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.  Jessica is so proud of all the dancers for their hard work, dedication and love for dance!

CRYSTAL SUTHERLAND

Instructor, Administration Staff

Crystal Sutherland 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, jazz, improvisation, and West African.  She is educated in dance composition, production, theory, anatomy, history, and pedagogy from qualified professionals.  She has been educated about 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.  Crystal has had the pleasure of being a choreographer, performer, teacher, and director with Madison Contemporary Dance for three years.  Within MCD, she performed in pieces under the direction of Corinne Jones, Michael Knight, Natalie Nemeckay, Tyler Nemmers, Beth Piccolo, Kimberly Smith, and herself.  Crystal is an award-winning choreographer and recently, her piece, “Remember My Name,” was selected for the final gala at Cathedral Dance Festival in 2019. Crystal loves sharing her passion for dance with her students and is incredibly proud of all of them!

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 14 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 University of Wisconsin Systems Administration (UWSA). Celia is very excited to be part of the MPA Dance family and be able to share her love of dance and teaching.

JACOB

BROOKS

Instructor

Jacob Brooks El is a Chicago native who began his dance training in 2002 at the Chicago Academy for the Arts under the instruction of Randy Duncan, Guillermo Leyva, Sandra Kaufmann, and the late Anna Paskevska. In 2006, he attended Columbia College Chicago's modern dance program under the direction of Margi Cole, Jeff Hancock, Carrie Hanson, and Emily Stein. He later on became an apprentice for Gus Giordano Dance and Luna Negra Dance Theater. He also attended Ballet Chicago under the intense training of Daniel Duel and Patricia Blair. Jacob has been a guest artist for such companies as, the West Indian Folk Dance Company, Momenta, Ballet Chicago, Chicago Festival Ballet, Dallas Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Les Ballet Grandiva, Madison Ballet, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, and San Diego Opera. 

CELINA

MOLL

Instructor

Celina Moll started studying dance in the Madison area when she was five years old and enjoyed performing with Stage Works Projects for many years. Celina has trained with Madison Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Visceral Dance Chicago, River North Dance Company as well as attending many master classes and competitions in Chicago and New York City. This past December, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with a bachelor’s degree in dance and arts management under the direction of Joan Karlen, Michael Estanich, Jeannie Hill, and Pamela Luedke. Celina is excited to share her knowledge and love of dance with the MPA dance community!

ABI

SHEPHERD

Instructor

Raised in Natick, Massachusetts, Abi Shepherd trained at the Walnut School of Ballet along with multiple competition teams. After moving to Fishers, Indiana to be closer to family, she trained with G.Scotten Talent Center’s competition team which led to her recent graduation from the University of Alabama with a BA in dance and an additional BS in Marketing. While in college, she was a scholarship recipient for Gus Giordano as well as Inaside Chicago Dance and was an intern for ABT summer intensive. She has choreographed/performed pieces that were presented in Dance Alabama!, Dance Collection and Alabama Repertory Dance Theatre. She also received a “best performance” award for her dance film “accept it or not, it’s gonna happen” presented at Dance Alabama Film Festival. She now is working on projects performing and choreographing with Madison Contemporary Dance.

ABIGAIL

GERDES

Summer Instructor

Abigail Gerdes is currently a sophomore at Indiana University and is studying Contemporary Dance and Recreational Therapy. She was born and raised in Lake Mills, Wisconsin where she began her love and passion for dance at the young age of three. She has been trained in a variety of styles, including tap, jazz, ballet/pointe, modern, and hip hop through her home studio, Midwest Performing Arts, in Waunakee, Wisconsin. While at MPA, Gerdes performed with their Youth Performance Group as well as their seasonal Nutcracker performance under the direction of Meghan McDermott. Recently, she has made an appearance in Bodies in Bold, Sounding Bodies, SLIP Showcase, and New Moves, where she performed in multiple choreographic works under a variety of artists. Since being at IU, she has worked alongside a number of choreographers such as Elizabeth Shea, Erik Abbott-Main, Stafford C. Berry, Beatrice Capote, Selene Carter, Juel D. Lane, Eisenhower Dance, Stefanie Nelson, Robert Burden, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, and Dr. Prathiba Natesan Batley. This year, she co-choreographed a piece, “Unbind”, in the SLIP Showcase. Gerdes enjoys choreographing and teaching in her freetime and always looks forward to working with students. She hopes to dance with a repertoire company post graduation and also hopes to work as a Recreational Therapist who focuses on dance as a therapeutic practice. She is absolutely thrilled to be teaching at MPA and is excited to share her passion for dance with others!

