Dance Fremont Board of Directors

Nora Jaso Ludviksen – President

Nora Jaso Ludviksen is a certified mediator and business communication coach. She is the founder of The Table Mediation in Seattle, and a lead volunteer mediator at the non-profit VOA Dispute Resolution Center in Everett. Nora helps people and companies resolve and prevent conflict. She serves business and organizational leaders with dispute resolution, coaching, and teaching conflict-handling skills. Nora also loves guiding teenagers in peer mediation and restorative circles.

Nora is a former Dance Fremont! parent and parent volunteer coordinator, whose daughter pursues a professional career in contemporary dance.

Karena Birk – Artistic Director

Karena was born and raised in Seattle, and started taking creative dance at age 3 after insisting on dancing around the living room to Swan Lake every single evening. She received the majority of her dance training at the Cornish Preparatory Dance Program, as well as at the Richmond Ballet, and the University of Washington. She holds an MFA in Dance from The Ohio State University, and a BA in Classics from the University of Washington. Before directing Dance Fremont, she taught ballet and modern dance at many places, including the University of Washington Bothell, Bainbridge Dance Center, Interlochen Center for the Arts, The Ohio State University, and Cornish Preparatory Dance. Her professional dance experience includes performing with the Colorado Ballet, Lehua Dance Theatre, ARC Dance, Catherine Cabeen-Hyphen, Redd Legg Dance, and Seattle Dance Project. She has enjoyed the wonderful opportunity to dance works of Trisha Brown, Anna Sokolow, Antony Tudor, George Balanchine, Fanny Elssler, Wade Madsen, Deborah Wolf, Hannah Wiley, and many others. Her MFA studies focused on pedagogy, dance performance, notation, and history, and she holds a Teaching Certification in Labanotation. She has staged a number of historical works from their Labanotation scores, including Doris Humphrey’s The Shakers, Donald McKayle’s Rainbow Etude, and selections from Helen Tamiris’s Negro Spirituals.

Chris Montoya – Managing Director

Christopher Elias Montoya was born in a small town named St. Johns, Arizona but grew up in South Phoenix. Chris began his academic journey with the University of Arizona, taking time off periodically to work with professional dance companies. Chris started his professional career with Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago as a second company member. He continued his career with David Taylor Dance Theatre, Scorpius Dance Theatre, and Center Dance Ensemble. Guesting periodically with Queen City Ballet and Legacy Dance Theater. Chris also enjoyed dancing on pointe with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, performing as Doris Vidanya around the world, including Japan, Israel, France, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Finland, Spain, and Italy.

Moving to Seattle in 2011, Chris completed his undergraduate degree with Cornish College of the Arts. As well as performing with Seattle Dance Project and Men In Dance. While at Cornish, his goals shifted from professional work to teaching dance in higher education, which led him to receive his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Washington. Chris chose the University of Washington dance department because its curriculum and faculty is one of the best in the country, and he knew the program would prepare him for teaching at the collegiate level while assisting him to understand the importance of dance education. A highlight while attending the University of Washington was working with Chamber Dance Company performing works: To Have and To Hold and Moonlight by Shapiro and Smith, Petrousckha’s Room by Michel Fokine, Cloudless by Susan Marshall, and Center of My Heart by Douglas Elkins. Chris is most proud of the class that he developed on the Romantic era of ballet with the assistance of Professor Hannah Wiley.

After graduate school Chris began working with Spectrum Dance Theater as the Ballet Division Head, which then turned into the School Director. For the last few years Chris has been teaching open class for Dance Fremont, and is looking forward to his new journey as the Managing Director of Dance Fremont. In the future, he would like to further develop his studies of ballet history and looks forward to teaching future generations of dancers.

Gabrielle Nomura Gainor

Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor (she/her) tells stories about Asian America through dance. The Japanese/Filipinx/Irish American has received grants from Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture and the Washington State Arts Commission. A dancer, choreographer, and community activist, Gabrielle also works in communications and public engagement for Seattle Opera. The lobby displays and panel discussions she curated for Madame Butterfly were praised in The New York Times’ opinion piece “Classical Opera Has a Racism Problem” by Katherine Hu (2019). Additionally, Gabrielle has spoken on KUOW public radio regarding Asian cultural stereotypes in The Nutcracker.

In addition to serving on Dance Fremont’s board, Gabrielle dedicates her time to the Japanese American Citizens League, an API-led civil rights organization. Through Seattle JACL, she spearheaded school tours of her work “Farewell Shikata ga nai,” about the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans, and “Never Again is Now: the Art and Activism of Millennial Nikkei,” at Wing Luke Museum. Most recently, she directed Mixed Race Seattle, a conference centering Black and Brown multiracial youth and their families. Learn more at gabriellekazuko.com.

Jennifer Staplin – Secretary

Jennifer Staplin has extensive operations experience in the multifamily industry and has spent 20 years in marketing, systems development, community management, learning and development. Jennifer holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and HR from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington. Most recently, Jennifer was awarded the 2017 WSHFC Friend of Housing Award for the work that she and her sister pioneered connecting homeless families with quality affordable housing opportunities in the greater Seattle area.

Jennifer studied ballet pre-professionally for more than 15 years at a satellite location of the Rock School of the Pennsylvania Ballet and was also selected to attend the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts.

Her passions include dance and theatre, particularly ballet; travel, training and mentoring multifamily industry associates, especially those on the front lines of customer service.

Amina Kapusuzoglu

Amina Kapusuzoglu is a Real Estate professional in the greater Seattle area. She has her own business working under Windermere where she helps clients buy, sell, rent and redesign homes. She also is part of a family that owns pieces of real estate in the Fremont area and operates as landlords since 1947. Born and raised in Seattle (Ballard, to be more specific) she took to many activities that the area had to offer including dancing which mostly took place at Dance Fremont back when it was under the Aurora Bridge in one of her family’s buildings. She fell in love with the plentiful opportunities Dance Fremont gave her to work on her technique as well as chances to perform (her true passion). Throughout elementary,  middle, and high school Dance Fremont became her home away from home, sometimes spending more awake hours there than her house. Dancing and being a part of a performing group holds some of her favorite memories and she is eager to help give back to the community that has given her so much.