Our Strong Staff
Our Strong Staff
Sarah Cashmore has been dancing for over 25 years. Originally from San Diego, she danced for several local studios learning ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, musical theatre dance, and co-ed dance/drill team. She competed & performed regularly from age 8 to her high school graduation. After high school she attended San Jose State University where she expanded her dance scope focusing on modern, jazz, and musical theatre. She also studied choreography and received four department awards and scholarships.
Sarah received her B.A. in Dance in 2004 with a minor in Kinesiology, and began professional work in the bay area. Performing for Paramount’s Great America, as well as for the San Jose Stealth (professional lacrosse team) dance team. In 2006 she moved to Los Angeles to continue her professional career, and stumbled upon Egyptian Cabaret belly dance. She soon was invited to join a top professional company in the area, Layla & the Lotus Dancers. There she trained and performed on a weekly basis at high end private parties and events, Middle Eastern restaurants, professional concerts with Middle Eastern artists, and competed in several belly dance competitions.
In 2008 she began working toward a higher degree, receiving her M.F.A in Dance from the University of California, Irvine in 2010. She researched and completed a written thesis, entitled “Career Transitions for Dancers”. While at UCI Sarah studied Jazz privately with Sheron Wray, learning the Matt Mattox Jazz technique. She was a teaching assistant for several theory courses such as Dance History & Labanotation. She also taught Jazz & Ballet.
Currently she teaches, choreographs, and helps directs concerts at California State University Dominguez Hills, Fullerton College, and Strong Dance Studios. Her teaching experience includes Middle Eastern dance, ballet, tap, jazz, dance conditioning, dance for theatre, and dance technique. She also lectures college level courses, such as Multicultural Dance in the U.S. Today, Dance History, and Dance Perceptions/Appreciation. She is a current member of Delineation Dance Company, founded by Lisa Anderson and Devin Smith. More recently Sarah was voted onto the Board of Directors for the American College Dance Association (ACDA) Baja region.
Sarah was the founder and creator of the Bellydance and Tap programs at Strong Studios.
Kayla Montgomery began dancing at the age of four & is originally from San Francisco where she studied ballet with Jayne Zaban at Dance Arts Center. Kayla graduated with high honors in May, 2010 with a B.A. in Dance Performance and Instruction from CSULB. She began her professional performance career 6 years ago with Backhausdance, a modern dance company. She also danced as company member of Lorin Johnson’s contemporary ballet company Body Current Dance & as company member, rehearsal director & soloist of Jessica Kondrath/THE MOVEMENT, a contemporary ballet/modern dance company. Kayla is a classical & contemporary ballet instructor & is currently Ballet Mistress of Strong Studios.
Esther Jung began dancing at the age of seven at The Dance Spot where she studied ballet, pointe, jazz, lyrical and tap. While at The Dance Spot, she won numerous awards at regional and national dance competitions. Esther has also attended the Southland Ballet Academy. In addition, she trained in ballet, pointe, modern, choreography and composition, pilates, and costume design at OCHSA. After graduating from OCHSA, she attended Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle where she studied ballet, pointe, modern, Martha Graham technique, and choreography composition. She is currently at Cypress College completing her G.E to transfer to a four year university. She is also dancing with Delineation Dance Company performing in LA/OC area. Esther is highly motivated, enthusiastic, and believes in pushing her students to reach their fullest potential.
Nicole Loken (Miss Nickel) has been performing for “audiences” since she could walk. She started dancing around the age of 5 in actual classes and even though sports took over as far as other activities go, she has never stopped. Musical Theatre came into her life on a more serious level at the age of 12 and in Jr High she took on her first “big role” as Veruka Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. She continued theatre all throughout high school and starred in quite a few productions such as, Sleepy Hollow, The Breakfast Club and The Wizard of Oz to name a few. While majoring in musical theatre at Fullerton and Cypress College, she performed in Les Miserables, and Sweeney Todd and was also apart of the theatre programs at both campuses and performed in numerous plays and at theatre festivals.
She is currently in the process of completing her B.A./Single Subject Credential in English at National University and plans to be a Jr High or High School English/Theatre teacher once that is completed. She is currently a Jr. High Special Education instructor and loves it! She and her daughter Brooklyn have been apart of the Strong Dance Studios family for the past eight years and if you can’t find them at the studio (which is rare), you can find them at Disneyland or at the beach with their dog Pyper.
Mr. Victor has danced all his life at family gatherings and always wanted to dance professionally. He has studied different styles of dance including jazz, ballet, modern, musical theatre dance, contemporary, African, and Brazilian. Victor has taken dance at numerous community colleges in the area. He had the opportunity to attend the American College Dance Association (ACDA) for two years in a row and performed at the Gala representing Fullerton College in a piece choreograph by Lisa M. Anderson. In Spring of 2013 Victor represented two different schools at ACDA as he worked with Holly Johnston, founder of Ledges and Bones, and with Melanie Kay Rosa, chair of the Fullerton College Dance Department. Victor has received his AA in Dance from Fullerton College.
