Our team

Learn a little bit more about our talented staff.

Makenzie Thomas

Owner/Artistic Director

Makenzie Thomas

Owner/Artistic Director

Makenzie began dancing at the age of three and hasn’t stopped since! Originally from Canton, Ohio she has trained in every form of dance. She is extremely passionate about the arts and has been a professional dancer for the past seven years. She moved to New York City at the young age of 18 to pursue her dreams of becoming a professional dancer. Makenzie trained in the Broadway Dance Center Professional Program where she studied all areas of dance in performing. This included taking classes from some of the best choreographers in the industry. She then joined a contemporary company started by Cat Cogliandro where her love and passion for dance only grew! Also while in New York, Makenzie appeared on So You Think You Can Dance, performed on Good Morning America, was a runway dancer for New York Fashion Week, and performed for Broadway Underground.

After all of her success in New York, Makenzie went on to fulfill another life long dream of working for Disney Cruise Lines as a Main Stage dancer. This gave her experience in working in a theatre and what it takes to perform on one of the most prestigious cruise lines. After two contracts with Disney Cruise Lines, Makenzie went on to continue her career with the Walt Disney World company in Orlando, Florida. Makenzie performed many different roles during her time at Disney, but she spent most of her days performing in “Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire” on the castle stage at the Magic Kingdom. She was a performer in many shows and parades for the past two years and loved every second of it!

Now, Makenzie has decided to hang up her performing shoes and pass it along. She wants to teach and above all inspire young dancers. She hopes to encourage positivity and self confidence in dancers! Makenzie is passionate about her message, “If you work hard, set goals for yourself, and FOCUS, anything is possible.”

Monica Dascenzo

Dance Instructor

Monica Dascenzo

Dance Instructor

Monica has been in the dance world for nearly her entire life! After graduating from The University of Akron, with degrees in Dance & Business Management she returned to her hometown of Warren, Ohio to open a dance studio named “All That Jazz with Monica”. Her studio was her pride and joy staying opened for 8 years. Moving to Canton, Ohio in 1996 led her to be an instructor  at Center Stage Dance Studio. There she led numerous competition groups and won many regional & national titles. Monica has judged for VIP, KAR, Rising Star, and StarQuest.

Monica has been a dance instructor for The Jackson School for the Arts for the last five years. She teaches all genres of dance but loves tap and jazz the most! Recently, she formed the Edge Dance Company at Jackson High School. She was the musical choreographer for JHS performance of Beauty and the Beast.

Throughout every stage of her life she has totally loved teaching dance. Her passion and dedication to the art has been passed on to each student she encounters. Monica resides in Jackson Township with her husband John, daughter Makenzie, and son Drew. Although her dance career has been extremely fulfilling throughout her life, assisting her daughter Makenzie at New Focus Dance Academy will be one of her proudest moments yet!

 

Sara Spizzichini

Dance Instructor

Sara Spizzichini

Dance Instructor

Sara Spizzichini, a native of Massillon, Ohio, is a 2015 graduate of Point Park University having received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance (with a concentration in Modern Dance.) Prior to her college career, she trained under the artistic direction of Ms. Jeanne Mahaffey, Inna Stabrova, and Mitchel Federan. In 2012, she graduated from the Jackson School of the Performing Arts through which she helped to establish a dance internship program for students with special needs. She has spent four consecutive summers training at prestigious intensives such as Parsons Dance and Paul Taylor American Modern Dance. Her professional credits include performing with The Blanket, Courdance, and 2018’s premiere of “The Missing Peace” with Shana Simmon’s Dance in Pittsburgh! She has also had the privilege of performing alongside renowned concert dance companies such as NYC’s Parsons Dance for the annual National High School Dance Festival as well as Pittsburgh’s own Attack Theatre.

Sara is currently on staff as a Teacher & Choreographer at New Focus Dance Academy. She loves the positive energy that young students bring to the classroom and she thrives off of performing and teaching while continually looking for new ways to challenge herself both physically and artistically. Her objective in teaching is to instill a strong work ethic, a sense of self discipline, and a passion for learning that students can apply to all avenues of their life (whether their goal is to pursue dance in the long term or not).

