Christina DeLessio-Sapone is a native Nevadan. Christina began dancing when she was three years old. She specializes in ballet, pointe, pas de deux, contemporary/lyrical, and jazz. She danced competitively for many years and placed in the top 10 at numerous regionals and nationals. Christina was on the UNLV Rebel Girls Dance Team in 2006. She is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with a degree in social work.
As the owner and artistic director of Step Up Academy of the Arts, Christina’s choreography and technical ability of her students has distinguished itself as a nationally recognized program. Recently, Step Up Academy was recognized as the Top Las Vegas Studio and awarded the 2016 “International Top Studio” title. In addition, Christina was a finalist for the 2017 MyVegas Top 100 Women. Christina’s award-winning choreography has placed in the top ten at every regional and national competition. Step Up Academy also holds the 2014 title of Studio of Excellence Award presented by the Association of Dance Conventions and Competitions. In addition, Christine and Christina have been nominated for three Chamber of Commerce Small Business Awards. Many of Christina’s current and former students are working professionally in the industry and have won many prestigious titles such as Outstanding Dancer and full-ride scholarships to the Rockettes, Point Park, AMDA, and the Joffrey Company.
Christina is Miss Clark County 2009 which is the local preliminary to the Miss America Pageant. She has won numerous scholarships from the Miss America Organization for her dedication to her platform and for her numerous community service programs. In addition, her pageant coaching has resulted in winners for the Mrs. Nevada America Pageant, Miss Southern Counties Outstanding Teen, and Miss Nevada’s Outstanding Teen.
Passionate about philanthropy, Christina is also the founder of the Twinkle Toez Foundation, which has provided over 75 low income students access to art education. Christina believes that the youth of Nevada are the future of Nevada. In addition to providing a safe, nurturing place for students to participate in arts programs after school, can you think of a better place to “hang out?”
Roni Mahler is a former ballerina who was trained by the renowned Madame Maria Yurieva Swoboda. Ms. Mahler performed principal roles with American Ballet Theatre and the National Ballet of Washington (D.C.), after beginning her career in her teens with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. For over three decades, Roni was the artistic associate of Dennis Nahat’s Ballet San Jose in California, where she taught, coached, and performed “character” roles with that internationally-acclaimed ballet troupe.
A native of New York City, Ms. Mahler’s teaching credits include Ballet Academy East, The Alvin Ailey School, The Juilliard School, The Joffrey School, Ballet Tech, and School of Dennis Nahat’s Ballet San Jose. Roni is a former tenured assistant professor and director of Dance at Kansas State University, where she initiated the KSU dance degree program. Kansas State has since honored her with the Roni Mahler Ballet Studio and (for fifteen years) presented an annual award in her name. Roni choreographed for Cynthia Gregory and Fernando Bujones during their City Center season in New York, and created “Ballet Movement for the Athlete” (a fitness program she customized for the Cleveland Browns.) Her 6-DVD collection, “The Complete Guide To Teaching Ballet,” enables dance teachers to explore training methods for all ages. A certified Pilates instructor, Roni is the author of numerous ballet class CDs and a stretching DVD for flexibility and range of motion. Each year, Ms. Mahler is invited by the prestigious Rancho La Puerta Spa in Tecate, Mexico, to return as a specialty presenter for its Ballet Week.
Greg Sample is an award-winning choreographer and show director. He has been honored with the Grand Prize Award and the Paid Engagement Award in the McCallum Theatre’s choreographic competition. He recently has started Vegas’ newest and most exciting contemporary dance company, SampleDance, showcasing some of the area’s most versatile professional dancers, his own creative work, as well as that of renowned guest choreographers.
Greg has directed and choreographed for Mark Joseph Creative Group, creating spectacles for Avon, Samsung, Emirates Airlines, and the hugely accoladed San Diego Zoo Centennial. His other choreographic credits include works for Nevada Ballet Theatre, Ballet Arkansas, Festival de Danse Encore in Quebec, Cirque du Soleil’s Choreographic Showcase, the Venetian, American Heart Association, Jean Ann Ryan Productions, USA Gymnastics acro pair (world gold medal), San Diego Dance Theatre, various others, and has been creatively involved with So You Think You Can Dance.
