Dance Institute Teachers

Miss Michele

Miss Michele

“A dream comes true” is how Miss Michele views Dance Institute LLC.  With a passion for dance since the age of 3 and a passion for teaching since 9, the best way to describe Dance Institute is “living a dream.”

“First and foremost I am a teacher,” Miss Michele says. “To see a student learn and then master their technique is an absolute joy for me.  Nothing in the world makes me happier than to see my students blossom into dancers.”  Miss Michele adapts her style for a wide variety of ages while maintaining a fun and playful atmosphere.

Miss Michele has been dancing for 20+ years and is trained in ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, modern, tumbling and ballroom. She accumulated many performances and choreography credits while attending the University of Minnesota. She was also the teacher’s assistant for tap and ballroom courses at the University and started assisting in ballet, jazz, tap and tumbling class at the age of 14.

“Assisting was the best way to develop my technique. After hundreds of plies and shuffles 4 hours a day, 4 days per week, mastery appeared.” says Miss Michele.  After college, she taught at a large studio in Minnesota where she developed her choreography muscle that originally appeared in college.

She is currently a member of Soul Motion, a progressive hip-hop company in Denver. Soul Motion focuses on performance and educational programs for area schools and is well known throughout Denver Public Schools.

Dance Institute LLC is family-owned and operated and, since we opened our doors in 2006, we’ve treated every customer like they were a part of our family.

Chelsea Cusack

Chelsea Cusack

Chelsea Cusack was born in New York, and grew up in Colorado. Beginning at age 6, she trained with David Taylor Dance Theatre, where she performed various roles in The Nutcracker and Rainforest. She also trained and performed with Nicholas Makhateli Ballet (Englewood, CO), Burklyn Dance Academy (Johnson, VT), Lemon Sponge Cake (Boulder, CO), and the State Street Ballet (Santa Barbara, CA). Chelsea attended Denver School of the Arts, and graduated with honors.

After graduation, she spent a year training at the Joffrey Ballet in New York City performing in several shows with this program as well as with the Urban Ballet Theatre. She returned to Denver in 2009, and became a company member at Ballet Ariel while also performing in shows with Kim Robards Dance. She then ventured back to New York where she apprenticed for a season with the Rochester City Ballet. She returned to Colorado rejoining Ballet Ariel in 2013.

Throughout her career, Chelsea always had a passion for teaching dance and reaching others through her art. She engaged in several outreach opportunities teaching children in after school programs throughout Denver and performing for others during her mission work to Juarez, Mexico and Santiago del Estero, Argentina. During the summer of 2016 she transitioned into teaching full time working as the Director of Dance at Alford Lake Camp in Hope, Maine. Since that time, she has found her passion in both teaching and performing, dancing freelance for several artists and companies, including Ballet 5280, as well as teaching and choreographing with Dance Institute. She is very excited to start her third year with Dance Institute.

Ben Thao

Ben Thao

Ben Thao was born and raised in Westminster, Colorado, and dance was an interest of his during high school. In 2012. He has taught at Dance Institute for 6 years. Ben met his current crew, “Machinez Remainz,” which is founded by Ricky Al and Triet Hoang. He began his training under Ricky Al, who’s the director of, “Machinez Remainz,”and taught him the fundamentals of street styles.

Ben’s main style is Popping but also have knowledge in locking, and hip-hop. Currently, he’s the lead choreographer of Machinez Remainz and accomplish numerous events in his dance career. Many notable events, such as Hip Hop International (2013, 2015, 2017), K.O.D. LA, World of Dance New Jersey & Las Vegas and recently Breakin’ Convention, an international event that was held at Denver’s own Buell Theater.

Ben’s goal is to make sure the students learn, build, and develop in their dance and spread awareness to the street dance culture.

Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith

Lauren C. Smith is an emerging choreographer and dancer from Jacksonville, Florida. She was among the graduating class to receive a BFA in Dance with Honors from Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Elsie Project located in Jacksonville, Florida.

She has trained and received scholarships from the following companies: Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, Jennifer Archibald’s ArchCore40, Bates Dance Festival, Atlanta Dance Connection, Visceral Dance Company, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, The Dance Company Experience, The National Choreography Intensive, Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, and Jacksonville Centre of The Arts, where she began her dance training under Kezia Rolle.

As a trailblazer, she has represented ASU’s Theatre Arts department on many stages including: The International Association of Blacks in Dance, John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center, The National American College Dance Association and Alabama Dance Festival to name a few.

Her work has been accepted and presented at the Alabama Dance Festival, ModArts Dance Collective Thread, Bates Dance Festival and a new work commission on Canton Ohio Ballet. Lauren C. Smith is currently a resident of Denver Colorado where she participates as a company member with Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and one of the twelve Founders of Beta Phi Alpha Dance Honor Society.

Miss Paula

Ms. Paula has been teaching for 25 years. Specializing in Preschool age combo classes she has enjoyed utilizing the love of children, dance and a degree in Early Education for a long-lasting dance career. Ms. Paula also loves teaching competitive Jazz and has had many competing teams in Arizona as well as Wisconsin throughout the years. Paula has also coached High School Dance teams in Jazz, Pom and Kick.

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