She has choreographed and directed for competitive dance teams and professional companies. She has been a guest choreographer and teacher at many studios; and she has directed, produced, and choreographed her own professional showcase in Seattle, Washington.
Her teaching focus is on the development of performance quality and storytelling without losing the integrity of dance technique and history. She is a firm believer in continued education no matter how many years of experience a dancer has.
Heather continually studies the human body and emphasizes injury prevention in all of her classes. “Tricks are great, but not at the expense of the body,” Heather noted. “I want my dancers to appreciate their bodies and learn how to be strong, well rounded performers, not just dancers with great tricks.”
Heather is truly passionate about helping dancers achieve their goals and reach their fullest potential — not just with their bodies, but with their hearts.
Insecurities can flood her choreography. “I'm always terrified of what people will think, especially the dancers I have asked to be in my work,” she adds. “I feel like I owe it to them to give them my very best, and the bar I set for ‘my very best’ is extremely high. So far, I've been able to share my work with amazing artists and it's been well received. Every time, I learn to trust my instincts more.”
Heather credits her entire dance career and love for the art to her sister, who inspired her
to take her first class - tap. Heather always looked up to her sister and loved dancing with her, learning from her, and sharing a special connection with her through dance.
“Dance is a language understood differently by everyone,” she continues, “it transcends everything, just like music.”
When it comes to genres, Jazz is her favorite, because there are so many elements involved. “We have the classics like Fosse, Luigi, and Jerome who gave jazz a very specific look and feel. I'm a sucker for clean lines and strong, solid shapes,” Heather affirmed. “Then you have the Tyce Diorio’s and Brian Freedman's of the jazz world and WOW! All the things I love about the classics paired with today's contemporary style and music. Jazz gets me every time.”
For 4 months she made an important change. She decided to stop dancing to play JV Basketball instead. Amidst the squeaking sneakers and beat of bouncing rubber, she found herself missing something.
"While not dancing for awhile, I truly understood how much dance meant to my life and how much I loved the ability to have artistic freedom and create. I needed to pursue it," she said.
She says it is important to keep an open mind, go with the flow and be acceptable to change. Adding: “You never know what the choreographer is looking for and the whole piece could change in a matter of seconds.”
Being a working dancer has brought her many heartwarming and humbling experiences. She performed in Balanchine’s Serenade, and recently performed in ‘Carnival of the Animals’ by Alexi Kremnev.
Her biggest lesson learned in dance is that you must constantly work to be the best version of yourself. She finds intrigue in dance because there’s always something to create and improve upon. Shauna is falling in love with contemporary ballet, because it calls for strict ballet training, yet it is unique and challenging and cultivates modern and contemporary movements.
Once she completes school, she hopes to audition and dance in New York City.
“Try to audition for as much possible and always put your best foot forward even if you aren't 100 percent confident with the material or choreography,” she proposes. “ Your dedication, persistence,and passion will show.
Follow your own path and heart and it will lead you in the right direction. There is always going to be bumps in the road, but the journey will be worth the success.”
Dance is on the rise in television and film, and as the West Coast Correspondent for Dance Network, The Emmys is one of the many scenes where she goes to report on the ever-evolving commercial dance world.
For Kristyn, dance has come full circle. Her first true love was ballet. As a dancer, the discipline and hard work involved in ballet carried into her academics through college. After graduating from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts dance program, she danced professionally doing several national tours with dance companies and tours. This led to an unexpected spin of opportunity in her dance career. She was hired to host a children’s dance video.
“I might not be a contestant on ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ but I love that I get to experience it from behind the scenes,” Kristyn affirmed.
Kristyn also hosts a one-hour dance interview show called, ‘To The Pointe.’ Recently, she sat down with legendary director and choreographer, Vincent Paterson, to discuss his career, the evolution of dance and the importance of being a well-rounded performer.
Growing up a dancer had not always been easy for Liana Marie Alvarez. She had started dancing at the age of 3 and had fallen in love with it by 8, but later found herself battling insecurities and letting them get the best of her. Questioning herself and her ability, she struggled with wondering how others perceived her dancing.
“From this uncertainty, I built my self confidence through my movement, and what I had to offer was something special, and whatever I created couldn’t be taken away from me,” she recounted.
She trained and worked with some amazing choreographers. It was under their influence that a transition occurred for Liana. She discovered she wanted to be on the “other side.” She became a choreographer at 17 years old.
“Nowadays, some say that’s a ‘late bloomer,’ but for me it was perfect timing, because I understood my body more,” Liana said.
Today she is a choreographer and “movement motivator” in the styles of contemporary, improvisation, and jazz. She loves watching the art between dancers, movement, music, and emotions - and seeing her own artistry within that full package.
