The Nutcracker Ballet: December 10 – 7pm & December 11 – 1pm at Stephens Auditorium. Click here to learn more!

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Dancenter Dancers

Program Director

Maureen McGrath

Maureen McGrath

Dancenter Dancer Director,

Dancenter Dancers

Grades PS 4-12

Dancenter Dancers is a contemporary dance company at Robert Thomas Dancenter. In this program, the dancers focus on improving individual technique in the classroom, while working on emotional focus and presentation for the stage. Although there is a contemporary emphasis in the upper levels of Dancenter Dancers, it is a well rounded program. Tap, jazz, musical theater, partnering, and modern are part of the curriculum. Dancenter Dancers are known for their group work and concert dance execution of movement. Former Dancenter Dancers are working all over the country in every facet of the industry.

Illuminate 2024

Dancenter Dancer Showcase 2024

Dancenter Dancer Showcase 2023

Blast Dance Workshop


Maureen McGrath


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, Maureen taught Jazz, Tap, Ballet, and Tumbling in Des Moines for over ten years. Maureen McGrath accepted the position of instructor for the Robert Thomas Dancenter in 2000. Maureen assumed the directorship of Dancenter Dancers in 2001. She has been teaching at Robert Thomas Dancenter for over 20 years. Her focus as an instructor is to educate dancers in a positive and enjoyable classroom environment. Her mission with Dancenter Dancers is to provide dancers with the education and opportunities that afford them the option of pursuing dance post-high school. Her goal has been to give the dancers this education and these opportunities since day one at the Dancenter.


Along with Maureen’s passion for educating dancers, she cherishes creativity. Working on new choreography is one of her most vital endeavors. Maureen creates new worlds and ways of thinking for her dancers to explore and make their own in her works.


Maureen is a costume designer. Maureen’s creativity extends to designing new looks for dancers. Her costume company FR-NGE has manufactured costumes for studios around the country. Her contemporary dance company, Dancenter Dancers, utilizes designs by FR-NGE and has won numerous awards for these designs. Other FR-NGE clients have been the Iowa Youth Ballet and the Nutcracker. Where FR-NGE designs appeared in the 40th Anniversary production.


Under Maureen’s direction, Dancenter Dancers receives numerous awards and honors each year. Both at regional and national levels. They have performed at workshops and competitions throughout the country and appeared with Radio City Rockettes, Harlem Globetrotters, and NCAA Sporting events.

Maureen teaches Jazz, Tap, Lyrical, and Contemporary classes in both the Ames studios. She has choreographed the Sweet Toffee, Candy Canes, Coffee, Battle Scene, and this year will rechoreograph the Tea in the Stephens Auditorium production of The Iowa Youth Ballet Nutcracker.

Maureen formed Blast Dance workshop, a local workshop every December. It is an opportunity for local dancers to take classes with training and working Dancenter Dancer slums. It has proudly become a fundraising opportunity for the company, giving some proceeds to quality dance education organizations.


Maureen does endless hours of continued education. Every year, she strives to be an improved, more knowledgeable educator.

Chloe Barry

Chloe Barry grew up dancing at Robert Thomas Dancenter in Ames, Iowa. In 2010 she joined the studio competition team under the direction of Maureen McGrath which proved integral to her development as an artist and to her desire to pursue dance as a career. Chloe currently attends the University of Utah as a double major in Modern Dance and Geophysics. At the School of Dance she is a member of the Modern Dance Student Concert Committee, a student group that produces an entirely student choreographed dance concert. Chloe has also had three of her pieces accepted into Student Concert. She has performed solo and ensemble roles in a work by Christine McMillan and in a collaboratively choreographed work by Daniel Clifton and Satu Hummasti. She has supplemented her university dance education by attending the 2019 Martha Graham School summer intensive and the 2021 LINK audition festival. Chloe would not feel complete without also pursuing her interest in the geosciences. She is primarily interested in volcanoes, and how tools from seismology can be used to study them. As an undergraduate she has been working on research on the Yellowstone volcano under the mentorship of Dr. Fan-Chi Lin.

Ellie Barry

Ellie Barry began dancing at Robert Thomas Dancenter at the age of 4. She joined the Dancenter Dancers competition team in 2010, and continued dancing under the direction of Maureen McGrath until she graduated in 2021. Through her work on the competition team, Ellie developed her technique and performance skills, as well as proficiency in a diverse array of styles. Additionally during her time at the Dancenter, Ellie enjoyed performing in The Nutcracker, as well as traveling to New York City with Maureen and the Dancenter Dancers. From 2018-2021, she attended summer intensives at Kansas City Ballet School and Orlando Ballet School. Ellie is currently a freshman at the University of Arizona where she is pursuing a BFA in dance. At the School of Dance, Ellie is training in ballet, modern, and jazz techniques under a number of distinguished faculty. During her first semester, she was lucky enough to perform in a piece by MFA student Cat Cogliandro, as well as in a structured improvisation with the freshmen class. Ellie is so excited to return to the Dancenter to teach at Blast!

Sophie Barry

Sophie Barry began dancing at Robert Thomas Dancenter at the age of 4, and was a member of the Dancenter Dancers competition team for 10 years. Sophie has attended Summer Intensives at the Kansas City Ballet, Orlando Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, and Hubbard Street Dance. After the 2020 KCB summer intensive, Sophie was invited to join the daytime program of the Kansas City Ballet School where she trained for two years under the leadership of Grace M. Holmes. While in Kansas City, she was invited by Christina Burton to perform in On Your Feet, the Muny’s collaboration with KC Starlight. Additionally, she performed as a soloist in Kansas City Youth Ballet’s Paquita and as a Bridesmaid in Don Quixote under the direction of Kimberly Cowen and Dmitry Trubchanov. She is now in her first year at Point Park University pursuing a BFA in dance with a concentration in jazz.  During her first semester she was able to work with Maud Arnold on a tap piece for the 2022 Fall Dance Concert. Sophie is so excited to be a faculty member at Blast!

Inger Cooper

Inger Cooper is a freelance performer and choreographer in the NYC area. After graduating from University of the Arts with a BFA in Dance in 2015, Inger began her own project based group, ingercooper|dancers, and was commissioned by the Barnes Foundation to create work for Fall 2015. Inger has since performed and showcased work in various festivals and spaces, including KYL/D’s InHale, Philly Fringe Festival, Koresh Dance Company, ReverbDANCE, Triskelion Arts, WAXworks, The Craft, Dixon Place, Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Arts On Site. She has also presented work at the CND in Paris and Royal Conservatoire in Antwerp. Inger has performed in several works from various choreographers including Netta Yerashalmy, Iris Bouche, Jesse Zarrit, Katie Swords-Thurman, Andrea Miller, Sidra Bell, Douglas Becker, Asya Zlatina, and Caylee Shimizu. Inger currently co-curates The Craft, a monthly performance series in Brooklyn, NY and is the Head Coach & Community Manager at [solidcore] Grand Central.

Andrea Holtman

Andrea Holtman is a Los Angeles performing artist who received her BFA in Performing Arts: Musical Theatre, at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Hollywood. Post college, Andrea has taken on many projects in the industry. Some of her favorites include: Shiva (Independent Film), guest choreographer assistant for Jason Derulo video, Catching Up (Specialty Music Concert), and Till The End (Music Video – Choreographer). Andrea is looking forward to some new adventures in the new year; with the release of her podcast: Right There With You and an upcoming television series: Hounds (Post Production). She’s so thrilled to be returning to her home studio after such a long hiatus due to the pandemic. What a joy it is to come back to a place where her love of the arts began!

Anna Kazwell

Anna Kazwell started dance at the age of 3 at the Robert Thomas Dancenter. She was a member of the Dancenter Dancers for 7 years before joining Ballet Des Moines’ second company. In 2016, Anna moved to Chicago to study as a member of A&A Ballet’s Youth Company, where she performed works by Alexei Kremnev, Mariana Oliveira, and Terence Marling. She was then offered a place in Visceral Dance Chicago’s Studio Company and performed works by artistic director Nick Pupillo. Anna graduated from Indiana University High School in 2019 and moved to Salt Lake City to attend the University of Utah. She is now in her third year of pursuing both a B.F.A. in Modern Dance and a B.S. in English. During her time at the University of Utah’s School of Dance, Anna has had the opportunity to work and collaborate with artists including Jennifer Archibald, Natalie Desch, Darrell Grand Moultrie, and Satu Hummasti, as well as performing in various student-choreographed works. Last November she worked with FLOCK for their dance film entitled “Distal Places.” Anna is involved in the Salt Lake City dance community, having performed in Repertory Dance Theatre’s Regalia and fem dance company’s Dawn. Anna has attended numerous intensive programs across the United States, including Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Gaga/dancers, ArchCore40, Boston Ballet, and Ellison Ballet.

