2014 Training School Faculty
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.
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.
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.