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Meet the Instructors

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Carmen R. Guynn

 Founder , Owner, Artistic Director

St. Louis’ finest stylist, Carmen R. Guynn has been known for the past twenty-five years for her unique, distinctive styling. A St. Louis native herself, she is considered one of the most influenced and articulated instructors the city has to offer. Her dance background includes not only Afro-Latin styles of dance but also tap, jazz, modern, and hip-hop. She was the winner of Miss Salsa St. Louis in 2002 and has performed in several cultural awareness festivals and fundraisers and events in St. Louis, Chicago, New York, and New Jersey, Miami, Las Angeles, Houston, Seattle, North Carolina and Coast Rica.  Carmen has also been a certified ZIN ZUMBA® fitness instructor since March 2010 and enjoys implementing her dance skills and technique into the fitness training program ZUMBA offers. She is also certified in Zumba Toning and Zumba Kids.

 

Carmen has performed and taught in several Salsa Congresses including the Northwest Salsa Congress, Chicago International Salsa Congress, Memphis Salsa Festival, Cincinnati Salsa Festival, New York Salsa Congress, New Jersey Salsa Congress, St. Louis International Salsa/Bachata Congress--which she founded--and many others. She was the choreographer of dance teams Las Damas Con Ritmo , Salsa Sabor, and Conexion Divina. 

 

Founder,  Artistic Director and owner of Almas Del Ritmo Dance Company LLC, Carmen specializes in training partnering and footwork technique, ladies styling, body movement and isolation. She started the first St. Louis Touch Franchise for both co-ed and ladies styling teams from the world-renown Island Touch Dance Academy.   These teams performed for the St. Louis’ Thanksgiving Day Parade, Fair St. Louis, Festival of Nations, Dancing in the Streets, and Elementary schools, universities,  corporate events, and many salsa and bachata Congresses across the country. Her team Conexion Divina performed on Season 1, Episode 2 of OWN's Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s in 2011.

 

Twenty years ago, Carmen had the desire to bring the first Salsa dance convention to St. Louis. With hard work, dedication, and love of Afro-Latin culture, music, and dance, her dream came to fruition in October 2010, with her as the Executive Producer of the St. Louis International Salsa/Bachata Congress. In its fourth year, the production landed itself on the hit TV show MTV’s MADE (2013). The Congress celebrated 10 years of Latin dance production October 2019.   The spectacular production had to cancel due to the COVID-19 pandemic but will return October 21-22, 2022.  

 

In June of 2013, Carmen choreographed the salsa scenes in the epic play SOY YO! (I AM ME!) production by Gitana Productions.  SOY YO, Afro-Latina suite which confronted the silent struggle of mixed identity in the Midwest The play was well received and remounted by the Hazelwood School District in January 2014.

 

In July of 2022 Carmen debuted as part of the ensemble for the Tony Award Winning Best Musical ;IN THE HEIGHTS; by Lin Manuel Miranda, Directed and choreographed by Luis Salgado, A production of STAGES St.Louis.

 in 2017, After 14 years in the field of engineering, Carmen walked away and began the work of full-time advocacy against human trafficking.  As the leader of Coalition Against Trafficking and Exploitation (CATE), she works with community members, service providers, and the Missouri Attorney General to build resources, create best practices, and implement laws to fight this crime.   She continues to use dance as a platform to spread the awareness of this crime.  Her goal is to always be a voice to the voiceless.

 

Carmen is a Christian and not afraid to share the good news of Christ to anyone who will listen.  Family means more to her than anything, and when she is not teaching, dancing, or producing events, she is with those she loves. Carmen is a motivational speaker and a life and business coach.  She is also a member of the Tapestry Network, a Christian Women Business organization, a member of Safe Dance Spaces, a Springboard to Learning teaching Artist, a board member of The Missouri Dance organization and Gitana Productions.    She earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in dance from Webster University, a master's in Business Administration from Fontbonne University, and a certificate in Evidence-Based Coaching (EBC) from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, CA.    She is also a teaching Artist, Life/ Business Coach, and puppet Master / Ventriloquist.                                         

TO GOD BE THE GLORY!

