Lee Ann Strain-Whittington - Owner - Show Team and Competition Team Director
Lee Ann began dancing, twirling and gymnastics at an early age. Her mother, Jeannie Strain, was the baton twirling teacher for several dance studios around the Dallas area. She would take classes while her mother taught classes. Her first teacher was Olivia Crutchfield at Gingham Girl Dance Studio. Lee Ann was also a competitive gymnast. She was coached by Bill Willis at Calico Kids, was on the gymnastics team with Betty Martin of Flippers in Garland for over 6 years, and then became a member of South Garland's first gymnastics team. While a Junior at South Garland High School, Lee Ann was selected Outstanding Performer at U.I.L. State Solo and Ensemble Competition where she was Feature Twirler for 4 years. She continued twirling during college as she was Feature Twirler at Stephen F. Austin State University. Not only was Lee Ann a champion Dancer, Twirler and Gymnast with State & National Titles, she has National Television credits to her name.
Lee Ann also studied with Gene Pflug, Kitty Carter, Terry Wolter, Fred, Kelly, Beverly and Will Shirley, J. David Kirby, Savion Glover, Steve Condos, David Medina, Chris Boyd, Monica (Micky) Saba, Jane Quentin and Key Meersman. During both high school and college, she assisted at many different dance conventions and camps as well as traveled all over Mexico teaching and performing baton twirling. After college, Lee Ann continued her dance training and teaching throughout the Dallas area. Before opening CK Studio in 2010, Lee Ann worked as the Dance Director for her mother's studio, Calico Kids.
Although Lee Ann has always loved to perform, she loves teaching and creating choreography even more. Her students and choreography have consistently placed in the top 10 high point category at each competition they have attended. Lee Ann is also proud to provide her students with many unique performance opportunities. Her favorite, thus far, was having the privilege of taking a group of students to perform at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. In her 35 years of teaching, she has had many students who have become professional dancers, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Rhythm & Blue Dancers, Dallas Mavericks Dancers and gone onto careers in film, television, Broadway, theatre, modeling and dance teachers. Lee Ann continues to enjoy sharing her passion with the students at CK.
Michelle Blum-Schuetz - Director of Ballet - Director of the Rockwall Ballet Company
Michelle began dancing at an early age and was invited to become a boarding student with Madame Nathalie Krassovska in 1982. Michelle danced with the Krassovska Ballet Jeunesse until Madame’s death in 2005. Michelle attended Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts where she had the opportunity to learn many original works, as well as receive individual instruction on numerous classical pieces.
During Michelle’s professional career, she performed many principal roles most notably from Don Quixote, Paquita, and Chopinana. Michelle studied with artists including Robert Joffrey, Igor Youskevitch, David Howard, Jacques d’Amboise, Marina Svetlova, Jerry Bywaters-Cockran, Richard Englund, Ellen Page Shelton, Soli Arvola, Leo Ahonen, and Fernando Bujones. Michelle had the honor of performing in the world premiere of Giselle, by Valery and Galina Panov, and she was invited to participate in their world tour. Michelle performed the award winning Statues, a work choreographed and given to her by Jutec Kasamon. While dancing with Krassovska, Michelle performed Pas de Quatre which was taught directly to Krassovska by Anton Dolin who recreated the ballet for American Ballet Theater.
Michelle has enjoyed teaching and coaching dancers in the Dallas, Fort Worth area for over twenty years. In 2013, she received the Nathalie Krassovska Award of Excellence at the Classical Ballet Festival. Michelle directs the Rockwall Ballet Company and CK Studio’s ballet productions.
Nathalie Dowsey - Contemporary Ballet Instructor
Nathalie began her dance training under the direction of her godmother, Nathalie Krassovska, of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in Dallas, Texas. At age eight, she studied on scholarship with Stefanie Best and Mary Muller and later became a member of the Allen Civic Ballet. She has received scholarships to American Ballet Theater, Joffrey Ballet, and Tulsa Ballet workshops.
She attended Texas Christian University as a ballet major and worked with artists including Texas Ballet Theater’s Ben Stevenson, Li-Chou Cheng, Elizabeth Gillaspy, Dr. Suki John, Susan Douglas Roberts, Robert Battle, Stephen Mills, Allyne Gartell, and SYTYCD winner Joshua Allen. At TCU, she was selected by ABT’s Susan Jaffe for original contemporary choreography, Uncaged. She also performed principle roles in The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Coppelia, Swan Lake, and Balanchine’s Valse Fantasy in addition to numerous original pieces.
