A third generation studio owner who initially gained her love of the performing arts from family members who were musicians, actors, and dancers. Kristy's formal training steepened in the study of classical ballet, jazz, and tap. She traveled over the past 40 years and gained a broad foundation of training from many master teachers all over the world. For instance, she trained in jazz with Frank Hatchett, Gus Giordono, and Luigi to name a few.
After studying communications at Texas Tech University, Kristy began her first studio in Carthage, Texas. In 1983, Kristy returned to Plano where she taught dance and gymnastics for ten years at Tap N Toe with her mother Shirley Williams. In 1993, she started KJ Dance.
Kristy has choreographed musicals in the community for Pamela Hurt at Prestonwood Christian Academy. Kristy choreographed the following musicals: 42nd Street, Little Women, The Drowsy Chaperone, Into the Woods, and her favorite, Crazy for You. She has choreographed and staged the annual children's cancer fund luncheon and the Ms. Collin County and Mr. International pageants. In the early days of the Plano television network, Kristy enjoyed choreographing for the recycling campaign. Kristy choreographed the Biblical Arts musical theater adaptation of Via Delarosa at the center in Dallas.
Kristy's passion for the art of dance and her desire for mentoring young dancers is evidenced in all that happens at the KJ Dance Studio. Kristy loves to train young dancers to be disciplined, to adhere to strong values, and develop a selfless "others focused" mentality. "You cannot become a brilliant artist all alone, you must incorporate, learn from and share with others along your journey."
Personally, Kristy is married to Andy Blakeslee and is blessed with a large family of eight children and two grandchildren. Kristy is passionate about her work nurturing and helping students grow and mature in life and in dance. Lastly, she loves to watch her students dance!
Justine Phillips Orf is an instructor of all styles of dance and is one of few that works with all age groups as well. Justine's choreography has been award winning among the KJ Pulse and Vibe dancers at regional competitions for years. In addition to her positive demeanor with her young students, she has made a name for the Drill Team Prep program at KJ. As Co-Director for KJ's Hip Hop Crews, Vibe and Vibrations, Justine has worked to expand the program and open the doors of opportunity for more young dancers wanting to perform and be a part of a team. Justine grew up dancing at KJ Dance under the direction of Kristy Ulmer. KJ is not just her place of work, but is like a home and a very special part of Justine's life because it shaped her love for dancing.
She began performing professionally immediately out of high school. Justine was selected for the Dallas Mavericks Dance Team in 2002, where she danced on the Mavs home court for three seasons. In addition, Justine's professional highlights include: appearing in a Chuck E. Cheese Christmas Video, performing as a back-up dancer at the 2004 Jingle Ball in Los Angeles and Madison Square Garden- NYC, and many more.
Justine recently completed her fifth year with the world famous Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. She was a member of the DCC's elite Show Group, and was honored to travel with the USO on seven tours overseas to perform for our Armed Forces in places such as Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, China, Japan, Guantanamo Bay, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. Justine was honored to be chosen as a Group Leader for two years by the DCC Staff. While cheering, she was able to perform alongside many A-list celebrities including Neil McCoy, Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Sheryl Crow, The Jonas Brothers, and Chris Daughtry. She also performed at the 2010 NBA All-Star Game. Justine was selected as the DCC Representative for the 2010 Pro Bowl in Miami where she performed and appeared on behalf of the Dallas Cowboys Organization. This past summer, Justine continued to perform nightly as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader at Six Flags as part of their 50th Anniversary "Celebrate Texas" Show.
When not dancing, you can find Justine in Frisco with her husband, Tony, son, Paxton and black lab, Phoenix. Justine and Tony have been married since April of 2008. Faith, Family, and Friends are priorities in her life.
Brian grew up in the Dallas Fort Worth area. Here, he received training from a variety of instructors locally and across the nation. Throughout his training, Brian earned many awards and competition titles. Additionally, he had the opportunity to dance at the Broadway Dance Center and various dance intensives on scholarship. As he trained in the Dallas Fort Worth area, he was asked to be an assistant for Tremaine and Dupree Conventions. Assisting faculty members of these nationally recognized dance conventions allowed Brian to have a hands on experience in teaching young dancers technique. The assistant opportunity also helped him to further create his unique choreography style.
Now, Brian is the Artistic Director of KJ's award winning Dance Company, Pulse. His choreography for large and small groups, solos, duets, and trios are nationally recognized, winning multiple awards and overall titles. Brian tours the country with the Dupree Dance Convention faculty as a choreographer and instructor. He also founded a costume company, Artistic Dance Designs, which launched in 2013. Lastly, Brian has been invited to teach at a number of dance intensives including the North Texas Summer Dance Intensive and Dallas Repertoire Ballet Intensive.
