Marissa has been dancing since the age of 4 and, during her years of training, received multiple awards at regional and national competitions. After graduating high school, she received the Performing Arts Scholarship at Manhattanville College where she earned her degree in Psychology and Dance. Since graduation, Marissa has taught for over 30 dance schools in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. Her cutting-edge choreography and approach to teaching has earned her “Young Choreographer of the Year” by American Dance Awards and “Top Choreographer” at NRG Dance Project, American Dance Awards, Revolution Talent Competition and Nexstar Dance Competition; to name a few. Her students have received multiple awards, but more importantly, have gone on to dance in college programs and professionally in NYC and LA. Marissa is thrilled to have positively served over 2,000 families in the Westchester community with Breaking Ground Dance Center and is constantly striving to exceed your expectations.
Bailey Akin is a dancer, choreographer and teacher currently living in Westchester County, Originally from Buffalo, NY. She grew up dancing at Time To Dance and Greater Niagara Ballet Under the direction of Beverly Feder and Susan Akin, where she was also an assistant teacher. She was a gymnast at Gleason’s Gymnastics and apart of the USA GYMNASTICS club under the direction of Larry and Carol Goldsmith. Bailey was one of the top 5 gymnasts in New York State. She attended and won scholarships to multiple conventions such as NYCDA, JUMP and NUVO. After moving to New York City She has studied at many renowned schools such as Peridance Capezio Center and Steps on Broadway. She has worked for Break the floor productions and the Dance Teacher Summit under the direction of Gil Stroming. As a gymnast, Bailey loves to infuse athletic movement in her choreography.
Shannon was the director and founder of “Dance Technique” on the Gold Coast, Australia which is the leading performing Arts Center in the country. Students from Dance Technique are currently performing on Broadway and attending prestigious schools including the Juilliard School, The Royal Ballet School and The Ailey School. Shannon’s choreography has won numerous awards including “Best Tap” and “Outstanding Contemporary” at the Australian National Dance Championships with Shannon being the only teacher to have two students crowned “Australia’s Dancer of the Year”. In addition, two of Shannon’s students were in the Top 20 of So You Think You Can Dance Australia 2014. Shannon was the tap and jazz instructor at the Queensland Conservatorium musical theatre program in Brisbane, Australia along with choreographing many of the musical productions for this course. Shannon has performed in several professional musical tours herself throughout Australia including 42nd Street, Oklahoma, Fiddler on the Roof and Evita. She was also appointed Dance Captain for all of these shows. She has choreographed major productions in Queensland- High School Musical 2 and Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens. Shannon completed all of her RAD classical exams with distinction and CSTD tap, jazz and musical theatre exams and also has a law (with honors) and a psychology degree.
Jona Biddle, dance choreographer extraordinaire, originally from Atlantic City, NJ, made his mark in New York conquering his big city dreams with a dance formula for success. As a child, Jona Biddle was affectionately known, as the “Dancing Machine”, and he believes that dance is an art that transcends all boundaries. This, along with his motto of, “Strivers Achieve, What Dreamers Believe” became the motivation that inspires Jona, and propelled his successful ventures.
Jona Biddle’s belief that all things are possible, helped him to stay focused in school, and motivated him to later become a college graduate of Virginia State University. Jona entertained audiences from his hometown in NJ, to sold out stadiums in Virginia, and then relocated to New York City to pursue his entertainment career in the big apple. He has also taken this style, and used it as a catalyst to create The Professionals Dance Company, TPDC, which he is the founder, creative director & choreographer of this commercial development dance company.
Eve Chan trained in ballet at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. In 2001, Chan was invited to join the Hong Kong Ballet and in 2007, she was promoted to Demi-Soloist and appointed one of three resident choreographers by Artistic Director, John Meehan. During her tenure, Chan toured throughout Europe, America, Canada, and China and worked with numerous well-known artists and choreographers. Chan was also commissioned to choreograph for many company productions. One of her works, “Butterfly Lovers”, was created for two principal dancers and was performed at both the 2008 Gala Internacional de Estrellas in Chile and the 2011 Auf der Weltspitze International Ballet Gala in Germany. In 2009, Chan was also honored to represent the Government of Hong Kong in Beijing where she choreographed a short piece in celebration of China’s 60th Anniversary.
