Jeanne Sok, Studio Owner/Director, began her dance training at The Dance Academy when she was three years old. In 1995 she purchased the studio from her first teacher, Mary Lou, and has been running it strong ever since. In addition to her valuable dance education that started at The Dance Academy, she has studied at Lou Conte Dance Studio (home of the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago) and has taken workshops and master classes with Savion Glover, Tommy Sutton, Jimmy Payne, and Bruce Stegmann to name a few. Ms. Jeanne has been teaching in the Chicago area for more than 20 years! Her specialties are in children’s combination classes as well as teen/adult tap classes. You can always see her smiling face around the studio — probably with one of her three beautiful children in tow!
Kathy Decker was born and raised in Chicago. Her love for movement began at age four at The Dance Academy and grew with cheerleading at Portage Park and gymnastics at Merrimac Park. Her true passion was for tap, and she began her teaching career as an assistant at The Dance Academy with Mary Lou Tromanhauser – officially joining the staff in 1991. It was from Mary Lou that she learned how to balance discipline, fun, classic techniques and creativity to make the best learning experience for all ages and levels of dance. After graduating from Notre Dame H.S., Kathy continued her dance training at Northeaster Illinois University where she received a dance scholarship studying with Dame Libby Komiako and Venitia Stifler. In 1998 she traveled with the studio to New York performing and taking master classes in the Autumn Dance Festival at Carnegie Hall. Her specialties are tap and combination classes for children. Over the years, in addition to taking continuing classes at The Dance Academy, she has taken master classes with some of the most talented dancers in the Chicagoland area such as Kirby Reed of The Kirby Reed Project and Bril Barrett and Lane Alexander of the Chicago Human Rhythm Project.
In addition to teaching weekly classes, Kathy runs the studio’s childrens performance group, Lil’ Starz along with owner Jeanne Sok.
Nell Heflin began her dance training in Nashville, Tennessee with the Nashville Dance Ensemble (now Harding Academy School of Dance) under the direction of Tina Cowlyn. She attended summer intensives at the Nashville Ballet, Virginia School of the Arts, and River North Chicago Dance Company. Upon graduation from high school, she attended Birmingham-Southern College with a scholarship for dance and trained under Mira Popovich and Ruth Henry. She graduated Cum Laude with a degrees in Dance Performance and Business Administration. Immediately following graduation, Nell was asked to join the Atlanta Festival Ballet, under the direction of Nicolas Pacana and Gregory Aaron. After a season with AFB, Nell moved to Chicago; she is currently dancing with Inaside Chicago Dance.
Caitlin Heflin, a native of Nashville, Tennessee, graduated magna cum laude from Southern Methodist University in 2014 with a BFA in Dance Performance and a BA in Economics. While at SMU, she had the opportunity to perform works by Martha Graham, Billy Siegenfield, Joost Vrouenraets, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. Caitlin’s studies outside of SMU include summer work with the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, the Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts, Thodos Dance Chicago, and River North Dance Chicago. While in college, her choreography was featured in multiple student shows, the Monika Korra Benefit, and at Inaside Chicago Dance’s Choreographic Sponsorship Event in 2013. Upon her graduation from SMU, she accepted an internship/trainee position with Thodos Dance Chicago under the direction of Melissa Thodos. She is excited to begin her professional career teaching, choreographing, and dancing in the Chicagoland area.
Kylie Nieves has been dancing for 14 years at The Dance Academy. Over the years, she has studied Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Hip Hop, Lyrical, Modern, and Contemporary. At age 8 she was in Ballet Legere’s production of “The Nutcracker”, and a few years later studied at Joel Hall Dancer’s & Center. When she was 13, Kylie became a Teacher’s Assistant at The Dance Academy and few years later became a substitute teacher. Kylie has performed at Dance Chicago and has also competed & choreographed in several dance competitions in the Chicagoland area. For the past 2 years Kylie has danced as an Advanced Apprentice Artist at Gallery37, which is part of After School Matters, a City of Chicago program. She has had the privilage of taking several Master classes with professional dancers from Columbia College, Deeply Rooted Productions and Dance Works Chicago. She is a recent graduate of Walter Payton College Prep High School and will be attending Northeastern Illinois University where she plans to study Psychology with a minor in Dance. She is thrilled to become a part of The Dance Academy staff & cannot wait to share her love of dance with her students. She looks forward to all of the exciting opportunities now and in the future.
India Monae Smith was born and raised in the Metro Detroit area of Michigan. Her style consists of a variety of dance genres, with a strong passion for the art of hip-hop. At the age 10 Smith started her dance training through her local Boys & Girls club; learning hip-hop, modern, and ballroom. She then continued her modern dance training under the direction of choreographer and teacher Miss Deborah Wilson. Soon, Smith started performing solo and collaborative stage works of her very own. One of her biggest accomplishments was receiving an award for the Most Outstanding Dancer at her public high school. In 06′ Smith took her love for hip-hop and began instructing children of all ages and coordinating several talent shows with her own choreography. In 08′ she then decided to take her dance training to the next level under the direction of Columbia College Chicago’s Dance Center. During her time in Chicago, Smith has studied and worked under the likes of Jessica Ellis, Lisa Gonzales, Hanna Brictson, Pia Hamilton, Jarrett Rashad Kelly, Kathleen Turner, Jenny Warnick, Willie Jr White, and many more great choreographers. Smith has performed at events such as Carnival-Chicago, Hype, Urban Dance United, Hair Illusions Hair Battle, Collaboraction: Sketchbook X, and more. She has been providing these works of entertainment in places like The Portage Theatre, McCormick Place, Columbia College Chicago’s Dance Center, and The Chopin Theatre. Smith is currently instructing her love for dance at various Chicago dance schools and co-directing alongside Willie Jr White, hip-hop based Stereophonix Dance Company. Smith is now continuing her dance training at Intrigue Dance & Performing Arts Center under mentor Pia Hamilton. Smith hope’s to gain a better understanding and commitment to dance through all her hard training. Her number one goal in life is to share her passion and love for dance with the world!
Ginger Jensen originates from Blair, Nebraska, Ginger is pretty sure she emerged from the womb turned out and pointing her toes! She studied at a local studio much like The Dance Academy throughout high school and began student demonstrating at age 12. Choosing to stay in Nebraska for her undergraduate studies, she was lead teacher and managed a satellite branch of Judy Howard Dance Studio (now Blair Dance Center) for 5 years, while obtaining Bachelor’s degrees in Math & English with a Theatre Emphasis; at the same time maintaining her dance training at Ballet Omaha as well as with former Broadway dancer Patrick Roddy and traveling to various workshops and conventions with esteemed teachers throughout the country. She received a Tremaine Dance Convention scholarship at age 17, a choreography award from Chicago Dance Connection at age 28 and in 2006 one of her former students co-founded and remains Managing Director of the nationally touring workshop The Pulse, which features various judges and artists from the hit TV Show So You Think You Can Dance. After college, Ginger emerged onto the dance scene in Chicago, and she continues her study at the Ruth Page Foundation School, Ballet Chicago, Lou Conte Dance Studio, Gus Giordano, Joel Hall Dance Centers and Broadway Dance Center in New York City. In 2004, she founded and became Artistic Director of Equilibrium Dance Chicago, which strived to contribute to the dance community in a balanced, healthy way. In 2007, Ginger returned to The Dance Academy after a short hiatus – making it a total of 6 years teaching for this school. Most of all, Ginger loves helping people realize their true potential, and she is proud to lend her time and energy to The Dance Academy and thanks Jeanne for the opportunity to share her passion with her students.