Learn more about out staff!
The International Academy of Dance (IAD) has some of the best dance instructors in Santa Cruz. Here you can read the stories of our talented IAD staff, before you meet them in studio. So if you want to virtually “meet” our teachers, read on! And if you want to learn more about the classes each instructor teaches, check out our Descriptions document in our Child/TeenDance Classes Page. Each of our instructors is —
— Director & Instructor at IAD
Since 2003, Miss Chipman has been committed to bringing world class dance instruction and JOY to the International Academy of Dance. She strives to nourish dancers of all ages and abilities in a multitude of styles and provide a safe and healthy environment with the best training possible.
From the age of three, Shannon’s shoes in the closet were always in first position and ballet has been her life ever since. Then, she began serious ballet studies in Santa Cruz with Diana Rose (IAD instructor) and continued under the tutelage of Jean Dunphy, Vicki Bergland (IAD instructor) & Madame Valentina Belova. She went on to attend the Royal Academy of Ballet in London, the San Francisco Ballet and the Juilliard School. Miss Chipman choreographed and performed from coast to coast before settling back home in Santa Cruz. From a young age, she always dreamed of having a dance studio and ballet company of her own. So she lives that dream every day as Director of International Academy of Dance and the Santa Cruz City Ballet!Read More
(More About Shannon)
Walking across the street as a young teen, she was hit by a small truck and that unfortunate day almost derailed her dream of dance forever… Several doctors informed her she would “never dance again.” So began a tough year of physical therapy, tenacity and observing her peers in every ballet class she would have otherwise participated in. She was heartbroken as she missed the audition season for many ballet programs and was unable to dance at all for several months. With the best medical care and miraculous recovery, however, she was allowed to finally return to dance.
Through hard work and support from her teachers and family, she was able to audition for Juilliard for the college program in her senior year of high school. Shannon was accepted to Juilliard and moved to NYC at the age of 16. After receiving her BFA in dance, Miss Chipman went on to Graduate Studies in Dance at Southern Methodist University in Dallas,TX.
Although IAD started out primarily as a ballet school, ballet dancers must be able to pick up choreography swiftly and effortlessly in any style. So she hires teachers in many styles and encourages her students to explore. Even though she is trained in many styles of dance, Shannon focuses on teaching Ballet primarily. Shannon is committed to growing and learning as a teacher herself, as well as developing staff through advanced teacher trainings. She is particularly interested in current research in physical training for flexibility, strength, mindfulness and overall training to improve ballet technique and passes that knowledge on to her students and staff. Miss Chipman has attended multiple advanced teacher trainings with Finis Jhung, ABT Teacher Training, Progressing Ballet Technique and Lisa Howell’s “Perfect Form”.
Dancers training with Miss Shannon have been accepted to college dance programs and numerous prestigious ballet programs including: Kirov Academy of Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet School, American Ballet Theater, School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theater, The Rock, Gelsey Kirkland Academy and Joffrey Ballet.
Miss Chipman is also a certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, Certified Flight Instructor and Commercial Pilot. Thus, Shannon loves to fly on the ground and dance in the air, as well as teach her students to fly through life with grace and strength. Mother of four fantastic boys, Shannon is grateful for all of the wonderful staff, dancers and families she gets to work with every day!
— Ballet Instructor
Vicki Bergland has taught ballet for over 30 years in Santa Cruz County, instilling dancers with a love and respect for ballet. Thus, many of her students have gone on to professional careers in dance. Ms. Bergland currently teaches and coaches dancers at the International Academy of Dance, where she has been an instrumental part of the training curriculum. She also teaches at the University of California, at Santa Cruz. Ms. Bergland was the Associate Director of Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre and has worked with the Moscow Ballet as the Children’s Coordinator for their Nutcracker.
Also, she has studied the Vagonova syllabus Levels 1-6 intensively with Karen Morell in San Francisco and Walnut Creek. Additionally, she has taught at Motion Pacific, Hidden Valley Institute of the Arts in Carmel Valley and the Studio School of Classical Ballet. Ms. Bergland has choreographed both repertory and full-length ballets. Vicki is most thankful to work with Shannon Cullem-Chipman and the fantastic staff, students and parents of IAD.
