GINA DeCroix russell
Gina DeCroix Russell has guided Dance Arts Studio as its owner and director since January 2018, after working for DAS Director Emeritus Grace Luttrell Nanavati as an instructor and choreographer since 1998. She teaches classical ballet for the studio -- from Dance with Me through Level 5 -- and all levels of modern and jazz. She holds B.A. in Dance Performance from Illinois State University (ISU), as well as an M.A. and a B.A. in Communication from the University at Illinois at Springfield (UIS). Gina was the Ballet Mistress / Associate Artistic Director of the Springfield Ballet Company (SBC) for 15 years under Artistic Director Julie Ratz, and was an assistant instructional professor (Classical Ballet II) at Illinois State University’s School of Theatre & Dance for four years. Gina is certified in the Giordano Technique for jazz dance through the Nan Giordano Certification Program® and is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training in Pre-Primary through Level 5 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum. After successfully presenting for ABT® Student Examinations, Gina achieved Affiliate Teacher status with ABT® in July 2021. Gina has performed in and choreographed for countless SBC and local theatre productions and has performed with the Scottish American Ballet in the Edinburgh Arts Festival Fringe. But, her favorite roles of all time are mama to Logan and wife to Patrick.
grace Luttrell Nanavati
Grace Luttrell Nanavati is the director emeritus of Dance Arts Studio, Inc., and she currently teaches the A.M. weekday classes for our Adult Division. Grace holds a B.A. in Dance from Butler University and a M.A. in Community Arts Management from UIS. She was the founder and Artistic Director for the Springfield Ballet Company (1975-1997) and prior to that was the Artistic Director for the Copper Coin Ballet Company (1973-1975). She is presently the Director Emeritus for the Springfield Ballet Company. She has choreographed many productions for the Muni Opera, the Springfield Theatre Centre, and the Springfield Opera Theatre, as well as Sacred Heart Academy and Springfield High School. She also choreographed for Medical Madness and Health First Clinic. She has received many awards in the Springfield Community, including the 1990 Illinois Times Best of Springfield – Outstanding Dancer and Outstanding Dance Studio and the Illinois Women in Leadership’s Athena Leadership Award. Grace is the Master Teacher for Artist In Residence, working with over 8,000 students a year and is very active in the arts in Springfield. She is past president of the Springfield Art Association and the Hoogland Center for the Arts.
Julie Ratz is a classical ballet instructor at Dance Arts Studio. She is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training in Pre-Primary through Level 5 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum. Julie holds a B.S. in Dance Performance/Choreography from Illinois State University (ISU); and she has studied dance in Chicago at Lou Conte and Joseph Holmes dance studios, and the Ruth Page Foundation. She has performed with SBC; ISU Dance Theatre; Twin Cities Ballet Company; Scottish American Ballet in Edinburgh, Scotland; and Harvard University Summer Dance. She was the Artistic Director of the Springfield Ballet Company for 25 years and also taught as an Adjunct Professor in Dance at Millikin University. She has received the Springfield Area Arts Council choreography award and has been a member of the Illinois Arts Council Partners in Excellence and Dance panels. Julie has performed in, choreographed for and directed many productions for Over the Moon Productions (OTM), Springfield Theatre Centre (STC), Muni and the Hoogland Center for the Arts (HCFTA).
Gary Shull is the tap and musical theatre instructor/choreographer at Dance Arts Studio. He began his early dance training in central Illinois and was a charter member of The Copper Coin Ballet. Gary studied dance in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles – where he studied with Paul Petroff and Nana Gollner, later joining their ballet company. While in L.A. his interests shifted more into directing and choreographing musicals. Gary’s work has been seen in many professional and community theatres in this area. He retired after 32 years of teaching in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Millikin University, and he continues to choreograph for local theatre and the Springfield Ballet Company.
Payton Case currently dances out of St. Louis and is represented as a commercial dancer through an agency in Atlanta, where he spent his most recent summer dancing for the filming of a movie with Paramount Players. Payton trains in all forms of dance, but especially in the commercial hip hop and contemporary genres. He began his transformation from student to teacher in 2018 and has been sharing his love for commercial hip hop with the dancers at Dance Arts Studio ever since. Payton has trained at Center of Creative Arts (COCA), Ashleyliane Dance Company and STL Dance Lab. He is currently part of the Kode Redd Dance Company based in St Louis, under Anthony Redd Williams and the LA based ImmaBeast Company under Will “Willdabeast” Adams and Janelle Ginestra. Above all, Payton hopes to inspire others in a fun and uplifting environment.
Autumn Meyer is a graduate of Millikin University, with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She grew up training at Dance Arts Studio and is the Dance Program Instructor for the Hoogland Center for the Arts’ Education Program, Hoogland Kids and Teens. Autumn is also currently working at Springfield Clinic Center for Women’s Health as a registered nurse. You may have seen some of her work in the Hoogland Kids and Teens productions of Seussical the Musical, Peter Pan, Tarzan the Musical, Shrek the Musical, Matilda the Musical, and most recently Frozen Jr. and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat! At Millikin, she performed with the Alabama Ballet Company in The Sleeping Beauty, with the Moscow Ballet Company in the Great Russian Nutcracker, as also in Millikin’s Solstice Dance Concert. Locally, she has performed with Springfield Muni Opera in Legally Blonde, White Christmas, and Seussical: The Musical, as well as many productions since 2011. She has also performed in many productions with the Hoogland Center for the Arts, Springfield Theatre Centre, Springfield Ballet Company, and other local organizations.