USA Dance Boise 

ProFiles in Boise Dance

Sean Lee & Phoebe Felker


# of years dancing:

  • Sean (21, 18 in competition)
  • Phoebe (18 - 15 years of Ballet & 3 years of Ballroom)

Where you studied: 

  • Sean - BS Applied Physics, Caltech; PhD Applied Physics, Cornell University
  • Phoebe - BS Political Science, Boise State University

Competition experience:

  • Sean
    On-and-off over 18 years
    Standard Ballroom with 8 different dance partners
    Notable wins: 1st place UC Berkeley competition (championship), 1st place Emerald Ball (pre-champ), 3rd place BYU (pre-champ)
  • Phoebe
  • 3 years competitive ballroom


Interview Questions

  1. What inspired you to begin dancing? 
  • Sean – Nothing in particular. I was trying out several hobbies, and ballroom dancing resonated and stuck.
  • Phoebe - I was fortunate enough to find my passion for dance at a very young age. Dancing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
  1. How do you prepare before you dance? 
  • Sean – A lot of warm-up. Ballroom dancing can be very physically vigorous.  I stretch and do warm-up exercises 30-40min before dancing to avoid potential injuries.
  • Phoebe - Lots of stretching! I also make sure to eat well! It's important to be healthy from within.
  1. How often do you practice?
  • Sean – 4-5 times a week.
  • Phoebe – I try to practice 5 days a week 2 hours a day but that depends on the week! Life happens.
  1. Best advice you've received about dancing? 
  • Sean – Practice like you compete. Compete like you practice.
  • Phoebe - I know it is a cliché and corny, but it's to dance like no one is watching. It is easy to get trapped in your head and to focus on technique but dancing is an art. It's best to let go and enjoy every moment. Get lost in the music. I promise you will enjoy dancing even more.
  1. Favorite Dance and why?
  • Sean - Waltz.  The most expressive and emotional of 5 ballroom dances.  Tends to be very sappy.  I'm a pretty stoic person in general, so I guess this is my outlet?
  • Phoebe - Waltz. Is it the craziest or most exciting dance? Well no, but to me it is the most fulfilling. It requires grace, posture, balance, and timing. It is a great dance to learn if you are new to ballroom. Also it makes me feel like royalty when I am dancing so no complaints there.
  1. Favorite Dance movie?
  • Sean - I have 2 favorites.  Strictly Ballroom and Shall We Dance? (original version)
  • Phoebe - Strictly Ballroom of course! It is flashy, flamboyant, and showcases the theatrics of ballroom dancing quite well. 

Jennifer Babione


  • Studio: Lessons in Dance
  • # of years dancing:
  • I started with tap and ballet when I was 6 years old and transitioned into high school dance team at Capital High School here in BOISE!! We were called the Golden Girls, and when I was at Capital, we had won 11 years in a row, and it was A LOT of pressure. I started couples dancing in 2002.

  • # of years teaching: 17

  • Where you studied: Boise State University (BS in Chemistry)

  • Competition experience:
    United Country Western Dance Circuit (UCWDC) and World Swing Dance Council (WSDC). Started competing in Jack & Jill's in 2006 in WSDC and transitioned into UCWDC in 2011, going to the World Dance Championships in 2016, taking 6th in the Pro-Pro division.

  • Questions

    1. What inspired you to begin dancing?
      I always loved dancing. I started couples dancing in 2002 when my then boyfriend broke up with me and I found myself at Shorty's taking a free dance lesson.

    2. How do you prepare before you dance?
      I don't need to prepare, I just show up! However, when I first started dancing and taking lessons, I would pick one item to work on that evening while I was dancing to try and get better.

    3. Best advice you've received about dancing? Have fun!

    4. Most memorable dance?
      Chris Haynam, at Portland Dance Festival, about 2006. Thomas and I were really new to going to dance events, and Chris and Becky were UCWDC Pro's. They danced with each of us and made us feel like we were special.