Born and raised in Queensland, Australia Maddison began dancing at the age of three, training in all facets of dance. After being accepted into ‘The Ailey School’ at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre she moved to New York City in 2012. Since then Maddison has had the opportunity to perform works by esteemed choreographers including Jessica Taylor, Kevin Wynn and Dionna PridGeon. She is currently a company member of both ‘CoreDance Contemporary’ and ‘Delineation Dance’, giving her the opportunity to perform throughout New York and numerous other US cities. Maddison has also completed her R.A.D Advanced 2 examination with distinction and holds a Certificate lll. in Performing Arts.
Stephanie Deere began dancing at the age of three in Los Angeles, California. Studio C, under the direction of the Caspary family provided her with the opportunity to perform and compete at various dance conventions, competitions, and performance venues. Stephanie continued to dance and compete throughout high school and studied dance at the university level. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of California, Irvine with her BA in Dance and a minor in Business Management where she studied under notable choreographers such as Loretta Livingston, Lisa Naugle, Molly Lynch, Diane Diefenderfer, Jodi Gates, and Sharon Wray.
Stephanie moved to New York City in 2012, being offered a company member position with Undertoe Dance Project. She continued to freelance regularly and in 2013 founded her own contemporary dance company, MachineHDance. Under her artistic and executive direction, Stephanie’s company has performed at various festivals in the tri-state area, including Dance Astoria, and Take Root. The company has received notice for their annual productions of “Spring Cleaning”, and their youth outreach program “InterACTION”. Recently, MachineHDance was asked to perform as part of the WMAAC Choreographer’s Showcase alongside legends such as Jamal Story, Juan Michael Porter II, and Olivia Bowman Jackson.
Stephanie feels her truest passion is teaching dance. She has been teaching various styles of dance for 10 years and has been a part of the Breaking Ground Dance Center family for 3 years. Stephanie is honored to be the director of the Dance Team, Early Childhood Program, and Staff and Marketing Manager. She can not wait to continue to grow as a teacher, choreographer, and leader at Breaking Ground Dance Center.
Originally from Brazil, Flavia Garcia trained with The National Ballet of Cuba. From 2006 she’s was a member of Dance Theatre of Harlem where she danced principle roles in such ballets as Raymonda, Balanchine’s Four Temperaments & Glinka Pas de Trois, Giselle and Le Corsaire. She’s participated in various competitions, such as Brazil’s most acclaimed Joinville Dance Festival, where she won Gold.
Since moving to New York City she’s also danced with Joffrey Ballet 2 and Lazar Ballet NYC. As well as being invited to guest in such galas as, Gala of the Stars in the Dominican Republic performing Diana & Acteon with a member of ABT and NYIBC’s Gala 2011. Other ballets in her repertoire include Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Flames of Paris Pas de Deux, Gamazatti of La Bayadere, The River by Alvin Ailey and various original contemporary works.
In 2015 she guested at Ballet Ness Ziona ( Israel) where she performed Diana and Acteon and Elie Lazars choreography. Flavia is currently on faculty at Berks Ballet Theatre Conservatory of Dance and continues her career as world renowned guest artist.
Cristina Gustaitis began her formal training with the Indiana University Ballet Theatre in Bloomington, Indiana. During her ballet training, she learned at a young age to appreciate technique while also beginning to express herself through movement and develop her artistic voice. After graduating Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Dance Performance from Ball State University, she relocated to New York City where she currently works as a freelance dancer, choreographer and teacher. Cristina is a company member of Treeline Dance Works, MachineHDance and freelancing with Falcon Dance. She has also had the opportunity to study and perform works by notable choreographers such as Doug Varone, Kristin Sudeikis, and Jordana Toback. During the summers, she is part of a 1920s dance troupe known as The Dreamland Follies. In addition to her work in the city and across the US, Cristina has had the opportunity to study and perform in Italy, France and Sweden. Not only a performer, Cristina co-founded Muliebris Dance Theatre in the fall of 2015 and has presented her choreography in New York City at The Tank, The Alchemical Theater, and Trans Pecos.
Cristina has been teaching ballet, creative movement, jazz, and modern for several years to children and adults and believes that the classroom is not only a place to learn technique and fundamentals but also a place to explore and play! She is grateful to be a part of Breaking Ground, surrounded by so many inspiring teachers and artists.
