Faculty

Sarah Ford Thompson
Dance Department Head

Originally from Georgetown, Kentucky, Ms. Ford began her dance training at age eight at the Lexington Ballet under the direction of Karl Kaufman. She went on to earn her B.F.A. in Dance from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. While studying at CCM, she trained with James Truitte and fell in love with the Horton Technique and modern dance. After relocating to Chicago, Ms. Ford danced for nine years as a company member with Deeply Rooted Dance Theater and self-produced several dance concerts as Nucleus Dance Collective. Currently, Ms. Ford serves as Associate Artistic Director to Hyde Park School of Dance, Tyego Dance Project and Tyego Next Generation. She is the director of Hyde Park School of Dance’s outreach program for the community and director of the modern dance department. Ms. Ford is also a certified Kundalini Yoga Instructor, certified group fitness instructor and Clinical Exercise Specialist.

April C. Lewis
Department Admin. Assistant + Dance Injury & Prevention

Originally from the south side of Chicago, IL, Ms. Lewis’ dance education has carried her across the country. Joel Hall Dance Center Chicago, Ballethnic Atlanta, Dance Theatre of Harlem and The Ailey School New York, and many other dance institutions have contributed towards shaping her dance education, skills, and style. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Dance from Wayne State University (Detroit, Michigan), she returned to Chicago where she made guests appearances with several local dance companies. Ms. Lewis also performed and taught with Joel Hall Dancers: Dance is a Language, an outreach company serving communities throughout the greater Chicagoland area. Ms. Lewis has since earned a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from University of Illinois at Chicago. She is also a Stott Pilates trained instructor at the intermediate level on all apparatus. Ms. Lewis has shared her knowledge of dance and movement sciences with students throughout the city and its surrounding areas for over 10 years.

Maan Almodovar
Body Conditioning + Ballet B + Pointe Variations

Maan Nabong received her dance training from Sherry Moray, Homer Bryant, Alonzo King, Wes Chapman, and Roger Van Fleteran. In 2000 and 2001, Maan placed 1st in the Junior Classical division at Youth America Grand Prix. From 2002-2004, she danced with the Alabama Ballet where she performed Arabian in George Balanchine’s Nutcracker and various roles in Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet, and Swan Lake. Maan was a scholarship student at Lou Conte Dance Studio in Chicago and at Alonzo Kings Ballet in San Francisco. In 2006-2007, Maan performed with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, working with choreographer, Daniel Pelzig in Die Fledermaus. Maan is a Stott-trained Pilates instructor, a licensed Zumba instructor, and is on faculty at the Chicago Multicultural Dance Center.

Barry Bennett
Accompanist

Barry Bennett is a drummer, bandleader, and a JEFF nominated maker of theatrical music and sound. By day Barry is a modern dance accompanist. He is an Associate Artist with 16th Street Theater, Chicago Dramatists, Chicago Moving Company, and Winifred Haun and Dancers. Other folks he has composed and designed for include: Cindy Brandle Dance, Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens, National Pastime, Asimina Chremos, The Goodman, Emerald City, Breakbone, and Writer’s Theatre. He has no interest in adulthood. He has released two solo albums under his own name, and five albums as part of the group Led MiLkBabY. Barry is the Artistic Director of The Impending Behavior Orchestra, and works with regional bands Black Dot & Grape Juice Plus, as well as Strangers & Saints and Planet Clarie. Listen/Learn/Connect: http://barrybennettsounds.com.

Zineb Chraibi
Graham Technique

A former dancer, Zineb Chraibi has performed with the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre, Deeply Rooted Productions, Winifred Haun and Dancers as well as with various independent choreographers. She holds a BA in Dance from Point Park College in Pittsburgh, Pa. Ms. Chraibi grew up in Casablanca, Morocco where she first started training. She later returned to her native city of Paris to study ballet, modern, and jazz. She has also trained at Les ballets Jazz De Montreal, Ruth Page Dance Center and Lou Conte Dance Studios. She is currently on the faculty at the Dance Center of Columbia College, the Joffrey Ballet and guest teaches in the U.S. and abroad. She has also served on the faculty of the Conservatory of Dance at Barat College, The Chicago Academy for The Arts, The Joel Hall Dance Center, and taught at the Lou Conte dance Studio. In addition to teaching dance, Zineb is a certified Yoga and Pilates instructor who teaches in the U.S and abroad.

