Bender JCC School of Dance

The Bender JCC School of Dance offers a full and varied curriculum with instruction in all disciplines of dance for students at all levels, an excellent faculty and small class sizes, encouraging the development of talent, confidence and self-discipline through individual attention. The atmosphere is one of enthusiasm for the dance arts as well as dedication to the very highest standards of dance training for all students. The school is dedicated to teaching proper technique and encouraging creative expression while promoting teamwork, in a positive and rewarding environment. It is our belief that a strong dance program assists students in achieving a strong self-image, greater self-confidence and identity while maintaining poise and composure in front of an audience. While not all dancers pursue a professional dance career, these are invaluable life lessons that our students can take into all aspects of their lives.


 If a participant is enrolled in three (3) or more yearly dance classes a 10% discount may be applied. Please contact PRIOR to registration to receive a discount code.


Dance Class Descriptions

Ballet is a classical form of dance based on traditional positions of the arms and feet. Ballet is a dance form that can be mastered by itself or used as a technical base or supplement to other dance forms. Classes consist of barre exercises and center work.  Classes focus on overall body alignment and awareness with emphasis on proper usage of feet and legs and execution of turnout. Carriage and usage of upper torso and arms are also stressed. Ballet requires mental and physical discipline and repetition to train the muscles. Students should expect to spend more than one year at most levels.

Jump start your child’s creative and learning potential with this creative movement class for ages 3 – 5.  Creative movement will encourage self-discipline, self-confidence while incorporating coordination, rhythm and basic dance steps.  Children will work on large motor skills, spatial awareness and flexibility. Teacher uses the joy and excitement of dance as a tool to foster educational skills. No better way to learn than while having fun with dance and music! Dance clothing and ballet shoes are required.  (Must be potty trained to register).

Hip Hop focuses on rhythm, syncopation and stage presence. Derived from a combination of jazz funk and street jazz, this style of dance requires high energy, attention to detail and an understanding of complex rhythms.  Class includes a warm-up which concentrates on building stamina, improving strength and flexibility, body conditioning and rhythm isolations. This class will focus on developing an ear for rhythms and exploring syncopation through the music and choreography. Students will learn and execute a series of combinations throughout the year.

Conceived in America, Jazz is an exciting and ever-evolving dance form full of rhythm, syncopation, passion and life. Steeped in the rhythm of jazz music, a true American art form, jazz dance brings energy and life to all those who dance it. In this style of dance, dancers will learn isolations, across the floor and combinations.  Early jazz classes will teach simple routines and then progress into the next level of jazz dance, with more difficult and challenging dance combinations.  Students should expect to spend more than one year at most levels.

Lyrical dance is a dance style that combines elements of ballet, modern and jazz dance techniques.  It is commonly set to popular music with vocals or just instrumental bars. The name lyrical comes from the word “lyrics” because dancers use the lyrics of a song or instrumental music to inspire them to do certain movements or show expression.  Dance movements require strong technique ability.  Dancer’s must be aware of facial expressions, essentially acting, to properly perform a lyrical dance piece.  Besides emotional connection to music, lyrical dance typically encourages use of articulation, line, weight, and movement qualitiesStudents should expect to spend more than one year at most levels.  Students must be registered in a Ballet class with Bender JCC School of Dance  to register for Lyrical I & II.  Lyrical III is by permission only

Tap is a fun, fast-paced style of dance that teaches rhythm, counting and coordination. Coordination and rhythm skills will be developed while learning tap steps. Students will build listening skills, learn tap vocabulary, and connect movement response to sound and sequencing.  Students should expect to spend more than one year at most levels.

This performance driven class is by invitation/audition/placement only: Open to grades 5-12. The company is tailored to the serious dancer who desires to explore the many facets of Jazz/Lyrical in a more advanced environment. Students enrolled in this class should have Intermediate to Advanced technique and skills. Selected members in these multi-grade dance companies will work on various styles of dance from which they will build a repertory for performance. The repertoire will include Classic Jazz as well Lyrical and Contemporary styles. Our goal is to develop individual dancers who can collaborate to create uniformity. Accepted company members must register AND FATIHFULLY ATTEND one or more Bender JCC Ballet or Jazz dance technique classes. Students should be dancing at least 2 (two) additional hours per week.

Faculty Bios

Debbie serves as Director and main instructor for the School of Dance.  Debbie has been involved in Dance and Musical Theater for over 35 years. Debbie trained in Ballet and Modern Dance at Texas Christian University. Debbie has performed internationally for: Princess Cruises, Cunard Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines; Harrah’s Casinos, Grand Casinos, Bally’s Casinos, Trump Plaza and Trump Taj Mahal as well as locally.  She has danced with local dance companies including Virginia Ballet, DC Dance Theatre, Rincones and Company, and Capitol Movement.  She has been on the dance faculty of Joy of Motion Dance Center, DC Dance Collective, Arlington Center for Dance, Poetry-N-Motion Dance Company as well as Musical Theater Center, where she also served as Director of Education.  Debbie ran her own program  DC Dance Company from 2012 to 2014 offering classes in Ballet, Jazz, and Lyrical.  Debbie has served as Director of the School of Dance for 6 years.  Debbie has coached Bender JCC Maccabi Dance Team for the past 11 years, receiving a Midot Medal this past summer for her contributions during the games.

