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About Us

At the Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Southbury, we have created a friendly, no pressure environment in which our students can learn great dance from world class instructors. Our most important priorities are that our students have fun while they improve their dance skills.

Fred Astaire took great pride in a standard of excellence which is still alive and well in our studio. Our instructors have completed a rigorous training program and are Certified teachers. We train and promote our students through the trophy system and have beginners, social dancers, competitors, and advance level dancers.  Our unique qualifications both in American and International Styles allow any student to progress from a beginner to any goal they set for themselves in a very short time frame.

We offer Bronze, Silver and Gold level instruction for those who have taken lessons in the past; and for absolute beginner we have specially developed Beginner Programs which will have you dancing on your very first lesson.

Christian Lange likes to joke that he must have been a television emcee in a past life. That’s how much he enjoys being in front of people. Whether he’s teaching a class or working one-on-one with a student, Christian’s engaging personality and naturally entertaining demeanor become an integral part of the learning experience.  

Born in Lepizig, Germany, Christian began dancing at the tender age of four and never looked back. Over the years he has won several  world-class professional titles including German Ten Dance Championship and North American Rising Star Smooth Champion, and placed as a finalist at several prestigious American Dance Sport Championships. In addition, Christian has guided several of his students to top honors in the competition arena. In 2011 alone, four of them became national pro-am champions. Christian exhibits the hallmarks of a well-rounded teacher, with specialties in American smooth, Latin Dance and International  Ballroom. His talents as a choreographer have helped many students  perform at the top of their game both in competition and showcase.

Christian’s versatility extends to emceeing special events, judging professional dance competitions and coaching many of the industry’s  leading dance professionals, amateurs and pro-am competitors. A romantic at heart, Christian considers himself a “wedding specialist” and loves creating memorable dances for couples on their big day. More than anything, Christian strives to create an enjoyable, social environment at Fred Astaire Southbury, where students can come to dance, mingle, meet new people and have an all-around great time.

Paulo Jorge hails from southern Brazil with its brilliant colors and exquisite beaches. Here he developed a lively passion for beauty and culture, and a natural born hospitality, all richly enhanced by his Italian lineage.

As a result, he brings a wealth of talents to the studio. Paulo is a gifted professional photographer and has exhibited his work in many galleries. He also excels at interior design.  In designing Fred Astaire Southbury, Paulo has set a new standard for luxury in a dance studio. He has created an atmosphere that embraces elegance yet caters to the students’ every comfort.

Whether he is planning a Friday night dance party, special event or monthly theme, Paulo’s eye for beauty and flair for presentation is evident in every last detail.
In addition, Paulo’s keen business skills, developed when he worked as an executive in bank management, cover the spectrum of administrative abilities
and strategic planning, keeping everything running smoothly at the studio.

In true “Brazilian style,” he makes all his visitors feel warm and welcome.  Ask anyone who shares a dance with Paulo or engages him in conversation and they will tell you, he makes sure your time at Fred Astaire Southbury is an unforgettably enjoyable experience.

Annie Rockhill

Annie is Fred Astaire Southbury’s talented and charming Dance Director. She’s been dancing since the tender age of two and studied ballet, jazz, and tap for 11 years. Her passion for dance led her to study and compete in both International and American styles of ballroom dance for the past 5-½ years. When she is not teaching, Annie trains with world-class coaches has performed in the Fred Astaire New England Regional Dance Troupe.

Annie graduated Summa Cum Laude with honors from Naugatuck Valley Community College with a degree in Visual and Performing Arts/Dance, where she excelled in the styles of Ballroom, Broadway Jazz, Ballet, and Modern Dance.  Annie is an exceptionally gifted choreographer, a talent she cultivated at NVCC where she composed and performed her own original dance routines.

When she is not dancing, Annie loves to explore the world of fashion.  She faithfully follows the latest fashion trends and takes great pleasure in discovering up-and-coming designers. With her keen eye for style, Annie always presents a chic image whether dancing or performing.

Annie brings both a vivacious personality and joyous enthusiasm to the dance floor. She’s excited to share her love and passion for Ballroom dance with all of her all of her students. She always inspires them to be confident and graceful dancers and you can rely on her to help you reach your full potential in ballroom.

Kristopher Speers

Kristofer has always been involved in the arts as a visual artist and writer. This drew him to dancing.
The other thing that drew him was being invited as a guest to a Fred Astaire by his parents. He has spent several years breaking down dancing to understand it technically and developing expressive qualities through it. 
    He believes great dancing is about more than patterns or timing. It's about learning how to train your body and mind to do anything you need to express yourself.

