Owner / Director
Jennifer, who graduated Magna Cum Laude, holds two Bachelors of Science undergraduate degrees - one in Economics from Fordham University and the other in Fashion Merchandising Management from the #1 fashion school in the country, Fashion Institute of Technology. Has appeared in several Broadway, off-Broadway shows, World Premieres, music videos, danced with several contemporary companies, and then some.
Jennifer, at the ripe age of 18 and while taking his class at Steps on Broadway upon moving to NYC, was hand-selected by Mr Joe Lanteri himself - the founder and Executive Director of New York City Dance Alliance (NYCDA) - to travel alongside him as his personal dance demonstrator to every city on their demanding tour schedule. As the only demonstrator in the history of NYCDA to have not actually won a national title or even competed at neither a regional or national competition, Jennifer went on to work for Joe and his amazing faculty throughout her entire college career and then some. As both a Master Choreographer/Teacher with NYCDA and their sister organization On Stage America, coupled with the numerous gigs she performed with their professional production company arm for such organizations including Saudi oil, Tupperware, National Dental Association, Saratoga Springs Water Co, etc, Jennifer worked for NYCDA and their sister organization for over 12 years.
On tour with NYCDA, Jennifer had the privilege of working extensively with all of their choreographers - from Rhonda Miller whom is now the Director of PACE University’s commercial dance program, where Jennifer was featured in Rhonda’s instructional dance video series produced by Lanteri entertainment; to AC Ciulla - director of Footloose on Broadway, whom Jennifer collaborated on many shows…with her favorite being Destination Groove where she partnered with then American Ballet Theatre soloist, Danny Tidwell, at the Roseland Ballroom; and then to Andy Blankenbuehler - who would become Jennifer’s mentor for over 10 years as they both navigated the dance world - she as what would become the youngest Dance Captain in Broadway history, and he as what would become the next Ben Vereen ie the most notable choreographer of our generation.
Alongside Andy Blankenbuehler, Jennifer had the opportunity to work pre-production choreography and build 6 shows with him from most recent to latest including the recently opened original Bandstand (2017), the 2014 revival of Annie, 9 to 5: The Musical, Bring it On! The Musical, the Tony Award winning In the Heights, The Apple Tree. Upon graduating college, Jennifer had the opportunity to actually create the role of Carla in the show In the Heights in its initial Off-Broadway run. Prior to this opportunity, Jennifer had just booked her first Equity contract - gaining her equity card - with the Goodspeed Playhouse’s Lil Abner, directed by Scott Schwartz. Immediately following this show, Jennifer had booked three broadway shows at once - The Producers, Little Mermaid, and Wicked, choosing to take the latter. Starting on tour with Wicked, by her second day, Jennifer, who was already slated to take over the role of associate Dance Captain, was then asked to take over the Dance Captain (DC) role…at the ripe age of 23. Terrified but also excited, she took on the new position as the youngest DC in the history of the show and Broadway with vigor and in this position got the chance to ‘put in’ 54 actors into their various parts of the cast - from Elphaba to the Wizard - Jen was responsible for knowing all 32 ‘tracks’ as they are called on Broadway, being able to teach them to understudies/new hires, expected to give notes to actors on a daily basis as to ‘maintain the artistic integrity of the show’s creative team’, and to fill in for 9 female actors (and several male actors if need be) at a moments notice.
Jennifer then left Wicked after 2 years to be an original cast member in both the World Premiere and Broadway cast of 9 to 5: The Musical. And upon taking this job, she began teaching at the Joffrey Ballet School teaching for their Pre-Professional program and helping to bridge the gap for aspiring actors and dancers alike. Her favorite role is playing Bety White's body double in the Emmy-Nominated episode of Saturday Night Live. Jennifer now teaches across the country giving master classes to studios, universities, and dance organizations.
Jennifer is so excited to get to pass along her knowledge and share her passion for dance and the performing arts with her students and the community!
TUMBLING & ACROBATICS DIRECTOR, STRENGTH/CONDITIONING
Our first staff introduction is the one and only Christin Conrow! We are super duper excited to have her back for another season here at KCDC!
Christin has been tumbling, cheering, singing, and dancing her entire life. At age 3 she started her gymnastics journey working with a local gym in Blue Springs. Showing an incredible ability above that of her peers, she began competing in gymnastics at the young age of 6. Having only been competing for a modest two years, Christin did the unimaginable and won The state title not just at age 8 but also age 9! During these years of training at the one and only Gage gymnastics, she had the honor of training next to and with what would become major Olympic gymnasts. She competed through level 7 and while reaching the highest level of gymnastics, she felt a need for a direction change and thus her interest in cheer was born. Christin auditioned for cheer her freshman year in college and immediately knew she had found her passion and love. Upon auditioning, she was immediately and humbly selected for the high school varsity team of which she would end up competing and performing with for all 4 years of her high school years. She also had the privilege and honor to cheer for the high schools co-ed team as well which won the overalls at state all 4 years. Her senior year she was awarded the opportunity to cheer in London at the New Years Day parade with the number one cheer program UCA. And the rest is history... As a teacher since 2010, Miss Christin has students that are not only touring and working all over the country in various dance, cheer, and gymnastics aspects but she also has students that have gone onto being on the middle school, high school, college cheer and dance teams! One of her favorite things about teaching is watching the growth each week of her students. Her favorite food is Starbucks grande blonde, she loves dogs of all shapes and sizes, and fun fact: she sings in the shower a lot! (Did we mention she is an amazing singer?!)