DANA 

GRANTIN

Owner, Executive Director

Dana has enjoyed being part of MPA since its beginning in 2012.  She brings to MPA her organizational skills, her eye for color and costuming, and friendly disposition.  You will often find Dana back in the costume room, her favorite of the new addition. “I love watching the students grow into young adulthood, and although are happy for them, am also sad to see them graduate.”  Dana’s greatest joy has always been watching her two daughters grow through their love or dance and the experiences they are able to share with their students. Family has always been important and Dana relishes her role of “Nana” to her 6 grandchildren.  Dana looks forward to her retirement….someday!

JACOB
FRAZIER

Guest Instructor/Choreographer

Jacob Frazier started his dance training in Ballet, Modern, and Jazz in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated from Butler Tech School of the Arts in 2012 and attended Point Park University where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance with a concentration in Modern Dance. While attending Point Park, Jacob has had the privilege of training and performing a variety of works by José Limóne, Lar Lubovitch, Dwight Rhoden, Mark Morris, Brian Enos, Jessica Lange, Douglas Bentz, and served as dance/fight captain for Oklahoma! under the direction of Patrick Cassidy. In 2014 Jacob attended the Indigenous Dance Residency at the Banff Centre. After attending the residency Jacob returned to Banff as a company member with Red Sky in which he performed as a dancer and choreographer in multiple showcases in Banff and Vancouver Canada. Jacob most recently finished his fourth season dancing with Giordano Dance Chicago and his third season as a main company member. While being in the company Jacob had the opportunity to teach for Giordano Dance Chicago’s Jazz Dance Science and Health program. Educating Chicago youth and sharing the art form of dance. Jacob has also had the privilege of choreographing for Giordano on Giordano Jacob has taught all over the country including the Big Island, Hawaii. While in Hawaii Jacob was honored to teach for University of Hilo Hawaii as well as perform in multiple shows with Giordano Dance Chicago. Since moving to Chicago in 2016 Jacob has performed in Randy Duncan’s Dance For Life Finale/Opening number. Jacob has performed multiple times on the Pritzker Stage in Millennium Park including Randy Duncan’s choreography for the 10th annual Chicago Dance Festival and Summer Dance with Giordano Dance Chicago. In the summer of 2017 Jacob had the opportunity to be Assistant Producer of Unity in Dance at the Pride Arts Center in Uptown, Chicago. Jacob continues to lead his life with an open heart and open mind by sharing his passion of dance and art with the world. Currently, he is a fitness trainer at P.volve, while pursuing his Master of Social Work degree at Arizona State University. Love, light, and gratitude. 

JOSHUA BLAKE

CARTER

Guest Instructor/Choreographer

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Joshua Blake Carter joined Giordano Dance Chicago in 2009 as a member of Giordano II. He then danced for seven seasons with GDC’s main company where he had the opportunity to perform works by Frank Chaves, Peter Chu, Ron De Jesús, Autumn Eckman, Gus Giordano, Ray Leeper, Ray Mercer, Mia Michaels and more. Joshua is in his eighth season as Director of Giordano II and he also acts as Operations Manager for the organization.  As a choreographer, Joshua’s works have been celebrated nationwide. In 2009, he was selected as the winner of Wonderbound's (formerly Ballet Nouveau Colorado) national choreography competition, dancemakers2.0, and in the spring of 2013 he was one of six winners commissioned to create a new work for DanceWorks Chicago's DanceMoves choreography competition. Later in 2013, Joshua was awarded the Producers' Panel Prize by the Ruth Page Foundation for his work, Ripen. He’s created two original works for Giordano Dance Chicago and eight original works for Giordano II. Most recently, Joshua was nominated for a 2019 Regional Broadway World Award for Best Choreography for his work on Disney’s NEWSIES at the Paramount Theatre. Other commissions include Missouri Contemporary Ballet, Nomi Dance Company, Visceral Dance Chicago, and Artifact Dance Project as well as an original work for Embarq with Joffrey Ballet. Additionally, Joshua created the finale for the 2016 event Sing! featuring Elton John. Joshua has been an Artist in Residence with Brenau University, Glendale Community College, and Illinois State University.

CESAR
SALINAS

Guest Instructor/Choreographer

Cesar Salinas originally from Portland, Oregon, is Artistic Programs Manager for Giordano Dance Chicago. Hebeganhis 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 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 GDC's educational outreach program, teaching science and health dance classes to 4th and 5th grade students in under-resourced 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 Bala Sole 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 toured the world with Royal Caribbean cruise lines as a performer in the Broadway production of Saturday Night Fever as well as an aerialist. In the January 2018 issue of Dance Teacher Magazine, Cesar demonstrates the Giordano Technique alongside Nan Giordano in honor of the company's 55th Anniversary Season. Cesar is a certified teacher in the Giordano Technique at the Basic, Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced, and Professional Levels of the Nan Giordano Certification Program® (NGCP®). Most recently Cesar returned to the stage at the Auditorium Theatre to perform Gus Giordano's 1978 iconic solo Wings in honor of Nan Giordano's 33 years at the helm and 25th Anniversary as Artistic Director for GDC. Lauren Warnecke of See Chicago Dance wrote, "...you could almost imagine Gus himself up there performing the piece he made 40 years ago." He currently teaches master classes and workshops, as well as choreographs for schools across the country.

