FOUNDER AND SENIOR DANCE INSTRUCTOR OF A STEP ABOVE DANCE COMPANY
Christina Burress began showing passion for dance as early as a toddler. Her parents share countless stories of Christina or “Christy’s” amazing ability to move rhythmically since she could stand. She has always had an intense passion for the fine art of dance and even began planning her own dance studio at the tender age of 8.
Christy Burress began formal dance training at the age of three. She was carefully developed by Cincinnati’s finest, Rita Goldhoff. Christy was extremely fortunate to study under Ms. Rita for several years before she retired. In 2008, Ms. Rita passed away leaving a lasting impression on Christy. After Ms. Goldhoff’s retirement, Christy continued training at other Cincinnati studios in ballet and tap; later adding, jazz, pointe, hip hop, lyrical, and Broadway jazz. When Christy was 16, she began competing in tap, jazz, and Broadway jazz. During three short years of competition, she earned 20 first place awards and numerous overall awards.
After only one year at a new studio, Christy proved to possess such a gift for the art of dance that she was offered an internship at the early age of seventeen. With only six months of delicate, yet intricate, mentorship the owner found her exceptionally talented and mature enough to conduct unsupervised classes. The opportunity created many open doors for her career. Christy was also selected over many prospects, to oversee, instruct, and facilitate the prestigious dance program of St John the Baptist Catholic Elementary School in Cincinnati, Ohio. Due to her incredible talent and expertise, the program’s student participation increased by fifty percent!
During the first year of teaching Christy soon developed several award winning competition teams, as well as, choreographing numerous award winning routines. That same year, she formed a tap trio that not only earned first place in their division, but also the Top Overall award for the 12 and under category. It was evident that she was born to not only dance, but to empower other dancers.
After only a few short years as a dance teacher, one of Christy’s dancers auditioned, and was accepted, into the Cincinnati Ballet. Christy had the privilege of seeing her perform in the Cincinnati Ballet’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.
As Christy’s career flourished in Ohio, she found and married Technical Sergeant Joseph Burress. After having the first of their two daughters, she placed her career on hold in order to support her military husband in his Air Force Career. Shortly after moving to Utah, Christy was able to resume her teaching career until her second pregnancy was jeopardized and she made the decision to once again place her career on hold. As the dream of establishing a dance studio consumed her, she pursued and conquered a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. She graduated from Troy University with honors. All the while she felt something was missing from her life but couldn’t figure out what it was. “Once dance gets into your soul it becomes who you are and if you can’t release that creativity it’s like taking a fish out of water, you just flap around trying to find your way home.” It wasn’t until Christy opened A Step Above Dance Company in September of 2011 that she finally realized what had been missing from her life for all those years. “You can take the dancer out of dance, but you can’t take the dance out of the dancer.”
Christy and Joseph have been happily married for nineteen years. They now reside in Hawkinsville, Georgia where Christy finally realized her dream, A Step Above Dance Company.
CHEER DANCE INSTRUCTOR
Tabatha was born to perform! Let’s take it back to the beginning when Tabatha made her grand debut in Clark AB, Philippines, when it was still an operating US base. She is a self-taught tumbler, unable to attend a regular class due to the life of a military brat. Tabatha was a cheerleader in high school, earning the coveted spot of captain her junior and senior years. Tabatha helped her squad earn 3 National Bids. She was also captain of her softball team. Tabatha hated running, but somehow ended up on the cross country and track team, qualifying for state each year she competed. Tabatha enlisted in the military at 17, and was a medic for nearly a decade in the world’s greatest Air Force. She loved cheer so much; she continued to coach it at a recreational level to children whose families were stationed overseas in Japan. Her daughter, Alexa, is an ASADC competition team member, and has been dancing at A Step Above Dance Company for two years so Tabatha has been a part of the studio in a parent capacity. Tabatha has another child, a son, Christian, who loves to cheer his sister on. Tabatha’s husband, Matt, is a great dance dad and supports the studio every way he can. Tabatha is currently a medical technician at an elementary school in the Houston County school system. She is passionate about positively influencing young minds and strives to be a good role model at all times.
Nicki started dancing at the age of three in Jacksonville, Florida where she was born and raised. She began taking classes in tap and ballet, and by the time she graduated high school she had studied even more styles including pointe, jazz, lyrical, modern, acrobatics, and musical theater. In addition to taking classes, Nicki was also on her studio’s performing and competition team. During that time she competed and performed all over the states of Florida and Georgia and collected numerous high titles and awards. She has also performed with the First Coast Nutcracker and had many dance leads in musicals throughout high school.
