RockReach Faculty & Staff

RockReach teaching artists work hard to train, motivate, inspire, and educate a diverse amount of students all over greater Philadelphia.  Their passion in the arts and dance fuel their day-to-day practice.  These professionally trained instructors are proficient in various forms of dance, have extensive knowledge of the moving body, and the ability to apply those traits to growing children.  

RockReach instructors are aware of individual needs of the participants in each Residency school and must have the ability to take command of a class, demonstrate and explain a variety of styles of dance as well as overall healthy lifestyle behaviors for the mind and body, while providing a supportive, caring, encouraging, and safe environment for children.

RockReach teaching artists have been invited to sit on panels and lead workshops on techniques and practices for teaching outreach programs in Philadelphia schools. 

This amazing faculty can do miracles for children’s futures, and foster a love for the arts alongside a love for leading a life of excellence. They can truly give their students the key to unlock their potential, in dance as well as in life.
— Parent of City Dance Scholarship Student
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CHRISTINA PASTRAS RUIZ

RockReach Director & Teaching Artist

Christina Pastras began her training in Philadelphia and received scholarships to the Joffrey Ballet, The Governor's School of the Arts, and The Rock School for Dance Education.  She has performed in Corps de Ballet and Soloist roles with several ballet companies as well as shared the stage with Will Smith, Mariah Carey, and Boys II Men.  Christina performed residencies in Japan, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas and has traveled throughout the US and the world performing with Pembrua Productions and The Marc Scott Dancers.

Holding a B.F.A. in Dance Education (focus on Ballet)  from the University of the Arts and a Master's Degree Ed.M in Dance Education, Christina has been on faculty and a rehearsal coach with The Rock School for 13 years and serves as Ballet Mistress for several schools in the Philadelphia area. 

Christina is happy to broaden her position with The Rock School as Director of RockReach, which brings dance to grades K-12 in Title 1 public, charter, and parochial schools throughout Philadelphia.  RockReach is one of the city's leading outreach programs, reaching over 26,000 at-risk youth every year and run Residencies in over 21 schools.  Her goal is to bring dance into the lives of children in our school system where arts and physical education is notably absent.  

Christina resides in Philadelphia with her husband and their four beautiful children.

 

 

 

 

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CATHERINE LONG

RockReach Teaching Artist & Dynamic of Dance Host

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Catherine Long began her ballet training in 1992 under the direction of Donna Muzio in West Chester Pa. She Dance with Brandywine Ballet Company until graduating in 2004. In 2008 she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BFA in Dance Performance from Towson University. In June of 2008, she was asked to present choreography for the National Dance Education Organization conference in Towson, MD. She had danced, taught, and performed professionally all over the tristate area. In 2014 she moved to teach in Florida for Dance Dimensions the home of the Fort Lauderdale Children’s Ballet Theater. She returned in 2016 and now teaches in Philadelphia and New Jersey. In 2016 she joined the RockReach team. Catherine is an ABT Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 5 of the ABT National Training Curriculum. In addition, she is also a Certified FLX Conditioning Specialist for Flexistretcher. 

 

 

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KELLY RAMBO

RockReach Teaching Artist, Training & Development

A graduate from Drexel University with a BA in Marketing, Kelly Rambo is a multi-talented dance professional who has effectively managed a performing and teaching career for over 10 years, which has taken her all over the world.  Kelly forged a path with iLLadelph Phlave, one of Philadelphia’s longest standing hip-hop companies that continues to flourish today.  She remains committed to the growth and development of artistic communities by touring as a primary dancer of the nationally recognized hip-hop company, olive Dance Theatre (oDT).  Kelly recently trained and toured with hip-hop pioneer, Ken Swift in oDT’s Swift Solos 1st North American tour and has worked as a Teaching Artist for The Barnes Foundation’s education program for over 3 years.

Currently, Kelly is a Teaching Artist for The Rock School's community outreach program, RockReach.  She is also a key contributor and the longest tenured hip-hop instructor at First Position Dance Arts studio.  Kelly is also Director and award-winning Choreographer of SURGE, First Position Dance Arts’ high school dance team.

An image of Kelly dancing was painted in the second largest mural in the world as a part of the How Philly Moves project.  The mural can be seen on the Philadelphia International Airport’s parking garage and spans over 50,000 square feet.

Kelly also supported the establishment of Indigenous Pitch Dance Collective, a non-profit organization that provides philanthropic assistance and encouragement to children across the world through dance.  She traveled the globe teaching dance to aid in their mission and assist in nurturing children who have been affected by natural, environmental and/or socio-economic disasters including: New Orleans, Haiti, and North Philadelphia.

As a continuous student of hip-hop, Kelly embraces the evolution of the dance culture while maintaining fundamental elements of its existence. She wishes to continue to learn and grow as a dancer and teacher while utilizing her talents to uplift and inspire others.   

