unnamedEmily Czerniakowski, 
Co-founder/Managing Director

As co-founder and managing director, Emily Czerniakowski has been a member of the CaRu Entertainment team since the company’s inception in 2009. Emily brings an array of professional experiences in business, communications and performance to her behind-the-scenes work at CaRu.

Emily is the host for Wilhelmina Philadelphia and WMCN TV’s Philly Kids Got Talent. Previously, she was producer and host of Radio Disney Philadelphia’s The Backyard Show, a Sunday morning public affairs talk show for kids and families. She was also a live event host for Radio Disney emceeing events throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Emily started her TV and radio career in broadcasting as a national news correspondent for KLBK and KAMC in Lubbock, TX, a host for the Financial News Network Online and as an on-air contributor for the WBCB 1490 AM. She has lent her talents to numerous print advertisements including Tic Tac and Marriott and to countless TV commercials such as CONAIR and Boscov’s, and has walked to runway for brands like David’s Bridal and Betsey Johnson. In her first major film role, she played one of the lead characters in Red Wagon Film’s indie flick Carver.

Emily met Cassie Russo during their rookie year on the Philadelphia Wings Angels Dance Team for the National Lacrosse League. Emily performed with the Angels for three years where she was awarded “NLL Girl of the Week.” She also had the distinct honor of working under Cassie’s direction as a member of the 2012 Philadelphia Soulmates Dance Team.

As a professional dancer, Emily has performed on FOX10 Phoenix, The Early Show, Good Day Philadelphia and CBS’ Tailgate Takeover with Bob Kelly. She also had the opportunity to perform with country superstars Rascal Flatts on their “Bob that Head” concert tour. As a competitive figure skater, Emily was a guest NBC 10’s 10! Show and Good Day Philadelphia. With Cassie, Emily co-hosted a Comcast OnDemand series entitled Girls Night Out, profiling Philadelphia clubs, restaurants and clothing boutiques, and co-founded the Philadelphia Fight Vixens Dance Team – the second-ever dance team in the U.S. for the former American National Rugby League.

In her spare time, Emily enjoys serving as a faculty member and workshop leader at the National Youth Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. She also enjoyed being an instructor for Kathy Wickline Casting’s “So You Want to be a Model” youth summer camp series.

She received a Master of Science in Broadcast and Digital Journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Prior to her time at Syracuse, Emily obtained her B.A. in English/Theater Concentration and M.A. in Writing, both from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.


TaraHeadshotTara Madsen Robbins, Resident Master Teacher (Modern)

Tara Madsen Robbins is a professional dance artist based in Philadelphia. As a professional performer, she performed/toured with the modern company Tania Isaac Dance from 2006-2009. The company toured to Jacob’s Pillow, Bates Dance Festival and many other well known national venues. As a freelance choreographer, Tara has presented her original work internationally throughout Span, Guatemala, Italy, Greece and Scotland where her work received critical acclaim. Here in the States, she has presented her work throughout Philadelphia, New York City, Washington D.C., Louisville, Madison, Durham, Boston, Tulsa and Chicago. Tara has served as a Guest Artist at many colleges and universities including Bucknell University, Slippery Rock University, SUNY University at Buffalo, Northampton County College, Kutztown University, Montgomery County Community College, Amherst College and West Chester University. She is currently on faculty in the dance department at DeSales University where she has been teaching since 2007. Tara has been invited to teach master classes at conventions, camps, conservatories and private studios along the East Coast. She earned her M.F.A. in Performance and Choreography from Smith College where she received a full tuition waiver and teaching fellowship. She earned her B.A. from Slippery Rock University where she was recognized with the Lucy Isaaco Sack Scholarship and “The Outstanding Choreographer” Award in the Department of Dance.


Vance-Widell-Headshots_570x315-300x165Barette Vance Widell, Resident Master Teacher (Ballet)

Barette, a native of Laguna Hills, CA, began her dance training at age three at Saddleback Dance Center in California. In the following years, Ms. Widell had the opportunity to train with such notable teachers as Cynthia Gregory and Ann Marie D’Angelo. After attending The School of American Ballet summer program for two consecutive summers, in 1998 at the age of 14, she was offered a scholarship to attend the year-round program at SAB, where she trained for the next five years. During this time, she also completed summer programs on scholarship at Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Houston Ballet, and Miami City Ballet. While studying at The School of American Ballet, Mrs. Widell performed in choreography workshops and New York City Ballet lecture demonstrations, dancing principal roles in Stars and Stripes, Who Cares?, Rubies in Jewels, and Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux. She also performed principal roles in Teleman Overture Suite in E Minor, Ballo della Regina, Sleeping Beauty, Napoli, and The Flower Festival at Genzano for the SAB Workshop Performances. After graduating from SAB, Ms. Widell became an Apprentice with Pennsylvania Ballet in 2003, and was promoted to Corps de Ballet in 2005, and to Soloist in 2008. While there she danced numerous featured roles in ballets such as in John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet, Val Caniparoli’s Lambarena, Marius Petipa’sGiselle and The Sleeping Beauty, Paul Taylor’s Company B, Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs and Push Comes to Shove, Matthew Neenan’s As It’s Going, Robert Weiss’ Messiah and Octet for Strings, Peter Martins’ Fearful Symmetries and Barber Violin Concerto, and George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™, Ballo della Regina, Who Cares?, and Serenade. She also originated a featured role in Benjamin Millepied’s This Part in Darkness. Also in 2008, Ms. Widell was featured in Philadelphia Magazine along with Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and Philadelphia Phillies 2nd baseman Chase Utley as one of the most influential people in Philadelphia. In 2010, Ms. Widell received the title of the Janis and Stephen Goodman Soloist Dancer. Later that year, Mentor Me Community Support honored Ms. Widell with a Community Impact Award for her work with underserved children in Philadelphia.  In addition to these honors and activities, Ms. Widell was also chosen to perform in the Darren Aronofsky’s feature film Black Swan.  In Late 2012 Ms. Widell retired from professional dance to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams by starting her design company, Widell Designs.  Today Ms. Widell teaches at Studio Bleu and CaRu along with having taught at  Jazz Unlimited, Koresh, University of the Arts, Millennium, and Ovations.


