ELIZABETH AVANTAGGIO holds a B.F.A. in Ballet performance from The University of the Arts where she was awarded a four year Promising Artist Scholarship. Originally from New Jersey, Elizabeth has trained at numerous prestigious ballet schools in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania including Joffrey Ballet School and private instruction from Ekaterina Strelnikova of N.Y.O. Dancers. She has performed professionally with Shore Ballet Company, Performing Arts Ensemble of New Jersey and Portland Ballet. Her dance repertory includes Swan Lake, Coppelia, Raymonda, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Portland Dances!, Capriccio, Dance for the Cure, Best of Broadway, Requiem and The legend of Sleepy Hollow. Mrs. Avantaggio's teaching credits include South Jersey Performing Arts Group, Westchester Dance Academy, Atlantic Ballet Company, Scarborough Dance Center, Portland Ballet and Studio for the Living Arts Dance Complex.
SUSAN CLOUTIER is the owner and director of Studio for the Living Arts Dance Complex where she teaches jazz, tap, and creative movement classes. Susan specializes in teaching children and she has created and implemented numerous movement and dance programs for area preschools and public school departments including Freeport, Falmouth, Songbird Creative Centers in Yarmouth and Cumberland Foreside, and the Sunshine Childcare Center in Gray and the Childrens Museum of Maine. Susan received her early training from Jean Devou's Dance Studio in Portland then later began the study of jazz dance in 1992 with Sheila Bellefleur at Casco Bay Movers. Susan continues to renew and update her teaching skills by regularly attending master class programs and teacher conferences such as New England Dance workshops for teachers. While attending dance conventions in Las Vegas, Boston, Minneapolis and New York, she has had the privilege to study under dance legends Joe Tremaine, Frank Hatchett, Joe Lanterni, Darryl Retter, Avi Miller, Susan Samuels, Ofer Ben, Jeannette Neill, Jim Viera, and Rennie Gold. As the director of Pulse Dance Company. Susan founded and produced “Dance for Autism” an annual fundraising performance that raises funds for the Autism Society of Maine. The event is a collaboration of works presented by Studio for the Living Arts and hundreds of talented and giving dancers from surrounding studios in our local dance community. Over the past years the studio has donated over $15,000 to the Autism Society. The studio creates a huge enthusiasm for social issues and causes and its dancers and families are involved in many other local projects that give back. Susan's passion and vision for the studio is as strong today as it was 27 years ago. She believes that the discipline, creativity and self-confidence that is involved in a student's dance experience, will have a lasting and positive effect on their lives. She also believes that it’s the studio's professional top-notch faculty that remains the driving force behind the studio's longevity. Year after year technically trained dancers and versatile performers are being produced and the dancers continue to be motivated through a contagious spirit, positive energy, and an abundance of opportunities to explore the arts.
VERNONICA DRUCHNIAK a former principal dancer with Maine State Ballet, where she danced as Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Kitri in Don Quixote, Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, and the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, among other roles. She is a proud member of the Equity Membership Candidate Program, and has performed various times with Maine State Music Theatre and Mad Horse Theatre Company. She has spent the past two years traveling the world and doing what she loves as a production dancer aboard the Queen Mary 2. Onboard, she premiered a new contemporary work, Adagio, to international acclaim. Now back in Maine due to the pandemic, Veronica has found her place teaching at Studio for the Living Arts and Encore Dance Company, and performing with Ballet Bloom Project and Safe Haven Ballet. Veronica holds a BA in Mathematics with a minor in Physics from the University of Southern Maine
KELLY FANTIGROSSI Kelly’s education includes an M.F.A. in Acting from UCLA (Magna Cumme Laude), B.A. in Theater with a Minor in Dance from Temple University (Magna Cum Laude), and the Teaching Artist/Process Pedagogy Program for Jacques D’Amboise’s The National Dance Institute based out of NYC. Kelly’s teaching history includes teaching and choreographing Tap, Jazz, Ballet and Theater for universities, studios, camps and institutes across the United States. Some of which are: University of California-Los Angeles (Acting for Non- Majors and Ballet), The American Academy of Dramatic Arts-Manhattan (Musical Theater Tap/Jazz), The National Dance Institute and Celebrate the Beat’s Artist in Residency programs (The Bank Street School for Children, East Harlem School and PS 184 Shuang Wen), US Performing Arts Camp-Los Angeles (Tap, Jazz, Ballet), University of Southern Maine (“The Wild Party), Future Artists: A Performing Arts Camp for Young Adults (Co-creator/Director), City Theater (“Hair”, “A Christmas Carol”). Kelly has trained with many notable names in the dance and theater community such as: Andy Blackenbuehler, Josh Bergasse, Chett Walker, Frank Hatchett, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, Savion Glover.... just to name a few. She has been involved in the competition world and has served as a judge for Turn It Up and Dance Challenge in ME, NJ, and MA. She has also been a Master Class Instructor, Guest Choreographer, and Private Instructor for studios around the NYC and Pennsylvania area as well.
