DANCE REPUBLIC FACULTY

  • April Melkowski
      April MelkowskiOwner
    • Janessa Clare
        Janessa ClareStudio Director Click Here for Biography

        Janessa began her dance career at the age of three here in the Valley and had the opportunity to train under Julie Renn and then Lori Johnson. Dance was her life growing up and she wouldn’t have had it any other way. At a young age she began competing nationally and has had the opportunity to dance in commercials, on Star Search, in the Super Bowl Halftime Show with Diana Ross, and to train under many master teachers. After high school, Janessa attended Arizona State University on a full ride academic scholarship where she graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Barrett Honors College with a degree in Family Relations and Human Development. After graduating from college, she was offered a job teaching dance and realized how much she missed the dance world and all that it offers. She has now been teaching for 15 years and has loved seeing her dancers grow into not only amazing dancers but also amazing people. Janessa truly believes that dance training is life training and knows that her dance teachers helped to shape the person she is now. She believes in instilling the values of hard work, dedication, drive, and determination into her students and knows that if they can learn these values they can be successful at whatever they choose to do in life.

      • Chris Thomas
          Chris ThomasCreative Director/Hip Hop Director Click Here for Biography

          Originally from Moreno Valley, Ca but now resides in Phoenix Az. He started dancing at age 17 at his church for the dance ministry “Step it Up”. He was then given the opportunity to sub classes at his home studio in Moreno valley Ca, and then went on to be on staff at age of 18 with barely a year under his belt. Chris trained under highly respected and innovated choreographers throughout the LA county, gaining respect as both a dancer and a young choreographer. After 3 years of competing, Chris turned professional, teaching and choreographing all over Southern California and auditioning with the dance agency MSA. He joined the dance crew “Elektrolytes” and went on to compete and win MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew season 7. Chris has appeared in a number of national music videos, commercials, and industrials all over the world. His credits include, Randy Jackson’s  America’s Best Dance Crew Season 7 (Champions) and Season 8,  So You Think You Can Dance Season 10, Disney’s Shake It Up, Globoforce, Shout!, Ever After: The Story of Jack & Jill, Riotkidz Clothing, Eden XO, Tilted Kilt, SPDR Golf, THQ, Shut up Stella, He and I, L-Ray, Pearl Drops, Vee Quiva Casino, Casion Del Sol, Sadler’s Wells Flash Mob Tour U.K, The 13th Annual Latin Grammy, A License to Thrill Lagos Nigeria, and Arizona’s very own, Yasmeen. Chris now directs, writes, and choreographs his own Dance Musicals, an endeavor he plans to take nationwide. He also co-owns a new urban clothing line called RiotKidz. Chris has developed a style of dance that he believes to be unique and diverse. The goal for any dancer works with Chris is simple…to see a dancer go above and beyond what they think they are capable of and to exceed their potential.

        • Megan Besch
            Megan BeschDancXplosion Performing Pom Team Director Click Here for Biography

            Megan Besch, originally from Chicago, has been dancing since the age of two, training in ballet, jazz, lyrical, pom and modern dance. In high school, she trained with Gould Academy of Dance Arts while dancing competitively with St. Edward Central Catholic High School’s Pom Dance Team. As a four year varsity dancer, she was a member of the state champion team and also had the opportunity to compete nationally in Orlando, Florida.

            In 2002, Megan left Illinois to attend Arizona State University as a dance major receiving the Sun Devil Scholarship as well as two dance department scholarships for her work in dance education.  While attending ASU, Megan taught at Cynergy Dance Studio in Scottsdale where she directed their junior company and danced on their college line.  In 2006, Megan graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.F.A. in dance and a minor in psychology.

            Upon graduation, Megan was hired by Higley Unified School District where she created the competitive dance and pom programs at Williams Field High School.  Megan held the title of WFHS Dance Director for seven years, and she was also the varsity head pom coach as well as the assistant varsity spiritline coach.  Megan also had the opportunity to work with Inspiration Dance Company as their lead ballet instructor.  While teaching, she continued her education at University of Phoenix and received her Master’s in Secondary Education in 2008.

