The Company

Karen Charles

Artistic/Executive Director

A dedicated performer, teacher and creator, Karen Long Charles received a BFA in Ballet 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). Charles was also rewarded 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. Her work will be featured in Gustavus’ High School Dance Festival performance in summer 2016.

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. The mission of Threads is to examine, expose, and celebrate the threads that connect us. Threads has enjoyed seven successful seasons in the Twin Cities and was nominated for a SAGE Dance Award for Outstanding Performance in 2015.

The Dancers & Staff

Alicia Ayodele
Hometown: Queens, NY/Orlando, FL
Education: Florida State University: MS in Mathematics
Training & Professional Experience: Florida State University Dance Department, Chameleon Dance Troupe (FL), Zenon Dance Zone Intensive & Performance Program (MN), Threads Dance Project

Jesse Case-Allan
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Education: University of Minnesota – Twin Cities: BA in Dance, MCTC BA in Graphic Design
Training & Professional Experience: Ballet Arts MN, Minnesota Dance Theater, Academy of Russian Ballet, Metropolitan Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Boston Ballet, MSSPA, Threads Dance Project, Zenon Dance School

Rahila Coats
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Education: Gustavus Adolphus Class of 2020: Dance and Spanish Major. Main Street School of Performing Arts: Honors Dance Endorsement
Training & Professional Experience: Penumbra Theatre Company Theatre Intensive, TU Dance Pre-Professional Program

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

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

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

Aili Kotnik
Dancer, Community Education & Outreach 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

Brenna Marlin
Hometown: Wauwatosa, WI
Education: University of Wisconsin Milwaukee-BFA in Dance
Training & Professional Experience: Wildspace Performance Company, Rooftop Dance, Your Mother Dances, Oni Dance

Michala (Cornell) Martinez
Dancer, Company Manager
Hometown: Hartland, WI
Education: BFA Dance-Magna Cum Laude-from University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Queensland University of Technology (Australia), University of Akron (Ohio)
Training & Professional Experience: To The Pointe Studio, Alternative Motion Project (AMP), Erinn Liebhard Dance, 3 Dances

Aneka Starlashay McMullen
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Education: The Ohio State University-BFA Dance, Diploma-Dance Magnet, North Community HS, Belly Dancers of Color Association w/ Dr. Sunyata Amen (Maryland)
Training & Professional Experience: The Ohio State University Dance Co, CDance Company (Columbus, OH); Rennie Harris Hip Hop Heroes & Innovatore (Philly); In New Company, Black Pearl, Women In Motion, Epitome No Question, BLAQ (MPLS)

Julie Marie Muskat
Dancer, Touring Manager
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
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)

Addison Reine
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Education: Smith College B.A. in Biology
Training & Professional Experience: Five College Dance Department, North Carolina School of the Arts Summer Program, Summit Invitational Program

Jeffrey Robinson
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Education: University of Minnesota – Twin Cities: BFA in Dance
Training & Professional Experience: Main Street School for the Performing Arts, Collide Theatrical Dance Company

Betsy Schaefer Roob
Hometown: Elm Grove, WI
Education: University of Minnesota – Twin Cities: Bachelor of Individualized Studiens in English, Dance, & Sustainability Studies; HECUA Environmental Sustainability & Writing for Social Change (Mpls); Casa de la Solidaridad (El Salvador); The Oregon Extension; Hope College (Michigan)
Training & Professional Experience: Mathew Janczewski’s ARENA Dances; Dance & Other Behaviors; TU Dance Summer Intensive

Timothy Herian

Individual Giving Manager
Hometown: Port Washington, WI
Education: BFA Dance from University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
Training & Professional Experience: Forces of Nature, Project 44, Roschman Dance (NYC); Warped Dance Company (Port Washington, WI); Ananya Dance Theater,  ARENA Dances, Black Label Movement, Contempo Physical Dance, Eclectic Edge Ensemble, Threads Dance Project, Moves & Company (MPLS); Instructor at Ballare Teatro

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

General Mills

Marcus Buggs

Vice President
Billboard Planet

Frederic Morgan

General Mills

Darrell P. Gradford


Zachary Clifton


Lauren Hunter

General Mills

Sharon Smith-Akinsanya

United Negro College Fund


Michelle Tufts-Dickhaus

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