Staff & Faculty

Meet the Owners, Directors, Instructors, and Staff


Tara Behnke
Owner / Director

TARA has been dancing since the age of three. She fell in love with performing immediately and has loved being on stage ever since. As a young artist, she began her study of classical ballet at the Academy of Dance in San Luis Obispo. Her training immediately broadened to include pointe, jazz, tap, lyrical, musical theater, contemporary, and hip hop. Along with dance conventions, Tara has trained at West Side Ballet, Zeal Studio, and the Edge in Los Angeles as well as Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. She was the top scholarship winner at the Dance in Action Convention in 1998. Tara's intense schedule of training provided the foundation for a myriad of dance experiences including national and international tours to Spain, China and Cuba. Tara has danced with several professional level companies in SLO county, including All Things Contemporary Dance Company, the San Luis Jazz Dancers for eleven years and the Civic Ballet Company for seven years. As on of the company’s principal dancers, she performed in numerous roles in productions such as the Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and original works, and danced the lead of Maria in West Side Story and Nancy in Since I saw Her Standing There, a Beatles ballet.

Tara holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Child Development and Psychology from Cal Poly. The research for her senior project focused on how extracurricular activities influence positive developmental outcomes during adolescence. She is now fascinated with immersing child developmental theory into her teaching. Tara has been teaching dance and directing performing groups in San Luis Obispo county since 2002. Tara joined Coastal Dance as a guest teacher in 2005, and in 2008 she joined forces with Kathy as they expanded Coastal Dance to it’s Grand Avenue location, adding “and Music Academy.” At that time, they became the Founders of Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet, a non-profit ballet company. Tara is a contributing choreographer for CDMA’s Summer Intensive Programs, Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet’s Babes In Toyland productions, and Morro Bay High School’s 2009 Dance Intensive. Tara’s diverse teaching experience expands beyond dance, including public preschool and working with students with autism. Tara is the Assistant Director and Owner of Coastal Dance and Music Academy as well as an instructor of jazz, contemporary, pointe, ballet, and contemporary pointe, Performance Troupe Director, and CDMA’s web designer.

Kathy Schultz
Owner / Director

KATHY holds a Master's of Education and a teaching credential from Cal Poly. She has taught in a variety of capacities including the public school setting as a dance specialist for Children’s Creative Project, Bellevue Santa Fe Charter School, and Ocean View Elementary School, and as a guest teacher for the ACE Camps summer program. Kathy studied, taught, and choreographed at the Academy of Dance in San Luis Obispo for 15 years. While at the Academy of Dance she also directed performance troupes and served as the executive director of the Civic Ballet of San Luis Obispo. She was one of several choreographers featured in an international tour of The People’s Republic of China. Kathy was able to fulfill a dream when she opened her own studio, Coastal Dance, in Shell Beach in 2004. Due to the incredibly positive reaction, the fledgling studio was soon too small for it’s growing number of students. Therefore, in February of 2008, with the help of family and dear friends, Kathy expanded her growing studio to a beautiful new facility in Arroyo Grande, CA, adding music, voice, theater, and fitness to her program. Coastal Dance has now become Coastal Dance and Music Academy (CDMA).

Kathy has been a contributing choreographer for Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, California. Her work has been featured in the dance department’s productions of Dance Spectrum and Dimensions in Dance. She currently teaches jazz, tap, and ballet to all ages at Coastal Dance and Music Academy, and is the Director of the Performance Troupe. In 2008, Kathy and Tara became the founders of Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet, a non-profit ballet company. Her family-oriented, up-beat and polished performance troupe shows have received rave reviews wherever they have performed. Kathy’s loving, nurturing, and positive teaching style continues to be the guiding force behind Coastal Dance and Music Academy.


Bryanna Cross
Dance Instructor

Chie Evans

Bryanna Cross started her training at age 11 with the New Jersey Ballet School. At the age of 13, she attended the San Francisco Ballet School Summer Intensive and then from there was invited to continue her training with San Francisco Ballet in their year-round school. She spent her summer attending The School of American Ballet's Summer Intensive in New York City. Additionally, she trained privately with Marina Eglevsky for five years. In 2009, Ms. Cross began her professional career as a soloist dancer, performing with Artesan Dance Company, Eglevsky Ballet, Baltimore ballet, Neglia Ballet, Ballet With A Twist and Valley Dance Theatre. Simultaneously, she instructed classical and contemporary ballet for ages 2 through adult at seven different schools and companies from California to New York. In 2014, Ms. Cross choreographed and directed East Bay Dance Company's first-ever, full-length Nutcracker. She has also choreographed a variety of classical and contemporary pieces for ensembles and soloists.

