Jazz Unlimited's Teachers/Choreographers
Beth studied at the School of the Pennsylvania Ballet Co. until the age of fourteen. She then joined Jazz Unlimited where she studied under Carryl Slobotkin and began teaching. She further studied and performed ballet under the late Lorraine McAdams at the Mt. Laurel Regional Ballet Co. Beth also studied with Barbara Sandonato and the late Alexei Yudenich, David Howard and many more nationally acclaimed teachers. Beth was awarded a scholarship with Jo-Jo Smith in New York City and was asked to join the faculty there. She also taught for the official summer school for the NYC Ballet in Saratoga Springs.
Beth choreographed her first Cherokee High School Musical "Singing in the Rain," recently performed at Lenape Regional Performing Arts Center. Through the years, Beth taught for Jazz Unlimited and many other schools in the Delaware Valley. After opening the Sandonato School of Ballet, Beth soon realized the strong commitment necessary in owning her own school while single parenting her children, Chelsea and John. Opting for a change, she decided to relocate and downsize her workload, which enabled her to spend more time with her family.
Jacquelyn began dancing at Jazz Unlimited at a very young age and is a former member of the Dance Ensemble where she studied under Carryl Slobotkin and many talented choreographers. After graduating from Tulane University where she continued to take dance classes, she returned to the area. She completed a Master's Degree in Education from Saint Joseph's University. Since then, she has been teaching first grade in the Cherry Hill School District. In the summer, she teaches dance at Tall Pines Day Camp. Jacquelyn has enjoyed dancing in the adult classes at the studio for many years. She is very excited to join the Jazz Unlimited staff where she can combine her love of teaching and her love of dance.
Vanessa Elise Baker, the first African American Miss New Jersey USA, competed in the nationally televised Miss USA pageant and donated her time to over twenty different charities and foundations during her reign. She was the official American Red Cross Penn-Jersey Region spokesperson where she promoted blood donation, a cause near and dear to her heart. Currently, Vanessa is the executive director of The Miss Teen New Jersey Š World Pageant, which is apart of the Miss Teen World Organization.
A native of Marlton, NJ, and a graduate of Rutgers University with a bachelor of Arts degree in English, Vanessa is currently pursuing her Masters in Biblical Studies at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and is also enrolled in the Wharton School of Business, working programs for working professions, to receive a post baccalaureate degree in entrepreneurship.
Vanessa has been dancing for 28 years and was a member of the Jazz Unlimited Dance Ensemble for eight years. She has done guest choreography for the Philadelphia Sixers and New Jersey Nets dance teams. Vanessa's proudest moment is being a mother of two babies, Noah Zachary, and Brooklyn Skye. She stays busy running back and fourth to Manhattan to cultivate their blossoming modeling careers. Vanessa and her children have shot for American Baby and Parents Magazine.
Fern has been dancing since the age of five and is a former member of the Jazz Unlimited Dance Ensemble. While in college, Fern studied Music and Dance Therapy. Her choreography for various string bands performing in the annual Mummer's Day Parade has won her numerous awards. Fern also served as captain of the Berlin String Band and has the distinct recognition of being the only female captain/ Fern has started a wide range of programs in the area from Creative Programs at local pre-schools to senior citizen tap classes at the Jewish Community Center. During the summer, Fern can be found serving as choreographer for Standing Ovation Theatre Co. Fern is also proud to be working with the Next Step Program and the Ensemble Tap Productions here at Jazz Unlimited along side some very special people.
Fern is very proud of her family and is happy that they share her love for Jazz Unlimited. Her daughter, Mandi, was a dancer here and now has graduated from Montclair State University, with a major in Theater Studies. Mandi can also be found teaching at JU on Saturday mornings and Fern is so happy and proud to share her love of teaching with her daughter. Her other daughter, Jaime, is a former member of the Dance Ensemble and now attends Virginia Tech, majoring in engineering and is also a member of their dance company. Fern's son, Adam, danced in his 7th recital this past year and can also be found on many stages in the area playing drums or acting his little heart out. Another talent in the Dorfman family is Fern's husband, Jay, who shares his expertise as our music editor. There is another member contributing her time to Jazz Unlimited, Fern's mom. She is outside the auditorium selling t-shirts every year.
