Cindy grew up dancing from a young age, studying all styles of dance, and has never stopped. She has been teaching dance for 40 years to all ages and abilities, and is now seeing the second generation of her dance students. She has a fondness for working with young dancers, and an educational background in Early Childhood Development. Cindy founded Dance Connection in 1987, and it has grown to become one of the most popular dance schools on the Peninsula. One of the rewards of teaching dance is the relationships that develop over the years with the DC dancers and families. Cindy credits the outstanding faculty here at Dance Connection for the quality training every dancer receives. She and her husband, Mark have three grown children and four grandchildren.
Amy BrionesBallet Company Artistic Director, Ballet, Pointe
Amy Marie Briones was born in Redwood City, and trained extensively from an early age at Ayako School of Ballet under the direction of Ayako Takahashi. While training with Ayako, Amy won repeated honors at Youth America Grand Prix: 2001 National Hope award and regional Grand Prix in 2000, 2001, & 2004. Amy has also won several awards at competitions including Dancer of the Year at American Dance Awards, and Overall Grand Champion at IDC. Amy was invited to compete at the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson Mississippi in 2006 where she was awarded top 12 in the world. Amy joined the Ballet San Jose in 2006 and was promoted to Soloist in 2012. She has appeared in Dennis Nahat's The Nutcracker as Tsarina (the Sugar Plum Fairy), Middle Kindom-Ancient China, Mrytha in Giselle, The grand Pas De Duex in Paquita, the principal in George Balanchine's, Allegro Brilliante and Theme and Variations. She has also appeared in Don Quixote as Kitri. Amy has been trained with the American Ballet Theater, is a certified National ABT curriculum teacher, and has had extensive teaching experience throughout the Bay Area as well as her professional career. Amy is very excited to join the team at Dance Connection!
Zoey LytleJazz, Contemporary, Ballet, Tap, Children
Zoey fell in love with dance at the age of four and has choreographed and performed for her entire life. She is one year away from completing her BFA in dance at SJSU while simultaneously performing professionally in the bay area. She enjoys all areas of dance, but specializes in jazz, contemporary, ballet and tap. Zoey competed with the San Jose State dance team and was a member of University Dance Theatre. When she's not teaching or going to school, Zoey performs in musical theatre and dance concerts professionally throughout the bay. She loves working with children and teens, and enjoys sharing her love of dance with them.
Therese WallsSummer Camp Director, Jazz, Tap, Children
Therese is a Dance Connection Alumni who grew up dancing at the studio for 15 years. She graduated from UCLA in 2009 where she majored in World Arts and Cultures with a Dance Concentration. While at UCLA she choreographed and performed in numerous UCLA productions, including WAC Smash, Elimidance, and Senior Projects. Therese holds a Masters in Teaching and Multiple- Subject Teaching Credential through USC and currently teaches fourth grade at a local elementary school. She is excited to be back at Dance Connection teaching classes again. Formerly knows as Therese Martin, Therese and her husband, Blake Walls were married this past summer!
Frankie MendozaHip Hop, Boys, Musical Theater
A Southern California native, Frankie Mendoza was born in the small town of Brawley; where he quickly found a passion for the art of movement at a young age through freestyle. Though from a very small dance community, Mendoza set out to carve his path as an artist and individual in order to build an understanding as movement enthusiast on his own. With his acceptance to San José State University in the Fall of 2010, he began his college experience in the Bay Area, originally playing football. With the right guidance, he began his dance training at the age of eighteen. Later that year, He joined an adult competition team in the Bay Area called Hungrybumz; where he started to broaden his vocabulary by performing at local/international competitions such as World of Dance: Bay Area. During his years at SJSU, he studied under educators such as Fred Matthews, Jill Yager, Heather Cooper and Keith Pinto. Mendoza would go on to graduate from the Dance Program with a Bachelor of Arts in 2015. Upon graduation, he began his mentorship with Keith Pinto as a Teacher’s Assistant in the Hip Hop courses at SJSU. This has kept him currently involved with the Dance Program as a guest choreographer and educator in various classes over the last couple years. The City Lights production of “In The Heights” marks his 2nd debut to the musical theatre stage as a choreographer. Mendoza was last seen on stage April 2018 for the SJSU production of “In The Heights” as a choreographer and cast member, Graffiti Pete. He enjoys using concepts and techniques from all aspects of art to influence his eclectic style of movement in choreography. Aside from the new journey to musical theater, he continues as an artist and educator with his philosophy that dance reflects the art of expression through movement while emphasizing the journey of individual progression. He uses this philosophy to provide students with a new creative look and understanding of dance beyond their technical application as a way to open their minds to new waves of expression.
