Danceforce and Dance Department Staff
Dance Department Supervisor
Clara Houdek joined the Bolingbrook Park District August 2010 as the new Recreation Supervisor for the Dance Department. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Leisure and Recreation from Illinois State University with a minor in Business Administration and recently earned her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago. During her high school and college career she held a number of different part-time positions in the Recreation field. She also has experience as a dance instructor, teaching at the Park District of Forest Park, Village of Riverside and Panda Dance Studio. Clara previously worked at the Park District of Forest Park as an interim Recreation Supervisor and Day Camp Manager. She also has experience working in the Day Camp setting as a counselor and mentor at the Dr. Phillips YMCA, Normal Recreation Department, and Howard Mohr Community Center. She completed her recreation internship at the American Hospitality Academy at Orange Lake Resort in Florida where she organized, implemented and led different activities and events for patrons. Her most recent employment was at Mutual Trust Insurance Company where she served as a Contracts & Licensing Analyst and later as an Executive Administrative Assistant to the CEO. She realized that her heart and energy belongs to Leisure and Recreation and returned to the Park District setting. She is very happy to be a part of the Bolingbrook Park District team and is glad to take on her responsibilities as the Supervisor of an incredible Dance Department.
Dance Department Coordinator, Danceforce Co-Director, Instructor
In 2009 Katrina received her Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing Communications at Columbia College Chicago and is actively involved in the dance industry as a performer, teacher and choreographer. Katrina began dancing with the Bolingbrook Park District Dance Force when she was 15. Since then she has trained in jazz, lyrical, tap, ballet but has mostly developed in hip hop technique. Along with her Coordinator and Co-Director position at the Park District, Katrina also helps direct Redefinition Chicago (who hosts the midwest chain of the Prelude Competition Series), and the award winning BPD Dance Force. Katrina began teaching and choreographing in 2003 and since then she has received a number of awards for her work at regional and national competitions such as Urban Jamm, Nuvo, Hollywood Vibe and others. In 2009 and 2011 Katrina's works received the Overall Highest Score and has had choreography chosen for the Dance Chicago Series 2007, 2008 and 2009. As a dancer, Katrina has opened for hip hop artist's such as Chris Brown, as well as back up dance for rap artist Rhymefest and DJ Dani Dheal at Lollapalooza. As for experience with professional athletic teams, she has had the opportunity to dance and choreograph for the MLIS Chicago Storm as well as choreograph routines for the WNBA Chicago Sky half time performances. Some other professional experiences include the Sears Dance Project commercial (as an assistant choreographer) as well as in 2009 where she assisted to teach and collaborate the 20,000 person flash mob for the 24th season anniversary of the Oprah Winfrey Show. Katrina has so far been blessed with many opportunities and experiences through dancing and hopes to help inspire others to start upon their own dancing journey as well!
Power Dance Project Coordinator, Danceforce Co-Director, Instructor
Aileen received a Bachelor's in psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an Associates Degree in Nursing at Joliet Junior College. Aileen has been a part of the Bolingbrook Park District dance program for more than 16 years and has trained in all areas of dance, concentrating in ballet, modern, lyrical, tap, and hip hop. She has been on staff since January 2000 and has taught creative movement, ballet/tap, ballet/tumbling, pre-ballet and Ballet I. Aileen has also worked with Danceforce as a dancer and teacher, which has allowed her to perform at the World Veterinarians’ Conference and Gala in Minneapolis, MN (July 2005); American Veterinarians’ Christmas conference and luncheon in Schaumburg, IL (December 2005); WNBA Chicago Sky half-times (August 2006); and Dance Chicago. She has also been a back-up dancer for Ashley Garland (Radio Disney) opening up for Jordan Knight, and Od Tapo Imi Steel Drum Band.
Instructor, Danceforce Support Staff
Lynette started dancing at age 3 at the Bolingbrook Park District and became a member of the Park Dancers at age 8. She has been trained in jazz, ballet, modern, tap, hip-hop and lyrical. She had her first professional job dancing as a back-up dancer at age 13 and started teaching at age 14. In January 2008, Lynette was selected as Chicago's most well-rounded dancer from Urban Jamm Conventions. She currently is working with the Danceforce Jamm Teams.
