She’s the woman who makes it all happen! Karen Kern is the owner/director of Karen’s School of Dance, and of the award winning dance company Dance’Sations. She is truly dedicated to making her studio the best possible. Karen is known for inspiring her students to always reach higher, instilling that hard work and determination will push them to their personal best. Karen believes that a dance studio should be more than just that; it’s a place for dancers to come together as a community, and for many it’s a second home.
Karen has lived in the Highland/Milford area most of her life where she attended Huron Valley Schools up until high school. She then transferred to a performing arts school, Interlochen Arts Academy of Michigan. Karen received a dance scholarship and studied with the academy until her graduation in 1986. Karen’s academic and dance skills also allowed her to attend Eastern Michigan University as an off-campus senior, while at Interlochen, where she continued her dance studies and opened her studio at the age of 17.
Karen was accepted into the Lakes Area Ballet Company and performed with them in addition to her travels and touring with Interlochen’s Dance Ensemble.
Throughout her career, Karen has trained under many respected choreographer’s including Donna Mihalik, Robert Gatzke, Peter Sparling, Bella Lewitzky, Joe Tremaine, Barry Lather, Gay Delange, Steven Whistrich, Betsy Dickie, Vicke Emmert, and many others.
Karen began teaching dance at the age of 15 and currently teaches all levels and ages at her studio. She has won many top awards for her choreography and teaching such as Teacher of the Year, “The Icon Award” for Best Choreography and Choreographer of the Year at dance competitions like Kids Artistic Revue and Bravo Dance and Talent Competition. She also judges for local and national competitions.
Within recent years KSD has been honored to receive many coveted awards, displaying outstanding achievement as a studio. KSD has accepted the judge’s FDC Award at Kids Artistic Revue’s nationals, an award given to only one exceptional routine throughout an entire week of national competition. As of late, her dancers have been invited to participate in the prestigious FDC World Championships. Karen is also proud to have received numerous “backstage awards” for her studio, which congratulate dancers on exceptional manners, professionalism, and general conduct backstage during competitions.
Karen teaches jazz, tap, ballet, pointe, lyrical and jazz gymnastics and she absolutely loves what she does! She looks forward to teaching anyone with a passion for dance, living by her motto, “Dream. Believe. Achieve.”
Our ballet director is Liliya Ruhukya, fondly known as “Miss Lil”. Her vast knowledge of the art of dance is evident from the moment one sets foot in her classroom. She perseveres to provide students with extensive knowledge that they will always carry with them. Her experienced background paired with her patience and kind-hearted nature is only part of what makes her an excellent teacher.
Liliya began her dance training at the age of ten and completed eight years of professional classical ballet training at the College of Ballet and Choreography in Minsk, Belarus (part of Russia at the time), where she was trained in the “Vaganova” method. Her college instructor Vera Shvetsova was herself trained by the famous Vaganova and was one of Vaganova’s best students.
Liliya has trained and worked with various choreographers including Dr. Olga Tarasova, Lena Golikova and Lena Bendel. Liliya has performed various ballets at the Bolshoi Theater in Minsk including, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Swan Lake”, “Corsaire”, “Giselle”, “Nutcracker”, and “Chopinianna”. She also performed “Halt of Calvary” in Germany, Vietnam and in the United States. In addition to classical ballets, Liliya has also performed in dramas and pantomime.
After moving to the United States, Liliya taught in North Carolina while she also toured Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, New York, Maryland, Virginia, and Ohio performing in “Time To Remember”, “Christmas Around The World”, “Pas De Quatre”, “Dying Swan—by Saint Saen”, and “Man on the Street”. Liliya has taught in Virginia and danced in such works as “Hadassah-The Story of Ester” and “The Play”.
Liliya has been a staff member at Karen’s School of Dance for eight years and teaches classes and workshops to all levels – from beginner to advanced – in classical ballet, pointe, variation and character dance. Although she devotes many hours a week to provide outstanding ballet and pointe training to our dancers, it doesn’t stop there. Liliya also teaches award winning lyrical, jazz, and hip-hop routines. It’s clear that she lives and breathes the art of dance!
During our fall and winter season, Liliya is hard at work on the studio-wide production of “The Nutcracker”.
Ashley Charlick is a truly talented assistant teacher here at Karen’s School of Dance. She puts her knowledge of advanced technical training and fantastic style to great use in all the classes she assists. Ashley is known for inspiring students to always reach higher!
