Our dance and music instructors are highly trained, positive and enthusiastic individuals. They all love to teach and enjoy passing along their love of dance and music.
Krissie Odegard Geye Owner / Artistic Director / Instructor
Krissie is the Co-Founder/Artistic Director of the Expand Community Arts Alliance; a nationally recognized group of arts organizations dedicated to igniting community dialogue through an artistic lens. The alliance consists of three organizations that she operates; The Dance and Music Academy, The Trifecta Dance Collective, and the Metamorphosis; Fearless Evolution Convention and Showcase. She was selected to be a Conference Presenter at the International Dance Pedagogy Conference and Performance Festival at New Mexico State University. She has also served master class clinician at Peridance in NYC, the Big River Dance Festival WV, the CRU Dance Regionals in Minneapolis, and the US Tournament of Dance National Finals in Atlantic City. Her choreography has been selected for the Spring Choreography Showcase at Peridance in NYC, Jennifer Mueller's "Hatch" series in NYC, the Detroit Dance Festival, the Minnesota Fringe Festival, the Big River Dance Festival, the Exchange Choreography Festival in Tulsa, OK. For the past three years, she has produced a full length work in Anita's Way in Times Square. She was selected as one of 3 National Choreography Competition winners sponsored by Ovation TV. She is the five-time recipient of a space in the Dance Chicago's "Choreographer's Showcase" performance. She is the co-director of three National Youth Companies that offer opportunities to hundreds of students each summer; The CRU Dance Heart and Soul National Company, the United States Tournament of Dance National Contemporary Team, and the Metamorphosis Performance Ensemble. Krissie has also been on staff for Goliard Concerts in New York City, the Ethnic Dance Theatre in St. Paul, MN, as well as clinician at the ATDI “Spirit of Tap” conference and a faculty member for the New York City Public School System.
Colleen Bass Instructor
Colleen graduated with a degree in kinesiology as a dance major from Indiana University. After moving to Chicago in 2010, she performed with Zephyr Dance for three years and Dropshift Dance for five years. She has also performed with Ology Dance, Tapestry Dance Company, Project 606, and Trifecta Dance Collective. She has performed and presented her choreography in Chicago and NYC with Awakening Movement Project. Colleen is a collaborator with The Friday Collective, which most recently presented Dance Across Chicago, a series of free dance performances in neighborhoods and schools throughout the city. Colleen has been teaching at the Dance and Music Academy for six years and looks forward to another great year with her students!
Maya McMurray Instructor
Maya McMurray has trained pre-professionally in ballet and modern for 15 years. She began her training at the Dance and Music Academy and went on to study at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, Giordano Dance School, Orlando Ballet, the Indiana University Ballet Program, the Gelsey Kirkland Ballet, the Cuban National Ballet, Boston Ballet, and the University of Illinois. She was a member of the Ruth Page Civic Ballet and the Opificio Contemporary Dance Company. She has performed with Mandala Dance Company, the Joffrey, and Ballet West. She graduated from the University of Illinois with a B.A. in Communication and French.
Joanna Meccia Director of Community Presence / Instructor
Joanna Meccia received degrees in Dance and Kinesiology from Indiana University. After graduating with Highest Distinction, she relocated to Chicago. She has performed with Esoteric Dance Project, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theater, Project606 Dance and is currently the artistic director of Trifecta Dance Collective. Joanna’s work has previously been set on Esoteric Dance Project as part of their Choreographic Mentorship Program, Trifecta Dance Collective and Project606 Dance. She has presented with Dances in the Hall, Going Dutch Dance Festival, and the Awakening Movement Project (NYC). In 2017, she co-produced a multidisciplinary performance, Where Beauty Rises, at Links Hall with the non-profit Photoserve. All proceeds went to the clean water organization Wine to Water. In 2018, she and co-choreographer Colleen Welch received an Independent Artist Grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs to create Dance Across Chicago, a series using live music, dance and technology to bring free performances to public spaces and two Chicago public schools. In addition to choreographing, performing and teaching dance, Joanna is also a certified Pilates and Yoga instructor.