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Mauricio Villanue

Instructor

 

Mauricio Villanueva Espinosa was born in León but raised in San Luis Potosí, México. His love of music
began with the music of his own country, México. He began his classical music studies in Guanajuato, México
at the University of Guanajuato where he studied guitar, composition, voice and the culture and music
history of Latin America. His love of Latin music led him to develop a second passion in dance. He studied
dance professionally for 7 years, taking classes in jazz, tap, and salsa and ultimately dancing competitively in international salsa congresses. After his training in México, Mauricio continued his education in Norway where he completed his Bachelors in Music from the University of Agder Music Conservatory and the Agder Folkehøgskoles Jazz and Norwegian Folk Studies in Kristiansand, Norway. Mauricio also added to his training with a semester abroad at the Conservatorio di Musica Licinio Refice in Frosinone, Italy where he perfected his Italian. Mauricio completed a 2-year post-graduate residency in opera at the Flanders Operastudio. Since his arrival to Europe, Mauricio continued his training while working as a freelance professional based in Ghent, Belgium working with opera companies in the Benelux region. 
As both producer and performer, Mauricio also promotes the wealth of culture and arts of his native Mexico and Latin America abroad with his multimedia musical production ‘VIVA MEXICO’ having already toured in Norway and Belgium. Mauricio moved to Miami, FL since 2016 and during this transition, Mauricio also launched and released his first Latin album, ConSentido, as a singer-songwriter, produced and recorded independently in Mexico and Miami, FL, USA. Mauricio has gained popularity in the community by working together with 3 times Grammy nominee Maestro José Negroni in his last production “Las Zarzuelas, Romanzas y canciones de arte populares” performed in the Fall of 2017 at the Miami Dade County Auditorium with great success and standing ovation.

 

Keeping achieving goals in 2018, such as been part of the Opera Naples Academy where Mauricio,
worked side by side to improve his repertoire with renowned opera stars like Veronica Villarroel, Sheril
Milnes, Bruce Ford and conductor Ramón Tebar. Sang as finalist at the Carnegie Hall for the New York Lyric
Opera Theater National Vocal Competition and played the role of Count Almaviva from the Opera Ghost of
Versailles at the Miami Music Festival, a very unique, modern and timeless play written by John Corigliano.
In 2019 Mauricio also debuted the role of Libertario Fuertes in one of the most acclaimed Latin Musical
Theater piece since the 80’s called La verdadera historia de Pedro Navaja. Produced by Miami’s most
recognized and respected Theater company Teatro Prometeo and directed by Puerto Rican Stage Director
Edgar Garcia. Played the Role of Don Mariano in the Musical Play ‘Martí, versos de Cuba y canciones de
libertad’ music by Oscar Gómez performed at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami, as well as in the Role of
Miguel Gonzales in ‘Sueños, An Exile Journey The Musical’ music and libretto by José Garrido, conducted
by Maestro José Negroni.
Mauricio worked as a promoter and Artistic Director for the Opera Troupe Company Bang-up! Opera.
Building a new community of culture in Miami, community that perhaps through music wants to belong
and be part of it by attending our ‘En Casa Concert Series’. A concept created with the purpose of create a
better and more loving community with opera.

 

During Covid-19 times in the year 2020, Mauricio developed a need to communicate to the masses about his experience in music throughout his life producing ; Co-rompiendo Géneros; a new podcast dedicated to talking about the genre of world music and its ambassadors. Targeting an audience that needs it the most which is the Hispanic people around the world and creating an awareness of community engagement, unity, and diversity through the music.  Mauricio was a member of Salsa Si Dance Company in Norway, representing his Latin community and the art of Salsa. He performed professionally in salsa stages in cities like Oslo, Stockholm, and at the Scandinavian Salsa Congress in Gothenburg. After dedicating many years as a singer, Mauricio is ready to come back to the Salsa scene as performer and instructor in Fall 2022 in collaboration with Almas Del Ritmo Dance Company St. Louis.

 

Along with many other projects in 2022, Mauricio is debuting this summer as part of the ensemble for the
Tony Award Winning Best Musical ;IN THE HEIGHTS; by Lin Manuel Miranda. A production of STAGES St.
Louis. When he is not singing opera, Mauricio is the lead singer and percussionist for the Latin band  ChiWahWah , a well-known and televised Norwegian-based Latin band founded in 2007.

Mike Sippo

Instructor

 

Mike Sippo graduated from Saint Louis University with a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science. Currently residing in St. Louis, Mike works as a computer programmer and attends Washington University while earning a Masters Degree in Computer Science. During his free time, he enjoys dancing, participating in Belegarth Medieval Combat Society battles with the St. Louis-realm Arnor in Forest park, spending time with friends and family, and writing. He has published two books of poetry and is working on the third and possibly fourth books.

