Rachel Huffman is the Owner and Director of Martell School of Dance located in Akron, OH. She is from the small Ohio town of Woodsfield and has been a member of the Martell dance family since 2004; originally hired and mentored by the studio’s founder, Miss Teri Martell.
In her early years, Rachel studied with Candace Bruce at The Dance Workshop of Barnesville, OH. Rachel later earned her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from The University of Akron where she was a University Honors Scholar. Throughout college, she had the opportunity to study with and perform under the wings of various dance experts and professionals. She is well versed in a variety of modern and ballet dance techniques. She also possesses a love for Jazz, Musical Theatre, choreography, and dance history. Rachel has choreographed countless pieces for Martell as well as for Firestone High School Theatre, Jillian Rian’s Dance School, Montessori High School at University Circle, and The Western Reserve Playhouse in Cleveland.
Rachel holds a special passion for education. In addition to her dance studio work, she also designed the International Baccalaureate Dance Program curriculum for Montessori High School at University Circle. Rachel currently serves on the KSU Academy of Performing Arts Advisory Board and recently joined the ArtSparks Board of Directors.
Since she was young, Rachel has affiliated dance to hope, happiness, and healing. This approach will forever be passed on to all the students with whom she has the opportunity to connect. Rachel’s ultimate goal is to reassure students that there are multiple avenues in the dance world and that everyone can succeed and create a personal journey with dance that will resonate with them for life.
Tammy (Stafford) Treen started dancing with Martell at age 5 and will be starting her 32nd year as a part of the Martell family.
She began with ballet, which turned quickly into pointe, jazz, and tap. In the 1993-1994 school year, she was the Martell School of Dance scholarship student. In addition to dancing on Jr. and Sr. Lines over the years, she also attended numerous conventions. These conventions lead to a national tour with Dance Caravan in the summer of 1994, as well as a Joffrey Ballet scholarship from the New York City Dance Alliance convention in 1996. After graduating from Copley High School in 1998, she attended Malone College earning a B.A. in Psychology. While in college she danced with Living Fountain Dance Company from 2000-2002. In the summer of 2003, she has also studied Hawkins Technique under Bill Wade of Inlet Dance Theatre of Cleveland. In 2009 Tammy graduated from The Ohio College of Massotherapy, and is currently working at the Shaw Jewish Community Center in Akron as an LMT. Tammy teaches master classes in the Akron/Cleveland area at numerous studios and special events such as the All Ohio Dance Festival. Tammy continues to take class and is currently studying with the renowned jazz teacher Dee Hillier of Cleveland. With all these experiences, she feels most privileged to have studied under Teri Martell where all of her foundation began. She says that teaching at Martell is a wonderful reality that started as a childhood dream. Dancing is an amazing gift that has tremendously enhanced her life and she loves sharing it with her students.
Emily Bowen has been a member of the Martell family since she was four years old. She danced her way through high school and that love followed her to college where she was a part of the dance ensemble for four years. She attended the University of Dayton where she studied Early Childhood Education. She taught in the early childhood classroom for seven years, but is now grateful to stay at home with her children, Nora and William. Emily is happy and excited to share her passion and love for dance with the youngest of ballerinas!
April Templeton Brenneman
April Templeton Brenneman first started her dance training at the age of 8 under the late Richard Moore. Over the years, she continues to study her craft by traveling to numerous conventions, studios, and never turning down an opportunity to take class or perform. Recently, April has been seen assisting the incredible Duo Dejan Tubic and Zach Venegas here in Ohio and at DanceMakers Inc. Nationals Convention, back up dancing for recording artist Eden Xo at the DanceMakers Inc. Nationals Convention “Wrap it up Ceremony” in Myrtle Beach, as well as in an EP release concert for singer Anthony Paul from season 5 of “The Voice.”
Though April has enjoyed being a full time dance instructor over the years, teaching several disciplines of dance including contemporary, hip hop, jazz funk, and musical theatre, she has to admit that the journey to being back in the spotlight has felt like a dream! She loves the great opportunities that come from performing; however, she continually remains focused on her influence in the classroom. A goal of hers is to continue her training in dance as she feels “No one dancer is perfect; learning and training are never ending. To me, it is necessary to keep our eyes and hearts open for growth.” April hopes to continue inspiring students, and that she may be a teacher who makes a difference in the lives of others while she is working, training, and collaborating new innovative concepts to bring to her classes.
