Faculty

Our faculty shares a common philosophy: to bring each student the benefits of performing arts training - healthy lifestyles, alert minds, self-discipline, the spirit of team work and a love for the arts. 

 

LOREN LOMASTRO SPECHT

 

Loren LoMastro Specht (Director) has worked as an instructor and choreographer throughout Illinois and Indiana since 1997. She is a member of the Cecchetti Council of America from which she holds her Associate IV Teaching Certificate, a member of the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters, a certified Rhythm Works Integrative Dance instructor, a graduate of the NFHS Coaches Education Program and a graduate of the American Tap Dance Institute’s Teacher Training and Certification Program, the world’s foremost training program for professional tap dance teachers. During the 2001- 02 season she attended company classes and trained with River North Chicago Dance Company. She has performed at Dance Chicago, Disney’s Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center, Dance For Dreams, Ela Festival of the Arts and Tango 21 (Ravinia Festival). She has danced in works by renowned choreographers Claire Bataille, Frank Chaves, Paula David, Jeff Hancock and others.  From 2001-08 she was the dance instructor/coach of the Lake Forest H.S. Varsity Poms Dance Team leading them to win 4 consecutive State Championships and 2nd place at UDA Nationals. From 2002-07 She was the director of Euphony Tap Ensemble and Prelude Dance Theatre. From 2008-18 Loren choreographed/coached the Loyola Academy Varsity Poms/Dance Team. Loren has choreographed works for many Chicago area dance companies, CenterStage Theatre, and Lake Forest H.S. She has received choreography awards from the Chicago Dance Connection, Dupree Dance, and Universal Dance Association. Loren was a guest faculty member of the National Tap Ensemble's "Spirit of Tap"Conference. Loren is a member of the International Dance Entrepreneurs Association and actively serves as an Ambassdor for the National Dance Week Foundation. In addition to being the director/founder of LoMastro Performing Arts Academy, she is the creator of Dancing Tots, an early childhood dance program used by dance instructors throughout the US and Canada. Loren continues her studies through master classes, seminars, and festivals. Loren lives in Lake Forest with her husband Brian and son Leo (6).

 

DANI BITOUT

 

Dani Bitout, born and raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, began her dance journey at the early age of 3.  During High School she was a member of Orchesis at Wheeling High School, under the mentorship of Diane Rawlinson, where she performed in Scott Bartell's Statements, Lizzie MacKenzie's Flow.  As a Dance Major at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL., Dani choreographed for 8 student showcases and 2 plays within the School of Theatre and Dance. Marat/Sade, directed by Stanton Davis, was one of the plays that she choreographed and performed in, which was later remounted and featured at the Sabanci International Theater Festival in Adana, Turkey in 2015. Dani performed in 8 main stage dance productions at NIU. Her most memorable pieces include Judy Chitwood’s How Slow the Wind, Paula Frasz’s Silly Love Songs, Autumn Eckman’s Fast Flying Forward, Bill T. Jones’ You Walk? and Bob Fosse's Steam Heat. Dani earned her BFA in Theatre Studies with an Emphasis in Dance Performance in 2017, along with the honor of receiving the Dance Service Award among her graduating class. Following graduation, Dani stepped foot in the aerial dance world - training, dancing, and teaching for Aerial Dance Chicago for 3 years under the direction of Chloe Jensen and Karen Fisher Doyle. As a student, she performed in an impromptu aerial silks solo choreographed by Lauren Reed for ADC's Winter Flight in December 2017. As a Company Dancer, she was featured in John Hancock's The Practicality of Falling, another aerial silks solo that was performed in ADC's Road to the Sky in December 2018. As a Company Dancer for ADC, she has had the pleasure of working with Mike Gosney, Aaron McGloin, Taylor Mitchell and Hanna Bricston. Dani has over 5 years of teaching experience in dance and 2 years of teaching experience in aerial. She also most recently became a certified yoga instructor and has been teaching her own online Gravity Yoga classes since July 2020. In her free time, Dani can be found pushing her physical and mental boundaries at Ultimate Ninjas in Chicago, trying out new foods and restaurants, or relaxing at home with her pet bunny, ChiChi!

