Mission Statement

To educate children of all ages in a safe, non-competitive and fun learning environment. To share with students the values of discipline, respect, dedication and hard work through innovative arts education experiences. To help students achieve self- esteem and confidence for their future life goals utilizing positive encouragement. To engage the whole child with teaching and learning that fosters and enhances the child’s natural love of movement, their awareness of movement and its creative potential. To instill self-discipline, encourage creativity and motivate students to achieve excellence in dance and arts opportunities.

Artistic Directors

Mitsie Hilburn Kraack (TADA Artistic Director) Mitsie is an Atlanta native where she attended Northside School of the Arts and studied ballet, modern, jazz and musical theatre. While at Northside, she toured with the Atlanta Convention Bureau performing around the world in London, Brussels, and Paris, as well as New York, Las Vegas and regionally throughout the southeastern United States as a "Coke is It Kid." A graduate of the University of South Florida with a B. S. in Dance Education, Mitsie has been a professional choreographer for more than twenty years. Her professional dance background includes work and training with Gary Harrison and Company (Atlanta, GA) and as Co-Director of Souls of the Feet with The Dance Theatre of Georgia, Inc.(Jonesboro, GA). Most recently her choreographic work was seen at Progress Village Middle School, Newsome High School, Randall Middle School and Children’s Alliance For Summer Theatre at TADA. She has choreographed many regional and high school shows such as: Footloose, Seussical, The Music Man, Beauty and The Beast, Annie, The Wizard of Oz, and Bye, Bye Birdie. Mitsie is a committed teacher dedicated to the education of children in the arts. She continues to pursue opportunities for students to perform in Tampa, Orlando and New York.

Amanda Keeney (TADA Co-Artistic Director, School Director) is an Atlanta native and received her early dance education from the Atlanta Ballet under the direction of Robert Barnett, Ruth Mitchell Dance Theatre, Georgia Youth Ballet, and Dance Clayton under Olive Popwell Ashley. Amanda is a graduate of Georgia State University (B.S. in Dance Education) and has been teaching dance for the past seventeen years. Her training includes scholarships and acceptance to the School of American Ballet, Hartford Ballet, Boston Ballet, Lexington Ballet, and the Joffrey Ballet in New York City. She has danced professionally with the Ruth Mitchell Dance Theatre, Georgia Youth Ballet, and the Dance Theatre of Georgia performing many roles including Odette in Swan Lake, Nikiya in La Bayadere, Kitri in Don Quixote, and Myrtha in Giselle with Stars from the American Ballet Theatre. She has also appeared in various contemporary works by renowned choreographers such as Salvatore Aiello, Tom Pazik, and Andrew Kuharsky. She has served as the Associate Artistic Director for the Dance Theatre of Georgia Junior Company and the Co-Director of the Dance Theatre of Tampa. Many of her students have received scholarships and/or were accepted into various summer programs including the Kirov Ballet Academy, Chautauqua Ballet, The Rock School, Miami City Ballet, Orlando Ballet, School of American Ballet, Harid Conservatory, and the American Ballet Theatre.

Dance Faculty

Rona Behr (Ballet, Pointe) began her dance career at the age of four at the Ethel Early Lang School of Dance in Douglaston, N. Y. At the age of 11, she was accepted at the Nassau Ballet Theatre in Great Neck, N. Y.  under the direction of Mrs. A. Serpe and Mr. Igor Schwetzoff to be trained in both the Cecchetti and Vaganova styles of ballet.  After moving to Tampa, by way of Miami, she danced at the Classical Ballet Theatre under the direction of Haydee Gutierrez. Taking time off to have a family, Ms. Ronna returned to dance with her children. From 1995 through 2004 she worked with the Sarasota Ballet as an assitant to both the Director of Education Jennifer Gemmeke, and Artistic Director Robert DeWarren helping build Sarasota Ballet’s International Summer School Program and training children from Pinellas, Pasco, and Hillsborough counties to perform in Sarasota Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Ms. Ronna also served as an adjunct faculty member to the Sarasota Ballet School. From 1996 through 2005 Miss Ronna was a member of the faculty at The Dance Center in Brandon, FL. Having also worked with Florida West Ballet and the Brandon Ballet, Ms. Ronna is happy to be teaching and sharing her love of dance with the students at TADA.

