Our Staff

Dance World Academy employs teachers of only the highest caliber and dedication who share owner Donna Farinella’s vision of excellence in the classroom. Under Miss Farinella’s direction, the staff spend hours and hours in the dance studio motivating and encouraging students to be “the very best they can be and not settling for less.”

Donna Farinella (Owner-Director of Dance World Academy)

ENTHUSIASM - ENERGY - CREATIVITY - MOTIVATION can certainly be used to describe Donna Farinella’s unique approach to dance teaching. She holds a B.A degree in dance from Douglass College of Rutgers University. She is one of the most accomplished dance educators in America and an exceptional spokesperson. A cover story on Ms. Farinella appeared in the August 2006 issue of Dancer Magazine, a nationally published and widely respected dance magazine. An interview with Ms. Farinella also appeared in the American Diary portion of the Royal Academy of Dance Gazette, a world wide publication detailing the activities of the Royal Academy of Dance Programs. Ms. Farinella has been teaching dance since the age of thirteen when after each of her own dance classes she would run home, gather up the neighborhood children and conduct lessons in her backyard. As a teacher, choreographer, and director, she strives for excellence in everything she does. She employs teachers of only the highest caliber and dedication who share her vision of excellence in the classroom. Under her direction, she and her staff spend hours and hours in the dance studio motivating and encouraging students to be “the very best they can be and not settling for less.” This has earned Dance World Academy students a national reputation for dancing with nearly flawless precision, exciting energy, outstanding technique and radiant enthusiastic faces. Her students have received thousands of awards in the most prestigious competitions in our country today. In 2006, she took 13 award winning Dance Company members to St. Petersburg and Moscow, Russia for a ten day Performance and Study tour to promote cultural exchange and friendship. This past September, Dance World Academy represented the United States at an International Cultural Festival in Shanghai, China. Ms. Farinella has taught, judged and lectured at workshops and dance competitions throughout the United States, most notably for Dance Educators and Dance Masters of America, the two top dance teacher organizations in the United States. Her students have performed and won on the Nationally televised STAR SEARCH, the “American Idol” of its’ day. They have performed for former President Reagan during his presidency, appeared on television on Dancing With The Stars, Ellen, Good Morning America, CSI:NY, Cold Case, The Today Show, The Rosie O’Donnell Show, The Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Midday Live, What’s Up Dr. Ruth?, Nickelodeon’s Don’t Just Sit There, and danced on the soap opera The Guiding Light. They were also invited to perform in Tap Dance Extravaganza at Town Hall in New York City to help celebrate National Tap Dance Day with some of the World’s Greatest Tap Dancers. They have performed or are currently performing professionally in Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach, at Radio City Music Hall, in theme parks which include Opryland, Hershey Park, Busch Gardens, Disneyland and Disney World, Tokyo Disney, at the Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey and countless other regional theaters, on cruise ships, in National Touring Companies and on Broadway in “Wicked,” “42nd St,” “Fosse,” “Contact,” “Footloose,” “Annie,” “Les Miserables,” “Sweet Charity,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Cats,” “The King and I,” “How To Succeed In Business,” “Chicago,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” and “Aida.” Dance World Academy alumnae, Christopher Gatelli, has choreographed numerous Broadway and off-Broadway shows including South Pacific,” “Thirteen,” “Batboy: The Musical,” “Altar Boyz” and “tick, tick … BOOM!” Miss Farinella’s students can be seen in entertainment and artistic venues all over the world. They also have been accepted into the most respected college dance programs in the United States, including New York University, many on full and partial scholarships because of their excellent dance training.
Aside from directing and encouraging her caring teaching staff, Ms. Farinella continues to teach and choreograph at Dance World Academy full time. Her innate creativity has led to the birth of the clever gimmicks, themes, costumes and production numbers that you will see in this performance. This past year, Miss Farinella and the Dance World Academy faculty were hired by the Passaic Board of Education to teach a talented and gifted dance program for the city’s 2nd graders.

Ms. Farinella’s philosophy is that “When you strive for excellence, you can be proud of your accomplishments. You can’t fool kids. Kids know when someone really cares about what they’re doing. They respect the fact that you want them to learn and they respond.”

She is extremely proud that Dance World Academy was named one of the best dance studios in the country by Dancer National Magazine and that she was named “Dance Teacher of the Year” in 2003 by the Dance Educators of America at their National banquet in New York City. Dance World Academy was also named one of the 50 dance studios to watch by Dance Spirit Magazine.

