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Liz Schmidt has served as the Artistic Director of Spotlight Dance Works in Chesterfield, Michigan for the past 20 years. During her tenure, her pre-professional training program has grown to the honorable status of “Top 20 Studios” in North America as named by Dance Spirit Magazine in 2011. One year later this achievement was followed by Liz ‘s selection as Dance Teacher Magazine’s, 2012 Dance Teacher of the Year Award. Liz was also a 2012 and 2013 finalist in the Capezio ACE Awards for choreographic excellence and was recently named by Wayne State University as the 2012-2013 recipient of the Arts Achievement Award in dance. Since receiving her Bachelor of Science in dance from Wayne State University in 2004, Liz has served on faculty at Wayne State University and University of Michigan, teaching advanced jazz technique. She has also enjoyed guest teaching positions at Oakland University, Western Michigan University, Michigan State University, and ACDFA as well as being serving on faculty for The Dance Sessions. Liz has performed with Detroit Dance Collective, Gravity Dance Company and is a proud original member of Shifting Sol and Take Root.

Shelby graduated from Wayne State University with a double major in Dance (BS) and Sociology (BA). She is also a certified PreK-12 Dance Educator. She completed her student teaching under Toi Banks in the dance department at Harrison High School. As well as teaching at SDW and being the chapter sponsor for the National Honor Society for Dance Arts at SDW, she is a part time middle school teacher at My Virtual Academy. At Wayne State, she was able to work with dance artists such as Nicholas Leichter, BodyCartography and Complexions Contemporary Ballet. She has performed professionally around the Detroit area at the Detroit Dance Race, MC3 choreography collective, BodyCartography (Closer) at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Nick Cave’s HEARD, among others. Miss Shelby grew up training at Spotlight Dance Works as a member of the pre-professional company under the direction of Liz Schmidt-Mazurkiewicz. She spent her summers training at rigorous intensives such as The Dance Sessions, and American Ballet Theatre Summer Training Program. She has also previously interned and worked remotely for National Dance Education Organization, the leading organization that supports dance educators across the country. 

Haley Candela is going into her final year at Wayne State University, where she will be graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance. Haley has previously trained under the direction of Liz Schmidt at Spotlight Dance Works for 12 years and has been fortunate enough to join the staff after graduation. Haley has taught recreational classes, subbed competition classes, and has assisted in administrative and teaching roles. Haley has trained at intensive including Complexions Contemporary Ballet, The Cambrians, BAIRA, and more. Haley has also been given the opportunity to perform works by Meg Paul, Twyla Tharp, Travis Wall, Brooke Pierotti, Lauren Adams and more. Haley’s main goal is to share her passion for dance with her students and encourage them to stay positive and work hard. 

Francesca is going into her 7th season at Spotlight Dance Works. Ms. Garippa has been dancing since the age of 6 and has many accolades which include being a contestant on CBS's Star Search.  She is a recent graduate of Oakland University with a BFA in Dance and a BS in Business Administration.  She graduated with high honors and was awarded the prestigious MaTilDa Award for Outstanding Dance Performance. Her choreography was also chosen to be presented at the TEDx Presentation in Rochester, MI in 2014.  During her time at OU, Francesca performed with Oakland Dance Theatre, OU Repertory Dance Company,  Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and Eisenhower Dance. She was offered scholarships for 4 years to attend summer intensives including the River North Chicago Professional Intensive and the David Dorfman Winter Intensive.  Ms. Garippa has performed works by choreographers such as Kendra Portier, Alexandra Beller, Dusan Tynek, Lindsey Dietz-Marchant, Kevin Iega Jeff, Frank Chavez, Laurie Eisenhower, Ali Woerner, and Thayer Jonutz. Francesca spent 2 seasons with Take Root Dance Company in Rochester, MI, and is now focusing her efforts as Assistant Artistic Director at SDW.  Miss Fran is certified in Acrobatic Arts and Sugarfoot Therapy and has a passion for educating her students in injury prevention. 

Originally from Clinton Township, Michigan, Kate has an extensive dance background. Growing up dancing at Spotlight DanceWorks in Chesterfield, MI, she danced competitively with her studio, as well as on her high school dance team.While attending Western Michigan University, Kate was a 4 year member of the WMU Bronco Dance Team. She was Captain her Junior and Senior years, and led the WMU Dance Team to their 2007 NDA Collegiate National Championship. She received several awards throughout her college career including “Rookie of the Year,” “Leader of the Year,” and was voted “Most Valuable Dancer” her senior year. In 2008, while continuing her studies at WMU, Kate opened her own studio in Kalamazoo, MI, “West Michigan Dance Center,” and formed the WMDC competitive company. Upon graduating in 2009 with a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration, Spanish & Dance, she also took over the role as Head Coach of the Western Michigan University Dance Team. Kate served as owner & artistic director of West Michigan Dance Center for 7 years, during which time her competitive company received numerous awards for technique, choreography & national recognition. She also traveled several weekends each season serving as an adjudicator for VIP Dance Competition. In June 2015, Kate sold her studio and moved to New Orleans to begin a new chapter of her life as a National Director for VIP Dance Competition. While in New Orleans, she enjoyed teaching & choreographing for local studios. Kate continues to teach & choreograph for studios & collegiate dance teams across the country. Kate currently resides in Royal Oak, MI with her Husband Scott. She loves being back on the east side of Michigan & teaching at Spotlight!

