“The teachers are dedicated, talented and full of love! They share their knowledge and push you to be the best you can be.”
“It’s been my home for teaching dance for over 10 years now.”
Kathie Bernard - Founder, Director
Ms. Bernard brings over 30 years experience in dance instruction and as school director to Free House Dance Plus. Her multi-faceted background, comprising the disciplines of dance and business, provide a strong balance of quality instruction in a secure, continually expanding and creative environment.
Kyrsten Blair - Jazz; Jazz Coordinator
Kyrsten Blair is a University of Calgary Sessional instructor for the Faculty of Kinesiology and the School of Creative And Performing Arts, a freelance choreographer, performer, and staging director. For over 2 decades now, she has taught students ranging in age from 4 weeks old to 92 years young, and has recently taken on the role of Jazz Coordinator for the 2018-2019 season at Free House Dance. She holds a BFA in Drama and Dance, and the diversity of her training has taken her across Canada, USA, Cuba, and Indonesia. Movement traditions rooted in Jazz, Funk, Body Percussion, Improvisation, Musical Theatre, and Contemporary, are constant companions. Recent presenters of her work include Revv 52, Calgary Opera, Equinox Vigil, The University of Calgary, and Calgary’s Boards of Education.
Rae-Lee Brower - Ballet
Rae-Lee is a dance instructor who is devoted to aspiring young dance artists. Her goal is to create healthy and enthusiastic dancers who love art and will positively influence the world of dance. Rae-Lee began her ballet and contemporary training in Alberta at Crossings Dance Studio. She danced for six years in Corps Bara Dance Youth Company traveling around Alberta, Toronto and New York City. In 2012, she began her training in contemporary dance at Simon Fraser University where she furthered her skills in modern dance and choreographic composition. Rae-Lee moved to Toronto in 2014 to learn from renowned faculty at Canada’s National Ballet School’s Teacher Training Program. During her training at NBS she obtained her teaching qualifications with the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing and the Royal Academy of Dance. In 2017, Rae-Lee graduated with her Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in Contemporary dance from Simon Fraser and her Teacher Training Diploma.
Rae-Lee is excited to be returning to Calgary to begin spreading her new knowledge she has gained while also learning from the teachers and students at Free House Dance Plus.
Francesca Canalizo - Flamenco
Francesca has been dancing Flamenco for the past seventeen years and has been privileged to study under many well respected Flamenco Artists from Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Spain.
Since its inception in 2001, Francesca has performed with Calgary flamenco group Salero Caló, which has played a large role in cultivating the local flamenco scene in Calgary. She has also performed in several productions in the city with many of her flamenco friends and colleagues. Her most recent performance was in Saskatoon in a Flamenco Borealis production, “Al-Andalus” as a soloist and guest artist in July 2016. She was also awarded an Alberta Foundation for the Arts grant in 2013 to support her dance studies at the Victoria Flamenco Festival.
Francesca has been teaching at Free House Dance Plus since 2010.
Stacey Caruso - Bellydance
Stacey Caruso, aka Amarna, is the artistic director and principal dancer of Daughters Of The Nile Middle Eastern Dance Company. She has been studying, performing, and teaching Middle Eastern Dance (Belly Dance) since 2000 and is a respected and professional performer of the art form. With performances and workshops in Alberta, British Columbia, and the United States on her resume, Amarna’s passion for the dance shines through, not only in her performances, but in the classes she teaches throughout Calgary and the surrounding area. Amarna has had the opportunity to study Raks Sharki, Raks Baladi and Folkloric styles under world-renowned master Middle Eastern dancers, Randa Kamel, Tito Seif, Raqia Hassan, Yousry Sharif, Asi Haskal, Denise Enan, Faten Salama, Aziza, Hadia, Beata and Horacio Cifuentes, Yasmina Ramzy, Suhaila Salimpour, and Nourhan Sharif, to name a few. Her ability, combined with a thirst for authentic Middle Eastern dance techniques, shines through with a richness of depth and expression whenever she dances.