MyAhna Davis is 24 years old and a recent graduate from the University of Akron. She danced at Martell for 10 years as a student and has been teaching at the studio since 2012. MyAhna attended Miller South and Firestone’s Akron School of the Arts, both for their dance programs. She was Martell’s scholarship student during the 2011-2012 dance year and participated in several dance conventions and community performances with the studio as well. Currently MyAhna fills her time with teaching dance, being the Director of Children’s Ministry at Garden City Church, and working at the Hopebridge Autism Therapy Center in Akron. She has a huge passion for dance and sharing the art form with students of all ages and all abilities. Dance has a been a transformational part of MyAhna’s life since the age of 2 and she is excited to see and be a part of the way it impacts the lives of our students each and every year.
Torie Gray grew up specializing in traditional and contemporary tap and clogging styles in Southeast Ohio. Throughout this time she performed at Miss Ohio pageants, multiple presidential rallies, and national/international competitions. She received a Psychology degree from the University of Akron and spent several years traveling the globe doing research on the causes and treatments for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and becoming fluent in multiple languages. She currently performs in-home behavior therapy for children with ASD. Toriealso received a minor in dance from Akron studying under Mary Ann Black and Frank Kosik. Because of her strong background in clogging and her work at Akron, Torie enjoys infusing dance styles to create unique pieces which break the boundaries of traditional tap dance while still honoring the rich history of the dance form. Why be normal when you can be weird? It’s way more fun! Torie places a strong emphasis on rhythm and timing in her teaching and hopes that her students will emerge with a strong tap vocabulary and technical base. She is extremely passionate about making music with her feet, having fun, and hopes to instill this love and joy in her students as well.
If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn. – Ignacio Estrada
Kathleen Horrell graduated from The University of Akron with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance, and served three years as an officer of the dance club, Terpsichore. Through the University, she had the opportunity to perform in many faculty concerts as well as projects/performances such as Stream, Streb, Dancing for the Kids, ACDFA, Neos’ Snow White and Penny Saunders’ Flight. She was involved in student shows as a performer, choreographer and producer. After graduation, she has pursued her love of dance through teaching for various studios and organizations, and cannot wait to join the Martell family!
Darcie Lemons is originally from Marysville, Ohio where she first began her dance training at the age of nine in Tap, Jazz, Ballet, Lyrical and Pointe. She then attended the University of Akron, where she studied Modern, Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Tap, dance history, dance education, choreography and served as an officer of the dance club, Terpsichore. In August 2015, she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Dance Education. While at UA, she had the opportunity to perform with the University of Akron Dance Company in many faculty shows, working with notable dance companies such as BalletX and STREB, in addition to performances such as Stream, and Dancing for the Kids. She was involved in many student productions as a choreographer, performer and producer and also attended the American College Dance Festival. Since graduating, she has been a member of the Dayton Contemporary Second Dance Company and RED Dance Company. She is currently a member of Inlet Dance Theater’s Trainee and Apprentice Program. This is Darcie’s second year teaching at Martell, and she is excited to continue sharing her knowledge and love of dance!
Patricia Luthy-Herrnstein was classically trained at School of American Ballet, Boston Ballet, and Dayton Ballet and danced professionally with Chautauqua Festival Ballet and Dayton Ballet. Patti acted as Assistant Artistic Director of the Columbus Youth Ballet Company from 1990-1994, before moving to Akron. Miss Patti taught at the University of Akron’s Dance Institute from 1995-2012. She loves sharing and passing on her love of ballet. This will be her 6th year of teaching at Martell School of Dance. At home Miss Patti is a wife, mother of two, and stepmother of four. The family continues to grow now that two have married and another will marry this June.
Erica Piper recently graduated summa cum laude from the University of Akron with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance and a Bachelors of Arts in Dance Education. During her time at the university she had the opportunities to perform in works by professionals from The Joffrey Ballet, Ballet Memphis, Hubbard Street Dance, Neos Dance Theatre, and Alexandre Munz’s S.A.F.E. Project as well as taking classes from the many companies in residence each year. As an officer of the student dance club, Terpsichore, Erica produced, choreographed, and performed in many student productions. She also traveled to the American College Dance Festival and participated in community events with the Akron Children’s Hospital. Erica’s passion for quality dance education has led to some amazing experiences. She is a member of the National Dance Education Organization and attended intensive teacher training with the acclaimed National Dance Institute in New York City. Erica is excited to share her love of dance with the Martell family!
