Julie Haney, Katie Thompson, Morgan Velez and Richard Bowman not shown

We have an incredible staff that allows us to offer the best and most diversified options available to our students in dance.

Jaci Smith

Jaci grew up in Ft. Worth and studied under Jan Roeton for 17 years, where she became choreographer and instructor for their competition teams. Not only has she won awards for her choreography, she has also received awards from national dance competitions such as Dupree Enterprises and Tremaine Dance for her own dance performances. Aside from her training in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, she has studied under numerous instructors from Los Angeles to New York.

A graduate of Texas Christian University, Jaci brings over 15 years experience in dance studio management. Her experience includes owning and directing her own studio for 15 years, as well as teaching and choreographing for competition teams who went on the receive numerous awards and honors. Jaci served on faculty for Dupree Dance Enterprises for over 5 years teaching technique and choreography to both teachers and students nationwide. She also served on the judging panel for Dupree Dance Competitions and Scholarship awards. She has taught master classes for several studios across the country, including the Fairbanks Arts Festival in Alaska. Her dynamic personality and enthusiasm, combined with her energy and creativity, produce the perfect recipe for success both in the classroom and on stage.

Callie diFrancesco

Raised in Houston, Callie has been dancing since the age of four, including training under Jaci Smith for seven years.  She has been teaching ballet, tap, jazz and hip-hop since 2001 to students of all ages.  Callie competed throughout Houston from 1999-2005 and in 2003, was awarded a Dupree Dance Tap Scholarship.  In 2005, Callie graduated from the High School of Performing and Visual Arts with a concentration in instrumental music and went on to graduate Summa Cum Laude from the University of Houston, earning a Bachelor of Music in oboe performance and a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism.  Callie has performed across the Houston area with organizations such as Houston’s First Baptist Church’s Celebration and Project Dance.  In 2014, Callie took on the role of Recital Director at MDC and began studying for her Certification in Ballet Teaching Studies with the Royal Academy of Dance, which she completed in the fall of 2016.  This will be Callie’s 10th year at MDC.

Nicole Zinovoy

Originally from Tampa, FL,  Nicole trained under the direction of Yvette Breheny at Centerstage Dance Academy for 15 years. She was a Centerstage faculty member for 4 years, and a company member for 8 years. She has won numerous awards and scholarships at various dance competitions, conventions, and intensives across the nation.

Nicole graduated from the Florida State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology and a minor in Psychology.  During her time in Tallahassee, Nicole worked as the Dance Director for Arts and Recreation for Tallahassee Students.  She was also a member of the FSU dance team, Seminole Dance Force.  While on the team, they were ranked 3rd in the nation and she helped to choreograph numbers competed at the NCA & NDA Collegiate National Championship.  This will be her 4th year with MDC and 3rd year as Company Director.

Carla Capetillo

Carla was born in Mexico City and was trained in ballet in the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) system. She studied under Jennifer Johnson, Andrea Andraca, Carlos Lopez, and Sergio Vicenzio, among others. Mrs. Capetillo presented RAD examinations to the Advanced level; she attended several summer programs in Toronto, Canada, and Mexico City. She danced semi-professionally with the Ballet San Angel Inn in Mexico City. She started as a teacher assistant to Mrs. Andraca who trained her as a teacher for many years, and was teaching her first RAD group for examinations at the age of 19. She is currently a Teacher with Registered Status for the RAD, as well as a Mentor and the Practical Training Supervisor for the Southwest for the Teaching Certification Program of the RAD. Mrs. Capetillo received her Bachelor’s Degree in Pedagogy from the Universidad Panamericana in Mexico City. She has teaching experience of over 25 years. She developed a Creative Movement program for a school in Mexico that she has been updating and implementing in several studios, which works as a basis for the RAD Pre-primary level. Mrs. Capetillo moved to Houston in 1995 with her husband and three sons and has been teaching in studios around Houston since 2000. This will be Carla’s 8th year at MDC.

Richard Bowman

Richard Bowman was trained in New Zealand under careful guidance of his mother. After completing the Royal Academy of Dance Advanced examination with Honors, he was invited to further his training at the Royal Ballet School in London. During this time, he studied with such notables as: Murray Kilgour, Jiahong Wang and Mikhail Messerer. Over the next decade, Mr. Bowman danced both as a soloist and principal with internationally acclaimed ballet companies, of which the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Vienna State Opera, Leipzig Ballet, Australian Ballet and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre are included. Throughout his career, he danced many leading roles, from the “Gaoler” in Kenneth MacMillan’s production of Manon, to “James” in Erik Bruhn’s production of La Sylphide. In addition to co-founding Danse Conversvatory, Mr. Bowman also served as ballet master and principal artist for City Ballet of San Diego, California. Mr. Bowman also appeared as principal guest artist for Sacramento Ballet, University of California, Irvine and New Ballet West, San Marcos, for which Mr. Bowman also staged their production of Giselle. Mr. Bowman is a member of the ABT National Training Curriculum Artistic Board of Examiners & Instructors, and former senior faculty member at the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in NYC. Mr. Bowman serves as a guest faculty member for Broadway Dance Center and Houston Ballet. Mr. Bowman is the ballet master for the Children and Supernumeraries in Alexei Ratmansky’s production of the Sleeping Beauty and also an international guest ballet master, coach and adjudicator.

