Marilou Ubaldo Lafon - Artistic Director

Marilou Ubaldo Lafon, Artistic Director of Spark of Creation Studio, has over 25 years of performing arts experience, both on-stage and behind the scenes. She began studying Polynesian dance, ballet and tap at the young age of 4 with the Nelani Rogers Polynesian Dance Troupe and Centerstage dance studio. She has also studied dance with Schumacher’s School of Dance, Spirit of Polynesia, and at the Westlake School for the Performing Arts, where she also received training in ballet, character, jazz, tap and musical theater. She has studied voice for over 10 years with Richard Nichol, Lita Liebeck, and Mila Edwards. Marilou has also attended numerous Hawaiian and Tahitian workshops, including Ke ‘Aha Hula’O Halauaola in Maui and Oahu, HI and No Te Here O Tahiti, in Mexico City, Mexico, where she has worked with many well known hula and Tahitian instructors and choreographers.

Marilou holds a BA degree from University of California at Davis where she received her degree in Education and Childhood Development, while continuing her dance training. Marilou was also a member of the Davis Musical Theater Company where she performed the role of the “Narrator” in Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and “Crystal” in Little Shop of Horrors. Some of her favorite theater credits also include: Miss Saigon with American Musical Theatre, West Side Story, A Chorus Line, Once Upon a Mattress, Evita, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Although she has a passion for Musical Theater, she shares this same love for Polynesian Dance. Marilou was the Musical Theatre and Polynesian Program Director at the Westlake School for the Performing Arts, where she trained students ranging from ages 4 to Adult. She was also the co-founder/director of “Urban Paradise”, a successful fundraising showcase benefiting the students of the hula and hip-hop programs.  She is the founder and director of Spark of Creation Studio’s Polynesian Dance Troupe “Te Pura O Te Rahura’a”, founded in 2006, teaching, training and competing with students in hula and Tahitian dance.   She has also taught Musical Theater programs at various elementary schools throughout Bay Area and at The Ballet Studio in San Francisco.  Marilou currently trains soloists for numerous Tahitian competitions such as San Jose Tahiti Fete, Kiki Raina Tahiti Fete, Manahere Ori Tahiti, Taura Nui Las Vegas, Hura Tahtit and  Heiva i Reno, where they have received Overall, 1st, 2nd and 3rd place awards. Her choreography also took 1st place at the 2005 San Jose Tahiti Fete in the Tamari’i Ote’a Division and in 2009 at the Hura Tahiti Tahitian dance competition in Fullerton CA.  One of her biggest accomplishments as director of Te Pura O Te Rahura’a was being awarded Overall Hura Ava Tau (amateur) Group in 2008 and Overall Hura Tau (professional) Group in 2010 (O'Ta aki E), 2012 (Te Tapa) & 2015 (O'Moemoe) at the San Jose Tahiti Fete, the largest Tahitian dance competition held outside of Tahiti.

Marilou is dedicated to the self-esteem and character building of children through the performing arts. Her diverse performing arts background has an influence on her innovative choreography and personal style of teaching. She believes that education, for students and teachers alike, should be a continuous journey in order to further expand their knowledge and appreciation for the performing arts.

Shanna Marie Pineda - Assistant Artistic Director

Shanna Pineda, has been a performer since the age of 5 and has trained in different dance styles such as hip-hop, jazz, tap, and ballet. Having trained in other dance styles, Polynesian dancing has always been her first love. Shanna was one of Marilou Ubaldo Lafons first hula students at Westlake School for the Performing Arts (WSPA) and continued to dance and compete with WSPA’s award-winning Polynesian Company class for 10 years. After 10 years, Shanna left WSPA and trained and competed with Manuia Polynesian Revue for one year and learned many different styles in Polynesian dancing. With over 10 years of Polynesian dancing, Shanna left Manuia and decided to join the Spark of Creation family and through the years has developed a love for teaching. While choreographing and teaching Polynesian dance to her students, she is also a student and dancer for Spark of Creation’s Polynesian dance troupe, Te Pura O Te Rahura’a, who recently competed in Tahiti Fete of San Jose 2008 and won numerous awards including Overall Hura Ava Tau group. Shanna has totaled over 16 years of experience in Polynesian dance and has won 1st place solo awards in the Kiki Raina Merced 2008 and Manahere 2009 competition, 2nd place at the Heiva i Reno 2008 and Hura Tahiti 2009 competition, 3rd place at the Kiki Raina Merced 2009 competition, and was also named “Best Dancer” at a Tahitian dance workshop with Hirohiti Tematahotoa in 2008.