            Megan is currently the Varsity Pomline coach at Hamilton High School. In 2016, her team won the Overall Division I State Championship and has continued to compete at the state and national level. She spends her days at home with her two daughters and enjoys sharing her love and passion for dance with students of all ages.

          • McKinzi Hall
              McKinzi HallDancXplosion Technique
            • Mia Collins
                Mia CollinsCo Crew Director Click Here for Biography

                Mia Collins was born and raised in Gilbert, Arizona. She graduated in the class of 2013 and is now on her way to becoming an Elementary Teacher. She has received dance training from Bridget McCarter’s Dance Academy, DancEnergy, and has been with Dance Republic since it opened in 2010! As a dancer, Mia won various convention scholarships and competition overall awards. Mia began teaching at Dance Republic Studio in 2013. She teaches combo, jazz, tap and the younger levels of company. She also directs the Dance Xplosion competition team. Mia has a passion for teaching and inspiring young dancers!

              • Peyton Long
                  Peyton LongCo Crew Director Click Here for Biography

                  Peyton began her love for dance at the age of three with DancEnergy in Gilbert, Arizona. She then continued dancing there while it transitioned to Dance Republic. She trained under many amazing teachers that have been an inspiration to her. Peyton is trained in many different styles like hip hop, ballet, tap, contemporary, lyrical, and jazz. She started competing at the age of 6 and has participated in numerous local dance competitions and conventions where she has received various scholarships. Peyton has had the opportunity to participate in a dance musical called “Ever After: The Story of Jack and Jill” as the role of Jill, directed by A Time to Productions. She has also worked with Riot Kidz dance clothing line doing modeling and dance videos. Peyton is currently teaching dance at Dance Republic and studying exercise science at MCC, while in the process of become a certified Pilates instructor. She loves the opportunity she gets to work with amazing kids and staff. Peyton loves that she is able to share with others what she is so passionate about.

                • Ben Barnet
                    Ben BarnetDrones Boys Crew Director Click Here for Biography

                    Benjamin Barnett was born and raised in Arizona. He started dancing when he was three years old and took all forms of dance from ballet to tumbling. His love for dance really took off when he was 13 and took his first hip-hop class. Two years later, he began his teaching career as a hip-hop teacher while continuing to sharpen his own skills as a student. Ben is currently in a Hip Hop crew called “Elektrolytes” who have appeared on Americas Got Talent (season 7). And in 2012, the Elektrolytes won MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew Season 7. The Elektrolytes have traveled to showcase their talent around the world in places like Africa, Switzerland, England,and many more. They have also made appearances on TV shows like Shake It Up! and Blue Pajamas(a popular London TV show). Ben expanded his career to live shows back in 2011, performing in some of Chris Thomas’s shows such as Shout! and Ever After.

                  • Melissa Allen
                      Melissa AllenCompany/Crew/Jazz/Technique Click Here for Biography

                      Melissa is a dedicated mom, wife, and dance professional. She has been studying dance and all that it brings since she was 9 years old. It didn’t take long for Melissa to realize her passion in life was sharing the art of dance with others. Before high school, she was crowned with a number of titles and specialized in lyrical/contemporary dance. In high school, she was the President of Dance Force at RMHS. After high school, Melissa started her professional career with dance and began competing her choreography and she found great success. Melissa expanded her love and passion for dance in 2009, Melissa started as the Artistic Director at Angela’s Flip Zone. From winning National Dance titles to Best Choreography awards, Melissa has experienced what it’s like to develop and grow a top performing dance company.

                      Melissa is excited about the opportunities that Dance Republic brings and cannot wait to continue her career with such an amazing dance family. Loving to motivate the girls with loud enthusiasm, flawless encouragement, and candy, her passion continues to shine through. Working to continually lead and motivate those around her, she still finds the time to spend time with her husband and four beautiful children.

                      You will never find another dance teacher that cares as much about the dancers as she does. She is continually working to teach the dancers more than just dance but how to be proper young ladies and gentlemen.

