River Valley Dance Academy's Staff is unmatched in their list of professional and teaching credits. Our staff of working dancers and choreographers have over 250 years of combined teaching experience and professional credits spanning the greater part of the United States and three continents. By exposing your young person to our high quality teaching staff of experienced dancers and choreographers, they recieve a dance education that is rich in history, well informed corrections, and the peace of mind that they are learning to use their physical tool correctly as an artist.
Several of our Instructors have devoted their lives to childhood education and development; allowing us to educate not just your dancer, but your young person.
Find out more about our instructors by clicking on their headshots below.
Owner and Instructor Jocelyn Braudt received her dance training in both NY and NJ. A student of Neva McCrimmon, of New Zealand, Jocelyn trained for 14 years under London’s Royal Academy of Dancing’s International Ballet Syllabus. Selected to travel with an International Ballet Examiner from London’s Royal Ballet School, Jocelyn helped present the Dance Education Syllabus to the Academy’s United States Teachers. Additional studies in ballet include coursework w/David Howard, the American Ballet Theatre, and the 2010 IBC Teachers’ Workshop in Jackson, MS. While ballet is Jocelyn’s passion, and she believes it is the basis for all other forms of dance, she has also studied Jazz under Frank Hatchett of Broadway Dance Center in New York City, Ron DeMarco (NYC) and Steve Boyd (Springfield, MA). Jocelyn has taught course work in ballet at the college level, for the Gifted and Talented Artists Program of NJ, and for several studios on
the east coast. Her teaching experience spans 38 years. She has choreographed for competition dance teams, touring show choirs, musicals, cheerleading squads, and band fronts on the high school and college scene. She has been a member of The Shore Ballet Co, held roles in regional theatre, and sung with the contemporary Christian music group Touchstone. Jocelyn holds a degree in Therapeutic Recreation from Springfield College in MA with a concentration in Child Life. Prior to moving to MN, Jocelyn worked as a Child Life Specialist and was involved with the Very Special Arts program in NJ. She has instructed clinics for Special Olympics, Easter Seals, and 33 years ago founded the Rainbow Dancers for physically challenged youth. Jocelyn has developed Dance Therapy programs at the VA Medical Center in NJ, and has also utilized her training with the Children’s Hospital in New Jersey. For the last 20 years, Jocelyn has been the Owner of River Valley Dance Academy.
Sammy began her Dance Education at River Valley Dance Academy in 2003 , where she was a member of our Performance Company. In 2010 she became a member of the Chaska Dance Team, where she danced Varsity all 4 years of high school, and performed in the State Tournaments. Sammy was selected for the Choreography team both her junior and senior years. Honors Sammy received on the high school team included: Honorable Mention, All-Conference junior year and All-Conference senior year. Sammy served as Captain, and made the All-State Jazz Team, Senior year. Sammy went on to attend North Dakota State University where she competed and performed on their dance team for 4 years. In 2014, the Bison Dance Team won their 3rd consecutive National Championship in D1 Pom. Sammy was voted MVP 3 years straight and served as Captain at NDSU both junior and senior year. While at NDSU Sammy received her degree in Management Communication. Sammy is excited to be able to share her skills and experience with our students.
Kirsten Iiams began as an Instructor at RVDA in 2011, and we are so excited, to have her as part of our staff. She comes to us after performing for twelve years and twenty one shows at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre. Kirsten has danced with Ballet of the Dolls, Red River Dance and Performance Company, Riverside Ballet Arts, Radio City Music Hall, Art Park, and Cost Tours, (in the theatres of Russia, and on the Seas in between). She was the founder and Co- Artistic Director of Bismark Dance Theatre. She has taught and Choreographed for Bismark Dance Theatre, Red River Dance, The Lundstrum Center, Youth Dance Ensemble, Riverside Ballet Arts, Trollwood Performing Arts School, and Sleepy Hollow Theatre. Kirsten has assisted the Choreographer for productions of Evita, at the Ordway, Cats, Camelot, The Sound of Music, Annie, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, Annie, at the Children’s Theatre Company, Anything Goes at Minnetonka, Oklahoma, 42nd Street, Singin in the Rain, Guys and Dolls, Hairspray, and The Drowsy Chaperone, at Artistry in Bloomington. Kirsten’s Ballet training includes The Joffrey Ballet, San Fransisco Ballet, Hartford Ballet, Ballet Folk, Riverside Ballet Arts, David Howard, and Nanette Charise.
Joe Svihel graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance. Joe’s choreography has been presented on the local and regional level, where he has won multiple awards for his achievements in both dance and choreography. Joe is thrilled to continue his artistic journey, and looks forward to building on his choreographic skills-which uses a blend of Graham and Cunningham style movement, accompanied with hints of release technique.
