Jennifer Aversa, Director
Jennifer Aversa graduated Summa Cum Laude from Towson University with a B.F.A. in Dance Performance and Dance Education. While at Towson, Jennifer performed with the Towson University Dance Company and had the opportunity to perform in works by Mark Taylor, Mark Dendy, Douglas Graham, and Scott Rink. Also during her company years, she had the privilege to perform with the Baltimore Symphony at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Jennifer danced with Cross Currents Dance Company for eight years, performing at venues including The Jack Guidone Theatre, Dance Place, and The Kennedy Center.
Jennifer has also had the opportunity to study and take master classes at Joy of Motion in Bethesda, MD, Dance Place in Washington, DC, Maryland Youth Ballet in Silver Spring, MD, Lines in San Francisco, CA and Broadway Dance Center and Dance Space in NY, NY. She has also traveled to New York City several times to attend the Dance Teacher Magazine Summer Conference where she had the opportunity to study with Finis Jhung, Bob Rizzo, Bill Evans, and David Howard. Jennifer also appeared in Deborah Vogel’s instructional video, Analyzing Arabesques.
Jennifer directed Kinetics Dance Theater in Howard County from 1998-2002, directed the Merritt Dance Academy in Owings Mills, MD, and has been teaching in private studios, schools, and for parks and recreation in the Baltimore/Washington area for over 16 years. Jennifer holds Grades 1-5 Cecchetti Ballet teacher Certification and is a member of the Cecchetti Council of America and the National Dance Association.
Kassi Mattera, Instructor
Kassi Mattera graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Choreography from Elon University and received her K-12 Certification in Dance Education from Towson University. Kassi also works for AACPS as the dance teacher at Bates Middle School in Annapolis. Kassi has had the opportunity to train and take master classes from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, The Houston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Frank Hatchett, and Steven Boyd, among many others. Kassi choreographed and performed in her works showcased in the Howard County Dance Festival, Walt Disney World, Honolulu, Hawaii, The Daytona 500, and the Celebration of the Arts, where she was a finalist. She has also performed at the American College Dance Festival and North Carolina Dance Alliance. Kassi continues to choreograph musicals for many local HCPSS schools as well as Howard County Summer Theater and Howard County Summer Theater Junior, which she helped found. She has taught at many private studios and non-profit organizations in the Baltimore/DC area. Her biggest joy in life is teaching and helping to inspire her students’ creativity in dance! She absolutely loves working with her fantastic friends, amazing students, and all of the wonderful families at Dance Connections!
Serene Webber, Instructor
Serene is a CMA (Certified Laban Movement Analyst). She has applied her Movement Analysis training in her dance teaching and choreography, dance teaching of young children with Autism and language delays, and teaching adults with Parkinson's Disease. Serene was a double major in Psychology and Dance Performance and graduated with her B.F.A from Towson University. She has been teaching in Anne Arundel County, Howard County and Baltimore City for the past 18 years and has been a guest choreographer for the Anne Arundel County Public Schools for the past 7 years. Serene also enjoys performing and choreographing as a guest artist with various companies in the Washington DC and Baltimore area. Besides dancing, Serene loves spending time with her husband, daughter and son.
Stephanie Depew, Instructor
Stephanie Depew has been dancing since the age of 9. Her training has brought her to dance with Ballet Royale’s pre- professional company, and the Dance Connections Dance Company. Stephanie has also been a part of the Art’s Collective Dance Company at Howard Community College where she was a student for two years. At HCC she has the opportunity to study under instructors Renee Brozic-Barger, Nicole McClam, Joan Nicholas-Walker and Lester Holmes and performed with Daniel Phoenix Singh’s company Dakshina.
Stephanie is currently a student at UMBC where she is a double major in Dance Performance and Theatre: Design and Production where she has studied with Douglas Hamby, Sandra Lacy, Carol Hess and ex Paul Taylor dancer Elizabeth Walton. Stephanie has also studied with artists in residence Helanius Wilkens and Florian Rouiller while at UMBC.
In addition to teaching at Dance Connections, Stephanie is also a dance instructor for Howard County Parks and Recreation Summer Camps. Stephanie looks forward to sharing her love of dance with the students
Allie Hitt, Instructor
Allie Hitt has been competitively performing since the age of six. She began her training at Mid- Atlantic Center for the Performing Arts and later continued at Dance Explosion. Allie trained with Deborah Engerman, Shannon Torres, Colleen Parker and many others. She has won various high scores, titles, awards and scholarships throughout the US in jazz, lyrical, ballet and contemporary. Her solo placed in the top ten for Youth American Grand Prix and her studio placed in the top twenty for Jazz Dance World Congress. She also attended summer intensives at The Rock School, Nutmeg, New York City Dance Alliance, Complexions, Broadway at Tropea and others. Allie is a graduate of Baltimore School for the Arts where she trained in classical ballet and modern under the direction of Norma Pera, Stephanie Powell and Sandy Lacy. At the age of 16, Allie was given the opportunity to be an extra in the movie Step Up. She also attended The Boston Conservatory and was awarded The Jan Veen Scholarship. Throughout her dance career, she has been able to travel all over the country and Europe to train with professionals. Some include Desmond Richardson, Dwight Rhoden Michele Assaf, Joe Lanteri, Mia Michaels, Denise Pons Leone and many more. Currently, Allie is pursing a degree in Dance Education at UMBC.
