Mark Eriksen

Manager – The Young Canadians School of Performing Arts

Mark Eriksen is a well-experienced performer, dance educator, adjudicator, choreographer, and director. He is originally and currently based out of Calgary, Canada. Mr. Eriksen has trained intensely with the American Tap Dance Institute to become a certified graduate of the National Tap Ensembles’ Diploma program. Mr. Eriksen has trained and instructed in New York, San Diego, Los Angeles, Wisconsin, and Vancouver. Mr. Eriksen is highly skilled in Tap, Jazz, Lyric, Ballet, Musical Theater, and Partnering. He continued his professional teachers training to include the ADAPT syllabus. By age 22 he had entertained professionally aboard Princess Cruise Lines for over five years performing in 14 full productions shows. He was able to travel to over 80 countries before beginning his teaching career in Calgary over 15 years ago. As past Co-Artistic Director of the Young Canadians School of Performing Arts, Mr. Eriksen has worked with the internationally known Grandstand Show of the Calgary Stampede. Mr. Eriksen is currently the owner/creative director of McDonald Wilson Dance Academy and Artistic Director of Alberta Dance Theatre.

Apart from his extensive performance training he is a graduate of Business Administration, with a major in Marketing. Mr. Eriksen is a member of the International Tap Association, and currently President of the Bree Eriksen Memorial Dance Award Society, which annually presents dance awards with Education Matters. Recently Mr. Eriksen has become involved as a member with the International Dance Council an affiliate of the United Nations Educational scientific and cultural organization.

Mr. Eriksen has worked professionally with youth groups in Calgary for over 15 years creating, developing, and implementing performance and training opportunities.

Angela Benson

Artistic Director

Angela Benson is one of the most innovative Choreographer/Artistic Director’s working in the performing arts industry today. She is accomplished in providing professional and expert instruction in dance technique, choreography, performance skills, casting, staging and creative development. Angela is recognized for her versatility, sassy style, and the ability to feature performers in their best limelight. She has the finesse to work with all categories of talent including dancers, singers, youth, actors, models, and athletes with her specialty being large groups of performers. There is no challenge this girl cannot face head on.

After her own professional performing career on cruise ships to live stage productions and music videos, Angela began a new journey on the other side of the stage educating youth in Performing Arts from her home town. Angela’s experience in the industry has enabled her to produce talent that have been awarded contracts with Disney, Cirque Du Soleil, Music Videos, Cruise Lines and film! Angela has since realized another dream and is now the Lead Choreographer for the world renowned Calgary Stampede’s Grandstand Show under Emmy Award Winning Creative Producer Mr. Dave Pierce.
Angela is so excited to return to The Young Canadians School this year to inspire her students to push past their boundaries and reach to new heights.

Dave Pierce

Creative Consultant

Susan Mensinger

Dance Director

Susan Mensinger is very proud to say that she has operated and taught under Artistique Dance Academy in Calgary for 40 years! Students of Miss Mensinger have gone on to perform in “Love”, “Wicked”, “Storm”, “Notre Dame”, “Moulin Rouge”, “Tap Dogs”, “Tokyo Disney”, “Aida”, “ Zumanity” as well as Princess, Royal and Celebrity cruise lines. It has been exciting to watch dancers of hers on “SYTYCD”, “Dancing With The Stars” as well as numerous music videos. Most recently students of Miss Mensinger can be seen as the lead in the new “Dirty Dancing” tour, head choreographer and dancer for “Groove Academy”, solo tap dancer in the Opening Ceremonies of Olympics and featured soloist tapper in The Grandstand show at the Calgary Stampede. She is very proud of those that have taken on teaching roles as well, in studios and workshops as well as artistic director of the contemporary company “O2 the dance company”. Miss Mensinger’s love of dancing and dancers has been a life long affair.

Susan Mensinger was a dancer in the Young Canadians back in 1970-73. Margot Gooder McDermott, teacher for the Young Canadians, fueled Susan’s passion for dance and performing. Miss Mensinger is honored and excited to complete the circle by now being one of the teachers that inspire our future entertainers.