 

BLAIR BURKHALTER

Blair Burkhalter was born in Houston, Texas. Her training began at the Houston Ballet Academy and later continued her studies with the Dallas Metropolitan Ballet School and the Atlanta School of Ballet. She was invited to attend ballet class at Northern Illinois University, at the age of 14, while training and performing with the Rockford Dance Company. She studied ballet at the University throughout her high school years and went on to receive her B.F.A in Dance Performance there after graduation. Professionally, Blair has worked with Ballet Nouveau (Colorado), Ballet Deviare (NYC), the Sarasota Ballet of Florida, and guested with the Civic Ballet of the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, the Faubourg Ballet, State Street Dance Studio, and Alma Ballet. She currently lives in Chicago and has been teaching and choreographing for over 15 years. Most recently she worked as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Northern Illinois University, teaching ballet and setting contemporary ballet works.

 

ISABELLE DAYTON

 

Isabelle Dayton was born and raised in Lake Forest, Illinois. She began dancing at the age of 2 and has trained in various dance forms including ballet, contemporary, jazz, tap and hip-hop. She is happy to be back teaching at LPAA where she trained from age 12 to 18 and performed as a company member. Isabelle also trained and danced at Extensions Dance Company in Chicago where she had the opportunity to learn repertoire and perform works by Lizzie MacKenzie, Adam Barruch, Miguel Perez, Ron de Jesus, Anna Long, Taylor Mitchell and Garth Johnson. Isabelle is a recent 2020 graduate from New York University Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in Dance. At NYU, Isabelle had the privilege of performing in many works, most notably those choreographed by Sidra Bell, Wayne McGregor, Lar Lubovitch, James Martin, Doug Nielsen, and Ori Flomin. A piece Isabelle choreographed called symposium was selected to be shown at Choreofest and at the NYU Second Avenue Dance Company Major Concert. Over the years, Isabelle has supplemented her dance training with many intensives and workshops offered by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, River North Dance Chicago, the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, Visceral Dance Chicago, Elements Contemporary Ballet, Sidra Bell, the Tisch Dance Study Abroad Program in Berlin and B12.  

 

KARA DELGROSSO

 

Kara is originally from Boston, Massachusetts received her ballet training at The Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts in CT. She spent her 4 years under the direction of Sharon Dante and Victoria Mazzerelli. Kara had many mentors such as Alexei Tchernichov, Eleanor D'Atuonno, Kirk Peterson and Tim Melady. There she performed lead roles as The Sugar Plum Fairy, Raymonda, Paquita and Odette. After graduating from the pre-professional program she went to dance with Enigmatic Contemporary Dance in Cambridge, MA as an original member. Kara continued to dance with her local ballet company Dance Prism in Concord, MA. She became a company member in 2008 and performed many featured roles including Giselle and The Sugar Plum Fairy. In 2011 Kara made her way across the country to join the Missouri Ballet Theatre in St. Louis, MO. Snow Queen, Dew Drop, Arabian, and Puck in A Midsummer Nights Dream are just a few lead roles she performed as a soloist. Kara was also the Youth Cast Coordinator/Ballet Mistress for MBT.  This year Kara was certified as a PBT instructor and is looking forward to teaching her students new ways to strengthen their ballet technique.

