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.
Brooke Bennett, Ballet Teacher
Brooke Bennett is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. There she began her training with Southern Performing Arts Academy and later began performing with their Pre-professional company, Southern Ballet Theatre. During this time she was able to attend and perform at Southeast Regional Ballet Association and Regional Dance Association. Brooke is a graduate of Utah Valley University where she received her BFA in dance with a ballet emphasis in the summer of 2018. Brooke received various scholarships throughout her studies at UVU, including a half-tuition ballet scholarship along with the Dean Merit Scholarship 2015-2016. She then received a full-tuition ballet scholarship in the fall of 2016, which she maintained until she graduated. Brooke also received UVU's School of the Arts Merit Award for Ballet. Throughout her 4 years at UVU she performed with the Repertory Ballet Ensemble. Brooke also had the opportunity to work and perform with Repertory Dance Theatre in fall of 2017 and later had the opportunity to perform in the gala at American College Dance Association in spring of 2018. After graduating from UVU, Brooke danced with Utah Metropolitan Ballet for 2 years. Brooke has taught ballet to students of varying skill levels at multiple studios throughout Utah and Salt Lake County.
Brenda Butcher, MFA, 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.
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 Class VI dean, and a middle school English and history teacher. She teaches ballet at the Waterford School in Sandy, Utah.
Mercedes Hale, Ballet and 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, Kaleidoscope Dance Studio and the University of Utah. Mercedes received a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications from the University of Utah and was the Media Relations Specialist for the Salt Lake Sheriff's Office from 2011-2015. She currently resides in Sandy with her husband, Rob Hale, 16 year old daughter Jada and their three dogs: Princeton, Bear and Bella.
Chandler Hancock, Ballet and Modern Teacher
Chandler was born and raised in Arizona where her love for dance began. She grew up training in ballet but decided to increase her abilities by joining Chandler-Gilbert Community College’s modern dance company Transcendance where after 2 years she graduated with her associates of arts degree. After graduating she transferred to Brigham Young University where she completed her bachelor’s degree in dance education. While at BYU she was an Arts Bridge Scholar where she created and taught lessons to teach academic concepts through dance in public schools. She also was a member of one of BYU’s top touring companies Theatre Ballet where she had the opportunity to perform in many roles such as the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, soloist in Gerald Arpio’s Birthday Variations, and Sapphire variation in Sleeping Beauty. She also trained in the summer of 2017 at San Francisco Conservatory of Dance where she studied ballet, contemporary, and gaga with prestigious faculty members. Her choreography “Through the Notions” was selected to represent BYU in 2018 at the American College Dance Festival in Colorado. Currently she dances professionally with SALT Contemporary Dance on their second company. She continues to share her passion for dance education through teaching at several local dance studios, BYU summer dance camps, and SALT Contemporary Dance’s outreach program at local elementary schools. As a dance educator Chandler strives to provide high quality education in the fine arts so every student can receive the cognitive, physical, and emotional benefits from dance. She’s passionate about teaching proper technique through the view of anatomy and respect for the body, training through musicality and artistry, allowing time for discussion and student centered learning, and providing a positive and uplifting learning environment. She believes dance not only teaches technique but life skills and will inspire growth in all aspects of her students’ lives.
Audrey Wells, Ballet and Modern Teacher
Audrey Wells is currently an apprentice with Salt Contemporary Dance as well as a part of Salt 2. Since relocating to Uath from New York City last year, Audrey has danced in works by choreographers such as Ihsan Rustem, Garret Smith, Ching Ching Wong, Amy Gunter-Lolofie, Eric Handman, Jen Pendleton, Courtney Mazeika, Sharlee Peay, Rebecca Aneloski, and Haley Johnson with Salt Contemporary Dance, Salt 2, and Oquirrh West Project. She teaches classes to students of all ages at multiple studios throughout Salt Lake County. Although originally from Portland, Oregon, Audrey received her BFA from Marymount Manhattan College (MMC) in New York City. While in New York, Audrey danced with Bryce Dance Company, Monica Hogan Danceworks, and Wilder Project Dance. Audrey also appeared as Anybodys in West Side Story at Leonia Summerstage. While at MMC, she performed in works by Robert Battle, Larry Keigwin, and Ronald K. Brown, among others. She was a member of the Marymount Manhattan College Dance Company. Audrey has spent summers at various programs including Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, San Francisco Conservatory, NW Dance Project, Vim Vigor Dance Company, and Parsons Dance, which have, together, provided her an understanding of many movement practices and methods of moving through space that she loves to share with the younger generation!
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. In 2016 she graduated from the University of Utah with a BFA in Ballet and a BS in Economics. In addition to teaching ballet at Waterford, Tristana teaches ballet at The University of Utah’s Tanner Dance and creative dance in elementary schools throughout the Salt Lake Valley. Tristana loves to teach, and especially enjoys watching children develop their own personal "language" of self expression through dance.
Melissa Younker, Modern Teacher
Melissa Younker is a movement artist based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is a collaborator with Heartland Collective, a multi-disciplinary collective directed by Molly Heller. Melissa was a member of Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company from 2014-2020 with Artistic Director, Daniel Charon. In 2018, she participated in the cultural exchange program DanceMotion USA℠, travelling to Mongolia and South Korea. She has had the privilege to embody an array of works by choreographers Ann Carlson, Raja Feather Kelly, Alex Ketley, Joanna Kotze, Andrea Miller, Alwin Nikolais, Kate Weare, Doug Varone, Netta Yerushalmy, Yin Yue, among others. 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, curating costumes and staying curious. Recently she has taught for Utah Valley University, 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.