Michele Zehner

Director

Ms Zehner began her studies with Edmund and Nina Novak and then continued with John White and Margarita De Saa. She has also studied with Pennsylvania Ballet and Boston Ballet with Violette Verdi, as well as in New York with Madame Darvash, David Howard and Robert Denver. She received a full scholarship to Harkness Ballet and an apprenticeship with Hartford Ballet. Michele was a dancer with The San Antonio Ballet and Ballet Klos.

Ms Zehner has over 20 years of professional teaching experience and has studied pedagogy with recognized teaching greats such Gilbert Mayer, Ruth Petronovic and John White. She is ABT certified through level 7 and Partnering and is certified in Progressing Ballet Technique. As an instructor, Michele has taught at West Chester Ballet Theater, Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet and The Rock School. She has been the owner as well as an instructor of the Pennsylvania Centre for Ballet and founder and artistic director of Delaware County Ballet. Some of Michele’s students have gone on to dance with Washington Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, Pacific Northwest, Colorado Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and on Broadway.

Ms Zehner is an Artist in Residence at Dreyfoos School for the Arts and sat on the board of the Florida Dance Association. She continues to teach guest classes nationally when time permits. Ms Zehner is thrilled to see a dream realized in Florida School for Dance Education.

Maria Konrad

Assistant Director

Ms. Konrad graduated from the Alexander W. Dreyfoos High School of Performing Arts, and then earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in performing arts from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. As a faculty member at Koresh Dance Company (Philadelphia), Ms. Konrad helped create an early-dance-education curriculum, which has been featured in Dance Magazine. Ms. Konrad’s choreography has been presented nationally in such venues such as the Spoleto Festival in South Carolina, The School of Colorado Ballet, The Harid Conservatory, Florida Dance Festival, Miami Dade Cultural Center, Florida Atlantic University, The Kravis Center, Next Generation Ballet and has collaborated with artistic organizations such as Palm Beach Symphony and Palm Beach Pops. Her work has been picked up by choreographic workshops in NYC such as The STEPS Beyond Foundation at STEPS on Broadway and Uptown Rising Series at The Bridge. Her piece “Portraits” was chosen to perform in the 2018 Come Together Festival and “Is Anybody Out There?” in the 2019 festival hosted by Koresh Dance Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is excited to begin her second season working with Opera Tampa (Les Pêcheurs de Perles, Aida).  This fall she will re-stage her work “Dear Charlie” (an ode to Charlie Chaplin) on Pennsylvania Ballet 2.

She has been recognized by organization’s such as Young Arts and Youth America Grand Prix for “Outstanding Choreography”(2015, 2017). She has been a guest teacher for institutions such as The Colorado Ballet School, University of the Arts, Florida’s Young Dancers Workshop, The Art of Classical Ballet (dir. Magaly Suarez), Next Generation Ballet, St. Paul’s School, Florida Dance Festival and Youth America Grand Prix. She has worked at both The Harid Conservatory and A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts. Ms. Konrad served on the 2018 faculty at The International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi and she is excited to join the YAGP organization for a second season as a judge and Master Teacher. She is currently resident choreographer with The Next Generation Ballet (Dir. Philip Neal) and director of the Contemporary Program at her home,  Florida School for Dance Education.

Leslie Justi

Ballet

Leslie Justi was a scholarship student at Joffrey & Hartford Ballet and also trained with Boston, Palm Beach and South Florida Ballet Academy. Leslie began her professional career with Hartford Ballet, then on to Memphis Ballet and Bay Ballet Theater. In 1997, Leslie joined Colorado Ballet, where she performed soloist roles in classical and contemporary ballets. She was the principal teacher for Denver Academy of Ballet and been on the faculty of Colorado Ballet Academy.

Danielle Armstrong

Pilates, Modern

Ms Armstrong was an honors graduate from the Conservatory of Dance at Purchase College, She has taught at Peridance Center where her choreography was chosen to debut the Perichild Youth Ensemble. In addition to working with many freelance choreographers, such as Robert Battle (formally of Parsons Dance Company and Battleworks), she founded her own dance group performing at venues all over New York City. She became a certified Pilates instructor under the tutelage of Joseph Pilates protégé, Romana Kyrzanoska and subsequently completed over 600 hours of teacher training. Danielle has taught Pilates in New York, Connecticut, Charleston, SC and now brings over 10 years of experience to the Palm Beach area. She is the managing director, dancer and choreographer for REACH. In addition to managing the Pilates studio at FSDE, she teaches ballet and modern dance. She is also on staff at The HARID Conservatory in Boca Raton.

