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Our Faculty

Our faculty is very important to us. We hire the best instructors in the area. They go through a rigorous interview/audition process. Our faculty is largly why Virtuoso Performing Arts is a superior service compared to others!

Faculty

Click a name below to read more about the instructor.

Carrie Bohlmann (Polack), Co-owner/Dance Instructor

Color 8519 1Carrie Bohlmann (formerly Polack) has worked professionally in the industry for nearly 25 years. She started her dance training in Wisconsin, with Dance Instructors, Mary Cummings and Kellie Plath from age five. She continued her training at Oklahoma City University’s Dance Performance Program and finally earned her BFA degree in Dance Performance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she worked with with artists such as Janet Lilly, Andre Tyson and the late, great Ed Burgess. After graduating, Carrie moved to Chicago and began her career as an instructor of ballet, tap, jazz and modern dance. She had the opportunity of teaching and learning the craft of the business under Jenny Campbell at Jenny’s Dance Centre for two years. Around that time Carrie also began her health and fitness career as a certified Personal Fitness Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor. She discovered fitness was a great love of hers. After training clients for a few years, decided to put that on hold to open a performing arts school with her sisters, Annie and Margaret. She is proud and thankful to be sharing the realization of her childhood dream with her sisters as the co-owners of Virtuoso Performing Arts. Since opening VPA back in 2003, Carrie continues to teach dance and manage/build the studio. Additionally, she has recently decided to again pursue the fitness avenue she started years ago and became certified as a Holistic Wellness Coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She uses this knowledge daily with her students. Recently Carrie has created and directs the VPA Dance Company.

Q & A with Carrie

Favorite food: Scrambled Eggs and Veggies

Favorite color: Green                                                  

Favorite animal: Dog

Performance advice: If you have done the hard work, trained and rehearsed consistently, you will be able to let go and enjoy on stage and the technique will be second nature.

Favorite dance company: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Favorite dance genre: contemporary or modern

Interesting fact about me: I'm a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Holistic Wellness Coach

Favorite quote: There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others. --Martha Graham

What I like about teaching: Seeing students' eyes light up when they finally get a skill they've been working on for a while.

Teaching method: I’m kind of a “no nonsense” type of teacher. I don’t put up with negative attitudes and I try to push good classroom etiquette. Back in the day I used to be less positive and I learned over the years that positive reinforcement is extremely powerful, so I try to use that as much as possible. I believe every class needs to have laughter. It’s all about balance.

Annie Conway (Polack), Co-owner/Dance Instructor

Annie ConwayAnnie Polack has been dancing for over 33 years. She received her early training from Accent on Dance Studios in Waukesha WI and later went on to earn her BFA in Dance Performance from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Throughout her career, Annie has enjoyed working in both commercial and concert dance. Upon moving to Chicago, she apprenticed with River North Chicago Dance Company and performed in Thodos Dance Chicago New Dances. Her most recent choreography earned her the title “Best Choreography” from various regional dance competitions. Annie feels very fortunate to be able to work alongside her two sisters every day since opening VPA in 2003.

Margaret Thompson (Polack), Co-owner/Dance Instructor

Margaret ThompsonMargaret has been dancing for over 32 years and has had the pleasure of teaching dance for the past 23 years. Margaret began her dance training at a young age and continued through high school at Accent On Dance Studios. She later attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas where she studied with some of the top teachers and choreographers in the industry and ultimately earned her BFA in Dance Performance. Immediately following graduation, Margaret moved to Chicago to pursue her childhood dream in opening a studio with her sisters. Margaret is thrilled that she has been able to run VPA alongside her 2 sisters since 2004. She is inspired every day by the Students, Parents and Faculty of VPA.

Claudia Blancas

Claudia HeadshotClaudia Blancas has been in the performing arts industry for over 17 years. At the age of 17, Claudia began her career as a model. You may remember seeing her in print ads like McDonald’s, Walgreens and Mario Tricoci to name a few. She continued to grow her craft by working at a Modeling & Talent School (14 years), she earned her degree in Fashion Design, and has also obtained her Esthetics License. She currently works at a Talent Company and with fashion photographers as a stylist. Claudia has now joined the VPA family to help others in achieving their dreams. She loves what she does!

Q & A

What is your favorite food?
Spingione Pizza from Renaldi’s

What is your favorite movie?
Slumdog Millionaire

 

What is your favorite moment from your life?
My favorite moments were growing up and going on our yearly family road trips to Mexico. We covered 4 states and most of Mexico in 3 days. We all had such an amazing time and made so many memories.

