Our highly qualified staff are professionally registered Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) teachers, current or past professional dancers, and/or have advanced degrees in dance.
Director / Instructor / Choreographer – Ms. Rachel Tan is a certified teacher of the Royal Academy of Dance (London) and qualified to enter pupils for Royal Academy Grades and Major examinations. She taught, choreographed and performed in the Pacific Northwest area and Asia before coming to the Bay Area. Rachel is a graduate of University of Washington with a major in Communications and a minor in Dance and Education. She was trained in the Royal Academy of Dance and Imperial Society techniques. She is a member of Dance Masters of America. Rachel is artistic in choreography and teaches beautifully disciplined ballet. More information about Rachel Tan can be found in these articles: “Gift from a Dancer” – Tri-City Voice, “Happy Feet” – East Bay Express.
Guest Instructor – Ms. Vivian Aragon is a freelance professional dancer as well as an accomplished teacher and choreographer. She holds a BFA in Dance and a BA in Art History from Purchase College, State University of New York. She also trained at Rotterdam Dance Academy in the Netherlands and received her early training following the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus at Susan Hayward School of Dancing in Montara, CA. She completed all of the RAD examinations attaining the status of Associate of the Royal Academy of Dance and was invited to compete as a semi-finalist in the Genee International Ballet Competition in Sydney, Australia. She has worked with many Bay Area companies and choreographers, including Peninsula Ballet Theatre, Black Diamond Ballet Theatre, MenLowe Ballet, Napa Valley Ballet, Katie Faulkner/Little Seismic Dance Company, Milissa Payne Project, Yayoi Kambara, and as a guest artist with ODC/Dance. She currently performs with Alyce Finwall Dance Theater, Samantha Giron Dance Project, Anna and the Annadroids, and Oakland Ballet Company.
Instructor – Ms. Ashley Bishop is a registered teacher for the Royal Academy of Dance and is a graduate of the Certificate in Ballet Teaching Studies programme. She has spent the last ten years dancing all over the world including being a member of the Source Dance Company in Vancouver, Canada, choreographer for Wyndham Cozumel Resort & Spa in Mexico, and as a featured performer and dance captain for Carnival Cruise Lines. She has had the opportunity to perform and study dance all over the coast of North America, including extensive training at Broadway Dance Center in New York City. She is well versed in many genres of dance including ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, lyrical, modern, musical theatre, contemporary and Latin rhythms. Ms Ashley was elated to join the faculty at Rachel’s Ballet in September 2013 and share her love for dance and performance with her new students. [Ms. Ashley, who is also a certified Barre Fitness teacher, will help our competition students gain better strength and flexibility on some Saturdays during PPDC rehearsals. She will also rotate and visit all three studio locations to teach the strength and flexibility exercises during RAD classes.]
Drama Instructor – Mr. Howard Burnham holds an honors degree in History from the University of Durham, England. He was a co-founder of England’s 1812 Theatre Company and of the Ryedale Arts Festival. Since moving to the States, he has been for the past several years a Literary Artist in Residence for the Richland County Public Library (US Library of the Year, 2001). Much of his drama work is historical characterization for the National Park Service. Howard filmed the role of Lord Cornwallis for the BBC-PBS series Rebels and Redcoats. He has nearly forty years experience of drama coaching young people. Howard has also portrayed Godfather Drosselmeyer and E.T.A. Hoffman in our 2010-2013 ballet productions of The Nutcracker. You can visit him at www.howardburnham.com [Howard and Sandra Burnham moved permanently to California in July 2013.]
Artistic Advisor – Ms. Sandra Burnham received her RAD training in Yorkshire England. At the age of 16, she danced with “Ballet For All”, an education unit of the Royal Ballet. Following this, a contract was offered to dance in Paris, France, with the famous “Bluebell Girls” at the Paris Lido, where she stayed for 7 years. After working in New York as a television production assistant, she returned to England to open her ballet school, to which she dedicated 23 years. Many pupils went on to gain scholarships and places at England’s most prestigious vocational schools including the Royal Ballet School. Due to the success of her school, Sandra was invited to become an Examiner and Tutor for the Royal Academy of Dance, a position which she has held for the past 25 years. She began coaching our students in Fall 2008 for the 2009 YAGP – Youth America Grand Prix Competition and coached again for 2010. Dusty Button, a former student of Sandra’s, gained the Bronze medal in the final of the 2006 YAGP; she danced professionally with the Royal Ballet and is currently an Artist with Boston Ballet. [Sandra and Howard Burnham moved permanently to California in July 2013.]
