Dance Advance

November 24-26, 2023
Seattle, Washington

A Transformative Training Intensive for the Body, Mind and Soul With an Audition for Summer Programs & Scholarships

Seattle Dance Advance

A Thanksgiving Weekend in Seattle You’ll Always Remember.

Almost 30 Hours of Exceptional Training in 3 Days.

Expert Faculty Mentors Led by Master Teacher Francisco Gella.

This three-day holiday weekend intensive focuses on providing a strong foundation in ballet, modern, and jazz techniques accompanied by diverse movement styles and genres as well as choreographic repertory from Francisco Gella and Yusha-Marie Sorzano. Francisco and Yusha-Marie are Co-Artistic Directors of Zeitgeist Dance Theatre. Our curriculum is designed to unlock the potential that exists within every participant.

Frequently called a ‘breath of fresh air’ by students, parents, teachers and directors alike, every one of Francisco Gella’s programs delivers on a central commitment: To transform hardworking young adults into remarkable young artists regardless of body type or background, and instilling a belief in them that anything is possible with hard work, a sense of purpose, and a willingness to take risks.

SDA returns on November 24-26, 2023!

To learn about the intensive, please review the program information below. Registration for Fall 2023 will go live by the end of August. Join our interest list to receive an alert when enrollment goes live.

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Studios and Conservatories

Any studio or conservatory with 10 or more dancers attending, is eligible for a group rate discount. Please contact us in the chatbox below or email us to make arrangements.

Parent Involvement

We embrace parents' involvement in their dancer's journey. In this spirit, parents are encouraged to attend our welcome/orientation session and the closing session. We will also open up selected classes to observe throughout the weekend.


The Seattle Dance Advance is limited to intermediate and advanced pre-professional dancers ages 10-22 due to the rigorous requirements of the program. For the purposes of this workshop, ‘Intermediate/Advanced’ is roughly defined as a student preprofessional having danced for at least one year in a studio as a company member with a minimum of 3 hours of Ballet training per week and 10 hours total weekly of dance classes or enrolled in a conservatory setting with at least six hours of Ballet a week and a minimum of 10 hours of total weekly dance classes.

Although the above is required, what is most important is that dancers come with a strong desire to be challenged and grow.

Space will be limited for up to 100 dancers for the three days and dancers will be broken up into two groups based on age. We expect that this program will sell-out.

Audition Process

Along with the exceptional training you’ll receive from our faculty, there’s another important reason to attend the Seattle Dance Advance!

Our intensive is a designated audition location for the Zeitgeist Dance Theatre Trainee Program, as well as scholarship awards for Francisco Gella’s Ballet+ (beyond technique) intensive in Miami and the New Century Dance Project Choreographic and Performance Workshop. All of these programs will be held between June and August 2023.

There’s nothing extra you need to do when enrolling in Seattle Dance Advance and there is no extra cost if you’d like to audition. Our staff will reach out to everyone who has enrolled before the program begins to find out if you’d like to register for the audition.

The Joan Myers Brown
Equity Dance Scholarship Fund

A limited amount of scholarships are available for especially deserving dancers. Scholarships will be allocated according to the combined consideration of both merit and financial need. Decisions on scholarships will be made a few weeks after each deadline. Since a limited amount of scholarship awards will be offered, it is better to apply by the early deadline. Please click below to learn more about this opportunity and to apply.

Scholarship Application Deadlines


Deadline for Fall Programs


Late and Final Deadline for Fall Programs

About the Seattle Dance Advance Intensive

For dancers, the future is the choices they make now to prepare for their success. When given the proper information and tools, dancers, as well as their parents and teachers who support them, have the keys to unlock the full potential that exists within. 

It is in this spirit that the Seattle Dance Advance Intensive - always held the weekend following the Thanksgiving holiday - was introduced in 2016 by master educator and choreographer Francisco Gella. Bringing this world-class training program to the Pacific Northwest is a result of Francisco’s desire to return to the city that ignited his passion for the art form while a dance student at the University of Washington. Along with his team of expert faculty mentors, Francisco will generously share his deep knowledge and expertise refined in his 25+ years as a performance artist, gymnastics coach, teaching artist, and dance maker.

Highly-acclaimed choreographer and dance educator Francisco Gella has introduced his revolutionary philosophy and approach to dance training to thousands of dancers around the world through intensives, masterclasses, and individual instruction. For seven years since the introduction of our program in Miami, young dancers have had the opportunity to spend eight-days with Francisco and his team through this innovative program called Ballet+ (beyond technique).

Ballet+ is much more than an intensive. It’s a powerful idea and a transformative experience. The program is based on his extensive thirty-year dance career and his background in gymnastics coaching. With an integrated teaching approach, he incorporates spirituality, psychology, physiology, and kinesthetic awareness – all toward developing dancers into holistic and versatile performers and most importantly, human beings. The results are astounding.

