The Forest Dance Academy Staff

Artistic Director, Choreographer and Owner
Michelle Thomas

Michelle Thomas, the Artistic Director of Forest Dance Academy, is a native of Michigan and the founding director of the Forest Dance Academy Performance Company.  Michelle is certified through examination by the Cecchetti Council of America (C.C.A.) as a student, as well as a teacher of Classical Ballet through the professional grade level.  She is a member of the East Coast Committee of Cecchetti and is pleased to announce that she is currently working with students for their Cecchetti Grade I - Grade V exams.  Michelle’s students have been recognized as overall scholarships winners at the C.C.A. Summer School in Holland Michigan.  Michelle is a graduate of Dance Master’s Teacher’s Training School at The University of Buffalo. She has been a member of Dance Masters of America for over 20 years where she is a Nationally Certified Examiner.  Her memberships have also included, Dance Masters of Michigan, Carolina Dance Masters, Dance Teachers Association of Virginia, and she is a current member of Mid-Atlantic Dance Masters Chapter 17.  She has served on the board of directors for Dance Masters of Michigan and as the President of Dance Teachers Association of Virginia.  Michelle is professionally certified by examination to teach ballet, tap, jazz, modern and acro.    
   With over 40 years of experience in the dance and arts industry, and more than 28 of those years spent as a dance educator, Michelle continues to produce top notch artists.  In addition to the standard genres of dance, as a dancer, she also studied several other disciplines of the arts including Highland Dancing, Polynesian, Voice, Drama, Modeling and even Baton.  As a teacher, she is experienced in training advanced dancers in Ballet, Pointe, Tap, Jazz, Musical Theatre, Contemporary, Lyrical, Acrobatics, Hip Hop, and also enjoys inspiring young dancers from Tiny Tots through Primary, Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced Levels.  
   Michelle was the state director of the Teen Miss and Mr. Dance of MI Solo Titled Competition.  Her students have represented Michigan, North Carolina, and Virginia as Dance Masters Title Holders.  Her title holders have gone on to place in the top ten on a national level.  Michelle is currently represented by several regional title holders from a variety of dance competitions.  And she is elated to say that FDA proudly presents Jordan Hayes as the current Teen Miss Dance of Virginia.  As an experienced adjudicator for dance competitions such as Dance Masters of Michigan, Dynamite National Talent, Northern Lights, Luv 2 Dance, Showtime and the British Association of Teachers of Dancing as well as performance and ballet companies Michelle has enjoyed traveling and judging in both the United States and Canada.  Her professional stage career includes dancing for Universal Studios and Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida.  And she has had starring roles in the Broadway Musicals, “Gypsy”, “Anything Goes”, and “Annie Get Your Gun” as Annie Oakley to name a few.  Her experience goes beyond dance to include industrial commercial work as well.  
   Michelle has maintained a successful teaching career.  Her students have received numerous competition titles and accolades, and have won several national dance championships.  Michelle teaches not only technique, but the LOVE for dance as well.  Many of Michelle’s former students have gone on to make a professional career out of dance.  She currently has a dancers performing on Royal Caribbean, Holland America cruise ships, as Radio City Rockettes, successful Los Angeles Choreographers, a dancer who is touring with Ailey II, and another teaching at the EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles.  Michelle has had students that have performed on the nationally televised “Star Search”, and “So You Think You Can Dance”, and that have worked in the industry from Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Chicago, Florida, Los Angeles, to New York City.  Many of Michelle’s former students have or are currently working towards their degrees in Dance Arts, dancing on college dance teams, clubs and cheerleading squads.  However, Michelle is most proud of the hundreds of strong confident and courageous dancers she has trained who have grown to be amazing woman and men who are successful in many fields.  Michelle was awarded The Presidential Citation for Outstanding Educator by the Governor’s School for Humanities and Visual & Performing Arts at the University of Richmond for the impact she has made towards the educational advancement of her dancers.  As a choreographer, Michelle has achieved numerous choreography awards both regionally as well as nationally.  Michelle has also had many award winning Distinguished Young Woman of Virginia formerly Lynchburg’s Junior Miss contestants, as well as Virginia’s Scholarship Winners in 2002, and 2010, and 2015.  She has choreographed several Broadway Musicals including “Anything Goes” and “Kiss Me Kate”.  In this, the 15th year of directing the FDA Performance Company, Michelle’s pieces continue to win overalls and choreography awards at regional competitions.  Michelle was the choreographer and director of the award winning Classy Dancer Tap Troupe & Pre-Professional Tap Troupe in addition to being a choreographer for the Lakes Area Civic Ballet Company’s “Nutcracker”. 
   Her training includes:  Bohoty’s School of Dance, On Stage Dance Studio, Lena Pelio’s and The Flint Ballet Company, The Detroit City Ballet, STEPS on Broadway, Luigi Jazz Centre, Broadway Dance Center, and The EDGE Performing Arts Center in L.A.  She has studied under such greats as Luigi, Frank Hatchett, Enid and Jeff Ricardeau, Romanian Iacob Lascu, Jason Samuels and Savion Glover to name a few.  Michelle still continues her dance education through conventions, and master classes from New York City to Las Vegas and LA.  In closing, I am thankful that as a dance teacher, I have the privilege of helping my students find the song in their hearts, the beat in their feet and a passion for both dance and life!

 

FACULTY

 
Jacob Beasley 
Eun-Kyung Chung
Shelagh Connolly 
Jordan Hayes 
Cooper Hubbard  
Caitlin Pugh
Michelle Thomas 
Brittany Wood 

 

Jacob Beasley – Drama Teacher

Jacob joins the FDA faculty this year as we are now offering Drama in addition to both Voice and Musical Theatre classes for those students wishing to their skills and become a triple threat!!!  He is a graduate of Liberty University where he was a Theater Performance major.  During his time at LU, he performed in six productions with Alluvion Stage Company; « Tarzan  « Les Miserables  « Mary Poppins  « The Little Mermaid « Sister Act « Peter and the Starcatcher « The Secret Garden as Colin. In the Spring of 2015, Jacob graduated from LU with a B.A. in Theater Performance.   After graduating, he worked as a counselor at Acting Uncut and performed in his first Alluvion production as an alumni.  Soon after, he joined the cast of West Side Story at Signature Theatre and, the following season, he was cast in Carousel at Arena Stage, where he was offered his card with Actors’ Equity Association. Now, he is a proud member of AEA. Jacob’s most recent performance was in the Virginia Premier of Disney’s Newsies as Crutchie with Alluvion Stage Company.  

 

Eun-Kyung Chung – Eun-Kyung comes to Lynchburg Virginia originally from South Korea where she won the Award of Choreographer in Korean Association of Dance in 2004 and 1st place in Seung Hei Choi Competition in Choreography in 2006.  Eun-Kyung received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Dance (BA & MFA) at EWHA Women University in Seoul, South Korea in 2006.  She is currently a guest faculty member at Randolph College where she teaches Beginning and Intermediate Ballet as well as Pointe.  She is the Ballet Mistress at Forest Dance Academy where she teaches Ballet, Pointe and Repertory classes.  In addition, she is also faculty at Runder Tisch Tanz Wurzburg Germany where she teaches Adult and Basic Ballet.  Miss Chung is certified in Vaganova Teaching Method 1-3. Her professional stage credits include performing the following roles at Landes Theater Coburg, Coburg, Germany under the direction of Mark McClain; The main role Concerto by Tara Yipp as a Soloist, Trance by  Po-Sheng  Yeh as group dancer, the main role in Caged by  Mark McClain as a Soloist, Remember self choreographed as a soloist, the main role in Hypnotic Poison by  Demis Volpi as a Soloist , the main role in Bewitched by  Mark McClain as a Soloist, a business woman in Contrast by  Young Soon Heo, and as Sugar Plum  Fairy in The Nutcracker by  Mark McClain.  Eun-Kuyng also performed the following roles at Mainfranken Theater Wurzburg, Wurzburg, Germany under the direction of Anna Vita; ‘Note to self’ by Ishan as Pas de trios, A Midsummer Night’s Dreams by Youri Vamos as Helena, Othello by Anna  Vita as Bianca, Dracula by Anna  Vita as Vempire, Lucidor by Youri Vamos as Arabella, David Bundle  Dance by Anna  Vita as Pas de Deux and A.D. Impression by Ivan Alboresi as Pas de Quatre.  At Ballet Theater Seoul, Seoul, South Korea under the direction of James Jeon she performed The Nutcracker as Sugar Plum  Fairy, Coppelia, Giselle as Fiance by James Jeon and Wave of Emotion by Young Soon Heo.  And at Ballet Blanc, Seoul, South Korea under the direction of Ju Heon Jeon she was a group ballet dancer.  Eun-Kyong is currently a soloist with The Landes Theater Coburg in Coburg, Germany. 


Shelagh Connolly - Miss. Connolly has been dancing since the age of 3 under the tutelage of her mother, Miss. Trixie Hardy.  Though originally from Sault Ste. Marie Ontario Canada, she currently resides in Lynchburg Virginia.  Miss Connolly has studied all forms of dance and became the co-director The Trixie Hardy Dance Studio for over 28 years.  Miss. Connolly currently is on faculty at Forest Dance Academy.  Miss. Connolly currently serves as Trustee for the BATD and Past President of the British Association of Teachers of Dancing.  She is honoured to have served as the First North American President in the history of the Associations 125 years.  Shelagh is a Fellow and Examiner in the Stage, Ballet & Freestyle Branches of the B.A.T.D. and was instrumental in creating the New Jazz Syllabus and its instruction in the United Kingdom and Canada.  Miss. Connolly is the current North American Coordinator for the Stage & Ballet Branches of the BATD.  Miss. Connolly is also a member in good standing of Dance Masters of America and DTA of VA in all genres of dance.  Miss. Connolly has taught at numerous workshops in the United Kingdom, Canada and the U.S.A. and has taught Dance Education in the Public School System.  She has adjudicated throughout Canada and several States, Dance, Dance Dance Canada, Thunder Bay Kiwanis Dance, BATD Canada, Theatre Dance Council International Blackpool England to name a few.  Her students have been High Score winners in Florida, Las Vegas and California where they had the privilege of performing at Disneyland California.  Students have also progressed to dancing professionally in Europe, Canada and the U.S.A. as well as seeking Professional Dance careers within the Association.  Miss. Connolly holds a BSC in Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement and Associate Substance Abuse Counseling pending.  Look beyond and broaden your knowledge and experience the lasting friendships, the teamwork, and continued growth in your dance abilities. 

  

Cooper Hubbard - Cooper began her journey of dance at the age of 7 at Forest Dance Academy.  She started competing at 9 years old allowing her to experience a broad range of dance styles. Cooper also cheered for 4 years at Jefferson Forest

High School and participated on their competition cheer team as well. While
living in Northern Virginia she taught at Creative Dance Studio coaching for
their All Stars Team, Competition Team, and outreach program. She also had
the privilege to work closely with the Tokyo Dance Company while there.
Her dance training includes; Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Lyrical, Contemporary, Hip Hop,
and Acrobatics.  She is a very proud mommy of dancer and beautiful daughter and ballerina in the making, Harlynn.

