Meet Our Team

The People Behind the Curtain

The Thomas Dance Studio is proud to employ passionate and dedicated teachers who are not only well qualified and well educated, but also have a depth of experience working with children. Students in our classes will find encouraging and professional teachers who are invested in their development both as dancers and as people. Our supportive teachers are cheerful, inspiring, and encouraging to students of all ages and abilities. They are a dedicated faculty with a commitment to your child’s love of dance. Parents will also find a welcoming and professional environment with an office staff and faculty excited about developing a partnership that ensure the best learning environment and dancer experience for your child.

The Thomas Dance Studio’s niche is our broad based curriculum coupled with a faculty that can engage and challenge students. Many studios become known as having a specialty or for being a purely “competition” studio and as student’s interests change they may have to go elsewhere to find what they are after. The Thomas Studio’s greatest success is the balance and quality of our curriculum and the education that our Staff is able to provide. Our faculty members have chosen the art of teaching as their career and have been trained in the studio philosophy. With our Faculty’s talent and dedication presented in a constructive atmosphere, we are known for growing dancers.

Linda Spencer

Owner and Director
Since 1967, “Miss” Linda has been teaching, managing, and growing dancers at The Thomas Studio. Following in the footsteps of her mother, Ruth Stevens Thomas, Linda has kept the family tradition of performing arts education alive growing the business from a one-room dance studio to a thriving multi-location organization. Over the years, Linda has instilled a love for the art of dance, as well as self-confidence, in thousands of young students and she continues to be a powerful role model to all young women within the studio. Her philosophy that she is not just running a business, but helping to “grow dancers,” stems from years of dedication to her students. In 2009, Linda was awarded the Small Business Administration’s “Family Owned Business of the Year” award. Linda is graduate of University of Pittsburgh Katz Business School’s Institute of Entrepreneurial Excellence.

Jessica Spencer

Artistic Director
Jessica graduated from Point Park University with a BFA in Arts Management, double majoring in Dance and Business. After 15 years as a dancer at the Studio and with the Dance Company, Jessica is now Artistic Director, Primary Instructor and Choreographer for the Thomas Dance Company. Performance credits include dancing as an original member of Jeff Shade’s “Heaven” at the Three Rivers Arts Festival and at the Byham Theatre. Jessica’s award-winning choreography has been honored with thousands of High Score awards and National Titles and she is a 30-time consecutive Best Choreography Award winner. A graduate of Upper Sr. Clair High School, Jessica was inducted in Upper St. Clair’s prestigious Hall of Fame in recognition of her excellent accomplishments in the arts within the community and she served as choreographer for the USC dance team for three years. She is committed to continuing her education as an instructor and attends seminars and workshops around the country, including the annual Dance Teacher Summit. Jessica’s former students can be found performing professionally, studying dance on scholarship at various universities, and participating in many acclaimed summer programs. In 2013, The Federation of Dance Competitions named Jessica’s piece, “Obessions,” the People’s Choice Award Winner and in 2016 she was an Industry Dance Awards nominee for excellence in choreography. Jessica's passion for dance is infectious and her dedication to her students and their successes, both inside and outside the dance studio, is unparalleled. Her love for teaching is evident in all of her classes and her students, both present and former, continuously attest to the positive impact she has on their lives.

Allison Donahoe

Allison is a 2010 graduate of Point Park University where she received a BA in Dance on talent and academic scholarship. During her time at Point Park she performed continuously as a member of the Playhouse Dance Company, including two world premiere productions choreographed by Doug Bentz and Kiesha LaLama in which she performed featured soloist roles. She has furthered her dance performance knowledge through attending intensive training programs in New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia with such notable companies as Koresh and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. A self-professed ``dance nerd,`` Allison is committed to her continued education as a dance instructor. She attends the national Dance Teacher Summit annually and spends much of her free time researching teaching techniques and kinesiology principles that she can bring into the classroom to better her student's learning experience. In 2014, Allison graduated with highest honors from Carnegie Mellon University with a Masters Degree in Arts Management. Allison is passionate about both the artistic and administrative sides of the arts and is thankful be given the opportunity to share her diverse knowledge with her students. Allison has been on faculty at The Thomas Dance Studio since 2006.

