Meet the Professionals
Bloom Dance Teacher Conference has an incredible lineup of dance professionals who will be presenting and teaching throughout the day. Click on their name below for their bios.
Freddie Lee Heath
"Open the window any way you can" has served as the motto that Freddie Lee Heath has lived by as a dancer, performer, teacher and choreographer for nearly 40 years. He has worked for Wake County Public Schools since 1992 having taught dance to all levels K-12. Presently, he serves the district as Director of Arts Education in this position he stands firmly on arts for all combined with rigor and relevance daily as he guides the work of 624 arts educators.
Freddie Lee was one of the first dance educators in the country to achieve National Board Certification; now, he mentors others through this process. In 2010, he served as president of North Carolina Alliance for Athletics, Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance where he has the distinction of being only the 2nd dance educator to serve in the 92year history of the organization.
Heath has received numerous awards based on his teaching including "Dance Teacher" Magazine’s 2008 K-12 National Teacher of the Year and National Dance Association’s 2010 National K-12 Teacher of the Year. He has shared his passion and love for dance at over 35 state conferences and beyond including the National Museum of Dance and the National Dance Company of Armenia. In 2018, he was awarded the Raleigh Medal of Arts for Life-Time Achievement in Arts for contribution to the arts community in Raleigh.
Freddie Lee has choreographed and performed for North Carolina Theatre, Raleigh Little Theatre, Theatre In The Park, Justice Theatre Project, Emily K Center, Cape Fear Regional Theater, Benson Little Theater. Still a practicing artist, his current choreography projects include: "Triangle Rising Stars" for Durham Performing Arts Center, Miss North Carolina Scholarship Competition, and Theatre in the Park’s, "A Christmas Carol" as well as Wake County Public Schools, Pieces of Gold.
Wendy Denny Wendy Penatello Denney was raised in Raleigh, North Carolina and had the pleasure of being trained under Christy Curtis of CC and Co. Dance Complex. After graduating high school she went to New York City to complete the Broadway Dance Center assistant program. Wendy has been featured dancing in a national Dr. Pepper campaign, and NC theatre productions of “Grease” as Cha Cha, and as Charity in “Anything Goes”! Over the past 15 years her focus has shifted to choreography and instruction. Her pieces have been recognized nationally, affording her the opportunity to instruct at conventions and intensives across the US. Wendy’s students have gone on to be accepted into prestigious dance programs, such as NYU Tische, BYU, USC Kaufman, and Pace, and Julliard with many performing professionally worldwide. Most Recently she worked as choreographer with Savannah, Georgia’s professional theatre company, Savannah Stage Co. on their production of Cabaret. Wendy’s goal is for all students to feel inspired by her unwavering passion for dance and for audiences to be positively affected by her work.
Mariah Reives began dancing at a small studio in Sanford North Carolina. She then went on to train at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with a B.A. in Teaching. She has been seen on television for The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, So You Think You Can Dance and Robin Roberts’ body double for their Oscars recap 2017 episode. Reives’ regional theatre credits include New York City Center, The Muny, and Theatre Under The Stars in shows such as The New Yorker, Me and My Girl, Jerome Robbins Broadway and The Wiz. Reives also played Cassandra on the First National Tour of the Broadway Revival ‘Cats”. Reives loves teaching and choreographing for studios in her spare time and loves sharing the fun and love of dance to everyone she encounters.
As a dance artist and educator, Sayward Grindley is also on the Dance Faculty at Elon University, Meredith College, and East Carolina University, and previously Appalachian State University. Sayward held positions with Carolina Ballet, Sarasota Ballet, and Sarasota Contemporary Dance. She has guest taught at High Point University, UNC Greensboro’s Masters in Dance Ed Program, University of South Carolina, Jacksonville University, Tulsa Ballet, NC Dance Educator’s Organization Conference, American College Dance Festival, Florida Dance Festival, and American Dance Festival. Sayward holds an MFA in Choreography from Jacksonville University-White Oak and an undergraduate degree from East Carolina University with a dual BFA in Dance Performance and Dance Education with K-12 certification.