Jennifer Kulz-SmithBallet, Pointe, Variations
Jennifer received her ballet training in San Francisco with the Academy of Ballet, Dancers' Stage, Lanova Academy, City Ballet School and Boston Ballet School. She has performed with various Bay Area companies including the Peninsula Ballet Theater, San Francisco Dance Theater, and the Santa Clara Ballet. She performed in the San Francisco production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's ``The Phantom of the Opera`` for 4 1/2 years. Jennifer has two beautiful girls, and has enjoyed teaching and watching students grow at Dance Connection since 2001.
Kaitlin BrooksJazz, Hip Hop, Contemporary, Tap, Children
Kaitlin fell in love with dancing at a young age and it has been a part of her life ever since. She currently dances and performs with a professional team in the Bay Area and coaches a high school cheer and dance team. Kaitlin earned her degree from San Francisco State University with a double major in Dance and Communications Studies. Kaitlin is technically trained in many styles, including jazz, ballet, hip hop, contemporary/modern, and song pom. She is so excited to be part of the Dance Connection team and share her passion for dance with younger generations of dancers.
Akira TakahashiBallet Company Artistic Director, Ballet, Pointe, Partnering, Contemporary
Akira Takahashi (AT), from Nagano, Japan, trained at the Tachibana Ballet School in Tokyo, and performed with the Asami Maki Ballet Company. He joined Ballet San Jose as a trainee in 2005, became a full company member in 2007, and was promoted to Soloist in 2012. Akira’s career continued with the company under its new name, Silicon Valley Ballet, until 2016. There he performed roles in Karen Gabay’s The Nutcracker, Dennis Nahat’s The Nutcracker, Blue Suede Shoes, Romeo and Juliet, Middle Kingdom – Ancient China, Cinema Soundtracks, Ontogeny, and The Firebird. He joined Menlowe Ballet in spring of 2016.
Namaad JacksonHip Hop, Contemporary, Acro/Tumbling
Namaad Jackson is a performer, choreographer, educator and mentor whose background, training, passion and its underlying culture extends over 15 years. In 2008, Jackson founded Kaution Dance Kru which is also known as ``KDK`` and serves as its Chief Executive Director. KDK is an equal opportunity professional dance company that provides guidance, education and training to inspire other energetic dancers. Since starting Kaution, Jackson was able to branch and start a youth division of the company in 2012 called Khaotic Dane Kru, which ranges from the ages 12-18 years old. In 2014, under Jackson's direction and leadership he moved KDK to Las Vegas to open his very own dance studio called Studio KDK. Kaution and Khaotic Dance Kru, Las Vegas were born. Both KDKDC and KDKLV actively performs around the Las Vegas metropolitan area.
