Creative Arts Studio Teaching Artists

Creative Arts Studio Teaching Artists are a group of seasoned professionals trained in the arts who share their passion and knowledge in their areas of expertise

Photo by Julie Lemberger.

Photo by Julie Lemberger.

Meet our teaching artists! 

At Creative Arts Studio, joy has always been the focus of our teaching practice. Each of our instructors aim to foster not only their students' dance technique, but their self confidence and sense of community. 


Marissa Aron, Ballet

Marissa Aron is beyond thrilled to join Creative Arts Studio for another amazing show! Watching the dancers work hard and work together to learn and grow has been an absolute joy. Since graduating with high honors in English and Dance from Barnard College, Marissa has had the pleasure of per- forming and teaching both in and around NYC. Favorite touring and regional credits include company dancer for Josh Prince’s Broadway Dance Lab, Quantum of the Seas’s original cast of Mamma Mia! (Ali), James and the Giant Peach (Goodspeed), Singin’ in the Rain, Mame, Beauty and the Beast. Contemporary/concert works include Ripening (Vanessa Walters and Taxiplasm), Une Danse des Bouffons (Marcel Dzama), 8 Jelly Rolls (Twyla Tharp, restaging by Katie Glasner), Sonic Odyssey (Sherry Zunker, Jeremy Plummer), That’s Life (BC Beat 11, Mary Ann Lamb and Lisa Gajda). Most recently, she has had the honor of working as Assistant Choreographer to Susan Misner for Here in the Bright Colorado Sun, a new dance-driven musical theater project in development with the support of the Jerome Robbins Foundation. Marissa works closely with the Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP) community as a teaching artist for the Refugee Youth Sum- mer Academy (RYSA) and as a facilitator at CHOICES ADT (alternative-to- detention) program.

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Lauren Beirne, Ballet, Hip Hop, and Modern

Lauren Beirne is a Brooklyn-based dancer, artist, yogi, and educator, with an extensive background in movement, theatre, and design. She holds a BFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, & MFA from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. Lauren has created costumes for companies including Carol Mendes&Artists, Suzanne Beahrs Dance, Young Dancemakers, & Second Avenue Dance Company. She served as Ballet Director for Kenyetta Dance Company, Master Teacher at the Gallatin School, & is currently on faculty at Brooklyn College. Lauren has performed with Randy James Dance Works, Kate Weare, Deborah Jowitt, Kimani Fowlin, Motus Dance Theatre, The White Rabbit Cabaret, The Outlet Dance Project, Beef&Boards (AEA), Suzanne Beahrs & Desert Sin. Her work has been presented by Dance NJ, Dance Teacher Magazine, Fractured Atlas, The Lower Eastside Festival of the Arts, Indy Fringe, The HATCH Series, Your Move Dance Festival, The Actors Fund Arts Center, The Garage at FDU, RAW ART- ISTS, Dixon Place, Marked Dance Project at John Jay, NYU, & West Fest Top Floor at Martha Graham. Lauren joined the Creative Arts as a Teaching Artist in 2014.

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Julia Gyory, Administrative Assistant, CAS II

Born and raised in Allentown, Pennsylvania, she graduated from Millersville University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Music with a focus in Vocal Performance. She most recently graduated from the CAP21 2-year Professional Musical Theatre program where she trained with Larry Arancio (The Usher's Ball, School for Scandal, Table Manners), Marylin D’Honau (West Side Story, Gypsy, Pal Joey), Heather Petruzelli, among other well respected teachers and coaches (famous alumni including Jacob Adams, Lady Gaga, Nikki M James, etc.). She has been seen in both musical theatre and opera productions all over Lancaster, Pennsylvania including Chess (PRiMA Theatre Co.), Pirates of Penzance (Millersville U), Anything Goes (Popovsky Performing arts). She was most recently seen in Daddy’s Boy at Theatre for the New City and Cry Baby at CAP21. 


Alexander Khost, Visual Arts

Alexander Khost is a father, educator and artist, working as an oil painter, printmaker, and poet. As an educator, he co-founded play:groundNYC, a junk yard for children on Governors Island that advocates for self-directed play. He formerly founded a school based on the principles of self-directed education. As an artist, Khost collaborates with children and adults to create works that have a harmonic visual voice and individual works that focus on the interplay of interior ideas and exterior objects, represented through the distortion of perspective points and multiple ground-lines. Alex received his MFA from Parsons School of Design and his BA from Mason Gross School of the Arts. He is a New York State certified K-12 art teacher and the father of three children.


Luca Renzi-Smith, HIP HOP

Luca Renzi Smith, born and raised in Switzerland, is an educator and choreographer with a wide teaching experience. After his bachelor study in dance, he opened his own studio where he taught hip hop, house, and dancehall classes for all ages. The studio celebrated success and was known for its family vibes. His journey brought him to New York in 2016 where he lives now. He teaches kids, teens, and adults around the city and performs his work internationally. He is all about the individual learning process of each students and his classes focus on the process of creating and developing movement. 

