Creativity in Motion
Young Dance Academy, Inc. has been creating the ultimate experience and turning young students into trained professionals since 1983.
Aspiring dancers aged 2 and up, of all levels can put enroll in a variety of classes. They can learn and master technique in ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, lyrical, musical theater, hip-hop, jumps & turns, and specialty classes for dancers with special needs.
Our season begins in September and ends in May, concluding with our exciting annual recital. Although we do not have a second semester, we continue enrollment through March in any classes that are not full. However, our classes usually fill up quickly so register as soon as possible!
Young Dance Academy, Inc. has four spacious and fully-equipped studio rooms complete with raised wood flooring, essential for safe, and swift movements. There is plenty of parking, and a comfortable, spacious lobby to wait for your dancer to finish. Our friendly front desk staff is always there to greet you and help you with anything you may need.
MEET OUR INSTRUCTORS
Our expert, professionally-trained instructors pride themselves on their extensive dance training, the stress of technique, and showmanship to encourage every dancer to be the very best they can be. Read more about them!
Owner and Director
Sandra is originally from Buffalo, NY and has been in the Milwaukee area since 1983. She received most of her training in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Toronto. She was a choreographer for Unique Dance Company of Unique Productions in Buffalo and had formed Unique II, a branch of that company while in Milwaukee. She has performed at Shea’s Theater and Studio Arena Theater in Buffalo and at Artpark in Niagara Falls in community theater productions as well as dance company showcases.
Over the years, many of Sandra’s dances have received Top Honor regional and national awards. Her choreography has appeared many times on Showstopper Finals nationally distributed videos and on the Showstopper television show on CBS. She continues to win regional and national choreography awards and was a finalist in the Jazz World Congress choreography competition in August 2000. She choreographed a tap number that was chosen as a finalist for the Mini Critics Choice Award at NYC Dance Alliance National Finals in July 2006. She most recently won both the Mini and Junior Critics’ Choice Award at the NYC Dance Alliance Regional in Chicago, IL in April 2021 as well as the Mini and Junior Critics’ Choice Award at NYCDA in Chicago, IL in February 2020. In addition, she received 4 choreography awards during the 2019 competitive dance season. Her junior number, Leaving On a Jet Plane won 1st Overall Junior Group at Showstopper Nationals in 2021. Her choreography has been featured at Summerfest in 2000, 2001, and 2002 in shows featuring Bob McGrath from Sesame Street, Kinder-concerts with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra & Bob McGrath in March 2010 and January 2007 and a back to school advertising campaign for Milwaukee Public Schools in 2008. She co-choreographed the opening act for Danny Gokey’s album release concert in June 2014 and her dancers have performed at the Milwaukee Bucks Halftime for the past three seasons. She has also judged at regional competitions for Starpower and Starlight National competitions.
Sandy’s dedication to her craft and to her students is both remarkable and admirable. Young Dance is fortunate to have such a fearless leader!
Richard Ashworth is an educator, choreographer, and performer whose interest in technical foundation and corresponding social cultures have made him a resource in social and percussive African Diaspora dance communities. Richard attended the University at Buffalo, receiving a BFA in Dance in June 2007. After graduating, Rich performed aboard Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas and upon returning to the States, danced in several crews for live performances and industrials including for artists such as Flo Rida and The Goo Goo Dolls.
Rich has performed, choreographed, and toured with several internationally celebrated dance companies including Lehrerdance (dir. Jon Lehrer), Chicago Dance Crash (dir. Jessica Deahr), Be The Groove (dir. Stephanie Paul) serving as educational director, and Chicago Tap Theatre (dir. Mark Yonally), where he served as a choreographer and rehearsal director. As an educator Rich has been on the faculty of several dance based organizations including Dance Masters of America, Flow 40 Dance, Beyond the Stars dance convention, and Interdanza of Mexico. Rich has served as a choreographer and lecturer at Hope College, Salve Regina University, and Carthage College. Rich most recently attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, achieving a Masters of Fine Arts in Dance in May 2021. He now lectures at UWM, teaching courses in Hip-Hop Foundation.
