Teachers


Julie Rizzo (Director)

Julie Rizzo is a graduate of Gloria Jean Studio of Dance, Danstarz Dance Team, and was member of the United States Tap Dance Team. She competed in Germany where the U.S. Team won the silver medal in the World Championship. Her expertise in tap has won her many high score awards in national dance competitions. She has won pageant titles such as America's Teen Yankee Miss and Teen Miss New Haven County. Julie recently graduated from Saint Joseph College where she was the president and choreographer of the Saint Joseph College Dance Ensemble. Julie represented the college at the Ted Hershey Dance Marathon and choreographed a piece for the 5x5 Dance Festival where she had the opportunity to work with Lorelei Chang. She is very excited to continue her work as a dancer and choreographer through Dance City and The Arts.

 

Elisa Wharton

Elisa Wharton was born in West Virginia and started dancing at the age of three. She trained at Inwood Performing Arts and the Frederick School of Classical Ballet before leaving home to attend high school at the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy for three years on scholarship. She spent two summers at North Carolina Dance Theatre and one at Boston Ballet's summer program. Elisa earned her BFA cum laude. in ballet at the College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati. While there, she enjoyed dancing roles in Paquita, La Bayadere, Swan Lake and Balanchine's Walpurgisnacht and Pas de Dix, as well as original works created by CCM faculty. She also choreographed two pieces that were chosen to be performed in the Choreographer's Showcase at CCM. Additionally, Elisa performed as a guest artist in Dayton Ballet's performance of The Nutcracker. After college Elisa joined the Charlottesville Ballet in Charlottesville, VA. She was a company member as well as choreographer for two years. In 2012 Elisa also performed and choreographed for Concor Dance Contemporary, a brand new contemporary company in Crozet, Virginia.Elisa joined DCA in 2012 and joined Dimensional Dance in Hartford CT in 2014.

 

Jason Taylor

Jason was born and raised in NYC. It is there where he began his training as an actor at the Harlem School of the Arts. In 2001, Jason moved to Connecticut and began his dance training at Footlights Center for Performing Arts where he was introduced to ballet, jazz, hip hop, and ballroom. Jason appeared in the Hartford Stage Company's "Breakdancing Shakespeare" series as Antony in "Antony and Cleopatra" and as Puck in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." He also was an assistant choreographer for "A Comedy of Errors". In 2009, Jason received a scholarship to study at the Connecticut Concert Ballet where he performed Puck in CCB's "Midsummer Night's Dream" ballet. Currently, Jason continues his training with the Monsters Of Hip Hop. Teachers at MOHH include Nappy Tabs, Will Wingfield, and Phi from the Jabawackeez.

 

Ari Girelli (Ballroom Instructor and Tumbling Coach)

ARI GIRELLI (Ballroom Instructor and Tumbling Coach) is both a competitive gymnast and ballroom dancer. In Ballroom, he has placed first in Regional Fred Astaire competitions, collegiate competitions and NDCA events in latin, rhythm, and standard categories. He has trained with top coaches including Christa Cote, Jennifer McCalla, Tony Dovolani, and Emmanuel Pierre-Antoine. As a gymnast, Ari was a competitive gymnast for both Winingers Gymnastics and the Gymnastics Training Center for 10 years. He currently is on an Xtreme Martial Arts team that incorporates music, acrobatics, and strength training. The team is ranked 1st in the world for the third consecutive year. Currently Ari teaches Acro and coaches Xtreme Martial Arts Ari is in the process of developing a Competitive Ballroom Dance Team.

 

Mackenzie Sherman

Mackenzie Sherman has been dancing for the last 17 years, and is a graduate from Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. She is currently a junior at Central Connecticut State University where she is the Vice President of Dancentral, the modern dance company on campus. Through her years of dance she has taken masters classes with choreographers like Victor Smalley and Angel Armas of Stars Dance Studio/ Dance Moms Miami, and Jennifer Muller/ The Works company. In 2016 she performed at 5x5 at Saint Joseph's college with a piece choreographed by Muller, and will soon be dancing for Denzel Taylor at the 2017 5x5 and American College Dance Festival. Mackenzie specializes in Acrobatics because teaches dancers to work hard, be confident, and gain strength.