Jerry Opdenaker

Ballet

Mr Opdenaker is a graduate from the University of the Arts. During his 22-year dancing career, he worked as a principal dancer for ballet companies such as Pennsylvania Ballet, Kansas City Ballet and Ballet Florida. During the years spent in these companies, he worked with some of the world’s greatest choreographers working in the field of dance. At Ballet Florida he was instrumental in the development, creativity and educational components of STEP Ahead, Ballet Florida’s choreographic workshop. Serving as the Director, he propelled the program into the eyes of the National Endowment for the Arts, which awarded the Access to Artistic Excellence, twice and was declared a “Jewel of the Palm Beaches” in 2004. Jerry had the incredible privilege to participate in the Ballet builders 2003, New York City Ballet’s 2005 Choreographic Institute and the National Choreographic Initiative 2007, in California. He has also choreographed for the McKnight Foundation in Minnesota, Seanik Arts in Miami and the Florida Grand Opera’s production of Lakme. He has also developed a new company in Palm Beach County called O Dance, which will had its inaugural first performance in February 2010.

Gillian Safran

Ballet

Ms Safran began her love of dance at the age of three. Finding her passion at an early age she pursued training intensives with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, Canada and the Marinsky Theatre, Russia. Receiving her diploma in Dance Theatre, under full scholarship from the London Studio Centre, England. Mrs. Safran brings a classical training background from both the Cecchetti and Royal Academy syllabus, and a strong contemporary background in Limon and Graham techniques. During her performing career she danced as a Principal for the Anna Wyman Youth Performing Company, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and ten years as a Production Dancer for Carnival Corporation. As she advanced she captained cast changes, and re-blocking of production shows. Mrs. Safran is very excited to bring her love for dance and performance to FSDE.

Samantha Wilhelm

Jazz

Samantha was born and raised in New Jersey and began dancing at the age of 3.  For the past 13 years Samantha has been performing at Radio City Music Hall as a dancer and for the last 7 years she has taken on the role of assistant choreographer to Linda Haberman and Julie Branum.  This role has her working with both the Rockettes and the ensemble, while acting as a swing, dance captain and overseeing the production.  Samantha has also assisted on Radio City’s Heart and Lights, as well as performing in the New York Spring Spectacular.  She also had the privilege to be an assistant choreographer for the Rockettes and Pitbull for Americas Got Talent.  Before her career at Radio City she performed on and was rehearsal director for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.  Samantha has taught and choreographed at numerous studios throughout the country and was on staff at the King Centre for the Performing Arts.  Samantha brings energy, fire, and passion into the studio and can’t wait to share her experiences with the students.

Carol Pakri

Ballet, Children’s Division

Carol Pakri received a BFA in Ballet Performance at the University of Oklahoma, graduating
with honors. She danced with Oklahoma Festival Ballet, David Taylor Dance Theatre and Colorado Ballet. Mrs. Pakri 20 years teaching experience includes Director for the Youth Ballet Company at Spotlight Performing Arts and School Principal & Principal Teacher at the Academy of Colorado Ballet South, as well as on staff at The Royal Ballet School in London graduating from The Royal Ballet School Professional Dancers Teachers Course with Distinction and on the staff at Houston Ballet Academy.

Kristina Lopez

Children’s Division, Jazz

Kristina Lopez had the honor of captaining and performing in the cast of ‘WICKED’ for almost 8 years, as well as ‘IN THE HEIGHTS’. Kristina was also Dance Supervisor for the National and International tours of ‘FOSSE’. Kristina is honored to have worked closely with the legendary Ann Reinking (FOSSE), and Tony Award winner, Andy Blankenbuehler (IN THE HEIGHTS). In New York, she performed as a featured dancer with DRE Dance company, directed by Taye Diggs and Andrew Palermo. She attended Florida State University as a BFA Musical Theatre major.

