Lisa Starry: Founder of Scorpius Dance Theatre

Lisa Starry, founder of Scorpius Dance Theatre, photographed in her studio in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Lisa Starry, founder of Scorpius Dance Theatre, photographed in her studio in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Lisa Starry
twitter.com/scorpius_dance

For 15 years, Lisa Starry has brought spooky vampires, passionate lovers and aerial flyers to local stages, all of who know how to groove. As founder of Scorpius Dance Theatre, Starry has choreographed and directed dancers at worldwide performances, with her company of more than 20 dancers, as well as aerial performers.

The 44-year-old Phoenix resident is also helping shape the future of the local dance scene, as co-founder and Associate Head of School of Metropolitan Art Institute (Metro Arts). In-between her day job and coming up with new moves for Scorpius, she teaches modern dance for Scorpius and the public Wednesday nights at 6 p.m. in the studio at Metro Arts.

See her work this weekend as Scorpius Dance Theatre performs Catwalk, with music by Duran Duran, Friday, July 11 and Saturday, July 12 at Phoenix Theatre. Find tickets here. Starry explains how she started her company below, and you can watch a video of her name her five favorite reasons for living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

My parents moved here when I was 11. I went to Central High School, then studied at the Phoenix School of Ballet before going to California Institute of the Arts to get my degree in dance choreography. I was born in Dover, Delaware. Continue reading

Julianna Curtis: Co-Founder of Scandalesque, aka Lady Fontayne

Julianna Curtis, Lady Fontayne and co-founder of Scandalesque and Vega Arts & Entertainment, photographed at Heritage Square, by Nicki Escudero

Julianna Curtis, aka Lady Fontayne and co-founder of Scandalesque and Vega Arts & Entertainment, photographed at Heritage Square, by Nicki Escudero

Julianna Curtis
twitter.com/Scandalesque

Julianna Curtis knows the power of a confidently sexy move, whether it’s the swing of the hips or a strut down a stage. Seductive dance doesn’t just entertain, it empowers those who do it, invigorating them with poise and assurance that translates off-stage, too. As co-founder and performer Lady Fontayne of Scandalesque, and co-founder of Vega Arts & Entertainment, Curtis has been entertaining Valley burlesque lovers for more than a decade, with highly polished choreographed shows and stunning dance moves at events around town and across the country.

Curtis, a 34-year-old Phoenix resident and massage therapist-by-day, disperses a roster of more than 50 performers to Valley events, with quarterly Scandalesque shows that command huge crowds. Scadalesque also offers classes, including burlesque, pole, aerial and stretch/dance conditioning.

You can catch Curtis in action at a Sexy Sci-Fi show by Scandalesque at Phoenix Center for the Arts Friday, September 26 and Saturday, September 27.

Read on for what inspires this beauty to share her talents with the Valley, and scroll down to watch a video of her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born in Mesa, the seventh child in a family of eight. I went to Gilbert High School and attended Scottsdale Community College. I got into the modern dance company at SCC and two other modern dance companies there after. I have been a vocalist in several bands and started my companies here.

Now that I’m a mommy, and my daughter starts pre-school and my son starts kindergarten this August, I know Phoenix will be a home base for me for years to come. Continue reading

Tracy Perkins: Founder of Strawberry Hedgehog

Tracy Perkins, owner of Strawberry Hedgehog vegan soaps and beauty products, photographed at her headquarters in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Tracy Perkins, owner of Strawberry Hedgehog vegan soaps and beauty products, photographed at her headquarters in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Tracy Perkins
facebook.com/StrawberryHedgehog

Tracy Perkins was sick — literally — of the beauty products she was used to. The longtime vegetarian-turned-vegan turned her frustration for animal testing and health issues caused by mainstream brands into creating her own soaps in 2003. After popular demand for her soaps from friends and family, she launched her business Strawberry Hedgehog in 2007, while balancing life as an adjunct geology professor.

The 32-year-old Phoenix resident has seen her business take off, now selling her products around the world and in Whole Foods across Arizona. She’s still an adjunct professor at Phoenix College but is looking to expand her business from a one-woman show to a bigger operation. Read about some of her products here, and meet her for a distilling workshop Thursday, July 17, from 6-9 p.m. at her Phoenix headquarters.

Learn how she crafts her handmade wares below, and keep scrolling to watch her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was a Navy brat, and my dad got stationed in Yuma around ’90. I came up to Phoenix to go to ASU in ’99. I got my undergrad degree in women’s studies and religious studies, and my Master’s is in geological science.

