Abby Williams received her BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography and her BA in Arts Administration with a minor in Communications in 2014 from Elon University. Williams is the artistic director and choreographer of Cattywampus Dance, a Fractured Atlas sponsored, modern contemporary company. In addition, her choreography has been featured in Chicago Dance Month, Dance Chicago’s Choreographer’s Showcase 2016, Full Circle Festival 2016, Delve Dance Festival 2016, Bates Dance Festival 2013, Noumenon New Moves Choreographic Showcase 2015, The Coincidentals’ Mess Hall Installment 1 2015, Core Project’s Going Dutch 2015 and 2016, Inaside Dance Chicago’s Choreographic Sponsorship Event 2015, Dance Chicago’s New Moves Series 2014 and 2015, Bates Dance Festival 2013, North Carolina Dance Alliance 2013, the Tennessee Children’s Dance Ensemble’s repertoire among other performances. She has also performed professionally with The Coincidentals, Jamm ‘N Honey, Heather Carpenter, Sara Tourek, and Jason Aryeh. Williams is currently living in Chicago where, in addition to creating and performing her own work, she teaches various styles of dance with Design Dance, and Steps Performing Arts Center.
Amanda has worked with children in various capacities since 2002, whether it was through babysitting, being a camp counselor, or teaching in the classroom. She obtained her degree in Early Childhood Education and minor in linguistics from Northeastern Illinois University in 2006. In 2012, Amanda received her ESL certification. She has taught at a Montessori daycare, in a traditional preschool setting, and at the middle school level. In 2014, Amanda began working as a nanny for a family with four children, working for them up until July 2016 when she had her own daughter. Amanda lives in Deerfield with her husband and daughter.
Ashley has taught performing arts on the North Shore for 18 years as director and music director for New Trier’s Performing Arts Summer Workshop, Edgewood Middle School, Wilmette Theatre, and Northlight Theater’s Summer Academy. Most recently, Ashley taught theatre, vocal music, and early childhood classes at Starland. She has sung with The Apollo Chorus of Chicago, is a proud New Trier theater alumna, and has a B.A. in music from Drake University.
Audrey has practiced art education and art therapy for over 25 years. She has worked in several settings with many different populations including children with special needs and adults with mental health illnesses. She taught art at Starland for 10 years and is currently working with children in schools promoting creativity, problem solving and healthy self-esteems while using a variety of art materials. She has a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Masters of Art in Art Therapy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Brandon Brown is passionate about creating memorable experiences at all types of social events ranging from Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, and birthday parties with FAMOS! DJ Entertainment. He has been a professional entertainer for over 15 years. Music and dance have been a huge part of his life. He is currently a member of the Chicago Bears and Chicago Bulls Drumlines! Brandon has been teaching private drum and dance lessons for over a decade. His enthusiasm and passion radiates through his style of teaching. Being fit and leading a healthy lifestyle is also very important to Brandon. He has a 2nd degree black belt in a Korean Martial Art. Working with kids has also been a huge interest of his. He was a camp director at Banner Day Camp for seven years. He looks forward to sharing his knowledge and love for music and movement with both kids and adults
Cami Codell graduated from Muhlenberg College in 2016 with a B.A. in theatre, dance, and women’s/gender studies. Her favorite college theatre credits include Monty Python’s Spamalot, Chicago, Iphigenia and Other Daughters, Dutchman, Ulysses in Nighttown (choreographer). She has studied theatre in London, UK at Goldsmiths University and in Greece with One Year Lease Theatre Company from Brooklyn, NY. In her native Chicago, Cami has worked with Trap Door Theatre, Runcible Theatre Company, Improv Playhouse, Madkap Productions, and the Actors Training Center, among others. Aside from a fiery passion for the arts, Cami loves yoga, the San Francisco Giants, and her leopard gecko, Ollie.
Carly began her studio dance training at the age of two and continues to be an avid performer, having studied ballet, hip hop, tap, jazz, and musical theatre.
A graduate of Cary-Grove High School, Carly was an active member of Cary-Grove’s Varsity Pom Squad, Cary-Grove’s show choir, and five musicals. Carly continued her performance education at Bradley University in Peoria, studying Public Relations and Theatre. While there, she was a member of the Bradley Bravettes Dance Team and began choreographing for local high school productions.
Carly currently is a freelance dance instructor and choreographer at many studios, schools, and adult and children’s theatre companies throughout the Chicagoland area. Her work for Up and Coming Theatre’s production of Green Day’s American Idiot won her the BroadwayWorld Chicago Award for Best Choreography (Regional Non-Equity). Carly is also currently pursuing her M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Bradley University.
