National Ballet Forum 2013 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 a prestigious studio in the Washington DC area since 1984.
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.
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.
Stacy Joy Keller joined The Joffrey Ballet in August 1999 and retired in June 2011. Ms. Keller studied ballet in summer programs with San Francisco Ballet and the School of American Ballet. As a member of The Joffrey Ballet, she has enjoyed performing in many ballets including Chorito in Pas Des Deesses, the fast pas de deux in Arpino’s Suite Saint Saens, and the American Girl in Parade. Her other repertoire includes Birthday Variations, The Clowns, Confetti, Italian Suite, L?Apres Midi D’Un Faune, Laurencia Pas d’Action, Les Noces, Les Presages, Miracle Interrupted, Montones I, The Nutcracker, N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz!, Petrouchka, Reflections, Square Dance, Tensile Involvement, Viva Vivaldi and A Wedding Bouquet. Ms. Keller also appeared in Robert Altman’s 2003 film The Company. She has also instructed at the Sarasota Ballet School’s Venice Program and various studios throughout Illinois.
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.
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.
Harrison McEldowney has created original dances for special occasions of the 97th Birthday Celebration of noted dance historian and friend Ann Barzel, and for the past four years for Chicago’s Dance for Life. His work is featured in their documentary of the same name. Harrison has done film, television, concert dance, played Broadway, Off-Broadway, the West End, Carnegie Hall, and danced in the Barcelona Olympics? Closing Ceremonies. He has choreographed for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street 2, River North Chicago Dance Company (his work was featured on all three companies’ televised specials), DanceWorks, the Civic Ballet of Chicago, the Cerqua/ Rivera Art Experience, Ballet Met, Louisville Ballet, Ballet Ensemble of Texas, American Repertory Ballet, Configurations, Omaha Theater Ballet, Ballet Nebraska, Eisehower Dance Ensemble, Chicago Lyric Opera, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Harrison is the inaugural recipient of the Prince Prize and has received the Ruth Page, After Dark, and Choo-San Goh awards for choreography. Harrison is an Emmy nominee and a Creative Director for Chicago’s Wilson Dow Group and Under the Radar.
Robert McKee is a graduate of Point Park University and former company member of Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago. He has had an interest in teaching and choreography since a very young age. Influenced by percussive rhythms and dynamic shapes, he finds himself always inspired to create. Robert is on faculty at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago and teaches throughout the Chicagoland area. He has worked with The Giordano Project, McDonald Dance Academy, Barrington High School, Northshore School of Dance Performing Ensemble, Giordano Juniors, The Giordano on Giordano choreography showcase, Brookfield Riverside High School and Northern Illinois University.
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 takes on the role as 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”.
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.