Birthday Parties


Allie Bayles - Dance Instructor

Allie is excited to be living back in San Diego, CA after spending the last few years living in New York City. Allie began her dance training at the age of 3 at the local Boys and Girls Club as well as YMCA. She continued her studies in ballet and contemporary, performing with the Academy of Performing Arts and City Ballet of San Diego, earning the student of the year award at the San Diego Tommy Awards. Allie moved to attend Walnut Hill School for the Arts on merit scholarship in Boston, MA for her high school years. She has danced and performed throughout college, earning her BA in Political Science from CSUSM. She has worked for Shen Wei Dance Arts and Armitage Gone! Dance in NY as well as volunteering as an ambassador for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. She is so happy to join the YMCA dance department to create enthusiasm for dance in the next generation and to share her love of the art with anyone. She currently is pursuing further education for graduate studies as well as teaching.

Amanda Cole

Amanda Cole - Dance Instructor

Amanda is very excited to be a member of the Y dance staff. She began dancing at 3 years old, embarking first with tap and ballet and continuing on to train in jazz, lyrical, and hip-hop as well. Over the years, she has competed in dance competitions with Studio 31 Dance Center, has been a member of her high school dance and pom teams, and is now competing with her dance team at California State University San Marcos. Amanda is working to obtain her Bachelors in Psychology. She hopes to continue on to receive her teaching credential and become an elementary school teacher. Not only does Amanda have a passion for dance, but also for teaching. Her goal is to encourage every young dancer to find the style that they love the most and never stop dancing!

Andrea Hayles
Andrea HaylesDance Instructor

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Andrea Hayles did most her training at Dance Arts Studio in Whittier, CA and Tremaine Studios in North Hollywood, CA. She began her love for dance at the age of 3 with tap, jazz, and ballet and later discovered hip-hop at the age of 12. She was also a cheerleader for 13 years beginning at the age of 5 in which she won numerous awards such as the future Paula Abdul award. During the early 1990's she performed with the Tremaine Teen Dance Company under the direction of Emmy Winner Marguerite Derricks. A couple of years after she graduated from USD, she made the San Diego Gulls Girls where she danced on ice, and the following year became a cheerleader for the San Diego Riptide Arena Football Team. After many years working as a research associate in the Biotech industry, Andrea is currently having a wonderful time being a full time mom.

Anna Gagliardo
Anna Gagliardo - Dance Instructor

A San Diego native, Anna began dancing at the age of 6 at the Performing Arts Workshop. She continued her training at Mira Costa College and at the University of California, Santa Barbara where she was a Dance and Psychology major. While attending UCSB, she had the privilege of training with renowned choreographers such as Nancy Colohan, Christopher Pilafian, Jerry Pearson, and Christina McCarthy. Currently, Anna is attending Point Loma Nazarene where she is working towards obtaining her Teaching Credential and Masters in Education. Under the direction of Jean Isaacs, she performs locally with San Diego Dance Theater, where she was most recently seen in the 2016 “Trolley Dances.” She also has a special interest in Musical Theater and trains locally with Vocal Coach JD Dumas. She is excited to join the YMCA Dance Department after previously teaching at La Costa Canyon High School and leading the YMCA Dance Camps last summer. She can’t wait to share her passion for the performing arts with the next generation of talented dancers!

Anna Lin
Anna Lin - Dance Instructor

Anna’s love for dance stemmed from watching her first ballet, the Nutcracker, when she was four. She began to see dance routines in all the songs she heard. She dances hip hop, cheer, Latin dance, and ballet. During her time on both a co-ed and all female Latin dance team with the Ooh La La Dance Company in La Jolla, she learned lifts and tricks, Salsa, Samba, ChaCha, Bachata, and performed & placed in three dance congresses. Under Ooh La La, she taught children, teens, and adults how to Salsa and ChaCha. She also taught all female dance routines at the Culture Shock Center. Anna earned her B.A at the University of California, San Diego in Human/Child Development. She was also employed by UCSD's Early Education Center and worked daily with children ages 3 months to 5 years. Anna can be seen constantly tapping- even when walking or sitting- to the rhythm of the music throughout the day!