He has been a featured dancer with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Celine Dion’s A New Day, Cirque du Soleil’s Believe, and Viva Elvis, America’s Got Talent Live, Phantom of the Opera, StealFocus Productions, Eclipse, Chicago Lyric and San Diego Operas, Festival de Danse Encore, Lightwire Theater and has guested with numerous dance companies. Greg has made principal appearances on Oprah, Celine’s CBS Special, A&E Biography, the World Music Awards, the Jerry Lewis Telethon, and Anderson Cooper’s CNN New Year’s Eve Special. He has taught ballet and pointe technique for Step Up Academy for 5 years, and is in the process of earning another college degree in Landscape Architecture!
Jessica Reely Cantu
Jessica Reely Cantu trained as a competitive dancer in Seattle until the age of 18, when she moved to L.A to pursue her career in the commercial dance industry. Ever since, Jessica’s versatility allowed her to experience many facets of the industry, from dancing in contemporary companies such as Mark Meismer’s, “Evolution” alongside Travis Wall, to performing annually in the Bellagio New Year’s Eve spectacular in Las Vegas, and dancing in music videos for artists ranging from pop group, Black Eyed Peas to alternative artist, Fiona Apple.
Some highlights of Jessica’s career include being cast in the original workshop of the Broadway musical and motion picture, Rock of Ages; being long-time assistant to Emmy-award winning choreographers Mandy Moore and Tyce Diorio on various projects, including So You Think You Can Dance; performing on television shows such as Dancing With the Stars, Cold Case, Disney’s Camp Rock Promo and America’s Got Talent; and dancing for vocal artists including Rod Stewart; Bill Medley; and Mark Ballas and Derek Hough’s band, “Ballas Hough.”
Jessica also spent one year as dance captain of the Disney Dream cruise ship in the Bahamas before moving home to Seattle in 2012, where she taught at various local dance studios and guest judged for Velocity Dance Convention. She moved to Las Vegas in 2018 with her husband, dog, and one year old son and is excited to become part of the Step Up family!
Gregory Filler’s performing credits include five International touring companies of “Tap Dogs,” “Starlight Express,” and “Imagine” on the Las Vegas Strip. Musical theatre credits include “42nd Street,” “Crazy For You,” “Will Rogers Follies,” and many more. Gregory has performed in three Olympic ceremonies and was featured in the Sydney 2000 closing games.
Choreography credits include “Iron Beats,” “Liberty on the Street,” “Hot Tickets,” Asian Tours, and on the Las Vegas Strip, “Spellbound” and “Masquerade Village.” Television credits include “America’s Got Talent,” “John Hancock Tour of Olympic Champions,” and “Rock-n-Roll Gymnastics” for ABC and NBC Primetime. Gregory has also choreographed for many cruise lines including NCL’s newest cruise ship, “The Pearl,” for Jean Ann Ryan Productions.
As a master teacher, Gregory is a faculty member and director on many national conventions and guest teaches for many performing arts schools nationwide. Gregory was casting director for BESTAgency in Las Vegas for 7 years and now is a program manager for Tao Nightclub and also floor supervisor for the Bevertainers at The Rio Hotel. In his spare time Gregory enjoys photography and owns his own business Chromeboxphotograhy.
Laurie Bellueme moved to Las Vegas from Los Angeles 20 years ago. Being that her father was a Hollywood character actor, Laurie began her dance training when she was five with Hollywood veteran, Betty Garrett. At the early age of 12, Laurie was accepted into Burbank’s first Romantic Classical Ballet Company, founded by Miss Patrice McCoy, who herself was trained by some of the Russian stars from the Ballet Russe De Monte Carlo… Alexandra Danilova, Bronslava Nijinska, Theodore Kosloff and America’s first Prima Ballerina–Nana Gollner.
Miss Bellueme’s repertoire includes such classics as Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. Specializing in teaching “Romantic Classical” Ballet technique, Miss Bellueme concentrates in giving students, who all have different temperaments and body types, the tools to strengthen and define their style. This, she believes, creates individuality within each dancer.
Patrick Leahy is originally from New York where he started dancing at the age of 15. He graduated from the University of Buffalo with a BFA in dance. On top of studying at the University of Buffalo, Patrick also studied with The Joffrey Ballet School.
During his four years in Buffalo, Patrick was a part of Lehrerdance, an international touring jazz company. Soon after graduating, he joined Norwegian Cruise Lines as a dancer traveling to places such as Alaska, South America, and Hawaii. After two long years of working for the cruise line, he moved to Las Vegas.
Patrick has danced in the hit show Jubilee and is currently dancing at Zombie Burlesque. He is thrilled to join the Step Up family and continue his love and passion for teaching.