Maxey Koch

Children’s Division, Jazz

Maxey received her BFA in Dance from Florida State University. She graduated from A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts and danced with REACH Dance Theatre Collective. She attended summer training programs with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Thodos Dance Chicago and then continued her training at Florida State University and guest performed with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic in Fort Wayne, Indiana. After college she lived in Chicago, Illinois performing for freelance projects, outreach in the Chicago public schools and professional dance companies: Chicago Verge Dance Company, Esoteric Dance Project, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, Piel Morena Contemporary Dance and Tapestry Dance Company. Maxey toured to Queretaro, Mexico with Piel Morena Contemporary Dance to perform at “Encuentro Danza Contempanea”. Maxey returned to South Florida to be near her family and has since performed at “Project Dance” in Orlando, Florida with Tapestry Dance Company and has had the privilege and joy of teaching dance in the local community.

Toni Lipscher

Jazz, Cirque/Acro

Ms Lipscher began her dance education in Homestead, Florida. While a student there she participated in Miss Dance of Florida finishing in the top 10. From there she attended Florida State University where she danced for the Golden Girls and was voted Captain by her peers. In 1988, she was selected by College Dance Championship board to perform in the Opening Number. After college, she danced with the Miami Heat Dancers (captain, 1 year), the Eagles Cheerleaders (chosen to be in the video, NFL’s Hottest Cheerleaders, and the New Jersey Nets. She has also danced with Xanadu Dance Company. Toni has taught Hip Hop and Jazz at Atlantic Arts Academy and is proud to be a current member of REACH Dance Company and thrilled to be a teacher at Florida School for Dance Education.

Maria Hernandez

Hip Hop

Maria Hernandez began her dance training in 2010 at the age of sixteen in West Palm Beach, Florida at Sean’s Dance Factory under the direction and training of Sean Green. In 2012 she became a Hip Hop instructor at Spotlight of Wellington, and shortly after became an instructor at Sean’s Dance Factory. Her training and dance experience have led her to come up with her own distinctive style of Hip Hop, believing that dance is an art form of expression and a lifestyle. She has performed on productions at the Broward Performing Arts Center, the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, and was featured her own piece at the choreographer’s showcase in Miami. You might have seen her as a backup dancer for James Cove, and dancing on stage with Sugarhill Gang. She remains a continuous student training with some of the top choreographers in the Hip Hop community such as Dondraico ‘Draico’ Johnson, Ellen Kim, Jillian Meyers, Marty Kudelka, Dexter Carr, Chris Grant, Chuck Maldonado, Aisha Francis, Kevin Maher, Nick DeMoura, and many more. Her training has allowed her not only to perform but also to train and direct her students onto the World of Dance competition, never forgetting the main elements of Hip Hop to be the base of their elaborate pieces of competition and performance. Maria believes that her love for dance can be spread and can help dancers of all ages grow and develop their craft with strong self-confidence, allowing them to build their passion and follow their dreams.

Melody Kline

Tap

From Staten Island, NY and now residing in South Florida, Melody is an accomplished tap dancer who began shuffling at age 3. Beginning at Chickie’s Dance Studio, her mother’s school, Melody found the love of dance and continued through high school while attending the High School of Performing Arts in NYC. When she relocated to PA in 1976, she started her own dance school, Melody’s Dance Studio, in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, which she ran for over 37 years. While directing the studio, teaching, and raising a family, Melody continued her dance studies in NYC at both Steps and Broadway Dance Center, studying with some of the best in the dance world, including Paul Draper, Bob Audi, Frank Hatchet, Charles Kelly, Sheila Barker, Don Farnsworth and Germaine Salsberg. In PA, Melody studied with Nicole Hockenberry and Shelley Oliver and became a member of the company T.A.P.– Teach All People, where she performed for many tap venues and festivals, including the Third Coast Rhythm Project in San Antonio, TX as well as the first of many T.A.P. concerts where she shared the stage with master tap dancers, LaVaighn Robinson and Dr. James “Buster” Brown. She was also a founding member of Tap Ties, performing choreography from Nicole Hockenberry, Shelley Oliver and Germaine Salsberg, to name a few. In most recent years, Melody has held adult tap classes and has subbed at various studios in South Florida.

Carly LaFlamme

Children’s Division

Carly began dancing at 3 years old and holds a degree in Early Childhood Education. She trained at Florida School for Dance Education and has trained in the Vaganova ballet syllabus program. She has earned her Florida Childcare Professional Credential as well as her Directors Credential. Carly has always had a passion for working with children and helping them develop a love for dance.