Faculty

Karena Birk (she/her) | Director

Karena Birk, Director of Dance Fremont

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 has 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.

Karena believes in the value of dance as a source of inspiration, self-discovery, expression, and fulfillment for everyone who studies it. Every dance student deserves the respect of being given quality training and curriculum, and the integrity of dance education at Dance Fremont has long been an inspiration to Karena. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to support and continue the excellence that Vivian, Mary, and the Dance Fremont community have built.

Mary Kay Bisignano-Vadino (she/her)

Mary Kay Bisignano-Vadino, Instructor at Dance Fremont

Mary Kay Bisignano-Vadino has over thirty years of experience as a dance teacher. She has taught dance to people of all ages in a variety of settings and feels fortunate to be amongst the professional teaching staff at Dance Fremont. Mary Kay holds a Bachelors Degree in Dance from Western Michigan University and a Masters Degree in Choreography and Performance from U.C.L.A. While in Los Angeles she was recognized by the L.A. Arts Council for her choreography. Her professional dance experience began at The Chicago Dance Medium and inspired her toward a career of choreographing and teaching. As an independent choreographer in Seattle in the 90’s, her work was featured at New City Theater, On the Boards, Allegro Dance Festival, Arts Edge Dance Festival and Bumbershoot. Her work has also been performed in Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles.

From 1999-2009, Mary Kay choreographed and performed with Next Stage Dance Theater under the artistic direction of Dominique Gabella. This company of mature dancers provided a collaborative exchange for creative expression and an opportunity to work with local choreographers. She has choreographed for the Kaleidoscope Dance Company and Fremont DanceWorks Company. Mary Kay loves choreographing for these talented young dancers finding it to be some of the most rewarding work of her career.

Mary Kay also teaches creative movement and dance at the Salmon Bay School. She loves sharing dance with elementary school students and finds their curiosity and sense of humor refreshing. Mary Kay is a Certified Yoga Instructor (RYT), teaches at Taj Yoga and enjoys subbing yoga classes at a number of local health clubs. She also volunteers for Street Yoga, a non-profit organization bringing yoga to homeless and at risk youth and teens.

Away from the studio, Mary Kay dances through life with her husband John and their three amazing children Sophia, Anthony and Nicolas.

Mary Kay is passionate about teaching. Her students inspire her through their commitment to consistently work hard at finding the joy of movement while realizing their full potential through the shared experience of dancing.

Faith Coben (she/her)

Faith Coben

Faith Coben, originally from Sun Valley, Idaho, has danced all her life. She earned her BFA in Dance with a focus on education from Cornish College of the Arts as well as her Pilates mat teaching certificate. Her Pilates ‘lineage’ begins with mentor Michele Miller, a student of Cary Regan, trained by Romana Kryzanowska, and so has a special focus on working with dancers. She received her comprehensive Pilates certification in 2020 from Vitality Pilates in Seattle. Faith teaches a contemporary Pilates style that is grounded in the original athletic style of Joseph Pilates. Her training throughout her life included many areas of the performing arts, but primarily focused on ballet, modern dance, figure skating, and performance production. She has performed the work of a variety of choreographers including José Limón, Corrie Befort & Beth Graczyk of SaltHorse, Jamie Karlovich, Cyrus Khambatta, Kate Wallich, KT Niehoff, Eric Aguilar, & Mary Ann McGovern. Faith is an original member of Ktisk Contemporary Dance, directed by Rachael Forstrom, and is exploring vertical dance and aerial arts in her current performance life.

As a teacher, Faith has been significantly influenced by WA master teachers Christine Juarez & Anne Green Gilbert, and regularly attends continuing education programs to develop her teaching practice. She believes that students deserve creativity-focused and anatomically-based dance education in an egalitarian environment that promotes individual expression and facilitates interpersonal collaboration. Faith shares dance joyfully so that her students may experience dance joyfully, creating a strong foundation for a positive lifelong relationship with movement & the body. She has taught dance and Pilates at a variety of locations in the Puget Sound area, including Dance Fremont, Momentum Dance Academy, Spectrum Dance School, West Seattle Performing Arts, Secret Garden Preschool, Fremont Health Club, and more.

Faith is also a production stage manager, costumer, and occasional lighting designer & ski instructor. She has worked with Dance Fremont in every aspect of the studio, from operations to teaching to production, since 2014, and began the Pilates Conditioning program in 2021.

Leigh-Ann Cohen-Hafford (she/her)

Ms. Cohen-Hafford has over 20 years of experience teaching, coaching and choreographing for professional and student dancers across the USA and Canada. Her diverse professional repertoire included contemporary ballet, the classics, Balanchine works and modern dance providing her with a comprehensive background and understanding of the essential requirements for ballet professionals.

