Midwest  - Enhancing lives through dance education.

Meet the Staff

Meghan McDermott- Owner, Artistic Director, Instructor

Meghan began her dance training in Madison, WI, where she was a part of the Wisconsin Dance Ensemble and other performing groups in the area.  Meghan decided to further her dance education by attending Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA.  In 2001, she graduated Magna Cum Laude and most outstanding student in the Department of Fine Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Dance.
Following college, Meghan was awarded a scholarship to study at the Giordano Dance Center, from there she became and apprentice with Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, and then a professional company member.  With Giordano Meghan traveled the world dancing and had the opportunity to perform works by Randy Duncan, Gus Giordano, Nan Giordano, Christopher Huggins, Ron de Jesus, Jon Lehrer, Mia Michaels, Tony Powel, Davis Robertson, and many more.  She also had the honor of representing Giordano on the cover of the August 2007 issue of Dance Magazine.  Meghan completed her fifth and final season with Giordano in 2009.
After her departure from Giordano, Meghan served one year as the Rehearsal Director and as a dancer for Piel Morena Contemporary Dance.  Collaborating with this company Meghan became Co-Director of, and helped to create a very successful summer intensive dance program, International Contemporary Dance Intensive, which is now in its fifth year running.
Meghan’s teaching career took flight at North Shore School of Dance in Highland Park, IL, where she became the head of the Jazz Department and Director of the North Shore Repertory Dance Ensemble.  She has also been a Master Teacher and Guest Choreographer in the Chicago area and across the United States.  Meghan feels very fortunate to be able to share dance with others through her performing, teaching, and choreography.

Jessica Ballweg - Assistant Artistic Director/ Instructor

Jessica found her passion for dance at the age of four in her hometown of Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin where she trained at Kris Pickar’s School of Dance.  She had the wonderful opportunity to be dance captain and choreographer for Sauk Prairie’s Executive Session Show Choir for their European Summer Tour in 2006. Jessica is a 2010 cum laude graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance.  There she had the privilege to perform works by Susan Marshall Company and Jump Rhythm Jazz Company.  Her choreography “Woven into the Texture of Vitality,” was chosen for the student choreography showcase.  Jessica choreographed for the University’s productions of “Rent” and “Floyd Collins.”  She was awarded the Chancellors Leadership Award upon graduating.  She was the dance captain and performed at the Broadway Dinner Theatre in Wisconsin Dells during the summers of 2008 and 2009 as a singer/dancer in the productions of “Footloose,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “The Fabulous 50’s.”  Recently Jessica choreographed for Sauk Prairie High School’s musical production of “All Shook Up.” Jessica is now the Assistant Artistic Director, Resident Choreographer and Instructor at Midwest Performing Arts in Waunakee, WI where she is in her 7year of teaching.  Jessica is so proud of all the dancers for their hard work, dedication and love for dance!

Celia F. Braker – Instructor

Celia grew up in Monona, WI and started dancing at the age of three at Monona Academy of Dance. She studied summers on scholarship at Milwaukee Ballet, Joffrey Midwest, Orlando Ballet, and Ballet Hispanico. She danced professionally with the Milwaukee Ballet performing in several of Michael Pink's works including Dracula, Swan Lake, Scheherazade, and Nutcracker and also with The Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC). She has been teaching for over 11 years and has taught at Monona Academy of Dance, the Milwaukee Ballet School, in the Milwaukee Area Public Schools, in a demo-video in the Milwaukee Children's Museum, MSCR Programs, at DCDC Dance School, in the Dayton Public Schools, and Dance Academy LTD in Elm Grove, WI. She has also hosted a Summer Dance Camp at Cambridge High School choreographing for their dance team; as well as choreographed for the non-profit Dance Wisconsin. She graduated from Edgewood College with a B.S. in Business in 2010 and with an MBA in 2013. Currently, Celia is working for the State of Wisconsin as a Training Officer Senior. Celia is very excited to be part of the MPA Dance family and be able to share her love of dance and teaching.

