Company Bios

Gail Vartanian

Gail Vartanian

Artistic Director

Gail Vartanian is originally from Philadelphia, Pa., where she began her training in modern dance and ballet under the direction of Brigitta Trombler and Meli Davis. She continued in the path of Modern Dance at York University in Toronto, Canada where she studied Cunningham, Graham, Horton and Limon techniques.

Over the years, Ms. Vartanian has had extensive Jazz Dance training with Eva vonGercsy, Robert Archard, Jo Jo Smith, Frank Hatchett, Luigi, and others. Ms. Vartanian has performed in various modern and jazz dance companies such as City Center Dance Theater of Atlanta, Company Kaye, L’Image Dance Company of Miami and the Palm Beach Ballet. She was the lead dancer and assistant choreographer with Miami’s Les Folles Theater Dance Review, and also with Resorts International’s “Le Cabaret” Dance in Paradise Island, Bahamas and in Atlantic City, N.J.

Ms. Vartanian was invited to compose the only modern/jazz solo for The International Gala Dance Festival in Finland, under the direction of Margarita Von Bahr, National Ballet of Finland. She has also choreographed and performed in Andrea Lauren’s opening act for Salt ‘N’ Pepa. Her choreography has been presented throughout Florida and the Philadelphia and Delaware area.

Ms. Vartanian has choreographed over twenty eclectic dance works ranging from modern, ballet, jazz, hip hop and elements of comedy such as the “Philly-Nutt-Crak-Up” and “Twas the Nite the SugaPlum Crak-ed”. Her choreography has been presented at the Florida Dance Festival in Tampa, Delaware Dance Festival, Philadelphia 2000 Feet World Dance Festival, Ladek Zdroj International Dance Festival in Poland and various venues such as the Mandell Theater, Painted Bride Art Center, Drake Theater, University of Tampa, Centennial Hall and Pearson Hall. Ms. Vartanian’s choreography for ContempraDance Theatre has been successfully reviewed in Florida and Philadelphia and quoted as being, “Breathtakingly Flawless,” “Powerful and Bold,” “Vartanian’s brilliant choreography shines,” ”A vibrant addition to the area’s dance scene.”

Ms. Vartanian enjoys collaborating with other artists and musicians. She has received various grants for conceptual visual art projects and multimedia dance works.

In addition to her dance training, Ms. Vartanian attended fashion and costume design school in Atlanta, GA. She designs the costumes for most of the characters in the productions for ContempraDance Theatre. She has also designed for other dance companies.

For the past twenty-five years, Ms. Vartanian has been a dance educator teaching her own style of modern, jazz, lyrical and blues. Her classes are technically based, emphasizing physicality and musicality. She is the owner of her own dance studio, ContempraDance Center in Wayne, offering classes in various genres of dance as well as director of the ContempraYouth Dancers, the studio’s pre-professional youth performance group. Her students have performed for the President of the United States, numerous Broadway musicals, Ballet Companies worldwide, and Madonna’s touring company. Ms. Vartanian has taught in various cities such as Montreal, Atlanta, West Palm Beach, Miami and Philadelphia.

Ms. Vartanian is the director/coordinator for the Youth Regional Dance Festival she founded in 2005. This festival is an exciting opportunity for youth dance groups throughout Pennsylvania to perform in a non-competitive atmosphere.

Most recently, Ms. Vartanian and her dancers were selected to be involved in a film documentary with singer/composer Michael Sembello dancing to his infamous Flashdance hit, “Maniac” The film will be released in Spring 2013 !

In 2015, Gail served as panelist on the 2015 Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts Advisory Panel for PPA’s Program Stream awards.

Michelle Jones Wurtz

Michelle Jones Wurtz

Assistant Director

Michelle Jones Wurtz holds a BFA in Modern Dance from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She trained under Barbara Sandanato (former Principal of the National Ballet of Canada and Pennsylvania Ballet Company), Patricia Thomas of the Alvin Ailey and Graham Schools, Judith Jamison (currently the Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre) and Milton Myers (currently the head of the Contemporary Division at Jacob’s Pillow). She performed professionally with Group Motion Dance Company while still attending college. After graduating Magna cum Laude, she continued her studies in the Vaganova Method (Russian Ballet Method) at the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet under John White, former Ballet Master of the Pennsylvania Ballet Company, and has been specially trained to teach the method.

