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. Since moving to Chicago in 2010, she has performed with Zephyr Dance, Dropshift Dance, Ology Dance, Tapestry Dance Company, Project 606, and Trifecta Dance Collective. She has performed at notable venues including the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, Chicago Cultural Center, and The Ruth Page Center for the Arts. Colleen has performed and presented her choreography in Chicago, as well as in NYC with Awakening Movement Project. Colleen was a faculty member for the Dance Masters of Wisconsin workshop in 2016, instructing contemporary and jazz. In 2017, she co-produced Where Beauty Rises, a multidisciplinary performance at Links Hall with the non-profit Photoserve. All proceeds went to the clean water organization Wine to Water. The following year Colleen visited Uganda with Photoserve and Surge for Water, who is dedicated to bringing communities safe water solutions. Teaching dance lessons at some of the Ugandan schools was an incredible experience! Continuing her work with a community focus in 2018, she and co-choreographer Joanna Meccia 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 high schools. In 2020, Colleen collaborated with Dropshift Dance on a film project celebrating dance amidst the challenges of the pandemic. Colleen continues to grow her technical knowledge with Pointe workshops through The Ballet Blog and expand her coaching skills with Competition Judge Mental Wellness Awareness Training with Danscend. Some of her other interests include yoga and spending time in the great outdoors, which inspires her choreography. Most of all, Colleen's DMA students inspire her and she looks forward to teaching them each week!
Greer Hutchison-Hilton Instructor
Born and raised in Chicago, Greer studied the majority of her pre-high school years at Dance and Music Academy under the mentorship and teachings of Krissie Odegard-Geye. In 2011, Greer attended the Chicago High School for the Arts, where she trained and performed works by former director Sarah Ford Thompson, Lizzie MacKenzie, Reginald Harris, and Brian McGinnis; along with guests from Gus Giordano and Hubbard Street. Greer studied summers at Peridance Capezio Center and the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago intensive, with a full tuition scholarship provided by the Anthony Quinn Foundation. Greer graduated with her BFA from UNC School of the Arts in 2019 where she had also served as Student Body President during her senior year. There she worked with faculty members such as Brenda Daniels, Sean Sullivan, Abigail Yager, Ming Lung-Yang, and Kira Blazek-Ziaii. She studied the repertoire of Natalie Desche, Charles Zarney, Martha Graham, Kelly Maxner and Aszure Barton. Greer has had the honor of performing professionally with UNCSA at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in NYC as well as with Mandala South Asian Performing Arts in Chicago. She has been working as a teacher and choreographer for Greensboro Performing Arts as well as UNCSA’s Acting Out program in North Carolina. Greer is excited to join Trifecta Dance Collective as an apprentice and a DMA faculty member for the 2022/2023 season!
Annalee Larsen Instructor
Born and raised in Papillion Nebraska, Annalee grew up dancing and competing at Bellevue Dance Academy. She furthered her training as a teenager when she was invited to dance with American Midwest Ballet’s second company, giving her the opportunity to take class and perform alongside professional ballet dancers. To broaden her versatility, she spent the summers and winters training at a variety of intensives and festivals including Dance West, American Dance Festival, Next Generation Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, Ballet Chicago as well as Ballet Nebraska and Oklahoma City Ballet on scholarship. In 2021 she had the opportunity to perform with the Live Entertainment Company at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. In May of 2022 Annalee Graduated with honors from The University of Kansas with a BFA in Dance performance and pre-physical therapy. At KU she was a member of the University Dance Company, performed and choreographed in student showcases, and took part in University Theatre productions. She received the dance and theatre program’s jump start award, Loren Kennedy scholarship, and Lee Family scholarship. Aside from her own dancing, she also has developed a love for teaching from her work at numerous studios in Kansas and Nebraska as well as a passion for choreography from work in studios, competition teams, and live theatre. Her fascination of the human body led her to receive her certification in personal training from NASM in 2021. She is ecstatic to begin her dance career in Chicago with Trifecta Dance Collective as an apprentice and a DMA faculty member.
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.