Katey Webring Finazzo is a multi-talented actress and dancer. She is originally from Dallas, TX and grew up training at KJ Dance with Kristy Ulmer, then moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dance career. Katey has worked with some of the top names in the dance industry including Justin Giles, Jackie Sleight, Desiree Robbins, Mark Meismer, Doug Caldwell, and Keith Young, to name a few.
Katey started her career working for Royal Caribbean cruise line, where she was a soloist in both "Rock on Broadway" and “Flashback” productions. Other stage credits include the U.S. tour of The Wiggles, Mary Kay Convention, "Love Notes" with Soul Escape, "Thriller" with Odyssey Dance Theatre and LA & NYC Jingle Ball Rock Concerts, as a back-up dancer. She has also performed in various productions with Disney. Additionally, Katey has appeared in commercials for Old Navy, Big Lots and Toshiba.
She has taught and choreographed at numerous workshops and studios in Canada, Costa Rica and various states across the U.S. One of Katey's greatest joys is sharing her love of dance with others through performing and teaching. KJ Dance has always been like her second home and she is thrilled to have landed back here after having a fulfilling performing career. Katey’s knowledge, infectious personality and work ethic keep her students engaged and eager to learn. She feels incredibly blessed to be able to make a positive impact on the next generation not only as dancers but as human beings.
When not dancing, you can find Katey in Frisco, TX with her husband, Mr. Cory, son, Ryder, and daughter, Phoebe, usually having a dance party. Katey and Cory have been married since August 13, 2011. She also has a passion for photography and enjoys capturing the beauty and grace of dance.
Cory Finn is one of the most highly sought-after master tap teachers in the country. His unique rhythmic style, along with genuine care for his students keep him in high demand. Cory has performed with various tap companies and stage productions including Rhapsody in Taps, Power Tap, and Men at Work, to name a few. He has also had the honor of working with tap legends such as: Gregory Hines, Henry Le Tang, Sam Weber, and Mark Mendoca.
Cory has taught on numerous touring convention circuits including: Nuvo, LA Underground, LA Dance Magic, Hollywood Vibe, and Pacific Coast Dance Fest. Some of his commercial credits include Toyota, Taco-Bell, Dr. Pepper, and Disney. Cory has set award winning choreography on dance companies and studios all over the country. His students have gone on to perform in every medium of the entertainment industry on stages all over the world.
Cory’s passion for tap and his enthusiasm in the classroom has fostered a genuine love for tap amongst this KJ Dance students. From the beginners through advanced, he is so proud of the progress of his students. Cory brings a dynamic voice and energy to the KJ family.
Cory’s greatest love is his family and is thrilled to see his children catch the dance bug, too.
Frequently described as one of the the most sought after choreographers in the world, contemporary master teacher Justin Giles began his training at the Southern Strutt dance studio in South Carolina, under the direction of his mother, Nancy Giles. His attention to detail and sense of musicality have been described as breathtaking and thought provoking. At a young age, Justin was a winner on Star Search as well as Destination Stardom in Hawaii, two of the most prestigious competitions in America at the time. His commercial credits include work for Reebok and Fox TV just to name a few.
Commonly referred to as a gifted dance educator, he has had the privilege of helping train some of the industries leading celebrity dancers, including Season One So You Think You Can Dance winner Nick Lazzarini and second runner up Melody Lacayanga, among countless others. Justin also had the pleasure of traveling to Korea where he worked with Poz Dance Theatre, and performed along side their company in Seoul. Soon after, Justin introduced his work with the premier of his own company "SoulEscape" in Dallas. He has toured the US with countless A-List dance conventions including LA Dance Magic and Nuvo and is on guest faculty with Adrenaline Dance Conventions, iHollywood Convention and the popular in10sive workshops. A highly in-demand master teacher, his award-winning choreography can be seen on hundreds of dance studios and professional companies nationwide and abroad.
Emily began her dance training at age 11 In Durham, NC under the direction of Lindsay Tilley. At the age of 15, She moved away from home to study ballet at Virginia School of the Arts under the direction of Petrus Bosman and Tyrone Brooks. Emily then trained and graduated high school form The University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston Salem, NC under the direction of Ethan Steifel. She has spent several summers training with University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Atlanta Ballet Carolina Ballet, Charlotte Ballet (formally known as North Carolina dance theater, and many others around the country. While training, Emily has danced works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille, Anna-Marie Holmes, Melissa Hayden, Robert Weiss, Debra Austin, Alonzo King, Christopher Huggins, Lorraine Graves, Galina Panova, Jennifer Medina, Armando Luna, Heather Maloy, Tyler Walters, and Jennifer Archibald among many others.