Ashley trained at Karen’s School of Dance for over 15 years. During her years on the Dance’Sations team, Ashley was consistently recognized and honored for her talents including the coveted title of Miss Dance America in 2007, Dance Spirit Magazine’s “Future Star of the Year” and she was one of only 12 dancers from across the nation to be selected by LA Dance Force (LADF) to perform with “Dance with the Force.” Ashley’s accomplishments also include making it to the top 100 dancers during season 5 of “So You Think You Can Dance.”
In 2008, Ashley joined Stiletto Entertainment – an international entertainment production, management and marketing company – and spent 9 months dancing around the world aboard Holland Cruise Line’s, Eurodam.
Ashley continues to audition, perform and work in the industry in addition to being on staff at KSD. She regularly assists Ms. Karen and is a substitute teacher. Ashley is a fabulous component of the KSD staff!
Stephanie Fica runs the fabulous tap program here at Karen’s School of Dance. She enjoys choreographing routines in a range of styles from classical to street to musical theater influenced tap. While tap is her specialty, Stephanie equally enjoys teaching other styles of dance including jazz, lyrical, ballet, and musical theater. Stephanie is known for her energetic teaching methods and unique choreography.
Stephanie trained at Karen’s School of Dance for thirteen years and has been a member of the staff for over six years. Her training under Karen Kern included jazz, tap, ballet, lyrical, musical theater, hip-hop, gymnastics, and modern. Stephanie has also pursued studies in acting and theatre. Stephanie was part of the award winning Dance’Sations Dance Company at KSD for many years, competing regionally and nationally each year. She was proud to receive many top overall awards for both group and solo performances. After graduating high school, Stephanie attended Central Michigan University and then transferred to Michigan State University where she received her bachelor’s degree in English.
Stephanie is also a choreographer and audition judge for the Milford High School Varsity Pom Pon team. She was a four year varsity member of the team herself while she attended Milford High School.
In addition to teaching her own classes, Stephanie has assisted Miss Karen for many years. She is a highly talented and respected teacher and her choreography – from recreational to competitive – is outstanding. Over the past several years, Stephanie’s students of all ages have won numerous top overall awards for tap, lyrical, musical theater, and jazz.
Stephanie believes that dance is beneficial in many ways beyond being a form of physical exercise; self-esteem, pride, and creativity are only a few of the elements she hopes her students will attain! We’re so happy to have Stephanie as part of our staff and she looks forward to meeting and teaching all of you.
Lynda McCarron will be rejoining the KSD staff this year! Lynda’s quality teaching and her attention to detail make her an excellent staff member. She is often praised by parents for her technical precision and upbeat attitude, while at the same time she is well-loved by students.
Lynda began dancing at the age of 6 and was competitively dancing at Karen’s School of Dance by age 10. At Karen’s she was trained in classical Vaganova Russian style ballet along with competitive levels of jazz, lyrical, tap, and hip-hop. As a strong dancer in both jazz and lyrical, Lynda received multiple dance scholarships and was recognized in the top overalls at numerous competitions for both solos and group performances. Lynda has worked with many outstanding instructors and choreographers including Karen Kern, Patrice Barakat, Meredith Berry-Pennington, Tina D’Amato-Sidoni, Gina Woodruff, and Marissa Osato.
Lynda is a recent graduate of Michigan State University with a BA in History and Human Resources. At MSU Lynda was a member of MSU’s IMPULSEdance; a student run organization that allows the dancers to choreograph, teach one another, and perform together throughout the school year. Lynda is currently pursuing her Graduate degree at Eastern Michigan University.
We are so excited to welcome back Lynda to the KSD team!
On most days you’ll find her at the front desk and if you have a question about your dancer’s schedule, tuition, or general studio happenings, she is the expert.
Maureen is a dedicated employee who spends countless hours not only managing, but helping out with costumes, overseeing projects and lending helpful advice for parents. She’s a vital member of our staff here at KSD!
New to the KSD teaching staff is Briella Danowski, an enthusiastic teacher whose passion for dance constantly shows through the smile on her face! Briella is excited to join the KSD team and encourage students to be the best dancer they can be.
Briella started as a student at Karen’s School of Dance in 1997, and has trained under the watchful eye of Karen Kern ever since. During her years as a member of DANCE’SATIONS, Briella was honored with many awards ranging from the Young Americans “My Teacher” Award, the LADF Convention Scholarship, EDGE-PAC 2 Week Dance Scholarship in Los Angeles, CA, Regional Miss Dance 2008 as well as many other honors.