Amanda Newman Executive Director of Operations/Instructor
Amanda Newman earned her BA in Musical Theatre Performance from Columbia College Chicago and her local theatre credits include shows at the Paramount Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Porchlight Theatre, and Pride Films and Plays, as well as choreographing Carnival for Lost Note Theatre Company. She has also danced with companies including From the Hip Dance Project, Tikvah Company of Artists, and RASA Dance Chicago. In 2016, she toured nationally with Letters From Home, a tap-dancing and singing duet of 1940’s music. She has been teaching for over 10 years, working with students of all ages, teaching Ballet, Tap, Jazz, and Musical Theatre, as well as music and vocal coaching, and choreographing Hairspray! and Grease with casts of over 100 middle-school students. She also earned a teaching certification from the Cecchetti Council of America in the Cecchetti Method of Ballet to further her knowledge of instructing classical ballet technique to beginning-level dancers. She is currently represented by Paige Model and Talent and continues to professionally perform as a dancer, actor, and singer. Amanda is also an NASM Certified Personal Trainer with specializations in Corrective Exercise and Youth Exercise. As a teacher, Amanda aims for her students to find the courage to try new things, to gain satisfaction through achievement, and to appreciate the life-long joy that dance and performance can bring.
Carrie Patterson Executive Director of Programming and Outreach / Instructor
Carrie Patterson, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, began her training with the Atlanta Ballet, and continued training in the summers with Houston Ballet, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Luna Negra Dance Theater. In 2011, Carrie graduated cum laude from Butler University with a BFA in Dance Performance and a minor in Psychology. After graduation, Carrie spent the 2011-2012 season dancing as a trainee with the Louisville Ballet. In the summer of 2012, Carrie moved to Chicago where she spent 2012-2013 season as a trainee with Thodos Dance Chicago. Carrie has also danced in Chicago with Rephrase Dance Collective, Project606 Dance, and Nomi Dance Company. She choreographed works for the Louisville Ballet in their New Works show of 2012, Thodos Dance Chicago’s New Dances, and Nomi Dance Company’s Instrumental. She has directed national youth companies with CRU Dance, United States Tournament of Dance, and Metamorphosis Fearless Evolution. She has also served as a judge for various CRU Dance. Carrie currently serves as Co-Founder/ Artistic Director of the Trifecta Dance Collective and Trifecta Youth Company, Metamorphosis Fearless Evolution, and serves as an Administrative Director for the Expand Community Arts Alliance.Carrie is also a certified Progressing Ballet Technique instructor. In 2020, Carrie launched her own dancewear line, Illuminate Dancewear, of which 10% of each item goes to support local not-for-profits.
Aurora Penepacker Instructor
Aurora Penepacker first started working with musical theatre students in Glenview at the Dance and Music Academy summer camps, where she discovered her love for teaching and directing. She graduated from Glenbrook South High School, where she participated in their Grammy-winning arts programs as a member of various extracurricular groups, including Solace, the Chamber Singers, and the Glenbrook Musical. After GBS, Aurora moved to Chicago to study at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, where she trained in acting, voice, and movement. This spring, she earned her B.F.A. in musical theatre and signed with Stewart Talent, a leading national talent agency in Chicago. She has been performing professionally for two years, most notably as a summerstock actor at the Encore Theatre in Michigan, as a swing at Blank Theatre Company in Chicago, and as an ensemble member of the Elgin Shakespeare Project in partnership with Janus Theatre. aurorapenepacker.com
Irfan Qurashi Instructor
Born in India, raised in New York and dancing in Chicago Irfan Qurashi, found his passion for dance at 13 years old, discovering Popping & B-boying and training himself in those styles through his younger years, resorting to watching battles & cyphers on YouTube.
After high school, he then went on to join dance companies throughout Chicago. Starting with Nonstop Dance Production directed by Sonya Bunges and went on compete with The Puzzle League, training underneath Davina Pasiewicz, Matt Pumanes & Andrew Phan and also C.O.D.A. directed by Teddy Chavez, Dee More, and Andre Patterson at the time. He also started his training at the Young Lions Workshop in 2010, with every YL workshop in Chicago and continues to train under Ian Eastwood to this day along with various choreographers/instructors they’ve brought to Chicago, awarded with scholarships to The Pulse Dance Convention and Broadway Dance Center in New York.
