Leslie Updyke – Owner, Director, Instructor: PreBallet, Ballet, PrePointe, Pointe and Ballet History
Miss Leslie is the owner, director, and dance instructor of Leslie School of Dance and Artistic Director/Choreographer of the New Heights Dance Theater.
Leslie studied with Madame Halina in Elmira beginning at the age of three. Leslie opened Leslie School of Dance in Elmira in September of 1991, and the Watkins Glen Studio in September of 2004. She attended Mercyhurst College and the State University of New York – Purchase, majoring in ballet with a concentration in teaching and has a business administration degree from Corning Community College.
Leslie has performed with the Elmira Corning Ballet Company, the Twin Tiers Ballet Theater and with the Mercyhurst and Purchase Dance Corps. She was involved with many professional productions performing multiple lead roles. She has choreographed the Nutcracker in Motion and Walking on the Horizon. Leslie prides herself on offering a very artistic approach to teaching ballet.
Leslie, and her husband, Greg, have three children and reside in Watkins Glen.
Leslie can be reached at either of the Leslie School of Dance locations in Elmira Heights and Watkins Glen
Christina Ranck – Ballet and Pointe
Miss Tina was born and raised in Elmira. She is proud to continue to live here with her son. She is a hair stylist in Painted Post for Shear Illusions, as well continueing her dream in instructing Dance.
Tina studied classical ballet with Rafael Grigorian for twelve years where she performed in The Nutcracker, Baba Yaga, Chipillino, and Romeo and Juliet. While studying for eight years at Leslie School of Dance, she performed in the Nutcracker in Motion, Fairytales, and Stepping into the Season. Tina has been teaching at Leslie School of Dance since 2000, and is a choreographer for New Heights Dance Theater.
Katrina Cady – Ballet, PrePointe, Pointe, Tap, Boys, Jazz, Jazz on Pointe, Adults and Competition
Miss Kat is a Bachelor of Arts graduate from Susquehanna University with a dual degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. She began her dancing career at the age of five at the prestigious David Sanders Dance Dynamics studio on Long Island, NY. Ending her fifteen years at the studio with experience in ballet, lyrical, pointe, jazz, tap, and acro, she continued her dance career through instructing at the Lewisburg Dance Conservatory near her University in the Selinsgrove, PA area. At the Conservatory, she taught and choreographed multiple classes ranging from pre-ballet to advanced tap and all styles and levels in between. At Susquehanna University, she also was a teacher’s assistant for the beginner ballet and beginner tap classes newly offered for the college students. At the local YMCA in her hometown, she was the Dance Specialist, choreographing three shows throughout the summer with students in grade levels pre-k to 12th. Also, focusing solely on students grade levels K-2nd. She implemented, directed, and choreographed her own after school program, “Music and Movement”, at the Selinsgrove Elementary School where she student taught at.
After recently moving to the Pine City, NY area, she has continued her dancing career through teaching at the Leslie School of Dance and aspires to continue to share her passion for dance with all.
Brianna O'Connell - Contemporary, Hip Hop, Lyrical, Tap, Jazz, Strenth, Conditioning, Turns and Leaps, and Competition Team
Miss Bri, was born and raised in Elmira, NY. She began dancing at the age of six. Miss Bri has studied the art of dance at multiple studios in the area and was very active in competitive dancing. She was picked for multiple performance teams through competitions including Dance Caravan, and was also named Miss Teen at Stars of Tomorrow in 2008. Miss Bri danced in the Nutcracker in Motion for two years and spent five years at Leslie School of Dance.
She just recently graduated from cosmetology school and is beginning to build her clientele and career. She is very passionate about dance and in continuing her education in dance while teaching others.
Courtney McMinds - Acro, Hip Hop, Jazz, Tap and PreBallet
Miss Courtney was born and raised in Reading Center, NY. She is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University with a Bachelor of Science Degree with certifications in Childhood Education and Students with Disabilities.
She began dancing when she was three years old with Glen Rhythm and Tumbling and then Leslie School of Dance. Over the years, she studied tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop, modern, lyrical, musical theater and acro. She also participated on competition teams and performance teams with Leslie School of Dance.
In addition to teaching at Leslie School of Dance since 2014, she has also been an instructor at Stage Door Performing Arts Center since 2015, and instructed at an after school dance program at Watkins Glen Elementary School.
Katie Hastrich – Muscial Theater
Miss Katie is a 2000 graduate from Horseheads high school where she was very actively involved in both the music and theatre programs acting as president of Concert Choir, as well as the Greenroom Players Theatre organization. She recently directed Notre Dame's production of GREASE, as well as Assistant Directing for Horseheads High School's Production of Mame and the Fantasticks. Katie's love of children, music and theatre is evident thru her experiences and her passion for lifelong learning and the arts.
In 2005, Katie graduated from Elmira College with her Childhood Education degree (grades 1-6) with a concentration in Visual and Performing Arts. Since graduating, Katie has obtained two Masters degrees: one in Literacy B-12th grade, as well as one in Educational Administration K-12. She taught reading for three years at Broadway Middle School in Elmira, First Grade at Holy Family until February of 2013. Currently, in addition to instructing Musical Theater at Leslie School of Dance, she works as a Pre-K teacher in the Elmira School District.
Leanne Hull - PreBallet, Tap, Tumbling and Lyrical
Miss Leanne has been dancing since age 3. She studied dance at studios in Central New York and began competing locally and nationally at age 11. She is a graduate of Ithaca College where she received a B.S. in Exercise Science and a Minor in Dance. She has also received certification as a Personal Trainer & Nutritional Specialist. During college, Leanne was a member of the Ithaca College DanceTeam. In 2006 her team competed in the Universal Dance Association’s National Collegiate Dance Championships, televised on ESPN, and claimed a spot in the top 20 nationally ranked dance teams. She also conducted a nationwide survey to study the involvement and importance of nutritional counseling, cardiovascular exercise, and weight training in dancers. Leanne has also taught and choreographed for the Princess Mhoon Dance Institute in Washington, DC and is the owner of LA Dance Academy in Edmeston, NY. She lives here locally with her husband and daughter.
