Natalia Alonzo-Brillante

Natalia Alonzo-Brillante

Founder & Director; Instructor in Ballet

Natalia Alonzo-Brillante, was born in Bushwick, Brooklyn and began her journey with dance at the age of three. Her background includes extensive training in classical ballet, modern dance, and Flamenco. Her ballet teachers include the late David Howard, Marina Stavitskya, Michael Vernon, Anna Lederfeind, and Nancy Bielski. She studied contemporary dance at the Martha Graham School and has spent over 25 years of her career learning and performing the technique and repertoire of Isadora Duncan. Natalia trained in flamenco and classical Spanish dance with the late Jose Molina, Mariano Parra, and Liliana Morales.

After graduating high school Natalia continued her professional training at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance while completing a BA in foreign languages at Hunter College. Upon completion of her dance studies, she was invited to partake in the historic reconstruction of Martha Graham’s 1934 ballet “Panorama” in which she performed with the Graham Company for two consecutive seasons at New York’s City Center as well as the Spoleto Festivals in the United States and Europe.

Natalia danced with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet at Lincoln Center for 5 years in productions of La Traviata, Turandot, Tannhauser, I Vespri Siciliano, and Carmen. Her performing career also includes work with numerous local dance companies including Dances by Isadora, Catherine Gallant Dance, The American Bolero Dance Company, Danzas Espanolas, the Off-Broadway production “Flamenco Extravaganza” and Ballet Fiesta Mexicana, among others. Some of her favorite performance memories are dancing in the great outdoors at Jacob’s Pillow, Lincoln Center Outdoors, Bethesda Fountain Terrace, Historic Greenwood Cemetery, Prospect Park and The Yard at Martha’s Vineyard.

Natalia is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Primary through Level 5 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum. She began teaching in 1994 at Ballet Academy East and Discovery Programs in NYC. In 1996, at the age of 25, she accomplished her childhood dream of opening American Youth Dance Theater. Since then the school has undergone three expansions and continues to grow. Over the years, Natalia’s greatest joy as a teacher has been seeing children of all ages, backgrounds, and levels of ability discover the joy of self-expression through dance and music. It has been a special and joyful experience for her to witness students growing from the toddler programs all the way through the highest level classes, and seeing how involvement in the arts helps children develop into disciplined and dedicated young adults with a strong sense of respect for self and others.

Along with directing American Youth Dance Theater, Natalia has also guest taught and conducted multicultural dance performances and lecture demonstrations in public and private schools throughout New York City through programs including Young Audiences and Arts Connection.

Natalia’s favorite movie is the Japanese version of “Shall We Dance?” because it is about ordinary people discovering the joy of movement. She believes that if we all spent a little more time dancing, the world would be a happier place!

Fun Fact: My favorite hobby is gardening. 🌸

Global Footprint: Natalia is one of the co-founders of the SFDS Social Justice/LGBTQ Alliance at St Frances de Sales Church in Manhattan, working to promote inclusion of allpeople who are born into or called to the Catholic community. Natalia tries her best to live in harmony with our beautiful world by making environmentally sound choices in her daily life.

Monique Massiah

Head Administrator, Director of Diversity and Inclusion; Instructor of Pre-Ballet and Ballet

Monique Massiah graduated magna cum laude in 2008 from Arizona State University with a B.F.A in dance and minor in business. While in school Monique received numerous academic and dance scholarships.

Monique was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, and started her dance training at the age of four. She went on to study at the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for 10 years. Monique was awarded a fellowship at the Alvin Ailey School and became a teacher assistant. In addition to her training at Alvin Ailey, she trained at LaGuardia High School for Music, Art & Performing Arts.

Her professional accomplishments include a 1998 performance at the Goodwill Games, Opening and Closing Ceremony; in 2000 she performed Cry at the Kennedy Center Awards for honoree Judith Jamison; performed Memoria at City Center in 2003; in 2004 was a National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts Winner for modern dance; in 2005 was a member of Dance Arizona Repertory Theater; in 2008, performed and choreographed Ophelia at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

Monique is an ABT® Affiliate Teacher, completing the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 3 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum and has successfully presented students for the examination.

Fun Fact:   Proud “Auntie Mo Mo” to two intelligent and beautiful nieces.

Global Footprint:  Our world is forever changing.  While I have encountered personal experiences with racism in America, the constant murders of black and brown people in America has marked a significant shift in the tides, awakening the world to America’s persistent disease – racism.  I am committed to confronting this disease head on.  I strongly believe black lives matter and am passionate about supporting racial and social justice causes.

