Iowa Dance Instructors
Meet Our Instructors
Lisa Luiken Woxell
Teaches: Ballet, Gymnastics, Jazz, Tap, Ballet Mistress & Regisseur, Iowa Youth Ballet
Lisa began dancing at the age of three under the instruction of Connie Jo Wilson. She continued her training with Janet Morse, Robert Thomas, the Des Moines Ballet School, and Central Iowa Dance.
Lisa has been teaching since 1987 and she is a Dance Master Certified Instructor. She has taught at Connie Jo Wilson's School of Dance, the Dancer's Workshop, the Newton YMCA, Carol Tetmeyer Dance Studio, and Stacey's School of Dance. Lisa has performed with Iowa Dance Theatre, the Nutrcracker Ballet, the Neuman Project, the Barnstormers Flightline, and with Dance Olympus on tour. She started teaching at the Dancenter in August of 1999.
Teaches: Jazz, Lyrical, Modern, Musical Theatre, Tap
Maureen McGrath, a native of Des Moines, graduated from Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Science in Dance and Apparel Design.
Before joining the Dancenter, she taught jazz, tap, ballet, and tumbling in Des Moines for over ten years. She began teaching for the Robert Thomas Dancenter in 2000 and has been in charge of the Dancenter Dancers competition team since 2001. Since assuming the competition program, Maureen has taken the Dancenter Dancers from a team of less than 20 dancers to over 60 dancers from Ames and the central Iowa area. Under her direction, the team has won numerous first place, high point, top soloist, and top team awards at competitions in Des Moines, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Kansas City, and Omaha. This year, the team will compete in over 30 solos, duets, group, and production dances in jazz, tap, lyrical and musical theater categories.
In addition to creating the choreography, Maureen designs the competition costumes and has won numerous awards for both choreography and costuming on both the regional and national levels. Two of her solo dancers have won first place honors in the large school division of the Iowa State Drill Team Association Solo Contest, competing her choreographies against over 75 dancers from all over Iowa.
Maureen also teaches all levels of jazz, tap and combination classes in the Ames studios. She has choreographed the Russian and Arabian parts in the Iowa State Center Nutcracker.
Maureen continues her personal dance education every summer, training in New York City with Master Teachers including Suzi Taylor, Joe Lanteri, Doug Caldwell, Joe Tremaine, Mike Minery, Jason Parsons, Frank Hatchett, and Michele Asaf. She is a certified instructor and by Dance Educators of America.
Teaches: Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Combination, Ballet Mistress, Iowa Youth Ballet
Ellen (Crawford) Mullen started teaching ballet, pointe, jazz, and combination classes at the Robert Thomas Dancenter 30 years ago. She has taught all ages of dancers at every level. In addition to being a lead teacher at the Dancenter, Ellen is the Ballet Mistress for Iowa Youth Ballet, and has been involved in the Iowa State Center's Nutcracker Ballet, beginning with the very first Nutracker production.
Ellen's dance studies and experience span many years. An Ames native, Ellen started studying dance at a very young age with Ann Dirksen. Her dance training continued and passion for dance grew under the instruction of Terry Thomas, and the especially with Robert and Miyoko Kato Thomas at the Robert Thomas Dancenter. Ellen went on to study ballet at the University of Utah, at the Des Moines ballet, in New York City, at the Ballet West Intensive, and at the Joffrey Ballet Summer Program at the University of Iowa before coming back to the Dancenter to continue teaching.
As an instructor at the Robert Thomas Dancenter, Ellen enjoys the opportunity to share her lifelong love for dance with her many students. She is mother to three daughters, Liz, Leanna, and Allie, who share that love of dance; and she is still in her 20th year of teaching management classes at Iowa State University, having earned a Ph.D. in Industrial Relations from the University of Minnesota.
Teaches: Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Combination, Ballet Mistress, Iowa Youth Ballet
Wendy Kepley Wendy started dancing in Massachusetts at age ten. She continued when her family moved back to Iowa at Ballet Iowa. She also danced on a competition team for many years. After high school she went to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for teacher training and ballet. She has been to many summer intensives and has performed in many Nutcrackers and operas, as well as Iowa Youth Ballet and ISU showcases. Wendy is a mother of three boys! Her love for teaching is enormous and she is excited to share that with the students at Robert Thomas Dancenter.