Andi Learman Instructor
Andi Learman was born and raised in Woodstock, Illinois. She later went on to earn a degree in Dance Business at Anderson University. While there, she worked with artists such as Earl Mosley, Eddy Ocampo and Gregory Hancock. Following her time at Anderson, Andi went off to train with Hubbard Street's Professional Program under the direction of Alexandra Wells. Andi has had the opportunity to perform at the American College Dance Festival's National Gala, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's 2018 winter series and New Dance's 2020 Virtual Performance. Since then, she has worked with Tapestry Contemporary Dance Company as well as various projects within the Chicago dance community. Andi is excited to begin working as a DMA faculty member and a principal dancer with the Trifecta Dance Collective this upcoming season!
Alison O'Konis Music Instructor
Alison has been teaching music for over 16 years and enjoys sharing her passion for singing and musical performance with her students. She received her Master of Music Education at VanderCook College of Music and a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. Outside of DMA, she is a music educator in a public school setting. Her varied teaching experience includes general music, chorus, rock band ensemble, and private music lessons. In her spare time, she sings, plays guitar, and writes music with her band “Treat Yourself” at local venues in the Chicagoland area.
She is passionate about teaching music and instilling a love for all genres of music. Her focus in the private lesson setting is on teaching musical skills and technique, while embedding social emotional development, such as self-confidence and teamwork.
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.
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.
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!
Haley Stevens Instructor
Haley began her training at the Dance and Music Academy under the direction and support of Krissie Odegard Geye. Haley then had the honor and privilege of dancing with the Visceral Studio Company under the direction and artistry of Nick Pupillo. She was fortunate to receive training from some of the finest teaching professionals of the Chicago Dance Community. Most recently Haley earned her BFA in Dance from the University of Iowa along with a BA in Entrepreneurial Leadership which has led to a position with a Chicago Financial Planning Firm. At Iowa, she studied and performed under an accomplished Dance Faculty, and was also fortunate to perform works of noted guest choreographers Shannon Alvis and Brian Enos. Haley is happy and excited to be back home in Chicago and coming full circle to become a principal dancer for the Trifecta Dance Collective and joining the DMA faculty for the 2022/2023 season!
Tori Stewart Instructor
Tori Stewart is a professional dancer, choreographer, and instructor based in Chicago, Illinois. Originally from North Carolina, Tori Stewart graduated Magna 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. She has performed and choreographed works for the Charlotte Dance Festival, Trifecta 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. Tori currently is a principal dancer and choreographer for Trifecta Dance Collective and directs the official second company, TDC 2.
Tori has been sharing her love of dance through teaching since 2014 and currently divides her time between dancing, instructing, and choreographing in the greater Chicago area. 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
Ava Wichser 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. Originally from Minnesota, Ava began her dance training at the age of 3 at St. Croix Ballet. She furthered her dance training at The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Harid Conservatory, Classical Ballet Academy and Indiana University. Ava has studied under Gelsey Kirkland, Michael Vernon, Nilas Martins, and Victoria Schneider. Ava attended The Conservatory at University of Missouri Kansas City and went on to receive her BFA in 2020. While at UMKC she performed works by George Balanchine, Christopher Wheeldon, Gregory Dawson, Cleo Parker Robinson, Gary Abbott, DeeAnna Hiett, and Paula Weber. Ava started her professional career as a member of Kansas City Ballet under the direction of Devon Carney. She also danced professionally with Wylliams Henry Contemporary Company, and Musical Theatre Heritage performing the role of Louise in their production of 'Carousel. Ava has danced internationally in Athens, Greece at the 51st World Congress on Dance Research. Currently Ava is dancing and choreographing professionally in Chicago. She is a company member at Trifecta Dance Collective, Still Inspired, Joel Hall Dancers and Movementum Dance Project. Alongside her dance career Ava has been teaching various genres and techniques for 8 years and is certified in Progressive Ballet Technique and Dance Educator Mental Wellness Training by Danscend. Ava is influenced by movement that comes naturally to a dancer's body and currates her classes to feel inspiring yet technical. Ava strives to create a welcoming space in the studio for students to grow not only as dancers but as human beings.
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.