Carrie Codell is a seasoned educator having worked in a variety of local public schools over the past 30 years. She has a Master’s degree in special education and has taught children of all elementary school ages. She is currently working in the reading program at Bannockburn Elementary School. Carrie is extremely passionate about her work with children and always strives to provide a nurturing, encouraging, and fun setting. Carrie’s other great joy is being the mother to her two grown children, Bryce and Cami. As a life long learner, she is currently taking Italian language lessons. In her spare time, Carrie loves to travel, garden, bike ride, and try new restaurants. She is also an avid walker, reader, and San Francisco Giants fan
Cathy has been teaching dance and acrobatics throughout the north and south suburbs since the age of 14. She believes it is never too late to start dancing, and most enjoys teaching teens and pre-teens that are new to the dance world. Cathy spent 10 years as a professional dancer in the south suburbs, but has since stepped off the stage to focus on teaching. A former dance and gymnastics instructor at Starland, Cathy joined Relevé in January 2017. She loves everything about teaching.
Christine is a physical therapist and, former competitive gymnast, gymnastics coach, and loving wife and mother to four young children. With a Masters degree in physical therapy and ten years of hands on experience, Christine will surely enjoy using her skills to captivate your children. As a former level ten USGF national qualifying gymnast, Christine will definitely keep your children on the move. Christine also has two years experience in coaching recreational gymnastics with children ages five through 14. Christine is very excited to join Rootz and help develop your child’s love for movement and gymnastics.
Clarrisa has always believed in being a diverse artist. She is a technically trained dancer in jazz, ballet, tap, contemporary, character, modern, and hip hop. She started out at Picture Us Different to learn how to adapt to style and expression. As Clarrisa became more serious about her dance career, she trained with the Joffrey ballet school and focused on ballet, modern, and jazz technique. Clarrisa fell in love with jazz and got accepted into the Gus Giordano dance schools pre- professional program. While focusing on different techniques, she enjoyed teaching her knowledge to kids from ages 2-14. Since her last show with Gus, Clarrisa has been auditioning for shows, teaching, and working as an interactive dancer at a DJ Company; Bizar Entertainment.
Eli’s excitement and passion for music is infectious. He holds a Bachelor of Music in Contemporary, Urban, and Popular Music (CUP) from Columbia College Chicago. Since high school he has played in a variety of different bands and ensembles ranging in style from latin jazz, pop, gospel, world music, and electronic music as well. Eli’s goal is to bring his experience and knowledge of these genres together to build a solid foundation for effective, young musicians.
Jennifer has been performing in some capacity since the age of four years old. She has spent many years studying theatre, dance, voice and is thrilled to share her knowledge, love, and passion for performing with the Rootz family. After graduating with a BFA in theatre performance from UIC, Jennifer has performed in numerous theatrical productions, musicals, a rock cover band, and a children’s entertainment company. She also spent ten years working in an elementary school, during which time, she had the opportunity to help choreograph and direct many of the school’s musicals. Most recently, she taught a variety of classes at Starland and had the fortunate experience of working with Relevé. Currently, she performs as a princess for children’s events and is looking forward to meeting and working with the energetic, passionate, and talented students of Rootz.
Jordyn is thrilled to bring Relevé Dance to Rootz! After 10 years at Starland, many spent as the Director of Dance, Jordyn created Relevé. Relevé is a program where dancers rise to their fullest potential in a nurturing and creative way. Jordyn has been teaching dance for 19 years all around Chicago and danced professionally with Core Project and Irreverence Dance. Jordyn is most proud of her role as “mom” to her two boys, Charlie and Blake.
Katie Gassel Phillips
Katie is thrilled to get back to her “roots” at Rootz. A theatre girl at heart, Katie has performed in, taught, and directed shows for over 20 years. Katie caught the theatre bug when she entered high school at New Trier, having already spent countless hours dancing and singing around her house as a kid – anything from Disney to Sinatra Katie eventually took her love for being onstage to making the productions happen backstage. Later in high school and at the University of Illinois, Katie began to discover her love of directing and choreographing. She has since served as the camp and theatre director for the Wilmette Park District’s Broadway Bound Camp, director and choreographer for multiple Edgewood Middle School musicals, and teacher/director/choreographer at Starland Kids for over five years. In addition to the stage, Katie’s other passion is kids! In 2009 she received her K-9 Master of Education from DePaul University. As Director of Theatre, she promises to provide a safe and nurturing environment for all kids to explore theatre and looks forward to keeping your kids singing and dancing around the house (but saving the volume for the stage).
With over 20 years experience developing her relationship building skills through a combination of corporate positions and teaching dance & fitness, Kim’s passion is to cultivate community and empower individuals through POUND Fitness. Kim is the founder of KimtastiX and currently teaches fitness classes and produces larger events and fundraisers using music and movement through her production company, Powerhouse Productions.
Marchello “Chello” Lee
“Chello” is an accomplished professional dancer and master instructor who attended Columbia College and Northeastern Illinois University. He has performed across the world where his fusion of Hip Hop styles, break dance, house, jazz, and ballroom were spotlighted. His passion and versatility has led him to many lead roles as an actor and dancer. He has worked with renowned artists across the world including choreography featured in music videos, dance teams/ studio, and Winner of 2005 Chris Brown dance down. Chello formerly was an instructor at Starland and continued his dance teaching with Relevé starting in January 2017.