Zoe Williams

Dance Instructor

Zoe Williams

Dance Instructor

Zoe Williams comes to New Focus Dance Academy with a wealth of knowledge from
14+ years of dance training and many successful years in the convention and competition circuit.
Zoe has had the unique opportunity to choreograph and teach since the age of 17. Since then, she
has received numerous choreography awards, overall high scores, and Industry Dance Awards
nominations for her work. She has earned the opportunity to be a part of the Dancer’s Against
Cancer PSA, The Industry Dance Awards, Choreographer’s Carnival, Spencer Ludwig’s music
video, “I Just Wanna Dance,” James Barre music video, “Blame It on Us,” and Vans US Surf
Opening. She was recently named a MusEffect apprentice for Muse Dance Company based out
of Los Angeles, California. Additionally, she is an apprentice for Tap into the Network, which is
a national tap convention. This December, Zoe will graduate with her B.A. in marketing from
The University of Akron. Zoe prides herself on creative and challenging classes in all styles of
dance. She strives to be a leader, team player and role-model for each one of her students and
hopes to inspire each dancer to achieve their personal best.

Julia Spizzichini

Dance Instructor

Julia Spizzichini

Dance Instructor

Raised in Massillon, Ohio, Julia Spizzichini started dancing at age three. She spent multiple years training diligently in ballet, contemporary, jazz, tap, hip hop, pointe, partnering and theater dance. In 2019, Julia received her BFA in Commercial Dance from Pace University in New York City. After performing as an ensemble dancer in the 2018 season of The Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, she traveled to Tokyo, Japan to perform in West Side Story in Stage Around. Julia currently resides and teaches in northeast Ohio, enjoying her chance to give back as an educator and choreographer in the many genres she fell in love with at such a young age.

April Brenneman

Dance Instructor

April Brenneman

Dance Instructor

April Templeton Brenneman first started her dance training at the age of 8 under the late Richard Moore. Over the years, she continues to study her craft by traveling to numerous conventions, studios, and never turning down an opportunity to take class or perform.

Through her teaching career, April has been seen:

* Guest teaching at New York’s The Broadway Dance Center for their Children’s and Teens Summer Dance program.

*Teaching on Cleveland’s first convention circuit “Convention Cle” Alongside Nicole Kirkland, Cameron Lee, And Devin Solomon.

*Assisting the incredible Duo Dejan Tubic and Zach Venegas here in Ohio, California, and at DanceMakers Inc. convention tour.

Her performance background includes several years of community theatre in the Akron Area with Shalamar Reloaded’s Nate Smith, as well as back up dancing for recording artist Eden Xo and in an EP release concert for singer Anthony Paul from season 5 of “The Voice.”

April has enjoyed being a full time dance instructor over the years, teaching many different disciplines of dance including contemporary, hip hop, jazz funk, and musical theatre. She hopes to continue inspiring students, and that she may be a teacher who makes a difference in the lives of others while still working, training, and collaborating new innovative concepts to bring to her classes.

Rosemary Steinbrook

Dance Instructor

Rosemary Steinbrook

Dance Instructor

Rosemary started dancing at the age of 3. She attended Ashtabula Arts Center focusing on ballet. After Rosemary graduated high school, she attended Wright State University earning a BFA in dance. While in college, Rosemary realized her love for musical theater, jazz and contemporary dance. She was a member of the WSU Dance Ensemble, and had opportunities to perform with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company II. Her favorite memories are performing in musicals including, Oklahoma! and Anything Goes.

After college Rosemary relocated to Akron and discovered a love in teaching and choreographing. She has performed professionally in the area most notably with the Cleveland Cavaliers Dance Team. Over 25 years, she has received many overall and choreography awards, judged dance competitions, and taught master classes all over the trip state area, but her biggest passion is working with dancers in the studio, where all the magic happens! Mentoring young dancers and watching them grow has been the biggest joy of Rosemary’s career. She hopes to continue inspiring and teaching dancers for many years to come.

Rosemary’s first love is her family. She has four sons, including Felix who is autistic and has taught her many things about diversity. Every year, Rosemary creates a dance piece dedicated to Felix and focuses on Autism Awareness. These pieces have performed throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Allison Brewer

Dance Instructor

Allison Brewer

Dance Instructor

Allison Brewer has been teaching ballet for the last 7 years.  Her training began at Canton Ballet when she was 3, has been doing ballet for the last 29 years, and has been doing pointe for the last 21 years. In 2006 she was accepted into the Canton Ballet Company where she had the honor of dancing many prominent roles and the privilege of working with Laura Alonso both at Canton Ballet as well as traveling to Cuba to train.

