Raised in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada, Calen Kurka started his training in Jazz, Tap, Ballet, Musical Theatre, Modern, and Chinese Dance. He then later moved to Edmonton, Alberta, furthering his training competitively.
Currently on faculty at Broadway Dance Center in New York City, as an instructor Calen has taught across Canada, the U.S. and Japan, and more recently in Ireland at Dublin's Dance Jam '07. He is currently instructing for Dance Masters of America as one of their Master Faculty, and is also on faculty with Dance Educators of America. His choreography has been recognized as outstanding at many competitions throughout the U.S. and Canada, and has been the recipient of many awards. In addition to teaching in and around New York he's also assisted choreographer, director, instructor, Michele Assaf.
Calen's performing credits include being an original member of the first national tour of Jeff Amsden's widely acclaimed "A Few Good Men Dancin'", and performing with recording artist Carmella in a tribute concert to Cher. He's also worked closely with choreographer/instructor Chris Hale. As a featured performer, Calen's stage credits include having spent a year on contract with Tokyo Disney as a Main Stage performer, and taking on such leading roles as Capt. Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music" and Seymour in "Little Shop of Horrors" in regional stage productions. In addition he can be seen in "The Live! at Broadway Dance Center" video series "Turns and Turn Combos", dancing with choreographer Danny Herman, and heading his own instructional video "Floor Work with Calen Kurka and Chris Hale": A new addition to the "Live at BDC" collection.
As founder and Artistic Director of Pushing Progress Contemporary Dance, Calen hopes to continue his journey as an artist, instructor and choreographer. He wishes to inspire, and be continually inspired by those who so honestly give of their talent and themselves. He continues, with his company, to create work pushing new movement, strong technique, honesty, emotional commitment, and growth. It is an evolutionary journey with no boundaries, no limits, no ends.
DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION
Chris Hale is Associate Director and Director of Education at Pushing Progress Contemporary Dance, which launched in the fall of 2009. Through his work with Pushing Progress Chris and his partner Calen J. Kurka are at the helm of a revolution in the way we train in dance. Through an energetic approach and the incorporation of varied methodologies for sustainability and injury prevention they hope to bring a sophisticated level of information into the lives of every dancer who has the drive and passion to grow as an artist. Chris has been on faculty at broadway Dance Center as well as teaching around NYC at Steps and Dance New Amsterdam. A renowned master teacher, Chris travels around the U.S. and Canada bringing his passion for technique and artistry to dancers of all ages. Teaching opportunities have taken Chris to Italy, Ireland and was on faculty at the ABT New York Summer Intensive 2013.
Professional credits include KTU's miracle on 34th Street where he performed with such recording artists as Mary J. Blige, Deborah Cox, Tamia, Gloria Gaynor, and Michael Jackson. In 2002 he got the pleasure of performing with international singing sensation Anastasia at the FIFA World Cup Final Draw in Busan, Korea. Television credits include HBO's "Sex and the City" playing opposite Kim Catrall. He along with fellow instructor Calen Kurka, released an instructional video for the Live At BDC series entitled, “Floorwork, with Calen Kurka and Chris Hale”
In the summer of 2004 he debuted a collection of never before seen works entitled “CollidE (with me) at Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Art Nexus “WAX” in three evenings of sold out performances. Since then his work has appeared throughout New York in choreographer’s showcases such as “The Turning Point” at NYC’s Puffin Room, and “Envision This” by Enfocus Dance. Most recently his work has appeared in the Pushing Progress “Showcase Series” started by Calen J. Kurka as a means to bring a wide range of choreographer’s together in the shared vision of creating a memorable dance experience. As a choreographer he will continue to create work that pushes the boundaries of contemporary dance and hopefully bring it to the mainstream in a way that is accessible to everyone. His more than four years experience with the GYROTONIC® methodology has hugely influenced his teaching and brought a heightened awareness to his own dancing. Chris is certified in GYROKINESIS® and GYROTONIC® methodologies. Chris is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Primary through level 5 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum.
GYROTONIC and GYROKINESIS are registered trademarks of GYROTONIC Sales Corp and are used with their permission.
Elani Engelken is a New York City based teacher and choreographer as well as the Director of Professional Development and Operations at Pushing Progress Contemporary Dance. Ms. Engelken mentors and trains dancers using her background in Vaganova ballet, Graham technique, Horton technique, contemporary and classical jazz techniques as well as her training in yoga and self-development. Her contemporary classes consist of technical work, strength training, yoga and inner-awareness work to facilitate creative leadership that maximizes a dancer’s artistic expression. As a coach Ms. Engelken works with dancers to create their ideal professional dance career while maintaining a balanced, holistic, healthy lifestyle.
Elani comes to New York from Denver, Colorado where she trained under the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble in Ballet, Horton, African, Jazz, Hip Hop and Pointe amongst other forms. She earned an arts-endorsed degree from the Denver School of the Arts before going on to study dance at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Upon returning to Colorado, Ms. Engelken spent two seasons performing with Davis Contemporary Dance as well as directing the Cleo Parker Robinson teen dance training program.
After moving to New York, Elani founded and lead the solWEST contemporary dance company for three years where she performed in numerous festivals and shows. She is currently teaching at Hudson Valley Conservatory, Dance Management and Pushing Progress in addition to coaching and working with private clients.