Julia has been dancing since she was in the 5th grade all with the Bolingbrook Park District which she has been with from the very beginning of its existence. While a part of Danceforce, Julia has been a member of the Danceforce Jamm Teams since they formed and she has trained in jazz, ballet, lyrical and hip-hop. She also performed at Chicago Sky basketball games as a member of the Danceforce Sky Dancers. Julia began teaching in 2007 and currently teaches hip hop and ballet classes as well as working with the Junior and Teen Danceforce companies. During the school year she also works with the Power Dance Project at many of the schools in the area. She is grateful for the opportunity to work with such a distinguished dance department and company and hopes to continue to pursue her love of teaching for many years to come.
Stefany began dancing for the park district in 2000. After years of training in jazz, ballet, lyrical and hip hop, she progressed from performer to instructor and choreographer. She was also a member of Bolingbrook High school Varsity Poms, Thespian Society and dance captain of the Bolingbrook High school theatre department. While in Danceforce, she competed nationally in various destinations such as Hawaii, Las Vegas and Minnesota as well as performed with Chicago Sky Dancers. She has performed for some of L.A.’s most credible choreographers as well as rapper Chingy. Currently, she specializes in early childhood classes and Danceforce’s very own Kidz Company. She is delighted to be teaching and hopes to continue long into the future.
Molly studied ballet from a young age through college. She was a member of a semi-professional company, the Grand Rapids Ballet of Michigan, for several years and studied with two former Joffrey Ballet dancers, one of whom is the head ballet mistress for Joffrey Ballet Chicago. Molly has performed in ballets such as the Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, Cinderella, Our Town, Gaite Parisienne, Ambulations and other small repertoire pieces. She has also studied some jazz, modern and character dance. Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Molly is the mother of two girls, Sophie and Isabella. She and her husband, Sultan, have been married for 10 years and have lived in Bolingbrook for the past 5. Molly has a Bachelor’s of Science in Merchandising Management from Michigan State University. She was recruited to teach for the park district and considers teaching a blessing.
Desiree Pepper-Venzant is a native Chicagoan and holds a MBA from Benedictine University, Lisle, IL and a B.A. in Dance and Business Marketing from Barat College of DePaul University in Lake Forest, IL. She is a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and is the Recreation Supervisor for the Bolingbrook Park District and Director for the Danceforce Dance Company. Pepper-Venzant is also active in her community and has been involved with the ACT-SO (Aftro-American Cultural and Technical Science Olympics organizations for four years. She has been a board member for the HFS Chicago Scholars Scholarship program for three years. This is a scholarship serving economically disadvantage high school students throughout the Chicagoland area. She has also been a mentor to high school and college students affiliated with this program. Pepper-Venzant has trained with notable teachers from the American Ballet Theatre, Paul Taylor (Modern Dance) Company, Martha Graham Dance Company, Joseph Holmes Dance Theatre, Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC) and The American Dance Festival (ADF). She teaches ballet, tap, jazz, creative movement, modern dance, and hip hop at the Bolingbrook Park District. Previously she taught at Westside Elementary School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Roanoke, Virginia and was the Director and an instructor at the Floyd Ward School of Dance Studios in Roanoke, Virginia. She later joined Hollins College of Roanoke, Virginia as an adjunct professor for the Dance Department. Desiree has also taught for the Jeraldyne’s School of Dance (the official training school for the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company) in Dayton, Ohio, for the Umoja Dance Company, Blacksburg, Virginia, and for The North Shore School of Dance in Highland Park, IL. She has performed with the Southwest Virginia Ballet in Salem, Virginia; Hollins College Dance Repertoire; the Opera Roanoke; and Li Chiao Ping Dance. She also performs for various Chicagoland groups and choreographs liturgical dances for various religious groups.
