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Our Instructors

Kathleen Connolly

Artistic Director , Company Director & Owner

Kathleen began teaching dance in 1973. She is a graduate of the High School of the Performing and Visual Arts, with a concentration in dance. She became a certified member of the internationally accredited dance organization, Dance Masters of America in 1988, and has served on its board. In 1990, she opened Connolly Dance Arts at her Westheimer Road location and had a successful 21 years. She brought her love of dance to students in the Katy area in 2011. Kathleen opened her current location at the Villagio in Cinco Ranch, and is proud to be part of the Katy community. Kathleen has directed her students in many dance productions and competitions. She is the Artistic Director for the award winning CDA Company, whose members have won numerous awards and titles.

Dorena Battaglino

Tap instructor

Dorena studied Broadway-style tap, jazz, and ballet for thirteen years at the Shirley Wolfe Dance Studio in Plano, Texas, beginning at age four. While earning a Chemical Engineering degree, she choreographed annual musicals: Damn Yankees, Oklahoma!, Sugar, and the Faculty Follies. In the San Francisco Bay Area, she was active as an actor, improv artist, dancer, and choreographer in the local community theatre scene. Choreographing tap-rich 42nd Street was a personal favorite. She was also the inaugural Resident Staff Choreographer of the Oakland Lyric Opera and staged Amahl and the Night Visitors with guest artists from San Francisco Opera.
Dorena discovered the world of rhythm tap while studying with Karen Callaway Williams in NJ. Since then, she continues her professional development by taking class regularly with masters at tap festivals.
While living in Scotland for three years, she studied Scottish step dancing. Among her performances, she was invited to dance at Natalie MacMaster’s Aberdeen concert.
Dorena returned to Texas in 2015, and wants to share a passion for tap dance with youth and adults by teaching rudiments, choreography, improvisation techniques, music theory, and history.

Erica Bridgewater

Nutcracker Director/Dance Instructor

Born and raised in Katy, Erica started dancing at the age of 4. She attended to Mayde Creek High School and was a member of the Martinettes Drill Team for 4 years. After high school she attended Sam Houston State University and earned a degree in dance with a minor in education. She performed in several modern and ballet productions with their Dance Company. Erica has taught several different dance genres and has assisted in developing choreography for several productions for the past 8 years. She currently teaches Preschool 2’s through Level III classes and will direct the CDA annual Nutcracker Tea in December. She recently attended the Dance Teacher Connection Convention to stay current with dance trends and teaching techniques. This will be her third year with Connolly Dance Arts.


Kiki Fernandez

Company Director/Dance Instructor

Kiki was born and raised in Houston. She started dancing at the of three at Connolly Dance Arts, where she continued to dance for the next 14 years. She started dancing for the company at age seven and competed for 8 years. Kiki danced for her high school dance team, Inertia, all four years of high school and was captain her senior year. Her high school dance team was asked to perform at numerous competitions around Houston and Kiki won 1st place at the HISD competition for her solo her senior year. She is currently attending the University of Houston, where she is going into her sophomore year. Kiki is excited to be teaching at the studio she has grown up with, and hopes to make the students experience as great as hers was.

Sondra Gordman

Dance Instructor

Sondra began dancing at the age of three. She has performed in regional theatre productions in New York. She holds a college degree in dance and received an academic scholarship award in dance. Sondra has been a dance educator and choreographer for the past 24 years at seven New York dance school. Her teaching styles include ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, modern, lyrical, musical theater and hip hop. She was a high school dance team coach for five years, leading her team to numerous first place wins and Long Island dance championships. Her team was invited to perform at the 1997 Major League Soccer All-Star game and the 1998 Florida Citrus Bowl. Sondra was the Dance Director at the Great South Bay YMCA for five years. She then owned her own dance studio for twelve years in New York. Her Dance Power Dance Company was invited to perform at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Disney World, Carnival Cruise line, Universal Studios and New Jersey Nets basketball games. Sondra has worked with special needs students at both the elementary and high school levels. She is very excited to be joining the CDA staff!