A native of Hawai’i, Laurel Higa began dancing at the age of 4 on the beautiful island of Oahu. Laurel moved to New York to pursue her dreams in dance and graduated from Manhattanville College where she received a B.A in Dance & Theater, with a concentration in Dance Therapy & Minor in Psychology. She has had the privilege of performing works by Peter Pucci, Marta Renzi, Ann Marie DeAngelo, Julio Monge, Arthur Aviles, & Roberto Villanueva. Laurel has also performed at renowned venues such as the New York City Center, Jacobs Pillow, Great Friends Dance Festival, & The Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theatre. In addition to teaching dance, Laurel has begun to take on a career in Group Exercise. She is also currently studying for her Masters Degree in Arts Administration at Baruch College in NYC. Laurel is very excited to be on the BGDC Dream Team again! Her “Miss Aloha” spirit keeps our More Than Just Great Dancing motto alive and positive!
Christina Manno is a passionate dancer, choreographer, instructor, and coach throughout the tristate area, where she has been training kids and adults of all ages full time since 2010. She began her own dance training in Westchester County, NY at the young age of three, and has focused on studying a variety of styles including ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, modern, lyrical, contemporary, fosse, theatre dance, and break dancing. She has been dancing continuously ever since.
Christina graduated from Manhattanville College in the spring of 2012, receiving a B.A. in Dance and Theatre with a concentration in Dance Therapy as well as a minor in Psychology. While at Manhattanville, she choreographed two pieces under the direction and guidance of Peter Pucci, which were showcased during the Dance and Theatre Program’s Fall and Spring Dance Concerts. Additionally, she choreographed a full-length piece, debuted during the 2012 Senior Thesis Festival, for which she received Departmental Distinction of the Manhattanville Dance and Theatre Department’s Class of 2012. Her teachers and professors include Andrei Kisselev of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Peter Pucci of Pilobolus, Hannah Fox of the Big Apple Playback Theatre Company, Kaysree Del Pilar of Ballet Hispanico, and much more. She has had the privilege of performing works of known choreographers such as Bill Hastings, Kazuko Hirabayashi, and Ben Munisteri.
Christina was also a member of the Manhattanville Dance Ensemble, an on-campus company which performed at a variety of the college’s events. Her experience with MDE includes being selected as a dancer for Disney’s Magic Music Days, performing in Walt Disney World, Florida.
Since graduation, Christina had the honor of dancing professionally with the Gotham City Cheerleaders, the professional dance team in support of the New York Football Giants. As a dedicated member of the GCC for two complete seasons, her biggest credits include an appearance on America’s Got Talent, and her involvement in the Super Bowl XLVIII Pepsi Halftime Performance.
Christina has founded and directed one competition team in Westchester County, as well head coached several others. She has brought many opportunities to her dancers, including a chance to perform a full-length piece in Walt Disney World Florida, under her direction. In addition to teaching dance at BGDC, she is currently the Head Coach and Choreographer of the Pace University Dance Team, which performs at all Pace University football and basketball games on the Pleasantville campus. As a Coach at Pace, she trains her team in fitness and a variety of dance styles, and inspires her dancers to work hard, believe in themselves, and become the best dancers they can be. Under Christina’s direction, Pace Dance Team members participate in community service events such as the P4K Dance Marathon and Relay for Life of Pace University.
Summer projects include creating and facilitating dance programs and choreographing camp plays for day camps such as Kiwi Country Day Camp (2012-2016) and Breezemont Day Camp (2017-present).
Christina began assistant teaching dance classes at only 15 years old, and has been teaching dance at studios and in a multitude of school districts full time since 2010. Her experience working in studios is not limited to teaching, however. She has experience stage managing and producing annual dance recitals since the spring of 2013, another passion of Christina’s.
In her free time, Christina is a Dancer and Party Motivator for Infinity Night Club and Hal Prince Entertainment. She loves taking a multitude of classes at Broadway Dance Center, with choreographers such as Jared Jenkins, Eric Campros, and Beth Goheen, as well as Matt Steffanina whenever she has the chance, having participated in the 2016 Broadway Dance Center Winter Dance Intensive in the Professional Category. Christina is so excited for the opportunity to share her love for dance with her students at BGDC, as well as the skills she has acquired throughout her years of training!