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JENNIFER YACKEL

RockReach Teaching Artist

Jennifer D. Yackel is a Philadelphia-based performing artist whose extensive career has taken her from ballet companies: Richmond Ballet and Ballet Theater of Maryland, to contemporary companies: Jeanne Ruddy Dance and the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company.  In addition to her professional work, Jennifer has enjoyed projects with Mark Dendy, Adam Weinert, Bowen McCauley Dance, Chisena Danza, Lior Shneior, Invisible River, Victoria Hutchinson, Stone Depot Dance, The Embodiment Project, and The Naked Stark and has performed in such notable venues as Jacob’s Pillow, Kaatsbaan International Dance Center, and the Lincoln Center Plaza.  

Jennifer is currently part of the NADINE Project, a choreographic collective under the direction of Janet Soares and Libby Nye and has performed as a guest artist for the American College Dance Association Festival and the Salisbury University Spring Dance Concert.  Jennifer's choreography has been presented in several festivals and venues in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland including YES Dance Invitational and Suite Summer Festival.  

Jennifer is passionate about sharing dance with others.  As an educator, she has taught masterclasses at the American College Dance Association Festival and Salisbury University as well as in several conservatories throughout the East Coast.  Her students have gone on to dance professionally with Suzanne Farrell Ballet, Sarasota Ballet, Ballet Arkansas, Charlottesville Ballet, and DragonFly Dance Experiment.  Jennifer has been a Teaching Artist with RockReach since 2011.

 

 

 

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CHARON MAPP

RockReach Teaching Artist

Charon S. Mapp began her dance training at Progressive Center for Dance, now Ms. Carol’s Center for Dance.  In 1993 she began studying at Point Breeze Performing Arts Center where she discovered her love for performing.  She was Dance Captain and Soloist as a member of the Point Breeze Dance Company, known then as Positively to the Point.

Charon realized her gift for teaching at the age of 15 and has taught dance to students ranging in ages from 2-18 in traditional studio settings as well as Philadelphia public schools and to children with special needs, which has given her the opportunity to introduce dance to a new generation.  A graduate of William Penn High School, she studied under Faye Snow, Zane Booker and Wayne St. David.  Charon was the winner of the 1999 NAACP Act-So Regional Competition, she was a National Finalist, and appeared as an extra in the Oprah Winfrey film, Beloved.  Charon was also a talent judge for the 5th Annual "Celebrate the Knowledge" Expression Scholarship Contest, sponsored by the Philadelphia Coca Cola Bottling Company.

Throughout her career, Charon has performed locally, nationally and internationally including: Melborne, Australia, Bermuda, and at Philadelphia Phillies games.  She currently serves as the Rehearsal Director & Choreographer for Eleone Connection, under the artistic direction of Shawn-Lamere Williams.  Charon has also won the 2010 Rocky Award for her work in the Philadelphia Dance Community.  Her approach to dancing, teaching, and life "hold back nothing, give all I've learned."

 

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FALLON GANNON

RockReach Teaching Artist

Fallon Gannon, originally from Rome, NY began her training with Stephen and Canan Jackson and Delia Foley, A.R.A.D. Under the direction of Ms. Foley at Ballet Arts, Fallon studied the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus and completed exams through Advanced I. While studying at Ballet Arts, she also had the opportunity to dance with the Mohawk Valley Ballet, performing many full-length ballets. She furthered her training at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s Pre-Professional Program directed by Marjorie Grundvig and Dennis Marshall. 

Upon completing this program, Fallon was awarded a Presidential Scholarship to attend the University of the Arts, where she graduated with a BFA in Ballet Performance. During her time at UArts, she studied under: Andrew Papp, Eva Szabo, Karen Brown, Anastasia Babayeva, Denis Gronostayskiy, Christine Cox, Scott Jovovich, Molly Misgalla, Wayne St. David, Donald Lunsford, Jen Johnson, and Kim Bears-Bailey. 

Upon graduating, Fallon has had the opportunity to perform with BalletFleming, Dance Del Bello, Arch Contemporary Ballet, and The Albany Berkshire Ballet. Alongside performing, Fallon loves teaching and has been a teaching artist in Philadelphia for the past seven years. She has been a part of the Rock Reach program since 2013.

 



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THERESA PELICATA

RockReach Teaching Artist

Theresa Pelicata began her dance training at age 3 at La-Cher-Tari dance studio (Philadelphia, PA). From there, her studies led her to the Wissahickon Dance Academy, Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), Philadanco's Training Program and the Alvin Ailey/Fordham University BFA program. While in college, Theresa began performing with the Fred Benjamin Dance Company and became a member of the World Famous Radio City Rockettes. Upon returning from her first year with the Rockettes, she began teaching dance at local Philadelphia dance studios and at her HS alumni.