What is your hobby?
Painting with music on

Who is your favorite performing artist and why?
My favorite artist is Oprah Winfrey, tv mogul and actress. She has not only donated to numerous charities but has also founded the Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, to provide educational and leadership opportunities for academically gifted girls from impoverished backgrounds in South Africa.

What is your favorite quote?
I am not afraid. I was born to do this. – Joan of Arc

Melissa Bravo

Melissas HeadshotMelissa has been training in dance for over 20 years. She grew up studying the styles of Hip Hop, Ballet, Pointe, Lyrical, Modern, Contemporary, Musical Theatre, Tap, Jazz, Poms & Tumbling at various local studios throughout Chicagoland. At 10 years, she realized her passion for teaching dance when she became a teaching assistant. From that point on, she's worked hard, learning from instructors at studios, camps, conventions & master classes, to bring knowledge to her peers & students. She's joined several dance companies in Chicago performing, choreographing and competing at FACT, MAFA, Intercollegiate Urban Dance Competition, Urbanite, Carnival Choreographer's Ball, Masterpiece Dance Competition, Prelude Midwest & World of Dance Chicago. CurrentlyMelissa dances with Ascension Performing Arts, The Dream Team & The Puzzle Leage (2016 WOD Orlando Champions).

Sabriah Floberg, Dance

Sabriah Headshot

Sabriah has been dancing for 14 years and has had the privilege to train under the instruction of many professional dancers and choreographers. Her love for dance really grew when she started training at Virtuoso Performing Arts the summer of 2004 under instruction of Carrie Bohlmann, Annie Conway, and Margaret Thompson. These three sisters inspired Sabriah to pursue dance as a professional career, and have impacted her more than they will ever know. She trained as a student at VPA for 7 years and went through the apprenticeship program. In the 3 years of apprenticing that she did, she received invaluable training that she still carries with her eve now as a full-time dance teacher.

After graduating High School, Sabriah was a principal dancer in a professional Latin/Contemporary Company called Rodriguez Dance Theater. The following year, Sabriah attended Illinois State University where she was trained by the incredible faculty as well as two guest artists, including Joanna Rosenthall (Artistic Director of Same Planet Different World – Chicago, IL) and Julie Tice (former Paul Taylor company member – New York, IL). In Fall 2012 through Spring 2013, Sabriah taught with City Dance Peoria, a non-profit, dedicated to changing lives through dance and arts mentorship. 

Sabriah’s passion for working with children, learning, growing, and deepening her relationship with friends and her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, motivates her to live each day with a joyful and thankful heart. She feels extremely privileged to be part of VPA's amazing faculty, and loves discovering daily what it looks like to be dance teacher, wife, and now "mommy."

Marlene Flood, Voice and Theater

Marlene Flood

Marlene Flood is an Equity Actress and Singer in Chicago.  Marlene’s regional theatre credits include:  Dialogues Of The Carmelites (Lyric Opera of Chicago);  PassionThe Taming Of The Shrew, and Sunday In The Park With George (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre);  “Fosca“ in  Passion (Jeff Citation Award--Best Actress , Porchlight Music Theatre); “Raffaela” in Grand Hotel , and “Aldonza” in Man Of La Mancha  (Theatre At The Center); and “Emma Goldman” in Ragtime, and “Sister Sophia” in Sound Of Music (Light Opera Works).

She has also performed for Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre, Court Theatre,  Northlight Theatre, Pheasant Run Theatre, National Jewish Theatre, Candlelight Dinner Theatre, and Peninsula Players Theatre in Door County, Wisconsin.   Other favorite roles include: “Eva Peron”, Evita; “Fanny Brice”, Funny Girl; “Lady Thiang”, The King and I; “Agnes”, I Do, I Do, “Emma Goldman”, Tintypes; and “Annie Sullivan” in The Miracle Worker.  Marlene also created the original character roles for the “American Girl” musicals, The American Girls Revue and Circle Of Friends; and sang with the show’s lyricist, Gretchen Cryer, to record the CD’s for both shows.

Marlene has taught “Babes on Broadway”, “Creative Acting”, and “Musical Theatre Scenes” Classes for “Northbrook Theatre”, and has been one of the Drama Directors for their “Summer Camp” for the last seven summers.  She has taught Musical Theatre Classes at “Metropolis Performing Arts Center” , and has also taught Musical Theatre Workshops and Classes for their Outreach Program.  She is the Alto Soloist for “Bethany Union Church“, where she also conducts the Youth Choir.  Marlene has also directed Theatre Productions for the Church, such as The Diary of Anne Frank and You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.