 

SHELBY DURHAM

 

Shelby Durham is a dancer with COMMON Conservatory and a choreographer based in Chicago, IL. She is a 2020 Cum Laude graduate with a BFA Dance Performance & Choreography and BA in Arts Administration, with a minor in Business Administration from Elon University. Throughout college, she trained with Bodiography Contemporary Ballet, Centro di Danza Firenze, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, the American Dance Festival, where she was able to perform works by Merce Cunningham and William Forsythe, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. While with Hubbard Street, she studied choreography by Crystal Pite, Ohad Naharin, Alejandro Cerrudo, Peter Chu, FLOCKWORKS and Nacho Duato. Shelby was also able to create new works with Robyn Minkeo Williams, Micaela Taylor, Roderick George, and Rena Butler. Shelby was the first Elon dance major to have her choreographic work selected for two consecutive years to be presented in the Fall Dance Concert, and has had her choreography and commissioned work presented throughout the US. Recently, her work has been screened in the HOMEGROWN Choreography Festival and selected for the IODC and the EXCHANGE Choreography Festival. While performing in and choreographing for the Fall Dance Concert, she was the Production Assistant and the On-Campus Intern for Elon University Performing Arts. Shelby was awarded the “Outstanding Senior Dance Performance & Choreography Award” for her accomplishments in both fields at Elon University in 2019, and is a member of the honorary dance fraternity Delta Chi Xi. Most recently, she trained with Danielle Agami of Ate9 dANCE cOMPANY in Los Angeles during Summer 2020.

 

STEPHEN EVERSON

 

Originally from Toledo Ohio, Stephen Everson started dancing recreationally at the age of 12. In 2016, Stephen was invited to join the Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts to focus on his classical training. After 2 years of training, Stephen became a trainee with Ballet 5:8. As a Trainee, Stephen performed and toured across the country with Ballet 5:8’s professional ballet company in the productions of “Scarlet”, “The Four Seasons of the Soul” and “The Space in Between”. Stephen has danced lead roles such as Prince Siegfried in Plainfield Dance Academy’s production of Swan Lake, and the Nutcracker Prince with The Fox Valley Ballet. Stephen had the privilege of recently attending the Royal Danish Ballet Summer School in Copenhagen, Denmark where he had the honor of learning from Fosse legends Ann Reinking and Dana Moore. In the fall of 2019 Stephen joined Project Ballet under the leadership of Beth McLeish where he danced the role of Cavalier from The Nutcracker at the historic Embassy Theater. Stephen has also danced as a guest artist in several different productions of The Nutcracker including Charleston Ballet Theater’s production in Charleston, South Carolina. Stephen is relocating to Chicago to focus on teaching and work as a freelance dancer.

 

DANNIE KRAY 

 

Dannie Kray has been taking classes in all forms of dance since the age of 3. Growing up Dannie danced competitively in Lyrical, Jazz, and All-Star Pom. When LoMastro Performing Arts Academy opened in 2007, she continued her training under the direction of Loren for 5 years. Dannie attended Stevenson High School, where she was on the pom team for 4 years. Competing in lyrical and high kick, the Varsity team made it to the State competition all 4 years. Her senior year, the team was the State Champion in Lyrical and the Runner-Up in Kick. Her college career started at the University of Iowa, where she was on the Diamond Cut Dance Company through the University of Iowa Dance Club. After 2 years, Dannie transferred to DePaul University, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in March of 2017 in Early Childhood Education with an endorsement in English as a Second Language. Since 2015, she has choreographed routines and coached the All-Star Pom teams at LoMastro, where they reached top rankings at both competitions! Last year, she choreographed for the Loyola Academy JV Ramblerettes, where they placed first at their Sectional competition. Dannie is a Preschool Teacher at Lake Bluff Elementary School and she looks forward to sharing her passion for teaching with the talented students at LoMastro! 

