Linda has served as Artistic Director of The Dance Connection since it’s opening in 1959. A former professional entertainer; Linda has trained extensively in New York City at American Ballet Theatre, Farnsworth & Howard School, Luigis Dance Center, Broadway Dance Center, with Charles Kelly, Frank Hatchet, Bob Audey, Don Farnsworth, & with June Taylor as a June Taylor Dancer. She is Certified by both Dance Masters of America & Dance Educators of America, where she has served as President of NYC Chapter 26 for Dance Masters & was National President for Dance Educators of America. In addition she is a proud member of I.D.E.A., an organization of Dance Teachers dedicated to excellence in Dance Education.Her love & way with children have made our children’s program, at the Dance Studio something people rave about. Her students can be seen on Broadway, television, cruise ships, commercials, teaching at Universities, & on faculty across the US. Linda has judged for many National Dance Competitions, taught Master Dance Classes and has filmed for the Lifetime Series Dance Moms.Her students & Choreography are consistent Regional & National High Score Winners.
Sandee began her training at age 2 with The Dance Connection, & later studied at Broadway Dance Center, Luigis Dance Center, with Charles Kelly, Frank Hatchet, Gus Giordano, Rhee Gold, Rennie Gold, David Howard, Judy Ann Bassing, to name a few. She has choreographed commercials & music videos for Cap’n Crunch Cerial, Kenner Toys, Proctor and Gamble, Quaker Oates, Crest Toothpaste, & Yale New Haven Hospital. She has staged works for The New Haven Ballet Ensemble, The US Dance Sport Team, Inc. and numerous schools across the U.S. & Mexico. Sandee has taught & judged for major dance organizations across the US, Canada, Mexico, & Costa Rica. Her Students are Nationally & Internationally recognized champions, & can be seen on Broadway, TV, Commercials, & Teaching on faculties throughout the U.S.. She has received more than 500 choreography awards from every major dance organization, including The Grishko Award for Ballet/ Lyric Choreography, The Capezio Award for Tap choreography, & The Marcea Award for jazz choreography. She was named CT’s Woman of the year 2006, & has been the recipient of Choreographer of the Year, & Teacher of The Year numerous times between 2007 & 2018.
Artistic & Creative Directors of
The Dance Connection
Proud Members of:
Ms. Leopold serves as Ballet Mistress at The Dance Connection. In addition to over two decades of Teaching in University, College, & School settings, Ms. Leopold has performed & choreographed in various venues throughout the country, and served as Artistic Director & Resident Choreographer for the Athens Ballet Theatre. Nationally, she has served on the Board of Directors for the American College dance Festival Association and, locally, for the Pennsylvania Youth Theatre. Ms. Leopold has received numerous awards, including the University Award for Superior Teaching from the University of Georgia, Meritorious Achievement Awards for Choreography from the American college Theatre Festival, the Lehigh Valley Dance Forum Distinguished Service to the Community Award, and has been listed in Who’s Who in the Southeast the World Who’s Who of Women. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in both Dance & Political Science from Mary Washington College and a Masters of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Oklahoma.
Joanne Whitehill became Artistic Director of Burklyn Ballet Theatre in 2003 after a professional performing career with Vermont Ballet Theatre, Allegro Dance Theatre, Nevada Dance Theatre, Oregon Ballet Theatre and as a guest Artist with New England Ballet Company and as a soloist with The Scottish American Ballet.
Originally from Connecticut, Ms. Whitehill trained extensively at Connecticut Ballet and New Haven Ballet and holds a B.S degree in Elementary Education and a minor in dance from Southern Connecticut State University. She spent her summers training at Burklyn Ballet Theatre and before becoming Artistic Director, held the positions of core ballet teacher and choreographer, director of dormitory life and director of the Intermediate Program. Her interest and inspiration for choreography was ignited during her summers at
Burklyn Ballet. Midnight Blue, received critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, and her co-choreography for Cinderella and the Flower Fairies was recipient of The Scotman’s Readers’ Choice Award for “Best Dance and Physical Theatre” on the Fringe.
