Susan S. Russo, Director
At the age of 18, Susan decided that she wanted to bring the joy of movement and the excitement of creativity to young people of every ability. It was while teaching dance to a young man with cerebral palsy that she made that life-changing decision.
To follow that dream she obtained a BS in Dance Education from UNC-Greensboro and a Masters in Dance Education from Teacher’s College at Columbia University.
Having taught in both public and private venues for over 35 years, Ms. Russo recently obtained another Masters in Special Education and dedicates her life’s work to her four children, in particular her special angel, Theresa, for whom the Academy is named.
Recognizing the need for quality afterschool programs in the arts for students with special needs, and wishing to combine her experiences working with both typically developing and special needs children “under one roof”, she petitioned the Board of Directors of the Theresa Foundation to expand their consumer base.
Now, in addition to the wonderful recreational opportunities provided by Theresa’s Fun Place (a park and playground) at UCP-Nassau in Roosevelt, children will have the opportunity to act, dance, sing and create their own art at TAPA, the Theresa Academy of Performing Arts.
TAPA is open to the siblings, parents and caregivers of our students so that they may also participate in classes with their loved one who has special needs. Everyone benefits…everyone creates…everyone has fun!
Alyssa Kirell, Assistant Director
Alyssa holds a BM in Music Education from The Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, and an MA in Theatre Education from Emerson College. She has taught music and theatre in the public school system, at day camps, and in summer & after school arts programs to children from a wide range of backgrounds and abilities. She maintains a private studio for violin/viola and voice, and can be frequently seen on stage and in film projects throughout Long Island and NYC. She passionately believes in the power of the creative arts to facilitate growth, healing, and to make us whole. It is an honor to be able to share this gift of the arts with such a fantastic community!
Lindsay Rogan holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from University at Buffalo and MA from New York University in Educational Theatre and English Education. Lindsay has shared her work with colleagues at the World Congress of Theatre and has taught and choreographed at various dance studios on Long Island. Miss Lindsay loves TAPA and is so blessed to have the opportunity to teach students of all ages and abilities. She is excited to be a part of the Theresa Foundation and TAPA team!
Elizabeth Connolly, Art
Elizabeth Connolly hails from the Midwest where she completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Studio Art with a concentration in Fiber/Fabric. Eager to use her new skills, she moved to New York to work in the textile industry. She began her career in the art studio of a textile mill in Long Island City where she oversaw the production of woven and printed fabrics and wall coverings. In order to pursue her love of fashion, she moved across the river to Manhattan’s Garment Center. As Design Director, she oversaw the development and production of a line of women’s apparel fabrics.
Upon the birth of her third child, Elizabeth left the Big Apple to stay home and raise a family in Long Beach. She became an instructor teaching art to adults in Continuing Education classes and at the Magnolia Senior Center. Her passion for teaching was ignited when she became a full time Art Educator at the Hewlett East Rockaway Jewish Centre, teaching the children at the nursery school. Watching a child mix yellow and blue paint and discover green for the first time made her realize the joy inherent in making art in the classroom. Elizabeth completed her Masters in Visual Arts Education at Hofstra University and is enthusiastic when it comes to sharing her talents and abilities in inspiring students, whether aged 2 or 82, in their artistic and creative journey. Miss Elizabeth doesn’t know who has more fun during art class at TAPA-her or her students!
Diane Modico, Yoga
Diane has been living and raising her five children in RVC since 1996. She has been a member of the TAPA family for just over a year and is grateful for every minute spent with its staff and students. Diane is a Parent Member for the RVC School District Committee on Special Education. Fluent in Sign Language, she is also a member of the PSA at Cleary School for the Deaf. Having a 14-year-old daughter with special needs, she has dedicated her yoga practice and teaching to seeking ways to help her daughter and others in need. Diane spends her summers teaching yoga to a wide array of people on the beautiful shores of Fire Island.
Brenna Morgan, Dance
Brenna is currently a student at Hofstra University in the Dance Education program. Brenna has performed and taught with numerous theatre companies in the New England area, including Kids Coop Theatre in New Hampshire and Applause Academy in Massachusetts. She has taught ballet, jazz, tap, and musical theatre for many musicals and day camps. While not teaching at TAPA she is the secretary for T’DAA, the dance education club at Hofstra University, is part of the Dancers in Schools project, which travels from school to school performing and teaching, and participated in AHRC which was a program for special needs adults. She is very excited about working with the students and staff of TAPA!
Maria Perrone, Dance and Drumming
Maria has been performing, teaching, and choreographing dance in the greater NY area for the past 38 years teaching jazz, tap, ballroom, beginner ballet and creative dance. In the past 20 years she worked as a dance teacher and choreographer for Dance Loft and as Dance Director and Choreographer for the Long Beach Children’s Theater Workshop.She currently works within the Special Education Department of Long Beach City Schools as a certified teaching assistant where she also worked as choreographer for the musical productions in LB High School, Color Guard Director and choreographer for the LB High School Marching Band, choreographer for the Newsday Marching Band Festival and parades for Columbus Day and Memorial Day.
