About Us

At Uptown Dance Studio, our mission is to inspire ordinary people to start expressing themselves through the power of dance. We are passionately committed to providing top-notch instruction that will help you achieve your personal dance goals. Studio Owner, Leilani Nakagawa, has hand-picked partners who strive to create a welcoming, fun and comfortable environment for students of all levels to learn in. We love what we do and we truly believe you will enjoy the process of learning to dance!

“Come to dance, leave inspired!”

Meet the Uptown Team:

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Leilani Nakagawa (Studio Owner & Principal Instructor)

Instruction, Coaching and Choreography in International Standard and Latin, American Smooth and Rhythm, West Coast Swing and Salsa

Leilani has enjoyed the beautiful art of dance for over 18 years. In the beginning of her partner dance career, she focused on the fun and lively genre of swing dancing. She lead the swing dance club at her high school where she choreographed, taught, and then performed at both school and community functions. From there, she began training in the American Smooth and other social styles of dance and decided she wanted to start a teaching career with participating in the Nationally Recognized DVIDA Teacher Training Program. Soon after her training, she began teaching full time here in Portland. From there her career expanded to competition in International Dance Sport and WSDC competitions all over the U.S. and beyond. Traveling for competition also allowed her great opportunities for world class training. She has trained with the “best of the best” both locally and worldwide. Some of her coaches include: Jim and Michele Gray (local coaches), Charlotte Jorgensen, Alexander Chernositov, Valentin Bachvarav, Benji Schwimmer, Jordan Frisbee, and Tatiana Mollman. Most recently she has poured her passion into creating a fun and welcoming studio community here in Portland for locals to learn to dance.

At UpTown Ballroom, she strives to create enjoyable classes that produce top-notch dancers. Leilani loves to see her students reach a sense of personal accomplishment and confidence through their dancing on both mental and physical levels. Always passionate about her sport, Leilani currently continues to enhance her own personal skill through ongoing training and competitions. By this Leilani can ensure she is providing the very best instruction to her students!

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Ricardo Linnell

Specializing in Salsa

Ricardo has been dancing Salsa for over 9 years here in the Portland area. He has lead performance teams, competed and taught many people to dance. Ricardo is known for always having a smile on his face and truly embodying the liveliness of the dance he teaches!

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Ariel Kaplan

Specializing in Cross-Step Waltz, Nightclub Two-Step, Hustle & WCS

With a background in ballet, Ariel took the occasional ballroom class in school and began dancing socially in 2004. Upon discovering vintage waltz, she fell instantly in love and has since voraciously expanded her training to include a number of other dances, of which her current favorites are nightclub two-step, cross-step waltz, hustle and west coast swing. She appreciates creativity, flexibility, collaboration, and experimentation, including fusion and lead-switching.

Her love of dance stems primarily from a feeling of human connection, found in the open communication between lead and follow. She began teaching in 2011 and is patient and supportive, hoping to help many more people find the happiness she has found in dance.

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Alicia Marshall

Specializing in solo dance styles (Hip-Hop, Jazz, Modern & many more). Youth Program Instructor for all solo dance styles.

Alicia has been dancing, performing and competing for 17 years. She started out taking hip hop, ballet and tap classes from a local studio when she was 4. From there, Alicia made a spontaneous decision to audition for a dance team and thus began her 8 years on different teams throughout Washington. In her years, she has learned and taught many styles including hip hop, ballet, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, kickline, pom and jazz funk. Since joining Uptown, Alicia has expanded her love of dance into the world of ballroom and latin as well. She believes that every dance can be something special and every dancer, no matter what level, has the ability to make it so. Alicia enjoys teaching youth and is our head youth instructor for all solo styles at the studio.

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Angela Barnum

Specializing in Zumba Fitness

Her Latin culture was Angela’s first introduction to dance; as a result it has always been a part of her life. From her earliest days of dancing in front of the TV with her brother all the way up to Hula in college, Angela has always enjoyed dancing. Angela now enjoys her passion in the studio through Zumba Fitness (Dance inspired fitness).  Her dream is to be the backup dancer to both Janet Jackson and M.C. Hammer. Angela likes to say, “Once a week I get to live my dream through ZUMBA at the Uptown Ballroom. I invite you to come dance with me!!!”

Jake Famme

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Jake discovered his love for dancing the moment he first walked into his first dance studio. Since then he has been training for competitions, showcase, and group formations, All on top of attending several social dances weekly. More recently, Jake has been furthering his skills as a dancer but focusing on teaching, so that he would be able to share his passion with the world. Jake is determined to make sure his students not only feel confident on the dance floor, but have a blast doing it as well. He has training in American Rhythm and Smooth, International Latin, as well as many of the social and club style dances.