Nanci Bellini

Instructor in Tap

Nanci Bellini is a graduate of Point Park University where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance with a concentration in Jazz.  There she studied under iconic dance professors Ron Tassone, Douglas Bentz, Susan Stowe, Jodi Welch, as well as Marion and Nicolas Petrov. Nanci has performed professionally with Pittsburgh Musical Theater, Pittsburgh CLO, Pittsburgh Playhouse, and also Six Flags Summer Theater. Productions include “Fandango”, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, “Chicago”, “Odyssey”,  and “Boogie Wonderland” to name a few.

Although Nanci specializes in Tap, she has over 20 years of experience in choreography and teaching many different genres at all ages and levels. She continues to educate herself in all forms of dance so she can bring only the best and most current back to her students.

Nanci is so excited to be back again teaching this year at American Youth Dance Theater which she has called home for the over 10 years. She is very passionate about instilling the love and dedication of the art of dance that she has had since the very young age of 3. Nanci especially loves seeing her students grow year after year and continues to find new ways to challenge them as well as make dance fun.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain” -Vivian Greene

Fun Fact: Nanci, at a very young age, was adopted from Santiago, Chile!

Global Footprint: Nanci has always felt the way she was helped, she wanted to also help others give back to the community. Starting at the age of 10, every summer she volunteered at a camp for children with special needs for many years. During her high school years, she  also volunteered at local hospitals. It is very important to Nanci that she teaches her two young daughters to follow in her footsteps and always give back.

Melanie Campbell Coats

Instructor in Ballet

Melanie Campbell Coats originally hailed from Dallas, TX. She began her ballet training at the Chamberlain School of Ballet in Richardson, TX. She continued her training at Ballet Austin where she danced in the junior and then senior company. In addition, she trained at the Boston Ballet and Hartford Ballet summer workshops. She obtained her BFA in Dance at The Juilliard School under the directorship of the late Benjamin Harkarvey. While at Juilliard, in addition to her ballet training, she studied the techniques, and performed the repertory of Martha Graham, Jose Limon and Paul Taylor. A highlight of her time at Juilliard was working with the renowned choreographer Jiri Kylian and performing in his seminal work, Symphony of Psalms. Upon graduation she formed a company with her fellow Juilliard classmates and continued dancing in NYC.

She completed her master’s degree in Dance Education at NYU with a dual concentration in ABT Ballet Pedagogy and New York State K-12 teaching certification. She is currently an ABT® Certified Teacher in Pre-Primary through Level Seven and Partnering of the ABT® National Training Curriculum and a certified K-12 dance teacher in the NYC DOE. In addition to teaching ballet at American Youth Dance Theater, she is a teaching artist for American Ballet Theatre and completed her student teaching for NY State in the ballet department at Talent Unlimited Performing Arts High School in Manhattan. She is currently beginning her second year as the ballet teacher at Maspeth High School in Queens, NY.

Fun Fact: In addition to her career in the dance world, Ms. Coats also pursued a career playing music in a rock band. From 1999-2009 she played bass in the rock band Burning Brides; recording four full length albums for the NYC based label V2 records. Her music was featured on the first version of the now classic video game Guitar Hero, she performed twice on The Conan O’Brien show and toured extensively both nationally and internationally.

Global Footprint: Ms. Coats feels passionately that all children deserve quality arts education and advocates for the inclusion of a rigorous dance curriculum in public education. She believes that all children are inherently creative and that by equalizing access to the arts through education, we have the power to create the social change that is desperately needed in this country.

Billy Cohen

Instructor in Hip Hop

Billy, hailing from right outside of Boston, started his hip hop training at the young age of six at Joanne Langione Dance Center, and continued his training at Hofstra University while receiving a B.S. Degree in Dance Education.  This training at Hofstra gave him the opportunity to work with artists such as Fredrick Earl Mosley, Doug Varone, David Parker, Heather Waldon, Ellie Kusner, Bill Young, and Barbara Angeline, as well as train with Hofstra’s most notable Dance Department alumni, Larry Keigwin, on scholarship. Billy also created two works that represented Hofstra at American Collegiate Dance Association Conferences, and co-choreographed his own fully-produced evening dance show, “jux•ta•po•si•tion”.

Outside of school, he continued his training with Broadway Dance Center’s Professional Semester and at Generation IV, learning and performing choreography from Teddy Forance, Devin Jamieson, Derek Mitchell, Emily Greenwell, Candace Brown, Jeff Lapes, Noel Bajades, Jonny Forance, and Emma Portner.  Billy has had opportunities to teach, set, and perform choreography for multiple studios and showcases in NYC, including Broadway Dance Center’s Training Program, Peridance’s Apex Faculty showcase, Mark Morris Dance Festival, and the NYC Comedy in Dance Festival. His choreography was included in a segment of MTV’s Episode 2 of “Lit!” sponsored by Beats by Dre, and briefly was the director of Peridance Capezio Center’s iReP crew.