Alexandra Stevenson

Miss Alexandra Runyon received a Masters of Education in Health and Physical Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance with a minor in Psychology from The Ohio State University. Ali has had the opportunity to work with choreographers Doug Varone, Bebe Miller, Ohad Naharin, Susan Hadley, and Meghan Durham and has also studied lighting design and stage management under Dave Covey and Carrie Cox. She has attended various dance intensives and workshops such as Brighton Dance Festival and Bates Dance Festival. Alexandra continues to widen her experience by traveling and working with various artists. She is currently working and performing with Continuum Dance Theater under the direction of Sarah Parker and has performed at various Pittsburgh events such as Handmade Arcade and SWAN Day. Alexandra is looking forward to an exciting year with the Thomas Dance Studio!

Amber Martin

Amber joined the Thomas Studio faculty in 2013 after she graduated from Slippery Rock University with a Bachelor’s of Dance and Math. Miss Amber has quickly become a favorite of our tiny dancers as she always creates a warm and inviting atmosphere in her classroom! She continues to perform and take class throughout the Pittsburgh area and has performed with Aerial Dance Company, kNOtDance and Exhalations Dance Theatre. Amber is thrilled to be a member of the Thomas Studio teaching team!

Angela Essler

Angela is a native of Minneapolis, MN and holds a BA in Dance from Point Park University where she was a Presidential Scholar and a member of the Playhouse Dance Company. While at Point Park, she had the pleasure of working with world-renowned choreographers such as Doug Verone, Ron de Jesus, Daniel Ezralow, Kiesha LaLama, and Doug Bentz and was in numerous productions at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and the prestigious Byham Theatre. For two years, Angela was a member of Attack Theatre, touring nationally in the acclaimed show “Games of Steel.” She was also a founding member of Pillow Project Dance Company. Angela has since decided to re-focus her time and energy on teaching and choreographing, and now works as a freelance dancer/choreographer, working with various Pittsburgh based companies. Her choreography has been featured in productions for Endicott College in Boston, MA, Point Park University, Pillow Project, and Evolve Productions/Continuum Dance Theater, as well as being recognized on both the regional and national level for her competition choreography, performed by the students of the Thomas Dance Company. Angela regularly attends the Dance Teacher Summit in NYC, utilizing the opportunity to broaden her knowledge as a dance educator. Her extensive performance and education background has also given her the opportunity to travel and teach master classes around the country. She has been a guest faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University and is involved with community outreach programs educating students on the importance of dance as a tool to build self-confidence and develop discipline to reach their goals. Angela has been on faculty at Thomas Dance Studio since 2004. You can find her teaching a variety of classes at the studio, from hip hop, jazz/lyrical, modern, gymnastics (she was a competitive gymnast once upon a time!) and our boys only classes!

Deanna Sentipal

Deanna graduated from Otterbein University Cum Laude in 2000 with a BA in Dance and a minor in Business. Post-graduation, Deanna was on faculty at Otterbein where she served as their primary tap instructor. Deanna is affectionately known as “Miss De” to her students and is a favorite amongst both our petite and teen dancers! Her boundless energy and enthusiastic teaching style is a reflection of her love of dance and passion for dance education. Deanna was a founding member of our West location and when she isn’t dancing at the Studio, you can find her running after her three busy kids! Deanna has been a part of The Thomas Studio teaching team since 2001.

Emily Koch

Emily received her training from The Thomas Dance Studio as a member of the Dance Company and credits her wonderful teachers for instilling her with a passion and love not only for dancing, but also teaching. Always seeking to continue her training, Emily has also taken classes at Point Park University and participated in the esteemed Jazz Dance World Congress. While a member of The Thomas Dance Company, Emily had the opportunity to perform in Myrtle Beach, Chicago, Virginia Beach, among many others. During that time, Emily was honored with numerous high score awards, both as a soloist and group performer, and her senior year culminated with two national titles. A gifted teacher and choreographer, Emily's choreography has already received high score awards at multiple competitions on the national circuit, and she has most recently been asked to teach various master classes. She is thrilled to be able to pursue her love for teaching while continuing her education at Point Park University. Emily is also an accomplished photographer. Her work has been featured in multiple advertisements and on the cover of Upper St. Clair Magazine.