— Dance Instructor
Melissa Palumbo is IAD’s go-to instructor for Hip-Hop, Tap and Lyrical. With a rousing teaching style, Melissa engages dancers of all ages. She brings her dynamic style, choreographic edge and passion to every student, every class and every performance! Truly, her experience as a performer, choreographer and instructor is beyond her years.
Born and raised in New England, Palumbo began her dance career at a young age. She performed professionally and also competitively. As a diverse dancer, trained in all forms of dance, including Aerial Dance Arts, Melissa worked with Triiiple Threat Entertainment Agency, where her competitive dance career took her across the U.S. with stints in NYC, Daytona & Disney to name a few. Then, she went on to instruct and choreograph at new Hampshire’s most competitive dance studio, Steppin’ Out Dance Academy. Her visionary choreography won her awards from DTI and Star Systems. Her shining stage presence and flawless technique won her the “Outstanding Performance Award” from Turn It Up Dance Competition & Dance Troupe Challenge.Read More
(More about Melissa)
Palumbo performed and collaborated with Amy Marshall Dance Company NYC; Hofstra University, Long Island, NY; Millennium Dance Complex, Los Angeles; Copious Dance Theater, San Francisco and taught at University California Santa
Cruz (UCSC), Santa Cruz.
Melissa has choreographed, danced and coached leading roles for five annual productions of “The Nutcracker” at International Academy of Dance, along with the last five annual June Productions. Most recently she was “Alice” in
“Wonderland.” Her newest venture is acting as Creative Director for the Lyrical/ Contemporary and Hip-Hop Company.
Whether it’s her knowledge of the art of dance or her passion to help others achieve their greatest potential, Palumbo continues to inspire through her instruction and charisma, right here as part of the IAD staff!
Her strength of performance, motivating style and passion, touches students and audiences alike. Melissa enjoys keeping dance fun and attainable for everyone, while challenging her students to be the best dancers that they can be!
— Dance Instructor
Bridget Smith (Miss Bee) has been dancing strictly ballet since the age of three years old and has been taking classes at International Academy of Dance for over ten years. IAD is like a second home, and she’s part of our stellar staff! Thus, she is energetic, enthusiastic and passionate about teaching young children the joy of dance. She includes technique, story, fantasy, wonder, and ballet all wrapped up into entertaining dance classes for all those who love to dance everywhere they go. She is so happy to go from IAD student to IAD Staff!
— Dance Instructor
I’m Ally Dunn and I’ve been dancing at IAD since I was 7 years old and dancing since I was 5. I’ve trained in ballet, lyrical, hip hop, tap, musical theater, and jazz. Dance has always been the best way I can express myself and has given me an escape I couldn’t find anywhere else. It has been the best and most demanding part of my life but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to teach at this wonderful studio and I’m excited to train a new generation of dancers!
— Dance Instructor
My Name is Shayla Hill, I have been dancing since I was three years old, and have danced at IAD since I was six. Throughout my years of dance I have been trained in Classical Ballet, lyrical, Jazz, hip hop, tap, and musical theatre. Dancing at IAD has taught me many valuable skills that have stayed with me throughout my dance training such as, discipline, perseverance, and teamwork, but most importantly to dance for joy. Dance has not only been an outlet for me to express myself but has also helped me grow into the person I am today. Dance has been one of the best parts of my life and it is truly a dream of mine to be given the opportunity to teach at the studio that has become like family to me.
— Tap Instructor
Tara Firenzi has been tapping for nearly four decades. She has performed in tap shows (improvisational and choreographed) in New York City, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area. And she has taught dance all over the county for the past 25 years. Also trained in jazz, lyrical and ballet, she has choreographed more than two dozen full-length musical productions for several local theater groups. In addition, she was the first president of the Harbor High School dance company, Escapade, and she is the faculty advisor for the 100+ student dance company at Pacific Collegiate School. When she’s not dancing, she also teaches history, government and foreign policy at Gunn High School in Palo Alto.
