Instructors

  • Dance is our passion and we want to share it with you.

  • At the Palomar Ballroom we take pride in having a highly trained teaching staff. We have instructors available for private lessons seven days a week, and we’ll tailor a lesson plan that is just right for you.

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Meet Our Instructors

  • Instructors and Owner Jeremy Pilling

    Jeremy Pilling, Owner

    Jeremy has been teaching and performing ballroom for over 18 years and has been dancing socially all his life. He has had training in Salsa, dance theater, Latin and ballroom, and now specializes in American Rhythm, American Smooth, International Latin, Nightclub and Salsa. His ballroom training comes from several national champions and finalists. His teaching style is very technique-oriented, while still achieving the goal of having fun. He enjoys teaching both social and competitive students and couples, and also teaches teachers at the Santa Cruz Ballroom Dance Teachers Academy.  He is the director of Rhythm Fever dance company, an exciting all female Latin dance company. 

    Jeremy enjoys competing Pro/Am with his students and has both a World Champion and National Champion student. Jeremy was a former professional competitor in American Rhythm with his partner Julie Goldman. Together, Jeremy and Julie won several Rising Star Rhythm and Open Professional Rhythm competitions. In addition to his dance training, Jeremy has a B.S. in Sport Science and was also a certified personal trainer.

  • Instructors Zak Bauman

    Zak Bauman

    Zak has been on the staff at the Palomar Ballroom since 1999. Zak was classically trained in ballet, danced professionally as a modern dancer in New York and California, and happily fell into the ballroom world in 1998. Although she specializes in International Standard and American Smooth with a focus on technique and competition, she teaches the following dances to singles and couples interested in social dancing: West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing, Rumba, Cha Cha, Samba, Salsa, Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Hustle, Nightclub Two-Step, and more. Zak is thrilled with the community of dancers she has brought together for her daytime group classes and looks forward to working with them daily. She has a BA in American Literature from UC Santa Cruz, and a teaching credential from SJSU. Besides teaching ballroom dance for the past 17 years, she has taught High School English in San Jose, theater and dance at a private elementary school in Santa Cruz for the past 7 years, and currently homeschools her 10 and 13-year-old children, a true testament to her endless patience. She feels very fortunate to combine her two passions for teaching and dance, and is thrilled to have the opportunity to bring dance into the lives of so many on a daily basis!

  • Instructors Mario Avila

    Mario Avila

    Originally from San Francisco, Mario’s career began early with the formation of the “Rude Boys Dance Crew” performing Hip Hop, Break Dancing, and Pop Locking in front of Ghiradelli Square and Pier 39. From there, he expanded his dance repertoire with the study of jazz, ballet and Flamenco before discovering Ballroom. He has since taken his street jazz styles and Ballroom to many studios as choreographer, performer and intstructor. He has also served as guest choreographer and performed locally at many of Santa Cruz County’s charitable events. Look for him as a principal dancer in the feature film, “Swing.”
    Mario’s ballroom pedagogy occurs under the direction of the Palomar Ballroom. He has an undying love for Swing music and dancing, but he also specializes in Latin/Rhythm dances such as Salsa, Rumba, Cha Cha and Bolero, as well as American Smooth Ballroom.

    Eric Conrad, executive director of Ballet Art Magazine had this to say about Mario: “With Mario’s passion to share his art and joie de vivre, he brings great enthusiasm to his classes and performances, which evokes his students and colleagues to achieve their very best.”

  • Instructors Jessica Sweeney

    Jessica Sweeney

    Jessica Sweeney has been dancing since childhood and has been studying dance at the Palomar Ballroom in Santa Cruz since its opening in 1997. She has Competed pro-am in all styles of ballroom dancing and has placed highly in DanceSport Competitions locally and nationally. In 2014 she was a national pro-am rhythm finalist with her instructor Jeremy Pilling at the United States Dancesport Championships. That same year she began training to be an instructor and has since completed the Dance Vision International Dance Association’s teacher training program. She is now an instructor at the Palomar Ballroom.

  • Instructors Whitney James-Heskett

    Whitney James-Heskett

    Whitney is an avid dancer and choreographer born and raised in Santa Cruz. She has over 20 years of dance and performance experience in many styles including ballet, hip hop, jazz, musical theater, and ballroom. Whitney has a passion for dance in general and choreography in particular, and has created many pieces for different dance concerts, and choreographed several local musical theater productions. As a teacher, Whitney is very good at seeing exactly what students need to do to improve their movement and articulating those things in a way even students with no dance background can understand. One of Whitney’s greatest joys is sparking a love for dance in her students and watching them improve.

  • Instructors Miles Ogata

    Miles Ogata

    An experienced dancer for over 20 years, Miles’ instruction includes Nightclub, Smooth, Standard, Latin, and Rhythm dances and Salsa. He is a fantastic instructor for all levels of dance and is known to transform the absolute beginner to a competitive and beyond level dancer. A winner of many top teacher awards, Miles’ lessons are always fun and exciting.