Colin DeJong
Music for Dancers + Dance Accompanist

Colin DeJong is a company class pianist at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and accompanies classes at the Lou Conte Dance Studio, the Joffrey Academy of Dance, the Hyde Park School of Dance, and the Interlochen Arts Camp. He has sung with Music of the Baroque and taught music theory at the Merit School of Music. Mr. DeJong earned his MM in Music Theory and BM in Music Composition at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, where he was Associate Instructor in music theory and an accompanist for the university’s pre-college ballet program.

Brandon DiCriscio
Contemporary Jazz + Pro Focus Contemporary + Musical Theatre Dance II and IV
Mr. DiCriscio, of Wilmington, DE, received his initial training from Anne Marie and Sonny Leo. He then went on to pursue a B.A. in Dance at Point Park University. While in school, he apprenticed with River North Dance Chicago and then became a company member in 2007, dancing with the company for four seasons. Brandon has worked with choreographers including Robert Battle, Sidra Bell, Frank Chaves, Ron De Jesus, Shannon Gillen, Gustavo Ramierz Zanzano, Lauri Stallings, Doug Varone, Edgar Zendejas, and Sherry Zunker. While at Springboard Danse Montreal, he worked with BJM Danse Montreal under the direction of Louis Robitaille. Brandon also has apprenticed with Luna Negra Dance Theater. His true passion is for dance-making. In 2011, he won the Dance Chance Redux competition sponsored by DanceWorks Chicago and the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. In 2012, he created two new works on the Big Muddy Dance Company of St. Louis. Additional Chicago Concert dance commissions include Nomi Dance Company, DanceWorks Chicago, Inside Chicago Dance, and LEVELdance. Brandon is currently Associate Artistic Director of LEVELdance. He enjoys training aspiring dance professionals at ChiArts, as well as Joffrey Academy, and the North Shore School of Dance. He also is the resident choreographer for ChiArts’ Musical Theatre Main Stage productions.
Maliwan Diemer
Professional Focus Ballet + Senior Seminar

Maliwan Diemer began her dance training in Columbus, Ohio at the age of three. She continued her studies with RAD certified teacher, Ng Siew Fong, while her family lived abroad. Ballet became her passion and by the age of thirteen she had been invited to study and perform with Indiana University’s Ballet Theater, where she trained with Violette Verdy, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, Patricia McBride, Jacques and Virginia Cesbron, Leslie Peck and Doricha Sales, along with notable guest choreographers and directors. A long time instructor for Indiana University’s Pre-College Ballet Program, Ms. Diemer also spent a year as Associate Instructor for the African American Dance Company under the direction of Iris Rosa. She is now on faculty at the Lou Conte Dance Studio, serves as faculty member and Performance Project Director for Chicago Ballet Arts, teaches for Hubbard Street’s Youth Dance Program, and is a guest teacher for Empower Dance Company. Ms. Diemer has also worked with the University of Chicago’s UBallet and has taught company class for DanceWorks Chicago and Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. She has won Professional Rising Star and Open ballroom events in Latin, Standard and Smooth and is a United States 10-Dance Finalist and National Rising Star Smooth Finalist. Ms. Diemer holds a M.A. in Arts Administration and a B.S.O.F. in Ballet and Political Science, magna cum laude, both from Indiana University. She has been a part of the dance faculty at ChiArts since 2011.

Randall Fleer
Accompanist
Robert Garrett
Accompanist
Robin Gayle
Conditioning for Advanced Technique

Robin Gayle is a professional dancer, an established ballet teacher, and a certified Pilates instructor. She performed for nine seasons as a Soloist with the Columbia City Ballet, apprenticed with the Colorado Ballet, and is a frequent guest artist around the country. Robin trained privately under Sherry Moray and Alla Osipenko and attended the Académie de Danse Classique Princesse Grace in Monte Carlo, the Ruth Page School of Dance, and the Chicago Academy for the Arts. Her summer intensives include the schools of American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, and Joffrey Ballet. Robin was a top finalist at the Youth America Grand Prix competition and chosen to perform at YAGP Galas in 2000 and 2001. Robin’s reviews include Dance Magazine’s late Ann Barzel, who praised Robin as a “uniquely talented dancer,” and the Chicago Sun-Times’ Hedy Weiss, who characterized Robin’s dancing as “brilliant.”

