Lizzie MacKenzie, co-founder, artistic director
Originally from Ontario, Canada, Lizzie MacKenzie is a graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy and is the founder and director of Extensions Dance Company and Extensions Dance Center in Chicago, Illinois. In addition to teaching at Extensions, she is on faculty at the Hubbard Street Dance Center and the Chicago Public School for the Arts. Her professional career included 6 years with the River North Dance Company, where she enjoyed touring and sharing the works of many great choreographers with audiences around the world. Prior to River North, Lizzie performed with Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago for 5 years.
Lizzie has worked with some of the biggest names in contemporary dance including Mia Michaels, Liz Imperio, Randy Duncan, Ron De Jesus, Davis Robertson, Tony Powell, Frank Chaves, Lauri Stallings, Kevin Iega Jeff, Harrison McEldowny, Sidra Bell and Robert Battle.
In addition to her time touring with concert dance companies, Lizzie is a member of AGMA and has enjoyed dancing in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s annual “Welcome Yule!” holiday show for 15 years. Lizzie also has appeared with Lehrer Dance, LEVELdance, Chicago Repertory Ballet and Ron De Jesus Dance.
Lizzie attended Springboard Danse Montreal, where she studied under Alexandra Wells, Amy Shullman, Andrea Miller, Margi Gillis and Laurence Lemieux.
Most recently, Lizzie appeared as “Victoria” (The White Cat) in the Paramount Theater’s production of CATS under the direction of Shawn Stengel and the choreography of Harrison Mceldowney. She has also worked in the world of musical theater as an assistant to the choreographer for Drury Lane Oakbrook’s production of West Side Story. Lizzie has taught all over the world with numerous organizations, including the Jazz Dance World Congress, Dance Masters of Amaerica (DMA) and Chicago Dance Connection. Lizzie recently joined the faculty of Regional Dance America (RDA) and she has enjoyed teaching at Northwestern University, East Carolina University, Western Michigan University and Grand Valley State University. Her jazz class was listed in Dance Spirit Magazine as one of the top 3 dance classes in Chicago. In August of 2002, Lizzie was featured on the cover of DANCE magazine. Her choreography can be seen on various professional companies, collegiate dance programs and youth dance companies. She has received countless awards for her choreography including the “New Voice” honor from Dance Chicago in 2006, the “Choreographer Of The Year” from Dance Chicago and the Cliff Dwellers Foundation in 2007 and she was a finalist in the “AWARD Show” for the Chicago region. Her choreography has been recognized and awarded by various competitive organizations including Youth America Grand Prix, New York City Dance Alliance, American Dance Awards, International Dance Challenge, Headliners, Hall of Fame Dance Challenge, Showbiz Dance Competition and Co Dance, among others.
Lizzie’s students have gone on to various professional careers in dance including collegiate dance programs such as The Juilliard School, Ailey Fordham BFA, New York University, Boston Conservatory, University of Arizona and Point Park University.
Lauren Brown, co-founder, executive director
Lauren is an avid supporter of the arts and a strong believer in the importance of educating children in the arts in order to give them a better understanding of the world they live in.
Lauren, an attorney with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office since 1987, is married to Steven Borkan. They have two daughters, both of whom are founding members of Extensions Dance Company and graduates of the Fordham University/Alvin Ailey School BFA program in New York. Both girls are pursuing professional careers as dancers.
Lauren met Lizzie in 2003 while seeking dance instruction for her daughters and instantly recognized Lizzie’s exceptional gifts as an artist and educator and realized that Lizzie could help nurture and cultivate her daughters’ love of dance. Together, Lauren and Lizzie realized the need for a company whose mission was not merely to teach dance but also to train and enlighten dancers from the inside out. To help fulfill this need, Lizzie and Lauren created Extensions Dance Company in 2005. Since that time, Lauren has worked alongside Lizzie to ensure the company’s continued growth, success and legacy. Lauren enjoys watching each student grow and develop in dance and in life.