RYAN

GALLOWAY

Guest Instructor/Choreographer

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.

SKYLER

NEWCOM

Guest Instructor/Choreographer

Skyler Newcom embarked on his journey through dance in his hometown of Lawrenceville, GA under the guidance of Jeff Boss and Jamie Wardrop. After many years in the competition circuits of the southeast, he has fostered extensive training in ballet, tap, jazz, modern, and hip-hop. In 2015, Skyler accepted a scholarship to continue his training at the University Of Arizona School Of Dance. In pursuit of furthering his studies in all areas, Skyler had the privilege of performing works by Autumn Eckman, Nacho Duato, Jessica Lang, George Balanchine, Michael Williams, Sam Watson, James Clouser, Tamara Dyke-Compton, and Amy Ernst among many. Skyler was gifted the chance of performing with Hawkinsdance, a contemporary company out of Tucson, AZ, impacting and furthering the growth of the arts community as well. Since graduating with a B.F.A. in dance in May of 2019, Skyler has moved to Chicago to become part of the Giordano Family. He joined the second company as a Junior Performing Associate in the 2019-2020 season, and aims to grow and mature as an artist and performer in the wake of this beautiful opportunity.

ROBERT

MCKEE

Guest Instructor/Choreographer, Director of Inaside Chicago Dance Company

Robert Mckee is the Artistic Director of Inaside Chicago Dance.  He is a former dancer in Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago and was a guest performer for several dance companies in the Chicago area.  Robert began an interest in Choreography at a very young age.  He often uses everyday experiences and emotions to inspire his unique blend of jazz and contemporary movements in his dances.  Through his passion of movement exploration and a love for teaching, he has choreographed for his own company, studios, and Universities in the US and Europe.  Driven to connect with dancers of all ages, Robert instills the foundation of technique and quality in any group he is working with. 

KESHA
MILENKOVIC

Guest Instructor/Choreographer

Kesha Milenkovic is originally from Gaithersburg Maryland. She started dancing at the age of nine at Motion Mania Dance Center. For many summers she attended Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Alvin Ailey Summer Intensive, Bates Dance Festival and many more. She performed at the Kennedy Center under the direction of Debbie Allen in two productions called "Dreams & Pearl". Kesha graduated from Columbia College Chicago with Bachelor of Arts in Dance. After graduation, Kesha got a scholarship at Gus Giordano Dance school and was accepted into Gus Giordano second company. In 2010 Kesha was cast as a dancer/vocalist for the Broadway musical Chicago on the largest cruise ship in the world "Allure of The Seas". She is now on faculty at North Shore School of Dance in Highland Park IL and also Artistic Director to North Shore Repertoire Dance Ensemble. Kesha has always been passionate about performing and she now wants to expand her knowledge and start teaching/choreographing. 

ASHLEY

BURKLAND

Guest Instructor/Choreographer, Nutcracker Choreographer

A native of Prairie du Sac, WI, Ashley has been dancing since she could walk. Her early training was with the Kehl School of Dance, under Susan Marsden, Shannon Gallagher, and Jo Ann Janus. She was a member of the youth ballet company Wisconsin Dance Ensemble, under the direction of Jo Jean Retrum. With this company, Ashley danced roles in The Nutcracker, Coppélia, La Fille mal gardée, and Peter Rabbit Ballet. She also worked with choreographers Frank Chavez, Julie Janus, Tyler Walters, and Greg Begley. Ashley received a scholarship to study dance at the University of Arizona, training with Susan Quinn, Michael Williams, Sam Watson, Jory Hancock, Melissa Lowe, and James Clouser. While there, she performed in numerous Dance Department showcases and ballets including Paquita, Gershwin Medley, and Carmina Burana. Ashley completed her degree at the University of Minnesota, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Dance in 2004. Ashley has danced professionally with Kanopy Dance Company, Jazzworks Dance Company, Madison Contemporary Vision Dance Company, Continental Ballet Company, and Cities Classical Dance Ensemble. While Ashley loves to perform, her true passion for dance is teaching.  She has over 20 years of teaching experience at various studios in Arizona, Illinois, Wisconsin, and the Twin Cities area. It is a dream come true for her to own a dance studio and she feels blessed for the success of Ashley Ballet Arts Academy. In ABAA's years of business, Ashley has enjoyed watching the studio grow and the students thrive, and inspiring a love for the ART and JOY of dance in the Twin Cities community. Ms. Burkland lives in Plymouth, MN with her husband Carl and three children, Charlie, Oliver, and Eden.