Ashley Akhavan

Ashley Akhavan - Expressions Team Dance Instructor

Ashley began dancing at the age of two, training with studios in San Diego County where she was involved in competition dance and performed in the Moscow Ballet's Russian Nutcracker. In high school, she was awarded Dancer and Choreographer of the Year, performing and choreographing for multiple dance concerts. Ashley was choreography captain of her high school's varsity cheer team's halftime and competition routines. Ashley currently dances at Mira Costa College where she received the Outstanding Student Choreography Award in 2012 and 2013, and the Friends of Dance Scholarship in 2013. She was selected from the college's Dance Ensemble to perform at the American College Dance Festival in 2013 and 2014. She gets so much joy from teaching and spreading the love of dance, and is thrilled to be instructing at the Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA.

Beth Cornelson
Beth Cornelson - Dance Administrator

Beth moved to San Diego four years ago and became an employee of our Y shortly after moving here. She has lived most of her life in Seattle with several years spent teaching kindergarten at Seoul International School in Seoul Korea. She thoroughly enjoys her responsibilities with the dance department as their administrator. Although Beth has two left feet, she does enjoy playing soccer, tennis, body boarding, snowboarding, baking and reading when she has time. She graduated from Seattle Central College with a degree in Early Childhood Education and her passion is working with members and their children.

Brianna (Wood) Pilkinton - Choreographer

Miss Brianna (sounds like banana) can be described by the following titles: Mom, Wife, Senior Environmental Planner, Dancer, Teacher, and Epic Multitasker. Brianna has been dancing since she was 3, which was a pretty long time ago.She is proud to have danced with Ballet Pacifica, including the role of "Clara" in The Nutcracker; OCC Dance Team, winning their third national title in a competition featured on ESPN; and Fusion Dance Co., featured in Dance Spirit Magazine. She has also judged and coached for several dance, gymnastics, and cheerleading teams throughout the state.She is a current member of Get Down Pick Up dance company, and has been fortunate to perform as guest artist with Tamara Saari Dance, Malashock Dance (Classics4Kids), Ion Theatre Co. (Chicago: A Speakeasy Cabaret, and A Midsummer Night’s Fever), San Diego Dance Theater (Trolley Dances) and for many independent choreographers in San Diego (they are too numerous to list, but all awesome). She also recently presented her own choreography at Ignite Choreography Showcase 2013. In addition to working full-time to become a self-made thousandaire,Brianna is a passionate teacher and director of the Expressions Dance Team here at the Y. Her goal is to help all aspiring dancers realize their full potential, both on stage and in their community.

Brie Simson - Dance Instructor

A native of the Inland Northwest, Brie has enjoyed adjusting to the Southern California lifestyle. She began dancing at age five and later competed as a gymnast and figure skater, studying ballet (and a little tap) in Spokane, Seattle and San Diego. She absolutely loves working with kids, which she has done most of her adult life. Brie teaches creative dance at the Magdalena Family YMCA and coaches kindergarten gymnastics at the Kearny Mesa YMCA. Brie has enjoyed ballet since childhood. She has studied under many accomplished dancers in her hometown of Spokane, WA, Seattle and San Diego. She also has experience in tap and has competed in figure skating and gymnastics. She recently taught dance at an immersion camp in France and currently coaches gymnastics at Toby Wells YMCA.

Cameron Greene
Cameron "Elmo" Greene - Dance Director

Cameron "ELMO" Greene has been at the YMCA for 9 years and finally made his way over to the dance department. After working as a Camp Leader, After School Leader, Playground Partner, DJ, and Unit Leader, Elmo is now a Hip Hop instructor. Elmo began his dance career as an Irish dancer at the age of six competing locally and nationally for ten years. Then, after some lessons from friends and a serious amount of YouTube, Elmo made the Whittier College Dance Team, where he polished his unique popping style. Four years later, Elmo has competed in several All Styles jams and was just in Culture Shock's presentation of A Hip Hop Nutcracker. Elmo's goal is to teach self confidence and swag through working as a team and promoting individual style.

