Instructors

Katie Whitley/ Owner and Instructor

Background:
I have danced since childhood studying ballet, tap, jazz, pointe, lyrical/contemporary, as well as multiple dance teams. I was lucky enough to be able to start assisting dance classes in middle school, and oh how I fell in love with it! By the time I reached high school I was teaching multiple classes a week and assisting in creating choreography for storytelling shows. I helped in our productions of Storybook Tales, a Tribute to Aladdin, The Princess and the Frog, The Wizard of Oz, and many more.

When I went to Georgia College for undergraduate studies, I obtained a bachelors in Early Childhood Education and then went on to get my Masters. All the while in college I remained heavily involved in the dance program.
Upon graduation I taught elementary school for 6 years. In the midst of teaching in 2016, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to open my own studio in Forsyth. We opened on West Johnston Street where the former Encore Dance studio was located.

Since our opening in 2016 we continue to provide ever improving instruction for our students while staying relevant and unique. Our recital productions set us apart from other studios as every show we do tells a story. The dancers, teachers, and audience members all become invested in the story the dancers are bringing to life on stage. Since opening we have done tributes to Alice in Wonderland, Snow White, Under the Sea, The Lion King, and Aladdin.

As the studio director, my main goal is to build strong, confident, kind dancers who will make a difference in the world by cultivating a passion for dance and the arts. I can’t begin to imagine my life without dance and I want everyone of our students to be able to explore any aspirations in life because of the skills they learned at our studio.
Favorite class to teach:
I love teaching lyrical and contemporary classes! Teaching emotion and self expression is so important to me. I also really love working with our studios youngest dancers- the magic in their eyes as they walk into dance each week in like no other. Production is also so fun to me- combining theatre with dance is my absolute favorite thing to do!
Favorite Holiday:
Christmas, but Easter is a close second!
Starbucks order:
Seasonal Cold Brew or a Grande White Mocha Extra Hot Nonfat/ No whip

 

Leah Youngblood/ Instructor

Background:
I’ve danced since childhood, taking ballet, lyrical, pointe, and jazz classes. I was a part of my high school dance team, focusing on jazz (kicklines always!). I started a liturgical dance troupe at my church with two other ladies. I grew up with Ms. Katie- listening to her dream of running her own dance studio- so when she started Simply Dance, I offered to help soon as I was able to! I’ve been teaching (and doing whatever Ms Katie needs time to do) since the middle of our first year being open at the studio. I love it here!
Favorite class to teach:  
Our Stretch and Strength class because I LOVE a challenge and I love getting to witness our dancers working so hard. I also love our lyrical classes and seeing our dancers grow in their expressions.
Favorite Holiday:
Christmas! But I’ve never met a holiday that I didn’t like 🤩
Starbucks order:  Gingerbread Latte- Bring it year round, Starbucks!

Saranne Ezelle/ Instructor

Background:
I have been dancing since I was 3 and have always been the one to dance wherever I went! I took classes from ages 3 to 17 at CC Performers and at 17 I moved to Simply Dance were I took for another 2 years. Along the way I started assisting classes at 15 and when I moved to SD, I start assisting after a few months of being here. I’ve taken Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Baton, Lyrical, and Hip-Hop throughout the years and had to opportunity to assist our former Hip-Hop teacher, Gator, where I learned most of what I know of Hip-Hop. Dancing has always been the way I expressed myself and you can always find me dancing even when I am not at the studio.
Favorite class to teach:
My favorite class to teach of course is Hip-Hop. It’s such a fun and upbeat class, I always leave feeling so happy and energized.
Favorite Holiday: 
My favorite holiday is Christmas!! I love the time of the year to celebrate Jesus, the music, the lights, all the happiness around, and maybe a present too!
Starbucks order: 
Iced Blonde Vanilla Latte with Caramel sauce and caramel drizzle!

