Paula 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.
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.
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!
Chi grew up training at excellent dance studios in Arizona(Dance Connection) and Tennessee(DCDF). When she turned 18 she moved to LA to pursue her dreams of performing. Once in Hollywood Chi instantly started booking jobs and from that point on has had an extensive career in the arts. Everything from TV, Film, Commercials, Awards Shows, World Tours, Corporate Shows, Musicals, Theme Parks, Casino’s, Resorts and more. Chi has worked with legends and super stars across the world. Paul McCartney, Justin Timberlake, Pitbull, Neyo, Mike Meyers, Jake Owen, Kenny Chesney, Danny Gokey, Lenny Kravitz, Natalie Grant, Tom Jones, Heather Locklear, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson to name a few. Chi has also performed on and represented: Grammy’s, Emmy’s, VMA’s, CMA’s, CMT Awards, America’s Got Talent, CSI, Nickelodeon, Fruit of the Loom, Haagen Daz, Dom Perignon, Nike, GMC, Maybelline, Redken and MANY more. After several years dancing Chi naturally fell into assisting choreographers and Choreographing herself. She has choreographed for Ringling Bros Circus, K-Love Fan Awards, Dollar General, Ally Bank, Bellissimo Dance Boutique, Krystal Meyers on the Revolve Tour, Harrah’s Casino, and Wyndham Bahamas Resort to name a few. She’s also no stranger to the dance competition world, working for and choreographing at many studio’s in the south and holding multiple choreography awards and national titles. She has also worked on a couple conventions and been a judge at dance competitions. With her years of experience in Los Angeles and beyond Chi Lopes has created a production company to open up even more opportunities for young dancers called Shy Dance Productions. SDP provides specialty master classes held around Nashville that are open to all dancers from any studio, privates in multiple styles, on-camera training, seminars, putting young performers in gigs around town, and our yearly trips to LA to train and educate amongst the best in the industry. Chi has a passion to help young dancers reach their full potential in training and in their profession.
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.
Tana began dancing at age 5 at The Dance Factory in Topeka, Kansas. Her early training included baton, tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical, and hip hop. As a young dancer, she competed on dance teams for both her studio and her school. After graduating from high school, she began teaching a full load of classes at The Dance Factory as well as dancing and choreographing for Washburn University’s dance team, The Dancing Blues. After college, Tana danced with the IFL dance teams: The Lady Knights and Lady Kings in Topeka. Additionally she was a member of the MLS Champion Kansas City Wizards dance team The Wizards Girls.
After 7 years of teaching at her local studio, Tana decided to relocate to California where she danced for Sacramento’s NBA dance team, The Royal Court Dancers. Simultaneously, Tana assisted in opening the Hype Dance Studio in Chico, CA. As the studio manager, she also taught tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop, lyrical, pom, and pre-dance. She also served as head coach and choreographer for competitive pom and dance teams.
After 11+ years at Hype, Tana, her husband Jim and their son Isaac relocated to Tennessee to begin a new adventure. She was able to attend and enjoy AAD’s 30th Anniversary Recital last year and was so impressed that she contacted AAD to possibly become a member of the teaching staff. She is happy to be with AAD and is excited for this new dance chapter.
William Harris III
William was born and raised in Nashville, TN where he began dancing at the age of 14. He attended Nashville School of the Arts and graduated in 2006. Post high school he was hand picked by Debbie Allen to attend the Debbie Allen Dance Academy on a full scholarship. There he trained in multiple disciplines including Ballet, Dunham, Jazz, and African. He was promoted to Artist- in- Residence were he assisted Ms. Allen on multiple projects, including working with artists such as Chaka Chan, Queen Latifah, and Herby Hancock. William has worked with the cast of GLEE on their first national tour as a Vocal Adrenaline dancer. He can be seen dancing with Neil Patrick Harris at the Oscars, directed and choreographed by Adam Shankman. In 2010 he was Assistant Choreographer to Hector Mercado in Storyville: A Musical. William is a member of the unique and highly reputable UNITY Dance Ensemble, directed by Tessandra Chavez. His assistant credits include FOX’s hit show “So You Think You Can Dance” working with choreographers Tessandra Chavez, Tyce Diorio, and Dee Caspery. He can also be seen dancing in Chinese director Jiang Wen’s 3D movie Gone With The Bullets, choreographed by Keith Young. William spent 2 years dancing and touring Japan with JPOP megastars Koichi Domoto, SexyZone, and ABCZ, where he worked with choreography duo Travis Payne and Stacy Walker. He can be seen in the Dirty Dancing spoof with Idina Menzel and James Corden on The Late Late Show with James Corden. William shared the stage with Broadway legend Jennifer Holiday in a production of Sophisticated Ladies choreographed by Dominique Kelley. Most recently William returned to Japan not only as a dancer but as a choreographer as well, creating choreography for JPOP stars ABCZ, SexyZone, and Mr. King new hit single “Hi Hi Jet”.
Taryn Escobar is no stranger to dance shoes and a stage! She started her career at a very young age durning her dance training and competitions. She started dancing and performing professionally in stage shows, theme parks, cruise ships, tours, TV, as well as modeling for several dance wear magazines. Her career path spans almost 3 decades in the entertainment industry and has allowed her to grace the stage Nationwide. During this time, Taryn realized her love for teaching and the arts and has had the pleasure of working with and has taught for dance studios in several states throughout the U.S. She has choreographed Master Jazz and Hip Hop classes for many award winning numbers.
