2023 Artist In Residence: Jenny Backhaus of Backhausdance
Jennifer Backhaus, founder and artistic director of Backhausdance, has been the energetic and creative force spearheading the development and growth of Orange County’s critically-acclaimed contemporary dance company. Backhausdance joyfully celebrated its 20 season in 22-23 and has been named the resident dance company for Temecula Presents. A long-time member of the dance faculty at Chapman University, and life-long learner, she holds a BFA in Communications and Dance from Chapman University, and received her MFA in Choreography from Hollins University.
From the inception of the company as a non-profit organization in 2003, Jennifer has been committed to choreographing and producing the fine art of contemporary concert dance with a professional company while simultaneously designing and implementing an extensive dance education and performance program for all ages and abilities. Featuring deeply human and emotional creations that are infused with a sense of humor, athleticism and theatricality, Backhausdance has received numerous awards and honors, including Outstanding Arts Organization by Arts Orange County in 2012, and recognized by Chapman University with the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award as well as Alumni of the Year in 2007 for her artistic leadership of Backhausdance. As an award-winning and in-demand choreographer, Jennifer’s works have been commissioned and produced by Brigham Young University, Chapman University, Los Angeles Ballet, McCallum Theatre, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, TDC of the Bay Area and Utah Regional Ballet, among others.
Many of Jennifer’s works have been honored by Regional Dance America, and her piece Disintegration was selected for national performances with the American College Dance Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. For Backhausdance, she has created numerous works which have received ten Lester Horton Awards from Dance Resource Center of Los Angeles for Outstanding Achievement in choreography, design, and performance. At the McCallum Theatre’s Dance Under the Stars Choreography Festival, Jennifer has been the recipient of three consecutive choreography awards for her work with Backhausdance. In February 2023, Jennifer received the Outstanding Arts Advocate Award from the Orange County Department of Education, Orange County Music and Arts Administrators.
2023 Dance Instructors
Leann Alduenda was born and raised in Southern California, Leann has been a dancer and educator throughout the Orange County and Los Angeles areas for over thirty years. She holds a B.A. in Dance, Magna Cum Laude from UC Riverside, where she also received a Chancellor’s Scholarship, and holds an M.F.A. in Dance from UC Irvine where she was awarded the Leo Freeman Foundation Fellowship for choreographic and academic excellence. As a professional performer, Leann has danced with numerous companies, spending six years as a member of Rhapsody in Taps and also having been a solo artist with Common Ground Dance Company, Jazz Spectrum Dance Company, Motion Tribe Dance Company, and Natural Reaction Dance Company, as well as, dancing in the inaugural season of Marrow Dance Company and on a few episodes of MadTV. Leann was a founding member of BARE Dance Company, Artistic Director Mike Esperanza and performed with the company for over 10 years. She is currently dancing with FUSE Dance Company, Artistic Director Joshua D. Romero and has been with the company since 2012. Most recently, Leann began work with the bi-coastal company Project X, also under the direction and creative force of choreographer Mike Esperanza.
Sharing her passion for movement and artistry as a dance educator, Leann has served as adjunct faculty at Chapman University, UC Irvine, and Riverside Community College, and OCSA, as well as serving as the Artistic Director of the Jimmie DeFore Dance Center for over 15 years and serving as a choreographer in residence for freeFall Theater Company in St. Petersburg, Florida, Artistic Director Eric Davis. Currently, Leann is an Associate Professor of Dance at Santa Ana College and a part-time lecturer at Chapman University as well as an instructor at Academy of Dance in Santa Ana, CA.
Sara Dickman began dancing at her local dance studio and continued her training at the University of California, San Diego where she earned a BA in Dance, her teaching credential and Masters in Education. Ms. Dickman has been a dance educator at Creative Performing Media Arts Middle School since 2003. During this time, Ms. Dickman has built a dance program including instruction in Tap, Jazz, Ballet, and Modern dance. Ms. Dickman was named San Diego Unified School District’s Middle School Teacher of the year in 2018, and a San Diego County Teacher of the Year Finalist in 2019. Beyond her work at CPMA, Ms. Dickman serves as an advisory board member for the Dance and Movement Workshop for Educators, a professional development workshop for public school dance teachers. She also dances with California Rhythm Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of tap dance through academic assemblies and performances. Ms. Dickman strives to infuse her passion for life in all she teaches and brings joy and hope to those around her.
Donna Flournoy is Associate Professor in the Dance Department at San Diego Mesa College. Donna has extensive training and dance experience as a professional Dancer, Choreographer, and Dance Educator. She has taught and choreographed at numerous dance studios for over twenty years. Donna has a great passion for the arts and is looking forward to sharing her love for Dance movement with all her students.
Eddie Garcia is an accomplished director, choreographer, dancer, and entertainer with a solid reputation for innovative choreography. His decades of performing internationally alongside many of today’s most celebrated stars have led him to become a sought after dance educator and adjudicator both in the United States and abroad.