Miss Christin is excited to start her 4th season with KCDC!
COMPANY, TAP & JAZZ, PRODIGY, TECHNIQUE
Kassi is born and raised in the Kansas City area. She grew up competing in all styles of dace at Steppin’ Out. She then went on to study dance(Ballet and Modern) at UMKC and was also on the dance team for all 4 years. As a dance major, she was selected to work with and perform pieces by Robert Battle (now artistic director of Alvin Ailey Dance theatre), Jamal Story, DeeAnna Hiett, Paula Weber, Sabrina Cannon, Bernard Gattis, Gary Abbot, and Joshua Beamish.
While on Dance team she was a 3 time recipient of the All American Award and won Gold bids to nationals three years in a row. Her senior year she was selected to serve as captain where they Placed 2nd in nationals and set a record for the school.
During her time at UMKC Kassi was still teaching at the competitive dance studio. At age 20 she won her first choreography award and her work began to be nationally recognized and placing first overall both regionally and nationally in styles such as jazz, tap, lyrical, contemporary, and musical theatre. She has continued success teaching and choreographing for studios as well as dance teams.
Her professional experience includes performing with Quixotic Fusion for the grand opening of the Kauffman center, Dancing and modeling for Oxyjen Dancewear, and opening for Cody Simpson regionally for Mix 93.3. After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance, (emphasis in Choreography) Kassi explored her options and was offered jobs in both Chicago and NYC but found her love to be here in KC. She auditioned for the Kansas Chiefs Cheerleaders and spent four years cheering and dancing for them where she had the opportunity to be both a co captain and Captain. She had the honor of traveling internationally to different military bases performing a “variety show” where she was able to utilize all assets of her training- tap, jazz, musical theatre, and lyrical. For her, it was a dream come true and exactly what she had been looking for. While on the team she also had the opportunity to choreograph not only jazz routines but also choreograph and perform lyrical duets for the “Breast Cancer Awareness” half times at Arrowhead Stadium.
Her passion for dance and life is what drives her and she truly enjoys getting to share that passion with others at any level! Miss Kassi is excited to start her 4th season with the Kansas City Dance Company!
TAP & JAZZ, VOICE
Committed to Kids and Dance is what Phyllis Balagna is all about! From Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Phyllis has an extensive background that includes formal training and experience in ballet, jazz, tap, acro, musical theatre, and voice. She has developed a performing arts business that is respected throughout the entire country, and has served as a judge for over 28 years for the country’s top competitions. Phyllis has a BS in Education, and previously taught high school theatre. She has students working professionally on Broadway stages, touring companies, TV and Film, cruise ships, and on NFL Dance Teams. She recently had a dancer on tour with Justin Bieber, and a former student is in her third season as Clary on Free Form’s Shadowhunters. She has directed and choreographed such musicals as A Chorus Line, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Singin’ In The Rain, Annie, Wonderful Town, Steel Pier, Titanic, and The Wiz. Phyllis appeared in the National Tour of The Music Man, and has recorded many television and radio commercials, including the famous “Two All Beef Patties” jingle for McDonalds. She has appeared in a national commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines with Kathy Lee Gifford. Two career defining moments: 1) Good Morning America did a live broadcast from her studio featuring over 50 dads and daughters performed during a segment focused on the benefits of positive involvement of dads in dance. 2) Her dancers performed the closing act at The Adele and Fred Astaire Awards. Broadway star Kyle Dean Massey was part of the performance. After 28 years, Phyllis retired and passed the studio on to her daughter, Jennifer. Phyllis is currently in her eighth year serving as an Ambassador at The Dance Teacher Summit, held in NYC and in San Diego. She also judges for major talent competitions, and serves as a consultant to studio owners throughout the country. She continues to share her love of musical theatre with her voice students, and enjoys teaching one night a week for The Kansas City Dance Company.
BALLET, POINTE, PRE-POINTE
Lauren Gray is excited to start her third season here at the Kansas City Dance Company! Originally from just outside London, England, Lauren grew up dancing with some of the most prestigious names in the Ballet and Contemporary Ballet scene. Having graced the stage in England, Canada, and the US, Lauren spent many years dancing in N York City under the direction of Peridance Dance Center. Lauren Gray received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance with a minor in Mass Media from Stephens College in Columbia Missouri. Over the years She has had the honour to work with Carol Estey (Broadway), Deborah Carr (Humphrey-Weidman), Elizabeth Hartwell (Louisville Ballet), Jennifer Conley (Martha Graham), Brandi Coleman (Jump Rhythm Jazz), Pedro Ruiz Jr. (Ballet Hispanico) and Francisco Graciano (Paul Taylor), among many others.