404434_147383685382448_100003324515026_177169_1500028997_nNicole Lodato
, Office Assistant and Instructor

Nicole Lodato has been dancing since the age of three. She has trained multiple schools in South Jersey including, Marcia Hyland Dance Center and South Jersey School of Ballet, where she studied Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Hip Hop and Modern. She has been a part of many dance shows throughout her college career, mostly focusing on Modern dance.  From 2011-2012, Nicole went back to her high school to become co-coach of the dance team for the football and basketball seasons. She was also a member of the 2012 Philadelphia Soulmates Dance Team. Being a member of the Philadelphia Soulmates created many opportunities for Nicole including, being a back-up dancer for pop singer GoGo Morrow and rap artist Fat Joe. Nicole graduated from Rowan University with a B.F.A. in Theater and Dance along with a minor in Communications.


WendyHeadshotWendy Baughman, Instructor

Wendy Baughman spent 13 years in formal dance training – competing for 8 of those 13 years – at Innovative Dance Academy in Ewing, NJ. She trained in Ballet, Jazz, Hip Hop, Pointe, Modern and Lyrical. She went on to train and compete for two years at Stewart Johnson Dance Academy in Hamilton, NJ and landed a spot on their senior company continuing in Ballet, Jazz, Hip Hop and Lyrical. Wendy attended Mercer County Performing Arts High School for two years where she studied Ballet, Jazz and Modern. At The College of New Jersey, Wendy enjoyed three years as a member of the TCNJ dance team and spent two years as their captain. During her time with the team, they were ranked in 6th place by the Universal Dance Association. Wendy was also a member of the Philadelphia KiXX dance team for two years, and was one of 20 chosen out of 300 candidates for the 2012 Philadelphia Soulmates Dance Team. She is now on the team for a second year and was elected as their 2013 team captain.


Amanda Page HeadshotAmanda Page, Instructor

Amanda has trained in all styles including Ballet, Jazz, Hip Hop, Contemporary, Tap, Lyrical, Musical Theatre, Acrobatics and Modern. She is a dance major at Rider University with a minor in Arts Administration. Recently, Amanda has performed two separate times in Cabaret for a Cause in New York City with talented children from Lifetime TV’s Dance Moms, and multiple television and Broadway stars. She was a member of the Jr. Soulmates Dance Team and the assistant coach of the Jr. Trenton Thunder Dance Team. She has recently made an appearance in Red Wagon Films’ Carver as a dance extra. Amanda has received multiple first place overall and judge’s awards, as she competed in dance from ages 6 to 18. Headliners Dance Competition awarded her the Overall Excellence Award in their 2012 National Finals, and was selected as Regional Ms. Headliner in 2014. Currently, Amanda works as a dance teacher at multiple studios throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Amanda attends multiple dance conventions such as “The Pulse” and “JUMP” semi-annually, attends the Princeton Ballet School multiple days a week, takes class at Millennium Dance Complex in Philadelphia, and drops in to Broadway Dance Center in NYC in order to keep up with the most recent techniques and styles. She thrives off of passing this passion and technique onto her students.


Krystal Mendez, Guest Choreographer

Krystal Mendez is a professional ballroom dancer and certified instructor. With her extensive background in Ballet, Contemporary, Hip Hop and Jazz, she has brought a new twist to ballroom dancing. She has infused the traditional styles of ballroom with modern Hip Hop and Contemporary dance, which has quickly taken notice by many. Her sassy yet classy style of dance, has made her one of the most sought after Latin coaches on the East Coast. She has also been featured as a special guest performer at the East Coast Dance Festival and the Air Force Squadron Anniversary. Krystal is also an Arthur Murray World Salsa Champion. Competing in national and international competitions, she has placed as a top finalist in the American Rhythm categories. She has been under the coaching of Snow Urbin, Gene LaPierre and Melanie Lapatin to name a few. As a member of the National Dance Council of America, Krystal focuses on sharing the endless possibilities of dance to others. Most recently, Krystal headed to Panama where she is a member of the Spanish verison of “Dancing with the Stars” cast.


Wheeler Hughes, Founding Competition Director/Choreographer

Wheeler Hughes graduated with honors from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with B.F.A. in Dance, and immediately after began a career performing, teaching and choreographing in New York City. She has been seen on Fox Network’s Season 3 of So You Think You Can Dance; “Run This Town” music video with Atlantic Records featuring Kanye West, Rihanna and Jay-Z; Highline Ballroom NYC for VH1’s Save the Music: Breakin’ Through Performance; Alvin Ailey City Group Theater NYC; The Joyce Theater NYC; White Wave Dance Festival Dumbo; NYC RAW Dance Festival; Dance Teacher’s Summit hosted by the Pulse Dance Convention; WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden, and the New York Fringe Festival, just to name a few. Wheeler has also taught and choreographed all around the country, inspiring young and old dance students alike.

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