Instructors and Guests
Lisa Carlson- Founder/Director
Jazz, Tap , Ballet , Contemporary, Hip Hop, Commercial Jazz, College Prep, Audition Prep, Musical Theatre, Private Lessons (voice, acting, dance)
Lisa, a native of Manahawkin, NJ, founded Starlight Performing Arts in 2006. She is a graduate of the American Music and Dramatic Academy (NYC), where she studied Musical Theatre. Lisa has a wide varitey of credits, including the National Tours of The Buddy Holly Story and Sweet Charity, Production and Wardrobe with a little "Enough is Enough" singing for Donna Summer, A back up dancer for Neil Young and three seasons with Ocean Professional Theatre Company, where roles ranged from Mama Morton in Chicago to tapping in Crazy for you. Choreography credits include Nunset Boulevard with Ocean Professional Theatre Company, The Sound Of Music (06) through Grease (12) on the Southern Regional Stage, and many competitive and recital dances over the years! For more of Lisa's extensive list of credits, visit
Musical Theatre (all Levels), A Cappella (all levels), Acting , Mommy & Me, Creative Music, Intro To Music, College Prep, Audition prep, Private Lessons (voice, piano, acting, violin)
Jenny grew up in Illinois, surrounded by a family of music educators! She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from St. Ambrose Univeristy and spent six years in New York City. Jenny's 20 years of performance credits have taken her to stages such as The Laguna Playhouse, Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse, The Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, Wayside Theatre, The El Dorado Casino, and more! She also performed in two National Tours of The Buddy Holly Story. In addition to theatre, voiceover, commercial and film credits, Jenny enjoys arranging music for Starlight's performance groups. For more, visit
Tap II, Acting, Boys Ensemble, Adult Tap, College Prep, Audition prep, Starlight All-Stars Competition team, Private Lessons (Voice, Tap, Acting, Piano)
James Patton, a "quadruple" threat instructor, is originally from Indianapolis, IN. He earned his bachelor's degree from DePauw University, studying classical voice with the late great bass, Stanley Irwyin, specializing in vocal pedagogy and musical theatre piano accompaniment. At university, James directed several theatrical productions. James moved to NYC where he completed the Integrated Musical Theatre program at AMDA. Through his intense training, he was exposed to great tap dancers such as Germaine Goodson, Lars Rosager and Julie Tomaino. James performed with the national touring cast of BUDDY, and regional credits include 42ND STREET, RAGTIME, NEWSIES and HAIRSPRAY. James has subbed at Steps on Broadway, was a drama faculty member for The School of The Future (Brooklyn, NY), and teaches private voice, piano and tap.
Dylan Pearce is a freelance teacher, choreographer, and performer from New York City. He began dancing at the age of 5 going on to study extensively at the Joffrey Ballet School in NYC on scholarship along with Broadway Dance center, Steps, and The Ailey School. Dylan is an Assistant Choreographer for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and before that spent 7 seasons performing in the Christmas Spectacular. He also performed in the Radio City Spring Spectacular along side Derek Hough and Laura Benanti. He has choreographed for the Samsung Group, Radio City Rockettes, Americas Got Talent, Brenda K. Starr, Amy Lynn and The Gun Show, and all over the United States for studios and Universities. He’s performed in televised and staged productions including Off Broadway in Shea Sullivan’s ‘Dancing on a Dream’, WNBA All-Star Halftime Show, Miss New Jersey, Miss New York and The Miss Florida pageants, The Michael Awards, Trump Signature Events, Equity Fights AIDS, Knicks City Dancers, Jazz Dance America’s Tri-State Youth Invitational, Ray-Ban and Rite Aid industrials, and the International Dance Festival in NYC. Dylan toured with Recording Artists Brenda K. Starr, and Tina Ann, and was a dancer in the modern company, Momix. He was also dance captain for Walt Disney World’s “Twas The Night Before Christmas” and toured the world performing and setting shows for Princess and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Dylan is a highly sought after Master Teacher and Choreographer. His distinctive style sets his choreography apart and gives his dancers a cutting edge above the competition.
Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Hip Hop
Ballet & Tap
Origianlly from Oklahoma, Miss Paula has worked as a Director, Choreographer and Educator ever since receiving her M.A. in Humanities from the University of Houston. Miss Paula served as the Assistant Professor of Dance at the University of Houston for several years, where she taught graduate and undergraduate classes in Ballet, Tap, Dance Composition and Dance History. Miss Paula's long list of achievements include:
Director of Creative Dance For Children (University of Houston)
Co-Founder of the Texas Tap Ensemble (which toured internationally)
Teacher Recognition Award for Excellence In Teaching from the National Board of Education
Miss Paula's teaching skills speak for themselves, as her students have gone on to attend Julliard, NYU, and perform with groups such as Tap Dogs and the Mark Morris Dance Company. In addition to teaching, Miss Paula has directed and/or choreographed professionally in many theatres around the country, including Theatre Under The Stars, Casa Manana, Plan B Productions and Surflight Theatre, as well as numerous national tours.
Pop Vocal Coach, Songwriting Coach, Career Coaching, Studio and performance prep
Alyjah is a singer/songwriter who grew up in the music industry, meeting with major record label executives, working with award winning producers, and performing at famed venues on the East Coast. On the team of Grammy Winning Producer/Engineer Earl Cohen, Alyjah has most recently written songs for 2013 winner of American Idol, Candice Glover, and 2nd runner-up of The Voice’s 13th Season, Brooke Simpson. As a teenager, she had been pursuing a recording contract as an artist, and was represented by the former manager of artists such as The Cheetah Girls, and had met with and performed for privately for the presidents and executives of major labels such as Universal Music Group, Sony, EMI, MBK, Interscope, and more. She is a BMI associated songwriter and certified from the semi-annual invitation only BMI songwriters workshop. Alyjah offers vocal coaching, songwriting lessons, Performance coaching, pre- recording studio prep and career coaching.
Private Lessons Services :
Vocal Coaching - Specializing in pop styles, working on breathing, tone, range, and performance. I aim to guide my students in finding their unique voice!
Songwriting - Using my 10+ years of experience in songwriting, I help my students to develop a sense of structure for songs, finding their style and what sets their original music aside from other artists.
Career Coaching - Guiding students with my experience in the music industry on how to break out and get heard, how to collaborate, how to find producers and management, and developing a following through social media and live performance.
All Dance styles, Specializes in Hip Hop, Head of the Starlight All-Stars Dance Division, Special needs certified dance instructor
Elizabeth was 14 years old when she started assisting and teaching classes for local dance studios. Ever since, she has made it her goal to share her love for dance with the next generation of dancers. With a huge passion and over 20 years of dance experience, she has gone on to teach children’s ballet at the City University of New York, and has taught numerous Hip Hop classes at Broadway Dance Center. Elizabeth is trained in various styles such as Hip Hop, Contemporary, Jazz, Musical Theater, Ballet, Freestyle, and more! Her passion for dance is never limited. Being a versatile dancer and choreographer is something Elizabeth takes to heart. With having the chance to live in New York City for over 4 years, Elizabeth has performed with numerous companies, taught for various workshops, and has choreographed for music videos. Throughout her years of dance Elizabeth has learned a lot about teaching dancers of all ages, levels, styles and has picked up a variety of teaching methods from her instructors. Elizabeth is taking everything she has learned about teaching, dancing, performing and applying it to every class she teaches.
Mr. Wright has served as a music educator in the Southern Regional School District since 2007. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Music Education with a focus in percussion from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and a Master of Arts in Instructional Technology from Stockton University. Mr. Wright, who resides in Manahawkin with his wife and two children, has also enjoyed playing percussion or music directing the orchestra for local school and community theatre productions.