Michelle then joined the faculty and professional repertory company at the New Freedom Theatre in Philadelphia cited by the Kennedy Center for Excellence in the Arts; and also performed with Philadelphia based Footfalls Modern Dance Company and the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange based out of Washington D.C. Later, Ms. Wurtz joined ContempraDance Theatre and eventually became the Assistant Director.   When she was not performing, she was teaching throughout the Tri-State area and has given Master Classes at Swarthmore College, the University of the Arts, and at Temple University.

Currently Michelle is the Director of the Pottstown Dance Theatre as well as the Artistic Director of the Schuylkill Valley Regional Dance Company. Under her direction the Company has performed three full length concerts per year. She was the first American instructor invited to teach at the International Dance Festival in Ladek Zdroj, Poland and received an Honorary Degree in International Dance Studies. Last summer she toured the country of Poland with ContempraDANCE Theatre Comapny, and has been asked to work at numerous other international festivals throughout Europe. She has been featured in Dance Spirit Magazine, Dancer, Dance Teacher, and Philadelphia Magazine. Ms. Wurtz is a member of the National Dance Critics’ Association, is a certified Pilates instructor, and was a panelist for the Program Stream category for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

ContempraDANCE Theatre Company Board Members

Thomas Blair, President, Treasurer
Richard Shaps
Patricia Shaps
Gail Vartanian
Kate Holloway
Beth Ann Rejonis
Jessica Melck

Dancer Bios

Isaiah Cooper

Isaiah is originally from Smyrna, Delaware. He has been a competitive gymnast since 5 years of age. He has expanded his gymnast knowledge to the field of dance where he has been studying hip hop and contemporary styles for over 2 years. He is currently a potential for Cirque du Soleil and has a goal to compete for Team USA for the Olympics. He has a passion for working with kids and is currently a gymnastics and tumbling instructor for a high school cheerleading team. He enjoys traveling, cooking/baking, fashion. In the future, Isaiah plans to continue gymnastics instruction, modeling, and dance performance.

Stephanie Vasta

Stephanie earned a B.A in Psychological and Social Sciences from Penn State Abington. During her years at Penn State she participated in the University’s Dance Company as a dancer and student choreographer, and after graduating she became one of the Company’s Associate Directors. She currently teaches at Carol Ann School of Dance, Jenkintown Dance Arts, and the Academy of Dance Artistry. Stephanie performed professionally around the country with New Vision Cirque and Dance Company, and locally with companies including Vada Dance Collective, Underground Dance Works, and Jenkintown Dance Company. She has been with ContempraDANCE Theatre since 2004. She toured Poland with the Company performing at Ladek Zdroj International Dance Festival with performances in Wroslow and Klodzko.

Mackenzie Holmes

Mackenzie began her dance training at Lionville School of Dance. She danced soloist roles in Swan Lake and the Nutcracker. Mackenzie has a B.A. in Philosophy and a minor in dance performance from  West Chester University. She attended the American College Dance Festival and served as the organization’s treasurer and as a student choreographer. Mackenzie was selected by the company to travel and perform in Costa Rica as a part of the Knowledge Crossing Borders Conference



Todd Munoz

Todd is a Philadelphia based hip-hop dancer who started dancing at the age of 19 with Versatile Entertainment, under the direction of Andreas Johnson. Todd currently holds 3 national titles as a co-choreographer of the University of Delaware Blue Hens dance team 2008-2010. He worked on set for BET’s 106 & Park, taught workshops across the US and internationally, and most notably was hired as a feature dancer for Oscar nominated movie Silver Linings Playbook starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Currently Todd Munoz is the co-owner and co-founder of Beat Addikts United, Inc and X-Calibur Entertainment. Todd is currently the Hip Hop choreographer for the Theatre’s “Philly Nutt Crak-Up”.

Margaret Moran

Margaret is originally from Hershey, Pennsylvania and studied dance primarily at Hershey School of Dance under the direction of Kelly Strange.    Margaret attended the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts as a ballet major her junior year in high school.  In college, Margaret attended Slippery Rock University for one year as a dance major and was a member of the Dance Express Dance Team.  Margaret later transferred to Pennsylvania State University and received a minor in Dance.   While attending Penn State, Margaret was heavily involved in Orchesis Dance Company where she performed, choreographed, taught company classes, and acted as the elected treasurer.  While living in Manhattan, Margaret continued her dance education at various dance schools including Steps on Broadway, Alvin Ailey Extension, and PMT Dance Studio as well as performed in the PMT Dance Studio Showcases.  Margaret is a company member of the Andrea Mychaels Dance Project and has performed in the Koresh Artist Showcase as well as the Nickerson Rossi Dance Choreographic Residencies Showcase.  Margaret currently resides in West Chester, PA with her husband and two young children.