Carrie Elwin

Carrie Elwin- Dance Instructor

Dancing was the one constant in Carrie’s life growing up. She started taking ballet, then tap and finally jazz dance, continuing her lessons until high school graduation. Her professional dance experience includes dancing in shows at Disneyland and Legoland, with highlights such as dancing on the Hollywood Bowl stage as a Hollywood Bowlette and a backup dancer for Debbie Reynolds at the Thalians Ball. Carrie is super busy nowadays. She is a mom of two boys, actively volunteers at their schools. Carrie is a Cub Scout den leader, a runner and can most often be found at the Y, either teaching or fiercely working out in spin, yoga or her favorite- step class (because it’s so “dancie”!).

Cheri Pogeler - Dance Instructor

Cheri has been teaching fitness and dance for 20 years, including Zumba, Ballroom, Barre and Tap. She has attended workshops in New York City sponsored by the American Tap Dance Association for six of the last ten years. “In New York, among all the pros, I sometimes feel like a beginner,” she mentioned recently. “But there’s no better way to improve your skills than to dance with the best dancers in the United States.”

“My technique is simple: Make it fun!” she adds.

Cheri is also a full-time employee at the Y.

Donna Link
Donna Link - Dance Instructor

Donna began her dance training as a young adult in New York City at The Alvin Ailey School and The School of the American Ballet. She received her B.S. in Dance Education and Therapy from New York University. While at NYU, Donna participated in the Summer Intensive with The Boston Ballet. Donna earned her Masters Degree in Creative Arts in Therapy/Dance Specialty from Hahnemann University in Philadelphia. She is a member of The American Dance Therapy Association and is a Registered Dance Therapist. Donna has taught dance in the New York City Public School System and the Newark (NJ) Community Outreach Program. Donna has worked as a Dance Therapist In New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., where she also taught Gymboree. Upon moving to California, Donna changed her career path, working in health and hospital administration. She is thrilled to be a part of the YMCA Dance Department doing what she loves; dancing and working with children.

Gail Casten
Gail Castan - Dance Instructor

As a San Diego native, Gail Castan began dancing at the age of 3. She studied many different genres, ultimately taking her to the competitive level and on through high school. Gail recently received her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS). While at UCCS she performed on the dance team for four years, and served as captain during her junior and senior year which gave her the opportunity to manage the team and choreograph routines. Gail’s previous job involved her working at a group foster home for at-risk teens. Gail has relocated back to San Diego where she is studying to receive her master’s degree at SDSU. In addition, she guest choreographs for the University City High School Dance Team and substitute teaches at a local dance studio. She is excited to bring her experience and joy of dance to our Y.

Jina Heckler - Dance Instructor

Jina is from Suwonshi, Republic of Korea. As a university student she performed the “Korean Knife Dance” during the opening ceremonies of the 1988 Summer Olympics. She received her bachelors and masters of Fine Arts from Sungkyunkwan National Universities. Jina performed for the Korean National Center of Performing Arts as a member of ballet and modern companies. She was a master instructor of ballet and choreography for the Sambon Arts Institute and a Korean TV network producer. Presently she performs in the San Diego area.

Joy Newbegin
Joy Newbegin - Dance Instructor

Joy Newbegin is a native San Diegan, actress, singer and dancer. Joy began her dancing career as a competitive dancer at the age of 10. She continued her training at the University of California, Irvine where she earned a BFA in Dance Performance and a minor in Theater. At school she performed in main stage performances in both the drama and dance department including the Tribute to Donald McKayle, West Side Story, Dames at Sea, TEDxUCIrvine, TEDxOrangeCoast and countless other faculty and student run dance performances as well. She was also a founding member of Insight: the contemporary jazz dance ensemble lead by Sheron Wray. Locally she has performed with several professional regional theaters including Anything Goes (Virtue). SDMT: Singing in the Rain, West Side Story, CAT (Rumpleteaser),The Moonlight Stage Productions: Big Fish, Madagascar LIVE: Operation Vacation (SeaWorld SD), LEGO Friends to the Rescue (LEGOLAND - California), The of Hunchback of Notre Dame (La Jolla Playhouse - choir member). Joy absolutely adores every aspect of the performing arts but she finds a true reward in teaching. Dance has given her so much that she loves to give that same joy (no pun intended) and passion to others.

