Aspire Dance Academy

Founded in August 2012 by owner, Lauren Gibson, we are conveniently located right outside of Richmond, in Manakin-Sabot.  We're only 7 minutes from Short Pump Town Center and directly across from the Food Lion shopping center.

Our studios offer a marley covered, suspended wooden floor in Stuido I and wood sprung floor in Studio II, therefore providing our dancers with a safe dancing environment.  We use floor to ceiling mirrors to help students see and make corrections.  Our lobbies include a monitor into the studio, allowing parents to easily observe their dancer's entire class, if they choose.



Lauren Gibson


Dance became part of Lauren's life at the young age of 5 and has remained a love ever since. She graduated from East Carolina University where she minored in Dance, training with Joseph Carow, Cindi Mancini, and Galina Panova. Most recently, Lauren has performed as a principal dancer with a local ballet company.

Throughout her career, Lauren has won numerous awards for performance and choreography through many national competitions. She has performed at the French Embassy in Washington, DC and has been featured in lead roles to include The Nutcracker, Cinderella, and original choreography. During her college years Lauren had the opportunity to train with the Joffrey Ballet.

With a desire to share her talents and love of the art with an underserved community, Lauren created, developed, and implemented a Free Dance Program for underprivileged middle school students in Washington, NC. There she volunteered her time to instruct students in ballet, jazz, tap and hip-hop where she had over 40 students per class. She then served as an instructor at a local dance studio in Greenville, NC.

Lauren believes every dancer should always aspire to be more! In September 2013, Lauren completed her ISCA Mat Pilates certification in order to offer additional cross training to her dancers. Working to continue her own dance education, Lauren attended the Dance Teacher Summit in 2014 and 2015 where she had the privilege to train with Luigi, Twyla Tharp, Finis Jhung, Bob Rizzo, Mandy Moore, Mia Michaels, and Jenifer Ringer among many other renowned teachers. In 2016 and 2017, Lauren trained with Finis Jhung at his Ballet Technique for Teachers training in order to continue her growth in teaching styles as an instructor.  In 2018 and 2019, Lauren traveled to Scottsdale, AZ and Atlantic City, NY respectively to attend the Dance Teacher Life Conference to continue her quest for education.

Throughout her life, Lauren has aspired to share her love and knowledge of dance with others. She is excited about the opportunity to do this through the Aspire Dance Academy dance studio and looks forward to helping others achieve their dreams.



Erica Hidalgo-Monroy

Tap Instructor

Erica started dancing at the age of 3 and trained extensively in tap and jazz with additional training in ballet and lyrical. In college, while earning her BA, she trained and performed with the Lynchburg College Dance Company. She choreographed a variety of tap numbers for their dance concerts and performed in many student-choreographed projects in a range of dance styles.

After graduating college, Erica continued her formal dance training in Northern Virginia, focusing primarily on tap, and performing with the Step Aside Tap Company. She routinely participates in tap festivals throughout the US and has been fortunate to take master classes with such highly-regarded tappers as Diane Walker, Michelle Dorrance and Barbara Duffy.

Erica is very excited at the opportunity to share her knowledge and love of tap with students at Aspire Dance Academy.


Sabrina Vaz

Ballet Instructor

Ms Vaz relocated to Richmond this year from Massachusetts. She has been teaching Classical Ballet and Dance for over thirty years. After attending Laban Centre in London, England and having a dance career which brought her throughout Europe and the States, she opened her own studio which she ran for 21 years. Sabrina specializes in teaching the Vaganova teaching method. After studying with the acclaimed professors of dance including Prof. Ludmilla Kolenchenko (Bolshoi Academy), Prof. Ludmilla Kovalenko (Bolshoi Academy), Prof. Ludmilla Safronova (Vaonova Academy), Prof. Natalya Revich (Bolshoi Academy), Prof. Vladilen Semenov (Russia’s Danseur Noble & former director of Kirov Ballet), Prof. Anastasia Ovdienko (Bolshoi Academy), Anton Boystov (Kirov Ballet), Ekaterina Shchelkanova (Kirov Ballet & ABT), Ms Vaz-Barros completed full certification of Levels 1-8 with the famed Bolshoi Ballet Academy of Moscow, Russia.

