The Company

Karen L. Charleskaren-l-charles-bio-photo-2022

Artistic/Executive Director

Karen Long Charles was born in Atlanta, Georgia.  She began her formal dance training at the age of 5.  Karen trained at Atlanta Ballet, North Carolina School of the Arts and Jacobs School of Dance until she graduated from high school.  Karen attended Texas Christian University (TCU) where she received her B.F.A. in Ballet and B.S. in Computer Science.  Karen later studied as a fellowship recipient at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. 

Karen performed with the Pittsburgh Choreography Continuum, Susan Warden Dance Company (Kansas City) before returning to her hometown in Atlanta.  Once in Atlanta, Karen performed with Room to Move Dance Company and opened her own dance school – Discovering Dance.   Karen also taught dance, computer science, and mathematics in the Atlanta Public School System for nine years.   Karen received a master’s degree in Educational Administration from Georgia State University(1999).

In 2000, Karen moved to Minneapolis, MN where she worked as Co-Principal at Perpich Arts High School (2000-2002) and founding Principal of Main Street School of Performing Arts (2003-2010).  Karen choreographed numerous works for students at Perpich Arts High School and Main Street School of Performing Arts. 

Karen was commissioned by James Sewell Ballet (2013) to create a work for their Ballet Works Series (2013).  She also choreographed for the renowned Penumbra Theater’s musical Girl Shakes Loose (2018).  Karen created work and lectured at the University of Georgia as Franklin Visiting Scholar (2019). 

Karen is the founding Artistic Director of Threads Dance Project – a contemporary dance company whose mission is to examine, expose and celebrate the threads that connect us.  Karen has choreographed over 40 works for the company since its inception in 2011.  Threads has achieved a number of milestones including successful tours to Atlanta, GA, Philadelphia, PA and extended residencies at Carleton College, Macalester College, University of Iowa and University of Georgia, collaborations with Grammy-nominated a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, nominations for a MN Sage Dance Award, recognition in American Dance Abroad’s biannual publication Pitchbook, hosting McKnight International Choreographer Salia Sanou (Burkina Faso/France) and opening a new community dance center, Threads Dance Nexus in 2021.

Karen has served the community by being on numerous grant review panels (i.e., NEA, MRAC, MSAB, McKnight Dance Fellowships, MN SAGE Dance Awards) and is currently a Trustee for Dance/USA, Vice President for the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts Council, chair of Cowles Program Advisory Council and on the Arts and Cultural Leadership Advisory Board – University of MN College of Continuing and Graduate Studies.


The Dancers & Staff

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

Nieya Amezquita
Hometown: Decatur, GA
Education: DancerMakers of Atlanta, University of GA
Professional experience and training: Nieya was a founding member of CADENCE and Linds&Co, was president of the Young Choreographer’s committee and attended the American Collegiate Dance Association. She is also a Barre fitness instructor.

Malia Craft
Dancer and Facilities & Operations Coordinator
Hometown: Hartwell, GA
Education: University of Georgia: B.A. Dance, Minor in Exercise and Sports Science, Certificate in K-12 Dance Education
Professional experience and training: Hot Shots Dance Company; Staibdance; Deeply Rooted Dance Theater; Peace, Love, and Dance Project

Devyn Hannon
Hometown: Memphis, TN
Education: University of Georgia: BFA in Dance, BS in Biology
Training & Professional Experience: UGA Dance Co., Young Choreographers Series (VP), CORE Contemporary & Aerial Dance Co., ACDA, Southern Assn. of Dance Masters, The Dance Academy of Bartlett, and TN Governor’s School for the Arts

Shannon Hartle
Hometown: Des Moines, IA
Education: BFA in Dance, minor in Communication Studies, certificate in Entrepreneurship in Performing Arts
Training & Professional Experience: Joffrey NYC, Dancers in Company UIowa, American Dance Guild, American College Dance Association, Stark Dance, Collab Arts Volume III

Kennedy Jones
Facilities and Operations Coordinator
Hometown: Twin Falls, ID
Education: BFA in Classical Acting, minor in Dance Performance, minor in Arts Administration
Training & Professional Experience: Utah Shakespeare Festival, Missoula Children’s Theater, Theater Orchester Heidelberg

Sara Karimi
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

Brenna Mosser
Dancer, Company Manager
Hometown: Rochester, MN
Education: Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London, UK, le Centre National de la Danse Contemporaine in Angers, France
Training & Professional Experience: Alternative Motion Project and Bernadette Knaeble. Founder and artistic director of Analog Dance Works.

Lauren Vasilakos
Hometown: St. Paul, MN
Education: University of Iowa- B.A. in Dance; B.A. in Biology
Training & Professional Experience: Joffrey NYC, American College Dance Association, UI Youth Dance Instructor, Martha Graham Univ Collab NYC, Hatch Dance & HoneyWorks

Maddy Woodman
Hometown: Hampton, MN
Education: University of Minnesota – BFA in Dance, Minor in Spanish Studies
Training & Professional Experience: University Dance Theater (work by Carl Flink, Herb Johnson III, and Chris Schlicting), Neighborhood Dances, LC Creations. Maddy is also a youth dance instructor at Intrepid Dance Company and CREO Arts & Dance.

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/Executive Director Karen L. Charles:

Amanda Norman

NGE Holdings Inc.

Omarra Alexander 

Community Member

Traci Shannon

Children’s Theater Company

Alicia Phillips

Vice President

Ella McGrady-Wiley

Assistant Secretary

Amanda Thor


W. Todd Ackerman

US Bank

Kenneth Charles

Community Member

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