Take the Lead Dance Project is an arts education organization dedicated to enriching lives through dance
Take the Lead Dance Project (formerly Philadelphia Dance Foundation) is a 501c3 nonprofit arts education organization founded in 2008 by Shana Heidorn and Leigh Byron. Shana is a professional ballroom dancer and owner/director of Philadelphia’s premier ballroom dancing instruction studio, The Society Hill Dance Academy. Leigh has a distinguished background in education as a former superintendent and principal of schools in New Jersey and New York. When they first met to discuss how to combine their respective backgrounds into enriching the lives of children and youth, it led to the formation of Philadelphia Dance Foundation. Their common belief is that the power of dance changes people’s lives.
Shana opened Society Hill Dance Academy in June 2002. Originally from Apple Valley, Minnesota, where she started teaching there more than 20 years ago, Shana trained with coaches from all over the country, was a competitive dancer and eventually opened her own school in Philadelphia. “Dancing is a beautiful sport that brings people young and old together in a way that does not compare to anything else,” Shana says. “Do not wait until ‘someday’ to dance!”
Leigh Byron - Dr. Byron has accomplished the educational leadership trifecta: superintendent in public schools, headmaster in private schools, and head of school in charter schools. In addition, he is the co-founder of a non-profit foundation whose mission is to use ballroom dancing to enhance the lives of children, and was the executive director of a non-profit foundation that uses soccer as a motivator to teach leadership skills to teenagers in low-income communities. He is a contributing editor at large for Broadway World. His doctorate is from Columbia University.
Jackie Fisher started her professional dancing career in 2002. She has an extensive background in teaching and performing in Philadelphia, New York City, New Jersey, and Rome, Italy. In 2008 she began teaching ballroom dance in the New York City School District for international arts education nonprofit organization, Dancing Classrooms, becoming one of their select senior teaching artists. In 2015 after re locating back home to Philadelphia her love of dance and teaching led her to a small local Philadelphia arts nonprofit organization, Take the Lead Dance Project (Formerly Philadelphia Dance Foundation). As executive director she spearheaded the rebranding of Take the Lead Dance Project, created the organizations first high school dance program, and expanded the program from two to nine Philadelphia public high schools in just 2 short years. To date, Take the Lead Dance Project has served more than 1,000 high school students in Philadelphia. Jackie Fisher is a Passionate advocate, with a sustained commitment to aiding the advancement of youth arts education programming. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband Bernard, their two daughters, Peri, 6, Aden, 3, and their 2 year old labradoodle, Leo. Click the link at the bottom of this page below to find out more about our Board of Directors Team!
Tracy Heisler - Tracy has been dancing since she was four years old training in ballet, jazz, theater dance and tap. After high school Tracy attended the Crane School Of Music in upstate NY. After graduating, she taught music to kindergarten through twelfth graders in North Carolina and Missouri. Tracy is excited to return to teaching and currently lives in Philly with her family.
Julianna Boylan - Hailing originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Julianna graduated from University of Illinois, with her B.F.A. in Dance. She is currently living in Philadelphia working as a teaching artist. She spent the 2018-2019 school year with ArtistYear AmeriCorp teaching dance at an elementary school in North Philly. She will continue to teach in the Philly region at Yes And... Collaborative Arts, Philadelphia Arts in Education Partners, Take the Lead and Fireworks Dance Center. As a performer, she has danced for Yael Bartana at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and is currently working with Kalila Kingsford Smith. Previously, she has been seen in works by Charli Brissey, Jennifer Monson, and Renée Wadleigh; has provided dramaturgical support to Leah Wilks and Linda Lehovec; and has presented her choreographic thesis at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Throughout her young career, she has intensified her passion for thinking critically about art, manipulating bodies in time and space to create new dance works, and sharing her love of dance with others by performing and teaching. Check out juliannaboylan.com for more information!
Marissa Barnathan - Marissa is a Havertown native who now works in the Philly area as a performer, teaching artist, director, and choreographer. She holds a B.A. in both Drama and Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, with a minor in Ballet. In addition to teaching with Take the Lead, Marissa teaches dance and theatre at Rutgers University, Friends Select School, and with several companies including the Walnut Street Theatre, Wolf Performing Arts Center, ZoomDance, and many more. She has also performed with local companies including the Walnut, People's Light & Theatre Company, and Theatre Ariel. Website: www.marissabarnathan.com
Samuel M. D’Antonio, Chief Financial Officer, Mercy Health System, MHCHS-
Mr. D’Antonio has worked as a CFO for hospitals, health systems, home health and community based health business enterprises for the past thirty five years and possess extensive experience and expertise in healthcare financial management, mergers and acquisitions, operations and strategic planning.
Mr. D’Antonio has seasoned financial expertise including performance improvement and turnaround, revenue cycle, accounts receivable reduction, cash flow enhancement, debt financing and mergers/acquisitions.
Mr. D’Antonio holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from St Joseph’s University with graduate studies in marketing also from St Joseph’s University. He is a member of the Philadelphia chapter of the Healthcare Financial Management Association and is a past adjunct graduate school faculty instructor at Penn State University, Malvern and St Francis University. Mr. D'Antonio is actively involved in various charities that support the Philadelphia Community for disadvantaged children such as the Philadelphia Dance Foundation and the Walnut Street Theater Foundation for the arts.
Most recently Mr. D’Antonio was named the 2014 Chief Financial Officer of the Year by the Philadelphia Business Journal and SmartCEO Financial Executive of the Year in 2015.
Robert Barry Bernberg
Temple University School of Law, Class of 1974. Law Office of Robert G. Bernberg, Philadelphia 1974-1978. Managing Partner, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh offices of the Great Neck, New York-based law firm Hayt, Hayt and Landau 1978-1992. National Executive Committee 1990-1992. Co-owner and Business Affairs Counsel, Latin Beat Magazine, the world's leading tropical music magazine, 1992-present. Owner, Salsabor Music and Latin Beat Magazine Music record labels 1996-2006. Founder, Siempre Salsa Philly, initiative to preserve and foster the growth of salsa music and the community from which it emanates 2015-present. Founder, producer of City of Philadelphia's annual Salsa Week Celebration, 2015-present. Philadelphia Dance Foundation Board of Directors 2016-present.
Susan Troxell practiced law for 20 years, specializing in litigation and trial defense of product manufacturers and clinical laboratory professionals. She was a partner in the Philadelphia firm of Lavin, O'Neil, Cedrone & DiSipio before retiring in 2012. A classically-trained musician, she earned a degree, magna cum laude, from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, in piano performance and English. An avid ballroom dancer herself, she has served on the board of directors of Susan Hess Modern Dance, and currently volunteers as the librarian for the Richard III Society, writing articles and giving lectures in England and in the United States. She attributes her success in life to having been exposed to music, dance and art at an early age, and passionately believes in their power to transform lives.
Paula is an avid ballroom dancer who retired from a career in the field of children’s protective services in Camden, New Jersey. Paula joined the Board of Take the Lead Dance Project to continue her efforts to help enrich the lives and futures of inner-city youth. Paula previously served on the boards of Suburban Music School and Media Fellowship House, both in Media, Pa.