Kyle Ayers, Dance Arts Director
Kyle Ayers is an educator and artist currently residing in Urbana, Illinois. He graduated from Illinois State University in 2016 where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre with a major in Acting. He has thorough experience with stage makeup, lighting design, and costume design. While at ISU, Kyle also intensely studied dance technique in Modern, Ballet, and Jazz, and regularly performed in the Illinois State Dance Theatre concerts each semester. He has worked with choreographers from around the country, including Jennifer Harge, Tiffanee Arnold, Michael Richman, Bryan and Shaina Baira, Brian McGinnis, and many more.
He is currently working as the Contemporary Dance Instructor for Champaign Park District in Champaign, Illinois. He teaches classical Modern technique and stages choreography in their annual concert each April. In 2017, Kyle was selected as an Emerging Choreographer for NewDANCEfest, sponsored by the Eisenhower Dance Ensemble, and was invited to stage an original work for their Gala Performance in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
Kyle is employed at St. Joseph-Ogden High School as the color guard instructor and he is going into his third year as faculty at Unity High School in Tolono, Illinois where he is also employed as the color guard instructor and show designer for the marching band. His contributions include choreography and instruction of the guard, visual design, drill design, and helping compose the horn line visuals. His choreography has been seen at Illinois State University, Unity High School, St. Joseph-Ogden High School and Hoopeston Area High School.
Jessica Bengtson, Dance Arts Assistant
Jessica began her training in Decatur, Illinois where she was an exam candidate with the Royal Academy of Dance. At age eleven, she was accepted to the National Academy of Arts in Champaign where she trained until its closure in the spring of 1987. Jessica has trained and performed under a variety of notable teachers to include Petrus Bosman, David Keener, Robert Dicello, and Mark Schneider. Jessica has been a Dance Arts instructor since 1989 where she has taught all levels of Royal Academy of Dance ballet syllabus classes, as well as all levels of Adult Ballet.
Bella Chapman trained for 11 years at the Champaign Ballet Academy, primarily focusing on classical Vaganova style ballet. As a Senior Company member in the Champaign Urbana Ballet, she has performed in multiple productions of The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Cinderella, and The Sleeping Beauty, including the role of Clara in The Nutcracker. In summer 2014, she trained with the Pacific Ballet Academy in Mountain View, California. Additionally, she has taken classes in aerial arts and pole fitness at Defy Gravity.
Cameron Davis is a student at the University of Illinois studying Elementary Education with minors in Psychology and Spanish. She has been competitively Irish dancing since she was in 1st grade, and has been teaching Irish dance for three years. During her free time, Cammi loves to sing, hang out with her sorority sisters, volunteer with elementary students through an after school reading program, spend as much time outside in nature as possible, and, of course, dance.
Elise Frost is a choreographer, educator, and performing artist hailing from Orlando, Florida. Her first experiences of movement occurred on the jetties, dunes, beaches, and boats of the Atlantic Ocean. The deafening abyss of the ocean, clanging rods on masts and a collapsing vessel into a sea of waves were transformative immersions into a kinesthetic world difficult to grasp. Always a mover, though initially trained as a vocalist and actor, her work integrates interdisciplinary arts and focuses on the creative process as collaboration and ideas about the ethics and labor of making. Elise has been producing and choreographing dances professionally since 2005. Most notably, she has choreographed works with Orlando based dance companies Soul Play Modern Dance Co., CineDance Jazz Dance Co., and multimedia performance experience DRIP Productions. Her collaborative work with artist Staci Scatturo Farrah has also been commissioned by Atlanta based dance company Brooks and Co. She has performed and choreographed works in Florida, Texas, Illinois and New York City. In 2012 Elise founded Red Right Return Dance Company, with the mission to create collaborative dance productions intent on fostering the investigation and growth of contemporary dance in Orlando, Florida. In her tenure as Artistic Director of Red Right Return, she produced several full-length performances and the company continues to perform and create collaborative works today. In addition to dancing in her own work, she has also had the privilege of working with independent artists Jan Erkert, Philip Johnston, Angie Pittman, McClaine Timmerman, Jeremy Miranda, and Kirstie Simson, as well as Voci Dance, Blue Star Productions, and The Neta Dance Company. She holds a degree in dance from the University of Florida and recently graduated with her MFA in dance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She hopes to continue researching, making work, merging interests with artists from many disciplines and dancing for as many folks as possible. She is currently navigating the prairies of the Midwest and continues to draw inspiration from the precarious and magnificent littoral landscapes where she spent her youth.
Whitney Havice began her dance training in ballet at the age of five in the Vaganova method at the Lee School of Ballet in Champaign, IL. and since then has studied, trained, and performed in numerous other styles of dance. She has choreographed, directed and/or appeared in over fifty musical theatre productions locally and in the Chicago area for the Champaign Urbana Theatre Company, Parkland College, the Station Theatre, Brown Paper Box Co, and others. In addition, she has served as the Dance Rehearsal Director for the LyricTheatre at the UI, and as the Musical Theatre Dance instructor at the Little Theatre on the Square. She has also taught dance classes in a variety of styles at other studios in the Champaign-Urbana area, and is the class coordinator for the Dance for People with Parkinsons program at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
Charlie Maybee is a music and dance artist hailing from Woodbridge, Virginia, and an alumnus of the Metropolitan Youth Tap Ensemble (MTYE) and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Department of Dance and Choreography BFA Program. He is currently pursuing an MFA in Dance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) where he is currently researching creative processes where tap dance is the central medium of expression, and how to further integrate tap dance into the scope of contemporary performance and scholarly study. He has been an Adjunct Instructor, Production Manager, Space Coordinator, and Accompanist for the UIUC Department of Dance as well as the Dance Arts Director for the Champaign Park District. Charlie is also the Founder and Artistic Director of Polymath Performance Project: a multi-faceted collective of performers who embrace the notion of entangling many methods of making to create interdisciplinary performance artwork. Since 2014, his work has been shown nationally at events and venues such as Eden’s Expressway in New York, NY, Panoply Performance Laboratory in Brooklyn, NY, Links Hall in Chicago, IL, Richmond Dance Festival at Dogtown Dance Theater in Richmond, Virginia, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts (KCPA) in Urbana, Illinois, and the American College Dance Association (ACDA) at Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas.
Tanya Picard is a teacher and choreographer from the Chicago area who took her first dance class at the age of 6, her first Giordano and Luigi jazz classes at the age of 10, and has never stopped moving since. In New York, in addition to studying jazz with Luigi, she has studied modern at the Martha Graham Dance Center and tap with Bob Audy and Charles “Cookie” Cook. A lifelong student of Gus Giordano, she has been awarded scholarships for several of her students to take master classes at the Giordano studios. Tanya is currently an active participant in Chicago Human Rhythm Project and studies Duncan technique at the Joffrey Ballet. She is actively involved in Duncan Dance Chicago.
Tanya did her graduate work in theatre at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis where she served as the Artistic Director for Pasticcio Dance Ensemble, a regional contemporary company. Her areas of academic focus are devised theatre, literary analysis, and dance history. While in Minneapolis, she also worked as choreographer for the Renaissance Faires in Chicago and Boston, creating the original “Gypsy Dancers,” and choreographed more musicals than she cares to count. Returning to Chicago, in addition to teaching technique classes, serving as a movement specialist for an early childhood program, and directing an adult tap company, she received grants to produce two original works: Amelia and Leonardo and Elements. In 2009, she organized a two-day Luigi workshop taught by Luigi’s assistant, Francis Roach, and produced Never Stop Moving, a special performance honoring Luigi’s influence.
Tanya is the Artistic Director of Impulse Tap Ensemble in Bloomington, IL, and for Impulse Arts in Champaign, IL. Impulse is devoted to classical rhythm tap and cross-cultural percussive dance. Since 2011, Tanya has created unique pieces that fuse text, tap, modern, and jazz dance and have been presented at the Spurlock Museum at the University of Illinois. The ensemble has studied with nationally renowned tap artist and teacher Jimmy Payne, Jr. of Chicago, who has created several tap pieces for the company. Most recently, Tanya did the tap choreography for CUTC’s production of Mary Poppins and Parkland’s Anything Goes, and was invited to do an artistic residency in Luigi Technique for Bristol Ballet.
Tanya’s favorite quote is: “To dance, put your hand over your heart and listen to the sound of your soul.”
Elisandra Rosario was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, and began dancing at the age of five. She started her studies by taking ballet and tap classes and slowly began adding more dance styles to her studies; including Hip Hop, Pointe, Jazz, Modern, Contemporary, and West African. Elisandra attended the Chicago High School for the Arts where she continued her dance training, now with a more serious attitude towards the art form. Her commitment to Dance lead her to attend the University of Illinois where she received her Bachelors in Fine Arts. Elisandra now spreads her knowledge of dance by teaching throughout the Champaign-Urbana community.
Meghan Uppinghouse danced with the Champaign Park District for 12 years. She has completed the Royal Academy of Dance program. Her favorite role she has played was Queen Titania in a Mid-Summer Night’s Dream as well as being a part of a contemporary piece entitled, “A yessong.” She loves to teach creative movement and ballet levels 1 and 2.
James Shaffnit, Accompanist
James Schaffnit has been playing for dance classes since 1979 and has played for company classes for American Ballet Theatre, Ballet Arizona, Nevada Ballet Theater, and Hubbard Street Dance Company. He was on staff at California Institute of the Arts from 1994-96 and is currently on staff at the University of Illinois and Springer Cultural Center in Champaign. James has also worked as an exam pianist for the Royal Academy of Dance since 1991 and currently plays more than half of the Vocational Graded Exams in the United States. He holds degrees in piano performance from Arizona State University and California State University, Northridge.