At just 16 years old, Eddie’s incredible dancing style and technique delivered him to the world stage via many projects with Janet Jackson. He danced in some of her most iconic videos and performances of all time, including “Nasty”, “What Have You Done For Me Lately”, “When I Think of You” and the classic “Control” on the American Music Awards.By the time Eddie turned 17, “The King of Pop” himself, Michael Jackson, hand picked Eddie to join him. This began with “Smooth Criminal” and continued with other well known videos like “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Speed Demon”. Eddie spent the next five years dancing with Jackson on the record-breaking and internationally acclaimed “Bad” and “Dangerous” tours. It was during many invaluable years of touring and working on countless sets where Eddie fine-tuned his innate ability to direct, produce and choreograph. He has worked as a dancer and choreographer with many well known artists such as Jennifer Lopez, Paula Abdul, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Hudson, and Ariana Grande. His work can be seen featured on Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, American Music Awards, and the Grammys, to name a few. As a dance educator he has worked with well established conventions and studios such as LADF, Company Dance, Edge Performing Arts Center, Debbie Reynolds, Tremaine, PAC, as well as with many international workshops and competitions. Eddie Garcia’s artistic fingerprint has made him one of the most sought after names within the world of dance. He continues to enjoy engaging in new creative endeavors and educating the next generation of dancers.
Jesenia Gardea began her dance training at the West Coast Conservatory of Ballet in 1987. Two years later she began studying Ballet Folklórico with Relámpago del Cielo and is currently an instructor for the organization. As part of Relámpago’s instructor workshop, “Mas Alla de Los Pasos,” Gardea travels to Mexico to take master classes expand her teaching pedagogies. She is also a member of the Asociación Nacional de Grupos Folklóricos and attends the organization’s annual conference to broaden her repertoire. Additionally, she has been a principal dancer with Pacífico Dance Company since 2003 and has enjoyed leading roles in the company’s productions of La Llorona and Mictlán. She often gives technique class for the Company. Some of Gardea’s performance venues include: Ford Theater, Kennedy Center, Cerritos Center for Performing Arts, Segerstrom Center, Los Angeles Music Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Disney’s California Adventure Park and the Latin GRAMMYs. Gardea received her B.S. in Business Administration from Chapman University; teaching credential in Mathematics from California State University, Fullerton; and a Career Technical Education Credential in Arts, Media, and Entertainment. Currently Gardea Gardea teaches Ballet Folklorico for Santa Ana Unified School District at the intermediate and high school levels.
Oscar Gonzalez born & raised in California. Oscar trained with the American Ballet Theater & Joffrey Ballet School. Gonzalez was a company instructor for Diavolo, a swing in Disney’s Aladdin a Musical Spectacular, Westside Story, Evita, A Chorus Line, White Christmas. Oscar created/taught a 2-week intensive in Capetown, South Africa. Oscar has a BA in Performing Arts & a Master’s in Education. Oscar taught for Broadway legend Cathy Rigby & is currently the dance director @ Anaheim High in California, he has been teaching for over 15 years & is committed to educating and inspiring young artists. Oscar is beyond excited to share the studio with all the amazing educators.
Zachary Groenewold is a dance educator and choreographer based out of Southern California. As a faculty member of Chapman University, Cal Poly Pomona, Orange Coast College, and Mt. San Antonio College dance departments, he specializes in hip hop and jazz/contemporary techniques. Zach began dancing at a young age where he was fortunate enough to perform in a variety of media including New Line Cinema’s The Wedding Singer, a commercial for Saban’s Power Rangers, and as part of ABC FAMILY presents WESTLIFE : LIVE. As a performer, Zach was a member of the San Diego based company Axxiom Dance Collective. During his time with the Axxiom, he was selected to represent the company as a soloist. In 2010, Zach became a member of Team Millennia and in 2012, his dancing and leadership skills earned him the position on the team’s artistic board. During his two years in the position, his leadership helped head the team to 1st place at San Diego’s prestigious Fusion Dance Competition, as well as placing top 5 at other dance competitions, including World of Dance LA and Ultimate Brawl. Concurrently, Zach was also fortunate enough to perform and choreograph in a variety of venues including LA Fashion Week, OC Fashion Week, the World of Dance Industry Awards, and Vidcon. Zach is currently performing as a member of Kings and Queens dance company. In 2018, his work “Focus” received high praise from the American College Dance Association, and was selected for national performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. He is a sought after choreographer and guest teacher, with credits across the country, as well as internationally, reaching all the way to Taipei, Taiwan. Zach obtained his Master’s degree in Dance Education from the University of Northern Colorado.
Bruce Goolsby grew up dancing under the late Jazz Master Frank Hatchett in his School of Performing Arts in Springfield, Ma., where he studied everything from ballet, jazz and tap to voice and acting. His performance credits includes, ‘The Evening is Yours’, ‘Philly’s Beat’ and a road production of ‘Dream Girls’ in addition to numerous radio and television appearances. He also was a member of the R&B group Secrets. These days, he can be found choreographing and teaching tap, jazz and African dance at local dance studios, high schools workshops and colleges throughout the greater Phoenix area. He lives in Mesa, AZ with his wife, Michele, and their dogs Biggie and Koda.
