Gina DeCroix Russell is the owner/director of Dance Arts Studio, Inc., is the Ballet Mistress for the Springfield Ballet Company, and was an assistant instructional professor (Classical Ballet II) at Illinois State University’s School of Theatre & Dance for four years. She holds an M.A. and a B.A. in Communication from the University at Illinois at Springfield (UIS) and a B.A. in Dance Performance from ISU. Gina is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training in Pre-Primary through Level 3 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum. Gina has also performed in and choreographed for countless SBC and local theatre productions, but her favorite roles are mama to Logan and wife to Patrick.




Grace Luttrell Nanavati is the director emeritus of Dance Arts Studio, Inc. She has 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. She is the Master Teacher for Artist In Residence, working with over 8,000 students a year. Grace 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 an instructor/choreographer at Dance Arts Studio, Inc., is the Artistic Director of the Springfield Ballet Company, and was an adjunct professor in dance at Millikin University. She has performed with SBC; ISU Dance Theatre; Twin Cities Ballet Company; Scottish American Ballet in Edinburgh, Scotland; and Harvard University Summer Dance. 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 received the Springfield Area Arts Council choreography award, and is a member of the Illinois Arts Council Dance Panel. Julie has performed in, choreographed 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 an 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 recently 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.




Caitlin Helton Scherer, a native of Springfield, is the Artistic Director of the Springfield Youth Performance Group. She began training at Dance Arts Studio and with the Springfield Ballet Company, and attended summer intensive programs at Nashville Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The Rock School for Dance Education, and Ballet Austin. In 2003 she competed in the finals at the Youth America Grand Prix, an international dance competition, in New York City. After graduating high school, Ms Helton Scherer studied at the School of Nashville Ballet on full scholarship, and went on to study Dance Performance at Butler University in Indianapolis, where she was given a talent award. While studying at Butler, she had the opportunity to study abroad in Poland, where she trained and performed with some of the country's most prestigious companies in cities including Warsaw and Krakow. She went on to become a founding member of Missouri Ballet Theatre in St. Louis, where she danced for four seasons before returning to her hometown. In addition to performing with MBT, Ms Helton Scherer helped manage youth cast auditions and rehearsals, and has been a dance instructor for over 15 years. She holds a BA in Educational Psychology from the University of Illinois at Springfield.




Taryn Grant began her love for the arts as a young student at Dance Arts, former member of the Springfield Ballet Company and as a dance instructor for many years. She is a graduate from the SIUE School of Business and is the Executive Director of the Springfield Youth Performance Group. In 2011, she founded the SYPG Foundation to support her mission of community arts outreach programming. Taryn has also choreographed and directed community theatre productions. This past year, her brand new adaptive dance program was launched at The Autism Clinic at Hope. 




Payton Case currently dances out of St Louis. He trains in all forms of dance, but especially in the commercial hip hop and contemporary genres. Payton has recently began his transformation from student to teacher and is looking forward to sharing his love for commercial hip hop with the dancers at Dance Arts Studio. He has trained at Center of Creative Arts (COCA), Ashleyliane Dance Company and STL Dance Lab. Payton 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.