Our Staff

Michele Zehner


Ms Zehner began her studies with Edmund and Nina Novak and then continued with John White and Margarita De Saa. She has also studied with Pennsylvania Ballet and Boston Ballet with Violette Verdi, as well as in New York with Madame Darvash, David Howard and Robert Denver. She received a full scholarship to Harkness Ballet and an apprenticeship with Hartford Ballet. Michele was a dancer with The San Antonio Ballet and Ballet Klos.

Ms Zehner has over 20 years of professional teaching experience and has studied pedagogy with recognized teaching greats such Gilbert Mayer, Ruth Petronovic and John White. She is ABT certified through level 7 and Partnering and is certified in Progressing Ballet Technique. As an instructor, Michele has taught at West Chester Ballet Theater, Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet and The Rock School. She has been the owner as well as an instructor of the Pennsylvania Centre for Ballet and founder and artistic director of Delaware County Ballet. Some of Michele’s students have gone on to dance with Washington Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, Pacific Northwest, Colorado Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and on Broadway.

Ms Zehner is an Artist in Residence at Dreyfoos School for the Arts and sat on the board of the Florida Dance Association. She continues to teach guest classes nationally when time permits. Ms Zehner is thrilled to see a dream realized in Florida School for Dance Education.

Leslie Justi


Leslie Justi was a scholarship student at Joffrey & Hartford Ballet and also trained with Boston, Palm Beach and South Florida Ballet Academy. Leslie began her professional career with Hartford Ballet. She then went on to dance with Memphis Ballet followed by Bay Ballet Theater. In 1997, Leslie joined Colorado Ballet, where she performed soloist roles in classical and contemporary ballets. She was the principal teacher for Denver Academy of Ballet and has been on the faculty of Colorado Ballet Academy.

Jerry Opdenaker


Mr Opdenaker is a graduate from the University of the Arts. During his 22-year dancing career, he worked as a principal dancer for ballet companies such as Pennsylvania Ballet, Kansas City Ballet and Ballet Florida. During the years spent in these companies, he worked with some of the world’s greatest choreographers working in the field of dance. At Ballet Florida he was instrumental in the development, creativity and educational components of STEP Ahead, Ballet Florida’s choreographic workshop. Serving as the Director, he propelled the program into the eyes of the National Endowment for the Arts, which awarded the Access to Artistic Excellence, twice and was declared a “Jewel of the Palm Beaches” in 2004. Jerry had the incredible privilege to participate in the Ballet builders 2003, New York City Ballet’s 2005 Choreographic Institute and the National Choreographic Initiative 2007, in California. He has also choreographed for the McKnight Foundation in Minnesota, Seanik Arts in Miami and the Florida Grand Opera’s production of Lakme. He has also developed a new company in Palm Beach County called O Dance, which will had its inaugural first performance in February 2010.

Carol Pakri

Ballet/ Children’s Division

Carol Pakri received a BFA in Ballet Performance at the University of Oklahoma, graduating
with honors. She danced with Oklahoma Festival Ballet, David Taylor Dance Theatre and Colorado Ballet. Mrs. Pakri 20 years teaching experience includes Director for the Youth Ballet Company at Spotlight Performing Arts and School Principal & Principal Teacher at the Academy of Colorado Ballet South, as well as on staff at The Royal Ballet School in London graduating from The Royal Ballet School Professional Dancers Teachers Course with Distinction and on the staff at Houston Ballet Academy.

Gillian Safran


Ms Safran began her love of dance at the age of three. Finding her passion at an early age she pursued training intensives with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, Canada and the Marinsky Theatre, Russia. Receiving her diploma in Dance Theatre, under full scholarship from the London Studio Centre, England. Mrs. Safran brings a classical training background from both the Cecchetti and Royal Academy syllabus, and a strong contemporary background in Limon and Graham techniques. During her performing career she danced as a Principal for the Anna Wyman Youth Performing Company, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and ten years as a Production Dancer for Carnival Corporation. As she advanced she captained cast changes, and re-blocking of production shows. Mrs. Safran is very excited to bring her love for dance and performance to FSDE.

Samantha Wilhem

Jazz/ Contemporary

Samantha was born and raised in New Jersey and began dancing at the age of 3.  For the past 13 years Samantha has been performing at Radio City Music Hall as a dancer and for the last 7 years she has taken on the role of assistant choreographer to Linda Haberman and Julie Branum.  This role has her working with both the Rockettes and the ensemble, while acting as a swing, dance captain and overseeing the production.  Samantha has also assisted on Radio City’s Heart and Lights, as well as performing in the New York Spring Spectacular.  She also had the privilege to be an assistant choreographer for the Rockettes and Pitbull for Americas Got Talent.  Before her career at Radio City she performed on and was rehearsal director for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.  Samantha has taught and choreographed at numerous studios throughout the country and was on staff at the King Centre for the Performing Arts.  Samantha brings energy, fire, and passion into the studio and can’t wait to share her experiences with the students.

Danielle Armstrong

Contemporary/ Modern/ Pilates

Ms Armstrong was an honors graduate from the Conservatory of Dance at Purchase College, She has taught at Peridance Center where her choreography was chosen to debut the Perichild Youth Ensemble. In addition to working with many freelance choreographers, such as Robert Battle (formally of Parsons Dance Company and Battleworks), she founded her own dance group performing at venues all over New York City. She became a certified Pilates instructor under the tutelage of Joseph Pilates protégé, Romana Kyrzanoska and subsequently completed over 600 hours of teacher training. Danielle has taught Pilates in New York, Connecticut, Charleston, SC and now brings over 10 years of experience to the Palm Beach area. She is the managing director, dancer and choreographer for REACH. In addition to managing the Pilates studio at FSDE, she teaches ballet and modern dance. She is also on staff at The HARID Conservatory in Boca Raton.

