Des Plaines Park District

Des Plaines Dance Academy Staff Bios

Des Plaines Dance Academy Staff

Bridget Donovan started her dance training with the Des Plaines School of Dance at the age of 3 years old. Later, she joined and competed with the Artistry in Motion Competition Team. Alongside competing with her home studio, Bridget also trained and competed in Latin Ballroom dance with Interclub Academy of Dance for several years. To expand her understanding and passion for dance, she attended Ball State University. During her time at Ball State she participated in the Student Dance Association and Ball State Dance Company where she trained in various styles and performed in productions, musicals, and student works. In May of 2021, Bridget graduated Magna Cum Laude with her BFA in Dance. After graduating, Bridget returned back to the Chicagoland area as a teaching and performing artist. Now, Bridget is in her second season dancing professionally and choreographing with Trifecta Dance Collective and is a company member for Solarium Dance Company. Bridget is currently working towards her Yoga Teacher Training Certification. Teaching and choreographing is a great joy for Bridget and she looks forward to sharing her knowledge and passion!
Ella Dorman is from Traverse City, MI, and has been dancing since the age of three. She attended Interlochen Arts Academy, and spent summers training at ABT NYC, Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet, Joffrey Chicago and NYC, and Oklahoma City Ballet. After graduating, Ella joined A&A Ballet for their inaugural season where she danced works by Alexei Kremev, Justin Allen, and Ronn Stewart, including Cinderella in Kremnev’s adaptation of Cinderella. She then joined Oklahoma City Ballet’s Second Company before being promoted to the Main Company. Her repertoire with the company includes Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, The Little Mermaid, Romeo and Juliet, Septime Webre’s Alice in Wonderland, La Sylphide, Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, Helen Pickett’s Petal, and Michael Pink’s Dracula. She has danced with Traverse City Dance Project, performing works by Mauro de Candia, Jennifer Lott, and Kara Wilkes. Ella currently dances with The Rooted Space Dance Company in Chicago. She is passionate about teaching the artform of dance in supportive and empowering ways, and is a strong advocate for dancer’s needs as people and as artists.
Rachel Galicia has been in the aerial arts industry for 9 years; constantly improving and learning through online programs, teacher trainings and independent study. She trained and performed at multiple studios in the Chicago area and in North Carolina, Raleigh area. Throughout her time training and instructing, Rachel has developed a strong understanding of performance art, intelligent movement, choreography, and injury prevention. She finds so much joy in seeing her students’ progress, giving back to the community and improving the physical and emotional lives of others through the art form. Rachel continues to challenge herself to always create a safe, positive, and welcoming environment to grow self-esteem, develop grit, confidence, and a strong mindset that her students can implement in class and in their own lives outside of aerial.  
Sarah Glover grew up training in the Chicagoland area and graduated from East Carolina University with a BFA in Dance Performance, where she had the privilege of studying with, and performing works by guest artists such as the David Dorfman Dance Company and River North Dance Chicago. As a freelance dancer, she has performed in various shows in the Chicagoland area such as Dance For Life, Within (Visceral Dance Chicago), THAW 2016, 2017 and 2018, along with touring nationally with her companies, Peckish Rhodes Performing Arts Society and Forward the Movement, in 2019. She recently had the honor of performing in the 9th annual film festival in Saudi Arabia. In addition to dance Sarah is a signed model and has worked for companies such as MAC Cosmetics, Groupon, Medline, and many more. She is so grateful to be surrounded by so many supportive and encouraging people, who constantly push her to grow as an artist.
Lizzie Karras grew up dancing right here at Des Plaines Dance Academy. She attended Maine West High School, where she became a member of Orchesis Dance Company and enjoyed choreographing and performing with her peers. She went on to attend the University of Illinois at Springfield, where she joined the Dancing Stars dance team and became co-captain in her senior year. From 2016 – 2022, Lizzie spent her summers choreographing and teaching at Dance & Arts Camp here at the Des Plaines Park District. In 2021, she became an official member of the Des Plaines Dance Academy staff as an instructor for the Aim for the Stars program. She has since become coach of Des Plaines Poms, and she is looking forward to another season with the team!