GRACE KOURY Grace previously she has danced professionally with Georgia Dance Theater where she danced featured roles including the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker and Prayer in Coppelia. For two seasons prior she danced with Rochester City Ballet in NY. Before starting her professional career, she attended Indiana University Jacobs School of Music on The Dean’s Scholarship. There she had the pleasure of performing many works by renown choreographers ranging from Antony Tudor’s Dark Elegies, Paul Taylor’s Musical Offer- ing, George Balanchine’s Rubies, Emeralds, Western Symphony, Four Temperaments and Diver- timento No. 15. As a part of Jacobs School of Music, Grace also had the opportunity to perform as a featured dancer in the operas La Traviata and The Last Savage. In May of 2016, she gradu- ated with a Bachelor of Science in Ballet Performance and an Outside Field in Arts Management. In addition to Indiana University Ballet Theater, Grace has received dance training from Walnut Hill School for the Arts, Pacific Northwest Ballet SI, The School of American Ballet SI, Chatauqua School of Dance, and Allegheny Ballet Company. Grace has been teaching ballet since 2014 when she started instructing non- majors in elective ballet at Indiana University and children through the university’s pre-college program. Since then she has taught in schools across the country and worked with students of all ages. Grace Koury joined the Portland Ballet in 2019.
HEATHER BAXTER grew up in Maine and received her early training at Portland Ballet. She graduated from Point Park University with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance with a concentration in Ballet. After graduating, Heather was a company member with Roanoke Ballet Theater in Virginia for two years, where she also began teaching creative movement and ballet. She returned to Portland Ballet as a company member in 2019, and has performed roles in many productions including Giselle, Three Tales by Poe, and The Victorian Nutcracker. As a student she had the opportunity to train at several nationally renowned summer intensives including Walnut Hill School for the Arts, Oklahoma City Ballet, and The Washington Ballet. She currently teaches ballet, jazz, creative movement and musical theater dance at studios around Maine.
JENN FINK holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Musical Theater and Dance from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, where she studied under Julliard graduate Joan Karlen and James Moore, assistant for the legendary Jerome Robbins. Jenn grew up training and later taught at the Dance Arts Center in Franskville under the direction of Danelle Dalbesio Davies. Since college, Jenn has continued to train in Chicago with some of the best: Lou Cante Dance Studio (Hubbard Street Dance), Gus Giordano’s, Joel Hall, Visceral, and she has taken master classes across the country with the industries top instructors and choreographers. In 2009, Jenn received her Pilates certification and continually strives for higher education in the field of strength, alignment, and dancer injury prevention. Jenn’s credits include: head technical instructor and choreographer for the Soul2Sole Dance Company in Chicago, choreographer for the Racine Kid and Youth Players, master classes for inner city community programs in Chicago, and she is a visiting instructor and adjudicator for the Dance Arts Center in Mount Pleasant. In the competitive circuit, Jenn has judged for Rainbow Connection Dance Competition, and her work has been recognized both regionally and nationally, receiving Chorography, Technique, Critiques Choice Nominations, Best of Show, Judges Choice and High Point awards at Adrenaline Dance, New York City Dance Alliance, Move Productions, Jump, LADM, Velocity, Open Call, Talent On Parade, and Spotlight Dance Cup. Her current and former students are top ranked, nationally, and have gone on to have thriving careers collegially and professionally. Jenn has a fierce passion and sound understanding of dance alignment and technique and loves sharing it with her students whether their goal is to dance recreationally or professionally! Jenn’s passion for teaching and her creativity are beyond amazing, but she is also just a beautiful person. Inside and out.
