Dance Instructors

Christina DeLessio-Sapone

Artistic Director

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?”


Matthew Chandler

Theater Director

Matthew Chandler founded The British Theatre Academy in 1989. His productions include Woman In White (Charring Cross), Ragtime (Charing Cross), Grey Gardens (Southwark Playhouse), Oliver Jr (theatrics/Cameron Mackintosh), Gypsy (Minack Theatre), Elegies For Angels, Punks And Raging Queens (Charing Cross), Annie Jr (Arts), Assassins (Barn Theatre), High School Musical, Annie (UK tour), Gypsy, Anything Goes (Leatherhead), Aida, Smokey Joes Café, Legally Blonde (Minack), Billy Elliot (New Victoria, Woking and Theatre Royal, Windsor), Hairspray (Magna Carta Theatre), Punks & Raging Queens (Hampton), Jesus Christ Superstar, Sweet Charity, Fiddler On The Roof, Singing In The Rain (Beck Theatre), A Chorus Line, Bat Boy, Cabaret (Questors), Stags And Hens (Theatre Project, Baltimore), Songtime 2012 (Smith Center, Las Vegas), Closer, Antigone (Woking Studio), The Laramie Project (Watford), The Sound Of Music (Wilde Theatre). Since 2012 Matthew has been associated with Step Up Academy and worked with the studio on an exchange where 50 kids from London appeared alongside Step Up Academy at The Cashman Center. Matthew is delighted to be associated with Step Up Academy as they begin the Theatre Academy in the United States

Jessica Reely Cantu

Dance instructor

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

Dance Instructor

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.

Sean Cronin

Dance Instructor

Sean Cronin began his training as a dance major at America River College from 1978 to 1980. At the same time, he attended Carmichael School of the Performing Arts. He joined the first professional ballet company in Sacramento, California, the Capitol City Ballet under Nolan T’Sani. He was cast as a dancer in Hello Hollywood Hello. Once he completed his contracts, he went to Las Vegas to do Adagio. From there Sean was in the Lido and Folies Bergere. He continued to study which led him to a new dance group of Strip performers who did artistic work called Opus. Pamela, his partner from Reno, joined him where they began intensive Adagio training. They were awarded the lead dancers for the show Lido in Paris, France. They were the youngest principal dancers Donn Arden ever hired. Sean went on to dance for Jean Ann Ryan in “Masquerade” in Miami, Florida. He started performing on cruise ships and with shows in Japan and Korea. Sean is now retired; however, he still remains in the dance world as he brings his ballet and adagio experience to teach the students at Step Up Dance Academy. Sean still performs occasionally for conventions and special shows!

Amy Thompson

Dance instructor

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.

Jake Phillips

Dance Instructor

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

Lauren Pellegrino

Dance Instructor

Lauren Pellegrino was born and raised in Henderson, Nevada and began dancing when she was five. She studied ballet, jazz, pointe, contemporary, and partnering. Having been a competitive dancer for many years, Lauren competed with Step Up Dance 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 dancing contracts with agencies in Las Vegas. She is currently teaching and choreographing for Step Up Dance Academy and has won awards for her choreography. Lauren won the title of Miss Boulder City in 2018 and went on to compete in Miss Nevada pageant, the preliminary to the Miss America Pageant, where she placed in the top 5. She now holds the title of Miss Red Rock and will compete for the title of Miss Nevada in June. Lauren works closely with her platform Arts Inspire, and was recently named the director of the Twinkle Toez Foundation. Lauren is currently enrolled at the University of Nevada Las Vegas working on her Bachelor of Fine Arts with a minor in Business Administration.

Eric Lobenberg

Dance Instructor

Eric Lobenberg began his dance journey at the age of 14. After graduating from The Las Vegas Academy, he attended Point Park University where he attained his BFA in Modern Dance under the direction of Ruben Graciani. While at Point Park Eric had the opportunity to work with choreographers such as Sonya Teyeh, Alexandra Damiani, Jessica Hendricks, Adam Houghland, Garfield Lemonius, and many more.

