Melanie Kirk-Stauffer, currently Artistic Director, is the principal trainer and choreographer for DANCE THEATRE NORTHWEST. She has a history of having produced and directed numerous successful shows for family audiences including SWAN LAKE, NUTCRACKER, LES SYLPHIDES, America, Let Freedom Ring, The Jewel Heart, The Snow Queen, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Red Shoes, Back To Broadway and Beautiful Ballets. She has also choreographed and produced for television and video. Excerpts from several of her original productions have won Regional and National awards. Under Melanie’s direction, DANCE THEATRE NORTHWEST received the Margaret K. Williams Arts Award from The Pierce County Arts Commission in 1998; a Cultural Diversity Award from Access Broadway of New York in 1999; and has received two Awards of Excellence from the city of University Place. Melanie has been recognized internationally as a significant female choreographer; in the 2003 Celebration of Women photo essay exhibit by Ruthann Reim; and, in the Mt. Tahoma Alumni Hall of Fame.
Formerly a professional dancer with The Huntington Dance Ensemble later named Ballet Repertory in New York under the artistic direction of Richard Englund, Melanie’s professional performing dance experience includes leading roles in the ballet classics Paquita, Pas De Quatre, La Bayadere (Kingdom of The Shades),Divertimento, Pas de Dix (Act III Raymonda), Grande Tarantelle, Crazy Quilt, CourtleyDances; contemporary, jazz, and musical theatre roles in H.M.S. Pinafore, a Gilbert and Sullivan musical,Oophytes, Resentiments, Akimbo, Tango, and a student role in Serenade. Melanie served as fitness expert on channel 11 TV’s To Your Health for 6 years, choreographed for Orchesis Dance Groups at Western Washington University, with Donna Pallo, at the Evergreen State College, for local and regional dance festivals and competitions.
She has studied many forms of dance extending her early training with Pat Cairns of England’s Royal Academy of Dance, San Francisco and Joffrey Ballet and her dance career to include training and performance in ballet, jazz, tap, theatre, modern, character, contemporary, folk, and ballroom dance. She has numerous teaching certifications in dance, dance exercise, and dance science. The recipient of multiple dance awards and scholarships to prestigious schools including the Joffrey and San Francisco Ballet, she has also had opportunities to explore Horton, Luigi, Cunningham, and Graham dance techniques.
Melanie holds a bachelor of Science degree in Dance from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Columbia Pacific University. She is a former adjunct faculty member of Western Washington University and former part-time faculty member of Tacoma Community College.
Melanie visits New York City regularly to attend dance and or observe classes that include ballet, pointe, variations, partnering, jazz, musical theatre, floor barre and tap. Her students have gone on to receive scholarships in dance from Joffrey Ballet and PNB, Wayne State, Brigham Young, Park Pointe, Montana State, Barat Conservatory, Texas Christian, Southern Methodist, Chapman, and Arizona State Universities; to dance professionally (most recently at Pacific Northwest Ballet), in musicals and Touring Companies, work in college dance programs, and to teach professionally. Melanie lives in University Place with her husband, Larry Stauffer.
Katie Neumann – Principal & Guest Artist:
has been featured in Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Paquita and the Sylvia Pas De Deux. Katie joined the company as an apprentice member in 2004 after performing for several years with the Jr. Dance Ensemble. She has performed the dual roles of Odette/Odile in DTNW’s SWAN LAKE, Princess Aurora in DTNW’s Sleeping Beauty Pas De Deux, Sugar Plum Fairy, Snow Queen, Dew Drop Fairy, Clara, Arabian, Angel, whirling Dervish, Russian, Chinese and Columbine Doll in DTNW’s Nutcracker. She has also been awarded The DTNW Student of the Year Award and multiple scholarships in Dance. Katie has participated in several summer dance camps and intensive training programs at DTNW and moved to New York where she trained, danced and resided after traveling there with the company for advanced training. She is now back with DTNW to teach, train and to perform.
Deb Main, Emma Young, Birgitte Necessary, Fancy Williamson, and Ardythe Fleener have studied and performed with Dance Theatre Northwest. They have all earned teaching or teacher assistant certificates and completed DTNW’s Dance Captain, Instructor Training Courses & Certification. Sylvia Bolton is a former dancer with the New York City Ballet. She directs, stages and teaches across the United States and currently resides in Oregon. Nancy Whyte, former Artistic director of the Mt. Baker Ballet, has taught and directed dance performances for over thirty years. She earned her BA in dance from the Evergreen State College. Nancy currently teaches and choreographs in New York City.
Richard Pilion Guest ~ Originally from British Columbia, Canada, Richard trained at Canada’s National Ballet School and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. He had the opportunity to perform with the National Ballet of Canada numerous times including the world premiere of John Alleyne’s Tristan and Isolde and was one of the first male dancers to achieve his advanced certification in the Cecchetti method of ballet in Western Canada. Other career highlights have included productions of: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Promises, Promises, Singin’ in the Rain, Sweet Charity, Guys and Dolls, Beauty and the Beast, Jean Ann Ryan Productions, Royal Caribbean Productions (including Dancing with the Stars’ Louis Van Amstel’s production of Invitation to Dance), Albany Berkshire Ballet, Sarah Berges Contemporary Dance, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Galan Entertainment’s Tango Buenos Aires and the APEC Summit in Vladivostok, Russia.
Paula Young completed all of her yoga teacher training through Yogafit, where she earned her 200 hour teaching certification, as well as an additional 140 hour teaching certificate for trauma sensitive yoga. A Registered Yoga Teacher (200 RYT) with Yoga Alliance she has been practicing yoga since 2011, and teaching yoga since 2014. Paula teaches alignment based vinyasa style classes to safely guide her students through breathing, movement, and meditation, and she has experience teaching all levels. Her goal in teaching yoga is to create a compassionate, non-judgmental environment for each person to find self-acceptance and personal success through their yoga practice.
Katy Levesque started dancing at age 9. She joined the adult beginning ballet class at DTNW and returned to performing in 2001 after a long break from dancing. She now teaches this class and others bringing her love of ballet to all of her students. Katy was a company member of the Metropolitan Ballet from 1986-1990 and also studied dance at WWU.
Oceana Thunder – Certified Instructor & Dance Company Member: Oceana Thunder joined the Junior Company in 2012, and was promoted to Advanced Junior Company in 2014, and to Company Member in 2018. Oceana has performed many featured roles in DTNW original pieces, as well as in the Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty, including the roles of Sugar Plum Fairy and Princess Aurora. She has also performed corps roles in Swan Lake. Oceana has attended DTNW intensives, and has traveled with the company to New York as part of their advanced dance education program. Oceana studied for and passed her dance captain and teacher assistant certification in fall 2014. She has been the recipient of multiple May Bell Hansen and Joffrey Ballet Scholarships. Oceana currently studies ballet, pointe, partnering, jazz, tap, and musical theater.
Denise McCluskey has over 800 teaching hours and holds a 500 RYT through Yogafit and Yoga Alliance. She holds training certificates in Kids, Pre and Post Natal, Back, Trauma, Healthcare and Ayurveda Courses. In 2016, she received a certificate in Rishikesh, India for an intensive study in the 8 limbs of yoga working through a Guru. Denise incorporates Deepak Chopra’s exploration of the mind, body and spirit of Quantum Healing into each of her classes for a full health and well being experience.