During his career Namaad has artistically and creatively danced and directed many dance companies and troupes such as Dcypher Dance, TeamWeGonMakeIt, Culture Shock DC (CSDC), and Culture Shock Las Vegas (CSLV) where he was able to travel, perform, and Teach internationally. Recently Namaad had audition for Cirque Du Soleil which is one of the Largest production companies in the world and recently resigned as Artistic Managing Director for Dixie Arts Conservatory where he manages and oversaw all studio operations, classes, and programs. Since moving to the Bay Area Namaad has signed with RAE Talent and Model Agency, and is now teaching at several studio across the bay areas such as RAE Studio, Purdance, and FulloutStudios. Namaad also dances and preforms with Str8Jacket Dance Crew, which was featured on NDC’s World of Dance. Namaad views dance as positive force, a medium to tell stories, discuss issues, and inspire others. He is very proud of his accomplishments and very passionate about his life in a professional career as a dancer, choreographer, and educator. He encourages others to recognize their passion and always follow their hearts and dreams.
Alexa DeGraca RodriguezPerforming Company Artistic Director, Jazz, Funk, Hip Hop, Contemporary, Children, Tap
Alexa is a passionate dancer, performer, and choreographer. Her 12 years as a competitive dancer drove her interest in joining a professional dance team. She auditioned for the 49ers Gold Rush Cheerleaders in 2012, and hit the ground running. That year she attended the Super Bowl, countless media events, and received the Rookie of The Year Award. While attending the 2013 Super Bowl, Alexa appeared on the Craig Ferguson Show, Enews, and Good Morning America. She was a captain on the 49ers Gold Rush, and has had the opportunity to help choreograph and set routines for the team. Alexa was selected to represent the San Francisco 49ers as the 2017 Pro Bowl Cheerleader in Orlando Florida. At the 49ers museum in Levis Stadium, Alexa is the host of a virtual reality dance video game. Throughout her five years on the team, she stayed active in the dance community by taking and teaching dance classes. She has set routines for local high school dance and cheer teams. Alexa choreographed for the 2017 Pro Action Dance Prep convention. She has performed with Train, Nico and Vinz, Snoop Dog, E40, and Jordin Sparks. Alexa can be seen in Trains “Mermaid” music video, as well as Clinton Sparks “Gold Rush Girl” video. She made an appearance on the television pilot “Friday Night Impossible” with Jerry Rice on Great American Country Network. She also made an appearance on CSN Bay Area for Sports Net Central. After her time on the 49ers Gold Rush, she signed with the Movement Talent Agency in Los Angeles. During her time in Los Angeles, she trained in many dance styles with some of the industry’s top choreographers and pursued her commercial dance dreams. She landed the lead role in a commercial for JustFab shoes, and also stared in a commercial for a local gym and spa. Alexa is an Artistic Director of our popular DC Performing Company, and also directs the 49er GoldRush Cheerleaders.
Becky BrewerAccount Manager
I have been married for 33 years to Tony Brewer and have two children, Gabe - 31 and Sisley - 29. I am an elementary school secretary at Nixon Elementary School during the day and do the billing for Dance Connection after school and in the evenings. I love to walk my dog and garden on the weekends. My daughter and younger son both danced with Dance Connection and the Ginannis have been our best friends for over twenty years.
Kelly SendekJazz, Hip Hop, Funk Jazz, Contemporary, Lyrical
Kelly Sendek started her training at Dance Connection in Scottsdale, AZ in jazz, ballet, tap, contemporary, hip hop, and ballroom. She has worked with choreographers such as Lauren Froderman (SYTYCD 7th Season Winner), the Sun’s dance team coach Kaitlyn Conley, Peter Chu, and Kira Dimartino.
She attended the University of Kentucky and was a member of the dance team when they placed 2nd at nationals in hip hop. Following nationals, Kelly was a member of Team USA 2016, where she competed in Orlando, Florida against collegiate teams from all over the world.
Kelly is currently the associate head coach for Santa Clara University’s dance team. Along with coaching, she is a junior at Santa Clara and is finishing her degree in communications.