In 2019, Ms. Cohen-Hafford was invited to observe classes, rehearsals and an array of performances at top European ballet companies and schools including the Stuttgart Ballet, Dresden SemperOper Ballet, and the John Cranko Ballet School. This experience enhanced her insight into the current trends and versatility demands in modern, contemporary and classical ballet techniques, choreography, and training.

Ms.Cohen-Hafford was Artistic Director of Conservatory Ballet of Washington and Director of the Ballet Department of Washington Academy of Performing Arts (1998-2001). She served as a dance faculty member at Oakland University, MI.(1994-95). She is a Rehearsal Director and faculty member at Cornish College of the Arts Preparatory Dance Program where she continues, in her 17th year, teaching, staging and choreographing. Ms.Cohen-Hafford is a sought after coach and guest teacher.

During her 15-year performing career, Ms. Cohen-Hafford toured extensively nationally and internationally. She danced principal roles in multiple classical ballets as well as in works by some of the most eminent contemporary choreographers. These included Ashton, Balanchine, Butler, Cranko, Forsythe, and Tetley. She had the privilege of working personally with many of these choreographers as well as with distinguished ballet directors and teachers, Reid Anderson, Patricia Neary, Vicki Simon and, Laura Alonso. She danced with Ballet British Columbia, Ballet Jorgen, Metropolitan Ballet Theater, and was a guest artist for numerous schools and companies including Pennsylvania Ballet. Ms. Cohen-Hafford was honored to be chosen for the lead role in the Canadian première of William Forsythe’s “In the middle, somewhat elevated.”

Ms.Cohen-Hafford’s choreography includes works for Ballet British Columbia’s Choreographic Workshop and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet’s Choreoplan. Several works have been presented by RDA companies, including Gala Night performances in 1994 and1999, as well as by Cornish College Preparatory Dance Company amongst others. In 1996 she was awarded an RDA Craft of Choreography Award. Ms. Cohen-Hafford has choreographed for and coached finalists for the prestigious Youth America Grand Prix including several New York award winners.

Ms. Cohen-Hafford earned a diploma in Dance Training from George Brown College, Canada. She was awarded an Advanced Diploma in Spanish Dance by the South African Spanish Dance Society.

Ms. Cohen-Hafford participated in Regional Dance America festivals over the years as a dancer, choreographer, artistic director, teacher, associate member, and in 2020 as an adjudicator as well.

Fiona Evans (she/her)

Fiona Evans began dancing ballet at the age of 4 and hasn’t stopped since.  Born and raised in Santa Fe, NM, she started her training under Andy Prince at Prince Ballet.  She continued her studies with Gisella Genschow at the Santa Fe Dance Foundation through high school.  In 1996, Fiona attended the Boston Conservatory and studied a mix of modern and ballet under Jennifer Scanlon, Yasuko Tokunaga, Donna Silva, Anamarie Sarazin and Elaine Bauer, among others.  She also studied with Marcus Schulkind outside of the Conservatory.

In 2001, after graduating with a BFA in dance, Fiona moved to New York City to continue her dancing. In 2004, she joined Alan Good dance, who she closely studied with and performed with for 5 years. During her time in New York, she also continued her ballet training with Christine Wright, Marjorie Mussman, Jocelyn Lorenz, Zvi Gotheiner and Graciela Kozak. In addition to dancing, Fiona also received her Pilates certification from Sal Anthony’s Movement Salon in 2004. While in New York, she continued to study Pilates closely with Clarice Marshall and also studied with Deborah Lessen, and Maya Aubrey. Fiona continued to dance, perform and teach Pilates in New York, until 2010, when Fiona and her husband decided to move to Seattle.

In her 5 years in Seattle, she has choreographed and danced with Bellingham Repertory Dance as well as Relay Dance Collective and has taught Pilates at Pilates on 10th and Lift Pilates. Fiona has also attended Anne Green Gilbert’s Summer Dance Institute for Teachers. Fiona loves helping dancers learn how to make clear connections in their body through the use of imagery, anatomy and rhythm.

Joshua Grant-Montoya

Margaret Hotchkiss (she/her)

Born in Bangkok, Thailand and adopted while still a toddler, Margaret’s love of dance began in Bainbridge Island, WA when she was two years old. Now a Seattle based performer and teaching artist, her work is informed by the eternal balance of joy and sorrow, and her discovery of identity as a transnational adoptee. She is grateful for opportunities to study dance at California State University, Long Beach; The San Francisco Conservatory of Dance; American Dance Festival, New York; and Strictly Seattle which have all enriched her experience. A graduate of Cornish College of the Arts (B.F.A. Dance, 2012), she has performed work by Wade Madsen, Alicia Mullikin, Noelle Price, and Mary Tisa. She has also performed with Au Collective as a guest artist.

