A native of Milwaukee, Melissa Anderson has performed in Soloist and Principal Roles with companies as diverse as the Milwaukee Ballet, Ballet Teatro Municipal de San Juan, Southern Ballet Theatre (now the Orlando Ballet), Michigan Opera Theatre and the Icelandic National Ballet. After her ballet career, Melissa became a company member of the Danceworks Performance Company (2002-2019). Melissa teaches Ballet at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts, DanceworksMKE, Marquette University, as well as private dance studios in Southeast Wisconsin.
Melissa is a popular ballet teacher and is well-versed in working with large groups. She is a frequent guest Master Teacher at national dance conventions such as the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters CNADM, Dance Masters of Wisconsin DMW, Southern Dance Masters, Atlanta’s Ballet Fest, and Texas Association Teachers of Dance TATD.
Melissa is an American Ballet Theatre (ABTⓇ) Certified Teacher, successfully completing the Pre-Primary through Level 3 of the ABTⓇ National Training Curriculum. You can connect with her on Facebook at Melissa Anderson Ballet, Pointe, Choreography, Performance. Melissa’s goal is to teach ballet in a kind, body-friendly way. Many people have a “love-hate relationship” with ballet and Melissa hopes to keep the beauty and technique but leave some of that “old school” baggage behind.
View Ms. Anderson’s current teaching schedule here.
Sejain Bastidas was born in Caracas, Venezuela. She started her ballet training at the age of seven, at the Freddy Reyna Ballet and Music School and finished her training and graduated as a professional ballet dancer at Fundación Gustavo Franklin Ballet Arte School. She has been part of many professional ballet companies, including Ballet Contemporaneo de Caracas (2009), The Metropolitan Ballet in Minneapolis, Minnesota (2010-2011), the Nina Novak Ballet (2011), Ballet Nuevo Mundo de Caracas (2012-2013), and the Compania de Ballet del Teatro Teresa Carreño de Caracas (2013-2016). She has also danced as a soloist dancer with the National Ballet of Ecuador (2016-2017) and The National Ballet of Peru (2017-2022). Sejain participated in the opening gala of the 2019 PanAmerican Games, the World Ballet Competition in Orlando, Florida, and she has been featured in dance history books in her home country of Venezuela. She was involved in a social media campaign with the United Nations about arts and immigration in Latin America and also had a mini-documentary made about her story as an immigrant artist on the Ecuadorian television show “Cara a Cara con Rosalía.”
View Ms. Bastidas’s current teaching schedule here.
As a founding member of Danceworks, Amy Brinkman-Sustache has a long history with the organization as an instructor, choreographer, and administrator. Danceworks was established in 1992 and in 1998 Amy became the first Studio Director. She now serves as the Education Director for the organization. In her role, Amy oversees studio and outreach faculty and develops programs and curricula. Danceworks 50+ program, School Day Off Workshops and Summer Creative Art Camps are a few of the programs that Amy implemented over 25 years ago that still impact hundreds of participants each year.
Amy has developed and implemented creative movement-based programs for older adults that take place in the community. After years of working with older adults in the Milwaukee area, Amy was invited to present on the importance of movement for adults with a range of cognitive conditions at a conference for staff and family caregivers at an Alzheimer’s conference in 2004. In 2012 she was invited to present on the benefits of movement for aging adults for the Milwaukee Public Television series; Community Conversations. Recognizing a growing need for programming for active older adults on-site at the studio Amy developed Danceworks 50+ Initiative program which gained recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts. This program currently offers two levels of ballet and three levels of tap dance each week as part of Danceworks’ adult class offering.
As a performer, Amy has an extensive background in both dance and musical theater and has the opportunity to perform throughout Europe, California, Florida, and the Midwest.
As an educator, Amy developed a dance curriculum for Pius XI High School Theatre Arts program where she taught and choreographed concert dance and musical theatre from 1992-2000. She has had the privilege to serve on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Marquette University, Dance Masters of Wisconsin and Chicago and has been on faculty at Danceworks since helping to found the organization.
Amy has dedicated much of the last 30 years toward sustaining tap dance as a recognizable art form through education and performances. In 2000 Amy founded Danceworks on Tap (DOT), Danceworks resident tap company. Amy was thrilled to have the opportunity to integrate tap dance into one of Danceworks largest programs to date, Mad Hot Rhythm (formerly known as Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap.) She has also served as the state representative for the International Tap Association.
View Ms. Brinkman’s current teaching schedule here.
Jessica received her degree in education from Alverno College and decided to pair her two passions, teaching and dance. She began dancing at the age of three and studying a range of dance styles such as ballet, tap, jazz, modern and ballroom. Jessica is currently teaching youth classes for Danceworks at the JCC and also teaches both tap and ballroom for the Danceworks Mad Hot program. Jessica is dedicated to helping her students grow in their ability and foster their love of dance.