Kirstin Grbic

Tap Instructor

Kirstin received her degree from the University of Texas at Austin’s Theatre and Dance department before moving to Oakland where her focus shifted from modern to tap dance. Continuing her tap dance education afforded her new opportunities such as guest teaching tap dance at Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet and the Oberlin Dance Collective in San Francisco. She then returned to Austin to work with Acia Gray of Tapestry Dance Company where she had the privilege to teach modern at the Academy and perform in a regional tour of “Ears Wide Open” and an international tour of “The Souls of Our Feet”, funded by the NEA. She participates in various festivals and master classes to further her education, learning from today’s masters the history of this American form, technique, and performance on a professional level. Her choreographic work has earned grants and numerous awards and has been commissioned on companies within the state and beyond. Currently, she can be found performing as a member of a few local jazz bands, “sitting in” as a tap percussionist at jazz jams, and exposing new audiences to the art form.

Talia Pelle

Hip-Hop Instructor

Talia S. Pelle (Harlem, New York) began her early training at Uptown Dance Academy where her love of dance ignited. Her professional career took off after graduating from Professional Performing Arts High School in NYC. Ms. Pelle continued her training at institutions such as Alvin Ailey, Dance Theater of Harlem, and Earl Mosley Institute of the Arts. She received her Bachelors of Fine Arts at Montclair State University where she performed works such as Company B by Paul Taylor, Fraulien Maria by Doug Elkins, and Home by Earl Mosley. She has worked with various artist including Beyoncé, Marc Anthony, and Kelela. Talia has recently been featured in The Get Down by Baz Luhrmann and continuous to tour the world dancing.

Lucinda Rohrer

Nutcracker Director/Dance Instructor

A native of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Lucinda began her dance training at a young age. She trained in the Cecchetti style of ballet and passed technique grades one through five. She also attended the Cecchetti Council of America’s summer program in 2004 and 2005. Lucinda then began training at the Susquehanna Dance Center, where she was introduced to, and fell in love with modern dance. She attended the Bates Dance Festival for two summers and the Jose Limon summer intensive. She joined the pre-professional dance company, COBALT Dance Company, and performed with them until graduating. During her senior year of high school, she joined Rev9 Dance Company and continued to perform with them until her move to Texas in 2013. Upon graduating, Lucinda was accepted into the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Professional Training program at the Ailey School in New York City. Here she trained in Horton modern, Graham modern, ballet, jazz, composition, and improvisation. Once returning to Pennsylvania, she taught at the Susquehanna Dance Center and Premiere Dance Academy. She was dance captain for a production of Cats at the Ephrata Performing Arts Center. She traveled back to New York City in August of 2013 to train to be a teacher for the growing, nation-wide program, Dance for Parkinson’s Disease. Lucinda is very grateful and excited for the opportunity to share her love of dance with the amazing students at Connolly Dance Arts!

Elizabeth Sutton

Dance Instructor

Elizabeth Sutton is originally from Moorpark, CA. She started dancing at the age of three at Pam Rossi’s Dance Ten and was a member of the studio’s award-winning competition team. She also performed in their annual Nutcracker performances, taking on roles such as Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy. After graduating high school, Elizabeth moved to Tucson, AZ to attend the University of Arizona. She graduated summa cum laude and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and her Bachelor of Arts in Communications with a Business Administration minor. While at school, Elizabeth performed works by Sherry Zunker, Ohad Naharin, Miguel Perez, Amy Ernst, Tamara Dyke-Compton, Michael Williams, and Sam Watson. She also spent her summers training with renowned dance companies such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, BODYTRAFFIC, Houston METdance, Ate9, and River North Dance Chicago. Elizabeth’s love for dance recently brought her to Houston, TX where she will be an apprentice with Houston METdance for their 2017-2018 season. Elizabeth is excited to be a part of the Connolly family and share her passion and knowledge with her students!

