Staff

Nicolette Pawlowski, PhD
President/ Co-Founder/ Team Director

In addition to over 20 years of dance experience in ballet, folk, ballroom and latin dancing, Nicolette has an extensive background in education and facilitation, with a doctorate in Educational Policy Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her classes are dynamic and technically grounded, with boundless energy that keeps her students engaged and laughing even after hours of practice.
“My mother started learning dance at the age of 42. I had a partner who would dance till 4am and get up to work at 7am. There is something about dancing: despite long hours at the computer, aching feet, disagreements with friends, once you go out on the dance floor, or the side walk, and hear the music, everything lifts. When I dance salsa, life is beautiful. I want to share my passion and my love of teaching with you.”

Agustin Garcia
Executive Director/ Co-Founder/ Team Director

Agustin has taught dance for over 15 years. His instruction, feedback, and energy make the lessons feel enjoyable while putting students at ease and comfortable with every new step. Agustin will always notice and take the time to give feedback to students that are struggling, even in crowded group lessons.
“I started dancing in 1999. I always love the variety of people I meet through dancing. I love to dance because it gives me freedom. I love to teach because I get to see people enjoy higher levels of confidence on and off the dance floor.”

Stanton Kochanek, PhD
Instructor/ Team Director

Stanton is an accomplished Latin dancer who joined Los Sabrosos in 2013 as a student who actively participated in several performance teams. Several years later Stanton joined our teaching staff and with Heidi Islas, created the Bachatalicious and Fuerza Steel teams. Stanton and Heidi have taken their teams to perform and compete all across the country. Most notably, they competed at the World Salsa Summit in 2020 in several divisions bringing home 1st in the Rising Star semi-pro bachata division, and Stanton helped one of his students attain 1st in the over 40 pro-am division.
Apart from being an avid dancer and performer, Stanton also maintains a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Pitt, and he works as a scientist at Kalivir Immunotherapeutics assisting in the design of pre-clinical models for testing cancer treatments.

Heidi Islas
Instructor/ Team Director

Heidi is a fun, energetic dancer who loves Latin Dancing and is a dance instructor who is truly passionate about others learning. She combines her passion for teaching with her passion for dance to create a fun, friendly, inclusive dance environment.  She strongly believes in building a strong technical foundation to lead any student to become a better dancer. Her motto is: “It’s all about the basics!”
Heidi focuses more on bachata, salsa, and cha-cha, even though she enjoys all styles of dance and is always looking for new inspiration to add to her personal style. She has been dancing since she was 5 taking a combination of ballet, jazz, ballroom, and Latin dance classes. However, it wasn’t until 2009 that she started honing in on Latin dance. While living in Boston, she was introduced to Rueda de Casino and fell in love with the dynamic of dancing with partners. She then continued her training with various dance schools and after moving to Pittsburgh in 2014 started to choreograph, teach, and train for competitions. In 2020 she became World Champion with her dance partner, Stanton Kochanek, at the World Salsa Summit in Miami in their Division.
Heidi has concurrently run 4 dance performance teams, from beginner to competition level. She has taught and performed locally, nationally, and internationally and continues to teach all levels of Latin dance.

Krystyna Pawlowski
Instructor/ Team Director

Krystyna has an extensive background in music and dance, with over 17 years in piano training and over 15 years in ballroom training. Krystyna first started as a professional music teacher in Poland. After discovering her passion in dance, she transferred her teaching skills to the dance floor. She has trained with multiple top ballroom professionals in International Latin, American Rhythm, Smooth and Standard.
From 2000 to 2010 Krystyna competed in many competitions around the country, including the Chicago Crystal Ball, Windy City Open, the Indiana Challenge, Grate Race at Notre Dame in Michigan, the Dance Sport Championship in Miami, and many others, taking home many championships and first places. She taught dancing at ABC Dance Academy in Chicago and has since joined her daughter Nicolette to develop the ballroom division at Los Sabrosos Dance Co.

Maria Hamer
Instructor/ Team Director

Maria is a long time bellydancer of Pittsburgh, Pa, training tirelessly and passionately for over two decades with some of the most sought-after teachers in this dance form. Her love for bellydance has evolved through many styles over the years. She has co­-directed & helped in pioneering East Coast Tribal companies such as ‘Folkloric inspired’ Ghawazee Middle Eastern Music & Dance Ensemble in the mid 90’s, to the more theatrical & earthy glamor/contemporary elements of award-winning Zafira Dance Company, active for over 11 years.
She has spearheaded and been a part of many successful events & festivals in the Pittsburgh areas with shows from big theater stages to small intimate settings. She’s traveled the globe studying, teaching, performing and has collaborated with some of the most notable dancers in her genre such as: Jill Parker, Zoe Jakes, & many others. Currently as a solo artist, she collaborates with her sisters, Christine Andrews and Jennifer Imashev, as ‘The Hamer Sisters’, as well as building her student troupe­ Tarab.