    5. Favorite Dance and why?
      Tough call between Country Two Step and Hustle. I can just free my mind in both of these dances and just have fun.

    6. Favorite Dance movie? This is going to sound totally cheesty, but I LOVE Hallmark Movies. When I was a young girl I LOVED the Dukes of Hazard (specifically, John Schneider). So when I saw a Hallmark movie with John Schneider, AND it was about dancing.....I was ALL IN. It is called The Wedding Dance.

    Valerie Pighini


    • Number of years dancing:
      I started dancing when I was 15 years old as a ballet student in Palo Alto, CA. I quit dancing due to an injury 12 years later and only danced occasionally with my husband (a country swing dancer from Texas). In 2008, I started taking ballroom lessons and was introduced to West Coast Swing. I have struggled with that dance for years. It's hard to follow well, and I was so frustrated, but I kept up with it anyway and what a humbling experience it's been. When I moved to Boise in 2016 I started taking ballet and ballroom again. I feel it's important to share I started ballet again at age 60! It's been 7 years and I'm still doing it. I love the way ballet makes my body feel and how strong I've become as a result. It's a great base for everything that relates to dance.

    • Where you study dance:
      Idaho Ballroom, 208 Swing, Lessons in Dance, Fred Astaire Boise, Ballet Idaho, Eagle Performing Arts Center, Backstage Dance.

    • Competition experience:  
      I just recently finished a 'mock' competition at Fred Astaire Boise where we danced 'rounds' and competed in 'heats'. All this lingo is new to me. I danced 8 dances, 4 times each with a visiting judge critiquing us. It was a fabulous experience. I'm not sure I want to compete, but I might... I'm still pondering that.
      1. What inspired you to begin dancing?
      When I was little I saw The Nutcracker on TV and instantly became infatuated with dance.

      2. Best advice you've received about dancing?
      "Let it go." Just let go of your inhibitions and have fun. It's pretty simple advice. And I'm constantly learning techniques which I'm able to hold on to better than in the beginning. There are at least 100 things you have to think about all at once. LOL Eventually, most of it becomes intuitive, but I'm always trying to improve.

      3. Most memorable dance?
      I have danced with so many wonderful dancers in the past 7 years, I couldn't pick just one. I enjoy each one and value every moment we share in the dance.

      4. Favorite Dance and why?
      My favorite dance is the Cha Cha, probably because it's fast and sharp. I also love a dreamy Nightclub Two Step, where we ladies get to milk every move.  And of course the most romantic dance of all - Bolero.

      5. Favorite Dance movie?
      There are many incredible dance movies.  The one that resonates most with me however is Dirty Dancing because that's the way I feel when I dance ... just like Baby with that big grin on her face, swishing her dress. I feel like a kid in a candy store full of delectable treats - all I have to do is work hard doing what I love.

    Martha Pohl


    • Studio: Idaho Ballroom Dance Center
    • Number of years dancing:
      I started with ballet at the age of 4, added jazz and modern dance by age 8 and finally landed on Ballroom at the age of 18. So close to my entire life.  Competition experience: In my early years with FADS I competed professionally in mostly theater Arts and Smooth, but soon realized that my preferred focus was on teaching and competing with my students in the Pro/Am divisions. Over the years
      my gentlemen have achieved quite a few National titles and top male student awards. One of my proudest accomplishments was winning the Top Teacher award at the prestigious Emerald Ball Dancesport Championships.
    • Where you studied:
      I started my dance studies in ballet, jazz and modern in Munich, Germany, where I grew up.
      I moved to the US at the age of 18, and joined a training class with Fred Astaire dance studios, with whom I owned and operated a studio in Huntsville, Alabama for 12 years. I then moved to Boise in 1994, opened a FADS here, but went independent several years later.