Alvin Mayes, a member of the dance faculty at the University of Maryland, was co- founder of the dance duo KAREN & ALVIN, which has performed throughout the region. He has danced featured roles in  works by Eric Hampton, Doug Varone and Doris Humphrey, and created dances for many of the companies in the DC area, including the Maryland Youth Ballet, CityDance Ensemble and CrossCurrents Dance. Mayes has premiered a number of works here at the JCC. His classes are enjoyable, flowing and technically challenging.

Rachel Knudson is a teacher of ballet, modern dance and creative dance.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Dance Education from George Washington University as well as a Maryland Educator Certificate Pre-K-12, and has taught and performed in the Washington, D.C. area for over 20 years.  As a Wolf Trap Master Teaching Artist, she develops and leads workshops for early childhood educators that provide strategies for integrating dance with early childhood curriculum and conducts residencies in Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms.  Ms. Knudson danced professionally with Pacific Northwest Ballet and studied modern dance at Jacob’s Pillow and the American Dance Festival.  She also attended the Teacher’s Institute at the Creative Dance Center in Seattle, Washington.  This institute explores a multi-sensory approach to the teaching of creative dance.  Ms Knudson also teaches ballet, modern and creative dance at the Jewish Community Center, Black Rock Center for the Arts and the Ballet Academy.

Leanne Regan started dancing at the age of three at the David Blight School of Dance, Wilkes Barre, PA. She studied a variety of forms of dance, including tap from David Blight from “The David Blight Show” and ballet from Russian ballet masters.  Leanne graduated magna cum laude with her BA in Dance from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania with minors in business administration and management.  She has taught at multiple DC public charters schools, Knock on Wood Tap Studio, Olney Ballet Center, Maryland Youth Ballet, and the Metropolitan Ballet Academy. Leanne served as a guest mentor in performance techniques on the show “America’s Hot Musician,” produced by The American Youth Symphony and regularly judges at the Dance Competition “Talent Olympics.” Leanne founded and currently runs, Regan Artist Management, managing nationwide professional company touring engagements.

Leslyn Jae Ham began performing in 1997.  She  received her bachelor’s degree in Dance with a concentration in Arts Administration from Goucher College in Baltimore, MD. Leslyn has been sharing her love for dance to youth in the DMV since 2012.  In addition to the Bender School of Dance, Leslyn is a choreographer and  instructor at Dance Dynamix,  Tippi Toes DC and JMD Studios.  Her students range from ages 2 to 16 years old.  We welcome Leslyn as our Hip Hop instructor and newest addition to our dance faculty.

Laurie Newton is a local choreographer and teacher  She earned her M.A in Dance from American University and her B.A. in Integrative Arts (Dance, Theater, and Music) from the Pennsylvania State University.  While at American, she completed her Arts Management Certificate program, and at Penn State she completed minors in Movement Science and Interdisciplinary Dance.  She has studied with many legendary and current teachers in New York and Chicago.  Some of these include Gus Giordano, Frank Hatchett, Andy Blankenbuelher, Chet Walker, Luis Salgado, Bruce Anthony Davis, Shane Sparks, Laurie Ann Gibson, and Brian Friedman.  Laurie has choreographed numerous productions for dance and musical theater for professional, educational and community theaters.  She also has collaborated with TONY nominee Gabriel Barre and GRAMMY winner and TONY nominee Paul Bogaev as the Choreographer and Assistant Director for the musical “Battlecry” that premiered in Gettysburg, PA.

Carol Reitz has taught tap, jazz, ballet and ballroom at studios in the Washington Metropolitan area. She trained with Vernon Brock, Jack Stanley, Phil Black, Bob Audy, Jane and Roy Dodge, and with The Washington School of Ballet. She has choreographed and performed throughout her teaching career.

Diane Hamilton has been a performer, choreographer, and director in the Washington area for over 30 years. Currently, Diane was the  Artistic Director of Musical Theater Center(MTC). She holds a degree in Dance from the University of Maryland and is a certified member of Dance Masters of America. Diane taught at the Catholic University. She has choreographed for major theaters and universities on the east coast and Wagon Wheel Playhouse in Indiana. In NYC, Diane has studied extensively with Paul Draper, Bob Audy, Judy Bassing, Luigi and Frank Hatchett. She teaches jazz and tap, and has also directed and/or choreographed MTC productions of A Chorus Line, Oklahoma!  and many others. Diane choreographed Thoroughly Modern Millie for MTC in January 2007. Former students include Goldie Hawn and many other Broadway performers.

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