Described as a “dancemaker who does not shy away from much” (DIY Dancer), Bryn Cohn graduated with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from California Institute of the Arts in dance performance and composition. She founded and assumed the position of artistic director of Bryn Cohn + Artists in 2011 whose work has been performed in premiere venues including Danspace Project, Ailey Citigroup Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Symphony Space, The Martha Graham Theater, Judson Memorial Church, The Center for Performance Research, 92nd Street Y, The Theatre at Meydenbauer, Abrons Arts Center, Baruch Performing Arts Center, Salvatore Capezio Theater and in collaboration with the contemporary art galleries Foley Gallery and Castle Fitzjohns on two site-specific performance series. She has been commissioned by Missouri Contemporary Ballet, Billy Bell’s Lunge Dance Collective (of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and So You Think You Can Dance), Grand Valley State University, The Pushing Progress Contemporary Training Program, for the fashion designer Betsey Johnson on a site specific installation and for The Youth America Grand Prix Competition. Cohn is on permanent faculty for the Pushing Progress Professional Training Program, and is the head of the modern and contemporary department at Greenwich Ballet Academy. Cohn teaches at Peridance Capezio Center, and has taught master classes at Velocity Dance Center (Seattle), Broadway Dance Center (NYC), Chop Shop: Bodies of Work (Seattle) and for the Michael Susten Dance Company (NYC). Cohn was one of twenty international artists invited to participate in The New Aesthetics Performance Intensive led by Crystal Pite and Pol Hayvaert in Vancouver, B.C. She has performed in works by Ohad Naharin, Alex Ketley, Colin Connor and Barak Marshall, and in self choreographed solos Leak and Au Revoir Love.
Anna Vollmar has been working as a master teacher, choreographer, and Pilates instructor for 8 years in New York City, where she was also an original member of Pushing Progress, a contemporary jazz company, under the direction of Calen Kurka.
She has had the opportunity to perform and have her choreography on many stages all over NYC, Dublin, and in Monterrey, Mexico, where she lived and taught for a time. Her other travels include teaching at professional studios and festivals in Milan and Florence, and at Studio Harmonic in Paris. She has taught at Broadway Dance Center and Peridance Capezio Center in New York, and is on faculty for the Pushing Progress educational programs. Anna can be seen in the BDC Live! Video series: Floorwork Volume I & II with Calen Kurka and Chris Hale as a featured dancer.
Ms. Vollmar has worked with students at numerous dance studios and companies throughout the U.S. as a teacher and choreographer, and tours as a professional judge for internationally known dance competitions, StarQuest, Hall of Fame, and Shine in Canada. Before relocating to New York City, she was a jazz instructor at Western Michigan University for a time and director of the dance company at a local studio in Michigan.
More recently, Anna’s passion for body awareness and biomechanics led her to study at the respected Kane School of Core Integration where she is fully certified in mat and equipment Pilates, and will now be a Teacher Trainer for the school. Her training is specialized with information in anatomy, biomechanics, touch therapy, and experience with all populations of people in addition to dancers.
Anna is proficient in contemporary, ballet, classic jazz technique, lyrical, and conditioning for dancers, and additional experience in pointe, musical theatre, tap, hip hop, modern. Her training in Pilates, Gyrokinesis, and yoga are fused into her warm-up and choreographic style. No matter what country Anna has visited, she has seen that the language of movement is universal and experiencing movement with others drives her passion for both teaching and for learning
Kathy VanDereedt is a professional dancer, teacher and choreographer working out of New York City. She has studied with some of New York’s top instructors and choreographers, with a focus on the study of human anatomy and how it translates to movement as the basis for her training. Kathy has performed professionally all over the world in a number of mediums, including concert dance, commercial, music videos, aerial silks, and musical theatre. Her most memorable credits include principal dancer in noesis:KinetiCs under the direction of Calen Kurka, dancing a full season and tour with BODYART under the direction of Leslie Scott, multiple performances with Bryn Cohn & Artists, and performing as Veronica in the production of Saturday Night Fever with RCCL. As an instructor Kathy has taught and choreographed internationally at various schools, studios, and colleges, including NYC's famous Broadway Dance Center, and Dance Masters of America. She is also on faculty with :pushing progress workshops and their NYC Contemporary Training Program, and was the ballet director for the Nourish Through Movement Tour, on which she also performed as a principal dancer. Kathy is also an adjudicator and master teacher for multiple top U.S. and Canadian dance competitions. Kathy enjoys bringing a fresh perspective to her classes, inviting students of all ages to explore, challenge and dig for a deeper understanding of everything they know about technique, movement, and performance. Learn more about Kathy at www.kathyvandereedt.com.
Jen Matus is a dedicated teacher, committed to inspiring dancers to delve deeper into their understanding of their bodies and how they move. She believes the first step in educating others is to educate yourself. After graduating from Towson University with a B.F.A. in Dance Performance, Jen moved to NYC to pursue her dance career. She studied at the Ailey School, Broadway Dance Center, STEPS on Broadway and participated in workshops with Parsons Dance Company and Stephen Petronio. She also performed with a variety of choreographers in the city, most notably as an original member of :pushing progress, a contemporary company under the artistic direction of Calen J. Kurka. During this time, Jen also taught at a variety of studios in the tri-state area, constantly improving her teaching methods by utilizing information from her experiences in the city.
Wanting to know more about the body, Jen went to The Swedish Institute and studied to become a NY State Licensed Massage Therapist. With this new found knowledge, she was able to approach teaching dance in a whole new way. By understanding each muscle in the body and how those muscles work together to execute movement, a dancer can make smarter choices as they tackle new movement, work to strengthen and stretch the body and even deal with injuries. Jen has been teaching anatomy and its applications to dance for the :pushing progress Contemporary Training Program for the last four years, helping dancers better understand how their bodies function.
In addition to her work with the Contemporary Training Program, Jen teaches at studios in Connecticut and New York where she focuses on dancers’ technique and personal voice through movement. She also choreographs a plethora of pieces for competitions and annual recitals. This summer, Jen will be attending the ABT Teacher Training for Pre-Primary to Level III, hoping to earn her ABT Teacher Certification as she continues her pursuit of knowledge to better educate the next generation of dancers.