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Faculty 2018-10-25T17:28:34+00:00

Faculty

Karena Birk | 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.

Steve Casteel | Owner

Steve Casteel, Owner of Dance Fremont

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.

Mary Kay Bisignano-Vadino

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.

Alethea Alexander

Alethea Alexander, Instructor at Dance Fremont

Alethea holds an M.F.A. in Dance from the University of Washington where she is currently serving on faculty as Acting Assistant Professor. She has performed with the artists of Bellingham Repertory Dance (Bellingham); Chamber Dance Company, Quark Contemporary Dance Theatre, The Stone Dance Collective and Ballet Bellevue (Seattle); and Unum Dance Company, Scott Wells and Jo Kreiter (San Francisco). She has set new works on Relay Dance Collective, students at the University of Washington and at Whatcom Community College, and has produced two original screen dances. In addition to teaching dance technique and theory, she is a certified Dance Church™ guide and Pilates mat and reformer instructor. A native to Washington State, Alethea grew up in the little northwest corner city, Bellingham.

Alethea’s creative and academic interests include accessibility and inclusivity of education, fusions of dance practices and American pop-culture, and social change through movement expression. She has made strides in bringing popular culture into conversation with dance in academia through classroom practices (within the university) and the application of scholarly work to popular culture and discourse (disseminated outside of academic publications and spaces). She has presented dance works and conversations for educational matinees at Western Washington University, and spoke about “Embodied Learning and Active Inclusivity” at the University of Washington Graduate Conference (2017). Blending physical and artistic practices of dance with American pop-culture cinema and neurobiology, Alethea’s body of research includes a series of interviews describing women’s physicalities of empowerment and confidence and the impacts of observing movement of women’s bodies in film (Graduate Student Conference in Dance, University of Washington, 2017). She is also working to expand dance audiences and blend academia with pop-culture by using Hollywood cinema as a lens through which to examine dance history.

Leigh-Ann Cohen-Hafford

Leigh-Ann Cohen-Hafford, Instructor at Dance Fremont

LeighAnn Cohen-Hafford has been teaching student and professional dancers for over 20 years. She has taught master classes, and guest classes across the USA and Canada. She was Artistic Director of Conservatory Ballet of Washington and Director of the Ballet Department at Washington Academy of Performing Arts. She served as a dance faculty member at Oakland University, MI, is currently on faculty at Cornish College of the Arts Dance Preparatory Program, and Dance Fremont and is a sought after coach and guest teacher.

Her choreography includes works for Ballet British Columbia’s Choreographic Workshop and for Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet’s Choreoplan. In addition her choreography has been presented by Conservatory Ballet of Washington, Olympic Ballet Theatre, Michigan Classic Ballet, Whidbey Island Dance Theatre, as well as by Cornish College Junior Company, and Cornish dance Theatre. Leigh-Ann’s works have been performed at several festivals including Regional Dance America Gala Night performances in 1994 and 1999. She has choreographed contemporary ballet solos and coached Youth America Grand Prix New York City finalists. She received a Craft of Choreography award from Regional Dance America in 1995.

During her extensive 15 year professional performing career she danced principal roles in numerous classical ballets such as The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Don Quixote as well as in works by some of the most eminent contemporary choreographers including Ash- ton, Balanchine, Butler, Cranko,Tetley, and Forsythe. She was fortunate to work personally with many of these choreographers as well as with distinguished ballet directors, teachers and choreographers. such as Laura Alonso, Patricia Neary, Alexander Grant, Reid Anderson and Vicki Simon. She was honored to be chosen for the lead role in the Canadian pre- mière of William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.” Ms. Cohen-Hafford toured and performed extensively nationally and internationally with Ballet British Columbia. She danced with Ballet Jorgen, Metropolitan Ballet Theater and Pennsylvania Ballet and was an invited guest artist for numerous schools and companies.

Leigh-Ann has a diploma in Dance Training from George Brown College in Toronto and an Advanced diploma in Spanish dance. She continues to teach, coach, choreograph and stage works for many schools and companies in the Pacific Northwest and Canada.

Ms Cohen-Hafford’s teaching philosophy includes an emphasis on the basics of technique, placement, and posture as well as good form and line. She focuses on developing a dancers awareness of the importance of details in transitions and movement quality. She encourages dancers to be musically aware, using phrasing to enhance their artistic choices. Her diverse professional repertoire included contemporary ballets, the classics, Balanchine works and modern dance providing her with a diverse background and understanding of the essential requirements on ballet professionals today. She is passionate about teaching and considers each of her students and their individual technical and artistic needs.

Fiona Evans

Fiona Evans, Instructor at Dance Fremont

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.  This past summer, Fiona 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.

Charlotte Hart

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.  She has originated roles in works by Robert Mills, Amy Seiwart, Lee-Wei Chao, Chung-Fu Chang, Mary Margaret Holt, Jeremy Lindberg, Steve Brule, and Peter Powlus.  Before retiring, Charlotte performed with Oklahoma Festival Ballet as the Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, as the Blue Girl in Les Biches, as the Pigtail Student in Graduation Ball, in Antony Tudor’s Fandango, and as a guest with the modern dance company Clawson Dance Initiative in Wichita, Kansas.

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 company.

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. Her thesis Joanna Kneeland’s Therapeutic Barre: A Qualitative Analysis explored task-specific warming up for ballet technique. 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.  She currently teaches ballet in the Seattle area, writes and edits for SeattleDances, and lives in Edmonds with her husband, son, and two cats.

Kim Holloway

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.

Christina Kennedy

Christina Kennedy, Instructor at Dance Fremont

Christina Kennedy received her early training, from Sally Tierney, in the Cecchetti Method of Ballet. She has studied with teachers in Vaganova and Balanchine style during Dance Theater of Harlem Residency programs and a summer at the Washington School of Ballet. Growing up near Washington D.C. gave her the chance to perform at the Kennedy Center multiple times. She has studied many dance styles including Modern, Broadway Jazz, Lyrical, African and Tap. While earning her BA from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County she danced with the faculty directed, Phoenix Dance Company. After moving to Seattle, she danced with Redd Legg Dance, badmarmar, and Ashani Dances. Performance may be the reward for hard work in the studio but being in class is her favorite part of dancing. Her teaching style is geared toward keeping dancers healthy while making a very demanding art form fun to learn. She continues to read books about dance and take classes around the city to keep in touch with the mind of a student. She is very happy to be with the Cornish Preparatory Dance and Dance Fremont.

Christopher Montoya

Christopher Montoya, Instructor at Dance Fremont

Christopher Montoya was born in St. Johns, Arizona but grew up in South Phoenix. Chris began dancing at the age of 11, training in ballet, modern, and jazz. Chris began his academic journey with the University of Arizona, taking time off periodically to work with professional companies Gus Giordano, David Taylor Dance Theater, Scorpius Dance Theater, Center Dance Ensemble, and Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. Moving from New York to Seattle with his husband in 2011, Chris completed his undergraduate degree with Cornish College of the Arts. While attending Cornish, his goals shifted from professional performance work to teaching dance, which guided him the University of Washington where he received his Master of Fine Arts. Chris currently resides in Seattle, WA where he has taught at various locations in the Pacific Northwest, and performed with Seattle Dance Project, Chamber Dance Company, and Men In Dance. Chris is now the Principal for The School of Spectrum Dance Theater.

Jasmine Morgan

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

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

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.