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ASHLEY DEFOREST-GOLETZ grew up in Lombard, Illinois. She began her dance training at the age of two at Art Linkletter Dance Studio under the direction of Paula Brandl and Donna Johnson. Ashley went on to become a member of the “Steppin’ Out Dance Company” where she and her team mates won numerous awards at local and national competitions.
After graduating from high school, Ashley moved to New York to continue her education. She attended Fordham University where she was a member and choreographer for the University Dance Team. While living in New York, Ashley trained with top dance choreographers in both tap and jazz at Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway. Ashley had the privilege of training with tap masters Savion Glover, Dianne Walker, Jimmy Slyde, Prince Spencer, and Buster Brown among others. Ashley trained with jazz and hip hop dancers Brian Friedman, Wade Robeson, Dan Karaty and Mia Michaels from the television show “So You Think You Can Dance”.
During her college years, Ashley would return frequently to Chicago and had the opportunity to appear in television productions of WTTW Arts Across Illinois Centerstage where she danced with Earnest “Brownie” Brown, the only living, dancing “Copasetic”. She also appeared in the television program “Chicago Dance Project” produced for WTTW by HMS Media. Ashley was featured with Chicago’s Madd Rhythms on ABC7’s “Someone You Should Know” presented by Harry Porterfield.
In New York, Ashley worked with Tap Dog, Gil Stroming and assisted as a teacher at “Jump” and “Break the Floor” conventions. She also performed in various dance shows for Tea and Jam Productions in New York and Orlando, Florida.
In 2004, Savion Glover asked Ashley to perform with him. A few months later, Mr. Glover formed the group, Chapter IV, with Ashley as the sole female dancer. The group performed alongside Savion in the national tour of “Improvography”, appearing in venues like the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles and the famed Apollo Theater in New York. Ashley went on to perform in “Tap Legends” with Savion Glover, Dianne Walker and Jimmy Slyde at the Crossroads Theater and Jacob’s Pillow. She acted and danced in the Broadway Workshop, “Timmy the Great” written by Sandra Hochman. Ashley performed with Savion and Chapter IV in “Live From London” and was seen on BBC television throughout the United Kingdom; and she performed with Savion Glover on ABC Television's hit show, Dancing With The Stars. Ashley was voted a “2006 It Girl” by Dance Magazine readers.
Lululemon Athletica, an apparel company that makes clothing for yoga, dancing and fitness training, chose Ashley to be an Ambassador for the company. As an Ambassador, she represented this nationally-known company and was involved in promotions that highlighted the importance of exercise and well-being... www.lululemon.com.
Ashley is the owner and director of DeForest Dance Academy in Elmhurst, Illinois and Glen Ellyn, Illinois. She looks forward to sharing her knowledge and experience with her students!
ANNA KATHERINE HARTJE, originally from Ankeny, Iowa, began her dance education under the instruction of Nancy Moore Overturff. In Iowa, Anna had the opportunity to be a member in Performing Edge Dance Company, Private Collection Dance Company, and Iowa Dance Theater. While spending many years as a competitive dancer and attending workshops, conventions, and intensives, Anna had the chance to work with many inspirational artists. In 2009, Anna attended Giordano Jazz Dance World Congress, where she received a full year scholarship to study with Giordano Dance Chicago (formerly Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago) and with staff members including: Nan Giordano, Ronn Stewart, Homer Bryant, Fury Gold, and Giordano Dance Chicago company members. After being accepted to Point Park University and the University of Arizona as dance majors, Anna decided that she wanted to jump straight into the professional world of dance. She has since studied in the professional world with such companies and names as Richard Smith of Inaside Chicago Dance, Ronn Stewart of Foster Dance Companies, and Nick Pupillo of Visceral Dance Chicago. Anna also has a unique love for circus arts, and is a professional contortionist at The Actor’s Gymnasium in Evanston. Anna feels honored to have had dance teachers in her life who have nurtured her passion and dedication for dance. She strives to help her students find the same passion. Her teaching technique aims to provide students with the dedication and technique, to not only succeed, but to have fun while doing so. Anna is excited to be teaching for DeForest Dance Academy.
CARLY BRANDL has been dancing since the age of 2. She has trained extensively in jazz, lyrical, ballet, tap, hip hop and acro/dance. Carly competed and choreographed for the award winning Steppin' Out dance team. Carly's competitive awards include, but are not limited to, Jr. Miss Starpower, Jr. Miss showcase of Winners Talent, Starlight Distinguished Performer Award and first place overall senior solo for Starlink and Statewide competitions in 2002.
Carly has been choreographing since she was 12 years old. She has won many accolades as a young and emerging choreographer. She is well-rounded, innovative and cutting edge.
Carly is delighted to have the opportunity to work with Steppin' Out's committed and highly motivated dancers.
DONNA JOHNSON is the founder and director of the award-winning “Steppin’ Out Dance Company”. Donna’s students are regional and national dance champions. Many of them are now dancing professionally. Ms. Johnson graduated with honors from the University of Illinois, Chicago, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech and Theater. She has trained at several Chicago area studios with teachers including Jay Fagan, Bruce Stegmann and Lane Alexander. Ms. Johnson has received numerous choreographic accolades for jazz, lyrical and especially for tap.
