Nurturing all dancers





Tara Behnke
Artistic Director Babes in Toyland

TARA has been dancing since the age of three. She fell in love with performing immediately and has loved being on stage ever since. As a young artist, she began her study of classical ballet at the Academy of Dance in San Luis Obispo. Her training immediately broadened to include pointe, jazz, tap, lyrical, musical theater, contemporary, and hip hop. Along with dance conventions, Tara has trained at West Side Ballet, Zeal Studio, and the Edge in Los Angeles as well as Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. She was the top scholarship winner at the Dance in Action Convention in 1998. Tara's intense schedule of training provided the foundation for a myriad of dance experiences including national and international tours to Spain, China and Cuba. Tara has danced with several professional level companies in SLO county, including All Things Contemporary Dance Company, the San Luis Jazz Dancers for eleven years and the Civic Ballet Company for seven years. As on of the company’s principal dancers, she performed in numerous roles in productions including the Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and original works, and danced the lead of “Maria” in West Side Story and “Nancy” in Since I saw Her Standing There, a Beatles ballet.

Tara has been a dance instructor and the director of performing groups in San Luis Obispo county since 2002, including Dance Out Loud and Synergy Dance Company at CDMA. She has participated as a choreographer in CDMA’s Summer Intensive programs as well as Morro Bay High School’s 2009 Dance Intensive. Tara joined Coastal Dance as a guest teacher in 2005, and in 2008 she partnered with Kathy Schultz as Owner and Director as they expanded Coastal Dance to it’s Grand Avenue location, adding music and theater. At that time, they founded the first South County Ballet Company, Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet, which soon after became a non-profit ballet company. Tara is the Associate Producer of Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet’s Fall production of Babes In Toyland and has been a contributing choreographer since it’s inception.

Tara’s diverse teaching experience expands beyond dance, including public preschool and working with students with autism. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Child Development and Psychology from Cal Poly. The research for her senior project focused on how extracurricular activities influence positive developmental outcomes during adolescence. She is now fascinated with immersing child developmental theory into her teaching.

Tara is currently one of the Directors and Owners of Coastal Dance and Music Academy as well as an instructor of jazz, contemporary, pointe, ballet, and contemporary pointe. She is also the founder and Artistic Director of Synergy Dance Company and Program Director for CDMA’s Dance Teacher Training Program. Tara is beyond excited to work with the Coastal Chamber Youth Ballet dancers and support cast as Artistic Director for this year’s 10 year anniversary production of Babes in Toyland.