Michelle Knell: Michelle is now in her tenth year at Sonshine Academy. She has studied dance for more than thirty years beginning in Conway as a child and then with Ballet Arkansas, Twin Cities Ballet, and Dallas Metropolitan Ballet. Michelle has also studied in Texas, Mississippi, Virginia, and New York, under such master teachers as Roland Dupree, Thommie Retter, Rhonda Miller, Mariclaire Miranda, Phil Black, Linda Ford Lavender, Keith Clifton, David Howard, Al Gilbert, and many more. In fact, while living and working in Texas, she was fortunate enough to attend several conventions and study with the likes of Mandy Moore, Shane Sparks, and the popular husband and wife hip-hop team, Nappy-Tabs, all of which have been recently featured on the hit TV show So You Think You Can Dance. After spending some time as a teenager in New York City studying at The David Howard School of Ballet, along with Broadway Dance Center, and Steps on Broadway, she danced professionally with several southern ballet companies, including the River City Ballet and Ballet Arkansas, performing principal roles in "The Nutcracker", "Graduation Ball", "Coppelia", and "Cinderella." Later, she went on to stage "The Nutcracker" for River City Ballet and also choreographed and staged "Hansel and Gretel" for Dance Etc. in Fort Worth, Texas. Recently Michelle wrote, directed, and choreographed a full length original Christmas production for Sonshine Academy entitled "There is No X in Christmas." In addition to her dancing, Michelle has extensive improvisational theater experience. She spent 3 seasons as a singer/actress in a children's theater group entitled "The Story Patch Players" which was a member of the Texas Commission for the Arts. As a teacher, Michelle has been instructing students of all ages in ballet, tap, jazz, pointe, modern, contemporary, lyrical, and musical theatre, for more than 20 years in Arkansas, Virginia, and Texas. In addition, her students have won many awards at dance competitions and conventions and some have received dance scholarships to prestigious studios on the West Coast or to highly acclaimed universities such as Olkahoma City University. Others have been seen on Broadway in shows like "Wicked" and still more have opened their very own studios or gone on to achieve employment at other area studios. In 2005, Michelle founded the "For the Love of Dance" winter workshop, a wildly popular weekend-long dance convention that brings together master teachers from across the country to provide convention style classes to students from all over the state of Arkansas. She is not only the director of that workshop but one of its annual instructors as well. Ms. Knell was recently invited to be an adjudicator for Kid's Artistic Revue (a National Dance and Talent Competition) and judged her first KAR competition in Detroit, MI in May of 2009. She was also invited to be a guest teacher for The New Creation Dance Company and has provided much of the competition choreography for the Conway High School Varsity Dance Team over the last 5 years. Michelle now proudly serves as director and lead choreographer of the highly awarded competition team, Xtreme Dance Force, and is currently serving as Director of Dance at Sonshine Academy where she teaches most of the advanced company classes. Not only is Michelle professionally qualified but she also has a love of children that is undeniable. She is one of those people who have the ability to teach preschool through professional and do a super job at each level.
Becky Quinn: Becky has been a part of the Dance Staff at Sonshine Academy since 1998. She teaches Elementary Ballet/Tap classes, Preschool Dance classes, and Intermediate Tap classes. Becky received her dance training from Joel Ruminer in Little Rock. She is trained in classical ballet, tap, and jazz. She began teaching at the age of 16. When asked how many years that meant she had been a teacher she said, “Let’s just say 30+.” Becky has kept up her skills as a teacher by attending Southern Dance Masters Workshops and Joel Ruminer’s summer workshops as well. In the past, she has also been involved as a Talent Judge for Pageants. Mrs. Becky inspires us all with her boundless energy and her devotion to her students.
Rosemary Suggs: Rosemary is a recent graduate of the University of Central Arkansas with a Health Science degree and plans to attend Physical Therapy school in the fall. She has literally been dancing at Sonshine Academy since she was a toddler. She has spent the last nineteen years studying dance and has worked with children in all of Sonshine’s programs. In 2005, she attended a summer workshop where she was fortunate enough to study with Ballet Magnificat, one of the premiere Christian Ballet Companies in the USA. Most recently, Rosemary has been keeping up her training by attending For the Love of Dance workshops, DanceMaker's Inc. workshops, and taking classes at Broadway Dance Center in New York City. She also performed last year with a small local community dance troupe entitled Soul Speak. Her experience with children and her years of professional dance training make her a valuable asset to Sonshine’s dance faculty. She is trained in ballet, tap, jazz, pointe, and lyrical. Rosemary debuted as a teacher six years ago serving as an assistant and substituting on many occasions. She did such a wonderful job that we decided to use her talents more extensively. She has spent the last four years assisting other master teachers to further her dance training along with teaching many of her own classes. Currently she is teaching Preschool dance and some begginning level Ballet and Jazz. Rosemary has a love for children that is unmistakeable and we continue to expect great things from her.
