Ben Coalter is from Hurricane, West Virginia. He received a BFA from UNC School of the Arts. He danced for internationally-acclaimed Pilobolus Dance Theater for five years, performing and teaching throughout the U.S. and abroad. He continues to dance, choreograph, and teach for Pilobolus. This is Ben’s first year teaching at Studio D.
Katie is from Connecticut where she trained under instructors Peter O’Brien and Amy Piantaggini in Ridgefield where she was awarded the Patricia Schuster Scholarship. She graduated cum laude from Marymount Manhattan College earning a B.F.A. in dance where she received both dance and academic scholarships. Katie has been a member of Edgar Cortes Dance Theater in New York since 2015. She has performed at the Inside/Out Series at Jacob’s Pillow and has danced the lead in Martha Graham’s “Steps in the Street,” Edgar Cortes’s “Dali Aqui,” Anthony Ferro’s “The Hindemith,” and Rachael Kosch’s “Three Things.” She has danced in works by Paul Taylor, Megan Williams, Larry Keigwin, and Kirk Peterson, among others. Katie has been teaching since 2015 at various schools across Connecticut and has also choreographed works since 2010, presenting pieces at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, CT and the Young Choreographer’s Festival in Stamford, CT.
Heaven Darling received a BFA in Painting from WWU in 1992 and an MFA from WCSU in 2004. He teaches painting and visual art and mixed media art classes. Prior to living in Connecticut, Heaven recorded and performed with various rock bands in Seattle and NYC, as a drummer. Heaven’s students love the free thinking that his classes open up for them and are always delighted with his classes.
James Jandrok was trained at Broadway Steps where he learned hip hop, jazz, and tap. He then practiced independently for four years, working with three different dance crews as a member and choreographer. James has been on the popular show So You Think You Can Dance and has been performing for three years. James is completing his second year teaching and “I love every minute of it.” James adds, “From being brought up in a dance studio to learning my current street dance styles on my own, I have found out the best ways of breaking down these complex styles. Teaching and learning these new styles of dance have been the most fun out of all I have experienced. Can’t wait to pass it on to you!”
Nestor Franco is a talented Street dancer who comes to us with great enthusiasm and a love for Krump. He has performed with many dance crews, most recently with Kalligraphy. Kalligraphy won 2nd place in the World of Dance competition in Boston and took home three trophies for their dance. Nestor has danced for many years alongside James Jandrok, Studio D’s original Street Dance instructor. Nestor lives in Waterbury with his two children and girlfriend and is excited to begin teaching at Studio D. Nestor has some cool tricks to teach our dancers from stomps to buck ups to backflips.
Karen Laham received her early dance training at various local dance schools in Connecticut and went on to study further in New York City under various artists from the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, the Royal Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet. She attended teacher workshops hosted by Master Teacher David Howard and continues to enhance her knowledge by attending master classes and teacher seminars. Karen has choreographed for numerous shows which have been performed at Immaculate High School, the Bushnell Theater, Founder’s Hall in Ridgefield, CT and the Ridgefield Playhouse. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology and a Minor in Chemistry from Western Connecticut State University.
Katie has been dancing at Studio D for 14 years. She has trained in Modern, Jazz, Ballet, Pointe, Contemporary, Tap, Hip Hop, Street, Lyrical, Choreography, and Acro-Yoga. She has performed as Grumpy in Snow White, the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, Vanessa in the Little Mermaid, and the Banker in Mary Poppins. She is a junior at NMHS, currently on the dance team there. She lives with her parents, younger brother and two dogs!
Shannon McLean has a B.S. in Business Administration. She works in Product Development at Waterworks in Danbury CT. Throughout her life she has studied dance at a variety of dance studios and was lucky enough to have the opportunity to train at Enloe Magnet High School in Raleigh, NC studying Vagonava Ballet and Graham-Modern technique as part of her high school curriculum. She was a member of the Meredith Dance Ensemble in 1994. She began teaching dance in 2003 at Taps n Toes in Brewster NY where she taught and staged pieces in Ballet, Contemporary Jazz, Theater Jazz and Modern. She was a Choreographer and Production Manager for the Prelude Ballet Ensemble from 2005-2009 where she choreographed and staged “Peter and the Wolf”, “The Toy Box” an original story ballet, and several contemporary ballet pieces such as “TUTU”, “Simple Gifts” and “Kaleidoscope”. She began working at Studio D in New Milford, CT in 2009 and was delighted to begin a Contemporary Jazz class program in 2011. Shannon classroom philosophy is for everyone in the classroom to work hard on improving their technique while finding the beautiful voice of expression in the art of dance.
