Executive Director

Susan Darrow, Executive Director, has been dancing since she was three years old and started teaching when she was 16. Her background includes tap, jazz, ballet and acrobatics experience with several professional groups, including the Kansas City Civic Ballet, the Kansas City Starlight Theater and the Kansas City Chiefs dance team, as well as performing in many professional productions.

Sue’s teaching expertise is in classical ballet and tap dance technique. After 20 years as a dance instructor and choreographer and 30 years of working for corporate America and raising a family, Sue is now enjoying her grandchildren and directing The Aspire Project.


Ella matweyou

program director, education & outreach / instructor

Born and raised in Akron, OH, Ella Matweyou has been a dancer since the age of eight, studying primarily ballet, modern, and jazz at The Dance Institute of the University of Akron. As a high school student, Ella performed at the collegiate level with the University of Akron Dance Company. She went on to pursue contemporary dance in college at The Ohio State University, in addition to a semester at Point Park University. In 2014, Ella graduated Summa Cum Laude with Research Distinction from The Ohio State University with a BFA in Dance (concentrating on Performance & Education) and a minor in English. While attending Ohio State, she also completed her 200 Hour Certification in Hatha Yoga from Yoga on High in Columbus, Ohio.

Ella has had the opportunity to perform choreography by Ohad Naharin, Bebe Miller, Robert Moses, Alex Ketley, Susan Hadley, Abby Zbikowski, Melanie Bales, and other distinguished professionals. She has also furthered her dance education at summer intensives with Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA, The Equus Projects in NYC, Trinity-Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance in London, American Dance Festival in Durham, NC, and San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. In August 2017, Ella attended American Ballet Theatre’s Teacher Training Intensive in NYC and became certified to teach the ABT National Training Curriculum for Pre-Primary-Level 3, and recently received a Project Plié scholarship to attend the Level 4 and 5 training in March 2018. She also received a full scholarship to attend National Dance Education Organization’s 2017 annual conference in San Antonio, Texas.

Here in Portland, in addition to teaching ballet, creative movement, contemporary, and yoga for The Aspire Project, Ella is the lead teacher at Pure Barre Portland. She also teaches creative movement and contemporary jazz for youth at Northwest Dance Project. As a volunteer for Living Yoga, Ella teaches trauma-informed yoga to teen girls and has also taught Hatha yoga for adults at Yoga Shala of Portland and Zenality Yoga. She remains actively involved in the Portland dance community by taking classes at various studios and dancing in freelance performance projects. Most recently, Ella has danced with Fault Line Dance under the direction of Eliza Larson, premiering a new full-length work entitled “In Circadia.” She is excited to share her love of movement with students of all ages and ability levels!



program director, Operations / Instructor / Designer

Jacki grew up dancing in a small studio in Martinez, California. She started ballet classes at age 3 and continued her training at many summer intensives including American Ballet Theatre and Diablo Ballet. She also attended the Walnut Hill School for the Arts Intensive as a scholarship recipient. She moved to Portland in 2009 and graduated from Portland State University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and a minor in dance. During her time in college she explored other dance genres and found a new love for hip hop, jazz, and lyrical. She became coordinator and choreographer for PSU's recreational dance club where she taught and choreographed lyrical and hip hop routines.

Jacki began her professional dance career in 2014 when she joined the WHL's Portland Winterhawks Rosebuds Dance Team, with whom she danced with for five seasons. She is currently in her fifth season with Mixd Dance Company and danced for the AFL's Portland Steel (formerly Thunder) for two seasons. Jacki also spends time working with various high school dance teams in and around Portland choreographing, and teaching technique and conditioning. Jacki is also a choregrapher and instructor for the Senior Performing Company at Lake Oswego Academy of Dance as well as a coach for the University of Portland Dance Team.

She has always loved sharing her passion for dance with others and is so glad to be in her sixth year teaching at The Aspire Project.


katie janovec

development program coordinator / instructor

Katie Janovec is a freestyle dancer, popper, performer, teacher and event organizer. Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, she has lived the last 11 years in Oregon and calls Portland her home. Beginning her education in modern dance, she eventually fell in love with street dance styles and culture. She enjoys incorporating angles, tutting, robotics and grooves into her movement.

