Dancers in the Spotlight

Testimonials from Our Students

Our Students in the Spotlight

“As a writer, it can be easy to spend a lot of time alone or in your head — not that these aren’t places I enjoy to be! But by dancing with a group of students of varying skill levels and backgrounds, I feel myself both challenged and more in tune with my body in ways I can carry with me all week, and sometimes into a project I’m working on. Mostly, staying active and learning new physical skills just makes me feel happy and centered.”

Juliana Roth

 “I shot up out of bed from a dead sleep, screaming from pain in my head. I spent the rest of the night awake and in a lot of pain. They scanned me and saw a lesion. I had surgery that Friday. My recovery process was six months of headaches and anguish about why my brain tumor happened. But I used it as an opportunity to rebuild better, stronger and healthier than before with a new appreciation for life.”

– Andrea Corbi Fein

“I’ve been a member for over five years now, and it’s been nice to see the program grow, especially in its variety of classes. I love everything from the more classical technique, like ballet, to the high intensity classes, like Dance Party Boot Camp — it’s amazing how much of a workout you can get in without realizing it!”

– Kirwei Lo

“Seeing that I can make it through a class and stick with it could inspire others that they certainly can do so, too. I remember my very first Zumba class after not working out for a long time. The instructor was trying to give me constructive input and all I could think was, “I can’t breathe right now…l can’t really hear you…If I don’t die before the end of class, I’ll try to do it correctly next time.” Now I can breathe and happily make it through class.

– Jo-Ann Braverman

Longtime friends and Philly Dance Fitness members Niki Shaffer and Amanda Congar have joined forces to raise money for blood cancer research through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s “Man/Woman of the Year” campaign.

– Niki Shaffer

“About a week after the shooting I went home and experienced some of the devastation firsthand. I saw it. I felt it. I visited the school, and I can’t even explain how awful it was. While I was there, I was able to do a lot of hands-on things to support the students and the community. When I returned to Philly, I started feeling helpless. I was concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to do anything to help.”

– Rebecca Salus

“If there’s ever a week I don’t make it out to a single dance class, I feel tired and down. When I get back to class, see all my friends and get some exercise, it makes me feel better in every way. Philly Dance Fitness is one of my absolute favorite things about living in Philadelphia.”

– Danielle Gray

Photo by Lani Assaf“Well, I danced for 17 years, but in 2009 I was diagnosed with MS, and in 2010, I was rendered completely paralyzed on my left side. I couldn’t walk and had to use a cane. That’s why for me, going back to dancing was so scary, because I didn’t know how my body would react.”

– Danielle Harrsch

“Being one of the few male students at Philly Dance Fitness doesn’t faze me. I’m there to dance and have a good time, and whether my fellow students are male or female doesn’t really factor in. Everyone I’ve crossed paths with has been amazing and that’s what matters.”

– Agin Thomas

“I actually didn’t set out specifically to win the dance-off challenge. To arrive at 30 classes, I just kept reminding myself that Christmas was coming. Every time I felt like I didn’t have the energy to go I forced myself because I would think, “What if someone beats me by just one class?”

– Whitney Powell 

“Never has anything been more indicative of the problem of the patriarchy than the negative connotation around the word feminism. Anything that’s pro-women people are like, “Ew, that’s ugly and gross and ridiculous.” So I try to be like, “Look, I’m not ugly or gross or ridiculous, and I think this stuff is important.”

– Joan Heider

“I moved to Guatemala toward the end of February, and I’m developing a project called Sonido del Movimiento (or Sound of Movement) that uses music and dance to help children build resiliency, engage with emotions and feel empowered. The children are 6-14 years old and live in unfavorable conditions in the Las Rosas section of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. The project is designed to counter the effects of the surrounding poverty and violence.”

– Christina Smith

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun to learn each piece. We’re all a team, and that’s one of the things I really like about Philly Dance Fitness. I’ve made so many new friends, and we have our little gang. Since a lot of us are in the same classes, I see these people two or three times a week. They see me at my worst, they see me at my best. We’re cheering for each other when we’ve gotten a step or figured out that combo, and it’s really cool.”