I was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, then lived in Key West, Florida before moving here. Continue reading

Steve Weiss: Founder of No Festival Required

Steve Weiss
facebook.com/NoFestivalRequired

Some of the best films shown in the Valley come courtesy of Steve Weiss, whose No Festival Required film showings have brought cutting-edge and impactful independent movies to art galleries and theaters across the Valley since 2002. The 58-year-old Phoenix resident is a photographer who also worked professionally in the film world, and started NFR when he saw a need for high-quality film showings. Now, he’s the resident programmer at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts and is working on series at Phoenix Center for the Arts.

This week, you can catch two of his events. The first, Thursday, June 19, starts at 7:30 p.m. at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts and includes two films about American suburban living, Gimmie Green and Wagonmasters. Then, Sunday, June 22 at 1:30 p.m., he shows Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense at Phoenix Center for the Arts.

Read on for where his passion for film comes from, and keep scrolling to hear him name five of his favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born and raised here. My parents came here in the late ‘40s when my father became the first full-time dentist at the Arizona State Prison in Florence. My parents were initially interested in Arizona and moved from New Jersey to come here.

I went to Camelback High School and got a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography from ASU. Other than living in Phoenix and attending ASU, I went to San Francisco Art Institute for a year and then returned there after I got out of ASU in 1978 for a total of three months. I’ve been back here ever since. Continue reading

Steph Carrico: Co-Owner of The Trunk Space

Steph Carrico, co-owner of The Trunk Space in Phoenix, photographed at The Trunk Space, by Nicki Escudero

Steph Carrico, co-owner of The Trunk Space in Phoenix, photographed at The Trunk Space, by Nicki Escudero

Steph Carrico
twitter.com/TheTrunkSpace

The Trunk Space has hosted rowdy punk shows, moving poetry readings, sexy burlesque, and life-drawing sessions. For the past 10 years, it’s been a haven for all ages to come express themselves through art and music, featuring monthly art exhibits, touring and local bands and sideshow acts that inject a quirky feel into the Downtown Phoenix Grand Avenue space.

Thank Steph Carrico, who along with co-owner JRC, strives to cultivate a diverse line-up of entertaining acts. The 38-year-old Phoenix resident is a photography and 2D/3D design teacher at Metropolitan Arts Institute and a freelance photographer when she’s not running the space.

Get excited for new Trunk Space developments. The venue, which also features an artist-made gift shop and vintage photo booth, is getting an air conditioning unit this summer, and Carrico and JRC plan to expand their coffee bar hours to all day by summer, too. Carrico talked about her motivation for running the space, and keep reading to see a video of her talk about her favorite reasons for living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

My parents brought me to Arizona when I was 9. My dad was a contractor, and we were living in northern Utah where it’s snowy. There’s no snow here, so they decided to move here because it was safer for him to work year-round.

I was born in Salt Lake City. Here, I went to Coronado High School and graduated Arizona State University with a degree in fine art photography. Continue reading

John Costello, III: Wild Whirled Music and Fervor Records Co-Owner, Producer

John Costello III, Wild Whirled Music and Fervor Records president, co-founder and co-owner, and music producer, photographed at his studio in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

John Costello III, music producer and Wild Whirled Music and Fervor Records president, co-founder and co-owner, photographed at his studio in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

John Costello, III
twitter.com/JC3Music

John Costello, III writes so much music that’s used for TV and film, sometimes he doesn’t even know a song he’s written has been used in a show or movie until he’s watching it. The 50-year-old Scottsdale resident has written more than 1,000 songs and has released 10 albums, and as co-owner, co-founder and president of local label Fervor Records and music licensing company Wild Whirled Music, the songwriter and producer is responsible for creating soundtracks for everything from popular sitcoms to groundbreaking movies.

A collection of some of his remixed tracks, appropriately titled The Remixes, comes out Tuesday, April 29, and you can hear his music in the trailer for upcoming film Walk of Shame. He also has three songs featured in the upcoming Philip Seymour Hoffman film, God’s Pocket.

Get to know the musician, who talks about how local musicians can get involved with the label, better below, and keep reading to see a video of Costello name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

My parents moved out here when I was in 7th grade. My grandparents were retiring, so I got transplanted. I left Chicago kicking and screaming, because I thought it was so incredible, but I’m happy my family moved out here. I had some health issues as a little kid, asthma and allergies, so Chicago was a really bad place to live. I went to Paradise Valley High School, and ASU for a short time. Continue reading

Tammy Wadina: Owner of OMW Plumbing

Tammy Wadina, owner of OMW Plumbing, photographed at Kierland Commons in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Tammy Wadina, owner of OMW Plumbing, photographed at Kierland Commons in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero


Tammy Wadina
twitter.com/OMWPlumbing

You may not associate women with plumbing, but Tammy Wadina is one local lady who’s changing perceptions in the Valley. The 39-year-old Cave Creek resident owns OMW Plumbing, a 24/7, same-day plumbing company serving the entire Valley, as well as Tucson. Wadina, a licensed plumber, says she applies the same hospitality values she gleaned from her restaurant industry experience to her plumbing business she began in 2012, while her background in marketing and advertising has also been beneficial as a business owner.

