ESPA Director and Faculty
Kristen Wheat-Paden started dancing, tumbling and competing in ballet, jazz, lyrical, tap and acrobatics at age 8 with the Technical Dance Center of Cincinnati, Ohio. She has won numerous titles and scholarships through Dance Masters of America, West Coast Dance Explosion and many other national and international competitions and conventions. At 11 years old, she was accepted into The School for the Creative and Performing Arts where she trained professionally in Vaganova and Checcheti ballet techniques, Graham, Horton and Taylor modern techniques, as well as partnering, afro-caribbean and musical theatre before graduating with an arts diploma. She also took classes annually from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and from tap sensation, Savion Glover.
Professionally, she danced in the movie, Milk Money, working with Adam Shankman, Melanie Griffith, Ed Harris and Richard Benjamin. She has taught for and danced with the Cincinnati Ballet as well as for the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music preparatory program and Surfscape Contemporary Dance Theatre in Daytona Beach.
Kristen brings excellent training in a variety of dance styles to her students at ESPA to prepare them for a career in the many branches of the performing arts.
Amanda Aubry (Instructor/Choreographer, Ballet/Modern/Pointe/Pas de Deux) is from Cincinnati, Ohio. After training with Cincinnati Ballet, Amanda received her BFA in Dance Performance from Butler University. She has danced with Dance Peak Ballet Theatre in Colorado Springs, Ballet Theatre Midwest, and with Carnival Cruise Lines. She is currently dancing with Surfscape Contemporary Dance Theatre. In addition to teaching at ESPA Amanda is also the Director of Dance at Atlantic High School.
Zhanna Dubrovskaya (Instructor, Ballet/Pointe/Variations) is a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, where she trained with the famed Vaganova Ballet Academy, and graduated with Honors in 1968. She studied with the renowned O. Yordan and V. Kostrovitskaya. For over 20 years Zhanna was a soloist with the Choreographic Miniatures Company led by L. Yacobson and the Maly Theatre of Opera and Ballet (Michailovski Theatre). She has worked with international acclaimed choreographers such as Y. Yacobson, I. Belsky, N Boyarchikov, O. Vinogradov, and B. Eifman. Her performances have been seen throughout the world – from Europe to Asia. She is an accomplished ballerina with recognition in classical, contemporary, modern and character ballets such as: Swan Lake, Paquita, La Corsaire, Giselle, La Sylphide, Les Sylphides, Coppelia, La Fille Mal Gardee, The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, MacBeth, The Hooligans, Serenade, and Theme and Variations.
In 1990, Zhanna completed her Teacher and Ballet Master courses at Vaganova Ballet Academy. Zhanna has been invited as a master teacher and choreographer to stage classical ballets such as Giselle, La Sylphide, The Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, Paquita, and Swan Lake for major companies (including Colorado Ballet) and competitions throughout the United States and Europe. In 1998, she assumed the role of Artistic Director for Salt Creek Ballet and staged all productions for the pre-professional company. Under her direction, Salt Creek Ballet became recognized as one of the leading pre-professional ballet companies in the Regional Dance America Festival.
Zhanna has served as a judge and guest instructor for the World Ballet Competition among others, and trained dancers for prestigious ballet competitions such as: World Ballet Competition, Florida (Medalists 2016), YAGP Ballet Competition, New York (Winners 1998-2017), New York Ballet Competition, New York (Winners 1998-2017), Helsinki Ballet Competition, Finland (Winners 1998-2017), Denver Ballet Guild Competition, Colorado (Winners 1991-1997), Prix de Lausanne, Switzerland (Medalists 1996-1997).
She is internationally respected as an instructor, known for her preservation of the purity, musicality, and aesthetics of the Russian classical ballet technique and traditions. Today, her students perform worldwide in major dance companies.
Grace Norman (Instructor/Choreographer, Ballet/Jazz/Modern) has had a passion for dance since she started taking classes at three years old with European School of Performing Arts. She attended Florida School of the Arts to further her knowledge and has graduated with an Associates in Science and Associates in Arts for dance. Grace has trained in Ballet (Cecchetti & RAD styles), Modern (Graham, Horton, & Limon styles) and Jazz (Jack Cole & Broadway styles). She has had the opportunity to train with Freddick Bratcher in both modern and jazz. Grace was a member of Paradigm Flux Inc for four years, and rehearsal director for three of those years. She is very excited to join the faculty at ESPA!