Signed to Bloc Talent agency, Billy has worked with  J Balvin and Bad Bunny for the MTV VMAS, Reebok, and was casted as a Principal Dancer in the season 2 of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, choreographed by Marguerite Derricks.  Billy also starred in a viral video called “Student Vs. Teacher Battle”, totaling over 22 million views on all social media platforms and appearing on multiple news networks, including a short segment on “Inside Edition”.  With his education background, Billy Cohen hopes to have continuous success in the dance industry, and to someday be a college professor doing what he loves best: creating, performing, and sharing his knowledge of dance to the next upcoming generation of artists.

Fun Fact: I have an identical twin!

Global Footprint: 4.2 Earths :(

Gleidson Vasconcelos Hoffmann

Instructor in Ballet

Gleidson Vasconcelos Hoffmann is an internationally acclaimed dancer, teacher and choreographer. He was born in Minas Gerais, Brazil and started training at Studio Arte Danca and Ballet Liudmila Palonskaya, before winning a full scholarship to the Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, Florida. He danced professionally for Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, Ballet Arizona, and New Jersey Ballet. His previous repertoire includes ensemble and lead roles in Sleeping Beauty, the Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Giselle, Coppelia, Romeo and Juliet. Additionally, he has over 11 years teaching experience, including the Rock School for Dance Education, Princeton Dance and Theatre, Philadelphia High School for the Performing and Creative Arts, Philadelphia Dance Theatre, Ballet Tech, Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Gleidson Hoffmann is an American Ballet Theatre ® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the American Ballet Theatre® Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 7 of the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum.

Fun Fact:I love animals and I am the proud dog dad to two black labradoodles, Barbara and Anthony.

Global Footprint: My Global footprint is to empower the world through the beauty of the arts and raise awareness of the need to save the Amazon Forest in Brazil.

Lisa Johnson

Instructor in First Steps

Lisa Johnson, a native Minnesotan, received her BFA in Dance from the University of Minnesota and attended Penn State earning an M.Ed. in Art Education. She is cross-trained in ballet, jazz, and modern with a foundation in the Humphrey-Limón technique and has performed for several choreographers in Minneapolis, Pennsylvania, and New York. Lisa specializes in teaching dance/movement in early childhood and higher education. She has worked in arts education outreach, community-based programs, mind-body research, and developed progressive curriculum teaching for several New York institutions for over fifteen years. She adores the spirit of every child she meets and works to foster the individual as a whole person. Lisa is delighted to be part of the American Youth Dance Theater and looks forward to creating fun, enriching, and meaningful experiences for children.

Fun Fact: Ms. Lisa loves dogs!

Global Footprint: Ms. Lisa is an advocate for a clean environment and equal human rights.

Austin Marquez

Instructor in Hip Hop and Broadway Jazz

Austin Marquez is a performer, choreographer, and teaching artist based in New York City. Growing up between Wyoming and Colorado, Austin has spent his recent years in the city performing in several productions such as the immersive theatrical experience Zerospace at the Hotel Pennsylvania, the Off-Broadway premieres of GEEKS! The Musical and The Turkeys Go on Strike, the equity showcase of MANIFESTO: The Diaghilev Project and the Merkin Concert Hall performance, When Broadway Went to Hollywood. Austin has also danced all around the city in productions at venues such as Steps on Broadway, Helen Mills Theater, and Manhattan Movement and Arts Center. He has been seen dancing on screen in some music videos and the feature film Bad Education.

Austin’s choreography has been selected to perform in dance festivals like the Jazz Choreography Enterprise Dance Project, and awarded at dance competitions all around the country. He has choreographed several productions in NYC including The Drowsy Chaperone, The Addams Family, and A Chorus Line. He has also taught for several studios around the country and in the musical theatre department at Marymount Manhattan College, where he also received his degree in musical theatre.

Austin uses his background in acting and fitness, along with his dance training to give his students the ability to not only grow in their understanding of their anatomy and become physically stronger, but also to explore emotion and storytelling through movement as well. He strives to give his students the tools to become confident in their abilities, to take risks in their explorations, and to find community and support in their classes. Austin encourages his students to take every opportunity they have to learn and grow as artists—to believe in themselves and never waste a moment!

Fun Fact: As a fitness instructor, Austin was featured training members of the Real Housewives of New York for an episode on season 12 of the hit show.

Global Footprint: "Recently, many of our eyes have been opened to the blatant and disturbing amount of hate and injustice that has always been present in our country and is still running rampant. As an educator, I have always felt a responsibility and necessity to spread a message of equality and acceptance in my classrooms, but now, more than ever, I feel there is a dire need to bring these topics to the forefront of every lesson. I am an avid supporter of Black Lives Matter and fighting to bring justice for the BIPOC community that has not had the same protection and opportunities that the majority of us have been given. I believe in the power of educating ourselves and others to understand and fight against the systemic issues that have held our country back towards ever reaching equity. I pledge to do my part in staying informed and educated, speaking up when necessary, using my privilege to elevate others, and spreading knowledge in order to come closer to having justice for all."

