FACULTY BIO'S

Rochelle began dancing at age 7 and continues her education still today.  After training in Northern Virginia, Rochelle graduated from Shenandoah University with a BS in Dance Performance and double minors in Musical Theatre and Psychology.  After graduation, she danced professionally with Fairfax Ballet while teaching in Northern Virginia dance studios.  Rochelle later relocated to Central Florida where she danced at Walt Disney World and Church Street Station while teaching throughout the area.  After several years, Rochelle opened Turning Pointe-A Dance Studio and enjoyed great success for over 10 years, growing to 500+ students while earning numerous Regional and National Awards. During this time she enjoyed judging for Showbiz and other Regional Conventions, was a founding member of Wekiva River Players and DanceAbilites.  In 2004, she sold her studio, married her soulmate and moved to Hilton Head Island! She shared her vast knowledge and experience with a local studio to help it grow to almost 400 dancers. Currently, Rochelle is excited to be working together with parents, dancers, teachers and the community to create a strong foundation for all dancers. Alliance Dance Academy is based on Rochelle’s love of dance, and giving back to the community by helping dancers experience the important life lessons that go hand-in-hand with the dedication, discipline and desire dance requires.

Rochelle Clarkson
Studio Owner/Director
Andrea Pennell
Teacher

Andrea began dancing at age 3 in Upstate New York. She grew up taking all forms of dance and competing in numerous Conventions and Competitions. In her early dance years, Andrea enjoyed Master classes with Frank Hatchett, Bob Rizzo and Joe Tremaine. Following High School, Andrea attended Hartwick College where she received a BA in Art History and then State University College at Oneonta where she earned a BS in History. While attending college she was a Teacher’s Assistant for the Ballet Program which was a Checchetti focused program for Theatre Majors as well as three professional levels of a strict Ballet curriculum. Andrea has been teaching all areas of dance for over 12 years.  Andrea is a current member of the National Association of Dance and Affiliated Artists and has been a judge for Talent Olympics.  Andrea and her husband moved to South Carolina in 2016.  They are expecting their first child in early 2017. Miss Andrea is a very fun loving, carefree person who in addition to teaching dance, loves to read, listen to music and shop!

Jennie Beneway
Teacher

Jennie began dancing at age 3 in Westfield, MA.  Her love of dance quickly grew and Jennie began competing at the age of 7. Through the years she received numerous awards for her strength, technique and performance:  Petite Miss Dance Masters of Connecticut, Top Overall Duo/Trio at American Dance Awards, Teen Miss Acro at Headliners Competition, National Miss Dance Ovations, and was a recipient of scholarships at DMA conventions.  Miss Jennie attended Westfield State University where she earned a BS in Business Management while she danced on the WSU Competitive Hip Hop Dance Team.  They won UDA New England Championships four years in a row.  After graduation, Jennie taught at Dance Works in Westfield, MA for several years and also coached gymnastics for a local high school team.  She teaches all types of dance but especially loves Jazz, Tap, Hip Hop, Contemporary and Acrobatics. Prior to moving to South Carolina, Jennie enjoyed teaching Master Classes at Summer Camps and recently began teaching Pre School and Tiny Tots classes.  Jennie and her soon to be husband Brett live on Hilton Head Island and share a wonderful son named Kal. When she is not sharing her love of dance, Miss Jennie enjoys music, the beach and cooking!

Ashlyn LaRiche
Teacher

Ashlyn began dancing at the age of 3 in Northeast Ohio. After taking dance classes in the styles of Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Hip Hop, Contemporary and African, she realized her love for Ballet was the greatest. In high school, she began traveling to competitions not only as a competitor, but also as the head mentor for the other competitors from the studio. Ashlyn started assistant teaching for Nick Carlisle at the age of 13. A year later she began as the assistant choreographer for her musicals in high school and show choir performances. She has lead her own ballet classes since the age of 14 and is excited to continue spreading her joy of dancing with the Alliance Dance Academy family.  Ashlyn moved to South Carolina with her husband to join the family steel company in 2016. She is currently taking courses at the College of Charleston to finish her bachelor’s degree in communications. When she is not dancing, she enjoys reading, baking, and The Beatles.

Jonathan Blanks
Teacher

Jonathan started dancing when he was 10 years old and hasn't looked back since. While he enjoys watching and taking all types of dance he was drawn to hip hop at a very early age. Once he graduated high school he then attended college at Catawba College on a swim scholarship and graduated in 2012 with a B.S. in Business and Marketing with a minor in Dance. Upon graduation Jonathan began teaching at various studios full time across the country from North Carolina to Texas. He has taught Hip Hop for almost 8 years now.  In his free time Jonathan loves to go to the beach and fishing. Jonathan and his wife Kristen live in Hardeeville with their two sons Koby and Erickson.  He is super excited to begin building our Hip Hop program!

