Liz Schmidt graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in dance from Wayne State University. As a performer she has danced with top jazz and contemporary companies around the Detroit area including Detroit Dance Collective and Gravity Dance Company. As a teacher/choreographer, Liz spends most of her time pursuing her main passion as the artistic director of Spotlight Dance Works. Her students have consistently earned her recognition for best choreography at various regional and national pre-professional dance organizations.
In 2008, Liz was named by Dance Teacher Magazine as Best Contemporary Choreographer and in 2012 she was named Dance Teacher Magazine’s Dance Teacher of The Year. She has also enjoyed teaching positions at Wayne State University Dance Department, Western Michigan University Dance Team, Michigan State Dance Team and many local studios and workshops. Liz’s kind energy and nurturing presence has a way of connecting with dancers in a truly natural way.
Caroline Lewis-Jones, from South Carolina, has been dancing her entire life. At the age of 18 she moved to New York City to perform professionally. Her credits include everything from the VMA’s to the Latin Grammy Awards to Britany Spears and Madonna’s Me Against the Music video. Although successful as a commercial dancer, Caroline's true passion lies within contemporary company work. She has had the opportunity to work for Mia Michaels' Company R.A.W, Dee Caspary’s IV Dance Company, Notario Dance Company, Rhapsody and Company, A.S.H Contemporary, Sonya Tayeh Dance and Justin Giles’ Soul Escape. In addition, Caroline has founded Unbound Dance Company in Columbia, South Carolina. Her goal as Artistic Director of Unbound is to inspire and give dancers, young and old, a new outlet to perform.
Caroline also has a deep passion for inspiring kids around the country to eat healthier, and fuel their bodies correctly for optimum performance. When she's not with The Dance Sessions, she can be found on tour with Adrenaline Dance Inc.
An Idaho native, Jenn Freeman is a dancer, teacher, and choreographer currently residing in New York City. She began her dance career as a member of Idaho Dance Theatre and went on to receive a BFA in Dance from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Since then she has been cast in works by choreographers Mia Michaels, Sonya Tayeh, Kyle Abraham, Larry Keigwin, Travis Wall, Teddy Forance, Misha Gabriel and many others. Jenn has appeared on the MTV Video Music Awards, The Jimmy Fallon Show, and Comedy Central’s “The Comedy Awards.” She has also traveled around the country assisting choreographers Sonya Tayeh, Cherice Barton, Mia Michaels and Chris Jacobsen to name a few.
Jenn's teaching abilities are a product of her wide array of training and experiences. In her classes Jenn focuses on warm-up techniques to strengthen and promote awareness of the entire body. She combines the athleticism of jazz with strong technical skills and elements of modern dance to create combinations that are intricate and stimulating — inspiring the dancers physically, mentally, and artistically.
Adam McGaw is a full time student at Wayne State University pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. As a freshman and sophomore student, Adam's choreography was selected to be performed at Wayne State University's Annual Spring Dance Concert. Adam has been training in dance for 15 years, most recently having trained with and assisted for Mentor Liz Schmidt, 2008 Dance Spirit Choreographer of the Year/ 2012 Dance Teacher Magazine Teacher of the Year.
Adam has had the opportunity to teach and assist for The Dance Sessions and ELEVATE-The Dance Experience, as well as teaching and setting choreography throughout the country. He has also had the opportunity to work with and perform works by Dwight Rhoden (Complexions), Julie Bour (Ballet Preljocaj), Nathan Trice (Nathan Trice Rituals/ Complexions Contemporary Ballet)), Ron Todorowski (Movin' Out/ Mia Michaels R.A.W.), Meg Paul (The Joffrey Ballet/Twyla Tharp) and Jae Man Joo (Complexions Contemporary Ballet). Adam is an active dancer/choreographer for the WSU Dance Workshop Company, a student run dance company that builds their own repertory each year. He is also a company instructor/choreographer at Spotlight Danceworks in Chesterfield, Michigan.
As dancers who grew up training and performing in Kansas City, Andi Abernathy and Stephanie Ruch identified dance as their personal heartline; their reason for being, what keeps them feeling alive, and now they want to share their passion with their community.
Together they have created HE∆RTLINES Dance Company - a professional, contemporary, non-profit dance company offering dancers across the country the opportunity pursue their HE∆RTLINE − the dream of a career as a dancer. They are providing Kansas City and surrounding areas with artistic, relatable and current contemporary dance showcased in a professional concert setting. In addition to cultivating professional dancers and bringing raw, real and riveting dance to Kansas City, HE∆RTLINES Dance Company fosters community activity through instruction, education, performance, and interactive programming.