 

Mike came to Almas del Ritmo Dance Company over 12 years ago. In those years, he has taken lessons with several of the St. Louis salsa instructors and greatly improved his skills as both a lead dancer and an instructor. He has been part of the St. Louis Salsa/Bachata Congress staff since its inception and his debut as a performer was at the inaugural Congress. He has since danced on several Almas del Ritmo teams and continues to work on the St. Louis Congress staff. You can even catch him on stage every now and then.

Liza Beaz Kemp

Instructor

 

Liza has been an assistant instructor at ADR since mid-2014. She grew up learning to dance salsa and merengue from her parents in the family living room and at driveway and backyard parties and barbeques with her extended family and friends. In college, she often went to local salsa clubs with friends. In 2013, she started looking for opportunities to improve and clean up her skills and discovered ADR at the Festival of Nations. Since then, she has studied salsa, bachata, and kizomba at ADR, building on the base skills she had learned from her parents, family members, and friends.

 

Liza studied music in college and plays several woodwind instruments, her primary being the bass clarinet. She has a broad range of interests that include a profound love of reading, several craft hobbies including sewing, cross-stitch, knitting, and crochet, and she even dabbles in writing every now and again. Her main passion is and has always been music and dance. If there is music playing, she is probably singing or dancing along.

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Giovanny Rincon

Instructor since January 2020

Giovanny Rincon was born in Bogota, Colombia, where he lived until he was 11, when he came to the United States and lived in Brooklyn, NY. Giovanny took his first salsa dance class at La Salsa De Hoy in Brooklyn after about a year of dancing on his own. He joined his first dance team, Latin Reflections, and performed with them throughout high school while starting another salsa club for the high school itself. Giovanny is a veteran of the United States Army where he served a tour in Iraq from January 2007 to March 2008. Once discharged from duty in 2010, he moved back to Brooklyn and earned an Associates in Fine Arts for dancing. He started teaching for Dance Atlantic, Inc., owned by Ms. Melody, from March 2010 until March 2013. Then, he started teaching at Jorday Rivera's dance school where he has taught kids and adults at all class levels. He joined Movimiento Dance company under the instruction of Mike Garcia. The team performed at international Congresses as well as numerous state Congresses. Giovanni moved to St. Louis in September 2019. He is excited to bring all the knowledge he’s gathered throughout his years of dancing and to expand the St. Louis dance community.

Hailey Shoemaker

Instructor since May 2020

 

Hailey Shoemaker, born and raised in St. Louis, discovered a passion for dancing while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon, Central Africa, as a performer for Phylarmonia Dance Academy (PDA). This well-known training club in northern Cameroon focused on footwork, rhythm, and steps in more than fifteen international dance styles from South America, Europe, and Africa. During 25+ hours per week of practice, Hailey worked her way up to the competition troupe, where she competed in three regional competitions and won first prize dancing tango and Viennese waltz in 2019. She presented four original choreographies in rock n'roll, salsa, lambada, and African rhumba at the Full Regional Competition in 2019, and performed at weddings and school events throughout the year. From January to May 2019, Hailey also trained with the Adamaoua Regional Competition Team in group choreography, including lifts and throws in African rhumba and lambada. In November 2019, she choreographed a student dance performance of the Charlie Daniels' Band's The Devil Went Down to Georgia, playing the violin accompaniment herself. Upon returning to the U.S., Hailey brought her love for fitness and dance together by training to be a Zumba and Strong Nation instructor. She holds active licenses to teach both since March 2020. Hailey loves to share the joy of dance and fitness with everyone she meets. She continues to hone her skills with the goal of competing in the U.S. and hopes to continue to bring classical dance to high school students. 

 

Before joining the Peace Corps, Hailey spent a year teaching English in Japan through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme, and took a second year working and backpacking in France, Britain, and Morocco. Her passion for travel, education, and development brought her to the Peace Corps, where she worked as a high school chemistry, biology, and French teacher for three years. Hailey holds a  Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and French Certificate summa cum laude from Saint Louis University and a Master's degree in Public Health and Epidemiology from the University of South Florida. It is her dream to return to Cameroon as a physician and build partnerships in international medicine through collaborative education.

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Ellen Alston

Administrative Assistant since February 2020

Ellen became an ADR student in 2019. She and her husband met in St. Louis while both attending Saint Louis University, and they married and moved back to the city in the fall of 2018. Looking to revive their college past-time and improve their skills, they take salsa and bachata classes with Carmen and Mike.

Though Ellen's time in the ADR family has been short so far, she is excited to be on board to support the company's expansion through website improvements and email communication streamlining.

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