He trained in the Chicago Urban Dance Collective that further expanded his dance experience with free-styling, performance execution, and creative movement. Most recently, he’s trained with Kris Rhodes through the Vicious Intensive. Most recently, in August of 2018, he was invited to train with Cj Salvador and Alexander Chung in the 2018 Panorama Dance Intensive where his own choreography was chosen to be showcased at Kreative Mindz Academy.
Irfan Qurashi continues to train his free-styling, fundamentals, & choreography though classes, workshops, battles, cyphers and many other outlets in Chicago, LA, and New York to provide the best class experience for anyone willing to learn from him, whether they be kids, professionals or friends of his own. Irfan believes in nothing more than hard work, focus, discipline and dedication that will get you through dance in order to achieve your goals.
Emma Reeves Administrative Director / Instructor
Emma Reeves grew up dancing in Bolivar, Missouri, then went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Dance from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee and graduate Cum Laude in 2013. After graduation she moved to Chicago to attend Deeply Rooted Dance Theater's 2013 Pre-Professional Summer Intensive. Since moving to Chicago, she has performed with and choreographed works for J. Lindsay Brown Dance, and performed with Perceptual Motion Inc. Dance Company, Matter of Reaction Movement Project, and Core Project. In 2014 she studied privately with Sam Weber in San Francisco for a five-day tap intensive, and gained experience as an administrative intern for Khecari in 2016. Currently Emma is a dance instructor at studios and schools in the Chicagoland area and performs in various dance projects.
Wade Schaaf Instructor
Wade Schaaf (They/Them) hails from the Chicago area and graduated Cum Laude from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater arts (emphasis dance performance). During their professional career Wade danced for multiple companies including the Ohio Ballet, State Street Ballet Santa Barbara, The Omaha Theater Ballet, Thodos Dance Chicago, and River North Chicago Dance Company. During their time dancing, Wade worked with numerous choreographers like Septime Weber, Stephen Mills, Frank Chaves, Laurie Stallings, and the Tony Award winning choreographer Ann Reinking. Wade had the privilege to dance such roles as Tybalt in Robin Welche’s Romeo and Juliet, Snow King in Welche’s The Nutcracker, and Jonathan in Kennet Oberly’s “Dracula” as well, had the role of Mayor Carter Harrision set on him in the Thodos/Reinking collaboration, The White City.
After retiring from the stage, Mx. Schaaf went on to open Chicago Repertory Ballet in November of 2011. The company premiered to the headline review, “A Bright Debut for Chicago Repertory Ballet.” (Sid Smith, The Chicago Tribune). Since the debut of CRB Wade has gone on to create such exceptional works as, Le Sacre de Printemps, The Four Seasons and their full length ballet adaptation of Shakespeare’s MACBETH. Mx. Schaaf continues to steer the company through their vision of challenging our concept of ballet both in form and structure to create ‘dance that defies labels’.
Outside of the studio, Mx. Schaaf has a variety of interests ranging from visual art to health and wellness. Wade is a certified in both the Pilates method (Through Power Pilates) and RedCord, and is happy to enrich the lives of many through fitness.
Kimberly Scott Piano, Voice
Kim has been teaching piano and voice for approximately 20 years now, and enjoys all kinds of music! She trained classically at the Music Institute of Chicago, competing on solo piano, and with both classical and musical theatre voice. At Ithaca College, where she earned a degree in Musical Theatre Production, Kim sang for Janet Funderburck-Galvan and studied under Beverly Patton, among others, while nurturing her love of musical theatre. After some years working professionally, Kim began building a private studio that she continues today.
Her teaching philosophy centers around fostering a love of music in her students - one that will stay with them regardless of their future pursuits. She is a strong believer in the importance of fine arts in young people’s lives, and delights in talking about all the benefits of music, dance, drama, art. Kim is proud to be able to teach children such valuable skills as persistence, teamwork, and discipline in a fun manner and loves seeing students reach new goals. She is especially excited to be partnering with DMA since it has been such a meaningful part of her own daughters’ lives!