Margaret currently teaches at Bainbridge Ballet and Cornish Preparatory Dance. She recently danced in David Henry Hwang’s brilliant play, M. Butterfly at Arts West. She is thankful for her most recent collaboration with NOCCO Seattle.

Natascha Greenwalt (she/her)

Natascha GreenwaltNatascha Greenwalt is a Walla Walla native. She left the rolling hills to pursue a dance degree, and in 2005 graduated magna cum laude from Cornish College of the Arts as a Kreielsheimer Scholarship recipient. Natascha spent her summers training with the Joffery Ballet, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, and the American Ballet Theatre in New York, as well as the Northwest Professional Dance Project in Portland, OR. She has had the pleasure of performing with many local companies including Ballet Bellevue, DASSdance, Spectrum Dance Theater and currently with House of Verlaine. It’s been her honor to perform works by Donald Byrd, Zoe Scofield, Jason Ohlberg, Michael Rioux, Sarah Slipper, Twyla Tharp, among many others. In addition to her work for Coriolis Natascha has been commissioned to create works on Ballet Bellevue, Whitman College, Western Washington University, and as a guest for the Cornish College of the Arts BFA performances. She has been awarded residencies at Studio Current, Open Flight Studios a Creative Residency at Velocity Dance Center and eXit Space School of Dance. Natascha is a certified GYROTONIC® instructor at the GYROTONIC® Movement Center, teaches ballet at Exit Space School of Dance and has served as a guest instructor for Whitman College SDL and the Montana Dance Arts Association, DANCE This and Velocity Dance Center’s Strictly Seattle.

Charlotte Hart (she/her)

Charlotte Hart, Instructor at Dance Fremont

Charlotte Hart received her early training in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana, performing with the New Orleans Youth Ballet.  She received her BFA in Ballet Performance with Special Distinction from the University of Oklahoma.  Performing professionally with Louisville Ballet, Augusta Ballet, and Ballet Nouveau Colorado (Wonderbound), she danced in classical, contemporary, modern, and musical theatre choreography, and guest performed nationally. Favorite roles include Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, the Blue Girl in Nijinska’s Les Biches, Esmeralda in Tudor’s Fandango, and a Russian girl in Balanchine’s Serenade.

Charlotte has taught ballet in Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Colorado, Utah, California, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Washington.  She spent two years as assistant director for the student company of Ballet Nouveau Colorado and eight years as the assistant coordinator for the OU SummerWind Youth Ballet. Her choreography has been performed by Augusta Ballet II, Western Arkansas Ballet, SWYB, Springville Ballet, the student company of BNC,  and at the 2011 International WaTER Conference, and presented at SWRBA and OU’s Young Choreographers’ Showcase, and (directed) OU Composers’ Recital, Frame by Frame, and Degrees of Rotation. As répétiteur, she set Robert Mills’ In Between Dreams on the Oklahoma City Ballet.

During graduate school, Charlotte was awarded the Ballets Russes Archive Fellowship, earned a Graduate Teaching Fellowship, won the Miguel Terekhov Award for Ballet Choreography, and completed Jack Anderson and Camille Hardy’s dance criticism workshop. Outside the studio, she taught and lectured for introductory collegiate general education dance courses at OU.  Charlotte graduated in 2012 with her MFA in Dance from OU after successfully defending her thesis entitled Joanna Kneeland’s Therapeutic Barre: A Qualitative Analysis, which explored task-specific warming up for ballet technique.  In 2019, she presented some of this research at the DEAW annual conference. Charlotte is certified in Progressing Ballet Technique, Revolutionary Principles of Movement, and has participated in teacher trainings with Ruth Petrinovic, Maria Vegh, Finis Jhung, and Terry Goetz & Ann Green Gilbert.

She currently lives in Edmonds with her husband, two sons, and two cats. Charlotte loves being in the studio, being ballet nerdy, and collaborating with all dancers to reach their potential as movers, artists, and humans.

Kim Holloway (she/her)

Kim Holloway, Instructor at Dance Fremont

A North Carolina native, Kimberly Holloway is a freelance dance artist in Seattle. In addition to earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Belhaven University, she received dance training through the American Dance Festival, Gaga Intensive, and Raleigh School of Ballet. Her choreography has been commissioned by Seattle International Dance Festival, Converge Dance Festival, Out on a Limb (Olympia, WA), Katy Hagelin Dance Project, Störling Dance Theater, enROOT and Abbey Grown, and has also been performed at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. She is a recipient of fellowships and grants from the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, Artist Life Guild, Cornish Arts Incubator, and the Fremont Abbey. Kim performed with companies including Michelle Miller/Catapult Dance, Stone Dance Collective, Maureen Whiting Company, Sandstrommovement, Shannon Stewart, Alana O Rogers, Maya Soto, Storling Dance Theater (Kansas City), and Kinesis Project (NYC). She is on the board of Dance Educators Association of Washington. In 2015, she co-founded Class Exchange in an effort to provide teaching opportunities for less established artists and create affordable professional level classes. She currently teaches at Velocity Dance Center, Dance Fremont, and Bainbridge Dance Center.

