CEO & Artistic Director
Annie Leese Thistle
Annie established PAAM in the summer of 2009, facilitating its growth with the help of dedicated faculty and staff from humble beginnings in a church hall to a thriving community with state-of-the-art facilities and premier training in the performing arts. She is proud to continue to bring her expertise and passion for theater and dance to the students of Marin and the greater Bay Area. The surrounding community is of great importance to Annie, partnering with local schools and organizations to bring dance, theater and entertainment to children and adults throughout Marin. She has contributed to programs at Edna Maguire, Tam Valley Elementary, Strawberry Point, Old Firehouse Preschool, Marin Day Schools, Marin Primary, St. Patricks, St. Marks, St. Hilary, Mill Valley Library Fund and Marin Charitable Organizations. She is a proud supporter of Kiddo! and Spark, among other school arts providers and nonprofits. Annie donned her first tutu at the age of 3. Her first love was dance, yet she found true passion in musical theater, combining her love of singing and acting with her inherent love of dance. Performing arts has been the ultimate outlet for creative expression, release and exercise throughout her entire life. Annie graduated summa cum laude from Boston College and is a proud graduate of San Domenico Middle School and Saint Ignatius College Preparatory. Annie has trained at the University of Louisville Dance Academy, Louisville Ballet, Marin Dance Theater, Marin Theater Company, Scott Pearson (Voice, NYC), Jeannette Neill Dance Studio and Steps on Broadway. Her professional career includes work with Boston dance companies, regional theater productions (most notably onstage with Tony Award winner Donna McKechnie), and representation with STARS San Francisco. Her teaching career has included faculty positions at Walnut Hill School and Performing Arts Connection as well as a multitude of freelance positions in the dance and drama departments at schools such as Newton North High School and Middlesex Community College. Annie resides in Mill Valley with her three children. She is thankful for her incredibly supportive family and loves bringing her kids to the studio. PAAM is her main passion and home away from home. It is a dream come true to have so many young artists also consider PAAM their second home.
Matthew McCoy is a passion-driven artist; having produced, directed, designed and managed large scale musicals, black-box plays, solo cabarets, high-end galas and magic production shows. With over 10+ years in Entertainment. McCoy has worked professionally in regional theaters across the country and overseas; San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, London, and Shanghai, China.
Matthew brings an extensive arts background having received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre from Coastal Carolina University. Matthew has served in different capacities after relocating to San Francisco in 2012. Casting Director and Associate Artistic Director at Berkeley Playhouse, Performance Manager for the San Francisco Dungeon (themed entertainment), performing arts educator, proven track record of successful live events, managed lucrative fundraising campaigns, as well as directed and choreographed for Berkeley Playhouse, The Performing Arts Academy of Marin, 6th Street Playhouse, Altarena Playhouse, and CMT San Jose.
Matthew was the Founder and served as Artistic Director for Bay Area Musicals until 2020. Bay Area Musicals was an award-winning musical theater company that served over 30,000 patrons a year since opening in 2015 in San Francisco. Matthew is a freelance consultant and director for entertainment productions, shows, themed experiences, immersive attractions, musicals, reviews and things yet to be imagined. The passion of the arts bleeds into his style of leadership and management, inspiring those around while creating an exciting, inclusive, diverse, safe, and fun environment to work and excel in.
Theater Arts Director & Production Manager
Katlin is a Bay Area native and descendant of a long family history of actors, performers and musicians. She spent her childhood deeply involved in performing arts, beginning ballet as a toddler with Miss Tilly at the Rayna Allen School of Dancing in San Francisco and continuing on to dance and musical theater with Marilyn Izdebski Productions in San Anselmo. Through middle and high school, Katlin took voice lessons with award winning opera singer Marian Marsh. Katlin attended Terra Linda High School for her freshman and sophomore years, then completed her junior and senior years and graduated from San Domenico School. Katlin received her BA in Music from Sonoma State University, where her studies focused on recording production and vocal performance. Throughout college she performed as a member of several choral groups including the Sonoma State Chamber Choir and the MiraCosta Jazz Ensemble. During this time, Katlin was a coach for the Sebastopol Sea Serpents and taught swimming lessons at Ann Curtis School of Swimming. Following college, Katlin spent time in the San Diego radio industry, working for both Finest City Broadcasting and Clear Channel Communications in production and scheduling. Her voice could often be heard on popular stations such as Rock 105.3 and 91X. In 2009, she moved on to music booking at The Rosebud Agency in San Francisco, representing Grammy winning artists such as Mavis Staples and JJ Cale. Coming on board in June 2012 with a renewed passion for dance and theater, Katlin found her home at PAAM and is delighted to continue building her career in the performing arts as Theater Arts Director and Production Manager.
