MDO Board of Directors
The Missouri Dance Organization (MDO) is a membership driven organization. Members have a voice in its work and governance. MDO's Board of Directors is a working board and requires expertise in specific roles that are integral to MDO leadership, infrastructure, and long-term stability. We are always on the lookout for new Board members to represent all areas of the state and all genres of dance to energize the organization. If you are interested in serving on the MDO Board, email email@example.com.
Lisa Geger (Columbia)- President
- Vice President
Carmen Dence (St. Louis) - Treasurer
St. Louis Region Central Region Northwest Region
Alice Bloch Chris Rutledge April Austin
Ashley Tate Karen Mareck Grundy Tracey Wozney
Beverly Sonen Janie Morgan
Christine Knoblauch O'Neal
Marisel Salscruz Southwest Southeast
Prasanna Kasthuri Northeast Kansas City Region
Lisa has been with the Columbia Performing Arts Centre, in Columbia, MO since its inception in 1998 and loves every moment she can spend with students. Lisa oversees the recreational ballet program syllabus, has taught modern and Swing, and has choreographed over 60 ballets and a few competition pieces throughout the years.
Lisa graduated from Stephens College in 1992 with a BFA in Dance. She then attended Harvard Summer Dance Workshop and studied dance in London with the London Contemporary Dance Theatre and in Holland with the Rotterdam Dance Theatre. Lisa performed with Webster Dance Theatre and MADCO in St. Louis and then moved to New York City where she became an apprentice for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and represented the Cunningham Studio in the Princess Grace Foundation Awards. Lisa studied the Argentine Tango with Paul Pellicoro and Eleny Fotinos, both of whom taught Al Pacino the tango for his role in “Scent of a Woman”. Lisa performed the Argentine Tango in many tango salons and restaurants and has competed in the International Latin Ballroom Dance division. She has also performed for many smaller, modern dance companies.
In 1996 Lisa moved back to Missouri and founded Repertory Arts Movement, a 501 C3 organization formed to promote the performing arts. From 2004-2006 Lisa was proud to be the Associate Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer of Cedar Lake II. In 2007, in order to spend more time with her family and homeschool her children, Lisa donated her 501 C3 organization to Karen Mareck Grundy who renamed it to Missouri Contemporary Ballet. From 2017-2020, Lisa was an adjunct dance instructor at Stephens College teaching ballet, modern, choreography, pedagogy as well as a guest choreographer for their faculty spring dance concerts. What a blessing to help young dancers to pursue their dreams of dance whether it be on stage, in the studio, or classroom!
Lisa is the current president of the Missouri Dance Organization whose mission is to connect the Missouri dance community and to support all the incredible dance artists of Missouri. She is also on the Executive Board of Missouri Alliance for Arts Education. Lisa is a certified teacher of Progressing Ballet Technique and looking forward to expanding that to the Progressing Contemporary Technique. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!😊 Lisa volunteers at her church teaching religious education classes preparing 2nd graders to receive their First Reconciliation and First Communion as well as greeting parishioners with awesome doughnuts and coffee after Sunday Mass. Lisa loves to spend as much time as she can with her three teenage daughters and outnumbered husband!
Carmen Dence, Co-Treasurer of MDO, is the founder and artistic director of the colorful Grupo Atlantico, an instrumental and dance group that promotes the folklore and rich heritage of her native Colombia. She has been recognized as a “Master Artist” by the Missouri Folk Arts Program and has held classes and performances in literally hundreds of schools, libraries, and other venues since 1995. Simultaneously, she pursued a successful career in science at Washington University School of Medicine, where her passion has been mentoring minorities and attracting young women to science. She serves as a board member of the Hispanic Educational Cultural and Scholarship Fund, the Hispanic Scholarship Alliance, and Better Family Life.
