Meet the Artists

Danceworks Performance MKE

Katelyn Altmann

Katelyn Altmann (she/her) is a movement-based artist, choreographer, and improvisor currently residing in Milwaukee, WI. She received her BFA in Contemporary Dance Performance and Choreography from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts (2019). During this time Altmann performed in works of Joe Goode, Maria Gillespie, Esmé Boyce, Simone Ferro, Daniel Burkholder, Melanie George, Esther Baker-Tarpaga and worked with artists such as Ishmael Huston-Jones, Kathleen Hermesdorf, and Irene Dowd among others. She is a current performance and collaborative artist with Wild Space Dance Company, Hyperlocal MKE, Danceworks, and Li Chiao Ping Dance. Katelyn has presented both her solo and collaborative work throughout Milwaukee, at Seattle Festival for Dance Improvisation, Dance Masters of Wisconsin, Bates Dance Festival/Gibney Connect NYC, Chicago National Association of Dance Masters, MKE Fringe, Danceworks Get it Out There, and her work was selected to be adjudicated at the American College Dance Association’s North Central Conference. During her time at UW-Milwaukee, Altmann received two Undergraduate Research Fellowships immersed in movement research under the mentorship of faculty member, Maria Gillespie. This is Katelyn’s fourth season with Danceworks Performance MKE.

Nekea Leon

Nekea Leon is a Milwaukee based dancer and a native of the city. She began her love of dance at the age of 5 and continued her studies at her middle and high school. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee with her BA in dance in 2018. She has also performed with DanceCircus, Wild Space, and other community dance experiences.



Kaitlyn Moore

Kaitlyn Moore is a Milwaukee-based dancer, teacher, and choreographer. She graduated from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2020 with a BA in Dance as well as a minor in Journalism, Advertising, and Media Studies. She has a passion for both performance and teaching and is able to continue both in Milwaukee and surrounding areas. Her passion for performance continued with opportunities like dancing professionally as a Milwaukee Bucks Dancer, as well as performing with musicians like Bell Biv DeVoe, Riolanza and WebsterX. Throughout her time at UW-Milwaukee, she had the opportunity to study under many talented professors and guest artists such as Mair Culbreth, Emma Draves and Caitlin Mahon. Along with her training at UWM, Kaitlyn has trained with a variety of different companies, programs, and classes throughout Los Angeles, Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and Salt Lake City.

Cuauhtli Ramirez Castro

Cuauhtli Ramirez Castro is a Mexican performing artist and dancer. He started his training at the University of Guanajuato, having a multidisciplinary approach, combining contemporary dance and acting techniques. He has trained and performed the work of Mexican choreographers such as Juan Caudillo, Sylvia Salomon, Claudia Badillo, and Selene Aguirre, and with theater directors such as David Eudave and Israel Araujo. He has performed at the International Cervantino Festival (2016) with the multidisciplinary play Todo Puede Ser directed by Horacio Almada, as well as the Guanajuato International Film Festival (2015) with the short film Azul directed by Charlie Zamora. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Contemporary Dance Performance and Choreography (spring 2021). During his time in Milwaukee he has performed and collaborated in works of Maria Gillespie, Morgan Williams, Emma Draves, Bernard Brown, Caitlin Mahon, Joe Goode, Mair Culbreth, and Amanda Lee.

Ashley Ray Garcia

Ashley Ray Garcia (she/her) is a dancer, choreographer, and performer from Michigan. She received her BFA in Dance-Performance and Choreography from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. During her time at UWM, she has worked with Maria Gillespie, Simeone Ferro, Mair Culbreth, Daniel Burkholder, Anthony “YNOT” Denaro, Melissa Anderson, and Dani Kuepper. Through her love of traveling, she has had the opportunity to perform in France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, and the Czech Republic. Her choreographic focus right now centers around women’s rights and mental health awareness. Her most recent performance/choreography, “Thinking of Mother,” premiered at the Milwaukee Fringe Festival in August 2021. In March of 2022, her dance for film “In This Hallway” premiered at RAD Fest in west Michigan. Her senior piece, “In These Skirts” was chosen by the faculty at her university to perform ACDA in the adjudication concert in 2022. “In These Skirts” was also performed at Central de la Danse in Paris, France in June of 2022. Garcia enjoys choreographing, performing, and improvisation and looks forward to gaining knowledge through both exploring and experience.

