Elissa Criner Turner, Studio Manager, is a native of Houston. She began studying ballet at age 11 at Banbury School of Dance and then attended Episcopal High School where she was a member of the Impact Dance Company. She continued her studies in New York City with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and Dance Theatre of Harlem, where she joined and performed with the Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble Company. Her interest in bodywork began after injuries gave her the need for physical therapy and massage therapy. She learned that an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. In 2002, she received her Associates degree in Massage Therapy from The Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences, the country’s oldest school dedicated to the study of massage and physiotherapy. Since then, she has married, had two rambunctious boys and received her Bachelors of Arts in Dance from University of Houston in 2015. During her time at U of H, she became a member of The UH Dance Ensemble, were she had the pleasure of meeting, learning from and performing in works by Teresa Chapman, Annie Arnoult, Leslie Scates and Sophia Torres. Currently, she can be seen performing with Psophonia Dance Company and holds the position of Studio Manager at Hunter Dance Center.
Tehillah Hartmann*, Program Director, is a native from Chicago, IL where her love for dance first integrated with her passion to see people healed and whole from the inside out. She explored these themes while obtaining herBFA from the University of Michigan, and upon graduating received the Albert A. Stanley Medal for outstanding achievement. During her time at Michigan, Tehillah produced and choreographed three evening length shows involving video, music and costume collaborators, as well as co-founded the student organization Performance Ark which seeks to facilitate collaboration between student artists to engender community thought and discussion. After graduation Tehillah continued to investigate the relationship between her faith and her artistry in Redding, California at Bethel Church’s School of Supernatural Ministry. Fueled by this season of creative soaking, Tehillah moved to Houston with her husband and joined the Ad Deum Dance Company for their 2014-2015 season. She is thrilled to be working with Open Dance Project in its premiere season and supporting Annie in her creative and entrepreneurial ventures.
Lauren Burke*, after graduating from University of Houston with a Dance degree, was rewarded the Jonathan Wolken Scholarship to attend American Dance Festival in 2014 after nationwide auditions. That year she also received Best Emerging Artist from Houston Fringe Festival and was listed among Houston’s Top 100 Creatives by the Houston Press. Lauren now serves part-time as a dance instructor, choreographer, and a professional dancer. She has had the pleasure to dance with FrenetiCore and Urban Souls, and is now starting her first season with Open Dance Project. She is excited for this new year with the company and is looking forward to what’s ahead.
Abby Flowers* graduated with her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance from Sam Houston State University in 2013. She has had the privilege of traveling to New Mexico, Ecuador, and Ireland with VauLt and has recently been working with independent artists Lori Yuill and Laura Harrell. Abby shares her passion for dance and aerial arts by teaching classes weekly and is thrilled to be joining Open Dance Project for it’s first season!
Linda Gomez, dancer, teacher, choreographer and fitness instructor has traveled extensively nationally and internationally teaching, training, mentoring and performing since receiving her Bachlor of Arts in Dance and Theater from the University of Houston in 2003; Associate in Arts; Teacher’s Certificate (K-12 Dance); and Leap n’ Learn Early Childhood Program. In addition to teaching at dance studios, schools, and gyms across the U.S., her career highlights include serving as Dance Coordinator and Artistic Theater Director of the JCC of Houston and Dance Director of Westwood Dance Academy, as well as performing on the Telemundo Network, and as a dancer in an Fire Performer’s act on ABC’s, America’s Got Talent. Linda is also the founder of Dance Destinations – a traveling dance company that provides dance education services internationally. Professionally, she has danced with Chrysalis Dance Company, DancePath Theater, FrenetiCore, Psophonia, Urban Indian Beat, VIBRA Dance Co., and 2nd Generation Dance Co., to name a few. She recently returned from dancing abroad with Tuscan Dance Troupe, La Bella Vita Arts in Tuscany, Italy and is currently performing with Karen Stokes Dance. In addition to her dancing, she believes Fitness and Yoga go hand in hand. Since 2009, she has acquired several Mind/Body and Fitness certifications including: Ballet Body Barre Fusion, Bender Barre, Life Barre, Warrior Fusion, Warrior Sculpt, Fitness Pilates, Yogalates (Yoga and Pilates), Zumba Fitness and Zumba Kids. Linda currently teaches at Lifetime Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, Awakened Yoga, Sweetwater Country Club, and JCC of Houston, where her classes are in high demand and she has reached a level of “artistry.” She is grateful to be a part of this new dance journey at Hunter Dance.