Amy Thomson is a native, born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she received her extensive dance training starting at the age of seven. She booked her first job in 1997 for Skechers, as a shoe model. Amy continued her dance career attending the Las Vegas Academy of Performing Arts and International Studies, where she majored in dance. During high school she began doing technique/training videos for the very talented John Crutchman and Alan Sherfield.
Amy has since toured the world dancing on a cruise ship, worked as David Copperfield’s assistant, and modeled for Dos Equis XX, the Magic Convention, the dance captain at MJ Live, and many more. In the past couple of years Amy has been part of the opening act for Kelly Clarkson, Luke Bryan, U2, and Michael Buble. She has also danced onstage for many popular artists such as Wale, Grand Master Dee, Too Short, Drake, and at the age of 17, she not only danced for the well-known Kenny Ortega, but also danced in the Billboard Music Awards as a dancer for, one of her favorite artists, Beyonce. Amy has since then choreographed the opening act for Toddrick Hall Straight Outta Oz 2016 in Las Vegas, and has currently helped choreograph for shows on the Las Vegas Strip.
Amy uses her passion of movement and exercise in her everyday life. She was last seen dancing and touring on stage in the Donny and Marie Show. Amy’s proudest moment in life would be when she became a mother. When Amy is not with her family, she is seen sharing her love for dance with kids of all ages.
Angela Knudson was born and raised in Chicago, IL and has studied dance in different parts of the country but received her primary training here in Las Vegas. Her dance education has served her well throughout her career. Trained in ballet and jazz as well, Angela’s specialties are tap and ballroom. Her family having a show in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Chicago, and various other destinations around the world, in which her dad was the headlining singer/impressionist and her mother the producer, writer and director, makes her no stranger to show business. Angela grew up constantly in the presence of industry professionals allowing her the opportunity to gather knowledge in the performing arts from an early age.
Her performance credits include touring with Masters of IIlusion and It’s Magic, shows such as Nathan Burton Comedy & Magic, Anthony Cools Hypnosis, Matt Goss, Marc Savard Comedy Hypnosis, Magical Passion, Summer in Venice, Superstars of Magic, Carnival of Wonders, Real Magic, Impossible, Feeling Good, Country Diva, and Angela was choreographer and dancer for Guns and Roses Appetite for Democracy residency at Hard Rock. In 2010, Angela and her professional partner were semi-finalists in the Rising Star Rhythm division at Emerald Star Ball and Holiday Dance Classic. She has performed in seven different countries and she has taught at over a dozen different studios both ballroom and traditional.
Angela’s approach to teaching is knowledge and skill through teamwork, support, and enjoyment. She brings experience and a fresh approach to teaching that is sure to help shape the next generation of performers and help them to reach their highest level of potential.
Jake Phillips was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada and began dancing at the age of 18 in Boulder City, Nevada.
He has performed with Wayne Newton, Wayne Brady, Kelly Clarkson, Curtis Blow, Ghostface Killah, and the Wu Tang Clan, and was also a contestant on Season 9 of “So You Think You Can Dance Vegas Week.” Not only has his choreography been recognized by some of the best choreographers judging in the country, he has also had opportunities to choreograph for Missy Cochran Entertainment, Wrangler Talent Agency, Q Productions, and “Legends in Concert.”
Some of Jake’s professional stage appearances consist of “MJ Live,” “Frank Marino’s Divas,” “Legends in Concert,” as well as multiple independent contractor performances across the Las Vegas Strip. He currently is the director of “Sky Pointe Dance” at Somerset Academy Sky Pointe through the Clark County School District, and is a proud father of two amazing children
Alexa Paglia received her dance training in Las Vegas, Nevada focusing on ballet, jazz, acrobatics, and contemporary movement. As a dancer, Alexa has performed in numerous benefit shows throughout Las Vegas and Los Angeles and holds many national championship titles to her name.
Highlights include the Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts and Golden Rainbow Aids Benefit. She has traveled the country assisting West Coast Dance Explosion’s faculty including John Crutchman and Alan Sherfield as well as being a member in Mike Esperanza’s contemporary company ‘BARE’ based out of Orange County, California. In 2008, she traveled to various cities in Canada, assisting Shannon Mather, the director of Coastal Dance Rage convention and Mather Dance Company.
Her choreography and students have been nationally recognized by winning numerous highpoint and choreography awards.
Melissa Vargo graduated with her Bachelors in Arts and Letters Dance from State University of NY at Buffalo in 2012 with National Honors from the Society of Dance Arts.