Tessa Ritchey

Tessa Ritchey (she/her) was born and raised in Walworth, Wisconsin, where she trained at The Dance Factory. She graduated from The University of Iowa in 2018 with a B.F.A in Dance Performance and Choreography. While in College Tessa apprenticed for Dance in the Parks, in Chicago, where she was able to perform and help run the shows. Along with performance experience, she has had multiple of her own choreographic works produced by the university, one of which was selected to perform at the 2018 ACDA North Central Conference. After college, Tessa has had her work presented at the College of DuPage’s Choreographic Showcase, MADCO 2’s Dare To Dance, Trifecta’s A New Light, the Iowa Dance Festival, Emergence, SMUSH Moves Vol.7, Emergence, JELLO and MKE Fringe. Tessa has had the opportunity to choreograph on Alluvion, a Chicago Dance Company and will be premiering a new evening work on them this coming spring. This is Tessa’s first Season with Danceworks Performance MKE.

Isaac Jerin Robertson

Isaac Jerin Robertson, AKA Ivy, has been passionately involved in the art of dance and dance making for over 15 years. Robertson first started their training in post modern and Graham styles under the direction of Lisa Andrea Thurrell and Robert E. Cleary. Isaac Jerin also studied classical ballet at Madison Ballet under the direction of W. Earl Smith. Later, from 2010-2014, Robertson danced with Kanopy Dance Company for four seasons. They attended summer dance programs on scholarship at Pacific Northwest Ballet and Alonzo King LINES Ballet. Isaac Jerin studied contemporary dance and choreography as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee from 2014-2017. Ivy received their Cosmetology license in 2018 and is now a Senior Stylist at Drybar Milwaukee in the third ward. Along with hair and dance, Robertson participates in drag performance at local bars around Milwaukee under the name ‘Ivy Wife’. This is Ivy’s third season with Danceworks Performance MKE.

Halle Sivertson

Halle Sivertson (she/her) is a Milwaukee-based dancer in her second season with Danceworks Performance MKE. She graduated from UW-Milwaukee in 2020 with a degree in Contemporary Dance Performance & Choreography. Through UWM, she has had the opportunity to create her own choreographic works, as well as collaborate with and perform in the works of many other amazing artists, including Daniel Burkholder, Gina Laurenzi, Emma Draves, and Maria Gillespie. She has studied as a UWM Undergraduate Research Fellow under the mentorship of Daniel Burkholder, and in 2019 studied abroad in Brazil researching multiple styles of dance and other art forms. She is passionate about developing her own movement voice and showcasing those of her peers.

Gabi Sustache

Gabi Sustache, a Milwaukee native, is a performer, choreographer, and dance educator. Shen is a recent graduate from UW-Milwaukee and received her Bachelors of Arts in dance from the program in Spring of 2020. In addition to being a member of Danceworks Performance MKE, she is also a company member with Danceworks On Tap, Danceworks’ resident tap dance company. Gabi enjoys performing with various Milwaukee-based hip hop crews, including S.A.I.N.T.S, and was recently a guest performer with the Gina Laurenzi Dance Project. Her choreography has been featured as part of Danceworks’ DanceLAB concert series Ignite: A Hip Hop Dance Experience from 2013-19, Get It Out There 2016-19, Milwaukee Bucks halftime performances, for several high school musical theatre productions in and around the Milwaukee area and was selected in 2019 to be adjudicated at the American College Dance Association’s North Central Conference. Gabi joined the Danceworks faculty in 2014 where she teaches studio classes. You can also find Gabi teaching in the community for the Danceworks Mad Hot Rhythm program in addition to other workshops and residency work.


Milwaukee Opera Theatre Cast: Rusalka

Saira Frank, Rusalka

Soprano Saira Frank’s credits run from opera to stage works to Broadway recitals, including roles with Madison Opera, Pacific Opera Project, Painted Sky Opera and Elgin Opera. Saira has been a featured soloist with the Grant Park Symphony & Chorus, the Florentine Opera, and Opera San Luis Obisbo. Operatic roles include Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, the Governess in The Turn of the Screw, Tatiana in Eugene Onegin, the Duchess Christina/Sagredo in Galileo Galilei, Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus and the title roles in Tosca, The Merry Widow and Alcina. She holds degrees in voice and French from Northwestern University and a Master of Music in opera from UW Madison. An avid teaching artist and outreach performer, Saira has performed with Opera for the Young in seven productions and spent two years as resident teaching artist for Madison Opera. As a tenured, core soprano of the Grant Park Chorus, Frank has performed over 30 masterworks on the Pritzker stage. In addition to performing, Saira works as Managing Director for Opera for the Young, is a voice faculty member at Carroll University, and serves on the board for the newly founded Brew City Opera.