Michele Bickley, Instructor
Michele Bickley fell in love with dance as a child and has dedicated her life to promoting self and community awareness, health, and joy through the art of dance and yoga. Michele graduated from Baltimore School for the Arts with a Dance Major and earned her BFA in Dance from Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, TX.
In 2003, Michele co-founded / directed Muv Dance and Yoga, a Los Angeles based arts organization that provided holistic learning experiences that integrated physical, intellectual, and social expression while restoring balance to the school and work day. From 2003 - 2011, the Muv program was implemented in hundreds of LA schools. She is an innovative educator with over twenty years of professional teaching and performing experience, has choreographed for film & TV, and leads workshops across the country.
Michele, her husband and two children, recently moved from Southern California to beautiful Ellicott City. Michele is thrilled to join the Dance Connections Team and to create a space where students can shine through dance!
Jen Rosso, Instructor
Jen Rosso has been dancing since she was 3 years old. Her dance training has led her to perform with the Merritt Dance Company as one of its founding members. Jen has previously taught at the Merritt Dance Academy, and she currently teaches dance for the McDonogh Summer Programs in addition to Dance Connections. Jen graduated with her Bachelor’s in Music Education from Towson University, and currently teaches instrumental music at Mt. Airy Elementary School in Mt. Airy, MD. She looks forward to sharing her love for the arts with all of her students through music and dance!
Courtney Clutts, Instructor
Courtney Clutts, a student at Salisbury University, and a dance minor, has studied all forms of dance for over 17 years. A certified Zumba instructor, Courtney enjoys choreographing and teaching dance, especially Hip Hop, Zumba, and Music Theatre. Courtney presently performs with the Untouchables, a hip hop multicultural dance team, and the Salisbury University's Poms Dance Team!
John Stapleton, Instructor
John’s first exposure to theatre was at the age of seven, in a community production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers. Although it was a small part, suited for a seven-year-old, it had him hooked. He began taking tap lessons with a local school a few years later. Within a year, that had blossomed into Jazz, Modern, and Ballet. A passion for the grace and rigor of ballet set in quickly, and John soon began more serious training with the Northern Ballet Theatre School (at the time known as the Granite State Ballet). John continued to pursue diverse experiences in dance with the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet summer program, and the Bolshoi Ballet’s summer intensive at Vail, Colorado.
After graduating High School, John accepted an apprentice position with Northern Ballet Theatre, and the following year joined the company as a full-fledged member. Here he performed in such pieces as The Nutcracker, Coppelia, and Agnes DeMille’s Rodeo. The following few years, John spent multiple seasons with both the Commonwealth Ballet Company and with the Augusta Ballet. Along with unique opportunities to perform original choreography, such as Under a Cajun Moon, Blue on Black, Lunch Break, and Askew, but in classics as well, like Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Three Musketeers.
The years have also given John a chance to make forays into the world of choreography. With Commonwealth Ballet Company, John was able to collaborate with the Director to set a piece calledBlue on Black on himself and another dancer. In Augusta, John choreographed a pas de deux, Slow Like Honey, for a showcase. And, most recently, three of John’s original works, Jivatma, Vie, andHey Baby, appeared in the Project C Dance Collective annual showcase. John also has experience in other non-dance theatre realms. He is well-versed in technical components of theatre production due to extensive training and experience under his mother, a registered Stage Manager.
John also assisted Jaime Burcham to found Behind the Masque, a street performing group based in Augusta, Georgia. BtM specialized in Guerilla Artfare, training and recruiting actors, dancers, and singers and placing them alongside more rare performers such as mimes, jugglers, fire-breathers, belly dancers, eastern-style drummers, and living statues. BtM brought unexpected delight and charming insanity to the furthest reaches of otherwise boring events. Alongside Jaime and other associates of BtM, John also worked summers to bring arts education to underprivileged children in the greater Augusta area.
The incredible diversity of John’s experiences in the performing arts have exposed him to almost every form of dance, from ballet to hip-hop, tango to African, and from swing to disco. He has been a mime, a fortune-teller, a living statue, not to mention working with set construction, make-up, lighting, rigging, and production. John has a passion for education and creation, and strives to share his art with everyone and anyone he can.
