Bios of UPsiders

The lovely Kate Ahumada and Tanya Tolmasoff, co-directors of UPSide Dance Company, have danced internationally in professional performance groups throughout California, Colorado, New York City, London, and St. Petersburg, Russia. Bringing their beaming optimism back to their roots in Sonoma County, the dynamic duo wishes to share their love and knowledge of dance movement, health, and wellness to their hometown and Northern California.

UPside Directors

Tanya Tolmasoff (Artistic Director):

UPsideDancePAPER_MG_1903Tanya has worked professionally as a dancer, performer, designer, and arts/cultural manager both Nationally and Internationally for the past 15 years. Tanya is also an instructor at Santa Rosa Junior College Dance Department and ArtQuest Dance program at SRHS. She holds a MA with Distinction in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy from Goldsmith University of London, and a BA in Theatre, Dance, and Costume Design from Cal Poly University, SLO. While in London (2011-2012) she worked in the Creative Development Department for Sadler’s Wells London’s Dance House working for renown choreographers Mathew Bourne, Akram Khan, Sidhi Larbi, Wayne McGregor, Russel Maliphant, and artists from Pina Bausch, and helped coordinate ‘BIG Street Dance 2012‘ where over 1,000 performers danced on the steps of London’s National Gallery and Trafalgar Square. Prior to her Masters she was the Marketing and Event Coordinator for JUMPBRUSH Dance Convergence in San Luis Obispo, CA featuring a creative collaboration of 5 local dance companies and San Francisco’s Oberlin Dance Company (ODC). On Stage and on tour, Tanya has been a featured dancer, performer, and soloist for Variable Velocity Performance Group (California), Deyo Dances (California and St. Petersburg, Russia), Civic Ballet (California), AMP:Dance (NYC), RE:DS Dance Company (London, UK), and a Viennese Circus Act (Yes, you read that right, she was a clown!). As well as a performer, she has also designed Theater costumes for off-Broadway productions in NYC, Dance Costumes for Variable Velocity, and directed a Californian Fashion Company called Melanie Renee Design. Her background, talent, and passions combine to form  UPSide Dance Company with Kate Ahumada… and what a pair! What an exciting culmination and collaboration to bring more modern dance to the gem of Northern California.

Kate Ahumada Vazzoler (Company Director):

Strum cello Kate. By BlackwellKate is a life-long mover. Drawn to dance at a young age, this kinetic language continues to speak her truth. Her technical foundation is in classical ballet, which she began in her hometown of Healdsburg, at Healdsburg Ballet. She has performed many classical roles at the Luther Burbank Center (now the Wells Fargo Arts Center), and the Marin Civic Center with Marin Ballet and Marin Dance Theatre. In college, she discovered the grounded freedom of modern dance. Kate received her BFA in Dance from UCSB in 2005. There, she studied with brilliant teacher/choreographers: Nancy Colahan, Christopher Pilafian, Tonia Shimin and Stephanie Nugent; and performed their works on tour with the UCSB Dance Company. Kate was honored with the Alice Condodina Performance Award upon graduation. She lived in NYC the next fall, studying with inspirations Milton Myers, Peff Modelsky, and Jessica Hendricks. When the west coast drew her back home, she taught dance and became a pilates teacher before moving to San Francisco. While in the beautiful Bay Area, Kate performed with Garrett and Moulton Productions, VISPO Dance, and Prana Bachata. During the summers since 2002, Kate is a member of the modern-jazz company, Interweave Dance Theatre in Boulder, Colorado. Now living in the place of her roots, Kate is happy to have trusted the tiny dancer always alive in her, and continues to reach for the best version of herself. Kate is deeply thankful to have re-connected with Tanya, and is soaking up each moment of creating UPside Dance. Kate couldn’t ask for a better partner in crime than Tanya to spread the joy of movement here in their roots of Sonoma County!

UPside Company Dancers

All UPside Dancers are diverse, bright, adventurous, generous, and bring something new to the dance floor. UPSide revels and reveres the diverse backgrounds, styles, and ideas of their dancers and creates movement inspired by and for the company.


upside-105Christopher Bennett
started his dance training at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in los Angeles CA in Ballet, Jazz, Modern, Contemporary, Tap, Flamenco, and musical theatre. While in LA, he also was in several Broadway productions including ‘Brothers of the Knight’ and ‘Oman O’Man’.  Besides UPside Dance, Chris studies at Santa Rosa Junior College majoring in Dance and Business Administration, working towards his goal of opening a dance academy and youth art center dedicated to keeping kids and teens off the streets.

 

untitled-8Janelle LaCumsky is a preschool teacher working in the lab school at Santa Rosa Junior College. From early childhood, Janelle was passionate about dance and performed in choir and musical theater.  After receiving the California State Arts Scholar award & attending Cal Arts summer program, Janelle continued her training in Modern, Ballet, and Theatre throughout California with Jude Clark Warnisher & Bree Valle (Cuesta College San luis Obispo),  Jacqueline Burgess (Laney College), Tamara Grose (CCD), Victor Temple (New World Ballet), Bernadette Alverio (Movement Lab), Jordan Hayes (For By With).  Janelle is honored to have found a home as an original UPside Dance Company member since 2012.


img_0358Erin Meyers
is a local Healdsburg Acupuncturist, mother of 2 amazing kids (Rowen, 8 and Iona, 6), and wife of Arnot-Roberts winemaker Duncan. She loves to train in all types of movement from african and modern dance both in Colorado and Sonoma County, riding bikes, and going on school field trips!  Erin is an original UPside Dance member since 2012.

