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.


Shanna Kirkpatrick

Chara Founder

Shanna opened Chara Christian Dance Academy in 2008 with the intent of combining faith with excellence in dance instruction. 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, Pastor of Friendswood Friends Church, started Part of the Art Foundation providing dance scholarships to deserving kids. Together they have three children. Shanna enjoys serving on the board of the FISD Education Foundation and Friends of Downtown Friendswood. 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 dance training and performing in North Carolina. 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 in Jackson, Mississippi for Dance and graduated with a degree in Management. Madison loves teaching and working with our families at Chara Christian Dance Academy, and hopes to grow each of her students’ passion for dance! She also is the Artistic Director for Friendswood Contemporary Ballet, and loves bringing ballet to the community of Friendswood!

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 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.

Nicole Reed

Director of Student Services 

Nicole received her Bachelor’s in Public Relations & minor in Business Management from University of Houston. She spent 3 years training with Ingredients Dance Company in Dallas where she had the privilege of touring the country with the Dance Revolution Dance Convention. Nicole manages our competitive and recreational dance companies, is the Administrative Director for Friendswood Contemporary Ballet and a dance instructor. She hopes to instill a deeper self confidence in her students as well as a drive and determination to push towards their goals. It is not about how you compare to your peers, but that you are better than you were the day before. She encourages her students to believe in themselves and to find one thing to grow in and improve on each day. Outside of dance, Nicole likes to spend time with her family, enjoys eating Mexican food and cheering on the Astros. She and her husband are looking forward to growing their family and welcoming their first baby in the fall of 2023.

Meghan Owen

School Director

Meghan has been with Chara since 2014. Meghan grew up with a passion for dancing. She 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. Meghan hopes to give her dancers a well-rounded training experience that makes them versatile dancers for whatever dance journey they pursue! Meghan, her husband, and two children enjoy camping, hiking, and traveling throughout the year.

Hillary Stout

Executive Assistant & Enrollment Coordinator

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 23 years and enjoys being an “on-call” parent to a high school junior and a college junior. She enjoys volunteering in the community and loves to travel.

Service Coordinators

Samantha Aguilera

Costume Coordinator

Samantha has 17+ years of administrative experience in which attention to detail, structure, and organization are crucial. Her family has been attending Chara since 2020 starting with her daughter dancing then a year later her son starting piano lessons. She is a homeschool mom who loves taking field trips and learning alongside her children. She and her husband have been married for 13 years and together serve in the children’s ministry at their church. She loves spending time with her family and traveling!

Lori Harvey

Hospitality Coordinator & Customer Care

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.

Jillian Marshburn

Media Coordinator

Jillian started at Chara in 2016 working part time at the front desk while finishing her Bachelor of Arts degree in Ministry Leadership from Northwest University. After graduation, she shifted to a full time role with Media and Marketing being the focus. Growing up dancing herself and later becoming a member of the Deer Park HS Drill Team, she loves getting the opportunity to continue to be in the dance world while using her talents in graphic design & videography to showcase the culture and community of Chara to bring families into our Chara family! When Jillian is not at Chara, she enjoys reading, geeking out over Star Wars & Marvel, going to (& talking about) Disney and spending time with family & friends. Let them praise His name with dancing. Psalm 149:3

Ashlynn Meredith

Children’s & Special Programs Coordinator

Ashlynn has been with Chara since 2015 & began her dance training in Georgia where she also taught for 10 years prior to moving to Texas in 2015. She has recently relocated to Dallas and will continue to work remotely for Chara overseeing a variety of programs including Dance Teaching Assistants, Camps, Birthday Parties, and more as well as working alongside the school director to coach teachers and find new ways to improve the classroom. She has a passion for helping students find joy in dance and helping each student have the best experience possible while also helping them learn about Jesus! Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her soon to be husband, volunteering in children’s ministry at her new church in Dallas, traveling to Disney, visiting her family in Georgia and relaxing at the pool!

Grace Vandenbossche

Student Services Coordinator & Dance Instructor

Grace has been a part of Chara for 15 years, starting as a dancer herself then later an instructor. She is a former member of our Competitive Companies and principal of Friendswood Contemporary Ballet. Grace has been on staff since 2017 and directs two of our Performance Companies. She recently got married in 2022 to her husband from Belgium, who together love spending time with family and their tiny puppy named Bean. Grace is passionate about creating a fun and impactful atmosphere for dancers where they can try knew things and have a deep knowledge of their true worth in the Lord.