Kirsti Telleson
Kirsti L. Telleson - Dance Instructor

Kirsti was introduced to dance at the age of 5 and fell in love with it almost immediately. She grew up training in jazz and ballet and eventually lyrical, tap, and hip hop. Kirsti trained and competed with Dance Unlimited for 8 years, and was a part of Rancho Buena Vista High School’s dance team. In college she continued training and received her A.A. Degrees in Dance and Kinesiology from Mira Costa College. While there she was able to attend the American College Dance Festival 2 years in a row with the dance department’s touring ensemble. Kirsti currently dances for Culture Shock San Diego. She is excited to be a part of the family and dance department at the Y, and to have the opportunity to teach and learn.

Kristie Capozzoli - Dance Instructor

Kristie began her athletic experience at the age of 4 in gymnastics and dance. After a move to Los Angeles in 1990 she worked as a dancer and choreographer in movies, television, industrials and award shows. In 1996 she co-choreographer with Miranda Garrison, working “one on one” with Jennifer Lopez and performing as her dance double in the film “Selena.” Kristie remains active in the Los Angeles and San Diego dance communities working as a choreographer, dancer, and serving on committees.

Kristyn Culmone
Kristyn Culmone - Assistant Dance Instructor

Kristyn is a native San Diegan who grew up with a love of dance and music. A cheerleader since 5th grade all the way through high school, she's always had rhythm and moves! With her bubbly personality, she is easy to spot at the Y either assisting dance classes or leading Zumba.

Leigh Ratcliffe - Expressions Dance Team Coordinator, Dance Instructor

Leigh took her first ballet class at age eight and was hooked! She studied ballet and jazz at her studio in Bakersfield, CA and danced in so many Nutcrackers that she can no longer celebrate Christmas without hearing something by Tchaikovsky. By age 15, she was teaching ballet and jazz and by 17 she was choreographing for her studio. In college, Leigh danced ballet and modern and performed in several shows while studying for her degree in Biology. After college, Leigh took a hiatus from dance while she taught marine biology camps for kids, SCUBA classes both locally and abroad, and worked in the biotech industry. After having her first child, Leigh was thrilled to join the YMCA dance department. She has been teaching hip hop, ballet, jazz, and modern since 2006 and has enjoyed every minute! She strives to keep her classes fun, energetic, and educational.

Lili Harris
Lili Harris - Musical Spanish Instructor

Lili Harris was born and raised in Mexico. She has lived in Belgium, Italy, France and the U.S. She holds a B.A. in Communications and is certified to teach English to preschoolers as a second language. She also has her CA teaching credentials in Early Childhood Development. Lili developed her Musical Spanish program to teach Spanish with music and movement. She has taught this program at the Y for five years. Lili loves to read, write and dance. She also enjoys learning different languages. She speaks French, Italian and English. She strongly believes in the benefits of teaching children a second (or even third) language as early as possible. She lives in Encinitas with her husband and two children.

Mandie Theodore
Mandie Theodore Dance Instructor

Mandie started her dance career studying ballet and jazz for 12 years at the Ballet Conservatory of Mission Viejo, California. She performed in countless ballet recitals, musical theatre and is an accomplished pianist. While attaining her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology/Business at UCLA, Mandie was a member of the prestigious UCLA Spirit Squad’s Dance Team where she competed nationally, appeared in commercials, and performed at national sporting and charity events. In addition to teaching dance classes, she is a certified group fitness instructor for adults and children at the YMCA and other fitness centers in North San Diego County. She is delighted to share her passion and joy for dance, music and fitness with children of all ages. In Mandie’s spare time, she enjoys playing tennis, volunteering in her community and spending time with her amazing family.