Jennifer McDonald In 2002, Jennifer graduated from St. Vincent St. Mary High School in Akron and began pursuing her lifelong dream of performing. In November of 2003, Jennifer was hired by Holland America Cruise Line to perform in the nighttime production shows as part of a 10-14 person cast. For 3 years she traveled all over the world, to places such as Alaska, Hawaii, Panama Canal and Europe. After deciding to come home in October of 2005, Jennifer returned to Martell and began teaching again. Her dream came true when she took over ownership of her beloved studio on June 1st, 2007. The following September, Jennifer married her husband Tommy, and together they have three sons, Benjamin, James, and Ryan. Most recently, Jennifer and Tommy became licensed foster parents. In 2017, Jennifer passed the torch to Miss Rachel and continues to teach various age groups, levels and styles alongside the incredible staff at Martell. Jennifer is a huge part of why Martell is such an amazing facility for kids and adults to come and learn how to DANCE!
Sharlee Keith Sharlee Keith grew up in Strongsville, OH and began dancing at the age of three at Studio 82. She then attended the University of Akron and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Dance.
While studying there, Sharlee had the opportunity to work with well know companies and choreographers such as Doug Varone and Dancers, Alexandra Beller, Taylor II, and Keigwin & Co. After graduating, she danced as a principal dancer with RED, Real Edge Dance, modern company for five year in Akron, OH. She is now focusing on teaching dance in the Northeast Ohio area and she has also established a preschool Creative Movement class for the City of Akron Recreation Bureau. Sharlee is excited for another great year at Martell!
Maddie Thomas is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio where she studied Psychology, Economics and Business Management. Maddie danced at Martell for 10 years where she discovered her love for dance. In college Maddie continued to take ballet classes, and was the captain of the Spartan Dance Team. Maddie currently works full time at Catholic Charities as the Camp Registrar of Camp Christopher.
Brooke Winter joined the Martell family in the Summer of 2015 and has loved it ever since! She lives in Akron with her husband and two sons.
Brooke started dancing at age 5, with her favorite genres being ballet and lyrical. In addition to teaching at Martell, Brooke coached competitive gymnastics for 10 years. Brooke is a certified Acrobatic Arts instructor. She especially loves teaching Acro because it is a fun blend of two of her favorite things-dance and gymnastics!
One of Brooke’s favorite parts about Martell is that it truly feels like one big happy family.
Fun fact about Brooke: Ever since she was a kid, she’s been a HUGE Olympics fan! She loves reading about it, talking about it, watching (and rewatching) and is always counting down the days till the next one!
Brittney Hurley Brittney graduated from St. Vincent St. Mary High School in 2002 and Kent State University in 2006 with a degree in finance. Brittney currently lives in Green with her husband Ryan and their 3 children Rylan, Quinn and Phiona. Brittney enjoys working in the accounting department. She is very excited to be a part of the Martell family and loves working with all of the students and staff!
Kris Duey Mrs. Duey is thrilled to start her 17th year working at Martell School of Dance as the Office Manager. She started coming when she brought her daughter Alice to take dance lessons. As the years went on she was continually impressed with not only the quality of dancing, but with the warm Martell family that she became a part of. Even after Alice graduated from high school, Mrs. Duey continued on the staff. She says, “I just love the kids and love the dancing!”
Mrs. Duey herself danced as a child, and has taken our Adult Ballet and Tap. She starred in Martell’s first Adult Tap number “Steam Heat,” as well as dancing in “Singin in the Rain.”
Outside of Martell, Mrs. Duey works for the University of Akron at Quaker Square. She enjoys many hobbies such as: running, tap dancing, reading, yoga, playing piano, gardening, and of course spending time with her family and best friend Susan.
Mrs. Duey is very proud of her 3 children Sarah, Ian, and Alice. Sarah lives in San Diego and is in Commercial Real Estate. Ian, her running partner, lives in Akron and works at the Mustard Seed. And Alice is currently living in Cleveland and teaching at Martell!
Mrs. Duey looks forward to many more years watching everyone grow in the Martell community.
Michelle Vaigl is married with adult twins, Brett and Brooke that she is very proud of! Her and her husband became Grandparents in May to the most adorable baby boy, who brings their family an abundance of joy!!!
