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Meet Our Faculty

2020–2021 Five Star Dance Faculty



Kelly Cannone has been an arts educator for more than 25 years. She served on The Arts Advocate of RI, and is a Board Member of the Warwick Consortium of the Arts and Humanities. In 1981 she founded Dance Artistry, Inc. in Warwick, RI and became owner of the studio Dancer Magazine called "One of the four most successful studios in America." She started her own dance company, a non-profit organization, who performed internationally visiting Copenhagen, Denmark, and Minsk and Moscow, Russia. In order to expand her teaching opportunities to the martial arts, she earned her black belt in American Kenpo Karate.

Kelly has numerous career highlights, these include choreographing numerous corporate events, commercials, and music videos including the Miss R.I. pageant, Koch Eye Associates Promotional Video, Market America’s Regional Convention and many more. Kelly has appeared in several televisions commercials and theater productions. She has been on staff with Dance Olympus and Candance conventions. Kelly’s latest venture is writing motivational articles for children. Her work has been published in Dancer Magazine, The Gold Rush, Cheerleading Dance and Drill Magazine and Dance Studio Life. Kelly has been traveling around the country teaching dancers and dance teachers how to set goals in her Aspiring Dreamz Workshop.

This past year Kelly has published a book tiled "Aspiring Dreamz, Goal Setting For Dancers." Kelly has also written a children’s book titled "The Broken Doll" which is being considered for a ballet production in Rhode Island.



Hope Specht has an impeccable reputation in the New England dance world. She is known nationwide for her teaching and choreography, and is in constant demand as a teacher and adjudicator for dance competitions and conventions across the country. Having owned and operated her own dance school for over 15 years, Hope’s students have performed in commercials, Disney, The Macy’s Day Parade, Madison Square Garden, Times Square in New York, and the Broadway musicals: "ANNIE GET YOUR GUN" and touring with "FOSSE", also achieving 10 National Acro titles, 3 World Champions in Show Dance, GOLD & 2-TIME WORLD Silver medallists in Tap 2005-2006 IN RIESA, GERMANY. Hope had the prestigious honor of being nominated and to perform her choreographed Acro-Gym Production "GLORY" for President Bush.

Hope has been teaching and choreographing at McKeon’s for the past 6 years. Her Acro – Gym routine “Battle Warriors” won the Xcalibur Award (the highest scoring routine in all categories of the competition) at Dance Xplosion Nationals this past summer.



Danielle Buharali is an accomplished dancer, teacher and choreographer. She started at the McKeon School at age 3 and has never left. A National Dance Champion herself, Danielle was also a member of the McKeon Team Chosen to be part of the first United States delegation sent to participate in the “10th World Gymnaestrada” in Berlin Germany in 1995.This past summer her students received recognition at the Dance Xplosion National Championships winning the prestigious Xcalibur award in the Novice division along with several other Top Score and High Point awards.

As well as being an accomplished competition instructor, Danielle is one of the top recreational dance teachers in the area. She takes the same creative approach to all her classes, beginners through advanced.



Courtney (Rigby) Shankle began dancing at the Hope Specht School of dance at the age of 4 and has been competing since the age of 5. She has won 15 National Titles in dance and acrobatics. Courtney's titles include: Jr. Miss Dance of the US, National Jr. Miss Headliner, USTD International Princess of Dance, DMA Jr. Miss Dance of New England , Jr. Miss Dance of the US, Jr. Miss Acrobat of the US , Teen Miss Headliner, Miss Acrobat of the US, Miss Dance of the US, National Miss Acro Headliner, National Miss Headliner, and National Senior Soloist Champion, winning National Championships in every category. During her high school years Courtney competed in gymnastics, winning the State Title in the floor exercise and representing RI in the High School Gymnastics National Championship in Las Vegas. In 2002, immediately after graduating from High School, Courtney launched her Professional Dance career in the off Broadway production of the Musical "ONE" at the Alabama Theater in Myrtle Beach. In 2003, Courtney was chosen to represent the United States in the World Show Dance Championship in Riesa, Germany and won the Adult Solo Championship at this prestigious event.