Alayna Criswell/ Instructor

Background:
I started taking dance classes at the age of 3 & stopped taking them when I was 18. Over the years I taken ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, pointe & even some hip hop. My favorite types of dance have always been ballet & lyrical! I love how graceful you get to be & the emotion that can be poured into it. I started assisting dance at 15 years old with Encore Dance studio here in Forsyth. Then Encore was sold to Mrs. Katie. She was generous enough to let me continue assisting at Simply Dance starting in 2016 when we opened & I’ve been here ever since! I assisted classes until 2018 & then I was given the opportunity to have classes of my own that I teach! My main role as a teacher & as an assistant is working with some of our youngest students, the 3-4 year olds. I help with other age groups as well, but the littles are who I spend most of my time with!
Favorite class to teach: 
The 3-4 year old classes are my favorite to teach for sure! I love being able to see them learn new things & I try to get on their level as much as I can to connect with them. I’m so grateful that I get to be a part of setting the foundation for them to grow at dance. I always make sure to set a good example for them in order to help ensure that they grow with grace as dancers & in life!
Favorite Holiday: 
CHRISTMAS!!! The reason for the season, the weather, the happiness that beams from everyone & the time spent with family are just a few of the reasons that I love it!
Starbucks order: 
Venti Strawberry Açaí refresher w/ lemonade (& a chocolate cake-pop if I’m feeling snackish) 🤩

Makenzie Collier/ Instructor

Background:
I have been dancing since the age of 13 and have trained and competed in the styles of jazz, tap, hip hop, ballet, contemporary, pointe, and heels. Over the course of my training, I have been given the opportunity to work on several TV/Netflix shows and movies such as “Insatiable”, “Superstition”, “The Darkest Minds”, “Legacies” and many others. I have, also, danced with legends such as Kelly Clarkson, Tevin Campbell, Sevyn Streeter, Justine Skye, Ashanti, Keyshia Cole and several others. I have recently started working at Simply Dance and have been teaching a variety of styles. The kids are such a joy to work with and I love getting to share my knowledge of dance with them!
Favorite class to teach:
I love teaching all styles and it really just depends on the day, but tap and contemporary are two of my favorite styles/classes to teach!
Favorite Holiday: 
Christmas, of course. I love giving gifts!
Starbucks order: 
Grande white chocolate mocha

Jessica Williams/ Instructor

Background:
I started singing at three years old and haven’t stopped singing since!
I started voice lessons at thirteen and studied piano for a few years while singing in church choir, helping to lead the praise and worship team, and directed preschool choir at my home church for many years. God has always spoken to me through music and I carried that on throughout my college years! I studied Voice as well as Music Therapy until my Junior year, then switched my major to Psychology with Recreational Activity Therapy as my minor. While in college, I got my license in Kindermusik and taught at a music studio in my home town until graduation.
I really loved using the Kindermusik materials and believed in their mission: “We live to spread the power and joy of music-making as a vital learning experience for young children and families. We believe the earlier a child is introduced to singing, instrument play, and joyful movement the further they will go.”
After college I used my degree as an Activity Coordinator at Carlyle Place in Macon for several years and I LOVED my job! Over time, God spoke to me to start my own jewelry business which I have been doing for about six years and will continue my business while teaching.
I am thrilled to work alongside this amazing group of ladies and Mrs. Katie to grow a wonderful music-centered program geared towards the younger students here at Simply Dance!
Favorite class to teach: 
Anything involving Music and Movement! 
Favorite Holiday: 
I love to decorate and spend time with friends and family, so ALL holidays are my favorite!
Starbucks order: 
I love coffee! My favorite from Starbucks is a grande hazelnut mocha with coconut milk but keep the whip!

Alison McCoy/ Office Manager

Background:
My primary job (away from the studio) is managing our home of 10. Everyday presents a new task/challenge while being surrounded by a lot of super cute humans. My job at the studio is pretty much the same. I love coming to “work” and witnessing the growth of our studio and students every single week!
Favorite Holiday: 
C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S. I love everything about it. The cozy days, the busy days, the decorations, the extra kindness shown by complete strangers, and of course the gifts!
Starbucks order: 
On a hurried day- Venti Caramel Macchiato (hot)
On a boujee day- Venti Caramel ribbon crunch Frappuccino with 2 pumps cream base and 2 pumps coffee base.😬 💁🏼‍♀️

Liz Ward/ Office Manager

Background:
My full time job is a Project Manager for a healthcare company, aka I’m pretty good with a spreadsheet, sending emails and creating processes. I use my 8-5 skills at Simply Dance all the time! At the studio I whip up excel sheets to help organize and streamline data and also help with communication to our dance families.
Favorite Holiday: 
Thanksgiving! For my family, it’s all about spending quality time with those you love and being thankful for all of Gods blessings
Starbucks order: 
Venti Iced Vanilla Latte with light Ice, 2% milk and an extra shot