Talia belzil - ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, AIDT JAZZ TECH EXAMS, JAZZ, BALLET
SONJA JENSEN - ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, BALLET, CONTEMPORARY
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.
julia colton - pre professional half day program, ballet, pointe
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.
reid colton - ballet, pointe
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 hebner - AIDT JAZZ TECH EXAMS, JAZZ, LYRICAL, MUSICAL THEATRE
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
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.
sarah keen - jazz, tap, lyrical, musical theatre
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.
kaylie nelson - ballet, jazz, lyrical, 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.
paula mattusch - ballet, pointe, modern/contemporary, jazz, Musical Theatre
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. Paula's 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.
As education is very important to Paula, she continues to educate herself on a regular basis taking workshops and teacher intensives. Most recently Paula graduated from the Royal Academy of Dance CBTS program and she attained her Registered Teachers status. She also 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.
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.
lindsay fruin - cecchetti ballet exams, pointe, musical theatre, tap, jazz
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 both locally and abroad. She completed one year in the musical theatre program at Capilano University before leaving to dance professionally 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. Lindsay holds both her Associate CC-CICB in Cecchetti and is certified in PBT. Lindsay has won numerous awards for her choreography and is constantly pushing to be the best she can be for her students. She is absolutely passionate about dance and performing and hopes to share this love of dance with her students.
chelsea schurko - acro
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 performing 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.
carmen HARGREAVES - acro
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.
annabelle wong - PRE PROFESSIONAL HALF DAY PROGRAM ballet, modern/contemporary
Annabelle was born and raised in Richmond, B.C., where she graduated from The Richmond Academy of Dance’s Professional Program. Annabelle trained in classical ballet, modern, jazz, contemporary, Pilates, and the RAD syllabus, through to becoming an Associate of the Royal Academy of Dance. During her years at Richmond Academy, Annabelle had the privilege of learning from internationally acclaimed pedagogues such as Susan Toumine, Joshua Beamish, Simone Orlando, and Curtis Foley. She performed corps de ballet roles in classical repetoire including Swan Lake, La Bayadere, Paquita, and Raymonda.
Annabelle graduated from Simon Fraser University in 2020 with a BFA, Hons. in Dance. Her passion for movement exploration has driven her to work with some of the world’s most esteemed classical and contemporary artists at international intensives and workshops. This includes Alonzo King Lines Ballet, World Dance of Movement (Italy), and Arts Umbrella in Vancouver. Annabelle is passionate about performing dance and hopes to share this love of dance with her students. She believes in hard work, commitment, and most of all, having fun.
alana koolen - AIDT JAZZ TECH, ballet, jazz, lyrical, modern/contemporary,
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!
isabella grondin - ballet, jazz, hip hop, musical theatre, MODERN/CONTEMPORARY
Isabella’s love for dance began at the young age of three, when she attended her first ballet class at Essence, which was then known as Victoria’s Ballet School. From there, Isabella let her passion for dance flourish with the love and support of the Essence of Dance family. She competed with her first solo at 7 years old, and made it into the Peak Challenge, winning a cash prize for her dance! She continued dancing through her school years competing and training in various styles, including ballet, jazz, hip hop, contemporary, and musical theatre. She travelled the Pacific Northwest with her teammates, winning awards and recognition for her solos and groups and attended many Essence of Dance trips for workshops and events.
Through the years, Isabella had the opportunity to learn from many acclaimed choreographers and dancers such as Robert Roldan, Kenny Wormald, NappyTabs and Jillian Meyers. She auditioned and was accepted into the Joffrey Ballet School summer camps and attended the Royal Winnipeg Ballet summer camp at the age of 13. She completed the AIDT Syllabus, finishing her Advanced exam in her graduating year. In her last two years at Essence, she volunteered her time through charity organization Travelling Tutus, collecting gently used dance costumes to send abroad to underprivileged youth.
After graduation, Isabella was a member of the University of Victoria Dance Team, performing at school events and local venues. This experience allowed her to learn and collaborate with new teammates and become confident in her own choreography skills. She earned a Hip Hop Scholarship for her dancing through Jump Dance Convention in 2019. Isabella is currently studying to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Trinity Western University. She is very excited to work with a new generation of Essence students, sharing her love and passion for dance.
SHAYLA BODnarchuk- HIP HOP, MUSICAL THEATRE, TAP
Shayla began dancing at CentreStage Dance when she was just a baby, where she would come to her sister’s classes and dance along with all the older girls. At the age of 3, Shayla started taking classes of her own. She has trained in Jazz, Tap, Ballet, Lyrical, Musical Theatre, Hip Hop, Acro, Modern, Break Dancing and Salsa.
Shayla has taken her A.I.D.T. exams in Gold Lower Tap and Intermediate Jazz as well as her R.A.D. exams in Ballet.
