Meet Our Instructors

Empowering people one step at a time

Peter Ennis (owner)

Peter started dancing at Rutgers University during the disco days of the 70’s. He figured since most guys never learn to dance, it would give him a leg up (no pun intended) in meeting the women who wanted to dance if he knew how to do the hustle.  He began his professional dance career in 1983 with the Arthur Murray Studio in Wilmington and continued teaching part-time until 2010. He was fortunate enough to meet Luann D’Agostino (first owner of Take the Lead) in 1989 and became her first dance teacher.  They worked together at Arthur Murrays until Luann opened up Take the Lead in 2006.

In 1993, Peter and his wife Debbie started working with an international marketing company teaching others how build lucrative home based businesses. Just as in the dance industry, this has allowed them to empower and encourage others to pursue personal goals and aspirations.  They know that many lessons learned on the dance floor have practical applications personally and professionally.  When the opportunity to take over ownership of Take the Lead, Peter and Debbie knew it was already a great learning environment for every level of dance. It also followed the critical belief they share which is that you can achieve anything you want out of life by helping others get what they want.

 

Rene Ostarek and Bronislava Vrtalova   

Rene and Brona have been dancing together for years. They began their careers in the Czech Republic at the tender ages of 8 and 10 respectively. In 1992, they partnered and competed as amateurs in both the International Latin and Standard styles winning titles in Latin, formation team match, and polka divisions.  Turning professional in 1997, they soon became seven time Czech National Champions representing the Czech Republic at World and European Championships. In 2002, they immigrated to the United States and began teaching in Philadelphia. Now in Delaware, they teach both International and American styles. Rene and Brona now proudly represent the US in all World Competitions.

 

Emanuele Pappacena and Francesca Lazzari

From Italy, Emanuele and Francesca were trained as International Latin and Standard dancers and look back on an accomplished career, having performed at such illustrious competitions as the Blackpool in England.  Now dancing for the US, they continue to compete Nationally and Internationally most recently adding to their success with a US Open 3rd place finish in 10 Dance, US Open 2nd place finish in Classic Showdance, and a stunning 3rd place finish in 2013 WDC World Championship Classic Showdance.  Emanuele and Francesca offer coaching in for both social and competitive dancers in both American and International styles.

 

Joe Figueroa

Currently one of the most sought after salsa / bachata instructor in the industry today. A professional dancer since his teens, Joe has pushed the boundaries of the dance world with his exciting and innovative style of Latin Dance.  Joe began his career as a professional dancer for MTV Studios. In 2000, this accomplished artist and choreographer transitioned his passion and talent to the art of salsa dancing and quickly became a prominent figure on Philadelphia’s burgeoning salsa scene with his unique body movement and choreography.

Known as a premiere salsa instructor and performer, Joe has trained under the guidance of Rogelio Moreno, Jesus Morales, Josie Neglia, world-renowned salsa dancer Alex DaSilva, as well as with master salsa instructors in London, Milan and Australia. Joe combined his extensive knowledge of dance and creativity to develop a distinctive style of dance known as “Philly Style ” — an explosive salsa and Bachata style that combines smooth moves with sharp, complicated turn patterns. This unique style has earned Joe the reputation as one of the Worlds Best Leads.

 

Nick Pasch

Nick has spent most of his life playing competetive sports. Most recently running Track & Field for Salisbury University where he won multiple titles in the High Jump and helped his school conquer their division three years in a row.  He began dancing competitively and teaching in 2009. Even though he competes primarily in International Latin, he is proficient in all styles of Ballroom dancing. Nick has his Bachelors in History and Secondary Education. By fusing his knowledge of education and dancing, Nick brings a unique, fun and well rounded approach to the dance floor.

 

Tim Jones

Tim started figure skating when he was two and a half years old. During the span of his 17 year competitive career he competed in the Ice Dance, Pairs, Men’s Freestyle and Synchronized Skating Divisions. During that time some of his many accomplishments include: US Figure Skating National Ice Dance Champion, North American Challenge Skate Ice Dance Champion, Eastern US Sectional Ice Dance Champion, Southeastern US Regional Ice Dance Champion, an 8 time top 10 ranking at the US Figure Skating National Championships, and was elected to the US National Figure Skating Association Team USA.

