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.

Katherine Brown

Kat’s passion for dance began when she started walking and she hasn’t stopped moving ever since! She has always had a passion for performance art and creativity. Just give her a beat or any kind of sound and she will put moves to it. At the age of 5, Katherine would choreograph routines and showcase them for family and friends – truly, a performer at heart. Her dance background includes Jazz, African, Tap, Ballet, Modern, Hip-hop, and Soul/Funk – with influences from her “dance teachers” Debbie Allen, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Bobby Brown and just about every Soul Train Dancer that came across the television screen. Katherine’s passion for dance is embedded in her soul and she is truly blessed and thankful to have the opportunity to share her vision, art and talent with the world.Katherine’s style of dance is a balance of an in-the-studio/out-the-studio structure; focusing on the technique and discipline that you get from dance studio instruction, and the heart, passion, soul and discipline that you experience out-of-the-studio (i.e. dancing in your living room, with your friends, while waiting on the bus, etc.). She continues to be a student of dance – and really loves to learn from each and every one of her eager students.

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/ 

Jenny DeRuntz

Jenny has been teaching jazz and hip hop dance classes at the YWCA since 2003.  Her training is varied and includes traditional studio classes in ballet, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, yoga and cheerleading.  Cheerleading in some eyes may not be considered dance but the discipline in competing on competition teams and teaching for a professional company has been invaluable on many levels.  Jenny previously danced as a back up dancer for singers, was a seasonal dancer at Paramount’s Great America, coached the dance/cheer team at Columbia University, was a company member for 5 years with Saki Suto’s Scratch 4 Bloomin’ and humbly maintains dancing in classes at various San Francisco dance studios.  Jenny is also a staff member here at the YWCA and loves staying connected with the community on important social justice issues.

Mercedes Forster

Mercedes has studied dance for over a decade, in a variety of techniques, including: classical ballet, contemporary, modern, hip hop, jazz, African, salsa, and capoeira dance. She has trained with choreographers who have worked for So You Think You Can Dance and Lady Gaga, through San Diego and Los Angeles based companies and studios. In her teaching she aims to create an inclusive and fun dance class that challenges you to both think and perform the art of dance.

Jana Hiraga

Jana started ballet at the age of 5 and trained with the Contra Costa Ballet Company in Walnut Creek.  She danced with Balletmet in Columbus Ohio, Joffrey Ballet in New York and the America Ballet Theater in California. Jana is passionate about ballet being a positive and liberating workout for all body types and backgrounds.  She is also a Program Director at the YWCA Berkeley/Oakland for four programs:  Pre-Kindergarten Enrichment Program, techGYRLS Mentoring Program, Anti Human Trafficking Leadership Internship and our Racial Justice Ambassadors Internship.  She is also a lecturer at California State University, East Bay in the Health Science Department.  No prior experience is necessary to take a class with her…everyone is welcome and encouraged to join!

Judy Huang

Judy, the founder of “Chalo let’s dance (Come let’s dance),” has 9 years of Bollywood, Bhangra, Fusion, and Giddha dance training. She has performed with Duniya World Dance & Drum Company, Rhythms of Punjab, moreUpbeat Fusion, Ghungroo, and rossMob.  As Judy is known for her catchy choreography to popular Bollywood songs, her dance students will learn moves for their next Indian functions or Bollywood dance party.

There is only one rule in Judy’s dance class, “just have fun!” So, chalo and let’s dance!

Tanya Kumar

Tanya is from Holland Pennsylvania, she came to Berkeley to study molecular cell biology. She has experience working in various labs, and has conducted research is postpartum weight retention and cellulose acetate biodegradation. Along with her biological work, she studied kenpo karate for 10 years. During these years she has taught karate and self-defense techniques, participated in Action Karate Invitational Tournaments, and earned a second degree black belt. In 2015 she won the Talented Choreographers’ Award at the Indo-American Fair for Bollywood fusion dance.

Natalie Nayun

Natalie 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