In Cuba she also had the opportunity to work with Laura’s son Ivan Monreal Alonso, Hector F. Abrantes, Lourdes Alvarez Trigueiro, and her father, Fernando Alonso. Those trips were the most transformative experiences in her dance training and artistry. In addition she competed at the Paris International Ballet Competition, won the classical division of YAGP at the Chicago Regionals and took 3rd place at the YAGP Nationals in New York.  She was accepted and awarded scholarships to summer intensives with School of American Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet and several other prestigious programs. While attending RDA events with Canton Ballet Allison was also selected to receive scholarships from them as well. Her professional experience performing includes dancing with San Francisco Ballet, Virginia Ballet Theatre, Centro Pro Danza and had the opportunity to train down in Australia with Gelsey Kirkland.

In addition to teaching ballet and pointe, She is also AAM1 certified with Acrobatic Arts to teach Acro, has a Progressing Ballet Technique teacher certification and is Nutritious Life Certified. Allison is currently enrolled in a program through Rhythm Works Integrative Dance to become a certified Instructor which will allow her to teach classes specifically designed for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Sensory Processing Disorder and other learning differences and special needs.

Christine Howe

Dance Instructor

Christine Howe

Dance Instructor

Christine Howe (she/her) is a dance educator, performer, and maker currently serving as an Assistant

Lecturer at The University of Akron where she teaches a variety of courses including Modern Technique,

Composition, and Dance Theory. She holds a BFA from The University of Akron Honors College and an

MFA from The University of Iowa with an emphasis in performance. As a graduate student, she received

the Iowa Arts Fellowship and served as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. As an educator, she strives to

create community environments in the classroom to support spaces of exploration and experimentation

to leave students with a sense of creative individuality, an investigative curiosity, and a deep passion to

move.

As a performer, she has worked with choreographers such as Charlotte Adams, Chloe Felesina, Amy Miller, and Kristin Marrs. These works have been performed at events such as The American College Dance Association, Iowa Arts Festival, Iowa Dance Festival, Ohio Dance Festival, Emergence Dance Concert, Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, and The University of Iowa Gala Concert. As a maker, her choreographic works have been presented by Columbus Contemporary Dance Company, The University of Akron Dance Company, The Cleveland Dance Festival, Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, Take Up Space in Chicago, and Lindenwood University in St. Louis. Her choreographic research works deeply with performance techniques to dance beyond just spectacle into creating empathetic and humanistic connections.

Maggie Grizer

Dance Instructor

Maggie Grizer

Dance Instructor

Maggie Grizer is currently in the final year of pursuing her Bachelors of Arts in Dance at the University of Akron. She has been dancing for 16 years and was apart of the Green High School Dance team for 4 years. Maggie is YPAD and CPR certified to help ensure a safe environment for all the children she teaches on a daily basis.

Shannon Salisbury

Dance Instructor

Shannon Salisbury

Dance Instructor

Hi! My name is Shannon Salisbury and I want to introduce myself. I have been teaching students for 32 years at various dance studios. I went to college to specialize in tap, hip hop, acrobatics, jazz and ballet. I am excited to be with your children and to be teaching at this studio and to be a part of this family! So, get ready everyone and LET’S DANCE!

Alexis Rossi

Dance Instructor

Alexis Rossi

Dance Instructor

Alexis Rossi has been dancing since the age of two. She grew up with years of training in ballet, tap, jazz, and modern. In 2021, she graduated from Jackson High School as a member of the Jackson School for the Arts program. She is currently studying at Kent State University majoring in Business Management with a minor in Dance. She has also been trained on the flute for 10+ years and hopes to eventually pass on her love of the instrument to private lesson students of her own.

Alexis has had the unique experience of working with children from a very young age. She grew up helping with Leaps and Bounds Daycare, her mother’s inhome childcare business. Alongside New Focus, she also has been working at the YMCA for over 3 years teaching swim lessons, setting up child-watch programs, lifeguarding, and running group fitness classes. She is so thankful to be a part of the NFDA staff and hopes to instill her love for dance, music, and teaching into each one of her students.