Mr. Victor also had a pleasure to dance for two years with Vicious Circle, founded by Valerie Cabag and had the pleasure to return to the 2017-2018 season. He also had the pleasure dancing with Delineation Dance Company founded by Lisa M. Anderson and Devon Smith, which is a bi-coastal contemporary dance company based out of both LA and NYC for two years.
Mr. Victor transferred to the dance department of California State University of Fullerton (CSUF) where he expanded his knowledge in dance all due to his well respected mentors. Being a student at CSUF he found another part of dance he didn’t think he was going to enjoy, choreography. Víctor had the opportunity to represent CSUF at ACDA 2017 with his choreography and was chosen to be perform in the Gala. Víctor has graduated in May 2017 and received his BA in Dance. He has now had the opportunity to use his choreography skills with teaching at Strong since August 2017. He loves being able to use his skills to teach Afro, Jazz, Contemporary, Hip Hop and Ballet.
Stella Mckenzie fell in love with the art of Dance at the age of seven. By seventeen she had won three National Championships and was awarded the title “Dance Star” by the Universal Dance Association. She attended UCI and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in Social Ecology. After years of studying under world-renowned choreographers, she perfected many dance forms including Egyptian Belly Dance, Brazilian Samba, Fosse Jazz, and Balanchine Ballet. Her career has taken her all over the Nation and World. Starting in New York City, she trained and performed the Fosse style of Jazz with Broadway star Anne Reinking. She then became assistant choreographer to Jennifer Nairn-Smith and dancer for Akubra Contemporary Ballet Company in Los Angeles. Her early projects included choreographing HBO's “Pretty Things” and performing for Michael Jackson. She then toured the world with Imagine Nation and later landed a lead spot in the Vegas-Style revue for Sandcastle, Saipan in the Marianas Islands. Once back in LA, she Belly Danced with the award-winning company Layla and the Lotus Dancers for six years, appearing in numerous music videos with Persian Pop artists Mansour and Leila Forouhar. She then became a Las Vegas Showgirl at the world famous Rio Hotel and Casino. Finally, she launched her solo Belly Dance career and has been performing at weddings, events, and in various staged shows including “King King Folies” in Hollywood where she performs the Dance of the Seven Veils. Recently, she was a featured belly dancer at the Official Grammy Awards After-Party.
While performing has always been her passion, Stella considers the time she spends teaching children the most fulfilling part of her life. While pursuing a career in Dance, she was simultaneously an elementary school substitute teacher for Montebello and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. She taught bilingual and special education classes in inner city schools for seven years and has been teaching dance to children and teens for over fifteen years. Currently, she is the proud mother of two amazing boys ages 6 and 10 and is studying to become a Licensed Clinical Dance Movement Therapist.
Mayra Pedraza was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, where she started studying music and classical ballet at the age of three. She continued studying ballet taking the vocational graded exams for the Royal Academy of Dance of London reaching the Advanced 2 level while studying other styles like jazz, modern, and hip hop. During high school she was part of the Prepa Tec Dance Team, traveling to international dance competitions and was part of music and dance productions like Jam 6 Beatles and Voces de Broadway. She graduated from Golden West College with an A.A. degree in Dance in 2015, and is currently studying a B.A. in Theater Arts in Dance at CSU Dominguez Hills. She has danced with LA Unbound and Kenneth Walker Dance Project and also works as a stage manager for productions in SoCal.
Originally from Long Beach, California, Skylar began his formal ballet training at the age of fourteen under the artistic direction of Diane Lauridsen at the Lauridsen Ballet Centre in Torrance, California. Since 2004, Skylar has starred in many South Bay Ballet masterpieces including: Cinderella, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, as well as several roles in Charles Maples’ The Nutcracker – including the Nutcracker Prince.
Throughout his training Skylar has participated in many summer intensive dance programs with prestigious ballet schools across the country; most recently the River North Dance Chicago College/Pro Dance Intensive and Elite Choreographic Initiative. He was also selected as a performer at the 2010 International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi.
Skylar has set original works on South Bay Ballet and Utah Regional Ballet II that were selected to perform at RDA/P annual festivals. Over the years, Skylar has worked with renowned choreographers such as Jacqueline College, Heather Gray, Alan Hineline, Robert Kelley, Julie Shulman, Eva Stone and Kenneth Walker. He has also had the opportunity to work with Repetiteurs of the George Balanchine Trust.
Skylar graduated in 2012 with an associate degree in fine arts with an emphasis in dance from Long Beach City College under the direction and mentorship of Professor Stephanie Powell. Skylar’s aspirations of dancing with a professional ballet company came true in 2012 when he began his dancing career with Utah Regional Ballet. He has taught both classical and contemporary ballet classes at Strong Dance Studio over the past six years, as well as participated in several of Strong Dance Studio’s recitals.