Instructor, Excel Musical Theatre Company Director
Karen, a Chicago native, has been a dance instructor with the Bolingbrook Park District since 2003. For the past seven years Karen has taught Creative Movement, Ballet, Tap and Musical Theatre Dance. Karen states, "I have the best job in the world, I still get excited and nervious before a performance. I get to teach my passion to others everyday." In 2005 Karen developed and implemented the Excel Musical Theatre company of which she is the director. Over the years, the company has grown successfully by way of innovative and original musical theatre performances. The Excel program now features a Junior and Senior company that perform throughout the year. As far as Karen's background with dance, she has been dancing since the age of five. She recieved a dance scholapship to Columbia College where she studied all forms of dance and performed with many notable teachers and dance companies. Karen's professional accomplishments include numerous performances in musicals as well as a choreographer in works such as Pippin, The Wiz, Jesus Christ Superstar, Annie, Chicago and Bye Bye Birdie.
Nicole began dancing at the age of 7 in the genres of Liturgical and African dance. She began her formal training in Jazz and Ballet at the age of 19 under the tutelage of Rosemary Doolas of the Chicago Dancespace. She then auditioned and received a dance scholarship to study at the Joel Hall Dance studio. Nicole has a dual Bachelors degree in English Literature and Dance from Point Park University, where she also had a double concentration in Ballet and Modern dance. Nicole has performed as an actress and served as choreographer for the Children’s Theatre Fantasy Orchard and has worked as an independent choreographer for various churches and organizations. She brings to the Bolingbrook Park District a true passion for dance, discipline, teaching and every aspect of the creative process and hopes to impart that same love for the arts to each of her students.
Since the age of 3, Chris Zarate has been in love with dancing thanks to a tape of Michael Jackson performing on stage to thousands of fans. At age 13, he began his professional dancing career by performing with the group "Jr. Untouchables" as an opening act at to the B96 Summer Bash 2000. He then repeated this again the next year, showing up with a new group, B-Unit. At age 16, He joined up with the dancing company Hip Hop Connxion. Through the company, he was able to tour the country and all over Illinois, performing at various shows and competitions including Urban Jamm, Chicago Sky basketball games, Star Power, D.A.R.E. shows, and the Hip Hop World Championships. Chris has also been able to teach various studios and students including two students (Max and Gia Yetter) who would take home numerous awards for his choreography in the past 5 years in the competitions they entered including Best Choreography 2010 at Midwest Starz. In 2009, Chris would join up with Design Dance Company. With Design, he has been able to perform in a music video for Krewella, perform 2 opening acts with Krewella; one for Far East Movement and the other for Mike Posner, receive 1st place at Prelude for 2010 and 2011, Move If You Want It 1st place champions in 2010, appear on Fox New in Las Vegas for special interview and performance, and placed 10th in the U.S. for Hip Hop International Championships 2010. Chris hopes to continue spreading the lessons he has learned from all his experience and mentors to the new generation of dancers, so that it may help them on their own journeys.
"You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives." ~Clay P. Bedford
Arlette (Chelly) Ixchell Benzinger
Chelly’s dance roots are in the island of Puerto Rico where she performed as a child for the acclaimed choreographer Sophie Sanfiorenzo. Later she attended Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, where she concentrated in Ballet and Modern Dance while studying the performing arts and trained with the Salt Creek Ballet simultaneously. For 18 years, Chelly has taught jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, ballet, modern, Latin dance and tap to children and adults of all ages. She has worked for Geneva Dance Academy, The Indian Oaks Recreation Center, Dance Dimensions, Arial Dance Studio, Center for the Arts and most recently for the Bolingbrook Park District. She helped develop Arial Entertainment, a professional dance ensemble where she also choreographed and performed. Among other professional works, she was part of the Chicago Honey Bears Dance Ensemble and Brasileida Productions (Samba Dance Company) which frequently performed with the Chicago Samba School. Her choreography has been seen at Northern Illinois University through Northern Dance Theatre, Orchesis and she was president/choreographer of Dança Quente (university Latin Dance Ensemble). For two consecutive years she choreographed for the Latin group at Benedictine University in Lisle. Her choreography was also featured in the Brook Players’ (now Theater on the Hill) production of “My Fair Lady”. Her most recent accomplishment as a professional dancer was performing and choreographing for the original recording artist, Petra Luna where she also made her debut as a singer. Chelly has been the assistant director for the acclaimed Bolingbrook Park District DanceForce in addition to being the coordinator of the Power Dance Project outreach program for 3 years (2005-2008). Chelly is a devoted wife and mother of two. That same devotion can be seen in her work as a passionate performer, teacher and choreographer.