                    • Ashley Bell
                        Ashley BellTechnique/Jazz/Company
                      • Nikole Thomas
                          Nikole ThomasTechnique/Jazz/Contemporary Click Here for Biography

                          Nikole Thomas has been teaching around the Valley for 11 years now. Falling in love with movement at a young age, she knew she wanted to become a Choreographer. She trained under various Choreographers and Teachers from around the world. Nikole also spent most of her young dance career performing with the professional dance company called Automatic Response. Automatic Response credits include Phoenix Fashion Week, Ed Hardy, Fergie, M.E.R.G.E and State of Emergency. Nikole has also gone on to direct the all female hip hop performing and competing crew Lipstik Crew. Credits include Hip Hop International, Barrett Jackson, and Jordan Sparks. Nikole works with the production company, A Time Too Productions and works to creatr dance musicals, shows, concept videos, etc. She is also a Co-Owner in Riotkidz Clothing Company, an Urban Clothing Line. Nikole is teaching and choreographing for two companies now. Motivating her kids to stay present and passionate in today’s growing dance world.

                        • Vanessa Gissel
                            Vanessa GisselCombo
                          • Brooke Stokes
                              Brooke StokesCombo Click Here for Biography

                              Brooke began dancing locally at the age of 10 and instantly found her passion and love for dance. She trained in all styles of dance and was able to assist her teachers at a young age. She graduated from Mesa High where she was Vice President of “Euporea” and also on Varsity Spirit-line. She continued her dance training at BYU-Idaho where she majored in dance and received her Associates Degree. While at BYU-Idaho she was on the Contemporary Dance Theatre and had the opportunity to tour Brazil for 3 weeks with Extravadance. Brooke has taught dance in Utah and Arizona. When Brooke found out she was pregnant with her second daughter she decided to take a break from teaching to raise her family. This is Brooke’s second year teaching combo classes at Dance Republic. She is loving every minute of it and is so thankful to be teaching again!

                            • Regan Wright
                                Regan WrightCombo Teacher
                              • Christina Nelson
                                  Christina NelsonBallet Click Here for Biography

                                  Christina Careaga Nelson is a national award-winning choreographer with over 12 years of teaching experience. She is Co director for “Redeemed”  Christian Dance Company and also served as Company Director for New School for the Arts and Academics in Tempe Arizona. She has worked with children of all ages and experience level, from age five to pre-professional. Christina believes technical training lays the foundation for all forms of dance.

                                  Christina started dancing at the age of six and entered the competition world at age eight. Her training and experience is extensive and includes training with the top studio of Arizona, Dance Connection under the direction of Lori Waddell. Christina was successful in the competition circuit and received numerous scholarships including; Broadway Dance Center, Steps on Broadway, Edge and Tremaine Studio.

                                  At 13 years old she made the decision to pursue a professional classical ballet career. She attended Arizona School for the Arts and trained daily at The School of Ballet Arizona under the direction of Kee Juan Han. After auditioning Christina was accepted to Harid Conservatory, Milwaukee ballet summer program. She also attended the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet academy at Vail summer intensive; a program that accepted only 20 students from around the country to attend and was highlighted on their summer program. Christina was also attended the American Ballet Theatre summer intensive in New York. She was selected as a professional company member of Ballet Arizona at age 16. While dancing with Ballet Arizona Christina was able to dance in numerous ballets such as: Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Serenade, Giselle, Opus Cactus, Don Quixote and Paquita to name a few. At age 18 she was hired by Inland Pacific Ballet as a soloist.

                                  While dancing professionally Christina also began her teaching career. Her technique supported by classical training has enabled her to bring a new perspective to the competitive jazz world in teaching various styles of dance. Christina’s experience allows her to bring the best of both classical and competitive dance together, giving dancers what is needed to be a trained dancer in various styles.

