Toya Renee Ambrose

Hip Hop Director/Instructor/Choreographer

staff-toya-ambroseToya Renee Ambrose is a former NBA dancer, for both the Chicago Luvabulls and the Memphis Grizzlies. She is a graduate from the University of Memphis, and was a scholarship member of the 14-time national champion University of Memphis Pom Squad. Toya is the former Head Coach of the University of Connecticut (UCONN) Dance, Cheerleading, and Mascot Teams, and also the former Head Coach of the 2-time National Champion University of Illinois at Chicago Dancing Flames.

In addition, through her company T.R.A. Choreography LLC, she choreographs for competitive dance teams, studios, and all-star teams throughout the world, recently teaching master classes in Japan and Finland. Her choreography has won numerous state and national titles, most notably winning back-to-back UDA hip hop titles for both Hofstra University and Lindenwood University in 2013. She is also a seasoned judge for national and state organizations. Toya currently resides in Chicago, IL and is married to Garvin G. Ambrose.

Anastasia Amanatidis

Instructor/Choreographer

anastasia-amanatidas1Anastasia has been training in different styles such as: ballet, pointe, jazz, modern, hip hop, lyrical, gymnastics, tap, and improvisation since the age of three. Growing up in northwest Indiana she was a part of the national and state winning team Lake Central Centralettes as well as being part of the national winning team, Indiana Danzforce.

Anastasia is currently attending Columbia College of Chicago studying to receive her Bachelors of Arts in dance and a minor in marketing. In her classes as a child and now into her professional studies she has been trained extensively in the Vaganova and Cecchetti disciplines of ballet; Horton, Graham, Barteneiff, Cunningham, and Release techniques of modern; Contemporary, Lyrical, Musical Theater, and Classical techniques of jazz; and Competition as well as other styles of hip hop. In addition to her movement experience, Anastasia is also educated in anatomy, music composition, dance history, and teaching courses.

Along with performances for the Lake Central Centralettes and Indiana Danzforce she has performed on the Columbia College stage and has become a featured choreographer. She has also trained underneath some amazing choreographers. Starting with the amazing staff from M2; Bri Lakomy, Kristen Maurer, Kelly McCarthy, Lyndsey Schaap, Jessica Kiszka, and Leah Shaffer. Also working with Mia Michaels, Dave Scott, Wade Robson, Sonya Tayeh, Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo. Continuing with amazing faculty from Columbia College Chicago, Lisa Gonzales, Darrell Jones, Mary McGinley-Gallivan (Dardi), Allen Desterhaft, Jeff Hancock, and Carrie Hanson.

Kristin Batz

Instructor/Choreographer

staff-kristen-batzKristin started training at the age of four. Her passion to study, compete and learn the principles of dance evolved at a very young age. She trained with the Indiana Youth Ballet from ages 5 to 10, competitive studio training in jazz, modern, lyrical, and tap from ages 10 to 14, and competitive high school and college training in jazz, pom and hip hop from ages 15 to 21. She was also a competitive acrobat for ten years. Beyond her training, Kristin studied dance at Purdue University. Within the dance minor program she mastered jazz, modern, improvisation, ballet, dance history, and the fundamental principles of dance. She was also a member of the competitive Purdue Dance Team all four years, holding the spot of captain her senior year.

Kristin choreographs for a number of high school and all-star dance teams. Her choreography has won over nine IHSDTA state titles, and has repeatedly placed in the top five at NDA/UDA Nationals. Kristin currently choreographs for the nationally recognized Indiana Danzforce All Stars. She’s also currently working with the Lake Central middle school programs, Griffith High School, Pike High School and Mt Vernon High School.

Kristin graduated from Purdue University in 2012 with her Bachelor of Arts in mass communication. She is currently living in Chicago and working at a content marketing firm as a Senior Web Producer.

