their intent.
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, Ms. Gates 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 the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters. She is proud to be working with the talented artists of Thodos Dance Chicago as rehearsal director and ballet mistress.
Lindsay LaFountain's training began at Munson Williams Proctor Institute School of Dance. She received her BFA in Modern Dance Performance from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. She has also studied at Philadanco and Koresh School of Dance. After graduating Lindsey continued working under the direction of Zane Booker as a dancer, and as Artistic Associate for The Smoke, Lilies & Jade Arts Initiative (SLJ). In 2009 she moved to Chicago to join Giordano Dance Chicago. Internationally, Lindsey has guest taught and choreographed at Arte Proyecto in Guatemala City for the past three years. She is on faculty at Foster Dance Studios in Evanston IL, and is a certified Zumba instructor. Lindsey is currently performing in her fourth season with Giordano Dance Chicago and is honored to be a part of the legacy.
Kara McDonald graduated from Texas Christian University in 2007 with a BFA in Ballet and Modern Dance. After graduation she moved back to her hometown of Chicago. Since she moved back to Chicago she has enjoyed teaching and choreographing dance for all ages in the Chicago area. She has performed with project 606 Dance Company, Esoteric Dance and various independent choreographers in Chicago. Kara was introduced to yoga in college as a way to compliment her dance training. In the winter of 2011 she was reintroduced to yoga and began to dive deeper into her yoga journey. Kara completed 200 hours of teacher training through Core Power Yoga in the winter of 2012. She currently teaches yoga at Xsport Fitness and Core Power Yoga.
Josh Manculich studied dance at Point Park University and, while there, was a recipient of the Conservatory’s Outstanding Graduate Award for his artistic involvement in the community. He had the opportunity to perform works by Jennifer Keller, Caroline Skjorshammer, Kiesha Lalama-White, Peter LeBreton Merz, Paul Sutherland, Douglas Bentz, and Whitney Moncrief. Joshua’s performance credits include The Pillow Project, an innovative Pittsburgh-based company under the direction of Pearl Ann Porter, JMT-JLS Productions, under the direction of A.W.A.R.D. show winners Jessica Miller Tomlinson (2009) and Jacqueline Stewart (2010). Josh has danced three seasons at Thodos Dance Chicago and is looking forward to his fourth year at TDC. This summer he was fortunate to be in his first film, as well as 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 is known throughout the Chicagoland area for its emotional resonance and he is currently on staff at several dance studios.
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.
Safiyyah Rasool has trained at the Atlanta Ballet School, Dance 411studio, Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio, Broadway Dance Center, Center Stage Studio, Michael Thomas Dance Center and Studio Dionne. She has trained under talented hip hop choreographers such as Tabitha and Napoleon Dumo, Luam Keflezgy, World of Dance “Mos Wanted” crew, Ian Eastwood, Jaquel Knight and Coy Mccall as well as jazz instructors Leon Von Brown and Daisy Yunju. She has worked as an independent choreographer and instructor for the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts (ArtsReach, Arts In Healing, and Arts Initiative programs), Governor School for the Arts, Dance Masters of the Bluegrass, The Galt House, Louisville Ballet, University of Louisville Black Family Conference and Metro Parks. Safiyyah is co-owner of Safiyyah Dance Company and dance works include America’s Best Dance Crew judge Lil Mama World of Dance Chicago performance, Ray J MultiFest performance, Kentucky Center ArtsReach, Light up Louisville and Krunkfest.
Thommie Retter recently had the honor of performing over a 3-1/2 year period in front of 1.5 million theatregoers in Broadway’s Billy Elliot The Musical. He has ongoing classes in NYC that are full of child celebrities from TV, film and stage. Thommie is one of the producers of the coming-of-age feature film Contest “The Movie”, a film that deals with the tough topic of teenaged bullying along with other issues associated with adolescence. Being a part of the creative team at MusicWorks Unlimited since its inception in 2003 has been a creative outlet for another passion of Thommie’s song writing. With song placements in a variety of films, TV shows and radio spots, he has no problem finding the pulse of the youth of today, putting it into words and giving it that “Mr. Thommie touch” that has everybody excited about dance and ready to take on the world. Learn more about Thommie at www.thommieretter.com.
Becca Retter creates the most sought after children’s work out there! She is proud to carry on the work of the legendary dance educator, Mr. Al Gilbert, creating age-appropriate songs and dances. Her products, Dance Advantage and Dance Adventure, give you all the tools you need for your classes and recital. Becca has been featured in Dance Studio Life Magazine for her excellence in dance education. She is a master teacher recognized by many dance organizations including Dancemakers Inc., MusicWorks Dance Teacher Connection, Dance Masters of America and Dance Educators of America. Becca has performed at the House of Blues in Los Angeles; Las Vegas and on MTV, and she has danced internationally in Canada, Denmark, Guatemala and Russia. Becca’s love and enthusiasm for dance makes her a favorite among students and teachers and she always enjoys sharing her knowledge and love for dance education.
Juan Sanchez studied with renowned teachers such as Stanley Williams, Peter Martins, Merrill Ashley, Gayle Young, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Benjamin Harkarvy and was protege to Robert Christopher. He finalized his training at The Joffrey School of Ballet under Fransesca Corkle, Trinette Singleton and John Magnus. Juan has danced with The Joffrey Ballet, Alvin Ailey Repertory Company, Connecticut Ballet Theatre, Eglevsky Ballet, as well as with the London Festival Ballet, Frankfort State Opera Ballet and the Ontario Ballet Theatre. His choreography has been presented on stages across America and abroad from classical ballets as Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty to contemporary ballets set to Gershwin, Berstein and Brubeck.