Gina Mazzarella grew up on the New Jersey shore where she was an active member of community theaters as well as a competative dancer. After graduating from Freehold Regional Fine and Performing Arts magnet high school she moved to Manhattan to begin her performing career and college education. She received a BA in Dance and Communication Arts from Marymount Manhattan College while performing as a principle dancer with Synthesis Dance, a New York City based contemporary jazz company directed by Tracie Stanfield. SDP lead her to perform at the Dancing From The Heart Benefit in Hollywood, FL, The Los Angeles Dance Invitational, The Cool New York Dance Festival, The International Dance Festival NYC, DUMBO Arts Festival and Carnival Choreographers Ball.
On the musical theatre stage she has been seen in the Broadway National Tour of Crazy For You directed by Broadway choreographer Joey McNealy, The Elan Awards honoring Susan Stroman, Ann Reinking and Rob Marshall, Damn Yankees, Little Shops of Horrors, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Grease and Guys & Dolls. Industrial performances include The Veiw, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Buick promotional media, Broadway Bares and Dance As Life: Volume One. Gina continues to teach and choreograph all over the tri-state area, as well as judge for national dance competitions and conventions. Thanks to Marissa and the Breaking Ground family!
Natalie is a choreographer, teacher and performance artist based in New York City. Natalie was Head Coach and Choreographer of Columbia University Dance Team from 2011-2014. She also has been teaching dance to children since 2010 and has choreographed and collaborated on many award winning solos and group dances. Natalie received her BFA from George Mason University in 2009. She has performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., Center of the Arts in Fairfax, Virginia and the Manhattan Movement and Arts Center in New York. She has participated in the Vienna International Dance Festival in Austria under the training of Bruce Taylor and Peter Jasko, the America College Dance Festival in Radford, Virginia, New York Summer School of the Arts in Saratoga Springs, New York under Carolyn Addams and performed in a resident piece set by Robert Battle as well as appearing in filmed choreography by MariaColaco dance. An active member of the New York City dance community, she has assisted in master classes at Broadway Dance center, Steps on Broadway as well as being a master class assistant for Frank Hatchett’s Street Jazz and Progressions at the Dance Teachers Magazine Conference. Natalie is very excited to be part of the Breaking Ground Dance Center faculty!
Alexa “Lexie” Sahagian is originally from Long Island, NY, where she grew up training in various styles of dance. After competing for many years, Lexie moved on to teaching. She has taught at multiple studios as well as coached many high school and college dance teams. After graduating, she was accepted onto AbstraKT Beings: The Company directed by Theresa Stone. Within the last few years, Lexie came to NYC to continue her training. She completed the Professional Semester at Broadway Dance Center, where she worked with and assisted many well known choreographers such as Hannah Frederick, Theresa Stone, Neil Schwartz, Keenan Cooks, David Thomas etc. Since then, Lexie has moved to NYC to continue working and training as a Professional Dancer. Credits include America’s Got Talent, “Z” ft. Fetty Wap Music Video, Good Morning America, Pushing Progress, Carnival, Run the Night, etc. Lexie looks forward to continuing to grow and learn while sharing everything she has learned along the way!
Sofia Sanchez is originally from San José, Costa Rica. She started dancing at age 8 at Conservatorio de Castella School of Arts. She graduated in 2009 and obtained a UVT (Costa Rican Degree) in Arts, focused on Ballet and Modern. Afterwards, she decided to move to NY to start an international program in Broadway Dance Center, where she trained in contemporary, jazz, latin, ballet and street styles. While enrolled in the program, she worked with BDC faculty members such as Sheila Barker, Jeremy Miller, Ashle Dawson and Chio Yamada as assistant and dancer at The Pulse, Dance Teacher Summit, Six Flags Great Adventure, as well as the BDC. After concluding the program, she went back to Costa Rica to work as teacher and choreographer in Danceworks Costa Rica. Also she is guest choreographer and master teacher in Unlimited Dance Studio in Guatemala. Recently, she completed a 2 years Certificate Program in Peridance Center Capezio, on the Ballet-Contemporary Track. Also she is currently faculty in SOCAPA (school of creative and performing arts), and was selected to be part of Young Choreographers Festival 2016 and several Peridance Capezio Center Showcases.