View Ms. Fastabend’s current teaching schedule here.
After retiring from Joffrey Ballet in 2014, Yumelia Garcia has not let the grass grow under her feet. While currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she also continues to make guest performances from Florida to Alaska. Ms. Garcia continues her close collaboration with the Jacksonville Symphony this Holiday Season as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Nutcracker after stunning performances in Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella in Jacksonville’s 2014-15 seasons. Garcia was included in Chicago’s Sun-Times best performances for Day of the Gypsy at the Harris Theater in 2015, a ballet created by Gordon Pierce Schmidt. She recently worked in New York with Kathryn Posin Dance Company and Meredith Monk in a commissioned ballet for the Harkness Dance Festival in Manhattan. She has taught for Joffrey Ballet’s teaching workshop in San Antonio, TX and the Joffrey Academy in Chicago as well as teaching and coaching for ballet schools across the country from Buffalo, NY to Los Angeles, CA.
Ms. Garcia was born in Caracas, Venezuela, where she received her professional training at the Escuela de Ballet Gustavo Franklin (Vaganova school). Graduating with honors, Vicente Nebrada invited her to join the National Ballet of Caracas at the tender age of 15, and promoted her to soloist one year later. Ms. Garcia began her U.S. career with Heinz Pohl at Ohio Ballet, soon thereafter she joined Milwaukee Ballet and became principal dancer. In Milwaukee, Kathryn Posin created Scheherazade on Garcia and performed classical roles; Kitri in Don Quijote, Giselle, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, and Carmen. She later moved on to Ballet Florida, where she was featured in contemporary and classical works including Cleopatra, by Ben Stevenson. In 2009, Ms. Garcia was invited by Ashley Wheater to join Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, where she hit the stage to critical acclaim in roles such as Valencienne in The Merry Widow and the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. Her performance in Ashton’s Cinderella was featured in Point Magazine as one of the “Best Performances of the Year 2010.”
Ms. Garcia’s remarkable versatility, technical prowess, and intensity have given her extensive experience with choreographers that include: Alonzo King, Choo San Goh, David Parsons, Jean Paul Comelin, Mark Godden, George Balanchine, Trey McIntyre, Jimmy Gamonet, Christopher Wheeldon, Lar Lubovitch, Jiri Kylian, William Forsythe, Wayne McGregor, Robert Joffrey and Val Caniparoli.
View Ms. Garcia’s current teaching schedule here.
Alyssa Hartman grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin where she began training at two years old. Throughout her childhood she trained in many styles including ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, musical theatre, contemporary, and lyrical. During this time, she performed as a part of her local studio’s recital along with competing at regional competitions across the Midwest. She has also attended multiple conventions at regional and national levels. Alyssa has been teaching and choreographing since 2021 and loves helping students grow to achieve their goals. She is currently attending school at Marquette University to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology within the direct admit Physical Therapy Program, along with a Dance minor.
View Ms. Hartman’s current teaching schedule here.
Upon graduation in 2000 with high honors from UW-Milwaukee with a BFA in dance, Kim Johnson, a native Yooper, joined Danceworks Performance Company and served as Associate Artistic Director from 2009-2012 before taking on the role of Director of Engagement at Danceworks. She has created works for Danceworks Performance Company as well as Milwaukee Ballet II. Kim has helped write curriculum for both Danceworks Studio and Milwaukee Ballet School where she served as faculty, branch manager, and Children’s Division Coordinator. She has thoroughly enjoyed growing Danceworks’ dance fitness program as well as many other facets, including DanceLAB. Kim is also a dance lecturer at UWM, where she teaches modern technique and Body Sense.
View Ms. Johnson-Rockafellow’s current teaching schedule here.
Gina Laurenzi graduated from UW-Milwaukee with a BFA in dance. Before beginning her chapter in Milwaukee, Gina performed with Giordano II and Inaside Chicago Dance among other Chicago artists. For seven years, Ms. Laurenzi owned and operated Laurenzi Dance (Kenosha, WI) where she presented work regularly and mentored many youth artists. Gina has set work on UW-Milwaukee dance majors, Makaroff Youth Ballet, Danceworks Youth Performance Company, Danceworks Performance MKE, Water Street Dance Company and Milwaukee Ballet summer intensive students. Gina shares her love of dance with youth and adult students through her classes at Danceworks and directs Danceworks Intergenerational Performance Company. Gina coaches and mentors competitive dancers at Brookfield Center for the Arts, is an Associate Lecturer at UW-Milwaukee and the Artistic Director of the Gina Laurenzi Dance Project. Ms. Laurenzi has performed with Danceworks Performance MKE for eight seasons and while living in the city, has had the privilege of performing the work of many wonderful Milwaukee artists including; Daniel Burkholder, Simone Ferro, Maria Gillespie, Dani Kuepper, Kym McDaniel, Madeleine Schoch, Dawn Springer, Christal Wagner and Morgan Williams. Gina loves sharing the joy of dance and creating movement with dancers of all ages.