Daria Johnston

Daria Johnston trained at ContempraDance School since the age of 4.  She attended the Creative and Performing Arts High School in Philadelphia her freshman and sophomore years. Performances include Disney World, Ladek Zdroj International Dance Festival in Poland, Schuylkill Valley Dance Company’s Nutcracker, Melange Dance Company and ContempraDANCE Theatre. Daria received her yoga teacher certification for Jivamukti Yoga and now teaches her own method, dariajmethod. She received her BFA from Temple University receiving the College of Liberal Arts’ Annie Hyman Award for Outstanding Service & Honors Society. She is owner of her own yoga studio, The Yoga Spot.

Quanntrale Shaw

Quanntrale grew quite fascinated with the art of dance at the age 13. Que performed for numerous community events as well as having the pleasure to share the stage with artists such as Mary Mary, Johnny Gill, Clifton Powell, R&B singer Jaheim and many more. Que currently holds a dominant position with the company Rapping About Prevention which motivates and inspires kids to live healthy and positive lifestyles in all areas of life. This is Que’s fourth performance with ContempraDANCE Theatre Company.

Chayvon (B Swan) Dessus

BSwan Dessus was born in Philadelphia. Cha’Yvon “BSwan” Dessus. She is professionally known as “BSwan” (Black Swan) which has been developed during the journey of building her dance career in 2013. BSwan trained with L&L Dance Production, YPTC, Koresh Youth Ensemble, training in classical Ballet along with Modern/Contemporary. She has danced and choreographed for multiple Dance Companies throughout the Philadelphia region. She recently was granted a leading role for ContempraDANCE Theatre  Company “Philly Nutt Crak-Up,” and performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York, highlighted on 6ABC News “Philly Proud” segment. She’s currently Director/Founder of BSwan Dance Company (BSDC) established in 2017. BSwan wishes to continue to inspire other Dancers/Artists all over especially in her community to always “BRare, BNoticed, BYou”


Matthew Thomas

Matthew trained at L&L Dance Productions Studio in West Philadelphia. Originally a tapper, he began studying ballet, jazz, hip-hop & modern. He continued his training with PHILADANCO, the Youth Performing Arts Theater Camp, The Rock School & Dallas Black Dance Theatre. His performances include; Duke Ellington’s Harlem Nutcracker & Sixers Jr. Dance Team. At 16, he became a member of Eleone Connection; Jr. Company of the nationally renown Eleone Dance Theatre. In 2007, he joined the 1st company as principal dancer, traveling nationwide performing  works by Christopher Huggins, Diane MacIntyre, Katherine Dunham & Wayne St. David. He also was a soloist with the Rebeca Davis Dance Company for 2 years. Matthew is the Co-Director of Sterling Dance Company and Member of BSwan Dance Company. This is Matthew’s 3rd season with ContempraDANCE Theatre.

Tia Di Pietro

From Northern New Jersey Tia is a 2012 graduate of DeSales University with a B.A. in Dance. Technically trained in ballet, modern, and jazz; She has created two original pieces that have been showcased in New York (Dance New Amsterdam), Pennsylvania (Emerging Choreographers Concert) and Wisconsin (ACDFA). Most recently, Tia was selected from a national group of candidates’ to participate with Regional Dance America’s Choreographer’s conference. Her choreography was presented and performed under the direction of “ Nelly van Bommel”. She has worked administratively and artistically with Freespace Dance Company as an Intern, as well as performing and choreographing along side Weird Al Yankovic in his concert Apocalypse. Tia was also a member of the DeSales University dance team for four years. While training at the King Centre she danced for the New Jersey Foundation of Dance and Theater Arts. Also performing pieces under various residences from all over the United States.

Jemane Johnson

Jemane has been dancing for 15 years. He is a self-taught artist and has worked his way into several dance groups. He currently dances with Special EFX, traveling to Chicago, Michigan, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC among others places.

Lisa Urbanowicz

Lisa is from NJ where she began dancing with The New Jersey Dance Theatre Ensemble. She went on to train with members of Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham, New Jersey Ballet, Ballet Hispanico, Paul Taylor, Geo Hubela, and Cecily Bradly. She was captain and choreographer of her varsity high school dance team and coach of her college dance team at Monmouth University. She performed at events such as KTU’s Beatstock, World of Dance, charity events, and local artists in the Philadelphia area. Lisa is currently a member of female hip-hop company, FloMotion, is a choreographer for Beat Addikts United, and teaches at Dance Artistry in Swedesboro, NJ. When not dancing, Lisa is a full-time special needs elementary teacher in Freehold, NJ.