Artistic Director and Program Director
Jane Carter, Founder and Artistic Director. Ms. Jane was born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina as the daughter of a three-war veteran---World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. She earned her Bachelor's Degree from San Jose State University where she was a member of the Spartan Spectrum Dance Team. At SJSU, she studied Human Performance/Fitness with a minor in Nutrition and Food Science.
In 1985, Ms. Jane was selected by Dole Corporation to be the company's ambassador to promote dance, modeling, and aerobics in Japan. That same year, she was on the very first dance team for the NBA Golden State Warriors that consisted of ten dancers. After two seasons with the Warriors, she went-on to dance for the San Francisco 49ers as a Gold Rush cheerleader. She frequently represented the Warriors and 49ers at charity events, promotional business, and television appearances. These unique experiences allowed Ms. Jane to be introduced to some of the best choreographers in the world.
More background. Ms. Jane has been featured in Fit & Runner's World magazines, Evening Magazine, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and several local papers. She also danced in a Jeep commercial as well as Super Bowl XIX. She was the Managing Director of American Spirit Association (ASA), which held 3-5 day dance camps at colleges all over the United States. Ms. Jane was also the Artistic Director of School House Sports (SHS); SHS was the largest dance studio outreach program in Northern California at one time and offered dance classes to pre-schools, public schools, and private schools. She is also the Former Director of the NBA Warrior Dance Team and former Creator and Director of Arena Football's, San Jose SaberKittens.
In 2013, Ms. Jane was awarded America's Dance Educator of the Year by Co. Dance.
In 2014, she won the most prestigious dance teacher award in the United States of America; Dance Teacher Magazine awarded Ms. Jane the 2014 Dance Teacher Award in the Private Studio/Conservatory Category. She was presented this extraordinary honor in New York City; there is no higher honor in the dance education industry.
Ms. Jane founded Dance Academy's USA's competition team in 1991; she named the team, The Production Company. The Production Company has grown from ten members to almost two hundred, and, regarded nationally as a California powerhouse. Ms. Jane's students have won awards and scholarships, received national titles, and attended a wide range of universities including Juilliard, American Musical and Dramatic Arts, UCLA, USC, NYU and many more. Ms. Jane has seen many of her students grow and develop into professional teachers, professional dancers, Broadway performers, and world-class choreographers.
On a personal note, Ms. Jane has been married to Jim Carter since 1988. They met in college where Jim played football and was awarded "All-American". Jim has been involved in the real estate industry since 1993 as a broker, syndicator, investor and now President of the Real Estate Coaching Organization. As somewhat of an empty-nester hobby, he has published two books: A Guide to MAKING IT in Real Estate (non-fiction); and, The Rip-Off (fiction-novel).
Jim and Jane are proud of all three daughters, Jessie, Jamie and Jodie. Jessie graduated from USC and is a former USC Song Girl, NBA Clipper Girl and NFL Charger Girl; she is a sales professional for EMC-Dell and will be starting, a post-graduate business program at Harvard in July. Jamie also graduated from USC and is a former USC Song Girl. She is currently finishing a Master's Degree in Finance (also at USC) and will be moving to Utah in August to work at Goldman Sachs. Jodie is graduating from UCSB in June and will be moving to Texas in August to begin a Master's Degree in accounting at University of Texas. She has a job waiting for her at PWC when she finishes her Master's Degree.
Ms. Jane is exceptionally proud of the DAU staff, parents and dancers for collectively making Dance Academy USA a place of warmth, friendship, encouragement and teamwork.
Performance Team Director
Denise brings along over 30 years of dance teaching experience with her to Dance Academy USA, including 15 years as an Assistant/Artistic Director. Denise is the director of the studio's Performance Team that began in 2012. She is responsible for overseeing this special team of students that performs at local community and charity events in the area.
Denise began her training at the age of three studying Jazz, Tap, Ballet, and Tumbling to name a few. While attending Fremont High School, she was a member of the award-winning dance team the "Fremont Featherettes." She began student teaching and coached the Monta Vista High School Dance Team for four years, including the year they took first place at the USA Cal State and Nationals championships.
Denise is the mother of three wonderful children, with whom she has found time to become involved in their extracurricular activities as well. She has been a board member for the Sunnyvale Southern Little League, volunteered at many Sunnyvale Pop Warner events, and was named "Volunteer of the Year" at Cherry Chase Elementary. She has choreographed for many local elementary and junior high events and talent shows and has had the pleasure of performing at Disneyland and many 49ers half-time events.
When she's not at DAU, Denise volunteers at HOPE teaching dance classes for adults with disabilities. For the past seven years, she has also worked with "Starting Arts," a non-profit organization that provides dance at elementary and high schools in the area. Denise continues to attend many conventions with her students, including JUMP, NUVO and Hollywood Connection, to stay abreast in the dance world. Her passion and commitment to her students makes her one of DAU's most in demand teachers. She loves teaching and finds it rewarding to watch her students grow and blossom into artistic, talented dancers and express their love for what she is passionate about. Have fun, and "Dance From your Heart!"