John Morgan

Vocal Director

John Morgan is a Calgary musician, conductor, composer, arranger and clinician, who is well versed in the classical, musical theatre, jazz and pop genres. He studied pipe organ, piano and conducting at the University of Calgary under Dr. Terrence Fullerton, Dr. Neil Cockburn, Marilyn Engle and Dr. Glenn Price.

John is the Artistic Director of Kantorei, Associate Vocal Director of the Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede, Music Director and Organist at St. Anthony's Church, and accompanies and/or directs various high school and community choirs across the City including the ConocoPhillips Choir, Bishop Carroll, Lord Beaverbrook and Centennial High Schools.

In addition, John provided musical direction for various events including the 100th Anniversary of the Rotary Club, One Rock Music Festival, and in his capacity as Artistic Director, for the We Day: Free The Children Benefit concert.

John is a published composer and arranger whose work has been performed by groups across North America including our very own Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.

Tanis Nicholls

Dance Instructor/Studio Administrator

Tanis was born and raised in Calgary and began dancing at a very young age. She has trained with renowned instructors and choreographers across Canada and the United States, as well as, training in the ADAPT jazz and tap syllabus and The Royal Academy of Dancing ballet syllabus. Tanis received numerous scholarships and awards throughout her years of training.

Tanis graduated from Oklahoma City University with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Dance/Theatre Performance. She is certified in Dance, Voice and Acting from The Canadian College of Performing Arts in Victoria, British Columbia. Tanis has performed on stages in both Canada and the United States. Some of her theater credits include, The Shoji Tabuchi Show, The Wonders of Christmas, Magic N’ Miracles Canadian Tour, Break The Floor, New York City Dance Alliance Summer Showcase, The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede, and The Nutcracker Ballet. Other credits include the Bollywood movie, I’ve Found Someone” and multiple national commercials and television appearances.

Tanis’ choreography has been seen at numerous dance competitions across the southern United States and Western Canada, as well as the Heart and Hand Charity Banquet in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Tanis has been an adjudicator for Alberta based dance competitions and is also the Owner and Artistic Director of Extreme Dance Challenge, a Calgary based dance competition and convention.
Tanis was also a member of the Canadian National Tap Team, competing in Berlin, Germany at the World Tap Championship, taking home a silver medal. Tanis lived in the United States for ten years and during this time she performed professionally and taught & choreographed at studios in Missouri and Oklahoma. Tanis is excited to be back in Calgary sharing her passion, technical ability and love for dance.

JP Thibodeau

Theatrical Development Lead

An award winning actor, designer and director JP has been both on and off the stage all over the world. He is the Artistic Director for the incredibly successful StoryBook Theatre which is Canada’s largest semi professional theatre for young audiences. Over the past 3 years he has worked with playwright and composer Joe Slabe to create many world premier musicals, including the multi-award winning Touch Me: songs for a disconnected age which will be presented at Theatre Calgary in the fall. Over his career JP has directed more than 50 musicals of all sizes and has worked hard to foster and develop the growth of young musical theatre artists across the country. He has a degree in Theatre Arts and Drama in Education and at the 2016 Betty Mitchell Awards he was the recipient of the Greg Bond Memorial Award for his outstanding contribution to musical theatre in Calgary. Recent credits both on and off the stage include: Touch Me, Naughty But Nice (Forté), Richard III, As You Like It, Romeo & Juliet (The Shakespeare Co.), The Money Shot, Reasons to Be Happy (Ground Zero), Annie Davidson, Magic Flute (Cowtown Opera), Rock of Ages, The 39 Steps, Young Frankenstein (Stage West), Lest We Forget, Dads In Bondage, If I Weren't With You (Lunchbox Theatre), A New Brain, The Secret Garden, The Last 5 Years, Avenue Q (StoryBook Theatre), Sweeney Todd, Filumena, (Calgary Opera). Throughout his success and many late nights he is constantly supported by his beautiful wife Tara and their sons, Evan and Isaac.

