BRENDA BANNISH BARNA has owned and operated The Dance Slipper since 1985. She started her dance training as a 5-year old at Betty Champions School of Dance in Westfield, MA. As a teenager, Brenda trained at New England Dance Center and Ballet Theatre School in Springfield, as well as Broadway Dance Center and Steps in New York City. She continues to expand her dance skills by periodically attending classes in New York City. Brenda's gymnastics training was initiated in 1972 at the Westfield YMCA. She furthered her education at Pioneer Valley Gymnastics. Olympic trainer Leo Ledger and Olympic medalist Tim Daggett honed her skills. As a state level gold medalist and high score all around winner, Brenda was asked to train for the 1980 Olympics. Vaulted by gymnastics training, Brenda won the Miss Acrobat of the United States title at age 16. At 18, she was second runner up for Miss Dance of Connecticut.
Brenda kicked off her professional dance career at 19, working as a featured dancer in the Latino Royale show at the Dunes in Las Vegas, Nevada. Brenda last competed at the U.S. Tournament of Dance in New Jersey at the age of 21, where she won first place in the professional solo and duo divisions. Brenda is a former 1st vice president of the Dance Teachers Club of Connecticut. She has been on the board of directors of Dance Masters of America, Connecticut Chapter. Under Brenda's tutelage her students have won national level awards such as Mr. Dance of America, overallhigh score at American Dance Awards, $10,000 Bill Como Memorial award, $5,000 Gold Family of Excellence award, and $5,000 Best of Show Xtreme Dance award. Brenda's national level choreography awards include:
The Sherry Gold Memorial Award of Excellence in Choreography for the Most Outstanding Choreography - Dance Masters of America - Miss Dance of America
Dance Masters of America - Chapter 5 Sherry Gold Memorial Award for Outstanding Choreography 12 and under
Dance Masters of America - Chapter 5 Sherry Gold Memorial Award for Outstanding Choreography 13 and over
American Dance Awards - Overall High Score Winner National Championships
Dance Masters of America - Production Choreography 13 and over
American Dance Awards - Diamond Award - The Sherry Gold Memorial Award for Excellence in Choreography
Michelle Bouchard is our current Office Manager at The Dance Slipper. Michelle has a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and Liberal Arts and has worked in the Early Childhood field for over 30 years. During that time she held the title of Lead Teacher, Director and Center Owner. Her organizational skills and her love of children are two very important factors that help her tend to the needs of the families and staff at The Dance Slipper. Michelle also has many creative qualities that she brings to the table.
LORI HAFTMANN began her dance training when she 2 years of age at a studio located in Huntington, Massachusetts. When she was 8 years of age, she continued her training at The Dance Slipper in Southwick, under the direction of her aunt, Brenda Barna. Lori was also taught by many other teachers at The Dance Slipper, including Derek Yanford, Laura Halzach, and Alicia Monaco. She started teaching and choreographing at The Dance Slipper at 16 years of age.
Lori has won many awards for her dances and choreography at many local and national competitions. Most recently, she was awarded "Outstanding choreographer" at Kids for Kids - North Haven and "Highest Scoring Ensemble Choreography" at Candance - Lowell. Her choreography has also been seen at the Children's Miracle Network benefit at UMASS Amherst and at the 'Dancing for a Just Cause' benefit in West Springfield, Mass. Lori was also a dancer at Jacob's Pillows, Kushi Institute in Mass., which is a benefit that helps educate people on a natural approach to living healthier lives.
Lori was a 2009 graduate from Westfield State University with a bachelor's degree in Education and Liberal Studies, with a concentration in Movement Science. She is a member of Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society. Lori is currently a member of Improvised Flight (IF), Brenda's Contemporary Dance Company and recently performed at City Center Stage in New York City.
KATRINA LaCLAIR started her dance training at the age of 3 under the direction of Brenda Barna. She continued her training and competed on a regional and national level where she won many gold medals and high score awards and captured the title Miss Acrobat of the United States. Katrina started her professional career at Six Flags New England as a dancer and magician's assistant. She has performed at Busch Gardens--Williamsburg, Sonia Plumb dance company in Hartford, Conn., Extreme dance company in Hollywood, Cal., and Norwegian Cruise Lines as dance captain and director. Katrina was a member of the trio that won the $10,000 Bill Como Memorial Award at American Dance Awards National Championship. Katrina is also a member of Brenda's Contemporary Dance Company, Improvised Flight (IF).
LUKE BERMINGHAM was born and raised in East Granby, CT studying dance in his early years under the direction of Brenda Barna in Southwick, MA. Upon graduating magna cum laude from the Hartt School, under the direction of Stephen Pier, Luke had the privilege of performing classical works by choreographers such as Jose Limon, Martha Graham, and Marius Petipa. He also performed contemporary works by Emery Lecrone, Greg Dolbashian, Simone Orlando, and Pascal Rioult. His professional credits include dancing for CT based company DancEnlight, The Muny's production of the King & I, Antonio Brown Dance, Project 44, and Abarukas. Luke currently dances for Yin Yue Dance Company as well as Robert Mark Dance in New York City.