Mandi Dorfman has been studying dance since the age of 3. Currently, she has graduated from Montclair State University with a Bachelors degree in Theatre Studies. She directed and choreographed with Hopewell Valley Children's Theatre for 6 years and can now be found directing and choreographing alongside her talented family with the Standing Ovation Theatre Company of South Jersey. Mandi is an active member of Fill in the Blank Productions, a theatre/film/dance based group of artists who all came out of Montclair. She is very excited and happy to share her knowledge of the arts with children all over the world, and what better place to start then here at Jazz Unlimited, where she grew up watching all these talented and inspiring teachers, including her mother, Miss Fern.
Jaclyn Dunne began her dancing journey at Jazz Unlimited in Marlton, New Jersey. She attended The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA, where she received her BFA in dance in 2005. Jaclyn has been a member of the contemporary jazz dance company, A.S.H. (Artists Simply Human) based out of Philadelphia, PA. and performed with them in Budapest, Hungary at the Sziget Festival. They have performed in the Philly Fringe Festival and at New York City's Carnival Choreographer's Ball. Jaclyn spent 6 years as a performer in Atlantic City at the Trump Taj Mahal where she danced for the Angels girl group at The Ego lounge. Her eclectic, award winning choreography has been seen at the annual New York City's Carnival Choreographer's Ball, Boston University's dance team, the Garden State Dance Festival in 2006, as a teacher with the Manhattan Dance Project, and as a guest teacher at The University of the Arts. This year, her dances "Dog Days" and "7 Nation Army" were awarded with "Outstanding Choreography" awards at competition. She is currently on faculty at the Rock School West where she is a teacher for their annual Summer Jazz Intensive.
This is Devon's eighth year teaching at Jazz Unlimited. Devon grew up in western Massachusetts where she started dance, at the age of 3, at the Hartford Ballet. She then continued dance for local studios, competing at numerous competitions at both regional and national levels. Devon was awarded many titles and scholarships throughout the years of competing across the country. Devon toured with Starpower's National Talent Competition's Power Pak, where she studied with Karen Hebert, Pam Boiling, and worked with choreographer, Barry Lather. She returned to Starpower as a Team Leader for the Power Pak 2003.
In May of 2004, Devon received her BFA in Jazz Performance with Honors from The University of the Arts. At the University, Devon studied with Molly Misgalla, Wayne St. David, Ronen Koresh and many others. She spent her four years there performing in University concerts and other special events such as the Equality Forum in May 2003.
Michelle started dancing at the age of three at the Stewart-Johnson Dance Academy studying jazz, tap, and ballet. Michelle has trained with instructors such as Isobel Johnson, Kim Johnson, and Sandy Moore. She has taken various classes through New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, and Las Vegas. As a professional, Michelle has been a member of the Philadelphia 76ers Dance Team, performed in Legends in Concert at Bally's Grand in Atlantic City and has performed in 42nd Street at the Bucks County Playhouse. For the past thirteen years, she has been a teacher-choreographer in the New Jersey area. Michelle continues to enjoy being a part of the Jazz Unlimited family. Her work with the Ensembles has won them numerous awards at many regional competitions.
