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Our Teachers

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Brittany Swain

 

Growing up in Atlanta, Brittany's dance training began with Gwinnett Ballet Theatre in 1988. At the age of 12, she joined Atlanta Ballet's Center for Dance Education and trained with The Atlanta Ballet for five seasons performing in Cinderella, Divertimento No. 15, Paquita, Romeo and Juliet, Alice and Wonderland, and five seasons of The Nutcracker. She spent summers with Houston Ballet, Boston Ballet, and The Chatuaqua Institute of New York. She has trained under and been influenced by Martha Goodman, Armando Luna,  Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, Patricia McBride, Robert Barnett, Suzanne Farrell, and Violette Verdy. Brittany spent three seasons with The Tallahassee Ballet, from 2003 to 2006, and served one season as their DanceChance Director. In 2005, Brittany graduated Magna Cum Laude from Florida State University with a BFA in Dance. In 2012, after many years of prayer, she embarked on the creation of The Calling Christian Dance Company with much help from Shelley Thiess and Jess Varnado and so many others that joined them through volunteer hours and prayer! She and her husband, Dru, have three children, Susan, Jackson, and Sawyer, and they are grateful to the Lord for all His many blessings!

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Shelley Thiess

 

Shelley trained at the Northwest Florida Ballet for over 10 years and went on to graduate Summa Cum Laude with a BFA in Dance from Florida State University. She has attended summer dance intensives with Sarasota Ballet, Virginia School of the Arts, Orlando Ballet, and San Francisco Conservatory. She danced professionally for three years with Ad Deum Dance Company, a Christian contemporary dance company based in Houston, Texas where she performed works by guest choreographers from Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham Dance Company, Limon Dance Company and Houston Ballet. With Ad Deum Dance Company, Shelley performed all over the world in places like London, New York, and Malaysia. While in Houston, she obtained her Level 2 Comprehensive Pilates Certification in Mat, Reformer, Chair, Cadillac, and Barrell as well as her Personal Training Certification. She has taught and danced with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and Operation Mobilization (OM) in Hungary, Slovakia, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, and South Africa.  She studied at Hillsong International Leadership College in Sydney, Australia where she received her Diploma in Ministry and choreographed dances for church events. Shelley met her best friend and husband Jeremy Thiess while in Australia and they have three children Zion, Charis, and Ezra.

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Mary Muir 

Ms. Mary is a native of the Fort Walton Beach area. She began training in jazz, tap, lyrical and ballet at an early age. She grew up competing and performing and fell in love with the art of dance. She was honored to dance at the opening of the Millennium Games in London England as well as a Super Bowl pregame and halftime in 2001. Though she loves performing, Mary always knew she wanted to teach and pass on her love for dance! With this in mind, she attended University of Nevada Las Vegas where she continued to train, learn and grow as a dancer. She graduated with honors from UNLV and received her Bachelor of Arts in dance. She then went on to receive her Master’s Degree in Arts Administration with a dance focus. Upon graduation from her master’s program in 2008, Mary moved back to Destin/Fort Walton area, where she taught dance at Hurlburt Field Youth Center, choreographed for local stage theater, and coached a local dance team, The Pryor Starlites. She received the opportunity to perform with the NWFSC Dance Department’s “Dance Facets” and Northwest Florida Symphony Chorales “Madam Butterfly”. She has choreographed the stage performances of “1776”, “25 th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”, “The Sound of Music,” and most recently “The Little Mermaid” for a local community theatre, Stage Crafters. Her experience with Stage Crafters opened a door to choreograph the stage performances of “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Guys and Dolls” for Rocky Bayou Christian. Ms. Mary taught dance at Brite Starz Dance Studio in Hip Hop, Jazz, Tap, Glee, and Pre Ballet for five years. She is currently a music teacher for FUMS (First United Methodist School) for one year olds through Kindergarten! This avenue has allowed her to spread her love for Christ with young children and their parents as well as build her walk with Christ. Ms. Mary feels blessed to have the opportunity to teach and guide young dancers to LOVE dance as much as she does!

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Claire Ponder

 

A Niceville native, Claire found her passion for dance at an early age and has held it close ever since. Upon The Calling Dance Company’s inception in 2013, she was among its first company members. In her training, she has spent summers studying with the American Ballet Theatre, Sanspointe Dance Company, Florida State University, and Pensacola State College. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from Niceville High School, she went on to attend the University of Alabama, graduating May 2020 Cum Laude with a BA in Dance and minors in Theatre, Environmental Studies, and Business. In her time at UA, Claire was an Alabama Repertory Dance Theatre company member, performing classical ballet works such as Swan Lake, Don Quixote, and Giselle, as well as original works by esteemed faculty members and guest artists. Claire’s choreography was selected for the student showcase “Dance Alabama” several times, as well as for other showcases in the local Tuscaloosa community. Spring 2020, she received the Best Student Choreography Award from Alpha Psi Omega Theatre Honor Society. Finding a passion for theatre while at UA, she studied acting and musical theatre and performed in undergraduate/graduate directing scenes as well as Goldoni’s “The Servant of Two Masters”. Claire held many offices within student organizations, most notably President of the Dance Honor Society of Alabama and Secretary of the Theatre Honor Society. Professionally, Claire has worked as a counselor for the American Ballet Theatre Summer Intensive for two years, taught workshops and studio classes across the Southeast, and performed with Yonder Contemporary Dance Company in the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. She is thrilled to be able to share with young dancers her passion for an art form that has brought so much joy into her life.

