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.
Steve Casteel – Managing Director
Steve Casteel was born in Tacoma and received his early training from Jan Column School of Classic Ballet. At age sixteen, he was selected to join Boston Ballet II where he spent the next two years training and performing. For ten years, from 1987-‘97, Steve danced with the nationally acclaimed Houston Ballet where he was promoted to soloist and performed many of the great classical works as well as works by many world-renowned contemporary choreographers.
In 2001, Steve received his B.F.A., summa cum laude, in dance from Cornish College of the Arts and completed his M.F.A. with a dance emphasis from the University of Arizona in 2004.
For over ten years Steve has taught dance and worked in dance administration helping to build the Northwest dance community. From 1997 to 1999 he worked for Washington Contemporary Ballet in Tacoma as Assistant to the Director, writing grants and handling public relations in addition to serving as ballet master. From 2004 to 2006 Steve was the Public Relations Coordinator for Next Stage Dance Theatre and co-directed their community outreach program “Unleashed Memory,” a movement project with memory loss/Alzheimer’s patients, as well as performing with the company. In 2006 Steve directed and helped to open The Dance School, in Everett, WA. In 2008 he became a co-producer for the popular biennial Men In Dance Festival in Seattle WA.
Steve has taught at various schools in the Northwest and California. Currently, he teaches at Cornish College of the Arts, Dance Fremont, Seattle University and the University of Washington. In 2012, Steve became the director of the Cornish Preparatory Dance Department.
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 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.