Ms. Farinella continues to bring top New York City teachers into the Dance World Academy classrooms. She is a registered Royal Academy of Dancing Ballet Syllabus teacher (one of the most prestigious and influential ballet programs in the world) and also holds memberships in




Debra J. Wolter (Chief Executive Dance Teacher)

Debra is originally from Chesterland, Ohio where she obtained her B.S.B.A. from John Carroll University. Starting at the age of two and a half, she trained in ballet, tap, and jazz in Cleveland, Ohio and in New York City. Debbie began teaching in her home at 16 years of age. A chance meeting at a dance convention in Florida brought this very talented teacher together with our Director, Donna Farinella, who immediately offered Debbie a teaching position at Dance World Academy. For the past twenty three years, Donna and Debbie have worked side by side, creating incredible nationally award winning dances that have earned Dance World Academy a place among the best dance studios in the United States. Dance teachers nationwide envy their friendship, bond and unique ability to collaborate. It is this bond that has enabled them to produce National Dance Champions and Broadway professionals. Debbie currently teaches students from beginners through advanced. Her students love her never-ending energy, wit and passion for dance. Her dedication and commitment to dance, and to her students, exemplifies the Dance World Academy philosophy of excellence in the classroom. Debbie loves to learn and stays current by continuing to study dance with a wide range of dance teachers in New York City

Josette McWilliams (Executive Dance Teacher)

Josette began as a student of Dance World Academy at age five and studied dance under the Direction of Donna Farinella and her dedicated staff until she was eighteen years old. During that time, she received numerous awards both as a soloist and group dancer with the Dance World Academy Dance Company.  She was also chosen as a tap dance performer on the original, nationally televised Star Search starring Ed McMahon.  While earning a degree as a medical assistant, Josette began teaching at Dance World Academy part time has been inspiring students for the last sixteen years.  She has choreographed many of our award winning Small Fry and Junior tap dances for our Dance Company.  Besides teaching dance, Josette also works as a full time Billing Manager for the Xerox Corporation and is the proud mother of twelve-year-old Janiya, who also loves to dance and is currently a member of our Dance Company.

Kathy Portello (Executive Dance Teacher)

Kathy has been affiliated with Dance World Academy since the day it opened its doors in 1978, first as a student, then as assistant to Ms. Farinella and eventually as a full time dance teacher. She loves working with students of all ages and is especially gifted at working with beginners. Kathy is excellent at promoting student's self esteem by encouraging them with a "you can do it" attitude. Kathy's warm smile and sense of humor make her a favorite with students. She has been teaching at Dance World Academy for the last 30 years and is the proud mother of her grown son, Peter.

Marie Arellano (Dance Teacher)

Marie Arellano was a student at Dance World Academy for 13 years.  Marie competed in groups and as a soloist with the Dance World Academy Company. She also worked as an assistant teacher during her years of study at DWA. Marie continued to dance in college as a member and captain of the Rutgers Dance Team at Rutgers University in New Brunswick where she  received her B.A. in Psychology with a focus on Child Development.  After graduation, Marie traveled with the National Dance Alliance as a Dance Instructor at camps for high school and collegiate dance teams around the country.Recently, as a member of the NBA Fan Patrol,Marie has performed at the NBA All-Star games, FIBA games in Las Vegas and WNBA All-Star games in D.C. Marie has also also performed overseas in Asia, for the China Games and Korea’s Vita500 games in 2006, and in the Europe Live Tour in Germany, France and Italy. Marie currently works  in the Passaic Public School District as a Preschool teacher.  She is currently studying at Montclair State University for her Masters in Teaching.  Marie  teaches classes at Dance World Academy when her time allows and works with our Dance Company on a regular basis.

Stephanie Colangelo (Dance Teacher)

Stephanie is a dynamic dancer and teacher. While dancing at Dance World Academy for thirteen years, Stephanie was a champion dancer who received hundreds of awards and dance titles in both regional and national competitions as a group dancer and as a soloist. Her incredible energy, beautiful smile, and outstanding technique made her a favorite with judges and audiences throughout the country. Before graduating from Dance World Academy, Stephanie performed in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, Russia with thirteen of the Dance World Academy Dance Company members during a ten day performance tour. Stephanie now attends Montclair State University and is working toward her B.F.A. degree in dance and education. She just returned not too long ago as a dancer  in the production shows of  cruise ships in the Hawaiian Islands.  Last year, she protrayed Princess Ariel in our Parent and Me "Dance With a Princess" program.  Stephanie has assisted our Director, Donna Farinella in the Royal Academy of Dancing program and has taught her own jazz classes for the past several years. She enjoys sharing her love of dance with children and teenagers!

