Teacher Bios

Deborah Skinner

Deborah earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of California at Irvine and her Master's Degree from Mills College in Oakland. She is owner of the Academy of Performing Arts in Tracy, recently incorporated to APA of Tracy, Inc. She is founder and Artistic Director of the Children's Dance Theatre of Tracy, and is also the founder and co-director of the Heartwork's Early Education Preschool, an inclusion preschool that partners with Tracy Unified's Side-by-Side Inclusion Preschool and San Joaquin County Office of Education.

Deborah is a member and past president of Dance Masters of America and is the author of DMA's preschool and children's dance education syllabus and teaching manual. She has been recognized by the Tracy Chamber of Commerce as entrepreneur of the year along with being recognized by the US Congress and House of Representatives as a woman who has made a difference.

Deborah has taught nearly 45 years and is an advocate of all fine, performing, and visual arts and the power of said art to change, motivate, and better lives. She feels most blessed to have a wonderful, supportive husband and family. And has been so fortunate to have had her life's work be a vocation as well as an avocation.

 

Tiffany Embry-Savea

Tiffany Embry-Savea started hip hop dancing at the Academy of Performing Arts over 13 years agao. During a dance concert she felt inspired by other forms of dance. And enthusiastically began intense study of ballet, jazz, lyrical and modern. She continued to train throughout her high school years. She decided to take a break from dance as she pursued her nursing degree.

While studying in the nursing program, she happened to enroll in a jazz dance class at San Joaquin Delta College. She became an active and valued member of SJDC Dance Company. The company introduced her to a variety of cultural and modern dance forms. It was at this time she changed her career path. She earned an associate degree with an emphasis in dance. Tiffany transferred to San Francisco State University where she earned her Bachelors of Arts in Dance with an Emphasis in Dance Performance and Choreography. While attending SFSU, she participated in the acclaimed CSU Summer Arts program, Connections: Lester Horton and Alvin Ailey. She was able to enjoy and learn the technique of two of the great and historical masters of the dance world, Alvin Ailey and Lester Horton.

Tiffany is an accomplished, well-educated choreographer and teacher. She works equally proficient with advanced students as well as beginners and preschoolers. What she loves about teaching dance is that learning is done in a fun filled environment. Her goal is to educate her students as much as possible, but to have them fall in love with dance during the process. We are so happy to welcome Tiffany to the APA staff and look forward to experiencing all the great things she has to offer.

 

Megan Ivey

Megan is delighted to be joining APA for her second season!  And APA is ecstatic to have her become a part of our very talented and experienced staff. Megan started performing when she was five. After graduating high school, she attended Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Clown College. She ran her own clown business in the Bay Area and Valley for over 10 years, following these years, she returned to her first love, tap. Tap dancing has become her primary discipline for the past 23 years. Teaching, choreographing, and directing Academy Tap Companies is one of her many credits.

Other credits include Fallon House Theater Company, College of San Mateo Mime and Children’s Theater Troupe, and Bay Area Rhythm Tappers. She has made stage appearances with Gregory Hines, Auther Duncan, Hershal Bernardi, Perry Como and Sam Webber. Her recent credits include choreographing Annie and Wizard of Oz with Tracy Repertory Theatre. This past 2013 competition season she received the Critics Choice award from Joe Lantieri's highly acclaimed New York City Dance Alliance. She also serves on the Artistic Advisory Board for TRT. Megan has a unique approach to teaching and choreographing and clowning. She looks forward to the upcoming season with APA.

 

Anna (Ala) Kapniok

Ala began her dance/gymnastics career very early. She was a young girl the age of 5 when her training began. Ala was born and raised in Belarus, (Eastern Europe). Her native language is Russian. She came to the US a short 7 months ago. Her university education at the Belarusian State Pedagogical University named after Maksim Tank. She earned a degree with the specialty of Physical Culture specializing in Therapeutic Physical Culture. The American version of Physical Therapy.

In her native Belarus she devoted 12 years of her life to rhythmic-sportive gymnastics/choreographies. Choreographies is the American equivalent of our lyrical and contemporary dance. In 2000 she was awarded the title Master of Sports/Dance. For 10 years she worked in the Sports/Dance recreational Center prior to coming to the USA.

Ala believes her background and work experience has made her especially good with children of all ages. She is a quick learner and will easily adapt the Russian way of educating to the American. She continues to study English and is advancing quickly. She is very motivated and dependable. We welcome Ala to the teaching staff of APA. We believe she will be a wonderful addition to our staff.

 

Rachel Kuczynski

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Rachel Kuczynski grew up in Northern California and started her training as a competitive gymnast and track athlete, earning statewide awards in both disciplines. She extensively studied Ballet, Jazz, Modern and Tap at the Academy of Performing Arts in her hometown. She went on to California State University Long Beach on a Track and Field scholarship, majoring in and acquiring a B.A. in Dance. After college, she moved to New York to pursue her dance career.

Rachel has also studied with the Long Beach Ballet Academy, Atlanta School of Ballet and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. She has performed works by Martha Graham, Susan Mclain, "Gruisin Suite" by Frank Chavez and "Requiem" by Jacqulyn Buglisi. Her most recent works include dancing and touring with The Modarts Dance Company, based in New York, and the traveling off Broadway show, "Dancing Queen," by Spirit Productions. She now continues her dancing with auditioning, teaching and choreographing.

 

RJ Morales

R.J. Morales (A.K.A. Kidd Kurupt/Ballistik) excels in the art of Breakdance, Pop n’ Lock, and Street Hip Hop. He began taking classes at the age of 7 at Broadway Dance Center in Tracy, California. He was taught by Tony Banks (A.K.A. Tony Thorr/Kidd Kaeos) from the World Famous Los Angeles Breakers. Shortly after starting classes Tony saw a lot of potential in R.J. and recruited him on to the Floor Mechanics Dance Crew. They have performed all throughout California at many fairs, festivals, and even Paramount’s Great America. R.J. has starred in a music video in Los Angeles as well. Some competitions they have been in were Peace 2 tha Streets, Spotlight, Marin County Fair competition, and many more.

He and one of his crew members received the “Mirror award” for their outstanding synchronization while performing their routine. R.J. also received “Best Assistant Choreographer” award at L.A. Breakers 30th year anniversary (July 2013). R.J. loves rocking shows and hearing the crowd cheer for him and whoever else is on stage. He says, “Nothing can compare to the feeling of performing on stage in front of a huge audience.” Dance has kept him out of trouble and off the streets and he has high hopes that with his effort, he will be able to lead others on to positive paths through dance.

R.J. aspires to make it big in the dance industry and plans to study different areas of dance and would like to choreograph dance movies and music videos. What he loves most about teaching is seeing the kids have fun and get creative with freestyles, and ultimately evolve as dancers. 

 

GUEST CHOREOGRAPHERS

 

Claire Fisher

Claire began dancing at the age of four with Academy of Performing Arts in Tracy, CA under the direction of Ms. Deborah Skinner. Since then, she has not stopped moving. Working closely with Ms. Skinner and choreographer Ms. Holly Quesada, Claire participated in several local dance competitions and productions including those of Children's Dance Theatre of Tracy, Dance Masters of California, San Joaquin Delta College, and Las Positas College.

In the summer of 2011, Claire was accepted to the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet summer intensive in New York City, and realized what she really wanted to do was pursue dance as a career. By the summer of 2012, Claire's full time dance training began with Alonzo King's LINES Ballet and San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. In the summer of 2013, she got accepted into Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's summer program in Iowa City and Complexions Contemporary Ballet's summer program in New York City. Upon graduating from the Two Year LINES Ballet Training Program in San Francisco May 2014, she was accepted to the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Summer Program in Chicago IL.

She is currently training at San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, growing and learning new things every day about herself and living her dream. Claire thanks Ms. Deborah Skinner and Ms. Holly Quesada with her whole heart for everything they have taught her to be as a dancer, choreographer, and as a person.

 

Thalia Cruzat

Thalia Cruzat has been dancing for 13 years. She has studied Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Modern, and Contemporary. She trained at APA for 8 years before training at Ballet San Jose (now known as New Ballet School) in their Senior Pre-Professional training program for 2 years. There, she participated in the ABT exams and had several opportunities to perform with their professional company to enhance her skills as a dancer.

Thalia has also attended two ballet summer intensive programs at the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet in New York City, and was invited there twice to be in their year-round program. Currently, she is pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree at UC Berkeley, where she has been performing with their ballet company, BC@B (Ballet Company at Berkeley) and Danceworx, the oldest student-run dance company on campus.

She has been teaching and choreographing with APA, CDT, and BC@B for the past three years. She loves to dance and is always eager to share her enthusiasm with students of all ages.

 

Julia Nunes

Julia has been dancing for 12 years at the Academy of Performing Arts and has been teaching there for 2 years. She has studied Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Modern, and Lyrical. She has been a member of the Children’s Dance Theater for 9 years and has played many roles in The Nutcracker and Alice in Wonderland.

Julia has attended summer ballet intensive programs at Central West Ballet and Long Beach Ballet. She also participated in the Tracy High School Varsity Dance Team for 2 years. She hopes to pursue a degree in dance in college, and eventually, would like to train as a Physical Therapist. Julia loves assisting young dancers develop dance technique, as well as a passion for dance.

 

Brittany Woo

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Brittany Woo began dancing at the Academy of Performing Arts when she was seven and studied ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, acro, modern, and contemporary. After dancing with Children’s Dance Theatre for many years, Brittany is thrilled to be working with CDT again.

In 2011, Brittany attended Gelsey Kirkland’s Academy of Classical Ballet and began focusing on classical ballet. In 2012, she joined Ballet San Jose as a trainee. In 2014, Brittany accepted a contract with Ballet San Jose as an apprentice after completing two years in Ballet San Jose School’s Trainee Program.

As a trainee, Brittany performed in repertoire including Karen Gabay's The Nutcracker, George Balanchine’s Serenade and Stars and Stripes, Sir Frederick Ashton's Le Rendezvous, Wes Chapman's staging of Don Quixote, Mads Ericksen's Casting Shadows, and Dalia Rawson's Left and After Dreaming along with performing as Aurora from Sleeping Beauty and Odette from Swan Lake in Ballet San Jose School’s summer intensive showcases.