Suzanne Demers - Jazz, Lyrical, Acro, Dance 101
Suzanne is a celebrated dancer and instructor known for her lively choreography and unique style of teaching that incorporates both the physical and personal aspects and reasons why we dance, believing that anyone can dance no matter what their shape, size, or experience. Calgary born, Suzanne has trained and taught with many studios in the city and abroad and is encouraged by the talents in the city and loves that she can share her passion for dance in her home town. Suzanne achieved her Acrobatic Arts Certification in 2013 and has extensive knowledge of R.A.D, Checchetti, ADAPT and CDTA syllabus programs.
In an effort to continue to expand her knowledge and the connection between mind and body, Suzanne is also a Certified Yoga Instructor and Reiki Practitioner, bringing a holistic connection to her teaching. Additionally, Suzanne is always looking to continue her growth as a teacher and dancer and has trained and traveled to many places including Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles and London.
Jennifer DeWolf - Jazz, Modern, Hip Hop
Jennifer DeWolf is an avid teacher, performer and choreographer around the Calgary community. She has a diverse dance background and thoroughly enjoys the artistic expression that this form allows individuals to access. Jennifer holds a BA in Dance from the University of Calgary and has completed Decidedly Jazz Danceworks’ Professional Training Program. She frequently performs at Festivals throughout the year and is involved in many choreographic endeavors. Aside from her love of dance, Jennifer has a great passion for Food and Travel. She has travelled abroad to China, Cuba, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Poland, Spain, and Thailand. She loves to soak in these diverse cultures and is always in pursuit of her next adventure.
Megan Gauley - Ballet; Marketing & Communications Co-ordinator
A born and raised Calgarian, Megan Gauley began her training with Lindsay Walsh School of Dance and Alberta Ballet School of Dance. She continued her training with Centre 58 Dance Arts, The School of Contemporary Dancers, and the University of Calgary. Her passion for dance spans many disciplines including ballet, modern, jazz, tap, salsa and lyrical. This is her eleventh season with Free House Dance Plus and Megan is thrilled to continue to inspire students through her own love of dance.
Lorissa Gilmore - Gyrokinesis
Lorissa is a GYROTONIC® Pre-Trainer who was first introduced to GYROTONIC® while in Vancouver, BC completing her Pilates certification. A classically trained dancer, her passion for movement led her to travel to New York City and Miami, where she certified as a GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® trainer.
Megan Gole - Modern
Dancing from a young age, Megan has been teaching and performing for many years. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance at the University of Calgary in 2005 and has begun her Masters in Fine Arts. She has had the opportunity to travel and perform in Poland, Finland, Toronto and Montreal. Recently, Megan completed her training in GYROKINESIS® and Gyrotonic® with Pascale Leonard and now has added Gyrokinesis classes to her repetoire. Originally a prairie girl, Megan is excited to be teaching at Free House Dance Plus, sharing her love of movement with her students!!
Katie Harris - WeeBop™, Jazz, Tap; Systems and Technical Coordinator
Katie has been dancing at Free House since she was 4 years old. Being surrounded by such a supportive environment has fostered in her a love for all dance styles and a true appreciation for artistic expression. She loves working with the next generation of dancers and continues her dance education by learning from them.
Tracey Harris - Office Choreographer
It all began with two daughters who danced at Free House…Tracey found herself more and more involved until one day she found herself creating her new job title, Office Choreographer. Tracey enjoys the logistical challenges faced at the studio, juggling classes, phone calls and questions. The opportunity to interact with students, teachers and parents is a wonderful way to create the community of Free House Dance and Tracey enjoys doing her part. Stop by and introduce yourself!
Carla Herrador - West African Dance
Carla Herrador started her dance career at the University of Calgary, which led to a serendipitous discovery of West African dance. She then studied dance, music and Guinean culture in West Africa from 2002-2005. After focusing on her young family, Carla is now the executive director of Tounkara Dance and Drum – a professional performing dance company. She invites African artists to Calgary and facilitates workshops to help ensure the integrity of the art form. Teaching dance is her first love and she passionately shares her love of dance and music to her students.
