Miss Sonja and Miss Talia grew up as great friends through dance. They both have an extensive background in RAD and Vaganova Ballet. Their love of dance brought them both to careers in performing and instructing. Miss Sonja took the classical ballet route enrolling in the teacher’s training program at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School and furthering her studies with the Royal Academy of Dancing curriculum. Miss Sonja’s innovative choreography was recognized with many awards and scholarships throughout the years, giving her the opportunity to study with the renowned Judith Marcusse and David Earl.
Miss Talia decided to focus on jazz and entered into the Association of International Dance Teachers instructor qualification program and graduated with Honours with Distinction. Miss Talia looks forward to furthering her education by training for the AIDT Membership exam. Miss Talia has had the pleasure of watching several of her accomplished students successfully compete at provincial and national levels. Highlights of Miss Talia’s dance education have been studying with the late Ellen Andrews and Al Gilbert.
Having both studied and instructed at Victoria’s Ballet School it was only natural for them to purchase the studio when the opportunity presented itself. They were not new to working together, having joined forces on past productions and events. However their first collaboration came in January 2005. After seeing the devastation in Southeast Asia's earthquake and subsequent tsunami, they decided to rally the dance community for support and put together a dance concert to benefit those who had lost so much. Bringing together over 25 local dance studios and hundreds of dancers, an incredible display of local talent was presented and over $7500 was raised and donated to the tsunami victims.
Miss Sonja and Miss Talia are excited about the future of Essence of Dance, and bring that enthusiasm with them to the studio everyday. They have created a fun family like atmosphere at the studio where it is common to see interaction between the senior students and beginners. Miss Talia and Miss Sonja love giving their students the opportunity to grow as dancers. What better way to experience this than travel. Miss Talia and Miss Sonja have arranged for dancers to take classes at the Cuban National Ballet School in Havana, The Hawaii State Ballet School, The Edge Performing Arts Centre in Hollywood, The Martha Graham Studio of Contemporary Dance in New York City, The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in New York City and Broadway's Dance Centre in New York City. Miss Talia and Miss Sonja have arranged workshops with the Cast Members of Broadways Lion King both in New York City and at Essence, with some of Disney's top choreographers in Disneylands Magic Kingdom, the Cast Members from Wicked and some of So You Think You Can Dance's All Stars. Performance wise Miss Talia and Miss Sonja have taken Essence Dancers to perform on Cruise Ships, in Disneyland and in Cuba.
They hope to install a passion and love of dance that will last a lifetime. Miss Talia and Miss Sonja continue to study and upgrade their training in order to give their students the best possible instruction for their advancement in dance.
TALIA KUHN - ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, AIDT JAZZ TECH, BALLET, JAZZ, LYRICAL
SONJA JENSEN - ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, BALLET, CONTEMPORARY, LYRICAL
JULIA COLTON - PRE PROFESSIONAL PROGRAM, BALLET, POINTE
REID COLTON - BALLET, MODERN/CONTEMPORARY
CHRISTINA HEBNER - AIDT JAZZ TECH, JAZZ, LYRICAL, MUSICAL THEATRE
Miss Julia began dancing at the age of 3 and her training includes ballet, modern, neo classical, lyrical jazz and flamenco. With the completion of all major R.A.D. examinations, Julia continued on to receive her Solo Seal Award. Her summers were spent in Seattle on scholarship, attending The Pacific Northwest Ballet School Summer Intensives studying the Balanchine Technique. A strong passion for dance led Julia to Toronto where she graduated from The National Ballet School of Canada’s post secondary program. While there, she had the pleasure of working with known choreographers James Kedelka, Lindsay Fischer and the late Rudi van Dantzig. Julia’s professional career has taken her all over the world including Beijing and Shanghai China, where she performed Esmeralda and Don Quixote grande pas de deux. In Canada, Julia danced with the National Ballet of Canada, The Ottmann Viennese Dance Ensemble and the Vancouver Goh Ballet Youth Company. Most recently she performed as a Soloist with "Move: the company" touring and performing throughout BC and at the Bangkok International Festival of Dance and Music in Bangkok, Thailand.
Mr. Reid is currently residing in Langley and teaches at various studios in the lower mainland area. Reid specializes in teaching Mens/Womens Ballet Technique, Men’s Variations and pas de deux.
