WHO WE ARE

Kate Louer

Owner | Instructor

Originally from Ithaca, NY Kate has been training in Ballet, Jazz, Tap, contemporary and Hip Hop for more than 20 years. After Graduating high school she went on the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Performance and Choreography. While in college Kate studied and performed with many well know Choreographers including, John Lehere, Charmaine Hunter, Richard Havey, Gail Gilbert, Douglass Dunn and Susan Quinn. Performing in many concerts throughout college Kate was also chosen to perform with Bay Area Dance Company out of San Francisco; the Choreography Showcase in Madrid, Spain; and The International Dance and Gymnastics Festival in Kiel, Germany. On scholarship at UNLV she was awarded outstanding performer and choreographer her senior year. Moving to Chicago straight out of college in 2005 Kate was asked to be on scholarship with Thodos Dance Chicago in their summer intensive and then moved on the be a full time trainee with the company. After Thodos she then became a member of RASA Dance Chicago where she worked with them for 2 years. After dancing professional she found teaching and choreographing to be her new passion. She has taught throughout the city of Chicago as well as all the United States choreographing and teaching master classes. Loving to teach and choreograph, she feels it is a way to express herself and spread her love and knowledge of dance to others. Kates other passion in life is being a wife and a mom to her husband Mike and 2 amazing Children Abby and Ryan. She wants to thank all of her family for their support in making her dream of a studio come to life.

Meredith Schultz

Owner | Instructor

Growing up in the competition circuit, Meredith was trained in multiple disciplines including tap, jazz, ballet, modern, and contemporary. While attending college she was a guest artist for Dayton Ballet and a member of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company’s 2nd company. After graduating from University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music with a BFA in ballet, Meredith moved to Chicago to pursue her dance career. She came to Chicago on scholarship to study at Giordano Dance School, and was then promoted to Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago’s main company, where she spent six amazing seasons. She has performed works by Mia Michaels, Ron De Jesus, Randy Duncan, Christopher Huggins, Davis Robertson, Rennie Harris and more. While dancing professionally at Giordano’s, Meredith also taught master classes nationally and internationally in Germany, Austria, Turkey, Guatemala and Hawaii. Meredith has been teaching and choreographing all over the country for the past 9 years, teaching dance for the Science and Health program in underserved Chicago Public schools, and has been part of the Master Faculty for Jazz Dance World Congress Kid’s Jazz. She currently adjudicates for the world renowned dance competition, World – Class Talent Experience and is on master faculty for the national workshop, Ambition. Meredith’s passion comes out through her teaching and mentoring, and she prides herself on her ability to help student’s pursue their dreams.

Nicki Niemet

Resident Choreographer

Nicki Niemet has previously performed with Design Dance Company located in Chicago, IL. Design Dance Company has been honored with numerous prestigious awards including Prelude Midwest Dance Competition Champions and Placed top ten at U.S Hip Hop Championships hosted by Hip Hop International. She recently was a performing member with another Chicago based dance company, Purifyied Entertainment, established in 2008.Prior to her recent success, Nicki started dancing at the age of 15 training under Hip Hop Connxion Dance Company from 2003-2009, A team continuously placing top ten in the nation at Hip Hop International 2005-2008. Nicki has also been seen performing in numerous Dance Chicago’s and was previously part of the Dare Dance Program, inspiring kids all over the Chicago land Area. In fall 2009, Nicki had the privilege of performing alongside the Black Eyed Peas at Oprah’s 24th Season Kickoff Party where she assisted to teach 21,000 people, the largest flash mob in history. Nicki just recently had a principle-dancing role in Bollywood’s 2013 box office film, DHOOM 3. She has been seen in numerous music videos and concert performances throughout her career with artists including: Krewella, Pheave, J’Moss, John Blu & JP Roquet. In addition, She was blessed with the opportunity to perform on BET’s 2013 Celebration Of Gospel along side Grammy Award winning artist, Smokie Norful. Nicki’s passion for dance is continuously growing stronger and stronger and although her back ground primarily consists of street styles, she appreciates and trains in all styles of the art.

