Program Advisor and Studio Founder
Artistic Director Christine Rich Dance Theater
Christine Rich, founder of the Christine Rich Studio, author, and dance teacher is a seasoned and skilled professional with over 30 years of a variety of experience that she continually draws from today. Starting from the plains of Central Illinois, she has seen success in the likes of New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago in dance, acting, fitness, comedy, choreography for professional dancers, exercise patents and teaching dance students. Always innovating, Ms. Rich continues to expand her talents and develop her students to their highest potential.
Christine Rich trained in dance starting at age 9 with an outstanding dance instructor and exceptional choreographer, Janet Streenz, who Ms. Rich recognizes today as a leading mentor for creative choreography and outstanding teaching. Training continued at the National Academy of Arts and University of Illinois before continuing training in NY, LA and Chicago as she endeavored in other aspects of movement and the arts. The early years of dance training always served Ms. Rich in whatever she set about doing later in life.
After being discovered by a New York talent manager as a young adult, Ms. Rich was signed by the Ford Modeling Agency in New York City for their commercial modeling division. Ms. Rich was photographed for numerous advertisements oftentimes incorporating her dance background with modeling. She was the “face” of the spring line of Charles of the Ritz cosmetics as well as acting/dancing in many TV commercials including Chic Jeans, Chevrolet, Crystal Light, and Pennsylvania’s Lotto, to name a few.
Ms. Rich naturally developed the aptitude to act and began acting classes on both coasts. Her first film starring Danny DeVito and Harvey Keitel was directed by Brian DePalma, earned her a Screen Actor’s Guild membership. She went on to co-star opposite Tom Berenger shooting on location in Manhattan. Filming continued on both coasts including appearing in the infamous Rodney Dangerfield’s “Young Comedians” which launched the careers of famous names today. Numerous recurring roles in soap operas, situation comedies and prime time dramas led to an AFTRA membership as well. Ms. Rich co-starred in the Movie-of-the-Week pilot of “Quantum Leap.” Additionally, Ms. Rich instructed commercial acting classes and was a founding member of an LA based comedy improv troupe.
In addition to her acting credits, Ms. Rich has danced in numerous TV specials including television award shows. As a lead dancer, she has worked with choreographer Lester Wilson (Motown 25th Anniversary Special) in “Supermodels of the World”, and variety TV specials with Ben Vereen (Fosse and Pippin) as well as music videos and short films.
While in LA, Christine taught at numerous dance and fitness studios in addition to teaching jazz at Los Angeles Valley Community College.
After starring in many fitness videos in NYC, Ms. Rich became inspired to design a fitness product in LA. After extensive research and product testing, Ms. Rich developed a prototype which she then licensed to European and Seattle based equipment manufacturer Tunturi International. Tunturi dubbed this new fitness gem “The Seat Shaper” and hired Ms. Rich to be its spokesperson and star in the fitness infomercials, TV commercials and literature. QVC, a TV shopping network, asked Ms. Rich to appear on camera with their show hosts to promote the “Seat Shaper.” After sell-outs of inventory and an overwhelming audience response to Ms. Rich, QVC created their own cross-training fitness product which they hired Ms. Rich to promote on air. Ms. Rich appeared numerous times on QVC demonstrating the fitness lines including the biggest fitness day of the year, New Year’s Day.
Ms. Rich went on to invent a second resistance exercise device which is currently used nationwide and locally in the Sports Medicine field and by the trainers at a National hockey team. Ms. Rich received two U.S. Patents for “The Miracle Band” and produced her own series of accompanying exercise videos and product packaging.
In 1993, Ms. Rich returned to Central Illinois to focus on the educative art of dance, founding the Christine Rich Studio. The Studio focuses on high quality instruction in a creative environment including cross-training and performance opportunities for future careers in performing arts.
In 2001, Christine created the Christine Rich Dance Theater for her concert dance choreography. Since 2002, she has created numerous world premieres for the Dance Chicago festival, all appearing on every evening of programming including the Opening Night and Finales. Ms. Rich was selected to be a choreographer in the Dance Chicago 2004’s Choreography Partnership. She created a world premiere for Cerqua Rivera Art Experience entitled “The Look of Love.” Ms. Rich has received numerous awards and recognition for her choreography and has broken records as a choreographer at the country’s largest professional dance festival, Dance Chicago, where her works have recently appeared with the Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, River North Chicago Dance Company, and Joel Hall Dancers. Reviews in Chicago state that Ms. Rich’s choreography “… is perfectly done.”