Our carefully designed curriculum accelerates the learning of children, youth, and pre-professionals, and assists them in being fully prepared and motivated for a successful summer of dance experiences – whether going to an intensive, a national competition or staying at your home studio to train in preparation for a college dance program or professional audition.

With the guidance and knowledge of expert faculty mentors, each with years of experience dedicated to education, training, performance, and choreography, young dancers quickly become more aware of their own body and the mind’s connection to it. Regardless of how long they’ve been dancing, participants grow more than they likely ever believed they could and get closer to realizing their full potential.

2022 Schedule

To help you prepare for the experience, here is a downloadable PDF of last year’s schedule as an example of what you can expect this year until we update the schedule closer to the program launch.


Friday: 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM


Saturday: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM


Sunday: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Student dancers are required to participate for the entire three days of the program to experience the desired results.

Class Size

Class Size will be limited to up to 50 dancers. Although classes will be based on age group, faculty reserve the right to move a student to a different class if it is obvious they will benefit from the change. 

Teaching Artists & Mentors

Francisco Gella (he/him)

Founding Artistic Director & Core Faculty

Ballet, Modern, Contemporary, Improv, Choreography

Francisco Gella’s distinguished thirty-year career as a compelling dancer, award-winning choreographer, and widely recognized dance educator, began when he took his first formal dance class during his freshman year at the age of nineteen. His innovative choreography and highly effective teaching methods are sought after by professional companies, universities, arts high schools, ballet conservatories, and studios across North America and around the globe.  

In addition to a successful performance and choreographic career, Francisco is a renowned educator, artistic director, and arts entrepreneur. He is the founding co-artistic director of Zeitgeist Dance Theatre launched in January of 2020. He is also the founding artistic director of NUEVO School of Contemporary Dance and COLABO Youth Dance Collective (2008-2015). As Chief Creative Officer of Francisco Gella Dance Works, he has created numerous influential educational programs; Ballet+ (beyond technique) workshops, the Preprofessional Dancer Institute, New Year’s Training Camp, Seattle Dance Advance, the New Century Dance Project (a festival for choreography and performance) and the College Dance and Career Prep program. Additionally, Francisco is the lead ballet and modern faculty member, and adjudicator for the 24 Seven Dance Convention.

Yusha-Marie Sorzano (she/her)

Founding Co-Artistic Director and Core Faculty Member
Ballet, Modern, Contemporary

Yusha-Marie Sorzano is an Afro-Caribbean immigrant hailing from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. She is a relentless, dynamic performing artist, choreographer, director, and educator who has worked in concert dance, theater, opera, television, and film. Ms. Sorzano is an alumna of Armour Dance Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and New World School of the Arts, and she is a Winner in Dance from YoungArts. She graduated from the Ailey/Fordham BFA program, and in her junior year she joined Ailey II on invitation. 

To date, Ms. Sorzano has performed in 8 renowned dance companies, including Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, TU Dance, Morphoses, BODYTRAFFIC, and LA Dance Project. She is currently a member of Camille A. Brown & Dancers, having been an original cast member of both the Bessie-nominated Black Girl: Linguistic Play, and Ink, the 2nd and 3rd installments of Brown’s acclaimed trilogy. Ms. Sorzano is currently co-leading and choreographing a new musical titled We Won’t Sleep, and she is special faculty and a mentor at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in the School of Dance. She will rejoin CalArts in Fall 2022 as Director of the BFA Program in the School of Dance.

Steven Sofia (he/him)

Teaching Artist
Jazz, Musical Theatre, Pilates

Steven Sofia is presently teaching at Chapman University and CSULB after serving  three years an Artist-in-Residence at the University of Washington for the Musical  Theater Program. Steven is an Educator, Broadway performer, dance captain,  choreographer and Pilates master trainer. His Broadway and National tours credits  include: Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life, Chicago, Kiss Me Kate, Beauty and The Beast,  Guys and Dolls (‘92 revival), Jerome Robbins’ West Side Story, An evening with Betty  Buckley at Carnegie Hall and Applause at City Center’s Encores. He danced with The  American Dance Machine where he worked with such choreographers as Ron Field, Agnes DeMille, Buzz Miller and Gwen Verdon, to name a few. 

He has been an  assistant to Broadway choreographers Tony Stevens and Chris Chadman. Steven choreographed the National Tour of Chicago for Troika, a number for the Macy’s  Thanksgiving Day Parade with Andy Williams, productions of Pippin and Anything  Goes at the UW, a production for the Wings Theater, and directed and  choreographed Pippin for NYU’s Cap21. Steven has been on the dance faculty with NYU, Cap21, SUNY Purchase, Marymount College, Broadway Dance Center and Steps  on Broadway. Steven is co-owner of Synergetic Movement and certification program  for Pilates, Reki and Yoga.

