Studio Owner / Director / Instructor
Tonya grew up in Waco, Texas where her love for dance began at age four. She landed her first professional job at the age of 14 in the musical Oliver. Durning her senior year of High School she toured with the Minneapolis Ballet in the ever popular The Nutcracker. That same year Tonya was awarded scholarships to Debbie Reynolds Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles, Gus Giordano Summer Intensive in Chicago and a yearlong study with Tremaine. Upon graduation she toured with Dance Caravan Dance Convention. Tonya continued her career as a dancer/singer at Six Flags Over Texas and several other Industrial Shows, which essentially brought her to Branson. After several years performing in Branson, Tonya began choreographing professionally for entertainers such as Mel Tillis, Pam Tillis, The Brenda Lee National Tour, Jim Stafford, The Lennon Sisters and Dino. In addition Tonya has worked with Country Tonite in Branson and Pigion Forge, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Promise, Celebrate America, Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, SHOUT the Musical, 9 to 5, 50's at the Hop and many other magic and revue shows. Her choreography can be seen at Lincoln Center in NYC, USA Tours, Cruise Lines, Theme Parks, national television and tours. She is currently a contract choreographer for Matt Davenport Productions out of Nashville. Her shows now perform in Pigeon Forge, Hershey Park in Hershey, PA, and Branson. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions awarded Tonya for having two shows in the Top Five Overall Theme Park Shows. Tonya's teaching career began at age 15, at the very studio she grew up learning. She then taught performing arts at two of the largest dance studios in Dallas, Texas for several years. After moving to Branson, Tonya instructed professional level jazz classes at Branson Performing Arts before owning and directing the studio for three years. Tonya is the proud mom of two beautiful children, Blaine and Kyndall.
Choreographer / Instructor
AJ grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where she began dance and ice-skating lessons at age three. While growing up, her love of dance won out over skating, and at the age of 14 she began training with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Upon leaving home at 17, she joined a Toronto based professtionl training program that is now known as the Randolph Dance Theater. After performing in several music videos, trade shows, commercials, and Candian produced feature films, Aj was hired by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines as a lead dancer in their multi-million dollar variety shows. Here is where she met her husband, the talented Bucky Heard. Since moving to Branson in 1994, AJ has performed and choreographed for numerous shows including, The Van Burch and Welford Show, Branson City All Star Revue, Cracklin Rose-A Tribute to Neil Diamond, and Jimmy Osmond's American Jukebox. She has also choreographed for superstars, Pam Tillis, Neil McCoy and Les Brown. She and her husband have also created and produced "Rock U Mentally LIVE" performed at Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater. She not only choreographed the show, but also served as costume designer, prop master and marketing director.
Jenn grew up dancing in Rochester, New York. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance from The State University of New York at Buffalo. She has been working professionally as a dancer for the past 15 years, starting her career as "Velma" in West Side Story. Jenn spent two years performing with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines before settling down in Branson. She has performed locally with Kirby Van Burch, The Promise, Celebrate America, Dino's Chrismas Extravaganza and Country Tonight. Jenn currently performs in Clay Cooper's Country Music Express at the Clay Cooper Theater in Branson. She is the proud mom of two beautiful children, Savannah and AJ.
Business Manager / Instructor
Carissa grew up in the small town of Columbus, Texas and began dancing and tumbling at the young age of five. She continued dancing recreationally well into her college days, graduating from Texas A&M University with a B.A. in Speech Communication and Journalism. Carissa was swept into the modeling industry at age 10, after being discovered from a Seventeen Magazine model search. She modeled for 16 years with Intermedia and Ford Models, traveling all over the world as a print and runway model. Her love of modeling lead her to the pageant world. At age 17, she won the title of Miss Texas Teen-USA. Ten years later she would win the title of Miss Texas-USA, and traveled to Branson to compete in the coveted Miss USA pageant. Upon moving to Branson, she coached the Hollister HS cheer team, taking them to the State Championships three years in a row. Not long after she coached the Tiger cheer team at College of the Ozarks for three years and lead them to the UCA College National Championships in Orlando. Carissa is a mom of four, and works with her husband Philip as a co-owner of Starboard Corporation. She has two daughters on Dance Branson Company and truly enjoys working with the amazingly talented kids and families at Dance Branson.