Teaches: Belly Dance, Ballroom
Innah (Inna Kuznetsova) is a professional Egyptian dancer and an Oriental (Egyptian, Arabic) Dance teacher from Saint Petersburg, Russia.
She started dancing ballet when she was five years old and since then, dancing has been a part of her life. Innah has studied the art of Oriental dancing with master teachers from Russia, Egypt and Germany.
Oriental dance originates in the Middle East. Innah dances Egyptian Raks Sharqi style of oriental dance which was established in Egypt in the beginning of the 20th century as a mixture of ballet with classical Oriental moves.
Innah goes to Egypt every summer to participate in Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival, a major event for Oriental dancers from all over the World. Innah has participated in many festivals in Russia, Germany, the USA, and Egypt. She won third prize in Berlin Oriental Dance Festival in 2006 and got an award for the Egyptian category in the Oriental Dance Festival in LA in 2007.
Innah also provides private ballroom dance lessons for couples in styles such as Waltz, Foxtrot, Salsa, Zouk and Bachata.
Teagan began dancing at the age of five with the Robert Thomas Dancenter because her grandmother saw her dancing around the house and knew she needed to be trained as a dancer. For additional dance opportunities, she began dancing with the Dancenter Dancers dance company soon after starting classes at the studio. Participating on the team provided her with training with Maureen McGrath and other teachers, as well as additional performance opportunities.
Teagan has trained with teachers including Robert Thomas, Miyoko Kato Thomas, Maureen McGrath, Michael Fothergill, Miki Kawamura, Emily Finch, Lisa Luiken-Woxell, Gill McNaughton, Ellen Mullen, and Tanner Hronek through the years. She also had the opportunity to study at the Joffrey and Giordano Dance Studio in Chicago through her participation with Iowa Youth Ballet. She also studied dance in New York at Broadway Dance Center, Alvin Alley, and Steps on Broadway. Through her participation in Dancenter's Dancers she has attended workshops with NYCDA, WCDE, JUMP, and NUVO and had the opportunity to study with such choreographers as Joe Lanteri, Mia Michaels, Mandy Moore, Jason Parsons, Anthony Morigerato, Dana Wilson, Misha Gabriel, and Joey Dowling.
As a performer, Teagan has performed in the CY Stephens annual production of the Nutcracker with parts ranging from Clara's friend, Clara, Chinese, Snow, Arabian, and Flute, as well as soloist parts including Fairy Godmother and Dew Drop Fairy. She also performs in the Iowa Youth Ballet yearly production. She has also performed in a production of Kidz Rock in Branson, MO. She is currently working towards a career in dance as well as studies in Environmental Science at Iowa State University.
I have been an avid dancer since the age of three. After several years of ballet, tap, and jazz, I delved into the world of Irish dancing. As a member of the Glencastle Irish Dancers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin--my hometown--I participated in shows and competitions, both solo and on teams, year round.
During my second year of high school, we developed a competitive pom and dance team and for three consecutive years, I served as co-captain for the Dasher Dance Team.
When it was time for college, I joined the Motion Sickness Dance Team, a student organization that showcases styles from hip hop to contemporary. The group runs through and performs at Iowa State University where I am pursuing a degree in Integrated Studio Arts with a minor in Sociology. A good friend on the team let me know of an opportunity to continue my love of Irish Dancing at Robert Thomas Dancenter and here I am!
Teaches: Ballet, Tap, Jazz
MA in Interdisciplinary Studies of Dance, Music, and History & BFA in Dance
1970-1983:Professional dancer with Walt Disney/NBC Productions, Dallas Ballet, Pacific Ballet Theatre, Dallas Summer Musicals, Casa Manana, Windmill Dinner Theatres, and Country Dinner Theatres chain. Performed with Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Ricardo Montelban, John Davidson, and Van Johnson to name a few.
1983-2000: Artistic Director for Cedar Rapids Civic Ballet, adjunct dance instructor for Coe College, choreographer for Cedar Rapids Theatre and Coe College.
2000-2002: Artistic Dance Director for Reif Center of Performing Arts in Grand Rapids, MN
2002-2004: Assistant Director and Choreographer for TEXAS -Legacies Outdoor Musical Drama and instructor for West Texas A&M
2004-2005: Full time dance professor at Southeast Missouri State.