Karl Watson (he/him)

Teaching Artist
Contemporary Dance

Karl Watson is a Seattle-based performer and educator. He currently serves as Artistic and Administrative Associate for Whim W’Him, Seattle Contemporary Dance, and is a dancer in the company. Originally from Cleveland, OH, he graduated from Butler University with a BFA cum laude in Dance Performance and History Minor. Karl received additional training through intensives with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Doug Varone and Dancers, Springboard Danse Montreal, FACT/SF, and Countertechnique.

Following graduation, Karl danced with Luna Negra Dance Theater and was a founding member of Visceral Dance Chicago. Karl has also worked as a répétiteur and choreographer. He has staged works at The Big Muddy Dance Company, Visceral Dance Chicago, George Mason University, and Fordham University/The Ailey School. He has created original works for Visceral Dance Chicago,Whim W’Him, Visceral Studio Company, Dance In The Parks Chicago, and Olympic Ballet Theatre, among others. In addition to performing, Karl is passionate about dance education. In Chicago, he had the privilege of working as Associate Director for Visceral Studio Company. Karl continues to share his love for dance through teaching in Seattle and as a guest teacher throughout the country.

Kirsten Cooper

Kirsten Cooper (she/her)

Teaching Artist
Contemporary Jazz

Kirsten Cooper trained in Washington State then moved to Los Angeles when she was nineteen years where she primarily trained at Edge Performing Arts Center with Rhonda Miller, Liz Imperio, Jeff Amsden, Bill Prudich, Randy Allaire and many more. She also assisted and performed with/for Rhonda Miller, Jeff Amsden and Liz Imperio in class, conventions and various projects. While in Los Angeles she worked in film, video and stage. Kirsten danced on Costa Cruise Lines, toured demonstrating with Los Angeles Dance Force and Jeff Amsden instructional videos, Sony Disc Industrial Film and numerous ABBA hair shows.

Kirsten now teaches full time in the Seattle area as well as traveling the U.S. to do choreography and master classes. She regularly teaches at Westlake Dance Center and is the director of their pre-professional company. She does monthly master series classes throughout the Pacific Northwest and loves connecting with so many students. She was honored to teach in Bulgaria at the Iliev Dance Art Foundation Spring Dance It intensive in 2016-2018. Kirsten also teaches in the summer at the Pacific Northwest Summer Program as well as guest teaching for Pacific Dance Project and SpoDance convention. 

Venue Information

University of Washington

Meany Center for the Performing Arts
Seattle, Washington

Program Location

Seattle Dance Advance will be held at the University of Washington.

University of Washington


SDA staff have arranged for a limited number of discounted hotel rooms close to the program venue for dancers and their families traveling from a distance. Please return closer to the program date for more details and the booking link.

About Seattle, Washington


Seattle is a city of many neighborhoods: eclectic, urban, outdoorsy, artsy, gritty, down-to-earth, or posh—it's all here, from the quirky character of the Seattle Waterfront and the eccentric "Republic of Fremont," to hipsters walking baby carriages past aging mansions on Capitol Hill. There's something for just about everyone within this vibrant Emerald City.

Indeed, part of Seattle’s diversity lies in the topography: the city is a feat of environmental engineering. When the Denny party arrived on its shores, "Seattle" was a series of densely forested valleys covered by Douglas fir, Western hemlock, and red cedar. Where SoDo (the stadium district south of Downtown) currently is was nothing but mudflats. Pioneer Square was actually an island of sorts where Duwamish tribespeople crossed to the mainland over sandbars.

Indeed, part of Seattle’s diversity lies in the topography: the city is a feat of environmental engineering. Once Seattle started to grow, its residents literally changed the landscape. Massive Denny Hill once occupied the Belltown neighborhood, but it simply had to go. The multistage "regrade" started in 1899 and was completed 32 years later. The Denny Hill Regrade was just one of dozens of projects; another equally ambitious earth-moving mission was the construction of the canal that links Lake Washington to Puget Sound. Today, the city is once again moving a lot of earth around with the construction of a light-rail line across the city; it’s changing the look, feel, and energy of neighborhoods as a result.

It's hard to think of Seattle as anything but natural, though. After all, the city owes much of its appeal to its natural features—the myriad hills that did survive settlement offer views of mountain ranges and water, water, water. Outside Downtown and other smaller commercial cores, Seattle's neighborhoods fan out in tangles of tree-lined streets. Massive parks like Discovery, Magnuson, and Washington Park Arboretum make Seattle one of the greenest and most livable cities in the nation. From the peaks of the Olympics or Cascades to an artistically landscaped garden in front of a classic Northwest bungalow, nature is in full effect every time you turn your head.

Taking a stroll, browsing a bookstore, or enjoying a cup of coffee can feel different in every one of Seattle’s neighborhoods. It's the adventure of exploring that will really introduce you to the character of Seattle.

(Taken from 'Fodor's Travel Guide’)