Taylor Bell: Taylor is a graduate of Conway High School and a Senior at Central Baptist College. She began her dance training at Sonshine Academy 19 years ago and is continuing her education to this day. She has studied ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, musical theater, hip-hop, and pointe and does a beautiful job performing all of them. Recently Taylor has broadened her training by attending master classes at the For the Love of Dance Winter Workshop and DanceMaker's Inc. She began assisting with younger classes at a very early age and showed such potential with children that we offered her an opportunity to teach several classes on her own. The past six years she has been assisting other master teachers to sharpen her teaching skills along with teaching many classes of her own. Though she mainly teaches Preschool through intermediate level Ballet, Tap, Jazz, and Pointe she is capable of teaching almost any style and level of dance including an exciting new dance fitness class called Krazy Kardio which she helped develop.Taylor also assisted with the choreography of the CHS musical “The Music Man” and "Back to the 80s." She was also responsible for the dancing portion of the CHS marching band's halftime show during the 2009 football season. Taylor can also be credited with the choreography to CBC's spring musicals "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" and "Annie Get Your Gun." During her competition career, Taylor was a highly awarded dancer, taking home several divisional titles and special awards, such as Talent on Parade TOP STARZ, and Kid's Artistic Revue KAR KIDS. She also recently held a demi-soloist role in the Sonshine Academy performance of The Little Match Girl and performed with the community dance troupe, Soul Speak. In the past she has assisted the staff of Xtreme Dance Force by providing some of the solo dance choreography. Most recently she served as Ballet Mistress to Michelle Knell for the Sonshine Academy performance of "There is no X in Christmas". In addition to her extensive knowledge of proper technique, her joyful spirit and exuberance for dance have been wonderful assets to the dance faculty.
Haley Harmon: Haley is a freshman at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She is one of the newest members of the esteemed Donaghey Scholars Program and plans to major in Social Work and minor in Dance Performance. A recent honor graduate of Conway High School, Haley served as Captain of the Varsity Dance Team and was responsible for all of the team's hip-hop choreography. She was also a member of National Honor Society, served as huddle leader for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and is proud to have been a member of Sonshine Academy's Xtreme Dance Force for the last 6 years. Although she’s been dancing since she was two in studios in Virginia, Texas and Arkansas, Miss Harmon has been studying via the convention circuit in Dallas- Fort Worth and Missouri with the likes of Mandy Moore, Nappy-Tabs, Brad Taylor, Janice Barringer, Keith Clifton, Tommy Alexander, and Roland Dupree since she was 5 years old. She was even awarded a scholarship at the age of 7 by Broadway star, Thommie Retter. Haley was twice invited to be part of a national production number with OKLA Dance Connection in Oklahoma City. In high school she was named Top NDA All-American Dancer and was recruited to work for the National Dance Alliance as an instructor for high school dance teams across the country. In 2011, Haley attended a DanceMaker's Inc. convention where she was recognized four times for her dance prowess and won a prestigious scholarship to study at Retter's Academy of Dance in Agora Hill's California. Ms. Harmon is a highly awarded competition dancer, having been named a Primetime Overall Solo Dance Champion, Talent on Parade TOP STAR, TOP Dance Directive Scholarship Recipient, Revolution Power Pak Scholarship Recipient, KAR Convention Scholarship Winner,and a Hall of Fame ALL STAR. In fact, she has been so recognized for her dance abilities that she was recently named one of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette's 20 to Watch in 2012. Haley began her teaching career by assisting other master teachers when she was just 13 years old. She also recently received her certification as an assistant dance instructor from the Ann Lacey School of American Dance Arts and Management at Oklahoma City University. Haley is also a liscensed Zumba instructor and a member of the Zumba Intructor's Network. She considers her specialties to be tap, jazz, musical theater, lyrical, and hip-hop but she is currently teaching and choreographing all levels and discipines, including a dance fitness class called Krazy Kardio which she helped develop. She is also an accomplished young performer. She was the youngest member on record of the Dance Etc. Performing Company, joining at the age of 5, and starred in a full-length ballet called "The Little Match Girl" at the age of 15. Haley began teaching her own classes and private lessons last year and her choreography is now being used by Sonshine Academy Xtreme Dance Force soloists to take home divisional titles at numerous competitions. Recently she was hired to provide all of the Conway High School Varsity Dance Team competition choreography for the 2012-2013 school year, a great honor for such a young teacher. She has also been hired by other studios around the state to provide All-Star Dance Team choreography. Haley is a beautiful dancer and Sonshine is excited to see what this exciting young lady does with her amazing talents. We are thrilled to have her on board.