Tori Stewart Instructor
Tori Stewart graduated Manga Cum Laude from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, receiving a B.A. in Dance, with a focus on Dance Performance, Choreography and Theory.
Originally from North Carolina, Tori started dancing at the age of 12 at Linda Kinlaw School of Dance. Tori furthered her dance education at UNC-Charlotte where she studied under Kim Jones, E.E. Balcos, Delia Neil, Rachel Tucker, Sybil Huskey, Gretchen Alterowitz, Rachel Barker, and Missy Coyle. She performed concert works from both faculty members and guest choreographers including Claudia Lavista, Matilde Demarchi, AGA Collaborative, and Marcus White. Additionally, Tori performed and choreographed works for the Charlotte Dance Festival, American Dance Festival, American College Dance Association, Loose Leaves, and Wake Forest Dance Festival. Internationally, she had the privilege to study, dance, and perform at Italian venues including the Palace of Venaria and Orsolina28.
Following graduation, Tori moved to Chicago, IL where she joined Trifecta Dance Collective under the direction of Krissie Odegard Geye and Carrie Patterson in 2019. She currently is a principal dancer and choreographer for the company.
Tori divides her time between dancing, instructing, and choreographing. Her passion for bringing awareness to and discussing mental health is brought to life in her choreographic works, in which she utilizes contemporary techniques and improvisational practices for movement generation.
Ava Wichser Instructor
Originally from Stillwater, Minnesota, Ava began her dance training at St.Croix Ballet at the age of 3. She furthered her dance training at The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Harid Conservatory, Classical Ballet Academy, and Indiana University. In 2020 Ava graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Conservatory at the University of Missouri Kansas City where she received her BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography with an emphasis in Ballet and a minor in Communications. While at UMKC she performed works by George Balanchine, Christopher Wheeldon, Gregory Dawson, Cleo Parker Robinson, and Paula Weber. She has danced professionally with Kansas City Ballet, Wylliams Henry Contemporary Dance Company, and performed the role of Louise in Musical Theatre Heritage production of Carousel. Ava has danced internationally in Athens, Greece at the 51st World Congress on Dance Research.
Heather Zimny Instructor
Originally from Park Ridge, Heather holds a BA in dance from Columbia College Chicago and both a 200 hour Power Yoga Certification and a Yoga Sculpt Certification from Corepower Yoga. She can currently be seen getting sassy onstage with the Joel Hall Dancers with whom she has danced with for the majority of her career. Heather has travelled both nationally and internationally with the company and has danced in many of Mr. Hall's world premieres. Other dance credits include Aerial Dance Chicago, Rasa Dance Chicago, Jarrett Rashad Dance Theater, Nick Cave’s “Heard”, Paul Sanasardo, Ballet Entre Nous, Trifecta Dance Collective, Lucid Banter Project, D.I.A.L and numerous independent choreographers and appearances in music videos. Dance has taken her all over the world performing on stages in multiple festivals and concerts across the U.S.(Spring Into Dance St. Louis, Jazz Dance World Congress, IABD in Dayton OH, Anita’s Way in Times Square NY, Dance USA, Fontainebleau in Miami Beach FL) as well as overseas in Liverpool as part of a yearlong celebration of their LEAP program's 10th anniversary. Heather continues to train and develop her artistry at the Joel Hall Dance Center, Ruth Page, Dovetail and Visceral Dance Center in addition to sprinkling in some yoga and aerial into the mix for good measure. She began her aerial journey with classes at Aerial Dance Chicago and continued on to dance with the company for a few seasons. She currently trains in aerial throughout the city at ADC, Aloft and CAA and is looking forward to once again travel for out of state workshops and intensives. Heather is grateful to be directing, choreographing, mentoring and teaching aspiring dancers throughout both the city and the suburbs when she is not performing. Her work can be seen on stages across Chicago ranging from youth to professionals in a variety of genres. Dance and the arts are the perfect medium to say what words cannot and after the past year of tragedy, uncertainty and fear, is what the world needs more than ever. She is honored to be returning to the Dance and Music Academy faculty for another season and is excited for all the new adventures to come.