Dennis has worked for the past 6 years to enhance and expand SPAC’s arts education offerings throughout the Saratoga, Adirondack, and Capital Regions. In his first 3 years as director, the program grew from reaching approximately 5,000 students annually to reaching more than 49,000. Prior to his arrival at SPAC, Dennis worked for 12 years in New York City as an AEA actor, and he performed on Broadway as well as in theatres across North America with the companies of Les Miserables, Mary Poppins, All Shook Up, and Fame. He studied theatre, music, and dance at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and he holds a BFA in Drama from NYU. As an educator, Dennis has worked for nearly two decades as a teaching artist in New York City and throughout the greater Capital Region and has developed and taught various courses in dance, theatre, and vocal performance.
Jess returns to upstate NY after spending the past 20 years in the Greater Philadelphia area as a performer and educator. She discovered her passion for the stage at a young age and has spent the rest of her life dedicated to pursuing the joy that comes from connecting with others through the arts. She has performed at Carnegie Hall under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle and has directed hundreds of students in musical theatre productions. She holds a BS in English Education from Temple University and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Delaware. Her work in education continues with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. She is honored to take on the role of Director of the SPAC School of the Arts, as it represents the intersectionality of things she is passionate about: education, equity, and the arts. She is happy to be home again and grateful to be a part of making the arts accessible to everyone.
Jillian Zygo has spent the last four years at SPAC supporting the department and helping it to expand. She is primarily responsible for Classical Kids and the SPAC Dance Residency, two of the fasting growing arts educational outreach programs in the Saratoga, Adirondack, and Capital Regions. Jill is a SUNY Geneseo graduate with a degree in Theatre and a minor in Musical Theatre. She has been a professional performer since she was sixteen years old and has toured to 49 of 50 states with Broadway shows singing, dancing, and acting. While living in NYC, she was a founding member of the Child Guardian Union on Broadway (ONCE, ANNIE, LES MIS). She then returned home to Saratoga County where she has continued teaching and nurturing the love of the Arts.
Linsey joined the SPAC team in May of 2022. She helps plan and execute educational arts programs and initiatives, such as the Festival of Young Artists and the Summer Nights at SPAC program. Linsey also facilitates a Visual Art Makerspace for various programs at SPAC School of the Arts. Linsey’s experience in arts education advocacy, teaching, nonprofit administration, and community outreach along with her passion for accessibility and inclusion led her to her role at SPAC. She holds a BS in Interdisciplinary Arts for Children from SUNY Brockport. Linsey is a talented visual artist with specialties in painting and design. She is grateful to be a part of this incredible team!
Frankie Soldevere (she/her) is an Upstate New York-based dance educator, choreographer, and scholar. She holds an MFA in Dance from SUNY Brockport and a Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Dean College where she was the 2016 recipient of the Board of Trustees Prize for the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance. Her legacy lives on at Dean as the Founder and President of Loose Screws, the Dean College Tap Team. She has performed professionally with Ryan P. Casey’s Off Beat tap company in their 2016 regional tour of “Unbound: a rhythmic romp through classic literature,” The Boston Tap Company, and Dropkick Murphys. Currently, Frankie travels nationally to set choreography, teach master classes, and adjudicate dance competitions. Frankie is thrilled to be joining the team of educators at SPAC School of the Arts!
Olivia Walton hails from California’s San Francisco Bay Area. She started her theater career at the age of 12 in a middle school production of “Hello, Dolly!” Since then, she has performed in dozens of plays and musicals in schools and community theaters. Olivia has trained in improvisational theater and comedy for almost 20 years. Her passion for ‘prov started in high school, where she had the privilege to train for four years with two extremely talented Bay Area Theatresports (BATS) coaches. She played on the University of Oregon’s improv team, Absolute Improv for four years. She has been a Pro player with Comedy Sportz in Portland, Oregon and since moving to New York, worked with Mopco Improv Theater in Schenectady in both long form and Theater Sports formats. She is thrilled to be sharing her appreciation for listening, positivity, and teamwork in improv with the students at SOTA!
Mike is a former Broadway Actor/Musician and has performed, directed, and music directed all over the country. He was an original cast member/musician of 8-time Tony Award winning “Once” on Broadway and featured on the Grammy Award-winning Cast Album. He also performed in “School of Rock” on Broadway and myriad other productions Off-Broadway, National Tours, and Regional Theaters. Mike holds a B.A. in Music from SUNY Geneseo with a focus in Classical Voice Performance. He is currently the Lead Teaching Artist for the SPAC Dance Residency which allows thousands of local elementary school kids the opportunity to experience the life-enhancing benefits of dance every year. Mike is so excited to join the team at SPAC School of the Arts and to make music with all you wonderful people! Come join us at SOTA!!