As a lifelong dancer and graduate of NCSU, Ronald was mentored and trained under Kirstie Spadie of the North Carolina Dance Institute on a full scholarship while attending the College of Design. He has studied and danced as a company member for the Black Box Dance Theatre lead by Artistic Curator, Michelle Pearson and Artistic Director, Cassie Meador. A natural study, Ronald began assisting six months into his training and went on to teach by the end of his first year. He continues to define and explore a vast range of movement in his classes, and is always exploring cutting edge contemporary, hip hop and jazz styles. His professional work pushes social boundaries by using avant garde ideology and language, both verbal and nonverbal, to connect with each dancer and audience member. His work is a blend of high-concept choreography with movement that is progressively athletic, compelling and innovative.
He has danced in several professional productions both locally and nationally, and has collaborated with choreographers such as Diego Carrasco Schoch, Kate Davis, Courtney Greer, Justin Tornow, Killian Manning and Michelle Pearson. Throughout his career he has had works featured and selected in the North Carolina Dance Festival, the Durham Independent Dance Artists premiere season, and the upcoming independent documentary, Earth Caster. Most recently, Ronald traveled to China to work as a diplomat for the U.S. State Department with the goal of using dance as a universal language with an overarching theme of disabilities advocacy in order to help special needs children and everyday citizens across the country. In 2011 he started his own dance company, now known as the BLACK IRISH REBEL DISCO aka the BIRD, with an emphasis on mobility of the upper body, quality of movement, pivotal anatomical architecture and specificity in musicality. The influence of his undergraduate degree in environmental design in architecture will be evident in upcoming productions in the new decade, as he utilizes design to inform every facet of this thing we all love: dance.
Grayson Troxler, originating from Cary, NC, began dance training at the young age of 3. Since the age of 6, she has been a part of the competitive dance world and has trained in ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz, tap, and hip-hop throughout her dance career. She graduated Cum Laude from the University of Florida with a BFA in Dance.
Throughout her college career, she has been a rehearsal assistant and dancer with the pre-professional company at UF (MOD Ensemble), been selected to represent the University of Florida in dance works at the American College Dance Association, and performed in many dance productions each year, along with creating her own work. While pursuing her dance passions, Grayson continues to train competitive dancers in Florida as well as in North Carolina.
More than Dance: Mental Health in Students
Hillary Parnell is one of the biggest up-and-comers in the dance industry, but not for her choreography. Dedicated to finding more effective ways to run her own dance studio, Hillary is helping business owners all over the world find balance between work and their families, while growing their studios and increasing profit. She has become an authority on building community in your studio to create killer retention. She is the founder of Dance Photo Pro, designed to help studio owners increase revenue by bringing dance class photography in-house. And, most relevant to her talk with us today, she has developed a program called Dancers In Balance that provides tools to guide dance studio owners through a process of mentoring young dancers with a focus on physical, emotional and mental well-being. She has taught over 10,000 dancers, coached over 200 studio owners, and authored two books. Her mission is to help the next generation of studio owners create thriving businesses through leadership, mentorship and not nearly as many mistakes as she made
More than Dance: Mental Health in Students
Keeping Students Motivated
Cherita Lytle graduated from East Carolina University in 2002 with a BFA in Dance Education than later earning her teaching certification in elementary education in 2007. She developed the Oakwood School’s dance program beginning in 2014 and is currently the Fine Arts Department Chair. During her time as a student at East Carolina, Cherita performed with the East Carolina Dance Team(1997-2000) and ECU’s Theater and Dance-Dance 2001 production. She continues professional development and training each year by attending workshops and conferences around the country. Among many she has attended the Dance Teacher’s Web Conference and Expo(Las Vegas), the Broadway Dance Center (New York), Gus Giordano Summer Workshops (New York), the Boulder Jazz Dance Conference (Colorado), and Arizona Jazz Festival (Tucson). In addition to teaching at The Greenville Civic Ballet since 2001, Cherita continues to choreography and judged various competitions and pageants throughout eastern NC. Cherita is entering her 18th season with the the pre-professional company,the Dance Collective and serving as it’s company manager
Keeping Students Motivated
Morgan Trachtman is a Durham native and a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate where she got her BA in advertising from the School of Media and Journalism. She now works her for alma mater as the social media manager for the main UNC-Chapel Hill account. In addition to working at Carolina, Morgan teaches a monthly class in Raleigh on social media marketing and offers freelance consulting to small businesses, entrepreneurs and nonprofits. Dance holds a special place in Morgan’s heart. She found dance later than most, not starting seriously until high school, but dancing at Carolina introduced her to some of her closest friends.