Katie graduated from Portland State University with a degree in Child & Family Studies and a minor in dance. She enjoys sharing her passion with youth and is excited to teach Hip Hop with The Aspire Project.


susan waddell

office manager / Instructor

Susan was born and raised in San Francisco.  She began dance lessons at the age of 10 and studied tap, jazz, ballet and acrobatics at the Lorna Fordyce Dance Studio, with an emphasis on tap, which has always spoken to her the strongest.  At 16, she began teaching tap to children and loved sharing her enthusiasm for dance with others.  After moving to Portland, she danced for 6 years with Cami Curtis Performing Arts Center in downtown Portland.   After finding her way to The Aspire Project in 2015, she is excited to continue sharing her passion for dance.  Susan loves all things creative, and is also a nature photographer and jewelry maker.  She lives in St. Johns with her husband, Brian, and Monty (the amazing beagle dog).


annie leonard

TAP & ballet instructor

Annie was raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She enrolled at The Academy of Ballet & Jazz at age 8, where she studied under Susu Hale Prout, Thor Sutowski, and Jaime Tarbox Dunn. Annie is a diverse performer and teacher, specializing in Ballet, Rhythm Tap, Jazz-Funk, Contemporary, and more. As a Company Member at The Academy of Ballet & Jazz, she attended national competitions: Jump, Nuvo, Applause and Dance Masters of America, where she was a title winner, class assistant and scholarship recipient. Her time as a convention dancer afforded her training opportunities from renowned choreographers like Sheila Barker, Danny Tidwell, Travis Wall, Nick Lazzarini, Mark Meismer, Mia Michaels, Brian Friedman, Tyce Diorio, Dave Scott and others. As a member of Tuscaloosa Community Dancers, she studied under Wes Chapman and Roger van Fleteren through a partnership with The Alabama Ballet. She also attended summer training intensives through American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive Program and the Alabama School of Fine Arts.

Upon graduating from high school, Annie earned Bachelor degrees at the University of Alabama in both Dance and French in 2012. During her time there, she was a recipient of the The University of Alabama Dance/Theatre Scholarship. She was a member of the Alabama Repertory Dance Theatre, a Dance Alabama! artist, and her original choreography was selected and presented in The Next Dance Experience. Most recently, she attended the 2017 Portland Tap Alliance Dance Festival to learn from tap legends, Diane Walker and Derick Grant. After relocating to Portland in October 2016, Annie is continuing to follow her passion for dance as an educator and an aspiring choreographer, focusing on Contemporary and Rhythm Tap styles.

Laura Stilwell.jpg

LAura stilwell

jazz instructor

Laura offers a fresh and unique approach to her jazz and theatre dance classes, drawing influences from such jazz greats as Jack Cole, Bob Fosse, Nat Horne, and Fred Benjamin, with an emphasis on individual growth and performance, clean technique, stylization, breath, and musicality.

Laura trained in ballet with Jacqueline Schumacher, Nanette Charisse, and Finis Jhung and in jazz and modern dance with Jaime Rogers, Claude Thompson, Phil Black, Les Watanabe, Jose Meier, Nat Horne, Denise Jefferson, and Fred Benjamin at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center.Laura established her own professional dance company, “Dance Alive!” at the age of twenty. She performed in two Northwest dance companies –N.W. Repertory Dance Co., and Joe Orlando Dance Theatre. Additional credits include, music videos, NHK television commercials; International tours of, “Evita”; Regional productions:  “Me And My Girl”, “West Side Story”, “Pirates Of Penzance” , “Pacific Overtures”, and Abuela - “In The Heights”.  

Director/Choreographer credits: Off Broadway - Theatre 80, Lambs Theatre, Edison Theater, Blue Angel Theatre, 13th Street Repertory Theatre, St. Marks Church in the Bowery. Additional credits: The USO-NYC, Nu Shooz – Atlantic Records, New Line Cinema, The Rainbow Room – Rockefeller Center.

Teaching credits: Oregon Ballet Theatre (OBT), Jefferson High School of Performing Arts, ‘Stage 7’-San Diego, Orlando Ballet-New York, Bridge For Dance-NYC, The Dancers Workshop-Portland, Portland Community College, The Aspire Project.

