Our Members 2016-12-25T16:07:48+00:00

Our Members, Our Soul

The many individuals involved with our company are the basis of everything we have accomplished and will continue to accomplish at Community-Minded Dance. We wouldn’t be where we are without everyone’s generous contributions and hard work.

Thank you to our fans, staff, instructors, volunteers, administration, and hired talent for making us everything we are today.

Members At A Glance

FOUNDER / EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Caryn Carrasco

RESIDENT SCHOOL PROGRAM STAFF

Freeman Bacon
Nick Buchanan
Anthony Carusiello
Sara Deckard
Julia Dillard
Lark Mervine
Matthew Pait

DANCE EVENT STAFF

Freeman Bacon
Ellie Blair
Anthony Carusiello
Luke Williams
Matthew Pait
Joe Smith

MARKETING DIRECTOR

Carrie Strohmeyer

ADVISORS

Al Martinez
Berma Benson
Chris Russo, CPA

BOARD MEMBERS

Peter Lazzara, President • Gino Moraga, Secretary • Elizabeth Bonner, Treasurer • Noriko Miura,  Board Member / ECE and School Program Advisor •  Brian Abe, Board Member at Large  •  Jan Justis, High School Program Advisor •  Billy Marcus, Board Member at Large  • Shana Montrose, Advisory Board. 

Open Board positions — one main and two advisory — We are seeking board members with legal, IT, and Fundraising backgrounds

GUEST ARTISTS AND INSTRUCTORS

King Charles •  Chester Whitmore •  Javier Rochwarger • Heriberto Perez • Shawn Hershey • Virginie Jensen • Skye Humphries • Naomi Uyama • Damon Stone • Sara Deckard • Ceth Stifel • Tiffiny Shea • Christian Frommelt • Jenny Shirar • Ryan Calloway • Ann Mony • Andy Reid • Nina Gilkenson • Jon Tigert • Jenna Applegarth • Mickey Fortanasce • Kelly Arsenault • Nick Williams • Sylvia Sykes • Bobby White • Kate Hedin • Peter Loggins • Heather Ballew • and many more wonderful souls.

Resident Biographies

Nick Buchanan

Dance Instructor, Choreographer, Manager

Born in Michigan, Nick grew up listening to Polkas, Motown, Metal, R&B, Gangster Rap, and Hip Hop before discovering the magic of jazz music through NPR. Falling in love with the music, it was only a matter of time before he found the popular dance of the swing era, Lindy Hop. Nickolas has studied American vernacular dances, including Lindy Hop, Charleston, Balboa, East Coast, Collegiate Shag, Solo Jazz, and Blues, for 10 years and has taught for about 7 years.

Nickolas has traveled across the US and Europe, sharing his passion for American vernacular dance. He is thrilled to be part of CMDances school program where he teaches everything from basic motor skill movement and dance to pre-school through 3rd grade students and more complicated choreographies to middle and high school students.

Nick Buchanan Bio Pic

Elena Hofer

Preschool Dance Instructor, Choreographer

Elena graduated from the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri at Kansas City in 2010, where she obtained her Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in modern dance performance. While at the Conservatory, she was privileged to study under and perform in various pieces by Jennifer Medina, DeeAnna Hiett, Sabrina Madison-Cannon, Paula Weber, Rodni Williams, Mary Pat Henry, and Ronald Tice. During the last several years she has attended summer intensive programs at The Ailey School in New York City; Jennifer Medina’s Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company in St. Louis, Missouri; and Cleo Parker Robinson in Denver.

Elena also holds an Associate of Applied Science in Small Business Management. Currently, Elena choreographs, studies salsa dancing, and teaches dance for both English and Spanish-speaking classes in the Head Start program through cmDance. She hopes to use dance and choreography as a tool to build self-esteem and create a positive self-image for young children and growing dancers, especially those who come from difficult backgrounds.

Elena Hofer Instructor Bio Pic

Freeman Bacon

Dance Instructor, Choreographer, Manager

Freeman Bacon began working with children at his first job at Joy Burns Ice Arena at the University of Denver in 1995. After leaving for several years, he returned to mentor skaters ages 4 through adult who were new to the ice rink at the university’s Learn-to-Skate program.

Freeman’s teaching focus expanded to include dancing in the winter of 2009, when a friend showed him his first Lindy Hop step. Freeman has studied many vintage partner dances, including Lindy Hop, East Coast Swing, Balboa, Collegiate and St. Louis Shag, and Blues. He also samples other dance forms such as hip hop, Latin, and ballroom to add to his repertoire and to inspire his other dancing. He has performed with multiple teams, dance groups, and companies in Denver.