Brittany Gottuso Bryant (Ballet, Variations, Pointe, Jazz, Modern) began her early formal training with Ms. Amanda and Ms. Mitsie at New Tampa Dance Theatre and with Paula Nunez at America’s Ballet School. During these years she performed featured and lead roles in “Les Sylphides,” ”La Fille Mal Gardee,” “The Nutcracker,” “Coppelia,” and the Balcony Pas de Deux from “Romeo and Juliet.”  She was accepted and attended many summer intensives including The Kirov Ballet, Georgia Youth Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theatre, and Virginia School of the Arts.  She also competed in the American Dance Competition where she placed fifth overall in Contemporary.  In 2010, Brittany graduated Cum Laude with a B.F.A. in Dance Performance from the University of South Florida where she received many talent scholarships.  She received the Henry Parrish Award for excellence in Performance as well as the Victoria Selden Scholarship for Choreography and Performance.  Upon graduation in 2010, she was accepted into the Sarasota Ballet performing in “Anne Frank,” “The Rakes Progress,” “The Nutcracker,” and “Cezannes Doubt.”  This past summer, she was selected to perform her contemporary solo “Released” for Dance Form Productions in Madrid, Spain alongside principal dancers of various ballet companies.  She has guest performed with TADA in the past appearing as Aurora in “The Sleeping Beauty,” Lead Arabian, Older Clara, and the SugaPlum Fairy in “The Nutcracker.”

Natalie Paul (Ballet, Pointe, Modern, Jazz) is a graduate of the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance.  She began her dance training in England studying Cecchetti with Juliet Locks, Sonia Bond, and Lucy Pohl at Buckhurst Hill and Woodford School of Dance.  While in England, she also studied at the Royal Academy of Dance in the summer of 2004 under the direction of Patricia Liton.  Natalie has received her National Diploma and Higher National Diploma in Dance, both from Havering College of Further and Higher Education, studying with Sandra Broxton and Elaine O’Connor.  In 2009, she also trained at the Bates Dance Festival.  This is Natalie’s seventh year on staff at TADA.

Lora Pfeiffer (Hip Hop, Jazz, Modern, Primary, Creative Movement) has been teaching dance for thirteen years in the New York and Tampa areas.  Lora had a professional dance and acting career in New York City and its surrounding cities doing live stage productions, theatre, film, and music videos.  Lora was a lead actor in an independant film, “Back to Manhattan,” which won many awards including The New York International “Best Feature Film” and the Hoboken Film Festival “Best of Festival.”  She also was a specialty dancer in the Tarrytown production of “Kiss Me Kate” and the Tampa production of Puccini’s “Turnadot.”  Lora has studied, assisted, and danced for many prestigious choreographers including Bill Hastings, Geoffrey Doig-Marx, Lisa Lockwood, Slam, and Brian Thomas.  Lora was also a choreographer and dance teacher for Palisades Performing Arts Center in Nyack, NY where she choreographed productions staged at the Helen Hayes Theatre.  She is also a certified Pilates instructor with the Physicalmind Institute.  Her Pilates certification has enabled her to combine her talent with movement, kinesiology, and the ability to instill motivation and focus.

Acrobatics Faculty

Kelly Mettler (Acrobatics Director) Ms. Kelly was originally born in Maine and has lived in the Brandon area since the age of 2. As a child, she was part of a performing acrobatics team for 5 years and did competitive gymnastics for a short period thereafter. While attending college full-time, she had 3 jobs. She taught competitive gymnastics for 4 years at LaFleur's Gymnastics, acrobatics at Centerstage Dance Academy and acrobatics at The Dance Center. Kelly graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Speech Pathology. She earned her Master's Degree in Organizational Management in 2001. Ms. Kelly also earned her teaching certificate in 2010. She is currently working full-time for Hillsborough County Public Schools at Nelson Elementary providing speech and language therapy for students from preschool to 5th grade. Throughout all of this, Ms. Kelly has never quit teaching acrobatics for over 19 years simply because she love it! She lovingly pushes her students to reach their full potential and loves how their faces light up when they do a new skill for the first time.