Co-Director, BAYPAC Dance Company
Originally from Danville, California, Alicia began studying dance at the age of four at The Ballet School Performing Arts in Walnut Creek, where she studied classical ballet under the direction of Lareen Fender over the next 14 years. Throughout high school, she was heavily involved in her school’s competitive dance and cheer programs, where she performed in Disneyland, went to dance conventions, competed at the National level, and won the Student Director’s Award for her choreography in her senior year. She went on to Arizona State University, where she studied contemporary ballet and modern dance. She graduated Magna Cum Laude and earned her BFA in Dance Choreography in 2008. At age 19, she began teaching ballet and jazz at a local dance studio, and over the course of the next 9 years she built her career throughout the Phoenix Metro Valley as a highly regarded competitive dance instructor/choreographer, guest artist and AZ Certified Dance Educator. In 2011, she was recruited to be a founding member and principal dancer of Phoenix’s contemporary jazz company, MarioCo Dance, which she performed and choreographed with over the next two years. By the end of her tenure in Arizona she was a master teacher for all ages and levels of ballet, jazz, contemporary and acro, with numerous award-winning pieces from prestigious national dance competitions, and had trained many students who eventually went on to dance in college or have successful professional dance careers themselves. In 2014 she moved back to the Bay Area and immediately began working at the Performing Arts Academy of Marin (PAAM). She has been one of the main dance faculty members since her arrival, teaching ballet, jazz, contemporary/lyrical, and helped build PAAM’s acro program. She has also been a main choreographer and rehearsal director for PAAM’s competitive dance company (now called BAYPAC Dance Company), and eventually being promoted to Co-Director of BAYPAC Dance Company. She continues to choreograph and teach at PAAM full time, as well as be a recurring guest artist/choreographer for Napa High School Spiritleaders. She loves to call PAAM her second home, watching her students grow up and thrive in the arts, and looks forward to many more years to come!
Studio Coordinator & Client Experience Ambassador
Ashley came to California 2 years ago after growing up in Tennessee. She moved out west to be closer to family and she is the newest member of the PAAM administrative staff. Her love for dance, theater, and helping others have followed her all the way out west where she continues to learn and grow in the artistic community. She fell in love with the Bay Area for it’s art, live music, comedy, and wonderful people. When she’s not working you can find her exploring a beach, painting, listening to records or joking with her closest friends.
She has previous experience in dance, theater and improv/comedy and attended a university for Theater and Communications.
She has 13 years in customer service, with a background in retail and office administration.
Being a part of a creative community, such as PAAM, where people are driven, caring and highly skilled at their role is truly inspiring to her.
Ashley is sociable and likes to provide an optimistic atmosphere to the people around her to benefit their experiences.
Her passion for the Arts and success with positive people interactions have landed her the exciting new role of Studio Coordinator & Client Ambassador.
Tammy is a Central Coast native who moved to Northern California in 2004. She has always had a love for the dance world. She danced and did gymnastics as a child, and was on the cheerleading and dance team in junior high and high school. Tammy's entire career has been in customer service and hospitality. Out of high school she was a camp counselor for the local YMCA for several years, then worked at IN-N-OUT Burger for 6.5 years. She was a store trainer and a shift leader. She has taught EMT classes and worked as a shift leader of a video rental store. After children Tammy began working in the dance industry behind the scenes by taking care of accounts and bookkeeping. She has fantastic organization skills and attention to detail and now works behind the scenes as PAAM's highly effective Accounts Director, overseeing database management, updating class schedules, facilitating private lessons, all while simultaneously providing clients with excellent customer service. Tammy has a son and a daughter whom she adores and in her spare time, enjoys being in the sun, nature and spending time with those closest to her.
