faculty

Don Francis

Founder & CEO

Write a bio for each team member. Make it short and informative to keep your visitors engaged.

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Katie Li

Owner

Katie Li is a professional choreographer and educator based in her hometown of Niceville, Florida.  

 

She started dancing at Niceville High School at the age of 14, and by her senior year she was named captain. During her time in high school, she trained in a local studio, and choreographed competitive solos for her peers. Shortly after graduation in 2007, she became the assistant coach and choreographer for multiple middle schools and high schools in Okaloosa County. 

 

Katie on a dance line scholarship, under Joe Taylor at Northwest Florida State College was captain of the dance line and choreographed a piece for the Dance Facets in 2009. 

 

Nationally,  Katie is an award winning choreographer and has presented her work throughout Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi where her choreography receives critical acclaim. 

 

She is a 5 time nominee for the People’s Choice Award at Kids Artistic Revue for the Industry Dance Awards.

 

The Verve, in its inaugural year the team has proved her choreography to again, be award winning. Both team ensembles as well as soloists, have competed and performed in many venues in the southeast winning high scores, high point and scholarships to conventions. She has been invited as a master teacher/ choreographer to various venues including schools as well as many private studios along the southeast coast.

 

Katie's class style is an an eclectic mix of pure athleticism and sheer technique with an emphasis on dynamics, musicality, emotion and performance. She specializes in contemporary, lyrical, jazz funk and stretch/strength training. Katie believes that instilling proper muscle memory is crucial for technical growth and teaching progressive methods are key to a dancers success!

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Mary Frances Broughman

Born and raised in Southwest Virginia, Mary Frances started dancing at the age of 2. Growing up, she studied ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, pointe, modern, character, hip hop, liturgical and heels. She danced with numerous studios over the years including Floyd Ward School of Dance, Roanoke Ballet Theatre and Southwest Virginia Ballet. As a competitive dancer, Mary Frances won numerous awards at both Regional and National levels as well as numerous accolades including various scholarships, an invitation to Richmond Ballet’s apprenticeship program and her selection as a summer resident at Virginia’s Governor School of the Arts. While attending she was able to train with many world renowned instructors and learn from industry leading choreographers allowing her to sharpen her prowess of the arts.

She continued her ballet education as a company member and principal dancer with Roanoke Ballet Theatre, training extensively with Michelle Goucher, Janelle Tatum, Jennifer Davies, Frano Jelincic, Dagmar Kessler and countless guest artists, choreographers and master instructors from Moscow ballet, Alvin Ailey and other prestigious companies.

Mary Frances’s teaching career began at age 16 with Roanoke Ballet Theatre. From there she went on to direct the ballet program at Floyd Ward School of Dance. As the director she dedicated several years to groom dancers in proper ballet and pointe; simultaneously choreographing numerous award winning competitive pieces.

Mary Frances transitioned from Floyd Ward to Blue Ridge Performing Arts Academy continuing to share her knowledge and love of ballet, pointe and conditioning with numerous dancers.

When she married her husband, Michael, and added their daughter, KK, Mary Frances stepped back from teaching for a bit but continued to train and take classes as she firmly believes that you can never stop learning or know enough.

While teaching at A Time To Dance in Navarre, FL, Mary Frances was inspired to expand her knowledge and skill set even further; becoming certified in Progressing Ballet Technique and receiving her ACE certification as a personal trainer. This focus on efficient and proper training methods ultimately assists her students to train intelligently, preventing injury and extending the longevity of their performing arts careers.

Mary Frances continues to cultivate the next generation of artist by sharing her passion and knowledge of the fine arts as a gateway to inspire students to broaden their skills as an artist, to do their best, and always strive to reach their goals!

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Rachel Prescott

Native Destin, Florida local, Rachel Prescott, received her early classical ballet training with Mrs. Bernadette Clements Sims, founder of our notable Northwest Florida Ballet. Rachel moved up the ranks to become an esteemed company member under Ballet Mistress Mrs. Dorothy Daniels Lister, former company member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and head of the Children’s Department at the Robert Joffrey Ballet for 25 years.

Rachel has performed a large variety of roles in productions such as The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, Giselle, Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadere and Cinderella among many other classical and contemporary works locally with NFB and Northwest Florida State College, and beyond.

An extensive and notable modeling career with Elite Model Management moved her from her hometown to New York City and Los Angeles, where she continued her dance training with Steps on Broadway, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Westside School of Ballet and Alonzo King LINES Ballet. Throughout her career, Rachel has also been cast as a dancer in several music videos, SAG/AFTRA national television commercials and network live awards shows through her agencies.

In 2015, Rachel returned to the Emerald Coast of her youth with her husband and young daughter. In late 2020, Rachel opened a small studio, studio6twenty5, in the heart of Destin offering classes for all ages in classical techniques as well as full bodywork conditioning classes; she is certified with Progressing Ballet Technique. 

Rachel Prescott is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 3 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum.

Shaye Smith

Shaye Smith began her classical ballet training at just 2 years old with Birmingham Ballet Academy, where she continued training throughout her childhood and teenage years. She has performed classical roles with Moscow Ballet, Washington Ballet and Alabama Ballet, as well as in The Nutcracker on Broadway in New York City.

Her performance repertoire includes Coppelia, Swan Lake, Hansel and Gretel and many more.

 

Additionally, Shaye also competed at a state and national level with her high school dance team, and went on to work for - and judge for - the prestigious Universal Dance Association.

Through the opportunities with UDA, she performed in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and at Halftime of The Cotton Bowl.

 

Shaye attended Auburn University and studied modern, ballet, choreography, dance history and rhythm tap with the dance program. She performed in many dAUnce productions as part of the Dance Program under the Auburn University Theatre Department.

 

A longtime educator, Shaye began teaching ballet in college and has been teaching ballet, lyrical and jazz styles for over 10 years.

She has been an official judge at both local and regional level dance competitions, as well as dance team auditions.

Shaye currently serves on the artistic staff at Verve Dance Company.

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Ulli Dunbar

Ulli received her MFA masters of fine art in Frankfurt, Germany, at the College of Music and Performing Art.  She also trained with Darmstadt Ballet and at the Summer TanzAcademy in Cologne for five years during summer. Ulli danced from 1980 until 1986 professionally with the Frankfurt Ballet and the Nürnberg Ballet Ensemble. After moving to the USA in 1986, she danced with Northwest Florida Ballet, and the First City Dance Theatre in Pensacola, and performed and studied with Florida State University Dance Program.

Ulli taught as dance professor at North West Florida State College in Niceville from

1997—2019 and has been a part time dance professor for the University of West Florida and dance instructor at Ruckel Middle School. Ulli was the owner and director of Ulli’s Dance Academy from 1999-2004 in Destin and Niceville.

 

Ulli also has been  teaching children and adult ballet and jazz classes at local dance studios for over 25 years.     

Ulli lives in Niceville with her husband Dirk and has three children Julia, Jeremy and Annabelle and one granddaughter May and one grandson Jax.

student teachers
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Hannah Jones

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Kylee Ausdran