Theatre Faculty

Mary Kraack (Theatre) Mary Kraack graduated from Ball State University with a BS in Speech & Theatre in 1979 and an MA in Speech in 1983. She taught high school drama, speech and English for 13 years in Clayton County, GA. She sponsored an active Drama Club at Morrow High School where her students attended and performed at regional, state and national conferences and competitions, performed at community functions and produced four major productions each year. In 1990 she became the Technical Operations Manager of the Clayton County Schools Performing Arts Center, Jonesboro, GA, where she managed three theatres and trained high school students in technical theatre. Mrs. Kraack also conceived and managed the Clayton Alliance for Summer Theatre, a youth and community summer theatre program that lasted for 15 years. During that time, Mary produced such shows as, Annie, Oliver, Fiddler on the Roof and Footloose. In 2004 Mrs. Kraack and her husband moved to south Georgia and taught at Camden County High School until she retired in December of 2008. Mrs. Kraack is a member of the United States Institute of Theatre Technology, Secondary Festival Chair for the Southeastern Theater Conference, Newsletter Officer for the Georgia Theatre Conference, a sustaining Member of Arts Clayton, Clayton County, GA and a former Member of the Educational Theater Association and International Thespian Society. In 1997, Mrs. Kraack was inducted into the Georgia Thespian Hall of Fame. Mary has just completed directing the show “Spanish Moss Memories”, a production of the Crooked Rivers organization in Camden county and Aladdin, Jr., a summer camp project in Camden County. Last Summer, she directed the CAST production of Beauty and the Beast featured at Blake High School in conjunction with Progress Village Middle Magnet School of the Arts.

Music Faculty

Lily Meyers (Voice, Piano) has an impressive list of credits, having been trained in Musical Theatre and opera. After receiving her music degree from Australia’s Conservatorium, she received a degree in Voice from London’s Trinity College. She also studied under famed Metropolitan Opera each Ellen Faull and Joyce Hall at the Julliard School of Music. An accomplished performer, Lily has been teaching voice and piano to children and adults for more than 20 years. Her favorite roles in musicals and operas include: in the New York Touring Company, Eliza Doolittle, My Fair Lady, Carousel, Oklahoma, La Boheme, and Madam Butterfly . Lily brings her gifts to TADA to share her love of music to her students! Lily has been teaching at TADA for 10 years.

Michelle Grasso-Downs (Piano) Michelle began her musical journey writing and performing her piano and voice compositions professionally at age 15.  She was the first student from her Junior High School to win All State Band, playing the French horn, where she recorded a state album.  Her songs have been heard on radio and television.  She has recorded two albums available on cdbaby.com/michelledowns album, titled “Ethereal, “ (original classical ballads piano and voice), and cdbaby.com/alphablasters (fun energetic kid friendly music).  Her song “Catch Me,” was awarded “Billboards” top ten percent in a songwriting contest.  She has performed for the former Governor, playing and singing, and for the USF President.  She has also performed at Sea World and opened there for the popular Christian artist Mylon Lefevre.  She had a music video in the 1990’s on Christian network as well as appearing in “The Gospel According to Scrooge”, (also on Christian network.)  She sang the National Anthem for the Tampa Bay Rays as well as performing various fundraisers and political functions, including playing and singing at a convention at the exclusive Gaylord’s Resort.  She has been teaching piano at TADA for 7 years and has also taught music for 2 years at Bell Shoals Baptist Academy.  She is a member of the National League of American Pen Woman in music and letters.  To Michelle, the most important thing is to instill a genuine love and joy of music and piano to her students, who thrive on her teaching.  Several of her students have gone on to win music awards at their schools and some have now written their own albums.

Guest Teachers

Emily Gallo-Lopez (Ballet, Modern, Jazz) is a Tampa, Fl native. She trained intensively in ballet with Haydee Gutierrez as well as at Blake High School. At Blake, she performed principal roles in Paquita, The Nutcracker, and Don Quioxte. She also competed in the Youth America Grand Prix in both the Orlando Regionals and the New York City Finals. Emily has studied at the Patel Conservatory, Miami City Ballet, Orlando Ballet, Sarasota Ballet, Lines Ballet, Kaatsbaan Extreme Ballet and The Richmond Ballet. She was a trainee on full scholarship with The Richmond Ballet and Next Generation Ballet performing both corps and principal roles in Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Nutcracker and Balanchine's "Who Cares". Ms. Gallo-Lopez most recently performed with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and is excited to teach her second year at TADA.

