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DANCE INSTRUCTORS

AVA TOWNE BISHOP

I began my dancing career at the age of 2 at La Mesa Recreation Center. Truthfully I was too young and hated it, so I quit. At 3 years I decided that I was finally ready and took tap and ballet at the El Cajon Recreation Center. While I continued my studies in tap, and ballet I trained in Mexican Folklorico and Aztec dancing where I performed professionally through-out California with the Lanuza Brothers Ballet Folklorico. Continuing my desire to learn all kinds of dancing I returned to La Mesa Recreation Center where I trained in Hawaiian and Tahitian. From this experience I became a Luani Hula Dancer working mainly in the San Diego area. At the age of 15 I was asked to take over teaching the Hawaiian and tap classes at the La Mesa Recreation Center.

While teaching at La Mesa I took classes at the San Diego Recreation Center (Balboa Park Club) where I became a member of the first San Diego Performing Company, which lead to being a Sue Hamilton Dancer. Also at this time I danced in Starlight opera's production of Once Upon a Mattress.

After High School I continued my dance studies at Grossmont College and returned to the City of San Diego's dance program, this time as an instructor of tap, jazz and Hawaiian at the age of 18 where I have been teaching for the last 34 years.

Outside of dancing I am a wife of 31 years, mother of two. I have been very active in PTA and a founding member of our classic car club, Tri-Five Revolution.

RACHEL MITCHELL

When Rachel was 5 years old, she saw tap dance on TV and said “I want to do that”. She then began dancing with San Diego Civic Dance Arts where later she was a member of the San Diego Civic Dance Company for seven years. From there, Rachel went on to study dancing and acting at Palomar College and UCSD, where she trained with the likes of Jean Isaacs, Faith Jensen-Ismay, and Margaret Marshall. (Rachel received her B.S. in Biology from UCSD). Rachel has taught for Studio West Dance Company, San Diego Civic Dance Arts (for sixteen years), where she choreographed her first major piece under the tutelage of Don and Bonnie Ward. She has choreographed for many Civic Dance Arts recital productions including, Peter Pan and Annie, and San Diego Civic Dance Company's annual Dance Collage.

She has choreographed for Action, a performing group that combines dance and sign language. Rachel has expanded her scope of work to include stage managing and directing. She has directed Collage the last 5 years and recital productions Swingin' Cinder-relly and The Adventures of Stan Starburst. And because she loves dance, Rachel is also the artistic director/founder of Inner Vision Dance Company. Rachel would like to thank her music genius, Thanks Dad:) and to my dancers, thanks for having no fear!

KATIE McMAHON

This is Katie's sixth year teaching with the San Diego Civic Dance program, however, she has been dancing with the program since she was 4 years old. Katie was a member of the Civic Dance Company for four years and appeared in Dance Collage and several Recital Productions including Swingin' Cinderelly, The King and I, and Tom Sawyer. Many teachers have come out of the Civic Dance Arts program and Katie is no exception with her years of excellent training put to good use. Katie teaches tap, jazz, ballet and creative movement.

LESLIE HAYSE PADILLA

From interior and graphic design, to dance, theatre and writing, Leslie's lifetime pursuits have been in the arts. While attending New York's Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.), in addition to obtaining a degree in interior design, and studying modern jazz dance, Leslie worked as a layout and paste-up artist, and enjoyed the exciting cultural offerings of the Big Apple.

A vacation to sunny San Diego opened this native New Yorker's eyes to new possibilities, and two years later Leslie found herself employed at Anco Home Design Centers, Solana Beach . (Ultimately, this led to her own home-based business, designing and manufacturing roman shades, and providing interior design services.) However, it wasn't long before Leslie needed a dance-fix. Her search turned up an intriguing dance program with the San Diego Park and Recreation Department. A move near Balboa Park allowed Leslie to begin jazz and tap classes at the Casa del Prado studios.

Through Grossmont College , Leslie was able to broaden her dance skills in ballet, modern and jazz, as well as hone her writing skills. She received Showcase Writers' Club awards for poetry and a short story, and continued to perform in many dance venues. Leslie's dance and theatre experiences were a perfect fit at Benchley Weinberger Elementary School, where she became choreographer and production assistant for the annual variety shows.

Fortunately for Leslie, dance became a family affair when her son, Vincent, began pre-tap classes with Miss Dana at Allied Gardens Rec Center. After over two decades with the program, Leslie continues to take classes and is a member of the Adult Dance Ensemble. Vincent is now a senior Company member, and Leslie's husband, Oscar, has danced on stage with his wife and son, but the three have yet to dance together at the same time!