Joe began dancing when he was 6 , at Southwest School of Dance instructed by Charolette Wendle. Once he moved to the metropolitan area, he started taking classes at River Valley Dance Academy where he studied many forms including; Ballet, Lyrical, Hip-Hop, Jazz, and Modern. He was blessed to have the guidance and support from his mentors; Gena Caughey Buckley, Kirsten Iiams, Rachel Svihel, Michael Matthew-Ferrell, David Pellinen, and Jocelyn Braudt.
This past summer, Joe performed with Minnesota local Jazz Company Eclectic Edge Ensemble under the direction of Karis Sloss. There he was able to work with Jazz legends, Zoe Sealy and Danny Buraczeski, and perform in the Company’s 15th Anniversary concert Rhythm & Flow. Joe has been continuously selected to perform in collegiate productions-with works choreographed by; Nick Pupillo, Eddy O’campo, Jeannie Hill, Michael Estanich, and Joan Karlen. Joe is excited and inspired to continue his work and deepen his training in Dance.
David Pellinen (B Boy Abide)
David Pellinen also known as Abide, entered the world of dance in 1998 through Hip Hop. Dancer at NBA and WNBA games 2009 to present, in his dance career David has touched four continents in which he has performed in the streets of Kampala, Tokyo, Nairobi, Amsterdam, Atlanta, New Orleans, New York, Seattle and Los Angeles, and has shared the stage with musical acts KRS One, Afrika Bambaataa, Vanilla Ice, Agape, Ryan Daniel, DJ Premier, Mello-D, Guante, Big Cats!, and Diamond D, and has performed locally at venues such as the Guthrie Theater, Soundset Music Festival, The MN Shubert/Cowles Center for the Performing Arts, Patrick's Cabaret, and Treasure Island, to name a few. Abide is active in Hip Hop Culture through membership in the organization TC Omega, and continues to perform, judge, compete and teach throughout the Twin Cities Metro area in Minnesota.
Brooke graduated from Minnesota State University-Mankato with a B.S. in Dance and an emphasis in private studio teaching. Brooke has performed in MSU-Mankato’s Dance Concerts and has had the opportunity to work with Marciano Silva dos Santos, Daniel Stark, and Julie Kerr-Berry. She is also studying and pursing a minor in marketing, and plans to graduate in the fall of 2017. Brooke has performed on three occasions at the Regional North Central, American College Dance Association Conference. Additionally, she has performed at the national level. In 2016, she attended and performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., as part of the National American College Dance Association Conference. Brooke grew up dancing at The Dance Connection, where she was on their competition teams. At the 2014 Nationals Triple S Dance Competition , Brooke was nominated for the “Encore Award”. At the Jump Convention, she was recognized as the musical theater VIP winner, nominated by Al Blackstone. She also received a scholarship to attend classes at Broadway Dance Center in New York City. Brooke has had the opportunity to take class from a wide variety of artists, including, Mia Michaels, Billy Bell, Misha Gabriel, and Melanie Moore. We are excited to have Brooke at RVDA, where she is thrilled to be sharing her passion for dance with our students.
Amanda Quiring spent eleven years as a youth dancing at River Valley Dance Academy, where she was a member of our Ballet, Jazz, and Hip Hop Performance Teams. While at RVDA Amanda performed aboard the Sovereign of the Seas Cruise Ship, at Disney World, and in Branson. She danced the lead role Myrta in Giselle, and as a Step Sister in
Cinderella. In 2014 Amanda received her BS in Child Development and Family Studies from Mankato State University. While at Mankato, Amanda also received a Minor in Dance, and served as the Dance Captain for the musical “Rent”. Amanda has been seen tapping at the Ritz, during the MN Fringe Festival, and performing at the Bedlam Theater in “Rhythmically Speaking,” with Keane Sense of Rhythm. Amanda enjoys sharing the challenges of rhythm and sound with her students as well as the history of Tap. Amanda is bringing TAP back to RVDA, and we couldn’t
be more excited to have her on our staff.
After seeing Cindy transform herself into Captain Hooks right hand man, Schmee, in Chaska Valley Family Theatre’s production of Peter Pan, we just knew we had to have her on our staff. After 13 years as our Musical Theatre Instructor, we are so happy to have Ms. Cindy continue on as our head receptionist. Cindy has a long history in the theatre, and is excited to be sharing her wealth of knowledge with all of our students. After attending Minnetonka High School (including performances in Pheifers People and her favorite role of “Winnifred” in Once Upon a Mattress), Cindy went on to study theatre at the University of Wisconsin in Lacrosse. Cindy’s creative talents have also found her teaching at the ECFE in Deephaven, at St. Therese Church and School, and running her own business creating parties for children. Currently, Cindy resides in Minnetonka with her loving husband Craig and three children.