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Lyndsi Stevens

 

Lyndsi grew up in Fort Walton Beach, and trained in ballet, jazz, modern and tap for many years at Northwest Florida Ballet and Northwest Florida State College. While earning her BA degree in Public Relations at The Florida State University, Lyndsi took dance classes, worked in the dance department’s main office, and was a member of Seminole Dance Force, the university’s award-winning competition dance team. She went on to receive her Master’s degree from Georgetown University, and continued taking classes at Arlington Center for Dance in Arlington, Va., and Ballet Teatro Internacional in Washington, D.C.  Lyndsi and her husband, David, moved back to Florida in 2011, and Lyndsi began teaching dance in 2012. She taught ballet, jazz, and tap at 30A Ballet in Inlet Beach, and ballet, jazz, and pointe at Brite Starz Dance Studio in Fort Walton Beach. Lyndsi and David live in Niceville with their daughter, Claire.

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Ashley Crumpton

 

Ashley is a native to the Florida's Space Coast. She fell in love with ballet and gymnastics as a young child and then went on to train full-time as a competitive figure skater around the southeast for five years. Ashley loves the performing arts in every genre which allowed her a full scholarship for vocal performance at Eastern Florida State College. As a young adult in Charleston, South Carolina, Ashley both performed in and co-directed dance for 2 years in The Thorn, a cirque-style live production of the story of Jesus. Her performing roles included: Eve, aerial silks, and corps dance angels.

Currently Ashley is certified in Progressive Ballet Technique and USA Gymnastics. This fall will find her taking on three roles in performing arts including co-director of drama for Global Beacon School, gymnastics coach for US Gold, and teaching ballet and acrobatic arts for Inspire.

Ashley and her husband Darryl currently reside in Crestview, FL with their three children, Ryah, Aniya, and Phoenix. When not teaching, Ashley enjoys watching her children peruse their own passion for performance and sport and spending time with her friends and family.

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Susan Swain

Growing up in Niceville, Susan started dancing at an early age. At age 8, she joined The Calling Dance Company (now Inspire's company division) and has performed in productions such as "Coming Home", "The Ringmaster", "A Christmas Carol",  "A Pilgrim's Quest", and "The Queen". She spent two summers training with Ballet Magnificat!'s Summer Dance Intensive and was accepted into ABT's Summer Intensive as well. She has attended and performed at Dance Revolution in Orlando for three years. She is currently dual-enrolled at NWFSC and will graduate with an Associate Art's degree in 2025.  When she isn't dancing she enjoys art and is excited to be joining Inspire in a teaching role this year!

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Kailey Yang

Kailey Elizabeth Yang has been dancing for about 13 years now. She began her training at the Ballet Conservatory when she was about two years old and continued until the age of seven. She attends school at Rocky Bayou Christian School and has been there since she was two years old and love the groups of people there. Kailey attended Ballet Magnificat’s Summer Dance Intensive twice, once for two weeks and once for four. Kailey says "I love dancing with Inspire in my time here; the environment has been so amazing and encouraging and being apart of the company the Calling has been such a huge blessing." With the Calling, Kailey has attended Dance Revolution annually for the last few years where she has enjoyed growing in her faith and technique while attending.  Kailey loves dancing and is so excited to have been given the opportunity to teach!

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Scarlett Stevens

Scarlett's love for dance began at the age of 3, when she walked into the English School of Dance in Columbus, MS and knew she'd found her second home!  Being from a military family, dance would become a cornerstone, which anchored her each time she moved.  After a brief stint in California, Scarlett came to dance at Ballet Conservatory in Niceville, Florida.  Under the direction of Mrs. Noreen Poppell, Mrs. Brittany Swain, and Mrs. Shelley Thiess, Scarlett gained further training in ballet, jazz, contemporary, and tap, performing in both studio productions and with The Calling Christian Dance Company.  More importantly, she gained confidence and a deeper appreciation for her art.  The military then took her to study in Northern Virginia, where she danced under the direction of Mr. Yuri Nikitenko and Mrs. Jasmine Nikitenko at the Academy of Russian Ballet. Here Scarlett was introduced to the rigorous life of being a company member, learning Corps roles and working her way up to solo pieces.  With ARB, she was blessed to perform key roles in The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Coppélia, and Sleeping Beauty.  She also had the honor of performing at the Russian Embassy in Washington D.C. for both the Christmas Ball and the Pushkin Ball.  In addition, Scarlett began competing at Youth America Grand Prix in Philidelphia, Winston-Salem, and Atlanta, where she performed solos from Paquita, Flames of Paris, and La Bayadere among others. Her work brought her Top 12 and Top 24 honors. Busy times for a young dancer.  Along the way, Scarlett spent her summers studying dance on scholarship at places like Bolshoi Ballet and Ballet Magnificat.  Scarlett then moved back to Florida, and is thrilled to be training again under the direction of Mrs. Swain and Mrs. Thiess at Inspire Ballet and Fine Arts. Scarlett has danced several exciting roles for Inspire, and as a guest for Northwest Floridas State College's annual Dance Facets.  Each studio has brought her unique opportunities for training and friendship.  It is her sincere hope that your student will grow to love dance and find Inspire to be a cornerstone that grounds his/her life in friendship and encouragement!

