2015 Training School Faculty
Valentina Barsukova received her Vaganova ballet training in the Ukraine beginning with the Kharkov Ballet School and graduating from Kiev Academy of Ballet. She danced professionally with the Kharkov Ballet Theatre performing in productionsincluding Sleeping Beauty, La Sylphide, Sone of the Forest, Carmen, Don Quixote, and Nutcracker. During her time as a professional dancer, Valentina furthered her studies receiving a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Choreography and a Master’s Degree in engineering. In 1994, Valentina moved to the United States and taught for Geiger Classical Ballet Academy, and Big City Dance Center. She then taught for Juliana’s Academy of Dance staging and choreographing ballet productions including Chipollino, Doctor Dolittle and Cinderella. Her students have been accepted into residential programs—Bolshoi Ballet Academy; Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington, DC; Joffrey Academy of Dance and Canada’s National Ballet School. Valentina is extremely proud of the students she’s fostered and who have gone on to work professionally in companies including Stanislavsky Theatre (Moscow), Miami City Ballet (Miami), and Complexions Contemporary Ballet (New York).
Julie Cartier has invested her last 25 years to all things dance. She first came to Chicago via the concert dance scene, performing with some of Chicago’s finest dance companies including Chi-town Jazz Dance, The Lynda Martha Dance Company and River North Dance Company. Julie’s diverse background has presented her with a wide range of theatrical projects both as performer & choreographer. She has performed with The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and, on a lark, performed on The Today Show! She has recently choreographed for Celebrity Cruise Lines newest ships and continues to create new work for companies throughout the US. Julie started Soul-2-Soles Youth Tap Company at Dancecenter North in Libertyville, IL, and continues to teach for some of the finest studios in the Chicagoland area and abroad, including a 10-year stint at Barat College, Dancenter Evanston, Danceworks of Milwaukee, Gus Giordano’s Dance Center, and the Lou Conte Dance Studio.
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.
Diane Gudat is a freelance writer, teacher and choreographer from Indianapolis, Indiana. She now teaches at the studio she owned, The Dance Company for more than 26 years and has been a dance educator for more than 40 years.
She is the author of seven dance books specifically designed for the dance teacher: The Time Step Dictionary Volumes One and Two, Acrobatics for the Dance Studio, Variables for Teaching Tap, Music Theory for the Dance Studio, and her latest series of books, Step by Step; Book One; Beginning and Advanced Beginning, Step by Step: Book Two; Intermediate and Advanced Intermediate, She also has also produced the Flash Tap product line including Flash Tap Cramproll and Time Step Cards. She is a contributor to Dance Studio LIfe Magazine and appears on DanceLifeTV.com.
Diane has taught for Teacher’s Training Schools all over the United States and Canada. She has served as a faculty member for numerous regional and national conventions and workshops, has been a guest artist and award-winning choreographer for many private studios, companies and musicals. She is an adjudicator, special awards judge and host for many regional and national dance competitions.
Diane served as a coach for the 2002 World Champion USA Tap team, is an internationally certified judge and has judged the 2013 IDO World Tap Championships in Riesa, Germany. She has taught and adjudicated for American Dance Awards in South Africa and runs a teacher’s training school in Pretoria, South Africa.
She was the recipient of the 2009 CNADM Artistic Achievement Award and received the 2010 Friendship Award from American Dance Awards.
Diane’s commitment to continuing education has inspired her to gather, organize and share information for the next generation of Dance Educators and performers.
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.
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 danced five seasons with Thodos Dance Chicago, performed with Chicago Repertory Ballet, 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 “the rate at which i am” was toured internationally with DanceWorks Chicago - being one of six finalists in the DanceMoves Choreography Competition. This past year, in collaboration with Jacqueline Stewart, their duet “A Forgotten Rhyme” was chosen to showcase in NYC as a part of the Dance Gallery series. Other choreography ventures include, Dancing in the Parks, Western Michigan University, Piel Morena Contemporary Dance, Thodos Dance Chicago, as well as creating pieces for several Chicagoland studios. Josh has been a guest teacher for Chicago National Association Dance Masters and has taught masterclasses throughout the United States. Josh is currently pursuing his Masters of Fine Arts in Dance at the Ohio State as a recipient of the Susan Huntington Dean’s Distinguished University Fellowship.
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.
Julie Nakagawa is the Artistic Director and Co-founder of DanceWorks Chicago. At the invitation of Lou Conte, Julie joined the staff of Lou Conte Dance Studio in January 1994 and rose to the position of Associate Director. In addition, she led Hubbard Street 2 from its inception in 1997 through February 2007 as the artistic director of the second company of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, nurturing young dancers and establishing the National Choreographic Competition to provide creative opportunities for emerging dance makers. A sought-after teacher, Julie has taught classes for dance studios, university programs, and companies, nationally and internationally. She has served as a co-chair of the Artists Council for Dance/USA, has been a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, and is a member of the Citizens Committee for Chicago High School for the Arts. The Chicago Foundation for Women’s Asian American Leadership Council has honored Julie for her work in the creative arts. Julie is proud to be a member of the Board of Trustees of Dance/USA, the national service organization for professional dance.
Tyne Shillingford began her dance training in Tulsa, OK and has studied on scholarship at The Ailey School and Broadway Dance Center in New York City. In 2007, Ms. Shillingford graduated with departmental honors from Webster University in St. Louis, MO with a BFA in Dance. Upon graduation, she moved to Chicago, IL where she performed with several companies and as a freelance artist. Tyne serves as the Assistant Artistic Director/ choreographer/ company member of Chicago Verge Dance Theatre. Her professional choreography has been featured at Chicago Freelance Dance and EXCHANGE Festival in Tulsa, OK where her piece Mind of Darkness received an Honorable Mention as one of the “Best of the Festival.” As an educator, Ms. Shillingford has over ten years of teaching experience, training dancers and creating award-winning choreography in ballet, jazz, modern, contemporary, tap and hip-hop. Tyne currently resides in Tulsa, OK and serves as the head of the dance department at Holland Hall School.
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.