      During my career I have had the privilege of working with world class coaches who have numerous titles to their name, including 13 year Rhythm champions, Bob Powers and Julia Gorchakova. US Latin finalist, Donald Johnson, and Ballroom champion, Maria Hansen.  Competition experience: In my early years with FADS I competed professionally in mostly theater Arts and Smooth, but soon realizethat my preferred focus was on teaching and competing with my students in the Pro/Am divisions. Over the years my gentlemen have achieved quite a few National titles and top male student awards. One of my proudest accomplishments was winning the Top Teacher award at the prestigious Emerald Ball Dancesport Championships.

    1. What inspired you to begin dancing?
    I can't remember a time that I haven'tdanced. One of my earliest memories is standing on my Dad's feet as he did the Waltz box!

    2. Best advice I have received about dancing?
    Dance for the pure pleasure of it. Not for results at a competition or other people's opinion or approval, just because you love it.

    3. Most memorable dance? 
    I had the pleasure of performing a Theater Arts routine (lifts and drops while dancing) in front of an audience of over 1000 people to a live performance by the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

    4. Favorite dance and why? 
    American Smooth Waltz. It is elegant, classy and just plain beautiful!

    5. Favorite dance movie? 
    Saturday night fever, because it brought people back to partnership dancing, and well...John Travolta!

    Mark Kimsey


    • # of years dancing: 17
    • Where you study dance: 
      Idaho Ballroom Dance Center (Martha Pohl), Lessons in Dance (Jennifer Babione)
    • Competition experience: Vegas Open, Holiday Classic, and Seattle Star Ball. My best achievement was top Silver male student at the Seattle Star Ball.

    1. What inspired you to begin dancing?
    I always enjoyed dancing in school, but this was mostly freestyle dancing. I learned a small amount of Waltz and Polka from my German teacher, Frau Buechlein in High School in our German Club. I also learned a very small amount of Two-Step in High School.

    About 18 years ago, my wife and I went to a Caldwell Elks Club Dance on Valentine’s Day. There was a live band and we were freestyle dancing. Several much older couples were dancing some type of Jitterbug or Swing and they looked impressively good. I decided then that the Freestyle I learned in school didn’t match up to the dancing they’d learned in school and frankly I was a little envious. I decided to rectify that, so I looked around for dance instruction and found Idaho Ballroom Dance Center. I found I had an insatiable appetite for dancing and learning to dance. In the course of time, I expanded my interests to swing and Country Western dance. I began teaching dance lessons over 10 years ago as a board member of USA Dance, mostly to beginners to raise people’s enjoyment and interest in dance as part of the outreach of our group.

    2. Best advice you've received about dancing?
    When you learn something, you have to practice it to own it. If you don’t practice it, it goes away. That happened to me while dancing ceased during the year from Covid restrictions.

    3. Most memorable dance?
    Calgary Dance Stampede in 2018. I got to dance with the female headline performer from the big show at that event. We danced a Cha Cha together. I know a lot of different patterns in Cha Cha and lead all my very best stuff and it all worked. She followed beautifully and it all felt so transcendent. To have that level of success with someone you’ve never danced with felt very gratifying.

    4. Favorite Dance and why?
    It has changed a bit over time, but my favorite for some time has been Waltz. It is very beautiful, elegant, and can be danced with people who are rank beginners or people who are very accomplished dancers.

    5. Favorite Dance movie?
    I honestly haven’t watched a lot of dance movies, but I enjoyed Shall We Dance with Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere.


    Lori Gonzales


    • Studio: Embrace Ballroom
    • # of years dancing: 40
    • # of years teaching: 35
    • Where you studied:
      In the mid 80's, I was mentored by Don and Margo Walker with Steps and Variations in Modesto, California for five years before gaining my teaching credentials. The Walkers placed second in the coveted Rising Star category in the early 80's and were instrumental in giving me a very best of the best experience in ballroom. During my time with them I was fortunate to be introduced to and learn a little from some of the world's top ballroom dance champions at the time. What a blessing that was!