Heather Cahoon
Teacher

Heather Cahoon began her formal ballet training at Hilton Head Dance Theater with John and Karena Brock-Carlyle, a former principal of ABT. Throughout her years studying with them she also trained at various summer intensives in Washington, Orlando, California, New York, and Austria – with teachers such as Fernando Bujones, Fernando Coehlo, Cynthia Gregory, Martine van Hamel, and Peter Breuer. After high school Heather attended SUNY Purchase studying with Ted Kivitt and later Charlotte Ballet's conservatory with Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride. Her professional career includes working alongside and touring with Salzburg Ballet in Austria, Israel Ballet in Israel, Gÿorii Ballett in Hungary, and then most recently with Ballet Evolution in Charleston where she continues to dance. She has also been teaching with various studios since 2010. Heather is excited to be working with Alliance Dance Academy.

Nicole Cole
Teacher

Nicole started cheerleading and gymnastics in Central Florida at four years old and was able to throw a round off back handspring at age six. At the young age of five, while cheering and taking gymnastics classes, Nicole started dancing.  She was a member of the group Diamond Dancers, performing at community festivals and events. Overtime she fell in love with the combination of tumbling, dancing, stunting and cheering and continued to train/compete with Space Coast All Stars until she graduated from High School. After graduation Nicole competed with UCF wildcats on the Adult Coed Elite Team. She also earned her AA in Social Science and is certified by the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators.  Upon moving to Germany, she coached 8-9 year olds cheerleading and tumbling. Nicole currently coaches Cheerleading at Hilton Head High School and works with her own three children on their tumbling skills. Nicole is super excited to expand her experiences by joining the Alliance Dance Academy Family!

Paula Fichtenkort
Teacher

Paula Deans Fichtenkort was born and educated in England. She trained in the Royal Academy of Dance method and performed in Illinois with Ballet Concert Group and Copper Coin Ballet. She studied jazz with Gus Giordano, and ballet with Ruth Page and Michael Sims.

Before moving to Hilton Head Island, “Miss Paula” owned and directed the Westport Academy of Dance. Her students performed locally and toured Europe. Several of Miss Paula’s students joined New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet, Ballet West, and choreographed on Broadway.

Miss Paula opened the Academy of Dance in Savannah in 2006. Her Savannah students have won acceptances and scholarships to the School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theater JKO School, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Next Generation Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, Magnus Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet School. Two of her Savannah students now dance professionally at Cedar Rapids Ballet and American National Ballet.

Miss Paula’s curriculum is based on classical ballet technique, specifically in the R.A.D. tradition. She is known for her age-appropriate holiday productions, and a kind, nurturing class environment. 

Ashley Casstevens
Teacher

Ashley was born in North Carolina, and was raised on Hilton Head Island, SC where she began dancing at five years of age.  She began her ballet training at Hilton Head Dance School with Karena Brock-Carlyle and John Carlyle. She enjoyed dancing many roles while with Hilton Head Dance School, most memorably Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, and Raymonda in Terpsichore.  She received additional training while attending the summer program of the Charlotte School of Ballet.  Joining Columbia City Ballet in 2001, she mastered roles in Dracula, The Nutcracker, Coppélia, and Beauty and the Beast, which was filmed for South Carolina Public Television.  While attending college at University of South Carolina-Aiken, Ashley trained under Anita Ashley, receiving a scholarship as a member of the dance team.  She taught and performed with various schools throughout the southeast, as well as in Massachusetts.  She began dancing with Savannah Ballet Theatre (SBT), under the direction of Suzanne Braddy, in 2015 and she assumed roles in The Nutcracker in Savannah, as well as the role of Auntie ‘Em in the following spring’s Wizard of Oz production.  She is an official company dancer with SBT, beginning with the 2016-2017 season.  In the summer of 2016, Ashley attended The artÉmotion Summer Intensive in Detroit, and is an Auxiliary Committee Member with the not-for-profit organization, Ballet In The City.  In 2016, Ashley graduated from American Intercontinental University Cum Laude obtaining degrees in Business Administration and Criminal Justice.  She is an entrepreneur at heart, with plans for a couple of family-owned businesses in the future.  In her free time, she enjoys local cuisine, reading a good book, Netflix, and traveling to Blowing Rock, NC.  Most especially, she loves relaxing with her family of five at their home in Bluffton, SC.  It is clear, ballet remains a true love and inspiration in her life.  Throughout her 25+ years of the performing arts, she relishes sharing her passion for ballet with thousands and intends to continue training, performing, and teaching other dancers.

Shawna Zats
Teacher Apprentice

Shawna has been a dedicated dancer since age 3 where she danced at several top Twin Cities studios in Minnesota.  At age 11 she began competition dance and was inspired by the studio creative directors: Jessica Bjore, professional Minnesota Vikings cheerleader and Benjamin Olson, the lead dancer for the Minnesota Ballet & Continental Ballet. At 15 Shawna’s family moved to Hilton Head Island.  When she walked into Alliance Dance Academy & met Rochelle, she knew she had found her new dance home and was excited to become one of the first students at ADA. Shawna has competed at regional and national dance competitions with solos & teams in the Midwest and Southeast USA.  A highlight of her dance background was participating with the ADA Stars team at Walt Disney World’s Dance the World event in 2017.  Shawna is thrilled to be part of the ADA growth and pursuing her dance passion as an instructor.  Shawna enjoys music, babysitting and volunteering at Volunteers in Medicine. She likes studying anatomy, exercise physiology & biology and hopes to go into the medical field while continuing to teach dance.

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