Megan Maranda – Dance Instructor

Megan holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance from the University of California, Irvine under the instruction of David Allan. While in Irvine, Megan was afforded the opportunity to perform in Eloy Barragan’s premiere of “Memorias,” as well as works by Sunny Staton Mitchell of E:motion Dance Ensemble, and Nate Hodges of RhetOracle Dance Company. After college, she began studying yoga and received a 200-hour teaching certification through YogaWorks. Recently returning to the dance world, Megan feels more inspired than ever before to teach. With over 20 years of training in ballet, jazz, and modern, she believes dance builds confidence and allows young students to express themselves creatively, while teaching discipline and teamwork. In addition to dance and yoga, Megan enjoys hiking and cooking with her husband, exercising with her dog, and enjoying beautiful Encinitas.

Rebecca (Becky) Perez - Dance Instructor

Becky has been dancing since she was 3. She trained in ballet until she was 17, and then began taking ballroom classes in high school and college. While earning her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Social Work, she took advantage of taking as many dance classes as she could. She danced on the International Folk Dance Team at Brigham Young University for a year. Becky continued in ballroom learning American, Standard, and Latin style dances. She also did Country dancing, Salsa, and even a little clogging. After taking a break from dance to have 3 busy little girls, she is so excited to be back in the studio! Becky would pretty much rather be dancing than doing anything else, and is excited to pass on her love of dance to others.

Robyn Barrett
Robyn Barrett - Dance Instructor

Robyn began her training in Upstate New York at age 4. She trained in jazz, tap and ballet (Vaganova, RAD methods). Robyn began teaching ballet at the age of 18. After moving to San Diego, she continued her dance education with California Ballet School, City Ballet, School of Ballet Arts, Del Mar Ballet and Music and the Mirror, where she taught tap and ballet classes for toddlers through adults for over 5 years. Robyn has performed in many ballet productions including Les Sylphides, Raymonda, Paquita, The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Harlequinade, and Sleeping Beauty. She continues to train and perform often. For Robyn, teaching is a vehicle for spreading her love of ballet and dance education to others, with the goal of instilling grace, self-confidence and health.

Sara K. Blodgett - Dance Instructor, Program Developer

Grateful to have fallen into a dance career, Sara K. Blodgett is living her passion and is currently active in the San Diego dance scene. She has performed with Jean Isaac’s San Diego Dance Theatre on projects including Trolley Dances (2010, 2011, 2012), Young Choreographers Showcase (2012, 2013), and The Magee House Project (2013). In 2012 she danced in Mojalet’s Progressive Steps and for Sadie Weinberg in Arts Alive on the Coastal Rail Trail. Sara presented choreography at the Encinitas Arts Festival (2013, 2014) and SDDT’s Studio Showcase in May 2013. Sara is currently working with NYC award-winning choreographer Tamara Saari for Fringe 2014. In addition to being a performance artist, Sara is passionate about sharing her art. She began teaching and developing children’s dance programs in 2005. One of her latest accomplishments is directing the YMCA of Encinitas’ comprehensive dance program. Outside of the studio she can be found dancing around the kitchen with son, Aiden (10).

Zy Dewey
Zy Dewey - Dance Instructor

Zy Dewey has been teaching body alignment, corrective exercise, and Belly Dance for over 12 years. She holds a Bachelors degree in Educational (dance) Psychology as well as a Personal Training Certification through the National Academy of Science Medicine. Zy was first introduced to belly dance by a performance in Balboa Park in 2002. She then decided to learn the history of the art of belly dance and has been studying with the pioneer dancer, Jamilla Salimpour and her daughter Suhaila at the Suhaila Salimpour Dance School in northern California. Zy is one of the few that are certified in San Diego at level II status in this intense program. It is her belief that the best teachers are ones that continue their own education. So don’t be surprised if you see her right next to you in a classroom. Zy loves being a Mommy and her daughter Anya (4) is in our dance program here at the YMCA, loving dance just like her mommy.

Contact the Performing Arts Department at 760.942.9622, ext. 12594.