Kristin Placek

Kristin Placek graduated from Slippery Rock University with a BA in Dance in 2010. She is an Associate Member of the Cecchetti Council of America and completed two years at the Dance Masters of America's Teacher Training School in Buffalo, NY. She has had the pleasure of teaching at the studio level as well as at the collegiate level as a substitute teacher at Slippery Rock University. Kristin was thrilled to join the Thomas Dance Studio Faculty in 2014 and her warm, friendly demeanor has made her a favorite amongst the students and parents. Kristin is excited to help her students reach their fullest potential and is eager to share her passion and knowledge with all who enter her classroom.

Lindsay McNary

After receiving her training at The Thomas Dance Studio, Lindsay graduated from Point Park University with a BA in Dance in 2007. During her time in school she studied with such notables as Doug Bentz, Kiesha Lalama-White, and Judith Leifer-Bentz. Performance credits include Cinderella and the Student Choreography Project with the Playhouse Dance Company at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, numerous faculty showcases, as well performances at the Byham Theatre. Lindsay became a full time faculty member in 2003 and promptly became a highly-valued member of the teaching team. She is a gifted choreographer and has received numerous high score awards as well as outstanding choreography recognition. Miss Lindsay is the Director of our Petites program and has played an integral role in the development of our curriculum for dancers ages 2-6. Lindsay is passionate about the physical, emotional and developmental growth of young children and, with the help of the Thomas Dance Studio Staff and Directors, has created a specialized program that is unique to any other dance school.

Patti Kikta

Patti holds a BFA. in Ballet Performance from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and has been on the Thomas Studio teaching faculty for over 25 years. She received her training at multiple prestigious schools and summer programs across the country including the School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Boston Ballet. Her professional career included performances at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York State Theatre, Tarrytown Music Hall, as well as various major venues throughout North Carolina. Patti is the proud mother of three boys and a daughter, Emily, who received her training as a member of the Thomas Dance Company before attending the School of American Ballet on scholarship. She is now a Corps member with the New York City Ballet and was recently named one of Dance Magazine’s ``25 to Watch`` in recognition of her outstanding talent and potential.

Danielle Ruffolo

Danielle is excited to be joining The Thomas Dance Studio staff this year. She received her undergraduate degrees in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Duquense University while she competed as a Duquesne Duke Cheerleader in the UCA National College Championships. Danielle holds a master degree as a Reading Specialist from California University. She currently teaches at Muse Elementary School of the Canon McMillan School District. Danielle’s dance training began at the age of three. For 20 years, she has taught all ages and levels at various studios. She choreographed musical theater stage productions for The Masque at Central Catholic. She has attended many competitions and convention taking workshops from many well-known choreographers. When she is not in the studio teaching, you can find Danielle watching her two daughters, Gianna and Bella training at the studio as part of the Thomas Dance Company. Above all, Danielle looks forward to sharing her gift and love of dance with all her students.

Seirra Stipetich

Sierra is a dancer at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. She has danced many roles in the Nutcracker under the artistic director, Terrence Orr, Paquita, Raymonda (soloist), Balanchine’s Who Cares, and Snowflakes, just to name a few. She began dancing at the age of 3 at Lori Allen Dance Center then moved into the Competitive dance world until the age of 12. At the age of 9, she was introduced and formed a love for ballet under the teaching of Mansur Kamaletdinov until his passing in 2012. She trains in all forms of dance and has created solos/competitive pieces on many students. Sierra has competed nationally since the age of 8 and internationally since the age of 16 and is thrilled to be a part of the Thomas Dance Studio staff!

