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MARILOU UBALDO LAFON

Artistic Director

Marilou 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.

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KELLI O'NEILL

Assistant Artistic Director

Kelli has trained since the age of three in ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, musical theatre, hula, and Tahitian. She 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 theater jazz classes. She is also the main choreographer of SOC Studio's Main Stage musicals and competition Musical Theater teams. Kelli has had the great pleasure of choreographing Showcase pieces featured at the Junior Theater Festival. Her musical choreography credits include The Little Mermaid JR, Seussical JR, Mary Poppins JR, and Shrek JR and directed and choreographed Singin' In The Rain JR at SOC Studio. As the Assistant Artistic Director at Spark of Creation Studio, she is happy to answer any questions you may have regarding our programs, registration, events, shows and more!

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SHANNA PINEDA

Instructor - Polynesian Dance

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 all levels of Polynesian Dance at Spark of Creation Studio, including leading our Tahitian Soloist teams.   Shanna encourages students to grow as dancers and to perform to the best of their abilities.

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DARA TAKEMORI

Instructor - Competition Tap

Dara has been teaching in the Bay Area for the past 16 years. She is fortunate to have won awards at both the regional and national levels for her groups, solos, and duets/trios. Many of her students have gone on to dance professionally, study dance in college, and become fellow teachers. Dara hopes to continue to inspire her students passion for dance, performing, and competing.

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VINCENT HWANG

Director - Genesis Hip Hop

Bio coming soon!

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JESSICA ACOSTA

Instructor - 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.

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FIONA O'NEILL

Instructor - Musical Theater & Jazz

Fiona O'Neill has been teaching musical theater, tap, jazz, and ballet at Spark of Creation Studio since 2016. She began training at three years old in ballet, tap, jazz, musical theater, hip hop, hula, and Tahitian. Fiona has studied voice with Marilou Lafon, Ray Galela, and Jude Navari and has received training in acting with Marilou Lafon, Thomas Crockett, Lee Ann Payne, Gary Ferguson, and Kevin Simmers. She worked for two years as a theater tech at Skyline College learning lighting design, sound operating, rigging, stage managing, and set design under Joshua Harris.   After countless years of performing, Fiona has found her true passion in musical theater. She has performed in numerous SOC Studio musical productions, Skyline College musicals and plays, and musical productions at Hillbarn Theater. Favorite productions include In the Heights, West Side Story, Chicago, and Anything Goes.   Fiona wishes to share her passion for dance, promote creativity, and instill in her students the same ambition to learn and grow as a performer as her mentors have done for her.

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RAYNA LEW

Instructor - Polynesian Dance

Bio coming soon!

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KELSEY FLUKE

Instructor - Jazz

Kelsy grew up in the East Bay, and has been dancing since she was 3 years old. At 14 she started assisting in Tap and Ballet classes at her studio, and began teaching her own classes during her Senior year of high school. Kelsy started at SOC when she moved to San Francisco, majoring in Early Childhood Development with a Dance minor. Since graduating with her Bachelor's degree in 2019, she is a full-time preschool teacher along with teaching dance in the evenings. This is Kelsy's 8th year teaching dance, and her 6th year at Spark of Creation. This year she is teaching Jazz Technique with our Competition dancers, and is excited to see what this season has in store!

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AMY CHIU

Instructor - Polynesian Dance

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 been with Spark of Creation since 2006 and continued to be one of Ms. Marilou’s Hula/Tahitian students for the past 18 years.  Amy is currently a member of SOC’s Advanced Hula/Tahitian Company where she continues to enrich, strengthen, and express 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 passion is Polynesian dancing, she 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. Amy earned her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Dominican University of CA and currently works as a registered nurse in San Francisco. This is Amy’s sixth year as a Hula/Tahitian instructor. She enjoys sharing her ardor for dance, creating new choreography, and passing on dances she learned to her students. Amy loves being able to work with children and perpetuate the art of Hula/Tahitian dance.

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MEGAN CHIU

Admin - Enrollment Coordinator & Marketing

Megan is currently in her fourth year at San Francisco State University getting her B.A. in Communication with a double minor in Marketing and Theatre. She has been dancing since she was 5, starting at Westlake School of Performing Arts and then becoming a member of Spark of Creation Studio for the next 15 years while also being a member of the studio's Polynesian dance troupe, Te Pura O Te Rahura'a. Throughout her time here, she has participated in the studio's stage productions, been able to be a part of the Musical Theatre Competition Team, competing at MTCA and multiple JTFs, continued to dance Hula and Tahitian, and also has been able to be a dancer in the competition/exhibition teams for Hura Tahiti, Merrie Monarch, Tahiti, SF's Ethnic Dance Festival and multiple Tahiti Fetes, all under the direction of Ms. Marilou. Outside of the studio, Megan has studied fine art and continues painting and drawing in her spare time along with crafting. Her love of the Arts started at a young age and has continued to grow as she gets older. She hopes that all new families and students that come to Spark of Creation Studio each year are able to be inspired and foster their love of dancing and for the Arts like she has here as well.