Ally Kenison- Instructor

Ally  graduated in 2008 from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) with a major in Dance and a minor in French. She is experienced in Jazz, Modern, Contemporary, Lyrical, Ballet, Pointe, Hip Hop, Tap, and Pom. From the age of five, the Madison native has trained extensively with some of the areas' leading dance schools.  She has been dancing competitively since she was six-years-old as a solo performer and in group works around the Midwest, winning the title of Performer of Excellence at the age of eleven. She was also invited to perform with the University of Madison Dance Program at age 12, and attended the Beginnings Workshop for acting and dance in upstate New York at age 13. She continued to compete throughout high school and advanced her training in college. At UWSP, Ally took classes under many prestigious companies including Alonzo King's LINES Ballet, River North Chicago, and Susan Marshall Dance Company. Her choreography was chosen to be presented in various productions at UWSP, as well as the American Collegiate Dance Festival in St. Louis. Upon graduating, Ally continued to teach and choreograph for prestigious competitive and artistic schools, and served as a coach of the award-winning Middleton High School Dance Team. She enjoyed the opportunity to perform as a Diamond Dancer for the Milwaukee Brewers. She has choreographed for dance teams and studios around the state, and has appeared in music videos in Nashville, TN. Currently, she enjoys being the assistant director and dancer for the Madison Contemporary Vision Dance Company.  Ally enjoys a vibrant interest in combining her passion for dance with a balanced lifestyle that includes nutrition, positive personal development, and community outreach. She strives to use these to be a positive role model for dancers and youth around the Midwest.

Micheala King- Instructor

Michaela King began her dance training in North Carolina where she was born. She continued ballet with coaching and private instruction in Virginia throughout her high school years. During this time, Michaela attended summer intensives with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Chautauqua Institution, The Rock School, Carolina Ballet, and Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell. As a high school student, she had the opportunity to perform Serenade with Suzanne Farrell’s company at the Kennedy Center. Upon graduating, she studied in the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Grad Program where she had opportunities to perform with the company. After two years, Ms. King joined the company and spent two seasons in the corps de ballet. Michaela then joined Madison Ballet where she is currently in her second season. Her repertoire includes roles in La Bayadere , Swan Lake , Don Quixote , Cinderella , Le Corsaire , Nutcracker, Jerome Robbin’s The Concert , Mark Morris’s Sandpaper along with soloist roles in W. Earle Smith’s choreography. She is thrilled to share her love of dance with the Midwest Performing Arts community!

Nicole Nelson - Instructor

Nicole Nelson is an advanced hip-hop dancer and new teacher this year at MPA! She values a global mindset, hard work ethic, and a sense of exploration in her students. Her pursuit of dance and sense of adventure have taken her beyond the Madison area and even the U.S. to cities such as Florence, Italy, and Buenos Aires, Argentina to participate in shows, workshops, and conventions.  Her dance experience, however, began with musical theater, where she discovered her love of the arts, and dance in particular. She is excited to see her students on the stage, where her love of dance originally flourished.

Crystal Sutherland - Instructor

Crystal earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from Columbia College Chicago in 2016, focusing her degree on pedagogy.  The Wisconsin native is trained in rigorous modern technique and others such as ballet, improvisation, and West African. She is educated in dance composition, production, theory, anatomy, history, and pedagogy from qualified professionals. She has taken classes that have taught Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Alexander, Graham, Humphrey, and Petronio technique.  Crystal has performed in Choreography during her time at Columbia under the direction of Taisha Paggett, Alicia Wilson, Rebecca Huang, Pamela McNeil, Dr. Lorenzo (Rennie) Harris, and Jessica Miller Tomlinson.  She is currently a member of Madison Contemporary Vision Dance and is excited to be joining the team at Midwest Performing Arts.  Crystal is thrilled to be able to continue practicing her craft as a teaching artist, performer, and dance maker  her in the Midwest.