Haley Stone: Haley has been dancing since she was just a little girl. She received most of her studio training at Sonshine Academy, where she took classes in Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Lyrical, and Pointe under the direction of Michelle Knell and Allison D'auteuil Whitfield. Later she expanded her training at numerous conventions such as OCUNYC, Tremaine, OKLA Dance Connection, For the Love of Dance Winter Workshop, and the Thea Foundation Workshop. Those opportunities gave her the chance to study with such stars as Glyn Gray, Thommie Retter, Corbin Blue, and Bill Hastings. For several years Haley was an active member of the award winning competition team Xtreme Dance Force. During that time she traveled regionally and nationally taking home numerous awards. After graduating from Conway High School, where she was a member of the Varsity Dance Team, Haley received a scholarship to Oklahoma City University. She has spent the last four years as a student of the Ann Lacey School of American Dance Arts and Management on the OCU campus. She studied under stuch master teachers as Jo Rowan, Mary Price Broday, Kari Shaw, and Brian Marcum. In May of 2012, Haley graduated with a bachelor's degree in American Dance Pedagogy. She has been trained to be an organized, passionate, and professional dance teacher and choreographer. She spent the last two years teaching at a recreational dance studio affiliated with OCU and therefore has extensive experience teaching in the classroom setting. While studying at OCU, Haley danced in "An Evening with Berlin", an MFA Thesis Performance which was directed by a fellow student and also performed in "Dancing Until the World Ends", a student choreography show. She also recently became a liscensed Zumba instructor and a member of the Zumba Instructor's Network. Haley's specialty and focus will be on Ballet, Tap, and Jazz as it pertains to the entertainment industry, however she is more than capable of teaching other forms of dance. Miss Stone has valuable experience as a choreographer's assistant, photographer, assistant costume mistress, and backstage crew member for the American Spirit Dance Company. She has a lovely and generous spirit and Sonshine is blessed beyond measure to have her sharing her time and talents with us.
Samantha Bland: Samantha is a 2010 Conway High School graduate and a current UCA student. Former winner of the Sonshine Academy Light Award, she has been studying ballet, tap, jazz, pointe, lyrical, and modern with Sonshine Academy for the past 14 years and supplements her dance training by attending the annual For the Love of Dance and DanceMaker's Inc. workshops. In the past, she has attended other master classes such as the Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker Intensive Workshop, along with some classes at Arkansas Festival Ballet and the Performing Arts Conservatory. As a teenager, Samantha performed 3 years in a row when the Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker came to Little Rock. She was fortunate enough to dance the roles of Angel, Spanish Variation, and Arabian Variation along with other talented dancers in the area. Samantha spent 4 years as an award winning dancer on the competition team, Xtreme Dance Force. She is currently performing with a local community dance group entitled Soul Speak. Samantha currently serves as an assistant teacher, a frequent substitute, and a lead teacher of several beginning level classes. She is a beautiful technical dancer and we are blessed to have her on staff.
Sarah Jo Wright: Sarah Jo is a recent graduate of Conway Christian School. She has also been dancing at Sonshine Academy since she was a toddler. She has spent the last fifteen years studying dance and has worked with children in many of Sonshine's programs. In addition to being a member of the Platinum Company, Sarah Jo has been keeping up her training by attending For the Love of Dance workshops and recently took some classes at Broadway Dance Center in New York City. She also attended the Ad Deum Summer Dance Intensive at Palm Beach Atlantic University under the direction of Randall Flinn. Sarah Jo is a talented young choreographer and has been asked to help with the choreography of the Conway Christian School musicals for the past two years. She is also a member of the Falcons All Star Cheerleading Squad that recently competed at the World Championship Competition in Orlando, FL. Her experience with children and her years of professional dance training make her a vaulable asset to Sonshine's dance faculty. She is trained in ballet, tap, jazz, pointe, modern, and lyrical. Sarah Jo is currently attending Pulaski Tech and is dancing professionally with New Creation Dance Company. This is Sarah Jo's first year to assist and try her hand at teaching and we are excited about her potential.