Rachel Mazur

Instructor in Ballet

Rachel M. Owsley- originally from Lexington, KY, began her training with the Lexington Ballet School and supplemented her training by attending programs with American Ballet Theatre, North Carolina Dance Theatre, Pittsburgh Youth Ballet, and Kentucky Center’s Governor’s School for the Arts. She later received two bachelor’s degrees in both Ballet Performance and Dance Pedagogy from Point Park University. While at Point Park, she danced at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, as well as student taught at Pittsburgh's Creative and Performing Arts high school. Rachel always wanted to live in NYC and moved here to attend New York University to gain her M.A in Teaching Dance in the Professions: American Ballet Theatre. In addition, she is an ABT® Certified Teacher, Primary- Level 7 and Partnering of the ABT® National Training Curriculum. She has taught, directed, and choreographed in the NYC and Central Kentucky areas including: Dancers Responding to AIDS, Brooklyn Ballet, Usdan Summer Camp for the Performing Arts, Lower East Side’s Educational Alliance, Chen Dance Center, The Lexington Ballet, East Pointe Dance, and The Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts.

Fun Fact: Ms. Rachel loves trying out new vegetarian recipes from around the world, entertaining friends, and hanging out with her husband and rescue crew (their blind pup, Gordo, and fat cat, Mr. Draper).

Global Footprint: “I am so excited to be sharing my love of dance with the AYDT community again this year. During this time of pause, I have been able to meditate and reflect on how I better fit into my community. I have been enjoying connecting with my Crown Height community through their Mutual Aid program. I have been reminded that listening can be more valuable than speaking. That amplifying the voices of others, by way of platform, can be more important than all of us yelling at once. To give when you can, whether that be monetary, labor, or love, and to rest when your soul needs it.”

Maria Piedad

Instructor in Ballet

Maria Piedad is a choreographer, teacher and dance theorist graduated from the National Ballet School of Cuba, the NYU/American Ballet Theatre® M.A. in Ballet Pedagogy and from the Tisch School of the Arts M.A. program in Performance Studies. With an artistic career of 24 years in Ecuador, Cuba and USA, dancing, teaching, choreographing, staging and directing (ballet, jazz, contemporary, character & historical dances, Latin American, among other styles), she now also researches about dance & its politics.

Maria is an ABT® Fellow and Affiliate Teacher who is certified to instruct the ABT® National Training Curriculum from pre-primary through level 7 and partnering, having successfully presented students to examinations. She has also worked as proctor for the ABT® teaching examinations.

Besides her work at AYDT, she is a ballet mistress and répétiteur for DDA Dance Academy in Paramus. She serves as artistic & pedagogic adviser for Danzas Ballet School in Ecuador since 1999. Maria Piedad has taught and choreographed for the pre-professional schools of Brooklyn Ballet, Ballet Hispanico, Long Island Ballet Theatre, among other dance institutions in the Tri-State Area. She was a teaching assistant at the ABT® JKO School children's division, working in the production and teaching children's classes for The Nutcracker in 2013. She was also an adjunct faculty for the CUNY’s College Now Program.

Maria Piedad was the artistic director and choreographer of ProDanza-Ecuador, Commercial Dance Company (2001-12); K-12 dance educator for the German and American Schools in Quito (2003-12). Rehearsal director for the National Ballet of Ecuador (2004-08) and classical repertoire teacher for the Ballet School "Alejo Carpentier" in Havana (1999-2000).

Her choreography has been performed in Ecuador, El Salvador, Cuba, Dominican Republic,Costa Rica and USA. She staged the Jaime Pinto's complete ballets Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, The Three Musketeers and The Taming of the Shrew for the National Ballet of Ecuador where she was also a dancer starting in 1996.

Fun Fact: She practiced high mountain climbing, BMX and down-hill biking. She loves to explore remote and archeological places having been to Rapa Nui, Knossos, Tayrona, Kappadokya, Uyuni or The Corn Islands. She is able to communicate in five languages.

Global Footprint: Maria believes that ballet is not only an artistic practice but also a way of living that allows the interaction of diverse people (cultures & places) from around the world through common ideals of discipline, self-perseverance, respect & care for the other, camaraderie and communal support.

Sabrina Pretto

Instructor in Ballet, and Pointe

Sabrina Pretto was born in Vicenza, Italy. After starting formal training for dance in her hometown, she was admitted in 2004 to the prestigious “Acadèmie de Danse Classique Princesse Grace” in Monaco Monte Carlo, under the direction of Marika Besobrasova. In 2008, soon after graduation, she participated at the International Dance competition in Spoleto, Italy and won third prize in classical ballet. That led her to obtain a contract with the English National Ballet in London for the company’s production “Strictly Gershwin” performed at The Royal Albert Hall, with the choreography of Derek Deane. Also in 2008 she performed for the Fondazione Arena of Verona, Italy in the Opera “Aida”.