Caitlin McAfee, Instructor
Caitlin McAfee attended the University of Maryland at College Park for one year with a Creative and Performing Arts Scholarship, and graduated from Towson University with a BFA in Dance Performance and Education. After receiving her Standard Practice Certificate in K-12 education, Caitlin taught within the Anne Arundel County Public School system for three years, during which time her school was awarded the Maryland State High School Dance Festival Award for Performance and Professionalism. She has performed with the Towson University Dance Company, CrossCurrents Dance Company, VT Dance, Jane Franklin Dance, The Collective, and Trajectory Dance Project. In collaboration with the Baltimore Improv Group, Caitlin performed in the 2011 Chicago Improv Festival. She has appeared in dance films in England and Ireland, and performed in the Tête à Tête Opera Festival in London, England in 2014. She is currently earning her MFA from the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London, England, and plans to graduate in December 2015
Marsha Searle, Instructor
Marsha Searle grew up studying ballet and Scottish Highland dancing. She studied at Brigham Young University earning BFA degrees in both Composite Dance and History, focusing on Modern and World Dance. During her time at BYU Marsha performed with the International Folk Dance ensemble, touring the United States, British Isles, Canada, and Belgium and performing in the opening cerimonies of the 2002 Olympics. Shortly after moving to Maryland in 2004 she became a principal dancer with Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble. She has been dancing professionally with Footworks for 10 years and is currently Footworks' Company Manager and Rehearsal Captain.
Marta Stachorowski, Instructor
Marta Stachorowski started dancing at the age of five at the Susan Ina Dance Studio in Linthicum, MD under the direction of Susan Ingrassia, and quickly fell in love with dance. Marta competed regionally and nationally in dance and talent competitions and received numerous awards and scholarships such as Top Soloist and Title award Senior Miss Superstar and Senior Miss Teen Starpower, to name a few. She was the youngest member of the locally known Independent Dance Company (Indy Dance) in MD, co-founded by Maria Yaffe.
Marta graduated with Honors from the prestigious Baltimore School for the Arts where she received intense pre-professional dance training in Modern and Classical Ballet, under the direction of Norma Pera. She received instruction from Norma Pera, Anthony Wilson, Debra Robinson, Sandra Lacy, Vadim Pijicov and Bat Udval. She has also spent many summers at intensive programs including The American Ballet Theatre and The Joffrey Ballet School’s Summer Jazz Intensive.
Marta is currently a senior at UMBC and will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spring of 2016. During her time at UMBC she has performed with High Definition Hip Hop Company as well as in Fall, Spring, and Senior Concerts. Marta’s passion is dance and is excited to be teaching at Dance Connections, Inc. where she hopes to inspire a love of dance with her students.
Kristen Tirocchi, Instructor
Kristen Tirocchi began her dance training at the early age of 3 years old. Since then, Kristen has developed a dance background that consists of Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Tap, Modern, and Lyrical. In 2008, Kristen graduated from Towson University with a B.F.A. degree in Dance Performance and Education, along with a minor in English. While at Towson, Kristen had the opportunity to study with various faculty and guest artists, to perform in many concerts, and she also choreographed a dance for the camera piece which won second place in the 2006 Student Media Arts Festival. Also, during her time in the Towson dance program, Kristen had the opportunity to attend various dance and art conferences, such as Bates Dance Festival, American College Dance Festival, Arts Advocacy Day, and the Florida Dance Festival.
In 2007, Kristen received a position to perform professionally with the Baltimore Lady Blackbirds dance team during the football league's inaugural season. In 2011, Kristen also started performing with the Baltimore-based modern dance company, Impulse Movement Project. While she loves the performance aspect of dance, Kristen’s main passion has always been teaching dance to children. She has been teaching technique classes and choreographing for student performance groups at various dance studios throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania over the past ten years. Currently, Kristen enjoys introducing children to the world of dance, and hopes to help them develop their passion and love for the art form!
Kaitlyn Kurkemelis, Instructor
Kaitlyn Kurkemelis has been dancing, singing, and acting since the age of three. Her career started auditioning and performing in New York City then continued on to New Jersey where she became a full time teacher/choreographer for Kick Dance Studios. She teaches all ages and styles with her specialty being her unique Musical Theatre style class. Most recent training credits include Broadway Dance Center, Dance Masters of America, Dance Alliance, and Steps on Broadway. Kaitlyn attends the dance teacher summit in New York City every summer where she has trained under the world's leading choreographers, including Al Blackstone and Mandy Moore. She has performed in many musicals and staged productions. Most of which have been under the direction of Cabaret For Life. Kaitlyn is best known for her high energy, positive classes. Her classes encourage students to not only be their best in the art of dance, but far beyond the classroom as well. Her passion for the performing arts shines through her classroom setting and choreography. She is excited to be able to share this passion with the beautiful state of Maryland. "I want to share my love for this art with the world. I want to touch as many lives as I can."