Christine Rich has won the prestigious international ballet competition Youth America Grand Prix Outstanding Choregrapher Award twice, in 2005 and 2011. In 2014 she was added to the list of elite choreographers available for creating contemporary choreography pieces for YAGP participants around the world.
Christine is passionate about challenging each student of dance to aspire to their highest potential at all times. Through innovative teaching programs and choreography she seeks to astound her dance families and audiences of dance.
Dr. Kenneth Bello
Retired Principle Dancer, Master Ballet Teacher and Ballet Coach, Choreographer
Dr. Bello has an extensive teaching experience with background in a variety of styles, with Vaganova syllabus, his specialty, and has spent numerous years teaching dance history and giving lecture demonstrations as well as master classes and workshops throughout the United States and Canada.
Christine Rich calls him the “Wikipedia of Ballet” because his knowledge is unparalleled.
Dr. Bello continues his family lineage, which began four generations ago at the Maryinsky Imperial Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia, where his great grandmother was a soloist, dancing for the famous choreographer Marius Petipa. His influence as to the strength of the male dancer has been enormous, reaching literally thousands of students and ballet patrons who have watched in awe of his masculine, self-assured style. A few of Ken’s favorite roles are his show-stopping Russian dance from the “Nutcracker” and the camp officer in his original ballet concerning the Holocaust, “Arbeit Macht Frei”. Dr. Bello is one of today’s finest partners and compared to that of the famed Anton Dolin by the late great legendary Ruth Page. Ken has had personal coaching from some of ballet’s legends including A. Dementeyev, B. Masi, and V. Gordeyev.
Ken’s unique choreography has been featured twice on PBS- Television. Dr. Bello was the first to use the brilliant art of ballet to express the sensitive subject of the Holocaust. “Arbeit Macht Frei” was aired on Thanksgiving, sharing an important message to remember our history so as not to be doomed to repeat it. Never before has ballet been used eloquently, yet so powerfully. His second television special, “Slide Me Some Skin”, so named for the old-time saying ‘give me five’, was a jazzy blues piece. Having the musicians on stage makes the ambiance perfect as the dancers involve them into the movements of fun. Children come alive to his “Tribute to Disney Music” vignettes, and these pieces are brilliant in the arts and education programs. His diverse approach to his ballets makes every one a new experience for the audience and dancer.
Throughout Dr. Bello’s career he has danced with or partnered dancers from the Joffrey Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Ballet de Marsailles of France, Georgian National Ballet, Albanian Ballet before becoming a co-founder of the USA Ballet in 1990. Ken has danced the leading roles in many of the great classics: “Swan Lake”, “Don Quixote”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Raymonda”, “ Esmeralda”, “ Le Corsaire”, “La Bayadere”and the “Nutcracker” to mention a few. With his strong partnering skills, Ken has also introduced several innovative overhead lifts, including an alternating one-arm overhead lift in the grand pas de deux of the “Nutcracker”.
Co-founding the USA Ballet with his wife, renowned Ballerina Michelle Holmes-Bello, together they have made a strong impact on the youth of today. Dr. Bello has served two years on the Dance Panel for the Illinois Arts Council and has been instrumental in USA Ballet’s mission of reaching the youth in arts and education.
Tap, Jazz/Lyrical, Hip Hop/Show Jazz, Acrobatics, Contemporary, Conditioning, and Competition Team Director
Cassie began her dancing career at the age of 3 years, and her passion for dance has continued to grow. Whether it’s Tap, Jazz, Musical Theatre, Hip-Hop, or Contemporary, her love for performing is only surpassed by teaching and choreographing for all of her students.
For over fifteen years, Cassie was involved in competitive dance, winning numerous Regional and National awards and titles. She was a member of various dance companies in the Indianapolis area such as Showtime Dance Academy, Allied Dance Studio, and LA Dance Indy. Through these associations, she has had many opportunities to perform at prestigious venues including the Indianapolis Colts and Pacers games as well as the Indiana 500 Festival Parades.