Cyndi currently teaches at Santa Ana High School and is a freelance choreographer. She has taught high school dancers for over 30 years. She received her BA and MA in Dance from California State University Long Beach and holds a Physical Education credential from California State University Fullerton. She danced at Disneyland in Fantasmic, Lion King and Christmas parades. She loves teaching and exposing her students to the many aspects of dance. Her specialty is teaching choreography composition. She has assisted on the annual Shuler Awards opening and closing dance numbers in Atlanta, Georgia and is on the board of the Dance and Movement Dance Workshop for dance educators. “Teaching and choreographing for high school students has always been my passion and I am grateful I get to share my love of dance with so many young dancers”.
Kelly Hesp was born and raised in Newport Beach, California. She began dancing at age 4 and spent over ten years at Focus Dance Center as a competitive dancer. Throughout her early years, she trained in various styles of dance including jazz, lyrical, tap, ballet, and hip-hop.
Kelly is a former Laker Girl for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. She is currently the Dance Director, Dance Company Coach, and Pep Squad Advisor at El Modena High School in Orange. Kelly recently directed and choreographed for Laguna Beach High School’s Fall Dance Concert 2022, INSPIRE…Dancing through Moments of Inspiration. She received a Masters in Education and single subject teaching credential in physical education, where she is able to teach dance and yoga in high schools.
Kelly is also a fitness instructor at Equinox Luxury Fitness Club. She is a certified barre instructor and enjoys combining her passion for dance and fitness. Kelly has a clear passion for team unity and strives to create an atmosphere where everyone can learn and advance with each other.
Kelly is signed with Brand Models. Recently, she was a Stand-In for Lady Gaga. It was with the photographer, Mario Sorrenti, for a Dom Pérignon Champagne shoot. She has also been photographed in Locale Magazine.
During high school, she danced with Orchesis Dance Company at Corona Del Mar, where she was captain of her team for two years and was able to choreograph and perform for their annual concerts, rallies and other venues. Kelly is a teacher at Endeavor Dance Studio. She is known for her vivacious teaching style and creative choreography.
Kelly received a BA in Dance and BA in Communication from Chapman University where she trained in ballet, jazz, modern, hip-hop, and ballroom. At Chapman, she was selected to perform in the Fall Faculty Dance Concert and Chapman American Celebration event. She was also selected to be apart of the Chapman Dance Alliance where she choreographed and performed in their annual show. Kelly performed with Chapman Dance Tour in 2019, which toured throughout Orange County and Las Vegas. She has worked with choreographers including Jackie Sleight, Michael Rooney, Will Johnston, Sarah Davidson, G. Madison, and Ambrose Respicio.
Christine is a Second Generation Pilates Teacher and a Lolita San Miguel Pilates Master Teacher. She earned a B.A. in Dance with a focus on Dance Science from Cal State Long Beach where she first studied Pilates intensely with Karen Clippinger. In 2006 she earned her original BASI Pilates certification with a specialization in Dance Conditioning. Since then, Christine has been training a diverse range of clientele through private, semi-private, and group Pilates sessions. She has a rich background in teaching numerous styles of fitness and in 2015 she opened Balance & Grace Pilates to help clients connect with their best and most authentic selves.
Past studies include a 2 year Pilates Master Mentor Program with 1st Generation Elder Lolita San Miguel and her subsequent Legacy Educator Training. Between 2016-2019 she studied with Carola Trier’s prodigy and “hybrid of the masters”, Jillian Hessel. In 2017 Christine completed a year long study of “Trauma, PTSD, & Pilates: Using Contrology in the Understanding & Healing of Trauma”. Christine spent 2019-2020 in Mentorship with esteemed Master Teacher Wendy Le-Blanc Arbuckle where she delved deeper into the fields of structural integration and biotensegrity.
Christine recognizes the importance of remembering our heritage and past while still evolving with the future of body-mind science in the field of Pilates. She has taken workshops and/or sessions with Wendy Leblanc-Arbuckle. Rael Isacowitz, and 1st Generation Elder Mary Bowen. She currently maintains regular sessions with classically trained mentor Trish Garland. Christine is currently working on a M.S. in Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation with an Exercise Science and Human Performance Concentration from Hardin-Simmons University and is on track to graduate in August of 2023. As a life long student and an embodied perspective advocate, Christine is excited about helping others become their best selves in every way.
Summer Williams has been training for over 25 years in Tap, Jazz, Ballet, Modern, Hip Hop and Liturgical dance. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from San Diego State University with a Minor in Business Administration. Following this, she received her Masters in Education and Teaching Credential from National University. Summer has taught and performed for professional groups such as California Rhythm Project, Pro Danza Italia, Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Momentum Dance Theater and Capital Tap. She has taught at several dance studios throughout the San Diego area and for the last 8 years has been the proud owner of Rap A Tap Center For The Arts in Clairemont San Diego. Summer has also spent the last 7years as a dance teacher at CPMA Performing Arts Middle School in Clairemont Mesa. She is dedicated to enriching the lives of all people through the arts.