Katie Booth

Dance Instructor

Katie started her dance training with purely Ballet. She preformed "The Nutcracker” each year with Alberta Ballet as well as ISB and took the coveted role of Sugar Plum at the age of 17. She attended many prestigious summer schools over her years including National Ballet of Canada, Royal Winnipeg and The Goh. In her mid-teens she branched out to Lyrical, Jazz, contemporary, and musical theatre.

At 18 she started her professional career dancing for Tokyo Disney's "Encore!", a musical revue show choreographed by Patty Colombo. Shortly after that Katie booked an international tour which visited 14 major cities though out China, in which she was a lead dancer and featured soloist. Later she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dance career further. There she worked with Choreographers such as Andre Fuentes in the world renowned "Choreographers Carnival". Katie has also appeared in the Bollywood film entitled "Blue", where she worked with Choreographer Liz Imperio. In 2008 Katie moved to Vancouver and worked with Josh Beamish in "Move: The Company" for the 08/09 season.

Katie has been teaching and choreographing for over 10 years. Dance is a passion for her and she loves passing on that onto her students.

Gavin Caldwell

Vocal Instructor

Gavin Lee Caldwell is first a loving husband to the beautiful Sarah and tender guardian of Tigra. He is also a gifted pianist, vocal coach, choral director, singer/songwriter, arranger, composer, improvisor, educator and accompanist who has been collaborating with singers and instrumentalists of all ages and skill-levels in the Calgary area for 20 years.
In 1981, at the impressionable age of 5, Gavin experienced the music video for Private Eyes by Hall and Oates. Between the strobe lights and the synth drums, he fell deeply in love with music, and it is a passion that only grows. He is a product of his relationships, and would not be who he is today without the friendship and guidance of fellow artists Tomy Thisdale, Angela Cavar, Heidi Wood, Jeremy Fox, Cynthia Peyson-Wahl, Rich Nace, Judith Lebane and Aino Robinson, among countless others.
Today Gavin collaborates with/in a siege of schools, churches and community choirs - William Aberhart High School, St. Pius X Catholic Parish and the Savridi Singers, to name a few - all of whom benefit from his affable personality, razor-sharp wit, musical brilliance, flowing curls and terribly clever t-shirts.
Gavin loves that music is infinite, that there is always more to learn, for all of us. Gavin believes that it is every human’s birthright to sing, and brings this perspective to his work everyday. His current plans include an album of “church music improv”, and he will continue writing in his journal, singing songs with his friends, and spreading his special brand of love with this message to the world: “You only have to be yourself, but you have to be yourself.” We are each called to find our passion and pour ourselves wholeheartedly into it, and it is in this spirit that Gavin is so excited to be working with the young artists of The Young Canadians!

Lindi Forand

Dance Instructor

Lindi Forand is currently abroad with Royal Caribbean International on the Brilliance of the Seas. As a dancer and aerialist with the company, she has travelled and performed all over the world. Lindi began dancing at the age of two with her love for performing continuously growing from there. She joined The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede at the age of seven, where she continued training and performing with the company for 11 years. Lindi also trained simultaneously at numerous other studios in Calgary, learning a variety of styles and techniques. She studied under the ADAPT curriculum for Jazz and Tap, as well as the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) for ballet.

After graduating High School, Lindi moved to Vancouver to pursue dance as a career. She was offered a position with The Source Dance Company, and completed two years as a member under the direction of Joanne and Alex Pesusich. With The Source, Lindi had the opportunity to work with international choreographers such as Stacey Tookey, Gus Bembery and Christina Woodard. Lindi also trained at Harbour Dance Centre where she focused on Hip Hop and Contemporary. She has worked side by side and assisted some of the industry’s most well-known choreographers through Groove Street Productions and Rocky Mountain Dance Project.