Erin started her dance career at the age of 3 and began training at Young Dance Academy when she was 5 years old. Erin began assisting in the classrooms in 2017 and has been substitute teaching for the past 3 years. Her enthusiasm for dance and her dedication to the kids is clear and we are grateful to have such a reliable and confident instructor joining the team. We are more than happy to welcome her to our Young Dance teaching staff!
Emma began her dance training at age 6 in Racine, WI, and joined us at Young Dance in 2009. She worked her way up in the Technique Intensive and Competitive Programs and we are so proud of her work ethic and perseverance in becoming the amazing teacher and performer she is today. She was consistently a dance convention scholarship finalist and has been the recipient of many high score awards at dance competitions.
She is filled with enthusiasm for dance and for all of the students at Young Dance, including those for whom she has assisted and taught during the past several years. Emma attended Carthage College to pursue nursing and is now attending grad school! She has been teaching dance at YDA since 2014.
Emily has been dancing at Young Dance since the age of 3. She has been involved in our competitive program since the age of 7 and has never looked back. She has been the recipient of many awards and scholarships over the years and continues to excel in all areas. Emily was awarded the top soloist honor at NYCDA in Lansing, MI in January 2016.
Emily is attending UW-Milwaukee for Early Childhood Development. She has been an assistant in the classroom for several years and a substitute teacher for the past 6 years. She is loved by all of the dancers in the classes in which she teaches and assists. This is Emily’s 7th year teaching at YDA!
Jenna has been dancing at Young Dance since before she was born and spent the majority of her school years at the studio intensively studying ballet, pointe, jazz, and tap. She was a teacher at Young Dance for four years before graduating from high school in 2007. After graduating high school, Jenna spent five years touring, teaching and performing through the US, Europe, the United Kingdom and Japan with the performance group, The Young Americans.
In addition to performing and teaching, she filled the rolls of casting director, staging director, and company manager. Jenna’s choreography was featured in the Sojourner Peace Center Fundraiser at the Harley Davidson Museum in 2017, Goodwill’s Retro Rendezvous Fundraiser in October 2013, Danny Gokey’s album release concert in June 2014 and most recently, Dancer’s Against Substance Abuse Fundraiser in August of 2019. She has choreographed for the Wheaton Franciscan Diamond Jubilee in February 2016, Christian contemporary dance in conjunction with the musical group “Rhythm & Hum” and she has also choreographed for the Milwaukee Bucks Halftime show.
Her dancers have won many awards including most recently the 2021 Teen Critics Choice Award at NYCDA in Chicago. She won 4 choreography awards for her work in the competitive program the 2021 season. Jenna has been back in Wisconsin teaching since 2011.
Nevada began dancing since she was 3 years old. This will be Nevada’s 11th year dancing at Young Dance Academy and her first year as an instructor! For several years, Nevada solely danced in our recreational program and was invited to join our Technique Intensive Program due to her dedication to improving and her love of dance. This is her 3rd year being a part of our competitive team. She has been assisting at YDA for the past 5 years and loves working with all the dancers. We are excited to have Nevada join our talented team of instructors!
Janell Larson is a former Young Dance Academy student who began her training with us at the age of five. She trained extensively in ballet, tap and jazz and was a member of YDA’s competitive program for nine years. Her passion for teaching began early. She was assisting classes at the age of 12 and she was teaching and choreographing for YDA at the age of 16. While in college at UW-La Crosse, Janell taught and directed the performance company for Misty’s Dance Unlimited, under the leadership of Misty Lown (founder of More Than Just Great Dancing) for five seasons. Following that time, she was on faculty for the competitive dance programs at Oconee Youth School of Performance in Watkinsville, Ga and Forte Arts Center in Morris, Ill. She most recently was the director of the competitive program at Your Performing Arts Center in Yorkville, Ill for four seasons. Many of Janell’s former students are currently performing in NYC and LA, as well as, for Disney, cruise lines and topcollege programs and dance teams all over the country. Her choreography has won numerous top-honors at the regional and national levels. She has traveled around the country choreographing for studios and high school dance teams as well as judging for the national dance competition, Tribute. She is so excited to be back teaching in Wisconsin at the studio she called home for so many years of her childhood. When she is not dancing, she is a 4K Educational Assistant in Muskego and loves to spend time with her husband, Matt, and three dancing daughters.