— Acro & Little Tutus Instructor
Paris Cannon has been dancing since she was six years old. Originally from Santa Cruz, California, Paris has traveled worldwide to train in dance and perform. Paris studied dance in Santa Cruz, California, at multiple studios, including DanceCenter. By junior and high school, she was varsity captain of the cheer team and a competition dancer. Training continued with the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance until moving to Portland in 2010, where she continued her training at BodyVox and Northwest Dance Project. In 2013, Paris moved to Israel to train with Vertigo Dance Company. In 2015, she moved to Berlin to train with DanceWorks Berlin.
Upon moving back to Santa Cruz, Paris teaches at Motion Pacific and Freedom Blvd Dance Company and continues her training. Paris works for a children’s entertainment company, Happily Ever Laughter, where she dresses up like a fairy and many other characters for children’s celebrations with magic, face painting, balloon twisting, dance lessons, and sparkle. Paris adores the little ones and has taught in studios all over the west coast. She is working towards her doctorate in Nursing, hoping to work in pediatrics. She is so happy to be part of the IAD Staff!
— Folk & Pilates Instructor
Ms. Cochlin grew up in New York City where she had the privilege of studying with many of the pioneers of modern dance, such as Charles Weidman, Martha Graham, Jose Limon and Jane Dudley. She continued her studies in dance while attending Barnard College. And it was here in college that Rena began assisting her dance teacher, Marion Streng, in modern dance classes. From then on, teaching for her fit like a glove. She knew she had found what was going to be a lifelong love and her profession!Read More
(More about Rena)
After obtaining her Masters in Dance Education at Columbia’s Teachers College, Ms. Cochlin went on to teach at the Fashion Institute of Technology in N.Y.C., Central Connecticut State College, and East L.A. Junior College, where she formed the school’s first modern dance and Mexican dance performing groups. Most of her career was at UC Santa Cruz, where she supervised the dance program. She also taught yoga, modern dance and Pilates classes there for 45 years. Ms. Cochlin retired in 2019. While teaching has been her main emphasis, especially here as part of the IAD staff, she also choreographed and performed for many years in the New Haven, Connecticut area, Los Angeles, and Santa Cruz.
— Ballet Instructor
Diana Rose teaches the Beginning Ballet for Adults classes at IAD. She took her first ballet class as an adult and fell in love with the classical dance form. And so, she guides her students to discover the benefits of ballet training and the joy of dancing.
As such, Diana especially loves teaching ballet to those who have little or no dance experience. She offers a supportive and fun you-can-do-it atmosphere. Her motto is “it is never too late to begin”. Finally, she has taught in Santa Cruz for over 30 years and has introduced ballet to beginners of all ages. We love her as part of the IAD staff!
— Hip-Hop Instructor
Jenny Wright has been choreographing and teaching dance for over 15 years, and has been dancing since she could walk. She has been a student of hip hop for 23 years, including several childhood years spent learning from the Jabbawockeez. Jenny has traveled to Philadelphia 3 times for Rennie Harris’s Illadelph Legends festival to learn from pioneers of hip hop’s street styles. Her styles include folkdance, charleston, east coast swing, contact improv, contemporary, jazz, ballet, modern, post-modern, middle eastern, and, primarily, many styles of hip hop, including contemporary choreography, house, locking, waacking, tutting, waving, popping, and more. Jenny holds a teaching credential and a BA in dance. She sees dance as an opportunity for so many invaluable human experiences- joy, community, humor, play, discipline, self efficacy, empowerment, somatic embodiment, self love, thriving, and beyond.
Meet our staff! Here at the International Academy of Dance (IAD) we host some of the best instructors in the area. We hope this page helped you meet our staff, so you’re excited to see them on the dance floor! If you want to sign up for classes, click here. If you’d like additional information on class offerings, click here. Go to the Class Descriptions document center-page, where each class is outlined by the IAD staff themselves.