 

untitled-copy-6Originally from Boston, Nina Saraceno began her early training at the Ana Roje School of Ballet also dancing as a 4th generation Isadora Duncan dancer. She holds bachelors degrees in Dance and Psychology from Skidmore College and has danced professionally with the Boston Dance Company, Anna Myer and Dancers, Ariel Rivka Dance and Palanza Dance. She has also participated in projects with Garrett & Moulton Productions, Project Tremolo, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Interweave Dance Theater and Rarefied Bear among others.  Nina lives in San Francisco and works as a pre/elementary school movement and mindfulness teacher.

 

IMG_0452KT (Katherine Tesch) originally hails from Wisconsin where she studied ballet as a child, and as an adult, graduated from UW-Milwaukee with a BFA in Dance. She traveled to, and lived in many corners of the world including Turkey, Australia and Japan. After settling in the Bay Area in 2006, KT flourished as a fire performer and invested in passing the art of dance on to children and adults as a teacher. Currently, she is further her education investment at the SRJC, studying Kinesiology and child development. UPside is a serendipitous and welcomed delight to work and continue to perform.   KT’s  has danced with UPside since 2015.

IMG_0304Allison Low is a Sonoma County native who discovered her passion for movement at an early age.  She enjoys studying all forms of dance and has trained, collaborated and performed in California and Oregon.  Throughout her youth she trained locally with Ballet California, then continued dancing through college and after in Eugene and Portland Oregon.  After completing her doctorate in physical therapy at UCSF she returned to Sonoma County where she’s performed with CCD, the SRJC dance program and now UpSide Dance.  She’s the proud wife of David, winemaker/co-owner of AntHill Farms and a new mother… Allison’s new tiny UPsider, Natalie, performed on stage in Allison’s belly in 2016!

_DSC2036 (1)Laura Leipzig began her dance training as a child studying ballet at The Dancers Studio with Virginia Niekrasz-Laurent in Eureka, CA, eventually dancing as a member of the schools company as a teenager.  Laura attended Sonoma State University graduating in 2009 with a BA in Studio Art with a focus on Fine Art Photography, and a Minor in Dance.   She recently earned a certificate in Non-Profit Management from San Francisco State University.  It was at SSU, taking classes from Nancy Lyons and Kristen Daily among others, that she became interested in modern/contempory dance.  Shortly after college Laura met long time Sonoma County ballet teacher Mary DiLillo, whom she has assisted and taught for, both at SRJC and the Susan Lopez School of Ballet.  Laura works as the Gallery Coordinator for the Arts Guild of Sonoma, managing a Cooperative art gallery, and planning arts events in the city of Sonoma.  She also has her own very small custom framing business, and can be found hosting at the Wild Goat Bistro in Petaluma.  This is Laura’s second performance with UPside.

IMG_3394Jeni Turner began her dance training at the Sebastopol Ballet School under the tutelage of Susan Borgeson, Lois Hartman, and Paula Martens. She completed a program with the Golden State Ballet Company in Irvine, California and was also awarded a scholarship from the Sonoma County Ballet Guild. Jeni continued her dance education at Smith College where she performed in the Fall Faculty Concert (2008 & 2009), Bare Bones (2010), and the Senior Thesis Show (2011). After a long break from dance and a law school journey, Jeni is exploring modern dance for the first time and is thrilled to have found UPside.


IMG_1475 (1)Ellen Setchko Palmerlee
 Ellen Setchko Palmerlee has been twirling around her living room to music for as long as she can remember. Though she didn’t get serious about dance until high school, movement was always a part of her life. She began with tap and ballroom, then fell in love with modern and jazz as a student of Susan Matthies, who continues to be an inspiring influence. In May of 2016 she graduated from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts with a BA in Neuroscience and a minor in Dance. She spent one semester on exchange at Mills College in Oakland studying dance and exploring the bay area dance scene. During her college years she was drawn to site specific dance and choreographed a site piece about her grandmother on the MHC campus. Now back in Sonoma County, she is honored and thrilled to be dancing with the UPside Dance Company!

img_1192Gianna Davy (Guest artist in ‘Anatomy of Happiness’ 2017) fell in love with dance at age 8 and has never stopped.  Her passion took her through a 16 year professional career dancing at many companies including Smuin Ballet, Oakland Ballet, Robert Moses’ KIN, State Street Ballet and Company C Contemporary Ballet.  Gianna received a BA in Performing Arts in 2009.  Today Gianna spends her days adventuring with her two sweet sons (Bensi age 3 and Oberon age 7 months), teaching dance to kids and adults, making jewelry for her small business, or gardening any patch of earth she can find.  Gianna has been an UPside Company Soloist since 2014.

UPside allthingsPAPER paperscroll 600 MRMelissa Emilie Paris (Guest choreography ‘Anatomy of Happiness), originally from Southern California, has trained and performed all over the country in various styles of dance with multiple dance companies and theatre houses. Her first professional job was at the age of sixteen as a Flying Angel at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California where she stayed for an additional three years as a company dance member. She fell in love with musical theatre and was in numerous shows throughout Southern California, leading her to New York. Melissa realized that her love for dance and passion for performing needed a stronger financial backbone and pursue her inner nerd. She has her Bachelor of Science in Wine and Viticulture from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Melissa was folded into UPside and the Healdsburg Community immediately after arriving as a laboratory technician at Mauritson Wines. Shortly after the debut of ‘all. things. PAPER’, her next adventure begins in Marlborough, New Zealand where she will be working her second international harvest. Melissa has danced with UPside since 2015.

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