Martell has been a part of Michelle’s family for most of her life. She took Jazz, Tap and Ballet as a teen and Jazz & Tap as an adult. Her daughter, Brooke, was the 2010-2011 Scholarship Student. And her 5 year old niece, Brynn, has started Pre Ballet and Pre Tap this year!!
Michelle is absolutely thrilled to be starting her 5th year working for the best dance studio in the world! She is proud of Rachel for maintaining Martell’s high standards and stellar reputation that Miss Teri instilled so many years ago! She knows Rachel and the staff at Martell truly love every single one of their students and provide a nurturing, loving, yet disciplined environment that is not only valuable to the students dance lives but their personal lives as well. She feels that they were the most influential and positive role models to her daughter!
Sophia Fugate is a freshman at the University of Akron currently majoring in Art Exploratory. She plans on graduating with a degree in the visual arts or anthropology with a minor in art. She is an alumni of Miller South and Firestone High School, having participated in the Akron School of The Arts program as an art student. Before that she started her dance career at age 4 and has been dancing on and off for 14 years. She has been dancing at Martell since middle school with a concentration in ballet, pointe, and hip hop. Her two passions are dance and art and she plans to combine them with murals to be displayed at Martell.This is her first year working at Martell and she hopes that this year goes well!
Alice Duey is an Akron native who recently returned to her hometown to pursue her degree in Child and Family Development at The University of Akron. Throughout her career in entertainment, she sailed the world with Holland America Cruise Line as a supporting lead singer, while training with acclaimed choreographers and musicians. Another career highlight was working at Walt Disney World for seven years as a member of Actors’ Equity Association. Her primary roles included Dance Captain for the Castle’s Holiday Show, “Celebrate the Season”, and Lead Actor of “Disney Jr. Live on Stage.” She has performed in numerous dinner theater shows, television productions, and with Universal Orlando.
Alice’s shift toward education in the arts was ignited by her intrinsic love for teaching dance and music to children. Nurturing her students’ imaginations and social emotional development in theatrical and thoughtfully expressive ways is one of her most valued goals as a teacher. Her own educational path is focused on researching the impact of the arts on children’s development.
Kasey Williams is 19 years old and is studying Early Childhood Inclusive Education at the University of Akron. She graduated from Archbishop Hoban High School in 2017, and danced at Martell for eight years. Through her time as a Martell student, she attended two Dancemakers conventions, the All Ohio Dance Festival, an Akron Children’s Hospital performance, and many other wonderful opportunities. She assisted the Martell Tu classes over the last 4 years, and this will be her first year teaching her own classes. Kasey will be teaching four kindergarten classes and a 1st-2nd grade class on Saturday mornings. She has always had a passion for teaching young children and watching them grow throughout their early childhood years. She cannot wait to combine her love for teaching and her passion for dance in all of her classes this upcoming school year.
Lexi Hartung was born and raised in the small town of Huron, Ohio and has been dancing since the age of 5. She is currently a dance major at the University of Akron where she recently received a 2019 Dance Award. Lexi has trained all across Ohio and even in California in many different styles of dance. Growing up, she competed in many regional and national competitions, performed for various events at Cedar Point, and danced in the Nutcracker, in addition to many other performances. More recently, she has been involved in performances with The University of Akron Dance Company, Choreographers’ Workshop, Spring Into Dance, and was in a piece for the Adjudication Concert at the American College Dance Association. Lexi is passionate about sharing her love of dance with others and cannot wait to work with the students at Martell!
Hailey Lewis Is completing her final year as a student at the University of Akron where she studies dance and business. She is also a member of the University of Akron Dance Team. This will be Hailey’s first season as an instructor at Martell. She has trained in various styles such as contemporary, lyrical, jazz, hip hop, modern, pom, clog, tap, musical theatre, fusion, ballet, technique and jazz funk. Hailey has trained in acro and tumbling her whole life and has now coached these skills for over five years. Hailey also trains at Millennium Dance Complex and has assisted in the Pittsburgh location. After graduating in the Spring, Hailey plans to pursue her dance performance career.
Chloe J. Redman
Chloe J. Redman is a currently in pursuit of a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Akron’s accredited dance program. From age ten all the way through high-school Chloe trained at the University of Akron’s Dance Institute under the executive direction of former Cincinnati ballet dancer Christina Foise. Through this pre-professional ballet based program Chloe has had opportunities to learn from and work alongside local as well as international artist such as Ohio ballet dancers Damien Highfield and Shauna Conzaman, free lance artist Brian Murphy, Neos Dance Theater, Groundworks Dance Theater, Kegwin and Company, Joseph Morrissey, Le Ballet Jazz de Montreal and many more. Chloe has had extensive performance experience and looks forward to continuing pursuing performance for many years to come. Besides performance Chloe loves to share her love of dance through teaching. She’s well versed in ballet and pointe as well as modern dance technique.