2006-Current: Taught for Robert Thomas
Teaches: Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Gymnastics
Liz started her dancing career at age three at the Robert Thomas Dancenter and continued to dance, teach, and assistant teach there up through high school (and in college whenever she could!). At the Dancenter, Liz studied ballet, contemporary ballet, jazz, pointe, gymnastics, and lyrical under the instruction of Lisa Luiken-Woxell, Maureen McGrath, Ellen Mullen (her mother—it runs in the family!), Robert Thomas, and Miyoko Kato Thomas. Her main area of study, and first love, being ballet and pointe.
At the Dancenter, Liz was involved in the XL ballet program for seven years; Iowa Youth Ballet for seven years; Iowa State Center’s Nutcracker Ballet for ten years (with roles of Flower Soloist, Moor Doll, Snowflake, Neapolitan, and many others); and master classes at the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago for seven years. Throughout her incredible experiences at the Joffrey, Liz studied with Willy Shives (Ballet Master and former dancer), Kim Sagami (former dancer), Derrick Agnoletti (current dancer), Suzanne Lopez (former dancer), and Ronn Stewart (the company jazz instructor). Liz has also had the opportunity to take jazz classes at the Giordano studio in Chicago.
Liz is continued her dancing career at the University of Iowa. She graduated in May 2017 with a degree in dance under the instruction of her wonderful professors, George de la Pena (former ABT dancer), Eloy Barragan (former Washington Ballet and Joffrey II dancer), Kristin Marrs, Armando Duarte, Charlotte Adams, Jennifer Kayle, and Jessica Anthony. She had the wonderful opportunity of performing for many of her professors, as well as growing so much as a dancer throughout her time in the studio with them every day for technique classes. Liz also had the privilege of taking technique classes from the inspiring graduate students in the dance department, Autumn Eckman (former Giordano Jazz dancer), Ramon Flowers (former Boston Ballet dancer and Broadway performer), Jesse Factor (former Martha Graham dancer), among several others.
When she is not dancing, Liz loves growing in her faith and walking with the Lord, spending quality time with her dear friends and family, reading, trying out all things creative and artistic and expressive, posting on social media (maybe too much ;), watching Netflix, hanging out in coffee shops, taking pictures, encouraging others, and smiling.
Teaches: Hip Hop
Robyn began dancing at the age of 3 at Shirley Van's Dance Studio in Green Bay, WI. When 7, she began performing in the Dance Company in shows like The Nutcracker, Peter Rabbit, andThe Little Mermaid. At the age of 10, Robyn switched studios and danced at The Power of Dance until she graduated. There she was trained in the styles of ballet, pointe, lyrical/contemporary, jazz, hiphop, pom, kick, and gymnastics. Robyn spent 7 years on theircompetition team, traveling and competing in state, national, and international competitions. Robyn has assisted with youth level competitive teams at Power of Dance for four years. She has also taught ballet, acro/gymnastics, pom, and hip hop to ages ranging from 7 years to 18 years old at the same studio. Robyn was able to balance choreography and costuming her classes as well as competing among her own team. Currently, she is studying biochemistry at Iowa State University where she hopes to continue on to medical school to become a doctor.
Teaches: Hip Hop
I started dancing when I was three years old at a small dance studio in South Carolina where I was born. I was so shy heck, I was too scared to go on stage my first time at age four! I moved to Northern Michigan at age seven and joined a competition studio. I participated in the traveling company all throughout middle school, going to many competitions in the process.
During this time I lived in the studio, learning styles of dance ranging from ballet to hip hop. I had quite the talent for ballet, but hip hop has always been my favorite. I ended up moving to Fairfield, Iowa and attending a small, local studio. It was very different but it was there that I actually enjoyed dancing the most. I had a lot of experience, so many times I helped teach classes and choreograph for shows. I also got to play roles ranging from Clara in the Nutcracker to the wicked witch from The Wizard of Oz.
It was eventually time for me to head off to college. Now, I am majoring in kinesiology with a minor in dance and psychology. I am a part of Orchesis I and I love every second of it, and will continue hopefully until the end of college.