Junia Massey: Junia Massey has been dancing since she was five. She began her training in Conway with the study of Ballet, Tap, and Gymnastics. Later, she expanded her training by adding Jazz, Lyrical, Pointe, Hip-Hop, and Modern to her repertoire at Encore Studio in Conway with Ms. Pam Dowd. Junia took part in many competitions while she studied there. She fell in love with teaching dance after she taught her first Hip-Hop class at the age of 13. When asked what her favorite style of dance is, she simply answers, “anything that has passion”. Junia was captain of both the Junior Varsity and Varsity Dance teams at Conway High School. She has also choreographed two musicals for CHS: Carousel and Kiss Me, Kate. After graduation, Junia was asked to come back and choreograph competition dances for the CHS Dance Team. She has also worked with Kid Company, an association that teaches under-privileged children the art of theatre and dance. Junia graduated from Hendrix College with a Bachelor’s Degree of Art in Theatre Arts and a minor in Dance. While in college she took part in numerous plays and musicals, both on and offstage. Most recently, she starred in Hot Mikado. While performing with the Hendrix Dance Ensemble, she participated in the American College Dance Festival for three years. In fact, she was able to take one of her pieces to perform for informal adjudication. One of the classes she took at the Festival focused specifically on the choreographic process, and she received an excellent grade in the class. Recently she has been keeping up her skills by attending dance conventions such as DanceMaker’s Inc. Junia is also one of the founders and choreographers of a new local community dance group entitled Soul Speak. Dance is Junia’s passion. She has said, “Telling me not to dance is just like me telling you not to breathe” We are blessed to have her as a member of our staff.
Haley Wilson Green: Haley began her dance training in elementary school at Irby's Dance Studio. She studied ballet, tap, jazz, pointe, lyrical, and hip hop for over thirteen years. She is a graduate of Conway High School and was a member of the CHS Dance Team throughout her high school career. Haley was also a member of the UCA Honeybears Dance Team for three years and was co-captain one of those years. She is currently pursuing a degree in Kinesology with an emphasis in Physical Education/Teacher Education. Haley joined our dance faculty this year working with several of our Preschool Dance classes. We are delighted to have her share her gifts and talents here at Sonshine Academy.
Aeiress Duhart: was born and raised in Little Rock. She studied dance at Parkview Arts and Science Magnet High School and also danced under the instruction of Michael Tidwell at the Tidwell Project. She attends the University of Central Arkansas and founded the hip hop organization Dancers United. She was a 2007 dance finalist for the NAACP ACT-SO, where she competed in the nationals in Detroit, MI. She is a beautiful young woman with an equally lovely personality. We are thrilled to have her working with our hip-hop students.
Macy Macy Stone: Macy, former winner of the Sonshine Academy Light Award, has been dancing with Sonshine since she was just a little girl. A former member of XDF and current member of the CHS Varsity Dance Team, Macy brings with her a wealth of dance knowledge. Recently she gained her assistant dance teacher certification from Oklahoma City University at the Ann Lacey School of American Dance Arts and Management. Macy is a very responsible young lady who has a heart for children and we are happy to have her on board serving as a substitute when the need arises.
Ansley Mathis: Ansley has been studying dance with Sonshine Academy since she was 10 years old, though her earliest training began much earlier than that. In recent years she was a valuable member of the XDF competition team taking home divisional titles and even won a Talent on Parade Dance Directive Scholarship. She is a member of the Sonshine Academy Platinum Company, CHS Flag Line, Coway High School Varsity Team, and a former winner of the Sonshine Academy Light Award. Along with her many extra curricular activites, Ansley recently found the time to perform with Ballet Arkansas in their annual production of The Nutcracker and also received her certification as an Assistant Dance Instructor from the Ann Lacey School of American Dance Arts and Management at Oklahoma City University. In august she was nominated as an NDA All-American dancer, which is a great honor. Ansley is in her first year of assisting and substituting and is a true favorite among the students and staff at Sonshine. Her professionalism and positive attitude make her a winner in the classroom and we are blessed to have her with us.
These ladies enjoy performing and also love to share their knowledge of dance with other students in a classroom setting. Sonshine is very fortunate to have such a deep pool of talented young ladies who are willing to share their time and talents when the need arises.