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LIZ SCHMIDT
Owner & Artistic Director

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KAITLIN ARENA
Company & Recreational Instructor

Kaitlin Arena began her dance training at Spotlight Dance Works at age seven and continued in the Pre-Professional Company until her high school graduation in 2017. During her time at Spotlight, Kaitlin had the honor of performing works and training under Sonya Tayeh, Lauren Adams, Adam McGaw, Meg Paul, and more. In May of 2021, Kaitlin graduated from Oakland University, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. During her undergraduate training she participated in intensives through LA Contemporary Dance, Gibney Company, and studied dance abroad in Berlin, Germany at the Tanzfabrik and the Freie Universität. She performed with Oakland Dance Theater, OU Repertory Dance Company, and apprenticed with Eisenhower Dance Detroit. Kaitlin was honored with the Oakland University Maggie Allesee Choreography Award in 2021 for her self-produced show, The Things We Feel. She has set works on Brenau University Dance Program, Oakland Dance Theater and Eisenhower Dance Detroit Youth Ensemble which was selected for the Emerging Choreographer Award at Midstate Regional Dance America. She is currently a professional company member with Take Root, under artistic direction of Ali Woerner. Kaitlin is certified in Dance for Parkinson’s, is an Acrobatic Arts certified teacher, and is a Pilates instructor at Reforming Foundation Pilates and Wellness in Rochester, MI.  As a movement educator, Kaitlin is passionate about making all of her students feel confident, gain creativity, and grow as dancers and humans!

SHELBY BENSINGER
Assistant Pre-professional Director
Company Instructor

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. 

Liz Schmidt has served as the Artistic Director of Spotlight Dance Works in Chesterfield, Michigan since 2001 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 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.

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KATE CLARK-MARTIN
Company Instructor

Originally from Clinton Township, Michigan, Kate has an extensive dance background. Growing up dancing at Spotlight Dance Works 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!

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FRANCESCA JOLIAT
Assistant Artistic Director
Company Instructor

Francesca is going into her 10th season at Spotlight Dance Works. Mrs. Joliat 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 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 has been chosen to be presented at the TEDx Presentation in 2014, and has received high recognition across the country.  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. Mrs. Joliat 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, judging for VIP Dance Competitions, and as and Advertising professional at Dentsu.  Miss Fran is certified in Acrobatic Arts and Sugarfoot Therapy and has a passion for educating her students in injury prevention. 

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JENNY MURRAY
Ignite Director
Company & Recreational Instructor

Jenny Murray (Meeks) is a Spotlight Dance Works Alum completing the pre-professional training program under the direction of Liz Schmidt in 2004. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 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 Certification in 2016 from Marygrove College. Jenny has been on faculty at Spotlight as a company and recreational instructor since 2002; appointed Assistant Artistic Director from 2010-2015 and the Ignite Company Director in 2022.  From 2012-2021, she served as  a dance educator at Arts Academy in the Woods; an arts integrated high school (Fraser, MI). She took on the role of Performing Arts Co-Chair in 2014, designated Performing Arts Chair from 2015-2021 and the Dance Department Director from 2013-2021. Her passion for movement and efficient body mechanics deepened as she studied and trained in various Pilates methods including Stott and the Integrative Teacher Training Method (ITT) and completing certifications in the Barre Guild (Lotte Berk Barre Method and Pedagogy) and the Reforming Foundations Teacher Training (RFTT) Programs. In and out of training for over a decade, she became nationally certified in Pilates through the NCPT in 2022 and shares her knowledge and expertise as an instructor at Reforming Foundations in Berkely and as an educator trainer for the Reforming Foundations School of Pilates. Other credentials include: former member of Mack Avenue Dance Company 2009-2011, Adjunct faculty at Oakland University teaching jazz to Dance minors and Musical Theatre Majors 2012-2013, choreographer for the Michigan Opera Theatre's Children's Choir "The Secret World of Og" Feb 2019, Motor City Choreographer's Collective and Happenings: A Collaboration of Detroit, Art Lab J's Detroit Dance Race, and RPG Entertainment LLC Productions. Jenny's collective experience continues to inform her teaching philosophy; guiding dancers toward a strong sense of self, community, creativity, curiosity and resilience while exploring artistry, developing skills and refining technique amongst all styles of dance.

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NICOLE MEREDITH
Company Ballet Mistress

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.

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SHAUNA OLIVERIO
Company Instructor

Shauna Oliverio is a STOTT Pilates trained instructor as well as a professional dancer and choreographer. She was introduced to Pilates throughout her dance career and believes it is the reason her body has stayed healthy and strong during all her years of dancing. While completing her degree at Oakland University she also launched her professional dance career. Shauna has worked commercially in LA, she worked on production shows in Canada, she spent a year dancing on a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship, performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and has worked with many world- renowned choreographers. She has performed in the musicals Chicago, Cabaret and Cats. Shauna danced with Odyssey Dance Theatre under the direction of Darryl Yeager and completed five European tours. She also spent a few years dancing for Ron De Jesus Dance under the direction of Ron De Jesus. Her love for teaching lead her to starting Rapture Dance Intensive, which she travels and teaches with. Shauna also opened a wellness space called EVLV Training where she holds private sessions for children and adults in Pilates. She is passionate about art, wellness and community and is inspired from any and every opportunity she has to exercise her favorite things!