Rosalyn Accardi

Children’s Division

Miss Rose has been teaching dance for over 37 years. At the age of 4 she began taking ballet, tap, jazz and acrobatics at the Margie Speck Dance Studio in Bremerton, Washington. She started teaching as an assistant at the age of 16 and at 17 got her first class to teach. At the age of 18, she graduated high school and moved to New York to start working at the Oceanside Conservatory of Dance in Long Island from 1983- 1997. There she taught beginner to advanced classes in ballet, tap & jazz, which ranged from 3 year olds up to adults. While at the Conservatory she choreographed many award-winning numbers for competitions. During this time, in New York, she studied with teachers such as Luigi, Gregg Burge, and Frank Hatchett, just to name a few. In 1997 she moved to Florida and taught at Dance 10 in Jupiter until 2000 when it became The Atlantic Arts Academy. There she taught Ballet, Tap, Jazz and Acro in the Children’s Division until 2013. She joined The FSDE family in 2014 and loves every minute teaching in the Children’s Division!

Maxey Koch

Jazz/ Children’s Division

Maxey received her BFA in Dance from Florida State University. She graduated from A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts and danced with REACH Dance Theatre Collective. She attended summer training programs with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Thodos Dance Chicago and then continued her training at Florida State University and guest performed with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic in Fort Wayne, Indiana. After college she lived in Chicago, Illinois performing for freelance projects, outreach in the Chicago public schools and professional dance companies: Chicago Verge Dance Company, Esoteric Dance Project, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, Piel Morena Contemporary Dance and Tapestry Dance Company. Maxey toured to Queretaro, Mexico with Piel Morena Contemporary Dance to perform at “Encuentro Danza Contempanea”. Maxey returned to South Florida to be near her family and has since performed at “Project Dance” in Orlando, Florida with Tapestry Dance Company and has had the privilege and joy of teaching dance in the local community.

Toni Lipscher

Jazz/ Cirque Acro

Ms Lipscher began her dance education in Homestead, Florida. While a student there she participated in Miss Dance of Florida finishing in the top 10. From there she attended Florida State University where she danced for the Golden Girls and was voted Captain by her peers. In 1988, she was selected by College Dance Championship board to perform in the Opening Number. After college, she danced with the Miami Heat Dancers (captain, 1 year), the Eagles Cheerleaders (chosen to be in the video, NFL’s Hottest Cheerleaders, and the New Jersey Nets. She has also danced with Xanadu Dance Company. Toni has taught Hip Hop and Jazz at Atlantic Arts Academy and is proud to be a current member of REACH Dance Company and thrilled to be a teacher at Florida School for Dance Education.

Lyndsay Turner


Lyndsay started her dance career growing up in Longmeadow, Massachusetts.  She studied in the pre-professional program at the New England Dance Conservatory under the direction of Ken Lipitz and Shelley Ziebel.  Lyndsay also performed with the Pittsburgh Ballet, Albany Berkshire Ballet, and Poet Productions in Miami.  She additionally studied at the Boston Ballet and Hartford Ballet summer-intensive programs. While at the University of New Hampshire, she auditioned for Walt Disney World Entertainment and was cast as a dancer in the Festival of the Lion King.  She then advanced on to become a Staging Specialist with Disney, carrying responsibility for entertainment show quality of live shows and events.  This entailed teaching the shows to new performers and maintaining their excellence by offering feedback on a daily basis.  She has collaborated with Broadway affiliates, ABC Productions, MTV Productions, and the Disneyland Entertainment team throughout her teaching career.  Projects included the Walt Disney Christmas Parade Filming, Daytona 500 opening ceremony, Tarzan Rocks, Festival of the Lion King, Main Street Trolley Show, Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade, and the opening team of Finding Nemo the Musical.

Carli LaFlamme

Children’s Division

Carly began dancing at 3 years old and holds a degree in Early Childhood Education. She trained at Florida School for Dance Education and has trained in the Vaganova ballet syllabus program. She has earned her Florida Childcare Professional Credential as well as her Directors Credential. Carly has always had a passion for working with children and helping them develop a love for dance.

Maria Hernandez

Hip Hop

Maria Hernandez began her dance training in 2010 at the age of sixteen in West Palm Beach, Florida at Sean’s Dance Factory under the direction and training of Sean Green. In 2012 she became a Hip Hop instructor at Spotlight of Wellington, and shortly after became an instructor at Sean’s Dance Factory. Her training and dance experience have led her to come up with her own distinctive style of Hip Hop, believing that dance is an art form of expression and a lifestyle. She has performed on productions at the Broward Performing Arts Center, the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, and was featured her own piece at the choreographer’s showcase in Miami. You might have seen her as a backup dancer for James Cove, and dancing on stage with Sugarhill Gang. She remains a continuous student training with some of the top choreographers in the Hip Hop community such as Dondraico ‘Draico’ Johnson, Ellen Kim, Jillian Meyers, Marty Kudelka, Dexter Carr, Chris Grant, Chuck Maldonado, Aisha Francis, Kevin Maher, Nick DeMoura, and many more. Her training has allowed her not only to perform but also to train and direct her students onto the World of Dance competition, never forgetting the main elements of Hip Hop to be the base of their elaborate pieces of competition and performance. Maria believes that her love for dance can be spread and can help dancers of all ages grow and develop their craft with strong self-confidence, allowing them to build their passion and follow their dreams.