With her signature style of choreography that seamlessly blends jazz, hip hop, and street dance, Nikki Dean-Hocker has shared her love for dance with audiences across the United States. Nikki has trained in dance for the past twenty-nine years, and she has channeled her passion for the art into a successful career as a teacher, performer, and choreographer. Whether leading rehearsals in the studio or watching her choreography performed on national television, Nikki continues to cherish the experience of teaching at Jazz Unlimited. Nikki holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in dance performance from Rutgers University/The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Her most recent performance credits include Rhapsody: The Company, J Records: Marcus, and Bev Brown: P Funk. Nikki has worked extensively as a performer in regional theater, and she has choreographed for multiple shows, including the original script "Into the Fire." In addition, Nikki has choreographed for singer/songwriter Jade Starling: Virgin Records. For the past thirteen years, Nikki has taught multiple styles of dance. She taught and assisted at the world famous Broadway Dance Center in New York City, where she worked for jazz legend Frank Hatchett, renowned hip hop artists Bev Brown and Karen Addison, and street jazz dynamo Rhapsody James. The experience of training and teaching at BDC helped Nikki to develop her own unique style of choreography, which she has shared with students at studios up and down the East Coast. Nikki has worked for the collegiate dance programs at Rowan University and West Chester University, and she has choreographed for the national champion dance teams at Towson State University and Rutgers University. Her choreography for Jazz Unlimited has won many top honors at regional and national competitions over the past eleven years. Currently, Nikki is a judge and choreographer for the National Dance Showcase as well as the director of the Jazz Unlimited Dance Ensembles. This year, her choreography was performed on the local CBS show "Talk Philly" with Ukee Washington, and she was a featured artist and choreographer on the nationwide broadcast of Paula Abdul's CBS reality show "Live to Dance." She looks forward to continuing to share her love of dance with students of all ages.
Lisa was introduced to dance at the age of three. Her training included tap, ballet, jazz, gymnastics, and pointe and was broadened by master classes in hip hop, swing, and modern. As a teacher, Lisa's energy and enthusiasm, love and passion for dance have helped to encourage and motivate her students in their own efforts to learn and excel. While a member of the Jazz Unlimited Dance Ensemble of Marlton, NJ, for five years, Lisa studied under such talented choreographers as Billy Angell, Meghan Braun, Molly Misgalla and Carryl Slobotkin, and attended master workshop classes taught by Mia Michaels, Dan Karaty, Desmond Richardson, Dave Scott, Laurie Ann Gibson, Andy Blankenbeuhler, Gil Stroming, and Chris Judd. She has also and continues to travel to New York City for classes. Lisa has performed in many local, regional, and national competitions and events, including Star System's nationals in Las Vegas, a Philadelphia 76erÕs game, a Miss New Jersey USA fundraiser, and the 2006 Philadelphia Mummer's Parade. In December 2008, Lisa traveled to Miami, Florida to perform in the prestigious, "world-class" 2008 Orange Bowl Halftime Show. The event took place at Dolphin Stadium ad featured famous rock band, ZZ Top. The halftime production was choreographed by America's Best Dance Crew and So You Think You Can Dance choreographer/judge, Shane Sparks. Lisa joined dancers from all over the country to perform!
Lisa has recently started a career in theater choreography at the Voorhees Middle School. This is Lisa's sixth year as a teacher/choreographer at Jazz Unlimited. She has received her Associates Degree in Business Administration from Montclair State University/Camden County College, but continues to keep dance as her number one passion and priority.
Originally from this area, Melanie began studying jazz, ballet, and tap at the age of four with a local dance studio. As a talented and integral member of their dance company, Melanie performed in several county pageants as well as in the prestigious Miss New Jersey Pageant. Melanie also worked in a dance club where she performed original choreography inspired by popular music videos. She was so immersed in her art, that at the young age of fifteen, Melanie began teaching dance to others. At the age of twenty, Melanie decided to move to New York to study dance at the Broadway Dance Center. Upon returning home, Melanie enrolled in some adult classes at Jazz Unlimited and soon became a member of our dedicated teaching staff. For 4 years, she was able to teach at several local studios as well as choreograph productions for the Voorhees Middle School Drama Club until the birth of her daughter, Kayla. Melanie has enjoyed working with the Next Step dancers along with Fern, Karen, and Monica for the last 4 years.
Monica began dancing at a very early age. She grew up in the studio. Monica moved from being a young dancer to an assistant teacher, and then finally to an instructor, where she has taught alongside her mother, Karen, for the past 12 years.