While in school, he began working professionally with Pittsburgh based companies such as The Blanket as well as Shana Simmons Dance. Eric has also worked with Joshua Beamish’s MOVETHECOMPANY in NYC and Dark Circles Contemporary Dance in Dallas, TX where he worked with choreographers Sidra Bell, Mark Caserta, Mikey Morado and more.

He now resides in Las Vegas as a teacher, choreographer, and fitness instructor where he shares his love for physical movement and creativity.

Desiree Lee

Dance Instructor

Desiree Lee was born and raised in Orange County, CA. She began dancing at age 7. She trained in Huntington Beach with Anthony and Terri Sellars and Keith and Linda Clifton. She also trained with Pennsylvania Ballet summer intensives.

In high school, she earned a full dance scholarship to Chapman University. Desiree received her BA in Movement and Exercise Science with an emphasis in Dance and graduated with two teaching credentials. In 1999, she earned her Master’s in Education also from Chapman.

Desiree was a principal dancer with Ballet Repertory Theatre in Huntington Beach for over 10 years. She also traveled as a guest artist with Rio Grande Valley Ballet for 10 years. Lead roles included Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker, Swanhilda in Coppelia, Nikya in La Bayadere, Kitri in Don Quixote, Swan Leader in Swan Lake, Peasant Pas De Deux in Giselle, and Princess Florine in Sleeping Beauty.

Desiree taught ballet, pointe, jazz, lyrical, and competition teams for 10 years in Orange County. In 2000, she and her family relocated to Las Vegas, NV. Currently, Desiree is a teacher at Faith Lutheran High School. She was a founding teacher of their Fine Arts Conservatory and heads the ballet and dance classes for all dance majors. She has taught at Faith Lutheran for the past 8 years.

Many of Desiree's students have gone on to dance professionally at such prestigious companies as Cirque du Soleil, Ballet West, Pacific Northwest Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Julliard School for the Arts, Disneyland, and Tokyo Disneyland.

Kimberly Leheny

Dance Instructor

Kimberly Leheny was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. She graduated from Point Park University with a BFA in Dance. Kimberly’s career began with an ACDFA scholarship to Des Moines Iowa Ballet Company. After graduation, she was hired by Disney World as a World Dancer for Epcot. She then became the company swing for the Diamond Horseshoe Review and Pleasure Island. Kimberly danced as an NBA dancer for the Orlando Magic where she received the title “Best NBA Dancer.”

Her travels have also taken her to Atlantic City dancing for Merv Griffin, Los Angeles working as a magician’s assistant for Robert Gallup, and Disneyland where she premiered The Hunchback of Notre Dame as Disney’s featured adagio for The Lion King. Kimberly has traveled the world sharing her love of dance with a tour through India, Disney’s Big Red Boat to Nassau, and performing for our troops in Tokyo AFB.

She currently lives in Las Vegas where she entertained thousands on the strip in the multimillion dollar show EFX starring David Cassidy, Tommy Tune, and Rick Springfield,
Spellbound at Harrah’s, Broadway off Broadway at the Debbie Reynolds Casino and History at the Golden Nugget. She was chosen to sing for America’s Got Talent impersonating Liza Minelli for Sharon Osbourne. Kimberly was entertainment assistant for Harrah Properties as a showgirl for UPLV, choreographer and manager for over 8 years. She has been teaching dance for the last 20 years in Las Vegas as a competition coach, director of her own studio, and master class teacher throughout the valley. She has choreographed for many corporate events such as Samsung, Redkin, Payroll, and Children’s Lied Museum. Her students are featured dancers and singers in community events such as, Toys for Tots, Newtown, Donny and Marie Christmas Show, NBA summer league, and most recently Vegas Strong children’s choir. Kimberly has been on the judging circuit for over eight years and her three children all attended Las Vegas Academy for the performing arts. “There is room for every child on the stage from musical theatre to the ballet…just stay focused and keep your eyes on your own progress.”