Brianna Deveraux
Dance Instructor

BRIANNA started dancing at the age of 4 at Adkins Dance Center in Santa Maria. During her time at Adkins, she studied ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop, theatrical and contemporary dance styles. She joined their junior company at age 11, the senior company at age 13 and started teaching classes at age 16. She danced with the Adkins Dance Center company until she graduated high school. After high school Brianna moved to Southern California where she continued her dance studies at various studios in Los Angeles and San Diego. She also danced with the hip hop company Culture Shock San Diego. In 2006 Brianna moved to London, England to attend University. While there, she danced and taught classes at the world famous London Pineapple Dance Studio. Since returning to the Central Coast in 2011, Brianna has returned to Adkins Dance Center to teach and has preformed in and choreographed for a number of the Allan Hancock College Dance Department’s concerts. Brianna has a degree in Fine Art and she is also an accomplished professional painter, working mostly in watercolor and mixed media. 

Chie Evans
Dance Instructor

Chie Evans

Chie started her ballet and contemporary training at age three in Japan. After high school, she moved to New York City to attend the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance as a full-scholarship student, and later joined their second company, the Martha Graham Dance Ensemble. She was selected as a demonstrator to assist many former Graham Principal Dancer’s classes, both at the Graham school and outside of the school. While in New York City, she received her ballet training at Steps on Broadway and Broadway Dance Center. She was invited as a guest dancer by Dance Ensemble Singapore and performed at the Victoria Theatre, the country’s largest theater. Chie is also a certified Pilates instructor and taught at New York City’s largest studio, Pilates on Fifth. After moving to Hawaii, she taught ballet classes to students of all ages and levels at The Movement Center in Honolulu, Hawaii and was invited as a master teacher to teach Graham-based contemporary classes by many studios in Hawaii. 

Chie is very excited to share her experience and knowledge with the students at CDMA. 

Brianna Foerster
Dance Instructor

Bree Foerster was born and raised in Germany until the age of 9. She fell in love with dance at the age of 10. She started taking class and training with Dellos Performing Arts Center and competed with them for 3 years. She danced alongside Suzy Miller and Jason Sumabat for many years and was able to assist and take classes from many amazing professionals. She danced all 4 years of High School on the Nipomo High School Dance Company. She had always had a love for choreography and teaching, and always got along very well with younger kids. As well as dance Bree grew up doing Musical theater and believes that it helped her tremendously with her dance career. She graduated 2016 as president of Dance Company and attended Cuesta college her first year of college. Unsure of what she wanted to major in, she decided to transfer to Allan Hancock College into the Dance program in hopes to get her AA in Dance and transfer down south to get her BA in Dance.

Teresa Gasca-Burk
Music and Movement Instructor

TERESA has been teaching music and movement to children on the Central Coast for 15 years. She began at the Academy of Dance in San Luis Obispo teaching Creative Movement to preschoolers. Word of her wonderful work with children spread and she was asked to present a class for the young students at Shell Beach Elementary. She expanded her program to include basic music theory and appreciation for the young. She has now shared her program with students from Shell Beach Elementary, Bellevue Santa Fe Charter School and Robin’s Rugrats Preschool. Teresa performs in the community for children with her band BIRDIE. Along with her husband and writing partner, Gary, she has written and recorded two original CD’s for children titled, “Birdie,” and “Birdie-My Family Tree.” Her music can be found on iTunes, CDBaby, Pandora, and Rhapsody.

Chasen Greenwood
Dance Instructor

Chie Evans

Chasen is a triple threat: singer, dancer, and choreographer, Chasen has been featured in Dancer magazine as "one to watch." completing a nationwide tour with State Street Ballet as a soloist, Chasen has choreographed for Eva Longoria, That Kid Conrad and Amber Blu music videos, "Breezy" web series, and personally coached kids now on Broadway and for YAGP. His choreography won as "Best Young Choreographer" and was performed at Regional America Southwest. Chasen began his career as a young actor and singer, performing in Chuck Norris films, with Leann Rimes, and in the musicals Casper (National tour), Oliver, The Music Man, All My Sons and West Side Story. He left singing to pursue a career in dance, training of full scholarship with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Houston Ballet, Ballet Austin, and Texas Ballet Theatre, Balanchine trained under Lisa Cuzion. In 2010, Chasen moved to L.A. to further pursue his dance and music career. Chasen is now a company member with the Barak Ballet in Los Angeles.

