Our Staff

Miss Emma Mead

Owner/Dance Teacher

I am originally from England and have danced for as long as I can remember! At the age of 11, I attained my first classical ballet scholarship and at 13, I left home to train at one of the most renowned ballet schools in the country- Elmhurst Ballet School in London. I trained for 3 years in traditional ballet as well as many other genres of dance. I studied under some of the most knowledgeable teachers in the world, while at the same time continuing my academic studies. For the next 3 years I furthered my education at a dance college in the North of England, and this is where my passion for teaching dance started to develop. I completed all my vocational exams and teaching qualifications with the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance (ISTD), before venturing off to start teaching around the world!

My love of teaching has evolved immensely throughout the years; so many different aspects of my career have molded me into the teacher I am today. Mentors, colleagues, teachers, friends, students, family, languages and cultures – everything has played a role.

Over 15 years ago I met and married my husband while living in Germany. Together we have spent many years travelling the world as he served in the US Air Force. In 2007 we were blessed with amazing twin girls and now we are settling here in beautiful Virginia.

As I continue to grow and learn from all the wonderful people around me, I also enjoy every moment in the dance studio teaching the dancers of today. I have a passion for teaching: it is in my blood. I have a love for dance: it is in my bones. I am so happy I have the opportunity to do both every day.

I have always dreamed of having my own dance studio, and now that dream is a reality.

Please come and join me in my new adventure DANCE WORKS and share my love of dance.

Office Staff

Melissa Cartwright, Office Manager

Melissa has lived in Virginia most of her life. Graduating from Kechoughtan High School, Hampton, excelling in Chorus with A Cappella vocals. Melissa has worked in management most of her career, and most recently a long-term position as a Legal Assistant and Office Manager at Paul B. Kerr III PLLC.

Melissa lives with her husband of 10 years, and daughter Abbigail. With two other children who have “flown the nest”. Now her family and mini zoo of pets keeps her busy!

After being a part of the Dance Works family since the beginning, we are thrilled to finally have her on the staff full time!

Supporting Office Staff Olivia Staul

The Dance Faculty


Miss Emma and her excellent Dance Works team are always welcoming and friendly.  They are committed to high standards, working hard, and providing you with the best possible dance classes for you or your dancer.  We are proud to not only teach dancers how to dance but, also model the behavior and set an example of being good citizens and help prepare young people for a successful future.  Whether you are new to dance, new to the studio, or pass through our doors multiple times a week, our welcoming environment is just the start.  We are here for you, to help you every step of the way.

Ms. Danielle Merian

Danielle grew up in the Fredericksburg, Va area where she began dancing at the age of 3 years old. She has a background in ballet, tap, modern, pointe, jazz, and hip hop, and competed heavily. As she grew older, her love for dance grew as well, and she branched out into Musical Theater scoring an adult role in the Music Man while she was in the sixth grade. She coached and choreographed for her high school dance team, and joined the Silver Storm dance team at Christopher Newport University. She graduated from CNU with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and also joined the sorority Gamma Phi Beta.

Ms. Danielle was welcomed into the Dance Works family a few seasons ago, and has loved absolutely every single memory that has been made with everyone at the studio.

Ms. Sarah Ebert

Sarah took her first dance class in western Germany at age 4. She can still remember what it felt like to look down and see her first pair of pink tights and ballet shoes. Her family was her first audience and her kitchen was her first stage.

Sarah moved back to the states and trained in ballet, jazz, and lyrical. She continued to gain dance knowledge and experience as part of a local completive dance team and company. Sarah was also a member of Bethel High School’s Championship Cheerleading team. At Christopher Newport University, she was on the Silver Storm Dance team, began to teach classes, and fell in love with giving young dancers the tools and training they need to fulfill their dreams. Sarah grew up a military kid and didn’t stray too far from what she knew when she added a military husband to her audience. Her newest audience members are 5-year-old Evan and 3-year old Norah.

Sarah looks forward to sharing her passion for dance and helping your dancers achieve their dreams… whatever they maybe.

