Amanda Plesa, Director
Ms. Amanda has been performing for audiences since the age of 3. Hailing from north New Jersey, Ms. Amanda studied with Voight Kempson, Dawn Laviola-Schaub, Chris Lee, and George Lon. She attended Point Park College studying with Douglas Bentz, Ron Tassone, and Nicholas Petrov. Many of her career highlights include the opening cast of "Saturday Night Fever" on Broadway, opening cast for "Under the Sea" at Tokyo Disney, Pittsburgh Civil Light Opera, Miss USA at the Kodak theater in LA, opened for the Black Eyed Peas, numerous TV commercials, and has been seen on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," MTV and VH1. Six of her students currently hold National and/or Regional titles for the American Dance Awards. In addition, the 2009 regional Junior Mr. and Miss Superstar of Star Systems are also her students. Amanda has recently been recognized as the American Dance Awards Choreographer of the Year 2009. She brings her expertise and passion to teach all the beauty and art of dance.
Mr. Api has been entertaining and teaching for over 15 years. He has performed with Michael Crawford and David Cassidy in "EFX" at the MGM Grand Las Vegas. Api has also performed alongside such acts as Boyz II Men, Salt N Pepa, and many others. You may have seen him on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" or "The Wayne Brady Show." Api has won numerous awards in gymnastics and dance. He won Arizona's gymnastics championship and was a member of the Tremaine National Champion dance group. Currently Api can be seen at Disney's Animal Kingdom in "The Festival of the Lion King." Api brings his passion and desire to teach all levels and ages the beauty of entertainment. Mr. Api says: "Believe and anything is possible!"
Ms. Kristienne was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When she was three years old she began dancing at the Maryen Lorrain Dance studio, under the direction of Abby Lee Miller. After graduating from Plum Senior High School, she started her professional career in Walt Disney World's "Tarzan Rocks," and later moved to Japan to dance at "Tokyo Disneyland." Upon returning from Japan, she continued her career with Disney, performing in various shows and special events. Presently, she performs in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," dances at a nightly dinner theatre, and lives happily with her husband and their two dogs.
Ms. Ilene owned and operated her own dance school in Upstate New York for many years, and is a member of Florida Dance Masters.
She has taught and judged for many dance organizations, competitions, and pageants in the United States. Ilene has had the privilege of choreographing for Bob McGrath of Sesame Street, dancers on Star Search, The Gong Show, and the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Her dance school has won the Bill Como Memorial Award at American Dance Awards, and Ms. Ilene has been named “Teacher of the Year” appearing on the cover of Dance Magazine.
Her students have won many National Titles, including, Mr. & Miss Dance of the United States, and her dancers have also won Gold at the World Tap Championships held in Germany. Her former students are now teaching and choreographing, and have performed for Disney, in Las Vegas, and on cruise ships.
Ilene moved to Florida in 2003, to teach at local Central Florida studios. In 2005, she found the dancers of IMDP, and now is her happiest teaching these talented dancers and their parents.
Kristen Danga is originally from Orchard Park, NY. She graduated from the University at Buffalo in 2006, receiving her B.F.A. in dance. After college, Kristen spent a year performing as a dancer with Princess Cruise Lines. She performed and traveled all over the Alaskan seas and the Mexican Riviera. Next, Kristen made her way to Las Vegas, where she was a model and dancer for BEST Agency. She performed for various convention shows and nightclubs. In 2008, Kristen began performing in the shows and parades at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. These shows include Festival of the Lion King; Move it, Shake it, Celebrate it Street Party; and Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade. She also had the great opportunity to perform in a promotional video for American Idol with Jordan Sparks in the fall of 2008. Currently, Kristen is working as a Staging Specialist at Disney, in which she teaches and critiques all of the parks’ entertainment offerings. She works closely with show directors and choreographers to help maintain the spirit and quality of the shows and parades on property. During the Christmas season of 2011, Kristen assisted choreographer Nick Demoura, who choreographed the Justin Bieber segment of the Christmas filming, which aired on ABC. Kristen has also been recognized for her outstanding choreography. Her jazz, lyrical groups, contemporary routines and soloists have received top honors in many competitions. Her classes are always high energy, and strongly based on technique and expression. Kristen is very excited to share her love of dance and choreography at IMDP once again this year!
