• Guest Teachers and Adjunct Faculty

  • Homer Bryant
    Master Instructor and Coach

    A native of St. Thomas, V.I., Homer Hans Bryant has over 25 – years teaching experience, instructing students of all ages in the idioms of classical ballet, modern, and ethnic. Mr. Bryant has had an international career as principal dancer with the world-renowned Dance Theatre of Harlem, and the Chicago City Ballet. His training has been under such luminaries as George Balanchine, Maria Tallchief, Tanaquil Le Clerq, Ted Shawn, John Taras and Geoffrey Holder to name just a few.

    Mr. Bryant is the Founder and Artistic Director of Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center, home of Bryant Ballet. He is highly respected for his very popular “Body alignment” (floor barre) classes. Homer also guest teaches regularly in Canada and was coach at the First International Ballet and Modern Competition in Nagoya, Japan in January 1993. The Academy is honored to have Mr. Bryant as a master guest teacher.

  • Jaclyn Burch
    Tap Instructor & Alliance Tap Teams Instructor and Choreographer

    Jaclyn Burch is originally from Dripping Springs, TX where she grew up training under Gay Pollock, Renata Sanford, and Jason Janas.  She passed commended Grade 1-Advanced on the Cecchetti Council of America exams.  Upon graduating high school, Jaclyn was awarded a dance and academic scholarship and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Arizona with a B.F.A. in dance.  After college, she moved to Chicago to be in the Hubbard Street Scholarship program at Lou Conte Dance Studio.

    Jaclyn is a member of Actor's Equity Association and has performed in many Chicago area theatre productions including 42 Street, The Music Man, Cha Cha Digregorio in Grease, and Kristine in A Chorus Line at the Paramount Theatre, Timon of Athens at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, and Shout!, My One and Only, Now and Forever, and Mary Poppins at the Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire.  Jaclyn was a backup dancer for Beyonce on Oprah's Farewell Episode, the leader of a flash mob for Estee Lauder, and performed in Chicago Freelance Dance.  Next, Jaclyn will be playing the role of Cassandra in Cats at the Paramount Theatre.  She is also a certified yoga and yoga sculp instructor. 

  • Marissa DeBenedictis
    Academy Alumni
    Instructor - Ballet/Pointe, Jazz & Contemporary Jazz

    Marissa DeBenedictis was born in St. Charles, IL and began dancing at a very early age. Marissa spent years as a competitive dancer earning numerous awards for her solo performances. She was named Senior Dancer of the Year at Parade and Rainbow Dance Competitions and received the first ever Ballet Scholarship from New York City Dance Alliance to study in New York City. She received certification in The Cecchetti Method through Level IV.

    At the age of 13, she came to The Academy to improve her Ballet technique and wound up falling in love with Ballet. She trained under Sherry Moray and Irina Starovoitova where she placed third at Youth America Grand Prix in the Contemporary Division as well as placing in the Top 10 in the Classical Division. She has received Summer Intensive Scholarships from Orlando Ballet, Ballet Met, Milwaukee Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Cecchetti Midwest, and Gus Giordano. She was one of thirty dancers hand chosen by Suzanne Farrell to attend her Exploring Ballet Intensive in Washington, D.C. where she performed at the Kennedy Center.

    At the age of 18, she accepted a position with Atlanta Ballet in their second company. She continued to dance for Atlanta for two years where she performed in Cinderella and danced the role as the Evil Stepmother, as well as performing in Michael Pink's Dracula, The Nutcracker, Snow White, and worked with Twyla Tharp and performed in her Ballet The Princess and the Goblin. While at Atlanta, she performed a solo form Balanchine's Ballet Who Cares?. While dancing with Atlanta, Marissa also taught Ballet at Atlanta Ballet's Academy. Marissa is currently continuing her dance training while on scholarship at Lou Conte Dance in Chicago. Marissa has also modeled for Leo's Dancewear and has appeared in "Raising the Barre", the Homer Hans Bryant Story as well as the Lifetime Movie The Start -Up.

    Marissa is an exciting and energized performer who is thrilled to share her knowledge and love of dance with her students.

