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 18 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.​

Mercedes Hale, Hip Hop Teacher

Mercedes Hale is a fourth generation dancer, dance instructor and choreographer. She began dancing at her mother's locally owned studio, Tracy's Dance Academy, at age 2. There she was trained in jazz, tap, ballet, lyrical, hip hop, modern and musical theatre, becoming a faculty member at 15 years old and eventually the director/choreographer for the Mini, Junior and Senior companies and competition teams. Mercedes has had the opportunity to train under and work with many of the dance greats: Joe Tremaine, Gregory Hines, Ann Reinking, Savion Glover, Doug Caldwell, Jackie Sleight, Marguerite Derricks, Wade Robson, Joe Lanterri, and Mia Michaels to name a few. She spent numerous summers in Los Angeles attending classes at renowned studios such as the Edge Performing Arts Center, The Millennium Dance Complex, The Howard Fine Acting Studio and private voice lessons with vocal coach Seth Riggs. Mercedes attended The Waterford School for grades 7-10, and then at age 16, was accepted into the Musical Theatre program at Idyllwild Arts Academy- a prestigious and highly acclaimed performing arts boarding school in Southern California- where she completed her junior and senior years in high school. Upon graduating, Mercedes was accepted into The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, where she attended as a Musical Theatre major. Mercedes is also a proud Broadway Theatre Project alumni. Over the years, Mercedes has attended many national and international competitions and conventions where she was awarded with numerous titles, scholarships and high point accolades--first as a dancer and later on as an instructor/choreographer. From 1997-2002, she was selected to represent Utah in the international touring company: "The Sweethearts and Heartthrobs" sponsored by I Love Dance, Inc.  Mercedes has performed in and choreographed performances for the 2002 Winter Olympics, NBA Jazz halftime shows, Norwegian and Carnival cruise lines, Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm. In addition to being a part of her family owned dance studio's faculty, Mercedes has also taught and choreographed for studios and programs throughout the state including: Dance Concepts, Linda Fenton School of Dance, Singers Unlimited, The Winner School and University of Utah. Mercedes received a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications from the University of Utah and has been the Media Relations Specialist for the Salt Lake Sheriff's Office for the past 4 years. She currently resides in Sandy with her husband, Rob Hale, 15 year old daughter Jada and their three dogs: Princeton, Bear and Bella.

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.​

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 Ann Carlson, Raja Feather Kelly, Joanna Kotze, Alwin Nikolais, Kate Weare, Netta Yerushalmy, among others. Melissa is a collaborator with Heartland, a multi-disciplinary collective directed by Molly Heller. Melissa holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from California State University, Long Beach. She has been dedicated to dance since youth; training in many movement forms, teaching a multitude of communities, touring as a performer and educator, and staying curious. Recently she has taught for Bucknell University (PA), K-Wheel Dance Project (South Korea), Tumen Ekh Ensemble (Mongolia), Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Brigham Young University (ID), and the University of Wyoming.