Mckena Silva

McKena Silva

Dance Instructor

McKena Silva is a proud native of Casper, Wyoming where she began her dance training at a young age. McKena continued to train and compete in dance and theatre going on to receive her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre and Dance from Millikin University in 2019.  


Recently, McKena taught in Chicago, Illinois and was on faculty for Dovetail Dance Studios and Tutu School Chicago. McKena has taught dance in a variety of styles at schools across the nation including Wyoming, Illinois, Tennessee, Ohio, New York, Georgia, and Indiana. 


Some of McKena's professional credits include Gloria Thorpe in Damn Yankees, Urleen in Footloose, Smarty Marty in Beach Blanket Beagle, Sister Mary Lazarus in Sister Act, and Morgan Pierce in Chelsea Sunrise, a new musical from the minds of Canadian rock stars Murray Foster and Mike Ford for which McKena was also the original choreographer. 

McKena is a nationally award-winning choreographer for her work in competitive dance and has served as associate choreographer for productions of Heathers and Nice Work If You Can Get It.  In the summer of 2020, McKena was awarded Chicago’s FAME award for her success as a performer and choreographer. McKena is the founder of Red Velvet Reels, a choreography service for the non-dancer in the musical theatre world.

Kersten Barajas

Kersten Barajas

Dance Instructor

Kersten Barajas has been dancing from the age of 3.  She is originally from Dubuque, IA and has 18 years teaching and choreographing experience.  At age 6, she began her classical ballet training at the Academy of Ballet, Tatiana Bechenova (Ballet Russe, Col. De Basil) Artistic Director.  While at the Academy, Kersten performed in numerous full length ballets, stage productions, operas, gala events, and school tour productions.  Kersten joined the local Irish dance school at age 12, Claddagh -McNulty School of Irish Dancers, Barb McNulty owner/director, under whom she competed to championship level and qualified for Oireachtas.  During summers she traveled to expand her training to  include these notable companies and instructors;  Milwaukee Ballet, Illinois Ballet, Peoria Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Ethan Stiefel, Cameron Basden, Erich Yetter, Mary Price-Boday and Marina O’Rourke.  Tap studies with Tony Coppola, jazz with Jay Franke, modern with John Pennington, as well as several world culture dance forms.  Kersten has performed in and choreographed many high school and community musicals throughout her career, including at the Minnesota Fringe Festival.  

Kersten attended Point Park University seeking her BFA in Ballet.  After college, she performed at both Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando for 3 years. While in Orlando, Kersten became the Florida Rose of Tralee and traveled to Ireland to compete in the top 32 of the Rose of Tralee International Pageant.  After getting married in January 2010, Kersten followed her husband to Germany.  While there, she taught ballet/pointe, tap, jazz, and lyrical on Ramstein AFB and was an instructor for Tir Na Nog Irish Dance School, Mary Sweeney- Shane McAvinchey owner/directors as well as taught ballet/pointe, pas de deux, and jazz at Grace Studio, Jenny Riley-Doyle owner/director, where she was also an artist in residence. After returning to the United States she became an artist in residence and instructor for the Southern Dance Company, Carissa Taylor owner/director, teaching ballet, jazz, musical theater, liturgical, and Irish step. Kersten was also a model for destination wedding venues and boutiques in the Destin, Florida area.  Her career then placed her in Texas with Set Apart Productions, Kevin Money owner, where she held many titles including artist in residence, instructor, choreographer, special events coordinator and academy director of dance and theater arts.  Kersten was also a magician’s assistant to Scott Pepper, Magician’s Agency Theater San Antonio TX, running regular shows, headlining conventions and casinos, and performing at corporate events.

  Kersten’s students have gone on to place in the top 10 at the Irish Dance World Championships, attend the Akademie Des Tanzes, Mannheim Germany, the Northwest Florida Ballet Academy, Ft. Walton Beach Florida, perform for the Spurs and Rampage, San Antonio Texas, and perform for the opening ceremonies of the Formula One Aramco United States Grand Prix, Austin Texas.

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