Customer Care Team

Ellaine LaBorde

Customer Care Representative

Ellaine received her undergraduate degree from Texas State and Masters from the University Houston. She taught for several years in CCISD before spending over a decade as a recruiter and Human Resources manager for a large public accounting firm. After deciding to stay home and focus on her family, she taught preschool and led many children’s ministry programs at her church. She’s been married to her husband for 21 years and has 3 children, one attending Baylor University and two in high school. Ellaine enjoys exercising, traveling and spending time with her family, especially their 7 dogs!

Susan Mercer

Customer Care Representative

Susan enjoyed working for the State of Texas for over 30 years, 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. After retiring, she moved from the Waco area to be closer to family but still had a desire to work but on a part-time basis. Having two daughters that took dance classes growing up and now two granddaughters dancing at Chara, she thought Chara would be a perfect fit. She has enjoyed meeting and working with all the families at Chara and especially getting to know their sweet children. Outside of work, she loves spending time with her family and fur baby, she loves reading a good book and baking goodies.

Stormy Stanford

Customer Care Representative

After graduation from Texas A&M University, Stormy has a great deal of professional experience working across several different industries. While this vast knowledge ultimately led her to become a Kindergarten teacher, her immense growth, love, admiration, and faith filled her once becoming a mom. She have been a primarily stay-at-home mom and now assist her daughters with their homeschool curriculum. Her family spends a great many hours at Chara and she has watched them both thrive and grow – this is her hope for all of our Chara students: that they find their strength and purpose through their God given abilities, and that they love, respect and support each other as they all are unique and individual. You may again see her flying the friendly skies one day, but until her girls are grown, she will be ready to assist you at the front desk any time that you find a need!

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 has been married to her husband, John, for 27 years and has four children, a boy and three girls. Prior to children, Jennifer had a career as a court reporter. Not only does Jennifer work on the Customer Care Team at Chara, but she has a daughter that graduated from Chara in 2020 and two daughters currently on the Ballet Company and Chara Competitive Teams. Jennifer joined the Chara staff in 2017 and has enjoyed encouraging students in their God-given talent as a dancer and musician. It is her passion to see every student come to an understanding of who God uniquely created them to be. When away from the studio, you can find Jennifer enjoying gardening, watching the hummingbirds in her backyard, and homeschooling her children.

Chara Instructors

Jheru Alba

Dance Instructor

Jheru brings 20 years of experience in Hip Hop dancing. He started dancing with a Filipino cultural group at his church. With the friends he made there, they went on to dance in numerous shows and competitions across the state. Fast forward to today he’s been blessed with opportunities such as being cast in a Netflix movie, going on tour across America, cast in commercials and dancing in music videos. His most valued accomplishment is the 11 titles he’s won at ‘World of Dance’ tour in multiple cities! He now wishes to share his experiences and inspire future generations of dedicated dancers.

Casey Dervay

Director of Chara Crew & Dance Instructor

Casey is originally from League City and served as Captain of the Clear Creek High School Cavaliers. A Baylor University graduate 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, as well as studio training in 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. This is Casey’s fourth year teaching at Chara and she truly loves sharing her passion for Jesus and dance with all of her students!

Tanya Fenier

Acro Instructor

Tanya is one of the teachers who will be launching the AcroDance program at Chara. She started her gymnastics training at the age of 7 and competed until she was 15. In high school, Tanya utilized her acrobatic skills and flexibility as a cheer leader. In college, she continued to cheer on the school’s co-ed cheer squad in addition to being on the girls dance team. Tanya began her coaching career in college and today, brings with her 20 years of coaching experience. Tanya finds joy in encouraging students to challenge themselves to develop new skills, increasing confidence in themselves and their abilities. Tanya is blessed to continue to homeschool 2 of her 4 children. Tanya has been with Chara as a parent since 2014 and looks forward to wearing the new title of “Acro Instructor” at Chara.

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.

Alfonso Flores

Piano Instructor

Mr. Alfonso began music studies at the age of 12 at the conservatory in his native Honduras. He completed his higher education at Los Angeles City College and California State University Los Angeles. In addition to being a piano instructor, he is also a sound engineer and music producer.

With more than 35 years of experience, his passion remains the education of
children and young people in music His main goal is ensuring that students obtain quality education while having fun learning. Other passions include serving as a worship leader in his local church.

Hope Gallagher

Piano Instructor

“Where words fail, music speaks.”