Jordan DennenBallet, Children
Jordan started dancing at age seven at her local community center, where she fell in love with ballet. She continued her training at Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts in Frankfort, IL, where she trained in ballet, modern, contemporary and pointe and performed with the Senior Student Ensemble twice a year. Jordan also began her teaching career at Ballet 5:8, teaching many of the children’s ballet and creative movement classes. Jordan attended Hope College in Holland, MI as a Dance Performance and Choreography major. At Hope Jordan trained in all styles of dance under the renowned Hope College faculty members, including Maxine Debruyn, Matthew Farmer, Linda Graham, Steven Iannacone, Anne-René Petrarca, Julie Powell, Sharon Wong, and many others. It was at Hope College that Jordan discovered her love for modern dance, as well as ballet. She performed with StrikeTime Dance Company, one of the resident performing companies of the Dance Department. She also performed in the annual Faculty Dance Concert each year, and performed and choreographed for the Student Dance Showcases. Jordan co-directed an artistic collaboration project with fellow Hope students, inspired by her love for working with artists from all of the artistic disciplines. After graduating and receiving her B.A., Jordan moved to the California Bay Area, where she continues to dance and teach. Her love for dance is only rivaled by her love for kids, and she teaches with a passion and enthusiasm that inspires her students to find as much joy in dance as she has.
Kahana WongJazz, Hip Hop, Tap, Children, Contemporary
Kahana grew up dancing since the age of three, and trained in jazz, tap, ballet, lyrical, and contemporary. She enjoyed competing, and found a new love with hip hop. Presently, Kahana performs with the Santa Clara University Dance Team where she is pursuing her degree. She especially loves performing hip hop and jazz at the SCU basketball games with teammate Kelly Sendak!
Jing ZhangBallet, Pointe
Jing began her ballet studies at the Shanghai Dance School and progressed to the specialty of Dance department in the Opera and Dance College of the Shanghai Theatre Academy. During her tenure at the Theatre Academy, Ms. Zhang garnered numerous awards and a scholarship. In 2005, she joined Ballet San Jose where she performed as a soloist. Jing’s repertoire included Tsarina Tatiana in The Nutcracker, the Russian Princess in Swan Lake, and the Mercedes and the Queen of the Dryads in Don Quixote. She has performed choreography by Dennis Nahat, George Balanchine, Wes Chapman, and Donald McKayle, and recently worked with Opera San Jose on the full length production of Mozart’s Idomeneo. Ms. Zhang is an American Ballet Theatre Certified Teacher for all levels. We are happy to welcome Jing to our dance family!
Derek CuturayHip Hop Performing Company Director and Instructor
Derek is the Artistic Director for Dance Connection's Hip Hop competition and training programs. He also currently performs with the hip hop company Str8jacket, where he acts as a director and choreographer for the team. Str8jacket placed 1st at World of Dance LA and World of Dance Bay Area last year, as well as competing on season 12 of America's Got Talent. Derek earned his Bachelor of Science Degree from San Francisco State University in Criminal Justice. His award-winning hip hop choreography and teaching style light up the dance floor.
Alexa DeGracaPerforming Company Artistic Director, Jazz, Funk, Hip Hop, Contemporary, Children, Tap
Alexa is a passionate dancer, performer, and choreographer. Her 12 years as a competitive dancer drove her interest in joining a professional dance team. She auditioned for the 49ers Gold Rush Cheerleaders in 2012, and hit the ground running. That year she attended the Super Bowl, countless media events, and received the Rookie of The Year Award. While attending the 2013 Super Bowl, Alexa appeared on the Craig Ferguson Show, Enews, and Good Morning America. She was a captain on the 49ers Gold Rush, and has had the opportunity to help choreograph and set routines for the team. Alexa was selected to represent the San Francisco 49ers as the 2017 Pro Bowl Cheerleader in Orlando Florida. At the 49ers museum in Levis Stadium, Alexa is the host of a virtual reality dance video game. Throughout her five years on the team, she stayed active in the dance community by taking and teaching dance classes. She has set routines for local high school dance and cheer teams. Alexa choreographed for the 2017 Pro Action Dance Prep convention. She has performed with Train, Nico and Vinz, Snoop Dog, E40, and Jordin Sparks. Alexa can be seen in Trains “Mermaid” music video, as well as Clinton Sparks “Gold Rush Girl” video. She made an appearance on the television pilot “Friday Night Impossible” with Jerry Rice on Great American Country Network. She also made an appearance on CSN Bay Area for Sports Net Central. After her time on the 49ers Gold Rush, she signed with the Movement Talent Agency in Los Angeles. During her time in Los Angeles, she trained in many dance styles with some of the industry’s top choreographers and pursued her commercial dance dreams. She landed the lead role in a commercial for JustFab shoes, and also stared in a commercial for a local gym and spa. Alexa is the Artistic Director of our popular DC Performing Company, and also directs the 49er GoldRush Cheerleaders.