In addition to Polynesian dancing, she also excels in hip hop. She has performed and competed for over 5 years with Gen 2, a tight-knit hip hop dance group lead by director and choreographer, Shaun Evaristo. Gen 2 has performed all over the Bay Area participating in shows like SF Hip Hop Dancefest, festivals like Pistahan and Fiesta Filipina, parades, concerts, and high schools. Gen 2 has also won 1st place at 2003’s Battlefest 2.0 in San Jose, Gift to Gig in Vallejo, and Bustagroove in San Diego. Aside from Gen 2, Shanna has also trained and competed with The Company, a hip hop group based at WSPA, who also have won many hip hop competitions.

Her acquired ability to perform various dance styles enabled Shanna to land a role as Yvette/ensemble in her first musical debut in Broadway by the Bay’s Miss Saigon in 2006, which is an experience that has inspired her to audition and perform in more musicals in the future. Shanna is also a graduate of San Francisco State University with a BA in Asian American Studies.

Currently, Shanna teaches beginner and intermediate Hula/Tahitian levels at Spark of Creation Studio promoting students to grow as dancers and to perform to the best of their abilities.

Kelli O'Neill - Front Desk Manager / Assistant Musical Director / Jazz

Kelli has trained since the age of three in ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, musical theatre, hula, and Tahitian. She has competed in and won top prizes at various regional and national dance competitions such as Showstoppers, International Dance Competition, Youth American Grand Prix, and Tahiti Fete of San Jose. She has also had the privilege of participating in full length productions, including WSPA’s The Nutcracker in various roles including Spanish Maiden and Tapping Toy Soldier, and in revues of Hairspray, The Little Mermaid, and South Pacific. 

Kelli has also been a teacher and teacher’s aide in the tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop, and musical theatre departments at Spark of Creation Studio since its inception. In the past few years, she has assisted in the formation of SOC's competition dance program and is the instructor for the competitive jazz classes. Most recently, her Senior jazz class took First Overall in their division at Showstopper Dance Competition for their Newsies piece. Her choreography credits include Once On This Island Jr., Aladdin Jr., and The Little Mermaid Jr., and Seussical Jr. at SOC Studio.

As the Office Manager at Spark of Creation Studio, she is happy to answer any questions you may have regarding our programs, registration, events, shows and more!

Jessica Acosta - Polynesian Dance

Jessica first began dancing hula at the tender age of 3 years old with a stirring performance of Pearly Shells and Tiny Bubbles at her annual pre-school show.  After a very long hiatus from dance, she recaptured her love for hula by joining the Polynesian dance program at the Westlake School for the Performing Arts (WSPA) in 1998. Within two years she was invited to join the faculty teaching hula and Tahitian dance technique and routines. Jessica was a founding member of the Company Performance Hula and Tahitian class at WSPA and of Te Pura O Te Rahura’a under the tutelage of Marilou Lafon.  She continues to compete in various Hula and Tahitian competitions and has been a finalist at Kiki Raina at Merced, Tahiti Fete of San Jose and has won second place at Heiva I Reno.  She also placed third in the Ms. Sophisticated Hula category at the Hapa Haole Hula and Music Festival at Las Vegas.

Jessica has a wide array of fitness experience, engaging in different forms of exercise for nearly 15 years.  She is a certified Zumba instructor and co-creator of the Tahitian cardio class. She has trained at full contact kickboxing since 1997 with former multi-federation champion, Mark Tabuso, and is an avid practitioner of Yoga and Pilates.