Ms. Jennifer Pyle

Jennifer Pyle is a classically trained ballet dancer as well as a stage and film actress. She began her ballet training at the age of seven under the tutelage of Gene Hammett, Susan Borree, and Mary Marshall. Jennifer attended the summer intensive program at The Joffrey Ballet School in New York City as well as summer intensive at the North Carolina School of the Arts. Jennifer was a principal dancer and soloist with the Esperance Dance Theater and the Peninsula Ballet. One of her favorite roles was Hermia in A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Most recently, Jennifer choreographed and performed the pas de deux from Romeo and Juliet as part of the Phantom Players production of Phantom of the Opera in Richmond, VA.

Jennifer enjoys teaching and choreographing, and is passionate about helping dancers of all ages be the best they can be and have fun!

Ms. Jordan Williams

Ms. Jordan Williams was born and raised in Newport News and just started at Christopher Newport University, majoring in History and minoring in Dance. She also plans on obtaining a master’s in Education. She started dancing when she was three years old, favoring ballet but loves to branch out. While in high school, she was a part of the Woodside Dance Magnet and a part of Nu Delta Alpha, the dance honor society. Before graduating high school she participated in the assistant teacher program at Dance Works and taught as an assistant at her previous studio. The Assistant Teacher Program gave her the skills to transition to a full teacher.

Ms. Jordan loves being able to motivate and teach children through dance and we are so excited to have finally have her on the teaching staff at Dance Works, we are all excited to see what the future holds.

Ms. Eileen Byrne

Eileen grew up in Manassas, VA and has been dancing since the age of three. She has trained in ballet, tap and jazz. She has performed in The Nutcracker, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Citrus Bowl half time show as well as taken classes in New York City at ABT, Steps and Alvin Ailey. While earning her degree in interior design at the University of Kansas Eileen played the piccolo in the university marching band and basketball pep band and taught dance at a local studio. She taught ballet, tap, and jazz classes as well as company tap.

She moved to Hampton roads in 2014 and works as an interior designer. After a one year hiatus she started taking classes at Dance Works. In 2017 she was named one of the National Kitchen and Bath Associations top 30 professionals under the age of 30. When she is not working or dancing Eileen enjoys playing her flute at church, running, reading, and re

laxing with her fat cat, Alastor. She is very excited to be teaching again and to be a part of the Dance works team.

Ms. Shayley Skinner

Ms. Shayley Skinner was born and raised in Newport News, VA. Her family moved to Yorktown in 2011, where she continues to reside. Shayley started dancing at Fields Dance Studio at the age of three. She transitioned to Betty Smith School of Dance and ended up at City Arts Dance Company through the city of Newport News. This is where she began instruction from Ms. Emma and she has stuck with her ever since! When Ms. Emma created her own studio, Ms. Shayley followed and began working as an Assistant Teacher. She has participated in the Assistant Teaching program for the past six years! Ms. Shayley performed with the first two years of the Dance Works Dance Company and was selected as Dance Works’ first ever, “Dancer of the Year” in 2013-2014. It is an honor that she will always cherish and respect.

Ms. Shayley has dance skills in Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Lyrical, Contemporary, Hip Hop and Pointe. In addition to her classes at Dance Works, she has been dancing with the York County SOA (School of the Arts) dance program for the past three years and continues to dance with this talented group of performers. Looking for further teaching experience, Ms. Shayley has been teaching ballet, and jazz classes at the Yorktown YMCA for the past two years. Ms. Shayley is so excited to be given the opportunity to teach alongside her dance teachers!

