STARS ACADEMY PROUDLY PRESENTS 2012/13
Francesca Nicassio, Owner/Artistic Director
Francesca (Franci) Nicassio, is a dance artist, performer and educator. She is the Founder/Artistic Director of Stars Academy for the Performing Arts an award-winning school currently leading the industry in quality training and students turned professional under the age of 18. She has been in the practice of dance making for over 20 years and has travelled as a performer, guest artist and choreographer in Canada, USA and all through Europe. She became a Dance Master of America in early 1990s and also earned certification with the Canadian Dance Masters of America. She holds further certificates with intertationally recognized Brithish Association Teachers of Dance and is a level 3 personal trainer certified with the O.S.S.C. Some highlights as a professional include dance choreographer and performer in AIDA with the Royal Opera Canada and and guest choreographer of director Gianpaoulo Zinetto touring Rome, Venice and the infamous La Scala in Milan, Italy. Her students have gone on to train at top centers such as Alvin Ailey, Canada's National Ballet School, and the Juilliard. Many Stars Academy alumni are pursuing professional careers in the entertainment industry. Current students are also working actively in the Canadian TV, Film and professional theatre and her own son, a long-time student of SA, is currently Starring in a Broadway Musical! Franci's belief in the consistency of strong foundation arts education lead her to put together her dream team of performance arts specialists who have been with Stars Academy since it's conception. They work together to ensure that all children can benefit from training in the arts. Her loyal students, faculty and alumni are the living proof of the energy and passion she brings to the school and will describe an atmosphere of respectful and loving rapport and what she refers to as her "Stars Family".
Stephanie Dainard, Artistic Director
Stephanie Dainard began her performing arts journey with 15 years of specialized training in acro, jazz, ballet, lyrical, musical theatre and modern and went on to successfully compete across Canada and the US. She was a top graduate of Cawthra Park S.S. Regional Arts Program in Dance and went on to secure a Co-op placement with the Artistic Director of the School. There she gained hands on experience while earning her B.F.A Honours from York University specializing in Pedagogy and Dance Science/Injuries. After several years of teaching at top competitive school's in the GTA, Stephanie found her way to the award-winning Stars Academy where she instantly gelled with the existing team of specialized faculty. In her third year with Stars Academy she became Co-Artistic Director and the rest is history! Stephanie is a beloved teacher who shares the same warm and loving approach to quality lessons in the arts as the rest of the Dream Team at Stars Academy. She brings a fresh energy and is a welcomed asset to the school.
Annette Nicassio, Music Director
Annette Nicassio has been a highly respected music educator in the GTA for over 40 years and director of Stars Academy's award-winning music program since it's openig in 2000. She has taught and been the Director of Music at Assumption High School in Burlington for twenty years. A top instructor of the Royal Conservatory of Music program, Ms. Nicassio also enjoys writing, composing and instrumental/choral conducting.This talented music teacher has inspired and prepared numerous students for careers and certifications in their areas of study in music. With specialties in piano, theory, vocal, concert band and choral conducting, she continues to guide and inspire the highly talented and award-winning Stars Academy faculty of music and their students.
Sandra Nicholson, Ballet Director
Sandra Nicholson is a living legend in the world of competitive ballet. She began her own ballet training as a professional student at Canada's National Ballet School and was one of the youngest students ever to join the National Ballet of Canada's Cors de Ballets. She later become a Licentiate member of the Cecchetti Ballet Society and went on to teach professional students at the Quinte Ballet School of Canada for over 20 years. She joined the faculty at Stars Academy and became Ballet director over 10 years ago and has developed one of the strongest pre-professional ballet programs in the competitive circuit. Her choreographies are known for impecable technique, beautiful patterning and costuming and confident well trained ensembles. Alumni continue to seek out her open classes and will tell wonderful stories of their years as students of this incredible woman. Sandra is thrilled to be offering Advanced and Teacher certification training in Cecchetti Ballet at Stars Academy and she is proud to have served Stars Academy and the community for over 10 years!