Monica attended Richard Stockton College and trained in ballet, modern, and jazz. While at Stockton, she was a member of the Stockton Dance Company and choreographed many modern dance works and pieces for musicals and variety shows. Monica is a post-graduate of Dance Masters of America Teachers' Training School in Buffalo, NY where teachers from across the country come together to share information and train with Master teachers.
Monica spends most days as the "lady at the desk" here at Jazz Unlimited. She is thankful to be working with her mother, as well as Fern, and Melanie on the Next Step production.
Tracy began her strict ballet training at the age of eight under the direction of Barbara Sandonato and Alexi Yudenich at South Jersey Academy of Ballet. She had danced and performed with Children's Ballet Theater, now called Ballet NJ, for seven years under the direction of David Gallagher. Tracy has performed the Nutcracker, cast as Clara, the Snow Queen, Dew Drop, and the Sugar Plum Fairy. For several years, she was also given scholarships to the Pennsylvania Ballet Summer Workshops under the direction of Bojan and Stephanie Spassoff.
Tracy graduated from The University of the Arts in 1995 with a BFA. She performed in two companies - Philadelphia Dance Company II (Philadanco II) and Koresh Dance Company, which she stayed with for seven years, performing all over the Philadelphia area. Tracy also had the opportunity to dance in "2000 Feet" with many companies all over the world. Most recently, Tracy performed in the tri-state area with Gemini Dance Projex, under the direction of Jeanine Shoemaker Farr. She had the wonderful experience of performing in the beautiful Kimmel Center and the Phila. Arts Bank performing "Five Foot Five and Under." Tracy also dived into some commercial aspects of dance, and performed in a Diana Ross video. She worked with the Evening Magazine Dancers, under the direction of Susie Miller, in "We Are the Children of the World," and danced in "Which Way to the Super Bowl," NFL Films XXVII, which was aired on NBC. Tracy has been a member of the Jazz Unlimited staff for eleven years and is currently a member of the faculty at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
Colleen began her dance training at Jazz Unlimited at the age of three and became a member of the Dance Ensemble by age nine. For nine years, Colleen traveled with the Ensemble, performing and competing all over the U.S. Throughout Colleen's dance career, she has studied under talented choreographers such as Carryl Slobotkin, Meghan Braun, Debbie Gatto, Amy Guggino-Masso, Molly Misgalla, Billy Angell, Melanie Stewart, Paule Turner, and Sean Doyle.
After graduating from Rowan University in 2003 with a B.A. in Elementary Education and a coordinate degree in Theater and Dance, Colleen is happy to be back "home" at Jazz Unlimited for the ninth year. In college, she was a member of Rowan's Contemporary Dance Company and Dance Team. Aside from Colleen's passion for dance, she also has a passion for education. Colleen is currently a preschool teacher in the Gloucester City school district. In December of 2005, Colleen received a P-3 certification in Early Childhood through Montclair State University. Colleen is very excited to be a part of the staff here at Jazz Unlimited. She is also thrilled to have the opportunity to combine her two loves, teaching and dance.
Karen began dancing at an early age in Pennsylvania. Through the years, she enhanced this training by attending classes at the Pennsylvania Ballet Company, Waves in Philadelphia, and New York's Broadway Dance Center. Karen was the director of a local dance studio for six years. She was a long time member of Dance Masters of America and completed their 3-year program for certification. Through Dance Masters, Karen is certified to teach ballet, tap, jazz, and acrobatics.
Karen brings extensive teaching experience to Jazz Unlimited and is proud to belong to a studio whose staff and director are dedicated to providing a strong, technical foundation to their students. Although she has performed professionally, it is sharing her love of dance with her students that bring Karen the greatest joy. Karen enjoys working with the special performance group, Next Step. Both students and co-teachers make it a fun and special project. She is also happy to be given the opportunity to teach tap and ballet to the Ensembles. She loves their enthusiasm and desire to become better dancers. Karen is proud of how well the JU dancers did in this year's competitions. Especially the tap production for receiving a Platinum Award and the Petite Ensemble's number, "Betty in the House," receiving the Critics Choice Award at the NYCDA dance competition.