Sam Kedziora was born and raised in Des Plaines, Illinois, and began her dance journey in 2008 competing and training with Artistry in Motion Dance Company. From the time that her passion for dance began until now, Sam has trained in dance styles including Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Modern, Contemporary, Musical Theatre, Hip-hop, and more. In 2018, she followed that passion and chose to study dance at the University of South Florida. She graduated with her BFA in Modern Dance Studies and a minor in psychology in May 2022 and also spent the 2019-2020 season dancing on the USF Sundolls Dance Team to further expand her dance vocabulary. Over the course of her college career, Sam has participated in various dance-related events, has been in clubs and leadership positions with the dance department, has choreographed multiple small works (both live and film), has worked very closely with Tampa’s Moving Current Dance Collective, and has taught varying dance styles to all ages. In 2019, she performed with Diavolo Architecture in Motion’s Veterans Project, which was her first professional gig, and stayed involved in the local Tampa dance scene. Sam also took the summer after graduating to independently travel to Paris, Berlin, and Northern Israel where she continued her dance studies. She is now a performing apprentice with Trifecta Dance Collective as well as a company member with Solarium Dance Company and is excited to have made a full circle by teaching for AiM this season. 
Holly Lehnertz grew up in a suburb of Chicago. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Contemporary Dance from the University of North Carolina, School of the Arts. While in college she studied numerous techniques including CounterTechnique, Graham, Cunningham, Limon, and Release. She performed works by José Limón, Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham and Kira Blazek-Ziaii. After 3 years at UNCSA, Holly moved to Israel to dance with Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company – MASA from 2019-2020. Holly has participated in many summer studies including Cambrians Dance Chicago, Peter Chu’s Intensive,  Entity Dance Company, Countertechnique, Thodos Dance Chicago, Point Park Intensive and Saratoga Summer Dance Intensive. Holly danced professionally for Hedwig Dances in Chicago for their 2021-2022 season. She recently performed with the Kate Jablonksi Statement in Croatia for the 2022 Sibenik Dance Festival. She currently dances professionally with Water Street Dance Milwaukee, where she has performed in many cities including New York City, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, and Toledo. Holly is so excited to continue to share her love of dance and inspire the students at Des Plaines Dance Academy.
Case Prime, from Lake George, NY, started tap dancing at the age of 4 years old. Eventually he went on to study ballet, contemporary, and modern dance. At age 14 he began his career as a teacher and choreographer at Starlet Dance Works in Queensbury NY. Once he turned 15, Case was accepted as a member of the American Tap Dance Foundation’s Tap City Youth Ensemble in New York City where he had the opportunity to work under amazing artists such as Michelle Dorrance, Brenda Buffalino and Claudia Rahardjanoto, just to name a few. After high school, Case traveled to Chicago to study Music Composition and Audio Engineering at Columbia College Chicago, as well as start his apprenticeship under Mark Yonnally at Chicago Tap Theatre. After two years with CTT, Case started training, and is now apprenticing with MADD Rhythms under incredible artists and technicians including Starinah Dixon, Donnetta Jackson, Brill Barrett and many, many others. As a student of the dance, Case could not be happier to be a sponge to all that this City has to offer, and is just as excited to share what he’s learned so far with the students at The Des Plaines Dance Academy.
Jamie Salas is a native of San Antonio, TX and graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance performance and choreography. Since her move to Chicago 10+ years ago, she has performed with numerous dance companies including Inaside Chicago Dance, Chicago Tap Theatre, Esoteric Dance Project and most recently, Dance in the Parks. Choreography is one of her passions as she has been lucky enough to have works featured at numerous shows such as Dance Chicago, Dance Chance, Dance Chance: Redux and numerous venues around Chicagoland including the iconic Chicago Theatre. Jamie has been on staff at Des Plaines Dance Academy and a choreographer and teacher for Artistry in Motion Dance Company since 2013. When she’s not in the dance studio, she’s at the barre studio. She has been a Pure Barre teacher since 2013 and is the owner of Pure Barre Willowbrook!
Natalie Sanchez began dancing at the age of 4 with the Des Plaines School of Dance (now DPDA). In 2011, she joined Artistry in Motion (AiM) until she graduated in 2017. During her time with AiM she participated in Inaside Dance Chicago’s Youth Training Program and developed a relationship with the company through intensives and performances. She trained in Ballet, Pointe, Modern, Contemporary, Jazz, Tap, Musical Theater, and Hip hop until leaving AiM and continuing her studies at Northern Illinois University (NIU). It was at this time that she concentrated on her dance foundations and expanded her studies into Horton, Graham, Ballroom, Flamenco, Pilates, and Kinesiology. She has trained with I Am Force (IAF), Deeply Rooted Dance Theater and at various other studios, along with many noteworthy professionals throughout the country. She has performed at the Athenaeum Theater, Paramount Theater, Harold Washington Library, Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, Prairie Center for the Arts and various other locations throughout Chicagoland. Along with dance, she was Northern Dance Theater’s School of Dance Student President for 3 years, Assistant Stage Manager, choreographed 4 works involving different facets of stage production (Lighting, Costume, and Music) and produced 2 dance films (Director and Editor). She graduated in 2021 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and is excited to continue teaching at her home studio here at DPDA!