Lonnie J. Hightower III
Born and raised in Dallas, Texas Mr. Hightower has dedicated 20+ years
studying and perfecting his crafts as a professional choreographer, dancer
and teacher. He began his journey at the age of 4 studying classical voice
and piano. Because of his abilities, an article was written about him on the
front page of the Dallas Morning Newspaper when he was 8. At age 9 he
discovered his love and natural abilities for dance and choreography. He
then attended W.E. Greiner Exploratory Arts Academy studying Ballet, Modern,
Jazz, Choreography & Classical Voice. He received the Sammy Davis Jr. Award,
and the Stevie Ray Vaughn Award.
Mr. Hightower later attended Booker T. Washington High School for the
Performing and Visual Arts studying dance and voice. During his 4 years
there he worked one on one with Gregory Hines, Vanessa Williams, Ann
Reinking, Ben Vereen, Donald McKayle, Louis Montero, Seth Riggs, Reginald
Yates, Frank Katoola, and many more respected artists who helped mold him.
His choreography & ability to grasp and perform West African dance was
recognized by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. He became
one of two choreographers chosen in the United States to be named
Presidential Scholar in the Arts. His modern work was performed in the
prestigious John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center in Washington, DC. He was
also presented with a Gold Medallion from former President Bill Clinton
while shaking his hand.
He then attended California Institute of the Arts studying
dance/choreography. While there he began traveling all over the US as a solo
artist. Mr. Hightower later choreographed on or danced with such companies
as New York Baroque, Dallas Black Dance Theater, Beckles Dance Company,
Contemporary Ballet Dallas, Images Contemporary Dance Company, and Paul
Taylor Dance Company. His television credits include American Idol, So You
Think You Can Dance, and various commercials. Mr. Hightower's choreography,
performance ability, and techniques as a teacher have been recognized all
over the US and abroad through television, newspaper and Internet. Because
of this in 2010 he was commissioned to choreograph a 45 minute to 1 hour
piece for the premiere of the Georgia O'Keefe Art Exhibit in Washington, DC.
He was then recognized as a Nationally Acclaimed Choreographer by the
"Phillips Collection" of DC.
Mr. Hightower is currently choreographing in and around the state of
Florida. He continues his journey in the arts because of his love,
dedication, and respect for the arts as a professional. And also the joy he
feels when teaching and choreographing on those who love performing and
understand the joy the stage brings.
Tabitha Garner Johnson
Tabitha Garner Johnson started dancing through a gifted and talented program in Columbia, S.C. at the age of 11. While in college she studied dance at Columbia College and the University of South Carolina. She has studied with William Starrett, Pat Miller, Stephanie Dabney, Yvan Michaud, Serge Lavoie, Lynn Charles, Joseph Kerwin – and the list goes on. While studying, she was asked to become a member of the Columbia City Ballet and rose to the ranks of Soloist. As she continued performing she went onto diversify her many talents at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center Summer Intensive Program for two summers. Mrs. Johnson is no stranger to the competition circuit! She has competed and is now judging in several competitions receiving top honors while being a member of Columbia City Jazz as well as the Assistant to the Artistic Director Dale Lam. She has also worked closely with Mia Michaels, Jason Parsons, Doug Caldwell and many others. While also performing with the jazz company she was invited to perform and tour in Bulgaria for the Plovdiv European Cultural Month Celebration, Germany, and Austria for the Tanzsommer Innsbruck Festival. Mrs. Johnson was also a guest artist on tour with a national gospel recording artist Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers where she performed on stage with Darryl Coley, Eartha Kitt, CeCe Winans, Hezekiah Walker, and Bobby Jones – just to name a few.
Tabitha has also performed with Ballethnic Dance Company as guest artist also for their production of A Leopard’s Tale under the direction of Waverly Lucas. Right now you can see her performing at Walt Disney World where she performed as a dancer at Pleasure Island, Tarzan Rocks, and now at the Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage. At Disney, Mrs. Johnson has performed with Rosie O’Donnell, John O’Hurley, Wayne Brady, Clay Aiken, and for the former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell. She has also worked as a T.A. Entertainment Manager with the company as well. And on top of everything else she was a dancer at the Holy Land Experience and the Director of Rejoice! Dance Ministry at First Baptist Church of Orlando for 2 years.