Amanda Crothers

Instructor/Choreographer

AmandaCrothers1Amanda’s dancing roots & traditional ballet, tap, & jazz studies trace back to Studio ML in Crown Point, IN beginning when she was four years old. Being a St. John, IN native she had set her sights on becoming a Lake Central Centralette at a young age. She made the switch over to M2 Dance Center at age 12 where she continued her studio studies & added contemporary & competitive pom & jazz training in preparation for the competitive high school dance team realm. Amanda spent her freshman year on the Lake Central Centralettes JV team & the remainder of her high school career as a Varsity Centralette, adding senior year captain to her resumé in 2008.  She was a member of the Indiana DanzForce Senior Allstars as a sophomore through her senior year, & she has also danced on the Indiana DanzForce Pro Team. Her competitive dance experiences here at M2 earned her many a title. Amanda’s love for dance followed her down to Bloomington, IN where she earned her Contemporary Dance Minor. While a student at Indiana University, she danced with the InMotion dance company & was a member of the Hoosier Dance Team.

Amanda has been an instructing presence at M2 since 2008. She teaches Combo I & II, believing in the importance of the introduction to dance. She can instruct jazz, ballet, turns/leaps, contemporary, & pom technique. She is a member of the Lake Central Centralettes Staff & holds a lot of work done with the JV team. She also holds work done with the Lake Central Middle School teams & Griffith & Hanover High Schools via competition preparation & various choreography projects. Amanda has been on board with the Indiana High School Dance Team Association (IHSDTA) as a Panel Judge since 2011.

Amanda graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science in Apparel Merchandising, & Marketing & Dance Minors in 2012. She is currently working as a member of management with URBN, Inc. at the Anthropologie Flagship Mag. Mile store on Chicago Ave. downtown Chicago, IL & lives in Oldtown. Previously she has been with Kate Spade New York & Nordstrom.

“When you take dancing lessons, you learn steps and you learn steps and you learn steps. It can go on for a long time. And then one day, you just learn to dance, and it is so different.” – Bill Austin

Katie DiCianni

Instructor/Choreographer

staff-katie-dicianniKatie DiCianni has been training in dance for 18 years. Although she has been trained in ballet, jazz, modern, and lyrical, her passion is hip hop. In high school, Katie danced on the State Champion Lake Park Lancette Dance Team and went on to dance on the nationally ranked University of Illinois Chicago Dance Team. Katie has been assistant coaching the UIC Dance Team since 2009. They most recently placed top 3 at the NDA College Nationals in 2014.

Katie trains and choreographs in the collegiate, high school, middle school, and all-star levels of dance both locally and nationally. Locally, she works with Lake Central High School, Lake Central middle school programs, Hanover High School, Logansport High School, Mt. Vernon High School, and South Vermillion High School. Katie’s passion is teaching hip hop to new and experienced dancers and seeing them grow as hip hop performers. Katie is also a trained judge in the State of Illinois with Team Dance Illinois and Illinois High School Association.

Katie has her Master’s Degree from the University of Illinois Chicago in Special Education. When she’s not dancing, she’s teaching special education for Chicago Public Schools. She lives in Chicago with her husband Nick and her dog Charlie.

Jessica Kiszka

Office Assistant/Instructor

staff-jessica-kiszkaJessica Kiszka started her dance career at M2 Dance Center when she was 15 years old and began assisting with classes during her junior year of high school. She was captain of the Lake Central Centralette Dance Team & a member of the Indiana Danzforce junior, senior, and Pro Dance Teams. Jessica was also captain of the National Champion Indiana Danzforce Senior Team. Jessica has taught many dance class at M2 Dance Center including ballet, jazz, turns & leaps. She assisted with the development of the Indiana Danzforce Junior Prep Team in 2004-2006. Jessica was also the 2005 IHSDTA Dance scholarship recipient. She is currently assisting with office management and the IHSDTA.