Lauren is an actor, singer, and teaching artist originally from Scottsdale, Arizona. She has performed and taught throughout the U.S. and internationally, from Argentina to Switzerland. After receiving her Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from Boston Conservatory, Lauren studied theater at L’Ecole de Comédie Musicale in Paris, France. In Paris, she performed with companies American Musical Theater LIVE! and Broadway au Carré, premiering new musical theater works in France, and taught English through theater and song to children of all ages. Since returning to the states in 2016, Lauren has directed children’s theater and performed regionally throughout the U.S. Favorite performance credits include Into the Woods, Ordinary Days, Next Thing You Know, Rock of Ages, and singing at Carnegie Hall, Feinstein’s 54 Below, and on Radio France! She is thrilled to join the team at SPAC School of the Arts, and for the opportunity to work with the young artists of this community! www.laurentaylorberkman.com
Mary Anne has been a fitness professional since 1981 with certifications through AFAA, ESA and Balletone, eventually establishing Total Body Trifecta Fitness Studio in 1997. She was a New York City Ballet Workout instructor from 2001 until the program ended in 2011. Mary Anne is the president of the Capital Region’s Dance Alliance and the founding artistic advisor of its teen outreach program MOVE Dance. Her association with the National Museum of Dance was as a longtime volunteer. Thirty-two years later she was hired as its Docent Coordinator after retiring in 2018 as a mathematics teacher in the Saratoga Springs City School District.
Nina Renkert is a student at Skidmore College working to achieve a B.S. in Theater with a double minor in Spanish and Arts Administration. From Norfolk CT originally, Nina fell in love with theater at a young age and is thrilled to continue her studies into the future. Nina loves to teach and connect with her community, and she is very excited to engage all of her passions alongside the team at SPAC School of the Arts. Nina aims to bring a sense of joy and enthusiasm to all of her work and hopes to see you at SPAC soon.
Alex is a local musician, born and raised in Saratoga Springs. He holds a B.A. in Music Industry with an emphasis on Audio Arts Production from SUNY Oneonta. After getting his degree in 2015, Alex began giving private guitar and ukulele instruction as well as managing the Saratoga Guitar Store. He went on to teach ukulele and chorus at the Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs. Currently, Alex teaches guitar and ukulele at Rural Soul Music Studio in Schuylerville. He enjoys being an active member in the music community as he continues his passion for teaching.
Born and raised in NYC. Studied at the School of American Ballet for 11 years. Joined Chicago City Ballet at 17. Joined Feld/ Ballets NY at 24. After retiring from performing, became teacher and ballet master for Feld Ballet and the affiliate school Ballet Tech. Became director of faculty for the Ballet Tech school when the company disbanded. Retired and moved to Saratoga Springs last year after 34 years with Ballet Tech.
JP Hubbs is a Queensbury native who has been fostering a passion for piano, singing, and music for years. He graduated from the State University of New York at Fredonia in 2015 where he studied piano, and participated in a variety of vocal and musical ensembles. JP stays connected with the community by accompanying local choirs and theater shows, as well as playing in a variety of bands and teaching piano lessons.
Jennifer Manino-Larrea began her life-long love of dance at the age of five. Attending private schools such as Walnut Hill and later a graduate of The HARID Conservatory. Jen has trained in various styles: ballet, jazz and modern, which gives her inspiration for each class.
Her professional career began touring for Roger & Hammerstein’s Broadway show Cinderella which took her to over 20 cities throughout the USA. She then joined the South Carolina Ballet (formally Columbia City Ballet) where she danced soloist and principle roles. After two years at SCB, she returned to NYC where she began performing with The Metropolitan Opera Ballet. During that time, she attained a bachelor’s degree from New York University. After eight seasons dancing with The Met, she began teaching for various schools in NJ & NY including The Joffrey Ballet School in NYC. She also taught for the Miami City Ballet School during her three-year residency in Florida. Upon relocating to the Saratoga area with her family in 2017, she founded Story Dance Studios and has since been teaching at numerous dance schools throughout the region.
Jen has over 15 years of teaching experience and feels so very blessed to be joining the SPAC/SOTA team. She is thrilled to be able to collaborate with such talented teaching artists and staff members, working together to bring the arts to such a diverse group of students. If she were to choose an ice cream flavor that best reflects her character, it would undoubtedly be Coffee. The flavor captures her energetic and sweet personality.
Kai found a love for dance and music at the tender age of 2, and never looked back. Growing up as a homeschooled student for most of her childhood, Kai had the freedom to explore and study various styles of dance, including contemporary, jazz, tap, hip-hop, and African dance styles. Kai discovered her love of theatre in high school, where she was enrolled in John Sayles School of Fine Arts. She got a role in her first musical, Guys and Dolls, and went on to perform in 8 different theatre and musical productions. She moved to NYC and graduated with her bachelors in Commercial Dance Studies and Communications, from Pace University in 2015. Currently, Kai is an Asst. Property Manager for a real estate development company, but she is excited to jump back into the world of creative arts, her true passion.