VICTORIA PERREAULT received most of her professional training in Los Angeles on a Tremaine National Scholarship & in the San Francisco area with some of the most talented choreographers and educators. She has been a guest judge for Dance Masters Nationals in San Jose, CA. Victoria also filmed a commercial with Star Wars George Lucas, performed for Tom Hanks, and danced on the TV pilot More than Entertainment. In California, Viki wrote & directed Amour Du Mal (an original play told through dance) for Visual Rhythm Dance Company. For years, she was guest jazz & hip hop instructor at San Jose State University, as well as a teacher for several amazing studios which included student Nick Lazzarini who emerged as the winner of SYTYCD first season. Some of her former students have gone on to Broadway and successful careers in dance. Upon returning to her native State of Maine, Viki received awards & accolades for her choreographies, scholarships to Millenium Dance Complex in L.A., and filmed a television commercial with Blake McGrath of SYTYCD. The pinnacle of her career occurred January 2007 when Mia Michaels honored Viki with a BDC scholarship. Victoria loves to teach with enthusiasm & her choreographies are known for their originality.
MIA MILLETT Mia trained at the studio for 15 years before graduating with our class of 2021. Mia’s studies included Ballet, Pointe, Contemporary, Lyrical, Jazz, and Hip-Hop. During her time here as a student, Mia was an Assistant Teacher, and she also danced competitively as a member of our Pulse Dance Company. Along with her extensive training here as a Company member, Mia has also studied with many of the industry’s top instructors and choreographers at dance conventions and through our in-house master class programs. Mia will be co-teaching our Saturday Ballet classes with Kate Smedal through November, and she will be leading the classes starting in December 2022.
MICHELLE MELVIN-PERRY Michelle is thrilled to come on board with such a talented, positive group of teachers and students. She started at SLA over a summer session working on GLEE camp and fell in love with the students and the hard working, fun loving philosophy of the studio. Michelle started her dance education at her Grandmother’s dance studio and comes from a family of dance instructors including her mother, who currently is choreographing for a line dance team. She then studied Ballet at Portland Ballet School of East with Sarah Whale. She joined Cheryl Greeley’s competition team in 1992, and from there Cheryl opened the doors to the musical theater world. Michelle was in her first musical theater production at Lyric Theater and from there she performed at Portland Players, Arundel Barn Playhouse, and Maine State Music Theater. She took her love for the stage and moved to NYC and studied dance at Broadway Dance Center. She got an agent and was in Feature Films with Jim Carey, Jack Black, and Ben stiller. She was in a Law and Order – criminal intent episode, and she also performed in a Mountain Dew Amp commercial for MTV at BCBG. She loves to work with children and her favorite style of dance is lyrical contemporary. She looks forward to continuing her love for dance and competition choreography with SLA.
AMANDA PREBLE Amanda Preble is a hip hop choreographer and instructor based out of several studios in Southern Maine. She holds a Bachelors degree in Communications from Quinnipiac University. It was at Quinnipiac where she developed her skills on the school’s competitive hip hop team and served as a captain and a choreographer. Her performance experience includes nine consecutive seasons of dancing for basketball, including two years professionally for the NBA-D League. Amanda enjoys traveling to Boston and New York City to take classes in hip hop and other styles of dance. She has trained with the likes of Twitch, D-trix, Sheryl Murakami, NappyTabs, and Luam.
