Our highly qualified staff are professionally registered Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) teachers, current or past professional dancers, and/or have advanced degrees in dance.
Director / Instructor / Choreographer - Ms. Rachel Tan is a certified teacher of the Royal Academy of Dance (London) and qualified to enter pupils for Royal Academy Grades and Major examinations. She taught, choreographed and performed in the Pacific Northwest area and Asia before coming to the Bay Area. Rachel is a graduate of University of Washington with a major in Communications and a minor in Dance and Education. She was trained in the Royal Academy of Dance and Imperial Society techniques. She is a member of Dance Masters of America. Rachel is artistic in choreography and teaches beautifully disciplined ballet. More information about Rachel Tan can be found in these articles: "Gift from a Dancer" - Tri-City Voice, "Happy Feet" - East Bay Express.
Instructor - Ms. Isabelle Sjahsam studied the rigorous Royal Academy of Dance system with Connie Vaughan, and at thirteen, moved to England to continue her training and complete her major examinations in London. While in the United Kingdom, she competed in the All England Dance Competition, reaching the Quarter Finals with her ballet solo. At the age of eighteen, she completed her Advanced examination, receiving her certification to teach the Royal Academy of Dance. She has an International Baccalaureate from the American Community School in Cobham, England. She also graduated from Mills College with a degree in Dance. Since then Isabelle has taught dance to all ages, performed, and shown her work at a range of venues. At the present time, she dances with DanceElixir and appears as a dancer in her own company, ArtFace. Teaching dance is Isabelle’s passion; she has taught ballet, modern, creative movement, and stretch and strength conditioning classes.
Leigh Ann Koelsch
Instructor - Ms. Leigh Ann Koelsch is a graduate and licentiate of the College of the Royal Academy of Dance, London. She was the only graduate in her year to be awarded Honors for teaching both Graded and Vocational students. She is an associate of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing in the Modern Theatre and National branches, and an affiliate of the American Academy of Ballet. She received her early training and taught for thirteen years at the Susan Hayward School of Dancing in Montara, CA, coaching students for RAD examinations from Pre-Primary through Solo Seal Award, and preparing students for the Adeline Genee International Ballet Competition and the Youth America Grand Prix. Leigh Ann has been teaching at Rachel's Ballet since 2007 where she enjoys being a part of such a varied and talented staff of teachers.
Instructor - Ms. Bambi Fleeman was trained in London in the style of the Royal Academy of Dance and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. She is a Royal Academy of Dance registered teacher, holds a teaching diploma from the Stella Mann College, England, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance with a Minor in Nutrition and Food Science from San Jose State University, and a California Secondary Education teaching credential from San Francisco State University. Working with young people has been especially rewarding and she enjoys utilizing her educational and professional experience to train future dance professionals.
Instructor - Ms. Jeanie Pors received her early ballet training with Maria and Serge Dare of Portland, Oregon. At age 17, she was awarded a Ford Foundation scholarship to San Francisco Ballet School and trained under Herald Christensen and Ruby Asquith. She danced professionally with Alan Howard’s Pacific Ballet of San Francisco. In 1986, she opened Benicia Ballet School in Benicia, CA, and served as director for 21 years and produced the annual Benicia Ballet Theatre full-length Nutcracker. She received teacher training with Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing and the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD). She is a registered teacher with the Royal Academy of Dance and has entered students for both the grades and vocational exams. She has placed students in Anaheim Ballet (soloist) and Sacramento Ballet. She began sharing her knowledge and passion for dance with the students at Rachel’s Ballet in Fall 2008.