Kara grew up in Pleasant Grove, Utah where she began dancing at the age of three. She danced competitively at five and continued through her teenage years winning numerous regional and national titles as a soloist. In addition, she enjoyed performing in local theatre productions whenever she had the chance. Kara begin her professional career at the age of 18, performing with The Shoji Tabuchi Show in Branson. Kara spent two years in Farmington, Missouri where she was the Competition & Acrobatics Director with a local studio. While she has continued to dance and choreograph professionally throughout the years, Kara’s true passion is passing on her love of the arts to the new generation of entertainers. Along with coaching gymnastics at the YMCA, Kara is thrilled to be a part of the Dance Branson Team of Instructors.
Melanie grew up in South Jersey, where she started dancing at age two. As the daughter of a dance teacher, the studio was her second home. At seven, Melanie began intensive classical ballet training, performing with South Jersey Academy of Ballet, The Pennsylvania Ballet Company and the Mount Laurel Regional Ballet Company. Her professional career began at age 15, when she became the youngest company member of Opus I Contemporary, a contemporary dance company in Philadelphia. She performed with them for three years under the direction of Artisic Director, Lina Early. Melanie graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Jazz and Minor in Modern Dance. She soon became a member of the Koresh Dance Company in Philadelphia and trained with Artistic Dirctor, Ronen Koresh for six years. Through the years, Melanie has taught jazz, contemporary and ballet at Jazz Unlimited, Koresh Dance Studio and has trained with Philadanco and Waves Dance Company in Philadelphia. She has performed in Aruba at La Cabana Casino in "La Cage" and Atlantic City in The Showboat Variety Show, "Resorts Love & Kisses" and Bally's Park Place "Legends in Concert".
Kristen Chandler was born in Dowagiac, Michigan, and began dancing at the early age of three. She studied dance at Oklahoma City University and ultimately received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Dance Performance from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Kristen spent her summers performing at several theme parks during college and moved to Branson shortly after graduation. She has performed in numerous shows in Branson including Shoji Tabuchi, The Promise, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Celebrate America, and Country Tonite. Kristen currently performs in the Clay Cooper Country Express Show. Kristen enjoys spending extra time with her family including daughters Kylee and Emma.
Cat grew up in Smithtown, New York. At the age of 18, she moved to Las Vegas and started her professional career as a dancer in a show called Country Tonite. Soon after, the show opened the in Branson, Missouri. Cat moved to Branson and danced in Country Tonite for 11 years, mainly performing in Branson, but also traveling to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Biloxi, Mississippi. Since then she has performed as a Magician’s Assistant/Dancer in Darren Romeo’s Magic Show, The Magic of Taylor Reed, The Bart Rockett Show, and as a Dancer in The Mulberry Lane Christmas Show. Cat had the honor of acting with Jerry Van Dyke in a play called, “The Sunshine Boys”. She has always loved working with children, therefore, she is very excited to be able to teach kids the love of dance that she has always possessed.
Dorothy Prochazka is from Pine Bluff, Arkansas and a graduate of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. She found a love for dance at a young age while receiving extensive training in various styles of dance including tap, jazz, ballet and lyrical under the direction of Stacy Hardin of Pine Bluff Dance Academy. Dorothy was the recipient of the Pine Bluff Dance "Senior Sweetheart" award for outstanding leadership and excellence of character and was selected to be a student teacher her junior and senior year. She was crowned Miss Arkansas Outstanding Teen in 2006 and represented Arkansas at the Miss America's Outstanding Teen. While there she received the Miss America Community Service Award, Overall Fitness, Evening Gown, and finished in the Top 5. She is a certified group fitness instructor and loves to motivate and encourage others to be healthy and stay active.