STEFANIE ROBINSON began her journey as a dancer at The Studio for the Living Arts in 1992. She was a member of the Studio's first competition dance team "Full-FX" now known as ”Pulse Dance Company” from 1993-1999 training in jazz, hip-hop, and ballet. As a competitor, Stefanie received many regional and national dance awards and titles. Stefanie has attended numerous dance workshops and conventions in Minneapolis, Las Vegas, Boston, and New York where she received master instruction under the direction of world-renowned dancers, such as Frank Hatchett, Joe Lanteri, Joe Tremaine, Marcea Lane, and Doug Caldwell. Since graduating high school in 2000 she has enjoyed working with children as a full time private nanny. Stefanie has the patience and devotion to help children learn and love dance. The combination of her extensive dance training and childcare experience make her an asset to our faculty.
DANIELA SABBATH Daniela is a native of Brazil and holds a BFA in Dance from The Boston Conservatory and a Master’s Degree in Dance Education from NYU: Teaching Dance in Higher Ed and the Professions: American Ballet Theatre Pedagogy. As part of her master’s program she has completed the ABT® National Training Curriculum and is certified in levels Pre-Primary through 7, and Partnering.
Daniela has extensive teaching experience in Recife, São Paulo (Brazil) and in the US. She was a member of Los Ballets de Madrid under the direction of Aurora Zerdan and performed in productions such as Swan Lake, Don Quijote, Sleeping Beauty and El Amor Brujo. Daniela was a member of Portland Ballet Company for the 2004-2006/ 2010-2012 seasons and was Principal of Portland School of Ballet from 2014 to 2016. She is also an adjunct professor at University of New England where she teaches dance fundamentals for undergraduate students.
KATE SMEDAL Kate received her early training a the Thomas School with Ivy Forrest before continuing at the North Carolina School of the Arts with Nina Danilova, Melissa Hayden and Frank Smith. Ms. Smedal studied at several summer programs including American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School. In 2001 she was awarded the presidential scholarship for dance and joined the Festival Ballet of Providence, RI. She holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from UMO and is an ABT® Certified teacher, in levels Primary - 3. Ms. Smedal has performed professionally with the Portland Ballet appearing in Carmina Burana, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Giselle and The Victorian Nutcracker as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Snow Queen. She served as both an instructor for the Portland School of Ballet as well as a rehearsal assistant for the Portland Ballet Company.
PAMELA COLLINS-STAHLE Pam has been a dance educator and performer for almost 20 years. Pam is a certified Acrobatic Arts instructor and she currently teaches our Acro/Tumbling program and our Pulse Dance Company Acro competition team. Pam is also a skilled jazz and musical theater teacher. Her career as a professional dancer has carried her overseas to such exotic places as Singapore and Taiwan while employed with "DisneyFest" and "Sesame Street Live". She has graced the Disney World stages performing in "Mickey's International Songbook" at Epcot Center and in the 25th Anniversary "Spectro Magic Parade". One of her most memorable moments as a dancer was performing on the Today Show with NBC. Pam is a current member of USA Gymnastics and is continuing her teaching education with courses offered through the USAG University. She has continued her professional development through one of the largest training facilities in the world at the International Gymnastics Camp in Pennsylvania. Her gymnastics background is due to the wonderful teachings at Maine Academy of Gymnasatics, Bridgton's Broadway Dance Studio, and Dudziaks Gymnastics. Her strength, power, and the combination of tumbling and dance earned her a role as Peter Pan with Disney as well as team performances on Royal Carribean and Carnival Cruise Lines. Another favorite past time of Miss Pam's is choreographing musical theater. She has undertaken this persona for ten years and has pieced together 13 shows between Lake Region Community Theater, Lake Region High School and Lewiston Middle School. Ms. Collins-Stahle has been a competitive choreographer for HipHop, Jazz, AcroJazz, and High School Cheering at many different levels. Her dance numbers have won numerous awards and Top Scores at Turn It Up Dance Challenge, Dance Educators of America, Spirit of Dance Awards and Jump. Her coaching career includes such feats as her team earning a spot at the State Competition for 3 consecutive years and winning Western Maine Conference Cheering Competition in 2005. Many of her former dancers and cheerleaders have continued on as coaches and choreographers. She states "one of my passions in life is mentoring young dancers, gymnasts and cheerleaders. I hope to go above and beyond educating in the classroom, I want to inspire”.