                                • Haley Gadbery
                                    Haley GadberyBallet
                                  • Tzu-Chia Huang
                                      Tzu-Chia HuangCompany Ballet Click Here for Biography

                                      Tzu-Chia trained at the School of Imperial Eleven Ballet in Taiwan under the direction of Yung-Cheng Huang. With Imperial Eleven Ballet Tzu-Chia danced featured roles in La Bayadére, Esmeralda, and The Dying Swan. She continued her professional training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet; while in Pennsylvania Tzu-Chia performed featured roles in The Nutcracker and Le Corsaire. Tzu-Chia joined Ballet Arizona in 2005, and has since originated featured roles in Ib Andersen’s Preludes and Fugues, Play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1052 and also Diversions which was performed at the Kennedy Center in 2010. Tzu-Chia has also been featured in Les Sylphides, Christoper Wheeldon’s Polyphonia, and Twyla Tharp’s The Golden Section. Tzu-Chia’s George Balanchine repertoire includes leading roles in Divertimento No. 15, Stravinsky Violin Concerto,La Sonnambula, Apollo, and La Valse. Tzu-Chia has danced principal roles in Raymonda, Andersen’s Swan Lake, and as Juliet inRomeo and Juliet. Tzu-Chia’s received critical acclaim for her interpretation of the siren in Balanchine’s Prodigal Son by The New York Times in June 2010.

                                    • Astrit Zejnati
                                        Astrit ZejnatiCompany Ballet Click Here for Biography

                                        Astrit received his training from the National School of Albania and the University of Oklahoma, and has been a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Albania, Miami City Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet. He has received several awards, including the Gold Medal in the 1994 Eastern European Ballet Competition in Kazanluk, Bulgaria, and first prize in Albania’s 1995 National Ballet Competition. In 1998, Astrit was a finalist in the Paris International Ballet Competition. His repertoire includes many of his favorite ballets: Lynne Taylor Corbett’s Ballad of You & Me, and Mercury, Donald Byrd’s Subtext Rage, Capricious Night, and Seven Deadly Sins. Hans Van Manen’s Five Tangos, Swan Lake, Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, Esmeralda, Cinderella, Lambarena, Nacho Duato’s Rassemblement, and George Balanchine’s Agon, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Apollo and Theme and Variations. Since joining Ballet Arizona in 2003 Astrit has originated principal roles in Ib Andersen’s Go With It!, Coppélia, Mosaik, and Play; and danced principal roles in La Sylphide; Ib Andersen’s Romeo and Juliet and The Nutcracker, Twyla Tharp’s Sinatra Suite, and Dwight Rhoden’s Ave Maria. Astrit has made international appearances with National Ballet of Croatia and Jorgen Ballet of Canada.

                                      • Val Lowrey
                                          Val LowreyTumbling
                                        • Brandi Baker
                                            Brandi BakerTumbling Click Here for Biography

                                            Brandi was born in Mississippi and has had the love of dancing/tumbling/cheering since she was a little girl.  She moved to Arizona when she was in fourth grade and was involved in many different sports and gymnastics.  She graduated from Gilbert High School in 2000, where she cheered and was the captain of her squad her senior year.  During High School she taught tumbling classes at a local gym.  After high school she worked for N.C.A. (National Cheerleader Association) where she was able to teach summer cheer camps locally states on the west coast.  She attended Northern Arizona University and she was on the cheer team her freshman year.   After returning from N.A.U., she joined the Arizona Heat College open team were they won a national title.  From 2003-2007, she was the cheer coach at Gilbert High.  She coached both J.V and Varsity teams, where she choreographed halftime and competition routines.  In 2014, Brandi started working at Dance Republic teaching tumbling classes.  Now she is doing tumbling and acro classes and loves it!  Brandi married her high school sweetheart in 2002 and they have two children and reside in Gilbert, AZ.

                                          • Brenna Brockert
                                              Brenna BrockertContemporary/Hip Hop/Tap/Jazz
                                            • Heidi Benson
                                                Heidi BensonOffice Staff
                                              • Dakota Harris
                                                  Dakota HarrisOffice Staff
                                                • Irina Abramyan
                                                    Irina AbramyanBallet
                                                  • Megan Seibolt
                                                      Megan SeiboltBallet
                                                    • Suzanne Maughn
                                                        Suzanne MaughnTumbling / Combo
                                                      • Hawli Landvatter
                                                          Hawli LandvatterTumbling
                                                        • Michele Meyers
                                                            Michele MeyersBallet
                                                          • Mariah Adams
                                                              Mariah AdamsPilates / Front Desk
                                                            • Hogop Kharatian
                                                                Hogop KharatianBallet
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