Brianna first entered a Fred Astaire Dance Studio at the age of 8. She had some fun for about a year as a student and eventually took a break… only to return as a more serious and dedicated amateur at the age of 12.
Since then, she has attained the Gold level of dancing as well as the Champion title in Smooth, Rhythm, and the 9-Dance divisions of American Ballroom. In fact, she was invited to be a performer at the 2014 Dance Legends–an invite-only dance event featuring the best dancers in the world.
With such a highly decorated amateur status, she decided she wanted to push herself even more. It was on September of 2015 that she officially retired as an amateur and became a professional.
Her passion to dance exceeds most dancers and it is no doubt she will attain even more titles as a professional. It was a true pleasure to watch her grow as a student in our studio and we cannot wait for what the future holds for her as a professional!
Johnny, a native to Illinois, has always been into sports. He played baseball for 12 years and actually wrestled and played football all of his High School years. Eventually, he became the Team Captain for both teams. Preceding High School athletics, he discovered the world of Mixed Martial Arts (M.M.A.) and currently participates in this intense form of activity while teaching at our studio.It is clear he has great coordination, determination, perseverance, and team spirit due to his background in sports. That’s what makes him a perfect addition to our team. If you want to learn how to dance—even though you’ve got two left feet—Johnny will get you feeling like Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers. He is patient with all types of learners and he doesn’t give up on his students. He truly takes pride in watching his students grow in their dancing.
Though Nick has joined our Buffalo Grove location in December 2015, he has been in the Fred Astaire family since 2008. Through the years, he has obtained a vast amount of dance knowledge as he enjoys reading dance manuals from cover to cover. If you have a dance question, Nick is your go-to guy! Though he may come off brain smart, he actually comes from a musical background as a devoted Alto Saxophone player and a guitarist. Since starting with Fred Astaire Dance Studios, he has become a major competitor in the American 9 dance division and currently competes in the American Smooth category with his partner, Sarah Ford. Nick is an all around guy who can easily connect with a diversified group of students. He’s silly, but serious… Nice, but strict. He’s the formula of a great teacher!
Dancing since the age of 13, Ryan has received a total of 4 dance scholarships in his ballet and modern dance career. In fact, he graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts and an emphasis in Dance. With an already great foundation, ballroom dancing came easily to him and his love of dance narrowed to the world of ballroom. He enjoys the team atmosphere in our studio and loves meeting all types of people as he shares his gift of dance. Currently, he aspires to compete in the smooth division and become the Baryshnikov of Ballroom Dance.
Sarah is a native of Chicago, Illinois and credits her early dance training to Russian Classical Ballet and the North Shore School of Dance. After a year of studying with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago in the pre-professional program, Sarah graduated cum laude from the State University of New York at Purchase with a BFA in Dance and a minor in Arts Management where she performed works by Doug Varone, Mark Morris, Anthony Aiu, Eve Chan, and John Heginbotham.During her time in New York, Sarah had the honor of working with Michael J. Clark and Artists as both a Performance Artist and an Assistant Artistic Director. She has spent summers studying with River North Dance Chicago, San Francisco Ballet, Orlando Ballet, and the Rock School for Dance Education. In 2008, Sarah was invited by Artistic Director David Wilcox to tour China during the summer Beijing Olympics with Long Beach Ballet, performing to sold-out audiences across the country.Currently, she performs with Nomi Dance Company, while working as an instructor in our studio. She actually discovered Fred Astaire Franchised Dance Studios through a local ad and before applying, she researched our company extensively. Once learning our core values and methods of teaching, she decided it was a good fit for her goals.She joined our company in June 2014 and has fallen for the community feel our studio has provided for both teachers and students alike. She enjoys interacting with every student, whether she is their primary teacher or not, and loves being able to share her talents in a different form of dance.Sarah currently competes with Nick in the American Smooth and American Rhythm divisions.
Dancing since he was only 4 years old, Vlad has gained a tremendous amount of dance experience underneath his belt. His extensive Latin and Standard training has allowed him to pick up Smooth and Rhythm rather quickly! He is quite a sponge when it comes to his dance education.Vlad came to America from Tirnopil, Ukraine in July 2011 to live the American dream. In May of 2013, he found our studio and fit right in! He enjoys teaching mostly because of how much dance can make people happy. He truly loves when he sees his students excited about mastering a complicated step. Because of his extensive experience in dance, he understands the time and patience needed to learn new material. We are pleased to have such a young and talented teacher as part of our team!Eventually, Vlad would like to become a highly respected adjudicator as well as a travelling coach. With his talent and patience, there is no doubt he’ll be living his American dream!
Front Desk Executive
When you walk into the studio, Lisa is the first person you see. She has a warm and welcoming smile–perfect to put newcomers at ease! Her personality is quite infectious… bubbly, positive, and cheerful with a great sense of humor. Though she is fun, she is extremely detail oriented and is quite the perfectionist who is serious about her work. We can’t ask for a better combination for our Front Desk Executive.