Karyn Schanz Ruddy (Instructor/Choreographer, Ballet/Pointe) began ballet lessons at the age of seven, studying with Tom Adair (American Ballet Theatre soloist) and Mme. Seda Sorvillo (student of Mikhail Mordkin who partnered famed ballerina Anna Pavlova.) As a graduate of Professional Children’s School in New York, NY, Karyn was offered a scholarship at Harkness House but upon acceptance to the School of American Ballet, chose to go to SAB instead. She also attended David Howard’s School of Dance in New York City and took classes at the American Ballet Theatre School and with Finis Jhung, among others. Two summers were spent studying at the New York State Summer School of the Arts in Saratoga, NY. In addition to ballet, she has training in jazz, modern, character and tap. Professionally, she danced with Poughkeepsie Ballet Theatre and Ballet Binghamton under the direction of Gilbert Reed. She also danced with The New Buffalo Dance Festival, Empire State Ballet, The Humphrey Dance Ensemble, U.S.A. Ballet in Chicago and was part of the T.O.S. Dance Project in Orlando. She has had the pleasure of performing at The Metropolitan Opera House and The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She has performed in many original works and danced in traditional ballets like The Sleeping Beauty, Gaite Parisienne, Coppelia and The Nutcracker where she’s enjoyed dancing many roles including the Sugarplum Fairy. She has danced in the musicals My Fair Lady, Sweet Charity and Carousel and performed in many Operas including Tannhäuser, Merry Widow, La Traviata, and Carmen and danced in the world premiere opera, Chinchilla and the operetta Die Fledermaus. Karyn has taught all levels of ballet in several schools across New York State and in Florida including Poughkeepsie Ballet Theatre School, Ballet Binghamton’s School, State University of New York at Binghamton, Festival School of Dance, Debonaire Dance Studio, Niagara Falls Dance Academy and Raskin Dance Studio.
Karyn brings her love of dance to ESPA. She’s excited to pass on her knowledge and help students achieve their greatest potential.
Melissa “Misa” Pascarella (Guest Instructor/Choreographer, Modern/Pointe) became company dancer with Surfscape Contemporary Dance Theatre in 2016. Prior to 2016, she was a company dancer with Bodiography Contemporary Ballet Company for four years. Misa was born in Centerville, OH and began dancing when she was four years old. Misa has a BFA in dance from Point Park University, and she is a certified instructor of Pilates and Bodiography Fitness and Strength Training System. Misa is currently the director of dance at Heritage Middle School. Also, she is a fitness instructor at The Pilates Spot. Misa taught at several dance conservatories in Pittsburgh, PA, including Elite Dance by Damian, Bodiography Center for Movement, and Tzohar Seminary for Chassidus and the Arts.
Elishah V. Moore (Guest Instructor/Choreographer) has studied ballet, tap, jazz, modern and pointe under the instruction of Anita Endsley, Kim Ball, Brooke Adkins, Melissa June, Kristin Polizzi and Kristin Wheat-Paden. She began dancing with European School of Performing Arts and the Civic ballet of Volusia County in 2005. In 2011, Elishah was accepted into Valencia College Associate of Arts dance program and Florida School of Performing Arts, and became a member of the Valencia dance theatre while completing her AA degree.
Elishah has studied and trained in a variety of dance styles and techniques: Graham based modern, Cecchetti and Russian ballet, the Alexander Technique , Limon, and Horton Technique to name a few. She has had the honor of working with multiple master artists, including principal dancers from Alvin Ailey, and has been cast in professional pieces by: Jon Lehrer, Lesley Brasseux-Rodgers, and John Parks. Elishah has performed at the News-Journal Center, Peabody Auditorium, University of South Florida, University of Florida, Rollins College, Daytona State College and has attended numerous Surfscape Contemporary Dance Theatre intensives throughout the years.
