Gretchen Pick, Executive Director

Gretchen Pick has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College, an MFA in Dance from the University of Wisconsin, and is a certified Laban Movement Analyst. She has been an active dancer, teacher and choreographer in the Twin Cities since 1993. The companies and choreographers she has danced for include 45 Chartreuse, Gomez Dance Group, 10,000 Dances, Flying Sisters Theater, Dancing People Company, Sarah Hauss and Megan Flood.
Gretchen's own choreography has been in original concerts at Studio 6A, Red Eye Collaborations and Old Arizona Studios in Minneapolis. She has also presented her choreography at the Show Off Gallery in Bellingham, WA and the International Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland. Her work has been commissioned by the Walker Art Center, Winona State University and Carleton College. Gretchen teaches dance and yoga to students of all ages at various schools in the Twin Cities metro area. She is adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota. Gretchen also works in the Minneapolis Public Schools developing curriculum that infuses dance into academics. She has received funding for her work as both a choreographer and as a teacher from the Lyndale Neighborhood association and the Perpich Center for Arts Education. Gretchen will be working with all levels as both a teacher and a choreographer and overseeing the choreography projects of the dancers.

Justin Jones, Artistic Director of the Young Dance Company

Justin Jones is a dancer, choreographer, sound designer and teacher. He has danced in choreography by Body Cartography Project, Chris Schlichting, Dylan Skybrook, Morgan Thorson, Karen Sherman, Chris Yon and was a member of Tere O'Connor Dance Co. from 2001-2004. His choreography has been presented in Minneapolis at Bryant Lake Bowl, Red Eye, The Southern Theater and the Walker Art Center; in New York at The Thalia, LaMama Etc., Sarah Lawrence, EMPAC and has been a sometimes visitor to the CATCH series. He has a BFA in dance from NYU, is the recipient of the 2007 McKnight Fellowship for Choreography and was awarded a 2003 NYFA Fellowhship for Performance Art/Multidisciplinary work for his work with Chris Yon. Justin creates sound design for his own choreography and for other dance makers including Ivy Baldwin, Chris Schlichting and Chris Yon. Justin is the producer/host of TALK DANCE, a sporadic podcast created for the Walker Art Center website (listen at: A part from his teaching with Young Dance, he teaches preschool at Temple Israel Early Childhood Center.

Jennifer Glaws, Artistic Director of Education

Jennifer Glaws is delighted to be experiencing her eleventh season with Young Dance. Jennifer is interested in the social and developmental rewards of the arts evident in her work as an arts administrator, performer, choreographer, educator and photographer. Jennifer’s research delves into the relationship of dance with cognitive science, and the view that the practice of choreography enhances critical thinking skills in dancers and non-dancers alike.  Jennifer holds an MFA in Dance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and BFA in dance and photography from Arizona State University. In addition to working for Young Dance, she is an active dance educator teaching in settings as varied as private studios, public education programs and colleges. Jennifer has been producing dance work in Minnesota since 2004 in museum and theater environments including commissioned dance works for Alternative Motion Project, Gustavus Adolphus College, American College Dance Association-Midwest, Eagan and Apple Valley High School, Perpich Center for the Arts and UW-Milwaukee among other private institutions. Her recent evening length work, Study 1 Perceptions: Stuck or Unstuck? was on tour in 2015-16 performing in Minnesota, Wisconsin and New York. Jennifer is continually inspired by the Young Dance community and is grateful for the opportunity to work amongst an ambitious and dedicated staff, faculty and board.


Anat Shinar, Director of Community Partnerships

Anat Shinar is a Minneapolis-based contemporary artist, working in performance and visual mediums. She graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BFA in Dance and Visual Arts and completed her Master’s degree in Arts & Cultural Leadership in 2015. Her work has been presented at the Red Eye, Southern Theater, Soap Factory (3x5), Bryant Lake Bowl, Monday Live Arts/SooVAC, The Ritz Theater, and Future Interstates at the Cowles Center. As a performer, she has worked with Morgan Thorson, Chris Schlichting, Body Cartography Project, Carl Flink, and more.

In addition to performance, she is a consulting curator at the Walker Art Center, is an educator with Young Dance, as well as is their Development Director, and serves on the Steering Committee for DanceMN, a weekly e-newsletter and online resource for the Twin Cities Dance Community.

Anat has been teaching dance for over 15 years and has taught students of all ages, from 0 to 100, and of all abilities. She teaches techniques including ballet, jazz, and modern, as well as creative movement and dance composition. She joined the faculty at Young Dance in 2013 and joined the administrative team in 2015, first as Outreach Director and then as Development Director.


Andrea Zimmerman

Andrea Zimmerman is a dancer and pediatric physical therapist.  Andrea graduated with degrees in Dance and Physical Therapy from the University of MN.  She has performed locally with companies including catalyst, dances by Emily Johnson, Zenon Dance Company, Hijack, BodyCartography Project, Gomez Dance Group, and Maggie Bergeron and Company.  She performed in the 2013 Sage Award winning duet "Folding In Wings" choreographed by Megan Flood.  In 2012, she studied physically integrated dance in California with AXIS Dance Company.  She has taught with Young Dance since 2010, working mostly with ballet, creative movement, and all abilities dance classes. Andrea is inspired consistently by the Young Dance community and all it dances for.