In 2011, Nathalie joined The Central New Jersey Ballet Theatre continuing her passion for professional dance. Nathalie graduated with honors receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 2012 and later began teaching for the CNJ Ballet. Trained on Wall Street, Nathalie also worked as a JP Morgan Chase Personal Banker during her time in New Jersey. She continues teaching, choreographing, and dancing in the DFW area. Nathalie enjoys training students in Contemporary Ballet and choreographing for the Rockwall Ballet Company.
John Villapando - Jazz / Musical Theatre / Hip Hop Instructor
John is very excited to be joining CK Studio for his sixth year of teaching. Although he began singing at a very young age, he started dance late at the age of 22. He is a graduate of Oklahoma City University with a bachelor's of science in dance management, studying under Jo Rowan, Mary Boday, Kari Shaw, and Brian Marcum. While at OCU, he spent the summer of his junior year studying and choreographing in New York City for Broadway Dance Center's Summer Internship Program where he was a featured student choreographer and where he extensively studied jazz, musical theatre, and street jazz from numerous teachers and choreographers such as Jim Cooney, Derek Mitchell, Sheila Barker, and Michelle Barber. John has performed in numerous musical theatre productions around Dallas, with the Ann Lacy School of American Dance in Oklahoma City, and even been on Good Morning America with Liza Minneli in NYC. John's classes focus on musicality, style, and technical "honesty", emphasizing the importance of proper technique, muscular strength, and isolation as the foundation of clarity in artistic expression.
Kacey Miranda - Combo Class & Show Team Instructor
Kacey began dancing at the age of 4 when she started the Kiddie College program through Calico Kids. She had the pleasure of studying dance under Lee Ann Whittington, Gene Pflug, Jeannie Strain and Judy Trammel (choreographer for The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders). She took dance at Calico Kids for 12 years partaking in jazz, tap, ballet and baton twirling. She won many 1st and 2nd place trophies at SWTA and other competitions during her time at Calico Kids. From there, Kacey attended Lake Highlands High School where she became a Highlandette. She attended drill camp for 3 years and received 2nd place out of 800 girls in the Drill and Discipline Competition. Kacey's drill team went to New York in 2004 and she had the opportunity to take a dance class from The Radio City Rockettes. She also took from the great Kitty Carter. After high school, Kacey attended The University of Texas at Dallas where she earned her degree in Elementary Education while also teaching dance at Miss Billyes Dance Studio in Plano. She taught tap, jazz, hip-hop, ballet and contemporary. Kacey taught Kindergarten in RISD for 3 years while also earning her Masters Degree in Education Administration. Kacey has 2 daughters and a baby boy...the two girls are loving the Combo Classes!
Katelyn Harris and Rhythmic Souls Tap Company - Int. and Adv. Tap Instruction
Katelyn has been performing, choreographing, and instructing around the world for the past 15 years. She grew up in Dallas, TX, training in many styles of movement including rhythm tap, classical ballet, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, and hatha yoga. In addition to her extensive dance education, Katelyn has received a Yoga Teacher Certification through Namah Shivaya International School of Yoga (2011) and a Massage Therapy License from Parker University (2012).
After receiving a well-rounded dance education from schools around the country, and teaching and choreographing in every genre, Katelyn found her niche in tap dance when she joined the Austin-based Tapestry Dance Company in 2006. She was a principal dancer with Tapestry from 2006-2010 and toured internationally with the company's production of "The Souls of Our Feet." Performing tribute dances in the roles of Eleanor Powell, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and many other famous tap dancers, she fell in love with the art form. Katelyn was nominated for best dancer by the Austin Critics Table awards for her roles in "The Souls of Our Feet" (2008) and "Ears Wide Open" (2010). Through her work as a student, performer, and teacher she has been very fortunate to learn from such great masters as Acia Gray, Jeni LeGon, Harold Cromer, Brenda Buffalino, Sarah Petronio, Arthur Duncan, Dianne Walker, Derick Grant, Max Pollak, Barbara Phillips, Tasha Lawson, Jay Fagan, and Jason Janas.
