Chara Dance Academy proudly employs professional, caring, and dedicated dance instructors who are active role models in the lives of their students.  Our instructors teach students technical skills, Christian values, and self-confidence that will guide them throughout their dance journey and within their everyday lives.  Many of our instructors have danced at a professional level and/or hold a university level degree in dance. Each instructor participates in continued education both within and outside of the studio to stay current in the field of dance.

Leadership & Customer Care

Shanna Kirkpatrick

Chara Founder

Shanna opened Chara Christian Dance Academy in 2008 with the intent of combining her passion for faith, family, dance, and music and offering it up to the community in one faith based, professional dance academy. She attended Texas A&M University, receiving a BS in Sport Management and Minor in Dance and Business. In 2017 she and her husband Bobby, Associate Pastor of Friendswood Friends Church, started Part of the Art Foundation providing dance scholarships to deserving kids. Together they have three small children. Shanna enjoys serving on the FISD Education Foundation and Board of Directors of Family Promise. She is a certified business and personal development coach with More Than Just Great Dancing!®, helping other studio owners create businesses that serve their students and communities with excellence!

Madison DeShane

Office Manager & Dance Instructor

Madison began her dancing in North Carolina at age seven. During that time she performed in works with Carolina Ballet, Graceful Expression Classical Ballet Company, and Atlanta Ballet’s Centre for Dance in Georgia. She attended college at Belhaven University for Dance where she learned how to integrate her faith into her dance. Madison loves teaching and working with our families at Chara Christian Dance Academy and also being the Artistic Director for Friendswood Contemporary Ballet!

Ashlynn Dykes

Children’s and Special Events Coordinator

Ashlynn began her dance training in Georgia at the age of 4 but spent 7 years of her childhood focused on gymnastics. At her home studio she assisted classes, danced competitively, and began teaching classes at the young age of 12.  After 4 years of college studying Chemistry and with her original sites on Pharmacy school, she decided that teaching dance and fitness was where her heart was. Ashlynn has been with Chara since 2015. In addition to being a dance instructor, Ashlynn is also the Special Programs Manager in which she oversees all of the extra-curricular programs including Bloom, Summer Camps, Camp Creative/Adventure, STAR Leadership, Darby’s Dancers, Adult Classes, and Dance Teaching Assistants. She attends church at Sagemont, is a member of the dance ministry team, and volunteers in the children’s ministry. She has a passion for all children and teaching them how to incorporate worship through dancing as a way to shine the light of Jesus to all!

Lori Harvey

Hospitality Coordinator

Lori has been married to her husband Jim for 39 years, and is the mother of two daughters. She spent many years serving in Children’s ministry at her church and many years as a Chara Dance Mom herself.  She enjoys spending time with family and friends, as well as traveling to new places. Her favorite thing about working at Chara is making the young dancers feel at home in our studio, as well as making families feel welcome and comfortable.

Christen Hellman

Director of Operations

Christen came to Chara from the corporate world with project management experience across small businesses.  Christen has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Minnesota.  She is a League City resident and mother of two.  Christen has grown in her passion for the arts through her time and experience at Chara and contributes to our communication, website, and graphics, and community impact.

Susan Keeble

Director of Financial and Staff Services

Susan has a passion for people and enjoys building community by connecting and collaborating with others in her career and volunteer work.  She and her husband of 36 years, Craig, are the proud parents of a Florida Gator.  They enjoy going to Longhorn and Gator football games, volunteering in the Galveston community, and serving at their home church, Moody Methodist.  Susan earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from The University of Texas and a master’s degree in human resources and public policy from Carnegie Mellon University.  As a human resources professional for 30+ years, she is excited to serve employees by helping them grow in their careers and serve others.