Jessica Melendez danced at Studio D for 5 years and had additional dance training prior to that in all styles of dance. Jessie was a teaching assistant at Studio D and was a substitute dance teacher for Miss Gina’s Hip Hop classes. While at Studio D, Jessie danced the part of The Mad Hatter in “Alice In Wonderland,” and Tiger Lily in “Neverland in Motion” as well as being a Principal Dancer in Studio D’s D-Tour Dance Company from 2013-2015. Jess was offered a scholarship to dance for Sacred Heart University’s dance company and continued her dance career there. At Sacred Heart, she worked with numerous choreographers and learned various new styles and techniques that she is eager to share with her new students.
Alison began ballet lessons at the age of six and continues to train as an adult. She studied many years with Balanchine dancer Dorothy Burdette and European soloist, Marthe Krueger. Her training continued at Hofstra University with Joffrey II ballet master, Lance Westergard. Other influential teachers have been Muriel Stuart, Karen Festog, Dan Sas, Linda Freyer, and Dieter Riesle. In addition to many other roles, Alison has performed the lead roles of Clara, Snow Queen, and Sugar Plum Fairy in Danbury Music Centre’s Nutcracker. During her time as a member of the Danbury Ballet Company, she also performed in various other ballets. Alison enjoys all dance forms and has also studied jazz, lyrical, modern, tap, ballroom, and flamenco.
Alison is a CT state-certified teacher and has taught English in local secondary schools. She has been teaching ballet for ten years to students ages 5 through adult. Alison truly enjoys teaching and encourages all students to reach their full potential. She believes the art of ballet can help instill self-discipline and foster a sense of achievement and self-worth in her students that will carry over to other aspects of their lives.
Carlie Silva, a Studio D alumna, graduated from Vassar College with her bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology, focusing on expressive culture and the performing arts. She also minored in Human Development and Learning and has an undying passion for teaching. Carlie has studied a variety of dance forms throughout the past nineteen years, most recently under the instruction of John Meehan, Katherine Wildberger, and Stephen Rooks. A dancer of every style, Carlie finds her home in contemporary dance — a genre she loves for its amorphous nature. Carlie’s contemporary style combines tenets of hip hop, jazz, and modern dance forms. She is also deeply influenced by Bharatanatyam dance, a traditional Indian dance form she studied while abroad in Delhi, India. Her choreographic journey began at age 4, when she choreographed a dance to “Grease” in her living room and wrote all of the steps down on paper with a green crayon. Since then, Carlie has choreographed over ten dance works for Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre, Vassar FlyPeople, Studio D, and the New Milford High School Dance Team. Carlie’s most recent work, “the unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat,” has been performed with Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre at the Bardavon Opera House in Poughkeepsie, NY.
Gina Silva attended the Hartford School of Ballet after receiving a BBA in Business from WCSU. She performed at Walt Disney World and danced on the Disney Cruise Lines. Miss Gina has been a dedicated teacher at Taps-N-Toes in Brewster, NY since 1990 and was also the owner for a majority of that time. She initiated a movement program at Village Preschool in New Milford while her daughters attended there during the late 1990’s. Miss Gina is responsible for creating the New Milford High School Dance Team in 2000 and coaching it for the following four years. She took a hiatus from coaching until 2009 and has been assistant coach for the New Milford High School Dance Team since then. She had been a teacher at the Maria Calegari School of Ballet and is now a devoted teacher of ballet, creative movement, hip hop, jazz, and tap at Studio D. Miss Gina’s teaching style promotes learning in her classes while inspiring fun and excitement.
Dance background for Ginny includes training with the Ballet Russe, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She has also studied intensively with Robert Maiorano and Arlene Belgelman. Both have been highly influential Balanchine teachers and teacher mentors.
Ginny holds an M.A. in Environmental Education from Fairfield University, Connecticut. As a teacher in the Sherman School for the past 25 years, she was the founder and Director of School House Company. All facets of the Company’s creative productions were accomplished ‘for and by children’!
Currently, Ginny serves on the Board of Education for the Sherman School and teaches at Studio D. Ginny is a major collaborator in Studio D’s year end productions and teaches Ballet, Pointe and Theater Classes at Studio D year round.
Martha Zaharevich is a dancer, Teacher of Ballet, Modern, Jazz, and Pilates. Martha completed her BA in Dance at UC Santa Barbara. She later received her Master of Physical Therapy at Rutgers University. She is a member of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. She trained in ballet, jazz, modern, tap, and Scottish Highland Dance. Martha trained at several local dance schools, Nutmeg Ballet, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and Jacob’s Pillow where she found her love of modern dance with her first modern instructor, Milton Myers. Martha has also taken several Pilobolus workshops. Martha is a Certified Peak Pilates Master Instructor. She is happily married to James and is so proud of her ballerina ninja daughters, Christina and Juliana.