A native of Houston, TX, Daniela Maarraoui began her training at the City Ballet of Houston from age four to 18. While training, she attended various summer programs at Houston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, and the HARID Conservatory. Additionally, she competed in the 2014 International Ballet Competition and performed in the 2016 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
After graduating high school, she joined The Joffrey Ballet as a trainee and was promoted to the Studio Company the following year. At Joffrey, she danced and toured with the Vompany performing in Christopher Wheelson’s Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, Lola de Avila’s Giselle, as well as Krzysztof Pastor’s Romeo & Juliet. Maarraoui spent three months as a guest artist with the Semperoper Ballet in Dresden, Germany to perform in Aaron Watkin’s Swan Lake.
In 2019, Maarraoui joined Milwaukee Ballet for its 50th Anniversary season where she performed in Coppélia, The Nutcracker, Nicole Teague-Howell’s The Firebird and Timothy O’Donnell’s Sacre in Ballet Russe Reimagined.
Daniela will be teaching ballet and pointe technique to our competitive dancers. She has been a substitute teacher at YDA for the past few seasons, but this is her first official year on staff with us! Welcome, Daniela!
Lori trained for six years at the Milwaukee Ballet School and for two years at North Carolina School of the Arts. She trained with Duncan Noble and Melissa Hayden and graduated with a Ballet degree in 2002. While at NCSA Lori performed corps and soloist roles in Giselle, Paquita, La Bayadére, and Grand pas de Romantic. She was a company member of City Ballet Theatre in Milwaukee from 2003-2007. Lori also taught in CBT’s school for four years. Lori also worked at the Milwaukee Ballet from 2008-2019. She worked in the Community Engagement Department and was also on the MBII Artistic staff.
In 2004, Lori started teaching ballet at Young Dance Academy, Inc. Her ballet choreography for the Young Dance competitive dancers has won several high score awards and most recently her pointe group was a national finalist in the teen category at Showstopper Nationals in 2021!
Rachel has danced at Young Dance Academy, Inc. since the age of 5 and was involved in our Technique Intensive and Competitive Programs for many years.
We are fortunate that Rachel possesses special gifts which combine her love and passion for dance, teaching, and children of all ages. She has been an assistant and substitute teacher in the classrooms at Young Dance for several years and is excited to be teaching her own classes for her sixth season at Young Dance!
Lisa has been with Young Dance Academy, Inc. for the past 31 years. She has extensively trained in jazz, tap, and ballet under the direction of Sandra Young. Throughout her years as a competitive dancer, she won top honor awards for her group, trio, duet, and solo performances. She won numerous scholarship awards at dance conventions.
Lisa performed in the opening number of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1996. Lisa has choreographed and performed in a New Year’s Eve concert with Milwaukee’s very own “Love Monkeys” in 2001 and for the National Association of Catering Executives Annual Gala in 2010. Lisa worked with the Technique Intensive and competitive dancers for 18 seasons. Her dances have won many top honor awards at the regional and national levels including both the top senior and junior small group awards at Showstopper Finals in Myrtle Beach in July 2003. Her dances have appeared many times on the Showstopper National television show on CBS. Most recently she received 2 choreography awards at the Tribute competition in Chicago in March 2018. She also choreographed for Danny Gokey’s album release concert in June 2014. In February 2019, Lisa choreographed a music video that went viral on YouTube as part of a wish granting experience for Make-A-Wish Wisconsin.
Lisa has an excellent “choreographic eye” and is passionate about instilling a fire within her dance students to bring out their very best! Her innovative style makes her classes exciting and fun! Lisa has been teaching at the studio since 1993.
Rachel is a former Young Dance Academy, Inc. dancer who began her training with us at age 3. She spent many years as a competitive dancer at the studio and was known for her great technique and energy as a performer! She attended the Art Institute in Chicago, IL where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree.
She is a married, stay-at-home mom with two beautiful children. She continues her love of dance teaching with a fiery passion in the evenings. She enjoys giving private lessons to YDA students to additionally enhance their training. Rachel spreads her love of dance and YDA and has been teaching her own classes since 2013!
Our Front Desk Staff
We pride ourselves in having friendly faces & helpful staff from the moment you walk into our studio. Meet our front desk faculty below!
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