Jennifer Kirksmith - Biography is coming soon!

Ivana Strancaric

Ivana brings her own brand of star power to the studio.
She was born in Croatia where she gained fame and popularity
in that country’s entertainment industry, dazzling audiences in  several dance productions.

Dancing since the age of 11, Ivana has competed in international competitions throughout Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Hungary where she won numerous championships. She has also coached and choreographed for many couples, guiding them on to the finals in competition.

Teaching dance is Ivana’s greatest passion. She has lent her instructional talents to everything from social dancing, wedding choreography and children’s dance to salsa and latin fitness. Ivana believes in an engaged and dynamically based method of teaching.  But above all, she says, it should be fun.

Ivana fell in love with dance from the moment she took her first step. She experiences a joy and fervor when she dances that she is always eager to share with her students. For her there is no better feeling than to teach those who never imagined they could dance. She takes great pleasure in seeing the fulfillment they experience when they achieve what they once thought was an impossible dream.

The multi-talented Ivana is also a student of music and plays piano. In addition, she is fluent in several languages, including Croatian, English, Bosnian, Serbian and Italian.

Her favorite dance is salsa, and whenever she can, she heads for the nearest salsa club.

Nikita Harris

Our Office Manager Assistant and Hostess Nikita is currently studying at Gateway College where she is on the Deans List. Nikita’s vitality and enthusiasm at the studio owes much to her exposure to ballet, tap and jazz dance at an early age. In her spare time, she loves to swim, read and dance as well as devote herself to volunteer work.

Nikita’s sparkling personality and friendly demeanor are two of her best attributes. She is eager to assist our students with anything they need and always available to answer any questions. As you will discover when you visit out studio, one of Nikita's specialties is her coffee, which she serves with a smile and genuine Fred Astaire hospitality.


Wolfgang Opitz

We are proud to have Wolfgang Opitz as one of our regular coaches at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio Southbury. Known for his technique expertise, Wolfgang is one of the most sought after coaches in the world for Professional and Pro/Am dancing.

As a “National Coach” in Germany for over 28 years Wolfgang’s personal and professional achievements are unparalleled in their field.

In 1973 he received the World Latin Championship Title and shortly after became the World Show Dance Champion. As a coach Wolfgang trains some of the world’s most renowned professional couples including Oliver and Martina Wessel Therhorn, Slavek Sochaki and Marzena Stachura, Horst and Andrea Beer and Brian Watson and Claudia Leoni.

Wolfgang is also the  world’s most successful Formation coach with 33 world championship titles to his name.

Julia Mincheva

One of the world’s foremost championship dancers, Julia Mincheva brings a wealth of talent to Fred Astaire Southbury. A native of Russia, Julia began her dance training at five years old and went on to pursue competitive ballroom and Latin dance. She has won several championships throughout Russian and Europe where she performed in Ballroom and Latin programs. In the youth category, she was Moscow Closed Champion in International Standard on several occasions, as well as Ten Dance Champion.
Between 2003 and 2005 alone, won seven titles, including: London Open Dance Championships Professional Ballroom Semifinalist; International Championships Professional Rising Star Standard Finalist; Dutch Open Professional Classic Showdance, 2nd place; Dutch Open Professional Ballroom (World Series) Semifinalist; Russian Professional Standard Championships Finalist; Dutch Open Professional Classic Showdance, 3rd place and Grand Prix Open Professional Standard, 3rd place.
In the United States, Julia has won numerous regional titles and was World Finalist in Classic Showdance in 2005. With her former partner, Christian Lange, her credits include U.S. Rising Star American Smooth finalist and North American Smooth Champion.

She has been teaching since she was 13 and is a nationally certified dance instructor in four styles: Ballroom, Latin, Standard and Rhythm.  Julia Mincheva is available for private lessons, coaching, seminars and choreography.


Prince Freddy of Southbury

Meet Freddy, Fred Astaire’s adorable new mascot. He’s a male mix breed of chihuahua and dachshund.  Little Freddy was born January 6, 2012, the same day as Fred Astaire Southbury’s first practice party, so we consider it kismet that we found each other.

Adopted from a mobile animal shelter care on Monday, when Hurricane Sandy blew through Connecticut, Freddy considers himself a survivor. But he is also a party animal in the true sense of the word. "I love Southbury and that’s why I’m very excited to be here to play with everyone and enjoy all the dancing," barked Freddy, with those big puppy dog eyes.