MEET OUR STAFF

      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.

      Amy Burdick has her degree in Dance and Interior Design from Western Kentucky University. She is certified in tap, ballet, jazz, and acrobatics from the Southern Association of Dance Masters. She has taught cheerleading and dance in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Amy has danced with the Asheville Ballet in Asheville, North Carolina. Amy teaches many of our pre school and childrens classes, and ballet classes for all ages. She has amazaing patience and energetic classes for young people, as well as challenging Ballet classes for all ages.  We are thrilled to have such a talented and versatile teacher as Amy on our staff.

      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 potiental.

 

 

     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!

 

       Brandy Rice Bailey is from Cincinnati, Ohio and began dancing at the age of two.  Growing up she trained at various studios as well as Cincinnati Ballet and CCM.  Brandy went on to attend Oklahoma City University where she majored in dance performance and received a BPA.  Since graduating, she has performed in Reno, for Disney Cruise Lines, Branson, New York, several national tours, Sesame Street, Pigeon Forge, Myrtle Beach, NCL, Hershey Entertainment, and Matt Davenport Productions.  Throughout several of her contracts she was either dance captain or show captain.  After traveling the world for more than 15 years, Brandy and her husband were excited to move to Nashville and settle down.  She is very excited to be a part of American Academy of Dance and feels blessed to be here.

 

   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. 

 

 

 

 

     Melissa Gay was born and raised in Worcester, MA and received 15 years of dance training at the Charlotte Klein Dance Centers.  There, she was a member of the dance company and received many regional and national awards.  She has studied with such choeographers as Gus Giordano, Joe Lanteri, Rhee Gold and Savion Glover.  She has also professionally performed as lead dancer with acts such as Billy Ray Cyrus, Manheim Steamroller and The Jazz World Congress in Washington D.C.  She is excited to be a part of the American Academy of Dance family and looks forward to a great year!

  

 

    Meghan Vance danced at American Academy for 15 years as a student, and we are so pleased to have her back for another year  of teaching our Saturday classes. After high school, she attended MTSU where she was the captain of the Lightning Dance Team. She was also the captain of the Belmont Bruins dance team as a junior. Meghan holds a degree in Music Business from Belmont University and works for the William Morris Agency in Nashville.  She still loves to share her passion for dance with young students.   Meghan's love for the studio and the students has brought her back year after year.

 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.

 

 

El Graves has been teaching and performing hip hop dance for eight years now. He's taught classes and workshops in LA, Tucson, Salt Lake City, and Portland to name a few. While attending the California Pacific School of the Performing Arts, he's had the chance to teach nationally and internationally. Teaching abroad has given El the ability to better communicate with and lead his students. Educating people on the history of hip hop dance is what El loves,  and he is very eager to share that love of dance with all of the students here at AAD!

 

 

 

 

   Kathleen Ann Voss grew up in Columbus, Ohio and trained in all areas of dance at the Straub Performing Arts Center. As a senior in high school, Kathleen studied at Otterbein College where she took numerous master classes with one of her role models- Randy Skinner. Upon graduation from high school, Kathleen made the journey to New York City to study at Marymount Manhattan College. During her college years, Kathleen toured with the Radio City Rockettes, performed at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and danced with the NYC-based Peggy Spina Tap Company. Kathleen has since been working with Matt Davenport Productions on several different productions and is an original cast member of Tap the Show! We are so excited to welcome Kathleen and her many talents to the AAD staff.    

 

 

    Haley Dickson has been dancing at American Academy since the age since the age of 2 ½. She has been a member of the AAD competition dance company for many years where she has been a part of many award winning routines.  Besides competing and attending classes at AAD, she has attended many dance workshops and has studied with renowned teachers such as Mia Micheals, Wade Robson, and Shane Sparks. Some of Haley’s performances include opening for the Radio City Rockettes, and character work with Dream Works Entertainment. Hayley began teaching jazz classes at AAD last year and we are happy to have her back. Haley is currently attending Lipscomb University pursuing a nursing degree.. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marikay Burke Office Manager: 

Although Marikay is not a dancer herself, her introduction to dance took place nearly 25 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 27) has been dancing professionally since he was a senior in high school. 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.  Whether a parent has a question about registration, an account payment or the recital, it is Marikay’s goal to make every family feel valued and to ensure that they have a positive experience at AAD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Bradley Johnson has been performing since he was a young boy where he got his start in the kids club show at  Opryland. We've been fortunate to have Bradley work with our students and our AAD dance company. The students love Bradley's bright smile and his energetic choreography. Bradley is in big demand as a dancer. He has danced for Celebrity and Princess Cruise Lines, music videos, industrial shows, and the Donna Summer Tour. Spring 2008 Bradley was a finalist and audience favorite on the ABC show, "Dance War".