      The Walkers encouraged me to take all my professional medal exams before gaining credentialing through the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance. After four years, I finally credentialed though the Terpsichore. The Terpsichore supports the N.D.C.A. syllabus, and at the time we could only work out of the syllabus manual with absolutely no visual reference! The Walkers were wonderful in their encouragement as we worked together to make this happen. I am still so very grateful for their support.

      While with the Walkers, I often partnered with another professional in the studio, Jeff Csolak. Jeff was closer to my age and height so it was natural to be paring with him. Jeff and I would often team-teach classes together. While pairing with the Walkers, the four of us would perform in showcases around the central California Valley.I left Steps and Variations in 1991 when I was offered a job teaching Ballroom at Modesto Junior College.
    • Competition experience:
      I have danced both in Pro/Am and Pro/Pro (both groups and solos). Most of my students scored very well. Specific competitions I have participated in include the:
      • Autumn Dance Classic
      • Emerald Ball
      • San Francisco Open
      • Sapphire Ball
      • California Star Ball.

    1. What inspired you to begin dancing?
    Oddly enough, I actually began in theatre. I had been voice trained for some time and that meant I started off using my voice and dance in Musical Theatre. I did a lot of choreography in those early days. When it came to working with couples dancing together, I didn't understand the man's part, so I went investigating and found the Walkers. They offered an internship for me and I fell in love with it and went from there.

    2. How do you prepare before you dance?
    It is important to have the right tools for success. A good pair of dance shoes is always the right call. I make it a habit to brush my shoes out before I leave to dance each time. If I am teaching, I do a quick review of the syllabus manual before beginning.

    3. Best advice you've received about dancing?
    1.) It is never about the steps you have learned; it is how you execute that material. Does it feel comfortable to execute? Does it look flattering to the style you are dancing? If not, it's time to go back and get help refining it. 2.) When executing solo turns, always remember to turn from the hips and not the shoulders (Topline). 3. Never, ever judge your dancing against the person dancing next to you. Instead measure your dancing against yourself - what you knew last week, last month or last year.

    4. Favorite Dance and why?
    That has changed many times over my career. In my 20's it was Mambo. In my 30's it was East Coast Swing. For me it's because the faster dances are more fun when you have joints that can handle the abuse! In my 40's, it moved to Tango. In my later 50's it's between Tango and Slow Waltz. Tango and Waltz physically feel better to dance now that I am older. I have grown a better appreciation for them with age.

    5. Favorite Dance Movie
    Like any other girl, I love the movie Dirty Dancing for many reasons. Most female dancers can relate to how hard (and sometimes frustrating) it can be to learn to dance. Baby not only had to learn to dance, she was required to dance at a more professional level very quickly. She was also so afraid of that scary lift. But like all of us, to be as successful as you can be; it usually means you have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. I noticed in the movie, once she overcomes her fear of the lift, the other bits and bobs to her dancing fell right into place. I have had similar experiences in my own life and witnessed this in the life of my dancers as well. Keep pushing until you get past the hard, gristly parts and then, and only then, do you get to the reward!

    Lisa Tice

    Studio: Fred Astaire Boise
    # of years dancing: 25
    # of years teaching: 8

    1. What inspired you to begin dancing?
    My older sister was a dancer and when you are 5 years old, there's nothing cooler than what your sibling is doing. She had a sparkly leotard and I had to have one too. I fell in love with movement, got experience with many styles, and it's something we still bond over to this day.

    2. How do you prepare before you dance?
    I start with a warm up, usually targeting lower abdominal engagement, legs and hips, then shoulders and back. Next I will do some active range of motion exercises specific to the style of movement I'm about to do. Then, if I feel any sticky places in my body I will do some static stretching to open up the range. From there, I will dance through some steps or turns on my own to feel where my balance is that day. Finally, I'm ready to engage with my partner. That being said, this is the protocol around intentional practice sessions. When I'm just casually social dancing, I drink some water and out I go.