Contemporary & Improvisation
Originally from Reykjavik, Iceland, and a graduate of UC Berkeley, Aushi Oskarsdottir started her professional dance career at the age of 13 with video, television and commercial work. She attended Alvin Ailey American Dance Center’s Summer Intensive for two years, and also trained at Broadway Dance Center, Steps on Broadway, and with Savage Jazz. In addition to being the Assistant Director of Dance Fusion Company in Walnut Creek and founding the Dance Program at SOCAPA (School of Creative and Performing Arts) in New York, Aushi has had the privilege of working all throughout the U.S. and abroad. Some of her recent work includes creating an ensemble piece for Mark Foehringer’s CCDA, teaching master classes in Costa Rica (where she also did her Pilates training), Nicaragua, Mexico and Iceland, and choreographing for the premiere of Pixar's Toy Story 3. As one of the founding faculty members of Jazz Dance Fest in Costa Rica, she has taught alongside and collaborated with some of the dance world's biggest names. Prior to her concentration on dance education, Aushi performed and traveled extensively, working with Santana, Deborah Cox, MC Hammer, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Bebe, Apple, Oracle, E*Trade, Microsoft, and Bill Graham Presents, among others. Additionally, she has worked as a stylist for Nautica Jeans, Cosmopolitan and NY Fashion Week, and as a producer for Q-Tip's interview show Artist to Artist. While teaching remains her passion, Aushi has also delved into dance video and audio production, and she has a collection of her work on SOCAPA’s YouTube channel. This is her fourth year at the Performing Arts Academy of Marin, where she has had the pleasure of choreographing for, and training the BAYPAC dancers.
Liam Robertson (he/him) has had a varied career in the theatre as an actor, musician, director, and theatrical designer. He’s a multi-instrumentalist in Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute, Guitar, and Piano among other instruments and has been practicing martial arts such as Aikido, Karate, and Tai Chi for about a dozen years. In addition to playing and teaching music since he was in high school, he’s spent time performing in the bay area at Berkeley Rep, SF Playhouse, Berkeley Playhouse, Cal Shakes, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, and the Curran among others. A former Director of Education at Marin Theatre Company, and a teacher of music and theatre in Marin County since 2008, he has worked with Performing Arts Academy of Marin since 2017 and loves the supportive atmosphere of the faculty and administration at PAAM in bringing quality arts education to all of its students. Some of his greatest joys in teaching are cultivating and affirming the unique expressions of every student, while helping them along their way to grow as better human beings.
Sarah grew up in the Bay Area, started dancing at age 2. She was accepted into the Cal Arts dance program in Southern California where she studied under many acclaimed teachers including Debbie Allen and Mia Michaels. She has been involved in multiple dance companies including Body Language, Culture Shock Oakland, and Soul Force San Francisco. She completed her 500 hour yoga training with YogaWorks in 2014 in addition to another 200 hour yoga alliance certification in Ashtanga yoga at Its Yoga San Francisco in 2007. Sarah started teaching kids in 2002, spending several years as a dance teacher & choreographer with the Mount Tamalpais School Theatre Department. In 2009 she started teaching at PAAM and has been ever since. Sarah’s hip hop classes are energetic, fun, and educational. Sarah is a well-loved teacher at PAAM.
On-Camera Acting & Coaching
Melinda Darlington-Bach is an Emmy Award winning filmmaker, acting teacher, and a 25-year working veteran SAG/AFTRA actress. Starting in the business as a runway and fashion model at the age of 16, Melinda made the seamless transition into the world of show business. In both the Los Angeles and Bay Area markets, she has worked in over 65 national commercials, industrials and feature films. Using her superb skills and experience, Melinda worked at San Francisco Acting Academy teaching and coaching on-camera tweens/teens in both theatrical and commercial classes for 10 years. For the past 20 years, Ms. Darlington-Bach has worked as a model and talent scout personally setting up hundreds of auditions for the Bay Area and Los Angeles franchised talent agencies. Melinda works closely with young talent preparing them with self-tape auditions for major opportunities with Disney, Nickelodeon, and feature films.
MARC LAPIERRE began his early training at Ballet Etudes in Norwalk CT under the direction of Nanette Vallas. While at Ballet Etudes he trained closely with Christina Fagundes. He then attended Ballet Academy East in New York City under the direction of Darla Hoover and at age 16, Marc furthered his training at The School of American Ballet. He then went on to dance with Los Angeles Ballet, where he had the pleasure of dancing works by August Bournonville, George Balanchine, Aszure Barton and Alejandro Cerrudo. Two years later he joined Oregon Ballet Theatre as an apprentice and was promoted to the Company corps de ballet in his second season. During his time with OBT, he danced works by Alvin Ailey, Ben Stevenson, Nicolo Fonte, Christopher Stowell, and Trey MyIntyre. LaPierre joined Smuin in 2021. He has had the privilege of teaching both ballet and partnering since the age of 18. Teaching is one of his biggest passions. He hopes to share his love of dance with every student he works with.