Emily graduated college from East Carolina University in Greenville, NC with a BFA in Dance. While in college, Emily trained under the direction of Galina Panova, and Timour Bourtasenkov. She has performed in every East Carolina's main stage production.
After graduation Emily moved to Austin and taught for Ballet Austin before moving to dallas to dance with Avant Chamber Ballet. Emily danced with ACB for four seasons.
Katherine Iheke is a 28-year-old Dallas native who discovered her passion for dance in the early summer of 2010. Her growing desire to learn more about her new found movement led her to Plano, TX where she began to train in her expertise style, hip hop, under Fenton Fulgham. Although she has only been dancing for 8 years, her work ethic and focus has helped her level up faster than most starting dancers. She soon became an instructor at Fenton’s Dance Factory, which then opened up the opportunity for her to help co-direct the F-Troop competition teams. Katherine has been apart of Renegades Dance Company since its establishment in 2013 and had the opportunity to direct the team in 2016 and 2017. She was nominated and casted in the 2017 Monsters of Hip Hop Show “Unleashed” in Los Angeles. Her attendance to many workshops and conventions has given her opportunities to learn from and train under choreographers such as Rhapsody James, Jamal Sims, Nick DeMoura, Tony Tzar, Laura Edwards, and many others. Katherine teaches various open classes, workshops, and intensives around the area while teaching on tour with the dance convention, Dance Revolution and touring with Monsters of Hip Hop. Even though she loves to challenge and excite others with the diversity of her choreography, her main focus is to help others live and dance with passion & purpose.
Lexi Johnston-Bennett danced professionally with Charlotte Ballet from 2015-2018. She began taking ballet classes at age 6 with Longview Ballet Theatre under the direction of Pat George Mitchell in Longview, Texas. After graduating from high school, Lexi continued her studies in classical ballet and contemporary dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) under Susan Jaffe. She graduated in May 2015 with a BFA in Dance with a concentration in Ballet. At UNCSA, Lexi performed in works by George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, Susan Jaffe, Emery LeCrone, William Forsythe and Ethan Stiefel. She attended summer intensives at Jacob’s Pillow Ballet School, BalletX, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Miami City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, The School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet and Tulsa Ballet. While dancing with Charlotte Ballet, she performed in various classical and contemporary works such as Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16, Mark Diamond’s Bolero, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux’s Sleeping Beauty, Dwight Rhoden’s The Groove, and George Balanchine’s Rubies. Lexi was also a member of Charlotte Ballet II for the 2015/2016 season.
Born in Kilgore, Texas, Lexi also was a Kilgore High School Hi-Stepper and served as Captain for two years.
Raised in Kilgore, Texas, Colby Johnston began studying ballet at the age of seven at the Studio of Creative Arts under the direction of Pat George Mitchell. From this early age, she developed a genuine passion for dance. In high school, Colby performed lead roles in ballets such as Swan Lake, Serenade, Cinderella, The Nutcracker, Who Cares?, and Peter Pan. She also served as Captain of the Kilgore High School Hi-Steppers for two years. To further her professional development,
Colby has attended intensives with companies such as Miami City Ballet, Alonzo King’s Lines Contemporary Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Ballet X and BODYTRAFFIC. Colby recently graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), under the direction of Susan Jaffe, with a BFA in contemporary dance. While in school, she performed works by esteemed choreographers such as Doug Varone, Lucinda Childs, Martha Graham, Juel D. Lane and Kira Blazek Ziaii. Apart from dance, Colby enjoys yoga, hiking, traveling, and going to the movies!
Colby is a member of the ZION DANCE PROJECT, a Christian based dance performance company in Dallas, TX.
Leah Mitchell is from a loving, supportive family of six, and a dancer born and bread in Plano, Texas. Here is where she began developing her love for dance (age, two) at the prestigious KJ Dance of Plano, where she was a devoted company member and multi-nationally ranked competition dancer. The training, love and support she received from Kristy Blakeslee, Audrea Cowan and her staff of dedicated, proficient instructors (combined with her own dedication, tenacity, and passion for dance), led her to her desire to further her education, and became the recipient of a dance scholarship and conclusively a BFA from Southern Methodist University.
While studying at the University, she worked with and performed works by Robert Battle, Jessica Lange, Ohad Naharin, George Balanchine, and The Martha Graham Dance Company. Before graduating, she had already began her professional career as the assistant choreographer and principal dancer for an off broadway production tour of Symphony on the Dance Floor, where she travelled the nation and performed at the critically acclaimed BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) in New York city. During the summers she worked/performed industrially as a dancer for Mary Kay Cosmetics and Sally’s Beauty Supply.
Post graduation, she continued her education with invitations to company mentorship programs, such as; Dana Foglia’s International Dance Intensive, San Francisco Conservatory Summer Program, & Bacheva Dance Company Summer Intensive. She has toured internationally with a number of national dance companies and touring productions. She recently returned from a tour in China with Daniel Ezralow’s* international Modern dance company PEARL, where she was the dance captain and Principal dancer of a show commissioned by the Chinese Government. *Daniel Ezralow Choreographer known for Katy Perry, Beatle’s movie Across the Universe.
Professionally, Leah is represented by the Top dance Agency, Bloc Talent Agency in Los Angeles, California, and is a working member of the SAG/AFTRA Union. Her most recent projects include working with artist, such as KATY PERRY, Adam Levine, Mary J. Blige, Pit Bull, and Paula Abdul. She has performed in the 59th GRAMMY Awards, Latin American Music Awards, and annual ARIA + Venetian NYE Shows in Vegas. You can watch her featured on episodes of Castle, Black-ish (Season 2 Finale with P. Diddy & Mary J.Blige), Dallas Cowboys’ Cheerleader Making The Team, and seasons 9 & 10 of So You Think You Can Dance. She was featured in movies like Scary Movie 5, and commercials for The Greatest Showman, McDonald’s (with Mindy Kaling), Apple, DELL and Toyota.
Leah is passionate about teaching/choreography & sharing her love for dance with aspiring young artist. She is so happy and proud to be apart of the KJ Dance Family Legacy, and excited to positively develop and inspire the talent of young dancers, so they too can grow up with the confidence, kindness, and determination to do what they love and achieve their hopes and dreams, whatever they may be… the way KJ did (and still does) for her!
Meredith Madden is born and raised in Plano, Texas where she grew up dancing at KJ Dance. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in Dance Performance and Choreography. While training and going to school, she taught all styles of dance and danced professionally in a local company.
After graduation, Meredith moved to New York City to dance professionally. She continued her training at Broadway Dance Center and was represented by Clear Talent Group. She starred in music videos, tv appearances, and performances around the city.
Meredith left New York to be a magic assistant and dancer for a show in Guam. After 10 months of living there, she toured the country as a dancer in various shows including 'Cirque Le Noir', Broadway’s ‘The Illusionists’ World Tour, and ‘The Magic of Adam Trent’.
Meredith returned home to Texas in 2018. Since her return, she has been teaching at KJ Dance, completed her first season as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, went through a 200-hour yoga certification, and is currently a certified spin and strength instructor.
Sarah Noland started dancing in her hometown of Kansas City, Missouri before relocating to Phoenix, Arizona at the age of 13. Once in Arizona, she began training at Royal Dance Works. During her time there, she was a part of performances in the Capezio 125th Anniversary Celebration at the New York City Center and in Nigel Lythgoe’s annual Dizzy Feet Foundation Gala at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, both under the direction of Mandy Moore. After high school, Sarah lived in Los Angeles where she was a member of Royal Flux Dance Company, and she has travelled to assist Jaci Royal at various studios and universities. In addition, she spent time working closely with Erica Sobol in her seven-week training intensive, The Gypsy Project. After her time in LA, Sarah returned to Arizona to dance with Dana Metz’s contemporary company and begin her teaching career. Most recently, she has spent the last few years working with Justin Giles and SoulEscape The Company.
Sarah joined KJ Dance in Fall 2019 and feels fortunate to be part of such a welcoming and community-oriented environment!
Allison Schuster is a graduate from Orange County School Of The Arts where she was recipient of The International House of Blues Ambassador Scholarship. Allison received her BFA from The Juilliard School where she was fortunate enough to work with a multitude of choreographers and travel throughout Europe performing their work. Straight out of college, she accepted a contract with Cirque Du Soleil to create a new show choreographed by Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo, among others, where she was a principle dancer, aerialist and the dance captain. Allison has had the amazing opportunities to guest perform on SYTYCS, DWTS, The Emmys, Strictly Come Dancing, and more. She has performed with many different companies including multiple shows with The Metropolitan Opera, New York Spectacular with the Radio City Rockettes where she was a dancer and dance assistant to Mia Michaels, multiple shows with Company XIV as a principle dancer, aerialist and rehearsal director, a variety of shows as a performer and assistant to Sonya Tayeh and Cherice Barton, and a guest performer many times with Keigwin and Company and Mark Stuart Dance Theatre, to name a few. Allison’s Film/TV credits include Comedy Central’s Alternatino and commercials for IBM and for VH1. On top of performing, she travels around the country teaching masterclasses and sharing her knowledge with the younger generation.