Leslie has been an active member of the San Diego Civic Dance Association Board of Directors for five years, and has enjoyed watching children blossom through participation in the program. Now that she is teaching jazz, tap, and ballet classes for Civic Dance Arts, she has come full circle in her involvement with Civic Dance.

DANA DALY

Dana started taking tap, jazz and ballet at the age of 4 in the Lincoln Acres Elementary School's Auditorium in National City. The cost was 25 cents a lesson. Later, when Dana's parents realized how much she loved to dance, they took her to Totten dance studio in Chula Vista where she studied acrobatics with Kay Walker and took adagio classes with her brother. At 14, she switched to Miller's dance studio in National City where she took dance classes as well as began teaching a tap class. At 15, the owner of Miller's studio broke her foot and Dana was asked to take over all of the classes. She taught after school and on the weekends until her first year of College at which time she got a small business license and began to teach out of her family's home in National City.

In the Fall of 1967, Dana came on board with San Diego Park and Recreation under Maria Fielding. In 1971, she left the program to open her own dance studio "Dana Lynn's School of Dance" in Golden Hills on 3oth and Broadway. However, in 1975 the owner sold the property and Dana moved with her family to Arizona. Four years later, she moved back to San Diego and enrolled her oldest daughter into dance classes with the San Diego Park and Recreation. Following the June recitals, Dana decided to teach again for the program as she believes it is a great program that teaches many children and Adults at a very affordable price. Dana has been teaching for San Diego Park and Recreation's Civic Dance Arts program for 29 years. She also helps backstage as Head Dresser during Collage and June recitals. Dana hopes to continue working for the Civic Dance Arts program for as long as she can.

KATHY LANDRY

A 31-year veteran of the Civic Dance Arts program, Kathy Landry started her career in dance by taking tap classes at the age of 7 with Inge Dickens, former Cultural Arts Manager. Her passion for dance allowed her to overcome any fears she may have had in teaching dance. At 18, she acquired the confidence to discuss her dream with her dance instructor, Janet Groves. The rest is history.

Kathy's dance classes are very large, but she never neglects to educate the children in a fair and encouraging manner. She feels that it is important that the City dance program continue to provide children with quality dance instruction at a reasonable cost. Kathy knows that there are many children with limited positive outlets for their energy, and that dance is a productive way to channel that energy. Civic Dance Arts offers a safe place to develop skills, make friends, and have fun. Kathy remembers how important the dance program was to her when she was a child growing up in a family with limited opportunities for extracurricular activities. She was able to participate in dance because of its affordability and easy access.

Kathy is remarkable in her ability to teach, but her overwhelming enthusiasm is absolutely contagious! She motivates and promotes. Kathy believes very strongly in the success of our productions and always goes the extra mile to fill the theatre for our performances. She is thrilled to have her students participate, and she shares her excitement for dance with them and it shows.

RICARDO "RITCHIE" VALENZUELA

Ritchie Diego Valenzuela is a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy of New York City. In addition to choreographing for Civic Dance Arts, Ritchie has choreographed for Musical Theater of El Paso, San Diego City College, Ariel Performing Arts, and Dos y Dos (TV).

As an actor he has been cast in Musical Theater productions throughout Southern California and Texas. He is currently featured on the Television Program Dos y Dos which is broadcast nationally in the US and Puerto Rico.

TIFFANY GOFF

Tiffany began dancing 19 years ago with Civic Dance Arts. During that time, she was a member of the San Diego Civic Dance Company for 7 years in which she has had the privilege to work with choreographers such as Bonnie and Don Ward, Tony Caligagan, Kelly Ward and Kirby and Beverly Ward. In addition to dancing in Company, Tiffany studied with Tessandra Chavez, founder of Unity Dance Ensemble for 3 1/2 years, and San Diego Civic Youth Ballet for 4 years. She has been in many Collage and Recital productions including Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan and Annie. While teaching, Tiffany attends Grossmont College where she continues to pursue her love of dance and majors in Child Development. This is Tiffany's fifth year teaching for Civic Dance.

ELIZABETH MYRICK

At the age of three, Elizabeth was given a choice to either be a gymnast like her older brother or a dancer like her older sister. There was no doubt in her mind that she wanted to be just like her sister. So she started taking tap and jazz classes with Kathy Landry at Kearny Mesa Rec. Center. These classes enabled her to perform in several recital productions such as Alice's Adventures and Sleeping Beauty.

