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!
Ashley May Coussens Instructor
Ashley currently serves as Director of Programming at Dance & Music Academy, in addition to teaching as part of our faculty. She is a graduate of Northwestern University's School of Communication, where she studied Dance, Theatre, and Business Institutions. Ashley has worked administratively in external relations and fundraising for several arts organizations and educational non-profits, including Youth American Grand Prix, The Joffrey Ballet, The Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Heron Agency, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago. Since its inception in 2011, Ashley has been a member of the Auditorium Theatre's Auxiliary Board, where she currently serves on the Marketing Committee and previously served as a member of Event Planning Committee and Fundraising Committee, in addition to Secretary of the Executive Committee. Artistically, Ashley has performed with Trifecta Dance Collective, Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Aerial Dance Chicago, Ballet Légere, and Rephrase Dance Collective, as well as the televised McDonald's Thanksgiving Day Parade and Chicago Lights Festival Parade. Ashley has been performing professionally, as well as teaching and choreographing, for over 10 years, and her original choreography has been selected for the Dance Chicago festival. Ashley has trained at Joffrey Academy of Dance, Hubbard Street's Lou Conte Dance Studio, Visceral Dance Chicago, American Rhythm Center, Joel Hall Dance Center, Gus Giordano Dance Center, Aerial Dance Chicago, Aloft Circus Arts, Trapeze School of New York, Actors Gymnasium, River North Dance Chicago, The School of Performing Arts, and Inaside Dance Chicago (Merit Scholarship Recipient). Having worked with several winners of the Joseph Jefferson ("Jeff") Award and Ruth Page Award, Ashley began her career as a performer and Dance Captain at Chicago's former American Girl Place Theater, and she is a graduate of the National High School Institute's "Cherubs" program for theatre arts. Ashley has had extensive teaching experience, having worked for Northwestern University's Center for Talent Development, French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts, and numerous Chicago schools and arts programs. Ashley has a strong passion for encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds to find empowerment through arts education, and she is thrilled to be part of the amazing community at Dance & Music Academy!
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. 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 and Project606 Dance. 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 currently is also a dancer with Nomi Dance Company and co-artistic director of Trifecta Dance Collective.
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 grew up 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 graduated 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, CA for a five-day tap intensive, and recently gained experience as an administrative intern for Khecari.
Kelsey Reiter Instructor
Kelsey Reiter started dancing near her hometown of Manteno, IL. After graduating high school she moved to Chicago to begin her dancing career, and is now a freelance artist and teacher throughout Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. Kelsey has had the honor of performing nationally and in Canada, including twice in Chicago’s own Dance for Life. She performs regularly with Culture Shock Chicago and is currently a company member with Chicago Dance Crash, with whom she has performed in some capacity for 5 seasons. She now serves as rehearsal director for Moonwater Dance Project and has choreographed, in collaboration with Artistic Director, Mackenzie King, work for their first show and dance on film.
Wade Schaaf Instructor
Wade Schaaf 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 his professional career Wade has danced for such companies as the Ohio Ballet, State Street Ballet Santa Barbara, The Omaha Theater Ballet, and Thodos Dance Chicago, and River North Chicago Dance Company. He has worked with choreographers Septime Weber, Stephen Mills, Kennet Oberly, Bill Soleau, Frank Chaves, Laurie Stallings, Ron DeJesus and the Tony Award winning choreographer Ann Reinking. Wade has been privileged to dance such roles as Tybalt in Robin Welche’s “Romeo and Juliet”, Snow Pas in Welche’s “The Nutcracker”, and Jonathan in Oberly’s “Dracula” as well, had the role of Mayor Carter Harrision set on him in the Thodos/Reinking collaboration, “The White City”. Wade has set his own work on the Omaha Theater Ballet, Groundwork Dance Company and Thodos Dance Chicago.
After retiring from the stage, Mr. 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 landmark works for the company including The Four Seasons, Le Sacre Du Printemps, Bolero, and the company's first full length ballet William Shakespeare's MACBETH. Mr. Schaaf continues to steer the company through his vision of bringing storytelling and choreographic innovation to the stage.
Outside of the studio, Mr. 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.
Timothy Tsang Instructor
Timothy Tsang started dancing in 2009 at The One Dance Studio in Shanghai, taking classes in hip hop and popping. First introduced to modern and ballet in 2014, Tim earned his BA (’17) in dance, and minor in arts administration from Columbia College Chicago. During college, he performed in original works by Paige Cunningham-Calderella, Bob Eisen, and Stephanie Paul, as well as repertory of Merce Cunningham. In 2016, Tim was selected as Columbia College’s commissioned choreographer for their Open House, and joined Ardent Dance Company the same year. Having performed with South Chicago Dance Theatre, and served as assistant to Artistic Director with Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre for three years, Tim is currently a Company Member and Communications Manager with Mordine & Co. Dance Theatre.
Heather Zimny Instructor
Heather Zimny, originally from the suburbs of Chicago, received her BA in dance from Columbia College Chicago. She also holds a 200 hour Power Yoga Certification and a Yoga Sculpt Certification from Corepower Yoga. Heather continues to train and develop her artistry at the Joel Hall Dance Center, Lou Conte Dance Studio, Ruth Page Center for the Arts and Visceral Dance Center sprinkling in some yoga and aerial silks for good measure. Heather can currently be seen getting sassy onstage with the Joel Hall Dancers with whom she has danced with for the majority of her career. Other dance credits include Aerial Dance Chicago, Rasa Dance Chicago under direction of Van Collins, Jarrett Rashad, Paul Sanasardo, Trifecta Dance Collective, Ballet Entre Nous, Nick Cave’s Heard, Alliance Dance Company, Allure Dance Company (Detroit, Michigan), D.I.A.L and numerous independent choreographers and appearances in music videos. In September 2010 she had the chance to dance overseas in Liverpool with the Joel Hall Dancers as part of a yearlong celebration of their LEAP program's 10th anniversary. Dance has graciously 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, Exchange Festival in Tulsa, GVSU residency in Michigan, Anita’s Way in Times Square NY, IABD in Dayton Ohio, Dance USA, Fontainebleau in Miami Beach FL) and overseas. Heather is grateful to be directing, teaching and choreographing throughout the city, suburbs and Chicago Public Schools doing what she loves everyday. She is honored to be returning to the Dance and Music Academy faculty this year and is jazzed about the amazing experiences and challenges the new season will bring.