 

Katrina Schmidt

Katrina was born in Southington, Connecticut and began her classical ballet training at the age of eleven at the Hartt Community Dance Division of the University of Hartford. At age fifteen she received the Francine Goldfarb Scholarship for talent and potential toward a professional dance career. While at Hartt she attended high school at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, Dance Department, Hartford Connecticut. To further her training, in 2010, Katrina traveled to New York City to study privately with Peter O'Brien. Katrina moved to New York City when she was sixteen to train at the Joffrey Ballet School in the trainee program directed by Robert Ray. While there she was asked to return to the Hartt Community Dance Division and dance the lead role of Dew Drop as a guest performer in their Nutcracker. She was also featured in the Joffrey Ballet School's production of Cinderella as Cinderella. The following year she joined the Joffrey Concert Group directed by Davis Robertson and Brian McSween. Katrina danced in works by Africa Guzman, Larry Keigwin, and Dwight Rhoden. Katrina also danced in works by Donald Byrd, Jennifer Archibald, Margo Sappington, and Daniel Gwirtzman as part of the Joffrey Jazz and Contemporary program, directed by Michael Blake. This past year she had the opportunity to work with SYREN Modern Dance, directed by Lynn Peterson and Kate St. Amand. Katrina is currently dancing and teaching at United Rhythms, directed by Fernando Alers.

 

Tanya Ayotte

Tanya is a recent graduate of Concordia University where she earned her Master’s Degree in Education. She majored in Curriculum Design and Instruction and minored in Methods and Curriculum. She attended Southern Connecticut State University majoring in Elementary Education for her undergraduate work. Tanya is currently a fifth grade teacher, where she incorporates movement and the arts into her classroom. She began her dancing career at the age of three taking classes in ballet, jazz, lyric, and tap at Dancer’s Gallery in Woodbridge, Connecticut. She danced there for fifteen years and began competing in regional and national competitions when she was twelve. She has won many awards for solo, small, and large group numbers. Some of these include: eight platinum medals, twenty-two gold medals, and eleven high silver medals. She has won first place in her category ten times and second place six times. She has also received special judges awards for solo performances: “Fierce Feet” for a tap solo, “Best Personality,” “Most Photogenic,” and “HOT, HOT, HOT” for jazz solos, placing first in her category multiple times.

In 2001 Tanya was awarded the Judith Rumsey Memorial Scholarship by her dance school for her commitment and love of dancing. In 2002, her team competed in a national competition in Virginia Beach and they won many special awards, the Apogee Award for Judge’s favorite performance, and won First Place. Tanya has also taught classes at her dance school in ballet, tap, and jazz from ages 5-16 for four years. She has taught ballet, tap, and jazz at two other dance schools, East Rock Dance School in New Haven and jazz and technique classes at the Hamden Academy of Dance and Music.

Aside from her career at Dancer’s Gallery, she has performed and co-choreographed dance routines for three musicals at Albertus Magnus College. She has also co-founded and was the co-captain of the Amity High School Dance Team her junior year of high school. In addition, she has worked for the Woodbridge Recreation Department Summer Camp for fifteen years for ages 6-13. She had choreographed dance routines for their annual talent show for many years having won first, second, and third place many times. She is currently in The Whitney Player’s Theatre Company in Hamden where she dances, sings, acts, and assists both younger and older members to learn and retain dance routines. She has been in five productions since 2012 and plans to perform in their upcoming 2016 summer production.

 

Kathryn Smith

Kathryn Smith has been dancing for over 40 years. She has experience with Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Modern, and Acrobatics. She studied with the Jordan School of Fine Arts and with Diane Lauridsen, of Lauridsen Ballet Center, among others. Kathryn is certified through Dance Educators of America and holds many other certifications in group fitness and Pilates. Kathryn is excited to join Dance City and the Arts and looks forward to a great year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jen Hughes

Jen has been dancing for almost 30 years and worked towards becoming a teacher starting as an assistant at a young age, moving up through apprentice teacher to become the studio's "Tiny Tot" teacher. She studied tap, jazz, ballet and dance theater at The Dancer's Workshop of Southington and stayed on as a teacher when the studio became The Children's Dance Theater Connection. She loves teaching kids, and bringing her love of dance to them.

 

 

 

 

Get in Touch

  • Address:
    1 Factory Square, Suite 202
    37 West Center Street
    Southington, CT 06489
  • Phone:
    860-628-4433
    Fax: 860-329-0355