Jesse Houston (Ballet, Modern) began his serious ballet training at Howard W. Blake High School of the Performing Arts under the direction of Albena Arnaudova. While there, he performed as the Cavalier in The Nutcracker, and Basilio in Don Quixote. Jesse also was invited to compete in the 2009 Youth American Grand Prix Regionals where he placed in the top twelve in the Contemporary Division and later competing in the finals in NYC. After graduation, he joined Nashville Ballet II performing with the main company in Giselle, and Paul Vasterling’s version of The Nutcracker as well as many outreach programs.

Laura Brick (Modern/Contemporary) began her training at the age of three in Miami, FL at Patricia Penenori Dance Center with a main focus in ballet. At the age of six she continued her training in Greensboro, NC with Greensboro Ballet, then moving to Greensboro Dance Theatre at the age of eight where she began her training in tap, jazz, lyrical, and modern. At the age of 10 Laura moved her training to Seffner FL, a local studio entitled Brandon School of Dancer Arts, where she trained for the remainder of her adolescent career. She studied ballet, jazz, tap, modern, lyrical and acrobatics. While attending the studio she also trained in the dance program at Blake W. Howard High School for the Arts and various summer programs including; Brandon Ballet, Firespark, America’s Ballet School Tampa, FL, and Ballet West. During this time Laura performed in various competitions succeeding various first overalls and invitations/scholarships to various conventions. Laura has had her choreography performed at YAGP as well as competing and placing top ten in the Contemporary Division. Laura now resides in Salt Lake City, UT attending The University of Utah where she is majoring in modern dance. This year alone Laura has performed in both seasons of the performance dance company, The Ballet West Gala, and the premiere of “The Realm of the Interior” in Berlin, Germany at the State Ballet School. Laura continues to train and choreograph and jumps at any opportunity to perform.

Catherine Tiso (Jazz, Hip Hop, Modern) is a graduate of the University of South Floridawith a B.F.A. in Modern Dance Performance. While at USF she has had the distinct privilege of working with choreographers Janis Brenner, Jennifer Archibald, Elsa Valbuena, Mariah Maloney, Merry Lynn Morris, Lynne Wimmer, Michael Foley, and Jeanne Travers. She has received many talent grants from the dance department, including the Bill Hug Scholarship for Excellence in Choreography in 2008 and the BRAVO Award in 2009. She has choreographed multiple dance works for the USF Student Dance Concerts, and is President of the Student Dance Production Board for the 2009-10 year. In the Tampa Bay community she has choreographed solos for students participating in the Youth America Grand Prix, and was granted her first choreographic commission at Blake High School for the Arts in the spring of 2009. In the summer of 2008 she participated in the USF Dance in Paris Program, and in the summer of 2009 she traveled to Tunisia with Prof. Jeanne Travers to perform a full-length concert in festivals throughout the country. Her work was presented at the American College Dance Festival in Virginia last spring, and she performed in USF’s staging of Bill T. Jones’ Serenade/The Proposition.

Administrative Staff

Beth Finch (Office Manager) Beth grew up outside of Philadelphia, PA and moved to Florida in 2001 after graduating from Syracuse University with a bachelor’s degree in communications.  As a kid Beth loved dancing and studied ballet, tap, jazz and modern for 10 years.  She and her husband have two beautiful little girls who LOVE dancing at TADA!  Beth feels blessed to be a part of the TADA staff and enjoys watching as our students here fall in love with the arts!

Jennifer Leon (Office Staff) Jennifer is a native of the Tampa Bay area.  She has an associate’s degree in science from Utica College in upstate New York.  She is the proud mother of a teenage son and daughter.  Her daughter has been dancing with TADA for five years.  In here spare time Jennifer enjoys running and is currently training to participate in her 2nd marathon.

Stephen Kraack (TADA Business & Production Manager) has been working in the arts his entire life. A graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (B. S., Aviation Computer Science), Aside from his 20-year career in IT architecture, Steve has extensive experience and training in all aspects of arts production, including lighting, sound and scenic design, video and audio production, and computer systems. He is an accomplished musician (Tuba and Bass Guitar), designer, and singer. He is married to Mitsie and is the father of three amazing children: Lillian, David and Catherine.