Trudy Hipwell - West African Drumming
Trudy Hipwell is a Calgary-based musician, specializing in West African and Latin drumming, and world-beat percussion. She performs with Calgary’s Latin dance band BandaBrava, and her all-women’s West African drumming group, Rhythm Method. Teaching, dance accompaniment and performing have taken her to many places beyond Calgary to share her passion, and have introduced her to an international community of artists. Seeking musical authenticity, Trudy studies with world-renowned international artists to hone her skills. She has traveled to both Guinea, West Africa, and to Cuba (with many thanks to the AFA!) to deepen her understanding of the music by connecting with the people and culture of those countries. She has also brought the music home, hosting international musicians at successful drumming workshops that she has sponsored and organized. She is delighted to be sharing her passion for drumming for another season at Free House Dance!
Jessica Huie - Zumba
Live your life. Travel the world. Eat healthy. Dance Forever. Make people laugh. That’s Jessica in a nutshell. Jessica has been a Zumba Instructor since 2010 and was thrilled to make the Zumba program a part of her life. She is always looking for different ways to spice up her classes, not just because of her love for music and dance, but also to welcome all participants that have different backgrounds. Jessica believes that through dance and music, we can feel our souls. Come and dance with Jessica!
Meredith Johnson - Hip Hop
Meredith Johnson has studied dance across Canada and the United States. With a diverse repertoire including Ballet, Tap, Contemporary, Lyrical, Hip Hop, Jazz and West African, Meredith continues to train and is currently a company member in Ember Dance Company. Through ongoing learning, she is able to bring new material and insight to her students, sharing her passion for dance.
Tasha Lawson - Tap; Tap Coordinator
As a performer, Tasha has worked as a solo artist and in ensemble pieces at numerous international festivals. She was a principal dancer for six seasons with Tapestry Dance Company in Austin, Texas, and the Artistic Director the affiliated youth company, Visions in Rhythm, where she created six full-length concert works.
As an educator, Tasha has delivered residencies for universities, youth ensembles, and professional training programs globally. She was a faculty member for the first Tap residency at Jacob’s Pillow, under the direction of Dianne Walker, and has toured in the US and Japan as Assistant Artistic Director for Cirque Du Soleil’s, KOOZA.
Tasha holds diplomas in Dance Teacher Training and Dance Performance from Grant MacEwan University. She is the founder and Artistic Director of Tri-Tone Productions. The Company has produced three full length concerts and has performed in Canada and the US. Tri-Tone also houses a pre-professional rhythm ensemble as well as a youth and adult ensemble.
In addition, Tasha is the artistic director of the Tri-Tone Rhythm Society, a non-profit arts society dedicated to preserving and promoting the art of tap dance and percussive arts, connecting diverse communities through performance, education and outreach programs. Tri-Tone Rhythm Society produces the annual Rhythm, Body and Soul festival.
To learn more about Tasha and Tri-Tone Productions, visit www.tashalawson.com
To learn more about the Society and the RBS Festival, visit www.rhythmbodyandsoul.com
Michael Levin - Ballet Accompanist
Michael Levin has been filling our ballet classes with sweet melodies since 2004. He was born & educated in Russia, is a piano instructor and a concert performer.
Nicolette Little - Jazz
Nicolette trained in I.S.T.D. Ballet, Modern, Jazz and Tap, as well as hip hop and Eastern European styles. She moved to Calgary last year and is thrilled to be teaching dance again in her new home city. Before the move she was touring, teaching and/or performing with Toronto’s Bialy Orzel and Momentum dance companies (2009-2016). Currently Nicolette is pursuing her PhD in critical media studies at the University of Calgary. In her spare time, she loves to hike the Rockies with her ‘wonder dog,’ Eloise, and write and publish children’s books.
