Dance 4 Joy Studio Faculty & Staff
Christy Hernandez is a professional tap dancer, master teacher, choreographer and producer from Southern California, holding a BA in Creative Arts and Dance from San Jose State University. A protégé of Sam Weber, Fred Strickler and Linda Sohl-Ellison, Christy has appeared with all of the above as well as Arthur Duncan, Dianne Walker, Brenda Bufalino, Steve Zee, Jeannie Hill, Max Polack, Marc Mendonca and Bob Carroll. Christy was a principal member and featured soloist in the L.A. based company, Rhapsody In Taps, as well as a member of the Jazz Tap Ensemble L.A. lecture demonstration series. She has produced/directed five Northern California Tap Workshops and four Rhythm On Tap performances. She has taught master classes throughout the western United States, Japan, Ireland and England and was a featured choreographer for the OC California Choreographers Showcases, Palm Desert Choreographers Showcase, the Long Beach Symphony, Dance for Life, Dance for Peace and the San Jose State University dance department. Her latest project is an inspired Christian Dance Ministry, Dance 4 Joy Ministries, in which young dancers have an opportunity to worship, praise and serve others through dancing that is focused on Christ with the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel. Visit their website at www.dance4joy.info.
Ruth Okey began dancing at the age of four and has training in ballet, jazz and modern. She is blessed to have been dancing, teaching and choreographing for Dance 4 Joy Ministries for five and a half years. Some of Ruth’s favorite verses are Ephesians 2:8-10. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Susi Beck-Gifford is a graduate from Loyola Marymount University with a BFA in dance. She lived in NY for 8 years dancing and teaching in all styles of dance. Susi always lets her knowledge as a certified GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® instructor inform her teaching and help her students build a solid foundation to achieve longevity in their careers.
Erica Villalpando graduated Summa cum laude with her B.A. in Dance and Theater from Chapman University, her A.A. in Dance/Humanities from Mt San Jacinto College, received her Pilates certification from Aline Conditioning and Barreworks certification from Yogaworks. Erica is currently adjunct dance faculty at Golden West College, has taught at Orange Coast College, Chapman University, Cal State Long Beach and at a multitude of dance and Pilates studios in the OC and LA area. Erica is currently company rehearsal director and dancer for the professional modern company, Nannette Brodie Dance Theater and teaches at Dance 4 Joy. Erica would like to thank God for all of her success, her husband Alex, son Elijah and daughter Isabella for their love and support.
Mary Thomas has been dancing with Dance 4 Joy Ministries since 2007 and she trains in tap, jazz, ballet, and choreography, although she is most passionate about tap. In addition to her training at Dance 4 Joy, Mary studies consistently with professional tappers Leah Silva and Linda Sohl-Ellison. She has also studied with leading tap artists such as Sarah Reich, Aaron Williams, Melinda Sullivan, Jason Janas, Sam Weber, Ted Louis Levy, and many more. Mary is also a member of Reverb Tap Company. She has been teaching at D4J since 2016 and enjoys sharing her love for dance with all of her students.
Carrie Woodson has a BA from CSUF and an MA from CSULB in dance. Her background includes Glory of Christmas and Easter dancer and assistant choreographer for 10 yrs.; dancer for Disneyland Resort. She was co-director and dancer for His Grace Dance Ministry. Carrie currently is an adjunct professor of dance at Santiago Canyon College. She enjoys teaching ballet, modern, jazz..technique and body mechanics, alignment.
Mary Brazelton started dancing in junior high after being encouraged to try a tap class…and, she has been dancing ever since. She is trained in tap, jazz, and modern through Dance 4 Joy and Orange Coast College. She has trained with Christy Hernandez, Linda Sohl-Ellison, Dennon Rawles, Gabe Copeland, and has performed with Tap Overload. Through her background in dance, she has found a love and passion for movement and dance ministry. She is currently studying Pilates and Kinesiology at Orange Coast College and teaches at the Wilson St. Learning Center in Costa Mesa.
Marcella Brazelton is our administrative director and creates our beautiful worship banners. She studied Biblical Studies at Hope International University and earned her M.Div. in Pastoral Care. Marcella grew up dancing but chose not to pursue dance when she struggled to understand how to maintain faith in the dance world. Dance 4 Joy has brought her healing and an opportunity to explore dancing in worship, prophetic & intercessory prayer, and joyful praise. Together with Miss. Amber, Marcella has developed our Christian Artist Discipleship (CAD) Night. She is currently developing classes to teach young dancers how to use banners, flags, and veils in their worship.