Jillian Marshburn

Media Specialist

Jillian has been with Chara since 2016. She graduated from Northwest University with a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry Leadership. She attends Life Community Church in La Porte, serves in their children’s ministry as a teacher and their young adult ministry as a small group leader. She is a former member of the Deer Park High School Escort Drill Team and enjoys using her love for God’s children and dance at Chara to help find each dancer the style of dance that matches them perfectly. Let them praise His name with dancing. Psalm 149:3

Susan Mercer

Customer Care Representative

Ms. Susan is married to her husband Ray and has lived in League City for a little over a year. Upon retiring, she moved from the Waco area to be closer to family. Their family has been blessed with two daughters, three granddaughters and three bonus grandchildren; their oldest granddaughter being a Chara dancer. Ms. Susan comes to us with 20+ years of experience in the public school district working in Student Services and 10 years working at Texas Department of Public Safety, retiring as a Facilities Manager.  In her first year with us Ms. Susan is most looking forward to meeting and helping Chara students and their families.

Nicole Mueller

Director of Companies & Student Services 

Nicole has been with Chara since 2011. She spent 3 years training with Ingredients Dance Company in Dallas and had the privilege of touring the country with Dance Revolution Dance Convention. Nicole received her Bachelor’s in Public Relations and minor in Business Management and later started “Flight Dance Company”, who performs in the greater Houston area with Alyssa Beach, since 2015. Nicole manages our competitive and recreational dance companies and is the Administrative Director for Friendswood Contemporary Ballet. She has a passion for people and works diligently to extend the Chara Culture by giving back to our community.

Meghan Owen

School Director

Meghan has been with Chara since 2014 and brings over 33 years of dance experience with her. Meghan grew up with a passion for dancing and was captain of her high school dance team and danced competitively with her dance studio. She attended the University of Iowa receiving a BA in Dance and a BA in Performing Arts Entrepreneurship where she was a part of the university’s pre-professional dance company. Meghan then moved to Kansas City to dance professionally with Kacico Dance.  Coming to Houston through Teach for America, Meghan previously coached dance and cheerleading teams at YES Prep Southwest and South Houston High School.  Meghan holds a Masters in Physical Education from the University of Houston and is now our full time School Director writing curriculum, developing choreography, developing our instructors, and so much more.

Stormy Stanford

Customer Care Representative

Stormy and her husband Jason have been married for 20 years and live in Santa Fe with their two daughters, Ashby and Edie, who are both Chara dancers. Stormy is extremely passionate about giving back to her community through her volunteer work at H.I.S. Ministries Food Pantry, as well as serving on the Santa Fe Library Advisory Board. In addition, she is a dedicated homeschool teacher to her children. Stormy wishes to shine her light on all who walk through the door at Chara in the hope that all the dancers and musicians know that God has blessed them with amazing gifts!

Hillary Stout

Executive Assistant

Hillary joined Chara in 2021 from a long background in early childhood education and children’s ministry. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Houston and certification in Early Childhood Development. She’s been married to her husband Marty for 22 years and enjoys being an “on-call” parent to two teenagers. She enjoys volunteering in the community and loves to travel.

Misty Williston

Customer Care Representative

Misty and her family have called Chara their dance home since 2015, when her daughter began dancing with us.  Her son takes guitar lessons at Chara, as well.  She is a Chara mom at heart and loves the opportunity to serve parents and children here!  Misty was a public school educator for 16 years, and now has the privilege of homeschooling her two children.  She and her husband have been married for 17 years. She also has two, now grown, bonus children, as well as a grandson!  She loves spending time with family!

Jennifer Yarnold

Customer Care Representative

Jennifer is a busy mom of four, three girls and a boy.  Her and her husband, John, have been married for 25 years. She is grateful for the opportunity to homeschool her four children.  She loves the Lord with all her heart and enjoys serving in the children’s ministry at Grace Church.  Seeing children understand who God has created them to be and encouraging them to follow their God-given dreams is her passion. Working at Chara gives her the opportunity to see so many dancers and musicians smiling as they go after their dreams.

Dance Instructors

Casey Dervay

Director of Chara Crew & Dance Instructor

Casey is originally from League City! In her youth she was involved in synchronized swimming and martial arts. Dance eventually entered her life, leading her to become a three-year member of the Clear Creek High School Cavaliers. A graduate of Baylor University, with a major in Finance and minor in Chinese, Casey was a four-year member and Captain of the Baylor Songleaders Dance Team, performing at NCAA football and basketball games.