Leigh Rynecki, Music
Leigh Rynecki currently teaches music classes and lessons at TAPA. She graduated with her Bachelor of Music degree from SUNY Fredonia, and received a Master of Arts in Music and Music Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has taught in communities such as Buffalo, Harlem, and Jamaica, and is starting a new job teaching music at Lindell Elementary School in Long Beach, NY. Leigh loves riding her bicycle on the Long Beach Boardwalk, and jamming out on the ukulele.
Adjunct TAPA Faculty
Tatum J. Brogan
Tatum is a Licensed Creative Arts Therapist in the state of New York with a master’s degree in Dance/Movement Therapy. She has been teaching and performing dance and theater for many years.
Tatum has been practicing dance/movement therapy for the past 7 years with a broad range of populations including children, adolescents and adults.
Tatum is so excited to be a part of TAPA where she will continue her journey as a creative healer by bringing movement, art and mindfulness to your exceptional children.
Sidiki Conde, African Dance and Drumming
Sidiki Conde is a guest artist at the Theresa Academy. He has joined us at Summer Camp and teaches drumming and African dance to the students and faculty. You can read all about the great work he does here: http://www.sidikiconde.com/SIDIKI/SIDIKI/HOME.html
Lisa Dennet, Drama
A born and bred New Yorker, Lisa has always been drawn to the arts. She has loved the theater since she was a girl and spent a semester of her senior year in high school interning with an off-Broadway theater and arts center. She has studied art from drawing to painting, continues to take dance classes and recently returned to singing, her first love. Favorite roles include Sarah in Company and Emma Goldman in Ragtime. She loves ensemble work and improvisation and has been enjoying doing more on-camera work.
Lisa is passionate about advocating for all kids having creative arts experiences. She is the founder/executive director of Interactive Drama for Education and Awareness in the Schools (I.D.E.A.S.) which brings improvisation-based programs to youth with disabilities and disadvantaged youth. www.IDEASDrama.org Lisa also firmly believes that the child inside of all of us should live long and play forever.
A certified American Sign Language interpreter, between performances, readings and workshops Lisa continues to interpret in a variety of settings and often works with Deaf youth. In her spare time she enjoys baking, white water rafting and cycling to raise money for charities. She lives with her husband and cat Squeak Pea.
Amy has been sharing her love of dance with students of all ages for the last 20 years, most recently as an artist in residence for the Port Jefferson school district and at the Stewart School in Garden City.
Amy’s latest accomplishment is her recently sold out show “Come on-a My House – The Songs of Rosemary Clooney”. She is also the driving force behind Midtown Productions which produces world class entertainment for corporate and private events, seminars and workshops for theatre professionals and future professionals alike. She graduated Magna cum Laude from Fordham University.
Sara Eisenberg, Yoga
Sara Eisenberg was born and raised in Lido Beach, New York. She presently studies Special Education at Adelphi University. Sara became interested in yoga when she was away at school in upstate New York. Discovering that the practice of yoga not only makes the body more flexible and strong, it also benefits the mind and concentration. Sara decided that teaching yoga to children at an early age would be beneficial to their physical and mental growth.
Sara became certified as a Yoga instructor by Karma Kids Yoga in New York City. Her love and passion for yoga and early childhood teaching is exemplified in her playful and mindful kid’s classes. Sara is very thankful for all that she has learned from her teachers and hopes to spread the wonderful practice of yoga to children so they can use these powerful skills throughout their life.
“ Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer that you “ ~Dr. Suess
Keyla Hiraldo, Dance
Miss Keyla was our very first college intern at TAPA! After graduating with a degree in Dance Education from Hofstra University, she began her teaching career as the Dance Education specialist at PS-372(“The Children’s School”) in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Keyla has taught at TAPA respite, workshops and summer camp. She is currently completing her Masters in Dance Ed. at Hunter College.
Debi Holmes-Mucci, Dance
Debi Holmes-Mucci has been teaching dance and theater to children and adults for many years.
Currently relocated to Long Beach , Debi holds a degree in Dance Movement Therapy, has trained as a dancer with choreography greats such as Twyla Tharp and Merce Cunningham and is an Interpreter for the Deaf. She has owned and managed her own dance school in East Hampton,”100 Miles Off- Broadway” and worked as an Arts enrichment teacher for 12 years at a Charter School built for Special Needs children, The Child Development Center of the Hamptons.
Debi is happy to be part of TAPA where she will continue to enjoy teaching the arts she loves – dance, drama and sign language to the wonderful children here.
Priscilla Velazquez, Dance
In August of 2010 Priscilla began training in pre-professional ballet and modern dance at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. Priscilla was the President of T’DAA, Teaching Dance As Art, a student chapter of the National Dance Educators Organization (NDEO,) a dance education organization at Hofstra University. As President, Priscilla attended the 2012 and 2013 National Dance Educators Conferences in Los Angeles, California and Miami, Florida. Ms. Velazquez is a Class 2014 graduate, with a B.S. in Dance Education and a double minor in Psychology and Disability Studies.