Hope began piano lessons at 8 years old. Music lesson days were the highlight of her week, and more instruments were added as the years went by. Music has brought much joy to Hope’s life to accompany church services, youth orchestras and individual students, as well as collaborate with other musicians in sharing the beauty and gift of music. For over 20 years Hope has had the privilege of working with young musicians through both private and group instruction. Hope believes that music enriches every life and loves getting to be a part of each unique journey as students overcome challenges, growing in skill and confidence. When not teaching, Hope enjoys writing, watching movies and hanging out with her 6 children and their dog.

Jeanette Gant

Piano and Voice Instructor

Jeanette Gant (previously Adleman) has been teaching at Chara as a voice & piano teacher since 2020. She taught Music & Choir in the public school system for 20+ years in HISD, Aldine, Conroe, and Pearland. She graduated from the University of Houston with a master’s degree in Vocal Performance as well as a 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 performing in festivals in Scotland and Wales. She is currently a choral member with the Archdiocesan Choir of Galveston/Houston and the Houston All-Women’s chorus, Casulana. Along with directing several church choirs, she has performed as a paid soloist and choral member at a variety of churches in the Houston area and currently at St. Helen’s Catholic Church. She feels honored to share and inspire her students in their personal growth through the gift and joy of music. When not singing or teaching, she enjoys spending time with her family (especially her two beautiful grandsons), friends, and fur-babies, along with reading, writing, travelling, and cooking.

Ashley Gilfoil

Bloom Fine Arts Teacher

Ashley is known for her positive energy and her ability to connect with and inspire children. She holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Texas Tech University. She also holds a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction and a Teaching Certification in Spanish from the University of Missouri, Kansas City. She has experience teaching in preschool, elementary and high school. When she is not working with the Bloom class at Chara, you can find her parenting her two active boys, smiling behind a camera, volunteering, struggling in a 5:00 am CrossFit class, working on a puzzle, or reading.

Jon Gowen

Guitar, Piano, Bass Guitar, Banjo and Ukelele Instructor

Jon studied music education and classical guitar at the University of North Texas. Jon has studied the guitar for 40 years and began playing the piano at age 5. Jon has been teaching 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, funk, country and pop. As well as ensemble for classical guitar and solo acoustic guitar performances. Jon uses a pedagogical teaching approach with emphasis on technique. “It is my purpose to share my gift with others.” – Jon Gowen; “You don’t know what the future holds. But you know who holds the future.”

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 has performed with the Civic Ballet of Chicago working with choreographers from Hubbard Street Dance and River North Dance Chicago while there, then Ballet Magnificat!, Evansville Dance Theatre, and The Pilot Dance Project. Her desire is to come alongside each of her students in class to help them realize their full potential. Outside of the classroom, Lauren loves spending time with her husband, horseback riding, and going for walks with her dog Bella.

Annica Marcuccio

Dance Instructor

Annica started dancing at the age of 10 and was one of the original members of Chara’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. 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. Annica taught at Chara form 2015 – 2017 and then 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 is so excited to be back at Chara to share her love of dance with all of her students.

Claire Owens

Dance Instructor

Claire began dancing at the young age of 3 and throughout her training she was a senior company member for 4 years. In high school, Claire was a part of the National Champion Friendswood Wranglerettes drill team where she served as deputy officer and Grand Marshal. After high school, Claire attended Texas A&M University where she was a member of the Aggie Dance Team. Claire brings over 20 years of dance experience to Chara and is excited to share her passion and love of dance with our students. Outside of dance, Claire enjoys attending work out classes and going on long walks outside.

Madi Pack

Darby’s Dancers

Madi grew up dancing right here at Chara when it was still located in the gym at Friends Church. She danced competitively with Chara as a company principal for a few years before joining the National Champion Friendswood Wranglerettes drill team. Eventually she went on to teach dance at a fellow MTJGD studio in College Station while attending Texas A&M University getting her degree in early childhood education. While she was there she coached a several performance teams and started a program for dancers with disabilities. She believes that all students deserve the opportunity to experience the joy of dance and is extremely excited to be teaching Darbys Dancers this year. Madi is a 3rd grade teacher in Friendswood ISD. In her free time she enjoys reading, trying new things, and spending time with family!

Arlana Peacock

Voice & Piano Instructor

My name is Arlana Peacock and I am so happy to be returning to the Music Staff at Chara. I have taught Elementary Music in public school for 18 years, and have directed after school Choirs for 7 years. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Vocal Performance from Baylor University and have performed with The Dallas Symphony Chorus, Arlington Opera, and was a soloist with The North Richland Hills Symphony. When I am not teaching music; I enjoy leisure time with my family, watching dolphins jump while riding the ferry, being with friends at my exercise class, and singing with Faith Choir at Webster Presbyterian Church.