Mathew Skorupski is a Polish American dancer that grew up in Des Plaines. Mat is a Northern Illinois University graduate with a Bachelors of Fine Art in Dance Performance. After graduating from Northern in December of 2021, Mat was hired by Rockford University as a tap instructor. Mat has trained in dance since he was 6 years old dancing at the Des Plaines School of Dance, and has over 10 years of performance experience. Mathew has danced with many companies in the past including our very own Artistry in Motion, Supreme Dance, Insaside Dance Chicago, and Ardent Dance. A few of Mat’s other passions in life are traveling, overlanding, cycling, and hiking. Mathew aims to express himself through the artistry found within dance, he also aims to inspire others through this same expression. Mat is currently a second year member at Madison Contemporary Dance in Wisconsin.
Lauren Smith is a creative based in Chicago, Illinois. She graduated from Western Michigan University in May 2021 with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance. Here she has had the opportunity to perform works by Brendan Dougan, Aszure Barton, Kate Skarpetowska, Melanie George, Seyong Kim, and Mike Esperanza and was a member of the student touring company, Western Dance Project under direction of Whitney Moncrief. Since moving to Chicago, Lauren has worked with artists Stefany Cotton, Sydney Jones, Haley Tarling, Tessa Richey, and Alyssa Simpson. She was also fortunate to perform in an episode of Robyn Mineko-Williams’ Undercover Episodes. She is currently dancing with Alluvion Dance Chicago as, and continues to work on freelance projects with Chicago artists.
Nancy Suwalski began dancing at the age of 4 at the Lattof YMCA in Des Plaines. She attended Maine West High School where she was a member of Orchesis (now West Side Dance Company) during her 4 years. Nancy attended Northeastern Illinois University where she studied Recreation and Leisure Studies and minored in Health Education. While attending college, Nancy began her journey as a dance teacher, specializing in Ballet, Tap, Jazz, and Lyrical. She has taught for over 12 years at various park districts; Arlington Heights, Park Ridge, and Des Plaines. In 2001, Nancy transitioned into her full time role as the Cultural Arts Manager at the Des Plaines Park District, overseeing the Des Plaines Dance Academy, Des Plaines Music Academy, Dance & Arts Camp, Dance Idol Dance Competition, as well as managing the Leisure Center.  Nancy resides in Des Plaines with her husband and 3 dogs. She is the proud mother of 2 daughters, who both grew up attending dance classes at the Des Plaines Dance Academy. Dance has always been a part of her life and she is thrilled to share her passion with the DPDA students.
Terry Turner started dancing at the age of 5 when his mom introduced him to Michael Jackson and his music. He has been an active athlete and enjoys playing football and basketball. When he tore his ACL in college during football practice after returning home and getting surgery he decided to pursue dance and started training as a serious dancer. In 2010 he started with a UIC Collegiate hip hop team, FiaModern and Primo Dance Troupe. After training in the collegiate group for a period of time he decided it was time for a bigger challenge and auditioned for the professional companies in the Chicago community starting with Puzzle league on 2012. When he didn’t make the company he auditioned for CODA (Chicago Onyx Dance Alliance). He made it and continued to train more and in many styles. In 2013 he auditioned again for Puzzle League. Through his hard work, training and perseverance, he made the company. During that time he became an Artistic Board member for CODA. Currently and continues to explore more styles of dance. His mission as a hip hop teacher is for his students to become educated, confident and well trained dancers.
Desi VanDyke grew up in the small town of Waverly, New York. She was a teacher, an assistant, and a choreographer at her local dance studio. Desi graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance and minors in both Dance Studio Administration and Theater Arts from the State University of New York at Fredonia. She has traveled to New Jersey, Saratoga Springs, Buffalo, Rochester, Ohio, New York City, and Pittsburgh to perform dance works with her peers and professors throughout college. Desi was so fortunate to be able to study many styles of dance from a young age, including not only modern, jazz, tap and ballet, but also breaking and acrobatics. She moved to Chicago in June of 2022. During her time in Chicago, Desi had the honor of participating in Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Visceral Dance Chicago intensives over the summer, and she was recently chosen to work for the Youth Education Program through Hubbard Street Dance. Desi is beyond excited to be back for her second season at Des Plaines Dance Academy as the head acro instructor.


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