Alyssa Griffith is currently a junior at Dakota High School.  This is her third year as an SDW assistant, her first year as a teacher, and her 13th year as a dancer at Spotlight Dance works.  Through her school, she is currently involved in Link Crew and International Club.  She is also involved in National Honors Society of Dance Arts.  She has trained at many intensives including Complexions Contemporary Ballet in Detoit, and Contemporary NOW in Dallas, TX.  Throughout her years at Spotlight, she has performed pieces by many renowned choreographers including Sonya Tayeh, Brooke Pierotti, Matt Luck, Jeremy Arnold, Danny Lawn, Randi & Hefa, Adam McGaw, and Loni Landon.  Alyssa strives to create a safe and creative space in her classroom so that dancers feel confident to explore their passion for dance.  SDW is so excited to welcome Alyssa to our Faculty! 

Jenny Meeks completed her pre-professional training at Spotlight Dance Works under the direction of Liz Schmidt-Mazurkiewicz. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago (2008) with a BA in Dance specializing in teaching. She went on to pursue her Masters in Education plus certification in 2012 and received her Provisional Certificate in 2016 from Marygrove College. Meeks has been on faculty as a company and recreational instructor at Spotlight since 2003. She was appointed Assistant Artistic Director from 2010-2015. After serving as adjunct faculty at Oakland University teaching Jazz to Dance minors and Musical Theatre Majors; Meeks became a dance educator at Arts Academy in the Woods; an arts integrated high school located in Fraser, MI. She has helped students flourish in Modern/Contemporary, Jazz, Tap, Ballet, Hip Hop and Dance Composition. She took on the role of Performing Arts Co-Chair in 2014 and was designated Performing Arts Chair from 2015-2018. She has helped to re-write the dance program, as well as, organize and manage community outreach and school wide performance events. Meeks is a former member of Mack Avenue Dance Company, a Detroit based Contemporary dance company in which she performed the work of Stephanie Liapis, Chris Masters and Colleen Thomas from 2009-2011. She has choreographed and/or taught workshops at various studios and dance programs throughout the Metro-Detroit area . She has also presented and performed choreography at Motor City Choreography Collective, Happenings: A Collaboration of Detroit Artists and Art Lab J’s Detroit Dance Race. Meeks is incredibly passionate about understanding the mechanics of the body and promoting efficient practice. She is trained in the Stott Pilates Method, is Barre Guild certified in the Lotte Berk barre method and pedagogy. She is currently training through the ITT Method (Integrated Teacher Training) to complete her Mat and Apparatus Pilates certifications in Spring 2020. 

Anna Taravella is currently enrolled in the Honors College at Oakland University earning a B.F.A. in Dance. Before college, Anna trained under Liz Schmidt in the Pre Professional Training Program at Spotlight Dance Works. While in this program, Anna was named President of SDW’s Chapter of the National Honor Society of Dance Arts as well as Senior Company Team Captain. As a performer, Anna has had the opportunity to study with nationally recognized choreographers such as Sonya Tayeh, Lauren Adams, Brooke Pierotti, Matt Luck, Danny Lawn, Jeremy Arnold, Adam McGaw, Liz Riga, Ali Woerner, Christina Tasco, and more. Additionally, she has trained at intensives such as Complexions Contemporary Ballet (Detroit, MI), Motor City Tap Fest (Detroit, MI), Contemporary Now (Frisco, TX), and The Summer Dance Sessions (Charlton, MA). Anna began teaching dance at age 16, and has since grown to love working with young dancers in all styles. Anna is an Acrobatic Arts Certified teacher, focusing on safety and proper technique in acro. Her goal as a teacher is to make sure her students enjoy their time in class and gain self-confidence while learning new things. She is so excited for many years to come teaching at SDW!

