Jackie Lopez, Executive Director
Jackie Lopez is a first generation Los Angeles native. She was the first in her family to graduate high school, continue her education in Los Angeles Valley College, transfer to a UC and graduate, all due to the impact of the arts in her life. Jackie was very fortunate to discover a theater workshop program led by Kevin Kane at John Marshall High School, which became the essential reason why she attended and graduated. Soon after, mentors Kevin Kane and Monica Rosenthal (founders of The Flourish Foundation) became fundamental mentors in all of Jackie’s endeavors. Due to their mentorship, support and belief in her, Jackie graduated Summa Cum Laude from UCLA in 2004 from the Department of World Arts and Cultures, with a concentration in dance.
For the last 17 years, Jackie has been working as a professional dancer, choreographer, teaching artist and cultural educator who has worked with students and artists of all ages from LA, NYC, Philly, Israel, United Kingdom, France and India. She currently is Adjunct Lecturer at UCLA’s Dept. of World Arts and Cultures teaching Hip-hop dance and is the Director of the UCLA Summer Dance/Performing Arts Intensive for high school students. She’s also an Adjunct Faculty member of Santa Monica College and Los Angeles Valley College, teaching various styles within Hip-hop culture. She has also been a guest choreographer in several prestigious schools such as Columbia College in Chicago, Santa Monica College’s “Synapse Dance Company” and Los Angeles Valley College “Dance Production.” Finally, Jackie was also a Cultural Ambassador for the United States, touring, teaching and choreographing in Tel Aviv, Israel, for the Bridge: Choreographic Dialogues Program at the infamous Suzanne Dellal Center, which creates links between Israeli and American dance scenes.
In addition, Jackie is also the Co-Founder, Co-Artistic Director & Choreographer of VersaStyle Dance Company and Versa-Style Next Generation (certified 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization). Versa-Style is a dance ensemble that consists of young, committed and conscientious Hip-hop artists representing the diversity and beautiful complexity of Los Angeles. As a reaction to the widespread media misrepresentation of Hip-hop dance forms, Versa-Style specifically aims to perform for the youth of Los Angeles to instill the roots, history, and social and political issues surrounding the art of our generation.
After serving as Program Director for the last seven years, Jackie is thrilled to be offered the position of Executive Director for The Flourish Foundation. Jackie is inspired and excited to keep Flourish’s mission alive by using her upbringing in LAUSD, her background in arts education and passion for youth and the arts. Jackie is ready to FLOURISH with long time mentor, Monica Horan Rosenthal and the rest of the Flourish team!
Harry Weston, Program Director
Harry Weston grew up in Santa Cruz, California, surrounded by West African dance and drumming, his first artistic inspirations. He found hip-hop at the age of 8, but only later discovered his true love of not only hip-hop dance, but hip-hop culture and history itself, changing his life and setting him on a path of creativity, community engagement, teaching and mentorship.
At the age of 18, he moved to Los Angeles to study dance at UCLA where he met Jackie Lopez and Leigh Foaad, who eventually asked him to join their hip-hop dance/theater company, Versa-Style, in 2009. Also that year, he was first introduced to the Flourish Foundation, becoming a counselor for the UCLA Summer Dance-Theater Intensive, and a recipient of the scholarship grant. These connections led him to being hired as a Mentor and Flourish Teaching Artist for Abraham Lincoln High School dance team, which he has now passed down to two deserving alumni of the program.
Also while in college, he participated in a variety of endeavors, from working with community organizations such as The Art/Global Health Center and Hip Hop Congress to producing events for the UCLA JazzReggae Festival. He also debuted his own choreography, Without Fear, in WACsmash 2012. He finished his four years at UCLA in June 2012, graduating with a Bachelor’s of Arts in World Arts and Cultures with a concentration in Dance and a Minor in Civic Engagement.
After graduation, Harry has since traveled all over the world teaching and performing hip-hop dance in places such as India, Israel, Philadelphia, Oregon, New York, and San Francisco. He is still a member of Versa-Style, and has managed the company as well since 2012. He also has continued to work on his piece, “Without Fear” which has showcased in several LA Community performances. He also teaches hip-hop in Echo Park at Gabriella Charter School, as the 7th and 8th grade boys hip-hop dance teacher. Finally, as his work with The Flourish Foundation has progressed, he has recently taken on the position of Program Director with his long time partner and supporter. In his spare time, he works with various non-profit organizations as a consultant and continues to share his passion of teaching hip-hop dance with those who need it most through workshops, lecture demonstrations, and retreats.
Bianette Linares, Grants and Admin Coordinator
Born and raised in the inner cities of Los Angeles, Bianette grew up with a desire for arts education in a neighborhood that could not offer it during her childhood. However, the arts were within reach when she entered high school. Finally able to explore her passions of theater and dance, she auditioned and performed in 5 musicals and 2 plays. She also danced in her high school’s hip-hop team and in 2008, was fortunate to be connected with Jackie Lopez who taught them hip-hop fundamentals and history. Soon after, Bianette began attending Versa-Style’s Friday night House Dance classes and fell in love with the genre. In 2010, she was invited to join the first generation of Versa-Style Next Generation and performed at various dance events and showcases.