After graduation Lauren moved New York City, where she worked and studied with choreographers such as Igal Perry and Kristen Sudeikis at Peridance Capezio Center. She also worked with the Dance into Deliverance Dance Company during her time in New York. Lauren then moved to London and continued dancing with Pineapple studios.
Lauren moved to the Kansas City area in late 2017 and began teaching at the Kansas City Ballet School. Though, she has studied and taught many different styles of dance throughout her career her passion has always been ballet. She has had the honour of playing the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Arabian Princess in the Nutcracker, as well as her favourite, starring as Giselle in the ballet of the same name.
She is so excited to begin her third season teaching Advanced Ballet and Pointe with KCDC this year!
COMMERCIAL DANCE, CONTEMPORARY, IMPROV
Jordan Kaya grew up training in dance in St. Louis, MO. She attended Grand Center Arts Academy learning the ins and outs of stage performance and choreography under one of St. Louis’ best, Ashley Tate. Jordan had been choreographing since the age of thirteen, but has been professionally teaching and choreographing for the past five years. In those five years she has won over twenty-five awards and acknowledgments for her choreography regionally and nationally. In recent years Jordan became a full fledged member of TigerStyle! Crew, a national dance crew and brand based out of Kansas City. In TSC! she has had the ability to teach nationwide on their Diversify Your Style! Tours, perform in their full length shows, and receive extensive training in foundation, technique, and artistry. Jordan has been trained at her home studio, Wildwood Dance, and with Missouri Ballet Theatre, in ballet, contemporary, modern, hip hop, musical theater, jazz, and improvisation. She believes every student has a valid story to tell and gives her classes to those untold stories. That artistry is not something to teach but to reveal within the student. Miss Jordan is excited to teach at KCDC for her 4th season!
Born in Vietnam, Zen came to the US in 2013 and instantly fell in love. Spending most of his days studying and teaching, Zen recently graduated with an Associate’s Degree in engineering.
Zen started dancing when he was 15 years old, training in different street styles as well as choreography with his crew, GameOn, in Vietnam. Since moving to the US, he’s trained with several local performers, singers, and actors. Learning from others, he’s the appreciated the diversity from the countless styles and backgrounds he’s encountered.
He's also worked and performed with various local performers and artists like Strange Music, Quixotic Ent, Rhythmkingz, Ipush, Scion, Pipeline Innovation of the year, etc. When Zen isn’t teaching, he’s still dancing. Having participated in several hip-hop competitions – both in Vietnam and the US – he’s taken home countless street battle titles. Zen is super excited to be teaching for his fourth year at the Kansas City Dance Company!
Elaine is moving back from Los Angeles to the KC area. She has been ar resident teacher and choreographer for over 7 years at the prestigious Industry Dance Academy! We are so excited to welcome her to our INCREDIBLY FACULTY LINE UP!
Elaine received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance with a minor in Film Studies from The Conservatory of Music and Dance – University of Missouri-Kansas City. She has had the privilege of working with contemporary choreographers Robert Battle (Alvin Ailey), Joshua Beamish (MOVE: the company), Mary Pat Henry (San Francisco Ballet), Gary Abbott (Deeply Rooted), Frank Chavez (River North), Deeanna Hiett (Alvin Ailey), Rodni Williams (DCDC), and Ronald Tice (Zurich Opera-Ballet) to name a few.
As a choreographer, Elaine has been honored with many accolades including the Youth America Grand Prix “Outstanding Choreography Award” for her work “Up to Here”. Her piece “Been Here Before” received the “Best Contemporary Performance of the Year” nomination from the Industry Dance Awards. Performance and choreography credits include Joffrey San Francisco, Joffrey WEST, Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company, Quixotic Fusion, Kansas City Youth Ballet, Pacific Festival Ballet, DEFY Dance Project, Heartlines Dance Company, and Seamless Dance Theatre.
The passion for expression and creativity she instills has led her students to regional and national recognition, as well as exclusive international programs such as Nederlands Dans Theater, Ballet BC, Joffrey Ballet, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Marymount Manhattan College, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Westside Dance Project and Arts Umbrella. Elaine is excited to begin her first season here with the Kansas City Dance Company!
LYRICAL & TECHNIQUE PRIVATES
Olivia Markham is an award-winning dancer born, raised, and trained with Phyllis and Jennifer Balagna formerly at Steppin Out and then Kansas City Dance Company, respectively. Olivia was the Senior Elite Outstanding Dancer at Rainbow Dance Competition - competing against 120 other elite 15-19 year olds and winning 1st overall PLUS she is the reigning Miss Rainbow Outstanding Dancer. Olivia has garnered numerous scholarships both competition and collegiate and plans to further her dance education and training in the fall of 2021 at one of the top 20 US Universities majoring in Dance Performance. We are excited to have Olivia with us for this year as she learns under the direction of the rest of our staff in developing her voice, personal expression, and artistic communication language with choreography and teaching alike. Please welcome Olivia to our incredible staff!