  • Yumelia Garcia

    After retiring from Joffrey Ballet in 2014, Ms. Garcia has not let the grass grow under her feet.  While she is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Communication at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, she also continues to make guest performances around the country from Florida to Alaska.  In 2015, Gordon Pierce Schmidt created the ballet Day of the Gypsy, performed at the Harris Theater in Chicago, on Ms. Garcia that was among the Chicago Tribune’s best performances of 2015, and has been the guest principal dancer for the Jacksonville Symphony in Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker and is slated to perform Cinderella in April of 2016.  She has just recently worked in New York with the Kathryn Posin Dance Company collaborating with Meredith Monk in a commissioned ballet for the Harkness Dance Festival in Manhattan.  She also is part of Joffrey Ballet’s teaching workshop in San Antonio, Texas and teaches and coaches for a number of schools from Buffalo, New York to Los Angeles, California.

    Ms. Garcia was born in Caracas, Venezuela, where she received her professional training at the Escuela de Ballet Gustavo Franklin (Vaganova school).  Upon graduating with honors, Vicente Nebrada invited her to join the National Ballet of Caracas at the tender age of 15, and promoted her to soloist one year later.  Ms. Garcia began her U.S. career with Heinz Pohl at Ohio Ballet.  She then joined the Milwaukee Ballet, performing as a principal dancer.  While in Milwaukee, in addition to having Kathryn Posin’s Scheherazade created for her, Ms. Garcia performed many classical roles including Kitri in Don Quixote, Giselle, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, and Carmen.  She later moved on to Ballet Florida, where she was featured in contemporary and classical works, most recently as Cleopatra, by Ben Stevenson.  In 2009, Ms. Garcia was invited by Ashley Wheater to join the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, where she hit the stage to critical acclaim in roles such as Valencienne in The Merry Widow and the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker.  Her performance in Ashton’s Cinderella was featured in Point Magazine as one of the “Best Performances of the Year 2010”.

    Ms. Garcia’s remarkable versatility, technical prowess, and intensity have given her extensive experience in works by Alonzo King, Choo San Goh, David Parsons, Jean Pau Comelin, Mark Godden, George Balanchine, Trey McIntyre, Jimmy Gamonet, Christoper Wheeldon, Lar Lubovitch, Jiri Kylian, William Forshythe, Wayne McGregor and Robert Joffrey.

  • Robin Gayle
    Academy Alumni
    Instructor - Ballet/Pointe/Choreographer

    Robin Gayle is thrilled to return to the Academy of Dance Arts to share her love of dance. Robin joined Columbia City Ballet in 2003 and was promoted to Soloist in 2008. Robin trained privately under Sherry Moray at the Academy of Dance Arts. She also studied privately with Alla Osipenko, attended the Académie de Danse Classique Princesse Grace in Monte Carlo, the Ruth Page Foundation School of Dance, and the Chicago Academy for the Arts, and apprenticed with Colorado Ballet. Notable summer intensives Robin attended include the schools of American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, and Joffrey Ballet, under scholarship. Robin was a top finalist and winner of several awards at the Youth America Grand Prix competition, including first place in Sherry Moray's ensemble Balletsaal. She was chosen to perform at the YAGP Galas in 2000 and 2001. A frequent guest artist, Robin's reviews from dance critics 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." In addition to dance, Robin is a certified Pilates instructor and has modeled for Capezio and Leo's Dancewear.

  • Rebecca Lemme
    Academy Alumni
    Modern Instructor/Choreographer/Guest Ballet Instructor

    Rebecca Lemme holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Princeton University in English and Theater with a concentration in Theater and Dance, where upon graduation she was the recipient of the Francis LeMoyne Page Theater Award.

    Becca has performed with Luna Negra Dance Theater, River North Chicago, Hedwig Dances, Instruments of Movement, RTG Dance, and Thodos' New Dances. She is currently on faculty at Columbia College Chicago, Roosevelt University, The University of Chicago, The Lou Conte Dance Studio, The Joffrey School and Visceral Dance Center. Becca was a finalist chosen to present work for The A.W.A.R.D. Show! 2010: Chicago, and has also choreographed for The Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival, Dance Chance and Instruments of Movement.

  • Ashley Lynn
    Academy Alumni
    Principal Dancer - Austin Ballet/Guest Master Ballet Instructor

    A native of Warrenville, IL, Ashley Lynn received her formal training from Sherry Moray. At 17, she joined the Alabama Ballet under the direction of Wes Chapman and Roger Van Fleteren. She has performed solo roles in Balanchine’s Divertimento #15, Don Quixote, The Nutcracker (Snow Queen and Dew Drop), Cinderella (Winter Fairy), Sleeping Beauty (Lilac Fairy), as well as many modern and jazz works by Teri Wexsler, Margi Cole, and Kim Wolfe. Ashley has the distinction of being chosen by the Balanchine Trust Repertoire, Darla Hoover, to dance the principal role in Balanchine’s Allegro Brilliante and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. In the summer of 2002, Miss Lynn joined the Ballet Austin under the direction of Stephen Mills. Ashley was featured in Mills’ world premier of Touch, as well a performing leading roles in The Nutcracker, Giselle,A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, & Swan Lake.