Lindi is known as a well-rounded and versatile dancer who puts everything on the floor. She's proven herself to be a passionate, hardworking individual and it's impossible to keep your eyes off her when she's dancing.

Tara Gerritsen

Head of Wardrobe

Tara has worked with The Young Canadians (TYC) Wardrobe Department for 4 seasons, including positions with TYC Wardrobe Crew, the Stampede Grandstand Wardrobe Crew and as Head of Wardrobe for the Grandstand 2017 show “Together”.

Tara’s interest in the arts took root early in her life, thanks to training in dance, music and fine arts. Her connection to the arts has spanned her whole life as she consistently seeks new opportunities to collaborate on dance, music and art projects in work and play. It was during her university years, where she discovered her true passion to work behind the scenes on stage productions.

A broadcast television production graduate of SAIT, Tara has worked as a producer in television and film across Saskatchewan and Alberta with CTV, CBC, Partners in Motion, and with White Iron Productions, where she collaborated on projects such as “World of Horses” and the commercial campaigns for “CJAY92fm”. Tara has also worked as an Organizing Expert, owning her own organizing business for the past 14 years.

In addition to supporting the TYC students, the school and their wardrobe needs, Tara likes to keep busy as a preschool teacher, repurposing artisan and reno enthusiast. She is a proud parent of three children, Julia (TYC alumna), Gabriel and Norah, and has been married to her best friend, Chris, since 1997.

Stephanie Hradsky

Vocal Instructor

Stephanie Hradsky holds a Masters degree in Voice and Opera from McGill University and a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance from the University of Michigan. This past year Stephanie was in the premier of cast of “Bearing”, a show produced with Signal Theatre in Toronto. Other credits include performing in the premier cast of a new opera put on through the Banff Centre and Against the Grain Theatre and Calgary Opera’s production of “The Magic Flute”. Stephanie has studied and performed in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Equally at home in opera and musical theatre, past productions include Don Giovanni (Zerlina), Rinaldo (Almirena), Le Nozze di Figaro (Barbarina), The Magic Flute (Papagena), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Peaseblossom), The Full Monty, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, and Merton of the Movies (Flips Montague, Canadian Premiere).

Melissa Klassen

Dance Instructor

"Miss Melissa brings with her over 20 years of experience as an expert in AcroDance, safe spotting practices, injury prevention, gymnastics, adjudication, and teacher certification. Melissa has extensive experience teaching students of all ages and abilities. She has taught thousands of acrobats from around the world, and has seen several of them go on to have exciting and fulfilling professional careers.

As creator and director of the International “Acrobatique AcroDance Syllabus", Melissa Klassen is the “go to” expert in the field of AcroDance in Canada and abroad. Her modern techniques and fresh approach to Acrobatics have become a game changer in the dance industry.

Melissa is the original creator of the AcroDance department here at The Young Canadians; she created the program, was the department head, and mentored up and coming teachers for 10 years. Now, Melissa is excited to re-join the TYC team, and take the program to the next level in modern AcroDance.
In addition to re-joining the TYC team, and facilitating the worldwide Acrobatique Syllabus, Melissa created, and is currently the Director for, the department of AcroDance at the renowned athletic sports school Tanbridge Academy, here in Calgary.

Melissa is certified with the Canadian A.D.A.P.T (Jazz/Tap) Syllabus, is Level 3 certified with the N.C.C.P – Gymnastics division, Level 2 N.C.C.P Judging/Adjudicating Certification, Tumbling and Trampoline Level 2, Canadian Child Safety Certification, and has a diploma in Sport Management/Administration with Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta.

With an eye for precision, sharp technical skills, and a passion for mentorship and inspiring others, Melissa Klassen leads the way in the AcroDance industry in Canada and abroad.”