In her pursuit to be just like her older sister, she too joined the Company at the age of twelve. While in the Company she was blessed to work with such choreographers as Jon Engstrom, Kelley and Kirby Ward, and Peggy Hickey-Perez just to name a few and to learn original pieces of work from shows like 42nd Street and A Chorus Line. Also she was blessed to debut her first work of choreography and be introduced to other styles of dance such as Hawaiian, Swing, and Modern. During her time with the company and well after, she started taking classes at Palomar College and Culture Shock to add to her growing love of dance, which included ballet, hip-hop, dance kinesiology and choreography.

After a seven year run in the Company she left and joined The Rock Dance Troupe which mainly performed hip-hop and jazz. During her time with the Troupe she was able to use one of her other passions, sign language, to co-choreograph a dance that the deaf could enjoy as well. Also she was blessed again to take her passion for dance and helping others to New York City to encourage the souls of people after the loss of 9/11.

Sadly her stay with the Dance Troupe was short lived due to an injury which forced her to take a break from dance all together. Yet before she knew it she was back in classes again gaining her strength back and had a new passion for dance. Her new passion was no longer to be like her sister but was the desire to pass on the knowledge and passion that she has gained through her lifetime of dance and therefore, her joining the San Diego Civic Dance Program's talented teaching staff.

Vincent Padilla

Vincent Padilla began dancing at Allied Gardens Recreation Center when he was 4 and he remained a student of the Civic Dance Arts program for 14 years, including 6 years in the Civic Dance Company. He attended SCPA, where he was a member of the Theatre Dance and Ballet Ensembles, studying Tap, Jazz, Irish, Ballet, and Contemporary, and performed in several productions in both vocal and dance roles. For the last 8 years, Vincent has studied Russian Vaganova Ballet with the San Diego Academy of Ballet. Vincent's theatrical appearances include Starlight Theatre, Moonlight Amphitheatre, and Lawrence Welk Resort Theatre. His most recent dance appearances include The Nutcracker and Swan Lake with San Diego Academy of Ballet. Vincent graduated in December of 2011 from the University of San Diego with a Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy with a minor in Computer Science. He enjoys sharing his love of dance with his Civic Dance Arts students, and in occasional guest appearances with various groups. Vincent is very grateful for all the teachers he's had over the years and the work they've put into helping him, a male dancer, find his passion.

Theresa Landry

Having a mother with a love for dance, there was little surprise when Theresa began tap dancing at age 4 with the Civic Dance Arts. At age 6, she graduated into jazz and by 8, had integrated ballet as well. Theresa danced with the Company for seven years, and began teaching for this program at the age of 16. Most of her dance training was from The San Diego Civic Dance Arts; however, she also danced with California Ballet Company, Civic Youth Ballet, and SDSCPA (San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts) where she graduated High School in 2004. Theresa moved to Las Vegas where she danced in the show Jubilee at Bally's Hotel. After a year of dancing professionally, she realized that there's no place like home, so she moved back to follow her true passion: teaching. She is currently a full time student working on getting her degree in math, and enjoys spending time with her family.

Mary Allison Dunsmore

Mary Allison began dancing at age three under the direction of Bobbi Adams. At age twelve she became a company dancer. She took the 'Overall Best Dancer' award at a Dupree convention, sending her to "Jazz camp USA" where she studied under Roland Dupree. At Chula Vista High, School of Creative and Performing Arts she joined Show Choir and Musical Theatre. She enjoyed four years under the direction of Tony Atienza, Joyce Schumacher, and Jack Tygett. Some of her roles included Zaneeta in The Music Man, and Polly Browne in The Boyfriend, as well as dance captain and assistant director in both the female and mixed show choir. She graduated as the first mixed major student in the art of musical theatre.

Mary Allison moved to New York City where she attended The American Musical and Dramatics Academy. Here she studied under elite New York choreographers and directors such as Casey Colgan, Billy Johnstone, Lyndsay Chambers, Virginia Sandefur, and David Martin just to name a few. Her professional credits include a children's theatre tour company out of NYC, two contracts as a dancer with Disney Cruise Line, and Starlight Theatre as a dancer in The Wizard of Oz, Crazy for You, and My Fair Lady. She worked on staff as a teacher and choreographer for CYT and CCT (Aladdin, Cinderella). Mary Allison was with the Edudance program, teaching basic ballroom to elementary and middle school children. She is trained in the art of Spanish Web, and is currently training in the art of Aerial Silks. She is thrilled to have joined the staff here at San Diego Civic Dance Arts and become a company teacher. It is such a pleasure to be working with such a talented group!

Debbie Hardesty

My career as a dancer began at the age of 3. Mom tells me that when any type of music came on, I couldn't sit still, so for my third birthday, she enrolled me in classes at a neighborhood Linkletter Dance Studio. My early classes were a combination of tap and creative movement with Leah Walker as my first dance teacher. I also took tap, jazz and Hawaiian lessons from Charisse Garrett and Gaylene Davis (both former Civic Arts instructors) and danced for Leah until I was 19. My introduction to ballet occurred at California Ballet Company taking classes for a year from Maxine Mahon. I spent a year with the Civic Arts Dance program taking tap and jazz from Diana Kyricos.

I began my collegiate career in dance at San Diego Mesa College taking jazz, lyrical and ballet and was introduced to modern dance at that time. Jan Ellis was my personal and professional mentor during my tenure at Mesa. I was accepted to a summer internship with Three's Company and studied under Jean Isaacs and have taken classes at Stage 7. I attended the University of California, Irvine from 1987-1989 and obtained my Bachelor of Arts in Dance with an emphasis in Choreography. I had the opportunity to study under many great choreographers including the incomparable Gregory Hines. I also had the pleasure of performing in every production during the two years I was there.

I began teaching dance when I was approximately 15, thanks to Leah Walker, who nurtured my teaching skills. I've taught dance throughout San Diego and Irvine for various private dance studios and for the Navy's Morale, Welfare and Recreation program at various military recreation centers. When I was 19, while a student in the Civic Arts program, I was hired by Janet Groves to teach dance for the program. I have taught at various recreation centers throughout San Diego over the years and taught many of the adult classes at the Casa Del Prado and the performing level classes (company). Many of my former students from the Civic Dance Arts program have become dance instructors and several are still teaching here today.

While a student at UCI, I directed and produced Bare Bones dance concert and found additional talents working in technical theater. I brought those skills to the Civic Dance program creating original lighting design and providing stage management for Collage and recitals. After 10 years with the Civic Dance Program, I found an additional calling as a registered nurse and joined the US Navy, traveling the world and studying the dance forms of many cultures throughout SE Asia and the South Pacific. Eventually, I was medically retired from the Navy and I'm now returning to my dance roots. I look forward to a long and prosperous career teaching again for the San Diego Civic Dance Arts program with a new generation of students eager to learn.

Jennifer Harmston

Jennifer has been dancing since the age of five. She started at Mira Mesa Rec Center, then took at War Memorial, and from there joined the SDCDA Company, under the guidance of Don and Bonnie Ward. She also studied at California Ballet with Maxine Mahon and Denise Debrowski. In high school she was introduced to musical theater, and to Kelly Grant, who gave her her first teaching job. After high school Jennifer continued dancing at Palomar and Mesa Colleges, and again at CSU Chico, where she majored in Psychology and French. She has choreographed and taught since her junior year of high school for all ages, levels and styles of dance.

Shawnte Ledgerwood

When I was growing up my mother Dana was a dance instructor with San Diego Civic Dance Arts. As I went to every class with her I became one of her students at age 3. I loved to dance! I appeared in several Recital Productions such as The Love Boat, Snow White and many more. In 1988, I became a member of the San Diego Civic Dance Company, during the seven years as a Company member I also performed with City Moves and with my High school. While in company I choreographed a couple of student choreography numbers. I became a Teacher for the San Diego Civic Dance Arts at age 17 teaching Tap Jazz and Gymnastics. Unfortunately I relocated to Colorado at age 19. But when I returned to California I became a Dance teacher once again for San Diego Civic Dance Arts. This is a family tradition, my sister, my mother and I all came up through the program. And we all became dance instructors. I have 2 daughters that are involved in dancing with San Diego Civic Dance Arts. They tell me they want to become dance instructors too. I hope to teach for many more years to come as I love to see the joy it brings to my students faces. And I give thanks to all my Dance teachers especially mom. Thanks Mom!

Elaine Steinman

Elaine Steinman began dancing at the age of 8 through the Parks and Recreational dance programs offered by the City of San Diego. She went on to earn her Associates in Dance and Liberal Arts through Palomar community college as well as earning her Bachelors of Arts in dance, graduating cum laude at Cal State University, Long Beach. In all her years of dance training, Elaine has had the pleasure of studying under and working for various professional dance instructors. This includes Sue Gilson, a member on the Board of Directors for the Jazz Dance World Congress, Andrew Vaca, a "jazz dance specialist" who is also known for choreographing for NBA and NFL dance teams, and being an assistant choreographer to Lorin Johnson, a former American Ballet Theater dancer under the direction of Mikhail Baryshnikov. On top of Elaine's education, she has had the pleasure of being an instructor at many studios, also later becoming a director for a gymnastics-dance program, and finally coming back full circle to the beginning of her dance roots becoming an instructor for the San Diego Civic Dance Arts program.

When Elaine realized her calling involved reaching out to more students, she began to take graduate classes at Cal State University, San Marcos in hopes of entering their credential program fall 2011. As a credentialed teacher, Elaine aspires to combine her passion of working with children and as a dancer to reach out to the youth of San Diego. Elaine takes pride in all of her dance training and applies her education as well as experience as a dancer to each and every aspect of her career. Outside of dance, Elaine enjoys spending time with her family and friends in San Diego and being on the side lines encouraging her number one fan, her boyfriend of many years, who actively serves on the USS Ronald Reagan through the world's difficult times.

Sheryl Easter

Bio coming soon!

Shannon Mulderig

Shannon Mulderig has been dancing since the age of 8 and has experience with a wide variety of dance forms. Most of her dancing was with the Academy of Performing Arts, now located in La Mesa, San Diego. Her diverse training and performance experience includes Jazz, Ballet, Hip Hop, Irish, Tap, and Contemporary styles of dance. She trained with the Harney Academy of Irish Dance and the Malone Academy of Irish Dance. She competed internationally and achieved the honor of competing at the World Championship level in both solos and team dance. Shannon currently is a student at San Diego State University where she leads SDSU's KO Hip Hop Dance Team and is the Hip Hop dance instructor at the Aztec Recreation Center. She is thrilled to be a dance instructor with San Diego Civic Dance Arts where she teaches a variety of dance forms to all different ages. Shannon believes dance is not only a creative art but it is also a way to exercise, free your mind, and have a lot of fun!

Caitlin Thomas

Caitlin began dancing with Civic Dance Arts when she was four years old, including four years in the San Diego Civic Dance Company where she worked with choreographers such as Jonathan Taylor, Doug Elkins, and Colleen Kelly Beaman. During her time studying at Aberystwyth University she was an active member of Aberystwyth Youth & Community Theatre, appearing in productions such as Fantastic Mr. Fox, Oh, What a Lovely War, and Danny, Champion of the World whilst continuing her training in tap, ballet, and musical theatre.

ANDREA FEIER

Andrea's love for dance blossomed at an early age—2 years old! At age 5 she entered ballet class, but like our Recreation Centers located throughout San Diego, it ended up being a small dance studio in Andover, MA that fueled Andrea's lifelong passion for dance. Like she did at other studios over the years, Andrea studied a number of dance disciplines, including tap, ballet and jazz, as well as related activities such as acrobatics and even baton, but it was at Joe Dussault's studio (the one in Andover) that instilled a love of dance that burns just as brightly within her now. The camaraderie of getting together with other dancers and studying all day every Saturday (even in snowstorms), as well as the numerous opportunities to perform in front of a live audience in varied surroundings created an atmosphere that truly brought home to her the joy of dance. It is this atmosphere that Andrea sees within Civic Dance Arts and why she handles her role as Dance Specialist with such passion.

Andrea earned her BFA Degree in dance from the dance program at The Julliard School, New York City's renowned Performance Arts Institution, after attending the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center under full scholarship. Given her impressive educational background, as well as her career as a professional dancer spanning more than twenty years, Andrea brings a diverse dance vocabulary that includes expertise in ballet, modern, jazz, tap, creative movement, and Musign Dance (a discipline which combines sign language with dance movement).

Andrea's professional dance and choreographic credits are extensive and diverse. While in New York City, she served as Artistic Director of American Dance Theatre of the Deaf, and as a performer helped found several performance arts companies, including Neta Pulvermacher and Dancers, Doug Elkins and Dancers, and Hit and Run Theatre among others. She also danced with the Paul Taylor Dance Company; danced at the renowned Rainbow Room; and danced throughout the region with several other NYC-based Dance Companies. Locally, she has performed at La Jolla Playhouse, the San Diego Ballet, the San Diego Repertory Theatre, and under the direction of Don and Bonnie Ward at Starlight Theatre (where she met her husband). Her diverse talents also include that of artist, where she founded her own successful line of greeting cards called Feierworks.

Presently, Andrea's capacity of Dance Specialist for San Diego Civic Dance Arts programs, require her to handle a myriad of functions—all of which require planning, coordination, implementation, maintenance, and a constant use of her directorial and teaching skills. It is Andrea's passion for dance that was fostered in her as a young dancer that she hopes to impart on our program's dancers—and it is with her experience, dedication, and love of the arts that the dance program is thriving under her supervision.

©2007 Civic Dance Arts. All rights reserved.