Sonja Litwack - Ballet Accompanist
Sonja holds an A.R.C.T. with the Royal Conservatory of Toronto in Piano Performance. Her passion for dance has led her to accompany classes since 1979 at various studios around the city. She has worked at the School of Alberta Ballet, Alberta Ballet Company, The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede, Decidedly Jazz Company and School, Wright Studios and the Royal Winnipeg auditions. She currently works for the University of Calgary BA Dance program. She has accompanied guest classes for the likes of Veronica Tennant, Evelyn Hart, Rex Harrington, Franco De Vita, Nancy Kilgour, Elizabeth Olds, Jorden Morris, Edmond Stripe and Jean Grand-Maitre. Sonja is very proud to be associated with Free House Dance Plus once again and looks forward to the years ahead.
Morgan MacDonald - Highland
Morgan began Highland dancing 25 years ago. She has competed across Canada and in Scotland, and performed across Canada and the US with non-competitive performance groups. Morgan currently performs with the CPS Pipe Band. She completed her professional exams and is a certified teacher with the Scottish Dance Teacher’s Alliance. Morgan has an appreciation for the technique and history of Highland Dance and enjoys sharing her love of dancing with her students, as well as a few fun facts of the dance’s origins. Morgan is excited to be sharing her love for Highland with the dancers at Free House Dance Plus!
Lisbeth Maidment - Jazz, Tap, Musical Theatre, Hiphop
Lisbeth Maidment is a dancer, actor, choreographer and performer who was born and raised in Calgary. She loves movement of all sorts but particularly adores Tap, Musical Theatre, Hip Hop, Hiking and Swimming with Sea Turtles. She trained and worked professionally in Toronto for years but her love of the Rocky Mountains, prairie sunsets and friendly Calgarians, brought her back home. Some highlights of her favorite performances include- Dancing in TedX, WeDay, various music videos, with the Opera, and playing Magenta in Rocky Horror.
Steve McMullen - Musical Theatre
Steve is no newcomer to the stage. He made his first entrance at the age of 8 and since then has worked extensively as a singer, dancer, actor, costumer, stage manager, choreographer and director. Steve has worked with the Young Canadians under the direction of Margot Mcdermott, Triangle Theatre School, Evergreen Theatre, Calgary Arts Academy, Masters Academy and College and works with numerous schools as a freelance artist and teacher. Steve is a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. For more information visit www.letsdoashow.com.
Robin O'Grady - IndoJazz (Bollywood)
Robin began a career in health and wellness in 2003. Since then Robin has been dedicated to teaching mindset strategies and health and fitness. Her contagious energy and positive outlook has ensured she excelled in all areas. With her positive energy and radiant smile Robin’s classes are always uplifting and inspiring!
Vanessa Paglione - Ballet, Modern
Vanessa began her training at an early age studying Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Tap, Hiphop & Lyrical. Vanessa has completed her Advanced One exams with the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing in both Imperial Ballet and Modern theatre, and holds her Associate status in Imperial Ballet. She is currently working towards her degree in Bachelor of Kinesiology with a minor in contemporary dance. Vanessa has had the opportunity to perform in various shows in Calgary including Ignite! Festival, MPact Dance Company’s “The Cypher” and the University Of Calgary’s Dance Montage. She loves to bring joy, energy and inspiration to each of the students that she teaches.
Ron Proctor - Ballet Accompanist
Ron completed a degree in piano performance at the U. of A. in Edmonton. He has played for dance classes since his university days, and also teaches piano, organ, and music theory. He recently completed work on a CD of vocal and piano music with a local soprano. He has lived in Calgary since 1979. His favorite non-musical activities are swimming, bicycling, and reading, (biographies, mysteries, and historical fiction). Aside from Ron’s brilliant piano accompaniment, we look forward to being entertained with his ‘joke of the week’!
