At Columbia Performing Arts Centre, our faculty serves as the most vibrant and vital part of our mission. We are proud to offer a faculty with diverse backgrounds which range from educational, professional and entertainment successes. Our teaching philosophy dictates that our students are well-rounded dancers and performers. We encourage even our most advanced and focused students to study a wide range of dance from Ballet to Hip Hop. Many of our most committed students dance at the Centre nearly 20 hours a week and we feel strongly that a well-balanced curriculum is the key to their success.
Candace HarlanArtistic Director - Children’s Program
Candace Harlan has worked with CPAC since it opened in June of 1998 and has been teaching dance in Columbia for 20+ years. She has studied ballet, tap, jazz and modern for over two decades working under the direction of numerous instructors. Candace also performed and choreographed as a member of the Phoenix Dance Ensemble at the University of Kansas.
Candace became certified to teach ages 3-8 in 2002 and is the current Director of the Children’s Program.
Candace is dedicated to continued training and has attended numerous conventions and class workshops in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, and California. She enjoys sharing her passion for dance with her students and treasures working with children and having the opportunity to watch them grow.
Britney SteeleChildren's Program / Jazz
Britney Steele grew up in Springfield, MO where she began dancing at age 7. She has been trained in jazz, tap, ballet, lyrical, hip-hop, and contemporary. She danced competitively for 11 years traveling to numerous conventions, competitions, master classes, and nationals in New York, California, Florida, Arkansas, Texas, Las Vegas, and all over Missouri. Britney also instructed jazz and hip-hop classes for 3 years prior to coming to CPAC. She moved to Columbia in 2011 to attend the University of Missouri and is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science and Masters in Accountancy. She has assisted for multiple choreographers, allowing her to travel and work with dancers of all ages. Britney is so thankful to be part of the CPAC family and share her biggest passion with students.
Amber was born and raised in Springfield, MO where she was first introduced to dance classes at age 7. Her excitement for the art of dance was sparked at that very first class and it hasn’t left, or even dulled, since. She danced competitively for over 10 years, up until she graduated high school. During that time, she got the pleasure of traveling to numerous cities for dance competitions, conventions and workshops, as well as getting to work with some amazingly talented choreographers. She has been trained in jazz, lyrical, tap, ballet, contemporary and hip hop. Amber moved to Columbia in 2011 to attend the University of Missouri and recently graduated from the integrated program with her Bachelor of Science and Master of Accountancy degrees. She began working at CPAC in 2014 and currently teachs jazz classes and works with the competition team. Amber absolutely loves working with the students of CPAC and is truly grateful for the opportunity for to share her love of dance.
Michelle Morris began her ballet training with Marietta Ewalt and Halcyone Ewalt Perlman in her hometown, Columbia, Missouri. She went on to study at the National Academy of Ballet in New York City, under the direction of Thalia Mara, founder of the USA International Ballet Competitions. At the age of 16, she was asked to relocate to New York to apprentice the school’s company. Ms. Morris also attended The Buffalo Centre of Ballet in Buffalo, New York and The Midwestern Music and Art Center in Lawrence, Kansas. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Stephens College. Ms. Morris was a soloist/principal dancer with the Harriette Ann Gray Dance Company. She trained extensively with Thalia Mara, Yurek Lazowski, Larry Long, Kathleen Crofton and Harriette Ann Gray.
Her forty years of teaching experience includes five years on the dance faculty of the University of Missouri as well as five years on the dance faculty of Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri. Ms. Morris collaborated with Joann Ruess to help form Academy of Dancearts in Cape Girardeau, Missouri where she was Ballet Mistress for 10 years. During that time she became the Artistic Director of the Southeast Missouri Ballet Theatre. Michelle Morris was on the opening staff of Columbia Performing Arts Centre where she was Ballet Mistress from 1998-2002, before relocating to St. Peters, Missouri, where she spent 15 years as Ballet Mistress at Dance Connection Performing Arts Center.
Her students have been accepted to programs with The School of American Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, North Carolina School of the Arts, Texas Christian University, Kansas City Ballet, Virginia School of the Arts and Lexington Ballet.
Ms. Morris is very happy to be returning to the Columbia area and her Columbia Performing Arts Centre family.
Zack SchwabBallet / Collective Director
Zachary grew up in Dearfield NJ where he studied at Maxine Chapman’s Dance Studio and at age 14 he joined the Vineland Regional Dance Company. In 1999 he attended SUNY Purchase where in his Junior year he joined Sasha Spielvogel Dance Company in NYC. He continued his career dancing freelance around the country until 2004 when he joined Cedar Lake II Contemporary Ballet in Missouri. Returning back east a few years later, he joined the Rebecca Davis Dance Company in Philadelphia, PA. He enjoys being a part of the ballet and competition programs at CPAC.
Chris RutledgeTap Master
Chris started his dance training at 19 in Alabama, by the renowned Lisa Lyndon. He has training in Tap, Jazz, and Ballet, but his Professional Career is mainly TapDance and Body Percussion. Chris has Co-choreographed/performed in tap shows for both Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland. He also helped co-write, co-produce, and co-choreograph performances and full length stage shows, for the leading step/body percussion group MOLODI(mo.lah.dee), out of Las Vegas. He choreographed and was featured in a body percussion number for Italian pop star, Tiziano Ferro, called ‘Per Dono’, for his world tour. ‘Hines/Pollock’ is an award winning Performance Art act he created in 2010 as ‘the TapArtist’, where paintings are made by tap dancing in paint, on a canvas! He wrote a full stage show called FootPrints of a TapDancer, which was seen with his company theFYVgroup, around LA and in the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Chris is a premier performer in the new Holiday Tap Show based out of Minneapolis, MN called “Who Brought The Humbug!?” In the summer of 2019, he spent 4 months in Turkey with All Stars Entertainment for a 5-Star Resort touring show as a performer. He has been a judge/instructor for over 10 years with companies such as DEA, Dance Olympus, Canadian Dance Teachers Association, Starquest, Dance Talent Challenge, and Spotlight! For 20 years, Chris has been sought-after internationally as an instructor and choreographer for competition, concert, and film purposes. Chris is extra excited about his new position as TapMaster at the world famous Columbia Performing Arts Centre, where he will add his style and technique to an already stellar faculty.
Alyvia SwearingenTap & Jazz
Alyvia Swearingen began her dance career at the age of 3 in Bartlett, Illinois and continued to dance at Columbia Performing Arts Centre after her move to Columbia, Missouri. She joined the Ensemble team at the age of 9 and competed until she graduated from Rock Bridge High School in 2019. Alyvia currently attends the University of Missouri, majoring in Elementary Education. She continues to assist in tap, ballet, and jazz at CPAC.
Olympia JordanEnsemble Jazz Master / Hip Hop
Olympia Jordan began dancing at the age of nine. From 2008 to 2011 she continued her training with the CPAC competition team. During that time, she also joined the Tremaine Performance Program as a company member, where she traveled nationally training under and assisting Joe Tremaine himself. She received the Pulse Protege Scholarship two years in a row with The Pulse on Tour, artistically directed by Brian Friedman and Mia Michaels, in 2010 and 2011. In 2011 Olympia attended Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s summer intensive, Cedar Lake 360, and then in 2012 and 2013 apprenticed with Cedar Lake under the direction of Benoit-Swan Pouffer.
Olympia has choreographed award winning pieces for the CPAC competition team since 2011. She joined the studio’s faculty in 2012 and couldn’t be more thrilled to have found her passion in teaching.
Jen LeeArtistic Director - Ensemble
Jennifer Lee began working with CPAC in 2002. Following her graduation from MU in 1998 with a degree in Communications with a minor in Theater, Jen took a three-year hiatus from her work at the Centre to perform in Las Vegas. While in Las Vegas, she enjoyed working with various choreographers and performed in a multitude of conventions and charity events. Jennifer danced for the MGM Hotel, Mandalay Bay Hotel and “Splash” at the Riviera Hotel, where she was the understudy for the lead female. Jen has taught dance for 19 years and has also danced professionally in Branson, Missouri. She also enjoys teaching and judging for numerous conventions and competitions around the United States. In 2008, Jen assumed the duties of Competition Director in addition to her work as an instructor. As Competition Director, Jen manages the conceptual design of yearly competition focus including choreography, music, costumes, and dancer education. She has been nominated in the local Columbia community for WIN Mentor of the Year and has recently become a certified member of Dance Masters of America.
Kristen WeiserEnsemble Ballet Master
Kristen Weiser is originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She grew up dancing with the Pennsylvania Regional Ballet under the direction of Sandra Carlino. After high school, Kristen moved to New York City to attend The Julliard School. In 2004 she graduated with a BFA and immediately joined Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. She danced for Cedar Lake for 5 years. In 2005 she received the Josephine Schwartz choreographic award for her work “Uakti”, set on the Pennsylvania Regional Ballet. In 2008 she received the National Choreographic Award for another work, also set on the Pennsylvania Regional Ballet (PRB). After finishing with Cedar Lake in the summer of 2009, Kristen was invited to go to Belgium to do a choreographic workshop with Sidi Larbi, a choreographer who worked with Cedar Lake. She guested with Cedar Lake in October for their season at the Joyce in New York before coming to CPAC to teach in 2009. In 2012, her latest piece for PRB was chosen to close the 2012 National Dance Festival in Montreal, Canada.