In November of 2008, Tabitha and her husband Keith welcomed the birth of their baby girl KaLaurie. In addition to their family in January of 2010, she gave birth again to another baby girl Robbie. She is currently seeking her degrees in Speech Language Pathology and Sociology at UCF, so that she can use dance as a tool of expression for children who have been mentally, physically, and sexually abused.
Ms. Krisanne to the kidshas been performing and teaching dance for over 15 years. Born in Delaware, Krisanne is a graduate of the University of Delaware and alumni of Cab Calloway School of the Arts. Former company member of the Mid Atlantic Ballet in Newark, Delaware, Krisanne performed in such shows as The Fantastic Toy Shop, The Nutcracker ballet, Delaware Dance Festival, The King and I, Bye Bye Birdie and various off stage ballets. Throughout her years of training Krisanne specialized in areas of Ballet, Pointe, Lyrical, Jazz, Tap, Musical Theatre and Contemporary styles of dance. Performing at a young age, Krisanne took stage at the Miss Delaware Junior National Teenager pageant, Mario Rocco Entertainment Group, Dover Ballet and at Carnegie Hall in NYC. Krisanne has taught at numerous studios and ballet companies throughout the Delaware area and was the Artistic Director of the Newark Dance Program for 7 years. After relocating to sunny Florida, Krisanne continued her career with Seaworld, Orlando and the Walt Disney Company, performing in various shows & parades such as Festival of the Lion King, Opening cast of the Magic Kingdom Street Party, Boo To You- Halloween Parade, Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas Time Parade, the Dreams Come True Parade, Main Street Electrical Parade, Spectromagic, 2010 & 2011 Christmas Day Parade Filming and numerous special events across Disney property. In addition to performing Krisanne has choreographed many shows here in Florida including Freedom High School’s Legally Blonde, Wicked Productions and the 2012 District Thespian Festival. She has had the opportunity to judge for prestigious dance conventions and competitions across the US & Canada, and currently studies and teaches ballroom dance at the Sovereign Dance Academy in Dr. Phillips. Throughout her dance career Miss Krissy has realized her true passion is not the stage, but in the classroom teaching her students. Miss Krissy’s goal as a teacher is to inspire and love each student and to encourage, support and promote a positive and healthy dance experience. Miss Krissy would like to thank Api and Amanda for all of the opportunities they have provided and is so very excited to be teaching at IMDP for another year!
Ms. Sam is originally from Pittsburgh, PA and began dancing at the age of 3. After graduating high school she attended Point Park University to major in dance. While at Point Park she participated in various Playhouse productions and worked at various theme parks in the summers. She was then offered a job dancing on Disney Cruise Lines. After returning home from ship life she then moved to Las Vegas to continue to pursue her dance career. Samantha danced in various industrials and then was offered a job dancing at An Evening at La Cage at the Riviera Hotel and Casino. She Performed in this show for several years and then decided to move back to Pittsburgh to pursue teaching dance. She taught at a local studio in the area for 5 years and has since relocated to be a part of In Motion Dance Project. She is thrilled to be in her second full season with the IMDP company after being a guest teacher for a few years. Ms. Sam looks forward to what the future holds here at IMDP and thanks everyone here for welcoming her with open arms. And a special thanks to Api and Amanda for letting her become a part of their extended family!
