Dance Instructors

Lisa Luiken Woxell

Teaches: Ballet, Pointe, 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. Lisa has been teaching at the Robert Thomas Dancenter since 1999. She also currently teaches at Ankeny Dance and Performing Arts Academy. In addition, 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 "Nutcracker Ballet", the Neuman Project, the Barnstormers Flight Line, and with Dance Olympus on tour. 

Maureen McGrath

Teaches: Contemporary, Jazz, Lyrical, Modern, Musical Theatre, Tap; Dancenter Dancers Director

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 theatre 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, American 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.

Ellen Mullen

Teaches: Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Tap, Musical Theatre; Ballet Mistress, Iowa Youth Ballet

Ellen (Crawford) Mullen started teaching ballet, pointe, jazz, and combination classes at the Robert Thomas Dancenter in college. 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 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 Intensive 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 teaches management classes at Iowa State University, having earned a Ph.D. in Industrial Relations from the University of Minnesota.

Wendy leopold

Teaches: Ballet, Pointe; Ballet Mistress, Iowa Youth Ballet

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.

Inna Kuznetsova

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 roberts

Teaches: Ballet, Tap, Jazz: Ballet Mistress, Iowa Youth Ballet

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 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 Iowa State Center 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. Teagan graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Environmental Science and is employed as an education specialist at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines.

Gil McNaughton

Teaches: Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Musical Theatre; Ballet Master, Iowa Youth Ballet

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

Madaline Patton

Teaches: Irish, Ballet, Gymnastics, Jazz, Tap, Pointe, Irish Performance Team

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 (IYB) and the Irish Performance Team (IPT). 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 participated in IYB for more than 10 years, and has been a member of IPT for 10 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 in a varitey of roles including 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 Stephens Auditorium 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. 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.

Serica Maiers

Teaches: Irish, Irish Performance Team

Serica Maiers is a graduate from St. Mary's University of MN with a Bachelor's degree in Secondary Social Studies Education and a certificate in Leadership. She is a Senior District Executive with Mid-Iowa Council, BSA. Growing up in Dubuque, Serica trained in Irish Dance with the Claddagh/McNulty Irish Dance School and in college with Flanagan School of Irish Dance.  She has danced in seven countries, including Ireland and India, and has studied with the Riverdance dancers three times.  She trained in Classic Russian Ballet with the Academy of Ballet/Heartland Ballet Company for twelve years. Her extensive performance list includes sixteen full-length ballets, twelve musicals, one play and one opera. 

Alexa Gormley

Teaches: Hip Hop

Alexa began dancing at the age of three at Donna's Dance Place in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. There she trained in ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, contemporary, and hip hop. During her time at Donna's, she was a member of the competition team for several years and performed solos, duets, small and large groups, and production numbers at venues around the Midwest. In addition, Alexa trained for a handful of years at Dance New York, a ballroom dance studio in Marion, Iowa. 

Currently, Alexa is a senior at Iowa State University studying Animal Science. After graduation, Alexa plans to attend graduate school to become an applied animal nutritionist. In her free time, Alexa is a choreographer for the DubH Hip Hop club at Iowa State, where college students without any previous dance experience learn a hip hop dance to perform at the end of each semester. 

Eva Kellen

Teaches: Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Tumbling, Hip Hop

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 Patton

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.

Deborah Weaver