Lisa Germain (Dance Teacher)

Lisa was a student of Dance World Academy and became a Dance World Academy assistant teacher from the age of thirteen until she graduated from High School. Lisa was also a member of our award winning Dance Company. After graduating from High School ,Lisa knew that she wanted to teach dance and share her passion for dance with children. She is now a member of the Dance World Academy faculty teaching the preschool and child combo levels . Lisa teaches all of her classes with enthusiasm, warmth,energy and a smile !   In May of 2010, Lisa will graduate from Montclair State University with a BS in Math. She then plans to continue her education and work towards teacher certification. An extremely hard worker, Lisa's classes are both fun filled and  educational for the young dancer!

Christopher Hale (Dance Teacher)

Chris Hale’s professional credits include KTU's miracle on 34th Street where he performed with such recording artists as Mary J. Blige, Deborah Cox, Tamia, Gloria Gaynor, and Michael Jackson. In 2002 he got the pleasure of performing with international singing sensation Anastasia at the FIFA World Cup Final Draw in Busan, Korea. Television credits include HBO's "Sex and the City" playing opposite Kim Catrall. He continues to teach and choreograph for many private studios and companies here and abroad. Along with fellow instructor Calen Kurka, released an instructional video for the Live At BDC series entitled, “Floorwork, with Calen Kurka and Chris Hale”. As a choreographer he continues to create work that pushes the boundaries of contemporary dance and hopefully bring it to the mainstream in a way that is accessible to everyone. As associate director of :pushing progress Chris will take on his biggest endeavor yet as Director of the new :pushing progress contemporary training program in the fall of 2009.

Christy Ahn (Dance Teacher)

Distinguished by her energetic and creative approach, Christy Ahn imparts with her students the energy and inspiration to achieve their best potentials. Her dedication to dance and teaching dance has been a powerful tool for her achievements. Christy holds an Master of Arts in dance from York University and is a graduate from Canada's National Ballet School Teacher Training Program, both in Toronto, Canada. She is accredited by the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) and the Imperial Society of Dance (AISD) in national dance. she has successfully achieved high levels in RAD (Advanced II) which gives her Associate Status (ARAD), Cecchetti (Advanced I) and National Dance. (Advanced II). Christy received her early dance training with Vaganova method in Seoul, Korea. Having a knowledge of the various ballet teaching methods(Vaganova, RAD and Cecchetti) enables her to create a solid technique class for her students. She recently obtained her Pilates Mat-Work Certification from Power Pliates in NYC and continues developing her skills as a teacher. In 2009 she attended the American Ballet Theatre National Teachers Training Curriculum Program and got Certified in Primary through level 3. Christy teaches all levels of ballet. She has been teaching in various dance schools in Korea, Canada, and USA since 1993 and is passionate about her career. She continues to pass on her knowledge, to choreograph for dance competitions and to prepare students for dance exams.

Jocelyn Pabellon (Dance Teacher)

Jocelyn PabellonJocelyn Pabellon graduated from Dance World Academy in 2005. She danced with us for thirteen years before beginning her career as a teacher. During her years as a student, she was a member of the Dance World Academy Dance Company where she performed both as a group dancer and as a soloist. She was a high score winner in dance competitions throughout the country. Jocelyn has just graduated from Bergen Community College.She enjoys teaching both young children and teenagers at Dance World Academy. Her patience and gentle manner make her a favorite with our youngest pupils. In addition to teaching, Jocelyn also enjoys designing dance costumes. Last year our soloists wore several of her original designs. Our Dance Company also wore t-shirts in China that were designed by Jocelyn.

Mary Sanborn (Dance Teacher)

Mary Sanborn is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of William Paterson University. Mary has studied dance since childhood and was a part of a competitive dance team and was a Tap dance soloist.  Mary tap danced in the internationally televised ceremony for the Statue of Liberty Centennial.  She became a student at Dance World Academy as a young adult. Our Director, Donna Farinella quickly recognized the enthusiasm and leadership abilities that Mary demonstrated in the dance classroom, and encouraged Mary to begin teaching classes at Dance World Academy. Mary fell in love with dance teaching and has enjoyed working with children and teenagers at Dance World Academy for the past 21 years. Besides teaching dance, Mary also works as a Financial Analyst for one of the Big Four. She is a mother to Alyssa, age 16, who is a soloist and member of the Dance World Academy Dance Company. Her son Ryan, age 10 also dances and is a member of the Dance World Academy Dance Company. Mary, a motivated and ambitious person, is an excellent role model for her students. She uses positive praise to bring out the very best in each of her classes.  Mary also shares her talents with her church youth groups, teaching song and choreography to children from 3 years old thru high school. She also sings every year at the Christmas Cantana with her church's choir and orchestra.