Instructor (Artist in Residence) - Ms. Maria LaMance, a Bay Area native, received her classical ballet training at the San Francisco Ballet School. As a dance major at San Francisco State University, she broadened her training into Modern Dance, anatomy, and kinesiology. Maria has performed professionally in numerous ballet, modern, and dance theater companies throughout the Bay Area for over a decade and currently dances with Peninsula Ballet Theatre, Huckabay McAllister Dance, Lowe Ballet, and Moving Arts Dance, with whom she has recently performed principal roles on tours to Belarus, France, and Scotland. She has instructed children, teens, and adults in ballet, modern, drama, and character dance for 15 years. In her teaching, Maria respects the individual anatomical and developmental capacities of every student, and emphasizes the importance of musicality and self-expression in the goal of going beyond technique to connect with the hearts of the audience.
Instructor - Ms. Ashley Bishop is a registered teacher for the Royal Academy of Dance and is a graduate of the Certificate in Ballet Teaching Studies programme. She has spent the last ten years dancing all over the world including being a member of the Source Dance Company in Vancouver, Canada, choreographer for Wyndham Cozumel Resort & Spa in Mexico, and as a featured performer and dance captain for Carnival Cruise Lines. She has had the opportunity to perform and study dance all over the coast of North America, including extensive training at Broadway Dance Center in New York City. She is well versed in many genres of dance including ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, lyrical, modern, musical theatre, contemporary and Latin rhythms. Ms Ashley was elated to join the faculty at Rachel's Ballet in September 2013 and share her love for dance and performance with her new students. [Ms. Ashley, who is also a certified Barre Fitness teacher, will help our competition students gain better strength and flexibility on some Saturdays during PPDC rehearsals. She will also rotate and visit all three studio locations to teach the strength and flexibility exercises during RAD classes.]
Instructor - Ms. Sharon Kung was born in New York, and currently resides in the bay area. She received her early training in the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus at the Jean M. Wong School of Ballet in Hong Kong, and continued at Menlo Park Academy of Dance in California. She completed the Royal Academy of Dance grade and vocational exams with distinction marks. In addition to her training, she placed in the “Top 12 seniors” category at Youth America Grand Prix, and was 2nd runner-up to Miss Global Dance International at the International Dance Challenge. She attended summer intensives at the American Ballet Theater, Kirov Academy, The Juilliard School and American Dance Festival. In 2008, she graduated from the University of California, Irvine Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance and Bachelor of Arts in Economics. During her time at Irvine, she had the opportunity to perform George Balanchine’s Serenade, and was featured in works of Donald McKayle and Molly Lynch. Upon graduation, she danced for Thodos Dance Chicago, Menlowe Ballet, Oakland Ballet, and also as a freelance artist in Amsterdam and Morocco. She is currently a dancer with Dance Theater of San Francisco, a contemporary ballet company. Alongside dancing professionally, she is also a dedicated teacher and mentor to students of all ages across the bay area; and is also a guest teacher and choreographer for intensives in the bay area and Hong Kong. Her philosophy is to teach the importance of self-expression, musicality, discipline and creativity through movement. She will be joining the faculty beginning in Summer 2014.
Instructor - Ms. Connie Zaug earned her BA in dance from the University of Washington, and her MA in counseling from the University of New Mexico. She has 25 years teaching experience teaching dance, gymnastics and fitness. Connie was a competitive gymnast from the ages of eleven to seventeen, while also studying ballet and mime. Connie’s comprehensive study of dance began in college, where she developed a keen interest in the anatomy and kinesiology of movement. She was fortunate to have studied ballet under director Hannah C. Wiley, renowned teacher and researcher on the anatomical/biomechanical efficiency of ballet. During and beyond her university training, Connie studied with the prominent modern dancers Peggy Hackney and Bill Evans, who emphasize the use of Laban Movement Analysis and techniques that promote a dancer’s longevity. Her master’s degree in counseling assists her understanding of the mind-body connection in movement and dance. Over the past 20 years, she has taught and performed ballet, jazz, modern dance and mime, and has created original choreography for gymnasts, dancers and amateur theatre. She holds a current AFAA certification as a Primary Group Exercise instructor.