For the past few years, while raising two beautiful sons, Courtney has been teaching dance and choreographing in the RI and SE Mass area, with her students achieving high score recognition at a number of competitions. She looks forward to sharing her experience with others and is thrilled to spread her love of dance.



Casey LeBlanc was a member of the nationally ranked McKeon Competitive Dance Team for 13 years. During her time, she won numerous regional titles as well as being crowned the 2011 Senior Miss Beyond The Stars for her performance at their national competition. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Dance Degree and Bachelor of Science in Communications and Business from Arizona State University Class of 2015. In her junior and senior years she was awarded full scholarships to the American College Dance Festival where she became a finalist in her category both years.

While attending ASU she had the pleasure of being the choreographer for their dance team as well as local dance schools in that area. While attending college in AZ, she continued to choreograph for the students at McKeons during her breaks. Upon graduation, she returned to McKeons and has quickly become a valuable member of our staff.

Casey’s choreography has won many awards at regional and national competitions and her encouraging, positive attitude with all the dancers is a wonderful asset for our recreational and competitive programs! Casey continues to choreograph at the college level as well at Stonehill College and UMass Amherst.



Brea Purdue was a semi finalist on season 2 of the highly acclaimed show So You think You Can Dance?! Brea is well-versed in all forms of dance and has trained and assisted some of the top teachers and choreographers in the country including; Mia Michaels, Stacey Tookey, John Crutchman, Dee Caspary and assisted Doug Caldwell at his Broadway Dance Center, NYC, Intensives, touring with regional ballet companies.



Zhanat Baidaralin was educated in Almaty and Moscow, and brings more than 30 years experience from his native Kazakhstan as a producer, artistic director, choreographer, and ballet teacher in numerous realms that include theater, circus, and television. His broad experience also includes direction and production of traditional Kazakh festivals and dances in his native land. Mr. Baidaralin was the chief choreographer for Kazakhstan at the opening ceremony of the XX Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980, where he worked with more than 10,000 dancers and 20,000 sportsmen. In 1998, he was the chief ballet master for the official opening of the new capital city of Astana.

Since moving to the U.S. in 2001, Mr. Baidaralin has worked as a ballet master, choreographer and ballet teacher for several ballet companies, 30 Years of Experience Worldwide 8 Years in the U.S.A., Including: Dance Theatre of Harlem, NYC, Festival Ballet, Providence, RI, Bryansky Saratoga Ballet, NY, Stamford Ballet, CT. In turn, Mr. Baidaralin has the pleasure of helping to bring the great American and Kazakh cultures closer together.





Master Teachers

sandi duncan


We are very excited to welcome Sandi Duncan to our staff! Sandi owned and directed Dance Productions in Woburn.

She is a member of Dance Masters of America and has served as a vice president, adjudicator and choreographer for the organization. She also has adjudicated for many organizations throughout the US and Canada and is a choreography clinician for the NEXT STAGE music workshop each summer in Durham, NC.

Sandi has a degree in Deaf Communications/Sign Language and in her early college years performed numerous times at the State House in Boston for deaf rights awareness programs. Upon graduation, Sandi traveled to study in Chicago at the Gus Giordano Dance Center as well as many NYC training centers to further her dance education.



Tim Stickney began his dance training at the age of 3 in upstate New York and furthered his training at some of the premier schools in North Carolina and Massachusetts, namely McKeon Dance and Gymnastics and The Gold School under the direction of Rennie Gold. Training extensively in ballet, modern, and a variety of other styles, he had the honor of being named America's Male Dancer of the Year at American Dance Awards in 2010. He has had the opportunity to perform at Symphony Space for their annual Impressions concert and at the Jacob's Pillow Inside/Out stage with the Boston Tap Company. He was also featured in Dance Life TV's Male Voices documentary series, winner of four prestigious "Telly" awards.

Tim is currently a sophomore in the Ailey/Fordham B.F.A. program, where he wishes to continue growing as an artist by studying at The Ailey School under some of the most inspired names in dance in the twentieth century. Most recently, he has performed the works of Earl Mosley, Hope Boykin, Karen Arceneaux, Billy Bell, and Marquet Lee to name a few. He would like to thank his parents and his sister for all their love and support through the years and is so excited to be making the rewarding transition into teaching and choreography.