Jaclyn Wilkinson - Instructor

Jaclyn began her dance training at the age of 3 in Madison, WI.  She loves every form of dance, but tap is her all-time favorite. Jaclyn danced all through high school, she was on her dance studio's dance team along with her High School's dance team. While being a member of her studio's dance team she performed on a cruise to the Bahamas along with the Kick-off Classic for the UW Badgers football team in New York. Jaclyn studied dance through Dance Masters of Wisconsin (of which she is a member now), Chicago National Association of Dance Masters, as well as attending many conventions and competitions. After graduating from high school, Jaclyn attended massage therapy school, she has also studied personal training and is a certified personal trainer. She is happily married and has twin three year old boys, Chane and Parker, and a new baby girl Bexley. Jaclyn loves to spend time with her family and friends, and enjoys being active and working out. 

Alissa Laufenberg- Instructor

Alissa Laufenberg began dancing at the age of three in her hometown of Waunakee, WI.  She has trained in Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Tap and Pom.  Throughout high school she danced with Midwest Performing Arts before attending college at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.  Alissa was able to present choreography in Afterimages and Afterimages Unplugged for three years, and performed in both Afterimages and Danstage.  She was fortunate enough to study abroad at the University of Limerick, Ireland in the Spring of 2017. There she was able to travel Europe while learning more about its dance culture.  Her favorite experience was being able to take an areal course where she trained in silks and dance trapeze.  Alissa looks forward to returning home and sharing her excitement for dance with the students of MPA!

Lauren  Zernov - Instructor

Lauren began dancing at the age of five in her hometown of Sun Prairie WI, training in ballet, pointe, modern, jazz, tap, musical theater and hip hop throughout the years. Lauren spent four years training at Midwest Performing Arts where she was also a student assistant and receptionist. She attended summer programs at George Mason University and at Portland Festival Ballet under John Magnus and Lisa Slagle. Lauren is pursuing a Bachelors of Arts in Dance and a Bachelors of Science in Sports Medicine and Exercise Science and plans to incorporate both together in her career studying athletic training for dancers. She spent her 2018 summer in Texas working as an intern for American Ballet Theater’s summer intensive at the University of Texas at Austin. She uses her love for people and children in her other occupations as a waitress and swim lesson instructor. Lauren is thrilled to be returning back to her roots at MPA and be a part of the organization that shaped her as a dancer. 

Kassy L. Coleman- Yoga Instructor

Kassy L. Coleman is a graduate of UW LaCrosse with a bachelor’s degree and UW Madison with a master’s degree, both in vocal performance.  Currently Ms Coleman is co-owner and executive director of The Soul’s Song LLC, a home-based music, yoga and healing arts studio where she teaches singers and voice-users of all ages.  Kassy is also a 500-hour E-RYT (registered yoga teacher) and teaches various yoga classes in the Madison area. She has developed a method of teaching yoga to singers called The Voice of Yoga which embraces the singer as a whole person, not just a vocal instrument.  Ms Coleman enjoys performing throughout the Madison area in various genres and groups such as Music Theatre of Madison and Fresco Opera Theatre.

Robert Mckee- Guest Instructor/Choreographer
Director of Inaside Chicago Dance Company 

Robert Mckee attended Point Park University and is a former company member of Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago. He has been a guest dancer and choreographer most recently with Chicago Dance Crash, Cerqua Rivera, and other Independent projects. Robert began an interest in teaching and choreography at a very young age. Influenced by percussive rhythms and dynamic shapes, he finds himself always inspired to create. Robert has been on faculty at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, a teacher for Chicago National Association of Dance Masters, and teaches throughout the Chicagoland area. He has worked with Rockford Dance Company, The Giordano Project, Giordano Juniors, McDonald Dance Academy, Barrington High School, Northshore School of Dance Performing Ensemble, the Giordano on Giordano choreography showcase, Riverside Brookfield High School, Northern Illinois University and Framework Dance Chicago. Currently Robert serves as the Artistic Director of Inaside Chicago Dance.