– Michelle Last

“I support and volunteer for Let Me Run because the organization uses the power of running and lively group activities to equip boys with tools to lead to a balanced and fulfilling life – emotionally, physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.”

Deanna Herrington

Our Instructors in the Spotlight

“I used to dance around the house when I was a little kid. My grandmother encouraged me because she used to dance professionally in New York City with a Greek tap dancing troupe. Nana was classically trained, musically inclined and loved the performing arts. She would take me to see ballet performances, especially The Nutcracker. In awe of her beautiful, kind aura and all the professional ballerinas I’d seen, I started taking classes at age five.”

– Lee-Ann Barber, Jazz, Tap

“I love when people tell me it’s their first time taking dance class! I found my passion for dancing later in life and I believe that it’s really important as we get older to keep moving; especially if we’re sitting at a desk for eight hours a day. It’s never too late to start. If people tell me they are uncoordinated, it’s totally fine. I promise that no one is judging you!”

– Marianna Hunter, Zumba

“I continued dancing ballet and jazz while studying molecular genetics at Temple University. After graduating, I was accepted into the Corps de Ballet at Philadelphia Civic Ballet Company. By day, I worked as a research scientist. At night and on weekends, I rehearsed and continued studying dance at the University of the Arts and Koresh as well as with various ballet instructors in Philadelphia. I was also the choreographer and lead model for the biggest modeling production company in the tri-state area – I did hundreds of fashion shows over a 20 year period.”

– Beverly Holskin, Ballet, JazzTech & BalletEXTREME

“I choreograph when I’m asked to but I like teaching more than choreography because I feel like there is something more to gain from information about dance than just a combination of moves. I want students to walk away with knowledge so they can dance for themselves the same way someone would want to learn a language and be able to hold a conversation on their own.”

– Ricky Evans, Hip Hop

“Originally, I was a hip-hop dancer, and about eight years ago I got into burlesque and go-go. It’s a long story involving a whipped cream bikini dance contest and a now-closed lesbian bar. The rest is history.”

– Timaree Schmit, Dance Party Boot Camp & Cardio Pop

“To me, it’s most important to create an atmosphere where the dancers feel comfortable and don’t worry about what they’re doing. “Figuring out the room” is essential to my teaching style. It’s not just about the steps — I need to understand what each person is trying to get out of the experience. Some people are there to have a good time, some are there to really improve and others are there to forget about everything else for an hour.”

– Pam Hetherington

“When I moved to California for college at Cal Poly Pomona, I wanted to join a Bhangra team, but the school didn’t have one. I thought, “How could you not have one?!” Through a mutual friend, I met a guy named Jacky who also really wanted to dance Bhangra, so we decided to create our own team. Jacky and I danced together for years and then went our separate ways after college. After a few years we reconnected and ended up getting married — dance really did bring us together!”

– Deeksha Seth (and Teena Varghese), BollyX

“Over the past almost four years at Philly Dance Fitness, I’ve taught Cardio Pop, Dance Party Boot Camp, the annual Beyoncé workshops and occasional Frisky Friday striptease dance parties. I love that I can combine all kinds of music genres and fitness moves to create something different each time I teach at Philly Dance Fitness. Some weeks I say, “Let’s work on our core,” or, “Let’s go across the floor and do spider walks.” Another week I’ll say, “We’re going to do a boot camp circuit and also incorporate Beyoncé, hip-hop and Zumba.”

– Michelle Krichilsky, Dance Party Bootcamp & Cardio Pop

“I’ve been dancing since I could walk. I did all styles growing up: jazz, tap, ballet, and hip-hop. In High School, one of my dance teachers, who was also the director of a Bollywood Company, invited me to perform and tour with them. I was featured on Good Day LA, which was a super fun experience! When I went to college at UC Santa Barbara, I found myself more focused on hip hop. I really enjoyed it, so I decided to explore it more fully and joined a hip hop dance group there.”

-Jody Thigpen, Hip-Hop