Cesar G. Salinas

Instructor

Cesar began his formal studies in dance with Zohar School of Dance, under the direction of Ehud Krauss in Palo Alto, CA. There he wasintroduced to the classic jazz styles of Gus Giordano, Luigi, and Matt Mattox. He moved to Oregon where he studied at Willamette Ballet under Deborah Higginbotham. Cesar went on to further his training at the University at Buffalo, where he graduated with a BFA in Dance. He received a scholarship to the Giordano Dance School in Chicago, IL, in 2004 and 2005. From 2006 until 2011, Cesar joined the Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago as a full company member performing throughout the United States and Europe. During his tenure, he was proud to be a part of GJDC’s educational outreach program, teaching Science and Health dance classes to 4th and 5th grade students in underserved public schools in Chicago. Cesar was honored to be on the cover of Dance Magazine (August 2007) and to teach at the Jazz Dance World Congress in 2007, 2009, and 2012. Cesar recently toured the world with Royal Caribbean cruise lines as a performer in the Broadway production of Saturday Night Fever as well as an aerialist, traveling throughout the Caribbean, the Baltic, Scandinavia, Iceland, Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Malta, Oman and Dubai. He was honored to be chosen as a soloist for BalaSole Dance Company performing “Hunted” in New York City’s Alvin Ailey Citigroup where he received rave reviews, “richly physical performance that drew the audience’s unfettered enthusiasm” – Philip Gordon. Cesar is an adjudicator for the elite dance competition, World-Class Talent Experience and is on Master Faculty for the sister workshop, AMBITION. He currently serves on Faculty at Foster Dance Studios and The Joffrey Academy of Dance. Cesar is currently the artistic Assistant for Giordano Dance Chicago.

Benjamin HolLiday Wardell

Instructor

Benjamin Holliday Wardell is the founder and Creative Director of The Cambrians. His dance training began in ballet and has since widened to encompass an ever broader range of techniques. In his fourteen years as a professional dancer, Ben has had the privilege to work with many of the world’s leading choreographers and movement researchers on innovative performance ventures. His career began with The Cincinnati Ballet, where he achieved the rank of soloist before moving to San Francisco to dance with the Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet. Working with LINES allowed Ben to expand further into his understanding of the human body and the many ways to create dance performance. Moving from San Francisco, he joined Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. As a dancer with the company for over four years, Ben was able to work directly with global leaders in the field of dance. Since leaving Hubbard Street four years ago, he has focused on creating new methods for the construction of dance productions. These methods center on generating work through large-scale, complex collaborations in which members of numerous dance genres and communities contribute their knowledge and creativity to the creation of singular performance processes. The purpose of these collaborations is to create high-quality, progressive art without sacrificing comprehensibility and accessibility to audiences from a broad array of communities. Ben is also currently an ensemble member with Lucky Plush Productions under the direction of Julia Rhoads. Ben is the recipient of a 2014 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship for Dance and a 2015 Lab Artist Award from Chicago Dancemakers Forum.

Sofia Gehbauer

Instructor

Sofia Gehbauer has always had a passion for all styles of dance but didn’t find her niche until she took a hip hop class from from Suavé, artistic Director of Hip Hop Connxion, when the company taught a class at her high school in 2004. She trained with Hip Hop Force and Hip Hop ConnXion Elite from 2004-2009. While on ConnXion, Sofia had many opportunities and performed all over the nation including Hip Hop International. Some of Sofia’s other credits include: numerous performances for the Chicago SKY, dancing with Lupe Fiasco at the MLS halftime performance, traveling to Orlando to perform for a worldwide McDonald’s convention, and performing at several Dance Chicago’s. In 2009, Sofia was asked to join the up and coming Chicago hip hop company, Design. While dancing with Design, they were named 1st in the Midwest at Prelude Dance competition for 2 consecutive years as well as receiving 2nd & 3rd place at WOD, and 10th in the US at Hip Hop International. Sofia was also a member with The Puzzle League who took 1st place at WOD in 2013.  Sofia teaches at various studios, performs with various groups and choreographers, and has had the opportunity to co-teach a workshop alongside Jillian Meyers.