Julie Haney

Julie began teaching dance during her sophomore year of high school. She enjoys educating all about the joy that can be found within movement and the importance of learning correct dance technique. Ballet and Modern are Julie’s favorite styles to teach; however, she is also skilled in Jazz! Apart from her teaching career Julie is currently dancing with Ad Deum II, who is a professional modern company directed by Randall Flinn and Shizu Yasuda. Also, Julie has earned her Associates degree in Religion through Liberty University and has completed several accredited childcare programs through the state of Georgia. Each year she participates in numerous Project Dance events, which take place globally. This will be Julie’s 4th season at MDC.

Brittney McClellan

Brittney McClellan was born and raised in Bulverde, Texas, and started her dance training at the age of three at a small local dance studio. She continued her training at Collective Dance Artistry in Helotes, Tx throughout High School. Brittney attended Point Park University and received her B.A. with a concentration in modern. During her time at Point Park she had the opportunity to train under teachers such as Garfield Lemonius, Kiesha Lalama, Ruben Graciani, and Danielle Pavlik, and perform works by Mariah McLeod and Ron Tassone. Brittney will be entering into her third season with METdance as an apprentice. During her first season with METdance she had the honor of performing works by Kiki Lucas, Marlana Doyle, Katarzyna Skarpetowska, and Stephen Boyd. Brittney is excited to be a part of the Memorial Dance family!

Mary Beth Jackson

Born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, Mary Beth studied ballet, tap, jazz, modern, and contemporary at North Alabama Dance Center. At the age of 16, Mary Beth started teaching ballet, contemporary, tap, and competitive gymnastics in the southeast. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BFA in Dance from Troy University in Alabama, where she was the Student Dance Coordinator as a junior and senior. She was one of the first three students to receive a BFA in Dance from Troy University along with being in multiple honor societies. As a student, Mary Beth performed original works and studied under choreographers such as Nicki Loud, Dominque Angel, Ellie Lazar, Wes Chapman, Rion Towrey, Joy Spears, and Tyce Diorio. In past years, she was accepted to attend the American Dance Festival and also auditioned for season 11 of So You Think You Can Dance making it to the choreography round. Mary Beth is currently dancing with Ad Deum II under the direction of Randall Flinn and Shizu Yasuda.

Lauren Dowdy

Lauren Dowdy is originally from Beaumont, Texas, and recently graduated from Texas A&M University. Her University Studies Major Degree includes a Major in Dance Concentration along with a Business and English Minor. She has danced with the TAMU Dance Program and has participated in numerous performances of the program for the last four years. Lauren has had the pleasure to work with several guest artists, including Allison Orr, Angie Melzer, and Andy Vaca. Lauren has spent two summers in New York City dancing at NYU’s Tisch Summer Intensive, as well as serving a summer internship for the Houston MET Dance Company in 2015. Lauren has attended several dance conferences, including TAPHERD and American College Dance Association Conference. Lauren also enjoys choreographing and had the honor of presenting her student work, “Time”, at the American College Dance Association Conference in March 2016. Lauren is pursuing her dance career in Houston, Texas. She is working for the MET Dance Company as an assistant position to the company and executive director. Lauren is entering her second year with Memorial Dance Center!

Lezlie Clay

Lezlie, a native Iowan, holds a BFA in Dance and a minor in Business Administration from The University of Iowa.  She began studying dance at the age of nine and began dancing competitively at the age of ten.  Lezlie moved to Houston in 2010 as a founding member of Ad Deum II Dance Company and then performed and toured with Ad Deum Dance Company for the next five seasons.  Previously, Mrs. Clay performed and toured with MOvMNT Dance Company, Dancers In Company, Iowa City Worship Dance, and the Iowa Dance Team.  Her choreography credits include: musical theater, show choir, dance team, cheerleading, and competition.  Lezlie has also worked as a Teaching Assistant for the Radio City Rockette Summer Intensive in New York City.  She is a Certified Yoga Teacher and currently teaches all styles of dance as well as yoga at a variety of schools and studios across Houston.  This will be Lezlie’s 6th year at MDC.

Katie Thompson 

Katie began her formal dance training at the age of four in Houston, TX and trained under Jaci Smith for nine years. She competed throughout the Greater Houston area from 2000 – 2008 and during that time, was awarded two Dupree Dance Tap Scholarships. Katie began teaching ballet, tap, jazz & hip hop to all ages of students while attending the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts where she graduated in 2009 with a concentration in instrumental music. She then went on to study music and business at the University of North Texas. During her time in Denton, Katie was a private bassoon lesson instructor as well as an assistant manager for Texas Roadhouse. Katie returned home to the Houston area in May 2017 and is excited to again share her love of dance with her students!

Morgan Velez

Morgan Velez is a Kansas native who started perusing dance at age six.   She graduated from Kansas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design, and a minor in Dance.  While at KSU, Morgan studied Jazz, Modern, Tap, and Ballet under the instruction of Julie Pentz, Neil Dunn, Laura Donnelly, and David Ollington.  She was cast in several of the KSU Dance Productions, and was a dancer on the Poize Hip Hop Dance Team. 

Morgan has also choreographed many competition hip hop routines receiving, Best Overall Choreography at the Kansas Spectacular Dance Competition in 2010.  In 2012, Morgan was an intern for the American Dance Festival in Durham, NC.

Since moving to Houston, Morgan has joined the competing team at SoReal Dance Studio under the training of Andrew Baterina and Jackie Lautchang taking 1st place at World of Dance Houston, 1st place at World of Dance Florida, and performing for the Falcon’s Superbowl LI pregame event.  Morgan hopes to utilize her knowledge and experience to foster a bigger hip hop community at MDC.