She completed her BFA with an academic program with Study Abroad in Beijing, China at Capital Normal University where she studied performance, dance education, and traditional Chinese dance. Melissa also instructed American Vernacular dance at the University.
Melissa is a current member of the National Dance Education Organization and has taught at number studios in the Las Vegas, NV and Western New York areas. Her fondness for working with children and her commitment to the community has led to her teaching at many local schools, community service centers, and studios. Melissa has danced and performed professionally but her true passion lies in teaching and producing.
Melissa owns a production company and is a registered Talent Agent in the state of Nevada. Melissa produces custom entertainment programs for MGM Resorts International. She has also produced shows for artists such and Travis Barker and Future.
Originally hails from Olympia, Washington. She began dancing at the age of 6 under the direction of Debbi Halfhill and, at 18, landed her very first audition and was off to dance on one of Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships. This began a six year love affair with traveling and performing. Starting out in Ireland, she then went to Italy for two years, where she was lead dancer/acrobat in a theme park, toured with the number one show in the country for a year and a half and even did a reality web series.
Eager to be on the move again, she went back to Royal Caribbean and danced and tumbled her way from Europe, across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, and back again several times! Always eagerly embracing new challenges, Natalie was also wardrobe supervisor on one contract and dance captain on the following contract. Not only that, but she ran fund-raisers while crossing the Atlantic and raised thousands of dollars for the “Make-A-Wish” foundation.
Natalie returned state-side to exercise her passion for performing and aerial arts. For the next three years, she did many shows on and off the strip, and toured with magicians all around the U.S. and China. She recently decided to move back to Vegas. It is here she is able to train daily in her aerial gym, teach dance and tumbling regularly to the wonderful students at Step Up Academy, and perform every chance she gets (which fortunately for her, is pretty often). She is elated to be able to share her passion, talents, and general zealousness for life with you today!
Brenda Quaife is a fourth generation dancer. She began dancing at the age of five under her mother’s and grandmother’s direction, studying in all genres of dance. From ballet to jazz, tap, gymnastics, and everything in between and still attends classes to this day. Brenda says, “It’s important to never stop studying your art. You never know what the future can bring so it’s important to stay submerged in your passions fully.”
At the age of 15 she very quickly followed in her families footsteps and began teaching. Her dancers have since gone on to own their own dance studios across the country. Brenda has performed in shows such as Cirque De Soliel and even competed on “So You Think You Can Dance.”
At 16 years old she started her professional dance career and has performed in over 15 Las Vegas, Arizona, and California shows. Brenda toured the world for six years dancing and has even performed in front of audiences as large as 75,000 people in the Philippines. She is currently performing on the Las Vegas strip.
Even though she loves the stage, her “littles” are where her heart lies. “Watching my littles grow into such beautiful, hard working, and such talented dancers is what makes my life fulfilled.”
Lauren Pellegrino was born and raised in Henderson, Nevada and began dancing when she was five. She studied jazz, ballet, pointe, contemporary, and pas de deux. Having been a competitive dancer for many years, Lauren competed for Step Up Academy winning scholarships and placing in the top 10 at all regional and national competitions.
Since graduating from high school, Lauren has had numerous professional contracts with agencies in Las Vegas. She currently is teaching and choreographing for Step Up Academy.
Lauren is a college student majoring in business with a minor in dance.
Ann Feeney began her dance training as a child in Southern California and has been in the dance community ever since. Ann has spent countless hours honing her technique and training in Ballet (both Cecchetti and Vaganova), jazz, tap, modern, lyrical, contemporary, musical theatre and acrobatics. After graduating high school, she received a full scholarship to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where she was awarded “Outstanding Graduating Senior in Academics and Performance.” She also received a full scholarship to Gus Giordano Dance Center in Chicago.
After graduating Magna Cum Laude from UNLV in Dance Arts, she went on to dance professionally in Las Vegas with such legends as Michael Crawford and Tommy Tune in “EFX” at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. Ann also worked with Tony winning choreographers Jerry Mitchell and Arlene Phillips, to name a few. She has performed as many miles away as Denmark with Ballet Mink and traveled as far away as China to perform, as well. She has been a teaching guest artist for studios all the way to Alaska and throughout the western United States, and at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her choreography has been showcased for numerous Las Vegas hotels and conventions including the MGM Grand Resorts International, and studios and groups across California, Nevada, and Colorado. Throughout her professional career, she has also been a judge for numerous highly esteemed competitions.