 Marcus Hardy- Guest Instructor

Marcus Hardy is a multi-disciplined dancer and choreographer from North Carolina, who began his training at the age of 19. His passion for dance erupted after witnessing a local hip hop group perform at his alma mater, East Carolina University. Marcus spent many hours honing his skills as a hip hop dancer, but desired to further his skills as a dancer, and at age 21, auditioned for ECU's dance program, and was accepted in 2010. After receiving his BFA in Dance Performance in 2012, Marcus moved to Chicago to dance professionally with Inaside Chicago Dance under the direction of Richard Smith and Robert McKee.  This is Marcus's 5th season with the company and his 3rd year as a Company Member. Marcus has also been a guest artist with SueMo Dance Company and Chicago Dance Crash, as well as various dance projects across the Midwest.

Cesar Salinas - Guest Instructor/ Guest Choreographer

Mr. Salinas, originally from Portland, Oregon, is Artistic Assistant for Giordano Dance Chicago.  He began his formal studies in dance with Zohar School of Dance, under the direction of Ehud Krauss in Palo Alto, CA.  There he was introduced to the classic jazz styles of Gus Giordano, Luigi, and Matt Mattox.  He moved to Oregon where he studied at Willamette Ballet Academy under Deborah Higginbotham.  Cesar went on to further his training at the University at Buffalo, where he graduated with a BFA in Dance.  He received a scholarship to the Giordano Dance School in Chicago, IL, in 2004 and 2005. From 2006 until 2011, Cesar joined the Giordano Dance Chicago as a full company member performing throughout the United States and Europe.  During his tenure, he was proud to be a part of GJDC's educational outreach program, teaching science and health dance classes to 4th and 5th grade students in underserved public schools in Chicago.  Cesar was honored to be on the cover of Dance Magazine (August 2007) and to teach at the Jazz Dance World Congress in 2007, 2009, and 2012.  In 2013, he was chosen as a soloist for BalaSole Dance Company performing “Hunted” in New York City’s Alvin Ailey Citigroup where he received rave reviews, “richly physical performance that drew the audience’s unfettered enthusiasm” – Philip Gordon.  Cesar recently toured the world with Royal Caribbean cruise lines as a performer in the Broadway production of Saturday Night Fever as well as an aerialist. Cesar is an adjudicator for the elite dance competition, World-Class Talent Experience and is on Master Faculty for the sister workshop, AMBITION.  Cesar is a certified teacher in the Giordano Technique at the Basic & Beginning Levels of the Nan Giordano Certification Program SM (NGCP SM).  He currently teaches master classes and workshops, as well as choreographs for schools across the country.

Ashley Rockwood - Guest Instructor/ Guest Choreographer

Ashley discovered a love for dance at the age of 2 at Daryl Jervis Dance Studio in Toledo, OH.  Her passion continued to grow doing workshops and taking trips to L.A.  While attending high school, on her summers she was a dancer at Kings Island of Ohio.  Ashley went on to receive a B.A. in Dance from Point Park University with a concentration in Jazz. There she worked with choreographers Ron de Jesus, Lauri Stallings, Kiesha Lalama, and Doug Varone.  As a member of the Actor’s Equity Association, she has been in the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera’s productions of “42nd Street”, “Music Man”, “Hello Dolly!”, and “Me and My Girl”. She was also a principal dancer and understudy in the Lyric Opera of Chicago's production of "Show Boat" in 2012. Ashley has taught in GDC’s Jazz Dance/Science & Health program at Peirce Elementary, Goudy Elementary, and Swift Elementary.  She enjoys teaching and choreographing in Chicago, the suburbs, and in master classes all over the country.  Most recently Ashley was seen performing with Beyoncé on Oprah’s Farewell Episode and the 2011 Billboard Music Awards.  Upon college graduation, she became a member of Giordano II for the 2007 – 2008 season.   Following, she joined the Company and is honored and excited to have been a part of six seasons with Giordano Dance Chicago.