She was then hired from the Ballet company of the Stadttheater Koblenz in Germany, directed by the choreographer Anthony Taylor, where she performed for two seasons. In 2010 she joined Les Ballets Grandiva in their extensive tour throughout Japan, where she danced several solo roles, in ballets like Westward Symmetry, Gottschalk pas de Trois, Pas de Quatre Nouveau (choreography Brian Norris) , Paquita Pas de Trois and Night Crawlers (choreography by Peter Anastos). In January 2011 she joined the worldwide famous ballet company Les Ballets Trockadero de Montecarlo, with whom she has been traveling the world reaching more than 23 countries worldwide. Her repertoire in the company includes roles in Pas de Quatre ( Grisi),Paquita (first soloist) and second variation from Paquita pas de Trois, The nymph in Walpurgisnacht, The Dying Swan, Esmeralda in Esmeralda pas de six, Giselle (title role), Swan Queen in Swan Lake, Le Corsaire Pas de Deux (Medora), Les Sylphides or Chopiniana (lead and Waltz Girl), Flames of Paris, Soloist in Raymonda (second variation), Napoli Pas de Six (second variation), La Vivandiere, La Naiade et le Pecheur, Ocean and Pearls, the Gold Fish and The Queen of the Underwater from the Little Humpback Horse.

During her busy dancing career, Sabrina was able to nurture her love for teaching dance. Whenever she found herself in her homeland she would teach intensives and workshops at different studios in Italy . In 2014 and 2015 she taught at the summer intensive of French Academy of Ballet in New York, specializing in coaching female repertoire variations.

Since 2018 Sabrina is an active member of the International society of classical dance Marika Besobrasova, which intent is to preserve and pass on the pedagogy and methods of teaching of the famous russian dance teacher. Her passion for dance and its apparel can be seen extensively in the forming of her own successful dance wear line called “Albypretty”. Throughout the years, Sabrina has been designing several costumes for dance performances such as “The Firebird” (2006), “Aimez-Vous Bach?” (2007),“Words Unspoken” ( 2010) and most recently “Creatures of Prometheus” for Florida Ballet (2019).

Fun Fact: she owns an extensive collection of high heels, counting more than a hundred pairs!

Global Footprint: I am actively involved in establishing diversity and inclusivity, in particular for people with different gender identities and races that are looking to make waves in the dance world.

Maiya Redding

Instructor in Contemporary

Maiya was raised in Chicago, Illinois, and her dance training began at The Chicago Multicultural Dance Center. She attended and graduated high school from the Chicago Academy for the Arts where she majored in Dance. Her studies took her to Purchase, NY where she graduated Cum Laude from SUNY Purchase College in the Dance Conservatory program where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2016. While at Purchase she had the pleasure of training abroad for a semester at Korean National University of the Arts, in Seoul South Korea.

Within the last couple of months Maiya set my work "Breaking through the Generational Curse" on Alessandra Corona Performing Works, and will be working with the company again in February to extend the work. She also set another work "Chicago Luvin" on Dance Lab NY, and, in addition, created and choreographed her own film titled "The Evolution of Womb(man)hood" in August. For the past three years Maiya has been working as a dance instructor teaching various classes including, ballet, hip hop, modern, and jazz.

As a choreographer and instructor, Maiya's intention is to show the audience the beauty of artistry. She is a strong believer in individuality and is attracted to dancers that dare to be different. Her goal as a choreographer and dance instructor is to empower her students and make them feel powerful and strong.

Fun Fact: My favorite part of teaching is the moment when I realize that I made a difference in my student's life. It's so magical seeing your students see their own potential and knowing that you're a part of their success story. I was named after the great Maya Angelou and naturally I love reading and using poetry in the works that I choreograph.

Global Footprint: I want to be able to share my stories and others people's stories around the world. My goal as an artist is to spark and create conversations. I want to help my students create change and find ways to connect with others by researching various foundations that encourage their voices being heard


Jennifer Reed

Instructor in Broadway Jazz

Jennifer is a performer, choreographer, and dance instructor, as well a proud mom, and Maryland native. Throughout her childhood, Jennifer was a member of The Hanover Children’s Ballet Theater and Co. and was fortunate enough to be able to travel and perform throughout the country, as well as The Republics of Czech and Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, and The People’s Republic of China. Jennifer went on to train at The University of the Arts, before returning to Maryland to begin her teaching and performing career.

Some of Jennifer’s favorite credits include: Singin’ in the Rain, On The Town, A Chorus Line, Grease, Elf, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Jesus Christ Superstar, as well as performing on the high seas with Carnival Cruise Lines, to name a few. In addition to stage work, Jennifer can also be seen in front of the camera, working for Television and film.

