Students at The Dance School learn from an extremely well qualified faculty. Our instructors either have a degree in dance, conservatory training, and/or current or former professional dance experience. They provide the highest quality instruction, while focusing on enjoyment, cooperation, strength, health, and minimizing injury. In each class, our instructors bring their personal love of dance to the studio and are an inspiration to kids and parents alike!
Mari Engel – Artistic Director: Ballet, Lyrical, Contemporary, Creative Movement, Preparatory Dance, Nutcracker
Mari received her early training at Makie Naoi Ballet School. During her Ballet studies, Mari was accepted to a prestigious performing arts academy in Tokyo where she studied acting, theater and majored in dance. After leaving the performing arts academy she joined Nakura Kayoko jazz Dance Company performing as a dancer with several well-known artists, on the stage, in concerts and on television. She went on to meet Kazco Takamoto and was a founding member of the modern dance company Dance Venus. While a member of Dance Venus she performed at several Concurso De Dance and professionally on stage and television. Continuing her studies in modern dance’s Martha Graham technique, Mari travelled to Germany to study with the Wurzberg Dance Theater, where she also performed. Mari moved to Pensacola Florida where she became active with Ballet and Modern dance with Kaleidoscope under the famed Dorothy Lister. While with Kaleidoscope and Ballet Pensacola she performed Lester Horton and Martha Graham inspired pieces. Mari went on to form SWERVE, a modern dance company that toured throughout the south. Returning to Japan, she was the sole dance contractor for all Naval Forces Japan Morale Welfare and recreation. Since moving to Seattle, Washington, Mari has studied ballet under Elaine Bauer. Mari teaches and continues to choreograph for local dance studios and has choreographed and performed with a collaboration of local Seattle dancers in the Converge Dance Festival, Northwest Children’s Festival and in a Seattle Dancers Collaboration “Standing in the Storm”. When in Japan, Mari continues to perform with Dance Venus and has produced shows for visiting dancers from the United States. She has an undying passion for dance and loves bringing that passion to her students.
Zhenjun (ZJ) Zhang: Ballet, Stretch/Conditioning, Jumps & Turns, Ballet Studies/Choreography, Modern
ZJ trained in Ballet, Chinese Classical Dance, Folk Dance and Acrobatics in China. After dancing and choreographing professionally in China, he moved to New York where he danced with companies including Martha Graham Company and the Jose Limon Company. Performing work by Graham, Limon, Tudor, Kylian, McKayle, Varone, Haim, Robbins and others. ZJ appeared in “The King and I” Broadway and West End productions and has been involved with many productions of “The King and I” in different capacities including choreographer, dance captain and performer. ZJ is a member of Actor’s Equity and The Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. In 2007, he completed his BFA in the Professional Dancer’s program at Cornish College of the Arts. Mr. Zhang joined the faculty in 2008.
Shari Bernhardt: Tap
Shari is a former instructor with Dance Masters of America with more than 20 years of teaching and professional dance experience, Shari has trained throughout the US, Canada and Spain with some of the greatest tap artists of all time, including Savion Glover, Brenda Bufalino, Dianne Walker, Terry Brock, Chester Whitmore and Ray Bussey. In addition to her extensive professional work in dance and theater, she has taught tap, jazz and musical theater for studios throughout the Northwest. Shari was previously on faculty through June 2011 and returns to teach September 2018.
Emily Fansler: Partnering & Arts With a Purpose
Emmy teaches compassion, creativity, and communication through the art of dance. She has professionally performed and taught ballet, pointe, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, salsa, partnering, and hip hop for the past ten years across the USA and Kenya, focusing on dance as a tool to break down barriers and build communities. Emmy has experienced first-hand the life changing effects of dance, and her gratitude shines brightly in her teaching style. Emmy joins The Dance School staff Summer of 2018.
Marika Jaffe: Dance for Theater, Contemporary, Creative Movement, Jazz, Preparatory Dance
Marika trained locally in ballet, jazz, musical theater, tap, lyrical, modern, and hip-hop. She participated in regional and national competitions with Trilogy Dance Company, where they placed 1st at nationals and who were featured on ESPN. Marika danced with Potion and Kontagious Performing Company, with performances at local shows, the Seahawks Pre-Game Show, as well as some area festivals including Whirligig and Winterfest at the Seattle Center.
Marika loves to teach dance and takes the opportunity to do so whenever possible. She previously taught regionally and in Thailand before joining The Dance School faculty in 2017. With a desire to impact students’ individual expression through dance, she brings high energy, passion, and joy to each of her classes.
Mrs. Ogden is passionate about a well-rounded education and considers music an integral part of such for children and youth. She grew up participating in choirs, musicals and high school solo voice and choral competitions. While at the University of Washington studying pre-med and earning a Bachelor of Science degree in developmental psychology, Mrs. Ogden extended her program by two years to include extensive courses in both dance and comparative literature, and to earn her minor degree in music with an emphasis in classical voice. Since then, Mrs. Ogden has performed as a soloist for weddings, funerals, musicals, Christmas programs, church services, and for a short stint as an aria-singing hostess at an Italian restaurant. Over the last 19 years, along with being a busy mom of four kids she adores, Mrs. Ogden has loved teaching and leading the adult and children’s choirs at church, choreographing ensembles for youth talent shows, and teaching music classes at a home school co-op group. She is excited to join the faculty at TDS, launch the vocal music program, and provide the students with increased skills in and appreciation for, the love of artistic expression. Ms. Ogden joined the faculty in 2017.
Sam Picart: Hip Hop
Sam began his studies in Hip Hop culture at a young age after seeing renowned dancer Mr. Wiggles on television. He received a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts and has studied hip hop dance and west coast funk styles for ten years. Like many hip hop dancers, he learned by way of competition and jamming with well-known hip hop dancers around the world. He has competed and performed in Monsters of Hip Hop and in jams in New York City, Kansas City, and Portland. Sam continues to train and study the culture of hip hop while teaching all around the Seattle area. Sam was on faculty January 2015- June 2016 and returns to teach again September 2018.
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