Danielle de Ojeda
Instructor – Ms. Danielle de Ojeda has been teaching passionately in the Bay Area for 13 years. She began choreographing in 2007 and has continued to create works for 11 years. Danielle received a B.A. in Dance from San Jose State University in 2014, with an emphasis in Jazz dance. In her time at SJSU, Danielle danced with the school’s modern dance company, UDT, for 2 years, and went on to perform in two ACDF Galas with the company. Since then, she has also been certified in acro under the Acrobatic Arts program. Danielle has been choreographing solos, duets, trios, small groups, and large group dances in a variety of styles. She focuses on contemporary, jazz, and acro, but also is experienced in teaching hip hop, ballet, lyrical, and tap. She has trained and choreographed soloists for both artistic programs as well as competition programs–such as DMC, NUVO, JUMP, SJSU Dance Theater, etc. She is the Co-Director of a Competition Performance Team, the Dynamics Performance Team, and trains students there as well.
Instructor Mr. David Eck was born in Santa Barbara, California where he began studying ballet at age ten. He received the majority of his training from Maria Vegh as well as studied with San Francisco Ballet School and Houston Ballet School. His professional experience includes Houston Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theater, and State Street Ballet in Santa Barbara as well as a guest dancer with numerous other companies. David’s professional career has spanned over 10 years, having danced lead roles in both classical and contemporary ballets. Some of his favorite lead roles include the world premiere of Covenant and Maelstrom, Mazurka in Swan Lake, Cavalier in Nutcracker and Macbeth. David is now devoted to teaching the next generation of dancers. He enjoys teaching classical ballet technique, contemporary movement and coaching. In addition to teaching, David has been developing his choreography and has had the opportunity to set pieces for both ballet schools as well as professional companies. Some of his favorite pieces he has set are Mishima in 2011, November in 2012, and Dreaming Marionette in 2013 for State Street Ballet. Since studying Physics at UCSB, David has been working behind the scenes in theatre, both in technical and production management. Most recently he was the Director of Production with Silicon Valley Ballet, formerly Ballet San Jose, working under Jose Carreno.
Instructor – Ms. Katie Eck began her classical ballet training with the Royal Academy of Dance (R.A.D). She has taken all her R.A.D exams and on completion of her Advance 2 exam, she scored high enough to take Solo Seal. Katie went on to having a professional ballet career that spanned over ten years. She danced with companies such as Malibu Civic Ballet, Judith Fugate’s Ballet N.Y., L.A. Ballet and State Street Ballet. A few of Katie’s most memorable classical performances include Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Serenade, and Giselle. In addition to classical ballets, Katie has also been able to perform in many contemporary productions such as Rush Hour choreographed by Robert Battle, Beauty and the Beast choreographed by Robert Sunds, Carmen choreographed by William Soleau and Shed your Skin choreographed by Margaret Sappington. Throughout her dance career, Katie has continued to develop her teaching skills. In 2001, she enrolled in the R.A.D’s two-year teacher training course and in 2003 she obtained her R.A.D teacher certification. Katie has taught at many different schools throughout California including: Ballet Studio by the Sea and Performing Arts Academy, Dance for Kids, Agoura Dance and Performing Arts Academy, British Arts Academy, Gustafson Dance, Northwest Ballet and Kingsburg Ballet. In addition to being, a professional dancer and R.A.D certified trained teacher, Katie strives to be a well-rounded teacher who creates a nurturing environment for children to grow and develop their talents and abilities to the fullest potential.
Instructor – Ms. Bambi Fleeman was trained in London in the style of the Royal Academy of Dance and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. She is a Royal Academy of Dance registered teacher, holds a teaching diploma from the Stella Mann College, England, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance with a Minor in Nutrition and Food Science from San Jose State University, and a California Secondary Education teaching credential from San Francisco State University. Working with young people has been especially rewarding and she enjoys utilizing her educational and professional experience to train future dance professionals.
Instructor – Ms. Carol Howard has an elementary teaching credential from California State University, Los Angeles. She received her ballet training in Southern California from Yvone Cusock, a former RAD children’s examiner. She is an Affiliate Member of the Royal Academy of Dance.