Astrid von Ussar, Modern 

Astrid von Ussar is on faculty at The Ailey School and has recently joined Joffrey Ballet School. She has also taught at Ballet Hispanico, Peridance, Dance New Amsterdam, Dancewave, Long Island University, and Sam Houston State University. Her choreography had been commissioned by Lula Washington Dance Theater, Houston Metropolitan Dance Company, Genesis Dance Company, Sam Houston State University, and the Ailey/Fordham BFA pro- gram among others. In 2002, von Ussar launched VON USSAR danceworks. The company has been presented at numerous festivals most notably, the Jacobs Pil- low Dance Festival. Most recently the company has been presented at the Joyce Theater’s Dancin’ Downtown and the NYC Summerstage. On top of her choreographic pursuits, von Ussar instructs a curriculum based program for the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation entitled, Revelations: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Dance. She also developed her own unique movement style that is the base of her work, witch she teaches at Universities around the US. She holds Master of Arts degree in Dance from the Teachers College, at Columbia University. In 2007 Ms. von Ussar founded The Dance Gallery Festival, an international dance festival that takes place in NYC and TX.


Megan Bartula, Tap

Born and raised in Rochester Hills, Michigan, Megan Bartula stepped into her first dance class at the age of 4. A tap enthusiast from the start, her early beginnings soon spread to include intensive training in ballet and jazz at Deborah’s Stage Door Center for the Performing Arts, where she spent 10 years as a member of their national award-winning competition team.

While completing a liberal arts degree at the University of Michigan, Megan was an executive member, dancer, and choreographer for the Michigan Rhythm Tap Ensemble. Megan moved to New York in 2008 and has since worked with such legendary tap choreographers as Derick K. Grant, Max Pollak, Lynn Schwab, Ray Hesselink and Lisa LaTouche, and is currently a member of Bessie Award winner Michelle Dorrance’s company Dorrance Dance. Recent performance credits include New York City Center, Jacob’s Pillow, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, The Yard at Martha’s Vineyard, Chicago’s Harris Theater, Spoleto Festival and NYC’s SummerStage. Megan has also served as dance captain on numerous projects, can often be found assisting Derick Grant at tap festivals around the country, and continues to train, perform and teach in New York City and in the Midwest.


Erin Gottwald, Modern and Ballet

Erin’s first choreographic masterpieces were performed bare- foot in her living room and set to the music of her parents’ Mo- town collection: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight & The Pips (among others). She enrolled in her first dance class as a toddler and continued to juggle her ballet, tap and jazz studies with baseball, soccer and figure skating. Musicality and muscularity are hallmarks of her movement style: students begin to discover their potential as performers. She has taught children and adults for over 20 years and continues to teach ages 12 through adults throughout NYC. Erin received 11 years of training at the Boston Ballet School and holds a BA in Theater from Bates College and a BA Hons from the London Contemporary Dance School. She has taught throughout the United States, most notably at the Boston Ballet (Boston, MA), Juneau Dance Theatre (Juneau, AK), New Mexico School of the Arts (Santa Fe, NM) and Bates College (Lewiston, ME). She has participated in dance residencies at The Yard, The Putney School, Greensboro Ballet and the National Dance Institute in Santa Fe, NM. She has performed on, and choreographed for, television: USA “Royal Pains”, CBS “Elementary”, Showtime “Nurse Jackie” and Macy’s and GAP Kids Holiday commercials.

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Anya Markowitz, Drama and Musical Theatre

Anya Markowitz is a writer, actor and director and theater teacher currently based in Brooklyn. She holds a BA from Yale University where she studied under Joan Macintosh, Emily Coates, James Bundy and Christopher Bayes. Anya is also a graduate of the British American Drama Academy where she studied under Ian Wooldridge, Madeleine Potter and John Tucker. A passionate childhood educator, Anya worked as one of the heads of the Drama department at Alford Lake Camp where she taught improv, musical theater, scene study and solo performance.


Deanna Lynn Martinez, Hip Hop

Deanna Lynn Martinez was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She is an alumna of the renowned “Fame” school, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Perform- ing Arts, where she worked with Artistic Director of Ailey II, Troy Powell, and Artistic Director of ZviDance, Zvi Gotheiner. She then received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Africana & Puerto Rican/Latino Studies from Hunter College, as a Macaulay Honors Scholar, and graduated summa cum laude. She has trained abroad as a scholarship participant at Alambrado Danza in Florence, Italy, and made her debut international performance at the Tobago Contemporary Dance Festival. Currently, Deanna is a member of Janice Rosario and Company and Chandler Dance. Additionally, she is a dance instructor to youth at Creative Arts Studio and the School at the Mark Morris Dance Center, as well as a touring administrator at BAM through DanceMotion USA. She is excited to continue combining her interests in dance, culture, and educational outreach.

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Elizabeth NeSmith, Ballet and Costume Design

Hailing from Athens, GA, Elizabeth NeSmith graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a B.F.A. in fashion de- sign in 2011. She currently owns her own clothing label Daisy & Elizabeth, and runs her own online boutique, Wild West. She has now been teaching at Creative Arts for 4 yrs. Her inspiration for design began from her years of dancing and creating costumes with her Mom for her own solos and various productions. In addition to training at several studios and dancing competitively throughout the Southeast, Elizabeth spent her first full NYC summer studying at Alvin Ailey during her junior year of high school. It was then she decided to move here for college and pursue her love of dance and design. Although she was consumed with the demands of the design program, it was very important to her to keep dancing. While also teaching, she was a part of the F.I.T. dance team and choreographed multiple pieces for their showcases. Elizabeth is thankful that Creative Arts has provided her a space where she can continue building her companies and still share her love of both dance and design with the amazing students she’s had the privilege to work with.