Jenna has always had a love for dance, and it was very apparent from the time she was old enough to stand that music moved her. In 2007 she was hired to dance professionally in Dino's Christmas Extravaganza in Branson. In addition to the Branson show, Jenna traveled across the country performing in Dino's shows including a performance at Lincoln Center in New York City. Jenna's amazing dancing abilities have been recognized at both Regional and National competitions all over the Midwest. Titles received include Talent on Parade Southern National Champion (age 14), Talent on Parade Southern National Senior Champion (age 15), Miss Showbiz (age 16), and Talent on Parade Southern National Senior Champion (age 17). She has also received special honors for both choreography and technical excellence. In 2010 & 2011 she received a scholarship to the Go Pro weeklong workshop in Branson, where she had the opportunity to work with choreographers from Los Angeles and Las Vegas. She has choreographed her own competitive solos since the age of nine and began teaching and choreographing for other dancers in 2010. She currently performs and tours with The Magic of Rick Thomas Show based in Branson at the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre.
Alex Kaskie was always an active youth in extreme and high school sports, but never really had an interest in dancing, even though his mom was a dance teacher. His dance career didn’t began until the age of 20 at his mom’s dance studio in Carson City, Nevada. Although he continues to study all dance styles, most of his dance training in Las Vegas and Sacramento has been dedicated to the numerous facets of hip hop dance. Alex is currently dancing with the amazing Rick Thomas Magic Show at The Moon River Theatre in Branson. He has had the opportunity to work with some of the biggest names in the hip hop dance world and is so happy to share his knowledge in his new home of Branson.
Hailey Denton has been dancing ever since she was a little girl and performing had always been her dream. She started dancing professionally at the age of 16 at Silver Dollar City. She then moved on to perform for the Magic of Rick Thomas show, traveling across the country as well as performing in his show at the coveted Moon River Theatre in Branson. She is currently dancing at Clay Cooper’s Country Express and is loving every moment! In addition, Hailey is starting to embark on her ambitions to perform on a cruise ship. Hailey started her competitive career in 2006 at Premiere Dance Academy winning multiple awards in group and solo dances. She is so happy to be a part of the Dance Branson staff and teach the next generation of artists! She hopes to see the kids learn and excel, while passing on her passion for dance.
Tara grew up in Harrison, Arkansas and began dancing at the young age of three. She cheered and danced competitively with a dance studio in high school, and was hired by the Universal Cheerleaders Association her senior year as a cheer instructor. She traveled all over the mid-south teaching and mentoring at cheer camps. During her freshman year at the University of Arkansas, Tara tried out and made the Razorback Pom Squad, dancing on the sidelines for men’s football, basketball, and baseball games. Through the years, she has continued to dance recreationally. Tara currently lives in Harrison with her husband and three sons. She is a competitive runner and co-owns a fitness studio where she is an instructor and personal trainer. Tara is thrilled to be a part of the Dance Branson family where her son, Bennett, also dances.
Musical Theatre, Acting, Vocals
Caitlin Secrest, originally from Arkadelphia, AR, now lives and loves performing and teaching in Branson! Secrest studied Vocal Performance at Ouachita Baptist University under her immensely talented parents, Drs. Jon and Glenda Secrest. Secrest's interests and successes run the gamut from opera to classic rock. Favorite Ouachita Baptist University credits include: Gretel in Humperdinck’s operatic interpretation of "Hansel and Gretel," Rosalinde in "Die Fledermaus," and Adelaide in "Guys and Dolls." Educational pursuits included the 2010 OperaWorks Emerging Artist Program, and two years at Opera in the Ozarks (roles - Giannetta in "L'elisir d'amore" and Despina in "Cosí fan tutte.") Since graduating, Secrest has spent time in children's theatre, performing as Dorabella in Wildwood Park for the Arts's "The Bremen Town Musicians" and touring as an actor/director with Missoula Children's Theatre. She was seen as Michelle/Tina in the Arkansas Repertory Theatre's production of "Sister Act." In her relatively new home of Branson, Secrest has been seen in "Thank You for the Music: A Modern Tribute to ABBA," "Beach Boys' California Dreamin'," Grand Country Music Hall's "Comedy Jamboree," and Silver Dollar City's "Hits at the Hollow!" She is currently a featured vocalist in King's Castle's productions of "Broadway's Greatest Hits," "Dublin's Irish Tenors & The Celtic Ladies," and "Sinatra & Friends." Secrest has a growing private voice studio, loves teaching Musical Theatre, Acting, and Voice classes, and served as Music Director for Branson Regional Arts Council’s production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” She is passionate about inspiring joy through the gifts God has given her and passing on that passion to young artists! Soli Deo Gloria!