Studio owner, Ashley DeForest, is elated and honored to have Donna Johnson, her former teacher and mentor, as a member of the DeForest Dance Academy faculty.
JENNA BARTHOLME, of Clarkston, Michigan, has been training in multiple genres of dance for twenty years. She was a member of the prestigious Lakes Area Civic Ballet for six years and earned numerous regional and national overall high score awards while growing up in the competition circuit. At age 16, Jenna was one out of ten people awarded a full scholarship for the summer "Dance with the Force" program at the EDGE in Los Angeles, California. She recently graduated with honors from Point Park University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance. While at college, Jenna was on faculty at the notable Abby Lee Dance Company, now featured on Lifetime's "Dance Moms." Jenna has performed works by notable professional choreographers such as Robert Battle, David Parsons, Kate Skarpetowska, Daniel Ezralow, Doug Varone, and many others.
JUSTINE GAGNE grew up dancing at Haja Dance Academy in Monroe, Michigan, under the direction of Selena Williams-Molter on Haja's competitive Team Elite. She found her passion in performing modern, contemporary and tap dance. Justine attended Oakland University on a dance department scholarship and achieved her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance in 2012, graduating cum laude. She was recognized twice as a Maggie Allesee Summer Study Scholarship recipient and received the university's MaTilDa Award for Outstanding Dance Performance her senior year. While in college, she performed with the Oakland Dance Theater, Repertory Dance Company, as a collaborative guest, and as an apprentice with the Eisenhower Dance Ensemble. In addition to technique, Justine studied Dance Pedagogy and Creative Dance for Children while in college; she loves the energy that comes from leading a group of young students. After graduation, Justine moved to New York City where she worked in the school program for Dance New Amsterdam and performed as a founding member of Blueprint Dance Project, a performance group rooted in improvisation and partnering. Justine currently lives in Chicago, works for NexStar Talent Competition, and teaches freelance master classes and choreography. She is excited to start a new journey teaching at DeForest!
KARL WATSON began dancing in Cleveland, Ohio. After training at local schools, he attended Butler University. In addition to his training at Butler, Karl attended summer programs at Houston Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Karl graduated in 2012 with a B.F.A. cum laude in Dance Performance and a History Minor. Upon graduation, Karl began dancing with Luna Negra Dance Theater in Chicago, IL, under the direction of Gustavo Ramirez Sansano. Karl performed with the company in performances in Chicago, as well as on national and international tours. Grateful to have danced in the company’s final season, Karl now dances with Visceral Dance Chicago, of which he is a founding member. Karl has had the honor of performing the works of Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, Nacho Duato, Ohad Naharin, Banning Bouldin, Robyn Mineko Williams, Sidra Bell, Monica Cervantes, Fernando Melo, and Fernando Hernando Magadan, among others. Throughout high school and college, Karl developed a love for teaching. Since moving to Chicago, he has joined the faculty of Visceral Dance Chicago and has worked as a guest teacher at a number of area studios.
LILLY CLAMPIT started dancing jazz, ballet, tap and hip hop at the age of 10. At the age of 13, she discovered her love for tap while under the instruction of Ashley DeForest and Donna Johnson at DeForest Dance Academy. As a member of the Steppin' Out Dance Company at DeForest, Lilly competed in Hip Hop, Tap and Jazz. After several years of technical training and competing in dance competitions, she decided to pursue a professional tap dance career. She became a performer for Tapman Productions and also began choreographing duet numbers for her and her brother for independent performances. Lilly is currently a member of M.A.D.D Rhythms, Chicago's premier tap group, performing throughout the Midwest. Her tap abilities earned her 3-year consecutive scholarships to the Chicago Human Rhythm Project where she studies with world-renown tap masters Derick Grant, Jason Janas, Daniel Borak, Charles Renato and others. In addition to tap, Lilly enjoys being with her favorite dog Nikki and practicing mixed martial arts; but most of all she enjoys teaching the next generation of young dancers.
TESS RENAUD began dancing at the age of three in the Chicagoland area. She trained at Visceral Dance Center, (VDC), with many influential teachers including Nick Pupillo, Lizzie MacKenzie, Ricky Ruiz, Christian Denise, and Kate Jablonski. She was a member of Pupillo’s Visceral Studio Company. She has been a part of VDC’s summer scholarship program and Luna Negra Dance Theater’s summer intensive. Tess graduated from Western Michigan University (WMU) with a Bachelor of Arts in dance, and a minor in nonprofit leadership. At WMU, she was a member of Western Dance Project, the Department of Dance’s touring ensemble under the direction of David Curwen. The ensemble performed at venues such as Dance Chicago, Michigan Dance Day, and Oakland Dance Festival. She has had the honor of performing works at WMU choreographed by Monique Haley, Carolyn Pavlik, and Jackie Nowicki; as well as a Loïe Fuller reconstruction of “La Mer.” She works at West Michigan Dance Center (Kalamazoo, MI) teaching and choreographing for the competitive company. Most recently, she received her RYT 200 (Registered Yoga Teacher) from the White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara, California. Tess is now pursuing a career in dance as a teacher, performer and choreographer.