Cami Johnson
Dance Instructor

CAMI grew up here on the central coast and attended her first ballet class at the Academy of Dance in SLO at the age of three.  Her love of dance developed instantly and has only continued to grow through the years. She also discovered, early in her life, the joy of working with children. Cami attended San Jose State University where she studied ballet, tap, and jazz as she earned a degree in Child and Adolescent Development. During these college years up north, she was the coordinator of a child care program at a private elementary school and also had the opportunity to teach beginning ballet and tap to children of low-income families at a Family Life Community Center. After graduating college, her journey into motherhood began and she moved back to the central coast to raise her family. She jumped at the chance to be part of the CDMA family in March 2011 and is thrilled to share her love of dance with young children.

Ben Reyes
Dance Instructor

BEN has been involved in dance at Allan Hancock College since 1983, first as a student and dancer, and later as a choreographer and currently an instructor on campus. He has participated in AHC Dance Ensemble since its beginnings, performed and choreographed for numerous dance concerts, and taught for the Youth Dance Company in the AHC College for Kids program. He has been a guest choreographer and dancer for Cal Poly's Orchesis dance productions 1995-2001. He has also been an instructor for Class Act Dance studio in Paso Robles and a guest choreographer for high schools in and out of the area. Ben is a jazz, hip hop, boy’s technique and partnering instructor at Coastal Dance and Music Academy.

Sarah Vasquez
Dance Instructor
(student teacher)

Chie Evans

Sarah began her love of dance at the age of 6, right here at Coastal Dance and Music Academy. In the last 10 years she has continued her dance education studying, Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Contemporary and Hip Hop. Sarah is a Senior member of Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet and a member of CDMA's Teen Dance Company, Synergy. Sarah is a graduate of CDMA's Dance Teacher Training program and is thrilled to become a Student Instructor where she can share her love of dance with her students.

Mady Minas
Dance Instructor

mady minas

Mady started dancing at the age of 5 in San Diego, CA. Her training began in ballet and quickly branched out to explore jazz, contemporary, hip hop, tap and musical theater dance styles. At the age of 12, she began to compete in national and regional dance competitions throughout Southern California and continued to compete in Show Choir competitions with her high school. She earned recognition through eight "Best Performer" awards and led her Show Choir to high-rankings as their President and Dance Captain. After high school, Mady was hired as a performer at SeaWorld San Diego in "Madagascar Live!: Operation Vacation" and "Sesame Street's Bay of Play," where she got to dance as characters such as Elmo and Abby Cadabby. From 2014-2018, she attended school at Cal Poly SLO, earning a degree in Journalism and a minor in Dance. Throughout her time at Cal Poly, she has been a member of the school's dance company, "Orchesis," where she has choreographed, trained and performed with students and professional guest artists around the country. Mady has taught all dance styles to students of all ages since the age of 14 and is very excited to continue her passion for dance with the students at CDMA!


Paulette Messenheimer 
Theater Instructor

PAULETTE has directed theater workshops and plays in Greensboro, Colorado, Chicago and Topanga, CA since graduating from Indiana University. She has instructed students from 6 years to adult and has helped students explore drama using imagination, text, and props. The range of Paulette’s work includes Street Theatre of The Singer in church, the Adventures of Alice in Wonderland with an LA Community Block Grant for teens, to creative dramatics with children in the City of San Luis Obispo Parks and Recreation Department.