Michael is currently the creator anddirector of the Xhale Dance Company and has shown work in the past for Philly Fringe Festivals, The Choreographers Canvas (NY), The Koresh Artist Showcase, The Kimmel Center, a performance with the Barre Boys and Synthoseis Dance Project. Michael was one of eleven choreographers selected to showcase their work in the Dance Underneath the Stars Choreography Festival in Palm Springs CA. He was also one of the 15 Finalists in the International Choreography Competition as a part of the Jazz Dance World Congress last summer. Michael continues to teach and choreograph throught the tri-state area, spreading his love and experience of dance.



Rory Freeman earned his BFA in Modern Dance from SUNY Purchase (NY) in 2010. This gave him the opportunity to perform pieces by Bill T. Jones, Paul Taylor, Bella Lewitsky, and Luca Veggetti. In 2010, he joined the world renowned dance company, MOMIX, and performed all over the world. Since moving to Los Angeles in 2013, Rory has had the honor of working and performing with companies such as Commonality, Escape Artists, and Royal Flux. In addition, he has worked with music artists such as Earth, Wind, & Fire, Taylor Swift, Paula Abdul, and Jack Wagner, among others. He had the pleasure of being a part of the skeleton crew to create part of the Opening Ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Rory is a part of the faculty and judges for various national conventions and competitions. He has taught & choreographed at numerous studios across the U.S. Rory is also the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Move: The Initiative, a weekend dance intensive that takes place in his home state of Rhode Island. Rory first became a member of Shaping Sound in 2013. He was part of the company’s first ever national tour, performed at the International Festival Dans Encore, the Dizzy Feet Foundation Gala, and Dancer Palooza.



Tara (Tommasiello) Iacobucci has been dancing since the age of two, beginning her studies at Dance RI’s Providence location, under the direction of Debi Cusick D'Iorio. In 1996, with the guidance of Ann Beretta Morsilli, Tara began focusing solely on her ballet technique with Festival Ballet of Rhode Island under the late Christine Hennessey. She quickly landed the role of Clara in their annual production of “The Nutcracker" in 1998, and went on to dance a wide variety of roles in this ballet, as well as many other such as Les Sylphides, Sleeping Beauty, Dracula, Swan Lake, Firebird, and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

While dancing with Festival, Tara had the honor of working with Winthrop Corey, Patricia Dubois, and Colleen Cavanaugh, to name just a few. She danced in ballets alongside Sascha Radetsky, a now retired ABT Soloist and the lead, "Charlie" in the film, "Center Stage", as well as the ever regal Gennadi Saveliev and Alexandra Koltun. In 2001, Tara professionally joined the Senior Company as an apprentice dancer under their new name, Festival Ballet Providence, under the direction of Mihailo Djuric.

Tara is a Judge and Convention Teacher. She frequently visits dance companies, organizations and studios all over the country to hold classes and set choreography, and many soloists travel to RI to work with Tara.



Kayla is from Hopedale Ma. She began her dance career at McKeon Dance and Gymnastics Center at the age of 4. She has trained in ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, contemporary, and acro. At age 9 she joined the competitive dance team, continuing through High School. She has assisted in competitive dance routines as well as taught technique classes.

In 2010 Kayla traveled to Shanghai China with the studio where she performed in numerous shows, parades and represented the USA in the World Expo. In 2011 She went on to continue her dance career at Dean College where she studied dance and business. At Dean she was on their hip hop team Synergy. She graduated from Dean College with an Associates Degree in Business in 2013. Continuing her education, she attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

She performed with the UMass dance team at all home football and basketball games. She competed with her team at the NDA national dance competition in Daytona beach, Florida. In March of 2015, Kayla was selected as a member of New England Patriots Cheerleading team. She has performed in all home games, participated in numerous promotional appearances throughout the community and last year was on the sidelines performing at Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas.

Kayla is now a 3rd year Veteran and Line Captain of the Patriots Cheerleading team. She assists with game day preparation and will lead her line in all game day performances when they take the field in September.



