Faculty

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SHONDRA LEIGH

At the age of 3, Shondra Leigh began training in classical ballet and gymnastics in her

hometown of Hamden, Connecticut. 

 

Discovering her path in life at an early age, Shondra continued to explore her talent as a dancer and studied traditional dance at the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance inside of Dean College. 

 

Immediately after graduating with honors and a Bachelors of Arts in 2002, Shondra moved to Los Angeles to dance for Disney’s stage show ‘Aladdin Live’. In her 14 years living in the city of L.A she has danced with tap legends Savion Glover and Gregory Hines, studied along side Mandy Moore, Dave Scott, Michael Schwandt and worked with innovators such as Travis Payne, Jamie King, the Talaguega Brothers and more. 

 

Shondra has had the opportunity to work for many companies including but not limited to Cirque du Soleil. She has been featured for brands such as Reebok and GAP, performed in music videos and on TV shows such as dancing with the stars, American Music Awards, X-Factor and Australia’s Next Top Model. Shondra also completed a 3 year tour as part of the cast of the Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour, a lifetime experience. 

 

Shondra doesn’t limit herself as a performer, she has a sincere passion to teach as well. Shondra shares her love and knowledge for dance around the world as a dance instructor and choreographer. She has also taken her skills to the sky having studied Aerial Arts and obtaining multiple certifications to teach Anti Gravity Yoga. Mind, body and spiritual connection is key in her life. Influencing others as she too has been influenced, Shondra’s passion for this craft has led her being a mentor as well as an artist. Shondra holds the philosophy of “ Create authentically in order to inspire and be inspired in return.”

MELISSA STERN

Melissa Stern was born and raised in Long Island, NY. She began dancing at the age of 5 and trained at numerous local dance studios including Stage Door School of Dance as a company and competition team dance member, and The Orlando School of Dance with a focus on the Vaganova method of ballet. Upon graduating from High School, Melissa received a scholarship to attend Point Park University in Pittsburgh as a dance major. During her freshman year of college, she attended her first professional audition and was hired as a Radio City Rockette at the Fox Theater in Detroit, MI. From there, Melissa went on to perform as a Rockette for 8 years in New York City as well as in St. Louis, MO and Cleveland, OH. While a Rockette, she had the opportunity to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the nationally televised 75th Anniversary of The Radio City Christmas Spectacular. During this time, Melissa also kicked her way through college and graduated from CUNY Hunter College in NYC with a BA in Creative Writing and Secondary Education. While living in NYC, Melissa also studied at Peridance Center, Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway. 

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In addition to her experience as a Rockette, Melissa maintained a successful career as a musical theater performer. She toured nationally with The Will Rogers Follies as an ensemble dancer and Dance Captain. She has also performed at numerous regional theaters including The Gateway Playhouse in New York, The Ogunquit Theater in Maine, The John W Engeman Theater in New York, Reagle Music Theater of Greater Boston and The Palace Theater in Stamford. Her theater credits include Crazy For You (Patsy and Dance Captain), Thoroughly Modern Millie (Assistant Choreographer), Sweet Charity, La Cage Aux Folles, 42nd Street, Music Man and Carousel. In 2011, she had the honor of performing on Broadway at the Minskoff Theater in the opening number of the 25th Annual Easter Bonnet Celebration choreographed by Shea Sullivan. In 2012, she was assistant choreographer to Broadway choreographer, dancer and actor, Kirby Ward for his staging of Crazy for You at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing, China. 

Melissa has taught for many decades beginning as a student teacher at the age of 10. She has also completed the National Dance Institute’s Teaching Artist Training program in NYC. The Two-Week Intensive equips participants with foundational tools to become highly-skilled arts educators with a deepened understanding of the impact of dance on a students’s education. After completing the training, Melissa was invited to become a Teaching Artist and had the opportunity to teach students in the NYC public school system. She has also judged for several different dance competitions including StarQuest, and the Scholastic Kickline competition as Head Judge. Melissa believes that a truly successful dance education provides all students with the discipline, creativity, commitment and focus necessary to excel in any career. She is a committed teacher who values her students as individuals and encourages their unique abilities and personalities to shine through joyful movement and creative expression.

KARLIE LYNN ZABIN

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Karlie Lynn Zabin graduated as part of Muhlenberg College's class of 2020 completing her studies as a dance major and history & Jewish studies double minor. While at Muhlenberg, Karlie completed her concentration in choreography and premiered several original works and digital screen dances, as well as assisted repetiteur Randall Anthony Smith in a restaging of Donald McKayle’s “Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder” at Desales University. 

 

In 2019, Karlie traveled abroad to Tel Aviv, Israel to work as a development intern at Batsheva Dance Company. While at Batsheva, she trained in Gaga Movement Language under Ohad Naharin and amongst Batsheva’s dancers. She has participated in Gaga WinterLab with former Batsheva Company members Shamel Pitts, Omri Drumlevich, and Zina Zichencko, alongside several summers spent training with University of the Arts dance faculty and working for Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet.

Karlie continues to pursue a career in choreography and teaching by working with a variety of different studios and exploring choreography and performance opportunities within the greater New York City area. Karlie finds passion and drive in expanding students' understanding of exploratory movement, composition, texture, quality, dynamics, and technique.