Born and raised in Houston, Elizabeth “Nalley” Grossberg* grew up dancing with the Houston Ballet Academy. After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder, with her BFA in Dance, she spent one more year in Boulder obtaining her Pilates Teaching Certification with The Pilates Center of Boulder. Ready for some craziness, she moved to Manhattan and spent two action packed years performing, training, and teaching throughout the city. Portland Oregon was the next stop. While in Portland, Elizabeth taught Pilates, obtained her Master’s Certification from The Pilates Center of Boulder, and performed with Tere Mathern Dance, Oslund+Co/Dance, and tEEth. Elizabeth married the love of her life, Aaron, in 2008. They have two precious children, Arlo and Evie, who keep them awake and entertained. Elizabeth is so excited to be back in her home town dancing with Open Dance Project.
Laura Gutierrez, a graduate of the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, received a BFA in Contemporary Dance from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in 2009, where she was awarded a William R. Kenan, Jr., Performing Arts Fellowship at the Lincoln Center Institute. Since then Gutierrez has performed in museums such as The Menil Collection, Contemporary Arts Museum–Houston, the Fabric Workshop Museum in Philadelphia, and the SCAD Museum of Art, while her own choreography has been seen at Lincoln Center Institutes, Clark Studio Theatre, Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, Dance Source Houston’s The Barn, Triskelion Arts,Nicole Longnecker Gallery and Sicardi Gallery. She has been performing in works by Jonah Boaker since 2012, and in 2014 was named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch.”
Juan Jimenez started his performance career at 12 years old. He became a professional dancer at the age of 15 and has since traveled the world showcasing his talent. He competes in international breakdancing competitions and dances with a variety of performance companies. His abilities range from basic modern and ballet dance training to acrobatic discipline. He has performed with Sol y luna dance company, Vault Houston, Dance Houston, HIStory, Cirque la vie and a lot of independent contractors where he has gotten hired as a solo artist. He currently works on furthering his career by performing and demonstrating his versatility.
Firat Kazbek Özsoy was born into a family of artists and started studying ballet at Hacettepe University National Conservatory in Ankara, Turkey. He is a graduate of the Hungarian Dance Academy in Budapest Hungary. After graduating with honors he moved to the United States, danced with Delta Festival Ballet and worked with Fernando Bujones at Texas Christian University. He was invited to join the Houston Ballet where he danced for 7 years. Under the direction of Ben Stevenson and Stanton Welch he performed the roles of Ptolomy in Cleopatra, Jester in Cinderella, Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, Gopak in Nutcracker, Duet in Five Poems, Rooster in La Fille Mal Gardee, John in Peter Pan, Dr. Suess in Touched, Coyote in Tales of Texas, Pas de Cinq in Suite en Blanc, Jaguar in Fire Bird, Soloist in Ketubah, Soloist in Miraculous Mandarin. He also performed various rolls in Dracula, Sleeping Beauty, Snow Maiden, Coppelia, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Peer Gynt, Romeo and Juliet, Manon, Gloria, Second Before the Ground, The Shadow, Madame Butterfly, Divergence, Giselle, La Sylphide, Merry Widow, Etudes and Graduation Ball. In addition to teaching classical ballet, Firat is a professional audio engineer and enjoys playing guitar.
Jennifer Mabus received a BFA in dance from Southern Methodist University, and continued on to an active performing career, dancing as a founding member of Robert Battle’s Battleworks Dance Company, as well as with other New York based choreographers, such as Takehiro Ueyama, Heidi Latsky, and Amy Marshall. Regionally, she has danced with the Bruce Wood Dance Project, Wild Goose Chase, Elle Danceworks, and Ewert and Company. She counts herself fortunate to have recently performed with the exciting young companies of Recked Productions, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance and Noble Motion Dance, all based in Texas. Mabus has taught on the faculties of Texas Christian University, Interlochen Arts Academy, Booker T. Washington HSPVA, and as a graduate teaching assistant at Sam Houston State University, where received her MFA in dance in 2015. Her choreography has been presented, most notably, at Interlochen Arts Academy, University of Texas at Dallas, the DUMBO Dance festival, White Wave’s Cool NY Festival, Booker T Washington HSPVA and at Sam Houston State University. She is the 2015 Dance Artist in Residence at Rice University and is thrilled to be joining the faculty of Houston’s HSPVA.
Alisa Mittin* is originally from Buffalo, NY and an alum of the California Institute of the Arts. She has had the opportunity and pleasure to work with in depth with Atlanta artists Blake Beckham and Gregory Catellier over the past 4 years before moving to Houston. Alisa was a Dance Source Houston Artist in Residence and a 2015 recipient of the Houston Arts Alliance Individual Artist Grant. Her choreographic work has been presented in Atlanta, Buffalo, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston. In addition to dance, Alisa is a visual and multimedia artist, working collaboratively on a series of experiments.