At Virtuoso Performing Arts, Marlene has taught Workshops in Voice and Voice-Over, and Character Movement, and Classes in Acting. She currently teaches Private Voice Lessons for Virtuoso, where she also Co-Directs their Summer Musical Theatre Productions, such as “Beauty and The Beast” and “The Wizard of Oz”, “The Little Mermaid“, and “Peter Pan” this past Summer.  

Marlene holds a Bachelor Degree in Arts: Theatre Performance; a Bachelor Degree in Music: Vocal Performance; and a Masters Degree in Music: Vocal Performance.

Q & A with Marlene

Currently resides: Chicago, IL

Favorite food: Caramel Ice Cream

Favorite color: Purple                                                  

Favorite animal: Dolphin

Favorite moment: Standing backstage on Opening Night of “Funny Girl” listening to the Overture, realizing that my childhood dream of playing “Fannie Brice” had just come true!!

Performance advice: “Don’t force your body to do what it already knows! Be focused, but relaxed, so Grace can enter the skill!” ~Liang Chow

Favorite singer and why: Barbra Streisand! Because she transports the emotions and the story of her songs through her seamless voice with effortless and invisible technique!      

Favorite musical genre to sing: Musical Theatre and Musical Standards! But, I also love certain Art Songs and Arias. Vocal music that lends itself to storytelling interpretation, unique to the singer!

Interesting fact about me: The beauty, inspiration, and passion that comes from music can carry me through any moment that may be difficult for me.         

Favorite quote: "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be touched, but are felt with the heart!”~Helen Keller

What I like about teaching: Being constantly rewarded by my students when I see their inspirations shining through them into their singing! Also, it is so very true, that if you become a teacher, by your pupils, you’ll be taught! I learn from them every single day!

Most difficult skill to teach to beginning singers: Breathing correctly from their diaphragm and naturally opening up to prepare for the entire phrase of the music.       

Most difficult skill to teach to more advanced singers: To phrase the music with the lyrics leading, as if it’s dialogue on pitch; and keeping the vowels in the words placed and focused while carrying the line of the music through the entire sentence.

Best advice for your students: Sing from your heart with passion and fearlessness to tell your story of the song!

In Addition: I believe that one of the best gifts I can give my students is self~confidence to help them realize their dreams and believe in themselves enough to make their dreams come true!

Irina Goldman

Irina Smaller

Irina hails from Deerfield, IL and began her early training in the Chicago area. She went on to further her studies at the Giordano Dance Chicago and Visceral Dance Chicago scholarship programs.

Irina earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts with concentrations in Performance and Choreography from the University of Iowa with Highest Honors. While at UI, she had the pleasure of performing in many faculty concerts and toured as a member of the UI Dancers in Company. Her great passion for choreography was showcased in multiple UI performances, culminating in her own full-length show “Kaleidoscopic Memoirs”, in which she acted as the choreographer and producer.

Upon graduation, Irina moved to Chicago where she had the opportunity to perform works by Rebecca McLindon, Mary Tisa, Laura Thurston, and Kate Vandivier as part of Still Inspired. She also danced with Chicago Repertory Ballet, where she performed works by Tenley Dorrill and Wade Schaaf. Irina currently dances with Dance in the Parks and Inaside Chicago Dance.

Gail Mangurten, Piano

Color 8220 1Gail graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Music Education. She was Musical Director at Tuxedo Junction and has taught at the Junior High and High School levels. Currently, Gail is a member of the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band and the College of Dupage Jazz Ensemble. She has performed at Carnegie Hall and toured Western Europe.

Beth Ann Melnick, Office Mgr & Musical Theater Instructor

Bethies Headshot OriginalBeth Ann Melnick graduated from Millikin University in 2013 with a BA Theatre degree and a dance minor. She began her serious endeavor into the arts at Virtuoso Performing Arts over 10 years ago. Since then she has trained, performed and stage managed at Virtuoso Performing Arts as well as at Millikin University and various places in the community.

Evan Pinter, Guitar

9061Dsc 8343 50 1Known as an experienced and versatile performer, Evan Pinter has had the opportunity to play with some of Chicago's finest musicians. Evan looks to make any project the best experience possible by using his wide array of musical abilities. With an extensive vocabulary in multiple styles of popular music, he can often be seen playing from jazz to rock, and funk to blues in any given day. Although he completed his degree in Jazz Studies at Columbia College, Evan is able to employ his vast arsenal of musical tools to any genre. Being both a talented front and side man, he regularly takes from the books of Larry Carlton, Nile Rodgers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Brent Mason (just to name a few). Currently, Evan plays guitar for numerous projects including the widely regarded Bluewater Kings Band, and is also on the faculty for Virtuoso Performing Arts. As a guitarist that stands out in a sea of many others, this up-and-coming performer will surely be one to keep an ear out for.