Megan graduated Illinois State University with an acting degree in 2016. She has studied and pursued acting for the past fifteen years, but her true passion is working with kids. Megan currently teaches full time at a children’s fitness center in Wheaton, where she gets to use her acting background and be with the kids she loves every day.
With a large background in improv and realism, Megan is ready to bring strong actors to the musical theater world. She believes that a strong actor makes a strong performer. This will be her first time directing at Rootz and she is extremely excited to get started.
Robin taught special education for 10 years before becoming a mother of two and deciding to teach at her daughter’s pre-school. Her love of yoga inspired her to bring the practice to children of a young age. After realizing that she could combine her passion for yoga with her love of children, Robin became a certified children’s yoga instructor through Mini Yogi’s, and continues to grow with every yoga class she teaches. A previous teacher at Starland, she continues her yoga practice with The Movement Junkies.
Sarah was born in Durban, South Africa in 1962, and in 1998 moved to Glenview with her husband and three children. She has 27-seven years of experience teaching children in pre-school through third grade. Her commitment to help others feel confident and successful in themselves in whatever they do and wherever they go, led her to open a social and dining manners program called Confidence with Etiquette.
Over the course of 14 lessons, we will learn behavior in both informal and formal settings as we discover how to believe in ourselves and be proud of what we know and can offer the world. The social aspect entails how we present and introduce ourselves, and how we dress, walk, talk, and behave in public. The dining element focuses on how we set, sit, and behave at a table, how to use and treat porcelain and silver tableware, and how to take care of the environment in everything we do. Each lesson culminates in leaving the room in immaculate condition. Sarah’s motto; Believe…Be proud…Be the example.
Sarah is a 2015 graduate of Benedictine College, where she majored in Elementary Education and minored in Dance. She has always been very passionate about the performing arts, especially dance and musical theatre, and began her dance training at age three. In college, she performed in numerous plays and was a member of the college dance team. She often spent her free time doing dance improvisation and choreography, and choreographed the premier production of a new play, Pas de Deux. For the past several years, she has been working with young children in various preschool, summer camp, and dance settings, and is now a teacher at Cardinal Bernardin Early Childhood Center in Lake View. She currently expresses her love of dance and theatre by performing in community theatre musicals around the North Shore.
Sean is a 25 year old from Wheeling and is very excited to begin teaching for Rootz and Relevé Dance. He has been trained in Musical Theater, Jazz, with an emphasis in Hip Hop since the age of 7. Sean has been teaching and competing in dance for the past 5 years with both children and adults. He hopes to bring his high energy and excitement to all his students as well as pass down his passion for dance. “To me, dance is all about being able express yourself when words can’t, to be able to release that energy and tell a story is what dance does for me. I hope to pass that onto my students.”
Shellie began dancing early on and trained at various dance studios in Northwest Indiana. She moved to Chicago in 2007, and attended Northeastern Illinois University where she ultimately decided to major in dance. She successfully graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2011 with a BA in Dance Performance and Teaching. In addition to previously teaching at Northeastern Illinois University’s community program, Shellie has also had the pleasure of learning as a work/study at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Youth Program. Since then, she has taught dance technique and gymnastic skills to students of all ages. As well as teaching, she dances with Reveries In Motion Dance Company, a non-profit organization that donates a portion of concert proceeds to a charitable cause. Shellie previously taught at Starland and continued her dance teaching with Relevé starting in January 2017.
Shimon “Shimmy” Castle
Shimon, also known as “Shimmy,” has been immersed in music dating back to his youngest moments in life. He began studying classical piano at the age of four and took up the guitar at the age of 10. Mostly self-taught, he was always interested in striving to obtain deeper knowledge of music. After high school, he became invested in learning music theory and studying multiple musical styles such as Rock, R&B, Funk, Fusion, Blues, and Jazz. Shimmy received his degree as an honors student in Jazz Studies from Columbia College Chicago. Shimmy has over 10 years of private teaching experience, and teaches lessons throughout the Chicagoland area. Shimmy is a former guitar and piano instructor at Starland. Learn more about Shimmy at www.shimmycastle.com.
Todd Kessler has made a name for himself in the Chicago music scene with his powerful voice and poignant storytelling. Todd grew up in Northbrook and was active in music from a young age. In addition to studying Music Theory and Composition at the University of Illinois, Todd began playing open mic nights, recording demos, and writing dozens of songs, the best of which would become his first album, the folk-rock inspired We Are The Musicmakers. Todd toured the Midwest and played regularly in Chicago, leading to two more albums and a single It was during this time that Todd teamed up with his band, The New Folk. Shortly after the release of the band’s debut album, Sea Fever, in 2012,Todd was featured on NBC’s, The Voice, as a member of Team CeeLo. Later, Todd recorded a solo album, the soon to be released, About Memory. Todd has been teaching guitar and Jewish music for a number of years Learn more about Todd at www.toddkesslermusic.com.