Nicki started apprentice teaching at her studio at the age of thirteen. By fifteen she was teaching her own classes and coaching competition teams for young dancers. She has taught ballet, jazz, acrobatics and lyrical classes but her favorite is tap! Nicki has even had the privilege of taking a workshop with the late Al Gilbert, who has been her tap inspiration.
Due to the military Nicki had to leave her hometown of Jacksonville, but she has been involved with dance companies everywhere she has lived. She taught jazz classes at Methods of Movement in Idaho, directed the dance program at the Dover Air Force Base Youth Center in Delaware, and now, thanks to Christy and A Step Above Dance Company, she can continue sharing her love, knowledge and passion for dance with children in the middle Georgia area. In addition to teaching at the studio, Nicki is currently working on obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and aspires to work with children with special needs.
Sharia Stripling is a native of Fort Valley, Georgia. She has been deaf since the age of four. She fell in love with dance when she was quite young and became a trained dancer in high school. She studied under Karan Kendrick at Bliss and Feet Center for the Arts as well as being involved in cheerleading and field and track.
After graduating from high school, Sharia attended two years of college before transferring to Valdosta State University where she was majoring in Deaf Education but later switched to a Dance major. While studying at VSU, she performed in numerous dance and musical concerts and was a member of Delta Phi Delta dance fraternity. She is the former Miss Black and Gold 2013, Miss Deaf Georgia 2013, and loves serving her community.
Upon her graduation with a BFA degree, she went on to audition for Sideways Contemporary Dance Company and became an understudy dancer. She is currently an assistant coach for the Royal Diamond Dance Team. Sharia holds the honor of being the reigning Miss Deaf USA 2017-2018 and enjoys traveling throughout different communities to present her platform. In January 2019, she will walk across the stage to receive her Master’s in Business Administration. She is also planning to become certified in physical therapy, specializing in dance and body joints.
Heather Whitestone, a deaf ballerina has inspired Sharia to continue to believe she will become a principal dancer and dance teacher. Sharia has never allowed being Deaf to define who she is; she is always showing what she capable of through dance and is excited to work for A Step Above Dance Company where she can continue being a role model for the next generation.
HIP HOP INSTRUCTOR
Alyssa was born in Oxnard, California and lived there until the age of 7 years old when she then moved to New York to live with her dad full time. New York living was short lived, the following year her father moved his company to Raleigh, North Carolina where Alyssa grew up!
Alyssa was born with cheer and dance in her soul. Since the very young age of 3 years old, you could catch Alyssa singing and dancing to Selena and Britney Spears, her favorite singer dancers! Might even catch her on her mother’s coffee table putting on a show and most likely trying to flip off the couch. Alyssa’s parents always referred to her as their fireball of energy.
She started taking dance lessons at the age of 4yrs old and continued on through her junior year of high school. Alyssa trained in tap, ballet, lyrical, jazz and hip hop. She was also part the competition team at Studio Five Dance Company in her home town of Fuquay- Varina, NC.
In addition to dance, Alyssa absolutely fell in love with competitive cheerleading and gymnastics and had the natural talent, drive and dedication to both individual sports. Alyssa consistently challenged herself to become a better athlete by putting in extra hours in the gym to refine skills, outside of the 3 hours a night she spent training on her competitive cheerleading and gymnastics teams.
After Alyssa gradated high school, she decided to join the United States Air Force at the young age of 17 yrs old. Alyssa was trained to become an Aviation resource manager, where she was responsible for scheduling and maintaining aircraft operations, and the safety of her aircrew members. During her time in the Air Force, Alyssa used her cheer and dance skills and put them to use by volunteering at local gyms, and high schools to help with cheer and dance programs.
While stationed in Omaha, NE Alyssa pursued her Bachelors degree in Health Sciences at Bellevue University in hopes to get into a Nursing program or Physician assistant graduate program. During her undergraduate studies, she obtained an Associates Degree from Iowa Western Community College, where upon graduation, she was afforded the opportunity to be an assistant cheer and dance coach under the supervision of Erin Markham. Erin Markham has molded Alyssa into the dance instructor she is now, teaching her the In’s and Out’s of everything it takes to run a successful dance program. Erin Markham is 3-time National Collegiate Dance champion and has choreographed award wining routines and has been known to take programs to the next level. Alyssa still co-choreographs most all of her routines via facetime with Erin Markham to this day! Distance can not keep best friends apart!