As an instructor, she has been on the faculties of New Haven Ballet, New England Ballet, Vermont Ballet Theatre, Allegro Dance Theatre, European Dance Academy, the Dance Connection, and Oregon Ballet Theatre. Ms. Whitehill has conducted master classes across the country including at the 2017 Northeast Region Conference of the American College Dance Association, the Connecticut Classic, Artistic Dance, Inc’s Raising the Barre Competition and the Rhapsody Performing Arts Center’s company auditions. She is former board member of the Connecticut Dance Alliance, vice president and artistic advisor of New England Ballet Company and is a member of the dance advisory panel of the County College of Morris in Randolph, New Jersey.
Melissa has been dancing with The Dance Connection since she was 3. She holds numerous Regional & National Titles from such organizations as: Headliners, Fire & Ice, Dance Ovations, On Stage America, C.I.S.C., Dance Educators of America, DanceXplosion, to name a few as well as numerous Dance Scholarships. She has performed in Bring it to The Floor 1, 2, & 3 at Foxwoods Hotel & Casino as part of The United States Dance Sport Team.She traveled to Riesa Germany for several times as a member of the United States Dance Sport Team where she competed at The World Show Dance Championships; the Olympics of Dance,& received a Gold, 2 Silver & a Bronze Medal from the prestigious I.D.O. event, which attracts more than 3,000.00 dancers from over 30 countries around the globe. Melissa enjoys teaching all levels of Dance, but has a soft spot for the little ones. Her SmallFry Class won Overalls for both thier Tap & Jazz routine this year both Regionally and Nationally, where they were asked to perform as special Guest at The Gala! She was personally requested by Lucille DeCampli to join MSA Agency in NYC. She has taught Dance at The Manhattan High School for girls in NYC and has been a Guest Faculty member for several studios around the Country.
Mr. Spielberger was trained at the Ballet Academy Munich, Heinz – Bosl Foundation. He danced with the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin and performed as a Soloist with the Miami City Ballet under the direction of Edward Villella. He has danced at the Kennedy Center, the Music Center/L.A, New York City Center and throughout Europe, China and Russia, performing works by Maurice Bejart, Roland Petit, George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, William Forsythe, John Neumeier, Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, Jiri Kilian, Nacho Duato, Edward Villella, Patrice Bart, Mark Baldwin, Peter Martins, and others. Since his retirement, he has taught at schools in Japan, Germany, France, Austria and ballet companies throughout the United States and Germany.
Mr. Spielberger is also a noted choreographer. He has choreographed works for Miami City Ballet among others. His ballet Sanctuary won the Prix Noveau at the American Ballet Competition in 2009.
Melissa Klein Yarnell grew up as a competitive dancer in New Jersey under the guidance of Dawn Laviola Schaub. Competitive accolades included twelve dance titles, including National Miss Headliners, National Jr. Miss Starpower and DMA NYC’s Miss Dance.
Melissa continued her training studying throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. At fifteen she was honored to be chosen as an assistant to the legendary Frank Hatchett. She received scholarships to LA’s The Edge Performing Arts Center, NY’s Steps on Broadway and the then famous Gus Giordano Dance Center in Chicago.
Ms. Yarnall holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Point Park University in Pittsburg. During her college summer years, she performed in the “Kids of the Kingdom” show at Walt Disney World and as a back up dancer with the group NSYNC at Universal Studios in Orlando. She was a dancer in three nationally syndicated commercials. Melissa’s theatrical credits include the 2000 National Tour of “Guys and Dolls” and regional theater performances of “Annie Get Your Gun”, “Damn Yankees”, The Little Mermaid” and
“Swing”. She is a former competitive ballroom dancer and a certified yoga instructor. Melissa loves teaching and choreographing for young dancers! She has been awarded for Choreographic Excellence at American Dance Awards, Headliners, International Dance
Challenge and Dance Ovations.
Jonathan Grew up as a competitive Dancer in New York, studying Hip Hop, Break Dance, Tap, Jazz, Musical Theatre, Lyrical and Contemporary, with Starlite School of Dance & Michelle Ferraro's Dance USA, and later trained extensively at Broadway Dance Center, Peridance Capezio Center & Ripley Grier Studios. He has worked with such choreographers as Megz Alfonso, Deshawn Hawthorne, Marty Kudelka and Chris Jones to name a few.
