• Guest Teachers and Adjunct Faculty

  • Lauren Baznick
    Academy Alumni
    Ballet Instructor

    Lauren started dancing at the age of six in hometown of Naperville, IL. She later joined the Academy of Dance Arts at the age of fifteen.  In 2010, after two years of training privately under Sherry Moray, she placed first in the Youth America Grand Prix semi-final in Chicago. Lauren then went to the finals in New York City and made it to the final round of the competition. From there, she received full scholarships to the John Cranko School in Stuttgart, Germany and the Academie de Danse Princesse Grace in Monte Carlo, Monaco. After attending both schools, Lauren graduated from the Academie de Danse Princesse Grace in 2011. She started her professional career after graduation with the Opernhaus Zurich Junior Ballett in Switzerland and was promoted to full company member one year later. While in Zurich, she danced in a variety of roles and creations from the director Christian Spuck as well as Marco Goecke, Martin Schlapfer, Stephan Thoss and Heinz Spoerli. Lauren was also fortunate enough to dance principal roles in the children’s workshops in both Giselle and Swan Lake. In addition to working in Zurich, Lauren danced in galas in Biella, Venice and Genoa Italy. In 2014 she competed in the Varna International Ballet Competition in Bulgaria and made it to the final fifteen dancers. After her three seasons with Ballet Zurich, Lauren moved back to America and danced the 2015 season with Charlotte Ballet. She is so happy to be back at the Academy and to be working with all of the inspiring artists. Currently, Lauren is attending culinary school for baking and pastry arts, hoping to one day open her own vegan coffee shop.

  • 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
    Prima Ballerina
    Master Instructor

    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.

  • Rachel Kuhr
    Academy Alumni
    Instructor/Coach/Choreographer

    Rachel Kuhr, as known by her stage name Sabah, is a forever dedicated student, performer, and teacher of dance. Starting at the tender age of 3 years old in Oak Park, IL, Rachel has danced her whole life. Her main mentors in Chicago during her critical training years were award winning instructors and choreographers Sherry Moray and Homer Bryant. Miss Kuhr has attended Summer Intensive Programs for Houston Ballet, Boston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, ABT, and on full scholarship with the Pacific Northwest Ballet. She began her professional career performing in numerous productions of “The Nutcracker”, working her way to professional roles. Rachel has also danced professionally with The Ruth Page Dance Foundation in association with Ballet Chicago, Chicago Festival Ballet, Momenta, and The Alabama Ballet.   During her years with the Alabama Ballet she began her studies to become a dance instructor by enrolling in the "City Dance" program to help inner city kids with after school dance programs. 

    In 2001, retiring from performing with ballet companies, Miss Kuhr turned over a new leaf returning to the Academy of Dance Arts to join their faculty and share her love of dance. She also continued her education at Columbia College in Chicago receiving her degree in Cultural Studies focusing on Dance. She has also taught children and adult ballet and ethnic styles of dance at Chicago's Multicultural Center, Dance Infusion, World Dance & Fitness Chicago, and Pineapple Dance Studio.

    While obtaining her degree, Miss Kuhr studied abroad at the American University in Cairo and joined their folkloric troupe, which performed locally and in the International Folkloric Festival of France. She also received a license and contract to produce her own show in Egypt on the "Nile Pharaoh". This led to new opportunities including traveling to Iceland for 6 week intervals to be the master instructor of Oriental Dance at Kramhusid Dance House.

    In 2006, Miss Kuhr auditioned and joined the internationally touring dance company "Bellydance Superstars" produced by Miles Copeland and was featured for her unique talent of combining Pointe technique with belly dance. Moving her way up in the company, Rachel, dancing under the stage name Sabah soon became one of the principal dancers of the company and in 2010 became the Director of the company. "Bellydance Superstars" has performed all over the world touring for an average of 2 months at a time. Sabah has visited over 20 different countries, performing to well over a million people in over 800 theater shows. Sabah is featured on various "Bellydance Superstars" performance DVDs, performed on the Kelly and Michael Morning Show, PBS, and various other TV appearances around the world and has her own instructional video entitled "Advance Your Dance with Sabah". She has performed and taught master classes and workshops all over America, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Iceland, Morocco, Egypt, China, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea.

    Miss Kuhr has a strong belief in education and continues her studies in dance and related fields. She is constantly adding new styles of dance to her training and loves share her world experience of dance with her students. She is recently been certified in Fly Yoga TM and Heartsaver CPR and AED.

  • 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.

  • Chris Marosi
    Academy Alumni
    Instructor & Choreographer

    Christopher Marosi began dancing at the age of eight at the Academy of Dance Arts. Although he received training in ballet and jazz, Chris’ passion from a young age was hip-hop. While completing his undergraduate psychology degree in Chicago, Christopher was a member of BOOM CRACK! Dance Company performing in works by Trae Turner, Dee Moore, and Dionna Pridgeon. It was during this time that Chris had the honor of performing at various sporting and cultural events throughout Chicago for companies such as Sears, Beats by Dre, as well as recording artist Kid Sister.

    Upon completing his undergraduate degree Christopher entered Illinois State University to begin coursework on his master’s in Developmental Psychology. Not wanting to end his training Christopher began working with the dance program at ISU, eventually becoming a company member of the Illinois State Dance Theatre. Being cast in works by Sara Semonis, Melinda Myers, Greg Merriman, and Abbey Hanson, Christopher has had the opportunity to perform at the Illinois High School Dance Festival representing Illinois State University (2012) as well as being selected to perform in the American College Dance Festival Gala Concert (Central Region, 2013). Upon graduating from ISU in 2013, Christopher signed on to become a member of Giordano II, part of Giordano Dance Chicago, the original jazz dance company in the United States. With Giordano, Christopher continued his training under the direction of Nan Giordano, Autumn Eckman, and Homer Bryant learning the historic Giordano jazz technique known around the world.

    Christopher is ecstatic to be on staff at the Academy, being able to instill the same passion for movement he received when he was a student at the Academy himself. 

  • 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.

  • 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.