Kathleen Massot
Kathy, owner of the Dance Center of Kirkwood, has an extensive background in performance and teaching. As a young girl, she performed in the children's chorus of the St. Louis Municipal Opera. Kathy then performed with the St. Louis Civic Ballet for 9 years and was a guest artist at the International
Festival of Youth Orchestration in Aberdeen, Scotland. She also performed at the Saddlers Wells Theatre in London, England. Kathy then attended the National Academy of Arts and danced professionally with The National Ballet of Illinois. After moving to New York City, Kathy danced with the Leon Felder Dance Company. She performed with the Laura Dean Dancers and Musicians, and soon became their co-rehearsal director as well. While in Laura Dean's company, Kathy taught at the University of Iowa and at the University of California.

In 1987, Kathy performed in the AIDS benefit at the Lincoln Center with Master of Ceremonies, Mikhail Baryshnikov. This benefit was organized by Jerome Robbins and Peter Martins. For three summers, she performed at the American Dance Festival at Duke University in North Carolina. Kathy performed throughout the United States in many theaters, including City Center, The Joyce Theatre, and The Lincoln Center. She also performed throughout Europe with a total of three extensive tours.


Kathy teaches ballet, pointe, tap, and jazz at the Dance Center of Kirkwood, and her dancers have won many awards in local competitions. She has also won Best Choreographer Awards. Her students were chosen to perform in Dance St. Louis Spring Festival at the Edison Theatre for three years. She has taken choreographic composition classes at Webster University. Kathy was also a docent for the Educational Impact program for Dance St. Louis.

Lisa Simms Nicholas

Lisa was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. At age six, she started ballet lessons with her father, Michael Simms. As a young girl, Lisa studied at the Michael Simms Academy. When the St. Louis Dance Theater was formed, she performed in the classics, Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty, at the Kiel Opera House.

At the age of 12, Lisa was accepted to the National Ballet of Canada where she studied for two years, working with world famous teachers including Rudolph Nureyev.

Lisa continued her studies in St. Louis with her father and danced in many organized ballets, including Dvorak and Prokofiev. She was also a principal dancer for three summers in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

In 1977-78, Lisa traveled and performed at the Cork Opera House in Cork County, Ireland. Upon her return, she joined the Festival Ballet of Rhode Island as a founding member. Under Winthrop Corey and Christine Hennessy, she was

fortunate enough to work with Arthur Mitchell of the New York City Ballet, Mary Jago of the National Ballet of Canada, and Francesa Corkle of the Joffrey Ballet.

Lisa has taught extensively throughout the St. Louis area, including at the Festival Ballet and the Michael Simms Academy. Lisa joined the Dance Center of Kirkwood in 2003 as a classical ballet teacher for middle- and high-school students. She also currently teaches advanced summer intensives and is ballet mistress for the Dance Center of Kirkwood's annual Nutcracker.

I-Chiao Shih

I-Chiao has been a member of the Dance Center of Kirkwood ballet ensemble for the past fourteen years and has participated in numerous local and national competitions. She has taken master classes from notable instructors at Webster and Washington Universities, including ballet masters from the Alonzo King's Lines Ballet and the Houston Ballet. She is a former member of the Slaughter Project, a modern dance company founded by Cecil Slaughter.

I-Chiao has also studied and performed with Pilobolus Too and was one of the few chosen to perform in their Cirque du Ballet Gala. Her most notable role includes the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Dance Center of Kirkwood’s annual production of the Nutcracker. I-Chiao also teaches ballet, tap, and tumbling at the Faith Academy of MontessorI.

Erin Warner Prange  
Born and raised in St. Louis, Erin Warner Prange holds her B.A. in Dance and Spanish from Colorado State University and her Masters of Fine Arts in Arts Management and Leadership from Webster University.

In 2006, Erin taught dance for the Boston public school district through the Topf Center for Dance Education, and danced with Fusionworks II in Providence, RI under the tutelage of Deb Meunier and Stephanie Sanford.

After moving back to St. Louis, she worked as aTrek Dance Collective's Education Program Coordinator, and worked as the head coach of the dance team and color guard at Webster Groves High School.

Erin founded the modern and contemporary programs at the Dance Center of Kirkwood, and was a company member of the Slaughter Project under artistic direction of Cecil Slaughter before joining The Big Muddy Dance Company in 2011. Erin has had the privilege of working with talented artists such as Chung-Fu Chang, Lee Cooper, Jody Weber, Marcus Schulkind, and Christien Polos in her study and training. Throughout her 5 seasons as a company dancer for The Big Muddy Dance Company, she has had the honor of dancing in choreographic works by renowned artists such as Lou Conte, Sam Watson, Harrison McEldowney, Lauri Stallings, and many more.  Erin has also served as Executive Director for The Big Muddy Dance Company since 2013.

Meredith Smith

Meredith began dancing at the age of four and soon joined the Dance Center of Kirkwood. As a young teen, she participated in the NSAL ballet competition and performed with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens.


Meredith attended college at the University of Oklahoma and received her B.F.A. in Ballet Performance and her B.A. in Journalism/Public Relations. She performed with the Oklahoma Festival Ballet in The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Carmina Burana, and Young Choreographers Showcase, among others.


Meredith has also performed The Nutcracker with the Kansas City Ballet in the Snow and Flower Corps. She also worked for the Kansas City Ballet doing public relations and marketing. Meredith has been a principal dancer with the Dance Center of Kirkwood in The Nutcracker. She also taught ballet, tap, and jazz for the Dixie Bell Dance Center in Shawnee, Kansas as well as taught ballet at the Kansas City Ballet School.

Wendy Ballard

Wendy holds a BFA in Dance from Webster University, an MA in American Culture Studies (with a focus on American dance and performance) from Washington University, and is a licensed massage therapist.

She has performed and taught dance for over two decades around the greater St. Louis area and Austin, Texas, and currently teaches tap courses at Washington University and the YMCA. Wendy approaches classes with a mixture of strict technical focus and encouragement of individual expression.

Her future plans include pursuing her PhD with a focus on the history of American percussive dance and the role it continues to play in social and political speech and protest, as well as starting a tap company. She enjoys a good joke and has a dog named Ruby.
Nicole Halama
Originally from St. Louis, Nicole began her dance training at the Dance Center of Kirkwood. She spent her first two years of college studying dance at Southeast Missouri State University, where she performed in seven different dance concerts and also performed at Dancing In The Streets in St. Louis. In the summer of 2010, she attended a month-long dance workshop in the Tuscany region in Italy. The next two years, she studied dance at Columbia College in Chicago and performed in the Choreographic Project performances along with the 2012 Columbia Open House with Cerqua Rivera Dance Theater. Currently, she is an apprentice with Leverage Dance Theater.
Jennifer Story
Jennifer has been dancing since the age of two and started competing in local and national ballet competitions in her teens. At the age of 15, she began studying with the Nutmeg Ballet and Momix in Connecticut and in the Washington University and Webster University performing arts programs. She has performed with numerous ballet and modern dance companies that have traveled through St. Louis, including Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and the Kansas City Ballet. She was a member of Butler Ballet for three seasons and the Illinois Ballet for two seasons.