Lauren Pastorek is a native Houstonian who has recently returned home after nearly two decades of performing as a singer/dancer/actress across the US and Canada. Lauren starred Off-Broadway in the original cast of The Marvelous Wonderettes, performed in three Broadway National Tours, was featured at the Kennedy Center in Carnival!, and performed lead roles in numerous regional houses. She also appeared in productions at NYC’s Town Hall, the Opera Company of Brooklyn, New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players, and Encores! at City Center. She was recently a guest recitalist at the National Opera Center in New York City, performing her solo concert Women on Top. Lauren was the very first grand prize winner of the prestigious Lotte Lenya Competition, now held annually by the Kurt Weill Foundation. This past year she had the honor of premiering “On this Muddy Water” as the mezzo soloist with the Houston Grand Opera, and on a slightly different note, she appeared in The Best Little…House in Texas with TUTS. Lauren is a nationally sought-after voice, dance, and musical theatre teacher. Most recently she was the Interim Artistic Director of HITS Theatre, where created and led the a cappella group, HITS Company Singers, taught musical theatre dance classes, directed several class shows, and directed The Addams Family and Legally Blonde at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Lauren has taught/directed at other performing arts programs for children, as well, including: Bring It To Broadway at Dana V. Music in Colorado; Broadway Bound Studios in Cincinnati (founding director); St. John’s School Musical Theatre Camp (founding director); Awty International School; Wildfish Theatre; and TUTS’ Humphrey’s School. Lauren also has a private vocal studio, and her students have gone on to book Broadway shows, national tours, leading roles in regional theatre houses, and more. Lauren graduated Summa cum Laude from Eastman School of Music with a Bachelors of Music and received her Masters of Music from Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Stacy Skolnik* was born in Houston, Texas; began dancing at three at Margo Marshall’s Ballet Studio in Houston. She continued on at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts where she continued to focus on dance and their different styles. Recently, Stacy graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance in May of 2014. She has studied with Lyn Wiltshire, David Justin, Holly Williams, Grace Holmes, Tina Curran, Andrea Beckham and performed works by Yacov Sharir and Charles O. Anderson. She has also peformed works by Ohad Naharin, Robert Battle, Mark Morris, Lar Lubovitch, and Andy Noble. Through out the summers, she has also studied at Point Park University’s intensive, Joffrey Contemporary/Jazz intensive in NYC, Joffrey Ballet Intensive in San Antonio, TX and the American Dance Festival. Most recently, I have been apart of Gaspard&Dancers in Durham, NC. We showcased a new work at Duke University, which led to being apart of the APAP conference held at the Lincoln Center. She is very thrilled to be working with Open Dance Project and what the future holds!
Brittany Thetford Deveau* is a founding dance and collaborator of NobleMotion Dance, where she has performed in over 20 original works. She has also performed for Recked productions, Rednerrus Feil, and independent artist Laura Harrell. Brit’s choreography has been presented by NobleMotion Dance’s Next Step Series producing emerging Houston Artists, Sam Houston State University, Dance Italia in Lucca, Italy, Lone Star College, San Jacinto College South and most recently Lamar University. Brit’s is currently an adjunct professor for Sam Houston State University and San Jacinto College South.
Mary Williams has been teaching yoga and forms of movement based upon it since 2007. She teaches playful and nurturing yoga classes rooted in the Forrest Yoga® system but also influenced by her own experiences and practice. She uses creative sequences of poses to encourage her students to develop strength, flexibility and greater body awareness. Students in her classes may expect to find a supportive environment in which they will be guided through sequences of yoga poses through visual demonstrations, verbal cues and skilled hands-on assists. They may also expect to acquire a firm foundation in alignment, breath work and modifications intended to make poses suitable to persons of all levels of experience. They will also experience seated and standing poses, breath work, inversions, balancing work and core-strengthening exercises essential to beginning, intermediate and advanced practitioners. Mary has completed the Forrest Yoga® Teacher Foundation and Advanced Teacher Trainings and continues to study with Ana Forrest, Catherine Allen, Ann Hyde along with Roger and Albina Rippy. She has also participated in trainings led by both the Sonima Foundation and Yoginos: Yoga for Youth in order to teach yoga to children and has taught in both public and private schools. She has extensively studied forms of movement in addition to yoga, including Pilates, Gyrotonic® and Gyrokinesis®, and has completed trainings with Juliu Horvath, Sebastian Plettenberg, Kathy van Patten and Amy Ell.
*Open Dance Project Company Members