Monique Smith graduated from School of the Arts in San Francisco as well as the Fordham/Ailey BFA Program with Honors in Dance. Her performance credits include Hot Feet on Broadway, Irving Berlin's White Christmas, Philadanco, Sonya Tayeh Dance and the Tony award winning musical Memphis.
Known among her colleages to have a "wealth of knowledge”, Ms. Smith has been a driving force behind the classical elements of the Dance Sessions since its inception and continues to bring new and innovative techniques to her students.
Stepping into his first dance class, Chris felt himself come alive. A connection with the art was created that has guided him through life since that moment. His journey of creative discovery continued while attending The San Francisco School of the Arts, where he studied Ballet, Modern, Jazz and Afro-Haitian. Armed with a deeper understanding of dance, he then began to experiment with the art of choreography. In 1999, Chris established The Dance Company of San Francisco. As the Artistic Director, he created an alternative environment for passionate dancers to explore the art of dance with less focus on commercial standards and more on personal growth. Continuing through to today, the desire to share his passion consistently challenges his dancers to exceed their perceived capabilities. Chris travels nationally with the highly acclaimed dance convention Adrenaline Dance Inc and continues to create choreographic works for companies and schools across North America. As co-director and founding member of The Dance Sessions, Chris is driven to educate dancers in a loving and safe environment so his students can enlighten and inspire each other with their own passion.
Brooke Pierotti started dancing at the age of three in the San Francisco Bay Area. A founding member of The Dance Company of San Francisco, Brooke was a featured dancer in Tiffany Billings independent film "Falling Star" and a principal dancer in Martha Kelly-Fierro’s “Altered Modalities". She attended the School of the Arts in San Francisco and furthered her dance education at The University of California Irvine. Brooke has also been seen as a featured performer with the world renowned company Sonya Tayeh Dance.
With a broad vocabulary of dance techniques and an emotionally driven point of view, Brooke has a gift for reaching dancers on a cellular level. Anyone that has experienced her in the classroom can’t help but be moved by her unwavering love for the art. Brooke continues to travel across the nation to dance, teach, and share her dramatic and passionate style of dance with the next generation of artists.
Rachael Hopkins is a Central Florida native who graduated from high school in 2007, and went on to study family and social psychology at The Florida State University. There she joined the “Golden Girls” dance team, where she was captain and choreographed for them the three years that she was on the team. It was only at this point when she realized that teaching and choreography were parts of dance that she was truly interested in; a thought that she’d never explored before. After locally teaching and saving money for 2 years, she decided to further pursue her professional dance and choreographic career.
Uprooting her life, Rachael now resides in North Hollywood, California teaching Contemporary, Musical Theatre, Jazz and Ballet at Cutting Edge Dance Center. Recently, she has danced in productions choreographed by Andrew Winghart, as well as being a dancer in the LA based professional contemporary company, “Royal Flux” directed by Jaci Royal. Her choreography for several studios and dance teams across the country has earned her both regional and national recognition. Some of her professional performance credits include: Jaci Royal’s production “Shining,” Andrew Winghart’s show “Out of Darkness,” Choreographer’s Carnival at Avalon and Key Club, off-Broadway shows at the Radio City Music Hall, and several Paul Mitchell fashion shows. She has worked closely with and for choreographers like Jaci Royal, Andrew Winghart, Eryn Waltman, Justin Giles, Mandy Moore and Ray Leeper to name a few. After having her life completely changed for the better once attending her first Dance Sessions just 2 years ago, she feels privileged and honored to be part of a family of artists who are equally kind and generous as they are talented. She looks forward to continuing her beautiful journey through dance and movement, and growing and learning every chance she can.
Detroit, MI is the home of Motown, Techno, and many forms of inventive dance. Growing up in such a diverse environment, sound and movement became Sonya Tayeh’s nature. Listening, feeling and analyzing music as a child, allowed Sonya to move according to the sounds she heard and felt. She experienced the freedom of freestyle movement until she reached the age of 17. At this time, Sonya realized that with this rooted style there had to be a base, a form, and a technique. Searching for a foundation, she decided to study dance at Wayne State University. She received her BFA in dance studying dance history, anatomy, and performance. Indulging herself in this art, she graduated one year early. Sonya now splits her time between Los Angeles and New York City where she is guest faculty at Broadway Dance Center (NYC) and the Edge Performing Arts School (LA). She is proud to be represented by MSA Agency for choreography. Her work has gleamed through television screens on So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With The Stars.
“I believe that having a strong sense of self as a human being allows movement to become natural. Nature changes… it’s constantly evolving. Being of this earth, we must do the same. If we move with nature, our bodies will never lie, it will simply be natural.” ~Sonya Tayeh