 

 

 

 

Caitlin Pugh - Caitlin grew up dancing at Forest Dance Academy from the time she was 4 years old. FDA was Caitlin’s life for 20 years dancing all the way through college. While at FDA she received the Exemplary Student Award, danced in many festivals, competitions, study trips, and was chosen several times to dance in the Virginia School of the Arts Gala. Her dance education is accredited to all the Staff that has taught at FDA over the years. Caitlin attended Lynchburg College and majored in Elementary Education. She danced for LC Danceworks and choreographed several student pieces. She grew into the teaching role at FDA during her junior and senior years of college, as well as continuing to choreograph for LCDW. Caitlin has taught 3rd and 4th grades, but currently teaches 1st grade at Robert S. Payne Elementary School. She has been teaching there for 9 years and enjoys every moment. Teaching in a low socioeconomic school has sparked Caitlin’s interest in pursuing a degree in School Counseling, so she can better understand and work with her students. This year she was chosen by her peers as the Teacher of the Year for Robert S. Payne. Caitlin returned back to FDA 3 years ago after taking time to focus on her career. Slowly making her way back to where it all began, she joined the Staff as a teacher and choreographer for the Performance Company. She is a certified dance instructor through Dance Masters of America and is a member of the Dance Teachers Association of Virginia Chapter 45. Caitlin became a teacher simply to inspire because that’s what her teachers did for her.

 

Brittany A. Wood - Brittany grew up dancing at Forest Dance Academy for 15 years, she was a member of the Performance Company as well as a Teacher’s Assistant. During her time with FDA, Brittany was awarded the Christopher Cole Hemley scholarship award, as well as, the Pamela K York scholarship. Throughout high school she was one of the first members of the Brookville Dance Team and served as the group’s President. After graduating with honors from BHS, she attended James Madison University as a dance major and completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre and Dance. At JMU, she was a member of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble, in which she danced as the lead role in multiple performances, as well as, the Associate Dance Ensemble, where her student choreography was showcased in multiple productions. As a member of Madison Dance, a student run organization at JMU, Brittany took on the role of Head Lyrical Choreographer on its Executive board. During her years at JMU, she began her teaching career at Lexington School of Dance and Dance & Co. She attended a number of auditions and enrolled in summer intensives and apprenticeships in Chicago and NYC with River North Dance Chicago and Hubbard Street. She was also offered a contract with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. Upon graduation from JMU, she made her way back home to FDA where she has been a dance instructor and co-director of the Performance Company for the past six years. Brittany certified through Dance Masters of America.  Since moving back home, she has choreographed pieces for Lynchburg College, been awarded numerous choreography awards and high scores at Regional and National dance competitions, had soloists compete for titles on the regional and national level, attended the Dance Teacher’s Summit in NYC, and has been married to Justin Wood for five years.  In May of 2017, Brittany and Justin welcomed a new edition to their family, Baby Blakely Glenn Wood.  Brittany was inspired by her late dance instructor Pam York to share her passion and love for dance. As a choreographer, Brittany’s goal is to challenge dancers to become not only performers but, more importantly, artists.

GUEST FACULTY:

Alisha Clark

Hailey-Blair Hendrix

Erica Mini

Heather Nance

 

  Alisha (AC) Clark - Choreographer/Dancer/Actress, trained in Upstate New York in dance (all styles), gymnastics (level 8), cheerleading (Junior Varsity and Varsity), film acting (TVI Studios, NY and L.A), and musical theatre (high school and community theatre). She is also the founder of Lynchburg Dance Connection. She received her B.A. in Sport Management and Coaching from Liberty University and was Captain of D-trex Dance Crew. She has coached and choreographed for both Junior Varsity and Varsity Cheerleading teams in NY, MA, and VA. After college, she continued her training in Hip Hop and Street Jazz in L.A. Internationally, she has trained in Thailand, the Philippines, and China. She began her international teaching debut at Groove Central in the Philippines and travels throughout the East Coast teaching masterclasses. She was recently the Artistic Director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Virginia’s “Dancing with the Lynchburg Stars” fundraiser event and choreographed for HAIRSPRAY at the academy this past summer. Locally, she trains individual dancers, teams, and crews looking to further their dance careers and performance at their home studios and Fridays at Crosswhite Athletic Club.