Lindsey graduated with her BFA from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. She has worked and performed with companies and artists such as Roni Koresh/Koresh Dance, Michael Susten and Company, Pennsylvania Ballet, and Philadanco. Most recently, Lindsey has traveled to Europe, South America, and Hawaii with Norwegian Cruise Lines where she served as dance captain, performing in shows created by directors such as Rachelle "SAS" Rak and Tiger Martina. Known through out New England for her contemporary and jazz master classes, Lindsey's students and choreography have received national level recognition and continues to teach and share her passion of dance with children.

sarah katarine


Sarah-Katarina “SKooJ CorE-O” Jerome brings her knowledge and talents to with experience in performance, choreography, instruction, and adjudication, with her present main focus on Commercial/Theatrical Hip Hop and Contemporary dance but is strongly trained in many other styles. She is a member of the New England-based Static Noyze Dance Company that has been seen on MTV’s American’s Best Dance Crew and is a Master Teacher.



Josh Perez was born and raised in Providence, RI. In 2010 he made an appearance on the 5th season of MTV’s Americas Best Dance Crew. In 2012 he danced back up for Jordan Knight on the Live & Unfinished Tour where he performed in front of sold out crowds across the U.S. and Canada. His dance style goes beyond Hip-Hop; it's old-school-meets-new-school with a whole lot of hype! He realized his passion for dance at the age of 14 and has since dedicated his time to teaching and mentoring dancers of all ages. We are very excited to welcome Josh to our staff!



Marina comes to us with many years of experience. She is the founder of Bolshoi Summer Intensive Russian-American Ballet in NYC and CT. From 1974-1989 she performed for the Classical Dance Ensemble Kiev, Ukraine. She danced principal classical and character roles from Classical ballet productions including Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Paquita, and Sleeping Beauty. She is a Doctorate Candidate for Physical Therapy Program focusing on Sports and Dance Therapy, University of RI. We are very excited to have her join us!



Shane Farrell is a native of Rhode Island and has danced from New York City to Los Angeles, CA. At seven he began taking acrobatics classes and eventually began training in all areas of dance. Shane studied at the Brae Crest School of Ballet and performed with the State Ballet of Rhode Island in such ballets as Coppelia, Walpurgis Night, The Sleeping Beauty, and Giselle. He is a graduate of the Dance Teachers Club of Boston. His television and film credits include MTV’s MADE, FOX’s So You Think You Can Dance, and the 2010 film Hachi. He has been a guest of Companies throughout the northeast and is a frequent guest artist with Spindle City Ballet in Fall River, MA.

Shane is currently in his seventh performing season with Island Moving Company in Newport, RI and has just returned from an international tour to Kazakhstan. His choreography for IMC includes Jack and Jill from Mother Goose, four premieres: Pheromone, Luminous, Queens Are Made of Distance and Greasepaint and Pavo Cristatus, and several Great Friends Dance Festival etudes. He has choreographed for the America’s Junior Miss Pageant, Providence College, Wheaton College, as well as dance schools throughout New England.



Melissa Amershek is a graduate from Rutgers University receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance. Melissa has been listed as one of the "Top 50 Choreographers to Watch" by Dance Spirit/Teacher Magazine. Her notable performing experience includes Disney World Magic Kingdom. Television credits include principal dance roles with ESPN and Pepsi Commercials. Melissa continued her success as a New England Patriots Cheerleader and performed in New Orleans at Super Bowl XXXVI.

Melissa currently prides herself on being one of the top choreographers in the Northeast with awards such as "Top Choreographer", "Most Creative", "Best Staging", "Most Entertaining" and 3 time Industry Dance Award winner for the highest scoring jazz routine for 2014, 2015 & 2016. Melissa has trained 15 regional and national title winners. Her dancers have not only earned college scholarships, they are currently dancing professionally in NYC, LA and Boston. Most recently, Melissa has had the honor of producing and choreographing the opening act for the Radio City Rockettes.

Currently, Melissa is a dance faculty member at Dean College, Director of New England Summer Dance Camp and a competition judge for Turn It Up Dance Challenge.