Dance 4 Joy Studio Faculty & Staff
Christy Hernandez is the Executive and Artistic Director of Dance 4 Joy Ministries, a non-profit dance ministry & studio in Costa Mesa CA that serves in communities, churches, and schools in the US and abroad training up the next generation to proclaim the Gospel in the art of dance. She is a professional tap dancer, master teacher, choreographer and producer in Southern California, holding a BA in Creative Arts and Dance from SJSU and a teaching credential in Elementary Education from CSUF. At SJSU she studied extensively in Modern, Contemporary, and Jazz under Gary Masters and Fred Matthews of the Limon Company. Christy danced as a principal member and featured soloist with the L.A. based company, Rhapsody In Taps for eight years and was mentored by Sam Weber, Fred Strickler, and Linda Sohl-Ellison. Christy has also been the Director/Instructor of Tap Dance at the Academy of the Performing Arts @ Huntington Beach High School for the last fifteen years, an invited facilitator of dance at the Dancer In Me Sacred Arts and Music Training Institute for the last six years, and a resident director of liturgical dance ministry in OC for the last three years. To contact Christy about booking master classes, choreography, performance or production, go to www.dance4joy.info.
Ruth Okey has been dancing since the age of 4. She has trained with excellent teachers in Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Redlands, Costa Mesa and Freiburg, Germany. She has studied Ballet, Jazz, Modern, and Tap. She continues her ballet training currently in Irvine. Ruth is a member of the National Dance Educator’s Association and recently attended their annual conference. She has been choreographing works and dancing for worship services for over 20 years, and has loved teaching at Dance 4 Joy for the past 6 1/2 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.
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.
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.
Marissa Skates began her training and youth teaching at Whitman Dance Studio in Lake Isabella, CA. She has trained with multiple dance conventions, including Hollywood Connection, Monsters of Hip Hop, and has received scholarships from The Pulse on Tour. In 2014, Marissa was accepted into Huntington Beach’s Academy for the Performing Arts to study ballet and modern and was Commercial Dancer of the 2015-2016 year. Marissa is Collabor8 Dance Company Alumni and was highlighted in Carnival the Choreographer’s Ball: Halloween Edition 2015. She continues to train with Soul Fresh Fam under the direction of Ricky Cole, Guests of Honor, and headlines with World of Dance. Marissa has had the pleasure of working with Disney Entertainment, Buncho Balloons, and the BET Experience. Marissa is ecstatic about her new purpose of showing God’s constant love through dance, as she has first hand received all of her great blessings in the industry through Him. She wants to show a much different, and more raw side to hip hop culture that needs to be addressed by praising Him through movement.
Maddy took her first tap class at the age of 7 and has never stopped tapping since. Not long after tap, she began training in ballet, jazz, hip hop, contemporary, modern, and lyrical and continues to polish her technique training at Edge Performing Arts Center, Millennium Dance Complex, and various other studios in the Orange County and LA area. Maddy is currently dancing with Gabe and Mindy Copeland’s tap company “Tap Overload” and has performed at countless venues with them. Growing up in a Christian home instilled in Maddy a love of Jesus and a gratefulness of the beautiful gift that God gave us through dance. She loves being able to connect and show people Christ through dance. She’s so excited to be able to use her love of dance with Dance 4 Joy!
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 was the former instructor at the Wilson St. Learning Center in Costa Mesa. She is currently studying Kinesiology at Vanguard University and teaches charter classes through Hernandez Studio Productions.
Watch this space for Katerina’s bio.
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.
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.