Laura instills confidence, strength, and a feeling of accomplishment in her students, enabling them to evolve into their own self-discovery of moving through space in a non-competitive, FUN atmosphere.


heather hindes

ballet & tap instructor

Heather’s early memories in life are of “Mommy and Me” dance classes and performing her own choreography for her family as an after dinner show. Originally from Saint Louis, Missouri, Heather holds a BA in Dance from Lindenwood University, where she studied ballet, modern, jazz, and tap. Following graduation, she spent 2 years with Leverage Dance Theater (LVDT) performing, choreographing, and teaching. LVDT is focussed on developing artistic educators, outreach programs, and performances, bringing the social, physical, and cognitive benefits of creative movement, and dance, to a diverse and growing audience. Heather implemented these skills as a teacher at several studios in the area, teaching ballet and modern techniques to young gymnasts at the Artistic Gymnastics Institute, and jazz at Dance Station. Furthering her skills as a teacher and a performer, she has attended several summer programs including the Now and Next dance mentoring program, Ate9 summer intensive with Danielle Agami, and Gaga LA summer intensive. Summer of 2016, Heather relocated to Portland and joined the The Holding Project, as a dancer and artistic collaborator. Heather is currently working on various dance films, dancing in other freelance performances, and instructing at Pure Barre Portland.


NICOLE mascorro

 jazz & Ballet instructor

Nicole is a Bay Area native. Following in her older sister’s footsteps (Aspire Project instructor Jacki Camacho) she began her dance career at the age of 4, studying ballet at the California Academy of Ballet. She attended summer intensives with American Ballet Theatre, Diablo Ballet, and School of Creative and Performing Arts. In high school she performed and competed with her high school’s Dance Team and also trained as an apprentice for Moving Arts Dance. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Economics and a minor in Dance. Upon graduation, Nicole has continued her dance education in as many styles as possible and is in her first season dancing with Mixd Dance Company. She is extremely excited to be joining The Aspire Project where she will not only begin her career in teaching, but be able to share her love and passion for dance with others.


edith shamrell

yoga instructor

Edith Shamrell, a native of Barcelona, Spain, is a Yoga Therapist with 17 years of experience in teaching Yoga.  She received her training at one of the most prestigious yoga institutions in Europe, L`Ecole Francaise de Yoga (EFY) in Paris, where she completed a 4 year yoga training in 2004.

In addition to her training, while living in Paris she became a private student of the renowned French Yoga master Beatrice Bouchillou for over 3 years, who was a faculty yoga trainer at EFY and daughter of Ivonne Millarent, the first western women accepted as a student of Krisnamasharya (often referred to as "the father of modern yoga," and widely regarded as one of the most influential yoga teachers of the 20th century).

Edith also studied in the south of India in 2006, in Pondicherry with Meena Shawn and in Mysore at Mysore Mandala Yogashala.  Edith has practiced yoga on three different continents, and taught in France, Spain and the United States. 

Her background in yoga therapy has led her to spent years teaching yoga classes to individuals with a variety of medical conditions and disabilities, teaching in assisted living centers or specialized classes such as for cancer survivors as well as teaching regular hatha yoga classes from beginning to advanced levels. In 2011 she also obtained a Pre/Postnatal Pilates Instructor Specialist Program Certification, and currently she is pursuing a certification in Acupressure.



PILATES instructor

Kerri is a Pilates instructor, movement educator, and a former professional dancer. She is a North Portland resident and is thrilled to be joining the team at The Aspire Project.

Kerri's love for Pilates began over 15 years ago when she was introduced to the method as a supplement to her dance training. Years later, a life of professional dancing and waiting tables let to chronic knee pain, and Kerri turned to Pilates for rehabilitation. She found not only a mindful and sustainable method of conditioning the physique, but a passion for empowering others with this body wisdom and understanding. While a stickler for proper alignment, Kerri believes that taking care of yourself should be fun! She delights in helping her clients achieve their health and wellness goals so they can move through life pain-free, with greater ease and grace. Kerri enjoys working with every kind of body, from complete newbie to Pilates rockstar. 

Kerri is Pilates certified through Balanced Body University and the Ellie Herman Method. Though motherhood has put her dance career on hold for a while, Kerri holds a BFA in Dance Choreography from the University of Colorado, Boulder. When not in the Pilates studio, Kerri spends most of her time chasing a toddler, but she also enjoys hiking, camping, reading, and sleeping.