Katie Taintor has worked regionally throughout the Twin Cities and tri-state area. Favorite past credits include A Chorus Line, The Drowsy Chaperone, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Couture Fashion Week NYC, Young Choreographer’s Festival, and many more. Katie received her BFA in Dance from the University of Minnesota. She also participated in the Summer Professional Semester at Broadway Dance Center. She was thrilled to join the theatrically driven not-for-profit dance company ALMA NYC upon moving to New York and enjoyed many performance opportunities with the company. Aside from her work with ALMA, she has worked as an artist, dancer, and collaborator with Artistic Abandon NYC and was an original cast member in AANYC’s off-Broadway, world premiere of The Blue Jar. Katie performed as a singer and showgirl in Linda Miller’s Legendary Ladies of Music at Stage 72 at the Triad in New York. Currently, Katie serves as an adjunct professor at St. Kates University and as the associate choreographer to Broadway Legend Linda Talcott Lee. She has had the pleasure of assisting and training dancers at Broadway Dance Center, Radio City Music Hall, St. Olaf College, Manhattan Movement Arts Center, and The Player’s Theater, among others, and she is thrilled to continue to share her passion with the dancers at RVDA.
Hannah Benditt graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance earning her BFA in Dance Performance And Choreography with a dual emphasis in Ballet and Modern. Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Hannah began formal training at Minnesota Dance Theatre (formerly Ballet Arts Minnesota). She has attended American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Washington Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Milwaukee Ballet summer intensives. Upon graduating from UMKC, Hannah danced professionally with
Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company in St. Louis, MO and most recently at The Minnesota Opera. She also performed with Consuming Kinetics Dance Company, Kansas City Ballet and independent artists throughout the Midwest. Benditt enjoys performing works by George Balanchine, Paul Taylor, Antony Tudor, Jessica Lang, Uri Sands, Sally Rousse, Zoé Henrot, Peter Davison and more. Currently, Hannah enjoys sharing her love of dance by teaching and choreographing throughout the Twin Cities.
Anna has a Performing Arts/Dance Degree from Colorado State University, and has trained with the Boulder Ballet, Ballet Nouveau Colorado, Colorado Ballet, and Ballet Magnificat. Anna has a teacher's certification in dance through the Dance Teacher's Institute , and participated in a teaching practicum at CSU in Pedagogy. While at Colorado State University, Anna received the Dance Division's Merit Scholarship, 2008-2012, and served as the Senior Concert Director and a choreographer. Currently, Roehr is part of the core company at Ballet Co.Laboratory and serves as the School Manager for all educational programs. We are very excited to have Anna at RVDA.
Is the 2007 & 2013 Ivey Award recipient for Choreography and 2010 Choreographer of the Year , Lavender Magazine. Credits include: Singing in the Rain, Oklahoma, Bloomington Civic Theatre; Ragtime, Park Square Theatre; Cabaret, Aida, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Evita , The Full Monty, Parade, Gypsy , The Rink and Passage of Dreams for Theatre Latte Da; You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, Grand Night for Singing, and Broadway’s Legendary Ladies at The Ordway Center; Shrek the Musical, Wizard of Oz, Annie, Babe The Sheep Pig, Tommy, Spelling Bee, Disney’s High School Musical , A Year with Frog and Toad and Fashion 47 at The Children’s Theatre Company.;. Cats, Annie, The Sound of Music, Camelot, Music Man, My Fair Lady, Forever Plaid, Oklahoma, and Can Can at the Chanhassen Theatres.
Additionally his work has been seen at The Minnesota Opera Company, Minnetonka Theatre, Sesame Street, Stages Theatre Company, Pantages Theatre, Disney World Orlando, and Guthrie Theatre Cabaret shows. He is also the Founder and Artistic Director of Alive & Kickin, the Twin Cities newest musical ensemble of Rockin Senior Citizens!
Jennifer Glaws, Minneapolis based artist, is interested in the social and developmental rewards of the arts evident in her work as a performer, director, educator and photographer. Her dances explore athleticism and conceptual depth both kinetically and temporally arriving at a diverse pallet of movement. Jennifer’s research delves into the relationship of dance with cognitive science, and the view that the practice of choreography enhances critical thinking skills in dancers and non-dancers alike.
Jennifer holds an MFA in Dance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and BFA in dance and photography from Arizona State University. She is currently the School and Communications Director for Young Dance, Minneapolis, and an active dance educator teaching in settings as varied as private studios, public education programs and colleges. Jennifer has been producing dance work in Minnesota since 2004 in museum and theater environments with commissioned dance pieces presented at Gustavus Adolphus College, American College Dance Association-Midwest, Eagan and Apple Valley High School, Perpich Center for the Arts and UW-Milwaukee among other private institutions. Her recent evening length work, Study 1 Perceptions: Stuck or Unstuck, has been on tour in 2015-16 performing across state lines. Her classes blend athleticism with western concert contemporary dance aesthetics. Through rigorous encounters with momentum, the movement investigates gravity, inversion, release, spinal articulation and spirals of the body in order to encourage velocity, and the freedom and fun of dance!