Reid began training with Philip Fuller in Los Angeles at the age of 8. As a student at the Idyllwild Arts Academy, he attended summer sessions on scholarship with ABT, San Francisco Ballet and the Royal Ballet. He received a scholarship to the post secondary program of Canada’s National Ballet School, where he studied with Lindsay Fischer and had a brand new work choreographed on him by James Kudelka. Reid represented NBS in an international showcase, dancing the late Rudi van Danzig’s "Third Song" at the Stuttgart Ballet.
Upon graduating from the post secondary dance program, Reid joined Ballet West and performed ballets such as "Giselle", "Sleeping Beauty" and Balanchine’s "Stars and Stripes". In 2008, Reid joined The Orlando Ballet and danced roles in Fernando Bujones’ "Don Quixote", and Robert Hill’s "Le Corsaire".
Christina has had a passion for dance since the very young age of three. From her very first dance class at CentreStage, who would have thought Christina would have gone from jumping around as tigger in "Winnie the Pooh" to dancing professionally on a cruise ship sailing around the Caribbean. During her 18 years of dance, Christina has enjoyed learning ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, modern, and hip hop from CentreStage Dance, Harbour Dance Centre, and numerous conventions, such as Mr. Yuval Beck’s tap and jazz workshops, Triple Threat, and LA Danceforce, where she won her first scholarship at the age of 12. Christina has shown a wonderful flare for the Performing Arts over the past years at competitions all around the Lower Mainland.
Christina has completed her Advanced AIDT exams in both jazz and tap with high marks. She recently completed her Advanced Associates in the jazz teachers program receiving Honours with Distinction.
Over the past 14 years Christina has successfully attended many auditions and performed for numerous choreographers from around the world. Dancing for the Vancouver Ravens was her first professional job and she stayed with them during their 2002 and 2003 seasons, in which she performed for a T.V. special on MTV Canada. Christina then went on to dance for the BC Lions Dance team, and on The Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines where she worked with renowned choreographers Jeremy Plumber (LA) and Sarah Davies (England). Over the past few years Christina has dedicated her time to her students all over the lower mainland. Her routines have done extremely well in competitions and festivals, receiving "high score" and "choreography" awards.
Christina continues to share her talents with all her students that she enjoys working with so much.
HEATHER DAVIES - VAGANOVA BALLET EXAMS, POINTE, MODERN/CONTEMPORARY
SARAH KEEN - JAZZ, TAP, LYRICAL, CONTEMPORARY, MUSICAL THEATRE
MARISSA CULPIN - JAZZ, TAP, HIP HOP, LYRICAL, CONTEMPORARY
EMMA GARLAND - BALLET, JAZZ, SONG AND DANCE
TANNA FREW - HIP HOP, JAZZ, LYRICAL, MUSICAL THEATRE
CHELSEA SCHURKO - ACRO
Miss Sarah has had the passion and drive for dance since the age of 6. She started with tap and progressed into adding jazz, ballet, musical theatre, lyrical, hip hop and modern. Sarah has completed her AIDT tap and jazz exams, finishing both with Honors with Distinction.
Throughout her dance training, Sarah competed in many competition and dance festivals. She has competed all throughout the lower mainland and in Los Angeles, receiving numerous high score medals in solos, duos and groups. Sarah has attended many dance conventions in BC learning from top choreographers from around the world. In 2001, she received a scholarship for her hard work and performance ability. A year later, at the same convention, she was selected out of hundreds of dancers and awarded for her outstanding abilities.
Over the past few years, Sarah has dedicated her time to her students all over the lower mainland. Her choreography has done extremely well in competitions and festivals, receiving "High Score" and "Choreography" awards.
For the 2010 Opening Olympic Ceremonies, Sarah was one of the talented dancers chosen to perform in the opening tap number! Sarah has taken in the experiences and opportunities given to her and is excited to share them with her students.
Miss Marissa began dancing at the age 7. She has training in ballet, pointe, jazz, musical theatre, lyrical, modern, contemporary and hip hop. Her love for dance and instilling that love and dedication in others has led to her path in teaching.
Marissa has taught all over the lower mainland at dance studios, high schools, elementary schools and fine arts schools. She enjoys teaching students of all ages and difficulty levels, with students excelling in classes ranging from beginner ballet to award winning hip hop.