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Anna Phillips

Anna Phillips began dancing at the age of 3 in California, then moved to the Niceville area at the age of 7. She attended the NFB Academie from 4th grade - 6th grade. She has danced with Inspire for six years since the opening and is excited to be on the teaching staff.  Anna attended Ballet Magnificat’s Summer Dance Intensive for two summers. Anna has danced lead roles as Miriam in "The Story of Moses", Joy in "The Ringmaster", Passion in "A Pilgrims Progress", and the "The Sparrow" in Esther. Anna performed with the NWFSC performance "Dance Facets" in multiple pieces. Anna enjoys attending Dance Revolution convention annually with The Calling where she likes taking different styles and growing as an artist. Anna finds joy in getting to know her students and helping develop them as dancers and artists! 

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Natalie Pitcher

Natalie found her love for dance at the age of 12 when she started learning tap at The Metropolitan School of the Arts (MSA) in Virginia. She started at level 1 having no experience in dance but upon graduation of level 1 skipped level 2 and was moved up to level 3. She performed tap dances with MSA for about 2 years until military life moved her family to Florida. Being curious about other dance styles, she started taking jazz from Inspire Ballet and Fine Arts in 2021. She instantly fell in love and signed up for all other dance styles in the pre professional level the following school year. Natalie has been pleased to perform in Inspire's "The Queen", "RingMaster", and "Deliver Us." She has also enjoyed helping with a number of Inspire's Pre Dance Performances; teaching young kids how to perform. Natalie looks forward to joining The Calling senior company and Inspire's faculty in the 2023-2024 school year.

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Mari Dickelman

Embarking on her ballet journey at the age of 7 in Japan, Mari Dickelman immersed herself in various dance forms. While honing her skills in classical ballet and contemporary dance, Mari stood out as the lead dancer in 18 productions, showcasing her talent in iconic works such as Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, and Paquita.

 

At the age of 17, Mari transitioned seamlessly into the role of a ballet instructor, imparting her knowledge to students of all levels at Ring Ring Ballet School in Zushi, Japan. This dedication to teaching persisted for 17 years until Mari, at the age of 34, relocated to Maryland with her husband Jake. In Maryland, she joined the esteemed Salisbury Dance Academy under the guidance of Elena Manakhova from the Vaganova Training Academy.

 

Now, Mari brings her wealth of experience to Inspire Ballet and Fine Arts, where she will be teaching Level 3 Ballet. Alongside her husband Jake, Mari resides in Crestview, Florida, with their two daughters, Anna and Maya. Beyond the world of dance and instruction, Mari finds joy in activities such as sewing, crafting, and face painting. Notably, she also contributes to her community as a swim instructor for the Emerald Coast Fitness Foundation.

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Genevieve Havran

Genevieve Havran loves dancing.  She first took class at age seven, continued through a dance concentration at the Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Baltimore, MD, and minored in Dance at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.  There, she completed a Bachelor's of Arts Degree in French and Spanish, and later a Master's Degree in Instructional Systems Design for ESOL and Bilingual Education.  During graduate school and for the next ten years, Genevieve taught ballet and modern dance at Misako Ballet Studio, performed with Misako Ballet Company in Columbia, Maryland, and taught middle school ESOL for Baltimore County Public Schools.  She now delights in homeschooling her three daughters and dancing as much as she can.  She is very happy to join the teaching staff of Inspire this year.

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Jade Malave

Jade Malave began her classical ballet training in Oklahoma City. In 2005, she
continued at the Columbus Ballet Conservatory in Columbus, Georgia. Throughout
her schooling, she attended Ballet Magnificat’s Summer Dance Intensives. In 2008,
she was accepted into Ballet Magnificat’s highest level in the trainee program. In
2009, she was invited into an Apprenticeship with the Omega Company. In 2011,
she was promoted to a Company Member as a Corps de Ballet member. She later
became a Principle dancer for the company with lead roles in original works: Face to
Face and Hiding Place by, Jiri Sebastian Voborsky. Jade toured throughout the
Americas as well as Europe, Russia, and Africa performing and teaching workshops.
After getting married in 2014, Jade and her husband moved back to Georgia where
she was a guest artist for the Columbus Ballet in The Nutcracker and Coppelia as
well as teaching various levels. In 2017, she started and ultimately completed her
Registered Yoga Teacher Certification, (RYT 200) and remains passionate about
bringing yoga to the ballet studio. Jade, her husband Bryan, and their two daughters
Iliana and Evangeline and son recently moved to Niceville, Florida.

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