Ms. Caila Carlstrom

Ms. Caila Carlstrom put on her first set of dance shoes when she was 5 years old. She was born and raised in Hampton, Virginia. Along with many years of taking dance, Ms. Caila has competed in gymnastics for 4 years. She was one of the top 5 in the state for gymnastics in 2013 as well as placing 2nd overall for the Excalibur Cup in 2012. Ms. Caila started with Miss Emma at Dance Works in 2013 where she started off with tap and contemporary and eventually adding ballet, jazz, hiphop, acro, lyrical, and pointe to her list of classes. She earned Dancer of the Year during the 2015-2016 season. Ms. Caila competed on the Dance Works Dance Company for that season as well. When Ms. Caila started assistant teaching at Dance Works in 2014 she discovered her love for teaching dance. This inspired her to start teaching gymnastics at the YMCA. She eventually became head assistant teacher for Dance Works for a year before she was promoted to the teacher staff. You might recognize Ms. Caila as one of the white rabbits in Dance Work’s Alice the Dansical and one of the Queen Clarions in Pan and Tink. Ms. Caila’s favorite part of being a Dance Works teacher is promoting optimism to all of the children and teaching them that dance can be a positive way to express themselves.

Ms. Olivia Staul

Olivia was born in Texas and moved to Hampton Roads with her family over 19 years ago, where she grew up in the local dance scene. Olivia has 18 years of dance, gymnastic, and cheer-leading experience. Including 6 years of teaching/choreographing for all ages and abilities, competitions, and training. In her last few years at Dance Works she has been able to dive back in to what she loves most.

As well as having a knowledgeable dance background, Olivia has also had over 5 years of office manager experience at local family owned businesses, and currently resides in the field of clinical research. She is pursuing a degree in registered nursing through the Riverside health system. When not in the dance studio, she loves family time and hanging out with her dog “Ace!”

Ms. Jen Jones

Ms. Jen Jones began her dance training at the age of 3 at Studio B in Decatur, IL. In high school she competed on the studio’s competition team and was a part of the award-winning Mt. Zion High School show choirs. She continued her passion for dance in college by getting a minor from Millikin University as well as dancing for the school’s pom squad for two years. Looking to expand her training, Jen joined fellow pom teammates as a founding member of Millikin’s Physical Graffiti hip hop crew. It was with this group that she found her love of hip hop.

Ms. Jen found her way to Hampton Roads in 2016 when her husband, who’s in the United States Navy, got orders here. The two met while salsa dancing in Charleston, SC and love any chance they can get to get out and dance together.
While Ms. Jen mainly teaches hip hop at Dance Works, she has trained in ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, contemporary, modern, Latin partner dancing, and theater dance. The 2018-2019 season is her third season with Dance Works – she’s excited to be part of the team as we grow into our new space!

Ms. Milena Weisenborn

Milena grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth, TX area and began dancing at an early age. At the age of 13, she began training extensively in classical ballet and pointe at North Central School of Ballet. Milena performed with the resident ballet company, North Central Ballet, for 4 years. She performed in numerous classical ballets, including The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, Firebird, Cinderella, and Gaite Parisienne, as well as several original contemporary ballet pieces. Notable principal and soloist roles included Sugar Plum Fairy, Snow Queen, and Dew Drop Fairy in The Nutcracker and Blue Bird Pas de Deux in The Sleeping Beauty. Milena graduated from Southern Methodist University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in dance performance. She then earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the University of North Texas. She worked as a therapist in Dallas for 4 years before moving to the Hampton Roads area with her husband, who is in the Air Force. In her free time, Milena enjoys spending time with her husband and her dog, Bonnie.

Ms. Melissa V Cartwright – Guest Teacher

Melissa is originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico and growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, considers herself a “Georgia-Rican”. She is a graduate of Point University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Ministry and Vocal Pedagogy. Over the last 20 years, she has performed professionally, both in the Atlanta theatre community and in Virginia with Virginia Musical Theatre & Virginia Repertory Theatre. She has also worked both in television and radio and had the privilege of working on the set of Tyler Perry’s “Madea Goes To Jail”. Melissa is the owner and head vocal coach for MVC Performance in Newport News and also teaches music for York County’s Middle School Arts Magnet. Her favorite roles are that of “wife” to Shawn and “mom” to their two daughters, Gabriella & Mikayla. When she’s not singing or dancing, you can find her out running with her dog or enjoying coffee with a friend.