To get a good picture of Lisa, she has a love for all types of animals. She owns numerous types while also volunteering her time here and there to those in need. She is Wheeling, IL born and raised with interests in diesel trucks, fishing, power lifting, nail art, and has a slight obsession for pretty bows. She gets along with any type of person and has an extremely like-able persona. She’s our all-around go-to lady–we can guarantee she will make you feel comfortable the minute you come in!
Ria has always loved the art of dance as she felt it was the only sport that epitomized life itself. To her, it was a great representation of two people teaming together to go through the ups and downs of the “dance” we call life. However, being raised in the Philippines with a combo of a strict Syrian father and a protective Filipino mother, she was unable to discover dance growing up.
She also had a strong desire to move to America and therefore in the middle of 2003, she moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to obtain her bachelor’s degree in Professional Communications. After living in the U.S. for a couple of years, she decided to take the chance and pursue her dancing dream. She visited the Milwaukee Central Fred Astaire to take some lessons and was quickly asked to join the staff. She accepted the offer and basically worked at the studio and continued her college education both at a full-time basis.
In December of 2006, she was honored to have graduated early from college and decided to continue working at the studio. Since then, she has repeatedly won numerous awards such as Top Enrollment Specialist, Top Customer Service, Top Guest Referrals, Top Dance Apparel Consultant, Top Overall Female Teacher, Top Competitive Female Teacher, as well as the honorable Freddy Award. She also obtained the Fred Astaire Rising Star Rhythm Champion title with her former partner.
After a very successful teaching career in Milwaukee, Ria took some time off in late 2010 and made a personal decision to move to Chicago, Illinois. Shortly thereafter, she was offered positions at various Fred Astaire studios and in early 2011; she decided to join the Downtown Chicago team as the studio manager. In fact, after boosting the studio for a full year of growth and success, she was invited to co-manage the Buffalo Grove/Chicago North studio with Aaron in April 2012; and is currently there full-time. With a naturally caring personality, she is a woman who truly stands behind our motto, “To enrich the lives of everyone who walks through our doors.”
Training Director/Studio Owner
Also coming from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Aaron followed his brother, Jesse DeSoto’s footsteps and became a ballroom dance instructor in August of 2005. As his brother was at his peak during this time, Aaron focused on his learning and quickly rose to the top of the ranks as one of the best instructors in the country. Not only did he achieve these results with his students, he was a highly decorated American Rhythm dancer as well. He has won numerous titles with his students and his former professional partners.
What made him so successful so quickly you ask? It’s simple. He was the starting center fielder of the 2005 DVIII college World Series team in Wisconsin Whitewater. His life prior to ballroom dancing was focused on this sport as he was one of the most promising amateur baseball players in the Midwest Region. Baseball taught him the art of discipline, team work, passion, hard work, and persistence. All he had to do was transfer his tremendous athletic ability and competitive drive to the dance floor, hence becoming one of the most respected ballroom dancers in the nation.
Furthermore, Aaron loved to watch people learn new things and truly desired to help them find happiness in their lives while achieving all the dance goals they wished for. He put his students first and above all, thus receiving all the benefits from doing so. He admires anyone who works hard, is successful, and remains humble―characteristics he attempts to have every day in hopes to create more dance instructors to have the opportunities he has experienced thus far.
Aaron currently competes with his wife, Iryna, in the American Rhythm Division. He co-owns the Buffalo Grove/Chicago North studio alongside his brother, Jesse.
Training Director/Studio Owner
Coming from the small town of Greendale, Wisconsin, Jesse never imagined being who he is today. He was best known for his athletic and artistic abilities in high school. A musician and artist at heart, he not only excelled in the arts, but was the MVP and Team Captain of both the baseball and football teams of Greendale High School.
By his senior year, he decided to audition for their production of “The Sound of Music”. However, once he discovered the audition required dancing, he left the stage believing dancing was not for him. He continued to play his sports, make his music, and create artwork.
By 1999, shortly after his high school years, his mom found an ad in the paper calling for dance teachers. She asked him to give it a try for she always felt he had an entertaining personality and that he just might like it in the end. After all, he was in between jobs and basically had nothing to lose. Being a good son, he simply listened to her advice.
Low and behold, he went on to become one of the most notable dance figures in the country. A constant top teacher, he became a master at his unexpected craft. He also ventured out as a top competitor by 2003 and shot up to winning 3rd in the United States in the Open Rhythm Category and 2nd in the world in Mambo with his former partner, Jackie Josephs. With his accomplishments, he was asked to join the popular reality TV show, “Dancing with the Stars”. He partnered with actress, Shanna Moakler, in season 3.
Jesse has retired from the competition world in 2008 and is now a proud owner of two very successful Fred Astaire Dance Studios; The Buffalo Grove/Chicago North Studio and The Park Ridge Studio.
He is a man of many talents who uses his gifts to take care of everyone he knows, hand and foot. His goal is to continue to develop great ballroom professionals, dance instructors, managers, and owners. He truly is a man you can trust to show you the way in anything ballroom dancing.
Jesse is grateful for God’s grace and blessings in his life and takes great pleasure in helping train and developing future ballroom dancers, instructors, studio managers and owners.