Owner & Artistic Director
Modern / Contemporary
Susan Sorensen holds a BS in Education, specializing in Physical Education and Dance, from Texas Tech University. She studied at Southern Methodist University, Texas Tech University, Brookhaven College, Moonslice Dancer Theatre, Buster Cooper School of Dance, and Houston Ballet. Mrs. Sorensen taught P.E. and Dance for the Dallas Independent School District for 7 years. She also worked as an independent artist, performing with Contemporary Dance/Ft Worth, Brookhaven Dancer’s Theatre, Donna Marie-Moham Dancers, Diana Taylor Dancers, Lubbock Civic Ballet and e. donnette durham & dancers.
She teaches Jazz, Modern and Hip Hop at CGDA and also works as a freelance choreographer for local theatre groups. Choreography credits include, Carousel, How to Succeed in Business, 100 Degrees in the Shade, On the Verge, Private Eyes, Zombie Prom, West Side Story, Beauty and the Beast, Guys and Dolls, Avalon, Legally Blond, Chicago, Mama Mia and Grease.
My dance career began at age three with a tootsie roll and the promise of much fun to come under the extraordinary tutelage of vaudevillian soloist, Eleanor Borg; my mentor and, proudly, her protégé. Her spirited teaching and great foundations continue to be an inspiration to me today, as are my parents, Joan and Connie Smith, who encouraged and supported my lifelong dance career. Since the age of 14, I have been privileged to study and dance with the following great Masters of Tap: Charles Honi Coles, Cholly Atkins, Harold Nicholas, Savion Glover, Emery Clay, Richard Billings, Carneil Lyons, LaVaughn Robinson, Buster Brown, Eddie Brown, Steve Condos, Sam Weber, Fred Strickier, Lane Alexander, Derick Grant, Lee Green, Josh Hilberman, my favorite classy ladies: Lady Di (Diane Walker), Brenda Buffaiino, Heather Cornell, Lynn Daily, Teny Brock, Roxanne Butterfly, Jeannie Hill and my dear Ballet friend, Margaret Dallman.
My greatest accomplishments (PRIDE and JOY!)… My lifelong relationship with my husband and partner of 35 years, Richard, and my three incredible children; Jacob, Nicholas and Meredith (all of whom, by the way, including my husband, are great dancers too!) And of course, watching the “Halos of Happiness” from backstage and in class of those I teach!
I encourage everyone to find time in their lives to dance! Stay young at heart!
Upper Level Ballet D and Elite
Pointe D and Elite
Melissa Vovou, born and raised in Hood River, began dancing at the age of 4 (under the tutelage of Bev Bridgewater, Margaret Dallman, Theresa Mason, and Charlotte Arnold,) and
continued training in Portland (with Robert Guilliam, Jacques Kunzman, Nina Raimondo, and
Pat Hon, among others.) A scholarship to Marin Ballet brought her to the Bay Area (where she
trained with Frank Bays, Cynthia Pepper, Summer Ratigan, Maria Vegh, and Lorien Fenton,)
and performed with regional ballet, contemporary, and hip hop companies including Redwood
Empire Ballet, Newstyle Motherlode and Marin Future Shock.
Later, she joined Carnival Cruiselines as a showgirl, performing in their variety and magic
shows for 7 years, and developed an Adage act with her dance partner, bringing that act to the
Nutcracker in Hood River in 2007.
Melissa has been teaching dance since she was 14 years old, and is a fully certified Pilates
instructor since 2008. She has been a guest teacher for CGDA over the years and was on the
ballet faculty 2011-2012. She loves to inspire her dancers and clients to find joy and freedom in
movement. “Dance from your heart
Theresa Mason started dancing at the age of eight. She began her ballet training with Leigh Salsibury in Concord, Ca, continued with the Showalter School of Dance in Walnut Creek Ca, and from there went into San Francisco and trained with Alan Howard and the Pacific Ballet Co. She attended Lassen College and obtained her A.A. degree as well as a Vocational Teaching Degree in Dance. While there she danced with Tanya Braunstein and the Lassen College Moving Co. She later taught ballet for three years at Lassen College in the P.E. Dept, during which time she also ran her own ballet school for children which continued for nine years. In 1989 she moved to Hood River and began teaching at the Bridgewater Dance Theatre for three years before joining the Workout Dance and Fitness Center, now the Columbia Gorge Dance Academy, where she has been teaching since 1994.
Contemporary / Lyrical
Portland native Heather Wright began dancing at the age of 14 with the Milwaukie High School Dance Team and was introduced to a variety of genres: ballet, jazz, modern and hip-hop. As a senior, Heather was named team captain and selected for the OSAA All-State Dance Team. Her love of dance grew from there and earned her a scholarship with the Boise State Mane Line Dancers where they competed and won three USA National Championship titles.
Since then Heather has taught dance all over the West Coast as an UDA instructor and also spent two seasons performing with the Idaho Stampede Dancers. Most recently, Heather lived in New York City and studied contemporary, lyrical, broadway, jazz-funk, street-jazz and hip-hop at Broadway Dance Center while also working in TV production. Heather currently teaches Jazz at Columbia Gorge Dance Academy and continues to take classes at Vega Dance Lab.
Jazz 1, 2, 3
I began dancing at the age of three with a pair of tap shoes and Charlotte Arnold as my teacher. At the age of 10 I began traveling and competing all over the northwest. I studied ballet with Margaret Dallman, and jazz with Tony Loupe.
In high school I continued to compete nationally, and added hip Hop and modern to my dance experience. I was asked to teach preschool age tap and ballet classes until I graduated, this is when I fell in love with teaching.
I found Charlotte again in my 30’s and have been back tapping for the past 6 years. Dancing has always been a big part of my life, and I can’t wait to share my excitement and love of dancing with our students.
Upper Ballet A, B & C
Simone is a dancer splitting her time between Portland and Hood River. She grew up in northern Idaho, dancing at Festival Dance and attending summer intensives across the USA. Her sophomore year of high school, she began attending Walnut Hill School for the Arts outside of Boston, training with teachers from ballet theaters in New York and Boston. After her graduation in 2017, she attended Boston Conservatory at Berklee, where she acquired her BFA in Contemporary Dance Performance, Summa Cum Laude. While in Boston, she performed in school performances and City Ballet of Boston’s Urban Nutcracker. She has had the fortune to train in many styles of ballet and contemporary/modern dance and believes a well rounded approach to dance training is advantageous to students growth, adaptability and virtuosity.
Simone’s dance education includes: Portland (Sara Parker, Andrea Parsons, Franco Nieto, Colleen Loverde, Lee-wei Chao, Heather Jackson, Vanessa Thiessen, Zach Carol, Sara Fuhrman) Boston (Tony Williams, Michael Owen, Denise Lewis, Kathy Kozul, Monica Lender, Marissa Parmenter, Adrianna Suarez, Tai Jimenez, Gianni DiMarco, Russel Clarke, Marcus Schulkind, Denise Pons-Leone, Kurt Douglas, Ruka White, Brian McGinnis, Jimmy Viera, Joy Davis, Alyssa Cardone, Diane Arvanites) (Ririe Woodbury Dance Company, Limón Dance Company, Ballet West, Bolshoi Ballet Academy, The Rock Ballet, Kirov Ballet Academy)