CHELSIE JACKSON

 

Chelsie Jackson has been a professional choreographer, dance educator, and performer for over a decade. She first started her dance training near Detroit, Michigan at the age of three. While growing up she participated in many conventions, master classes, performances, and competitions in all idioms of dance.  Chelsie graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in Dance from Western Michigan University. During college she trained with faculty members as well as guest artists including Derrick Evans, Eddy Ocampo, Willy Shives, and Ron De Jesus. She has also taken her training to various parts of the country such as The Edge Performing Arts Center, The Paul Taylor Dance Intensive, ACDF, Dance Masters of America's Teacher's Training School, Lou Conte Dance Studio, Visceral Dance Center,  and Detroit Dance Collective. Chelsie has danced professionally for Chevrolet, Nabisco, Lisa Lamarre and Dancers, Tapestry Dance Company, and A. Deran Dance as well as many independent artists and choreographers. Her passion for teaching has given her opportunities to be on faculty at Illinois High School Dance Festival and Raw Energy Dance Competition, as well as many studios throughout the Midwest.  Chelsie is certified in Acrobatic Arts, Zumba and ABT's National Training Curriculum in Pre-Primary through Level 3.

 
 

GLORIA MATTERO

 

Gloria Mattero has always had a passion for working with children. After raising her three daughters, she helped create a Tot Camp program for preschoolers in Highwood, IL. The program’s objective was to incorporate learning through movement and play. For the past 11 years, she has been coaching recreational gymnastics in Highland Park. This has given her the opportunity to work with children of all different ages with various skill sets. In the parent-tot classes she was able to facilitate parent and child bonding through activities that created a special connection between learning and play. In her work with preschool aged children, she encouraged the children to develop skills and gain confidence in basic tumbling tasks. She takes pride in teaching more complex tumbling while the children learn body awareness, gain strength and flexibility. She loves to teach new skills using creativity and games that encourage self-confidence and growth. She is enthusiastic and passionate and loves to praise each and every child on their individual development. As a member of USAG, she is always encouraged to learn new and innovative ways to keep the children striving to reach their best potential. She was born and raised in Highland Park, IL, where she continues to live with her husband of 35 years and their Shih Tzu. In her spare time she enjoys going on walks, spending time with family and doing home improvement projects.

 

KEIGHLEY NEMICKAS

 

Keighley Nemickas grew up in Lake Forest, IL. She began training at LoMastro in 2010, spending 5 years as a member of the Dance Company. While at LoMastro, Keighley was a two-time Dupree Dance All Star Scholarship winner, eventually going on to assist the Dupree faculty during the 2016 season. In 2019, Keighley graduated Summa Cum Laude from Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, North Carolina with a Bachelor of Science in Health & Exercise Science and minors in Health Policy & Administration, Chemistry, and Dance. While at Wake Forest, Keighley performed for thousands of fans at over 100 NCAA sporting events as a member and eventual captain of the Wake Forest University varsity Dance Team. She also performed with the Wake Forest University Dance Company in 4 Fall Faculty Dance Concerts and 4 Spring Student Choreographic Concerts. She choreographed pieces for the Spring Concert in 2018 and 2019. In the Fall of 2019, Keighley completed the Professional Semester at Broadway Dance Center in New York City with a concentration in Musical Theater dance. While there, she performed in pieces choreographed by Cat Cogliandro and Josh Assor. Keighley was most recently cast in Guys & Dolls at the Encore Musical Theatre Company in Dexter, MI, which has been postponed due to COVID-19. 

 

DEVON PERRI

 

Devon is from Toronto, Ontario and has been dancing since a young age. He has had the opportunity in choreographing for such events as The Toronto Film Festival as well the tap scenes in the movies; Honey, Universal Pictures and Save The Last Dance 2 MTV.  He’s appeared in music videos for such artists as: Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, and many more. Devon has also performed on TV for shows such as: the Billboard Awards, the VMA’s, the BET Awards, Dancing With the Stars, American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance and on Chris Brown’s Carpe Diem Tour. He has also appeared in commercials for Marshall’s, Cali-Max, and Milk-Canada.  He now resides in Chicago and is still teaching choreography and workshops across Canada and the U.S., passing on his skills to younger generations of dancers.

