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About High Release

HIGH RELEASE DANCE was founded in 1994 by a group of modern dancers seeking to pursue their own artistic visions and performance opportunities in a collaborative environment while still having time for families, careers, and other pursuits. The group's current focus is on creating new works and presenting pieces in different performance venues. While primarily based in modern dance, the group explores a range of dance styles, with each member acting as both choreographer of her own works and dancer in other choreographers' pieces. High Release is unique in that the group has no director, but works as a completely democratic organization in which each member has equal voice and contributes her particular talents.

High Release pieces range from highly abstract modern compositions through intricately designed jazz routines, lyrical movement poems, improvisations, and theatrical works that create a sense of place and plot with unique characterizations. While mood ranges from the dark and serious to the light and humorous, throughout the work is a distinctive High Release "flavor" characterized by dynamic, energetic movement.

Dancers in High Release are involved continuously in developing new work. The group performs a full-length concert of new works once every two years, as well as showing new pieces and works in progress in a number of group shows. High Release has performed in such productions and venues as DanceVisions, sjDANCEco's ChoreoProject, Bay Area Dance Week festivals, Berkeley's Eighth Street Studio, the San Jose City College Choreographers' Collective, the Brady Street Studio, Stanford's Mary Edith Alumni Dance Concert, the Santa Cruz Dance Series, and the 21st Century Dance Collaboration at the Marin Civic Center.


REBEKAH ALTMAN spent her youth at L'Ecole de Danse in Annapolis, MD studying ballet, lyrical, and Graham modern with mother-daughter team Barbara Easter Winner and Carol Wheeler. Falling in love with modern, she studied Graham, Pilobolus, Taylor, Jump Rhythm Jazz Project and ballet in the Visiting Artists Program at Randolph-Macon Woman's College in VA under Pam Risenhoover. After receiving a BA in performance, plus gaining backstage theater work, she returned home and enjoyed co-choreographing liturgical dance, teaching modern to kids camps at L'Ecole de Danse, and coming back as an adult to perform alongside younger dancers where favorite roles included the Queen of Hearts in the children's story ballet and a dramatic duet with, and by fellow graduates. After moving with her husband to Cupertino in 2009, she focused on motherhood. She resumed dancing in 2013 with Anne-Lorraine Bahi at Harmony Dance Center, discovered Zohar Dance, and joined High Release in 2017.


VIRGINIA BOCK grew up in New Zealand where she studied ballet and modern dance from an early age and taught dance in various schools and communities. She earned a diploma in dance teaching from the New Zealand School of Dance, where she studied modern dance with Liz Davey and Limón Company alum Louis Solino, and performed and choreographed with the student company. In the Bay Area, Virginia has performed with Jeannine Charles' ArtistEDGE, Lisa Burnett, Karin Moriarty, and Laura Zweig. Virginia has two teenagers and has found her third act working in higher education. She joined High Release in 2006.


ERWIN COLUMBUS is a chemical engineer who discovered dance at Iowa State University in 2012.  He honed his talent performing with Orchesis I and II at ISU, and enjoys choreographing as well as performing. Erwin attended the American Dance Festival and has performed at FACES and Octagon Arts Festival in Iowa. Since moving to the Bay Area, he has appeared with Zohar Dance Company, ArtistEDGE, and Natasha Carlitz Dance Ensemble. Erwin has collaborated with Monsoon Dance Company and danced with Aguas Dance Company, with which he traveled to Peru for an international dance festival. He joined High Release in 2016.


ELENA GRINDLEY has danced for twenty years in Menlo Park. She has studied with Ronnie Brosterman and Gail Abrams at Scripps College and holds a degree in Creative Arts from San Jose State, where she studied with Gary Masters. Elena has performed in Claremont, Los Angeles, Berkeley, San Jose State, San Jose City College, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, DanceVisions, and her grandparents' living room. She has delved into modern, ballet, hip hop, capoeira, West African, Middle Eastern, and funk. Elena joined High Release in fall 1999.


I-HENG MCCOMB started school when she was 4 years old and never left. In kindergarten, she wrote in her Me Book that she wanted to be a "mommy and a teacher" when she grew up, so three children, two grandchildren, and many thousand students later, here she is. What she didn't foresee then was that somewhere around the turn of the millennium, she would start dancing regularly and never stop. I-Heng joined High Release in 2006. 


HIDEKO SAKAMOTO studied tap and jazz dance in college, and then learned modern dance from Hideaki Ryo, former Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble dancer, to help with a chronic backache from her desk work as a software engineer. This not only fixed her back but transformed her life. Dancing became a much more regular routine after Hideko moved to the Bay Area and became a mom to twin boys. She would like to thank Joyce Aranda, Lisa Burnett, Alex Flores and Dottie Lester-White for their enthusiastic dance instruction, and artistic and creative inspiration.


