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The DanceWorks staff is professional, dedicated, nurturing, fun-loving and creative.  Their combined dance and instruction experience is unparalleled.  Read up on their bios!

meet your instructors

of Mercer county


Karen Martin (Ballet, Pointe, Lyrical, Tap, Jazz, Pre-School)

Karen was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she began her dance training and career, performing in operas and local stage productions. Her dance training extends from Milwaukee to Chicago to New York. She has studied with the Milwaukee Ballet Company, Ann Barzel in Chicago and dance masters Phil Black, Charles Kelly and Luigi, along with taking numerous classes at Broadway Dance Center & Steps in New York. Having a long history of performing on stage and screen, Karen has worked with choreographers such as Bob Fosse, Tommy Tune and Tad Tadlock. Her film credits include “Hair” and “Voices” with Amy Irving and Michael Ontkean, plus many industrial films and commercials. Karen has also performed on stage with Jerry Lewis and Lynn Redgrave in “Hellzapoppin’”, along with John Davidson, Doc Severinson, Billy Crystal and other celebrities in shows and nightclub acts across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Bahamas. Karen has been a choreographer for local school productions at South Hunterdon Regional High School and has choreographed past productions at Hopewell Valley Central High School. She has also choreographed band front routines for South Hunterdon and has participated in several dance workshops at other schools in the region. 

Before starting DanceWorks , Karen taught dance at a local studio for 18 years and was their assistant director. Aside from all of the dancing, Karen is owner and director of Bodyworks, an aerobic and exercise program that has been in existence for over 30 years. She continues to teach fitness for senior citizens. Finally, Karen has also danced on a professional level with the Roxey Ballet Company. She has been in their performances of “Cinderella”, “The Pied Piper” and “The Nutcracker”.

Jessica Schmalz (Ballet, Pointe, Pre-School)

Jessica started her dance training at the Princeton Ballet School in Princeton NJ.  She trained there for 10 years studying ballet, stage make-up and performance skills.  She performed in various school productions including "Alice in Wonderland", "Sleeping Beauty" and "Cinderella".  Jessica was a member of their Junior Company, Princeton Ballet II and performed with their principal company in "The Nutcracker".  She also studied at Ballet Technique in Hamilton, NJ immeditely becoming a member of "Hamilton Ballet Theatre" starting in the corps and working her way to soloist.  She danced in the annual production of "A Christmas Surprise" and "Nutcracker Excerpts".

Jessica has worked with choreographers Lisa Twamly, Jane Miller Gifford and Oleg Briansky, who choreographed a portion of his full length ballet "A Little Thief".  Other performances include excerpts from "The Blue Danube", "Classical Symphony" and the "Tchaikovsky Suite".  Jessica has been teaching ballet to all age groups since 1997.  She has also studied Pilates under the direction of Anthony Rabara in Princeton.

Kimberly O'Boyle (Jazz, Lyrical, Tap, Ballet, Pre-School)

Kim earned her Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education with a minor in Dance from Montclair State University.  While attending Montclair, she studied ballet and modern dance with Lynne Grossman, Linda Roberts, Lisa Grimes, Nicole Smith, Dan Muellar and members of Freespace Dance Company and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.  Kim has also studied in New Yor City at Broadway Dance Center and Peridance Center, taking classes from Finis Jhung, Michelle Barber and Elizabeth Parkinson.

Kim studied ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, lyrical and hip hop for over 15 years under the direction of Karen Martin and Suzie Schnoor.  As a student at DanceWorks , Kim was a teaching assistant for beginner ballet, tap and jazz classes.  She has also taught dance and performing arts at the Princeton University and Princeton YWCA summer programs.  Kim has performed in many community events including Pennington Day and the Boscov's Thanksgiving Day Parade as a member of "FanTAPulous".  She has also choreographed and performed in productions of "Bye, Bye Birdie", "Barnum", "Into the Woods" and "Fiddler on the Roof".  Kim currently teaches kindergarten in the Lawrenceville School District.

Gina Bartolino (Contemporary, Ballet, Jazz, Lyrical, Tap)

Gina studied ballet, jazz, pointe, lyrical, hip-hop, jazz funk, and modern under the direction of Karen Martin and various DanceWorks faculty members for 15 years.  While a DanceWorks student, she was a teaching assistant for Beginner and Intermediate jazz and hip-hop classes. Gina has performed, taught, and choreographed for local productions of "Cinderella", "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", "How to Success in Business Without Really Trying", and "Mulan".

Gina graduated from Georgian Court University in December 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance Education.  While there, she studied ballet, jazz, and modern under the direction of Silvana Cardell, William Robinson, Amanda Lenox, Caitlin Quinn-Pittenger, Erin Bonczek, Zackary Svoboda, and Lesya Popil.  In addition to her studies at the University, Gina has taken master classes with professional artists Merian Soto, Myra Bazele, Toni Rizzi, and Beau Hancock.  She has also performed with Mix Grille for Philly PARD in Philadelphia.  Aside from inspiring students with her love of dance, Gina works in the Administration Office of the Mercer County Library System. She is   extremely pleased to be a part of the faculty of DanceWorks!

