About Locust Performing Arts Center
Locust Performing Arts Center of Stamford, CT, established in 2010 (LPAC) is a professional dance studio that offers dance classes for ages 3 through adult in Hip Hop, Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Contemporary, Musical Theatre, Creative Movement and Adult Dance with opportunities to perform in studio showcases and an Annual Dance Concert. LPAC also houses several performance companies: Locust Contemporary Dance Works I & II, Locust Preparatory Company, Locust Lab, Locust Jazz Dance Collective, Hip Hop's Finest, FOCUS Hip Hop Pre-Professional Program, Kool Kidz Jr. Hip Hop Troupe, Locust Elite Dance (L.E.D.) Competitive Dance and Harmony Nation Anti-Bullying Program. Professional dance lessons are available in both group settings as well as private one-on-one instruction. LPAC also offers Party Packages.
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IN THE NEWS: LPAC's anti-bullying group HARMONY NATION FEATURED ON T.V.
A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM POP ICON PAULA ABDUL
PHOTOS: MICHAEL HIGGINS / CONTRIBUTED
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR + OWNER
Jimmy Locust has worked with top entertainment industry stars such as Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, Quincy Jones and Debbie Allen. He has been featured in iconic music videos and films including Rhythm Nation 1814 and the wedding dance sequence of Coming to America. He has performed at the Grammy Awards, Academy Awards and MTV Video Music Awards. He was one of the original members of the world-renowned Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago company, where he also co-choreographed with Jazz dance legend Gus Giordano. Mr. Locust was one of the head choreographers for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta (opening and closing ceremonies) and was nominated for an American Choreography Award in 2001 for his work on the Warner Brothers’ network television show Nikki. Locust has choreographed commercials for both international and national companies, including Sanyo in Japan with Nicholas Cage and Rapid Advance in the U.S. He worked on the Justin Bieber Tour in 2010 and choreographed for the CW Television Network’s The Next with hosts John Rich, Joe Jonas, Nelly and Gloria Estefan. He has been a studio owner and master teacher for over fifteen years. Locust is also Founder and Director of Harmony Nation, an educational anti-bullying program that performs for schools and youth organizations, and most recently started the non-profit Locust Foundation. Locust has partnered with numerous community and non-profit organizations including HORIZONS, Reach Prep, Domus, Chester-Addison Community Center, Curtain Call and the Stamford Family YMCA to choreograph theater productions, design curricula and provide scholarships. In addition, he directs Locust Contemporary Dance Works, a youth company which performs in New York City, as well as Hip Hop's Finest and FOCUS Hip Hop pre-professional groups. He is an Associate Director of Axam Dance Theatre Experience in Atlanta, Georgia and is a returning faculty member for the renowned Boca Ballet Theatre's summer residency program in Florida. Locust was also selected to be an adjudicator and Artist-in-Residence for Jewish Community Center (JCC) Maccabi Games Artsfests across the country from 2015-2019. Locust’s multi-faceted lifestyle is chronicled in his series Locust Under 5’.
Kylie Ashlund is a Stamford, CT native and former student who danced under Jimmy Locust and at LPAC from the time of its inception. She was a member of Kool Kidz, FOCUS Hip Hop, Parade Team and Hip Hop’s Finest and was in a music video choreographed by Jimmy. Kylie is excited and grateful to share her passion and love of dance with others and help students express themselves, just as she was able to do, by being in the LPAC community.
Lauren Nicole Sherwood is very excited to be joining the LPAC teaching staff. After many years dancing with Jimmy (and watching her son dance at LPAC) she is thrilled to work alongside the fabulous teachers here. Lauren earned her B.F.A. in Fine Arts Studies from the University of Arizona where she created her degree program based on artist outreach, theatre/dance education and business. She also received her M.F.A. in Theatre Management from Florida State University. Lauren has done over 100 musical productions throughout her career as a director, choreographer, costume designer and performer. She works with many local schools and theatre companies making art accessible to all. Lauren looks forward to a fabulous dance season here at LPAC.
Bonnie Gregson is a former LPAC student who danced under Jimmy Locust's troupe, the Dancing Divas. She is excited to return to this studio that feels like a second home and bring her love of Broadway musical theater. Her theater credits include Cabaret (choreographed by Jimmy), West Side Story (also choreographed by Jimmy), A Chorus Line, Matilda, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Phantom, Hunchback of Notre Dame, In the Heights, Sweet Charity, Wit, Barnum, Disaster, and Mamma Mia. She has choreographed Guys & Dolls and Rocky Horror Picture Show, assistant choreographed Wild Party, and will be choreographing Hair and The Prom in 2024. She is excited to be joining the talented staff at LPAC.