Jessica graduated with her BSN in nursing from Purdue University and with her MSN as an acute care adult-gerontology nurse practitioner from Loyola University Chicago.  She was awarded the Alpha Sigma Nau membership at Loyola University Chicago for her volunteer work with the under privileged community along with maintaining a 4.0 cumulative GPA at graduation. Jessica has also presented lectures regionally and nationally in the field of cardiovascular medicine. Jessica Kiszka has been involved in research throughout her career. She is currently involved in Rush University Medical Center’s IRB approved heart failure readmission prevention project.

Jessica has been happily married since 2011 to her husband Dan who is also in the medical field. They reside in St. John, IN with their two dogs.

Lindsey Lococo

Instructor/Choreographer

LLococoheadshotLindsey Lococo is a native of the Chicagoland area. She started her training at the age of 4 and is well versed in all styles of dance. She graduated with a B.S. in Kinesiology from the University of Illinois at Chicago. While at UIC, Lindsey began dancing with the
Nationally competitive Dancing Flames, active as captain her senior year. While in college she began her extensive training in hip hop and worked as a UDA Instructor. She is a former director and captain for Hip Hop Connxion, dancer with Design Dance Company and Work In Progress. She has competed at Hip Hop International with several US finals appearances.

After college, she spent ten years working as an industrial and commercial dancer. She has had the opportunity to appear opening for several artists including Chris Brown, Carly Rae Jepson, Olly Murs and the Sprite Remix tour featuring The Roots & N.E.R.D. She has made several appearances as a featured dancer on “Oprah,” including the 24th Season Premiere featuring the “Black Eyed Peas,” and the “Country Stars Show” featuring Carrie Underwood and Kenny Chesney. Her favorite by far was in 2011, when she was seen performing on stage with Beyoncé for the Oprah Farewell Spectacular.

Her choreography and dancing experience within the professional athletics industry includes stints with the Chicago Storm, Storm Chasers Dance Team (MISL), Rockford Rampage, Crash Dancers (MISL) , Rock River Raptors, Dynamites Dancers, (CFL) McHenry County Pirates and the Swashbuckler Cheerleaders. Lindsey spent three
seasons working on field promotions for the Chicago Fire Soccer Club (MLS). She also had the opportunity to spend a month traveling India as part of the IPL Cricket Championships with the Varsity Spirit Corporation.

As a choreographer, she has won many state titles and top placements locally and nationally with Starpower Nationals, NDA College Nationals, UDA-High School and
College Nationals, TDI, IDTA, IHSA and IHSDTA. She has worked with the dance teams at Highland High School (IL), Eisenhower High School (IL), Lake Forest High School (IL), Libertyville High School (IL), University of Illinois – Champaign Urbana, Robert Morris University, St. Xavier University, North Central College, among others. In Indiana, she has worked with Grimmer M.S. and Clark M.S.

Currently, Lindsey is entering her 5th year as the Head Coach and the Spirit Coordinator of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dancing Flames. She is also an official with the IHSA, and regional representative for the ISOA. Lindsey has been married to her husband Joe for 3 years. They have one dog, a boxer puppy named Roscoe and reside in the Chicagoland area.

Bri Lakomy

Curriculum Director/Instructor/Choreographer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABri has been training in the art of movement since she was four years old. She is well versed in the many aspects of dance that makes Northwest Indiana a truly unique and diverse place to teach and train the next generation of artists. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance with a concentration in choreography from Columbia College Chicago. In her studies as a child through professional, she has been trained extensively in the Vaganova and Cecchetti disciplines of ballet; Horton, Graham, Barteneiff, Cunningham, and Release techniques of modern; Contemporary, Lyrical, Musical Theater, and Classical techniques of jazz; and Competition style of hip hop. In addition to her movement experience, Bri is also educated in anatomy, kinesiology, concert production, technical theater, music composition, music/sound editing, dance history, and teaching courses directed at young children through adults as well as special needs.

As a free lance professional performer, she has performed works for Chicago artists Margi Cole, Dardi McGinley-Gallivan, Colleen Halloran, and New York artists Reggie Wilson and Julie Mayer. She has also had her own choreography on the Chicago stage.