ERIKA TINGEY started studying dance at age 6 with Grace Butler, and continued through college where she studied with Libby Nye and Risa Steinberg, former members of the Limon dance company. In 1994 she graduated from Mills College with an MFA in Choreography, and went on to dance with Jennifer Brightbill and the Pneuma Dance Company. For a year she was a performing member of the San Francisco Taiko Dojo. Her work has been seen in High Release, DanceVisions, and Choreographers' Collective performances, as well as the Marin 21st Century Dance & Music Collaboration and "Assemble Emotion," an AIDS fundraiser in San Francisco. Erika joined High Release in 1999. 


MARCY AUERBACH-UNAL has been dancing since she was a little girl. She attended the Fine and Performing Arts High School in New Jersey where she learned and performed ballet, jazz, and modern dance. During college, she was vice-president of a student-led dance group where she fundraised, performed, and choreographed, while obtaining her bachelors degree in Biology. In Boston she danced with Kelly Donovan & dancers, and more recently, performed in San Francisco's Carnival with Tania Santiago. While a grad student in NYC, she co-founded Danza Washington Heights in Northern Manhattan, under the partnership of DanceNOW[NYC], producing outdoor dance events while promoting local artists, and building relationships with the community. Marcy is a virologist and yogi. She first joined High Release in 2010 and is grateful to be dancing again.


NATASHA CARLITZ trained as a child with Grace Butler, a former Nikolais dancer, and performed with SMDC and CHORD.  She has studied dance in California, London, Amsterdam, Massachusetts, and Maine, including workshops on improvisation and choreography with Pilobolus founder Jonathan Wolken and aerial dance in the Sierras with Bandaloop.  For the past 25 years, Natasha has choreographed and performed around the Bay Area in a variety of festivals and showcases.  After presenting concerts of her own work in 2002 and 2005, she founded the Natasha Carlitz Dance Ensemble, which staged its first performance in 2006 in collaboration with the internationally acclaimed California Guitar Trio and has since produced an annual Bay Area season.   Invited to represent the United States at the Egyptian International Modern Dance Festival in 2010, Natasha led a master class with Egypt's national dance company and NCDE presented evening-length concerts in Cairo and Alexandria.  NCDE is now working on an evening-length suite of dances set to Mozart for performance in fall 2022.  A member of High Release from 1998 through 2005, Natasha rejoined the company in 2011.


LYDIA FEUERHELM is a movement artist, dance teacher, and arts administrator. Her passion for performing arts started at a young age, and has remained a guiding force throughout her life. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BA in dance in 2014, and after graduation danced with a variety of Chicago choreographers including Margi Cole and Timothy Buckley, along with teaching and serving as the Studio Director at Ballroom Dance Chicago. Since moving to the Bay Area in 2019, she has worked with Palo Alto Children's Theatre, West Valley Dance Company, Veksler Academy of Music & Dance, Starting Arts, Dragon Productions Theatre Company and Dance Visions, in addition to completing a graduate certificate in Arts Administration in 2020. She currently serves as the communications manager for Deborah Slater Dance Theatre and teaches contemporary dance classes throughout the Bay Area. Lydia joined High Release in 2020.


LAUREL HOWARD began dancing at DanceVisions at the age of three, beginning under the tutelage of Laura Zweig with modern dance and later delving into ballet, jazz, lyrical, and hip hop. She continued to pursue new forms of dance at Occidental College, where she was an active dancer and choreographer for the Occidental College Dance Production, studied ballet under Francisco Martinez, and attended contemporary, jazz, and swing classes in and around Los Angeles. After college, Laurel returned to the Bay Area to pursue a degree in education and reunited with the dance community at DanceVisions and Groovitude Dance, regularly performing with Laura Zweig's adult dance troop. Laurel currently works as a high school teacher and is excited to dance with High Release after watching their work for many years.


ELIZABETH PANELLA began dancing various forms at a young age and first discovered modern dance in college at Saint Mary's College of CA. She fell in love with the art and decided to pursue a degree in dance alongside a degree in psychology. Currently, she works in Applied Behavior Analysis with children and hopes to further her education and career in that field. After returning home to the south bay in 2018, she was thrilled to discover High Release Dance Company and local modern dance classes at Dance Visions where she has performed in several shows.


TRACEY STANELUN began ballet lessons as a little girl and nurtured her skills at home, dancing and singing along to recordings of Broadway musicals.  She performed through high school with the State Ballet of Rhode Island, then discovered modern dance at Smith College where she received a BA in Dance.  In Boston she performed in the works of Peggy Brightman (Choreodance), Nicola Hawkins, and Marcus Schulkind.  She has had fun introducing ballet to elementary school kids in rural Kenya and India.  Tracey joined High Release Dance 12 years ago when she moved to the Bay Area, and has enjoyed exploring choreography in addition to dancing in the company.

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