Christie Brayton (Jazz, Lyrical, Ballet, Contemporary)

Christie Brayton has been involved in the world of dance for 26 years and musical theater performance for 17. She served as the President of the Junior board of Directors for the Pennsylvania Theater of Performing Arts and was later voted to the Board of Directors. She has directed numerous children's productions and choreographed such shows as Seussical and Bye, Bye Birdie. She spent much of her teenage years performing such roles as Rosie (Bye, Bye Birdie), Maria (West Side Story) and Peggy (42nd Street). She has performed at the Bucks County Playhouse and Bucks County Dinner Theater, as well as headlining her own cabaret
show with her band, Christie and the Hep Cats.

Most recently, Christie has worked as a dance teacher, choreographer and theater director for local New Jersey studios, instructing in jazz, ballet, lyrical, contemporary, pre-school and musical theater. Christie is also a dance competition judge and has critiqued most recently for Talent Explosion. She is very excited to be a part of the DanceWorks family!

Emily Brown (Hip Hop, Ballet, Jazz, Lyrical, Tap)

Emily started dancing ballet at the age of 4 under the direction of Karen Martin. Since then she has been in love with dancing. For 14 years Emily continued her dance education in Ballet, Jazz, Hip Hop and Tap under several different instructors at DanceWorks including Karen Martin and Jessica Schmalz. During that time she performed as a dancer in musical theatre productions including "Anything Goes", "Aida", "Les Miserables". "Beauty and the Beast", "Suessical" and "Crazy For You", where she was also a dance captain. She also worked as a Teacher Assistant at DanceWorks for 2 years. In 2012, Emily graduated from DanceWorks and moved on to study Special Education and iSTEM at The College of New Jersey. There she danced with the school's competitive dance team for 2 years, performed at all sporting events and participated in two Universal Dance Association national championships. 

Emily is so honored to be a part of the DanceWorks faculty and help young students find their love for dance!

Nicole Sanca (Hip Hop, Ballet, Pointe, Lyrical, Jazz, Tap)

Nicole began dancing at the age of two at a local studio in her Connecticut hometown. She continued to study dance in high school at ACES Educational Center for the Arts and went on to earn her bachelor's degree in Justice Studies with a minor in dance from Montclair State University. Her training includes, but not limited to, ballet, pointe, tap, modern, lyrical, jazz and hip hop. She participated in the Disney College Program and remained seasonal with the Walt Disney World Company in Orlando, FL for three additional years. While there, she continued her dance training at Orlando Ballet. She has also traveled to Italy with Broadway Dance Center's World Dance Movement International Workshop where she worked with artists including Desmond Richardson and Michele Assaf. Nicole is recently a former member of the Bearfoot Dancers Major League Dance Team which participated in the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show starring Bruno Mars.

Nicole has a singing and acting background as well.  As a member of the Elm City Girls' Choir, she toured in Europe and joined Diana Ross at the final match of the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament. With community theaters, she has played roles in "Damn Yankees", "The Boyfriend", "Anything Goes", "Guys and Dolls" and has choreographed other productions including "The Wiz". Before Nicole puts on her dancing shoes to come to class, she works for a branch of the Public Defender's Office. She cannot wait to share her love and knowledge of dance with the students at DanceWorks!

Amy Coyle (Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Lyrical, Modern, Pre-School)​                                                                                                              Amy earned her Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and Literacy Studies with minors in Special Education and Dance from Rowan University. While attending Rowan, she studied ballet, jazz and modern dance with Leslie Elkins, Henry Roy, Paule Turner, Beau Hancock and Larysa Columbo. She also performed in dance showcases at the end of her junior & senior years at Rowan University's Tohill Theatre. Before college, Amy studied ballet, pointe, tap, jazz and lyrical for 15 years under the direction of Karen Martin and various DanceWorks staff. While a student at DanceWorks, Amy was an assistant for various beginner and intermediate ballet, tap and jazz classes. She was also a choreographer for various musical productions at Lawrenceville High School including "South Pacific", "Xanadu" and "Oklahoma". 

Amy is currently a fifth grade teacher in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District. She is very excited to be a teacher at the wonderful studio where she learned to dance!

Ashlee Knecht (Ballet, Tap, Lyrical, Jazz, Hip Hop, Pre-School)                                                                           Ashlee is a third generation dancer, teacher and choreographer. Growing up she trained at her family's dance studio in ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, hip hop and acrobatics. At the age of 6 she began competing regionally and nationally as a soloist and a team member. After graduating from Neshaminy High School, Ashlee moved to New York to study Commercial Dance at Pace University. Ashlee is a member of Broadway Dance Center's Professional Semester 2017 and has completed Dance Masters of America's Teacher Training School. This will be Ashlee's first year with DanceWorks and she couldn't be more thrilled.