Post-college, Casey moved to California where she continued dance for The Walt Disney Company at Disneyland, performing in numerous roles and productions. During her time in the Los Angeles area, she studio trained in various dance styles, particularly jazz, jazz-funk, and hip-hop.  After relocating back to Texas, Casey was selected as a member of the NBA Houston Rockets dance team, the Clutch City Dancers. She performed at Rockets’ games and served as an ambassador for the Houston Rockets at numerous community events.  Casey is excited to be joining the Chara staff and to share her passion for dance.

Edward DeShane

Dance Instructor

Edward is a professional, free-lance dancer in Houston, Texas. He grew up dancing at Ballet Magnificat and trained there for 8 1⁄2 years. He danced professionally with Houston Grand Opera, Ballet Magnificat in Mississippi, Uptown Dance Company in Houston, and Tobacco Road Dance Productions in North Carolina. Edward graduated from Belhaven University with the class of 2016 and earned his B.F.A. in Dance. He has also performed choreography set by Bobby Wesner, Steve Rooks, Chet Walker, and Betsy McMillan.  In recent years Edward has joined the cast of Friendswood Contemporary Ballet for performances Alice: Through The Looking Glass and Into Wonderland and Cinderella as a professional guest artist.

Arya Gangakhedkar

Dance Instructor

Arya started her journey with Chara at the age of 4.  Chara has become an integral part of her life for the last 12 years. She has been training for ballet, pointe, contemporary, jazz, and hip hop. Arya has also been apart of Chara’s Competitive Company and this year is returning to competitions as a member of Chara Crew. She has been a committed Dance Teaching Assistant for the past 5 years and is excited for the opportunity to co-teach Hip Hop II during the 2022-23 season and to be one of the first Junior Faculty members at Chara!

Dominique George

Dance Instructor

Dominique, born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, began her dance training with Sheridan Productions Inc., where she studied dance, music and acting. After high school she continued her dance training at The University of Louisiana where she graduated with a BFA in Performing Arts and concentration in Dance. During her time in college she participated in summer studies with the Nashville Ballet, American Dance Festival and Ballet Arkansas. Dominique also served as an Events Coordinator with UL’s Dance Honor Society, bringing the gift of dance to the Lafayette community. Dominique also danced with Ad Deum II Fall 2019 – Spring 2020. She is thrilled to share her love of dancing through teaching!

Lauren Hurstell

Dance Instructor

Lauren began dancing at an early age and studied at the Ruth Page Foundation School of Dance in Chicago, Illinois. She performed with the Civic Ballet of Chicago and had the opportunity to work with choreographers from River North Dance Chicago and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Then, she moved south to dance with Ballet Magnificat!.

Since moving to Houston, Lauren continued her career dancing, teaching, and choreographing for many studios and companies around the city. She served as a board member, choreographed, and performed with The Pilot Dance Project and was the Ballet Director for a Conservatory. She brings over 20 years of experience in the professional dance world and is thrilled to share her love of dance with her students here at Chara!

Kara Jones

Dance Instructor

Kara started dancing at the age of 3 and competing competitively at the age of 6. Kara won numerous national titles with Bay Area Academy of Dance. She was also the Captain of the Dickinson Diamonds during her junior and senior year at Dickinson High School.  She collaborated with her director and community to open dance classes at the junior high to give first-year students the opportunity to try-out for the team. Kara started coordinating choreography for competitions, spring shows, and teammate solos. Due to her extensive contributions, she was nominated for the Dickinson Hall of Fame and was elected Dickinson’s Junior Rotarian and Texas All-State Dance and Drill.

Kara also served as the Director of Operations with Starlight Studio for eight years.  She was responsible for co-planning recitals, full-length stage productions, regional and national
performances, competitions, and more. She has won judges awards based on choreography from Crowd Pleasers, Accension Dance, Showtime and many more.  Outside of dance, Kara graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science. In her spare time, she enjoys being an active member of T.D.E.A. (Texas Dance Educators Association) and continues to work with drill teams throughout the greater Houston area.