Heather Knighton began her dance training at the age of 3 at Abby Dance Center, where she competed for 8 years in countless Regional Competitions, 7 National Competitions and 1 International competition in Lake Tahoe Nevada, where she placed 3rd Overall for her solo. She has taken home many platinum, first place and overall highest scoring trophies and awards, as well as Scholarships to numerous dance conventions. Mrs. Knighton was invited to dance at the NFL Pro Bowl in Hawaii in 1997 when she was 10 years old. She won the right to represent Columbus, Ohio as a member of the “I love Dance Junior Sweetheart Touring Ensemble.” She received a scholarship to attend the Joffrey School of Ballet summer intensive when she was 10 years old, and a scholarship to attend the Kirov Ballet Academy summer intensive at the age of 15.
Heather is a Graduate of The Dance Institute of The University Of Akron, where she was placed in the advanced level and received her first college credit at the age of 12. While dancing there, she trained under many Artistic Directors and professional dancers, from the Pennsylvania Ballet Company, Cleveland San Jose Ballet Company, Jennifer Muller The Works Dance Company, Kirov Academy of Ballet, Groundworks Dance Company, The Ohio Ballet, Verb Ballets and Dancing Wheels Company. She continued performing with The University Of Akron Dance Company (UADC) throughout college. With the company, she performed leading and soloist roles choreographed by the faculty as well as guest choreographers. She has performed with the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Moscow Ballet of Russia in their productions of “The Nutcracker.” Mrs. Knighton danced over the summer from 1999-2005 in New York City at Steps On Broadway, as well as 1 summer with Jennifer Muller The Works Dance Company.
Heather has been teaching for the past 14 years and loves to be able to share her knowledge and passion for dance with her students. She has taught classes in Ballet for The Dance Institute at The University Of Akron, as well as Ballet, Pointe, Modern, Contemporary, Strength and Flexibility, Lyrical and Jazz, at dance studios throughout Northeast Ohio. She has choreographed for Regional and National Dance Competitions and for Theatre 8:15’s Halloween Show, Broadway Show and Christmas Show productions. In 2011, her choreography won the “Living Art Award.”
Kim Wheeler started her dance training at Martell School of Dance. She studied ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, and modern. This is where she grew to love dancing and continued her education at The University of Akron. While at the university, she began teaching at Martell and has loved it ever since. Currently she has a Bachelor’s of Science from The University of Akron and works for Akron Children’s Hospital managing their fundraising events. She is so excited for this year of teaching and can’t wait to see her students smiling faces!
Molly Thomas grew up loving dance at Martell. Molly joined our dance family at a young age and was a student at Martell for 14 years. Throughout those years she studied a little bit of everything the studio had to offer, was the 2015/2016 scholarship student and has been to many conventions with Martell, such as NUVO, Turn it Around, and DanceMakers. Molly is now a student at Kent State University, majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in Sustainability. During the past few summers she has been a camp counselor at Camp Christopher. This past, rather peculiar summer, she ran the challenge course on site. During the fall and spring she also teaches environmental education to 5th and 6th graders whose schools come and visit Camp Christopher. Molly is extremely excited to be back at Martell and teaching.
This is Lenny’s fifteenth year dancing at Martell. She is a senior at Firestone High School and is a member of National Honor Society and a member of National Honor Society for Dance Arts. Lenny was the 2016-2017 Martell Scholarship Student. She has also trained with Radio City Rockettes and Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil. Lenny is excited for a year full of teaching and dancing!
VitaDee Hershberger started her dance training at Martell when she was three years old, and has taken ballet, jazz, tap, modern, lyrical, and pointe. She attends Our Lady of the Elms High School and is involved in student body leadership and is active in many clubs, such as Social Action and Faith and Spirituality. She is looking forward to a great year of dancing and teaching!
Olivia Oblak is 18 years old and a senior at Tallmadge High School. This is her second year teaching ballet and her 16th year as a dancer. She is the Secretary of her chapter of the National Honors Society, a distinguished scholar with a letter in academics, and a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In the fall of 2021, she plans to attend college for a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing.