Waterford Dance Academy - Faculty

Annie Breneman, Director of Waterford Dance Academy

Annie received most of her early ballet training from Joan Miller’s Palm Beach Ballet Center, Florida. She graduated from Alexander Dreyfoos School of the Arts High School, in Florida. She received a scholarship to attend the University of Utah, and later graduated with a BFA in Ballet, with a Performing and Teaching emphasis. After her freshman year, she was hired by Ballet West as an Apprentice and danced her way up the ranks to Soloist in 2005. Annie retired after thirteen years with Ballet West and found her true passion in teaching. She has taught over the last 18 years years at various local dance studios in Utah. She was a Guest Artist for the Department of Dance at Utah Valley University, and spent four years teaching in the School of Dance at the University of Utah. She received her Master's degree in Exercise Physiology in 2015. She is constantly inspired by students wanting to learn about ballet and how their body moves.

Shira Fagan, Ballet Teacher

Shira Fagan has a BA in English from Grinnell College and an MFA in Dance from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee. She is a former member of Danceworks Performance Company II in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and of Co.Da in Sugarhouse, Utah. Shira is the Lower School Coordinator and Rehearsal Assistant for the Waterford Dance Academy.  She also teaches ballet and creative dance at the Waterford School in Sandy, Utah.

Emmy Thomson, Modern Dance Teacher

Emmy is an Alumni of both the University of Utah and The Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. She was Ririe-Woodbury’s first Associate Artistic Director in 1999, and danced in the company for 7 years. She received both her Bachelors and Masters of Fine Arts degrees in Modern Dance from the University of Utah, where she graduated Cum Laude, was on the Dean’s List, in Who’s Who in College Students, a member of Phi Etta Sigma, received the Dance Performance Award and was the President of Orchesis.  During her Masters, she was awarded the Elizabeth Hayes Award, the Dee R. Winterton Award and received a Performance Award at the National College Dance Festival. She designed and directed a full time dance program at Apple Valley High School in Minnesota for seven years where she received the Golden Eagle Award for outstanding service for building bridges between students, parents and community. She was head of the dance program at Macalester College in St Paul, Minnesota for two years where her choreography was adjudicated into the College Dance Festival. She has been at the Waterford School for 15 years and Alianza Academy for 3.

Brenda Butcher, Ballet Teacher

Brenda completed her BFA Modern Dance, University of Utah. She is certified in American Ballet Theatre's National Training Curriculum, Pre-Primary-Level 3. She is also certified in Progressing Ballet Technique an innovative program for students to understand the depth of training muscle memory. Brenda is a certified Pilates, yoga, fitness instructor. Currently she teaches as Assistant Professor, Ballet Department, University of Utah, and for Ballet West Academy, Park City. She performed as a member of Mountain West Ballet company and was a Children’s Rehearsal Assistant  for Ballet West’s Nutcracker for 3 years. Brenda recently completed her MFA in ballet at the University of Utah with research interests in dancer wellness and injury prevention.​

Taryn Yarrington, Ballet Teacher

Taryn was trained in many different styles of dance, but Ballet is the style that is her focus. She was trained at various studios in Salt Lake City including The Ballet School, directed by Jan Fugit and The Ballet West Academy, directed by Bene' Arnold and Peter Christie. Taryn had the opportunity to participate in many performances with Ballet West including The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Swan Lake, and The Sleeping Beauty, and was also picked to be a Ballet Extra on the WB series Everwood. She was able to attend classes at Paul Taylor, Alvin Ailey, and Broadway Dance Center in New York City.  Taryn performed with other members of the University of Utah Ballet Department and Modern Department in an improv piece with the world renowned musician Bobby McFarrin. She has also performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as a processional dancer, an Irish dancer, and Ballet dancer in two of their Christmas concerts. She has performed many original works by several choreographers including: Heather College-Grey, Tamara Squires, and Carol Iwasaki, in the Ballet Ensemble productions at the University of Utah where she received a BFA in Ballet Performance. Taryn is a Davis County Native and attended Viewmont High School where she was a member of the Viewmont Vykelles drill team, where she is a guest Ballet teacher as well as a guest team audition and competition routine judge.​

Alba Zarate Butler, Hip Hop Teacher

Alba has been dancing since the early age of five years old. Alba trained at Dance Empire of Miami under the artistic direction of Angel Fraser-Logan and Tawanna Hall, as well as Alvin Ailey principal dancer Jamar Roberts. She graduated from Miami's Mega Magnet Performing Arts High school, Coral Reef Senior High in 2013. Alba moved to Utah to pursue dance and graduated from the University of Utah in 2018. She has trained with Brandon Bryant, Dee Caspary, and Mia Michaels. She is professionally trained in Hip-Hop, Contemporary, Ballet, Modern and Jazz. Alba has choreographed award-winning routines nationwide and looks forward to bringing her experience and enthusiasm to the Waterford Dance Academy.​

Tristana Yegge, Ballet Teacher

Tristana is originally from Colorado, where she had the privilege to study many forms of dance, including Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Lyrical, Aerial, and Modern. After attending a Ballet West Summer Intensive course in high school she decided to move to Utah, and in 2016 Tristana graduated from the University of Utah with a BFA in Ballet and a BS in Economics.  In addition to teaching at Waterford Tristana teaches at The University of Utah’s Tanner Dance and serves as the assistant to the director of Municipal Ballet Company, where she is learning the ins and outs of administration and gets plenty of opportunities to dance in her favorite setting, outside.  Tristana really enjoys working with kids and loves watching them develop their artistry. ​

Melissa Younker, Modern Dance/Contemporary Teacher

A native of Southern California, Melissa Younker is a movement artist based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since joining Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company in 2014 she has had the privilege to embody an array of works by Artistic Director, Daniel Charon, along with choreographers Adam Barrach, Ann Carlson, Tzveta Kassabova, Raja Feather Kelly, Joanna Kotze, Alwin Nikolais, Kate Weare, Netta Yerushalmy, among others. Melissa holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from California State University, Long Beach where she received the Lana Alper Memorial Scholarship. She has been dedicated to dance for over 25 years; training in many movement forms and teaching a multitude of communities. She has toured throughout the United States, France, Mongolia and South Korea as a performer and educator.