Jennifer has been instructing children and adults for over 16 years, teaching various styles, and levels. She is also an active choreographer, setting pieces for competitive dancers, guest choreography for colleges, as well as setting full productions for theaters.

In the studio, Jennifer understands that every classroom has its own unique dynamic; it is her role, as an educator, to assist each student individually, helping them develop their own potential and technique. She aims to cater to each individual's needs, helping them to not only discover their process of learning, and how to relate it to dance, but to find their passion in dancing.

Fun Fact: During the pandemic some of us were forced to find new creative outlets. Studios were closed, theaters were shuttered, and singing was discouraged in groups. Jenn began painting pointe shoes as a creative outlet, and due to public demand, opened an Etsy shop, and has expanded to painting custom tap shoes and Vans! There’s a silver lining in everything!

Global Footprint: I am very passionate about Gender Equality and Female Rights, as well as a proud ally for BLM and LGBTQ+.

Candice Segarra

Instructor in Hip Hop

Candice Segarra graduated with a B.A. in Dance and Theatre from Manhattanville College, with a concentration in Modern Dance Performance and a minor in Communications in 2014.

She has danced on tour with Marta Renzi & Co., with Off-Broadway’s hip hop vaudeville comedy show: Rebirth of Rabbit’s Foot and Guilty Pleasures Cabaret. Candice has performed at RAW Artists, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Peridance Showcases, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The People's Improv Theater, Disney World, New York City Center, for Atlantic Records, Good Morning America, TRL and more.

Candice has also trained and performed in Italy and freelance performs with various entertainment, dance, theatre companies and choreographers. She is experienced with teaching a variety of dance styles to all ages spanning 2 years old through adult. She also teaches adult heels classes at SassClass NYC and vinyasa yoga at Atabey Yoga NYC & Mahayana Crew (currently all virtual through Instagram and Zoom.) She obtains a 200-HR RYT Power Vinyasa Certification and is also NASM Group Fitness certified.

Flo-Rida, Mickey Singh, Lizzie Blazquez, Afiya, Wendell Bullen, Nicque Marina, Zandra and more.

Fun Fact: I just got engaged! August 2020

Global Footprint: I am passionate about global warming, ethical shopping, sustainability products, the BLM movement and #endingchanclaculture. Making sure that parks, streets, reservoirs, beaches and more are clean with reduced waste and making sure I recycle all my waste. I've been focused on buying from black communities in most of my purchases and making sure my purchases don't create more waste by remaining sustainable and biodegradable. I am for justice and liberation in innocent black lives being taken from police brutality, in medical fields and mass incarceration, etc; and most definitely ambitious in terminating child abuse and domestic violence in Latinx childhoods.


Michelle Solares

Instructor in Pre Ballet

Michelle was a Lincoln Center Scholar in the Arnhold Graduate Dance Education Program at Hunter College.  She has a Master’s in Dance Education and a BFA in Performing Arts from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Michelle is an adjunct professor of dance at York College/CUNY and is certified to teach public school K-12. Michelle has danced with Ballet for Young Audiences, Lafayette Ballet Theatre, Pi Dance Theatre and Elbow, Wrist, Hand University. She has taught for the NYC Department of Education, private dance studios and Children’s Dance Guild at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. Michelle is currently the assistant to Luigi jazz teacher Lisa Biagini at Steps on Broadway. Previously, she has also assisted and demonstrated for Master Horton teacher JoLea Maffei at Steps on Broadway and Peridance.  For more information, check out

Fun Fact: Michelle is from New Orleans, Louisiana!

Global Footprint: I am passionate about climate change because there is no plan(et) b. There are many problems in the world, but unless we create a more sustainable way to live, we won't have a planet healthy enough to concern ourselves with other world issues.

Kamryn Vaulx

Instructor in Contemporary, and Hip Hop

Kamryn Vaulx is a recent graduate of Marymount Manhattan College. She graduated with a BFA in Dance and a minor in Business Management.

Kamryn is from Memphis, TN where she began her dance training at 3 years old. She has trained for years in styles such as jazz, contemporary, hip hop, tap, ballet, modern, African, Spanish flamenco. She is currently a part of a New York hip hop company, Creative Genius, and has worked with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Bill T. Jones/ Arnie Zane Company. Kamryn has also had the opportunity to work with other choreographers such as Ronald K. Brown, Anthony Burrell, and Fredrick Earl Mosley.

Fun Fact: She has been vegan for 4 years and loves cooking vegan recipes!

Global Footprint:With her versatile dance background, she aspires to share the intersections that are within dance styles and cultures with the dance community and the rest of the world. Kamryn hopes to forever inspire those coming behind her to continue to share the love of dance and movement, and wants to leave a global footprint in the world that exemplifies the power of creativity and the arts.

