Paula Fortner has been the owner and director of the American Academy of Dance since 1986. Prior to opening the school, Paula danced at Opryland USA for 7 seasons and performed in theatre productions in Chicago and Los Angeles. Television credits include, CMA Awards, Music City News Awards, and many specials filmed in Nashville. Paula has choreographed commercials, industrials, show choir groups, and numbers for television as well as National Competition Award winners. Paula teaches classes and maintains daily operation of the American Academy of Dance. 

      Cheri Leonard has her BFA in Performing Arts with an emphasis in Dance from Western Kentucky University. She has been teaching all levels of dance at AAD intermittently since 1991. In between teaching stints at AAD, Cheri was the owner/director of Silhouette Dance Studio in Gallatin .Cheri currently teaches Lyrical and Ballet classes at AAD.  She is also the  director of the dance department at Station Camp High School and ,the coach for the Bison Belles Dance Team. Cheri is valued highly at American Academy for her beautiful Ballet and Lyrical choreography.

     Leslie Reeves Hardcastle Bio Coming Soon

      Michelle Fortner is a third generation dancer/teacher/choreographer. Recently Michelle has been touring the country with "Tap the Show" choreographed by tap master Mike Minery. Her choreography credits include Taylor Swift's Fearless Tour and CMT Awards, Jana Kramer's tour with Blake Shelton, TV special, "Christmas in the Blackhills" with Big and Rich, "Vinyl Daze" and "80's Rewind" for Holiday World and Splashin Safari, "A Grand Christmas" at the Deadwood Mountain Grand, and production shows for Oceania and NCL cruise lines. She has danced in music videos, award shows, and live performances with country artists such as Taylor Swift, Brooks and Dunn, and Big and Rich. Industrial credits include Disney's Animal Kingdom, Harley Davidson, Ingles Supermarket, and FedEx to name a few. Michelle has also entertained audiences around the world with Celebrity Cruise Lines. She enjoys teaching workshops and master classes across the country. Michelle is a passionate and energetic teacher that loves motivating students to reach their full potential.



     Renee McKinney received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Performing Arts from Western Kentucky University. She has directed and choreographed countless productions for Cumberland County Playhouse as well as having performed in 42nd Street, Grease, Music Man, Anything Goes, and Hello Dolly just to name a few. Renee has studied all forms of dance, but holds a special passion for tap and musical theatre.The past 2 summers, Renee has attended the Dance Teacher Summitt in NYC, continuing to learn from some of the nations top dance educators.  Renee teaches pre-school and primary classes and also most of our Tap classes at AAD. Renee’s energy and enthusiasm for dance shows in all her classes!


       Allison Goodpaster   Bio Coming Soon


   Jessi Peralta professional dance career began at the age of 16 in Central Florida with local commercials, radio voice-overs, music videos, and a Ron Jon’s industrial for Disney.  She was a scholarship student at Broadway Dance Center in NY. Her New York credits include, Jazz Dance America, the 2000 Michael Awards, A&E’s “The Great Gatsby”, “Broadway Celebrates the Spirit of Harlem” (a Broadway show in which she was invited to perform for the President at the Apollo Theatre) After completing her studies, she traveled the world with Princess Cruises. Jessi relocated to Los Angeles after becoming a finalist on the MTV show “The Wade Robson Project”.  Industrials inc Microsoft, Ed Hardy and Pepsi. She's danced with Odyssey Dance Theatre, Marques Houston, Christina Aguilera, Gloriana, and Alexis Jordan. She’s appeared in numerous commercials including Super Bowl Ads for Nationwide Insurance with Kevin Federline, The NFL Network, Sprite, and the History Channel's “American Pickers”. Her TV credits include, Fame, Blow Out, BET’s 106 and Park, MTV Movie Awards, The American Music Awards, HBO’s Def Comedy Jam, TV Guide Network, “The Vampire Diaries” on CW, Larry the Cable Guy on CMT and Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” (season 3 Finalist). Jessi was dance captain of the Los Angeles Pussycat Dolls. She currently lives in Nashville and guest teaches around the country. Most recently Jessi joined the NFL’s Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders and was the subject of a “World of Jenks” documentary on MTV. 





     Peyton White Bio Coming Soon


 Jodie Henderson

Jodie Henderson began dancing at American Academy at the age of 3. She has danced at the studio for fifteen years, including being on the AAD competition teams for 6 years. Jodie has also had the privilege of taking classes from professional dancers such as Brandon Bryant, Lauren Froderman, Alex Wong, and Kent Boyd. Jodie has been student teaching at AAD for many years, and is so excited to work with your children. She is currently attending Vol State pursuing a degree in early childhood education.



 Kemmian Beard, a native of Jackson TN, Kemmian started studying dance at the age of 12 from Mona Lisa Lanier. Throughout his high school dance career Kemmian was lucky enough to have dance with Wade Robson, a choreographer that show Beard that dancing more about passion than technique. While attending college at Middle Tennessee State University, he decide to audition for Middle Tennessee Performing Arts Company. He later became an award winning choreographer for the company, winning the Twyla Tharp award for best choreography in 2004, 2005, and 2006. He founded his own company in 2005 that later became known as Southern Movement Dance Co. Since becoming profession in 2008, he has worked or danced for some of today’s top artist and choreographers (P.Diddy, Tamia, Nappytabs, Mia Michaels, etc.). He is now a client for MSA talent agency and is one of L.A.’s finest triple threats. He was recently featured on the hit T.V. show, Randy Jackson Present America’s Best Dance Crew, where he choreographed and danced with selected members of his dance company.






Caitlyn Layman


Caitlyn grew up taking dance at American Academy.   After graduating from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, she worked with Gary Musick Productions onboard the Oceania Marina.  Caitlyn has also worked with Matt Davenport Productions, performing in shows at Holiday World, Sea World San Antonio and Hershey Park.  Her love for dance has brought her back to American Academy, and she loves sharing her passion with her students. 





Casey Sanders  Bio Coming Soon



Lauren Fox  Bio Coming Soon










 Marikay Burke Office Manager: 

Marikay's introduction to dance took place nearly 26 years ago when she took her daughter to her very first dance class as a kindergartener.  Both of Marikay’s children are American Academy of Dance “graduates”.  Daughter, Leslie, went on to receive her dance degree from the University of Georgia.  Son, Dan, (now 28) has been dancing professionally since he was a senior in high school and now works for Disney in Orlando, Fla.  Marikay’s combined experience as both a dance parent and an office manager give her a unique perspective that allows her to assist our AAD families in an efficient and effective manner.  It is Marikay’s goal to make every family feel valued and to ensure that they have a positive experience at AAD.