After launching his competitive dancesport career he quickly achieved impressive results competing in all 4 competitive divisions; American Smooth & Rhythm and International Ballroom & Latin. Some of his many accomplishments include: Open to the World Amateur Smooth Champion, Ohio Star Ball Amateur Smooth Vice Champion, American Star Ball Amateur Smooth Champion, New Jersey State Open Amateur Smooth Champion and DC Dancesport Inferno Amateur Smooth Champion. Tim has coached and worked with many dance groups including the University of Pennsylvania Latin and Ballroom Dance Team, University of Delaware Ballroom Dance Team, American Dance Wheels Foundation, and Pulso Latino. Tim is also the founder and director of the Youth Ballroom & Latin Program at Take the Lead Dance Studio. He has taken his Pro/Am & Am/Am students to prestigious competitions all across the country helping them to achieve impressive results in all 4 styles of dancesport. Several of his students have now become successful teachers and professional dancers themselves.

 

JP Harris

J.P. trained in the martial arts as a kid and rowed during high school – only on a whim did he decide to take a ballroom dancing class during the off-season. Little did he know he would end up getting hooked after his first lesson. In college he continued taking lessons and competed with the UD Ballroom Dance Team in American Smooth and Rhythm while pursuing degrees Plant Science and Biochemistry. During this time he also taught some of the UD Ballroom Team’s public classes and coached the team’s newcomers. At Take the Lead J.P. teaches a lot of the newer students, including wedding couples and those simply looking to gain confidence in their dancing ability. He is also popular in his group classes because of his calm and confident manner in teaching fundamentals.

 

Taka Kubota

Taka was born in Japan and grew up in Delaware playing team sports like soccer and basketball.  He also enjoyed being a part of his school’s concert band.  During his time at the University of Delaware studying Mechanical Engineering,  he was exposed to Ballroom and Latin dancing.  Taka started his competitive ballroom dancing as a member of the University of Delaware Ballroom Dance Team and soon began teaching many of the team’s public classes.   He served as a coach for the UD Ballroom Dance Team for a number of years while also sharing his talent as an Instructor at TTL.   He can often be seen performing with his wife, Katie Kubota or TTL students at various events.  With his background in music, athletics, and engineering, he hopes to get everyone dancing comfortably and enjoy their time on the dance floor.

 

Mike Nichols

Mike started his athletic career studying Wu Shu Kung Fu.  However, dance has become his number one passion as both an instructor and competitor.  He began dancing competitively as an amateur and  turned Professional with then partner Sarah Davis after winning the Ohio Star Ball, Amateur Smooth Championship in 2009.  Mike has his Bachelors in Human Resources from the University of Delaware and Masters in Elementary Education from Wilmington University.  Mike no longer competes professionally but continues to share his passion for dance as an instructor and coach, often performing  or participating in pro/am competitions with students. Though Mike has competed in all four Ballroom categories, he is proficient in American style.

 

Some of our significant predecessors … 

Luann D’Agostino (founder/ previous owner)

Luann began dancing in childhood with 15 years of classical ballet, tap, and jazz and many years of community theater work.  She started her Ballroom career in 1989 as a student with Peter (the current owner) as her first teacher, competitor, and then instructor with the Arthur Murray Studio in Wilmington.  Leaving the Arthur Murray Studio (then Candlelight Dance Studio) in 2006, she opened the original Take The Lead in Wilmington (Pike Creek).  She remains a treasured friend of everyone in the studio and has been instrumental in keeping her vision of a fun place to learn and grow alive.

Nicole McCausland (founder/ previous owner)

Nicole also started her Ballroom career training and teaching with the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Wilmington.  Leaving the Arthur Murray Studio (then Candlelight Dance Studio) in 2005, she and Luann started the original Take The Lead in Wilmington (Pike Creek).  Now Nicole is dancing as well as teaching yoga.

Katie Kubota

Katie found her niche dancing after joining  the UD Ballroom Dance Team and later joined the Take the Lead family as a teacher and office manager.  After earning her Masters Degree, she is teaching English at a military academy. She is married to Taka and is always a welcome site when she visits the studio.

Raisa Rivero

Raisa trained, competed and taught with the University of Delaware Ballroom Team and competed as an amateur before coming to Take The Lead Dance Studio.  She is now spending quality time with her children and extended family.

On many occasions, Guest Instructors and Competitive Judges can be found teaching or performing at Take The Lead.  Be sure to watch our Group Class listing and Event Schedule for details.  Workshops allow you to work directly with some world class coaches on  a more intimate and personal level.