Hip Hop & Jazz
Kimana Gray, Hip Hop & Jazz, has been dancing and acting since the age of 5. She has danced and acted all throughout school, practicing tap, jazz, Modern, salsa, bachata, Capoeira, Bollywood, bellydancing, Indian dance, hip-hop, Hansberry, and Shakespeare. Ms. Gray started choreographing in high school, studying under Ms. Carr at Berkeley High. She's trained at numerous dance studios, such as, new style motherlode, fallout Studios, Into the groove, and have also volunteered and subbed at numerous middle schools and elementary schools. Dancing has always been a big part of Kimana's life and is something that she is very passionate about. She's extremely excited to share her experience and knowledge with others so that they can reach their goals and dreams as she has.
Jazz, Lyrical, & Contemporary
Emily Mootz (Jazz, Lyrical, & Contemporary) Originally from Santa Cruz, California, Emily began dancing at the age of 3 at Elaine’s Dance Studio. There she trained under the tutelage of Elaine McCarthy, Myra Rittenhouse, Madelon Curtis-Harper, and Jessica Metter-Vargas for 14 years. She attended a variety of conventions and competitions, performing in styles such as contemporary, jazz, musical theater, ballet, and tap. In her high school years, Emily was able to work with renowned artists and companies including LINES Ballet, Oberlin Dance Collective, and California Summer School of the Arts. She was also given the opportunity to choreograph for various local productions, including Harbor High School’s Escapade Dance Company and Pacific Collegiate School’s Fusion Dance Company. From 2017-2021 she attended Saint Mary’s College of California on a Performing Arts scholarship. She trained in Laban and Bartenieff technique, Cunningham technique, jazz, and ballet. In the summer of 2019, she had the opportunity to teach dance and musical theater in Suzhou, China alongside Bay Area professionals including Jia Wu, Daniel Larlham, and Ryan Huber. During her time at Saint Mary’s College, she performed alongside their Dance Company; here her choreography was awarded many accolades and was chosen to represent the company in multiple dance film festivals across the world, including the “Empower Me Strong” festival in Berkeley, CA. After graduating Cum Laude with a BA in Dance and Choreographic Studies, Emily continued her dance education with Saint Mary’s by earning her MFA in Dance and Creative Practice in 2023. During this time, Emily continued to act as a full time dance instructor and arts administrator in the Walnut Creek area. She has also continued to perform across the Bay Area, most recently being selected as a 2022 RAW Artist for SafeHouse Arts. Emily is excited to be a part of the PAAM family and continue sharing her love of dance with all of her students!
Hip Hop, Contemporary, Progressions
Sammy Bruce (she/her), Hip Hop/Contemporary/Progressions, is originally from Portland, Oregon, and currently resides in San Francisco, California. Growing up she was a student at All Star Dance Academy and later MVP Dance Elite in Beaverton, Oregon where she trained in many styles of dance including; contemporary, hip hop, ballet, jazz, & musical theater. She has been dancing since the age of 6 and competitively from elementary school through high school receiving various awards. She has danced with pre-professional teams; DisOrder, a contemporary team under the direction of Jennifer McClary. Kaleido, a jazz/contemporary team under the direction of Lorena Aranda, and RAW a hip hop team under the direction of Alexis Jean Jackson, Charlie Chheath, and Jason Wickett of which she placed 1st at World of Dance Seattle 2016 as a member of this team. In 2018 she danced with Madison Beer for Velocity Dance Convention Nationals. She later attended the University of San Francisco and joined the on campus dance clubs Vitality and Varcity for contemporary and hip hop. She held various executive board positions for these clubs throughout her four years at the university including; Social Media Chair, Junior Varcity Team Director, Vice President, & President. She has choreographed many pieces both in contemporary and hip hop styles. As a recent graduate she has taught classes at Rae Studios in downtown San Francisco. Sammy is very excited to continue her teaching journey here with the PAAM family and share her passion for dance with her students
Leilana Majri (ballet) is a dancer and choreographer based out of the San Francisco Bay Area. Leilana graduated summa cum laude with her BFA in Dance from Dominican University of California's program with Alonzo King LINES Ballet. She has extensive training in ballet, modern (Graham, Cunningham, and Horton techniques), contemporary, and jazz. She has trained and performed in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Leilana loves sharing her dance experiences with dancers of all ages, and is excited to be a part of PAAM faculty!