Eva Kellen

Eva danced at Robert Thomas Dancenter for 15 years, during which she participated in many programs including the Irish Performance Team, the Iowa Youth Ballet, the Dancenter Dancer Company for 6 years, and the Nutcracker Ballet for 12 years. Eva graduated from Nevada High School in 2020 and will receive her Associates of Arts at North Hennepin Community College in the spring of 2022 with plans to transfer to Drake University in the fall. At Drake, she plans to participate in concert band and drill team. She also currently teaches a wide range of ages at two dance studios and recently wrapped up her 13th season with the Nutcracker Ballet.

Liza Kroeschell

After graduating summa cum laude from Lines Ballet BFA at Dominican Univeristy of California in 2015, Liza Kroeschell performed with several San Francisco Bay Area dance companies, including dawsondancesf, Garrett and Moulton Productions, and Bellwether Dance Project. She now teaches dance to over 700 elementary students per week in San Francisco’s public schools as a Senior Teacher with the organization Nagata Dance.

Grace Nelson

Grace Nelson is studying at St. Olaf College with a major in economics. She was a part of Dancenter Dancers for seven years and danced at Robert Thomas Dancenter for 15 years. Also, she was a member of the Iowa Youth Ballet and part of the Iowa State Center’s production of The Nutcracker Ballet. Currently, she dances with the St. Olaf Competition Dance Team.

Kate Nelson

Kate Nelson is a sophomore at Iowa State University. She was a Dancenter Dancer company member for seven years. Kate danced at Robert Thomas Dancenter for 15 years and with the Iowa Youth Ballet for ten years.

Kim Kellen

Lily Rettig

Associate Instructor

Lily began her dance training at Robert Thomas Dancenter in 2007. She has trained in ballet, pointe, contemporary, jazz, lyrical, tap, musical theater, and more. She was part of the Dancenter Dancer competition team for 5 years, and IYB for 9 years. She also danced in the Nutcracker Ballet for 11 years. Lily graduated from Ames High School in the spring of 2021. Lily is now in her second year at Iowa State University and is perusing a design degree, with minors in event management and dance. She currently dances with the Orchesis I Dance Company. Through this company she has gotten the opportunity to learn from many different choreographers and fellow students, as well as choreograph two of her own pieces. She enjoys the opportunity to continue her training with a focus in contemporary and modern through Orchesis I. This year she has also been assisting for the Dancenter Dancer competition team!

Stephanie Shin

Stephanie Shin received her early training from Robert Thomas Dancenter in Ames, Iowa and went on to graduate from Boston University with a B.A. in Computer Science and a minor in Dance and Statistics. She has performed at American College Dance Association conferences throughout the country and in various concerts presented by Dance Theatre Group at Boston University. She has had the honor of choreographing works for Dance Theatre Group and has been selected to present her work for the American College Dance Association and “Tiny and Short”, a performance at the Dance Complex in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has danced with Urbanity Underground, worked as a software engineer, and coordinated and led various multidisciplinary arts and site specific performances. Currently, Stephanie is working in the admin office of the Martha Graham Dance Company and dancing as a freelance artist in New York City.

Anna Snyder

Anna danced at Robert Thomas Dancenter for 12 years, was on the Dancenter Dancer Company Team for 10 years, and has performed in the Nutcracker Ballet for 10 years. Anna graduated from Ames High School in the spring of 2020 and now attends the University of Iowa in the Honors Program studying Human Physiology and Dance. She is also a member of the Hawkeye Marching Band, a dancer for the Department of Dance 2021 Gala, and elected to the Hancher Auditorium Presidential Charter Committee to advocate for performing arts at the university.