Instructor – Ms. Melissa James is originally from South Africa and has been involved in the dance industry since the age of four, completing examinations and performing various dance genres such as ballet, tap dance, modern dance, Irish dance, Spanish dance and jazz. After high school, she pursued her passion for dance through studying, performing and teaching abroad in the United Kingdom. Melissa has 19 years experience teaching ballet, tap, jazz, Irish, Spanish dance and was also a faculty member at a prestigious private school in Cape Town, South Africa teaching middle and high school dance as a subject before relocating to California. Melissa has been successfully entering students for R.A.D. ballet examinations for more than 12 years from Pre–Primary to Advanced and has an excellent reputation with dance students and families wherever she has been.
Instructor (Artist in Residence) – Mr. Evan Johnston, a Bay Area native, studied ballet with Charles Anderson, Katarina Wester, and Jodie Gates. He developed his contemporary dance practice with Donald McKayle and Loretta Livingston while earning degrees in Dance and Biological Sciences at UC Irvine. Currently a member of Bay Pointe Ballet and Sarah Berges Dance, Evan performs throughout the Bay Area, from Sonoma to San Mateo. Evan’s approach to dancing, teaching, and artmaking emphasizes the methods of experimentation and analysis he used as an award-winning researcher in dance medicine & science.
Leigh Ann Koelsch
Instructor – Ms. Leigh Ann Koelsch is a graduate and licentiate of the College of the Royal Academy of Dance, London. She was the only graduate in her year to be awarded Honors for teaching both Graded and Vocational students. She is an associate of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing in the Modern Theatre and National branches, and an affiliate of the American Academy of Ballet. She received her early training and taught for thirteen years at the Susan Hayward School of Dancing in Montara, CA, coaching students for RAD examinations from Pre-Primary through Solo Seal Award, and preparing students for the Adeline Genee International Ballet Competition and the Youth America Grand Prix. Leigh Ann has been teaching at Rachel’s Ballet since 2007 where she enjoys being a part of such a varied and talented staff of teachers.
Instructor – Ms. Sharon Kung was born in New York, and currently resides in the bay area. She received her early training in the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus at the Jean M. Wong School of Ballet in Hong Kong, and continued at Menlo Park Academy of Dance in California. She completed the Royal Academy of Dance grade and vocational exams with distinction marks. In addition to her training, she placed in the “Top 12 seniors” category at Youth America Grand Prix, and was 2nd runner-up to Miss Global Dance International at the International Dance Challenge. She attended summer intensives at the American Ballet Theater, Kirov Academy, The Juilliard School and American Dance Festival. In 2008, she graduated from the University of California, Irvine Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Bachelor of Arts in Economics. During her time at Irvine, she had the opportunity to perform George Balanchine’s Serenade, and was featured in works of Donald McKayle and Molly Lynch. Upon graduation, she danced for Thodos Dance Chicago, Menlowe Ballet, Oakland Ballet, and also as a freelance artist in Amsterdam and Morocco. She is currently a dancer with Dance Theater of San Francisco, a contemporary ballet company. Alongside dancing professionally, she is also a dedicated teacher and mentor to students of all ages across the bay area; and is also a guest teacher and choreographer for intensives in the bay area and Hong Kong. Her philosophy is to teach the importance of self-expression, musicality, discipline and creativity through movement. She will be joining the faculty beginning in Summer 2014.
Instructor (Artist in Residence) – Ms. Maria LaMance, a Bay Area native, received her classical ballet training at the San Francisco Ballet School. As a dance major at San Francisco State University, she broadened her training into Modern Dance, anatomy, and kinesiology. Maria has performed professionally in numerous ballet, modern, and dance theater companies throughout the Bay Area for over a decade and currently dances with Peninsula Ballet Theatre, Huckabay McAllister Dance, Lowe Ballet, and Moving Arts Dance, with whom she has recently performed principal roles on tours to Belarus, France, and Scotland. She has instructed children, teens, and adults in ballet, modern, drama, and character dance for 15 years. In her teaching, Maria respects the individual anatomical and developmental capacities of every student, and emphasizes the importance of musicality and self-expression in the goal of going beyond technique to connect with the hearts of the audience.