Instructor - Ms. Carol Howard has an elementary teaching credential from California State University, Los Angeles. She received her ballet training in Southern California from Yvone Cusock, a former RAD children’s examiner. She is an Affiliate Member of the Royal Academy of Dance.
Instructor (Artist in Residence) - Mr. Evan Johnston, a Bay Area native, studied ballet with Charles Anderson, Katarina Wester, and Jodie Gates. He developed his contemporary dance practice with Donald McKayle and Loretta Livingston while earning degrees in Dance and Biological Sciences at UC Irvine. Currently a member of Bay Pointe Ballet and Sarah Berges Dance, Evan performs throughout the Bay Area, from Sonoma to San Mateo. Evan's approach to dancing, teaching, and artmaking emphasizes the methods of experimentation and analysis he used as an award-winning researcher in dance medicine & science.
Instructor - Melissa is originally from South Africa and has been involved in the dance industry since the age of four, completing examinations and performing various dance genres such as ballet, tap dance, modern dance, Irish dance, Spanish dance and jazz. After high school, she pursued her passion for dance through studying, performing and teaching abroad in the United Kingdom. Melissa has 19 years experience teaching ballet, tap, jazz, Irish, Spanish dance and was also a faculty member at a prestigious private school in Cape Town, South Africa teaching middle and high school dance as a subject before relocating to California. Melissa has been successfully entering students for R.A.D. ballet examinations for more than 12 years from Pre–Primary to Advanced and has an excellent reputation with dance students and families wherever she has been.
Instructor (Artist in Residence) - Ms. Sudabeh Samori has performed and toured with both ballet and modern dance companies as well as the All Nations Dance Company. She also performed in a dance film shot in New York for PBS. Ms. Sudabeh holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance from the State University of New York Purchase College. She received ballet training from David Howard, Patricia Wild and Finis Jung and studied modern dance with Martha Graham at Martha Graham Dance School in New York. Since then she has taught all ages from pre-school to adult for over twenty years. She taught ballet in New York, New Jersey and Hawaii. After ten years of teaching in Hawaii, Ms. Sudabeh moved to the Bay Area in 2012 and began teaching at Rachel's Ballet, Castro Valley Performing Arts and the Berkeley Ballet Theater. In Spring 2012 she taught and choreographed a ballet for the Berkeley Ballet Theater Annual Adult Spring Showcase. She is currently a faculty member of Berkeley Ballet Theater.
Guest Instructor - Zoë Galle is a Bay Area based choreographer and performer, working in San Francisco and Santa Cruz. Born and raised in Half Moon Bay, she began studying classical RAD ballet at the age of 3 at the Susan Hayward School of Dance. Zoë continued to study ballet through college, taking multiple summer intensives including Mignon Furman’s American Academy of Ballet at SUNY Purchase in New York for four consecutive years, and Keith Johnson’s Contemporary workshop at CSULB. She earned her BA in Community Studies and BFA in Fine Art with an emphasis in printmaking form the University of California Santa Cruz. Her choreography has been featured in UCSC’s Dance Collisions and Random with a Purpose while a student at UCSC. She performed in student productions Random with a Purpose, Dance Collisions, and Open Studios, and in faculty productions RENT and Blueprints. She worked as a student choreographer with director Danny Scheie in UCSC’s production of RENT and as a professional choreographer on his production of The Congressladies. She has shown work as a professional choreographer and member of Shift the Grid in the 418 Project's Emerging Choreographers showcase and as a solo performer at the Joe Goode Annex as a part of the 2015 Fresh Festival. Shift the Grid is currently in residency at Motion Pacific working on their first evening length’s work that will debut in November.
