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Our Studio

leilani2Leilani Nakagawa (Studio Owner)
Instruction, Coaching and Choreography in Internationl Standard and Latin, American Smooth and Rhythm, West Coast Swing and Salsa.
Leilani loves ballroom dance simply because of the beauty and fitness one is able to create through this incredible art form. Leilani has been ballroom dancing for over 15 years. In the beginning of her dance career, she focused on the fun and lively genre of swing dancing. She was honored with the opportunity to lead the swing dance club at Tigard High School where she choreographed, taught, and then performed at both school and community functions. She starting her teaching career with participating in the Nationally Recognized DVIDA Teacher Training Program, and soon after began teaching full time here in Portland.  From there her career expanded to competition in International Dancesport and WSDC competitions all over the U.S. and beyond.  Traveling for competition also allowed her great opportunities for world class training.  She has trained with the "best of the best" both locally and worldwide.  Some of her coaches include: Jim and Michele Gray (local coaches), Charlotte Jorgensen, Alexander Chernositov, Valentin Bachvarav, Benji Schwimmer, Jordan Frisbee, and Tatiana Mollman.  Most recently she has poured her passion into creating a fun and welcoming studio community here in Portland for locals to learn to dance.

At UpTown Ballroom, she strives to create enjoyable classes that produce top-notch dancers. Leilani loves to see her students reach a sense of personal accomplishment and confidence through their dancing on both mental and physical levels. Always passionate about her sport, Leilani currently continues to enhance her own personal skill through continued training and competitions.  By this Leilani can ensure she is providing the very best instruction to her students! 

AlaynaAlayna Bussen 
Specializing in International Standard and Latin, and Zumba.
Alayna has been dancing for five years.  She got started taking swing and lindy classes in Chicago, IL.  In 2008 she moved to Portland, OR and fell in love with Ballroom and Latin dancing.  Most recently Alayna has found Zumba, and
as it mixes her love of dance with the benefits of fitness, it is a perfect match.  Her Zumba program at UpTown has flurished under her leadership and is expanding quickly!

leilani2Ricardo Linnell 
Specializing in Salsa.
Ricardo has been dancing Salsa for over 9 years here in the Portland area.  He has lead performance teams, competed and taught many many people to dance.  Ricardo is known for always having a smile on his face and truely embodying the liveliness of the dance he teaches!

leilani2Carla Titus 
Carla started dancing at a young age and was introduced specifically to ballroom dancing 5 years ago. She took her new passion to the competitive floor and gained a wide range of accomplishments nationally and internationally. One of her highest placing was in Vancouver, Canada at the “2008 Snowball” competition where she won 1st place in International Latin and 2nd in International Standard. Carla is a well diverse dancer with her main focus on International Standard (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz and Quickstep) and International Latin (Cha Cha, Rumba, Samba, Jive, Paso Doble) dances. She had trained with many world renown profressionals and loves to help new dancers learn how to enjoy this fantastic sport!

ArielAriel Kaplan
(Specializing in cross-step waltz and nightclub two step)
With a background in ballet, Ariel took the occasional ballroom class in school and began dancing socially in 2004.  Upon discovering vintage waltz, she fell instantly in love and has since voraciously expanded her interests to include a number of other dances, of which her current favorites are nightclub 2-step, waltz, and west coast swing.  She appreciates creativity, flexibility, collaboration, and experimentation, including fusion and lead-switching.

Her love of dance stems primarily from a feeling of human connection, found in the open communication between lead and follow. She began teaching in 2011 and is patient and supportive, hoping to help many more people find the happiness she has found in dance.

leilani2Michele Gray 
(Specializing in International Standard/Latin and Country) 
Since age five, Michele has been dancing, performing, and competing in many dance styles. She began with princess ballet (because what little girl doesn’t want to do princess ballet), and then began competing tap, jazz, and cheerleading as a teen. She found ballroom just out of college, instantly fell in love with the new challenge, and began pursuing training. With her amateur partner, she made finals in their division at her first international competition.

Michele and her professional partner Jim spent three years flying to LA or New York for training once a month, and often brought their coaches in to Portland, so that their students were able to benefit from their guidance as well. Their primary coaches are World Champion Charlotte Jorgensen (Standard/Smooth), and UK Open Finalist Olga Rodionova (Latin). Michele has been featured in InStep Magazine (multiple times 2006-2009),
and Portland Family Magazine (2010).