Taylor Wallace

Instructor in Pre-Ballet, Broadway Jazz, and Tap

Taylor Wallace is a performer, choreographer, and teaching artist based in NYC. She attended Marymount Manhattan College where she graduated with her BFA in Musical Theater and a minor in dance and performance.   Most recently, she worked as the Associate Choreographer for the Off Broadway Production of Shrek and performed in a showcase at Steps On Broadway.  Some of her past credits include Kiss Me, Kate, A Chorus Line, Once Upon A Mattress, and Zelda: An American Love Story. Taylor has also worked as a dancer on the set of the 2017 film Hello Again. 

Growing up, Taylor’s mom would always tell her to “let her light shine” and “follow her joy”. Those words guided her approach to every performance, audition, or class: always bring a grateful heart and determined mind. She learned that her light shines the brightest when embracing the “joy” of doing what she loves, which is why she strives to never take dance for granted—Taylor knows how lucky we are as dancers to exercise our bodies in demanding and dynamic ways. This mentality causes her to yearn to learn more and constantly set new goals for herself.

When it comes to working with other dancers, her mission is to bring the spark and energy from her current and past experiences to each class—creating magic, encouraging artistry and boosting enthusiasm in all the dancers she works with.

A note from Taylor: I was lucky to have inspiration growing up, and now I love to inspire others to shine their own light and follow their joy. I will always have a huge smile on my face and a sunny attitude while teaching. How could I not?! Loving my job as much as I do allows me to view it not as work, but as another opportunity to create something beautiful.

Fun Fact: In elementary school, I used to wear big fancy party dresses; I never understood why the other kids in my class were not getting dressed up for school too, but it didn’t bother me; I loved getting dressed up. Fast forward to today and nothing has changed. Oscar Wilde once said,  “you can never be overdressed or over-educated” I think he was on to something :)

Global Footprint: We all want to leave this world a better place, which is why I am so passionate about being a teacher. My relationships with my students extends beyond teaching them how to dance. I aspire to cultivate self confident, loving, knowledgeable individuals who will embrace challenges with a positive outlook and fierce determination. I believe all children should be given the same chance to be inspired no matter their socioeconomic status and I will continue to fight for enriching and encouraging children's’ lives for the rest of mine.

Samantha Warner

Instructor in Tap

Samantha was born and raised in Denver, where she trained at Sweatshop Dance, Colorado Ballet, and Denver School of the Arts. In 2019, she graduated with honors from Marymount Manhattan College, receiving her BFA in Dance and Choreography. There, she performed works by Trey McIntyre, Robert Battle, Gabrielle Lamb, and Jacqulyn Buglisi, amongst others. While in school, Sam was chosen to be a part of the Marymount Manhattan College Dance Company where she received the Tachick-Hooper scholarship, two years in a row. Her own choreography was chosen to be presented at the NYU Choreography Seminar in 2018. In January 2019, she took on the role as Outreach Coordinator, providing arts exposure and education to elementary school students.

When Sam wasn’t away at college she spent the summers teaching tap, and other styles, at Sweatshop Dance, where she also choreographed many solos, duos, and group dances for the competition dancers. Sam has trained with Giordano Dance, RUBBERBANDance Group, Vim Vigor Dance Company, and Bodytraffic through their summer intensives. She has performed at the Joyce Theater, the 92nd Street Y, and the Manhattan School of Music in a show where all proceeds were donated to LGBTQ homeless youth. Currently she is in her second season apprenticing with Parsons Dance and so excited to be joining the American Youth Dance Theater team!

Fun Fact: Sam loves owls, it’s a dream of hers to open up her own owl sanctuary.

Global Footprint: I believe it is so important to expose children to the arts. There are so many applicable skills learned through dance: teamwork, discipline, leadership, communication, expression, articulation, etc. I am so passionate about bringing art to children of all backgrounds and creating a non-judgemental atmosphere, no matter the student’s age, size, race, gender, sexuality or skill level.

Hyung Ji Yu (Heidi)

Instructor in Ballet, and Pointe

Hyung Ji Yu (Heidi) is an international choreographer, dancer, and instructor based in NYC. \

Heidi began her training in South Korea, where she received awards through competitions and a scholarship for Outstanding Student from her alma mater, Sejong University. After performing for several years as a ballerina of the Korean Ballet Theatre, Heidi relocated to NYC to study at the Merce Cunningham School, and continued her studies at SUNY Purchase. Her studies culminated in 2015, with an MFA in dance from NYU Tisch, where she focused on pedagogy and choreography under Sean Curran, Gus Solomons, Cherylyn Lavagnino, Pamela Pietro, and Phyllis Lamhut.