Guest Artist, Sub, Musical Theatre, Ballet, Jazz, Tap, hip Hop, Voice, Acting
EMILIO RAMOS is a New York City based performer and teaching artist. Broadway: The King and I (Lincoln Center Revival). National tours: West Side Story (Chino), Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Ritchie Valens). Regional: Mary Poppins (Ogunquit PH), The King and I (ZACH Theatre), West Side Story (Palace Theatre/Westchester BT), Thoroughly Modern Millie, Seven Brides…, Cats. Television: Saturday Night Live
Training: AMDA, VCASS. Melbourne boy. @lilporkbunz www.emilioramosonline.com
Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Jumps and Turns
Elizabeth Troxler began her dance training in Western Pennsylvania with Paula Scriva Jersey. She continued to study at Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, Boston Ballet, and under Vagonova Masters Irina Kolpakova, Vladilen Seminov, & Mansur Kameletdinov of the Kirov Ballet (now Mariinsky Ballet). Later Elizabeth trained under Maureen Price with the Royal Academy of Dance where she passed all of her RAD vocational exams with Distinction (including a perfect score on Advanced 2). She continued on to achieve her Solo Seal Award with the Royal Academy of Dance, and is now a Certified Teacher for the Royal Academy of Dance.
Elizabeth has performed roles such as the Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, and the Pas de Trois from Swan Lake with The Nacional Ballet de Panama & The Illinois Ballet. Other ballets in which she has enjoyed performing are Don Quioxte, Les Sylphide, Ballet Etudes, The Little Mermaid & Alice in Wonderland. She conceived, created, choreographed and produced a full length ballet version of the Hans Christian Andersen tale The Snow Queen, as well as a children's production of The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg in conjunction with Northern Arizona University.
As the dance captain and a performer, Elizabeth travelled with the National Tour of Sweet Charity. She has also performed in regional theater productions of Mame (Riverside Theatre), Beauty & the Beast (Alabama Shakespeare Festival), The Wizard of Oz (The Fireside Theatre), Anything Goes, CATS, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Thoroughly Modern Millie (OPTC), as well as in Peter & the Wolf at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. She has choreographed many musicals including productions of Dames at Sea, Godspell, Oliver, Fiddler on the Roof, and Sweet Charity.
Elizabeth has trained and coached hundreds of students for the Royal Academy of Dance Children's and Vocational Exams and the Youth American Grand Prix Ballet Competition. Her students have continued on to dance with American Ballet Theatre, Nevada Ballet Theatre, Houston Ballet, Texas Ballet Theater, Miami City Ballet, Elements, New York Theater Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and in various National Tours, Broadway, and Off-Broadway shows such as 42nd Street, Beauty & the Beast, Oklahoma!, and Bullets Over Broadway.
Elizabeth is currently on the faculty at the Martha Graham Dance Company & School and teaches weekly at Broadway Donation. She continues to teach and guest teach in and around NYC, coaching and training dancers of all ages and disciplines. Elizabeth directs a monthly choreography lab in which she creates new works of all genres of dance.
Jim McCabe is the Improv teacher at Southern Regional High School. He directed the District musicals for over 15 years. "McCabe" is also involved with Bellarine Theatre Company and has directed shows for them over the years. His improv classes are full of fun and on the spot thinking. They encourage public speaking, quick thinking, and build confidence. Check out a class this week!
Acoustic/Electric Guitar and Beginner piano
Ty Mares is a singer-songwriter from Denver, Colorado. He plays a combination of R&B, pop, and rock, relying heavily on long flowing riffs and colorful chord progressions to accompany the melody. Ty started writing and playing his own music at the age of 13 and hasn’t stopped. Moving from place to place, he has had the opportunity to play and learn from people all over the country; from principle pianists to college jazz guitar professors. After high school, he attended the Berklee College of Music for two years where he began to see the guitar as more than just a platform for vocals and writing. From Boston, Ty relocated to New Jersey to begin his professional career. He started at the bottom, playing bars and restaurants, and is slowly working his way up to playing bigger venues and trying to push his original music. Ty’s ultimate goal is to share his music with the world. As a teacher, Ty brings ease and comfort to learn the skills and theory necessary for playing while having fun!