Chantell Pagan was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and began her dance career at the age of 4 years old. Trained under Judy James and Annette Dubose, she's spent more than 20 years learning Ballet, Jazz, Hip Hop, Lyrical, Modern, Pointe, and Tap. She has performed in many competitions and conventions throughout the state of Florida including American Dance Awards and Florida Dance Masters. Chantell attended Dr. Phillips High School and was apart of the Performing Arts Magnet Program for dance from 2000-2004 in Orlando. She ended her competing career at age 18 winning numerous group awards and a few personal scholarships along the way. Chantell was a part of the Broadway Theatre Project in 2006, which is a 3 week summer theatre program with classes in acting, voice, and dance. She graduated from the University of Buffalo with a Bachelors degree in dance in 2008. During her time at UB, she was a dedicated member of the Zodiaque Dance Company. While in college, Chantell began her teaching career at local dance studios. It was there that she discovered her true passion and love for teaching, instructing students and adults of all ages in the styles of jazz, hip hop, and lyrical. After college, Chantell had a great opportunity to travel with Feld Entertainment, which is a touring company that produces Disney Live shows all over the world. She performed in Asia and Australia and was even able to learn the different cultures there was too offer. Chantell currently works at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios as a full time show and parade performer. She is thrilled to be a part of the In Motion Dance Project family, and will continue her dream on becoming the best she can be in sharing her experience and knowledge of dance.
Shelby Ratchford, a native of Lake Monroe, Florida, began dancing at age three with a small local studio in Sanford, FL. At age ten, Shelby performed in a Disney Christmas parade as Hilary Duff's backup dancer on live national television. At age thirteen, she was accepted at the Orlando Ballet School as a pre-trainee. She quickly moved up in the school as a trainee at age fourteen. She attended many summer ballet intensives such as Joffrey Ballet, North Carolina School of the Arts, School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre in New York, and Houston Ballet. In 2004, Shelby won first place, in pas de deux, at the Youth American Grand Prix finals. 2005, she won fist place at the American Ballet Competition and was awarded a scholarship to La Scala Ballet School in Madrid, Spain. In 2006, Shelby was a competitor in the International Ballet Competition. At the age of sixteen, Shelby joined Orlando Ballet as an apprentice under the director, Bruce Marks. There she performed many corp, Demi soloist, and soloist roles such as Swan Lake, Coppelia, Cinerella, Don Quiote, Sleeping Beauty, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Nutcracker, Spartacus, and Balanchine ballets Serenade, and Who Cares, and Twla Tharps ballet Water babies. In 2010 Shelby joined Columbia Classical Ballet under the director Radenko Pavlovich. There she performed the Dewdrop in the Nutcracker, big swan and the Hungarian Princess in Swan Lake, Odalisque in Le Corsair, and the principle role of Esmeralda in the Hunch Back of Notre Dame. In 2012, Shelby was accepted into the Marshall Ellis Dance Company in Central Florida.
Growing up just outside of Pittsburgh, Pa, Ms. Emily has been dancing since the age of three. She trained and taught extensively at the Laurel Valley Academy of Dance, as well as taking many dance intensives at Point Park College. Ms South was a leading performer at Pittsburgh’s Civic Light Opera. Founder of Broadway Kids Spectacular Performing Arts Camp, Emily often traveled to many community colleges and schools teaching children how to dance, sing and act.
Emily recently moved to Florida to further her teaching career at Walt Disney Worlds YMCA where she is the Performing Arts Coordinator and Instructor. She is very eager to bring her own style of teaching to In Motion Dance Project, and to share her love of the arts with her students.
Mr. Eric was born in Wilmington, N.C. While growing up he not only studied dance but was deeply involved in musical training as well. Enrolling at North Carolina School of the Arts as a double music major, playing both the oboe and clarinet, he later transferred to the dance department where he first discovered his true love for modern dance. After graduating with a diploma in dance, he moved to New York City to attend the Juilliard School. Yow has performed with the Martha Graham Ensemble, Leah Kreutzer Barber, and the Thang Dao Dance Company. He has also worked in Indianapolis with David Hochoy’s Dance Kaleidoscope. During his time with Dance Kaleidoscope, he had the opportunity to spend his summers performing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Ore.
Mr. Erics’s most recent experience has been with Pascal Rioult. He was awarded many opportunities to teach and set work in a variety of different settings. His teaching ranged from schools and summer residences to working with professional dancers on repertory. He was chosen to stage Rioult’s renowned “Wien” on Dance Kaleidoscope. Within the Central Florida community, Yow has taught at the Orlando Ballet School, Dr. Phillips High School in addition to In Motion Dance Project, as well as held the former position of artistic director for Orlando’s Voci Dance Group.