Hillary Aarons is a recent graduate from Northwestern University with a degree in Dance and Creative Writing and a concentration in Choreography for Music Theatre. She has guest performed with the Jump Rhythm Jazz Project and her choreography for “On the Front” was featured in their 2015 show, GETTING DOWN, GOING FORWARD.
She recently assistant choreographed two productions for Northwestern University Operas: RUDDIGORE, and SONGS AND SWEET AIRS. She is a Teaching Artist for Striding Lion Performance Group through which she has taught residencies in schools throughout Chicagoland.
Miranda Borkan is currently a company apprentice with River North Dance Chicago. She graduated from Fordham University in the Ailey/ Fordham BFA program where she performed works by Francesca Harper, Hope Boykin, Joanna Kotze, Malcolm Lowe, Jennifer Archibald, Dusan Tynek and Dwight Rhoden.
Miranda began dancing at the age of 3 and training with Lizzie in 2003, and she is proud to have been a founding member of Extensions Dance Company. She also participated in summer programs at Jacob’s Pillow, and The Joffrey Ballet School in New York City, Luna Negra Dance Theater and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.
Christian Denice began his professional dance career at Odyssey Dance Theater in Salt Lake City, Utah, and spent the next three years at River North Dance Chicago in Chicago, IL, under the direction of Frank Chaves. There, Mr. Denice worked with such choreographers as Robert Battle, Sidra Bell, Lauri Stallings, and Frank Chaves. He has guest performed with the Montgomery Ballet, Greensboro Ballet, and Company E. Recently, Mr. Denice lived in Montreal, Quebec where he danced for Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal and had the privilege of performing works by Andonis Foniadakis, Cayetano Soto, Wen Wei Wang, and Barak Marshall.
In addition to dancing, Christian teaches and choreographs nationally and internationally. He has created works for Odyssey Dance Theatre, Odyssey II, Expansions Dance Company, River North Dance Chicago in collaboration with Frank Chaves, LEVELdance Chicago, and a collaborative work for DanceWorks Chicago and Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Michigan.
Mr. Denice’s choreography has been featured at Jazz Dance World Congress and has been performed both nationally and throughout Europe. He is the 2015-2016 winner of the University of South Florida's Echo Choreographic Competition, and had a two week residency at the university where he restaged his 2011 work, "raum".
Regan Fairfield received her early training at the Peoria Ballet in central Illinois. She then attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, under the direction of Ethan Stiefel and Brenda Daniels, graduating from the High School Contemporary Dance program in 2011.
While at UNCSA, Regan worked with choreographers Doug Elkins, and Mark Dendy, among others, and also with musical theater directors Elizabeth Parkinson and Terrance Mann. After resettling in Chicago, Fairfield was the winner of the Foundation of Artists Mentored in Entertainment scholarship in May of 2013. Regan is currently dancing with Giordano Dance Chicago, as a member of Giordano II.
Annie Franklin, who received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from Western Michigan University, is a hip hop choreographer based out of Chicago. Annie was the former Artistic director of Hip Hop ConnXion Michigan and has choreographed and danced with Hip Hop ConnXion HQ for eight years. Annie also taught at Millennium Dance Complex Chicago and has represented her work at events throughout the Chicago community, including World of Dance Chicago, Urbanite, Carnival Choreographers Ball, and Masterpiece dance competition.
Annie has participated as a dancer and hip hop instructor at the American College Dance Association from 2014 through 2016. She performed as a dancer and featured choreographer at the World Championships of Hip Hop International in 2010, 2013 and 2016.
Annie strives to further develop her choreography and continue to implement and innovate qualities of power, control and isolation within hip hop movement, and inspire all people with her artistry throughout the world.