Rebecca Shaw (Dance Teacher)

Ms. Shaw loves teaching and has been teaching for over 30 years.  She believes that every student can learn when given the right tools.  Ms. Shaw grew up in Brooklyn, NY and trained with many fine ballet teachers, including Wilson Morelli, Anna Youskevitch, Vladimir Doukodovsky,  and Donald Farnworth. Rebecca earned a B.S. in Dance from the Brooklyn College School of Performing Arts and went on to dance with several modern and ballet companies, including Dance, June Lewis and Company, (modern dance) and the East-West Ballet Company (ballet).  She was the choreographer and artistic director of her own Collaborations Dance Company for 3 years, and artist-in-residence for New Jersey Music & Arts for almost 4 years.  Ms. Shaw was awarded a special citation from the NJ State Senate for her dance work with NJ Music & Arts promoting beauty in diversity.  Rebecca is starting her third year teaching for Dance World Academy and is looking forward to another happy and productive year.

Natalie Ward (Dance Teacher)

Yessenia Ledesma (Dance Teacher)

Kimberly P. Jeter (Singing, Piano, and Guitar Teacher)

Kimberly is a graduate of the State University of New York College at Fredonia. She holds a Bachelor of Music Degree. She has accompanied festival chorus, church choirs, musicals, vocalists and instrumentalists. She has performed in piano recitals, jazz ensembles, chorus, band and vocal recitals as well as in church services. She has instructed piano since her college graduation in May of 1998 and has directed several church choirs in New York and in the North Jersey area. Students enjoy her gentle approach and encouraging manner. She has been an instructor at Dance World Academy for the past eight years.

Paul Weiner (Singing and Piano Teacher)

Paul is an accomplished pianist of 24 years. He studied voice and piano at the Westminster Choir College and soon obtained a position of Music Director at St. Nicholas Church in Jersey City. He has been involved in several productions at Pascack Hills High School as an accompanist and vocal coach for such productions as "Oklahoma" and "Once Upon a Mattress." In addition to his wonderful work with the students at Dance World Academy, Paul also works as Music Director for St. John's in Jersey City.

Valerie Henry (Chief Executive Office Manager)

Valerie manages and oversees the daily operations in both our Clifton and Passaic Park offices. She is an organized and detail oriented person who brings her years of training in the corporate world to the offices of our dance schools. Valerie has a BA degree in BusinessAdministration/Communications from Ramapo College of New Jersey and she is close to receiving her Masters degree in Accounting from the University of Phoenix. She worked at Medco Health Solutions until 2006 as a Financial Analyst until she decided a change in her career was needed where she decided to come to Dance World Academy's as Chief Executive Office Manager in 2006. She has three children.  David is a member of our Dance Company and an award winning soloist. Valerie's oldest daughter lives in Georgia/ Spain with her husband and two children.  Her middle child, Carliah ,is a Dance World Academy graduate who is now in college studying communication and education. Valerie's love of dance and financial expertise make her a natural for our Chief Executive Office Manager position. Being a dance parent herself, Valerie understands the concerns of the parents of our students and is always willing to listen to them and explain our policies. She has a wonderful dispostion and a very pleasant personality.

Brenda Livardo (Office Manager of our Passaic Park Location)

Brenda has been at Dance World Academy for the past fifteen years, first as a receptionist and then as our Office Manager for our Passaic Park school.She brings to our office, 14 years of experience in banking and accounting. She currently works during the day as a paraeducator, working with disabled children, a job she has enjoyed for the last ten years. Her business knowledge and love of children, make her an ideal Office Manager. Brenda is also the mother of three daughters, all of whom have attended Dance World Academy and have participated in our Dance Company both as group dancers and as soloists. Her oldest daughter, Jaime, is now on faculty. Brenda has a warm personality and is excellent in answering the parents' questions. She is also very creative and is responsible for the lovely decorated bulletin boards that you will see in our waiting areas.

Doreen Sitar (Office Manager of our Passaic Park Location)

Doreen joins Brenda in jointly managing our Passaic Park school.Doreen has previously worked in various retail businesses and was a pre-school teacher for over twelve years.Doreen is the mother of two children. Her son Jonathan is a musician with the band "Dive" and her daughter, Jaclyn, currently a college student, danced at Dance World Academy for fifteen years. Jaclyn was a soloist in our Dance Company. Doreen loves children and loves dance, making her an enthusiastic and caring Office Manager. She is very patient and is excellent in communicating with students and parents. Besides working at Dance World Academy,Doreen has currently fulfilled a life long dream and opened her own small card and gift boutique which is located in Nutley. It is called Prints Charming and is a great place to visit for many of your shopping needs!


Kathy CapobiancoGladys DejesusMarta FernandezNaty Padierna           
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