ALICE BLOCH, EdD, Temple University; MA, UCLA, is an Isadora Duncan dancer and Arts Integration specialist based at COCA, St Louis MO. Alice leads professional development workshops and residencies on science, mathematics, and classroom management, including Dancing the Solar System and Math and Movement. Alice presented How to Dance a Painting at for Moventure in Detroit in 2008, and has led workshops on the Brain Dance at Stephens College and for the Missouri Alliance for Arts Education. A 5th generation Isadora Duncan dancer, her presentations include Dancing the Supermom: Isadora Duncan as a Template for Today's Single Working Mothers, and The Physics of Duncan Dance. Her 2016 residency at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Arts’ Art of American Dance exhibit featured the performance, Isadora and the New Woman and early childhood creative movement classes. She is on the board of the Missouri Alliance for Arts Education and the Missouri Dance Organization.
St. Louis’ finest stylist, Carmen R. Guynn has been known for the past twenty- three years for her unique, distinctive styling. A St. Louis native, she is considered one of the most solid and articulated instructors the city has to offer. Her dance background includes not only Afro-Latin styles of dance but also tap, jazz, modern, and hip-hop. She was the winner of Miss Salsa St. Louis in 2002 and has performed in several cultural awareness festivals and fundraisers in St. Louis, Chicago, New York, and New Jersey, Miami, Cincinnati and Los Angels. Carmen has been a certified ZIN ZUMBA® fitness instructor since March 2010, and enjoys implementing her dance skills and technique into the Zumba fitness training programs including Zumba Toning, and Zumba Kids.
She has performed and taught in several Salsa Congresses including the Northwest Salsa Congress, Chicago International Salsa Congress, Memphis Salsa Festival, Cincinnati Salsa Festival, New York Salsa Congress, New Jersey Salsa Congress, St. Louis International Salsa/Bachata Congress--which she founded--and many others. She was the choreographer of Las Damas Con Ritmo (performed at the Texas Salsa Congress in 2013), Salsa Sabor (performed at Fair St. Louis in 2013), and Conexion Divina (first performed at the Chicago International Salsa Congress in 2012).
As the Artistic Founder and Artistic Director of Almas Del Ritmo Dance Company LLC, in St. Louis, Carmen trained in all the Latin styles of dance including Salsa, Bachata, Cha Cha Cha, Merengue and Cumbia. Specializing in body movement and isolation, footwork technique, partnering, ladies styling, leading /following technique, dance theory and musicality. She is the founder of the first St. Louis Touch Franchise for both co-ed and ladies styling teams from the world-renown Island Touch Dance Academy. Carmen coached these teams to perform for the St. Louis’ Thanksgiving Day Parade, Fair St. Louis, Festival of Nations, Dancing in the Streets, local corporate companies, and many salsa and bachata Congresses across the country. Her team Conexion Divina performed on Season 1, Episode 2 of OWN's Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s in 2011.
Twenty years ago, Carmen had the desire to bring the first Salsa Congress to St. Louis. With hard work, dedication, and love of Afro-Latin culture, music, and dance, her dream came to fruition in October 2010, with her as the Executive Producer of the St. Louis International Salsa/Bachata Congress. In its fourth year, the production landed itself on the hit TV show MTV’s MADE (2013). The Congress celebrated 10 years of Latin dance production in St. Louis on October 23 - 25 2019. She was honored the 2019 International Pioneer Award by Twin Cities Salsa Association for her outstanding leadership, contributions and world renown commitment to the international Latin dance community.
In June of 2013, Carmen was the choreographer for the Latin dance scenes of epic play SOY YO! (I AM ME!), an Afro-Latina suite a production of Gitana Productions. The play confronted the silent struggle of mixed identity in the Midwest. The play was well received and remounted by the Hazelwood School District in January 2014.
After 14 years in the field of engineering, Carmen walked away and began the work of full-time advocacy against human trafficking. As the leader of Coalition Against Trafficking and Exploitation (CATE), she worked with community members, service providers, and the Missouri Attorney General to build resources, create best practices, and implement laws to fight this crime. Even though she only served for one year as the Director of CATE, implements advocacy against trafficking in her work with Almas Del Ritmo Dance Company by educating staff, and students, giving presentation on trafficking, and supporting Safe homes for survivors. Her goal is to always be a voice to the voiceless.