PHOTOS: GUIDO VENITUCCI / CONTRIBUTED
CO-DIRECTOR LPAC's HIP HOP DEPARTMENT
Aaron Bantum is an accomplished Dancer, Actor and Singer from Stamford, CT who has performed for Broadway, television and film. Aaron received his dance training from Locust Performing Arts Center under the direction of Jimmy Locust and graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. Aaron’s Broadway credits include Finian’s Rainbow and Kinky Boots (pre-Broadway). His film credits include Last Vegas, Carry Me Home and Demolition and television’s Law and Order SVU, A Gifted Man and Are We There Yet. Aaron is an alumnus of LPAC’s elite performance group Hip Hop’s Finest and has taught dance throughout Western CT, including FOCUS and Hip Hop's Finest master classes and summer programs at LPAC.
Cheryl Carpio is a classically trained NYC Dancer, she danced under the direction of Frank Hatchett, Charles Kelley and Phil Black In the styles of Break dance, Hip-Hop, African, Jazz, Tap and Acrobatics and the classical style of Bob Fosse Jazz with an emphasis on stage presence. Cheryl has studied Ballet and partnering with Brian Lewis and with The Connecticut Ballet and Latin rhythms combined with classic Ballroom, with Bill Davies. Cheryl is the former Owner, Director and Choreographer of the Professional Dance Center, of Sandy Hook CT. Cheryl is a certified yoga instructor through Yoga Alliance. Cheryl, Choreographed My Beautiful Detour, that was scored by Actress Amy Ostriecher. Cheryl was Captain of the dance team at WCSU. She modeled professionally and competed in the All American Boy and Girl Pageants, nationally. Cheryl also collaborated with French Olympic Gymnast and Equestrian Jean-Luc Cornee on a film linking the art of dance and gymnastics to horse training.
PHOTO: JAY RITTER
CO-DIRECTOR LOCUST LAB +
LPAC CLASS ADVISOR
A Stamford native, Kelsey Buffer trained in various techniques throughout Fairfield County while growing up. She attended SUNY Buffalo and graduated Cum Laude with a B.A. in Dance. Shortly after moving to New York City, she spent a year traveling the world and performing on a cruise ship, followed by various performances in NYC including Couture Fashion Week, Young Choreographers Festival, Project Dance, Gotta Dance at The Wild Project, Brooklyn Bowl, Little B's Big Holiday Wish and several Aerial workshops. Kelsey has worked with ALMA NYC, a dance company that incorporates outreach and performance with which she climbed Kilimanjaro to support The Bethel School in Burkina Faso. Kelsey has taught gymnastics and dance throughout the tri-state area and loves to challenge students to achieve more than they think is possible. In addition, she is the face behind "Ask Kelsey" as LPAC's Class Advisor, assisting families with finding classes that will be the best fit.
Mikela Pirri is an alumna of Locust Performing Arts Center and trained in all styles ranging from Hip Hop to Contemporary, Jazz, and Ballet for over twelve years. Mikela was a member of Hip Hop's Finest and Locust Contemporary Dance Works, and part of the original Locust Elite Dance competition team. She was an assistant for Locust Lab, Locust Contemporary Dance Works, and Kool Kidz. Mikela is currently a student at Sacred Heart University majoring in Marketing with minors in Dance and Honors. She is a part of SHU Dance Company and Inception Dance Crew and has had the opportunity to choreograph pieces in the Company Student Choreography program. Mikela is very excited to be back at LPAC teaching and choreographing!
PHOTO: JAY RITTER
CO-DIRECTOR KOOL KIDZ
Angelina Bajra has trained in Hip Hop, Contemporary, Jazz, Ballet and Modern dance. She is a graduate of LPAC and was a member of Locust Contemporary Dance Works and Hip Hop's Finest performance groups, under the direction of Jimmy Locust. Angelina was featured in LPAC's Love to Dance commercial and has performed throughout Fairfield County and in New York City. She is excited to be back at LPAC to share her passion for dance with her students!