In addition to her competitive dance experience, Cassie has also been involved in other performing arts groups. For four years, she participated in her high school show choirs as the dance captain, leading the women’s group to their first State Championship in 2011. She continues to share her enjoyment for show choir by choreographing sets and counseling over 800 children at the nationally known Show Choir Camps of America during the summer. Furthermore, Cassie has gained recognition as a performer and choreographer in her roles in the musicals “Aida” and “Footloose”, as well as the assistant director position for “Wizard of Oz” through the Wayne Township Education Foundation Community Theatre. Currently, Cassie is the Vice President for the Illini N Motion Dance Team at the University of Illinois.
She is very honored and excited to be sharing her knowledge, passion, and love of dance with all of her students at Christine Rich Studio!
Brianna Steinfeldt studied on full scholarship at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, which led to her being asked to join the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company in 2011. She has also studied on full scholarship in the summer intensive programs at American Ballet Theatre, Houston Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet, and at the Steifel and Stars Dreamcatchers program under the direction of Gillian Murphy.
Brianna Steinfeldt began her training at the Faubourg School of Ballet under the direction of Watmora Casey, Tatyana Mazur, and Ernesto Quenedit. Brianna placed as a top twelve finalist at the Youth America Grand Prix New York in 2008, and also received second and third place at the YAGP Chicago in 2008 and 2009.
Grace Davidson competed in the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP.org–the premier competition for rising ballet talent) for 5 years.
In 2010, Grace Davidson was awarded the Hope Award at the YAGP 2010 Chicago, IL Regional Semi-Finals. The Hope Award is the highest honor–beyond 1st place. In 2011, she repeated this feat and was also awarded the Hope Award at the NYC Finals of 2011–a feat rarely seen.
Grace also had the privilege of dancing on the New York City Center Stage in the 2011 Gala – “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow” as a soloist. This program included the top ballet principal dancers in the world.
In 2012, Grace was a YAGP New York City Finalist and placed in the “top 12” in the junior category, and was awarded the Grishko Model Search award. In addition in 2013, Grace, at the age of 13, won first place in the Carey Rose Winski Dance Scholarship Contest-a lovely memorial competition held for 13 through 18 year old dancers. Then again in the spring of 2013 at the YAGP NYC Finals Grace placed in the “top 12” as a NYC YAGP finalist, and received a scholarship to and studied with the John Cranko Schule of Ballet in Stuttgart, Germany.
Grace Davidson began her formal ballet training under the direction of Rebekah von Rathonyi at Peoria Ballet at the age of five. Several years later, she began commuting to the Chicago area and then trained at the Faubourg School of Ballet, where she had the privilege of training under Watmora Casey, Tatyana Mazur, Ernesto Quenedit, and Vilma Machin, and worked with choreographer and contemporary teacher Camille Turner.
Grace Davidson has performed in numerous student productions with Faubourg Theatre, and has performed in several galas such as the Festival Ballet Theatre’s Gala of the Stars in California and the Indianapolis City Ballet’s “Young Stars Gala.”
As an actress, Grace Davidson also had the privilege of being cast in an American Girl Movie – Isabelle Dances into the Spotlight. She spent a summer in Toronto, Canada filming this project and improving her acting skills.
Tap, Ballet, Jazz, Hip Hop, Modern
Laura Punke is a gifted dance teacher of many disciplines (tap, ballet, jazz, modern, hip hop, toddlers in all levels). She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Dance at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
A Eureka, IL native, Laura graduated Summa Cum Laude from Eureka College in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in History. She began her dance studies at Merrilee Studios in Metamora, IL, where she also taught for nearly 7 years. Laura performed for many years with the Tazwood Dance Company where she was also an Assistant Director and Choreographer. From there, she went on to continue her training and her teaching at Cornerstone Academy for the Performing Arts in Peoria, IL and still enjoys performing with the Central Illinois Ballet.
In addition, she previously held adjunct faculty teaching positions at both Illinois Central College and Eureka College as a Jazz and Musical Theatre Instructor. Laura has also appeared in musical theatre productions such as “The Producers,” “Dames at Sea,” and “Chicago.” Most recently, Laura was given the opportunity to spend a week in New York City participating in the Radio City Rockettes Summer Intensive.
MBallet, Acrobatics, Jazz, Modern
iss Becky achieved dance greatness as a child and young adult and now teaches and inspires our students with her considerable talents!
Jazz, Ballet, Tap