Carmen is a trained Wolf Trap Teaching Artist and works with Springboard to Learning St. Louis teaching arts integration for the St. Louis Public Schools.
Carmen sits on the Board of Directors for The Missouri Dance Organization , Gitana Productions and a member of the St. Louis Arts Chambers of Commerce.
Carmen is a Christian and not afraid to share the good news of Christ to anyone who will listen. Family means more to her than anything, and when she is not teaching, dancing, or producing events, she is with those she loves. Carmen is a motivational speaker and a life and business coach. She was a member of the Tapestry Network, a Christian Women Business organization. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Webster University, a Masters in Business Administration from Fontbonne University, and a certificate in Evidence-Based Coaching (EBC) from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, CA. and a graduate CORO Women in Leadership St. Louis, Class of 46, Fall of 2005.
Bev Sonen graduated from the Dance/PE/Dance Therapy program at the U of Wisconsin back when Dance Therapy was just beginning as a profession. She danced with the Nancy Hauser Dance Company in Minneapolis, MN throughout the 70's followed by a solo career of teaching, performing, choreographing and creating costumes until today, with some retirement.
Ashley L. Tate is the founder, artistic director, and lead choreographer of Ashleyliane Dance Company (ADC), a full service dance organization based in the Greater St. Louis area. Ashley has studied dance for over 30 years. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Science from Texas Christian University, where she served two consecutive years as captain during her four-year stint as a member of the TCU Showgirls Dance Team. She has been an instructor for National Dance Alliance, a cast member in a Sony Dreamworks motion picture, and a bodily-kinesthetic intelligence presenter for St. Louis Area Resources for Community and Human Services (ARCHS).
Ms. Tate has choreographed for NCAA basketball and football halftime shows, studio recitals, theatre productions, professional dance organizations, and national and regional dance competitions. She teaches master classes and workshops in contemporary, hip hop, jazz, lyrical, and specialty classes in turns, leaps, and cardio hip hop. She was a member of the Saint Louis Rams Football Cheerleaders, serving as a captain for two years. She also served as the head cheer and dance coach at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and as an adjudicator for Cathy Roe Ultimate Dance Competitions. Ms. Tate is now a board member for Missouri Dance Organization, and a member of the National Dance Education Organization, and an adjudicator for Fury Dance Competitions. She is also a recently certified Zumba® instructor.
Ms. Tate is an adjunct professor of dance at Washington University in St. Louis and Webster University and the former chair of the dance department at Grand Center Arts Academy. She was invited to a private audition for Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour and is a recipient of Grand Center’s Emerging Artist Visionary Award. She has served as a judge for the Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation’s Teen Talent Showcase for several years. She is also a winner of the Pulse On Tour Dance Convention Protégé Scholarship, a Monsters of Hip Hop Scholarship (and a former Monsters Show Nominee), and is signed as a dancer and dance educator with Clear Talent Group in Los Angeles, California. Her work has chosen to be featured in choreographer’s showcases at the Peridance Capezio Center, TADA! Theater, and Baruch Performing Arts Center, all in New York City, as well as the Choreographer’s Carnival in Chicago, Illinois and Versatility Dance Festival in Boulder, Colorado and Santa Monica, CA.
Ms. Tate is a 2018 recipient of the Spencer T & Ann W. Olin Fellowship for Women in Graduate Study. In 2020 completed a Master of Fine Arts degree in Dance at Washington University in St. Louis.
Christine Knoblauch-O’Neal, Ph.D., Director of the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Dance Program; Professor of the Practice in the Performing Arts Department at Washington University in St. Louis, performed for twenty years with such companies as American Ballet Theater, the National Ballet, Dancers, and the Cincinnati Ballet. Her awards include a bronze medal from the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria, a State Department medal in recognition of her accomplishment in Varna, the Washington University in St. Louis’ ArtSci Faculty award, and the 2009 CORPS de Ballet International Service Award. Her research interests are the restaging of master works, storytelling, embodied narrative, and the Eyewitnessing of dance history. Her book, Revealing the Contours of Human Emotions: Preserving the Ballets of Antony Tudor, was published in October 2019.
