Current & Recent Instructors

Hep Jen & Ken Watanabe

Hep Jen and Ken Watanabe teaching at the Verdi Club, Jan 2017

Hep Jen has been teaching Lindy Hop full-time since 1997.  Originally from Seattle, she moved to San Francisco in 2004 and quickly established herself in the Bay Area’s Lindy Hop scene.  Jen has been running the Lindy Hop classes at the Verdi Club/Woodchopper’s Ball since 2005, is currently the head instructor at Lindy in the Park, and has also taught at Cat’s Corner, UCSF, Page Street Studio, and the Rent Party.  In addition, Hep Jen is a Lindy Hop choreographer, DJ, and performer, recently performing in Kim Nalley’s original musical play “Ella: The American Dream”, and choreographing for the CCSF Hot Bloods Lindy Hop performance troupe.

Hep Jen, Frankie Manning, Ken Watanabe at Lake Merritt Dance Center, Feb 2006

Ken is the head organizer and co-founder of San Francisco’s world-famous Lindy in the Park, running weekly since 1996.  He started teaching Lindy Hop in 1998 and has been teaching classes with Hep Jen since 2004, currently at Lindy in the Park, in the past at Cat’s Corner, UCSF, Page Street Studio, and the Rent Party, and now at the Woodchopper’s Ball.  Ken has also taught at the 9:20 Special, the DoghouseAshkenaz, and the Allegro Ballroom, as well as workshops in Japan and Spain.

Deniz Akin

Deniz Akin
photo credit: Artchie Gomez

Deniz first discovered swing dancing as a teen, then dove deep into choreographing, teaching, competing, performing, and, of course, social dancing her way through numerous pairs of shoes as a member of UC Davis’s first lindy hop performance team (Tranky Moo! 🐮).  She loves traveling to exchanges to meet new dancers and experience new scenes, and it’s important to her that newcomers feel supported, engaged, and connected to the community.  She’s so excited to share her love of the dance with the next generation of swing dance enthusiasts at the Woodchopper’s Ball!

Tré Larsen

Tré Larsen

Tré R. Larsen is a professional freelance dancer, choreographer, registered yoga teacher, and when those don’t pay the bills, a baker.  Using the body to express oneself through safe movements has been one of Tré’s passions for years, as they completed a Yoga Behind Bars, Seattle, (teaching trauma-informed yoga to incarcerated persons) certification in 2018, teaching as well on psychiatric units and hospitals.  Tré brings years of experience in the dance world and is excited to share their love of dance, movement, rhythm, and musicality with the dancers at the Woodchopper’s Ball.

Jeff & Mimi Liu-Leyco

Mimi & Jeff Liu-Leyco;
2018 All Balboa Weekend;
ACBC Amateur Finals-1st Place;
Photo Credit: McFreebird Photography

Jeff can never seem to keep his feet still.  Growing up with a background in classical piano, music has always been an essential part of his life.  He began dancing Lindy Hop in the mid-2000s on a dare.  He loved it so much, he decided to stick around.  Now, Jeff is an award-winning dancer, placing in regional and international competitions.  He spreads the joy of swing dancing as an instructor and portrait and event photographer.  Jeff currently lives in San Francisco with a constant soundtrack of Count Basie, Artie Shaw, and Sidney Bechet in his ears.

Mimi is ecstatic to share the spirit of the Jazz Age in her dancing and teaching.  A lifelong dancer, she started swing dancing in 2005  in Pasadena, California.  After moving to New York City, her love for jazz music and its related dances blossomed exponentially.  Today, as an established teacher, performer, and choreographer, Mimi is recognized as an up-and-coming force in the Lindy Hop, Balboa, and Authentic Jazz worlds, known for her sassy and graceful stylings on the floor and winning numerous dance awards locally and nationally.