Brian Lawson (he/him)

Brian LawsonBrian Lawson is a dance performer and educator. While growing up in Toronto he danced with the Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre. In 2005, he spent a year at Codarts in Rotterdam, and subsequently began his degree at SUNY Purchase. He graduated summa cum laude from Purchase in 2010 with a B.F.A. in dance performance, and received the President’s Award in modern dance. After graduating, Brian began working for Pam Tanowitz and John Heginbotham. He was hired as a member of the Mark Morris Dance group in 2011, and had the great pleasure to tour the U.S. and the world performing Morris’s dances.

Lawson earned his MFA in Dance from the University of Washington in 2020 and has been teaching at Cornish College of the Arts since then. Brian has enjoyed teaching dance to diverse populations and most recently performed in the Merce Cunningham Trust’s international event, Night of 100 Solos.

Christopher Montoya

Christopher Montoya, Instructor at Dance Fremont

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.

Jasmine Morgan (she/her)

Jasmine Morgan, Instructor at Dance Fremont

Jasmine Morgan was born and raised in Seattle, WA. She started her dance training at Pacific Northwest Ballet from age 7-11 years. At the age of 12 years, Jasmine discovered Dance Fremont and that became like her second home.

She danced in Fremont Danceworks Company from age 12-18 years performing in many lead and ensemble roles choreographed by Carla Maxwell (Artistic Director of the Limón Dance Company), Kabby Mitchell III (former soloist of Pacific NW Ballet), Hannah Wiley (founding Artistic Director of University of Washington’s Chamber Dance Company), Mary Kay Bisignano-Vadino (Dance Fremont Faculty), Mary Reardon and Vivian Little (Co-directors of Dance Fremont).

Jasmine’s love for dance has transformed into a passion to teach dance. She taught ballet to adults and children at American Dance Institute in 2006, volunteered at the YMCA teaching ballet to beginning adults and is currently teaching a dance class for people with developmental disabilities. Jasmine loves being with people, so being able to teach them her passion is a true joy.

Mariko Nagashima (she/her)

Mariko Nagashima is a dancer, teacher, writer, and general enthusiast of all things dance related. She grew up in Spokane, WA, and later earned a BFA in Ballet and BS in Biology from the University of Utah. Since moving to Seattle in 2010, Mariko has immersed herself in the Seattle dance world. She has performed with numerous local companies including Coriolis Dance, Alana O Rogers Dance Company, and AJnC Dance-Theater among others. As a teacher, Mariko shares her passion for ballet with children, teens, and adults at several Seattle studios. Mariko is currently the Press Corps Manager at TeenTix, where she facilitates workshops that empower teens to find their voice through arts criticism and journalism practice. Mariko was also the Editor of SeattleDances from 2010 to 2016, and currently runs PAPR: Performing Arts PR, which works to increase visibility for local artists.

Christine Weh (she/her)

Christine Weh, Instructor at Dance Fremont

Christine Weh began her training in Portland, Oregon, with many influential teachers including Heather Renk and Mary Hunt. She performed as soloist and ensemble with Portland Community Ballet under the direction of Lila Zali protegé Cynthia Tosh. Christine earned her BFA in Dance cum laude from Cornish College of the Arts where she was fortunate to work with choreographers Mary Sheldon Scott, Pat Hon, Tonya Lockyer, and Gary Masters from the Limón Dance Company. Additionally, she has performed with Weaving Dance, Chimera Dance Theater and Sapience Dance Collective. She has studied Creative Movement under Gail Heilbron and Christine Juarez, and completed Anne Green Gilbert’s Summer Institute for Teachers in 2014. Christine has been teaching her love of dance in ballet, creative movement and modern techniques for over 15 years. She has served as faculty for many schools in the region including The Dance School (also serving as Director of Education), Dance Time and Woodinville Dance Academy. Christine is currently on faculty at Cornish Preparatory Dance, where she served as Administrative Assistant for 10 years. She is the Dance Specialist for Secret Garden Preschool and continues to perform locally in independent artist productions. Christine is eager to be a part of the inspiring faculty of Dance Fremont. Her teaching goal is to provide students of all ages with the necessary tools for accomplishment, joy, and participation in dance.