Christy Aumiller ChandlerEnsemble / Troupe Ballet
Christine E. Aumiller is originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where she received her dance training at Pennsylvania Regional Ballet under the direction of Sandra Carlino. After graduating from High School she went to New York on Full Scholarship at The Joffrey Ballet School. In 2007, she broadened her training and attended SUNY Purchase College and graduated with her BFA in Dance Performance in May of 2011. Soon after graduation she was offered a contract with Carnival Cruise Lines. From 2011-2013 she worked as a dancer on the seas. She currently resides in St. Louis. She had her first piece of choreography set on Pennsylvania Regional Ballet “Clarity of a Storm” performed at Regional Dance America Northeast in May 2014, and her most recent work “Whakatoi” will be performed at RDA NE in May 2015. She is extremely honored to be on the faculty of Columbia Performing Arts Centre for the 2015/2016 season.
Tessa CrawfordTroupe Director
Tessa Crawford originates from Columbia, Missouri where she started dancing at the age of 3 and competitively dancing at the age of 5. She did most of her training and competing at Columbia Performing Arts Centre. After high school Tessa was one of 16 accepted to The Hartt School Dance Division BFA program, under the direction of Stephen Pier. In May of 2014 Tessa graduated Magna Cum Laude from The Hartt School with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance. Tessa has been fortunate enough to have gained additional training by attending programs around the country such as Cedar Lake 360, Tulsa Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, and Northwest Dance Project. She also has traveled overseas to study at The Julidanse Festival in Amsterdam, NL. Since college Tessa has been based in both New York City and Los Angeles, CA where she was a freelance artist. She has been lucky enough to work with a New York City based company called The DASH Ensemble, under the direction of Gregory Dolbashian. Tessa has been a part of many projects and tours with The Dash Ensemble. She has worked in the commercial industry as well. Tessa can be seen in music videos with Samantha J, Nikki Exotika, and Arez Flow along with live shows with artists including latin singer Reykon. Tessa was also fortunate enough to be a part of a new show in NYC called “Que Sera Sera”, under the direction of Shirlene Quigley, where she performed both ensemble and featured roles. Along with her performing career she has been teaching and choreographing for studios around the country. Tessa is extremely excited to be coming full circle and returning back to CPAC as a faculty member!
Jaime SupanCostume Designer
Jaime Supan is a professional costume designer/seamstress that has been sewing since the age of 5. Since graduating Stephens College in 1999, she has costumed independent films, music videos and photography, as well as dance and theater. She then took up designing and sewing ready to wear for several years before joining the CPAC team in 2006. In 2012 she was promoted to head costume designer where she oversees, produces, and designs approximately 300 costumes each season.
Ashley HarrisonCutter / Draper
Ashley got her start sewing as a child by making her costumes for her cats. After years of perfecting her feline torture she went on to earn a degree in fashion and costume design at Stephen’s College in 2005. Since then she has been designing costumes for film, dance, and theater as well as working in costume shops as a pattern-maker, stitcher, cutter/draper, and shop manager. In 2009 she helped start Bellenwhissle Productions, a children’s theater company out of Kansas City that has preformed at the Off Center Theatre and the Nelson Atkins Museum. She also teaches beginning sewing at Stephen’s College as an adjunct instructor.
Amy LynchExecutive Director
Amy Lynch is a 1999 graduate of Stephens College with a Bachelor’s Degree in dance and biology. She began her ballet training in Arkansas with Western Arkansas Ballet. Amy has danced with the Davidson Dance Group, directed by Rob Davidson and the Repertory Arts Movement, directed by Lisa Morovitz-Geger. She has had the opportunity to perform in New York, Texas, and Missouri. Amy has studied with Kirt Hathaway, Janice Dulak, Diana Cuatto, Melissa Shoenfeld, Max Pollak, Andre Gringas, Loretta Livingston, Susanna Newman, and Jeff Slayton. She is very excited to be a part of the CPAC family.
Cara LengerCompetition Coordinator
Cara began her training in Tulsa, Oklahoma and has studied dance in studios across the United States. She has had the opportunity to study with the Dallas Ballet, Chamberlain Ballet, and Webster University’s Modern Program. Cara has participated in several summer intensive workshops with Mia Michaels, Gus Giordano, and Liz Imperio. A multi-scholarship winner, Cara has had the good fortune to attend classes both through convention and studio scholarships at the Broadway Dance Center in New York, Gus Giordano’s studio in Chicago, and the Edge Performing Arts Center in LA. She has also assisted and toured with master instructors at regional conventions. Cara’s primary focus is jazz and has been an instructor at Columbia Performing Arts Centre for more than 10 years.