Read on for Wadina’s plumbing maintenance tips, as well as to hear five reasons why she loves living in the Valley, below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I’m from Greenfield, Wisconsin and moved here with my sister when I graduated college with a degree in business administration and hospitality management from Mount Mary College 14 years ago. We had aunts and uncles we had visited here, and we wanted to move to a warmer climate. Continue reading

Brad Jaffe: Owner of Dogological Dog Teaching Program

Brad Jaffe, owner of Dogological Dog Teaching Program, photographed at his Dogological headquarters in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Brad Jaffe, owner of Dogological Dog Teaching Program, with Gabriel’s Angels therapy dog Micah, photographed at his Dogological headquarters in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Brad Jaffe
twitter.com/Dogological

Brad Jaffe believes dogs should have an active part in their own training, which is why his Dogological method is all about working with the dogs as opposed to bribing or punishing them. Since 1999, the 46-year-old Phoenix resident has trained more than 6,000 dogs in private lessons and group classes. He also works with a greyhound rescue program with inmates at the Eloy Detention Center.

Now, Jaffe is getting ready to launch his first series of dog training DVDs and is currently promoting a crowdfunding campaign to help with post-production, a portion of which will go towards Gabriel’s Angels, a local nonprofit that brings therapy animals together with at-risk youth. You can donate to the campaign through March 14. Get to know Jaffe, who also wrote a dog communication-themed book called Conversations with Courtney, below. He also names his five favorite reasons for living in the Valley — keep scrolling for the video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I came out here in 1984 and went to high school for a year at Chaparral High School because my aunt and uncle lived here, and I wanted to experience it. I loved it for the weather but moved away for awhile before coming back in ’94. I was born in Detroit. Continue reading

Rachel Meier: Owner of RPM Spin Drop-Saddle Spin Studio

Rachel Meier, owner of RPM Spin in Scottsdale, photographed in her studio, by Nicki Escudero

Rachel Meier, owner of RPM Spin in Scottsdale, photographed in her studio, by Nicki Escudero

Rachel Meier
twitter.com/RPMSpin2014

For three years, Rachel Meier taught one of the most well-attended cycling classes at LA Fitness, with students packing the room to catch her high-energy, super-challenging work-outs. This past January, the 31-year-old Scottsdale resident broke out on her own, opening one of the only drop-saddle spin studios in the North Valley, RPM Spin. Her boutique studio is filled with Revmaster Pro bikes from LeMond, complete with computers that sync with Polar heart rate monitors, so you can take your workout home and sync it with the app. There are also LED lighting effects, with lights changing colors throughout the ride that cause garments to glow in the dark.

Meier, who also is an instructor at her studio, talked about what it was like to make the leap to business owner, as well as what people can expect from a drop-saddle class. Scroll down to hear her talk about her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

The weather. I moved here in August of 2006, and am originally from Cortland, New York. I went to the University at Buffalo, and graduated with a double major in English and Communication. Continue reading

Damon Brasch: Owner/Chef of Green New American Vegetarian and Nami

Damon Brasch, chef/owner of Green New American Vegetarian and Nami in Phoenix, photographed at Green in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Damon Brasch, chef/owner of Green New American Vegetarian and Nami in Phoenix, photographed at Green in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Damon Brasch
twitter.com/greendamon

Local vegans and vegetarians can still enjoy mouthwatering buffalo wings, addictive crab puffs and decadently sweet frozen desserts. Thanks to Green New American Vegetarian and Nami vegan pastry and soft serve, meat- and dairy-filled favorites have been reborn, no animal products required. Since 2006, chef/owner Damon Brasch has brought the Valley his vegan specialties, with Tempe and Phoenix locations of vegan restaurant Green, and vegan dessert/brunch spot Nami in Phoenix, which serves doughnuts and soy soft serve with a variety of mix-ins.

Brasch, a 40-year-old Phoenix resident originally from the Chicago area, is a self-trained chef who whips up tasty daily vegetarian specials at Green, such as fish tacos, and he has a cookbook in the works. He also has a restaurant consulting business, Brasch Concepts. Catch him at the Devoured Phoenix Culinary Festival Sunday, March 2, and read on for more about his journey as a Phoenix leader in vegan cuisine. Plus, scroll down to watch him name five of his favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I came to Arizona from the Chicago area with my family because of my dad’s job in 1992. We needed a fresh start, and Arizona seemed like a really great place. We had visited a couple times, and we thought we could start new. We were able to, which is what’s so great about Arizona. Continue reading