Shayla loves to participate in conventions and has been fortunate enough to have her hard work recognized at a number of them. Her most memorable award to date is the & quote; Recognition Award" at Extreme Dance Conventions, an award for a dancer that gives 100% all the time and keeps trying their hardest to learn more.
In 2011 and 2013 Shayla traveled to California with the CentreStage Dance and performed with Disney’s Performing Arts program in The Magic Kingdom and California Adventure Park.
Shayla has been privileged to perform in many different events as a dancer. She has been chosen to be in the 2010 Paralympics opening ceremonies, the 2011 B.C. Place Grand Opening Ceremonies, the 2011 99th Grey Cup Parade as well as the half time show with Nickleback. Shayla has danced as Dina the Dinosaur at Dinotown as well as being a Hoopla at the PNE. Shayla was a part of the 2013 BMO Marathon, and the 2013 B.C. Lions Home Opener Half Time Show with Victoria Duffield.
In 2014 Shayla was chosen to be a member of Team Canada and compete, representing our country in Germany. For the past 4 years you could see Shayla performing at the P.N.E. In 2016 she performed as Casey Bear in “Let’s Pretend With Casey Bear”, and in 2017 she was a dancer and puppeteer in “Kaleidoscope On Parade” also in 2018 Shayla was in “Mermaid Tales” as Dominic the Duck.
paige harrison - tap
Miss Paige started her love of dance at age 3. She has completed her RAD Ballet Exams from Grade 3 – Advanced 2. As well as her ISTD Tap Exams from Grade 3 to passing Advanced 2 with distinction, and currently enrolled in the ISTD associate program for Tap. Paige has also grown up competing in Hip Hop, Lyrical, Contemporary, Ballet and Tap. She has taught all styles, Paige has taught kids from 2.5 years old to adults. No matter what age she loves seeing the determination and passion and the successful outcomes. Paige has done numerous auditions and performances, she has also taken her skills and implemented them on training National Synchronized skating teams. She looks forward to always growing and learning new things and teaching her students to have confidence not only in their dancing but in themselves.
AISLYN MCCUBBIN - BALLET, TAP, JAZZ, LYRICAL, MUSICAL THEATRE,
Aislyn began her dance journey by taking Ballet classes at the age of three and fell completely in love with dance ever since. Dance came to be a strong influence in Aislyn’s life, teaching her many lessons, enriching her life and helping her grow as a person.
Through the years of training, Aislyn diversified herself by exploring more styles of dance such as Jazz, Contemporary, Tap, Acro, Musical Theatre, and Pointe. She consistently receives top marks in her yearly Cecchetti Ballet, Vaganova Ballet, and Association of International Dance Teachers (AIDT) exams, Modern. Aislyn’s dedication to training led to success in numerous dance competitions and festivals, receiving numerous high scores, as well as multiple scholarships to dance conventions and dance studios.
Aislyn uses summers away from the regular dance season productively, attending the Joffrey School of Ballet on scholarship and partaking of intensive training courses in New York, San Francisco, and Italy. Aislyn has also received the opportunity to take classes at many prestigious studios such as the Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham studios in New York, as well as the tutelage of veteran dancers from multiple Broadway shows such as Chicago, The Lion King, and Aladdin.
As she continues to train and refine her technique, Aislyn has begun to work on her teaching qualifications and has become a certified instructor, achieving her Society of Russian Ballet Student Teacher Certificate in both Vaganova Russian Ballet Exams as well as Acrobatic Arts. Now as an instructor at the Essence of Dance, Aislyn is so excited to continue sharing her passion for dance with all of her EOD students!
desiree kennedy - ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, musical theatre, modern/contemporary
Desirée started her dance journey at the young age of 3 years old and ever since she took her first ballet class dance has played a very important role in her life.
Over the years of her training Desirée has completed a diverse range of dance genres such as jazz, lyrical, contemporary, pointe,acro , tap, Hip Hop, and musical theatre. Which allows her to share how all the dances work together to create a well rounded dancer. All of her training made it possible for her to be accepted and as well attend many prestigious dance programs. She even attended the Joffrey ballet schools trainee program in New York City as a ballet trainee at age of 14.
For the past few years Desirée has returned home and continued training in multiple styles and refining her technique in them. She is excited to share her love of dance with all of her students.
caitlin bush - ballet, hip hop, modern/contemporary, JAZZ, LYRICAL
Miss Caitlin started dancing at 3 years old and quickly progressed. Over the years Caitlin has been trained in many different styles of dance such as Ballet, Jazz, Lyrical, Contemporary, Pointe and Hip Hop. Caitlin has been lucky enough to be accepted into many schools such as The Royal Winnipeg School of Ballet, The Alberta School Ballet, Joffrey School of Dance and well as Ecole Supérieure de la Danse. Caitlin spent her summers attending pre professional programs on Alberta and Winnipeg as well as at Essence. Caitlin danced competitively at essence since the age of 10 and has won numerous awards for solo work as well as group work. Caitlin is excited to work with the EOD dancers and share her love of dance with them.