In the competitive studio world, Bri trains and choreographs for the dancers of the M2 Dance Company. Her dancers have gone on to win National and Regional Championship titles for solos, duets/trios, and groups; prestigious solo awards as Dancer of the Year, multiple judges and technique awards; as well as numerous choreography awards in the lyrical, jazz, and contemporary categories. Her dancers have also been awarded multiple scholarships and offered performance opportunities for their work with the M2 Dance Company.

In the collegiate, high school, and all-star world of dance team, Bri trains and choreographs for local and national programs. Her choreography and teams have won over 60 Indiana IHSDTA state titles, state titles in Utah and Illinois, and over 25 National Championship NDA/UDA titles. In addition, her dance teams have won regional and national Best Choreography titles for NDA/UDA as well as Best Technique and Best Showmanship. Bri currently choreographs for the nationally recognized programs of Lake Central High School, Indiana Danzforce All Stars, Purdue University, and Grand Valley State University. Locally, she works with the Lake Central middle school programs, Hanover High School, Logansport High School, Buffalo Grove High School, and Wilbur Wright Middle School. She is also a former UDA Head Instructor.

In her private life, Bri married her high school sweetheart Luke. They have a beautiful son named Oliver and two dogs, beagles Layla and Marty. She enjoys all other forms of art and shares her husband’s passion for film and photography. Bri is also active in raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research as well as supports charities for diabetes and heart disease. Besides home and the studio, her third favorite place to be is Disney World.

Kevin Mathis

Owner/Artistic Director

staff-kevin-mathisKevin Mathis is the owner and artistic director of M2 Dance Center. He has been instructing since 1980. He began his career as a choreographer for many championship high school programs throughout Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Texas. His choreography has won numerous state and national titles. In 1989 he began teaching the dance team at Lake Central High School. Under his leadership, Lake Central has won 20 consecutive Indiana State Championships and 9 national titles.

In 2000, he founded Indiana Danzforce Allstars whose teams have gone on to win over 20 national dance titles. In 2011 he began coaching Purdue University’s Dance Team in West Lafayette. PDT quickly rose to become a national contender and has been national runner up since 2012 at the National Dance Association Collegiate Championships. In 1994 he founded the Indiana High School Dance Team Association where he has been President since its inception. Kevin has served on NDA National Advisory Board and served as judge for multiple high school and collegiate national championships appearing on Fox and USA Sports.

Kevin feels blessed to have found his passion in dance and wishes to express his gratitude to the many dancers, parents and instructors who have become part of his extended family. Kevin is married to his best friend of over 20 years Dana Mathis and has 2 wonderful children in Miles and Jessica.

Brittany Ricciardi

Instructor/Choreographer

BrittanyRicciardi1Brittany has been teaching gymnastics and tumbling since 2001 to students ages 1 through adult. It truly is her passion. She is USAG safety certified and certified in first aid and CPR.

Brittany has a degree in biology and graduated with honors from Purdue Calumet. In addition to teaching at M2, she also works at Lake Central School Cooperation as a substitute teacher. She is married her husband Duke, and together they have a beautiful daughter, Braelyn. Brittany is excited to teach Acro and Tumbling while sharing her love of gymnastics.

 

Lyndsey Schaap

Instructor/Choreographer

SchaapLyndsey holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance with a concentration in teaching from Columbia College Chicago. Lyndsey has trained extensively in the Cecchetti discipline of ballet; Graham, Cunningham, Horton and Release techniques of modern; Classic techniques of jazz; Contemporary and Lyrical. While in her studies, she trained and was mentored by acclaimed dance masters including Eduardo Vilaro, founder of Luna Negra Dance Company; Shirley Mordine, founder of Mordine and Company; Ron Hutchins, Broadway choreographer and Malik Camaro, principle dancer with Muntu. In addition to her dance training, Lyndsey studied all aspects of anatomy, kinesiology, dance history and music composition. Most importantly, Lyndsey is educated in teaching courses directed at toddlers through adults.