Hip Hop Director
Grant Torino has been dancing as long as he can remember, but started his formal training at age 16 after auditioning and being selected for a dance team, Future Shock, San Jose. He has been training ever since, further developing his passion for hip hop, street style, and urban choreography. He has battled and competed on teams such teams as Gen Two, The Company, Versatile Styles, and currently competes for The Tribe. He has performed in San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Sacramento, Irvine and all over the Bay Area. Grant has been teaching for three years now and loves helping students cultivate a passion for learning and appreciation of dance.
Gabriella Bruno is a professional dancer and choreographer originally from the Bay Area. She has studied all genres of dance including tap, jazz, ballet, modern, hip-hop, contemporary, world dance, and musical theater. Her dance career and training have taken her to LA and NYC, but her heart has always been in NorCal.
Gabriella received her BFA in Dance Performance from Chapman University and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a minor in English. She has performed in various highly-acclaimed venues in both Northern and Southern California as well as throughout New York City. She has been an integral member and performer of such dance companies as Tap Overload, Suku Dance Lab, abunDANCE, and Psychosomatic Dance. She also had the honor of being a principle dancer in Keomi Tarver's hit 5-woman production of, Love and War, which debuted as a sold out show in NYC in 2016.
Gabriella is honored to be a member of the Dance Academy USA family as well as the Tap Director. She looks forward to working hard and having fun creating movement and rhythms!
Julie grew up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution where dance, music and art were state-sponsored programs. This allowed her to perform in her first ballet recital at age six other school and community celebrations over the years. She continued her passion for dance in college, where she led a dance team and choreographed students at the Central South University of China while pursuing degrees in both Dance and Engineering. Julie came to the United States when she received the opportunity to attend Virginia Commonwealth University. There she pursued her passion for dance through the Dance and Choreography Department. Her continued training influence included her beloved faculty of VCU's dance department under the directorship of Andrea Jung and Ms. Ispas, a retired Romanian Prima Ballerina. She then attained her MBA from VCU's School of Business with the interest in pursuing a career in a field outside of dance.
In recent years, Julie has performed with China Dance, Cassand Ballet, Santa Clara Ballet, Ballet Academy of America, and Western Ballet, in full-length and excerpts of classical Ballet, Chinese and Contemporary works, in corps de Ballet, soloist and title roles. She served on the board of directors at Western Ballet and was the Ballet Mistress for two years at a French style Ballet school.
With her college and MBA degrees, she worked in high tech marketing and business development and was a Senior Product Manager at Adobe Systems. She eventually quit her "real" job after giving birth to her second son in 2003 and has been teaching Ballet since 2006. She also was the choreographer and dance team coach for the Cupertino Chinese Language Immersion Program for their participation at the San Francisco Chinese New Year parade, whose team took away titles for several years.
Julie's expertise, professionalism and approachability all make her an asset to the DAU program and as our studio's Ballet Director. A member of our team since 2012, she hopes to instill and uphold the skills/standards of classical ballet training as well as adapt this training to the needs of our students and studio.
Julie thrives to instill the love of dance in students, and to encourage them to dance from the heart. As a mother of two, she is able to balance the most important roles in her life: being a mother and influencing the next generation of Ballet dancers. Her motto for teaching comes from Ben Stevenson: "To be inspired, inspire."
Jazz Director and PC Executive Director
Kiersten Lipkin, a California native, has worked in many facets of the entertainment industry. She is a dancer, choreographer, former dance studio owner/director, master class teacher, competition judge, and dance studio consultant. Dancing since the age of 3, she's won numerous dance scholarships, awards, and overall titles at dance conventions and national talent competitions.
Kiersten's TV credits include Beverly Hills 90210, In Living Color, and a Fox TV Special. She has performed with Chris Isaak, and iconic hip-hop artists such as Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer and Montell Jordan. Her industrial credits include 24 Hour Fitness, Body Motion Activewear and Redken, to name a few.
She has worked as an artistic choreographer and judge for the USFSA. Her choreography has been featured in North America and Europe, in countries such as Hungary and
France. Kiersten has done choreography and halftime routines for various NBA and NFL teams, as well as, performing and choreographing for the Golden State Warriors Dance Team.
As a former owner of a highly successful dance studio and director of its national award- winning competition team, her studio credits include numerous national overall titles, along with "Outstanding Choreography" and "Entertainment" awards. Kiersten has received the Teacher Icon of the Year Award, and her dance teams have been featured in Dance Spirit magazine. She has motivated, mentored, choreographed and influenced thousands of dancers for 30+ years. Her students have attended a wide range of universities such as UCLA, USC, LMU, UC Irvine and Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, to further pursue careers in dance. They've performed with artists such as Madonna, Britney Spears, and Pink. She has also enjoyed seeing some of her former students now move on to become dance studio owners/directors.
Kiersten's versatility, experience, and passion for dance continue as she travels across the country as an in-demand master class teacher and competition judge.