Ms. JoLynn Jones – Guest Teacher

Ms. JoLynn was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah before moving to Yorktown with her husband and 4 kids. She has been dancing since she was very young and didn’t find a love of dance until the day she told her mom she wanted to quit! Since that day her passion for dancing and sharing her love of dance has been a great enjoyment for her. She has danced with many studios and companies. One of which was a short performance at Repertory Dance Theatre with her now husband Brad. Before moving to Virginia she was the Assistant Director of a dance studio in her home town. Ms. JoLynn loves lyrical/contemporary dancing and sharing the joy of expressing emotions through movement. She works hard with her dancers to create growth and measurable success throughout the year. She strongly believes in hard work and dedication and teaches that in class to help her dancers learn lessons in the classroom that transfer to their daily life. Ms. JoLynn is passionate about natural living and taking care of yourself in mind, body, and soul. In her free time, Ms. JoLynn runs a business educating people on natural wellness and uplifting others. She also sneaks in some beach time, working out, and shopping.

Mr. Thomas McDonnell – Guest Teacher

Thomas McDonnell was born and raised in San Francisco. He attended San Francisco City College, the Academy of Art College of San Francisco, and New York University’s Tisch program.  Thomas started dancing at the age of nineteen at the San Francisco Ballet School and at the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet.

He studied with Alonzo King and worked with Michael Smuin.  He danced professionally for more than twenty years, including with the Empire State Ballet Company in Buffalo, New York; Ballet Omaha; and Minnesota Dance Theatre. 

Thomas is also a certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner.  It is his passion to help people become aware of how to train and retrain their own neurological paths for the purpose of total body freedom. 

We are thrilled to welcome Mr. Thomas as a Guest Teacher at Dance Works

Assistant Teacher and Junior Assistants Program

Dance Works is a studio that not only trains dancers to be the best they can be, but also helps mold our young people of today for a successful future. Our unique programs allow dancers to grow throughout the program, as they grow up and develop these valuable skills.

  • Intern Program gives senior dancers an insight into the “backstage” works of the studio, giving them additional skills before college.
  • Assistant Teaching Program gives young dancers an opportunity to assist the Teachers, in the dance classes, to gain teaching experience and in turn solidify their knowledge of dance in addition to many other important assets.
  • Jr. Assistant Teaching Program, this gives even younger dancers a chance to help and learn how to become an Assistant Teacher.

All dancers in our Assistant Teaching program must have been dancing at Dance Works for at least one year to be accepted into the program, they must also keep up their academic grades and dedication in their regular dance classes to continue in the program.


2018-2019 Intern Program Students:

Brooke Buchanan, Emma Bryant, Lainey Griffin


2018-2019 Head Assistant Teachers:

Meadow Dawes, Emily Graver, Hannah MacDonald


2018-2019 Assistant Teachers:

Rachel Cobb, Hannah Mead, Sarah Mead, Sam Ramsey, Macky Williams.


2018-2019 Junior Assistants:

Audrey Anderson, Erika Burnham, Abigail Cartwright, Ashlynn Clinkenbeard, Addisen Jones, Paetyn Jones, Ella Karcher, Aaliyah Lee, Andie Light, Erin Magruder, Abbie McGinn, Jessica Montgomery, Maggie Parrish, Lilly Ricklin, Lillie Slate, Emma Stoker, Payton Waller, Piper Webb


Dancer of the Year

The Dancer of the Year award is the highest honor. The annual award recognizes a top-notch dancer who is an excellent representation of the type of individual our studio hopes to build – the Dancer of the Year (DOTY). In order to be eligible for this honor, dancers must participate in both the company and in the assistant teacher program as well as dance a minimum of 2 nights per week.


The final result is made through a variety of processes, including teacher assessments, teacher and company votes, and lastly Miss Emma’s vote and decision.  This accomplishment is kept top secret until Recital time and presented in the Recital/Production Program.


Lainey Griffin – 2017/2018 Season


Past recipients:

Emma Bryant – 2016/2017 Season

Caila Carlstrom – 2015/2016 Season

Grace Fotis – 2014/2015 Season

Shayley Skinner – 2013/2014 Season