Lyndsey has been an instructor at M2 Dance Center since it first opened in 2001. She is trained in instructing toddlers through adults in the disciplines of ballet and jazz. Lyndsey has choreographed for numerous state and national championship middle school, high school, collegiate and all-star teams including Lake Central High School, Portage High School, Munster High School, Marion High School, Wheeler Middle School, Wilbur Wright High Middle School, Grimmer Middle School and many others. Lyndsey also was a performer and choreographer for the NDA National Champion Indiana Danzforce Pro Team All-Stars. In addition, she has instructed and choreographed for NDA National Champion Indiana Danzforce Junior and Senior All-Star teams. Lyndsey received numerous choreography awards including the NDA National Innovative Choreography Award.

Lyndsey currently works for Indiana Wesleyan University as a Re-Entry Specialist. Lyndsey is married to her high school sweet heart, Grant. They live in Crown Point, IN with their two children, Harper and Hudson.

Leah Shaffer

Instructor/Choreographer

LeahShaffer_headDance has been the central passion of Leah’s life since the age of 2. She has trained in a variety of disciplines including ballet, pointe, jazz, modern, and hip hop. Competing since the age of 8, she has achieved multiple awards at the regional, state and national levels in studio, high school and all-star dance team circuits. She is a dancer for the Indiana Danzforce All Stars Pro team, and is an alumni and former captain of the Munster High School Dance Team. Leah has also performed in several musicals incorporating singing, dancing and acting techniques.

At M2, Leah is an instructor for ballet, jazz, turns and leaps, and middle school team classes, working with toddlers through adults. She works on staff with the Lake Central Centralette’s in jazz and hip hop pieces, who have won numerous state and national championships. Leah has instructed and choreographed for several middle school and high school dance teams throughout the area. She also works with the Indiana Danzforce All Stars as an instructor and choreographer, achieving numerous national championships in the NDA All Star division. Leah has choreographed numerous solo, trio and group pieces in the competitive studio circuit. Her company dancers have traveled to Las Vegas and Orlando, achieving awards in regional and national levels, as well as scholarship, choreography and various special judges’ awards. Leah has also worked with the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, leading ballet and jazz technique instruction for several performing arts intensive seminars over the summers.

Outside of the studio, Leah works as a registered nurse in the child and adolescent mental health field. She earned her first bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a certificate program in neuroscience, from Indiana University in Bloomington. She then went on to pursue her nursing degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she graduated in 2010. Leah is currently pursuing her degree in Master of Science in Nursing, and is anticipating graduation in May 2015 from the University of Illinois at Chicago. After graduation, Leah hopes to land a new position as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, working with children and adolescents. She is currently certified in CPR and therapeutic crisis intervention. Leah is also active in raising awareness and fundraising for breast cancer research.

In her personal life, Leah enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She is an animal lover to the core and is passionate about dog rescue. Leah loves to travel and spend time outdoors. Her favorite place to be is Italy, other than the studio of course!

Deanna Stetsura

Ballet Director/Instructor/Choreographer

staff-deanna-stetsuraDeanna Stetsura trained at Russia’s Perm Ballet School under Professor Ludmila Saharova. After graduating with honors, she was accepted as a soloist into the Kremlin Ballet Theatre in Moscow where she was coached by the world-class ballerina, Ekaterina Maximova. Ms. Stetsura was a principal dancer for the Bolshoi Theatre of Belarus and Columbia Classical Ballet in South Carolina, and also danced as Soloist with Ballet Internationale in Indianapolis, where she was coached by Irina Kolpakova, ABT’s Ballet Mistress. Deanna was a Principal dancer for the Milwaukee Ballet for six years.