Pre- Musical Theatre, Combo Dance classes
Marcella grew up in Manahawkin, NJ, where she has been performing since she was 10 years old. Growing up she studied dance at the Rehearsal Hall dance studio and Broadway Bound Dance Academy, where she studied ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical, modern, and contemporary. Throughout high school she studied acting and voice, and was a Starlight vocal student her senior year of highschool. She has performed in numerous productions, with some of her favorite roles being, a Delta Nu in Legally Blonde the Musical, Helga in Cabaret, Annelle in Steel Magnolias, and Jenny Hill in Big Fish the Musical. She has been the Dance Captain for many productions with Bellarine Theatre Company, whom with she often performs with today. She has also choreographed shows such as Willy Wonka Jr. and Snow White Jr. Marcella is currently a senior at Stockton University where she is studying Elementary Education. She is very excited to be coming back to Starlight; this time as a teacher!
Sub-Instructor Musical Theatre, Acting, Beginner Dance
Brianna Bennett has been involved with the performing arts since seven years old. She is a recent graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy for musical theatre, and is currently taking classes online in order to become a teacher of theatre. Brianna has completed over forty professional productions at Surflight Theatre, has helped write and perform in the United Nation’s Day of the Girl Performance, and has been on the national tour of Miracle on 34th Street playing the role of Susan. Brianna has also been a part of the Pinelands Acting Competition team for four years, and has taken home three first place Governor’s Awards for the state of NJ for dramatic monologue and comedic pairs and has taken home four other awards. She continues to coach every season. Since graduating, some of her favorite projects she has participated in were being a part of the New York New Works Festival, dancing throughout the streets of NY in a music video, and being a participant of one of the experiments that is going to be on the new Netflix show “Brain Child”. Brianna is really excited and grateful to be at Starlight!
Dara D. Kawka
Stretch and Strength, a Substitute teacher in all areas of dance, Maternity sub for Liz Trotta January/Feb 2019
Dara D. Kawka has been dancing for over 35 years and holds a B.A. in Theater Arts and Dance from Santa Clara University, California. She was born and raised in San Francisco, California and moved to New Jersey in October 2005 after marrying her husband D.J. Dara is a proud mother of her daughter Kallie (11) son Josh (9) and daughter Dylan (4)! She is in her 21st year of teaching dance and fitness to students ages 2-adult. Dara has performed on MTV as well as for the NBA All-Star Games. Dara is also a Certified PiYo Instructor, Zumba Instructor and Stott Pilates Mat & Reformer Instructor. Her many talents include Tap, Jazz, Ballet, Modern, Hip-hop, Creative Dance, Acrobatics, Body Maintenance, Pilates Mat & Reformer, Floor Barre, Lyrical, Mommy & Me, Pre-school Movement, Nutrition, Dance History, Choreography, Bosu, Stability Ball, Foam Roller, Improvisation, Group Exercise Classes, Musical Theatre Dance, Kahnotation, Zumba Latin Dance Aerobics, KidZanity Fitness classes, Yoga, PiYo & Cardio-Kickboxing. Dara was also the Head Coach for the Santa Clara University Dance Team. She has also been a guest choreographer for numerous elementary and high schools, as well as holding her New Jersey Substitute Teaching Credential for Vocational Arts/Dance. Dara believes that in dance and fitness there are no limits! Life is NOT a dress rehearsal!
Meet our TA's!
Liz, Adina, Henry, Emily, Carly* and Aly!
Jr. TA's in training
Hadley*, Kendall*, and Mitch*
* Not Pictured*
Teaching Assistants assist our Instructors in many group classes! They are 9th-12th grade students who have been studying with Starlight PAC for many years and are excited to help the next generation learn and grow!