Kati VanWie - Tap, PreBallet, Hip Hop, Irish Soft Shoe, Irish Hard Shoe
Miss Kati VanWie has studied the art of dance since she was three years old. She studied ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, musical theatre, pointe, clogging, contemporary and Irish. She studied at three local studios and then when she went to college in Florida she was the captain on the Central Florida dance team. She started competing when she was five. She has also participated in many dance conventions like Manhattan Dance Project. She started assistant teaching dance when she was twelve and as soon as she graduated from high school she started teaching her own classes. She currently works in a podiatrist office while she continues to share her passion in dance by teaching.
Bryce Ripley - PreBallet/Tumbling, Acro, Tap and Hip Hop
Miss Bryce is a 2016 graduate from Corning Community College and will further her career studies, Fall 2016, by attending the Finger Lakes School of Massage.
Miss Bryce danced at Leslie School of Dance for 15 years and with New Heights Dance Theater performing in the Nutcracker in Motion for 10 years. Over those 15 years, she studied ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, acro, and musical theater. In addition to dance classes, she was an active member of Leslie School of Dance competition and performance teams.
While at Leslie School of Dance, she was a class assistant for many years before going through the teacher training program, and taught class her senior year of highschool. Miss Bryce is excited to continue her instruction of dance with the children here at Leslie School of Dance.
Jessica Brander - Lyrical, Jazz, Tap,
I'm Miss Jess. I've been taking dance since age 3 and did competitive dance at Elite Dance Academy in Richboro, PA throughout middle school and high school. Through competition I was invited to be in the Star Power Power Pak in Branson, Missouri and Las Vegas. I also performed at the 2012 ProBowl in Hawaii. I continued dancing through college with the dance team and University Dance Company where I started choreographing my own routines. I have now been teaching for about 10 years. My favorite type of dance is tap but I also love teaching lyrical and jazz. I have always had a love and passion for dance and I look forward to sharing that love with Leslie's School of Dance students. I taught at Leslie's schools 2 years ago for 2 years before I had my son Wyatt. I am so excited to be back and teaching again and seeing old friends and meeting new ones. So get those dancing feet ready and let's have a great year!
Sarah Brown - Contemporary, Ballet, Pointe, Modern, Jazz and Lyrical
Miss Sarah is a Bachelors of Science graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Biology Education and minors in Anthropology and Dance. She began her dancing career at the age of three, studying tap, jazz, ballet, pointe, lyrical, hip hop, and modern at Pat Haggerty School of Dance, and was also in the Nutcracker in Motion for two years with Leslie's School of Dance.
While enrolled at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Miss Sarah was a member of the IUP Dance Theatre, where she performed modern and ballet for various performances on campus. Miss Sarah was also selected to dance with traveling modern companies, such as the Ben Munisteri Dance Projects, and perform with the companies on and off campus. Miss Sarah was also selected from the company to travel to various school districts within the Indiana area to teach the background and movement of folk dances throughout history.
Upon graduation from Indiana University of Pennsylvania on 2012, Miss Sarah held a three position as a board member of the Pennsylvania State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance as the Vice President of the Dance Division. During her term as VP, Miss Sarah coordinated the Dance Gala at the annual PSAHPERD Convention, coordinated dance sessions and presentations for the annual convention, and selected the Dance Teacher of the Year Award recipient for 2015. Miss Sarah was also selected to help bring awareness to the dance arts in public education, and was a member of a committee dedicated to passing a Dance Endorsement for Pennsylvania teachers certifications.
Miss Sarah is currently an honors Biology teacher at Troy Area School District in addition to a teacher Miss Leslie's School of Dance. Miss Sarah is also currently a graduate student of California University of Pennsylvania, where she is studying Advanced Secondary Education in Teacher Leadership and National Board Preparation and will graduate in May 2017.
Samantha Johnson - Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Contemporary, Hip Hop and Lyrical
Samantha Johnson was raised in Watkins Glen, New York, attending dance schools Dance Experience, Glen Rhythm and Tumble, Filippetti's Academy of Dance Arts, Leslie's School of Dance and Ithaca Academy. Samantha danced competitively and volunteered her time to assist beginner classes. She was involved with musical theater and choreographed the three of four high school musicals she was also casted in, including the lead role her senior year as Millie of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Samantha was involved in may things in high school, including volunteer time with the Lake Country Players, competitive cheerleading for four years, and completed the Arts Track in her high school program.
After Samantha graduated from Watkins Glen High in 2008 she went on to pursue dance on a bachelor's level with the State University of New York at Fredonia. While working towards her BFA in Dance at SUNY Fredonia, Samantha studied with Samantha Kenney, Angelika Summerton, and Helen Myers.
Three years later Samantha changed scenes and moved to Oceanside, California, attending MiraCosta College for the following three years. While there she spent time continuing her dance studies mostly under Dave Massey and Teresa Avina while pursuing her associates degree and dance teaching certificate. Samantha has taught dance professionally with Fit Kids America Inc., Leslie's School of Dance, and Ariel's School of Dance. She continues her dance career today with Leslie Updyke.
Samantha believes that dance is human history, culture, strength, expression, therapy, spirit, communication, passion, and skill. She would love most to change the world positively through dance, and expects that out of herself every day, with every class she teaches.