Sandra Repnow - Ballet, Barre Fit
Sandra is inspired by her students, movement and anything related to body work. She has a BSC in Psychology, Licentiate status with the Imperial Society of the Teachers in Dance, certification in Pilates and recently received her diploma in Craniosacral Therapy. She spends her free time with her son and enjoys trying out new things – currently she is navigating downhill biking! Sandra is happy that she rejoined the Free House family and hopes to ignite the same passion and love of dance in her students that she has!
Sylvia Ricetto-Mendes - Latin & Ballroom
Sylvia started dancing Ballet when she was three years old, but she was soon entertaining her family putting on disco shows in the living room and outdoors. When she was nine, she started Modern Jazz and loved this new experience. It wasn’t until she was eighteen that she found her passion as she began competitive Ballroom Dancing. Upon moving to Calgary to pursue a Master of Arts, she discovered Latin Club styles, as she partnered up with Nino Acosta. Sylvia reached a point when she had to put her competitive dancing on the shelf, but she never stopped learning. In the last few years she has studied in Costa Rica (Merengue, Salsa, Argentine Tango, Costa Rican Cumbia, Cha Cha, Rumba), Spain (Flamenco) and Uruguay (Tango, Belly Dance), as well as here at Free House Dance Plus. Sylvia calls teaching her vocation and dancing her passion. She considers herself very lucky to be doing both here at Free House Dance Plus!
Tanya Ross - Administrative Assistant
Tanya has a profound appreciation for Birkenstocks and house plants. With two degrees under her belt, one in Fine Arts and the other in Education, she floated in the teaching circuit for sometime, and now works full-time for Mount Royal University’s Students’ Association. She has one of the most interesting jobs on campus…and if you’re curious, she invites you to ask! When not at work you can usually find her in the mountains, by the ocean, or cuddling her three-legged pup, Foo!
Rene Russo - Tap
Born and raised in Calgary, Rene has been dancing since the young age of four studying Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Contemporary and Hip hop. Her love of dance throughout the years has inspired her to share her passion with her students.
Rene is always striving to learn new things and challenge herself with new materials in the hopes of bringing fresh and exciting ideas to class.
Rene is continuing her training with Tri Tone Rhythm Ensemble for her fourth season.
She is very excited to be joining the team at FHDP.
Lysia Smandych - Ballet, WeeBop™; Programs Coordinator
A native Calgarian, Ms. Lysia (Lee-sha) began her dance journey at age 3 and over time layered her dance dimensions with tap, jazz, musical theatre, Ukrainian dance, and modern. Her professional career started at the age of 12 in The Young Canadians Dinner Theatre production of “Annie”. Her love for the stage brought her to the position of Principal Dancer and Soloist with Calgary’s “Suzirya Ukrainian Dance Theatre” with whom she has performed for many audiences locally and around the world.
As a choreographer, Ms. Lysia’s work has been awarded for its artistry and her dancers are often identified as having strong foundational technique. She strives to bring out the best in each dancer individually, while building the strength, both physically and mentally, to have an understanding of how their body needs to move to accomplish their dance goals.
Ms. Lysia has been dubbed the “Mary Poppins” of preschool dance for her care and attention to the specialized needs of this age group.
In her 30 years of dance teaching experience she has taught in dance studios, City of Calgary dance programs and in private preschools. When not teaching or creating, Ms. Lysia spends time with her 2 boys; swimming, doing Muay Thai and making food! She is excited to be the NKOTB at FHDP.
Tatiana Snow - Ballet, Aerial Fusion, Lyrical, Contemporary
Tatiana believes her love for dance and body movement started somewhere in another life and became her life and breath at the age of 4 after her first ballet lesson. After years of extensive training and performing in Brazil, Tatti decided to further explore performing and ran away to join the circus. After a number of years travelling the Americas, she added yoga to her repertoire, expanding her spirit. Be prepared to come to class and work with our Brazilian Firecracker!