Tim Rebers, Prince

Tim Rebers, tenor, is a Milwaukee area performer, composer, and conductor. As a singing actor, he’s performed in operas, musicals, plays, cabarets, concert works and recitals with the likes of Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Skylight Music Theatre, Florentine Opera, Brew City Opera, Madison Savoyards, Acacia Theatre, Concord Chamber Orchestra, Pilot Opera, Colla Voce Concert Series and many others. His previous work with Danceworks was as a vocal soloist in the celebrated 2019 production of Carmina Burana. Tim last worked with MOT on Ruddigore, where he music directed, arranged the score, sang, conducted, played celeste, and acted as an entire chorus of ghostly ancestors. Other operatic roles include Don José (Carmen), Eisenstein (Die Fledermaus), and Hoffmann (Tales of Hoffmann). He is a frequent recitalist with his wife, Maggie. Tim is also the artistic director of Brew City Opera ( and one third of Tenors MKE.

David Guzmán, Vodník

Puerto Rican bass David Guzmán has been establishing himself as a regular performer across the stages of the Midwest. Currently based in Milwaukee, WI, he most recently sang the Fifth Jew in Salome (Madison Opera) and the Duke of Verona in Roméo et Juliette (The Florentine Opera). In 2023, he returns to Milwaukee Opera Theatre as Vodník in Rusalka, followed by Don Alfonso in a new adaptation of Così fan tutte (The Florentine Opera) and Antonio in Le nozze di Figaro (Madison Opera).


Engagements during the 2021-2022 season included Figaro (excerpts from Le nozze di Figaro, Brew City Opera), Plutone (L’Orfeo, Milwaukee Opera Theatre), the Court Usher (Rigoletto, The Florentine Opera), and Leporello (Don Giovanni, Teatro América-Puerto Rico).


​Past roles on the operatic stage include Truffaldin (Ariadne auf Naxos), Pistola (Falstaff), Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte), Bartolo (Le nozze di Figaro), and Kecal (The Bartered Bride). Meanwhile, the concert stage has heard David in the bass solos from Christ lag in Todes Banden [BWV 4], Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen [BWV 12], and Jesu, der du meine Seele [BWV 78].


David Guzmán holds a Bachelor of Music Degree from the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music and a Master of Music Degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Colleen Brooks, Ježibaba

“Brooks communicates beautifully in her singing” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online) and delivers “outstanding musical authenticity” (San Francisco Classical Voice). Colleen Brooks, mezzo-soprano, has performed in North America, Europe and Asia and has been featured locally in productions with Florentine Opera, Skylight Music Theatre and Milwaukee Opera Theatre.


She was an apprentice artist with Florentine Opera for their 2008-09 season where she performed the roles of Kate Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly) and Third Lady (The Magic Flute) and was most recently heard there as Mariana in Luisa Fernanda.


Additional roles performed include Dora Marx in the world and Thailand premieres of The Snow Dragon, Wagner’s Mezzos in The Skylight Ring, Isabelle Eberhardt in Missy Mazzoli’s Song from the Uproar, Queen Chandra Devi in the European tour of The Silent Prince, Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas, Huntsman in Venus and Adonis, Azucena, Rosina, Donna Elvira, Hansel, Garcias in Tulsa Opera’s Don Quichotte, Nora in Vaughan William’s Riders to the Sea, Catherine in A View from the Bridge, Piramo in Piramo e Tisbe, and Mrs. Webb in a workshop performance of Rorem’s Our Town.


Colleen completed her DMA in vocal performance at the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) in Cincinnati, OH. She holds a master’s degree in vocal performance from Indiana University as well as bachelor’s degrees in both vocal performance and biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Colleen has been a member of
the voice faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee since 2013.

Tabetha Steege, First Nymph

Tabetha Steege is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee where she received a BFA in vocal performance. Her most recent performance was with CBINT’s concert, “Being Alive: A Sondheim Revue.” Tabetha has also performed with companies such as Brew City Opera, Berlin Opera Academy and Racine Theater Guild. Past roles include The Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro, Nella in Gianni Schicchi, Suor Angelica in Suor Angelica, and The Assistant in the world premiere of It’ll Never Work. In addition to performing, Tabetha is currently a General Music Teacher with Racine Unified School District.