Natalia Salsbury
Instructor/Artistic Director Coastal Youth Theater

NATALIA is enjoying her third year at CDMA as a drama teacher and the Artistic Director of Coastal Youth Theater (formerly CDMA Triple Threat). She is proud to have directed Once on This Island, Thoroughly Modern Millie and Beauty and the Beast with Coastal Youth Theater. She has a BA in Theatre Arts from Cal Poly where she portrayed the role of Charlotte in the musical Falsettos and studied the fundamentals of directing, scenic and lighting design, and play writing. She is also a graduate of the actors training program at PCPA and has worked professionally with PCPA during their summer fests in numerous productions such as The Secret Garden, Grapes of Wrath, Julius Caesar, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, The King and I and Once Upon a Mattress. She has worked with Sorcerer Productions as Executive Producer and Artistic Director, and has enjoyed portraying roles such as Christine Colgate in the musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Trix in the Drowsy Chaperone and Celeste in Little Shop of Horrors.  Natalia has worked in children’s theater for the last 8 years. Her credits include Nipomo High School, Atascadero High School and the San Luis Little Theatre. She has always believed that children are the future participants in a theatre community, therefore, teaching them to respect the laws of the theatre etiquette alongside the craft itself, might be the hope and salvation of live theatre in the future. She uses Uta Hagen as her inspiration. “We must overcome the notion that we must be regular…it robs you of the chance to be extraordinary and leads you to the mediocre.”  Natalia believes that teaching children the fundamentals of acting will not only prepare them to be solid, grounded, and talented  performers, but that it will also prepare them for other major performances in life such as job interviews and college applications. Her goal is to one day get her Masters in Directing so that she can teach collegially and remind adults that we were all children at one point and to not forget that it is our responsibilities as thespian leaders, to keep molding future generations! Natalia wants to thank the husband Jeff Salsbury for his encouragement and for reminding her that she is destined to direct,  her children Lucas and Josie for believing in her,  her mother for encouraging her and loving her, and  her father, for always reminding her that she  a teacher and to always master life’s lessons. Love you all!


Sue Dailey
Office Manager

SUE was born and raised in a small town in South Dakota. She graduated with an Associates Degree of Science in Nursing from Presentation College in Aberdeen SD in 1983 and began traveling the country as a traveling nurse. It was during this time she discovered the Central Coast and decided that this was where she wanted to make her home.  In 1995, Sue acquired a Bachelors Degree of Science in Nursing from Cal State Dominguez Hills and became Nurse Manager of ICU/ER at San Luis Obispo General Hospital. After an 18 year career, she left the medical field to focus on her family. She currently lives in Arroyo Grande with her husband, Mike, and their two teenage children. It was her daughter’s love for dance that led both her daughter and her to Coastal Dance and Music Academy. Sue is the Office Manager and is so excited to be part of such a dynamic and prestigious business.

Suzanne Eisworth

SUZANNE graduated from Cal Poly in 1991 with a B.S. in Physical Education and a minor in Psychology. While in recent years she has devoted herself to raising her family, she has also worked in administration for Cannon Associates, Staff Builders Home Health Care and Wells Fargo Bank. Suzanne lives in Shell Beach with her husband, Ron, and their three children. When not working, Suzanne is passionate about physical fitness, home projects, and spending time with and supporting her family. Suzanne is the bookkeeper at Coastal Dance and Music Academy.

Ilona Jill Meza
President - Office Volunteer

With a business degree, Ilona Jill has built two diverse careers.  She spent many years with CBS Television/Radio stations in L.A. and consulting in stations throughout California.  In her second career she ventured further afield working for Marriott Hotels and opening properties worldwide.  Throughout her work history she always made time to work with and for non-profit agencies. While working for CBS she became Public Relations Director for the March of Dimes, with emphasis on all aspects of public education and fund raising.  During her tenure her successful relationships with CBS and other media groups, enough money was raised to build the first handicapped children’s playground in the U.S.  As President of the non-profit Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet Company, she is proud to be part of organizing the annual gift performance of Babes In Toyland to the community through CAP-SLO and other non-profit organizations.

Now, she and her Service Dog, Epie, are delighted to be part of the CDMA family.  Always a patron of the arts she feels right at home and enjoys watching the growth and development of all the dancers

Epie Meza
Office Dog!

A package deal, Epie comes as part of the package with Ilona Jill. Epie, who is Ilona’s Service Dog, alerts to both her diabetic and heart conditions. Epie has proven that she considers CDMA home because she has successfully “alerted” to low blood sugars for both students and teachers, preventing any serious problems. As a dancer Epie has effectively learned to Pirouette and is adorable in her custom Tutu. She is currently working on her double Pirouette turns and leaps through hula hoops.