Assistant Director……………………………Amanda Lanoie
Competition Team Directors…………….Amanda Lanoie, Courtney Carscadden, and Heather Naaman
Special Thanks to the Santa Clara University Tech Staff
Members of our Faculty
Debbie Dariano-Decker: Owner and Director of Atlas School of Dance at the Branham Dance Center. Debbie attended Cal State Northridge and trained at Dupree Dance Academy in L.A. as well as danced at Atlas since she was a young teen. Debbie has owned her own successful accounting business for years and has now joined Armanino, LLP. She has combined her passion for dance and her well balanced sense of business to bring the most positive dance experiences to your children that she greatly benefited from in her impressionable years.
Amanda Lanoie: Amanda Lanoie is a recent graduate from San Jose State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. While at San Jose State she was a part of the University Dance Theatre under the direction of Gary Masters for two years. During that time she premiered the piece, Penguin March, choreographed by Heather Cooper which qualified to perform in the Gala at American College Dance Association. She has worked with professionals such as Fred Mathews, Heather Cooper, Kara Davis, Rogelio Lopez, Jill Yager, Dominque Lomuljio and John Beasant III. Currently, Amanda is the assistant director of the Atlas School of Dance. She teaches classes in styles including jazz, tap, lyrical, and contemporary for all levels. She plays a large role in the competition program at Atlas. From coaching and choreographing award winning numbers as well as cheering on her students. She loves being a part Atlas family and watching the studio grow.
Heather Naaman: This is Heather’s 7th year of teaching jazz and 4th year as Competition Director of Atlas’ talented competition teams. She has enjoyed 18 years of dancing with Atlas where she has been trained in ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical and hip hop. She is a full time Benefits Administrator at a software company in San Francisco, and has her B.A. in Sociology-Organizational Studies from the University of California, Davis. Heather sends a big “Congratulations!!!” to the competition teams and their coaches for an outstanding season! You nailed it.
Nia Belvin: This is Nia’s first year teaching at Atlas School of Dance. She has recently graduated from San José State University with a B.F.A. in Dance. She has been teaching dance across the Bay Area for the past six years. She enjoys giving back to her community and has had the opportunity to volunteer for the Boys and Girls Club in Martinez, CA as well as the annual KidsFest in Concord, CA. During her time as San José State she was a part of the University Dance Theatre. She continues to perform and perfect her craft while encouraging to also do the same. She is excited for her students to perform on stage and is happy to be returning to Atlas next year.
Sarah Bylsma: Sarah has been with Atlas School of Dance for four years now. She has been dancing since the age of three and teaching kids of all ages for the past 10 plus years. She graduated from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois with a BA in theater and a minor in dance. She works full time as an insurance agent for Archway Insurance Brokers in San Jose. When she isn’t behind a desk or in the studio, you can find her on stage in a musical somewhere as musical theater is her passion. She often does work with Children’s Musical Theater San Jose. She is currently in Los Altos Stage Company’s production of Bat Boy and up next she has been cast as one of Ariel’s sisters, Atina, in The Little Mermaid at Palo Alto Players. This year was her first year as part of the competition team and she loved the time she got to spend with the dancers and thanks them all for their hard work. Enjoy your trip around the world!
Madyson Gross: Madyson is a Junior at Lincoln High School, and three year member and officer of their national title winning dance team the “Convertibles.” This will be her fifteenth year at Atlas and tenth year on the competition team. She is a Sylvia Sanchez Scholarship recipient, has received multiple scholarships at touring dance conventions, performed with the Public Figures Hip Hop group at the Golden State Warriors Halftime Show, and has represented Atlas as an overall soloist at multiple competitions. This is her second year teaching and she loves working with the babies and mini hip-hoppers!
Katy Itani: Katy has been teaching at Atlas for 3 years. She started dancing with the Branham Dance Center when she was 8 years old and continually took classes in tap, jazz, hip-hop, and lyrical through high school. She was a two-year member of the Castillero Middle School show choir and a four-year member of the Pioneer High School dance team. While attending college at UC Irvine, Katy occasionally took tap and jazz classes as well as participated in and coordinated a recreational hip-hop team. Katy is currently working towards becoming a certified public accountant and has enjoyed teaching and supporting her Level 1 students!
Michelle Lozano: After studying dance her entire childhood at Atlas, Michelle began teaching at the age of 18 and found her passion for choreography. She is trained in tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical and hip hop. She has taught around the Bay Area, judged dance competitions, performed in the San Francisco Hip Hop Dance Fest and a music video. She was also the Admin Director for Elements Dance Co. and formerly the Atlas Competition Team Director/Consultant. Michelle’s true passion is performing, as she loves the freedom to express herself through the art of dance. She currently teaches hip hop and is now a certified U-Jam Fitness instructor and hopes to start her own U-Jam class soon. She has also coached/choreographed competition routines which have won several platinums, overall high scores, judge’s choice awards and cash prizes. This is her 29th year teaching at Atlas. Michelle also holds a full time job at Apple Inc. as Manager of the HW Product Technology Engineering Project Specialists.