Matt Pumanes, Guest Choreographer

Matt Pumanes Headshot OriginalMatt has trained in jazz, lyrical, modern, jazz funk, contemporary, and hip hop for approximately 15 years. Currently, he's an active member/artist director of Chicago's own "Puzzle League" and "Work in Progress" and is a new member of CODA. Choreography credits include: Niles West Orchesis, Niles West Poms, Niles North Auroris, CODA, Vicious, Hip Hop International, Nonstop Dance Productions, FIA Modern, Sweet 16, Fanny Pak, ABDC (America's Best Dance Crew) Tour, and Mischeif Makers. Matt has also won numerous awards and scholarships for dance conventions such as Urban Jamm and classes from Debbie Reynolds and Millennium Dance Complex.

Kristina Saldarelli, Dance

Kristina SaldarelliKristina Saldarelli grew up dancing and making rhythm in the suburbs of Chicago. She broadened her artistic education by attending University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, earning a BA in Theatre Arts: Dance. She received her MA in Communication, Media, and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. Kristina has been an active performer, dance/arts educator, and choreographer for over 15 years. Her work has been adjudicated at the American College Dance Festival, produced in concert venues and ranked highly in national youth competitions. Kristina joined the professional, Chicago-based dance company, JUMP RHYTHM Jazz Project in 2005 and became a company member in 2008. She received an Emmy Award as “Outstanding Achievement for Individual Excellence On Camera: Performer” for her work in the multiple-Emmy-Award-winning documentary Jump Rhythm Jazz Project: Getting There, produced by HMS Media and aired on PBS. She had the privilege of performing at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as a part of JUBA!: Masters of Tap and Percussive Dance. Periodically, she serves as an adjunct lecturer at Northwestern University in the Dance Department. 

Erin Spain, Tumbling


Color 8213 1Erin Spain resides in Chicago with her husband and 12-year-old son. She started tumbling when she was 4 years old. She began to help her coach teach classes at The Dance Theatre of Elgin at age 11. She continued assisting and teaching there until she was 18. For the past 8 years she has been teaching private/semi-private lessons in the park ridge area. The VPA Owners noticed that some of the VPA dance students were exceptionally well trained tumblers, they found out they were trained by Ms. Erin. Since then VPA has hired her on to teach tumbling for their brand new tumbling program. VPA is very excited to have such a talented gymnast and coach on staff!

Rebecca Sparks, Dance

Close HsRebecca Sparks (Lima, Peru) began her training in Dayton, Ohio, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance from Wright State University. During her college years she was a member of Dayton Contemporary Dance Second Company (DCDC2), and spent her senior year as an apprentice for the main company, DCDC. Upon graduating, she danced with DCDC for seven years, under the direction of Kevin Ward and subsequently Debbie Blunden-Diggs. At DCDC, she had the honor to work with acclaimed choreographers Donald Byrd, Ronald K. Brown, Rennie Harris, Eleo Pomare and Dianne McIntyre, among others. Additionally, she was the recipient of the Josie Award for Outstanding Female Dancer of the Year in 2012. Rebecca has also performed with MamLuft and Co. Dance based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. She has taught throughout the Dayton area and served as director for DCDC2 last year. She is beyond excited to make Chicago her home and be teaching at Virtuoso Performing Arts. 

Laura Thurston, Dance

Laura HeadshotLaura Thurston studied dance at Northern Dance Theatre of Northern Illinois University and at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago where she graduated with a BA in Dance Performance. She began performing professionally in 2004 and has performed with Chicago Dance Crash, Corpo Dance Company, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, and Piel Morena Contemporary Dance. She’s performed throughout the midwest, in NYC, and in Monterrey, Mexico. Laura was the CFO, Executive Director, and Outreach Coordinator for Piel Morena Contemporary Dance from 2010-2013. Most recently, Laura independently Co-Produced Still Inspired (?), a dance production in Chicago where she presented her choreography titled Found and Lost. She looks forward to producing more productions that provide opportunities for professional dancers and choreographers to gain exposure in our local community.