Melissa Vann

Nutcracker Director/Dance Instructor

Melissa was born and raised in Iowa. She has been dancing and performing since the age of three. She began her dance training in Marshalltown, IA at age three. She moved to Holstein, IA at age seven and began training at the Francie McKee Dance Studio in Ida Grove, IA. She took lessons and performed in the areas of ballet, tap, pointe, jazz, modern/contemporary, and lyrical. Melissa was a member of her high school dance/cheerleading team for four years and was head captain in her senior year. After graduating high school, she attended UNI her freshman year of college and was a performing member of the International Dance Theatre. She transferred to Iowa State University for the remainder of her college years and was a member of Orchesis I Dance Group. Melissa was also the Secretary for the Orchesis I Dance Group. In Spring 2012, Melissa performed at the National College Dance Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. In 2005, Melissa moved to Katy, TX to teach in an elementary school. She has been a teacher for 10 years. Melissa taught Preschool and Level I dance classes at Connolly Dance Arts from 2011-2013. She lives in Katy, TX with her husband, 3 children and cat. She continues to work as an elementary school teacher and is excited to be teaching Preschool and Level I dance classes at Connolly Dance Arts again!

Brit Wallis-McGrath

Dance Instructor

Brit Wallis-McGrath, a native Texan, trained at Shelly Power’s Academy of Dance and the Houston Ballet Academy under the direction of Ben Stevenson. She was a company member for 5 seasons with METdance formerly known as the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company. She then spent a season in Chicago touring with Luna Negra Dance Theater under the direction of Gustavo Sansano Ramirez, and a summer in New York City performing with Molly Rabinowitz/Liquid Grip. Over the past 12 years Brit has remained actively involved in the Houston dance community consistently working with Jane Weiner & Hope Stone Dance, NobleMotion Dance, Frame Dance Productions, Vault, 6 Degrees, Recked Productions, Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble and Chapman Dance. Brit most recently toured with contemporary ballet company iMEE (infinite movement ever evolving) to Rhode Island, Florida, Bulgaria, and Mexico City.

Ashley Marmaro

dance instructor

Originally from Friendswood, Ashley Marmaro began her dance training at the age of five at Royal Academy of Fine Arts Clear Lake. She continued her training at Bonnie Siscoe School of Dance, and later became a member of the Clear Brook High School Celebrities, serving as Junior Lieutenant her junior year and 1st Lieutenant her senior year. Her love for dance and drill team led her to San Marcos, where she became a member of the world renowned Texas State University Strutters. While on Strutters, Ashley was privileged to be a four year member of the Jazz Elite Performance Squad, Junior Captain, and served as Head Captain her senior year. While attending Texas State, Ashley was an active member of ShowMakers of America Dance Company, performed as an extra in the television series “Friday Night Lights”, and performed with the Strutters as a semifinalist on NBC’s America’s Got Talent. Throughout her college career, Ashley earned the opportunity to perform in Greece, Italy, Chile, New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and received a scholarship through Texas State to study dance in Massa, Italy in 2009. Upon graduating from Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Dance Education, she accepted the position as the Friendswood High School Wranglerettes’ Assistant Director and Choreographer for the FHS Musical. After three years as the Assistant Director, Ashley graciously accepted the position as Head Dance Director of the Wranglerettes. During her time at Friendswood, Ashley has established herself as an outstanding teacher and a talented choreographer, winning several State and National Championship titles and has been nominated for six Tommy Tune Awards for Best Choreography for her work in 2010’s “Oklahoma!”, 2011’s “The Music Man.” , 2012’s “The Pajama Game” 2013’s “Guys and Dolls”, 2014’s “42nd Street” and 2015’s “Mary Poppins. During her six years at Friendswood, Ashley has taken the Wranglerettes to perform in Los Angeles, Orlando, and New York City. Most recently, the Wranglerettes were featured on the TODAY Show and in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In her free time, Mrs. Marmaro enjoys taking dance class, traveling, shopping, and spending time at home with her husband Doug, her daughter Addison, and their dog Maverick.
ber of Met Dance, in Houston. Through the Met, as well as Point Park University, she has had the privilege of performing many works by some of today’s most sought-after choreographers. She also had the opportunity to perform in the International Choreography Competition as a part of the 2012 Jazz Dance World Congress. Mia is excited to be teaching at CDA for a third year and continues to share her passion for dance with her students.