Instructor – A Southern California native, Mr. Frankie Mendoza was born in the small town of Brawley. He quickly found a passion for the art of movement at a young age. Though from a very small dance community, Mendoza set out to carve his path as an artist. In 2010, he was accepted into San Jose State University where he began his dance training at the age of eighteen. Later that year, he joined an adult competition team in the Bay Area called Hungrybumz, where he began to expand his vocabulary in dance. Under the direction of Randy Van Le, he’s performed with Hungrybumz in local and international competitions such as Prelude Norcal, Battlefest 360, and World of Dance: Bay Area. During his years at SJSU, he studied under artists and educators such as Fred Matthews, Gary Masters, Heather Cooper, Keith Pinto, and Randy Van Le. Mendoza recently graduated from the Dance Program with a Bachelor of Arts in 2015. Mendoza continues teaching his philosophy of dance throughout the Bay Area, as the art of expression through movement emphasizing the individual progression of the dancer. He strives to express his passion for the art of creativity in hopes of influencing aspiring artists to speak their own voice and make their own way in the dance community.
Guest Instructor – Ms. Karen Millar has taught ballet in Europe and the United States over the last 30 years. During her tenure in the Bay Area, she has placed students with San Francisco Ballet and with the Boston Ballet. She is a graduate and Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Dance in London. She holds her Advanced Executant with both the Royal Academy of Dance and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. While at the Royal Academy she studied ballet, character dance, Spanish dance, historical dance, English folk dance, national dance choreography, jazz and contemporary dance with a special emphasis on dance pedagogy. Karen settled in the South Bay where she owned and operated Ballet Capriole for 10 years before becoming Director of Ballet at East West Music and Dance.
Instructor – Ms. Jeanie Pors received her early ballet training with Maria and Serge Dare of Portland, Oregon. At age 17, she was awarded a Ford Foundation scholarship to San Francisco Ballet School and trained under Herald Christensen and Ruby Asquith. She danced professionally with Alan Howard’s Pacific Ballet of San Francisco. In 1986, she opened Benicia Ballet School in Benicia, CA, and served as director for 21 years and produced the annual Benicia Ballet Theatre full-length Nutcracker. She received teacher training with Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing and the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD). She is a registered teacher with the Royal Academy of Dance and has entered students for both the grades and vocational exams. She has placed students in Anaheim Ballet (soloist) and Sacramento Ballet. She began sharing her knowledge and passion for dance with the students at Rachel’s Ballet in Fall 2008.
Instructor – Ms. Isabelle Sjahsam studied the rigorous Royal Academy of Dance system with Connie Vaughan, and at thirteen, moved to England to continue her training and complete her major examinations in London. While in the United Kingdom, she competed in the All England Dance Competition, reaching the Quarter Finals with her ballet solo. At the age of eighteen, she completed her Advanced examination, receiving her certification to teach the Royal Academy of Dance. She has an International Baccalaureate from the American Community School in Cobham, England. She also graduated from Mills College with a degree in Dance. Since then Isabelle has taught dance to all ages, performed, and shown her work at a range of venues. At the present time, she dances with DanceElixir and appears as a dancer in her own company, ArtFace. Teaching dance is Isabelle’s passion; she has taught ballet, modern, creative movement, and stretch and strength conditioning classes.
Instructor – Ms. Connie Zaug earned her BA in dance from the University of Washington, and her MA in counseling from the University of New Mexico. She has 25 years teaching experience teaching dance, gymnastics and fitness. Connie was a competitive gymnast from the ages of eleven to seventeen, while also studying ballet and mime. Connie’s comprehensive study of dance began in college, where she developed a keen interest in the anatomy and kinesiology of movement. She was fortunate to have studied ballet under director Hannah C. Wiley, renowned teacher and researcher on the anatomical/biomechanical efficiency of ballet. During and beyond her university training, Connie studied with the prominent modern dancers Peggy Hackney and Bill Evans, who emphasize the use of Laban Movement Analysis and techniques that promote a dancer’s longevity. Her master’s degree in counseling assists her understanding of the mind-body connection in movement and dance. Over the past 20 years, she has taught and performed ballet, jazz, modern dance and mime, and has created original choreography for gymnasts, dancers and amateur theatre. She holds a current AFAA certification as a Primary Group Exercise instructor.