    The Academy is extremely proud of Miss Lynn’s accomplishments in the world stage of ballet. Currently, Miss Lynn is a Principal Dancer with the Austin Ballet performing major roles in both the classical and contemporary repertoire.

  • Tracy Pearson
    Master Instructor/Guest Choreographer/Coach

    Tracy Pearson is originally from the city of Detroit, where she received a BFA in Dance Theatre performance from Marygrove College. She proudly graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 4.0 grade point average. Tracy’s performance credits include: Marygrove Dance Company, Livonia Civic Ballet Company, and the Detroit Dance Collective. She has worked with renowned choreographers from Urban Ballet Theatre, Dayton Ballet, and River North Chicago Dance Company. Tracy has danced and choreographed nationally including the gala performance for the American College Dance Festival. In addition to her dance skills, Tracy is an accomplished gymnast. Prior to her college career, she was a nationally ranked rhythmic gymnast being honored with a position on the Olympic Developmental Team. Tracy is a member of Dance Masters of America, the Cecchetti Council of America, and USA Gymnastics.

    As a choreographer, Ms. Pearson’s innovative style has won numerous choreography awards. Her students have won both regional and national titles and Ms. Pearson’s ensemble numbers have consistently placed 1st overall at National competitions. The Academy is honored to have this dynamic instructor & choreographer as part of the Academy staff.

  • Nick Pupillo
    Founder, Artistic Director, Visceral Studio Company
    Master Instructor/Guest Master Instructor

    After an extensive career as a dancer, teacher and choreographer, Nick Pupillo decided that his main priority would be to nurture young talent by establishing Visceral Studio Company. Nick attended Indiana University on full scholarship, where he studied with Jacques and Virginia Cesbron, as well as Leslie Peck and Violette Verdy. He graduated with a B.S. in ballet, concentrating in teaching and choreography. A former member of Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, Nick toured with the company throughout the United States and internationally for three years. He has worked with many esteemed choreographers, including Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Ron DeJesus, Randy Duncan, Mark Godden, Jon Lehrer, Eddy Ocampo, Tony Powell, and Davis Robertson. Additional performance credits include various roles with the Ruth Page Foundation Nutcracker, Brass Theater featuring the Star of Indiana, Dance Chicago, Schaumburg Dance Ensemble, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Stars of Dance Chicago, and Dance for Life. Nick has worked with the Pride of Cincinnati, a world class winter guard, and The Cavaliers, an award-winning DCI champion drum corps, as a choreographer and instructor. He has set pieces for Inaside Chicago Dance, Terpsichore Dance Company, Webster University, University of North Carolina, Greenville, The Chicago Academy of the Arts, and numerous Chicago area high schools. He has received various awards for his choreography, including a Dance Chicago Outstanding Choreography Award in 2005. Nick teaches across the country, providing master classes for companies, institutions, and universities. He has also taught for the Chicago Dance Connection and the Jazz Dance World Congress. Nick has a strong connection with his students and dancers who, in turn, are dedicated to him and to the discipline of dance.

  • Justin Tyda
    Alliance Hip Hop Team Guest Choreographer/Master Hip Hop Instructor