Doug Baum began his dance training in Maryland at Mid-Atlantic Center for the Performing Arts before graduating from the Baltimore School for the Arts in 2006. In 2010, Doug received his B.F.A. from Fordham University in collaboration with The Ailey School, where he apprenticed with Ailey II. Since graduating, he has performed with Rock the Ballet, Compagnie Flak, Les Ballets Jazz and Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Doug has completed three seasons with Zhukov Dance Theater in addition to guesting with Peridance, Ezdanza, Thang Dao, and Company XIV. Most recently Doug finished his last tour with LA Dance Project under the direction of Benjamin Millepied & is now an adjunct instructor at USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. Doug has also taught for numerous dance institutions including Chapman University, The Joffrey Ballet School, The Baltimore School for the Arts, Jacob’s Pillow, Mather Dance Company, & Performing Arts Academy of Marin.
Ricky Maalouf started dancing at a late age while at Arizona State University. While starting out dancing at ASU and with various NBA and WNBA teams in Arizona, he also danced with recording artist Yasmeen, who opened for Omarion. He danced for the professional dance company Automatic Response who were featured on Americas Best Dance Crew, opening for My Chemical Romance and Fergie while they also did shows with the Jabbawockeez. However, he quickly developed a true passion for teaching. His teaching has helped with several of his students having danced with artists such as Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Missy Elliot, Billie Eilish, Tate Mcrae and more. In addition, they have been showcased on shows including So You Think You Can Dance, World Of Dance, Dancing with the Stars, Dancing with the Stars Junior, Ellen, Dance Moms, Disney’s Shake It Up, Americas Got Talent and also on Broadway, the Rockettes and in the Super Bowl. His choreography has been seen on the Cheer live tour as well having worked with NBA and NFL in addition to several fantastic dance companies, conventions, organizations and Universities. Having worked with countless fantastic choreographers, teachers and students, his work has also resulted in winning Best Hip Hop studio on several occasions amongst other national accolades. Currently on faculty with JUMP dance convention, Ricky spends most of his time trying to inspire and educate at studios around the country and believes in a high-energy class in which the students work hard while enjoying the process and looks forward to jumping around in class at every opportunity.
Lisa was born in the UK, lived in London, New York and now in Los Angeles. She trained at The London Studio Centre, The Conservatoire de Paris (with Matt Mattox) and Martha Graham, NYC. West End credits: Velma Kelly in Chicago, 1st u/s Ulla in The Producers (original co) Sweet Charity, Crazy For You (u/s Polly) My Fair Lady (original co) Once in a Lifetime (National Theatre). NYC/ International touring and regional; A Chorus Line, The Opera Show, The Rat Pack, 42nd St, Anything Goes, Crazy for You, Cats, Mary Poppins, Sweet Charity, Pride and Prejudice. Numerous choreography and assistant chore/dir credits including Matilda, 42nd Street, Crazy For You, Cats and Peter Pan. Lisa was a faculty member at the Joffrey Ballet School NY/Miami/LA for 8 years, she has also taught jazz dance at UCI, Dmitri Kulev Ballet School in Irvine and has choreographed and taught at The Marlboro School in Los Angeles. In London at Millennium Performing Arts, London Studio Center, Mountview, AMTA (Now ICMT) and The Urdang Academy. Lisa launched LDR Creative LLC in 2016 with the objective to build creative teams that inspire, and to produce product that makes a difference. Her first short film, ‘Early Mourning’, was screened at over 20 film festivals, winning 5 awards including the Audience Award at the Soho International Film Festival 2017 in NYC. The follow-up short film, ‘Free’ is distributed on both Shorts TV and Amazon Prime, and ‘Double Exposure’ has had a very successful run on the film festival circuit. Lisa’s first feature length documentary, Uprooted - The Journey of Jazz Dance; enjoyed a world premiere at the Lincoln Centers Dance on Camera Film Festival in NYC, winning the Best of Fest Feature Award in 2020 and then continued to take the festival circuit by storm winning eighteen further awards including Best Musical Documentary at The Rhode Island International Film Festival and was nominated for Best Documentary during its International Premiere at Raindance Film Festival. Uprooted is currently streaming on HBOMax in the US. LDR Creative has her second feature documentary ‘Susan Feniger. FORKED on the film festival circuit, two short films also enjoying their festival journey and two narrative features in pre-production.
For more information www.ldrcreative.com IMDB