Janie Morgan is a Professor of Dance, Artistic Director of Repertory Dance Ensemble, and choreographer for the theatre productions at Missouri Valley College. She received her MFA in Dance from Arizona State University (ASU) and her BFA in Related Arts/Dance from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. Janie has had the privilege of working with many choreographers including Nora Chipaumire, Liz Lerman, Columbine Macher, Carley Conder, and Michael Baxter. Janie has trained, taught, choreographed, and performed throughout TX, PA, NY, AZ, MO, London, and Namibia, Africa. She has taught and presented choreography at the American College Dance Association Conferences, presented her research at National Dance Education Organization Conferences, and the Council for Exceptional Children Conferences. Many of her students have gone on to be dance educators, work for Disney, and on cruise ships. One of her former students is a member of Complexions Contemporary Ballet Company and another is the Executive Director of Congo Square Theatre. Janie is thrilled to be a Board member for MDO! She happily resided in Marshall, MO with her wonderful husband, beautiful daughters and silver labs.
As the Artistic/Executive Director of Missouri Contemporary Ballet, Karen Grundy says her goal is, “to give dancers a positive yet disciplined space to discover their center core and expand their hearts and minds, while also allowing them to explore diverse styles of dance.”
Karen’s unique experience is reflected in her fresh and innovative style, which combines her classical ballet and modern dance training with a twist from the productions of Las Vegas, resulting in work that’s accessible to all.
Born and raised in Vegas, Karen began dance training at the age of 3. By age 8, she was training in modern dance with Ronnie Greenblatt, who trained under Martha Graham.
Karen’s extensive classical ballet and jazz training was under the direction of Inez Mourning and Belinda DeBecker. Her love of contemporary ballet was discovered in working side by side with L. J. Ballard as a dancer and as an assistant choreographer.
Karen has been a member and featured dancer in various dance companies including Opus Dance Ensemble, New Works Project, and Ballard’s Cafe Dance Co. She performed in Las Vegas for 11 years as a featured and lead dancer, and also worked in television. During this time, while working with various choreographers, she was also fortunate to work closely under the direction of Ron Lewis, director and choreographer for Liza Minnelli. Grundy has taught master classes throughout the country and as an assistant for choreographer Tiger Martina.
In 2000, Karen was recruited to Columbia, Missouri to teach at Columbia Performing Arts Centre, where she taught for 9 years.
She has trained dancers who have gone on to The Juilliard School, The Lines School, Dance Kaleidoscope, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, and Broadway!
Her dream was always to have her own company and, before starting Missouri Contemporary Ballet in 2006, she was the Artistic Director for Cedar Lake II.
Through MCB, Karen is thrilled to be able to create her vision while collaborating with artists of all genres, and the many supporters of dance in Columbia, across the state of Missouri, and throughout the Country.
East Saint Louis, Illinois native Markesha Howlett started dancing at the age of 5. She focused on liturgical dancing at Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School where she found her passion in Dance Ministry. She’s been a member of the Genesis Arts Ministry for over 17 years under the direction of Tracy D. Holliway Wiggins.
Markesha attended Lincoln University of Missouri where she danced and performed with the Lincoln University Dance Troupe. She’s also been a choreographer and rehearsal director for the Lincoln University Dance Troupe for the past 14 years. She’s trained in multiple genres of dance including Dunham Technique, Dance Ministry, traditional/competition majorette, West African, lyrical, modern and Graham. She has choreographed for many dance studios in the Saint Louis metropolitan area such as the Warehouse Warriors, Ferguson 360, and Without Borders.
Markesha is currently teaching African, majorette, and liturgical dance in the Greater St. Louis Metropolitan area.
Tracey Wozny is a successful business owner of dance schools in rural Missouri where she has taught thousands of children for over 25 years. Her students have received numerous awards and achievements as well as over $650,000 in college scholarships through her dance pathway education and leadership mentoring.
In 2015 she launched Taking Shape non-profit organization whose mission is to grow young leaders of the next generation through servant leadership and strong character values. She focuses her foundation on 3 separate platforms reaching children Here, Near and Far. Here in her local community, Near in surrounding cities and Far, globally.
She is the author of the Star Leadership curriculum that is taught in several dance studios, groups and organizations throughout the world and has founded a mission camp organization in Port au Prince, Haiti in 2016. The mission camp operation is led by American and Haitian STAR leaders ages 16- 25 who share their love for leadership, performing arts and sports to over 5000 Haitian children annually.
Tracey is a sought after speaker on youth leadership and how to understand and equip the youth of Generation Z. In addition, she has a passion for inspiring children and adults to live a life beyond their potential, reaching beyond the safety of their comfort zone and into what she terms “Zone 4”, the zone where success is found!
She has received recognitions such as Business of the Year by Carrollton Area Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Member of the Year by More Than Just Great Dancing. She is a More Than Just Great Dancing Certified Coach under the direction of her mentor and business coach, Misty Lown and Tracey is also a John Maxwell certified speaker. Tracey has been the keynote speaker for many events such as the Maastricht Institute at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri; Benedictine College Students Leadership Association in Atchison, Kansas and the National Dance Educators Organization in St Louis, Missouri.
Tracey is a teacher at heart as she continues to grow youth through leadership, strong character values and purpose. She attributes her success due to the support of her husband Patrick and her amazing Gen Z children Luke, Savanah and Brooklynne!
April Austin was born in Melbourne, Australia. Tennis scholarship to the United States in 1980, and graduated from Texas Tech University in 1985. Married to Larry Austin and we farm in Carrollton, Missouri. I taught high school English for 15 years, then obtained an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Victorian British Literature and History from UMKC and was Arts & Sciences Adjunct Teacher of the Year in 2016. Recently retired and continuing with professional photography at April Austin Images.
Chris L Rutledge -the TapArtist- ...… started his dance training at 19 in Alabama, by the renowned Lisa Lyndon. He has training in Tap, Jazz, and Ballet, but his Professional Career is mainly TapDance and Body Percussion. Chris has Co-choreographed/performed in tap shows for both Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland. He also helped co-write, co-produce, and co-choreograph performances and full length stage shows, for the leading step/body percussion group MOLODI(mo.lah.dee), out of Las Vegas. He choreographed and was featured in a body percussion number for Italian pop star, Tiziano Ferro, called ‘Per Dono’, for his world tour. ‘Hines/Pollock’ is an award winning Performance Art act he created in 2010 as ‘the TapArtist’, where paintings are made by tap dancing in paint, on a canvas! He wrote a full stage show called FootPrints of a TapDancer, which was seen with his company theFYVgroup, around LA and in the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Chris is a premier performer in the new Holiday Tap Show based out of Minneapolis, MN called “Who Brought The Humbug!?” In the summer of 2019, he spent 4 months in Turkey with All Stars Entertainment for a 5-Star Resort touring show as a performer. He has been a judge/instructor for over 10 years with companies such as DEA, Dance Olympus, Canadian Dance Teachers Association, Starquest, Dance Talent Challenge, and Spotlight! For 20 years, Chris has been sought-after internationally as an instructor and choreographer for competition, concert, and film purposes. Chris is extra excited about his new position as TapMaster at the world-famous Columbia Performing Arts Center, where he will add his style and technique to an already stellar faculty.
A huge thank you to our former MDO Board of Directors!
Cecil Slaughter is a professor of the practice and the director of undergraduate studies in dance at Washington University. He is a choreographer, dancer, and sometimes actor. He received his dance training as a student at Jeraldyne's School of the Dance, and as an apprentice with the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company in Dayton, OH. While attending Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, OH, he served as founder and director of the Wilberforce University Dance Ensemble.
He was the founding artistic director of his company The Slaughter Project for from 2004 – 2015. And is currently the founding artistic director of the WUDance Collective, the Performing Arts Department’s resident student dance company that performs throughout the St. Louis region.
His career as a professional dancer includes fourteen years with the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company where he was a featured artist in many of the company's works by choreographers such as Alvin Ailey, Donald McKayle, Ulysses Dove, Talley Beatty, Doug Varone, James Truitte, and a host of others. During his time with DCDC, Mr. Slaughter performed extensively throughout the United States and his international tours include South Korea, Russia, France, and Germany. The company has also been featured annually at such prestigious dance events such as Jacob's Pillow and the American Dance Festival. Cecil was a featured artist in many of the company's works. They include the "Junkie" in Eleo Pomare's Blues for the Jungle, Alvin Ailey’s Streams, Ulysses Dove's Urban Folk Dance, "lil Lou" in Donald McKayle's District Storyville, and a soloist in McKayle's Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder.
Cecil has worked with several professional dance and theatre companies including the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company in collaboration with the Grammy Award winning a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock. The University of Iowa, University of Dayton, Dance Theater of Dayton, Opus II, Ballet West Virginia, and Gateway Dance Theater. He has also choreographed on several local companies that includes That Uppity Theater Company, Upstream Theatre, St. Louis Black Rep, Consuming Kinetics Dance Company, and MADCO. He has choreographed several productions for Washington University’s Performing Arts Department including Spring Awakening, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Hamlet and Metamorphoses. As an actor his theatre credits include Darker Face of the Earth, The Bow Wow Club, Caseload, The Merchant of Venice, Applause Applause, and Blues for Mr. Charlie.
Slaughter has had several works recognized for choreographic achievement. These include two works that were selected to be performed at the American College Dance Festival Association's national dance showcase, Spirituals 1998 and GRID 2007. Two nominations for Outstanding Choreographer, the 1998 ACDFA/Dance Magazine Award, and the 2014 St. Louis Theater Circle Award for his work with the St. Louis Black Rep on their 2013 production of The Wiz. In 2004 he was one of fourteen local choreographers commissioned by Dance St. Louis to create a work for Contemporary Moves, a dance concert commemorating the centennial celebration of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.
He has served consecutive terms as a Kevin Kline Theater Awards Judge, as well as a grants panelist for the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission and the Missouri Arts Council. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Missouri Dance Organization.
Cynthia Kahn teaches Dance Pedagogy and Structured Improvisation for the Performing Arts Department (PAD) and University College at Washington University and is Administrative Coordinator in PAD. One of the founders of Off Track Dancers, a company that was dedicated to collaborative work with other St. Louis artists in non-traditional venues, and former Department Head in Dance at the Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis. MA in Dance Education, Columbia University Teachers College.
Photo Credit: Kelly Pratt Kreidich
Vanessa Woods is the owner and founder of Vitality Ballet and a former professional dancer with 25 years of performance experience and training. Originally from New Jersey, Vanessa moved to Missouri to dance with the St. Louis Ballet in 2010 dancing soloist and principal roles. She has performed with ballet companies all over the country including Colorado Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and Suzanne Farrell Ballet at the Kennedy Center. Vanessa was on faculty with the Saint Louis Ballet School, and has taught at numerous ballet schools across the country. She trained at the Conservatory of Dance at SUNY Purchase, Princeton Ballet, Miami City Ballet School and STEPS on Broadway in New York City. In an effort to make the physical and cognitive benefits of ballet accessible to older adults who could benefit the most from mobility and balance exercises coordinated to music, Vanessa founded Vitality Ballet in 2012 under the guidance of her mom (an Occupational Therapist and ballet fan). Vanessa is also an alumna of Washington University in St. Louis and a certified group fitness instructor who loves musical theatre, Latin dancing and antiquing.