    3. Best advice you've received about dancing?
    Mistakes and imperfections are the norm, they are the constant. Even your version of perfection could be made better by someone with more experience than you. So when you are dancing, do not let any mistake be a blaring siren in your head, that will only distract you and lead you to more mistakes. Let the errors pass, laugh at them, use them to create new improvisations. It's the mark of a new dancer to be overly concerned about a mistake because they haven't danced long enough to know how common they are.

    4. Most memorable dance?
    What a hard question to answer! There was one competition in particular, in Hawaii in 2021. It was a 4 dance mixed competition- waltz, tango, rumba, cha cha. I just loved being in paradise and it was just a night where everything felt right. We had just gotten past quarantine and all that. I was surrounded by dance family, I felt beautiful, and our dances felt so alive. We got 2nd place, so that helped too.

    5. Favorite dance and why?
    If I had just one favorite dance, I would have never made it to be a professional. That's like asking which of your children you love the most. :)
    If I had to narrow it down to a few they would be waltz, foxtrot, cha cha, and bachata. Even then I feel like I'm leaving so many out. .

    Brian McNatt

    • # of Years Dancing : 39 (on and off)

    • Teaching Dance : 
    I’ve taught church youth and adult groups, community classes, and worked with the University of Georgia Dance Team.

    • Where You Studied Dance :
    I started dancing in college. I was on the Brigham Young University Ballroom Dance Company for 5 years including 3 years on the Tour Team completing summer performance tour shows through China and the Orient, Southern US, and Europe. We worked with guest pros like Corky & Shirley Ballas, Ron Montez, and Nicholas Cotton & Debbie Avalos. After graduating, I studied for several years with US Champions Stephen & Elizabeth Cullip and then Kathryn Schaffer. Recently I’ve worked with our own US National Pro-Am finalists Tabish & Lori, and World 10-Dance Champions Casey & Kayci Treu.

    • Competition Experience:
    As a member of the BYU Formation Ballroom Dance Team we were US Formation Champions, British Formation Champions (Blackpool, England), and won the Silver Medal for the US at the World’s Nation’s Cup in Essen, Germany. I competed through 2003 in many competitions throughout the western states, and southern states. In 2018, I began training again to someday compete at nationals. In 2023, my partner and I became the NDCA US Amateur National Senior III 10-Dance Champions.

    1. What inspired you to begin dancing?
    I’ve always loved moving my body to music, but really wanted to learn how to partner dance. I took the beginning social dance class at BYU and have been hooked ever since. After making one of the beginning teams, I saw the slide show of the Tour Team from their China trip the previous summer. I decided right then to put in the work to make the Tour Team (Three years later I did, and also toured through China).

    2. How do you prepare before you dance?
    I’m old now so I need to spend sufficient time warming up. At the beginning of each training session I run a mile and spend 15-20 minutes stretching before taking it through the paces.  I don't worry about this level of prep for social dancing, but stretching is always a good idea.

    3. Best advice you've received about dancing?
    Sometimes feel and then dance the big picture of what you are trying to create, besides working on the 10 technique elements you should be doing with each step (dance with your heart besides your head). Advice I would give? Dance for the reason that you want to.

    4. Most memorable dance?
    1989. As a member of the BYU Latin Team, we made the finals and performed/competed our Latin Medley at The Blackpool Dance Festival (British Championships open to the world) and won 1st place.

    5. Favorite Dance and why?
    This is a question that I can’t answer. That’s likely why I’m a 10-dancer (5 international Latin and 5 international Ballroom dances)—I can’t even decide on one style of dance that I like the most! One thing I will say, I’ve learned that I think my best dance is always one that I’m not currently practicing. Ha!

    6. Favorite Dance Movie? My favorite dance movie is not a movie and not one particular one. What I LOVE doing is watching YouTube videos of top professional and amateur ballroom dancers primarily in competitions (and also instructional videos). I love to feel and pretend I’m them. There are so many amazing ballroom dance videos of top pros. We are SO fortunate to have these at our fingertips.