Instructor – Liliana took her first dancing steps at the age of 4 with Stella Carrillo, the very first classic ballerina in her native Colombia who was alumni of the renowned Russian ballet dancer Kiril Pikieris. She received formal ballet education at the Gloria Lozano Academy and the Priscilla Welton Ballet Company. Her professional preparation consolidated in Cuba with the Camagüey Ballet under the direction of Fernando Alonso and Regina Balaguer. Over time her dancing career expanded to include Latin Dance, and soon thereafter, teaching and staging her own contemporary dance productions. Liliana developed the artistic curriculum for the Montessori British School in Bogota, Colombia, where she established, taught & led the artistic department for 7 years. In 2008, Liliana was motivated to establish her own dance school, Performance Dance Studio in Bogota. Liliana believes that dancing breeds discipline, perseverance and tolerance. Team-work is heightened to new levels as is self-esteem. Taking this as the basis for her vision, she created a program to form well rounded artists where the student maximizes his/her time learning and developing broader and incremental skills. She believes these broader skills allow the student to eventually take part of the scenic art world, mixing a wide range of genres, dance styles, acting and voice management. This broad preparation is what affords the students the opportunity to take part of any artistic company while at the same time developing into an integral human being. Her studio brought hundreds of children, teenagers and adults to the magical world of the arts, dancing and acting from 2008 till closing in winter of 2016 when she relocated to South Florida. Liliana authored, choreograph & staged full length productions such as Steps, El Juguetero, Treasures of the Ocean, Frank y la Jugueteria Magica & Around the World, among others. After the untimely end of her dancing career due to knee injuries, Liliana took special interest in researching how to prevent injury in dancers, dedicating over 15 years and passionate effort in research and putting into practice several techniques to ensure dancers will extend their career by avoiding ‘preventable’ injury. In 2016, Liliana became certified and licensed in the renowned International program PBT, Progressing Ballet Technique, which is the ultimate collection of exercises that develop muscle memory, enhance dancer technique and extends longevity in dance. Liliana contributed to the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami School as Ballet Mistress including the International Ballet Festival of Miami before relocating to the Bay Area, California, in July of 2018 where she is contributing as a PBT instructor and ballet mistress in bay area schools such as Nor Cal Dance Arts, Xtreme Force Dance Company, San Jose Dance Theater among others where she also coaches dancers for YAGP competitions. Her lifelong dream is currently under construction with the establishment of KUVANA, an innovative concept in ballet education and performance arts.
Instructor -Danielle Sullivant graduated from San José State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. She was awarded “Outstanding Graduating Senior in Dance Performance.” Under the guidance of Raphaël Boumaïla and Gary Masters, she trained in Limón technique and performed suites of Limón’s works, Choreographic Offering, Psalm, and Missa Brevis. Ms. Sullivant has also studied Cunningham technique with Diane Frank. As part of a student residency program, she performed Doug Varone’s work, in the shelter of the fold, with the Doug Varone and Dancers. During her sophomore year at SJSU, Ms. Sullivant was awarded the Haws Award for Excellence in Performance by the SJSU Dance Program. She attended the Doug Varone and Dancers Summer Workshop in New York following her graduation. Ms. Sullivant joined sjDANCEco in July 2018 and is currently a member of the San Jose based modern company. She performed masterworks by the current artistic director of the Limón company, Colin Connor, Fred Mathews and debuted a new duet choreographed by Maria Basile in October at the California Theatre as part of their 16th Anniversary season. Ms. Sullivant was also part of a Holiday production, Joy, by Tandy Beal where she engaged in various forms of dance and theatrical scenarios. As part of the 2019 Cinequest festival, sjDANCEco made a guest appearance where Ms. Sullivant performed Maria Basile’s duet, Path Reset. She is also a member of Cypher Dance Company, founded by Karina Cervantes, and has performed throughout the bay area showcasing modern, hip hop and improvisational works. She is eager to continue exploring and diving into new artistic endeavors to enrich her movement vocabulary and to share those experiences with her students. She is very excited to share her passion and love for dance and hopes to inspire her students to cultivate and pursue their own dreams.
Instructor -Ms. Ariel Webb has been dancing for the past 22 years. She is a powerhouse on the stage who commands the attention of the audience. She is trained in Tap, Jazz, Ballet, Hip Hop, and Lyrical: She is also pursuing a career of Dance at San Francisco State University. Ms. Ariel creates a welcoming environment in the dance studio and brings her passion, encouragement, and technique to build confident and competent performers.