Kim has over twenty years’ experience as a competitive athlete in the sports of Trampoline and Tumbling, Artistic Gymnastics, and Diving. She was a National Champion in Power Tumbling, and a State Champion in Diving, for
the State of Minnesota. Kim competed in Division 1 at the University of Minnesota, in Diving, was a record holder, as well as a Big 10 Diver of the Week. Kim has a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, and is a USAG Safety Certified Instructor for Gymnastics. Kim provides six week acro sessions for our students at RVDA during the school year and in the summer. When not working at RVDA you can find Kim instructing Music at a public school.
Shelby Gilliland received her Ballet, Modern and Jazz training at River Valley Dance Academy where she danced the lead role in La Fille Mal Garde and the Sugar Plum Fairy in Nutcracker. She was a member of our Ballet Company and our Competition Teams, before heading on to the University of MN. While there she continued to study Ballet and majored in Computer Science. As a member of the U of MN Ballroom Dance Competition Team she traveled to compete throughout the Midwest, and the East Coast. She and her partner competed at USA Dance Nationals, where they took a First Place in Amateur Gold Rhythm and Smooth. After graduating from the U of M Shelby was a member of the Continental Ballet Company for one season where she danced in productions of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. She is excited to return to RVDA to share her love of dance.
Jill Cowan has been a voice instructor for 20 years, previously owning and operating a private studio in the Madison, Wisconsin area and currently teaching at Mount Calvary Academy of Music in Excelsior. She is the Worship Coordinator at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, and also a founding board member of Theatre 301, producing musicals and plays since 2013. As a graduate of Luther College, Jill has been heavily involved with music, specifically choral music, through college and beyond. She has sung with several prominent choral groups including Nordic Choir at Luther and the Pacific Chorale in Orange County, California. Jill especially loves working with the younger, developing voice, helping her students explore many musical genres, and building confidence and poise in performance.
Krysti has been dancing since she was three and has studied with the American Ballet Theatre, along with studying at 13 dance studios within the Twin Cities. She has performed with the Radio City Rockettes in their Christmas Spectacular; Chanhassen Dinner Theatre in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, as Alice; Bloomington Civic Theatre in 42nd Street, as Phyllis Dale and On The Town as a featured Dancer; Minnetonka Theatre in 19 of their productions in the last 5 years; Academy of Russian Ballet in The Nutcracker, multiple times, but favorite credits include Clara, Snow Queen; and Continental Ballet Company in Swan Lake, as a Swan. In addition to performing, Krysti is found teaching ballet at local studios and assisting Michael Matthew Farrell around the Twin Cities. When Krysti is not in the studio or on stage, she can be found assisting Michael Matthew-Ferrell on numerous productions and at Alive and Kicking! Krysti can be seen this season in 42nd Street at The Ordway Center for Performing Arts!
Ashleigh Cain began dancing at age three at River Valley Dance Academy. She has studied, Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Tap, Lyrical, and Modern Dance with RVDA. Ashleigh spent five years dancing as a member of our performance Company. She held a lead role in our classical ballet “Carnival of the Animals”, her senior year, and also traveled to Nashville, and performed in front of the Grand Ole Opry, and at the Country Tonight Show. Ashleigh has worked as an assistant teacher in both our Adaptive Dance Program, and our Pre School program, for six years. We are blessed to have Ashleigh serve as a Receptionist, a substitute, and a pre school instructor this year. When Ashleigh is not at RVDA, you can find her working full time as an assistant project manager at Imagine Print Solutions.
Megan is currently attending the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, double majoring in Dance and Business Administration. Megan graduated from Chanhassen High School and was a part of the school's dance team for five years. She was All Conference, All State, and participated in the state tournament. Megan also danced at River Valley Dance Academy for 11 years. She was a part of the studio's Performance Company for seven years. While on the Performance Company Megan was a National Champion and had the opportunity to perform in a variety of places such as
Disneyland and Nashville. Megan has traveled to NY to study at Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway. Megan is so excited to be back at River Valley teaching classes!
Melissa Miller recently moved to the Twin Cities after completing her graduate study at Texas Tech University. Melissa carries a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance and Pedagogy as well as a Bachelors in Theatre Performance from Wichita State University. In addition to her work as an actor and teaching artist, Melissa is a trained actor combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors. Melissa aims to engage theatre as a tool for social development and creative expression. Her strong background in the classroom and on the stage has informed her empathy-based and story-focused methods of teaching.