Devon Smith began her training in New Hampshire under the direction of Melissa Hoffman. She quickly discovered that teaching was a true passion for her. She spent a summer studying at Alvin Ailey and then went on to perform all over the world with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. She then moved on to work with Royal Caribbean’s singers and dancers as one of their Rehearsal Choreographers. In 2008 she moved to NYC to continue pursuing her passion. Since moving to NYC, Devon has choreographed and toured with Grammy nominated recording artist Britt Nicole, Vera Flash (performing alongside Macklemore) and Cherie Lily. She recently choreographed the music video for “One More Try” by artist Lauren Mayhew as well as “Dancing Out” by Indie pop band French Horn Rebellion which was listed on the top 50 music videos of 2013 (IMVDB) Devon has had the honor of teaching contemporary and jazz at Broadway Dance Center, Steps on Broadway and Peridance in Manhattan. She is thrilled to be joining the Breaking Ground family.
Gabriela M. Soto began her dance training at Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico under the direction of Lolita Villanueva. She then moved to Florida to attended Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, Orlando Ballet and graduated from Dr. Phillips High School as the president of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts. She then moved to New York City to attend the Ailey School Certificate Program. Gabriela has had the privilege of performing works by Sidra Bell, William Forsythe, Francesca Harper, Jae Man Joo, Lar Lubovitch, Mike Esperanza, Bradley Shelver, Elisa Monte, Alvin Ailey, Matthew Rushing and Robert Battle. She has performed at City Center, Jacobs Pillow, Apollo Theatre, Ailey CintiGroup Theatre, Symphony Space, Bryant Park and the Kumble Theatre. Gabriela is a past member of The Steps Repertory Ensemble and a current member of TranscenDance Group and Bennyroyce Dance. Gabby is so excited to be a part of the amazing faculty at Breaking Ground!
Born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, Ashley Stafford’s love for the arts began at a very young age with the Indiana University pre-college ballet and music programs. She graduated with honors and received a bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance, as well as a minor in Psychology, from Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. Ashley’s passion for music and dance has brought her to the stage in many capacities throughout the Midwest, Northeast, Colorado, Canada, and Europe. She has appeared on MTV, Good Morning America, Telemundo, and The Dr. Oz Show, and has performed in shows at Symphony Space, The Tank, Peridance Capezio Center, the Highline Ballroom, and in The New York Jazz Choreography Project. Ashley is trained in many genres of dance and has performed works by Sheila Barker, Mike Esperanza, Cat Cogliandro, and Ashlé Dawson to name a few. Her own choreography has been showcased in the Brooklyn Dance Festival performance for emerging choreographers, in Gotham Dance Theater’s Emerge Choreographer’s Showcase, in the New York Jazz Choreography Project, and at the Holi Hai Festival on Governor’s Island. She is fascinated by the power of the arts on the human experience, and in 2010 was awarded a full research grant to study the relationship between music and culture in Dakar, Senegal. Ashley aims to fuse together her diverse training, experiences, and passion for the arts to create a learning environment in which young artists feel comfortable exploring dance while challenging their minds and bodies.
Georgia Teperikidou first began her artistry in dance at the age of four studying at The Center for Ballet in Thessaloniki, Greece. After graduating with a BFA in Dance, with a major in Ballet, from The Professional Dance School in Thessaloniki, Greece, she moved to New York to continue her professional career in dance. While in New York, she attended Dance Space Center where she studied ballet, modern, jazz (Simonson Technique), and Pilates. In 2002, she enrolled in the yearlong program in Laban Movement Studies at the Laban Institute of Movement Studies in New York. After a year devoted to exploring, analyzing and experimenting with diverse movement techniques, Mrs. Teperikidou received certification in Movement Analysis and Notation. Her continuous pursuit to obtain a well-rounded dance education led her to attend New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education to earn a Master’s Degree in Dance Education with a concentration in Higher Education. Mrs. Teperikidou constantly strives to further her education, strengthen her teaching techniques, and expand upon her knowledge. She has attended teachers’ workshops at The National Ballet School of Canada, American Academy of Ballet, Miami City Ballet, New York City Center and New York City Ballet. In July of 2013, Mrs. Teperikidou had the privilege of attending the first ever teachers workshop at the Paris Opera Ballet School and receive recognition and certification from one of the oldest ballet institutions in the western world.
Furthermore, Mrs. Teperikidou is a certified New York City Ballet Workout Instructor and a Zena Rommett Floor Barre Certified Instructor. Mrs. Teperikidou is proud to have received certification in the ABT National Training Curriculum for Levels Pre-Primary through Level 5. Mrs. Teperikidou is an affiliated teacher with ABT that has successfully presented students for exams in the Levels of Primary to Level 4.