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

 

IANiceville 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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Kay Hebert


Kay began her dancing career in New Orleans at the early age of three and as a child performed in numerous local, civic, and benefits productions including children’s T.V. shows. In her teens, she performed with the New Orleans Ballet Co. She performed with several local groups in the New Orleans area as a young adult and in 1976 joined The Dance Centre where she taught for over 10 years during which time she worked with numerous teachers both in New Orleans as well as workshops throughout the U.S. Kay has performed professionally with The Crescent City Movin’ Co, a jazz ensemble based at the Dance Centre in New Orleans, La. She headed the tap department and served as Studio Manager as well as an instructor. It was through this affiliation that she met and worked with the late Mr. Al Gilbert of Hollywood, CA mastering and teaching his unique graded teaching syllabus. While living in CA from 1987 – 1993 she taught at several studios including the Al Gilbert studio in Hollywood. Her performances and choreography experiences include various industrial and trade shows, Tulane University Summer Lyric Theatre; Global Beauty and Fashion Show, New Orleans World’s Fair; dinner theatre, and numerous specialty entertainment. After moving to the area and unwilling to retire, Kay returned to tap dancing in 2007 and has been the founder and choreographer for the adult tap group Soul to Sole in Niceville, FL. Kay has attended the Pensacola State College Summer Dance Workshop for the past seven years where she has had the opportunity to work with various Master Tap Teachers/Choreographers. Although she has had equal training in ballet, jazz and pointe, tap is her true love. Her teaching experience includes both children and adults at various levels. She has taught her own tap technique for over 40 years specializing in her ability to diagnose steps and break down problems in timing and execution.

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Aubrey Morgan

 

Aubrey Morgan is originally from New Orleans, Louisiana and obtained her early dance training with Giacobbe Academy of Dance. She went on to New York City to study at the School of American Ballet before joining the New York City Ballet professionally at the age of 16. After dancing with NYCB for 5 years, Aubrey received an English degree from the University of New Orleans, graduating Magna Cum Laude. Since then, Aubrey has performed as a principal dancer with New Orleans Ballet Theater, Los Angeles Ballet, and Company C in San Francisco. She is currently an ensemble member of The Phantom of the Opera in New York City and has been performing 8 shows a week with the company for the last 7 years. She was previously a guest artist on “So You Think You Can Dance”. Her other television credits include Fox’s “House”, “Beverly Hills 90210”, a 2015 Under Armour commercial starring ABT principal Misty Copland, and an acting roll as “Suzanne” on STARZ’ ballet drama “Flesh and Bone”. Aubrey has been teaching young students and conducting Master classes across the country for over a decade and hopes to continue to teach the next generation of young, hopeful performers for years to come!

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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!