Nancy McReynolds, Artistic Director
Though I’m a Decatur native and graduate of Millikin University, I received my Master in Theater Arts at Denver University in Colorado. I have attended many master classes and training schools with the most notable being the training certification with the Royal Academy of Dance for all grade levels in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Champaign, Illinois, and training at the Gus Giordano Dance Studio in Evanston, Illinois.
During high school and college, I performed in plays and several Theatre 7 productions. I have participated in many dance concerts in Bloomington, Illinois, performing with the Twin City Ballet Company, USA Ballet, Agape (Christian Dance Company), and Synergy.
As a choreographer with Theatre 7, I have worked on productions including Quilters, Brigadoon, Annie, Leader of the Pack, Into the Woods, Fiddler on the Roof, and She Loves Me. Additionally, I have choreographed Metropolis, which won the Decatur Herald’s Choreographer Award, Fantastiks, and many dance concerts throughout the years. My co-director and choreographer credits include several ballets, The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, and Coppelia.
My directorial experience began at Millikin University with Green Pastures and later as an assistant director for additional productions at Millikin. These opportunities allowed me to direct and work with professional actors on stage. I have had the opportunity to assist Alexander Bennett for several years with dance productions in Bloomington. One highlight of my career includes my work as Ballet Mistress of the Scottish American Ballet in Edinburgh, Scotland where I worked in rehearsals, classes, and performances with Andrei Ustinov, formerly of the Kirov Ballet, and Jaroslov Slavicky, Ballet Master of the Prague Opera in Czechoslovakia.
My name is Jan Taylor and I teach Modern Dance, Ballet, Hip-Hop, and Tumbling here at Richland. Since 2009, I have danced at Ees’ aBella Belly Dance’s studio, Healing Arts Boutique and Studios, and have been a pioneer in teaching children to belly dance. I love to dance. I live for dance. Dancing makes everything better.
I’m originally from Decatur and attended St. Teresa High School where I was a cheerleader and involved in Drama Club. In high school, I studied dance under Gary Schull at Millikin University. I attended Rockford College and while living in Rockford, performed on the semi-professional dance team, the Rockford Lightning Silverstreaks. During my junior year of college, I had the opportunity to study dance and music theory abroad in London, England.
After I earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis on Dance, I packed up and moved to California with dreams of being a star. There I studied at Debbie Allen’s Dance Studio and Debbie Reynold’s Dance Studio. Though I didn’t become a star, I enjoyed my fun in the sun. I returned to the Midwest and moved to Chicago where I worked as a choreographer and model for the Chicago Hair Association Annual Hair Show, on the television show ATV (after Hours Television), and worked with children at Lifetime Fitness in their after school program. While in Chicago, I took classes at Lou Conte Dance Studio.
I continue to be a dedicated student and performer and have traveled to large events like Tribal Revolution and ISAMETD, where I performed with BlackSheep BellyDance. I’ve had the honor of learning and working with so many dancers including Kajira Djoumahna, Tempest, Therese Wyatt, Arikah Peacock, and teachers from Blue Lotus Tribe.
I have learned through the years that you have to be the star of your own show. I want to teach everyone I meet to be the star of their own show, the star of their own life. I look forward to meeting and dancing with you!
My name is Melissa Gillis and I have been a part of Richland’s dance program for the past 16 years. I am a graduate of St. Teresa High School and Millikin University where I earned a bachelor’s in Human Services with a minor in Spanish. Throughout high school and college I was active youth group and other church activities and volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters and at St. Mary’s Hospital.
For twelve years, I was a member of the Richland Dance Company. The majority of my ballet classes were under the instruction of Nancy McReynolds. I have danced in many productions including Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Lion King, Wizard of Oz, Les Miserables, Swan Lake, Jewels, and 15 performances of The Nutcracker.
I am extremely excited and grateful for the opportunity to share my love of dance with my students. I look forward to learning and dancing with my students and other teachers.
My name is Laura Hauge and I’m a 2015 graduate of Mt. Zion High School. While in high school, I was a member of the Mt. Zion Dance Team for all four years, National Honor Society, Spanish Club, and SADD. Every summer during high school, I competed in Universal Dance Association camps and was selected as an All American when I was a junior. I received the Mt. Zion Federation of Teachers Future Teacher Scholarship, at the recommendation of my dance instructor, Nancy McReynolds.
I began dancing when I was five-years-old at Raeann’s School of Dance in Keokuk, Iowa. In 2005, I danced for a competition team that traveled to parades and competitions all over the state. My family moved to Decatur when I was eleven-years-old and I began dancing with Nancy McReynolds. My first Nutcracker was in 2008 and soon after I was invited to join the Richland Dance Company, where I have performed for the past six years. I’ve participated in many productions such as Cinderella, Les Miserables, Sleeping Beauty, and seven productions of The Nutcracker.
I currently attend classes at Richland Community College where I plan to earn my associate’s degree, then complete my bachelor’s in elementary education. In the future, I hope to teach first through third grade and continue to teach dance. Dancing is a huge part of my life and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to teach here at Richland. I am so excited to share this special experience with my students.
My name is Chelsea White and I am a native of the Decatur area, having grown up in Mt. Zion. I was home-schooled through high school then attended Taylor University and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish Education. I taught Spanish at MacArthur High School and St. Teresa High School before deciding to stay home with my children in 2013.
I have been dancing since I was four-years-old and have taken dance classes at the YWCA, YMCA, and finally here at Richland with my instructor Nancy McReynolds. As a member of the Richland Dance Company, I was a soloist and assisted with the dancers in the younger classes. For several years, I took ballet and pointe classes with Greg Merriman at the McLean County Dance Association in Bloomington. In 2004, I had the opportunity to travel to Seville, Spain where I learned Flamenco dancing. After a short break from dancing during college, I returned to Richland Dance and have been a part of many productions including Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Graduation Ball, The Lion King, Cinderella, Jewels, Romeo and Juliet, and 15 productions of The Nutcracker.
Aside from dancing, I am a runner and a pianist. I’m married to Alan and we have a son named Asher and a daughter named Lita. I love teaching dance and am excited to teach ballet classes this year!