Marissa is pleased to have joined the staff at Essence of Dance Inc. and looks forward to working with all of you!
Miss Tanna’s love of dance began at a young age and she soon developed a passion to create, inspire and perform. She was seen in Royal City Musical Theatre’s production of West Side Story, the Vancouver Giants Dance Team. She was an original member and co-choreographer for Beat Feet Divas (Vancouver's only tap and hip hop fusion company). She has performed at many notable events in Vancouver including: Plush Night Club, The Sourcery, Vancouver Children’s Festival, Western Hip Hop Nationals, For the Love of It and Vancouver International Tap Day. Tanna has studied with and been largely influenced by such professionals as Luam, Jermaine Brown, Jayson Wright, Marty Kudelka, Tyce Dioro, and Keeley Kaukimoce. Tanna feels it is important to constantly improve herself as a performer and teacher. She has trained at Broadway Dance Centre in New York; Millennium Dance Complex in Los Angeles; OIP Dance Centre and City Dance Corps in Toronto; and Harbour Dance Centre and Drive Dance Centre in Vancouver. She believes that dance is a unique art form that allows her students to be expressive, build confidence, and have fun!
Emma started her dance career at the age of 4, taking Miss Talia’s beginner ballet class at Young at Arts. From then on she knew dance would become a significant part of her life. Moving to Essence of Dance (then Victoria’s Ballet School) a year later, Emma began exploring other styles of dance under Talia and Sonja’s guidance, and started competing with the Poise Youth Company at the age of 7. Emma has competed nationally and internationally in such styles as jazz, ballet, lyrical, hip-hop, contemporary and musical theatre, as a soloist, as well as in duos and groups.
In 2014 she completed her AIDT Jazz examinations with consistent high scores, finishing off the curriculum with “Honours with Distinction” in her Advanced level exam. With Essence of Dance, she recently had the opportunity to dance at world-renowned studios such as Martha Graham Dance Company, Ailvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, and Broadway Dance Centre in New York City.
Her passion for the performing arts also inspired Emma to participate in her high school’s Musical Theatre Company from the sixth grade until graduation. She performed in many shows, always landing leading roles like Millie in “Thouroughly Modern Millie”, and Eponine in “Les Miserables.”
Upon graduation Emma was asked to choreograph for the company and gladly accepted and is proving to be a great asset to their team. As part of her Musical Theatre experience Emma has been mentored by Diana Kareena, Broadway’s Eponine in “Les Miserables” as well as studying at Theatre Under the Stars.
To further her studies in dance, Emma is working towards her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Simon Fraser University’s Contemporary Dance Program in Vancouver, being trained by world-renowned choreographers and instructors while gaining exposure in the Dance industry.
Emma loves helping to cultivate a passion for the arts in her students and sharing her growing knowledge in Essence’s caring and supportive environment!
Chelsea was born and raised in Vancouver, BC and has been performing and teaching professionally for 10 years. She has had over 20 years of extensive training in Jazz, Tap, Ballet, Modern, Acrobatics and Hip Hop.
As a dancer Chelsea was crowned Miss Teen Canada Global in 2003, continuing on to place runner-up in the Miss Teen Global pageant. In both pageants Chelsea won top talent for her lyrical routine “I’m OK”. Other awards include multiple Dancer of the Year titles, Provincial Representative for Ballet, as well as many bursaries and scholarships awarded throughout Chelsea’s career. In 2005 Chelsea was chosen to compete at the IDO World Dance Championships as a soloist for Showdance and as a group member of the Western Canadian tap team.
Chelsea’s perfoming credits include the Girlesque performing group “Magic Box”, the movie “The Cleaner”, and multiple guest performances for local events and conventions.
Chelsea has completed many teacher training programs to hone her skills as a teacher including AIDT Jazz exams (Junior levels), Acrobatique in association with ADAPT (Junior levels), the Edmonton Ballet Syllabus for Young Children, as well as many teacher training conventions throughout North America.
Throughout her years of teaching Chelsea has had the pleasure of creating many award-winning routines as well as being recognized for outstanding choreography. She continues to cultivate her passion and love of dance into each and every student.