Teaches: Irish, Ballet, Gymnastics, Jazz, Tap
Madaline Patton has enjoyed dance since the age of five at the Robert Thomas Dancenter. Over the years, she has taken many dance classes; ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, lyrical, and Irish soft shoe and hard shoe. She has also participated in the Iowa Youth Ballet and the Irish Performance Team. Because of her love of dance, she began working as a studio demonstrator at the age of six, and has been an instructor since 2016. Madaline teaches ballet, tap, jazz, Irish hard shoe and soft shoe, and is one of the instructors for the Irish Performance Team. She participated in IYB for more than 10 years, and has been a member of IPT for 8 years.
While dancing at the studio she has had the chance to perform as Princess Aurora in Act 3 of Sleeping Beauty, Swanilda in Act 1 of Coppelia, and the Main Princess in The Firebird. During the Christmas season, the Iowa State Center produces the Nutcracker ballet where she has been able to perform as Clara, Dew Drop Fairy, Fairy Godmother, Irish, Snowflake, Flute, and Ballerina Doll.
Madaline has had many opportunities to perform due to her Irish experience. She has performed with a handful of Irish bands including Iona, where she was invited on stage by the members of the band to perform and was asked back two years later. She has also performed with Celtic Fire when they came to CY Stephens and the Blue Moon Players at Reiman Gardens. Madaline has also had the opportunity to perform at Dublin Bay, residential homes, the Irish Hooley of Dubuque, Maifest in the Amana Colonies, the Iowa State Fair for several years, and has taught for and performed at the Iowa Irish Festival in Waterloo, Iowa twice.
Madaline has also had the pleasure of taking master classes twice at the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. And when the Joffrey came to the Dancenter, she participated in those master classes. Madaline has also had Irish master classes under Barb McNulty, who is the director of the McNulty Irish Dancers in Chicago.
Madaline wants to thank God and her instructors for her love of dance, and wants to share that love with her students.
Teaches: Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Tumbling
Eva has been dancing at the Robert Thomas Dancenter since she was three years old, and has participated in many of the Dancenter's programs including Irish Performance Team, Iowa Youth Ballet and Dancenter Dancenters Competition Company. Through Dancenter Dancers she has been allowed many opportunities and has taken classes from renowned instructors such as Martha Nichols, Dana Foglia, and Chloe Arnold.
The technical training that Eva has received at the Dancenter has proved to be an asset in both Iowa State Center's production of "The Nutcracker", and her high school's drama department. Some of her favorite roles in "The Nutcracker" include Clara, Snow and Arabian. In the spring of 2018, Eva served as one of two dance captains in her high school musical "Seussical". She and her co-captain were honored to be named Oustanding Featured Dancers at the Iowa High School Musical Theater Awards that year.
As an instructor, Eva is looking forward to sharing her love of dance with her students!
Haileigh started dancing at the Robert Thomas Dancenter when she was 3 and has loved it ever since. Over the years she’s studied ballet, pointe, tap, tumbling, jazz, breakdance, Irish soft and hard shoe, and hip hop. She has been a part of the Iowa Youth Ballet for many years where she has performed as “Bonnet” in The Fairy Doll and as “Firebird” in The Firebird. Haileigh has also traveled to Chicago and taken master classes at The Joffrey Ballet and the Dancenter with Kim Sagami.
Of course, she’s also participated in the Iowa State Center’s production of The Nutcracker ballet ever since she was old enough to try out. Haileigh has gotten to perform many different and fun roles such as Clara, Chinese, Irish, Snow, Flute, and the soloist parts of the Ballerina Doll and Flower Soloist.
Haileigh has performed on the Irish Performance Team within a few years of starting Irish dance and has been given countless opportunities through the group. She has taken master classes from Barb McNulty from the McNulty Irish Dancers from Chicago, IL. Whether it is performing at retirement facilities, Dublin Bay Irish Pub & Grill, each of the elementary schools in Ames, the Amana Colonies’ Maifest celebration, Dubuque’s Irish Hooley, the Iowa State Fair, or live with the bands of Iona, Celtic Fire, and the Blue Moon Players, she has loved where Irish dance is taking her! Haileigh has also gotten to teach Irish dance workshops for the Iowa Irish Festival in Waterloo with a few of her fellow teammates for two years, as well.