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MEG PAUL
Company Ballet Mistress

Meg Paul brings a wealth of significant professional experience in classical and contemporary ballet, Broadway performance,  choreography, and teaching artistry. Her career spans four decades and encompasses a wide range of national and international experience in performance, choreography, curating, directing, teaching, program development, community engagement, and arts management. Paul has worked closely with renowned dance pioneers and has performed master works from the repertoire and artistic direction of Gerald Arpino, Robert Joffrey, Twyla Tharp and Dwight Rhoden, to works by Petipa, Ashton, Nijinsky, Massine, Balanchine, Forsythe, and Alonzo King. She was a principal dancer with The Joffrey Ballet/NYC, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and Ron De Jesus Dance and has extensive national and international touring credits. Paul was part of the creative team and dance captain for Twyla Tharp’s Tony award-winning Broadway musical, Movin’ Out. She performed both leading roles in Movin’ Out and was a full swing. Paul’s awards include The Princess Grace Award, winner of The International Dance Competition of the Americas, Detroit Renaissance Hero Award, Sue Nine Endowment for Faculty Achievement Award, Wayne State University’s College of Fine, Performing, and Communication Arts Teaching Award, and the Copperfoot Award. As Co-founder of World Arts Inc., Paul’s New York City-based performing arts agency celebrated a decade of representing and producing tours for national and international companies including Nacho Duato’s Compania Nacional De Danza, Les Ballets De Monte Carlo, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Les Grand Ballets Canadian, Dance Cuba, Les Ballets Africains, Washington Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, and more.  Paul was Director of Dance at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, curating and directing Music Hall’s annual fundraiser for dance, National City Stars of Ballet and Broadway. National City Stars of Ballet and Broadway engaged hundreds of local performers and pre-professionals to train and perform with ballet and Broadway professionals. For her work on National City Stars of Ballet and Broadway, Paul was honored as a recipient of the Detroit Renaissance Hero Award by the Detroit Free Press. During her tenure, she curated, directed, and produced Music Hall’s annual 313 Choreography Expo highlighting Detroit’s creative impact with other major cities. 313 Choreography Expo served as an incubator and career launchpad for many local Detroit artists and companies while fostering artistic collaborations, dance education, and community engagement. From 2010-2022, Paul served in many roles at Wayne State University’s Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance, including Associate Professor of Teaching, Recruitment Coordinator for Dance, and Director of Dance (2017-2022). Paul curated and directed the Complexions Detroit Summer Intensive at Wayne State University for nine seasons. Paul was Associate Artistic Director and Rehearsal Director with Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Academy Director for Complexions Contemporary Ballet Academy. She is currently a faculty member, adjudicator, and member of the Advisory Board for Adrenaline, Revive, and National Dance Honors Conventions. Paul is also a masterclass teacher and adjudicator for Universal Ballet Competition and a faculty member with Spotlight Dance Works. Paul is certified in Vinyasa Yoga, Progressing Ballet Technique, Youth Protection Advocates in Dance, and Dance Education Equity Association.

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ANNA TARAVELLA
Company & Recreational Instructor

Anna Taravella is a graduate of the Honors College at Oakland University, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance in 2024. She is also a professional apprentice with the dance company Take Root, under artistic direction of Ali Woerner. At OU, she performed in and choreographed for both Oakland Dance Theater and Repertory Dance Company. Before college, Anna trained under Liz Schmidt in the Pre-Professional Training Program at Spotlight Dance Works. As a performer, Anna has had the opportunity to study with internationally recognized choreographers such as Sonya Tayeh, Lauren Adams, Brooke Pierotti, Matt Luck, Danny Lawn, Jeremy Arnold, Adam McGaw, Gregory Patterson, Liz Riga, Ali Woerner, Christina Tasco, Thayer Jonutz, 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 has been teaching dance for 6 years and loves working with dancers of all ages in various styles. Anna is an Acrobatic Arts Certified teacher, focusing on safety and proper technique in acro, and is also certified in Dance for Parkinson's Disease. Additionally, she is currently training with Rhythm Works Integrative Dance, a program designed to help teach dance to children with learning differences and special needs. Anna’s goal as a teacher is to make sure her students enjoy their time in class and gain self-confidence while learning new things!

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ASHLEY TARAVELLA
Sparks Director
Company & Recreational Instructor

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. 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. 

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SARA SELLERS
Recreational Instructor
 

Sara is entering her final year of the Early College of Macomb program at Macomb Community College. She plans to transfer to Oakland University in 2025 to study Elementary Education. Sara has been dancing at Spotlight Dance Works for five years and competing for four years with the Senior Ignite Company. She has extensive experience assisting various ages, levels, and styles. Sara is entering her second year of teaching at SDW. She also participated in the Pankow Dance program through L’Anse Creuse Pubic Schools, where she choreographed and performed. Along with her dance training, Sara is also well versed in gymnastics. She has been a coach for three years, teaching anything from basic coordination to advanced skills. Sara is passionate in creating an environment that fosters creativity, learning, and fun!

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