Her desire has always been to teach dance and during her senior year of high school Briella was awarded a range of half to full ride dance scholarships to Marygrove College, Wayne State University, Hope, and Alma Colleges.
Briella is excited to share her passion for the art of dance with the students of KSD and is looking forward to many successful years doing what she loves at a studio that has become family to her. Briella teaches hip-hop, jazz, lyrical, ballet and tap.
Angela Fica is new to teaching at KSD, although she’s worked here several years at the front desk. You will now find her in the classroom, working with students of all ages. Angela’s loves to choreograph unique routines and help dancer’s progress!
Angela trained at Karen’s School of Dance for 15 years and has been a part of the staff for over 5 years.
At KSD she trained in competitive levels of ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, hip-hop, and gymnastics. Angela was part of the Dance’Sations Dance Company, competing groups as well as solos regionally and nationally. Her performances brought her to cities such as Las Vegas, Panama City, Chicago, and Biloxi where she won top overall scores in numerous competitions. Angela has been competing since the age of 6, placing consistently, leading her to win a National Championship title in 2007.
Other accomplishments of Angela’s include performing in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky as well as in the Detroit Lions and Detroit Rockers halftime shows. In high school she was recognized by several talent scouts at Impact Dance Convention and received callbacks from casting directors as well as choreographers in both jazz and hip-hop. Angela was scouted by and has signed with Traque Model Management Detroit.
Angela enjoys teaching dancers of all ages and levels. She assists and substitutes for Ms. Karen along with teaching classes of her own. Angela teaches jazz, lyrical, ballet and tap, and looks forward to lending her talents to aspiring dancers for many years to come.
A new addition to the KSD staff this year is Samantha (Sam) Zach! She brings with her a talented background in gymnastics and tumbling, a much desired addition to any dancer’s training. Her positive attitude and extensive knowledge will guide many KSD students to acquire new and exciting skills!
Samantha has been training in gymnastics since she was six years old and excelled to Level Nine. She is the proud winner of multiple state and regional championship titles.
Samantha graduated with a Kinesiology degree from Michigan State University, where she was the founder of the club gymnastics team! She was also the vice president of Phi Epsilon Kappa, the Kinesiology fraternity at MSU.
Samantha began coaching when she was 15 years old, and recently has produced several State Champions. She has experience coaching all ages and levels of gymnastics starting from recreational to the advanced Level Nine. Her love for gymnastics and coaching truly show in class. Samantha is known to push students to their greatest potential while making class fun and memorable! She’s very excited to join the staff and to get to know the students at KSD.
Cindy Thomasson (Raffel)
We are excited to announce that Cindy Thomasson (soon to be Raffel) will be joining the staff at KSD this year! She is moving to Michigan from Pennsylvania and can’t wait to teach for KSD. She is a dedicated teacher who looks forward to contributing her knowledge of dance to the studio.
Cindy started her dance training in Virginia at Royal Dance, Martinique School of Dance, and the Richmond Ballet. She was accepted to numerous summer intensives and workshops including Virginia School of the Arts, Richmond Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Alonzo King LINES Discovery Project, and Ballet Austin.
She received her Bachelor of Science in Dance Education and K-12 teaching license in dance from Radford University. She was trained under Inessa Plekhanova, Aleksey Plekhanov, Galina Vorotynova, Frano Jelinic, and Dagmar Kessler. While in school she received numerous dance scholarships including the Doug and Bea Convington Scholarship for the Visual and Performing Arts, Mary Simon Blevins Memorial Scholarship, Horth Summer Dance Scholarship, Radford Arts Society Scholarship, and the Shannon Martin Howell Dance Scholarship. Her choreography was performed in the American College Dance Festival, Big South Research Symposium, and numerous choreography showcases.
Upon graduation she danced professionally with the Tampa Bay Ballet and Florida Dance Theatre. She has performed soloist roles in “The Nutcracker,” “Chopinianna,” “La Bayadere,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and in many contemporary ballet and modern works.
She has taught at numerous schools in Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. Cindy also was an adjunct professor in dance at Southeastern University and a guest artist at Dickinson College.
Cindy is looking forward to her upcoming marriage and move to Michigan! Please welcome her to KSD, and be sure to try a class from this talented new teacher!