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Team 2023

Growth is a process, not a destination.

Anna Merkulova

Founder & Creative Director

of ImmersionDance

Born in Donetsk, Ukraine, Anna started her ballet education at the age of 7 and graduated from the Ukrainian Academy of Dance in 1999.  Her journey as a professional dancer took her to many countries like Ukraine, Estonia, USA, Denmark where she worked as a soloist in various companies before becoming a principal dancer with the Semperoper Ballet Dresden in 2006.

As a member of Semperoper Ballett Dresden, Anna went through all ranks of the company starting at corps de ballet and arriving to Principal in 2016. 

During her carrier she performed as a soloist in leading roles the works of William Forsyth, J. Kylian, David Dawson, Matz Ek, G. Balanchine, F. Ashton, K.MacMillan, Jacopo Godani, Stijn Celis, Ohad Naharin and Aaron Watkin, etc.

Her repertoire and knowledge ranges far and wide from traditional classical ballets to neo-classical work and contemporary creations. 


Following her knee injury in 2017 Anna has trained extensively with GYROTONIC® expansion system to help her get back on track, which led her to become a GYROKINESIS® and GYROTONIC ® certified trainer.

She is working as a freelance GYROTONIC® (Pully Tower and Jumping Stretching Board) and GYROKINESIS® trainer with a wide range of clients (dancers and non-dancers) in this field to promote a more conscious and healthy way of approaching the body and mind. 

Anna is also a certified Regression Therapist, member of EARTh International Association of Regression Therapists, and is currently working as an Executive Secretary of EARTh. 

Anna also gave a TEDxDresen Talk in 2018 on the topic of Listening to your body

Link : (444) The Importance of Listening to your Body | Anna Merkulova | TEDxDresden - YouTube

One of  Anna's other passions is personal development. She enjoyes going deep within and digging deep to understand herself, heal and unleash her inner potential. Regression therapy is one of the tools she is using on the regular basis for the last 10 years to do this inner work. 

She enjoys the works of Teal Swan, OSHO, P. Coelho, G, Mate, Neal Donald Walsh, Dr. B. Weiss, Rodger J. Woolger, M. Newton, Louisa Hay, Eckhardt Tolle, Swami Shivanada, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Elisabeth Gilbert, Deepak Chopra, Olga Kharitidi, Tatiana Chernigovskaya, Sir Ken Robinson, etc….


Anna’s passion is to help people understand themselves, heal, grow and transform in order to lead the most fulfilling and generous lives they can. (dancer or not! We are all dancing through life after all!) 

James Potter

Dancer, Choreographer,

Functional Range Condition trainer

Co-Founder of ImmersionDance

James Potter is a freelance dancer based in Dresden, Germany from the United States. Originally hailing from upstate New York, James began his professional training with the Houston Ballet Academy when he was 15. There, he performed along side the main company in numerous productions and was subsequently hired by the Dresden Semperoper Ballett when he was 18. James danced a wide range of classical and contemporary works while in Dresden. He has performed works by Mats Ek, Ohad Naharin, Pina Bausch, William Forsythe, George Balanchine, Sir Frederick Ashton, Hofesh Shechter, Johan Inger, Alexander Ekman, and David Dawson. James has also created works that have been performed at such venues as the Dresden Semperoper, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Wrocław Opera, and the Beijing International Ballet and Choreography Competition. Furthermore, James is a certified Functional Range Conditioning® Mobility Specialist, a comprehensive joint training system based in scientific principals and research. He has been working with clients and practicing this system since 2020.

Yannick Sempey

International Ballet Master,

Classical Ballet teacher

Yannick Sempey is currently ballet master at the Staatsballett Berlin, and was previously ballet master for Royal Swedish Ballet and Ballett Mainz .He has danced with the Basel Ballet, Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Zurich Ballet, Semperoper Ballet and Opera de Nice. He has taught companies such as the Nederlands Dans Theater, Forsythe Company, Semperoper Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet, Cullberg Ballet, Tokyo City Ballet amongst others. He has been a guest teacher at schools and taught students at The Royal Conservatory of The Hague, Ecole Nationale Supèrieure de Marseille, University of Dance in Stockholm and the Ballet Academy in Goteborg. Yannick has participated several times at the Nederlands Dance Theater summer intensive program and the Joffrey Summer Intensive in New York .