Laura enjoys inspiring dancers to find their full potential. Each break-through in technique and ability takes time and work, so she encourages students to recognize the dedication needed to meet their goals as those improvements are some of the most joyous experiences a student can have.  As a teacher, Laura is honored to be a part of that process!

Q&A with Laura

Funny or interesting fact about yourself: I’ve always wanted to do comedy improvisation. Who wouldn’t want to be silly for a living? 

Currently resides: In Chicago. My husband Andrew Thurston and I just had our first son, Parker in June. We also have two rescue dogs, Conner and Sophie. It is a busy household, but I love our little family unit!

Favorite Things: I have a minor obsession with sushi. I also LOVE ice cream! Ben and Jerry’s… MMMMMM
 
I adore being in nature, so naturally my favorite color is green. Living in Chicago is amazing but getting away to a calm, serene, and natural space is the ultimate stress-reliever. Thankfully, Chicago has many beautiful parks!
 
I have many top life moments including: Performing (that "rush” you get being on stage is addicting!), laughing until your stomach hurts with my dearest friends, going to my parents house and falling asleep on their couch as an adult… (remembering a time of far-less responsibility), and of course, getting my first professional performance opportunity as a dancer. But, there are two moments that top all:
 
1. Getting married to my best friend, Andrew. We laughed our way through the ceremonial ritual of filling a jar of sand with two different colors. We also “high-fived” each other after signing the marriage certificate. It was very “us” and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. 
 
2. The day my son was born. Life is miraculous. Bringing someone in to this world is undeniably life’s most precious gift. 
 
Favorite famous dancer or choreographer & why: Mikhail Baryshnikov. He inspired so many male ballet dancers after his prime. He truly set the bar for others to push to their ultimate best. And, he had the greatest mentality. I use his motto all the time when I teach, “The only person you can be better than is yourself.” In a world that is so easy to compare yourself to others, he became the best because he only asked to be better than himself yesterday. 

Favorite dance style: Contemporary. It is so versatile and “freeing."

Favorite quote: “You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.” - Merce Cunningham

Which dance skill/move is most difficult to teach to beginning dancers: I would have to say the skill of being flexible. When I see a beginning student struggling to say, get their splits, I know it is not something I can fix or correct in that moment. I can encourage them to keep going, inch by inch, day by day, week by week. It is yet another skill dancers acquire with dedication and hard work. It can be discouraging for a beginner to feel like their body is incapable. Keeping that student’s mentality positive, dedicated, and willing is not easy. Perseverance is awesome though… 

Which dance skill/move is most difficult to teach to more advanced dancers: Movement quality and transitions! 

What you like about teaching: I like that it is a challenge, more so mentally than physically. Encouraging students to want to learn, while also having fun can be a daunting task. Dance is a very disciplined art-form. It takes hard work. Having a room full of students who understand that and push themselves makes me feel as though I’ve done my job to inspire them. After all, each child is very different from the next. I am constantly challenged by each class, each student, each season. My goal is to not only teach technique, but to create a great class dynamic. Seeing progression and the excitement on students faces when they begin to realize their potential is the BEST PART!

Best advice for your students: Be patient and dedicated to yourself. You’ll exceed your expectations before you know it! Enjoy the journey!

David Zizic, Director of Music & Theater/Instructor

David ZizicDavid Zizic is Director of Music & Theatre at Virtuoso Performing Arts in Glenview. In that capacity, he has had the pleasure of teaching many acting, voice and musical theatre students through the years, and he has been stage director and music director for Virtuoso's Musical Theatre Summer Camp. He has also coached students in many acting and voice competitions. David has recently worked at Northbrook Theatre as Music Director for "Legally Blonde" and "The Little Mermaid", as well as instructor for summer music & theatre workshops. David is also the resident Music Director for E.D.G.E. Youth Theatre, having taught several Glee classes and directed music for their productions of "Beauty and the Beast" and "Nefarious". Recently, David was Music Director and accompanist for Tall Ship Adventures' acclaimed production of "The Pirates of Penzance" on Lake Michigan. Performing credits include "Phantom" (Theatre at the Center),"Triumph of Love" and "Enter the Guardsman" at (Illinois Theatre Center). David is an ensemble member with Imagination Theatre, which travels around Chicago to perform interactive musical shows for marginalized audiences. Recent Directing and/or Musical Directing credits are "State Fair" and "Into the Woods" at the Woodstock Opera House and "Into the Woods", "High School Musical", "Once on This Island", "The Wizard of Oz," "Beauty and the Beast", "Alice in Wonderland" and "Aladdin" at Virtuoso Performing Arts.

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