Stephanie Mihalyi: Stephanie Mihalyi began dancing at the young age of three. Her first debut in the dance industry was at the age of eight, when she was featured as a character in the video game, Dance Dance Revolution, which was influenced by Tap and Hip Hop. Stephanie then went on as a representative for her studio, Castro Valley Performing Arts, to audition for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. She was invited to join the opening number of parade in New York City for two consecutive years with Camp Broadway. Stephanie has also had the privilege to work under many amazing dancers and choreographers. Learning most of her dance knowledge from Janet Taddie, Stephanie has also worked under Sam Weber, Al Blackstone, Jason Samuel Smith, Mark Goodman, Lisa Hopkins, Heather Cooper, Gary Masters, Fred Matthews, as well as many others. She has danced at halftime at Oracle, home of the Warriors, and at Candlestick, the retired home of the 49ers. Stephanie also danced as the entertainment between events at the Miss California pagaent for over ten years, and was employed as a professional Miss California dancer. In her third year as a dance major at San Jose State University, Stephanie was part of University Dance Theatre, a modern company run by Raphael Boumaila.
Nicole Ruocchio: Nicole is a senior at Pioneer High School. She has been on Pioneer’s dance team since her freshman year and previously was a captain on Castillero’s competitive team “Dance Infinia”. This is her 6th year at Atlas and her 3rd year being on the competition team. Nicole has been dancing for 15 years and trained in Gymnastics for 13 years at California Sports Center. Over the years her favorite performances include dancing with Jordin Sparks at the halftime of a 49ers game, performing with the Public Figures hip hop crew at halftime at a Warriors game, and dancing in a show in Disneyland. This is Nicole’s first year teaching at Atlas and she loves sharing her passion for dance with all of her students!
Alyssa Starr: Alyssa has been dancing since the age of five. She started training at Branham Dance Center in ballet, tap, jazz, and hip hop. She danced for the Pioneer High School Dance Team and competed throughout high school. In college, Alyssa was on the Chico State Dance Team and taught dance at Hype Dance Studio for four years. After college, she moved back to San Jose and started teaching at Atlas. Her favorite thing about teaching dance is seeing her students on stage excited about performing. In addition to teaching dance, Alyssa is a 6th grade teacher at Union Middle School, teaching math and science. She just got her Master in Technology at Fullerton University.
Darian Swift: Darian has been dancing for fifteen years, since the age of three. She currently is in her senior year of high school and plans to go to school for cosmetology, business, and dance. She has been competing with the Atlas competition team for twelve years and has represented the studio with several overall scoring solos, duets, and trios as well. Darian has received awards for her solos such stunning strength and showmanship, and she was also the 2013 recipient of the Sylvia Sanchez award. She is excited about this being her first year of teaching and hopes to continue to inspire others while sharing her passion for dance with her students.
Chris Vargas: This is Chris’ third year of teaching at Atlas. He first started dancing only as a sophomore in high school after accidentally being thrown into the class. He loved dance so much that he continued his dance career throughout high school and joined Atlas his senior year where he has been for eight years. Now, after graduating from his undergraduate at San José State University, he is back at state working hard towards his single subject teaching credential to teach high school biology and chemistry. He is excited to watch his all of his Jazz, Lyrical and Hip Hop students perform on stage and can’t wait to return next year.
Missy Wareham: Missy has been dancing for over 20 years in a variety of styles, including tap, jazz, hip hop, ballet, and Latin. She was part of the 2007/2008 San Jose Stealth’s dance team and a member of a competitive group salsa team from 2009 to 2010. She has her BA in Communication Studies with a minor in Dance from San Jose State. Missy currently works for Lockheed Martin as a Subcontract Manager.
Bryce Yale: Bryce has been dancing since she was 4 years old. She danced at Branham Dance Center for 5 years, and has spent the past 9 years at Atlas. She has been awarded a convention scholarship, performed with Public Figures at the Golden State Warriors Half-Time show, and was on the Atlas Competition Team for 4 years. She is a senior at Branham High School and has been a part of their leadership program for 3 years. Bryce teaches hip-hop, jazz, and tap, and has been teaching at Atlas for 2 years.
After graduating from Santa Clara University, Courtney went on to get her teaching credential at San Jose State. She has been teaching elementary school for nine years and is currently teaching 5th grade in Santa Clara. Courtney began dancing at a young age and has been a part of the Atlas family for over 20 years. This is Courtney’s 9th year teaching for Atlas and she has recently taken on the role of Competition Team Director. She is very proud of her tiny dancers.
Samantha Ernst: Is a Freshman at San Jose State University and graduated high school from Santa Teresa in 2016. She began dancing when she was two years old at South Bay Dance Center where she trained for 17 years and currently dances on the dance team for the Spartan Spectrums. At South Bay Dance Center she performed as Snow Queen, Clara, Butterfly, and Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker. This is her first year teaching at Atlas Dance.
Elizabeth Rebello: This is Elizabeth’s 13th year dancing at the Atlas School of Dance. She has been dancing competitively with Atlas for the last 6 years. She is currently a junior at Valley Christian High School where she has been a part of the award-winning Vivid Dance team for the past three years. She is also hoping to continue dancing in college. Elizabeth is so excited to be teaching the Saturday “Tiny Dancer” classes this year. She loves her “babies” and hopes to share her love of dance with them.