Ellen Isaacson

Ellen grew up in Northfield, Illinois just north of Chicago! She earned her Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Education with a Minor in Dance Movement from Murray State University in Kentucky. Ellen has shared her love of Dance with children in Chicago for over 10 years. Some of her proudest moments being the Director of Dance at Starland Creative Arts Center and more recently developing and managing the Preschool Program at Soul2Sole Dance Inc.! Ellen’s ultimate goal at the Thomas Studio is to make sure each child feels encouraged, loved and cared for in their own unique and special way!

Jaclyn Coddington

Jaclyn has been dancing since age 9 and studied all forms of dance at Dance Extensions Performing Arts Center growing up. After graduation, she attended Slippery Rock University’s BA program in Dance to continue her love of the arts. She was actively involved in the Slippery Rock University Dance Department during her four years there including participating and performing in guest artist residencies, choreographing her own pieces, being a founding member of Rock Dance Company and the Columbian Dance Group. Today, Miss Jackie has 9+ years of teaching and choreography experience in classes such as Hip-Hop, Acrobatics, Lyrical/ Contemporary, Jazz, Ballet, Tap, and Creative Movement. Jackie is also a USA Gymnastics Professional with coaching experience in compulsory levels 2-5 as well as dance, beam, and floor for levels 3-10. Jackie believes in always being a student and continues to further her dance and gymnastics education with every available opportunity!

Shannon Muto

Shannon is a 2010 graduate of West Virginia University where she earned a Bachelors of Science in Public Relations with a minor in Theater & Dance. She spent 4 years as a member of the WVU Dance Team and was named team Captain during her last two. Upon graduation, Shannon quickly earned a spot on the Pittsburgh Power Sparks Dance Team for 2 years. In 2014, she decided to travel to Cleveland, Ohio where she would audition for and become a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers dance team. Shannon performed alongside 16 other women at all the home games inside Quicken Loans Arena and in front of 20,000 fans! She had the opportunity to rally with the city when the Cavaliers made their historic playoff run all the way to the NBA finals in 2015. Throughout her dance journey, Shannon has also had the opportunity of teaching at various studios in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, hosting cheerleading camps and choreographing various routines. She is extremely excited to teach at The Thomas Studio and can’t wait to share her passion and excitement with her students!

Emily Webber

Emily grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey and has been dancing since the age of four. She received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from James Madison University (JMU) where she performed many pieces choreographed by students, faculty, and guest artists. While at JMU, Emily also had the opportunity to participate in the Mid-Atlantic American College Dance Festival as well as the London Contemporary Dance and Performance Summer Intensive. After completing her degree, she moved back to New Jersey and got a job doing what she loves best - teaching dance! She worked with Northern Valley Dance Academy for four years teaching classes, running rehearsals, and assisting in the office. In addition to dance, Emily is also passionate about exercise, is a bootybarre Certified Instructor and is working towards getting her Group Fitness Instructor Certification. Emily is so excited to be a part of the Thomas Dance Studio and share her love of dance with all her students!

Kit Knapp

Kit is a 2016 graduate from the University of Richmond where she received a B.A. in Mathematics with minors in Dance and Spanish. During her time at UR, she became captain of the university's dance company and performed works by world-renowned choreographers such as Kanji Segawa, Stefanie Batten Bland, Stephanie Martinez, Norbert De La Cruz III, and Larry Keigwin. In her junior year, Kit's choreography was chosen to perform in the annual showcase as well as Forum Magazine's ``Best of UR`` showcase. Prior to higher education, Kit was a member of Pittsburgh Musical Theater's professional program where her most notable performances include ``Cats`` and ``Fame``. She was also a member of Pittsburgh Poison's worlds-showcasing hip hop program and attended Rockette invitational intensives annually. Kit recently relocated home to Pittsburgh from New York City, where she participated in Steps on Broadway's Inaugural Professional Industry Showcase, performed locally as an actress, and continued her education as a dancer/performer. Kit has taught dance throughout Virginia and Pennsylvania and is thrilled to be a part of the Thomas Studio team!

Kirsten Berger

Kirsten is known for her love of dancing and her joyful approach to teaching. Our tiny dancers quickly fall in love with her bright, welcoming energy! Miss Kirsten has been a part of our studio family since 2010, both as an instructor and as the mom of one of our Dance Company members.