Julia Hinojosa
Spanish Dance

Of Mexican-Puerto Rican descent, Julia Hinojosa is a native of Chicago and a Company Dancer/Rehearsal Assistant at Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater. She began her Spanish dance studies with Dame Libby Komaiko in the fall of 2000 and has since studied with renowned teachers and choreographers including Irma Suarez Ruiz, Jorge Pérez, Ana González, Juan Mata, Ron de Jesus, Edo, Timo Lozano, Celia Fonta, Manolete, Vida Peral, Inmaculada Ortega, Miguel Cañas, Omayra Amaya, Carmela Greco, Raquel Gomez, Paloma Gomez and Christian Lozano. She has also studied Ballet and Modern dance with Ana Czajun, Rachel Burton, Jim Morrow, Ana Levin, and Dr. Venetia Stifler of the Northeastern Illinois University’s dance program, to which she received a Dance Talent scholarship. In May 2011, Julia graduated from Colombia College, Chicago with a Master’s Degree in Arts Management. In addition to her work as a dancer, Julia is currently working with the Ensemble Español as their Arts Education Program Coordinator and Associate Artistic Director of the Ensemble Español Youth Company. She teaches in several schools and studios throughout the Chicago land area and is an instructor with the NEIU Preparatory Dance program and on the faculty of the Ensemble Español’s community dance program and in-school residency program.

Mike Przygoda
Music for Dancers + Dance Accompanist

Mike Przygoda is a composer and multi-instrumentalist from Chicago who has been at ChiArts since the very beginning. He has written music for film, dance, live theatre, orchestras, jazz and rock bands, commercials, and sometimes just for himself. He also produces records for local bands, has been the touring music director at Second City, and has a Joseph Jefferson Award for Artistic Specialization In Percussion.

Ted Seymour
Pointe II + Ballet Technique B

Ted Seymour was born in Dallas, Texas where he trained at the Dallas Metropolitan Ballet. He moved to Chicago to study with Dan Duell and Patricia Blair as a member of the Ballet Chicago Studio Company. Ted later attended The School of American Ballet where he choreographed two ballets for the school and was invited by Peter Martins to create a new ballet for the New York Choreographic Institute. After leaving SAB, he joined Cedar Lake Contemporary dance Company. Ted joined Suzanne Farrell Ballet in 2007 where he has danced featured roles in Balanchine’s Episodes, La Valse, and the Act II pas de deux from A Midsummer Night’s Dream among others.

Anna Shuba
Accompanist
Megan Wright
Beginning Pointe Technique

Megan is a Chicago native who holds a B.A. in psychology from DePaul University. She has danced professionally with the Los Angeles Ballet and the Saint Louis Ballet. In addition, she has performed with the San Diego Ballet and completed professional workshops with the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance and Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet. Megan trained at Ballet Chicago and the Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center. She spent her summers studying at the School of American Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet School, and American Ballet Theater. Megan is currently on faculty at Ballet Chicago and performs regularly at the iO Theater.

Teanna Zarro
Ballet Technique C

Teanna Zarro was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and received her early ballet training with Meredith Baylis. She continued her training with The Pennsylvania Ballet School, as well as studying on a full scholarship with The Joffrey Ballet School. At the age of seventeen Ms. Zarro moved to New York to join The Joffrey Ballet II, and also performed as an apprentice with The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. In 1999, Ms. Zarro was invited to join The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, under the direction of Gerald Arpino. With The Joffrey, Ms. Zarro performed ballets by renowned choreographers such as Gerald Arpino, George Balanchine, Leonard Massine, Agnes de Mille, Vaslav Nijinsky, Frederick Ashton and Martha Graham. Currently, Teanna is enjoying a career as freelance artist and ballet teacher. She has performed featured roles with Ballet New York, The Los Angeles Ballet, Civic Ballet of Chicago, The San Diego Opera, The Dallas Opera and The Lyric Opera of Chicago. Principal roles include: Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, the Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Medora in Le Corsaire, Swanilda in Coppelia and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. This is her fourth year teaching at ChiArts.