The Company

Karen L. Charles

Artistic/Executive Director

A dedicated performer, teacher and creator, Karen Long Charles received a BFA Ballet/BS Computer Science from Texas Christian University and M.Ed. in Administration from Georgia State University.  Charles has performed with numerous dance companies including Room to Move Dance Company (Atlanta, GA), Susan Warden Dance Company (Kansas City, MO) and was awarded a fellowship to study at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Charles served as Director at Perpich Arts High School and she was the founding Principal/Executive Director at Main Street School of Performing Arts. Charles has created/presented works for James Sewell Ballet, Carleton College, Macalester College, Main Street School of Performing Arts and Perpich Arts High School.

Threads Dance Project was founded by Karen L. Charles when her beloved father passed away leaving her just enough money to produce her first show in 2011 and realize her dream of becoming a choreographer and director of her own company.  Karen and her Threads Dance Project were nominated for a SAGE Dance Award for Outstanding Performance in 2015.  In addition to seasonal performances in the Twin Cities, Threads has successfully toured work to Atlanta, GA.  In February 2017, Threads toured “The Secrets of Slave Songs” to sold-out audiences.

Threads was also honored as one of six companies featured in American Dance Abroad’s (ADA): Pitchbook Volume II (Winter 2016) for In-Development Projects, for the Fall 2017 premiere piece “Uncertain Reality.” ADA’s publication is used as a representation of American dance around the world at festivals, performances and marketed to international programmers.

The Dancers & Staff

Karen Christ Aalgaard
Dancer, Rehearsal Manager
Hometown: Lakota, IA
Education: BFA Dance from University of Iowa
Training & Professional Experience: Dance Connection by Michelle Clegg, Dance & Other Behaviors

Leanna Browne
Hometown: Plymouth, MN
Education: Swathmore College: BA in Psychology and Special Major in Dance & Black Studies
Training & Professional Experience: Erinn Liebhard, Dancing Our Africa & Umfundalai Teachers’ Intensive, Zenon Dance Zone, Philadanco Summer Intensive, Penumbra Theatre Company’s Summer Institute

Michelle Collins
Hometown: Apple Valley, MN
Education: Cornish College of the Arts – BFA in Dance Choreography
Training & Professional Experience: Michelle Collins Solo Work, Maul Dance, Mankato State University Dance Theater, Cornish Dance Theater

Doug Hooker
Hometown: Keizer, OR
Education: University of Oregon – BA in Dance
Training & Professional Experience: National/International Tour of Blast!, Dancing People Company (Ashland, OR), Mathew Janczewski’s ARENA Dances, Paula Mann, Threads Dance Project

Sara Karimi
Dancer, Development Manager
Hometown: Cedarburg, WI
Education: University of Iowa- BFA in Dance, BA in English
Training & Professional Experience: Milwaukee Ballet School, Danceworks Inc, Kayle & Company, 10,000 Feet Dance Theatre, Borealis Dance

Aili Emilia Kotnik
Dancer, Community Engagement & Education Manager
Hometown: Bloomington, MN
Education: University of Minnesota – Twin Cities: Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Spanish Studies Minor
Training & Professional Experience: Hopkins Dance Center, Continental Ballet Company Summer Intensive, Crash Dance Productions

Julie Marie Muskat
Hometown: San Antonio, TX
Education: Alonzo King LINES Ballet/Dominican U: BFA Dance & Music minor, Summa Cum Laude; Interlochen Arts Academy: Dance Major, Graduation with High Honors
Training & Professional Experience: San Antonio Metropolitan Ballet, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company (Israel), Ariella Vidach/Compagnia AiEP (Italy), Dance & Other Behaviors, Vox Medusa (MN)

Jacklyn Neely
Dancer, Individual Donor Manager
Hometown: Champlin, MN
Education: Minneapolis Comm & Tech College – CNA Program, Progress in Business & Marketing, BA at Thomas Edison State University.
Training & Professional Experience: Northland School of Dance, Dominion Dance, Epitome No Question, Karla Njewe’s The Samimejon Movement, Threads Dance Project (MN)

Michala Martinez
Company Manager
Hometown: Hartland, WI
Education: BFA in Dance with Honors, Magna Cum Laude, University of MN – Twin Cities; Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia; Akron University, OH
Training & Professional Experience: Alternative Motion Project (AMP), Erinn Liebhard Dance, Three Dances, Nick Carlisle Company (OH).

Board of Directors & Artistic Advisors

Threads Dance Project’s Board of Directors is composed of members representing the world’s diversity as to ethnicity, race, age, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. Members are united in their commitment to supporting the mission of the organization. Board activities are driven by an Annual Organizational Plan, a statement of individual fundraising and resource-development goals based on personal skill sets, and abilities.

The board meets regularly to fulfill its obligation of governance. The work of the board is carried out by committees that meet as needed. Key committees are Fundraising, Marketing, Organizational Effectiveness, Outreach, and Performance.

If you are interested in joining the Threads’ Board of Directors, please contact Artistic Director Karen L. Charles:

Kenneth Charles

US Bank

Marcus Buggs

Vice President

Fredric Morgan

General Mills

Darrell P. Gradford


William Ackerman

US Bank

Zachary Clifton


Helena Haynes-Carter

US Bank

Lauren Hunter

General Mills

The Artistic Advisors are a knowledgeable group of professionals who consult and provide arts related expertise as needed. The Advisors have no legal or fiduciary responsibilities, but are advocates for the company’s mission and serve an integral part of Threads Dance Project’s artistic processes.

Diane Aldis


Herman Milligan


Mary Moore Easter


David O’Fallon


Linda Muir Finney