Ryan Nolin

Vocal Instructor/ Accompanist

Ryan, a born and raised Calgarian, is excited for his third season with The Young Canadians! Having countless experiences to draw from, some of Ryan’s previous roles include: front man for New Zealand rock band, choir performer for the president of Hungry, orchestra maember for Royal Caribbean cruise line, Pirate King, Canadian Mountie, Manatee, and much more. Ryan has his A.R.C.T. in piano performance as well as a degree in vocal performance from the University of Calgary. He his currently working alongside many Calgary high school choirs and dance companies. Including, Alberta Ballet and Decidedly Jazz Dance.

Garrett Rutten

Dance Instructor/Production Coordinator

Garrett was raised in Calgary and from an early age he started excelling in dance and gymnastics. He is a trained dancer in the ADAPT and Royal Academy of Dance syllabuses. Garrett has received his diverse training from professionals across North America. He was also a featured cast performer with The Young Canadians for five years. Garrett was a dancer in the 2008 Juno awards, hosted in Calgary, Alberta.

With over six years of teaching experience, Garrett specializes in adagio partnering and working with a male company to improve dance technique. Garrett volunteers with Immigration Canada, teaching newly landed children a variety of dance styles. Garrett holds an Alberta Gymnastics Federation coaching license, as well as an Acrobatique certification. He is currently working towards his Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Calgary.

Jackie Stewart

Dance Instructor

Jacqueline grew up in Montreal where she began her studies with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. She moved to Toronto at the age of 13 and graduated from the National Ballet School in 1984. Jacqueline began her professional career with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and also danced with Alberta Ballet and Calgary City Ballet. During her career she performed such ballets as The Nutcracker, Cinderella and Coppelia. Jacqueline also taught with the School of Alberta Ballet for over 10 years. As well as teaching at Young Canadians and McDonald-Wilson Dance Academy, she also teaches dance at Central Memorial High School and works part time at Fitness Table Calgary.

Shannon Backynski

Guest Ballet Instructor

Shannon Bachynski (Wilson) A.R.A.D. / R.T.S. has over 50 years experience in professional dance ranging from performing, teaching, choreographing and administration.

Shannon was trained as a classical ballet dancer and has studied and danced at such institutions as The National Ballet of Canada, The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Ryerson University and the Banff School of Fine Arts. She has also studied Dance History, Dance Anatomy and Benesh Notation through the University of Waterloo and has traveled extensively to study dance in such locales as Winnipeg, Toronto, Boston, New York, Paris and Cuba.

In 1973 Shannon founded and was the Principal and Operating Director of the McDonald-Wilson Dance Academy in Calgary, Alberta, for over 35 years.

As a teacher, choreographer and administrator, Shannon has studied all forms of dance and movement through various institutions. She is recognized as a certified and registered teacher with an A.R.A.D. (Associate) certification from the Royal Academy of Dance and has been appointed by the Royal Academy of Dance in London as a Tutor, Supervisor and Mentor of students who are enrolled in the Certificate in Ballet Teaching Studies.

Shannon was awarded a “Lifetime Membership” from the Royal Academy of Dance in London for “40 years of unwavering loyalty and dedication” to her craft. There are a mere 1,000 Life Members in 36 countries in the world.

Shannon was the co-founder and Artistic Director of “Dancer’s In Training Company” and is a director for Springboard Performance as well as an honorary board member for Alberta Dance Theatre.

In 2005, Shannon wrote and published a book entitled “Life is a Dance”, which speaks about the non-competitive philosophy in dance and the arts.

Shannon expounds the principle of “dancing form the inside out”.

Yukichi Hattori

Guest Instructor

Yukichi started dancing in Tokyo, Japan.

At a young age of 13, he moved to Hamburg, Germany to attend the Hamburg ballet school. He joined the Hamburg ballet in 1999, where he was praised as the "audience's favourite dancer". He was promoted to soloist in 2004. He then moved to the Alberta Ballet in 2006, where he danced until 2016. He not only danced throughout his career, he choreographs all over the world as well. He has made pieces in Japan, Germany and here in Calgary.

He now opened Hattori/Williamson school of Dance here in Calgary along with his partners, Galien Johnston Hattori and Tara Williamson.