Hanna Brictson

Instructor

Ms. Brictson grew up dancing and training in both Elgin and Chicago. A graduate from Larkin High School’s Performing Arts High School Hanna accepted a company position with River North Dance Chicago in 2004. Within her 12 years at RNDC, Ms. Brictson has choreographed on the company, been rehearsal assistant, co-choreographed with director Frank Chaves, and performed all over the world in works by Robert Battle, Mauro Astolfi, Ivan Perez, Sidra Bell, Lauri Stallings, Harrison McEldowney, Sherry Zunker, Frank Chaves, Luca Signoretti, Anton Rudakov, Julia Rhodes,and Kevin Iega Jeff. Hanna has also worked with ODC in San Francisco and Northwest Dance Project in Portland. Hanna is currently in her second year as a company dancer and assistant rehearsal director with Visceral Dance Chicago. Along with dancing Hanna explores teaching and choreography, setting works on her own Youth company that she directs called “Integrity Dance Company”, River North Dance Chicago, MADCO Dance Company St.Louis, Dance In The Parks Chicago, high school dance teams, competitive dance studios through out the country and National Television Commercials. She has taught in Israel, Russia, Germany, and all over the U.S.. Miss Brictson has been recognized for her dedication to the dance art form and her career in Dance Magazine on two separate occasions and is also a former Princess Grace Nominee

Alex Neil-Sevier

Instructor

Alex Neil-Sevier began her dance training in Western Michigan, competing in various regional competitions and attending dance and theatre intensives in New York during the summers. She also trained in the Cecchetti Ballet Method and passed student exam grades I-IV. Alex graduated in 2011 with her Bachelor’s in Dance from Columbia College Chicago. While at Columbia, she had the opportunity to perform in works by Pam McNeill, Rebecca Lemme and several fellow students. In addition to performing and choreographing, she focused much of her coursework on pedagogy and the importance of understanding anatomy and movement. Upon graduating, she began teaching in the Chicago area. Her choreography has placed overall in regional competitions throughout Chicago and Michigan. She is also a member of the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science and the National Dance Education Association. Alex’s passion is working with little dancers, helping them experience movement and foster artistry when they are young.

Joshua Blake Carter

Instructor

Joshua Blake Carter is a member of Giordano Dance Chicago, America’s original jazz dance company. Originally from Atlanta, GA, he received his early dance training from the Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts, and continued his studies at the University of Arizona, where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Cum Laude as well as the Outstanding Senior Award from the School of Dance. Since joining GDC in 2010, Joshua has had the opportunity to tour nationally and abroad performing works by Brock Clawson, Autumn Eckman, Nan Giordano, Liz Imperio, Roni Koresh, Ray Leeper, Jon Lehrer, Ray Mercer, Mia Michaels and more. He also serves as the Director to GDC’s second company, Giordano II, and he is a member of the Dance For Life Chicago Ambassador Committee. Joshua’s continued interest in choreography led him to become a finalist in the Dance Under the Stars Choreography Festival in Palm Desert, CA, in 2008. The following year he was selected as the winner of Wonderbound’s (formerly Ballet Nouveau Colorado) national choreography competition, dancemakers2.0, and in the spring of 2013, he was one of six winners commissioned to create a new work for DanceWorks Chicago’s DanceMoves choreography competition. Later in 2013, he was awarded the Producers’ Panel Prize by The Ruth Page Foundation for his work, “Ripen”, as part of Dance Chance: Redux 5.0. Joshua’s 2015 work for Giordano Dance Chicago was referred to as “fresh and cohesive… honest and genuine” by Halfstack Magazine. Other commissions include: Giordano II, Missouri Contemporary Ballet, Nomi Dance Company, Visceral Dance Chicago, Artifact Dance Project, and Glendale Community College (Artist in Residence 2012). In addition to performance and choreography, Joshua is a passionate dance educator and teaches in schools across the U.S. each year, as well as in several Chicago dance institutions.

Adam Houston

Instructor

Adam began his early training in his hometown of Boone, Iowa. Upon graduating high school, he moved to Tucson, Arizona where he continued studying at The University of Arizona. There Adam began his professional training in ballet with James Clouser and Melissa Lowe, along with modern and jazz. During his time at U of A, Adam performed works by James Clouser, Elizabeth George, Doug Nielsen, Susan Quinn, Michael Williams, and Sam Watson. He also performed in works by guest choreographers Larry Keigwin, Ann Reinking and Gary Chryst’s CHICAGO Suite, and George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante and Rubies, as the Principle Male. Adam graduated magna cum laude from The University of Arizona receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance. He was also named Outstanding Senior by the School of Dance for the graduating class of 2013. Upon graduating from the University of Arizona, Adam began his professional career with Giordano Dance Chicago as a Performing Associate. He was then promoted to Senior Performing Associate. During his time as a PA, he performed with the main company regionally, nationally, and internationally. Going into his fourth season with Giordano, Adam has had the opportunity to perform works by Autumn Eckman, Liz Imperio, Roni Koresh, Ray Leeper, Randy Duncan, and Gus Giordano, to name a few. In addition to dancing, Adam is a part of GDC’s Jazz Dance/Science & Health outreach program; teaching 4th & 5th grade students in Chicago Public Schools about dance, health, and fitness. He also teaches and choreographs in Chicago and the Chicagoland area. Following two years as a Senior Performing Associate, Adam is excited and honored to be in his second season with Giordano Dance Chicago as a main company member.