LPAC ASSISTANT DIRECTOR +
CO-DIRECTOR LOCUST PREPARATORY COMPANY
& LPAC's JAZZ DEPARTMENT
Courtney Copper is a former Radio City Rockette based in New York City. She was raised in Pennsylvania and began dancing at the age of three. Courtney graduated Magna Cum Laude from West Chester University with a degree in Education/Dance. While studying, she performed with many dance companies including Brandywine Ballet. She went on to perform with the Broadway tour of Annie Get Your Gun and several production touring companies. Courtney also travelled the world with Royal Caribbean, Regent and Holland America Cruise Lines as a dancer, singer and dance captain. You may also see her in many television shows and films. Courtney has been teaching and choreographing for over 20 years, working with all ages and styles of dance.
Ginabella Cardinale has been dancing for the past eighteen years and has trained in various genres including Ballet, Jazz, Modern, Hip Hop and Musical Theatre. She has participated numerous dance intensives, conventions and workshops and also received instruction from LPAC's Director Jimmy Locust and LPAC Master Teacher/former Assistant Director Monica Richardson-Delgado of Miami. Ginabella is currently a student at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City working towards a BFA in Dance as well as studying Fashion Marketing. She is looking forward to this season and being a part of this journey!
Laura Tashji grew up in NYC. She studied ballet at ABT and attended NYC’s High School of Performing Arts and later became a scholarship student at Joffrey Ballet School. Laura majored in Drama at Carnegie Mellon University and performed in plays and musicals in regional and Off-Broadway theaters and Cabaret clubs in NYC. Laura has taught Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Contemporary, Musical Theater, Drama, and Music in CT for the past 21 years. Her teaching credits include New Canaan Country School, New England Academy of Dance, Stamford School of Ballet, Westport Dance School, Darien Dance
School, Conservatory Of Dance in Wilton, and University of Bridgeport’s Alvin Ailey Summer program. She has choreographed musicals and concert dance performances and is a member of Actor’s Equity and SAG-AFTRA.
A proud alum of The School at Jacob's Pillow, Tanya Bagnato has taught at and performed at leading institutions and dance festivals around the world including Broadway Dance Center, The Joffrey Ballet School, New York City Center, Birdland Jazz Club, Tap Dance Festival UK, The New York City Tap Festival (Tap City), and Tap in Rio. Her artistry has been featured in a Professional Artist Profile for the PBS Television show “Pinkalicious and Peterriffic," Dance Teacher Magazine, Broadway World, The Financial Times, Chacott World Report, and her performances can be found in the permanent archives of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Tanya currently attends NYU Tisch School of The Arts, where she is the Founder and Artistic Director of The Tisch Tap Collective, and President of The Tisch Talent Guild. Tanya is grateful to have been mentored by luminaries such as Jason E. Bernard, Brenda Bufalino, Michelle Dorrance, Mercedes Ellington, Derick K. Grant, Jared Grimes, the late Mable Lee, Andrew Nemr, Sarah Reich, Jason Samuels Smith, Sue Samuels, Randy Skinner, Caleb Teicher, and Dianne Walker and is excited to celebrate her joy of dance with the LPAC community!
EXECUTIVE OFFICE MANAGER + MARKETING / DESIGN
Mindy Vaccino studied at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence and in Rome, Italy, receiving a degree in Fine Arts. She is a published illustrator, painter, photographer and graphic designer whose work has been exhibited in the U.S. and abroad. In the performing arts, her work in office administration and on theater sets, prop design and performance publications has spanned over 20 years. She has done voice-acting for animation and can also be seen in Rapid Advance's national commercial as "The Doctor." Mindy has been with Locust Performing Arts Center since its inception and has enjoyed both managing the studio and creating posters, logos, signs, photographs and literature for LPAC. In addition to her design work, she has produced both commercial and artistic films for Locust Performing Arts Center which have been showcased at LPAC and Locust Contemporary Dance Works concerts. Mindy has also taught visual arts classes for LPAC, as well as for children's ministries and public school programs.
PHOTO: JAY RITTER
OFFICE MANAGER / SUBSTITUTE TEACHER
L.E.D. COORDINATOR +
Stacy Homicki has been working in dance education and show production for over 20 years. She grew up training in many different styles of dance, performing and competing throughout New England and other parts of the country. Stacy discovered her love of teaching dance, and pursued her training as a teacher, as well as a dancer. She received her BFA in Dance and Education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Stacy taught extensively in the Boston area for many years, and she worked in the Performing Arts Department at KING School in Stamford for 9 years. Her experiences have offered her a strong and versatile background in teaching, choreographing, show production, and studio office management. Stacy is so happy to be a part of LPAC, and to be able to watch the love of dance grow in young dancers.
2770 Summer St, 2nd Floor
Stamford, CT 06905