Grace Kirkpatrick

Dance Instructor

Grace grew up here in Friendswood, attending FHS, where she was a Dance officer for the Wranglerettes.  She graduated from Texas A&M University in 2012 and has her Alternative Teaching Certification in Dance, Physical Education, and EC-6. While at Texas A&M, Grace was a member of the Chara Christian Dance Company, founded by Shanna Kirkpatrick, for 3 years. After college, she went to work as an Elementary PE coach in Pearland for 7 years and served as the Assistant Director for the Dawson High School drill team for 3 years.  She has also been a member of the Sagemont Dance Ministry for 10 years, while teaching for various dance studios and private drill companies. She has two wonderful daughters and has been happily married to her husband for 7 years. Grace is Shanna’s sister-in-law and is excited to join her studio!

Annica Marcuccio

Dance Instructor

Ms. Annica began dancing with Chara at age 10. Annica was one of the original members of Chara Christian Dance Academy’s competitive dance team where she moved through the ranks until she became a principal. During her time as a company member, she performed at Texas A&M, churches, numerous community outreaches, and competitions. While at Chara, Annica has worked with notable hip-hop artist Karin Celeste. She continued in high school as a part of the Pride and Joy of Friendswood, The National Champion Wranglerettes Drill Team and she was appointed chaplain her senior year! Annica has also performed in numerous shows and musicals.

In 2015, Annica started as an instructor at Chara. After two years teaching at Chara, Annica went on to be a part of Dance Revolution’s Ingredients trainee program, as well as become a teacher at Dance Academy of Mansfield and Dana’s School of Dance in the DFW area. Annica has now moved back to the Friendswood area and is so excited to be back at Chara to share her love of dance with all of her students.

Tanner Pratt

Dance Instructor

Tanner is one of our Chara alumnus! She trained at Chara Christian Dance Academy from the age of eight through eighteen. Tanner danced competitively with Chara for five years under the direction of Ms. Meghan and Ms. Nicole. Tanner also trained as a Soloist and Principle dancer of Friendswood Contemporary Ballet for two years, respectively. Tanner is a store associate at the Align Boutique in Friendswood and is excited to be teaching at Chara this year. She will be directing 4th-5th Grade Performance Company and assisting Ms. Nicole in her direction of Apprentice Competitive Company, as well as teaching many school-year dance classes. Tanner is passionate about dancing and is overjoyed to share the beauty of this art form at Chara!

Anna Reyes

Dance Instructor

Anna began her dancing career here at Chara at the age of eleven! During her time at Chara, Anna was involved with the Semi-Professional Ballet Company and danced as a competitive dancer with Chara Competitive Company for six years! Upon graduation from high school, Anna attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, where she continued her education and danced for UMHB’s collegiate dance team. Anna is grateful for that time learning leadership skills and spiritual lessons that have greatly impacted her future.  Anna is newly married to Miguel Reyes, who is the High School Minister at Sagemont Church. Anna is passionate about dancers learning that their identity is found in Jesus and using the gifts He has given us to bring him glory.

Taylor Slaughter

Junior Faculty Dance Instructor

Taylor started dancing at Chara when she was 2 years old and Ms. Shanna was her first ballet teacher!  Taylor joined Competitive Company at the age of 7 and this year is still invested and currently enrolled in Senior Company and Chara Crew.  Taylor is also taking the highest level of classes in ballet, point, jazz, hip hop and contemporary.  This year as one of our first Junior Faculty Members Taylor will be co-teaching Hip Hop II. Taylor is excited to join our team to help other students share their love of the Lord through dance.

Grace Vandenbossche

Dance Instructor

Grace grew up dancing at Chara and is a former member of our Competitive Companies and principal of Friendswood Contemporary Ballet. Grace has been on staff since 2017, teaching jazz, tap, contemporary, ballet and pointe and directs two of our Competitive Companies. Grace is passionate about creating a fun and impactful atmosphere for dancers where they can grow, be challenged and built up, and is excited to share the joy of dance with her students here at Chara!

