Our staff

 DIANE BELZ

Diane is the Artistic Director at the Upper Room as well as the Watchmen Dance Ministry at her church. She began her formal training at Merle Scheff School of Ballet in St. Louis Mo. where for 12 years she studied under Principal dancer Karen Rosenburg of the St. Louis Civic Ballet Company.

After moving to Aspen Colorado she took classes locally as well as training Summers with Ballet West (Salt Lake City).

Diane and her family have been in the Chicagoland area since 1991. Locally she has taught classes at Moves Dance Studio and the Edge Homeschool Group.
Her career has been as an independent dancer with performances in Operas and Special Events.

Diane began the Upper Room in 1997 with 20 students using the Fellowship Hall of Wheaton 1st Assembly Church. She has been blessed to see the exponential growth of the studio but most importantly the growth of her students skills. Her hearts desire is to see her students use their talents for God - "THEIR UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST".

 

  AMARA BARNES

With her love and passion for dance, Amara Barnes has studied ballet, pointe, contemporary, jazz, and modern since she was seven years old. She has trained under the direction of Watmora Casey, Nickie Del Re Masino, and Tatianna Mazur at Faubourg School of Ballet and with Sherry Moray and Victoria Born at The Academy of Dance Arts. In 2005, she studied at Lines Ballet in San Francisco and in 2006 received a scholarship to train for the summer at Ballet Austin.

She has been an assistant teacher for River North Dance Company in Chicago and for Carmen Rostratzen at the The Julliard School in New York City. She was also asked to perform with singer Keri Noble that was choreographed for her by the late Terry Fox.  At eighteen, she was offered an apprenticeship for Orlando Ballet and asked to perform with the Walt Disney Company in Orlando. She won the Gus Giordano Award at the Carey Rose Winski competition and the Dance Spirit award with Chicago Dance Connection.

Amara has won locally and nationally in dance competitions since she was 12. For two years she was invited for the summer to train with Jackie Slight at the Performing Arts Center whose instructors were Mark Meismer, Tina D’Amato, Cindy Ricalde, and more.

Amara has been teaching contemporary and jazz since she was 16 and is thrilled to be back at the Upper Room.

 

 BRAEDON BARNES

Braeden Barnes, a native from Chicago, Illinois, received his training under the direction of Watmora Casey, the founder and director of Faubourg Ballet; Sherry Moray, founder and director of Academy of Dance Arts; San Francisco Ballet School; and Houston of School Ballet. At seventeen Braeden was accepted into the Joffrey Ballet training program under directors Alexei Kremnev and Anna Reznik. During his time there, he did work by Francisco Avina, Ronn Stewart, Amy Hall, and Diana Princeton.

After his time at Joffrey, he danced professionally in major cities such as Milwaukee, Portland, Montreal, Palm Springs, and Las Vegas and has worked with choreographers such as Jose Navas, Matthew Neenan, Sarah Slipper, Ron De Jesus, and Gerald Charles.

In 2012, Braeden joined Nevada Ballet Theatre (NBT), under director James Canfield, performing many lead roles in the Nutcracker (Nephew/Prince), Balanchine’s Midsummer Night’s Dream (Puck), and James Canfield’s Romeo and Juliet (Mercutio).

As an emerging choreographer, Braeden has had the opportunity to choreograph in Chicago and Las Vegas. His work has been featured in Chicago benefits, and competitions. Braeden choreographed works for NBT that have been featured in their annual Studio Series and Cirque Du Soliel on the Mystere stage in Las Vegas.

The Upper Room is excited to have him join our staff.

Braeden will be teaching Partnering Dance, Boys Ballet and Contemporary.

 

 ORLA LUDWICK

Orla has been with Diane and the Upper Room since its 1998. Initially a student, then assistant, Orla has taught the Dancin .9, Irish, and Tumbling classes for over 15 years and has watched many students grow up at the studio. She has been the Stage Manager for every recital and keeps everyone in line and on cue!

 

 REBECCA LUDWICK

Rebecca has been with the Upper Room for 11 years! She was one of the original students and has taught Advanced Ballet, Point, Lyrical, Modern, Irish Step dancing and Hip-Hop for the last 7 years.

Rebecca received her formal training from Faubourg School of Ballet in Hanover Park and at McNulty School of Irish Dance. Rebecca has performed in lead roles such as; Swan Lake, Don Q, and, Paquita other Guest performances include the Chicago Lyric Opera, Rasa Dance Chicago and, Faubourg Ballet Theater.

Whether on stage or teaching Rebecca loves sharing her talent that the Lord has given her, with others. Dance is a very big part of her life Just ask Rebecca some time and she will tell you its her Passion! Currently she has stepped into a new arena of dance called West Coast Swing; and is competing on a national level.

 

KATIE MCLAUGHLIN

Katie McLaughlin has studied ballet, pointe, modern, and jazz for 13 years. Katie began her classical ballet training came from Faubourg School of Ballet under the direction of Watmora Casey and Tatianna Mazura. She also spent three years studying at San Francisco Ballet on full Scholarship. In 2005 and 2006, Katie was invited to train at the Stiefel and Stars performance project in Martha’s Vineyard, where she performed with Ethan Stiefel, Gillian Murphy, David Hallberg, Marcelo Gomes’, Alina Cojocaru and other ABT stars. At the age of sixteen, she was offered an apprenticeship with the Houston Ballet Company by the director Stanton Welch. Katie’s professional performances include: Marcleo Gomes’ world premiere “Loving”, Christopher Weldon’s “Carnival of the Animals”, Stanton Welch’s “Chairman” and “Long and Winding Road”, Lilac Fairy in Sleeping beauty for the Houston ballet, and Katrina Killian’s “Who Cares” solo Stairway to Paradise. Her other soloist roles consist of Black Swan, Paquita, Swanilda, Esmeralda, Aurora, Aegina, Snow Queen, Ballerina Doll, and Wendy in Peter Pan. More recently, Katie has been teaching ballet and pointe for the last 5 years at three different local dance studios.

Some of Katie’s awards consist of taking first place in the Chicago regional Youth America Grand Prix and then going on to the New York finals to place in the top twelve dancers in the world in 2007. She has won first place scholarships, two years in a row, for the Carey Rose Winski competition. In 2001, Katie won a gold medal for power tumbling in the AAU USA Junior Olympics in Virginia Beach, VA.

 

THERESA MURATA

Theresa is the founder of Worship Expressions, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people experience freedom and healing through music, dance and teaching the Word of God.  She teaches workshops and classes on worship and worship tools, among other topics, and also makes flags, streamers and other instruments of worship.

Theresa trained in Oriental Dance for 10 years and has also studied a variety of dance forms at the University of Illinois, College of DuPage, The Upper Room Dance Studio, DuPage Dance Academy and in Granada, Spain.  She has trained with Cindy Green in Worship Tools at the Upper Room Dance Studio and has choreographed and ministered in worship dance at various venues.  Her passion is to equip others to effectively use worship tools and experience greater joy, freedom and intimacy with God through worship.

Theresa also works as a therapist for children with special needs.  She is the author of the book Dancing with Silks: Moving With The Wind of the Spirit.

Theresa earned a teaching degree from the University of Illinois and a ministerial diploma from Charis Bible College.  She is a licensed and ordained minister.