ABIGAIL WENCZKOWSKI began her career in dance at the early age of two. She attended Alton Dance Academy in Alton, N.H. for sixteen years. There she trained in many forms of dance including ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, hip-hop, modern, contemporary, character, and dance history. Abigail’s true passion for teaching dance was uncovered when she assumed the role of a teacher’s assistant; for six years, she was a positive role model for young dancers as she learned to share her love of the art form. Abigail recently graduated from Dean College’s Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance with a bachelor's in dance, a concentration in pedagogy, and a minor in psychology. This past summer, she had the privilege of interning with the Boston Ballet as a co-teacher for their Arts & Exploration Children’s summer intensive. Abigail was a member of the National Honor Society of Dance Arts for seven years and is a published author of a dance education book, Exploring Life as an Artist. Her mission as a dance instructor is to share her adoration and respect of the art form with future generations through professional and skilled instruction and positive experiences. Her goal is to inspire young dancers to find their self-confidence and to uncover a love for dance that will carry them throughout the rest of their lives.
LIZA COLLINS-SCHRADER Liza Collins-Schrader is a recent graduate of Dean College’s Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance where she received her Associates Degree in Dance. She has studied numerous styles of dance including ballet, jazz, contemporary, modern, tap, hip-hop, and acro for twelve years. During her time at Dean College, she had the opportunity to dance on both their Pom Team and Step Team in which she performed at various basketball and football games as well as taking the collegiate stage at UDA College Dance Competitions. She was also honored to choreograph two routines for their Project Green and Collaboration Showcases. One of her most memorable moments at Dean was participating in the Patriot's Opening Ceremonies in 2019. Liza has also been actively involved in acro and gymnastics since she was four years old studying at Maine Academy of Gymnastics, Planet Cheer, and under the guidance of her mother Pamela Collins-Stahle who specializes in AcroDance. It is with her mom that she began her love for the sport. At thirteen years of age, she began assisting acro classes and has been involved in teaching under the Acrobatic Arts syllabus. Liza is currently studying under Acrobatic Arts and is well on her way to becoming Module One Certified. Musical Theater has been another passion of Liza's and has helped her grow extensively as a performer. She has been an active member of the theater community in the Lakes Region area for almost 15 years, having roles both on and off stage. She has been fortunate enough to choreograph Lake Region Community Theater's production of James and the Giant Peach and Windham Middle Schools production of The Lion King. Liza is beyond excited to begin working with the amazing students and teachers at SFLA. She has been a part of the studio for many years taking classes, assisting teachers, and substitute teaching. She can't wait to have a bigger role in helping the students grow and hopes t0 inspire them to be uniquely themselves.
KAREN GILLES Creative Movement, Jazz, Tap/Ballet Combo Classes Instructor, Karen was one of our first students that attended the Studio for the Living Arts in 1992. Karen trained in tap, ballet, pointe, and jazz at Studio for the Living Arts all the way through High School. She was featured in many performances and recitals at the Studio as well as participated in my dance competitions and workshops during her childhood. Karen comes from a three generation family of dancers here with her Mom Lenora (Adult Tap) and her daughters (Lexi and Hannah) currently training in several genres of dance. Following High School, Karen attended the University of Maine, Orono where she received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Karen began her nursing career at the Maine Medical Center where she practiced cardiac telemetry/med surgical nursing for two years and then she went on to perform out-patient dialysis at Androscoggin Kidney Center in Auburn, Maine. Karen is currently Assistant Director of Nursing role at Pine Tree Home Health Care.