Zachary Heller

Instructor

Zachary Heller started his training in ballet and jazz in Alexandria VA. During his early training he performed with the American Dance Company under the direction of Mark Marino. He accompanied ADC on several tours to Europe and Central America. While dancing with ADC he was recognized as the Grishko Outstanding Male Dancer at the Prague International Dance Festival in 2003. His choreography of the musicals “A Chorus Line” and “The Boyfriend” received Cappies Awards for outstanding musical theater choreography in 2003 and 2004. He attended the University of Arizona and in 2008 graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance; he also fulfilled all the requirements for Pre Med. At U of A, he performed works choreographed by Susan Quinn, Michael Williams, Sam Watson, Douglas Nielson, Frank Chaves, James Clouser, and George Balanchine. This is currently his eighth season performing with Giordano Dance Chicago. He is a resident choreographer for Midwest Dance Collective in Barrington, IL. He also teaches at ACDFA and choreographs for studios and youth companies in the Chicago area and around the U.S. Zachary would like to thank his family and friends for their love and support.

Melissa Lobes

Instructor

Melissa Lobes received her BFA in choreography from Columbia College Chicago. She has performed pieces by Margi Cole, Pam McNeil, Peter Carpenter & Lisa Gonzales. Melissa performed in Onye Ozuzu’s “Black Saint and the Sinner Lady” project at the Pritzker Pavilion. She also teaches all over the United States setting award winning pieces. Melissa was recently nominated for best choreography for the Industry Dance Awards.

Susanne Payne

Instructor

Susanne Payne was born and raised in Dayton, OH where she danced for the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company’s professional repertory touring company, studying under and performing works by such noted choreographers as Eleo Pomare, Donald Byrd, Rennie Harris, Ron K. Brown, Donald McKayle, Talley Beatty, and Ulysses Dove to name a few. Growing up as a competition dancer, Ms. Payne spent her summers away at Interlochen Arts Academy, studying both musical theatre and dance. There, she was recruited to Idyllwild Art Academy where she spent her junior year of high school. She was pleased to be accepted to NYU/Tisch School of the Arts but later transferred to Wright State University to simultaneously dance with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company II. In 2006, she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance with a Minor in Psychology (Summa Cum Laude) and was honored to receive the Martin Sheen Artistic and Dayton Ballet Scholarships. In 2008, while dancing with DCDC I, Ms. Payne won the coveted JOSIE Award, an honor for outstanding dancer voted upon by her peers in the professional dance community. After leaving Dayton, she danced for Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company in New York City, Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre in Chicago, IL, and studied with Spectrum Dance Theatre Seattle, River North Chicago, Thodos Dance Chicago, Elisa Monte, Sean Curran, and Bill T. Jones. She has instructed dancers in a variety of settings including high schools, colleges, youth ballet programs, and competition studios. Similarly, her choreographed works can be seen in both the concert and competitive dance circuits. Her students have performed for So You Think You Can Dance, YAGP – NYC, and World Ballet Competition, and she has students who are currently dancing for Boston Ballet, Royal Ballet, and Hubbard Street. She has been happy to come full circle as a judge for Hall of Fame, In10sity, and Nexstar Dance Competitions since 2009. In 2013, she won a full scholarship to RDA Craft of Choreography Intensive in Provo, Utah and shortly thereafter relocated to Chicago permanently. After 3 major surgeries, Susanne decided to pursue a career as a Physician Assistant and just completed her Pre-Physician Assistant program at Northwestern University. She enjoys piano, cooking, and will be performing at the International Salsa Congress February 2020!