Mandy Odom is from La Grange, NC. She is a 2007 graduate of East Carolina University with a B.F.A. in Dance Performance & a minor in Business Administration. Mandy is excited to celebrate her 13th year as owner & director of Mooves Dance Studio in Kinston, NC. With over 29 years of experience, Mandy’s performance history includes musicals, festivals, parades, pageants, competitions, cruise ships, & she is the founder of the T49 International Dance Convention. Mandy is certified by Acrobatic Arts & received her Master’s in Ballet, Tap, Jazz & Modern from Dance Masters of America’s teacher training school in New York. She loves being involved in her community by choreographing for local pageants, taking her traveling troupe to perform at a variety of events and she has enjoyed teaching movement at Westminster preschool for the past 7 years. She has been honored with numerous awards over the years, but most recently was humbled to receive the Honorary Lifetime Member Award from Hugo Fire Department, Bachna Scholarship, Named “Best of the Best” Dance Studio and “20 under 40” for Lenoir County 2019. When she’s not teaching dance, she enjoys spending time with her husband Ray, 2 year old daughter Ally & German Shepherd Jake.
Brooks has over 17 years teaching experience in dance and fitness. She is the head dance director at Cardinal Gibbons High School, has danced professionally for 10 years, and created her own fitness method. Brooks has taught dance at Carolina Dance Center, St. Mary’s High School, North Carolina Dance Institute, and received North Carolina Theater’s Outstanding Choreography award for the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cardinal Gibbons. Brooks created DanceFIT, her first installment of fitness classes that combines dance, cardio, and strength training. Her next class- FusionFIT rolls out at the end of January that consists of HITT, Barre, Pilates, and Yoga. Currently, she teaches Flybarre and FlyFIT at Flywheel Sports and Megaformer classes at Mega Raleigh. Brooks is certified in Yoga Sculpt, received Most Moving Instructor from Classpass, and is obtaining her personal training certification under NASM. Brooks transforms your body and mind with her inspiring, authentic, challenging, and motivating, classes. She is thrilled to be a part of this conference as a Panel Expert.
Mrs. Hagopian received her dance training in her homeland of England. She holds teaching examination certification in Classical Ballet, Modern and National Dance, awarded by the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance.
She also holds the Advanced Executant’s Ballet Examination Certificate awarded by the Royal Academy of Dance, late president Dame Margot Fonteyn.
After performing professionally with a Modern Ballet Company in Europe, Mrs. Hagopian has gone on to teach for the past thirty-two years. She has taught for dance schools in England, Germany, and in several states in the US.
Mrs. Annette Hagopian has also taught at Bates College in Maine, the Wake County Public Schools in North Carolina, and has held lecture demonstrations in several schools and community organizations.
Mrs. Hagopian opened the Triangle Academy of Dance in 1994 and serves as Director, faculty member and choreographer. The Academy has been awarded “Best Children’s Dance Program” in the area by Spectator magazine and has had several dancers from the Academy receive scholarships and awards and have continued onto professional careers in dance.
The Academy has currently over 800 enrolled students.
Mrs. Hagopian established a non-profit pre-professional ballet company in 2003, the Carolina Youth Ballet, and serves as the Executive Director.