Katelyn has been on faculty for 'Third Coast Rhythm Project' in San Antonio, 'Rhythm, Body, & Soul Festival' in Calgary, Nick DiNicolangelo's SYNCOPATE in New Jersey, and One Rhythm Dance Convention. Her innovative, contemporary tap choreography has won numerous awards and honors on the local and national level. In 2015, she was selected by the Dallas Observer to be one of six Observer "Masterminds" for her role in promoting and sharing tap dance in Dallas. Katelyn is currently Artistic Director of Rhythmic Souls Tap Company and is spearheading a movement to put tap dance in Dallas on the international map through new creative projects and collaborations with fellow artists! We are excited to have Katelyn and her staff take our tap program to the next level!
Becca Tischer -Tap Instructor
Becca began dancing at the age of 3 and tap has always been her favorite! She was fortunate enough to tour the world as a professional dancer and dance captain/swing. Becca currently works in the medical field and continues to perform in a REP company and community theaters throughout the Dallas area. She is excited to be a part of CK Studio and share her love of tap!
Kate Barton- Lyrical, Contemporary, Jazz, Hip Hop and Drill Team Instructor
Kate began dancing at an early age. She was a Lieutenant and Captain of the RHS Stingerette Drill Team. After high school she went on to become a World Famous Kilgore College Rangerette, and Swingster. After Rangerettes, Kate transferred to Stephen F. Austin State University where she was on the Dance team. Kate Graduated with her Bachelors is Science in interdisciplinary studies in 2017. She is currently teaching 3rd Grade Math and Science at J.W. Long Elementary.
Kate has had the opportunity to dance all over America, Ireland, and Scotland and with artists like Trey Songz. Over the summer, she works for MA (Marching Auxiliaries) Dance and teaches summer camps. In the fall, she works with Spirit of America, to help with the NYC Thanksgiving Parade Dancers. Kate loves getting to teach and sharing her love of dancing.
Jeannie Strain - Baton Twirling Instructor
Jeannie is one of the most well-known baton twirling instructors in the state of Texas. She owned the successful Calico Kids performing arts studio in Garland for 40 years. Her students, numbering in the thousands, have earned numerous State and National titles. She is proud to now be teaching students, many who are 2nd and 3rd generation students, at her daughter's studio, CK!
Jamie Singbusch-Hollenbeck - Combo Class Instructor
Jamie began taking from Calico Kids at the age of 4. She had the privilege of studying directly under Lee Ann Whittington and Gene Pflug and excelled in tap and jazz. In 1999, she was the recipient of a dance scholarship from the Dance Council of North Texas. Jamie graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas and currently works as the Process Architect on the IT Governance Team for Mary Kay. Her two older daughters are now Show Team members while the youngest is in Combo Classes at CK where Jamie enjoys teaching.
Cristyn Ritchey - Guest Instructor
Cristyn is a graduate from Stephen F. Austin State University with a BBA in Marketing. She has been a dance teacher for 4 years now and grows more in love with it everyday! She is a former Rockwall High School Stingerette (JFND!) and has been a dancer all of her life. Cristyn loves getting to create and share her passion with like minded students. She is very excited to be joining the CK Studio staff this season!
Shannan Crider - Recreational Instructor
Shannan began dancing at an early age and took several years at Calico Kids. She graduated from Texas Woman's University and currently works in Special Education with Rockwall ISD. Her daughter is a member of the CK Sr. Elite Competition Team and her youngest son is a member of the CK Show Teams.
Wendy Walsh - Office Manager
Wendy can be found at the front desk, behind the scenes and sometimes even in the classroom. She loves to answer questions so ask away! Her daughter is a 3rd generation student and a member of both the CK Sr. Elite Competition Team and the Rockwall Ballet Company.
Tanya Mathis - Office Staff
Tanya works at the front desk and is very helpful with keeping those accounts straight among other things! She has two daughters who are 2nd generation students. Her youngest is a member of the CK Teen Elite Competition Team while her oldest is a member of both the CK Sr. Elite Competition Team and the Rockwall Ballet Company.
Lynn Johnson - Office Staff
Lynn works the desk on an as needed basis now that her beautiful baton twirling daughter has graduated. But we plan to keep her busy during competition season and recital. Lynn is always eager to help so do not hesitate to ask her!