Chris Zarate, (Hip Hop Instructor & Director, City Nation)
Former director of Work In Progress, Chris first honed his performance skills working with DJ Too Kool Chris and built his technical foundations under the guidance of Karlo Familiara and Suave at Hip Hop Connxion, Angelina Grima and Karlo Familiara at Design and a variety of instructors with The Puzzle League and the Chicago Onyx Dance Alliance (CODA). In recent years, he has been 1 of the 4 directors to lead the first Chicago based Mega-Crew company to Hip Hop International in Las Vegas, performed at various competitions (including World of Dance Chicago, Prelude, Masterpiece, and more), and has joined the Chicago Branch of “Young Lions” under the direction of Ian Eastwood.
Today, as Director and Owner of City Nation Studios, Chris enjoys sharing his experience across the country with a new generation of dancers as they embark on their own journeys.
Connie Sweeney (Choreographer to City Nation Studios), a former member of performance Company Same Planet, Different World, adjudicator and workshop instructor to CDC (Chicago Dance Connection), CNADM (Chicago National Association of Dance Masters, and others, currently performs with Jay Fagan in Sibling Rivalry and is the former Artistic Director of Footwork Dance Ensemble.
Zoe Martinkus (Musical Theater, Junior Jazz, HipHop, Twinkle Stars Combo & Kindergarten, and Director of the Dance Workshop Ensemble Company), has a Bachelor of Arts-Musical Theatre from North Central College. She has trained in tap, ballet, lyrical, hip hop, and modern through North Central, Lou Conte Studio, American Dance Center, and La Danse Academy.
Zada Cheeks (Ballet), a native of Aurora, IL, began his dance training at the age of 10. He became a member of The Cartier Collective and Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s “BAM!” while graduating from West Aurora High School. Since then, Mr. Cheeks has also performed with dance companies such as: Chicago Dance Crash, Civic Ballet of Chicago, Corpo Dance Company, Inaside, Kanopy Dance Company, River North Chicago, and Winifred Haun and Company. He has toured nationally and internationally to China, Italy, Spain, and Venezuela.
Marissa Flores (ballet, twinkle, tap) Marissa started training for dance at the age of 3. She has danced at several dance studios including Dance Images, The Dance Workshop and American Dance Center in Orland Park. Her training includes all styles of dance – Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Hip Hop, Modern and Contemporary. She was also in dance companies at both The Dance Workshop and The American Dance Center. In these excel programs she has performed in many events such as The Chicago Bulls ‘Pre-Game’ events, Miss Illinois Pageants, The Art Institute of Chicago, Anthaneum Theatre and Great America. Marissa has also trained in gymnastics and has a strong theatre background. She has been performing various theatrical productions with Missoulas Children Theatre. In addition to training at various studios, Marissa has competed in many dance conventions such as Dance Olympus, Tremaine, and Dance Chicago. In high school, she was involved extensively in cheer and poms. Marissa continues her dance education while taking dance classes at Visceral Dance Centerand Lou Conte in Chicago. She is also currently attending Governors State University and working towards her Early Education degree.
Kalina Bartlett (Ballet)
began performing with Ballet Wichita at age 10 and danced principal roles while in high school. She returned to BW as guest artist for The Nutcracker, dancing Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Wichita State University with a BFA in Performing Arts in Dance. With Wichita Contemporary Dance Theatre, she toured to New York City and Italy, and earned soloist roles with choreographers Cheyla Clawson Chandler, Rachel Boyajian, Darrell Grand Moultrie and Shauna Martinez. She performed professionally with Modern American Dance Company (MADCO) in St Louis. She resides in Chicago, trains at Lou Conte Dance Studio, freelances and teaches.
K J Sheldon (Tap)Native of Colorado, KJ grew up dancing under the direction of her late mentor, Prof. Robert L. Reed. She was inspired by him for 10 years, and he was the one to introduce her to the tap community. At 18, she moved to Chicago to pursue a BFA in musical theater with an emphasis in dance. She earned her degree in May 2019. Throughout her years of studies, KJ started dancing with MADD Rhythms Tap Company and is now a professional member. Since being in Chicago, she’s been able to perform at the DuSable Museum, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Harris Theatre, and countless others across the city and nation. Today, she continues to perform as a ional tap dancer and educator in the city.
Amber Kreis (Jazz,Hip Hop)Amber began dancing at Legacy Dance Ensemble in 2010 under co-founder, Donn Lusung. She trained in ballet, jazz, lyrical and hip hop styles for 8 years and competed with City Nation Studios for 5 years. Amber is eager to grow as a teacher imparting her knowledge and experience to future generations of dancers.
Katelyn Knoll has been dancing since the age of two at the Dance Workshop, as well as Jo’s Footwork Studio studying Hip Hop, Jazz, Ballet, Tap and more from well-known teachers Jay Fagan, Connie Sweeney, Chris Zarate and more. She was also a member of the Jo’s Footwork Senior Ensemble. Miss Knoll graduated from Illinois State University receiving her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, as well as an endorsement in ESL (English as a second language), At ISU, Katelyn continued dancing on their competitive dance team becoming VP/Captain for 2 years and earned 2 National Titles.