Mike Gosney, Artistic Director and co-founder of Elements Contemporary Ballet, has been teaching and privately coaching ballet for 20 years. In addition to training many of the dancers in Elements Contemporary Ballet, his students have been accepted into prestigious programs and schools such as the School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet School, The Juilliard School, Pacific Northwest Ballet School, Houston Ballet, Boston Ballet, North Carolina School of the Arts, Milwaukee Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, The Joffrey Academy, LINES Ballet, Tisch School of the Arts, and many others. As a choreographer, Mr. Gosney’s work has appeared in The A.W.A.R.D. Show! 2010, The Best of Dance Chicago, Looptopia, Around the Coyote Arts Festival, The Atlas Agenda, Joel Hall’s Dances from the Halls, Evanston Arts Week, productions with the Evanston Dance Ensemble and Evanston Symphony, and in many other Chicago area festivals and dance performances.
In addition to his work with Elements, Mike is on faculty at Visceral Dance Center and Dance Center Evanston, and has previously taught at Lou Conte Dance Center, Gus Giordano Dance Center, Joel Hall Dance Center, DancenterNorth, Eastern Illinois University, and College of Lake County.
Melanie Hortin received her Pilates certification from Romana’s Pilates in 2002. She was fortunate to have all of her training and seminars taught by Level 1 instructor, Juanita Lopez, and to be tested by Romana Kryzanowska herself, protege of Joseph Pilates, for her 600-hour exam. Currently, Melanie is on staff at Pilates Practice Inc, Lou Conte, Pilates Inc, Extensions Dance Center & Chicago Ballet Arts.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in dance from SUNY Buffalo and getting her Pilates certification, Melanie began a very fulfilling 12 year career with River North Dance Chicago. She has worked with many top choreographers in their field such as Adam Barruch, Ruben y Sabrina Veliz, Frank Chaves, Harrison McEldowny, Kevin Iega Jeff and Julia Rhodes. Additionally having the pleasure to also perform choreography by Sidra Bell, Danny Ezralow, Robert Battle, Randy Duncan and Sherry Zunker. Throughout her time with the company Melanie had the opportunity to tour Germany, Switzerland, aSouth Korea, Columbia, Russia, Hawaii and all over the United States.
Melanie has been developing and teaching a Theraband class over the past three years called APP. Whether it be class, rehearsal or performance, she saw that there was a need for dancers to learn about tools and exercises that could help keep them free from injury, while warming up and strengthening their body. This class is specifically structured to ‘Activate, Protect, & Prepare’ a dancer’s body against injury.
AJ (Ariel Juarez)
AJ (Ariel Juarez), a native of Argentina, has been dancing for 17 years. He began his training in Latin ballroom, but quickly discovered a love for Hip Hop, Contemporary, musical theatre and modern styles. AJ studied dance at the Julio Bocca School of Musical Theatre and immediately began performing in productions of “Applause” and “Aladdin” in Argentina’s Broadway. For 2 years he was a member of Chet Walker’s Fosse company (choreographer of the Tony award-winning musical “Pippin”) before he became a featured dancer on Royal Caribbean Cruises and Celebrity Cruises. For 3 years, Ariel danced and choreographed for popular TV programs including Argentina’s “Dancing with the Stars,” “Singing for a Dream,” and “Dreaming to Dance.” Since AJ moved to Wisconsin he was part of the “Suitcase Dreams” where he choreographed 2 pieces. He recently performed and choreographed for Carnival L.A and Millennium Experiece also in L.A.
He is now working as a teacher and choreographer for “Millennium Dance Complex Chicago” one of the most recognized dance studio brand worldwide. He also teaches at the UW Madison, MPDC, MPA and KP dance studios in Wisconsin.
AJ has trained with top choreographers like Travis Wall, Marissa Osato, Erica Sobol, Misha Gabriel, Ian eastwood, Brian puspos, Willdabeast Adams, Tricia Miranda etc. He continues his training to this day with trips to Los Angeles, Argentina, and New York because he feels a dancer can always improve. AJ is excited to keep sharing his passion for dance.