 

STEPHANIE RACIAK

 

Stephanie grew up dancing at the age of 2 in Chicago, Illinois. Stephanie was honored to be part of the Gus Giordano Junior Competitive Company growing up. As a competitive young dancer, she was inaugurated into the Hall of Fame and has won numerous overalls as a soloist, duet and company team member. Through her competitive upbringing, she also won several scholarships at conventions touring the area. She was trained by great members of the Chicago Dance Community including, Lizzie MacKenzie, Nick Pupillo, Jayde Howard, Penny Knox and Fury Gold. Stephanie has also had the opportunity to assist several master teachers, including her favorite, Stacy Paydo at local conventions.  She is a former dancer, captain and coach for the University of Illinois Illini Dance team. Stephanie has choreographed and consulted for several high school and college competitive dance teams, including both national and world champions.  Some of Stephanie’s larger accomplishments include performing live on the MDA telethon featuring Jerry Lewis. Stephanie was honored to be a choreographer for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade 2013 and 2014 and London New Year’s Parade from 2012-2017. On top of these accomplishments, she has also choreographed for the Bullskidz half-time show in 2018. In 2014 she was also invited as the master teacher for the University of Minnesota recruitment clinic. Stephanie has received the “Choreography Award” in the Line Division in 2018 at Hall of Fame. She also is the technique coach at Maine South High School for the past 9 years and joined the coaching staff for Glenbrook South in 2018 focusing on their jazz choreography and training.  Currently, Stephanie is still traveling teaching and judging both nationally and internationally. She has traveled across the U.S., Great Britain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Mexico, Japan, Finland, Chile, Scotland, Colombia, Norway, Australia & Ecuador teaching many children of all ages/backgrounds. Stephanie still works internationally as an instructor for Universal Dance Association. She was also part of their renown collegiate staff for Universal Dance Association for the past 13 years. Currently, she is an ICU (International Cheer Union) Certified Judge and has been on the judging panel the last 3 years at the ICU World Championship.  Stephanie’s full-time career is with UDA as the State Director for IL, WI, MN, SD, ND and IA where she continues to share her passion of dance with many teams in the area.

 

ABBY ROSSITER

 

Abby Rossiter is thrilled to be back at LoMastro where she performed as a Next Step company member. Abby grew up training and competing in dance throughout the Chicagoland area. She was selected as an NYCDA Studio Showcase Dancer and recipient of the Dupree Dance Convention Advanced Ballet Scholarship. She also performed as a Patriette and Concert Company dancer at Stevenson High School. Abby graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Miami where she studied Motion Pictures, Dance, and Sociology. Favorite opportunities while there include The New York: Invitation to Dance summer program (attended on scholarship), The Frost School of Music Dance Department and Composers Collaboration (selected choreographer and soloist), and Dancing With the UMiami Stars (1st place, Standard division). Additionally, Abby was part of the Miami Motion Dance Team as a performer, student president, and coach post-graduation. Abby loves sharing her passion for dance with eager students and enjoys choreographing musical productions as well. Choreography credits include: Masque (University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL) Willy Wonka, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Little Mermaid (Area Stage Company in Coral Gables, FL) and The Wiz, 13, High School Musical, and Legally Blonde (Northbrook, IL).

 

JESSICA SAWYER

 

Jessica Sawyer started dancing at the age of 3. She has trained in ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary and modern. She holds her B.A. from North Park University where she was a member of the dance team. She has choreographed for a variety groups including dance studios, theaters, dance teams and show choirs. Her choreography has received numerous accolades, including top scores at various dance competitions and national titles. Jessica is an active member of the National Dance Educators Organization and has served on their Honors Society adjudication board. She is also a certified Progressing Ballet Technique instructor. When not working in the studio, she can be found directing and choreographing theater. Some favorite credits include: Sweeney Todd, Spring Awakening, Heathers and Into the Woods. Jessica currently teaches in the Chicagoland area, sharing her love of dance with students. She loves the freedom and expression that dance provides and strives to make her classes an experience that will bring out the best in each individual dancer. 