In the US, Heidi performed with Roxey Ballet and Albano Ballet Company, and became certified in the ABT National Training Curriculum in addition to her teaching certificate in the Vaganova Method. She has taught and choreographed at Broadway Dance Center, New Haven Ballet, and Sacred Heart University. She received a CUNY Dance Initiative Residency at City College of New York for 2019-2020. Heidi established As Arts NY Dance in 2013, and has collaborated with choreographer Xiang Xu on XY Motion Project since 2016. Her choreography has been shown throughout NYC, including Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, Dixon Place, Bassin Performing Arts Center, and Kaye Playhouse. Her piece, "Bitter Roots," won NYC10 Best Piece in 2014; she choreographed the original musical “Enchanted by a Spell,” in 2015; and in 2016, she was invited to speak about her collaborations on TEGUS TV, NYC.

Visit or to learn more about Heidi.

Fun Fact: Heidi is from Seoul, Korea.

Global footprint: As an international ballet instructor and choreographer, my choreography is based on the strong ballet technique, and I combine ballet with new thinking about the Eastern dance which creates flowing movement and soulful. I intersect Eastern and Western movement philosophies in dancers’ bodies.

Jackie Carranza

Studio Administrator

Jacqueline Carranza graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a BA in Humanities and Justice in 2017. She is currently pursuing her J.D. degree at Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center.

Jackie was born and raised in NYC and started her dance training at the age of 6. As a child, she trained in Mexican Folk Dance. She performed with her company all over NYC at many locations including Madison Square Garden, El Museo del Barrio, and Thalia Spanish Theater, She was also a previous student at AYDT, where she took our Advanced Ballet, Technique and Variations class.

Jackie is so thrilled to be able to come back to AYDT as a faculty member. Being able to relate to our students brings her so much joy. She aspires to be a criminal defense lawyer, where she aims to be an agent of change using the laws dictated by our Constitution and take part in reforming our justice system.

Fun Fact: Jackie is currently an intern for Honorary Judge Linda K. Mejias, who is a Family Court judge and the president of the Long Island Hispanic Bar Association.

Global Footprint: Jackie wishes to use her law degree to address racial disparities in sentencings that lead to disproportionate impacts . She is a proud advocate of race and social issues, and stands in solidarity with the BLM.

Mia Silvestri

Administrative Assistant

Mia Silvestri is a native of Charleston, South Carolina. She graduated from CUNY Hunter College Summa Cum Laude and as Salutatorian of the Class of 2019. As a dance major, Mia was awarded the inaugural Dr. Jana Feinman Undergraduate Dance Scholarship for her accomplishments within the Hunter Dance Department.

Mia has worked for the American Dance Festival and the Vail Dance Festival, and as an intern for Eryc Taylor Dance Outreach. She recently spent the year assisting production of dance programming at New York City Center. She is excited to join the AYDT team as an administrative assistant this season!

Fun Fact: Mia grew up part-time London!

Global Footprint: Mia is passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion within the dance community, and believes the arts should be accessible to all audiences.

Ryan Skerchak

Administrative Assistant

Ryan graduated magna cum laude in 2016 from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Arts with a concentration in Acting. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Ryan started acting, singing, and dancing on stage at the age of 9. His education has included studies in the Stanislavski and Meisner acting styles as well as studies in Voice and Speech and Shakespeare. Ryan studied Commedia Dell’Arte at the Academia Dell’Arte in Arezzo, Italy during the Fall semester of his junior year where he was educated on the Italian masked art form, as well as movement for the actor and philosophy.

After graduating in 2016, Ryan spent several years performing all over the country. Favorite roles include Oklahoma! (Curly McLain) with Derby Dinner Playhouse, Hello Dolly! (Cornelius Hackl) with Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre, and Singin’ In The Rain (Don Lockwood) with Pines Dinner Theatre. Ryan has also devoted his time to directing and choreographing for his high school and college alma maters. Ryan produced, designed, and directed the Muhlenberg Fundraiser Cabaret “Musical Theatre; Through the Decades” benefiting the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre’s children’s camp, as well as the Fall 2016 Homecoming Cabaret centered around different love stories throughout the Golden Age of Musical Theatre. In the Spring of 2016, Ryan assistant choreographed his high school alma mater’s production of Thoroughly Modern Millie and then choreographed their production of High School Musical Jr. later that Fall. Ryan is pumped to be working AYDT for this upcoming season!

Fun Fact: Ryan does a pretty spot on Miranda Sings impression!

Global Footprint: Our current political climate is problematic, temperamental, and chaotic. The question arises as to what I can do to support those that deserve the same rights to merely just live that I have because of my privilege.  I have been using my time over the past couple of months to listen to those that are being/have been oppressed, educate myself, and put what I have learned into practice.  We must elevate the voices of the oppressed and not show fear to those that spread falsities and threaten our brothers and sisters. If you are eligible to, please go out and vote in the November 2020 election! Voting in this election is one of many ways that you and I can show our support for those that deserve our support!