She also has several years in Entertainment Management. Taryn was a Production Manager for The Dixie Stampede, a multi-million dollar show in Pigeon Forge, TN, with a cast of nearly 100 members. She has also choreographed and judged for ‘Dancing With The Knoxville Stars’ which is a charity event benefitting the East TN Children’s Hospital that has raised over a million dollars. Taryn is also a fully licensed cosmetologist and makeup artist. Her husband of 11 years is a World Champion Ballroom and Latin American dancer. He has toured with the World-renowned show, ‘Burn The Floor’, for many years. They, along with their daughter, moved to Nashville in 2018 where she has joined the staff of American Academy of Dance as a teacher and as the Competition Director.
Phylicia Roybal is a native of Santa Fe, New Mexico. She received her Bachelor degree in Fine Arts at the University of Arizona in 2011. She has had the privilege of working with New Dialect Dance company under the direction of Banning Bouldin, Ronn Stewart and Cocodāco Dance Project, Kibbutz contemporary dance company, Catherine Cabeen - Hyphen and Moving People Dance. She has had the opportunity to work with artists such as Roy Assaf, Rami Be’er, Donald Mckayle, Robert Moses, Gail Gilbert, Kevin Iega Jeff, and Bobby Mc Ferrin. Phylicia has taught at renowned programs such as The Nashville Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet Academy Chicago, The Youth American Grand Prix, Northwestern University, The Hispanic Family Foundation Baila program, Foster
Dance Studios, Ensworth High School, and Stage Right Performing arts and Metro parks dance division. She continues to find inspiration through experimental movement and improvisation.
I’m Natalie Aaron and I am from Nashville, TN! I trained and competed in all styles of dance at the incredible, DC Dance Factory. I was given the opportunity to be mentored by and an assistant to HipHop legend, Nick Bass, which helped sky rocket my dance career. I have been blessed with teaching opportunities at various studios across the country, as well as, working with several artists choreographing, dancing and creative directing their music videos in person and over social media; including artists Chris Lane, Midland, and Lily Rose plus artists from The Voice, CMA's, + Netflix series "Rhythm and Flow". Other collaborations are Pantene, Burju Shoes, and Neighborhood Barre. Additionally, I taught at Millennium Dance Complex Nashville. As a dancer, I take pride in physical fitness. I attended the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, majoring in Kinesiology. With my degree in Kinesiology, it allowed me to work as a student athletic trainer, which helped obtained my position as a barre instructor for the past four years!
Meredith Combs grew up in Dallas, TX and began her dance training when she was eight years old. She has trained in ballet, jazz, tap, modern, lyrical, contemporary, hip hop, pointe, and partnering. When she began her sophomore year of high school, she started teaching and choreographing and immediately fell in love with it. After graduating high school, she had the opportunity to continue her dance training at Missouri State University, where she worked closely with professors while assisting and teaching classes. Upon moving to St. Louis, MO, she spent a year as a trainee for the Big Muddy Dance Company, training alongside company members daily and working with a variety of choreographers. After moving to Nashville, TN with her husband, Meredith has had the opportunity to train with world renowned choreographers and teachers. When she isn’t training, she can be found performing in: award shows, music videos, and live performances all while teaching and choreographing for studios and projects around the city.
Taylor Renee Straney
Taylor has extensively trained in New York City in all genres of dance and music theatre. Taylor trained at The Ailey School after being accepted into their Independent Study Program and then was accepted into and graduated from The Institute for American Musical Theatre; working alongside Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award winning directors, choreographers and performers such as Paloma Garcia-Lee, Michael Minarik, Nicholas Cunningham, Ricky Hinds and Marni Robb. Taylor was selected and performed in the Broadway Cares Easter Bonnet show at the Minskoff Theatre, representing the Broadway sensation Waitress. Taylor was selected to study at the Broadway Dance Lab of Choreography with Josh Prince in NYC and at the CHUTHIS. Movement with Peter Chu in California. Taylor was a featured dancer in Britmania at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, VA and also a featured dancer in the Babes of Broadway
tour for Live On Stage. Taylor was offered a position as a faculty member of Broadway Arts & Dance Academy,
co-founded by Broadway star Jason Wooton and National Tour star April Berry in St. Petersburg, FL. Taylor has received National Competition Choreography Awards for her competition routines for group and solo’s for dance studios in the southeast.
Taylor’s passion for dance and fitness inspires her to stay healthy, keep learning and continue growing. When not performing, choreographing and teaching dance, she is personal training clients as an ACE Fitness Certified Personal Trainer. Now a Nashville resident, Taylor is thrilled to be the newest faculty member and Competition Director for
American Academy of Dance!
Cassie Oliver born and raised in Smyrna, TN. began her dance career when she tried out for
the 7th grade dance team and made it! From there, she danced on middle, high school, and
college dance teams.
Cassie has been a part of Loyalty Dance Team and CAT Cru where she competed in
competitions such as: World of Dance, Monsters of Hip Hop, BET Experience, and America's
Got Talent. Additionally she has performed with B2K, Cardi B,the Miss Tennessee Pageant,
Nashville Sounds, Phenix Red, and Carrie Underwood.
Cassie has Bachelor's degree from Middle Tennessee State University in Athletic Training and a
Master’s from Tennessee State University in Occupational therapy.