 

MEREDITH ANN SEELEY

 

Meredith trained in Rochester, NY at the Orcutt/Botsford School and the Draper Center for Dance Education.  She received further training from the Hartford Ballet School, Pennsylvania Ballet School, Chautauqua School, and the NYSSSA Program.  At a young age, Meredith joined Timothy Draper’s Rochester City Ballet as a soloist dancing leading roles in productions including The Nutcracker, Firebird, Don Quixote, and Cinderella.  She also performed with Rochester’s modern dance company, Present Tense Dance, directed by Anne Harris Wilcox.  Later, Meredith joined Gen Horiuchi’s Saint Louis Ballet, where she originated the leading role in his production of Beauty and the Beast and danced numerous pieces by resident choreographer Francis Patrelle.  She later went on to perform with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Dallas Opera, Civic Ballet of Chicago, Chicago Festival Ballet, and many others.  Meredith loves helping students of all ages and abilities develop a true connection to their bodies for the purpose of cultivating the healthiest movement patterns possible in both dance and in everyday life.  Learning how to move well and how to move more is essential for robust whole-body health.  This philosophy has led Meredith to explore and study many other styles of movement beyond the dance realm including Pilates, Restorative Exercise, natural movement, aikido, and parkour.  Meredith is a Certified Restorative Exercise Specialist through Nutritious Movement, a Certified Pilates Teacher through the Pilates Method Alliance, and a movement teacher and coach.  She is completing her BA in Dance Performance through Saint Mary’s College of California’s LEAP program. 

 

STEVEN SPANOPOULOS

 

Steven Spanopoulos is a Jeff Award Nominated Choreographer/Instructor/Tapper; residing in Chicago. Steven has taught for Roosevelt University at Joffrey-Chicago, Columbia College-Chicago, North Central College-Naperville, Lou Conte, The School at Porchlight, and several suburban studios. Whilst helming class, technique is held to the highest standard. Choreographically, a very theatrical/Golden Age styling; maintaining quirky quips and comedic camp. “Telling a story through movement and sharing that experience goes beyond mere footwork.” Away from the classroom, Steven has performed at The Mercury Theatre (The Producers), Chicago Shakespeare Theatre (Disney's The Little Mermaid), Drury Lane Oakbrook (Billy Elliot and Thoroughly Modern Millie), The Paramount Theatre (42nd St.), Theatre at the Center (What a Glorious Feeling, 42nd St., Singin' in the Rain, A Chorus Line, and State Fair), The Marriott Theatre (My One and Only and 42nd St.), and Pheasant Run Dinner Theatre (Chicago). Off stage, and admiring Dancers on stage, he has had the pleasure of Adjudicating and conducting Workshop Classes for World Class Talent Experience, LEGACY, and Dance Educators of America.

 

ABIGAIL STACHNIK

 

Abigail Stachnik was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  She began her dance training at the Young Dance Academy under the direction of Sandra Young. Abigail became a faculty member at the Young Dance Academy in 2010 and has continued to teach and choreograph since then.  In 2015, Abigail earned a BFA in Dance with Honors from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She has trained in the Scholarship Program at Lou Conte Dance Studio, apprenticed with Chicago Repertory Ballet, and performed in the Mezzo Company with Cocodaco Dance Project where she eventually joined the main company in 2018. Additionally she has performed as a guest artist with Marlene Skog Dance and performed at Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival in works by Jessica Miller Tomlinson and MitchellMovement Collective. Abigail is currently dancing with Moonwater Dance Project and Symbiosis Arts, and one of her choreographic works “Windmill” has been commissioned by Simantikos Dance Chicago for their 2020 season! Abigail was honored to present her choreography at the Athenaeum Theatre, the College of DuPage, and the “Take Up Space” festival this past year. Her choreography has also been performed at the University of the Arts, DanceChance, Simantikos Dance’s Celebration of Chicago Art and Choreo Kick-Off.