Artistic Advisor - Ms. Sandra Burnham received her RAD training in Yorkshire England. At the age of 16, she danced with “Ballet For All”, an education unit of the Royal Ballet. Following this, a contract was offered to dance in Paris, France, with the famous “Bluebell Girls” at the Paris Lido, where she stayed for 7 years. After working in New York as a television production assistant, she returned to England to open her ballet school, to which she dedicated 23 years. Many pupils went on to gain scholarships and places at England’s most prestigious vocational schools including the Royal Ballet School. Due to the success of her school, Sandra was invited to become an Examiner and Tutor for the Royal Academy of Dance, a position which she has held for the past 25 years. She began coaching our students in Fall 2008 for the 2009 YAGP - Youth America Grand Prix Competition and coached again for 2010. Dusty Button, a former student of Sandra's, gained the Bronze medal in the final of the 2006 YAGP; she danced professionally with the Royal Ballet and is currently an Artist with Boston Ballet. [Sandra and Howard Burnham moved permanently to California in July 2013.]
Drama Instructor - Mr. Howard Burnham holds an honors degree in History from the University of Durham, England. He was a co-founder of England’s
1812 Theatre Company and of the Ryedale Arts Festival. Since moving to the States, he has been for the past several years a Literary Artist in Residence of the Richland County Public Library (US Library of the Year, 2001). Much of his drama work is historical characterization for the National Park Service. Howard filmed the role of Lord Cornwallis for the BBC-PBS series “Rebels and Redcoats”. He has nearly forty years experience of drama coaching young people. Howard has also portrayed Godfather Drosselmeyer and E.T.A. Hoffman in our 2010-2013 ballet productions of The Nutcracker. You can visit him at www.howardburnham.com [Howard and Sandra Burnham moved permanently to California in July 2013.]
Guest Instructor - Ms. Coreen Danaher studied the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) syllabus under the teaching of Patricia O’Reilly at the Vallejo Ballet Conservatory, and has passed all of the Vocational examinations. By achieving Honors on her Advanced 2 Vocational exam, she qualified for the Adeline Genee International Ballet Competition, in which she participated in 2004. Coreen danced professionally with Peninsula Ballet Theater in San Mateo for five years under the directorship of Michael Lowe. Coreen was a dancer and Rehearsal Assistant for the Black Diamond Ballet Theatre in Pittsburgh, CA, and also a dancer with Moving Arts Dance in Walnut Creek. She has been dancing with Oakland Ballet since 2009 in choreography by Val Caniparoli, Michael Lowe, and Graham Lustig. Coreen joined Menlowe Ballet in their Spring Season 2012 and has been featured in Lowe’s ballets “Cirque,” “Double Happiness,” and “Plague.”
Guest Instructor - Ms. Vivian Aragon is a freelance professional dancer as well as an accomplished teacher and choreographer. She holds a BFA in Dance and a BA in Art History from Purchase College, State University of New York. She also trained at Rotterdam Dance Academy in the Netherlands and received her early training following the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus at Susan Hayward School of Dancing in Montara, CA. She completed all of the RAD examinations attaining the status of Associate of the Royal Academy of Dance and was invited to compete as a semi-finalist in the Genee International Ballet Competition in Sydney, Australia. She has worked with many Bay Area companies and choreographers, including Peninsula Ballet Theatre, Black Diamond Ballet Theatre, MenLowe Ballet, Napa Valley Ballet, Katie Faulkner/Little Seismic Dance Company, Milissa Payne Project, Yayoi Kambara, and as a guest artist with ODC/Dance. She currently performs with Alyce Finwall Dance Theater, Samantha Giron Dance Project, Anna and the Annadroids, and Oakland Ballet Company.
Guest Instructor - Ms. Karen Millar has taught ballet in Europe and the United States over the last 30 years. During her tenure in the Bay Area, she has placed students with San Francisco Ballet and with the Boston Ballet. She is a graduate and Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Dance in London. She holds her Advanced Executant with both the Royal Academy of Dance and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. While at the Royal Academy she studied ballet, character dance, Spanish dance, historical dance, English folk dance, national dance choreography, jazz and contemporary dance with a special emphasis on dance pedagogy. Karen settled in the South Bay where she owned and operated Ballet Capriole for 10 years before becoming Director of Ballet at East West Music and Dance.