Bianette has been a Flourish student since 2008 when she participated in the Applying to College Workshops. In 2009, she took part in the UCLA Dance-Theater Summer Intensive and discovered the power of art in building community among diverse groups of people. Community-building became her focus as she pursued a Mexican-American Studies Degree at Cal State LA where she also worked to connect college students with opportunities to serve the Los Angeles community. Her interest in arts education also grew at this time as she interned at Inner City Arts through the Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Internship Program.
Bianette has been fortunate to be welcomed into various artistic and educational spaces such as DanceSport CA where she learned how to teach latin social dances to diverse groups of students. In 2014, she took this training to Augustus Hawkins High School where she taught salsa and bachata as a Flourish Teaching Artist. Additionally, she has served as a T.A. of the Applying to College Workshops and Mentor to college students in the Flourish pipeline. Currently, Bianette is the After School Program Coordinator for UCLA’s Visual and Performing Arts Education Program. There, she is directly involved in implementing after-school arts programming at Los Angeles K-12 schools.
Lastly, as of January 2017, Bianette is honored to delve more deeply in pushing forward The Flourish Foundation’s mission as the Grants and Admin Coordinator!
Ernesto Galarza, Community Outreach Coordinator
Ernesto Galarza was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley and first met Jackie Lopez as his 6th grade after school Hip-Hop Dance Instructor in 2004. Soon after, Ernesto was offered a scholarship from The Flourish Foundation to take classes from Leigh Foaad at the Jonette Swider Dance Center where he continued to train and learn 1-2 times a week about Hip-Hop dance culture.
In 2009, Jackie Lopez and Leigh Foaad invited Ernesto to be a part of the very first Versa-Style Next Generation (VSNG) and soon after, in 2010, Ernesto was awarded a scholarship to attend the UCLA Summer Theater-Dance program where he got to work closely with Leanne Iacovetta, Harry Weston, Jackie Lopez, and Kevin Kane.
In 2011, he applied and was accepted into the World Arts and Cultures/Dance Department (as a first-generation college student) where he was able to continue his studies and pursue his career in dance. During his college career, he began to teach Hip-Hop Dance at Pacoima Middle School and was asked to be Counselor/Head Counselor for the UCLA Summer Dance Program for the next 3 years. Ernesto also continued training with VSNG and in 2014 was invited to be a Principle Member of Versa-Style Dance Company.
Ernesto graduated from UCLA in 2015 and under The Flourish Foundation began teaching at Belmont High School and Glen Alta Span School, mentoring students, and became Social Media and Marketing Director. He also continues to work with Versa-Style as Principle Dancer and Social Media and Marketing Director as well as a Hip-Hop Dance Teacher for the After School Dance program ‘Everybody Dance’.
Lastly, as of January 2017, Ernesto is excited to continue helping this organization and the community around him as Flourish’s Community Outreach Coordinator!
Jackie Oka, Student Outreach Coordinator
Jackie Oka grew up in Palos Verdes Estates, CA. Even though dance was always present in Oka’s life, she started to take it seriously at age 10 by taking Jazz classes. At age 14, she found Hip Hop and became a member of Future Shock Los Angeles. Oka was also involved with her High School’s Choreo Team for all four years.
In 2010, Oka had her first encounter with The Flourish Foundation when she was granted a full scholarship to attend the UCLA Summer Dance-Theater Intensive. Through this Intensive, she met future mentors Jackie Lopez and Kevin Kane. This was the pivotal experience in Oka’s life, where she realized the power of the arts and how influential they can be in various communities. The Intensive helped Oka realize how much she loved to dance, and wanted to continue it through college. After the Intensive, Oka continued her relationship with The Flourish Foundation by being mentored by Leanne Iacovetta while attending UCLA. Shortly after, Oka became a mentor for future Bruins. Not only did Oka meet Lopez and Kane, she also met dance educator, Leigh Foaad who changed her dance path. In 2010, Oka was invited to join Versa-Style Next Generation.
In June 2015, Oka graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a Bachelor’s of Arts from the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, and a minor in Visual and Performing Arts Education. During her time there, she trained in Postmodern, West African, Improvisation, and Hip Hop. As an undergraduate, Oka was a member of the Cultural Affairs Commission, specifically with Hip Hop Congress. This allowed her to organize events for students on campus to help educate them about Hip Hop culture. Oka’s biggest achievement as an undergraduate was being one of three producers for the only student-run production, WACSmash’D.
Currently, Jackie is a Principle Dancer for Versa-Style Dance Company, where she is able to perform nationally and internationally with some of her best friends. Oka is also the School Programs Coordinator for Versa-Style, where she coordinates performances and workshops for various schools in the Los Angeles County. Oka truly believes in giving back to the youth and surrounding communities. She could not think of a better way to combine two of her passions, dancing and working with youth. While Jackie is continuously training as a dancer and artist, she is also mentoring students at UCLA and teaching at various schools and studios.
Lastly, as of January 2017, Oka is so honored and excited to take on the new role as Flourish’s Student Outreach Coordinator to help the youth flourish and grow as young adults.
Current Flourish Artists, Teachers, and Mentors:
Carolina San Juan