Miss Heather, originally a resident of Surrey B.C., spent 8 years pursuing her passion for dance in Ontario. She received her Bachelors of Fine Arts (Honours) focusing on choreography and dance education from York University as well as her Bachelors of Education from the University of Ottawa. She worked as a ballet teacher and choreographer while in Ottawa and taught recreational and competitive classes for all ages. Heather’s choreography varies from classical to contemporary and meets her student’s technical needs and skill levels. Her dancers have received top marks and special awards at competitions and dance exams.
Heather’s knowledge of ballet is diverse and includes training in Vaganova, Cecchetti and R.A.D. methods as well as training in kinesiology and dance injury prevention. She is always eager to upgrade her skills and continues to train as a dancer and certified Vaganova ballet teacher (The Society of Russian Ballet). Since returning to B.C. in 2013 Heather has been teaching at various locations in the lower mainland, to children of all ages, where she focuses on training strong, healthy dancers.
PAULA MATUSCH - BALLET, JAZZ, MODERN/CONTEMPORARY
Paula grew up in Langley BC where she began her dance training at the age of 6 years old. She has extensive training in Ballet, Jazz, Lyrical and Modern, as well as Traditional Ukrainian dancing. She is also well versed in conditioning and improvisation for dancers. Receiving the award “Most Promising Jazz Choreographer” from Surrey Festival of dance at the young age of 13, Paula continued to and has been choreographing and teaching since then receiving numerous awards from festivals and competitions. Most recently her choreography can been seen on the TV hit show “Supergirl”. She has trained throughout BC, and Ontario, at such schools as York University, and Toronto School of Dance. Paula’s passion for dance really shines through in her teaching and she is very concerned with the health, happiness, and positive learning experience of the individual dancers and helps them strive to be the best they can be. In recent years she has completed her level one and two in the International Dance Teaching Studies, as well as became certified in Marie Walton-Mahons Progressing Ballet Technique program. As education is very important to Paula, she continues to educate herself on a regular basis and in January of 2018 she is excited to begin her journey to becoming a certified ballet teacher through the Royal Academy of Dance.
KAYLIE NELSON - BALLET, JAZZ, MUSICAL THEATRE, MODERN/CONTEMPORARY
Miss Kaylie began her dancing career at the young age of 3 years old. When she joined Victoria’s Ballet School, now known as Essence of Dance, she was thrilled to have found a place to not only receive excellent training - but a place to call home. Miss Kaylie has been trained in many forms of dance including ballet, jazz, lyrical, modern/contemporary, hip hop, and musical theatre. She has also completed her AIDT Jazz exams and received Honours with Distinction.
Miss Kaylie was accepted into Essence of Dance’s first junior performing group and competed in many events throughout the Lower Mainland and the United States. In these competitions she received high score medals in her solo’s, duos and groups - one of which won $5000! She has also been fortunate to dance in many conventions, such as Triple Threat and Coastal Dance Rage, which allowed her to work with amazing and well known choreographers. Her greatest accomplishment as a dancer was when she was selected from hundreds of dancers around the world to dance with the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City and train with their Jazz/Contemporary program.
Since graduation, Miss Kaylie has been earning a degree in Psychology and Criminology at Simon Fraser University where she earned a full scholarship. She has continued her training in dance, and is looking forward to coming full circle to share her knowledge and passion with the students of
Essence of Dance.
Cody Cox is a Vancouver based dance artist from Victoria BC where he primarily began his training in most styles at Allegro Performing Arts Centre. Afterwards Cody moved to Vancouver to attend the Simon Fraser University School for the Contemporary Arts dance program which he graduated from in 2014 with his Bachelor of Fine Arts. Since graduation Cody has had the opportunity to show his own work at 12 Minutes Max and the To.Be.Announced dance festival. As a dancer Cody has worked for local artists such as Carolyn Schmidt, Jenn Edwards, Desireé Dunbar, Rob Kitsos and has apprenticed for Vanessa Goodman. Cody is continuing to create work and seeking opportunities to showcase his creations in and outside of Vancouver.
CODY COX - PRE PROFESSIONAL PROGRAM, BALLET, CONTEMPORARY
Lindsay fell in love with dance after taking her first jazz class at the age of 6. Lindsay's passion for dance continued as she trained extensively in Jazz, Tap, Ballet, Lyrical, Musical Theatre, Hip Hop and Polynesian. She has won numerous awards and scholarships at competitions throughout the Lower Mainland and has performed at many events locally and abroad. She completed one year in the musical theatre program at Capilano University before leaving to perform on cruise ships for a few years enjoying being part of some amazing shows.