Theresa has spent the last 6 years as the Dance Director of the Young Performers Theater Camp and she has been teaching at various local dance studios throughout the years. This past Christmas marked Theresa’s 12th season with the Radio City Rockettes. In May of 2015, Theresa opened her own dance studio, Premiere Dance Academy, LLC in Lansdowne, PA. Theresa now enjoys teaching for RockReach and growing her dance studio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Gabriele Tesma-Guma

RockReach Teaching Artist

Gabriele T. Tesfa-Guma is a native of Ethiopia and was raised in Italy. Mr. Tesfa-Guma has a career in music as well as in dance. Mr. Tesfa-Guma received his dance training from teachers like David Howard, and schools like Ballet Academy East, The Rock School of Pennsylvania Ballet , Philadanco, The Joffrey Ballet School, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. Gabriele danced with many companies, including Joffrey II: The Dancers, Alpha Omega, Takaski Watanabe (Japan), and was a lead dancer with Philadanco for seven years.

Gabriele has been teaching a variety of dance techniques such as ballet, jazz, modern and hip-hop at the Rock School for Dance Education and for their outreach program Rock Reach at Sheppard Elementary and Ludlow Elementary , Gesu School and many others. Mr Guma also taught for the Kimmel Center Outreach program at schools like West Philadelphia High School, Nueva Espera Charter School and Middle Years Alternative middle school(M.Y.A.) and for Westtown School. In addition Mr Guma choreographed and taught workshops at schools like University City Arts League , Music In Motion (St. Croix -U.S. Virgin Islands) , Bryn Mawr College, School of the Future, Point Breeze Academy for the Performing Arts, Ballet School of Central Pennsylvania (State College,Pa), Martha Merideth School of Dance(Syosset, Long Island) , Philadanco and more . 

Mr. Guma is very excited about lending his passion and experience to help shape young , passionate and talented dance students and believes in the power and benefit of dance training for the shaping of all children . 


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Angelica Spilis

RockReach Teaching Artist

Angelica Spilis is the Artistic Director of Equilibrium Dance Academy. She is a Philadelphia native who studied dance at Temple University in the Boyer College of Music and Dance where she received her BFA (2012) and MA (2015) degrees in dance. Her Masters of Arts degree included many choreographed works and her written thesis called Dancing With Arthritis where she created a Somatics-based dance class for dancers who have arthritis. At Temple University, Angelica concentrated in Modern, Jazz and Improvisational Dance. Along with continuing her dance education, Angelica has taught at many dance studios in the Philadelphia area and performed for numerous dance companies, such as Philly Sirens, ContempraDance Company and Steven Welsh/SWERVE. She has also performed on The Q Show featured on FOX 29. Angelica’s intense tap dance training began at the Young Performers Theater Camp where she took tap class every day for six weeks during the summer. She attended this dance program for six years. Her training continued with such notable teachers as Jacob Guzman and David Guzman, who both starred in the Broadway musical Newsies. Angelica has showcased her tap skills at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival and for the Garden State Festival. She has also choreographed dances that were featured at Temple University, Disney World, Carnegie Hall, Spring UP Dance Festival and the ETC Performance Series.

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Stephanie Demby-Afum

RockReach Teaching Artist

A native Philadelphian, Stephanie Demby-Afum realized her love and dedication to dance at an early age and began formally training at the age of six at Progressive Center for Dance. Stephanie studied Dance at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative & Performing Arts and later received her B.F.A. in Dance Education from the Howard University School of Fine Arts in Washington, DC. Over the years she has developed her technique and love of the art form under the tutorlage of many noted instructors and dance institutions, including: Joan Myers Brown at Philadanco, Patricia Hobbs at Freedom Theater and Dr. Sherrill Berryman-Johnson at Howard University. Skilled in ballet, pointe, modern, jazz, and tap, Stephanie began teaching at an early age. She continues to study and grow herself while sharing her knowledge of the art with her students.

Throughout her career, Stephanie has performed with several companies and for many renowned choreographers, including: Kevin Iega Jeff of Deeply Rooted in Chicago, IL; Ronald K. Brown of Evidence in New York, NY; and Assane Kante of Kankouran in Washington, DC. For several years she was a member of Philadanco's 2nd company, Danco II, and is currently a member of Grace Dance Theater where she now serves as Artistic Director. Stephanie is an award-winning and sought-after choreographer. Her work has been performed by GDT, Grace Dance Ensemble, STTP, and Eleone Dance Incorporated. In 2012, Stephanie was a recipient of The Rocky Award, given by Dance UP, for Outstanding Achievement in the Philadelphia dance community. Stephanie owes a lot of her achievements to her late dance mentor Carol Lorraine Cubbage-Davis, Founder of GDT, who instilled importance of dance in the lives of children.

This is not just a place to learn dance steps, it’s a family of people who care deeply about the children they teach, and want to extend a helping hand to all in need.
— Parent of City Dance Scholarship Student