Cari Call Merrell (Guest Instructor/Choreographer) began dancing at age 5. Her formal ballet training began a few years later at The European School of Performing Arts (then known as the European School of Ballet). As a young teenager she also studied at the school of Southern Ballet Theatre in Orlando. During these years Cari was fortunate to study during the summers on full scholarship at some of the major professional ballet companies in North America including the schools of The Cleveland Ballet, The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, The Houston Ballet, and she also was chosen to be a part of the Carlisle Project, a premier choreographic project held annually in Aspen, Colorado. Her training was completed at such premier schools as North Carolina School of the Arts and The Harid Conservatory. Student performed repertoire included Sleeping Beauty Pas de Deux, Bluebird Pas De Deux, Harlequinade Pas de Deux, The Little Mermaid, and Concerto Barocco. Throughout her student years, Cari won numerous competitions and awards including Jr. Miss Dance of Florida and Miss Dance of Florida.
Cari’s professional career began at Southern Ballet Theatre in Orlando, Florida where she was a principal dancer for five seasons. Her classical repertoire at SBT included the title roles in Giselle, Cinderella, and The Firebird, as well as Clara/Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Odile in Swan Lake, La Sylphide, and Flower Festival pas de deux from the Royal Danish Ballet. Balanchine repertoire included Valse Fantaisie and Allegro Brillante. Modern and contemporary repertoire included Bolero, Carmina Burana, Gym 1939, and Full Circle. In 1996, Cari joined The Joffrey Ballet as a soloist and was a part of their European tour of the world-renowned rock ballet Billboards. For her remaining career with the Joffrey Ballet, Cari danced legendary repertoire of the Joffrey Ballet most notably including Monotones I, La Vivandiere, Viva Vivaldi, Kettentanz, L’apres Midi d’une Faun, Light Rain, Suite Saint-Saens, Creative Force, and Rodeo, as well as numerous roles The Nutcracker. With the Joffrey Ballet, Cari performed all over the world in famous venues such as Royal Festival Hall in London, Ephesus in Izmir, Turkey, and at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. She has been reviewed in Dance Magazine for her performance in La Vivandiere and has been on several magazine covers of dance publications.
Throughout her career, Cari has taught master classes and as a guest teacher in numerous schools. She is looking forward to bringing her experience and knowledge to the students of ESPA. Cari holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business and currently resides in Ormond Beach with her husband and four children.
Germaine Bledsoe began her dance training with her mother, Lori Smoak, and had the opportunity to study with American and European masters at an early age. She continued her training with Tatiana Gsovsky of the Tanz Acadamie of the Berlin Opera, and Gisela Bealkowski, formerly ballerina of the East Berlin Ballet, and at age 16 began her professional career with the Berlin Opera Ballet. She later appeared in the leading roles in ballets such as "Swan Lake", "The Sleeping Beauty", Coppelia", "Les Sylphides", and many original ballets in Europe and the United States. She has been teaching since 1972, and has held the position of ballet mistress/choreographer and Artistic Director for the Civic Ballet of Volusia County, which she co-founded. Germaine strives to inspire her students to reach new heights in their dance training. With the introduction of the Professional Track program in 2004, serious dance students and professional aspirants have the opportunity to expand their performing outlets, study with guest teachers in many dance styles and attend out of town workshops to broaden their dance education.
Lori Smoak began her training at the age of six with the children’s division of the Munich Opera Ballet, and later began her professional career there. She later danced and choreographed for musicals and films in Germany and Italy, before coming to the United States in 1954. Lori co-founded the Fort Worth Ballet Association in Texas and later the Fort Walton Beach Ballet Association of Florida (now the Northwest Florida Ballet). She opened her first studio in 1964 in Berlin, Germany and after moving back to Florida in 1977, co-founded the European School of Ballet (now the European School of Performing Arts), with her daughter, Germaine. From the school, the Daytona Beach Civic Ballet, and later the Civic Ballet of Volusia County, was formed by Lori and Germaine. Students under her direction have gone on to becoming professional dancers and teachers with companies in Europe and the United States. Lori brings to the school the rich traditions of the classical ballet and a wealth of experiences that she loves sharing with her students.