MISS. CHRISTINE: Founding Director & Teacher
Founder and New York native, Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez has 17 years of dance training, with her main focus in ballet. Her training includes various local studios throughout the United States and two years at the pre-professional ballet school, Milwaukee Ballet and one year at the American Academy of Ballet of WNY. She has taught dance with Arena y Esteras in Lima, Peru and has several years of experience in recreational swing dance and latin dance. In university, she was a Truman Scholar finalist, active in the anti-human trafficking movement, ran an ethical fashion blog, conducted university research on the ethical diamond trade and founded a reoccurring conference for inner-city youth, Girl's Day, funded by the winnings from a modeling contest. This conference which focused on inner, God-given beauty and self-worth is the foundation of Transformación Ballet's teaching approach.
Christine initially came to Guatemala to conduct interviews with Mayan weavers for her Master's project with the University at Buffalo when she began teaching ballet classes on the side. She aimed to graduate and work with Latin American artisan goods. However, God opened and closed doors and she ended up teaching ballet to a small group of kids in her living room which organically grew and was recognized by America Ballet Theater's Project Plie. Christine now teaches 15-16 classes a week between four towns. On the side, Christine volunteers with a weaving artisan association, Teixchel, where she began exports and communications.
Living in Guatemala has presented may challenges for Christine. However, she says, “It is growing my soul as I see God move and work like I have never seen Him do before! Why? Because I'm learning trust and how to surrender to God and just be and serve. Through this process I see God transforming the lives of my students and their families alongside my own.” She attests all she is to God and says that support from her family, university experiences and incredible university advisers prepared her with the tools and knowledge to run Transformación Ballet from a critical yet loving leadership stance.
MISS. PAIGE: Grant writing intern
Paige Vassos has danced for over 20 years, and lives in Vancouver, Canada. Working with dancers from ages 2 to adult, Paige teaches from beginner to professional levels. She has completed her Certificate of Ballet Teaching Studies (CBTS), holds Registered Teacher Status (RAD RTS) through the Royal Academy of Dance, and is certified in Progressing Ballet Technique. She has trained in a breadth of genres, and teaches ballet, contemporary, jazz, lyrical, and tap. Academically, Paige holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and is commencing her studies within the Master of Management degree, at the University of British Columbia. Paige is driven to inspire and share her love of dance, and help shape young minds as they grow into independent and empowered adults. She is thrilled to be joining the Transformación Ballet team as an virtual intern.
Miss. Ruth: Teaching Outreach Intern
Ruth Essel is the founding director of the new dance school, Pointe Black, in South London, England. She started ballet at the age of 3 and has loved it ever since. Growing up in a council estate in South London, Ruth was often surrounded by hardship and adversity. Ballet was her way to escape harsh environment. Although she enjoys Ballet, Ruth says, "I was sometimes faced with racism and prejudice as a Black female and it became increasingly important to me to make sure I broke a mould."
With over 8 years of experience teaching dance, she decided it was time to create an environment that embraced Black culture, which brought forth Pointe Black. "I believe that all young people should be given a fair chance at ballet, as a form of expression and a positive outlet. There are countless benefits to dance in general, including increased self-esteem, cognition and so much more." Ruth says. She is very excited to join our team as a jazz and liturgical ballet teacher, bringing a new perspective and style of dance we have never previously offered!
Mr. Belisario: Boys Ballet Teacher
A Nicaraguan currently residing in El Salvador, Belisario Llanos graduated from the National Ballet School of the Nicaraguan Institute of Culture and Superior Technician in Dance of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua, he completed the academic Pensum of the Bachelor of Dance career.
He was part of the cast of the Contemporary Dance Company of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua for 5 years. He has been a dancer with the Compañía Ballet de Nicaragua since 2012 and has been part of the cast of the Compañía Nacional de Danza de El Salvador since 2017. He is joining our team teaching boys ballet and contemporary. His charisma and patience when teaching add a special quality to our program!
Miss. Sabina: Beginner Ballet Teacher
Sabina is a 14-year-old aspiring ballerina for the LORD! The first and most important part of her life is the LORD. She has learned that the life she is living is all for God and it is not her own. Sabina loves what Paul wrote in Romans, “to live is Christ and to die is gain!” The Lord is the center of her life and the reason she is living; being a Christian is not an “add on,” it is being a servant for Christ on this earth!
Ballet has been a calling from God in Sabina’s life and she has found that it is a way she worships Jesus. As a very young child, Sabina would declare to everyone, “I am going to be a professional ballerina,” even before having a single ballet class. Sabina started recreational ballet classes once a week at the age of six. Unlike many little dancers, her parents did not choose ballet for her, but she chose it. She has now transitioned from recreational ballet to serious ballet training, now online due to COVID-19.
As hard as COVID-19 has been for so many reasons, Sabina says that 2020 has been a huge blessing for her. She has participated in online dance competitions, is a representative for various dance brands and currently trains intensely with an online pre-professional ballet program, Mont Royal Ballet Academy. Sabina loves ballet because she connects with God and it is His way of using her! She is excited to be a pre-professional ballerina and ballet teacher for the Lord with Transformación Ballet!
Miss. Emma: Ballet History Teacher
Emma Baeten first started dancing when she was 6 at a local dance academy in her home country, Belgium. She instantly fell in love with classical ballet and hasn’t stopped dancing since. In 2015 she was awarded the prize for Outstanding Achievement in Classical Ballet and graduated at her dance academy with a highest distinction.
In 2016, she moved to England, United Kingdom for university, where she created a magazine and short-film about inspirational dancers all over the world. She spent a whole year researching dance language and ballet history. From 2016, Emma taught ballet to adult beginners and choreography classes in her spare time. In 2020, she got accepted at the Royal Academy of Dance where she will complete a two-year training program to become a full-time ballet teacher.
Miss. Ana: Afrobeats Teacher
New York native, Ana Alhoud first discovered her love for dancing at a young age, after visiting family in Trinidad and Tobago. The Caribbean rhythms of Calypso and Soca encouraged Ana to connect with her body in new and different ways. Years of diving into different dance styles, including hip hop, jazz, salsa, bachata, kizomba and tango, led to a deeper appreciation of the unique ways people around the world express their heritage and culture through movement. Prior to teaching at Transformación Ballet, Ana was a dance instructor in New York for a special needs summer camp and taught yoga in several cities. Ana is a firm believer that dance is one of the most beautiful connections we have with God, one another and ourselves. Ana enjoys teaching young children cultural dances and looks forward to facilitating the moments her students discover the flow of dancing that transcends all divisions.
Afrobeats is a recent area of inspiration for Ana and represents the powerful, dynamic energy of African cultures and contributions to world dance. A practitioner of mindful movement meditation, Ana appreciates the nuances of strength and storytelling that characterize contemporary African dance. The students of Transformación Ballet have shown immense excitement and open-mindedness for learning about different cultures, intuitively understanding that God is expressed through all kinds of movement and people. Teaching online has its challenges but Ana says, " I thoroughly enjoy connecting with the fantastic kids at Transformación Ballet every week for new discoveries of the world from home!"