Ann currently teaches all types of dance and performance at Step Up Dance Academy in Henderson, NV. She holds an extra special place in her heart for young and beginning dancers. The joy of dance took hold of Ann and never let her go.
Erika Barela has been involved in the dance world for over 20 years. Erika possesses a strong background in dance, choreography, theatre, and stage productions. Erika began training in dance at the young age of six years old. She is certified in the Cecchetti method of classical ballet by the Cecchetti Council of America. Erika has been awarded “Superior” ratings by the National Federation of Music club for tap and jazz dance. At a young age, she began competing and winning in national dance competitions. She has studied dance in Los Angeles with the Joe Tremaine studio and in New York City with the Broadway Dance Center and Steps Dance Studio.
At the age of 14 Erika became a cast member of the Musical Theatre Southwest Association in Albuquerque. She performed in many musicals such as Annie Get Your Gun, Carousel, Chicago and Evita. She was also a member of the New Mexico Ballet Company and performed in the Nutcracker and A Christmas Carole Ballet. Encore Productions selected Erika to showcase her in a half-time show for the Fiesta Bowl. She then was invited to perform in the opening ceremonies for the 1992 Barcelona Spain Olympics. Erika went on to perform at Disney’s Epcot Center and Paradise Island.
Erika has resided in Las Vegas since 1999 and has danced in numerous special events and shows within some of Vegas’s casinos. She has choreographed and performed in many corporate trade shows for Las Vegas conventions. Erika worked with Dick Foster Productions at the Rio Hotel & Casino, she has worked with Las Vegas Magician Nathan Burton, and Erika has performed in LA working with Hollywood choreographers. She has choreographed award winning dances for many competitions and has been a judge for many national dance competitions. Erika’s goal is to pass on her knowledge, her passion, and love of dance to all her dance students.
Kayla Melton has been teaching dance for more than 11 years. She loves teaching the new students to get them ready for a fun and wonderful experience of dance. Kayla has been dancing since she was six years old. She danced and competed all over the west coast through her school years. She has won several national and regional competitions with solo, duet/trio and group performances. Kayla was an active cheerleader in high school, and because of her dance experience she was able to become Cheer Captain and also choreographed several routines. At one point she traveled to New York City for dance clinics and was able to meet and interact with several famous choreographers.
She also was introduced to the Rockettes and learned of their try-out process. Kayla is well versed in ballet, tap, acro and jazz. Kayla is currently a student at UNLV where she is finishing her degree in Elementary Education so she can be a kindergarten teacher. With her teaching and dance experience, Kayla’s competitive soloists have placed in the overalls at numerous competitions and her performing groups have won several regional first place awards and won the top award for her kids ages 4-5.
Eric Lobenberg was raised in Las Vegas, NV where he discovered his love for dance at the age of 14. After realizing this passion, he attended the Las Vegas Academy for the Performing Arts, where he began his formal training in both voice and dance. During his senior year of high school, he was accepted into Point Park University, where he is currently in his last semester with a concentration in modern dance.
Since attending Point Park he has performed works by Sonya Tayeh, Alexandra Damiani, Anthony Tudor, Adam Houghland, Kiesha Lalama, and others. During his summers, Eric has had the opportunity to train at The Martha Graham School and Springboard Danse Montreal, where he has worked with legends such as Shamel Pitts, Le Carre de Lomb, and Alexandra Wells. Alongside school, Eric has danced professionally
with Matthew Pardo and Caitlyn Scranton’s The Blanket, performing works by Lucinda Childs and Shana Simmons Dance.
As proud alumni of Step Up Academy, Eric has had the amazing opportunity to return home during the summers and share his knowledge and love for dance as well as creating numerous solos and group pieces for the competitive teams. When not dancing, he loves to spend time with friends and family creating memories and eating good food.
Ashley Beckett has been training in multiple styles of dance since the age of four and still trains to this day. She graduated from Las Vegas Academy of the Arts as a dance major and studied in multiple styles including choreography. Ashley has experience in competing in various dance styles and did so throughout high school.
With other performance opportunities, Ashley performed for Dipti Shah, an Indian singer, as a backup Bollywood dancer. She also performed in the Legends show at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino. Ashley has been teaching for six years and specializes in contemporary and ballet.
Caring and compassionate, Ashley does everything in her power to help each and every student succeed and stay motivated. Ashley’s passion for dance enables her to share her excitement, knowledge, and skills with her students.
Step Up Dance Academy – Wigwam at Pecos 2558A Wigwam Parkway Henderson NV 89074 (702) 577-1832