Felicity Nicholson

Instructor

Felicity Lyon Nicholson began her formal dance training at the Fort Wayne Ballet under the direction of Karen Gibbons-Brown. She went on to receive a BFA in Dance Performance from Butler University, during which time she performed works by Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, Paul Taylor, Susan McGuire, Derek Reid, and Patrick Hinson among others. Upon graduation Felicity moved to Chicago where she studied on scholarship at Visceral Dance Chicago and at the Lou Conte Dance Center. She performed work including Thodos Dance Chicago’s New Dances, Schaumburg Dance Ensemble’s The Nutcracker, and the Moroccan tour of BDE’s Scheherazade. In 2016 Felicity became a member of Project606 Dance and Trifecta Dance Collective, where she was made Rehearsal Director in 2017. After performing Gerald Arpino’s “Light Rain” with the Fort Wayne Ballet in the Fall 2018, Felicity returned to Chicago to join Chicago Repertory Ballet and perform and teach in the Chicagoland area.

Amanda Hickey

Instructor

Amanda Hickey discovered a passion for dance at the age of ten. She began her serious training at Faubourg School of Ballet under Watmora Casey, Tatyana Mazur, and Ernesto Quenedit. Some of her other training includes intensives with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, River North Dance Company, Visceral Dance Company, and Orlando Ballet. She graduated from Butler University in 2014, where she studied on both academic and talent scholarships earning her BFA with honors in Dance Performance. While at Butler, she had the opportunity to spend a month studying abroad in Europe where she trained and performed in Warsaw, Krakow, and St. Petersburg. As a senior, she was asked to choreograph for the study abroad program, exposing her choreography to venues across Eastern Europe . Throughout the years, Amanda has had the pleasure of performing as a guest artist for The Kate Jablonski Statement, State Street Dance Studio, The Dance Factory, Elan Artists, and The Schaumburg Dance Ensemble to name a few. Upon returning to Chicago after graduation, Amanda joined Nomi Dance Company, where she danced for four years. In addition to being a dancer with the company, she has also worked as a choreographer for three of the Nomi’s shows, and has set choreography on the Ballet Theatre of Indiana as well. Amanda joined Giordano last season as a GII, and is thrilled to be back this year as a Senior Performing Associate! Besides performing, Amanda enjoys teaching and choreographing for studios across the Chicago-land area.

Brittany Sprung

Instructor

Brittany Sprung is a professional dancer and aerialist originally from Upstate New York, now residing in Chicago. Holding a BFA in dance and BA in math from the University at Buffalo, she has trained in all styles of dance as well as acrobatics and aerial arts. Brittany has performed with Norwegian and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, on tour with Disney Live! Feld Entertainment, in the Pro Bowl half time show, at several theme parks, with the Backstreet Boys, and on truTV’s Fake Off. She has taught, choreographed, and directed at several studios across the country, is a judge with Starquest Talent and KAR, and is an aerial rehearsal director for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.

Jennifer Sarsfield

Instructor

Originally from Homer Glen, IL, Jennifer trained at Academy of Dance Arts with Sherry Moray, Irina Starovoitova, Jennifer Grapes Croughan and Ricky, and Carrie Ruiz.
Jennifer graduated in May of 2015 from the University of Iowa with a B.F.A in Dance with an emphasis in Choreography, a Minor in Psychology, and a Performing Arts Entrepreneurial Certificate.
At the University of Iowa, Jennifer premiered several of her original works while also performing repertory by choreographers such as Deanna Carter, Eloy and Sarah Barragan, Kristin Marrs, Eleanor Goudie-Averill, Melinda Meyers, and Nicholas Leichter. Jennifer was also selected to be a part of the University’s prestigious dance company, Dancers in Company, which toured throughout the Midwest performing repertory, giving lecture-demonstrations, and teaching dance classes to the youth in the area.
In accompaniment with her experiences at the University of Iowa, Jennifer attended Milwaukee Ballet’s professional summer program in 2013 and 2014 as a scholarship student as well as Inaside Dance Chicago’s professional summer program in 2014 on scholarship. Jennifer was further invited to train at Boston Conservatory with former Pilobolus Artistic Associate Jun Kuribayashi. Jennifer has been a company member with Trifecta Dance Collective, Project606 Dance, and Ardent Dance Company and is currently teaching, choreographing, and performing freelance as well as training in the aerial arts at Aerial Dance Chicago.
Jennifer has a strong passion for teaching and watching her students grow as dancers, artists, and individuals. She is excited to be a part of the DDA Family!

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