Sabrina has choreographed several full length ballets including the Nutcracker. In addition to ballet she also teachers lyrical, musical theater, and jazz in all levels and beginning to elementary tap levels. She has choreographed competition routines for her students and teams that have received Gold and Platinum awards. She is also certified in both Traditional Pilates and Gyrotonic. She loves to share her joy of movement and her passion for ballet with all her students. Sabrina is delighted to have the opportunity to be part of the Aspire family!


Rave 'Rah' Williams

Hip Hop Instructor

Lifelong Richmond native, Rave has had a natural gift for dance his entire life but began honing his passion at the age of 10. His desire to dance had him studying numerous different genres up and down the East Coast. Rave attended the School of Richmond Ballet, Jessica Morgan School of Dance, Alvin Ailey's Summer Intensive, Bates Dance Festival, and Center for the Arts at Henrico High School where he took Hip Hop, Modern, Tap, Jazz, Ballet, and African. Although these are only a few of a plethora of experiences, Rave continues to explore and learn the different styles and variations of dance, but his true love will always be Hip Hop.

If there's one thing that's most apparent about Rave, it's the joy he gets when working with children. He has taught Liturgical at Mosby Memorial Baptist Church, Step at Blackwell Elementary School, Hip Hop at the Robinson Theater, Hip Hop Cardio at Dogtown Dance Theatre, and the list goes on! He has also emceed and taught dance for kid's parties, most recently the Steward School's 5th Grade Graduation 2017. 

Now, excited to be a part of the Aspire Dance Academy team, Rave hopes to continue to encourage and inspire others through teaching. He is looking forward to seeing fresh, eager faces and the talents each student will bring.   


Juli Garrett

Hip Hop Instructor

Juli Garrett has studied all styles of dance for over 30 years. She began her training in her hometown, Louisa County, at the age of 9 years old. She continued her training traveling with Hoctor's Dance Caravan at age 17. She received a BFA degree from George Mason University where she also was apart of the Masonettes Dance Team. She had the pleasure of working for Jessica Morgan's School of Dance for 18 years. She coaches and choreographs for two dance teams, JRHS "Rapid Motion" and RMS "Raiderettes".  She enjoys teaching in RVA and sharing her love of dance! 


Stephanie Harlow

Jazz Instructor 

 Stephanie is a native of Richmond, Virginia and began dancing as a young child.  She trained in tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical, & hip-hop under Tracy Crouch, Arthur Purslow, Jacqueline Lopez, Jennifer Edgcomb, Caroll Dodd, Elizabeth Venini, and many others.  She enjoyed participating in regional and national dance competitions in tap and jazz categories for many years. Stephanie continued her study of dance in college, becoming a member of the Wake Forest Dance Team and graduating with a minor in dance from the University of Richmond under the direction of Myra Daleng and Anne Van Gelder.  She started her own dance program for children during college, and then continued to teach tap, jazz, and ballet at various Richmond studios after graduation.  Stephanie also was the head coach for the Freeman High School dance team for many years.  Stephanie is a wife and mother to her seven children. We are excited to have her join our Aspire family this year!


Leslie van den Berg

Ballet Instructor

Leslie began formal dance training at the age of three and a half, taking a ballet and tap combo class. She decided to focus on ballet during elementary school and added jazz before beginning middle school. In high school, Leslie studied ballet, jazz, flamenco, and Latin classes and was a principal member of the studio’s ballet company. Leslie was also a founding member of the Latin Ballet of Virginia. She spent two summers studying dance at the Virginia School of the Arts and one summer at the Richmond Ballet, where she received a scholarship.

Leslie continued dancing throughout her attendance at Meredith College. She participated in classes and performances with the Carolina Youth Ballet as a guest dancer. Upon graduating from college with a degree in Child Development and a K-6 Grade Teaching License, Leslie was asked to begin teaching ballet classes at the Triangle Academy of Dance, in addition to teaching elementary school.

Most recently, Leslie has returned to the Richmond area after living in China and Taiwan for eight years. While overseas, she continued to teach elementary school but also coached the high school dance troupe and taught ballet classes at a local community center. Leslie enjoys sharing her love of dance with aspiring dancers and hopes that they too will develop a life-long passion for dance.