Lisa Talbot - Tap
Lisa has taught Tap, Jazz and Ballet independently at Calgary dance studios for over two decades. This year marks her twenty-first year with Free House Dance Plus (but who’s counting!?). Lisa has studied a variety of tap, jazz, ballet and modern styles extensively including Al Gilbert, Brian Foley (ADAPT), ISTD, RAD and free style. Throughout her dance career she has had the opportunity to compete, perform & choreograph both locally & throughout North America including venues such as Lilac-Fest, Disneyland, Las Vegas, Dance Montage & Mainstage. With life-long learning at the core of Lisa’s teaching philosophy she continually attends classes, workshops, performances and seminars to stay inspired and current. Lisa has a minor in Dance from the University of Calgary and completed her Masters of Teaching Degree in the faculty of Education in 2001. She teaches Elementary school full-time with the Calgary Board of Education and is returning to The University of Calgary this year to pursue Graduate Studies in Educational Leadership. Lisa’s wealth of experience, positive attitude and enthusiastic approach help to make her classes rich, rewarding and, most importantly, lots of fun!
Amanda Tyndall - Ballet; Ballet Coordinator
Amanda has been inspired by Ballet since the age of three. She trained at Alberta Ballet, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Pacific Northwest Ballet. She performed in numerous ballets, most memorable being The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. She still holds dance very close to her heart and is pleased to continue with the Free House Dance Faculty another season. In her ballet classes be prepared to point your feet and JUMP!!!!
Amanda was recently successful in attaining her doctorate degree in Neuroscience at the University of Calgary so we now call her “Doc”.
Allison Wagner - Ballet Accompanist
Allison began her piano studies at age four. Many years later, she is still thanking her parents for music lessons because her piano skills have taken her so many places and helped her to meet so many interesting people! She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Lethbridge and has extensive experience as both a soloist and an accompanist for dance, musical theatre, and vocal and instrumental performance. In 1993, she attended the summer accompanists’ workshop at the National Ballet School in Toronto. She has also provided accompaniment for company classes and master classes given by Alberta Ballet and Desrosiers Dance Theatre. Allison has accompanied classes at Free House since 1995 and is thrilled to return for another exciting season.
Alicia Ward - Tap, Jazz, Musical Theatre, WeeBop™
Alicia Ward is a freelance artist and teacher based in Calgary who is passionate about fostering opportunities for artists, no matter how old, to develop a love for dance! After graduating from the University of Calgary with a BFA with Distinction in drama, Alicia spent a very informative year interning at Theatre Junction followed by two consecutive years in the Professional Training Program at Decidedly Jazz Danceworks. Sometimes she performs as a rooster with Bach Tots, while other times she produces events to present the work of her talented friends! She has undergone numerous dance exams in ballet, modern, and tap, including, most recently, her Tap Associate with the ISTD.
Teri Willoughby - Ballet, Dancers' Stretch & Strength, Triple T; Performance Division
Teri has worked as a teacher and choreographer for over 40 years. She began her career dancing with the Alberta Ballet then moved to Montreal to work with the founder of Les Ballet Jazz, Eve Von Gensy. Teri then turned to choreography working with stage shows, musical revue groups and spent 5 years traveling Canada and the US with Stratus Faction, a performing group made up of 26 singers, dancers and musicians. Her credits include Musicals such as Funny Girl, The Wizard of Oz, South Pacific and Little Mary Sunshine plus numerous commercial, trade, and dance shows. Teri spent 10 years working with The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede and recently directed the opening ceremonies for the World Figure Skating Championships. As a teacher she focuses on Ballet and Contemporary with a specialty in Partnering although her background includes many different disciples. Teri is Artistic Director for Pure Energy Dance Foundation and Artistic Director of the Performance Division of Free House Dance Plus.
Samuel Wong - Hiphop
Sam was originally inspired by music artists and street dance pioneers. He initially began by teaching himself and now under the guidance of Empirical Freedom, a collective of artists based in Calgary, finds himself learning various styles of dance including hip-hop, krump, and house. Utilizing his exposure to various mediums of art including dance, film, and photography, he teaches to provide dancers the ability to find and develop their own unique style. Sam hopes all dancers will grow their self-expression and confidence by finding what dance means to them.