Meet the Judges

After each performance, dancers are evaluated by our team of local judges for creativity performance quality and more.  Below are the bios of our expert team of judges. 

Emily Yablonski - First Position Dance - Owner/Director

Emily has been dancing for most of her life and sharing her love of dance for over two decades. Emily was an award winning ballet and pointe soloist in her youth. She began  dancing locally and has trained with top professionals from New York City Ballet, Alvin Alley American Dance Theater, Broadway Dance Center, and world-renowned greats including Frank Hatchett and Luigi. She was involved in theater including performing in Annie, Dames at Sea, Into the Woods. In college, Emily was a member of the 1998 National Champion Rutgers University Dance Team, where she has been an assistant coach since 1999. Emily danced professionally with NJ's Arena Football Team and modeled with Capezio dancewear. First Positions' award-winning Scarlettes Dance Company is under her direction, the company not only competes, but also has strong community involvement. First Position has been awarded the Federation of Dance People’s Choice Award 2011, voted The Best Dance Studio in Central Jersey by The Home News Tribune and named to the FDC Top 50 Dance Studios. Many of Emily's students continue to keep dance in their lives by studying dance, performing on college dance teams, professional teams, and teaching dance. Emily lives locally with her husband and two fun, energetic, and athletic sons.


 Linda Griggs - New Jersey Center of Dance 

Linda started dancing at the age of six at a local dance studio and then continued her studies in New York with Frank Hatchett, Charles Kelly and Harry LeTang before embarking on a professional career. Her career started as the original captain for the NJ Generals USFL Football League owned by Donald Trump at Giants Stadium. Linda went on to perform singing and dancing at Hershey Park, PA in “Movie Fever IV” (Dance Captain) and then aboard the Scandinavian Star Cruise Ship (Dance Captain). She spent a year travelling with the National Tour of “Can Can” and when she returned home started auditioning locally. In Regional Theater Linda performed such roles as Lola in “Damn Yankees”, Reno in “Anything Goes”, Sheila & Morales in “A Chorus Line”, etc. As a choreographer Linda has choreographed well over 100 musicals in Regional Theater, including West Side Story, Anything Goes, Me & My Girl, A Chorus Line, Annie, The Secret Garden, Oliver... to name a few. Television appearances include the Joe Franklin Show and Al Alberts Showcase. For a month Miss Linda visited Moscow, Russia and trained with the Bolshoi Ballet as a member of the NJ Dance Theater Guild. Teaching became her first love and she is a certified member and credited by Dance Educators of America. At 23 years of age, Miss Linda established the NJ Center of Dance in Sept 1989 in South River then relocated to East Brunswick; now it has made its official home in Old Bridge. Kirsten Jansen became co-director of our second location, on the beautiful grounds of Frogbridge in Millstone. Many of Linda’s students have furthered their education in the world of dance and have made careers teaching, choreographing or performing dance. NJ Center of Dance resident dance company was named 44th most competitive studio in North America and 3rd in New Jersey by Dancer Magazine. Linda is very proud of her “family” of dancers and exceptional staff of teachers. With all that said, Linda is most proud of her two boys, Brendan and Bryce and stepdaughter Lexi who make all things possible. Life would not feel complete without “Dr. Bob” her husband, friend and greatest fan!


Sue Garahan - Center Stage

Sue Garahan, Jazz, Tap, Musical Theatre, Acrobatics, Gymnastics, Company and Show Director.  Sue has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rowan University and is a member of both Dance Educators of America and USA Gymnastics. She has trained extensively as a dancer and musical theater performer in New Jersey, New York City and London, England. She was a member of her high school gymnastics team as well as a cheerleader in both high school and in college. Her theater credits include Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street, Val in A Chorus Line, Nancy in Oliver!, The Witch in Into the Woods, Gladys in The Pajama Game, Mona Kent in Dames at Sea, Nelly Forbush in South Pacific and Tiger Lily in Peter Pan. She has been a teacher and the director of the young children’s and older children’s jazz and tap companies at Center Stage Dance for many years. She has enjoyed developing our young dancers and preparing them for our pre-professional companies throughout the years and has won many choreographic awards for her work with them. Many of her students have gone on to appear on Broadway, movies and television.