 

Hailey Hendrix - is a student at Liberty University pursuing a degree in English with a Teacher Licensure and a minor in Women’s Leadership. She is from a small town in North Carolina called Sophia. Hailey is passionate about exploring creativity in movement in a way that embodies emotion, technique, and musicality. Hailey has been dancing since she was three years old and has won several national awards and scholarships at competitions/conventions. She has trained at the EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles, California, for two summers and Entity Contemporary Dance in Pasadena, California, for two winters. Eager for constant growth and discovery, Hailey strives to expand her dance knowledge and creativity in order to teach others to the best of her abilities.

 


 

OFFICE STAFF

Office Manager:  Nancy McKee

Administrative Assistant: Amanda Reece

Administrative Assistant:  Lindsay Tibbs

Marketing:  Claudia Shroyer

 

Nancy McKee - A true Yankee by birth having grown up in the Boston, Massachusetts vicinity, Nancy McKee has lived in the Lynchburg area for the past 46 years and has earned the right to be called a Southerner.  She attended Lynchburg College and graduated with a Dramatic Arts Degree in 1975.  Her first job after graduation was a copywriter with WLLL/WGOL radio where she doubled as the female voice for on-air advertisements and provided the listening audience with their daily horoscopes … the opening line being “This is Crystal with your daily horoscope”.  After leaving the radio world she worked in real estate and bookkeeping while she returned to Lynchburg College to complete her finance and accounting education.  Nancy started working at First Colony Life Insurance Company in 1981 and held a variety of administrative, management and leadership positions before retiring in 2009 after 28 years of service.  Her “official” career at Forest Dance Academy started in the Fall of 2009, but her tenure at the studio started in 1991 when she held the very important position of Dance Mom for her daughter Lauren.  Away from the studio she stays busy with her jewelry business, Crystals of Hope, and she enjoys traveling, all sorts of crafts, reading, visiting wineries and watching movies.  And, her newest passion is being Grandma to Alden Elizabeth Falwell who arrived on February 26, 2017 (be sure to ask to see pictures!).  Nancy and her husband Jay celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary this past June.

Lindsay Tibbs is originally from the midwest, and has many fond memories of being involved in dance and theater growing up.  After living in St. Louis & a suburb of Chicago, she moved to Lynchburg in 1999 to attend Liberty University.  It was during grad school, she met & married her husband Chris, and officially put down some southern roots.  She enjoyed working in the Human Services field for 10 years before homeschooling her daughters, and has assisted at the studio now for the past two years.  

 

 


 

Claudia Shroyer - Claudia comes to us originally from Holly, Michigan but has been a resident of Virginia since 2003.  For those of you who may be unaware, Claudia is one of 6 children belonging to Brigitte and Allan Shroyer, making her Michelle’s sister of course.  Of the 6 children, 5 of them grew up dancing, but Claudia, having two left feet found her passion instead showing horses.  Claudia began as a youth showing in 4-H but quickly surpassed the club and found her way into the American Quarter Horse Association and showing on the circuit.  She was a champion at the Congress in Western Pleasure and Longe Line.   Claudia’s office experience began when she attended the American Travel School in Detroit Michigan and Dallas Fort Worth to obtain her travel agent certification.  Claudia started working in the travel industry as a travel consultant then moved into management of Executive Travel where she specialized in both leisure and corporate travel.  In 1993 ABC Travel Agency was born as an acronym for (Allan, Brigitte and Claudia).  This family business which was managed by Claudia gave the opportunity for some amazing excursions world wide.  Upon her arrival to Virginia Claudia found a farm in Bedford where she lives with her French Bulldog Louie, her Brussel Griffon Einstein, and her Manx cat Flame.  Claudia continues to raise Quarter Horses & chickens.