Denise Gagner

Denise Gagner is a dancerand massage therapist. She graduated from St. Olaf College in 2004 with a Dance. She has been teaching creative movement classes for Young Dance since2009. Denise has taught extensively throughout the Twin Cities and enjoysworking with students of all ages, but particularly enjoys the enthusiastic andexplorative nature of Young Dance's youngest movers. She has performed locallywith companies and choreographers including Rosy Simas Danse, Ready At Will,Sherry Saterstrom, Sarah Jacobs, and Mandy Herrick.  Denise teaches both Creative Movement I and II for YoungDance.


Julia Davidson

Julia Davidson is a dancer, scholar, writer and teacher. Julia graduated from Macalester College with a degree in Performances Studies and recently received her Master’s Degree in Dance from Mills College in California. While in California, Julia had the pleasure of studying at Luna Dance Institute and attending the inclusive dance teaching workshop presented by AXIS dance company. She also had the opportunity to publish observations and writings in collaboration with inkBoat theater-dance company as they created “95 Rituals: A present for Anna Halprin.” Julia has enjoyed teaching all ages since she began in college and is thrilled to join Young Dance as an assistant and teacher.


Blake Nellis

Portrait of Blake Nellis

Blake Nellis is an artist, educator and improviser who creates work with the body. His work is deeply rooted in human connection, physical touch and shared emotion. He originally hails from Door County, Wisconsin, and graduated from Luther College with a degree in Theater/Dance.  He is a 2015 recipient of the MN State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant and 2013 recipient of the McKnight Foundation’s Metropolitan Regional Arts Council: Next Step Funds. He has taught and performed throughout the US, Mexico, Europe & Asia and is proud to call Minneapolis home! He has recently produced work at the Walker Art Center, Red Eye Theater, TEK Box, Bryant Lake Bowl Theater & Luther College. He is a freelance photographer, choreographer and dancer.  His other professional experience includes performing with Mathew Janczewski's ARENA Dances, Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater, Jim Lieberthal’s Footholds Project, Jane Hawley, Rosy Simas & Taja Will. His work is inspired by his experience with athletics, the circus, singing, acting, playing piano, photography and filmmaking. His favorite moments are those in which laughter reminds us that play is valuable. And he strongly believes that riding bicycle, eating good food and being curious, compassionate and creative are all integral parts of being a good artist.

Darrius Strong

Portrait of Blake Nellis

Darrius Strong is a Twin Cities based choreographer, dancer and educator whose creative work has been chosen for the Walker Arts Center Choreographers Evening, Rhythmically Speaking, The American College Dance Festival, The University of MN Dance Theater and was featured in the New Griots Festival at the Phoenix Theater, Minneapolis. Darrius has created works for Threads Dance Project, Flying Foot Forum, Alternative Motion Projects, St. Olaf College, Macalester College, Hamline University, St. Paul Conservatory Performing Arts, and many more high schools in Minnesota. He also shared two evenings of work titled "Ipseity" and more recently, "Access Granted". Strong served as a 2016 Sage award Panelist and developed his own dance company STRONGmovement in 2015.

Kathleen Pender

Kathleen Pender is a dancer, teacher, and arts administrator. She received her B.A. in Dance from St. Olaf College and has been teaching and assisting classes with Young Dance since 2013. Kathleen also teaches dance at the Northfield Arts Guild in Northfield, MN. Apart from teaching, she is Company Manager with Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater and performs for local choreographer Taja Will. With deep passion for building community through dance education and performance, Kathleen is grateful to work for Young Dance.


Charisse Ponder

Charisse Ponder is a Teacher, Choreographer, and Dancer for over 30 years in the Twin Cities and Northfield communities. She is a Classical Ballet trained dancer who carries this training into all her works. She has studied at the Joffrey Ballet and a variety of schools in New York City. She has performed with St. Paul Classical Ballet, Minnesota Dance Theater, Prairie Home Companion, Joe Chvala's Flying Foot Forum Residency, Four Seasons Dance, and with Young Dance All Abilities Classes. Charisse is currently teaching with Young Dance in the classroom, outreach programs, and the all abilities program. She also teaches at Zenon and Four Seasons Dance in Minneapolis. Charisse is particularly passionate in the study of language and culture and speaks Spanish and French.

Maggie Zepp

Portrait of Blake Nellis

Maggie Zepp grew up in Stevens Point, Wisconsin and received her BA in Dance from the University of Minnesota. She creates dances as part of the five-person collaborative group DaNCEBUMS, and has performed their work at Walker Art Center's Choreographer's Evening, Red Eye Theater, and on live television for Twin Cities PBS. She has also performed work by Morgan Thorson, ARENA Dances, and Chris Schlichting, and danced alongside recording artists Tickle Torture and Har Mar Superstar. She teaches modern technique at Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists in addition to teaching classes for Young Dance.

Tori Casagranda

Portrait of Blake Nellis

Tori Casagranda is a performer, educator and choreographer.  While living in New York City, she performed with Falcon Dance, Megan Bascom and Dancers and others.  Now in Minneapolis, she has worked with Mathew Janczewksi's ARENA DANCES, Chris Schlichting, Non Edwards, Zenon Dance Company and Jagged Moves.  Tori has presented her own work in New York, Ohio, Kentucky and Minnesota and teaches in community centers and studios around the Twin Cities. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Ohio University with a BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography.