Brittany Barker has danced with Straub Dance Center since she was just a three year old in pre-dance. Brittany was an award winning member of Straub’s Performing Arts Company (PAC) for nine consecutive years. She won top overalls competing as a soloist and received 2nd runner-up in the Miss Dance KAR title competition. Brittany also was a member of the Westerville Ballet Company where she held lead roles in the Company’s performances of “The Nutcracker”. Brittany currently teaches at Straub Dance Center and is a valuable member of the office staff. She is passionate about dance and the benefits that children gain from dancing. Brittany strives to give her dancers memories of Straub Dance Center that are similar to hers. Brittany’s memories are those of absolute happiness and fun, and the friendships she made at Straub are lifelong. Brittany is a current student at The Ohio State University and is working toward a degree in early childhood education.
Ohio native, Drew Burgess made his industry debut on "Live with Regis" during Amazing Kids Week. Upon relocating to California, he trained at L.A.'s best studios including EDGE, Millennium, Fusion and the PAC Annex. Drew is highly sough after as a performer, choreographer, guest teacher, dance supervisor and dance captain. Drew has been on adjudication panels for NexStar, Headliners, American Dance Awards, Dance Educators of America and 10 different regional DMA chapters. A former, competitor himself, Drew's titles include Mater, Junior and Teen Mr. Dance of Ohio as well as Jr. Mr. and Mr. Dance of America. Drew is certified by test to teach in Ballet, Tap, Jazz and Acrobatics through Dance Masters of America and Dance Educators of America, is an active member in both organizations, and often serves as a member teacher on their faculty.
Drew's passion for dance circles the globe with platform convention classes, performances and choreography, year-round. His corporate and live entertainment credits include: GMC, Nestle, Reebok and American Greetings with Taylor Swift. Drew's students have accolades including: Teen Miss Dance of America, Male Dancer of the Year, Miss Dance of Ohio and Mr. Dance of America. Drew's national choreography merits include the Sherry Gold Memorial Choreography Award at DMA and Best Group Choreogropahy at NexStar. in 2016, Drew was the choreographer of three out of eight titleists for Ohio Dance Masters, and also the newest Mr. Dance of America, 2017. Drew has also toured worldwide with Rasta Thomas' Bad Boys of Dance as a Wing in "ROCK the Ballet" and "Romeo & Juliet". Drew is thrilled to call Straub Dance Center his home beginning in the fall of 2016 where he will be teaching technical classwork as well as choreography for PAC routines.
Laura Chapin started dancing at the age of 3 and has been formerly trained in ballet, tap, jazz, pointe, contemporary, modern and hip hop. She particularly enjoys the discipline of ballet and, as a student took pride in being proficient in the technical aspects of the genre. As an instructor, Laura focuses her students on becoming technical dancers. Laura performed as a member of Straub's Performing Arts Company for nine years prior to graduating and placed first overall many times during those nine years with line and small group dances. As a soloist, Laura was always among the highest placed finishes with a top overall in her senior year. She won numerous scholarship awards through Dance Masters of Ohio. Laura performed with the "Nutcracker" as a party child in 2005, as Chinese back-up in 2007 and as Mouse King, a snowflake and the Rose in 2012. Laura started assisting Suzy Straub at the age of 13 and is beginning her fourth year of teaching at Straub Dance Center. Laura is attending The Ohio State University and is pursuing a business degree.
Ali began dancing at Straub Dance Center when she was three years old. At the age of six, she joined the Performing Arts Company (PAC) and she continued to grow into an outstanding dancer through competing in Senior Tap, Jazz and Ballet lines and groups. Ali competed as a soloist in lyrical and, her favorite, tap. Ali also studied pointe and performed with The Westerville Ballet Company in The Nutcracker. Ali has been a teaching assistant since she was 13 years old, and began teaching her own classes the fall of 2010. She currently teaches many different levels at Straub Dance Center. Ali is majoring in medical dietetics at The Ohio State University with a minor in dance. She trained with Sheila Barker at Broadway Dance Center in New York City and trained at Radio City with the Rockette summer intensive program. Ali also danced with the University of Akron dance company where she learned from Cydney Sphon, Maryann Black and Pauline Howe. She is in the Club Dance Connections program at OSU where she is able to perform and choreograph routines. Ali is excited to again be teaching at Straub Dance Center alongside the Straub family and instructors who trained her for more than 15 years.