Juliana West, Dance Faculty
Juliana West began dancing at a very young age in Toronto, Ontario. Starting with breakdancing, she continued with formal training in jazz, acro, tap, ballet and musical theater working with top intructors. She holds national and international championship titles and earned serveral scholarships along the way. Juliana has performed throughout Canada, the U.S., and Europe, and continues to choreograph for dance troupes, industrials, videos and fashion shows. She has won prestegious choreography awards in various styles and is well known for her unique style of hip hop that hit the scene in the late 90s continues to lead the industry. She was certified with Dance Masters of America in the early 90s and has helped to develop a strong technicial Jazz curriculum unique to Stars Academy where she has been a faculty member since it opened in 2000. Alumni of Stars Academy and other schools she has visited continue to attend her "killer" technique classes and many will tell you she is the inspiration that lead them to professional careers in dance. Juliana is proud to have served Stars Academy and the community for over 12 years!
Kelly Green, Music Faculty
Kelly Green has been a beloved piano and vocal instructor, accompanist and audition coach, choir director and dance teacher at Stars Academy for many years. Precision, understanding, experience, insight are the traits that encompass Kelly Green and her approach to teaching the arts. A life-long student of music and theatre, Kelly’s experience includes studying in the Sheridan College Musical Theatre Performance program, the Royal Conservatory of Music and McMaster University's highly recognized music program. Kelly has performed and worked in over 20 different live theatre productions, ranging from supporting and lead roles to directing. Kelly's husband is a talented musician and their children are following in the footsteps of their multi-talented parents and are highly involved in programs at Stars Academy. Kelly looks forward to many more years of continued success with her Stars Academy family.
Julia DeSantis, Dance Faculty
Julia DeSantis is proud to be an instructor at Stars Academy where she has studied classical ballet and competitive dance under the direction of her mentors Franci Nicassio, Sandra Nicholson and Juliana West since she was a young child. She has been a National Dance Champion since she was 9 years old and has won several special awards for her outstanding technique and rich movement quality. Under the direction of Sandra Nicholson she has successfully completed her Advanced I Checcetti Syllabus Certification and will be entering her own young students for examinations this coming season. She is one of the youngest teachers ever qualified to do so. She has also qualified for her DMA and CDMA certifications and is thrilled to be teaching high energy classes in several disciplines at Stars. Julia represents the spawn of young artists who have experienced hardwork and dedication in the walls of Stars Academy and can now share her own skills with the next generation.
Paul Hampson, Music Faculty
Paul Hampson has been with Stars Academy since its inception in 2000. A graduate of Western University, he has been teaching and performing in both Canada and the US for the last 20 years. A multi- instrumentalist, Paul has students that have gone on to study at Ivy League schools, become major record label executives and have appeared on both stage and on film.
Paul has been a guest performer at the Toronto International Film Festival, Premier Mcguinty’s 50th birthday and the wrap party for both Russell Peters and the major motion film the Incredible Hulk. With the ability to play up to 30 instruments he has been one of the most sought after session musicians in Southern Ontario. Performing with artists such as Jenn Ashbee, Ric Jacobs, Tone Deaf among others and most recently Hamilton Music Award nominees Top Dead Centre. He has shared the stage with artists such as Skid Row, Nazereth and the late Jeff HealeyPaul continues to teach guitar, voice and piano at Stars and is currently on tour with the Aerosmith tribute band Mama Kin. Paul is proud to be serving Stars Academy and the community for over 12 years!