Cassidy Woodcock

Dance Instructor

Cassidy is a Chara alumnus.  She trained with Chara Christian Dance Academy for six years during which time she studied ballet, contemporary, and modern. Cassidy was a member of Friendswood Contemporary Ballet for four years.  She is furthering her dance training by pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Dance at The University of St. Thomas.  Cassidy is delighted to be back at Chara, with the opportunity to offer the care and instruction that defined her time as a student here.

Music Instructors

Cindy Fletcher

Music Department Director & Piano Instructor

Combining a passion for teaching, children and music,  Mrs. Fletcher is an award-winning educator and musician who is thrilled to be sharing her love of fine arts in the Christian environment of Chara Christian Dance Academy.  Her goals are to motivate and encourage students while instilling a life-long appreciation of music.  She has taught piano lessons for 25 years, taught in public and private schools, and directed/performed with numerous choirs, singing groups, praise teams and musical productions.  When not teaching or making music, Mrs. Fletcher can be found with her other obsessions – reading, cross-stitch, fur babies and family.

Jeanette Adleman

Piano and Voice Instructor

Ms. Jeanette joins our music department staff this year as a private voice and piano teacher. She has been teaching 20 + years and currently teaches middle school Music and Choir in Pearland.  Jeanette graduated from the University of Houston with a master’s degree in Vocal Performance.  She also attended Trinity University and earned her Bachelor of Music degree from the University of St. Thomas. She has performed and traveled with the Houston Grand Opera and the Houston Chamber Choir. Along with directing several church choirs, she has sung as a paid soloist and choral member at a variety of Houston churches including St. Martin’s Episcopal, St. Paul’s United Methodist, and currently at Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church with their choir, and chamber group, Chorus Angelorum. Jeanette is honored to share the gift and joy of music with others through teaching. When not singing or teaching, she enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and fur babies (4 dogs and 1 cat), along with reading, writing poetry, journaling, traveling, and cooking.

Leeann Dockall

Piano and Voice Instructor

Leeann grew up in Friendswood, Texas. She started her music endeavors as a teenager, playing at open mic nights with friends and developing her passion for writing and performance. Soon after, she began her classical studies, and went on to study voice and piano at Texas Woman’s University graduating with a Bachelor’s in music in 2019. Throughout this time, she traveled and performed with the university’s competitive choir, and since then has worked in studios as an independent musician, performed with bands as a lead vocalist and keyboardist, and teaching voice and piano to students. Currently, Leeann is studying occupational therapy at TWU, which has allowed her to combine her love for music with her passion for each and every person to be given the ability to participate in the activities they desire to learn and experience. She believes every child is unique and so is music, so the two go perfectly together.

Jon Gowen

Guitar, Piano, Bass Guitar, Banjo and Ukelele Instructor

Jon studied classical guitar and music education at the University of North Texas. Jon has studied the guitar for 35 years and began playing the piano at age 5. He has taught private lessons in guitar, piano and other instruments for over 25 years. Jon began playing professionally in church and school productions at age 15. Jon has performed with groups ranging in styles from blues, jazz, rock, country, funk, contemporary, pop, reggae and ska. Jon tailors his teaching according to the student’s interest, skill level and adaption with a heavy emphasis on technique.

“It is my purpose to share my gift with others.” – Jon Gowen

Hope Gallagher

Piano Instructor

“Where words fail, music speaks.”

Hope was anxious to start learning music at the early age of 8. Between weekly piano and violin lessons, playing in ensembles and orchestras, and eventually teaching, music has brought amazing opportunities and memories to her life. Over the past 20 years, Hope has had the privilege of working with children, sharing the joy that music can bring. In both private and group instruction; whether creating a fun and engaging class for the very smallest musicians, or helping a student master a new concept, Hope loves being a part of each student’s unique journey.
Hope enjoys accompanying the congregation of First Baptist Algoa on Sundays, and during the rest of the week can be found singing, dancing, watching movies, and chauffeuring about with her six kids and dog.