Jessica is a big fan of ninjas and samurai, the Jason Bourne franchise, Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors and all things Star Trek. When she is not dancing, teaching or working out, she helps to keep Capitalism and the free market alive by working for an investment firm in San Francisco.  She hopes to one day step away from the confines of her desk and make dance, martial arts and Yoga her way of life.  Jessica promotes a love for dance and fitness as a means of attaining physical and mental well being.

Amy Chiu - Polynesian Dance

Amy is currently a second year nursing student at Dominican University of California. She graduated from Westmoor High School where she was an officer for Student Government and the Green Hats Service Commissioners, and a team member of Track and Field. Amy began dancing when she was 4 years old taking ballet/tap at Westlake School of Performing Arts.  While at WSPA Amy took her first class with Ms. Marilou in musical theater and at the age of 6, joined her Hula/Tahitian class. She has continued to be one of Ms. Marilou’s Hula/Tahitian students for the past 14 years.  Amy is currently a member of Spark of Creation Studio’s Advanced Hula/Tahitian Sr. Company as she continues to enrich her love for Polynesian dance. She has been a member of the Te Pura O Te Rahura’a competition/exhibition teams for Tahiti Fete, Hura Tahiti, Merrie Monarch, and Tahiti. While her main passion is Polynesian dancing, Amy has also studied fine art for 12 years at ArtWorks, Tahitian drumming with Randy Lafon, as well as participated behind and on the stage in various SOC musical theater productions (Alice in Wonderland Jr., Mulan Jr., and Once on this Island Jr.) under the direction of Ms. Marilou. Combining her love for Hula/Tahitian dance and working with children, Amy is excited to share her passion for dance as a teacher’s aide.

Abby Ayong - Polynesian Dance

Abby has been dancing under the direction of Marilou Lafon since 2004. She has participated in numerous competitions and events such as the Tahiti Fete of San Jose, Kiki Raina, Manahere I Ori Tahiti, and Merrie Monarch Festival. She has had the opportunity to travel to Tahiti in 2016 with a select group of dancers to embark on a cultural exchange to learn more about the Tahitian culture and grow as a dancer. Aside from teaching Hula and Tahitian, she is currently working as a behavioral therapist with autistic children using positive reinforcement in order to teach academic and life skills. Abby has obtained her associate degrees in Communication, Social Science, and Pre-Nursing at College of San Mateo and is currently attending California State University East Bay in pursuit of a Bachelor's degree in Health Science emphasis in Community Health. Abby loves working with kids and watching them grow into wonderful individuals.

Dara Takamori - SOC Competition Director, Tap, Ballet & Tap

Dara Ticehurst, a Bay Area native, has been teaching dance for 10 years and competitive tap for 6 years. Her competitive solos and groups have won top awards at the regional and national levels; her success includes a Petite Miss Dance of America finalist in 2013.

While tap dance is her passion, Dara is also trained in ballet, jazz, lyrical, pointe, and hip hop. Most of her dance training took place at Schumacher’s School of Dance in South San Francisco under the direction of Dolly Schumacher James, Julie Wroten, Wendy James, and Maribel Lavin. Dara has also continued to train with talented Bay Area choreographers such as Ayako Takahashi, Berle Davis, and Bob Macke. The highlight of Dara’s professional career was performing as a backup dancer to Jackie Chan and Superstars in Concert held at the Grand Garden Arena at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. She was also invited to join Cirque Du Soleil at the age of 15.

Dara is a graduate of San Jose State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising and a minor in Psychology.

This is Dara's 6th year at Spark of Creation Studio. She teaches the young ones in ballet + tap as well beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels of tap.