Is time to give Mental Health a place it deserves in the

Dance world.

Jaume Costa

Soloist at Landestheater Coburg,Germany

Sports & Health Psychologist 

Jaume Costa began his dance education at the Institut del Teatre de Barcelona, graduating later on from the Hamburg Ballet School John Neumeier in Germany. His professional experience has taken him to different countries, working for various companies, including collaborations with the Hamburg Ballet and stable contracts with the Corella/Barcelona Ballet and the Ballet of the Landestheater Coburg in Germany, where he is been a soloist for the last 7 years. 


Already during his training as a dancer, coping with the demands of his day-to-day life, he noticed the absence of mental health professionals and counsellors who could have helped him improve and optimize his functioning and performance as a person and artist. This lack of attention motivated him to pursue a university degree in Psychology, specializing, later on, in clinical and health psychology. After graduating, he completed his formal education pursuing a Master's degree in Sport and Performance Psychology, for which he received a special mention and the Isabel Blanco prize for the best final practical work of his class, and a Master’s degree in general health psychology.


Since then, Jaume combines his professional dance career with his own psychology practice (Psicogu) and holistic and integrative project (coming up soon). In addition to working individually with athletes, dancers and other professionals from many other disciplines, Jaume works as an associate professor at the Akademie des Tanzes Mannheim (Germany), advising teachers and dancers how to optimize their professional performance and general well-being.


The difference between healthy and unhealthy perfectionism is one stems from a curiosity and fascination that sparks joy while the other brings about feelings of inadequacy and obsession that feed unhappiness.

Shelby Williams

Dancer, Educator, Creator of Biscuit Ballerina®

Shelby Williams is a soloist with the Royal Ballet of Flanders and is the creator of the viral ballet comedy character Biscuit Ballerina. 

Shelby received her professional training on scholarship at the Washington School of Ballet and the Houston Ballet Academy. Shelby has danced with Houston Ballet 2, Dresden Semperoper Ballett (Germany), Ballet d’Europe (France), and Barcelona Ballet (Spain), and as a soloist with BallettMainz  and the Hessisches Staatsballett in Germany. There she performed leading roles in works by Crystal Pite, Ohad Naharin, Johan Inger, Douglas Lee, Alexander Ekman, Pascal Touzeau, Georg Reichel, Richard Siegel, Marco Goecke and Cayetano Soto. 

In 2016, she joined the Royal Ballet of Flanders where she has danced featured roles in works by director Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui as well as in works by William Forsythe, Pina Bausch, Hofesh Schechter, Akram Khan, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Andonis Foniadakis, Jeroen Verbruggen, and Edouard Lock amongst others. 

In Dance Europe Magazine (October 2017), she was nominated in the category "Outstanding Perfomance of a Female Dancer" for her performances in "Approximate Sonata 2016" by William Forsythe and "Café Müller"by Pina Bausch, portraying "Steely strength in the Forsythe, and all vulnerability in the Bausch". 

In 2017 she created Biscuit Ballerina as a way to bring humor to the seriousness of ballet and address mental health in the dance world. Biscuit Ballerina was nominated in the category "Best News" in Dance Europe Magazine (October 2018) for "offering amusing and inspiring perspective for dancers on the pursuit for perfection." Shelby's work with Biscuit Ballerina has been featured in the New York Times, Pointe Magazine, Dance Europe, and Dance Spirit Magazine.


Using the platform created by Biscuit Ballerina, Shelby has gone on to be a guest speaker on the themes of perfectionism, happiness, and chance at the 10th European Lotteries Congress and at the P(our) Symposium. Additionally, she has given workshops and lectures to dancers across the United States and together with Counselling For Dancers across the United Kingdom.

Isabelle Schramm

Dancer, Psychologist 

The first step for good communication is to be conscious about our own emotions.

Isabelle Schramm began her dance training at the John Neumeier Ballet School and continued it at the Palucca School in Dresden. 

In 2009, she became part of the Geneva Ballet directly after completing her dance training and in 2013/14 she decided to work as a freelance dancer in Switzerland and Germany. At the same time, she started her Bachelor's degree in psychology via distance learning and received her Master's degree at the Geneva University in 2021. Since then, she has been working as a psychologist in her private practice and on site with dancers from various dance schools and dance ensembles such as Ballett Theater Basel, Dachverband Tanz Deutschland, the Tanz Akadamie Zürich and the Palucca Schule. The focus of her work is to promote the balance between performance and well-being, which can be strengthened thanks to various tools and strategies from sports psychology.