Performance experience includes World of Dance, Monsters of Hip Hop, Royal Thieves Hip Hop Company , Gigi Torres E.Y.E., Choreographer's Carnival L.A..
Jonathan has been teaching at studios in New York and CT for the past 10 years, and enjoys inspiring his students to reach their truest potential. In addition to teaching Jonathan is an accomplished young rapper, singer/songwriter representing the Tri-State area. Dedicated to improving the music culture and breathing new life to the genre, while still homaging the greats and the sounds of the right now. A.G.E. Against General Expectations.
We are very excited to welcome back Sherry to our Faculty. A definite favorite on our staff, Sherry has a warm loving disposition, allowing each pupil to feel confident and secure, making them able to grow at their own individual pace. Sherry has taught many levels and ages for us over the years. In addition to her teaching skills she is an accomplished dancer/ and competitor. She has extensive training in all dance arts and has studied with such Master Teachers as Charles Kelley, Frank Hatchet, Luigi, , at Broadway Dance Center, Steps and Farnsworth and Hauer school in NYC, and online with CLI Studios which connects teachers with LA's top Teachers and Choreographers.
Sherry continues to study to bring the latest techniques from the dance world to her students.
A second generation TDCEH Alumni, Abby has always possessed a passion for children and choreography. She has extensive training in all genres of dance and loves the spirit and spunk of our youngest dancers.Abby has had the honor of competing as part of TDCEH's Award winning Dance Company, and holds numerous National Titles as well as Ranking 3rd and Winning the Bronze Medal at The World Showdance Championships in Reisa Germany.
Abby is currently attending Albertus Magnus College, as well as continuing her dance studies through CLI Studios. In addition to dance Abby is a budding Photographer. She is very excited to share her love of dance with our Mommy & Me and Terrific toddler Classes.
Lili “Bloom” St.Amand has been teaching Hip Hop since she was sixteen! She found her love for Hip Hop when she was six years old. She believes in spreading her love and knowledge for Hip Hop through her teaching and is always eager to teach the next generation so Hip Hop can stay alive.
Lili has participated in countless battles. In May 2017 Lili had won World Of Dance New Jersey Head Bangerz Brawl. She was asked to come back in 2018 to judge the battle and preform on the World of Dance stage. She has also participated in Breakdancing Shakespeare on Hartford Stage. In 2015 Lili did The production Hamlet with them and in 2016 she did Romeo and Juliet. Three years later she came back to Hartford Stage to be the assistant choreographer for A Midsummer Nights Dream. Through the summer of 2019 she also did countless street performances with Hartford Live, this is a program the Greater Hartford Arts Council created to bring lively performances to light the streets of Hartford with art.
Her latest accomplishments include receiving the Jumpstart Award from the CT Dance Alliance, Play House on Parks Shakespeare Festival, Smooth Rhythm Dance Company Assistant Director/Choreographer,Judy Dworin Performance Project "Moving Matters", Hartford Stage, Kingswood Oxford Choreographers Showcase, to name a few.
Lili is always striving to give her students the best education possible and is excited to help create the worlds next artists.
Alicia has had the privilege of kicking up her heels at Madison Square Garden as a member of The Knicks City Dancers for more than 6 years. During that time she had the opportunity to perform with and for many Celbrities including Alicia Keys, Derrick Huff, Debbie Gibson and Celine Dion to name a few. She has an extensive background in all dance styles, having had the opportunity to train with some of the countries top teachers and choreographers including Brian Friedman, Tyce Diori, Frank Hatchet, Lenny Juliano, Cheryl La Mura, and more.A nationally ranked Dancer, Gymnast and Cheerleader, Alicia has performed with Various ballet and Theatre companies in regional productions. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Dean College, where she was on the dance Team and Step Team, and a Bachelor of Science, Political Science and Government from Southern CT State University. She is excited to work with the next generation of dancers.