Heather Podracky began dancing at Straub Dance Center at the age of five. She is trained in tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical and pointe. Heather competed as a member of many award-winning dance lines and groups as a member of the Straub Performing Arts Company. She also competed as a soloist for many years. Heather is a graduate of The Ohio State University where she was a varsity cheerleader for four years. Heather began teaching at Straub Dance Center 15 years ago and currently has two young daughters who are members of the Performing Arts Company. Heather primarily teaches tap and jazz at Straub Dance Center and the Center is thrilled to have Heather remain a part of the Straub family as a teacher and PAC dance mom.
Alexa Slomsky started dancing at Straub Dance Center at the age of four. She joined the Performing Arts Company when she was nine years old and danced competitively through high school in the styles of ballet, tap, jazz and contemporary. Alexa was a member of numerous state and national award-winning routines choreographed by Suzy Straub. In sixth grade, Alexa became a teaching assistant and continued assisting until her senior year of high school when she was given her own jazz class. This will be Alexa’s tenth year teaching at Straub and she has taught everything from baby dance to high school jazz. Alexa was born and raised in Westerville. She graduated with a Masters of Education Degree from The Ohio State University. She teaches Kindergarten at St. Paul School in Westerville. Alexa considers Straub Dance Center to be her second home and is honored to be a part of the Straub Family. She has Carole, Suzy, Melynda and Christy to thank for her dance training and her ongoing love and passion for dance.
Steffi Thomas was born and raised in England and trained at the Central School of Ballet in London. Steffi has worked and performed with the English National Ballet, the Scottish Ballet, the Cork City Ballet, the Peter Schaufuss Ballet and The National Ballet of Ireland. A few of Steffi’s other credits include dancing for the Queen at the Royal Variety show, performing in Shanghai China and Kazakhstan and performing at many corporate events such as The Discovery Channel, Bvlgari, Audi, Honda and Jaguar. Steffi is also a Pilates instructor and has taught ballet, jazz street dance and Pilates in several different dance schools in England and Ireland. Now in Columbus, Steffi is looking forward to teaching technical ballet at Straub Dance Center.
Dr. Cara Whalen
Cara N. Whalen, PT, DPT, MPH, CHES, danced at Straub Dance Center from the age of four through eighteen and competed in the prestigious Performing Arts Company (PAC) as a ballet, lyrical, jazz and tap dancer winning numerous top overall awards state and nationally. Cara was an award-winning soloist placing as the 6th runner-up to Miss Dance of Ohio in 2004 and winning many ballet scholarships. Cara also danced several lead roles in the Westerville Ballet Company's "Nutcracker" during high school and college. Perhaps Cara's most outstanding accomplishment as a dancer was being accepted as a teenager to The American Ballet Theatre (ABT) three times where she studied during the summer. Cara began teaching as a teacher's assistant in the 7th grade and has been a teacher at the Center since she was 16 in 2002. Cara has three degrees from The Ohio State University: a Bachelor of Science in Allied Health Professions with a minor in Psychology, a Doctorate in Physical Therapy with a specialization in Global Health, and a Master of Public Health with a specialization in Health Behavior and Health Promotion. Cara is also CHES certified (certified health education specialist) and is a licensed physical therapist who specializes in working with children with disabilities. Cara is currently a program manager for the Healthcare Access Initiative at the Ohio Colleges of Medicine Government Resource Center where she to works to improve access to healthcare for the underserved. She also works improve the quality of life of people with disabilities at a community level through activities such as dance! Her greatest passion in life is dance and using dance as a means for rehabilitation to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and all children.