Joel Cassady, Music Faculty
Joel Cassady brings with him more than 10 years of experience, and has been fortunate enough to encounter a wide variety of musical opportunities spanning both studio and live performance environments. Currently a senior-level student of the prestigious Humber College music program in Toronto, he has studied drums and percussion under some of the finest musicians in the country including faculty head Mark Kelso. Joel's diverse rhythmic knowledge has led to countless performances in and around the GTA, with Jazz, Rock, Reggae and Salsa genres listed amongst his primary interests. He has also toured internationally with Toronto singer-songwriter "Barzin", and is currently playing with Burlington's own "Walk Off The Earth".
Joel knows first-hand the value of a strong musical foundation, and stresses the importance of elements like technique, dynamics, articulation and even historical significance. Students will be exposed to wide variety of teaching methods that include sight-reading, groove study and play-along exercises, with a constant view to preparing strong, versatile performers. Joel is very excited to join the dream team here at Stars Academy.
Sean Kelly, Ballet Master
Sean Kelly was most recently the Resident Director for the touring Broadway musical “Movin’ Out” by Twyla Tharp with music by Billy Joel. He was in the Broadway production, was previously the Supervising Dance Captain/swing for the 1st National tour of the show, and also assisted in staging the production in London’s West End. Previous to “Movin’ Out” he was the Dance Supervisor and swing for the touring production of the musical “Swing” which performed extensively throughout the U.S. and Japan. Mr. Kelly trained at the Marin Ballet. He danced for 2 years with American Ballet Theater II. Mr. Kelly performed for many years with Houston Ballet where he became a Principal dancer and eventually Ballet Master. He also choreographed 2 ballets for the company. He had the opportunity to perform leading roles in works by many world renowned choreographers such as Ben Stevenson, George Balanchine, Paul Taylor, Christopher Bruce, and Stanton Welch. Mr. Kelly has been a guest artist, teacher and choreographer with numerous regional dance companies in the U.S., the Dominican Republic, and Guam. Mr Kelly is proud to be associated with BBD and is currently the Resident Choreographer for Billy Elliot in Toronto.
Evelyn Hart, Prima Ballerina
Award-winning ballerina Evelyn Hart is an internationally renowned dancer and one of Canada's most treasured artists. Evelyn began her dance training at the Dorothy Carter School of Dance in London when she was fourteen. She briefly attended the National Ballet School before coming to Winnipeg to study at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, Professional Division in 1973. She joined the corps de ballet in 1976, was promoted to Soloist in 1978 and Principal Dancer in 1979. Ms Hart came to international attention in 1980, when she became the first Canadian to be awarded a Gold Medal at the Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria, as well as the rarely given Certificate of Exceptional Artistic Achievement. That same summer, Evelyn also won a Bronze Medal at the World Ballet Concours in Japan. Since her achievements at Varna, Ms Hart has received numerous other awards and honours, including Officer of the Order of Canada in 1983; Manitoba's Woman of the Year in 1987; and honorary doctorates from the University of Manitoba and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario in 1989. Evelyn has been hailed for her interpretation of many of the classic ballerina roles, especially GISELLE, ROMEO AND JULIET, SWAN LAKE, and ONEGIN. In addition to her classical repertoire, Hart has received world-wide acclaim for her performances of contemporary ballets, most notably Jiri Kylian's NUAGES and Norbert Vesak's BELONG Pas de Deux. With the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Evelyn has toured throughout North America, Europe and Asia. A popular guest artist, she has also appeared with numerous leading ballet companies throughout the world including Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet, the Dutch National Ballet, Tokyo Festival Ballet, the Odessa State Ballet, English National Ballet and The National Ballet of Canada.