Joan WaltonTap, Theatre, Ballroom
Joan's high-energy teaching style and ability to communicate concepts to all levels of learners have become well known at universities and dance studios across the country. She has deep knowledge of Vintage, Historical and Social Dance, Tap Dance, Musical Theatre Choreography and Theatredance Styles. She has been teaching at Vintage and Historical dance workshops nationally and internationally since 1991. Her work encompasses choreographing for musicals and operas at the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, six of them winning 1st place at the National Opera Awards.
At Dance Connection she has taught all levels of Tap Dance, performed as the Queen in “The Sleeping Beauty” ballet, and currently has a lively collection of Ballroom Dance aficionados that she meets for private lessons.
She has performed and choreographed all over the country, and received a Masters degree in Dance Education from Stanford University’s prestigious School of Education in 1999.
Shana took jazz, hip hop, ballet, tap, and pointe classes at Dance Connection from the age of 8-17. She began teaching dance at the age of 14, choreographing and teaching the dance numbers to children ages 5-13 at a musical theater summer program. She continued to serve as the choreographer and dance teacher at the Palo Alto summer musical theater camp for 14 summers. In addition to dancing, Shana just completed her tenth year teaching high school English. In addition to holding a teaching credential and a Bachelor's degree in English, Shana has a Master's degree in Education and a Master's degree in Educational Leadership.
Madison SteelHip Hop, Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Children
Madison grew up in Alamo, California and has been dancing since the age of 3. She is classically trained in ballet however as she grew up she began to integrate tap, jazz, modern and hip hop into her dance curriculum. Madison danced in NYC with the Joffrey Ballet for two summers and worked with various NYCB alumni. Madison moved to San Diego when she was 14 and began dancing as a trainee with City Ballet of San Diego. She is now a student at Santa Clara University, a board member of SCU Hipnotik and regularly performs in SCU Dance Department performances. Madison is excited to be teaching at Dance Connection in Palo Alto!
Kimberly GriffinTap, Jazz, Musical Theatre, Children
Born and raised in the Bay Area, Kimberly Griffin has been studying dance since she was nine years old. She has been afforded the opportunity to work with many gifted artists including: Nick Lazzarini, Liz Imperio, Sam Weber, Ryan Lohoff, Terry Schulke, and Alex Blitstein. In 2010, she won the very first ``So You Think You Can Tap,`` and was awarded the title of San Francisco's Best Tapper. Kimberly was also Miss Teen Walnut Creek and competed in the Miss California Scholarship Pageant in 2009. Staying true to her passion of teaching tap, Kimberly has taught at multiple studios and her work has been recognized for best choreography, scholarship awards, title winners, and overall placements. She attended Saint Mary's College in Moraga and currently works as a Registered Nurse in Redwood City. Kimberly is excited to be joining Dance Connection Palo Alto in the coming 2020/2021 season!
Cynthia Pham Gordon
Cynthia Pham Gordon has worked for more than 15 years in marketing, corporate finance, strategy and consulting, including with Proctor & Gamble. Additionally, Cynthia has worked as the Associate Administrator at the Ballet School of Chapel Hill, the General Manager of Baptiste Power Yoga Institute and currently, is the President of PADCYE. She has a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts in American Studies and a J.D./MBA from Harvard University.