Ms. Stetsura has performed lead roles in productions such as Don Quixote, Carmen, La Sylphide, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Allegro Brillante, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, La Bayadere, Raymonda, Scheherazade, Cinderella, and Le Corsaire among others. She earned the prestigious Diaghilev Prize at the first international competition in Moldavia. She also received the highest award in the country of Belarus for the best stage debut for her performance of the title role in Giselle. She also appeared in three films in Belarus, filmed while dancing with the company, on Belorussian television. Deanna earned a Silver medal at the prestigious ballet competition, “Arabesque” for her contemporary piece, which was created on her by the same choreographer who choreographed all of the dancing for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Ms. Stetsura was the lead dancer in Samson et Delila at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, performing a role that was created on her by world-renowned choreographer, Ken Von Heidecke. He also created the title role in Cinderella for her, which she performed with the Chicago Festival Ballet. She also had the privilege of a lifetime to work with the only living Prima Ballerina Assoulta, Maria Tallchief, on these roles. While performing with the Milwaukee Ballet, Ms. Stetsura danced leading roles such as Odette in Michael Pink’s Swan Lake, Marie in The Nutcracker, Gertrude in Hamlet, Dulcinea in Don Quixote, Lilac Fariy in Sleeping Beauty, and the leads in La Bayadere, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Raymonda and Agon. She also worked with choreographers, such as Val Caniparoli, Stephen Mills, Bruce Wells, Kathryn Posin, and Margo Sappington, who created a piece for Ms. Stetsura in her world-premiere ballet, Common People, a project started by William Shatner. Deanna was a three-time participant in the International Gala, “The Evening of Stars”, in Denver, Colorado. She shared the stage with stars from English National Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Houston Ballet, and many others. Deanna performed many leading roles around the world, in countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Spain, China, Japan, Ireland, France, Poland, Taiwan, Canada, Ukraine, and others. She has made many guest appearances both teaching and dancing, all over the United States. Since she moved to Chicago, after giving birth to a baby girl, she became a Principal dancer with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She is also a Ballet Mistress/Choreographer for the M2 Dance Center, ballet teacher at Hinsdale Dance Academy, ballet coach at YAGA Rhythmic Gymnastic Academy, and ballet teacher for Chicago Festival Ballet.

In addition to her dancing accomplishments, Deanna is very proud of having earned her law degree from Kuban State University in Russia.

Amanda Welch

Instructor/Choreographer

AmandaWelch_headAmanda has been dancing since the age of 4, and has been in the world of dance ever since. She just recently graduated from Purdue University, West Lafayette in May of 2014 with a degree in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences. Her minors are in Human Development and American Sign Language. Amanda has been a part of the Grimmer Dance Team, Lake Central Centralettes, Indiana Danzforce Pro Team, and the Purdue University Dance Team. She has also taught multiple styles of dance at different studios while attending college in West Lafayette.

Amanda coaches the Clark Middle School Dance Team. Outside of working for the middle school, Amanda is also coaching the Indiana Danzforce Youth Team. Amanda’s true passion is working with younger dancers to teach the essentials and see them grow as dancers as well as individuals.

Amanda has danced several different types of genres including ballet, jazz, contemporary, pom, hip-hop, and lyrical. Contemporary is Amanda’s favorite type of style. She has won 6 state championship titles with the Lake Central Centralettes, and a state title with her senior year ensemble. She has a National Championship with the Indiana Danzforce Pro Team, and came in as a national champion runner up with the Purdue University Dance Team at college nationals.

Outside the world of dance, Amanda is a Make-A-Wish volunteer and has a passion for helping kiddos in need. She has interned at the Make-A-Wish office in Chicago, and has also helped numerous children make their wishes come true. She has helped organize and create many fundraisers, benefits, and walks to raise money for different organizations and groups. Her passions alongside dance are volunteering and working with children with special needs. Amanda works primarily with children with special needs in her speech field, but also volunteers her time outside of work to help the children in any way possible. Amanda just recently got engaged and has a Chihuahua puppy named Tucker, which if she could bring everywhere-she would.