Vania Deonizio, Founding Director - is a dancer, choreographer, and an advocate for cultural change fighting for hospitals to treat humans as individuals who benefit from having access to creative and expressive arts during hospitalization. Born in Rio de Janeiro and raised throughout Brazil, Vania founded Dancin Power in the spring of 2006, while living in the United States. Thanks to her passion and determination, today, more 16,000 hospitalized children and their families at eight children’s hospitals across the United States have been positively impacted by the power of music, movement, mindfulness, and dance. After years of seeing the practical impact of her work, she decided to delve into the academic perspective and has been pursuing a graduate degree in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Expressive Arts Therapy. Vania has been featured by NBC, NowThis, and The Huffington Post, where a video of her work went viral, garnering the attention of millions of viewers worldwide. She has been awarded the Front Line Scholar Award from TEDMED and was recently named by the British Medical Journal as their International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare 2018’s Artist-in-Health Resident.
Rachel Baird - Teacher - Born in Canada, Rachel began dancing at the age of five and trained extensively in ballet and contemporary dance. At the age of sixteen, she moved to NYC to pursue a professional career. Rachel attended the prestigious Joffrey Ballet School and Alonzo King LINES Ballet Training Program. She completed the Pushing Progress Professional Development Program and is now a freelance dancer working with various choreographers in NYC. Rachel is inspired by the feelings of empowerment, joy, freedom and human connection that dance brings, a reason why she joined Dancin Power.
Ludmila Bizalion - Teacher-IN-Training - Originally from Brazil, Ludmila is currently a dancer with the San Francisco Ballet, one of the world's leading dance companies. She started dancing when she was six years old and has been in love with the art form ever since. Through movement, beauty, and music she finds true freedom and happiness, but mostly, she believes dance is a way to connect and interact with people from all over the world. As a dancer, she got to work and live in the USA, Belgium, and Hong Kong, which proved to her that this art form is a universal way of communicating, regardless of culture or background. For Ludmila dance is life changing, and she firmly believes that everyone, regardless of their gender, cultural background or physical abilities CAN and SHOULD have a chance to experience movement in some form, to feel the music and to be transported to a world of beauty, power, connection, and fun.
Monique Ferris - Teacher - Monique began movement practice as a young child, classically training into her adult years. She has studied many forms of dance, including ballet, tap, jazz, modern and classical Indian dance to name some. Her lifelong passion is experiencing and sharing the joy of expressive movement and she is delighted and honored to be a part of Dancin Power. She believes that all children facing serious disease and life-threatening illness benefit greatly by having access to sharing dance with their caregivers through Dancin Power.
Janene Kuan - Teacher - Born and raised in Berkeley, California, Janene began dancing at the age of five through her local ballet school following the footsteps of her older sister. There she grew to love dancing due to its balance between physical and artistic expression. When she began college at UC Berkeley, she desired to expand her horizons and joined various groups in the Berkeley Dance Community, which pushed her to choreograph in ballet and lyrical jazz and explore new styles such as hip-hop/urban and tap. When Janene heard about Dancin Power while volunteering at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital - Oakland, she could not wait to train, and become a teacher because it integrates her passions of dance and caring for patients!
Patricia Espinal - Teacher-IN-Training - Born in the Dominican Republic to a family who loves music, Patricia recalls seeing her relatives dancing while her Abuela cooked meals and at every family gathering. At age 5 she started taking ballet lessons, transitioning to Jazz dance during her Freshman and Sophomore years in High School. One of the main reasons Patricia that music and dance play a big part on her life has to do with the rare genetic disease, she was born with, Mucopolysaccharidosis VI (MPS VI), which causes progressive damage to the body. Dancing helps her to deal with her physical and emotional pain, during her surgeries, or whenever she feels down. Patricia became a Dancin Power teacher because she knows first-hand the healing power of music and dance. She believes that whenever a person is sad, in pain, or going through a difficult time, dancing allows a person to express emotions, improve the mood and uplift the spirits.
Isabel Bueso - Teacher-IN-Training - Born in Guatemala, Isabel began dancing at a very young age. She was part of school plays while taking ballet lessons. When she was 7 years old her family moved to California so that she could receive life-saving treatment for the chronic illness she battles against. When she was 13 years old she had to undergo a surgery that left her paralyzed from the chest down, impacting her life in many ways, including stop dancing. In 2013 while a patient at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital she took her first Dancin Power lesson and learned that being in a wheelchair did not mean she needed to stop dancing. That day she learned that she could still dance. While attending her weekly infusion appointments at the hospital she became a regular Dancin Power student for the past 5 years. The impact Dancin Power has in her life, inspired her to train to become a teacher. In Spring of 2018, she completed DP's Adaptive & Inclusive Dance Teacher Training and is currently working on her practicum. She is eager to start teaching on her own so that she can inspire others with her story and love of dance.
Nicoya Hudson - Teacher - Born in Big Sur California, Nicoya has experienced dances and cultures from all over the world since very early age. She has studied Middle Eastern Dances, Traditional Brazilian, West African and Tahitian. After being exposed to Brazilian Dances, she followed her longtime dream to go to Brazil and learn more about the culture. She has an eagerness to continue embracing the various movements of these dances. Dance has been her personal tool for healing, self-exploration, and self-expression. Dancing has provided a pathway for infinite human connection, and Nicoya has been a part of Dancin Power for this very reason.
Chantal Nathalie - Teacher - Born in South El Monte, California. Chantal's dance aspirations began with Ballet at the age of 3. While attending high school she indulged herself in performing. As the years passed her dance experience ranged from Hula Dance, Lyrical, Cheerleading, Modern/Contemporary, Stomp, Belly Dance and Hip-Hop. Dance has always been an art of expression for Chantal. She strongly believes that children are the key to the future. Therefore, motivating her to join Dancin Power to enrich the lives of children in time of need.
Angela West - Teacher-IN-Training - As a child, the first dance style Angela was exposed to was Tap Dance while at a friend’s garage. As she grew, she took ballet and jazz lessons, and later performed with the San Luis Obispo Jazz company. While in college, she explored other styles of dance adding folk and ballroom to her repertoire. She loves helping children, a reason why she went to school to become a child life specialist. Once she moved to the Bay Area, she found Dancin Power and felt delighted with the idea of being able her to combine her passion to dance and helping hospitalized children. Angela loves to dance and how it allows her to communicate and express herself when words are difficult. She believes that dancing is a meaningful way to discover emotion either pain or joy.
Annie Spirka - Teacher-IN-Training - Born and raised in Santa Barbara, California. Annie began taking ballet classes at age five. She soon realized that dance was something that would be a part of who she is for her entire life. While ballet remained a part of her training for over a decade, she has grown as a dancer by exploring as many styles as she could. Annie finds dance to be personally inspiring due to its universal ability to build a connection between people and transcend language or cultural barriers by communicating with the body. Dance is important to her because it provides her with the space to express herself freely and embrace her creativity. She became a Dancin Power teacher because she is passionate about making dance accessible and available to all populations, regardless of any physical or financial limitations.