    Justin Tyda first started his dance career at the age of 16 freestyling and battling out of emotion. Mr. Tyda truly had the niche for Hip Hop and little did he know the success to come. Justin was the lead male backup dancer for singer songwriter Ashley Garland doing all Disney shows for artists such as Aaron Carter, B5, Jump 5, Jacob Latimore, Everlife Christy Carlson Romano, Ashley Parker Angel of O Town, and Teddy Geiger. This was just the beginning for the young Hip Hop Dancer. Soon after landing an audition for the Number 1 hip hop troupe in the country Xtreme Dance Force. He competed across the country on the biggest dance competion stages winning numerous first place awards, as well as winning 2 victory cups at Starpower Talent nationals in the seasons of 2007 and 2008 which is the highest award given. Also Under the direction of Sam Renzetti, Jc Renzetti, and Alvin Ramirez, he was given the opportunity to work with some of the hip hop world's most renowned choreographers such as Kevin Maher, Jesse Lee Santos and many more. In 2008 Justin competed on the reality dance show MTV's Americas Best Dance Crew with Xtreme Dance Force making it to the finalist top 7. Followed by ABC Tour Show with Headliners Jabbawockees. He was also a featured dancer on the hit MTV series MADE. He has had the blessing to be an opening act for Huge artist such as, Souja Boy, Lil Bow Wow, MIms, Jay Sean, Black Eyed Peas, Jeremih, David Guetta, Livi Franc, Keri Hilson, Sean Kingston, and Justin Bieber. Some of his latest Credits include dancer in Kathy Roes instructional Hip Hop video how to hip hop, assistant choreographer for Miss Illinois, dancer and Choreographer for Fashion show Chicago, Dancer with master hip hop duo Lindsey B of Beatfreakz season 3 ABC and Craig Holloman industrial, also Backup dancer at the B96 Jingle bash All State Arena with Jumpsmokers who are on top of the world of dance music from Chicago. Justin was also featured on WGN news as backup Dancer and Lead choreographer performing with the bad boy of pop music "Christacy". His unique but versatile style of choreography has won numerous first place awards including choreography awards in the competition scene and has attracted studios in and out of state for routines and master classes. Justin will never stop dancing and dance, music, and art is just simply part of his soul. He continues to take class and trips to Los Angeles to grow as a dancer and choreographer everyday, and loves to train kids to be the best they can be. From Scholarships to newspaper articles you can expect more to come from this young Master Instructor.

    The Academy is excited to have this fresh and dynamic Hip Hop Instructor as part of our team.

    In 2013, Justin's Junior Hip Hop Team, after winning 1st in its Hip Hop Division, was chosen to compete in the "Best of the Best" Category for the VIP Nationals.

  • Victoria Vargas
    Master Ballet Instructor

    Victoria Vargas is originally from Maracaibo, Venezuela. Victoria began her 20 years of professional dance with Ballet National of Caracas. Her impressive resume of performing includes Dancing with the San Francisco Opera Ballet, Dallas Opera Ballet and the Lyric Opera Ballet of Chicago. She is a former dancer with Luna Negra Dance Theatre in Chicago. The media review of her recent performance as Frida was hailed as “An emotional and lush interpretation of Frida”. Currently, Miss Vargas is on staff as an instructor at the Joffrey Ballet School of Chicago. Victoria’s hometown has been Chicago for the past 10 years and the Academy is honored to have this outstanding instructor as part of our Master staff.

  • Joanna Wozniak
    Academy Alumni
    Soloist - Joffrey Ballet of Chicago/Guest Master Ballet Instructor

    Joanna Wozniak is looking forward to her fifth season as a member of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. Former private student of Sherry Moray, Joanna received a full scholarship to Florida’s Harrid Conservatory. At age 16, she became an apprentice with Alabama Ballet. A year later, she started dancing with Joffrey Ballet performing in Nutcracker, Taming of the Shrew, and the lead in La Sacred du Printemps. Currently, Miss Wozniak is a soloist with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. She fully credits Sherry Moray for her accomplishments as a ballet dancer. Academy students are always thrilled when Miss Wozniak comes home to teach and share her love of ballet with them.

  • Troy Walzak
    Certified Master in Chinese Martial Arts
    Director & Instructor - Kung Fu for Kids and Tai Chi for Adults

    Troy Walzak is the founder of Heritage Tai Chi & Kung Fu and a certified Master in Chinese Martial Arts with over 35 years of experience. His journey in the martial arts continues as he devotes himself to furthering his own education and skill as well as that of his students.

    His goal is to bring a better balance to the lives of his students whether their emphasis is on learning the martial arts aspects of Kung Fu or on the health benefits found in Tai Chi. Master Troy views himself as a coach, guiding his students on a path of self-discovery as they pursue their own martial arts journey.

    His Kung Fu for Kids troop performed ‘Kung Fu Beginnings’ in the Academy’s 2012 Recital and he joins the Academy with both Tai Chi and Kung Fu for Kids in September 2012. He also currently teaches at both the Naperville and Fox Valley Park Districts and the Edward Fitness Centers. You can find additional information on Heritage Tai Chi and Kung Fu for Kids Facebook Pages:

    TAI CHI:     www.facebook.com/HeritageTaiChi

    KUNG FU for KIDS:   www.facebook.com/HeritageTaijiandKungFu