Dominique Petrinko

Dance Instructor & Bloom Fine Arts Teacher

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!

Tanner Pratt

Dance Instructor

Tanner is one of our Chara Alumni! She began her dance career at Chara at the age of eight, and continued to dance here through her senior year of high school. During her time at Chara, Tanner competed with our competitive companies and performed with Friendswood Contemporary Ballet. Tanner is very passionate about using dance as a form of worship and praise to our Lord, as well as instilling the life skills of discipline, creativity, and joy into her students. Tanner is currently working on her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and loves to cook, read, and adventure with her husband, Nate.

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.

Dannielle Shaw

Dance Instructor

Dannielle began her dance training at Kennedy Dance Theater when she was eleven years old where she first found her love of dance. Dannielle recently graduated from the dance department at Sam Houston State University with a BFA, where she has released several films and stage works, as well as performed in Lucca, Italy. Dannielle hopes to share her passion of dance through teaching, as well as bring arts closer to the local community.

Celina (Peña) Valdez

Dance Instructor

Celina began training in ballet at the age of 4 and spent most of her training here at Chara. In high school she joined the Pearland Prancers, and was introduced to jazz, contemporary, lyrical, pom and novelty dance styles. In May of 2021, Celina graduated with a BA in dance from the University of St. Thomas. While there, she had the privilege of training under Jennifer Mabus, Ben Delony, Nao Kusuzaki, and Colette Kerwick. During her time in college & following college, Celina has had multiple opportunities to train with Noblemotion Dance in their winter and summer dance intensives. After graduating college she joined Ad Deum Dance Company for the fall 2021 season as an apprentice. Celina began her dance teaching career at River Oaks Dance where she learned the joys of teaching young children the love of dance. She is excited to continue her dance teaching journey and looks forward to serving our Chara families.

Emma Vedder

Music Instructor

Emma began playing piano when she was six years old and immediately fell in love with making music. She received her Bachelor’s of Science in Music Therapy from Maryville University in 2023. Her favorite performance experience was the her senior recital at Maryville, where she played both classical and contemporary piano and sang. Before relocating to Texas, Emma taught piano in St. Louis for three years. When Emma’s not playing the piano, she’s usually reading, journaling, crocheting, or spending time with her sisters and friends. Emma is passionate about helping her students discover the joy and community that can be found through music.

Cassidy Woodcock

Dance Instructor

Cassidy is a Chara alumnus, having trained here for six years studying ballet, contemporary, and modern, and 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. She has danced in pieces by Jenifer Mabus, Nao Kusuzaki, and Randall Flinn. In 2023, she was in the original cast of El Sueno de Ximena: A Contemporary Ballet, Choreographed by Fernando Racha. Cassidy wishes to offer the dancers at Chara the care and instruction that defined her time as a student here, as well as incorporating in her classes the fresh ideas encountered while active dancing and training with professionals in the field.

Chara Junior Faculty

Katelyn Barcelona

Junior Faculty Dance Instructor

Katelyn started her journey here at Chara at the age of 2, and was our very first 15 year award recipient! Chara Founder, Mrs. Shanna was her first ballet teacher at our original studio location! Katelyn has extensive training in ballet & pointe in addition to her jazz and contemporary classes. Our returning students are likely to recognize Katelyn as she’s been present in the classroom for the past 6 years as a committed Dance Teaching Assistant. Katelyn is also the president of The Little Mustangs Preschool at Friendswood High School and is overjoyed to combine her preschool classroom experience with her dancing experience as she concludes her last year here with us at Chara!

Gavin Boyd

Junior Faculty Dance Instructor

Gavin has been homeschooled his entire life and has been taking hip hop classes at Chara since he was 8 years old. One of his most pivotal performance experiences was competing with Chara Crew when they won first place at the Stage One dance competition in 2023. He hopes to give the students in his Hip Hop class an enjoyable experience to learn and grow in dance and with others. Outside of Chara, Gavin is a drummer and enjoys whopping others in pickleball.

Arya Gangakhedkar

Junior Faculty Dance Instructor

Arya embarked on her dance journey with Chara at the age of 4. Chara has become an integral part of her life for the past 13 years. She has been diligently training in ballet, pointe, contemporary, jazz, and hip hop. Arya has also been apart of Chara’s Competitive Company and is currently a member of Chara Crew. She has been a committed Dance Teaching Assistant for 6 years and is excited to return to the Junior Faculty for her 2nd year, co-teaching ballet, jazz, and hip hop! Arya hopes to create a positive and uplifting environment, empowering students to reach for their full potential!

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.