Carissa Koo & Tor Helmer

Carissa Koo & Tor Helmer

Carissa and Tor are a dedicated partnership committed to spreading the love of Balboa in the Bay Area.  They love to teach Balboa in a manner that is both fun and easy to understand–with a heavy emphasis on connecting to your partner and conveying the music.  They believe very strongly in mastering the basics and having a good understanding of the fundamental aspects of the dance.

Carissa and Tor have competed and traveled around the world doing Balboa and would love nothing more than to share what they have learned with their students.

Karen Huddleston

Karen Huddleston
photo credit: Julia Reihs

Karen Huddleston is excited to teach and share her love of collegiate shag!  Karen has been swing dancing for 12+ years and formerly taught Lindy Hop at Cat’s Corner in San Francisco.  She has trained in a variety of styles including Lindy Hop, Balboa, Collegiate Shag, Blues, Fusion, and Ballroom, and she is passionate about leading and following most styles.




Past Instructors

Nick Gonella & Paula Bahia

Paula Bahia & Nick Gonella

Nick and Paula both came to Collegiate Shag from other swing dances, such as Lindy Hop and Jive.  However, it only took a couple dances for them both to catch the Shag bug.  They first partnered for the SF Shag team at Camp Hollywood and since then have performed and competed together all over California.  Their dance style embraces the energy and excitement of Collegiate Shag (mostly fueled by coffee) while maintaining good partnership and communication through the dance.They believe in helping people build crisp, clean movement that still feels natural and fun, the way Shag should be.  They want Shag to be something people can enjoy whether they have years of time invested or just a couple classes under their belt.  Nick and Paula are excited to share their love of this dance with more people in the Bay Area.

Ryan Calloway

Ryan Calloway;
photo credit: Gregor Hofbauer/Photography

Ryan Calloway shines on the dance floor.  His dancing is full of enthusiasm, buoyant rhythm with boundless creativity.  Most nights you’ll find him  performing music or pounding the floor at one of the city’s local jazz and swing clubs.  Ryan’s goal as a teacher is to inspire his students to find their own creativity.  With an open and warm style, he welcomes individuals to not only learn the traditions of Vintage Jazz Dance, but to add to it as well.

Hanah Yendler

Hanah Yendler

Hanah is a swing dancer, pirate historian, avid baker, and a software engineer.  She is very excited about all things solo jazz and lindy hop, having taught and performed for over 7 years in the Bay Area (and beyond).  Hanah loves helping her students find their own voice and creativity in both partner and solo dancing.  Come find Hanah on the dance floor–she is always down for a solo jazz jam out.

Jenna Chalmers & Jeff Kroll

Jenna Chalmers & Jeff Kroll

Jenna Chalmers has been teaching and performing dance since 1993.  Originally an Irish Ceili teacher, Jenna switched her focus to the Lindy Hop just before the rebirth of the swing craze.  She has performed with The Brian Setzer Orchestra, The Manhattan Transfer, and Harry Connick Jr.  Jenna runs the popular Camp Swing in Mendocino with Shufina English and has been the choreographer for performance groups like Bay City Boogie, Le CanCan Bijou, and The Decobelles.  As an award-winning Collegiate Shag dancer, Jenna taught internationally before switching her focus to her current passion, Balboa.

Jeff started teaching Balboa in 2003, ran a weekly Balboa-focused venue in Oakland from 2006 to 2013, and has taught weekly classes at the Verdi Club from 2006 to the present.  Jeff has performed, taught, judged competitions, and DJ’ed at events all over the country and internationally.  Although he has accumulated titles and trophies from competitions over the years, he prefers instead the social aspects of dancing and teaching.

Cooper & Marco Buffa

Cooper & Marco Buffa

This husband and wife dancing duo learned Boogie Woogie, a dance form that is largely abandoned in America, while living in Europe.  Marco has been learning and practicing Boogie Woogie for 5+ years and for multiple years has competed in the Italian National Boogie Woogie Competition.  Cooper learned Boogie Woogie from Marco and danced in show groups in Florence, Italy for the past two years.  Their passion for old Rock’n’ Roll hits and swing dancing come together perfectly with the dance style of Boogie Woogie.