For students, Liana suggests keeping an open mind, and allow your choreographer to “create magic on you.” She urges dancers to focus and take in everything the choreographers have to share. “Don’t lose sight of what you can gain from a choreographer, and push your own limits through the choreographer’s ideas.”
She hopes to create “through as many dancers as possible,” and urges dancers to “keep training, keep creating, keep inspiring, and above all — stay you!”
1979. It was an Olympia 35mm. John O’Neill’s first camera. He had fallen in love with photography from watching his father, an avid photographer. They developed their own photos in the dark room of their garage, chemicals airing through their nostrils, dreams of becoming a National Geographic photographer dancing in John’s head.
Though the type of camera, process for development, and the dream has changed — John still loves the art of photography. His daughter, Sherydan, has become his muse. Capturing a moment in time is special for him, and something special he can offer to others.
“As an artist, you naturally admire any other form of art that is beyond your abilities,” he attested. “I am
constantly amazed by the sheer magic that dancers can create and the emotions they stir within their audience.”
Being able to photograph Sheradyn has brought them even closer as dad and daughter. He works a lot and she dances a lot. But photography gives them an extra opportunity to spend time together.
Those moments are becoming increasingly important as Sherydan continues to grow as a dancer and person. She loves dance because it makes her feel relaxed and increases her confidence. Through perseverance and determination, she has learned she can accomplish anything.
Until this year, Sheradyn was struggling with timing issues, but by focusing on tap and strong musical beats, she was able to overcome that and now receives compliments on her musicality. Her favorite style of dance is contemporary, because it focuses on strength and technique.
The closest thing she has to a real office is her computer room at home, where she cuts music for shows and sends emails out to families. But most often, you can find her at Manassas Ballet Theatre, where she is busily choreographing a full length ballet version of ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ for the fall.
Sara has been a dancer for 24 years and a Principal Dancer for 11 years. Now, going into her 12th season at the Manassas Ballet Theatre, Sara is able to reflect on her journey through dance and pass on her dance knowledge at the Manassas Ballet Academy, where she is the the assistant director.
When she was young, her mom would try to get her involved in a variety of activities, but she only loved dance. Sara never wanted to miss a class and wanted to be in every show. In high school, she took dance classes six nights a week while working part-time. She won a Regional
Youth Grand Prix Award from Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP), and graduated as her high school’s Valedictorian.
“Dance gave me a stronger work ethic than I may have developed otherwise, which, naturally, has helped in every aspect of my life,” reasoned Sara.
Maturing came with insecurities. Growing up, she consistently received praise, awards and
scholarships. But later in life, her body changed and she felt that people were less interested in her talent and dedication.
A few summers ago, Sara’s dance company received a request for dancers for a mental health benefit. She gladly accepted. While there, she met an arts consultant. Months later, the newly befriended arts consultant submitted Sara for a casting call for a History Channel miniseries titled, ‘The World Wars’. Sara landed the part as “the ballerina”. She performed a two-minute routine many times with different camera angles. “It was an amazing experience, and one
I never expected ballet would lead me to,” Sara explained.
Sara loves dance because she gets to be an athlete and an artist. She loves seeing the results of the work she is putting in.
“Dance is fair that way," she said.
She also loves using those results to inspire and evoke strong emotional responses from an audience. Sara loves the rules of ballet, the history, the classics and the connection she feels to other dancers through the steps.
"It's as right and natural and necessary to me as breathing is," Sara said.
Sara views ballet as her gift, and passes on that gift to a new generation through her youth ballet students. The first time she watched her students perform, she was so overwhelmed by pride and joy that it brought her to tears. Sara says that the most difficult thing to overcome as a dance instructor is making sure that each student understands what the correction is and how to correct it on their own bodies.
“One student might respond to ‘ribs in,’ while another understands ‘straighten your spine’ better,” she proposed. “It’s a great feeling when you get through to a student and their face lights up.”
Finding ways to explain steps to her students has led to her gaining a better understanding of her own dancing. Because of the aches and pains she experiences in her own feet, she encourages her students to take foot care seriously, and to always stretch their calves.
“When I was young, I would wear dead shoes and show off my arches,” she said. “I ended up pulling tendons in the top of my foot, and now they always hurt.”
Most of all, she urges dancers to never give up.
There are so many companies out there, you will find the right one for you. If you work hard and keep your passion alive, you will reach the stars. And always remember that you decide your worth,” Sara advises. “There will be directors, dancers, and critics who do not like you, but they cannot diminish your shine unless you let them. Never stop believing.”
Being a principal dancer has been a dream come true for Sara, whose favorite roles have been Odette/Odile, Kitri, and Myrtha in Giselle.
“I love the quiet tension onstage right before the lights come up. But, you can't be a ballet dancer forever,” she professed. “One day, I will hang up my pointe shoes, and I am thrilled that I will be able to continue passing on my passion and knowledge to the next generations of dancers.”
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