Maeghan McHale - Guest Instructor

Maeghan , named one of Dance Magazine’s Top 25 to Watch in 2010, was born in Baltimore, MD. She studied at the Baltimore School for the Arts where she performed works by David Parsons, David Grenke, and John Clifford. She received a full scholarship to Dance Theatre of Harlem, where she performed with the Dancing Through Barriers Ensemble. While in New York, Maeghan studied at Steps on Broadway and performed with Extended Dance Company, as well as off-Broadway under the direction of Tony-award winner, Hinton Battle. She has also participated in the Jazz Dance World Congress, The Miss America Parade, and Dancers Responding to Aids Benefit. In 2005 Maeghan received a full scholarship to GDS, and in 2006 became a performing apprentice. 2007 marked her first season with GDC, making this her sixth season. Along with establishing herself as a well recognized dancer, she has grown as a choreographer. Her work, “The Winner Is,” was performed opening night of Dance Chicago. In March her choreography was part of Youth America Grand Prix’s “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow” tour. In May 2011 her choreography, "Angelica," was performed as part of Dancin’ Downtown at The Joyce where it received the Performance Award. This piece will be performed in NYC during the Central Park Summer Stage Festival.

Ryan Galloway- Guest Instructor

Ryan Galloway is from New Richmond, IN and spent his early years studying tap, jazz, and hip-hop.  He performed with the professional troupe Fever Inferno Hip-Hop Squad and also earned many titles at national dance competitions.  He was introduced to contemporary dance in college at Indiana University, and was quickly cast in many guest works including Paul Taylor’s Esplanade, David Parsons’ Nascimento Novo, Larry Keigwin’s Runaway, and Ishan Rustem’s Long Story Short.  He also performed at the National College Dance Festival at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and was awarded the Provost’s Award for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity in the category of Performing and Creative Arts.  Ryan has performed with Elizabeth Shea Dance at the Boston Contemporary Dance Festival, the American Dance Guild’s Festival 2014 at the Ailey Citigroup Theatre, the Midwest Dance Festival, and as a guest with the Indianapolis-based Dance Kaleidoscope, directed by former Graham dancer David Hochoy. He is thrilled to make his debut with Giordano Dance Chicago as a Senior Performing Associate and looks forward to the rest of the season and many to come.

Ashley Burkland - Nutcracker Choreographer

Ashley began her dance training at the age of three, right here in Sauk Prairie. She then went on to study at Kehl School of Dance and Premier Dance Academy, both in Madison. She also danced with the Wisconsin Dance Ensemble, performing in their productions of the Nutcracker and other various Ballets. Ashley received a scholarship to study dance at the University of Arizona. While there, she performed in numerous Dance Department Showcases and danced with the U of A Pomline. Ashley completed her studies at the University of Minnesota, receiving a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Dance in 2004. Ashley has danced professionally with Kanopy Dance Company, Jazzworks Dance Company, the Milwaukee Brewers Diamond Dancers, Madison Contemporary Vision Dance Company and Continental Ballet Company. She currently dances with Cities Classical Dance Ensemble. While Ashley loves to perform, her true passion for dance is teaching. She has over 10 years of teaching experience at various studios in Arizona, Chicago, and the Madison, WI, area. In addition to teaching, Ashley also coached the University of Wisconsin Dance Team.  She now teaches at various dance studios in the Twin Cities and has been director of  her own school for the past two years, Ashley Ballet Arts Academy, in Edina, MN.

Dana Grantin – Owner, Executive Director

Since Dana’s retirement from for Delta Airlines of 31 years, she has worked for Hawaiian Vintage Chocolate, Ann Taylor and most recently, University of Wisconsin Credit Union in the Investment Services as Sales Assistant. Dana brings to MPA her organizational skills and friendly disposition.  Dana’s greatest joy has always been watching her two daughters grow through their love of dance and truly appreciates all the time spent driving them to, from and waiting the endless hours during their lessons.

Claudine Towers – Office Manager 

Claudine has been a resident of Waunakee for since 1984 where she and her husband raised their 4 children.  Many of you may recognize her from St. Johns School‘s computer lab, the front desk at the Village Center, or her “power” walks on the paths of Waunakee.  Claudine’s cheerfulness and computer skills are a great asset to MPA.