Engaged, involved, supportive. Meet the talented, big-hearted folks whose passions, expertise and experience align with WDO’s mission and who are committed to helping achieve our goals.
Jason Rivers: Lead Adaptive Dance Instructor, Ballroom Specialty
Jason grew up in Australia and began dancing at age 11, following in the footsteps of his parents and older siblings, themselves celebrated dance champions. He has charted a successful competitive career that continues to this day, most recently winning events in American Smooth around the USA, including a title at the North American Championships. During his 20’s he took a break from competing and teaching to perform as a cruise ship entertainer, visiting over 70 countries around the globe. He currently lives in San Diego where he teaches competitive and social dancers of all levels and is thrilled to be the head instructor for the Wheelchair Dancers Organization.
Nicole Wooding: Dance Instructor
Nicole Wooding is a lifelong dancer who began competing in jazz, tap, lyrical, hip-hop, theater, ballet and gymnastics at a very young age. As her love for dancing continued to flourish, she elected to pursue her interests in Ballroom dancing while simultaneously earning a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from San Diego State University. After graduation, she parlayed her passion for this art form into a career through becoming a professional competitor and a nationally certified instructor. Certified in over 15 dance styles, she excels at helping students who are new to dance, achieve their goals of becoming skilled social and competitive dancers. Nicole has orchestrated several award winning showcase pieces, and serves as the choreographer for the American History Theater in San Diego.
Michele Jones: All-Inclusive Fitness and Dance It Out Program and School-Based Adaptive Fitness & Dance Program, K-12th grades
Michele has always had a passion for dance, training and fitness. Growing up she trained in jazz, ballet, hip hop and gymnastics. She received several dance/fitness certifications over the course of several years. Certified Aerobic and Fitness Association, American Council of Exercise, CPR/AED American Red Cross, Dance It Out Master Trainer, Licensed Zumba Kids. In 2011 she founded Dance Me Fit to teach adults a variety of dance and fitness styles. She successfully started another business called Dance Me Kids which is an after-school dance program attended by approximately 100 kids at six schools in the Poway Unified School District. WDO collaborated with Billy Blanks Jr, owner of Dance It Out, to create the first fitness and dance program for disabled and able-bodied individuals.
Adam Nelson: Co-Teaches Youth Hip Hop & Fitness Dance Program
Being paralyzed from the waist down didn’t stop Adam from approaching Joe Torres, former Dance Director of WDO, to teach him how to dance in his wheelchair. Adam states: “I had no formal dance experience and no clue what wheelchair dancing was all about, but I instantly fell in love with the dance world.” He soon found his passion for dancing through modern, hip hop and contemporary dance styles. AXIS, an Oakland based, internationally known dance company, offered Adam an internship to develop his dancing skills and techniques. This gave him the confidence, recognition and showmanship to perform with several adaptive dance companies in Southern CA. Besides teaching wheelchair dance classes Adam enjoys playing wheelchair Lacrosse, skiing and surfing. His goal is to be the best version of himself and give hope and confidence to others.
Sarah Vaaler: Co-Teaches Youth Hip Hop & Fitness Dance Program
Sarah graduated from the Virginia School of the Arts, spent summers training with the Richmond Ballet, Houston Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. She was an apprentice with The Penn. Academy and became certified in the Vaganova syllabus of ballet under Mr. John White. When Sarah moved to San Diego she focused on developing dancing techniques as a contemporary and interpretative dancer. She joined the Dark Horse Dance Productions where she met Adam Nelson. They combined their dance experience and now perform at events and co-teach the Youth Hip Hop & Fitness Dance Program. She is also a lead instructor for the our School-Based Adaptive Fitness & Dance Program K-12 grades.
Karma LaDonna: Dance Instructor Coordinator for WDO
Karma was a ballroom dancer for 17 years and enjoyed performing. With advancing arthritis, she became more and more reliant on a wheelchair for certain activities. This was a time when Karma felt cut off from everything she loved. Retired from her career in theater arts, she found her new passion to be wheelchair dancing. With intense dedication, Karma pursued and achieved certification as a wheelchair dancing instructor, while remaining a regular participant in the activities of the Wheelchair Dancers Organization. In 2016, Karma was appointed to the position of Dance Instructor Coordinator in support of our growing staff of professional instructors.
Brian Fortuna: Performance Dance Coach for Wheelchair Dancers Organization
Brian Fortuna is a multi-talented performer. He was a professional dancer with Burn the Floor and also Strictly Come Dancing. Brian competed on Dancing with the Stars with former Miss USA, Shandi Finnessey. He was the Lead Choreographer for Dancing on Wheels, which was ground breaking and had the highest premiere ratings for a documentary in BBC history. Brian also excels in Wheelchair Ballroom and Latin DanceSport and is very proud to be a teacher and performer for the United States Wheelchair Dancing Association. At this time he is producing a movie “To Live Again” a story about an injured soldier who received a second chance at life and love through wheelchair dance. We are honored to have Brian as our performance dance coach.