Andrew Prashad, Tap
Andrew Prashad grew up in all aspects of art from a very young age. He is not only a solidly trained and versatile dancer, but a musician and an actor as well. Andrew has trained in some of the best studios and under some of the finest choreographers in Canada. Since then, he moved on to study under the worlds best tap dancers such as Savion Glover, Jason Samuel-Smith, Derick Grant, Aaron Tolson, Diane Walker, Jimmy Payne Jr., and Lane Alexander. Andrew has become a sought after adjudicator, choreographer and instructor, teaching master classes across Canada and choreographing throughout the GTA. His choreography has been recognized at festivals and competitions where he has won top honours in this field and his Hip Hop choreography was showcased on MuchMusic's Top 10 Videos with Fancy Footwork. He was also on board to choreograph the Toronto production of The Wiz and tag team with Ryan Foley to choreograph Canada's National Tap Team. Andrew's credits include principle roles in television shows (Being Erica, Instant Star, Degrassi “ The Next Generation, The Border, Pastor Greg etc.), internationally-recognized-film-festival-accepted short films, television commercials, TV movies, music videos and feature films. On stage he's been in touring productions such as The History of Hip Hop, A Chorus Line, Guys and Dolls and many more. He recently performed at National Tap Dance Day in Toronto and was invited to perform at the Montreal Chaos Festival, Toronto Fringe Festival and the Hamilton Fringe Festival. This summer, you can catch him dancing in METRO at the Toronto Fringe Festival - a top ten pick in the Montreal Gazette. Andrew has graduated from the University of Toronto at Mississauga with an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre and Performance as well as French Literature and has been teaching dance, music and drama for 12 years throughout the GTA with the goal of sharing his love for the arts with others.
Josh Nitken, Hip Hop
Josh Nitkin has been a dancer and performer for over 21 years. Having trained in Tap, Jazz, Acrobatics, Ballet, Modern, Hip Hop, Swing, Breakdancing, Lyrical and Contemporary. Josh has a full arsenal under his belt. In the last few years Josh has done a number of shows with lead roles including Hines in The Pajama Game, Reverend Parris in The Crucible and Nikko in The Wizard of Oz. Josh has also done several contracts with Celebrity Cruise Lines as a Production Cast Dancer performing in such shows as “The Spectacle of Broadway”, “Let’s Rock!” and “Celebrate The World” while being able to perform all over Central and South America. Josh has had the opportunity to take master classes with LA and Toronto's top dancers and choreographers including Kelly Konno (Janet Jackson dancer), Tyce Diorio (So You Think You Can Dance) Linda Garneau (Helix Dance Project) and Shawn Byfield and Jeff Wong (Thrive! Entertainment). Josh has worked with PAEC (Performing Arts Educators of Canada) in creating a Hip Hop/Urban Syllabus for all to learn from. Recently Josh had the opportunity to tour with CORPUS performing all over Europe and Japan. Josh trained at Ryerson University in the dance program, and from there went to study at the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts where he studied Acting, Singing as well as Dancing. On the road to becoming a true triple threat, Josh is a force to be reckoned with.
Ian Wilkes Irmisch, Celtic
Ian Wilkes Irmisch is co-artistic director of the internationally recognized Tartan Terrors. He has an extensive career in the professional arts. At the age of 5 he had already performed in the prestigious Great Hall of Hamilton Place, and he has never looked back since! Ian holds credentials with ACTRA Alliance of Canadian Television and Radio Arts (ACTRA), Canadian Actor's Equity Association (CAEA), the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and is a Fellow and Examiner for the Canadian Dance Teachers Association. Ian has appeared with the Spirit of a Nation Tour, Charlottetown Festival, Robin Hood, Ross Petty Productions, 42nd Street, Hamilton Theatre Inc, Brigadoon, Drury Lane Productions and across the UK performing in 32 performances. He has appeared in a number of film and television productions including: Death to Smoochy-Robin Williams, Superstar-Molly Shannon, Road to Avonlea-Sarah Polley, The Santa Clause-Tim Allen. He has trained at Sundance Studios, Ryerson University (under the direction of Nadia Potts of the National Ballet), Sheridan College, and in New York City. Thirteen years ago, the Wilkes-Irmisch siblings formed the Tartan Terrors, and Celtic performances have never been the same since. Ian has performed his way through Canada, The United States, and Great Britian.
More Guest Faculty Bios coming soon!