Teaching Instructors

YWCA Instructors

YWCA Berkeley/Oakland is known for its varied international offerings, intimate classes, and experienced teaching staff. Our instructors bring years of experience as performers, choreographers, and teachers.

Claire Marchiano

Claire  is a National Certified Career Counselor and Workforce Development Professional. Her association with the Berkeley-Oakland YWCA began in 1997 when she became the program director for the Turning Point Career Center at the Y. From 1997-2001 she coordinated that program, developed and facilitated a variety of workshops and provided individual career counseling. In 2001 she accepted a full-time position with Contra Costa County as the Career Center Coordinator of Eastbay Works Concord, a full-service career center open to all. Claire devoted her energies to developing programs, services and workshops to help career explorers and job seekers move forward. She was also a mentor to her peers as a GCDF (Global Career Development Facilitator) trainer and master trainer. Upon her retirement in 2015 Claire returned to the YWCA on a part-time basis. Here she has re-created the career resource library and offers a variety of Career Development Workshops 2 mornings a week.

Jonas Aquino

Jonas has been teaching tango for the past few years, primarily in the East Bay but periodically in San Francisco as well. His strengths in teaching are in introducing the dance to new beginners, working on fundamentals and skills needed to enjoy the dance socially. As an active tango dancer in the San Francisco local tango scene, he has been nicknamed “Mr. Wonderful” by his friends and students, and called an “ambassador” of tango by some. Encouraged to teach by other local tango teachers, he was awarded a scholarship by a tango community nonprofit to encourage him to continue to work on his teaching and has been invited to teach regular group classes locally. He has studied tango in it’s diverse flavors from teachers in the US and in Argentina, competed in the world tango competition in Buenos Aires in 2013, travels multiple times throughout the year to tango festivals and events throughout the country, Argentina, and even Asia, and is an active volunteer, organizer and DJ in the SF Bay Area tango community.

Sara Ayala

Sara was born in Los Angeles, California. Her study of Hispanic dance began there with classes In Mexican Folkloric, Spanish Classical, and Spanish regional dance. Her first Flamenco teachers included Ester Moreno, Inesita, and later Roberto Amaral. After moving to the Bay Area she became a featured soloist with Los Flamencos de la Bodega at the Old Spaghetti Factory, Cruz Luna’s Ole Ole Flamenco Dance Company, Rosa Montoya’s Bailes Flamencos, The Flamenco Society of San Jose and Theatre Flamenco of San Francisco. In Spain and in the U.S. she has studied with some of the great masters of Flamenco dance including Ciro, Manolo Marin, Angelita Vargas, Jose Galvan, and Concha Vargas. She was a cofounder of Flamenco Vivo which performs throughout Northern California. Sara teaches Children, university students and adults in locations throughout the East Bay.

Sarah Bush

Sarah Bush creates her inimitable style of movement by combining her training in ballet, modern, hip hop, jazz, Afro-Caribbean, and contact improvisation. She has performed in the Bay Area since 1997, and since 2007 she has been the Artistic Director of Sarah Bush Dance Project (SBDP). SBDP’s repertory includes Homeward (2017), This Land (2016), and Rocked By Women (2011, 2014). Sarah has presented work at Women on the Way Dance Festival, West Wave Dance Festival, PUSHfest, Dance In Revolting Times, SF Movement Arts Festival, Summer Performance Festival, National Women’s Music Festival in Wisconsin, Olivia Travel’s Festival At Sea in the Caribbean, Dance Brigade’s SummerFeast in Dos Rios, Europride in Stockholm, Global Women’s Rights Forum, and SF International Arts Festival. Her work has received awards from Curve Magazine and BayAreaDanceWatch. Sarah is a member of Dance Brigade, has choreographed for Mona Khan Company, Oakland’s AXIS Dance Company and Destiny Arts Center, and been a guest performer with Bill T. Jones. Sarah is currently the Berkeley Art Center’s 2018 Dancer In Residence. She regularly is a guest artist in schools and offers private lessons and group classes in throughout the Bay Area.