Lindsay then returned home to perform as a tap dancer in the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics. While home rehearsing, Lindsay started teaching dance and learned she was just as passionate about teaching as she was about performing. She decided to stay home and pursue teaching after the Olympics and is currently working on her Cecchetti Associates degree in Ballet. Lindsay has won numerous awards for her choreography and is constantly pushing to be the best she can be for her students. Lindsay is beyond excited to be joining the Essence of Dance team this season! She is absolutely passionate about dance and performing and hopes to share this love of dance with her students.
LINDSAY MACKAY - CECCHETTI BALLET
ALANA KOOLEN - BALLET
Alana's love for dance began at the young age of 3 in Miss Sonja’s class at what was then Victoria’s Ballet School. She continued there when the studio became Essence of Dance, taking classes, competing and performing around the world. Alana completed the AIDT jazz exams achieving “Honours with Distinction” in the Advanced syllabus and is looking forward to continuing her training with the AIDT Associates Program this fall.
After graduation, Alana continued her training overseas at the University of Central Lancashire in England. Here she was asked to perform around Northern England with the Preston Youth Dance Company, UCLAN’s Dance Competitive Team. In her second year, she was asked to be ballet captain for the competitive team and she gladly accepted leading her team to win several awards throughout her two years as captain. During her time she gained a new perspective into contemporary dance while working with some of England’s leading dance practitioners, including Lyndsey McConville, Anthony Briggs, Jennie Reeves, and Giorgio De Carolis.
In the summer of 2017 Alana graduated with a First Class Bachelor of Arts Degree with Honours in Dance Performance and Teaching. She has now returned to the area and is excited to share her knowledge and enthusiasm while continuing to develop as a teacher at Essence of Dance!
Carol Mendes is a choreographer, dance filmmaker, and dance educator. A native of Brazil, she received her BFA in Dance and her Teaching Certificate from State University of Campinas (Brazil). She also holds a Master’s of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Choreography from New York University, Tisch School of the Arts. Her choreography has been presented at La Mama, Joe's Pub, Judson Church, Triskelion Arts, at Martha Graham Studio Theater, at Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater, and at Dixon Place, among others. As a dance filmmaker, Carol has worked with the New York City Ballet Media Department as Production Assistant and Media Fellow. She co-directed and edited her own dance films screened in Brazil, Finland, US, Argentina, and France. She worked as the Production Director and Curator of WestFest Dance Festival in NYC, and she recently spent a year traveling all over the world. She just moved to Vancouver and she's looking forward to sharing her passion for dance, art, and culture in this new city. More info at carolmendes.org
CAROL MENDES - PRE PROFESSIONAL PROGRAM, BALLET, CONTEMORARY
BIO COMING SOON
MACKENZIE MILNE - ACRO
CARMEN VINEY - ACRO
ANNA CHRISTY - ACRO
BIO COMING SOON
BIO COMING SOON
AISLYN MCCUBBIN - ACRO
LAUREN HAMILTON - JAZZ, MUSICAL THEATRE
BIO COMING SOON
Carmen is a Hip Hop and Acro teacher. Carmen started dance at the age of 3 and fell in love. As Carmen got older she continued her passion and took classes in Ballet, Pointe, Contemporary, Jazz, Modern, Tap, Hip Hop, Acro, and Song and Dance. She was a competitive dancer for about 9 years and travelled around the lower mainland for most competitions. Representing Canada in the Hip Hop world’s competition was a highlight. She also passed a number of her AIDT jazz tech exams before graduating and leaving for University. Through-out her years of dance she would help her teachers with the younger kid’s classes to gain teaching experience as well as help pay for her own classes.
When Carmen returned from university she started teaching Hip Hop and Acro at various studio’s and rec centers. It was also at this time that Carmen started training Hand to Hand with her partner Jason. They dedicated a lot of time and hard work into training and soon enough were preforming professionally. These gigs included corporate events, weddings, birthdays, city events and commercials. They have had the opportunity to train with Cirque Du Solei performers as well as travelling to Montréal to broaden their Circus knowledge and abilities.
Carmen’s passion for dance and circus is always growing and there is nothing she loves more than to share that passion. She believes in hard work, commitment, and most of all having fun.