In the fall of 2010, Freeman brought his teaching talents to cmDance, expanding his skill set to teach pre-school age children. Freeman’s high energy level and dedication to his classrooms enables him to relate easily with those in the program and positively impact both students and teachers. Through his methods, he facilitates growth in the children’s motor skills, physical expression, and creativity.

Matthew Pait

Dance Instructor, Manager

Raised in Fort Collins, Matt’s exposure to Lindy Hop started in 2001, when he played trumpet for his school’s concert and jazz bands. The music led him to the dance, and he participated in the first social dance class his school offered. Dedicated to sharing his passion for swing dance, Matt fostered a community of young dancers in his town. To reach new audiences through performance, Matt joined teams including CSU Blam, 23 Skidoo and, most recently, cmDance.

Matt has taught extensively, in Denver and on both coasts. He has primarily studied Lindy Hop, but has also studied solo jazz movement, Balboa, and blues.

Matt believes dance gives young people body awareness, coordination, and fitness in a fun and non-competitive environment in addition to social skills including etiquette and healthy interaction. He loves that dance education gives kids hands-on access to America’s political and cultural history as they learn about the jazz music that shapes the dancing. Teachers, parents, and administrators from schools have praised Matt’s passion and his emphasis on having fun while staying active.

Matt Pait Bio Pic

Sara Deckard

Dance Instructor, Choreographer, Manager, Coordinator

Sara Deckard, though never classically trained, has been dancing since her mother taught her how to “mash potatoes” as a little girl. In 2004, she fell in love with Lindy Hop and all dances of the Jazz Age such as Charleston, Balboa, Shag, Drag Blues and others. She began competing and performing in 2005 and has since won titles in Lindy Hop, authentic jazz, and blues dance at events around the world. As much as she loves to show off, Sara is a true street dancer and is happiest on the SOCIAL dance floor, or connecting with students in a relaxed workshop setting.

As a teacher, Sara is spirited and encouraging. She emphasizes staying true to the spirit of Swing and creating authentic, organic movement while maintaining one’s own creative voice and, of course, having as much fun as possible. She strives to give her students the confidence to get out and let their spirit move, experiment with new steps and celebrate happy accidents. Sara has taught at many workshops around the world, including the acclaimed Herräng Dance Camp in Sweden. Sara is also an instructor for CM Dance’s school outreach program, which fosters the next generation of jazz babies in Denver, CO, where she currently resides.

Sara Deckard Bio Pic

Advisors

Chris Russo

Chris Russo supports cmDance as its financial consultant, calling upon 12 years of accounting and finance experience working with non-profit, governmental, and for-profit organizations. Chris graduated from Regis University with a B.S. degree in Professional Accounting in 1996, with honors and the Joesph A. Ryan Award, and completed his MBA at Regis in 2004.

He also serves on the Board of Directors for Apollo Chamber brass, a 501(c) (3) non-profit, and is an active member in the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Colorado Society of Certified Public Accountants, and the Financial Executives International Organization.

Berma Benson

Berma Benson had a thirty year career as a physical education/dance teacher, assistant principal and director of elementary education with Denver Public Schools. Following her retirement, she came to work for Denver’s Great Kids Head Start as the education administrator, a position she has held for ten years. Ms. Benson is active in the community and regularly volunteers her time to choreograph various events.

Al Martinez

Al Martinez, Ph.D. has been the Director of the Denver Great Kids Head Start program since January of 2008. Prior to that time, he served as an Area Manager in the Region VIII Federal Office of Head Start, Administration for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services. His federal career exceeded 33 years when he retired to direct the Denver Great Kids Head Start program. He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of Head Start policy and grant administration. As an area manager at Region VIII, Dr. Martinez had oversight of all Head Start programs in the States of Colorado and Wyoming and served as the lead on Head Start Policy.

Board Members

Peter Lazzara, BA Architecture – Board President

(Board Certified Architect and Member of the A.I.A.)

Gino Moraga, MBA – Secretary

Elizabeth Bonner – Treasurer

Noriko Miura ED.S. – Board Member and Advisor for Pre and Elementary School Programs

(Nationally Certified School Psychologist; Member of National Association of School Psychologists)

Harry Saito, MS – Board Member / Web Advisor

Brian Abe, MBA – Board Member at Large

Jan Justis, MFA – High School Program Advisor

Jennifer Honnstein, JD – Board Member at Large

Billy Marcus – Board Member at Large