Julie Wills graduated Cum Laude from Towson University in 1995 with a bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Education. Among her many accomplishments while at Towson, she was selected for the Jim Snyder Award for outstanding technical achievement in dance and given the Towson University Dance Department Award for outstanding choreographic achievement. Following college, she went directly to New York City and auditioned for on and off Broadway Musicals and dance companies. She lived in New York City for two years and during that time performed with Mary Anthony Dance Company and several National Theatres all over the country. In September of 1997, Julie accepted a position as dance director and instructor at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland. After two years at Bryn Mawr, she opened Company Elite, a dance studio in Maryland, which quickly grew from approximately 150 to 500 students within a four year period. She has since sold her interests in Company Elite and moved to Mullica Hill, New Jersey, to be close to family and raise her children, Maria and Vincent. Julie enjoys sharing her talents, education and experiences with future performing artists in Southern New Jersey and hopes to encourage aspiring artists to realize their dreams.
Meredith started dancing at Jazz Unlimited as a toddler and spent most of her young life at the studio. At the age of ten, she became a member of the first Young Petite Ensemble. As an ensemble member, Meredith performed at the prestigious Carnegie Hall and traveled throughout the United States to compete. In the summer of 2001, she was selected to attend the New Jersey Governor's School of the Arts. She continued her dance career at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. While receiving her bachelors and masters degrees in Accounting, Meredith was also a member of the nationally ranked Illinois dance team. As the head coach for three years, she led the team to a top ten ranking at the UDA Collegiate National Dance Team Championships in Orlando, Fl. During this time, Meredith was a dance instructor for the Universal Dance Association teaching high school dance teams all throughout the East Coast region. Meredith is very excited to return to Jazz Unlimited to pass on her passion for dance to her students, and she wishes to provide the extraordinary experience she received here as a young dancer.
Michael was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pa. He grew up dancing at Bobby Gees Motion N' Dance, as well as Bucks County Dance Center. He spent his summers at the Young Performers Theatre Camp (YPTC.) at the Annenberg Center in Center City. He was accepted into the High School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), where he became a Dance Company member his freshman year. He participated in the New York City Tap Festival, The Broadway Dance Center Intensive and The Rock School's Jazz Intensive.
In the summer of 2002, Michael was accepted to enter the JCC Maccabi Games, and traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to represent Philadelphia. He brought home six gold medals that year for the Philadelphia Dance Team. In 2004, he got his first job dancing at Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pa. There Michael got the chance to perform in shows & parades, and brought characters like Big Bird & Cookie Monster to life. That summer he was one of 30 selected out of hundreds to attend the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts in Erie, Pa. He spent five weeks there as a modern major and was chosen to choreograph the musical production of Company. Later that year he was asked to perform The Four Seasons with The Nest (under the direction of Rachel Grisi).
During his four years at CAPA, Michael got not only to dance, but also to choreograph for ABC's Boscov's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Over those four years, Michael had the chance to experiment with different styles of choreography and became well-respected by his peers and teachers. He graduated in 2005 as Dance Captain of the CAPA Dance Company and received awards for Jazz Dancer and Choreographer of the Year. He was asked to come back to the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and to also choreograph and dance back-up for American Idol's LaToya London.
Michael enrolled into the University of the Arts in 2005. As a freshman, he was exposed to new styles and techniques. At the end of the semester, he was offered his dream job as a dancer at the Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando, Florida. Michael took the year off from school and moved to Florida, where he danced in The Festival of the Lion King, Magic Kingdoms Welcome & Trolley Show and The Family Fun Day Parade. Michael is now a recent graduate of the University of the Arts, where he earned a BFA in Jazz Dance performance. Upon graduation he was awarded the Choreography Prize. Michael is currently the creator and director of the Xhale Dance Company, and has shown work in the past three Philly Fringe Festivals, the Choreographers Canvas (NY), The Koresh Artist Showcase, The Kimmel Center, a performance with the Barre Boys and Synthosis Dance Project. Michael continues to teach and choreograph throughout the tri-state area, spreading his love and experience of dance.