Nikolay Karchev – Dance Instructor
Mr. Nikolay was born and raised in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. He started dancing at age 7 when his mother took him to the ballroom dance studio. While in Bulgaria he was a 3 time Bulgarian champion in International Latin, Standard and in the 10 Dance Championship.
He moved to the United States and worked at a Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Phoenix, Arizona for 2 years. In 2008 he moved to Wisconsin and has earned many awards as a dancer and teacher. Nikolay was the Fred Astaire Dance Studios National Rising Star Rhythm Champion in 2009 and in 2010 earned the Top Customer Service Award and the Top Overall Teacher Award for the Wisconsin Region.
In September 2012, Nikolay, and his dance partner, Sarah Haworth, won the United States Rising Star Rhythm Title and were Vice National American Style 9 Dance Champions. In both 2013 and 2014 Mr. Nikolay and his students won US National and World Pro/Am American Rhythm, Smooth and 9 Dance Championships. Mr. Nikolay is consistently a Top Teacher at regional and national events and won the Rising Star Teacher Award at Ohio Star Ball in 2013.
When teaching Mr. Nikolay enjoys creating a big presentation for his students. He focuses his teaching on the students’ styling, footwork and hip motion.
He loves the passion of the dance – the music, expression & partnership that ballroom dancing has to offer.
When Nikolay is not dancing, his hobbies include traveling, playing tennis, watching movies and shopping.
Dana James – Dance Instructor
Mr. James was born and raised in Wisconsin. He got his start in the arts in high school where he performed in musicals (that didn’t require singing). He then went on to study dance and received an undergraduate degree in theater.
His career with the Fred Astaire Dance Studios began in Minneapolis, MN. He saw an ad in the newspaper looking for “dancers”, and since it didn’t say topless, he applied for the position. Later he moved to Wisconsin where he flourished as an instructor and competitor at the Mequon studio. Mr. James has won numerous top teacher awards in the Wisconsin region and was selected as the top teacher in the nation for the Fred Astaire Dance Studios. As a dancer he developed champion students and competed professionally across the country with Elke Mischke. Mr. James holds many professional titles in the American Rhythm division, including the Fred Astaire Dance Studios Open Rhythm champion.
When teaching Mr. James is a kinesthetic teacher. He focuses on feeling the dancing and tells his students that if they can feel it, they will always be able to do it.
Performing is what has always drawn Mr. James to dance. Whether he is performing with students or other professionals, he enjoys being in front of the crowd.
Russ Larson – Dance Instructor
Mr. Larson was born and raised in Greendale, WI. He grew up in a house filled with music – his mother plays the clarinet and his father plays the trumpet. He went on to play the saxophone, clarinet and flute and earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Wisconsin – Steven’s Point.
While in high school, Mr. Larson was active in musical theater and football. At the time NFL legends, Barry Sanders and Walter Payton, were known for taking dance lessons to improve their game. So Mr. Larson began ballroom dance.
In 1994, Mr. Larson started teaching at the Fred Astaire Dance Studios. Over the years he has earned top honors as a teacher winning many regional and national awards. With his former professional partner, Sherry Strehlow, he was the Fred Astaire Dance Studios National Smooth Champion. He has also worked in studios as a director, dance trainer and manager.
In teaching, Mr. Larson enjoys sending a positive message to his students. He teaches in simple, manageable ways to inspire his students to be better. He finds great accomplishment when he shows his students that they can learn how to dance.
In dancing, Mr. Larson finds most enjoyment in expressing to music. Music is his first inspiration that moves him to dance.
When he is not dancing, he enjoys mountain biking, lawn and landscaping, working on cars, target shooting and spending time with his dog.
“Some people seem to feel that good dancers are born, but all the good dancers I know have been taught or trained.” – Fred Astaire
Nadine Rochelle – Dance Instructor
Ms. Rochelle was born in Germany and raised in Milwaukee, jointly by her Nana who was her first ballroom dance & etiquette teacher. She continued to dance on dance teams from elementary school through college. She attended the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and received her associate’s degree in sign language interpreting. In addition to ballroom dance, she has studied jazz, African dance, ballet & Hawaiian dance.
Ms. Rochelle is a 2 time Fred Astaire Dance Studios National Rising Star Rhythm champion. She has performed as a back up dancer for recording artists, Zelda, of the C & C Music Factory, and Amber. Ms. Rochelle has also coached area dance teams for Milwaukee Lutheran High School and the University School of Milwaukee.
Ms. Rochelle enjoys inspiring new students to experience the fun and romance of ballroom dance. As her students progress she likes to focus on the technical and expressive aspects of dance which create a beautiful presentation. She loves to perform and encourages her students to explore their creativity and various sides of their personalities.
When she is not dancing, Ms. Rochelle enjoys reading, cooking, sewing, writing and spending time with her family and friends.
“Don’t just talk that talk, walk it and go forward. Also, the walk doesn’t have to be long strides; baby steps count too. Go forward.” – Chris Gardner
Julia Vaysfeld – Dance Instructor
Ms. Julia was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She started dancing with Contemporary and Ukrainian Folk Dancing. One day she was passing Fred Astaire Dance Studios of Mequon and saw people dancing through the windows and decided she would like to do that.
After 5 years as a Pro/Am competitor with her instructor, Mr. Nikolay, Ms. Julia joined our team of Professionals. During her time as a Pro/Am competitor Ms. Julia earned many titles; the top of which include Top Solo Regionally, Fred Astaire National Rhythm Champion, 2 Time Fred Astaire National Smooth Champion, 2013 Ohio Star Ball Rhythm Champion, 2013 United States Dance Championships 9-Dance Champion and 2014 Ohio Star Ball Smooth Champion.
In her teaching, Ms. Julia helps her students gain confidence and express themselves through their dancing. She focuses her teaching on the styling and technique of each dance.
When dancing, Ms. Julia loves expressing herself and getting the crowd involved in the dances.
In her free time she enjoys shopping, traveling and watching movies.
Lori Gerischer – Front Desk Receptionist
Ms. Lori Gerischer was born and raised in Milwaukee, WI. In 1987 Ms. Lori attended a guest party at the Fred Astaire Dance Studios and became a student. She took lessons for 5 years and worked on Bronze and Silver level material. Two of her teachers were our area directors, John Gates and Stephen Knight. While a student she competed regionally and nationally and performed solos. Her favorite dances are the swing and samba.
In 1989 she took a position as a telemarketer at the studio. Her cheerful voice and her smile you can hear through the phone promoted her to the lead position. In 1990 she became a receptionist at the studio.
Ms. Lori enjoys working with people and has made great friends with the students over the years.
When Ms. Lori is not at the studio, she enjoys spending time with her family, listening to 50s music and watching Packer games.
“Always remember to be happy because you never know who’s falling in love with your smile.” – unknown
Gayle Klunder – Director of Operations
Ms. Gayle was born in Milwaukee and raised in Menomonee Falls, WI. She started working as the office manager at the Fred Astaire Dance Studios in 2002. Currently she works as the studio Director of Operations.
Ms. Gayle has an extensive background in management, bookkeeping, office organization and customer service. Prior to working at the studio she managed a fine dining restaurant in Wauwatosa and managed an intercoiffure beauty salon in Mequon.
She loves working in an upbeat environment with high energy and enjoys the positive attitude of the staff and students.
When Ms. Gayle is not at the studio she enjoys cooking, working in the yard & boating the Three Lakes Chain.
“Happiness comes from contentment and contentment comes from wanting what you have, not having what you want.”