Erica Mattera is originally from the Western suburbs, where she trained and competed in gymnastics and dance for more than 10 years.
Erica graduated from Illinois State University in 2012 with a degree in Human and Educational Services and has coached gymnastics and acro in Chicago for the last 4 years, teaching children of all ages and skill level.
Katie McCann graduated Summa cum Laude from Butler University’s Dance Department with a Bachelor of Science in Arts Administration. While at Butler, she performed soloist and principal roles with the university performance company including Myrtha in Giselle and Odile in Swan Lake. She also performed in original contemporary ballet and modern-dance works by choreographers Donald Byrd and former Martha Graham company member Larry White. After graduation, Katie danced with Kentucky Ballet Theatre in Lexington, Kentucky. She performed soloist roles in Giselle, Paquita, Dracula, The Nutcracker, and various repertory pieces.
Now in Chicago, she is director of Dance in the Parks, a non-profit dance initiative that brings free, professional, outdoor, concert-dance performances to neighborhood parks. She teaches student and professional-level ballet classes throughout the Chicago area.
Taylor Mitchell earned his BFA in Dance from The University of Arizona, where he received the Creative Achievement Award for numerous works of choreography set upon the UA Dance Ensemble and the Musical Theater Department. In 2015, his work, Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours, was premiered by DanceWorks Chicago at The Harris Theater and was also performed on their European Tour. Taylor created All You Need Is for Thodos Dance Chicago's New Dances 2015, and it was also taken into the Company's repertoire. He has recently choreographed works for Dance in the Parks (Chicago) and LEVELdance's NOCTURNE...le passage. Taylor has also performed, taught, and choreographed internationally from Kiel and Frankfurt, Germany to Bolzano, Italy. He danced professionally with Thodos Dance Chicago, currently performs with Cocodaco Dance Project, and is actively engaged in the Chicago dance community as a dance artist, teacher, and choreographer.
Shelby Moran is a company member with Thodos Dance Chicago. She graduated in 2015 with a BFA from the Juilliard School. While at Juilliard, Shelby performed repertory such as Jose Limon’s Missa Brevis, William Forsythe’s One Flat Thing, reproduced, Twyla Tharp’s Baker’s Dozen, and Merce Cunningham’s Biped. She has also performed original works by Monica Bill Barnes, Emery LeCrone, Darrell Grand Moultrie, and Larry Keigwin. Shelby began her early training in her hometown of Mt. Prospect, Ill., at Bataille Academie of the Danse and continued at Dance Center Evanston under the direction of Bea Rashid. She has performed in numerous productions with the Evanston Dance Ensemble.
In addition, Shelby apprenticed and then performed principle roles with Elements Contemporary Ballet, directed by Mike Gosney. Shelby has participated in summer programs such as the Jacob’s Pillow Contemporary Program in 2014, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in 2009 and 2012, and Complexions Contemporary Ballet in 2010. Shelby also teaches dance in the Chicagoland area and practices yoga.
Seth is a recent graduate of Ball State University where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Dance. Since graduation Seth has been working on TRIBE Dance, a contemporary dance company and workshop he founded in 2011 for dancers looking for that extra push. Originally from Indianapolis, Seth has had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the United States dancing and teaching. Seth has trained with some of the industry’s most sought after Master Teachers. In 2008, before attending college, Seth was signed with DDO Artists Agency in Los Angeles. While living in LA, Seth spent a lot of time training at the Edge Performing Arts Center. He also had the opportunity to dance with MTV’s Dance Life’s Kenny Wormald and The Pussycat Dolls’ Ashley Roberts at the Hard Rock Live Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. Seth is now living in Chicago and is currently dancing with Elements Contemporary Ballet, under the direction of Mike Gosney. He premiered with Elements this past fall in their premiere of The Sun King. Most recently Seth is heading a company ran choreography showcase with the dancers of Elements set for May of this year and just wrapped up performing as a guest artist with Dance Crash Chicago for their production of Cotton Mouth Club.