Meg Gurin-Paul received her early training with Southern Ballet Theatre in Orlando, Florida. After winning the International Dance Competition of the Americas, Meg was invited to train on full scholarship at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City. At fifteen, Meg began her professional career touring with the Joffrey Ballet Concert Dancers and the Joffrey Ballet II apprentice company. She was promoted to the Joffrey Ballet at nineteen, rising through the ranks to perform leading roles in ballets such as The Nutcracker-Sugar Plum Fairy, Love Songs, Italian Suite, La Vivandiere Pas De Six, The Clowns, Valentine, Suite Saint-Saens, Light Rain, Billboards, Les Sacre Du Printemps, A Trifling and more. Meg is a recipient of The Princess Grace Award and has been a principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet NYC, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and Ron De Jesus Dance. She directed Ballet Builders, a NYC showcase for emerging choreographers and was the ballet mistress for the Joffrey Ballet Ensemble. Meg was a faculty member at The Joffrey Ballet School in NYC and has taught master classes around the nation for the past decade. Along with her husband Vince Paul, Meg co-founded World Arts Inc., a representation agency that represented national and international companies such as Nacho Duato’s Compania Nacional De Danza, Les Ballets De Monte Carlo, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and Les Grand Ballets Canadian. A highlight in Meg’s career was assisting Twyla Tharp through the creation and mounting of the Tony-award winning show Movin’ Out. Ms. Tharp invited Meg to be the dance captain for production for the Broadway run. Meg performed both leading roles as “Brenda” and “Judy” and she also staged the national touring cast of Movin’ Out. Meg was the Director of Dance at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts where she conceived and directed a benefit for dance titled National City Stars of Ballet and Broadway. For her work on National City Stars of Ballet and Broadway, Meg was honored by the Detroit Free Press as Detroit’s Renaissance Hero 2008. Currently, Meg is a Ballet Lecturer at the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance at Wayne State University. She was Artistic Director of the WSU Dance Workshop Company from 2010-2012 and she is founder and Program Director of the Complexions Detroit Summer Intensive at Wayne State University, celebrating its third season this summer. Meg is a founding member of Take Root, a modern company based in Rochester, MI, and she also teaches at Spotlight Dance Works. Meg was recently featured in the documentary, “Joffrey- Mavericks of American Dance.”

Jill Zmijewski is a professional dancer, instructor, choreographer working in the industry for many years.  After attending the University of Michigan on a dance scholarship, Jill took her dance studies to Los Angeles. While in L.A., she trained with many of the industry’s top choreographers while also booking television, stage, and music video jobs. Jill teaches all over the Detroit area as well as nationally and internationally. Her students and choreography have won numerous awards over the years. Jill was the choreographer of the first two seasons of Michigan’s first ever international television series, The Wannabes, currently on Starz. During this time she choreographed for Cash Money recording group, Savvy. Jill also choreographs for several high school and college dance teams, including the Harvard Crimson Dance Team, Oakland University, and Grand Valley State. She has worked with artists from Usher to Miley Cyrus to George Clooney and has choreographed and danced with companies like Xbox, Chevy, Comerica Bank, and local Detroit radio stations Radio Disney AM910 and Channel 955. Jill is a full time dancer with the band Fifty Amp Fuse and travel locally and nationally with them. She currently works with both Motor City Casino and Caesars Windsor, and is the founder and producer of the highly successful Michigan dance show, Motor City Movement.

Nicole Meredith began her classical training in the Vaganova method at Metropolitan Ballet Center under the direction of Renée Wood.  She also trained at the Annual International Ballet Seminar Summer Intensive for two seasons under the tutelage of ballet greats Mikhail Lavrovsky, Gelsey Kirkland and Jürgen Schneider.  Here she placed in pre-professional levels and was chosen to perform in a featured role in an original work choreographed by Mr. Lavrovsky.She continued her dance education at Wayne State University where she received a four year Talent Scholarship and earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with a Minor in Dance Education.  She was a member of the WSU Dance Company and had the privilege of performing original works created by Sonya Tayeh, Samantha Shelton, Erica Wilson-Perkins and Chris Masters.  Additional performance experience includes Soloist and Principle roles in Coppélia, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Paquita.Since finishing her degree, Ms. Meredith’s focus has been on her teaching career.  She has been instructing and choreographing in the Metro-Detroit area since 2002.  She is versed in teaching classical ballet technique, as well as contemporary and lyrical styles.  Her choreography has won numerous top honors at both regional and national competitions.  Nicole’s passion is to equip her students with a solid base in classical training while evoking artistry and expression in their performance.