The 2021 - 2022 dance season will be Allison's first year on faculty with KJ Dance! We are thrilled to welcome Allison to our incredibly talented faculty and #THEKJWAY dance family!
Abigail Hardy trained at a young age in ballet technique at The Conservatory of Dance and Performing Arts in California. Hardy holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Belhaven University’s renowned dance department, combined with dance honors, awards for outstanding service and artistic achievement, and a membership in the National Honors Society for Dance. In her training and career, Hardy worked with teachers and choreographers from Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Houston Ballet, José Limón, Milwaukee Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater, Dance Company Mooe, and The Royal Ballet. Hardy toured to South Korea with Bal Mahada Dance company in 2013-2014. She also served internationally as a guest artist and teacher in Paris, France and Barbados. After planting in Dallas, Texas, Hardy performed through Dance Revolution, and served as the Ballet Director and Studio Manager for Epicenter for the Arts 2016-2021. Dancing as a guest artist and teacher, Hardy has worked with Chadash Contemporary Dance Movement since 2016 performing in “A Life’s Song'', “ Made for Another World”, and “Beacon”. In 2018 and 2020, Hardy returned to Belhaven University choreographing works for Belhaven’s dance ensemble. Currently, Hardy is the Artistic Co-Director of Zion Dance Project, a platform for artists to present faith-filled art. Along with husband Vincent, the Hardy’s founded Zion Dance Project in 2017. From its conception, Hardy has served as choreographer, rehearsal director, company ballet master, and dance artist. As a distinguished choreographer she has created many works for ZDP such as: “innocence Lost” and “Perichoresis”. Hardy looks forward to creating and performing for more National and International tours with the company.
The 2021 - 2022 dance season will be Abigail's first year on faculty with KJ Dance! We are thrilled to welcome Abigail to our incredibly talented faculty and #THEKJWAY dance family!
Claire is originally from Lincoln, Nebraska where she grew up training as a competitive dancer and working with top names in the dance industry including Sonya Tayeh, Kim Wolfe, Eddie Strachan, and Marinda Davis, amongst others. Claire graduated from Arizona State University with her B.S in Marketing and Digital Communications. She was a member of the nationally ranked ASU dance team and went on to audition for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Claire just completed her first year as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and member of Show Group. She’s signed with MSA Agency in Los Angeles and has danced on the set of Bravo! TV Show’s Shah’s of Sunset, DCC Making the Team, and for artists like Jordin Sparks and Patti LaBelle. Claire enjoys choreographing, teaching, and training dancers to reach their goals. She also works as a professional dance prep master teacher. Claire is very excited to be a part of the KJ Family and make a positive impact in the lives of her students.
The 2021 - 2022 dance season will be Claire's first year on faculty with KJ Dance! We are thrilled to welcome Claire to our incredibly talented faculty and #THEKJWAY dance family!
Hana Alford, a native of Colleyville, Texas, grew up dancing competitively in local DFW studios and training in high school on KJ’s PULSE company. She has been an assistant for 10 years with Dupree Dance Convention, where she has assisted renowned master teachers from LA and New York such as Thayne Jasperson, Ellenore Scott, Jon Rua, Kobi Rozenfeld, Terrill Mitchell, and more. She graduated with honors in December of 2020 with a BFA in Dance Performance, BBA in Business Management, and a minor in Musical Theater from Southern Methodist University, where she performed modern, jazz, and contemporary works from notable choreographers such as Robert Battle, Moncell Durden, Mark Burrell, Christopher Dolder, and Brandi Coleman. During her time at SMU, Hana led her peers as Vice President of her sorority Chi Omega and received the Outstanding Achievement in Dance award, a faculty-nominated honor given to one graduating senior from the rigorous dance program at SMU. Some notable venues Hana has performed in for various concerts and events include Alice Tully Hall NY, The Music Center LA, The Joyce Theater NY, AT&T Stadium, and American Airlines Center. Recently, Hana was a company member of Zion Dance Project for the 2020-2021 season, performing original, faith filled works by Vincent Hardy across Texas and Oklahoma. She loves fulfilling her longstanding desire of integrating her faith and dance all for the glory of God. Hana is thrilled to continue teaching at KJ Dance, hoping to share with others her love for dance that was nurtured in these same studios.