Kelsey Fluke - Ballet & Tap, Ballet, Jazz, Tap

Fiona O'Neill - Musical Theater, Jazz, Front Desk Assistant

Fiona O'Neill has been performing since the age of three. She began training in ballet, tap, jazz, musical theater, hula, tahitian, hip hop, and contemporary at the Westlake School of Performing Arts then continued her practice at Spark of Creation Studio since its start in 2006. She has studied voice with Marilou Lafon, Ray Galela, and Jude Navari and has received training in acting with Marilou Lafon, Thomas Crockett, and Kevin Simmers.


Fiona has competed in various regional and national dance competitions. Some competitions she has attended are Starbound National Talent Competition, Move, Starquest, Showstoppers, Spotlight Dance Cup, San Jose Tahiti Fete, Manahere I Ori Tahiti, Heiva i Reno, and Hura Tahiti.


After countless years of performing, Fiona has found her true passion in musical theater. She has performed in Spark of Creation’s Mulan Jr. (Qian Po), Annie Jr. (Rooster Hannigan/Ralph Mudge), Once On This Island Jr. (Agwe), Aladdin Jr. (Genie), The Little Mermaid Jr. (Ursula), and Seussical Jr. (Mayzie La Bird/ Yertle the Turtle), as well as Grease (Jan) with El Camino High School and most recently In The Heights (Vanessa) with Skyline College. She has just made her directorial debut, directing the 2017 Broadway Bound Summer Camp The Aristocats Kids at Spark of Creation Studio.


Fiona’s wishes to share her passion, promote creativity, and instill in her students the same irrefutable ambition to learn and grow as a performer as her mentors have done for her.

Genna Reyes - Hip Hop

Raymond Bambao - Music Director, Vocal/Guitar/Piano

Raymond is a third generation native San Franciscan.   And as far back as he can remember, he loved to sing and play all genres of music.  His father is a musician but, he did not force Raymond to play music.  By age 11, Raymond chose to play the trumpet, but he only played for two years because his middle school band teacher quit and a choir replaced the band.  The choir director suggested that he try out for the San Francisco Boys Chorus and this sparked his interest in singing classical music.  He sang first soprano with the intermediate group for less than a year because he lost my high voice and became a baritone.  He continued singing classical music into high school and received “Command Performances” for singing Italian Arias at the California Music Education Association Music Competitions.  By his senior year in high school, he was recruited to play trombone for both the Jazz and Symphonic Bands.  At this time, he also started dancing Hula, Tahitian, Samoan, and Tongan dance with a Bay Area Polynesian Dance Company Spirit of Polynesia.

His love for music went to another level after he received a Classical Voice Scholarship to San Jose State University.  While attending college, he was involved with the San Jose State Concert Choir, San Jose State Jazz Singers, and The Jazz Band. Since he was exposed to so many different genres of music, he lost my interest in classical solo voice and switched my major to Improvised Music Studies- Voice.  At this time, he also sang with the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir and had the privilege to perform with Tramaine Hawkins, Yolanda Adams, Linda Ronstadt, Joan Baez, and Bobby Mcferrin.  Raymond also started competing in Hula Competitions, and started performing on Cruise Ships.

Raymond graduated college with a BA-Improvised Music Studies- Voice and joined a Hawaiian Band (Ka Ehu Kai) based here in the Bay Area.  They independently recorded three CD’s and we had some air-play in Hawaii.  The Hawaiian Recording Artist by the name of Mark Keali’i Ho’omalu (Disney Movie Lilo & Stitch) hired the group as his backing band. They recorded on his 2nd CD and they played at the Waikiki Shell and Shoreline Amphitheater in 2003.

Currently, Raymond is a freelance musician playing for different projects like playing trombone in a Reggae Band (Lifted Roots), play 12 string guitar and ukulele with Steven Espaniola..  His main gig is playing acoustic upright bass for Kumu Mark Keali’i Ho’omalu.  Raymond has had the privilege to play on three tours with Kumu Mark (two to Japan and one to Southern California.)  He is also performing on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines with Spirit of Polynesia.

Raymond’s main goal is to share his passion for music and singing with his students and preparing them to be singers or play music in whatever genre they choose to perform.

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