Dr. Deb Rutledge graduated cum laude from Ohio University, with a BFA in Dance in 2001. Deb began her professional career performing Modern dance as a soloist for many regional companies such as Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company, Maude Baum and Company Dance Theatre, Nacre Dance and Loose Change Dance Company. She began teaching dance at the age of 15 at The Dance Center of Queensbury where she taught ballet, tap and worked as a rehearsal assistant to the Artistic Director of The Adirondack Ballet Company. She went on to become a senior faculty member for eba Center for Dance, Youth Ballet Company and The School of the Arts at the National Museum of Dance. In addition, Deb worked as an Arts -in-Education curriculum development and grant writing for eba Center for Dance. In 2009, Deb received her Doctor of Physical Therapy and has worked in spinal clinics, neuro-developmental rehabilitation and gerontology in clinics and treatment centers throughout the Capital District. She completed her RYS -200 Yoga Teacher Training in June of 2016 under the tutelage of Meg Horan at Terra Firma Pure Warrior School, where she served as Anatomy and Physiology instructor from 2016-2021. In 2017, Deb received her Yin Yoga Certification under the guidance of Josh Summers.
Born and raised in Portland, Maine, Eliza Barba-Wheelock is a senior at Skidmore College, double majoring in dance and sociology. During her time as co-chair of Skidmore’s Student Dance Committee, she worked to further develop a sense of community and collaboration among students. She joined SPAC as an education intern and has found fulfillment in teaching and learning from her fellow team members. Dedicated to the transformative and therapeutic power of the arts, Eliza is a passionate advocate for equal access to arts education. Through dance she has found her voice and hopes to inspire others to speak too.
Leslie Kettlewell has always found joy in dance and is grateful to have been a professional dance educator for more than twenty years. She has taught dance in schools, studios, community organizations, at a mental health facility, nursing home, museums and libraries.
Leslie is classically trained. At 15 she studied ballet with Rosella Hightower in Canne, France. In high school, she had a scholarship with Melissa Hayden of the New York City Ballet and later, at 17, Leslie continued her training with Hayden at Skidmore College. When a student at the University of London she also studied both modern dance and ballet.
Although Leslie’s early years were devoted to an intense study of ballet, Leslie had the good fortune to experience many genres of dance while living aboard her sailboat and voyaging. When visiting the remote islands off the northern coast of Panama, she learned story dances of the native Kuna Indians, in Cartagena, Colombia, she studied salsa, cumbia, and merengue, and in South Carolina she studied African dance and performed with the Gullah Dancers.
Megan is a local Director, Performer, Artist, Educator, and Professionally Fun woman based out of Lake George NY. After receiving degrees in New Media and Theatre and Performance (with a concentration in Directing) from SUNY Purchase, she has taken her love for digital arts and experimental theatre across the creative fields, and the country. From serving as the Artist in Residence at the Billings Public Library in Montana, to acting as the Arts and Events Coordinator for the Ridgewood Event Center in Colorado, to devising immersive and site-specific performance at Historic Huguenot Street as the Arts and Interpretation Manager, she has found a way to foster creative communities wherever she can. You may also have caught her onstage at venues such as Dixon Place in NYC, or regionally at the Park Theatre, Cohoes Music Hall, Fort Salem Theatre, and Spa City. She now serves as a resident director for Saratoga Children’s Theatre, a traveling Educator for the World Awareness Children’s Museum, a performer for Historic Saratoga, and a singer/emcee for her duo act: Pat and Meg Live! She is delighted to join the School of the Arts, and the SPAC community as a whole, and cannot wait to see what we can make together!”
Jonathan Hefter has been immersed in theater for over forty years as an actor, director, producer, and instructor. He previously taught an acting class for Home Made Theater where he served as a long-time member of its Artistic Advisory Committee. Jonathan directed Home Made Theater’s productions of Inspecting Carol, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and ’night, mother. As an actor, his performance as Baruch de Spinoza in New Jerusalem was recognized with an award for Outstanding Acting by the Theater Association of New York State. Since moving back from New York City to his hometown of Saratoga Springs in 2012, select additional credits include The Complete History of America (Abridged), Pato Dooley in The Beauty Queen Of Leenane, Witness for the Prosecution(Leonard Vole), Neil Simon’s Rumors (Ken Gorman), and Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (Philip Lombard). He first appeared on the Home Made Theater stage in 1987’s On Golden Pond (Billy Ray). Select New York City credits include Off-Broadway runs of Day One and Found A Peanut, among others, and TV appearances on Saturday Night Live, Late Night With Conan O’Brien, and MTV’s hidden camera shows Damage Control and Boiling Points.