Sarah Malott
Administrator

Sarah has been involved in the arts for the majority of her life. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in theater design and production, and since then she has been working in a variety of arts administration roles. She loves using the arts to build community, and to help people find the creativity in themselves that they never knew existed. Beginning fall of 2021 she will be pursuing her master’s degree in Integrated Innovation of Products and Services at Carnegie Mellon University.

Sarah Byrne-Houser
Instructor

Sarah started dance classes at age two, and spent years training in tap and ballet, but jazz held her heart. As a teen and young adult, some of her dance experience also came from performing in musicals. She loves music – almost every type – and has trouble not moving to music no matter the setting!
After graduating from college, getting a “real” job, and having her first child all within a year, she lost connection with her dance background. In 2009, she registered for a Zumba instructor training…without ever taking a single class. Zumba offered an opportunity to weave the joy of dance back into her life. Soon after, she started catching the group fitness bug and picked up additional certifications including R.I.P.P.E.D, Bokwa, and Strong Nation™.

Justin Kofford
Instructor

Justin learned Swing Dancing in 1994 and since then has developed a love of many dance styles, from the Hokey Pokey to Dougie. He has been teaching salsa classes since 2006 in the Pittsburgh area and has a deeply rooted love for the latin dance style. Justin has performed in Los Angeles, New York, and Puerto Rico for their respective Salsa Congresses. Justin views dance mainly as a very efficient way to have fun.
After promising his father that he would not dance anymore, he accidentally stumbled upon a dance battle, where he beats Darkness Child from the dance crew “House of Ninja”. He later teamed up with them to compete in the World Jam dance contest against their rivals. Justin finds his time to be increasingly tighter as he has to choose between family and dance. He won the World Jam, his father’s approval, and his respect by dedicating his heartwarming performance to his father.

Sarah Markwardt
Instructor

Se habla español
Sarah is a trained dance fitness instructor and public health professional. She teaches Los Sabrosos’ Strength & Toning class, where her focus is to help people enhance their mind-body connection while building endurance, strength, flexibility, balance, and self-love. Come to her classes prepared for sweat, support, and a few solid dad jokes. Her classes should challenge you, and she can provide modifications to ensure that the exercises are the most appropriate for your fitness level and goals.
“Outside of teaching here at the studio, I spend too much time playing soccer, dancing bachata, or kayaking, and not enough time listening to voicemails or switching the laundry from the washer to the dryer. If you see me in the studio or walking a giant, fluffy dog down the block, please stop me to say hi!”

Melissa Osburn
Instructor

Melissa took her first yoga class 12 years ago. That experience completely changed her life. Driven by her love of the practice and the peace she found on her mat, she dove in headfirst and became a certified 200-hour instructor in 2017. She has since gone on to become certified in children’s yoga, and trauma informed yoga. Melissa is a full-time social worker, working for Community Human Services where they provide housing for the homeless. She believes that everybody deserves a home! In addition to her full-time social work, she also has three children, who have all fell in love with yoga as well.
You’ll find Melissa teaching community (free) yoga all over Pittsburgh. She offers classes to her co-workers, clients, and at her children’s school. In addition, Melissa teaches classes to men and women in recovery. Each day, she looks forward to her time on her mat and can’t wait to share her love of yoga with you!

Lauren Panza
Instructor

Always active, Lauren grew up in dance and gymnastics, and when her professional life became “all work and no play” eight years ago she found fun, freedom, healing, and profound expansion on her yoga mat. Throughout years of practicing of yoga and meditation, Lauren is constantly reminded of the power that lies within each and every one of us when we connect with ourselves to discover the inspiration that lies within.
Influenced by her teachers, practice, training, and travels, Lauren aims to bring a unique sense of empowerment to each of her classes. Through intention, meditation, and asana her goal is to have students leave each class feeling refreshed and renewed. Lauren’s classes promote yoga that is strong yet easeful, that develop energetic synchronicity in each student’s mind, body, and soul.

Kiera Pyles
Instructor

Kiera started dancing at the age of 3 and it quickly turned into a passion of hers. While her favorite styles are jazz, ballet, and contemporary, she has also studied a numerous other styles such as tap, pointe, and hiphop. Kiera attended Point Park University where she studied dance with a concentration in jazz. After graduation, she booked a job performing with Disney Cruise Line where she danced as she travels the world. Kiera loves to teach dance and enjoys seeing her students grow as people and as artists.

Jorge Torres Quiñones
Dance Fellow

Jorge is a competitive dancer with an ear for music and a love of connection. His foundation for dance comes from an athletic and musical background growing up. The former was nurtured through sports such as soccer, baseball, and martial arts, while the latter was gained through playing the trombone. While his family and heritage enabled him to learn the very basics of Latin dance, Jorge took his first class at Los Sabrosos in 2017. There he joined the Bachatalicious Dance Team and has been dancing ever since. Jorge has competed in the World Salsa Summit and continues to compete where able, earning a few medals along the way. He has performed across the country, and looks forward to traveling for congresses and improving his dance. Through his classes, Jorge hopes to spread his love of dance to his students and allow them to advance in their ability so they can have fun and look great doing it.