“I hope that dancers leave my class feeling inspired, energized, appropriately challenged, and proud of what they accomplished.”
View Ms. Laurenzi’s current teaching schedule here.
Jacqui joined the Danceworks faculty in 2006 when she began teaching Ballroom and Latin dance classes for the both children and adults. She is also the lead ballroom teacher for the Danceworks Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap program. Originally from England, Jacqui has been in the United States for 20 years. Jacqui’s parents were competitive Ballroom dancers and she followed in their footsteps, competing in Latin American and Ballroom Dancing all over Europe for many years.
Once in the States, Jacqui decided to make teaching her career and in 1999 qualified through the N.A.T.D. (National Association of Teachers of Dancing). She has been teaching both International and American styles of ballroom ever since. In 2002 Jacqui obtained her judging qualification and adjudicates competitions and travels throughout Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana judging competitions. Jacqui became interested in fitness while in the UK back in the early 90’s. Still teaching fitness today, she is currently the Group Fitness Director for Gold’s Gym, Downtown Milwaukee.
View Ms. Lefebvre’s current teaching schedule here.
Erica Meier is a Milwaukee based dancer, educator, and arts administrator. Erica started collegiate dancing at Winona State University where she was on the Hip Hop Dance Team. Uponing transferring to UW-Milwaukee, Erica pursued a BFA in Dance. She trained in contemporary choreography and performance under the teachings of Simone Ferro, Daniel Burkholder, Dani Kuepper and several other professional arti and guest artists. During her education, her movement research was accepted for presentation at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research. She has danced with several groups and artists including, Revamped, Lady J, Vicki Lynn Mirage, Milwaukee pride fest and DanceCircus. She has been heavily involved in community arts participating in world water day dance, the ACE program, and Fringe Fest. She has been a judge for Badgerette dance competition and has worked as a guest artist at studios around the midwest. Erica is so excited to watch her students grow in their skill and passion for dance!
View Ms. Meier’s current teaching schedule here.
Gabi Sustache, a Milwaukee native, is a performer, choreographer, and dance educator. A recent graduate from UW-Milwaukee, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from the program in the Spring of 2020. She is currently a member of Danceworks On Tap, Danceworks’ resident tap dance company, and Danceworks Performance MKE. Gabi also enjoys performing with various Milwaukee-based hip hop crews, including S.A.I.N.T.S. She has had the opportunity to perform at events such as the 2019 Milwaukee Sports Awards and Summerfest. Her choreography has been featured at Milwaukee Bucks halftime performances, for several high school musical theater 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. In addition to being on the faculty at Danceworks, Gabi is also an instructor in the dance departments at Marquette University and UW-Milwaukee.
“A take away for when a student leaves my class is most importantly that they had fun! I hope that they leave feeling like they learned something new and that they feel inspired to take another dance class!”
View Ms. Sustache’s current teaching schedule here.
Alex Vanissaveth is a graduate of UW-Milwaukee where he received his degree in education. He began his journey into dance early on while learning from his mom traditional Lao and Thai dances. This journey continued while attending the university when he took his first dance class after attending the UWM Hip Hop Showcase. From there he gained new connections and experiences from becoming a part of a dance community in Milwaukee. He took that likeness for dance and continued to grow as a dancer by taking classes at the university and at studios like Danceworks. He was able to dance with different groups and learn the necessities of preparing for a performance. His true passion for dance comes from the performance style that Kpop has to offer. In 2017, Alex was able to become a part of KASPER Dance Crew that dedicates their time to learning both Kpop and Hip Hop choreography. In 2019, Alex began teaching at Danceworks as a Kpop Instructor and is currently teaching the Adult Kpop classes for Danceworks.
“My hope for those who take my class is to become exposed to the different styles that Kpop has to offer. I want the class to be a space where new and old fans of Kpop can come together and learn the moves that the artists do. I hope that those who take my class leave with learning something new and maybe want to add the Kpop song to their playlist.”
View Mr. Vanissaveth’s current teaching schedule here.
Christal a skilled visual artist versed in Movement, Choreography, Video and Photography. Upon receiving her BFA in dance from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee in 2007, she joined Danceworks Performance MKE and has performed in over 40 regular season shows with the company. She is an 8 time Jerry award recipient for her work in Musical Theatre and has choreographed for Skylight Music Theatre, Milwaukee Ballet II, Present music, and Danceworks Performance MKE. Christal is a cofounder of the music and dance trio Cadance Collective, co-creating pieces through processes where music and dance are worked on simultaneously 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 resi-dancer. Christal’s mission is to support and elevate the voices of her community, collaborators, and fellow artists.
“I hope to create movement practices with students and community members that bring them to be at balance in the present moment while teaching integrity through intention.”
View Ms. Wagner’s current teaching schedule here.