Miranda Viars grew up in Detroit, Michigan, where she received her training from Spotlight Dance Works as a member of their preprofessional company. She supplemented her training by attending dance intensives with The Dance Sessions, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and Geiger Ballet. After graduating as valedictorian of her class, she pursued her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. While at NYU, Miranda created her own work and performed in various student pieces in addition to work by choreographers such as James Martin, Jeremy Nelson, MADBOOTS DANCE, Sonya Tayeh, and Paul Taylor. In her second year at NYU, she was selected to study abroad for a semester at the Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance in Salzburg, Austria. Miranda graduated summa cum laude in May of 2018 and began work as a freelance artist in New York City. Miranda spent a year working with RyderDance and CrossMove Lab in New York, before moving back to Detroit, Michigan to complete a premedical postbaccalaureate program at the University of Michigan. Miranda is now working as a company member with Take Root Dance Company and applying to medical school. She hopes to work in sports medicine with performing artists and to help underserved patient populations while exploring her passions for art, science, and travel.

Ashley Taravella is a recent graduate of Wayne State University, graduating with a BFA in Dance Honors in 2020. Before college, she trained at Spotlight Dance Works in Chesterfield, MI under the direction of Liz Schmidt. Ashley has trained at intensives such as Complexions Contemporary Ballet in Detroit, Axis Connect in New York City, BAIRA in Detroit, Molly Shanahan/MadShak in Chicago, Contemporary Now in Dallas, and more. During her time at Spotlight, Ashley had the honor of performing works by Sonya Tayeh, Lauren Adams, Travis Wall, Andrew Winghart, Adam McGaw, and more. At Wayne State, she was able to perform work by choreographers such as Twyla Tharp, Meg Paul, and Biba Bell. Her Senior Capstone piece was chosen to perform in WSU’s December Dance Concert at the Music Hall in Detroit, and she is a recipient of the Maggie Allesee Copperfoot Award for choreography. Professionally, Ashley has performed with Take Root Dance Company and at the Detroit Opera House for Liz Schmidt. She has been an assistant to choreographers including Liz Schmidt, Adam McGaw, and Lauren Adams. Ashley is certified as a teacher in Progressing Ballet Technique and Acrobatic Arts. Ashley also loves training in Pilates to supplement her dancing. She is currently a recreational and company instructor at Spotlight Dance Works and an apprentice with Take Root Dance Company. As a dance instructor, Ashley emphasizes both technique and artistry, and teaches her students the importance of both hard work and fun. As a choreographer, her competitive dances have won several first overall awards and choreography awards at competitions. Ashley’s main goal when teaching is for her students to learn something new, feel proud of their hard work, and be inspired. 

Ashley Taravella is a recent graduate of Wayne State University, graduating with a BFA in Dance Honors in 2020. Before college, she trained at Spotlight Dance Works in Chesterfield, MI under the direction of Liz Schmidt. Ashley has trained at intensives such as Complexions Contemporary Ballet in Detroit, Axis Connect in New York City, BAIRA in Detroit, Molly Shanahan/MadShak in Chicago, Contemporary Now in Dallas, and more. During her time at Spotlight, Ashley had the honor of performing works by Sonya Tayeh, Lauren Adams, Travis Wall, Andrew Winghart, Adam McGaw, and more. At Wayne State, she was able to perform work by choreographers such as Twyla Tharp, Meg Paul, and Biba Bell. Her Senior Capstone piece was chosen to perform in WSU’s December Dance Concert at the Music Hall in Detroit, and she is a recipient of the Maggie Allesee Copperfoot Award for choreography. Professionally, Ashley has performed with Take Root Dance Company and at the Detroit Opera House for Liz Schmidt. She has been an assistant to choreographers including Liz Schmidt, Adam McGaw, and Lauren Adams. Ashley is certified as a teacher in Progressing Ballet Technique and Acrobatic Arts. Ashley also loves training in Pilates to supplement her dancing. She is currently a recreational and company instructor at Spotlight Dance Works and an apprentice with Take Root Dance Company. As a dance instructor, Ashley emphasizes both technique and artistry, and teaches her students the importance of both hard work and fun. As a choreographer, her competitive dances have won several first overall awards and choreography awards at competitions. Ashley’s main goal when teaching is for her students to learn something new, feel proud of their hard work, and be inspired. 

Kaitlin began her dance training at Spotlight Dance Works in Chesterfield, under the artistic direction of Liz Schmidt-Mazurkiewicz. Kaitlin is a student at Oakland University working toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance where she plans to graduate in April 2021. She has attended intensives with Gibney Company (2020), LA Contemporary Dance (2019) and has studied abroad at the Tanzfabrik and the Freie Universität in Berlin (2018). While training at Spotlight Dance Works, Kaitlin performed works by Sonya Tayeh, Lauren Adams, Adam McGaw, and Meg Paul, among others. As a member of Oakland Repertory Company and Dance Theater, Kaitlin also worked with guest artists Millicent Hodson, Kenneth Archer, DIAVOLO, Dusan Tynék, and Zvi Gotheiner.