Alyssa, her husband, son and two dogs recently moved to Warner Robins, GA due to her husband’s active military service. She is so excited to bring positive fun energy to ASADC and can’t wait to see what the future holds for both her and the dancers she will be teaching!
Caitlin Faust is a graduate of Northside High School who is currently attending Middle Georgia State University and working towards her B.S. in secondary education in mathematics. While at Northside, she was part of the theater group and troupe 2892, performing in several one acts and spring musicals.
She received 16 years of dance training from Academy of Dance. During that time, she became a teacher’s assistant, part of the performance group called the Expression Company, and the Career Bound dancers training program.
Caitlin has also performed with the Savannah Ballet Company as a Rat and Arabian in their production of the “Nutcracker”. Her love for teaching dance stems from watching young dancers achieve their goals and blossom into beautiful dancers.
John Rodriguez was born in Cordele, Georgia and is of Mexican, Honduran and Spanish decent. He is bilingual, speaking both English and Spanish and is the oldest of five children. As a child, he competed in Taekwondo and even placed first in an Atlanta competition in 2010. His hobbies include building computers, working on vehicles, and snowboarding. John focused his high school years on learning about computers and Air Force JROTC. While in AFJROTC, he received two national awards and a medal for leadership. John graduated from Perry High School in 2017 and has been attending Central Georgia Technical College for Aviation Maintenance. In October of 2017, John enlisted into the Air Force at the age of 18. He plans to work in the aviation maintenance field and eventually become a pilot. In the meantime, he is enjoying his position as the Office Manager for A Step Above Dance Company!
SUBSTITUTE CHEER INSTRUCTOR
Melissa was born and raised in Perry, GA. Cheerleading has always been in her blood. She started cheering for football teams at the Perry Recreation Department at the age of 5. From there, she went on to cheer her 7th and 8th grade years at Perry Middle School. She took a year off from cheer during her Freshman year at Perry High School, but just couldn’t stay away. Melissa cheered her Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years on the Competition Cheerleading Squad at PHS. They made appearances at Regions, Sectionals, and State.
Melissa went to college, locally, at Middle Georgia State College (which was Macon State when she first started). She pursued a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and also received a teaching certificate in Secondary Education. While in college, Melissa joined the newly founded Cheer Club at Macon State. In the first year two years, there was a Competition (Gold) Squad. She was elected to be the co-captain her second year on the Squad. The following year, there was only a Game Squad for the first year of Macon State’s football program. Melissa was chosen to be the captain of that year’s team. Also, while in college, she worked as a beginner/intermediate tumbling coach at Tumblecheer Heroes here in Perry.
Melissa now teaches Accelerated Mathematics for both 7th and 8th grade at Huntington Middle School. This is her second year teaching Gifted students, and she loves every minute of it. This is also her first year coaching the 7th grade cheerleading team at HMS.
Melissa looks forward to working with the kids at A Step Above Dance Company! She already sees so much potential in the girls and can’t wait to see all that they achieve.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio; Alessandra (Ali) began showing interest in dance as early as in her mother’s womb when she would kick obsessively during her mother’s classes (especially tap). She started taking dance classes at the age of 3 in Ogden, Utah. As a toddler, she showed interest in dance by watching videos of her mother’s students performing, and she would learn the dances as well. Ali would perform them in the living room for her mom and dad.
Growing up in a military family meant she had to move a lot. Ali has lived in Ohio, California, Indiana, Utah, Florida, Alaska, and currently in Georgia. She has danced at many different studios throughout those states. Today, Ali dances in Tap,Ballet, Acrobatic, and Lyrical classes and has experience in hip hop, gymnastics, and tumbling. She also dances with A Step Above’s award winning competition team.
Ali graduated from Perry High School with honors and she plans to become a nurse. As for now, she will continue working as an instructor at ASADC, which she enjoys very much, because only while working at a dance studio can you go barefoot and take a lot of classes! She also enjoys the fact that she gets to work with her mom, which can be difficult at times but rewarding as well.
Ali enjoys being the daughter of dance teacher very much. It has given her many opportunities and opened many windows in her life that she never would’ve thought possible. She has had the chance to meet many people, including ASADC’s amazing staff! She loves traveling wherever the studio takes her. She is excited for what the future holds for her, but for now she is happy in Georgia with A Step Above Dance Company!