Erin Sura, Second Nymph

Mezzo-Soprano Erin Sura has been praised for her “vocal warmth and depth, emotional heart” and for her “powerful polished vocal work” by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and for singing “with formidable power” by Milwaukee Magazine. said her “role was memorably sung and acted” and described her as “indefatigable.” Ms. Sura’s ampleness of voice and range have made her desirable in a wide variety of roles. Recent performances include the Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors with Belle Ensemble and Music On Site; the Second Lady in Die Zauberflӧte with Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Music on Site, and Lawrence Opera Theatre; Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly with Opera West; the title role in Carmen with Brew City Opera; Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus with Master Singers of Milwaukee; Donna Elvira in The Sopranos (Don Giovanni) with Fresco Opera Theatre, Betty in Passion in Pigskin by Lydon and Mandel with Wisconsin Opera on Tap, and the Second Lady in the world premiere of Jordan Jenkins’s Queen of the Night with Fresco Opera Theatre. Additional roles include Jo March (Little Women), Fatme (Zémire et Azor), Dido and the second witch (Dido and Aeneas), Gertrude (Hansel and Gretel), and Mother Marie (Dialogues of the Carmelites). Active in concert work as well Ms. Sura has appeared as a soloist in Handel’s Messiah, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Vivaldi’s Gloria, and the Verdi Requiem. Upcoming performances include Dryade and Der Komponist (excerpts) in Ariadne auf Naxos and first maid in Elektra with TUNDI Productions in March, and the alto soloist in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with South Shore Chorale in April 2023.

Brennan Martinez, Third Nymph

Brennan Martinez has been described as “a mezzo-soprano to be watched” (Opera Lively) and sings with “power, authority, and a most intriguing color to her wide-ranging voice” (Classical Voice of North Carolina).


Recent performances include roles and events with Chicago Fringe Opera, Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre, Cedar Rapids Opera, Piedmont Opera, Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, the Glimmerglass Festival, and the Bay View Music Festival. She was also a member of the closing night ensemble of Kristin Chenoweth: My Love Letter to Broadway at the Lunt-Fontaine Theatre in New York City.


She holds a Master of Music degree from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and was a Fletcher Fellow at the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute. She also holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Wanda L. Bass School of Music at Oklahoma City University.


Creative Team: Rusalka

Christal Wagner, Choreographer & Danceworks Artistic Director

Christal Wagner a BFA in Dance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and currently serves as adjunct faculty in the UWM dance department. She is a visual artist skilled in movement, choreography, video, and photography. She began her career performing with Your Mother Dances for four seasons both locally and nationally, and currently serves as the Artistic Director of Danceworks Performance MKE. Since 2007, she has been performing and creating both staged and video work with the company. Christal is a co-founder of Cadance Collective, a music and dance trio that creates pieces by simultaneously working on both music and dance through improvisational practices and original soundscapes. Her Video work has been presented in collaboration with Danceworks Inc, Milwaukee Dance Theatre Network, Milwaukee Opera Theatre, UWM Dance, The Saint Kate Arts Hotel, The Cactus Club, and Li Chiao-Ping Dance where she was a 2020 SEED Creation Fund grant recipient. In 2020 Christal Wagner became the Saint Kate Art Hotel’s first artist in co-residence and their weekly residancer. Christal’s mission is to support and elevate the voices of her community, collaborators, and fellow artists.

Jason Powell, Adaptor and The Moon

Jason Powell is beyond honored to be a part of Danceworks’ 25th anniversary season, having worked with them in the past on such works as The Quest, Dancing About Architecture, Plugged In, and his favorite, Temptation’s Snare. He’s also thrilled as always to work with Milwaukee Opera Theatre, with whom he’s collaborated countless times (seriously, we tried counting, we couldn’t …) on such shows as The Mikado, The One-Stop Opera Shop, Doc Danger, Iolanthe, and his favorite, Fortuna the Time-Bender. Jason is a writer, actor, singer, composer, lyricist and instrumentalist. He wrote, composed and starred in the original full-length musical comedy Invader? at the New York City Fringe Festival. His nonfiction book, The Best There Is, was published by Sequart. One of his self-produced music videos (see: garnered praise from George R.R. Martin. Just recently, Jason portrayed an exposition-spouting army man in an episode of Chicago P.D. He hopes you enjoy Rusalka!

Jill Anna Ponasik, Stage Director & MOT Artistic Director

Now in her 15th season as producing artistic director of Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Jill Anna continues to find great joy in connecting artists and audiences through opera.


Select past productions include: Viardot’s Cinderella, L’Enfant et les Sortilèges, Little Mahagonny (Florentine Opera), Oklahoma (Skylight Music Theatre), Ruddigore
(MOT/Skylight) Carmina Burana (MOT/Skylight/Chant Claire/
Danceworks), Zie Magic Flute (MOT/Quasimondo Physical Theatre), Doc Danger and the Danger Squad (MOT), Svadba
(MOT/Wild Space Dance Company), Tales of Hoffmann
(MOT/Skylight), A Chorus Line (MOT/Theater RED),
Handel’s Bestiary (MOT/Danceworks/Lynden Sculpture Garden), Song from the Uproar (MOT/Wild Space), 1776 (MOT), The Mikado (MOT), Lucy (MOT) L’Enfant et les Sortilèges (MOT/UWM), Judgement of Midas (Present Music), Guns N’ Rosenkavalier (MOT), Maria de Buenos Aires (MOT/Danceworks), Fortuna the Time Bender vs. The Schoolgirls of Doom! (MOT), and 26 (MOT).


Jill Anna’s work has been presented in parks and parking lots, ballrooms and breweries, churches, classrooms, gardens, lobbies, recital halls, bookstores, masonic temples, and sometimes, in theatres. She holds degrees in vocal performance from the University of Minnesota and the Rice University Shepherd School of Music.

Ruben Piirainen, Music Director

Ruben Piirainen is a pianist, composer, vocal coach, conductor, educator, and restaurateur who has appeared with regional companies including Florentine Opera, Skylight Music Theatre, Brew City Opera, Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Kenosha Opera Festival, Opera for the Young, Belle Ensemble, Music by the Lake, and Present Music. This is his seventh production with Milwaukee Opera Theatre, having previously appeared as music director and pianist for Preludes and two productions of The Mikado, pianist for Guns ‘N Rosenkavalier, répétiteur and chorus master for Judgment of Midas, and harpsichordist for Fairy Queen Fantasy. He has appeared in over 100 concerts across the country, including a program of new operatic scenes at the National Opera Center in New York, and recitals with opera superstars Alyson Cambridge and Noah Stewart. Piirainen himself is the composer of four operas, with performances by Opera Carolina, the Skylight, the Florentine, Belle Ensemble, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He holds degrees in piano performance with additional studies in opera from Lawrence University Conservatory of Music and Bowling Green State University. He is on the piano faculty of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, is the music director at Unitarian Universalist Church West in Brookfield, WI, and, in his free time, owns two restaurants in Bay View (Sabrosa Cafe & Gallery @sabrosacafeandgallery and Sisu Cafe @thesisucafe).

Colin Gawronski, Lighting Design

Colin Gawronski could not be happier to be Danceworks Performance MKE. They have worked extensively with Danceworks, Inc. as well as such local companies as Renaissance Theaterworks, Milwaukee Opera Theatre, UWM Dance, Next Act, PrideFest Milwaukee, Bard and Bourbon, Gina Laurenzi Dance Project, Black Arts Milwaukee and the Bronzeville Arts Ensemble as well as Theatre Lila of Madison. Favorite productions include: Ignite: A Hip Hop Experience, Secrets From the Wide Sky, Black Nativity, King Lear, Jesus Christ Superstar, Stories From a Life, Any Given Monday, Serendipity, In A Black Mood, Gruesome Playground Injuries, Lamps for My Family, and Vagabondare. Give Love Always.

Erin Brooker-Miller, Harpist

Erin Brooker-Miller is a Classical and Irish harpist with a passion for orchestral and chamber playing. As the Principal Harpist of the Des Moines Symphony since 2017, Erin has performed as a concerto soloist playing Debussy’s “Danse sacree et danse profane” and Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto. She has played with many additional orchestras including the Milwaukee Symphony, Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, Boise Philharmonic, and Kalamazoo Symphony, among others. Erin has been a founding member of a number of ensembles including the Archaea Tree Ensemble and the Irish duo/trio Goodfoot. Representing the US, Erin has won numerous awards in traditional Irish music competitions in solo harp, duo, trio, and Grúpaí Cheoil categories at regional and All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoils. Also a regarded arts administrator, Erin served as the Executive Director of the USA International Harp Competition from 2015-2020. She holds degrees in harp performance from the University of Illinois and Indiana University and is currently working towards an MBA at Marquette University.

Want to see Danceworks Performance MKE in action? View their current performance season!