Ruth Caspary

Ruth has been dancing since she was 5 years old and grew up in Hollywood with a natural dance ability and lots of opportunities to learn from the entertainment industry’s best. Having directed adance business for 6 years and now independently, Ruth draws from 17 years experience as a dance instructor to teach Salsa to the Bay Area and beyond. Ruth teaches Ballroom and Latin dances and has performed throughout the Bay area and internationally as well. Students will benefit from her proven teaching methods and will be challenged by her emphasis on good technique. Ruth’s passion for dance is evident in how much she enjoys interaction with her students andseeing them progress in their dance skills. http://www.latinconnectiondance.com/ 

Marianne Constable

Marianne is a Guild-certified Feldenkrais Method ® practitioner. She is a professor at Cal, especially interested in how one learns to learn.

Diana Helmuth

Diana is a San Francisco based dancer who has been performing at weddings, festivals, restaurants and fundraisers for over a decade. From modern American fusion styles to classical Egyptian raqs sharqi, she has studied under greats such as Natalie Nayun, Sherry Brier, Elizabeth Strong and Suhaila Salimpour. Complimented by a year of cultural study in Egypt, as well as ballet, hip-hop and Central Asian dance training, Diana enjoys sharing the art of belly dance as a tool for cultural study, self-expression, and physical self-awareness.



Marie Newsom

Marie completed her 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training with Just Be Yoga in Walnut Creek, and is a registered teacher with Yoga Alliance. She is passionate about the power of yoga to both transform the physical body and greatly benefit mental health. Marie aims to provide students with an experience that combines an invigorating workout with mindfulness skills. Modifications for all levels of students will be provided!

Natalie Nayun

Natalie’s passion for Middle Eastern and Central Asian dance styles began in 2002 and has only gotten stronger as she continues to learn the many styles that make up this vast region of the world. She is lucky enough to have studied dance in her travels to Tajikistan, Turkey and Oman. She is the director of Adara Dance Company and formerly directed the UC Berkeley Central Asian and Middle Eastern Dance Company, Sorayya. Learn more on her website: www.nayundance.com

Kristen Romano

Kristen started dancing at the age of 16. She fell in love with the art instantly and knew she wanted to pursue a career in dance. Growing up she trained in various styles of dance including ballet, jazz, hip hop and modern. Kristen was a competitive studio dancer and went on to dance for the Rivier University’s Dance Team.

Kristen graduated from Hesser College with an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration. Kristen began her teaching career in 2005, teaching various styles and levels at dance studios throughout New Hampshire. Kristen founded the New Boston Recreation Dance Program in 2007 where she was the Artistic Director / Instructor for 4 years before moving to CA in 2014. Since moving to the Bay Area, Kristen has taught most recently at Tutu School. Throughout her career as a teacher,

Kristen has continued her dance education by attending teacher training workshops, conventions and taking master classes with world renowned choreographers such as Nick Teti, Christina Aguilera’s Back To Basics Tour Dancers and the Warriors Dance Team. Kristen loves passing her love for dance onto others. When Kristen is not teaching, she lives in Brentwood with her daughter Kayla, who dances competitively and their dog Brady.

Elizabeth Strong

Elizabeth is a San Francisco Bay Area dancer, choreographer, and teacher whose work focuses on the integrity and spirit of traditional dance forms inside of a contemporary framework. Elizabeth was a touring member of Bellydance Superstars, and was a founding member of Bellydance Evolution and of Beats Antique’s dance company with Zoe Jakes.  A former principal member of Katarina Burda’s Aywah! Ethnic Dance Company, Elizabeth has traveled to Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Greece and Bulgaria to study closely at the source and is now considered one of the leading experts in the form. She performs with live music groups including Brass Menazeri, and Fishtank Ensemble, and renowned world musicians including Faisal Zeidan and Rumen Sali Shopov.   Her Turkish Roman instructional DVD was released in 2011. Elizabeth currently teaches and performs internationally. Find Elizabeth (and her DVD) at www.strongdancer.com