For the past 20 years, Christopher Erk has traveled the world as a professional tap dance performer, teacher, choreographer and community program developer. Most recently he has toured with Tap Dogs, Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox, and was a featured Artist in Las Vegas' number one show Absinthe at Caesar' Palace. His production company the Tap Factor emphasizes the global implications of Tap Dance through all-inclusive workshops and performance opportunities. The Tap Factor's two original productions, Tap in the Night and Feet Speak, have recently debuted on Forbes' top two reigning luxury cruise ships in the world, Hapag Lloyd's MS Europa and MS Europa 2. Christopher's newest project, Dark Stepp challenges his more traditional approach to tap dance with new sounds and interactive projected imagery.
As a professional dancer, singer, and actress, Alexa performed in a variety of regional theatre, television, and film productions in the United States and Europe. Alexa is a proud member of the theatrical unions Actors’ Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA. Her credits include: The role of “Helene” in a touring company of “Sweet Charity,” “Singin’ in the Rain” (Tour), “Sugar Babies” (Regional), “My One and Only”(Regional), “The Runner Stumbles” (NYC), “The Matchmaker” (NYC), and the soap opera “Days of Our Lives.” Alexa was honored to play “Mae Jones” in the historic Italian premiere of the opera “Street Scene” at Teatro Regio Torino in Italy.
She is the author of two well-received audio books on yoga, “Illumine” and “Yoga Breakthrough,” and has been featured as a leading expert on Fitness and Wellness both online and on television.
She holds a degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Exercise Science and multiple certifications in fitness and wellness including American College of Sports Medicine and Yoga Alliance. As a youth, she studied ballet at the Connecticut Ballet (New Haven). She continued her professional dance training in Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary, Tap, and Musical Theatre at Steps on Broadway (NYC), and Broadway Dance Center (NYC). Alexa studied acting at The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York.
Her approach as an instructor is to lead and inspire students to live passionately, work hard, and follow their dreams!
Emily has been a long standing student at TDCEH, and has trained in all genres of Dance. A Regional, National and World Champion Dancer, Emily brings a vast Knowledge to her classes and students. In addition , Emily's Talents earned her the role of Team Captain for The UCONN Huskies Dance Team , having the opportunity to Dance and Perform in front of Thousands of Fans during Half Time Shows as UCONN'S famed Women's, and Men's Basket Ball Teams took to the courts, as well as UCONN's other Nationally ranked Sport Teams. In addition to Dance, Emily has studied Theatre and performed with many Theatre Groups and productions around the state, including The Schubert Theatre and Elm City Shakespeare in the Park. Emily is very excited to share her love of Dance , and performing with her students.
Currently you can find Tyler "Kicking Up His Heals" nightly on Broadway in Disney's Aladdin. Other Credits include World Premieres of The Sting, and The Royal Family of Broadway, Mama Mia, The Pajama Game, Beauty and The Beast, West Side Story,Cats , A Chorus Line, and more. A proud TDCEH Alumni, Tyler holds Regional, National and International Titles. Tyler is represented by Lucille DiCampli Artist Representation. We are always excited to have Tyler home to visit and share his wealth of knowledge with the next generation.
Shawn is a proud TDCEH Alumni who is currently a member of the famed Paul Taylor Dance Company Performing along side some of the best and most respected Dance Artists around. Prior to joining the Paul Taylor Dance Company, Shawn toured the world as a member of Parsons Dance.Shawn has performed on The Stage at Lincoln Center, The Joyce theatre and some of the biggest venues around the globe. Shawn, a proud TDCEH Alumni holds many Regional, National and International Titles, as well as appearing on So You Think You Can Dance, as well as performing works by Matthew Powell . Shawn loves returning home and sharing his passion with our students.
TDC strives to expose our dancers to the best working Artists in the business & often brings them in to give Master Classes. Some of our past Guest Artists include: Mia Michaels, Anton Lapidus, Billy Griffon, Sheila Barker,Shondra Lee Gold, Shamika Ben, Mike Minery, Anthony LoCasio, Alicia Monoco, Raymond Luken's, Jamie Salomen, Tim Fournier, Carlynn Laurie, Nicole Cavalloro, Ashley Hunter, Ashle Dawson, Dee Tomasetta, Robb Gibbs, Adrienne Reed, Tyler Roberts, Shawn Lesniak, Michael Knight, Edward Spots, Cochise Qinones and Julie Vigilante.