Leonardo Centi

Dancer, Teacher, Choreographic Assistant, Movement Awareness Couch

Leonardo Centi is an Italian dancer, ballet master, and researcher in the field of dance.


Since childhood, he has always tried to explore and discover new ways of expression through the body. Dance stems from his lifelong passion. It is a way to get in touch with one's essence, with the nature of the deep ‘self’. His teaching is based on an ongoing search for personal growth, more than a particular style.


Leonardo Centi's professional training started at the National Academy of Dance in Rome and continued at the Cunningham Dance Studio in New York, with the support of his long-time mentor Elisabeth Gibiat. Merce Cunningham's technique contributed to a more complete and clearer understanding of the relationship between the different parts of the body and opened up new perspectives on form, dynamics and space and, more generally, a new vision of the art of dance.


His international career as a dancer has brought him to various companies, such as Ballet Gulbenkian (Portugal), Ballet Preljocaj (France) and NND/Galili Dance (Netherlands). He has performed works by international choreographers, including Jiři Kylián, William Forsythe, Angelin Preljocaj, Ohad Naharin, Mauro Bigonzetti, Itzik Galili, Stijn Celis, Rui Horta, Tero Saarinen, etc.


Leonardo Centi holds a state teaching diploma (Diplôme d'Ètat) from the Centre National de la Danse in Paris. He has taught at the Ballet Junior de Genève, Codarts, the Conservatorio Superior de Danza de Madrid María de Ávila and the Fundaçión Universidades y Enseñanzas superior de Castilla y León, and has held seminars in Italy, Spain and Israel.


As artistic assistant of the choreographer Itzik Galili he established his international experience, re-staging Galili`s works all over the world, notably Staatsballett Berlin, Ballett Zürich, Ballet de l’Opéra de Bordeaux, Compañía Nacional de Danza de Madrid, Rambert Dance Company, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company and Contemporary Dance Company Cuba.


To constantly enrich his diverse background, his curiosity led him to discover new techniques and methods, such as Ohad Naharin's Gaga - body language: the quality and the delicacy of movement, the intensity of the physical effort connected with physical pleasure.


As ballet master of the Dance Company Theater Osnabrück, he worked as a team with Mauro de Candia the artistic director and Patricia Stöckemann the company manager. He accompanied de Candia’s artistic work, assisting him, rehearsing and re-staging his productions and adapting the training of dancers to his stylistic needs. Further, he assisted the work of various guest choreographers such as Marco Goecke, Stephan Thoss, Edward Clug, Ben Riepe, Rafaële Giovanola or Samir Calixto.

A collaboration on the reconstruction of pieces by Mary Wigman, led by Henriette Horn and Susan Barnett, offered him a deeper understanding of the history of modern dance and the possibility of accompanying historical pieces to return to the stage.


After many years of constantly committed work in practice, he decided, in his constant search for actuality, to renew his theoretical examination of dance at the Palucca Hochschule für Tanz.


Somatics practices, like the Feldenkrais method, the Eric Franklin method or the Ilan Lev method, of which he became a certified practitioner, influence and support his attitude towards teaching.

Why do you live the life you live right now?...

Karen Stemkens

Regression Therapist, Creator of Guided Meditation for the ImmersionDance

Karen Stemkens was born in Australia in 1965 and immigrated to the Netherlands in 1975 with her parents who were born Dutch. 

As a child, she was always interested in ''how things work''. Physical, mental, technical and also spiritual. A natural curiosity has always driven her to gathering knowledge. Together with an open mind her search for knowledge led her to regression therapy. She received her diploma in 1998. 

In 2000 she started to develop techniques with another therapist to be able to find out what drives people , what blocks people to live their dream, but most important, what is their dream!

This experimental work developed into connecting to your source through the heart and was presented at a World Congress for Regression Therapy in 2014.

She works as an audiologist in an audiologist centre since 1987 and was EARTh's Executive Secretary between 2007 and 2020. She has had a practice in regression therapy and now after a period of rest and reflection, is starting up again to follow her own passion, which is connecting people to their hearts, hearts desire and healing. 

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