Ms. Sagami is a faculty member at The Chicago High School for the Arts, Chicago Ballet Arts, Interlochen Summer Arts Camp, Fort Wayne Ballet Summer Intensive, and holds master classes nationally. She has taught at the MidStates Regional Dance America Festival, Joffrey II, Joffrey San Antonio Workshop, and numerous dance studios in the greater Chicagoland area.
Ms. Sagami is a répétiteur for The Gerald Arpino Foundation and serves on its board of directors. She has most recently staged Arpino ballets with Fort Wayne Ballet and Central Indiana Dance Ensemble. Following a two-year debut with American Ballet Theater II, Ms. Sagami joined the Joffrey Ballet at the invitation of Robert Joffrey in 1983. Under the influence of Joffrey and choreographer Gerald Arpino, Ms. Sagami grew to appreciate the influence of choreography. Arpino demanded commitment from his dancers that required absolute honesty and all-out energy; anything less was incomprehensible. Ms. Sagami challenges her students with Arpino’s passion and Joffrey’s integrity and is driven to share these qualities with young dancers.
Ms. Sagami holds a degree in Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Her interdisciplinary studies provide Ms. Sagami with a unique perspective on form, structure, and aesthetics, which she rigorously applies to dance.
Wade Schaaf hails from the Chicago area and graduated Cum Laude from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater arts (emphasis dance performance). During his professional career Wade has danced for such companies as the Ohio Ballet, State Street Ballet Santa Barbara, The Omaha Theater Ballet, and Thodos Dance Chicago, and River North Chicago Dance Company. He has worked with choreographers Septime Weber, Stephen Mills, Kennet Oberly, Bill Soleau, Frank Chaves, Laurie Stallings, Ron DeJesus and the Tony Award winning choreographer Ann Reinking. Wade has been privileged to dance such roles as Tybalt in Robin Welche’s “Romeo and Juliet”, Snow Pas in Welche’s “The Nutcracker”, and Jonathan in Oberly’s “Dracula” as well, had the role of Mayor Carter Harrision set on him in the Thodos/Reinking collaboration, “The White City”. Wade has set his own work on the Omaha Theater Ballet, Groundwork Dance Company and Thodos Dance Chicago.
After retiring from the stage, Mr. Schaaf went on to open Chicago Repertory Ballet in November of 2011. The company premiered to the headline review, “A Bright Debut for Chicago Repertory Ballet.” (Sid Smith, The Chicago Tribune). Since the debut of CRB Wade has gone on to create such exceptional works as Shostakovich Piano Concerto, Peoplescape:Juxtaposition, and his first one-act story ballet, The Rite of Spring. Mr. Schaaf continues to steer the company through his vision of presenting the contemporary choreographic voice, and presenting familiar stories in a new or different way.
Outside of the studio, Mr. Schaaf has a variety of interests ranging from visual art to health and wellness. Wade is a certified in both the Pilates method (Through Power Pilates) and RedCord, and is happy to enrich the lives of many through fitness.
Jeff Wolfe, of Clearwater, Florida, received his training through the Academy of Ballet Arts in St. Petersburg, Florida followed by the Houston Ballet Academy in Houston, Texas, which he attended for two years on scholarship. He was accepted into Houston Ballet’s second company. He spent four seasons dancing with the A.G.M.A. company BalletMet in Columbus, Ohio. Wolfe joined River North Dance Chicago the following season. Wolfe has spent the past six years freelancing around the United States and Canada, dancing with many companies including Montgomery Ballet (Soloist), Eugene Ballet Company (Principal), Ron De Jesus Dance, Owen/Cox Dance Group, and Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance.
In the past three years, Wolfe has taught ballet in conventions such as Epic and Dance Fever and has spent the past year teaching on ballet faculty at ChiArts. Wolfe currently co-directs two national dance intensives TRIBE and BALLET MATTERS and is a regional director for Fire & Ice National Talent Competition.