Barrett Hildebrand started taking dance at the age of two at her mother’s studio, Nina’s School of Dance, in Durham. At an early age, her love for and dedication to dance was evident. She started competing and winning overalls at National Dance Competitions at the age of five. Barrett has studied with numerous professional dancers starting with Gus Giordano, Nan Giordano, Susan Quinn Williams, and James Kelly at the Jazz Dance World Congress in Chicago. She continued her dance education with Dayna Fox, Trish Casey, Dianne Markham, and Brenda Daniels at the UNC School of the Arts. When Barrett attended Governors School in 2001, she studied from Tiffany Rhynard and Heather Mims. Barrett attended Master Classes with the late Jose Meier of Carnegie Mellon, Bernard Johnson, and Hope Boykin of Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. Barrett was selected to be a Dance Performance Major at ECU and studied with her aunt, Tommi Overcash Galaska, Joseph Carow, Galina Panova, Roger Belman, and Patti Weeks. Barrett received a BFA in Dance Performance which is a completely different major from Dance Education. Dance Performance majors are selected by the faculty and must undergo an annual faculty jury to remain in the program. Barrett was the only student at ECU to be quadruple cast in the Dance Theater Performances. She was selected to work with guest artists, Colleen Thomas of Bill Young/Colleen Thomas & Co. of NYC, Nick Pupillo of Visceral Dance Chicago, and the late Andrea Del Conte of Danza Espana NYC. Barrett was on the Executive Board of the Miss NC Scholarship Pageant and was the choreographer of the pageant from 2007-2012. Barrett also serves as a judge for several dance competitions, including Carolina Dance Masters, Inc.
Barrett’s love for Wilson is evident as she continues to offer new options and opportunities to students in Wilson. Barrett has served as emcee and host of the Wilson Christmas parade, continues to work with the Miss Wilson Scholarship pageant as their director of choreography and assists local high schools with cheer and tumbling technique.
Barrett is the founder and the director of the local Company Dancers of Wilson Competitive Dance Team. In a very short time, Barrett raised the bar and her dance students went from winning average awards to winning top awards at Regional and National Competitions. Her students have won Judges Choice Awards, Highest Score Awards for the entire weekend, and Overalls. These awards have been given in solos, duet/trios, groups, and production competition categories. Her choreography has won in multiple competitions across the state and intrigues the audience. Barrett has helped several students get accepted into college dance programs and college dance teams. Even though Barrett has the talent to perform professionally, her heart and desire is in teaching her students and watching them develop a passion for the art of dance. While all of Barrett’s tributes are impressive, she instills something more important in her dancers. Barrett grew up being a part of raising a total of over $350,000 for Duke Children’s Hospital with her mother’s Benefit Jazz Show each year. She knows the importance in giving back to communities. Barrett spends a lot of time explaining to her students how much better it is to focus on helping others than focusing on winning. She believes that winning a trophy isn’t the glory, seeing and feeling the progress is. She has influenced her students by showing her love of dance and her passion of giving back. The Company Dancers raised a total of 75,000 for Women’s & Children’s Services of Wilson Medical Center in only four years.
In 2013, Barrett has finally reached her life-long goal of owning and operating Brand Performing Arts Center. Committed and focused, Barrett continues to grow B-PAC into the premiere dance studio in the Wilson area. She persistently pushes for the best for her students and continues to bring innovative ideas to improve the studio and the students.
Although Barrett’s love for dance is great, the only thing greater is her love for her family. Barrett married Matt Hildebrand in 2011. Matt can often be found working around the studio grounds, loading props at competition, or serving concessions at BPAC events. Since 2015, the Hildebrand family has grown to include their 4-legged big baby, Outlaw, 2 cats, a turtle, several fish, and over 10 chickens. The most important additions are their 2 precious daughters, who can be seen dancing around their mother’s studio or tucked lovingly on their mother’s hip while she teaches class.