Dance studio in Rochelle, IL and Sycamore, IL

Our Faculty

As our faculty grows and evolves we continue to offer our students the best in dance education, combined with instructors and a faculty who truly enjoy working with children.

Jodi Riley – Artistic Director

Jodi Riley received her BFA with an emphasis on dance performance from Northern Illinois University. She began her training at a young age. She continued her dance education as a teenager attending classes at the Judith Svalander School of Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet School and Northern Illinois University. Jodi is trained extensively in ballet, jazz and modern. She also has training in character, tap and ballroom dancing.

She began teaching in 1993 for Beth Fowler. She continued with this school through 1996 running a location in Marengo. Jodi has taught at several dance schools in the Northern Illinois area including: Moves, Lynn Kalita Dance Center, Pam’s Academy of Dance, Northern Illinois University’s community dance program, and Northern Illinois University’s Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education. She has choreographed pieces for the Beth Fowler Dance Company, Art for Life, Student Choreography Showcases at NIU, Lynn Kalita Dance Center, and Stage Coach Theatre. She has also choreographed several productions for the Performing Arts Academy since opening in 2002.

As well as teaching and choreographing Jodi has had several years of performing experience. She has performed many lead roles including: Cinderella, Firebird, Puss and Boots (“Sleeping Beauty”), Sugar Plum Fairy (“Nutcracker”), Spanish (“Nutcracker”), as well as numerous others. Jodi was fortunate enough to work with Katherine Posin at Milwaukee Ballet on her original piece of “Bauch’s Lunch” which immediately became a part of the company’s repertoire!

Riley continues her education by attending special workshops for teachers and taking classes downtown Chicago. She is now a Stott® Certified Pilates instructor. She received her Pilates training at Elements in Motion in Chicago. She plans to specialize in Athletic Conditioning.

Most recently she completed her teacher training course in aerial silks and is ecstatic to bring it to the Sycamore community! She is thrilled to share her knowledge and passion for dance and now Pilates and aerial arts with her students!

Jodi is a military wife and mother of 2.  She is a substitute teacher in the Genoa and Sycamore school districts. 


Christa McGrath

Christa McGrath has had a passion for the world of dance since she was very young. At the age of 3 Christa was enrolled in her first ballet class and has made dance an important part of her life ever since. A life long resident of DeKalb County, she danced at area schools through junior high. In high school she had the privilege of dancing with several suburban schools such as Moves in Batavia as well as St. Charles School of Dance. She was accepted into both the Salt Creek Ballet School in Westmont, Il and the Peoria Ballet.

After high school Christa enrolled in Northern Illinois University’s dance program. As a member of Northern Dance Theatre she performed in “The Nutcracker” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Give My Regards to Broadway.” She also participated in the Student Choreographic Showcases and “Art for Life.” Christa joined the Performing Arts Academy as a student and teacher upon its opening in 2002. She was named the Operations Manager in 2009 following a partnership with Artistic Director, Jodi Riley.

Christa has an extensive background in business and marketing along with 10 years of management experience. She looks forward to getting to know you and your child and hopes to instill the same passion for dance that she has felt for so many years!




Lydia Carpenter

Lydia Carpenter graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BFA in Dance Performance. Her Classical Vagonava training comes from Faubourg School of Ballet and Plainfield Dance Academy. Lydia has also trained with Ruth Page, BalletMet and Elements Contemporary Ballet. At NYCDA Lydia has competed 3 dances, all recieved platinums and critics choice nominations. Two scholarships were also earned from Hubbard St. Dance and Desmond Richardson of Complexions. Honorable mention was earned at the Carey Rose Competition along with Scholarships to Hubbard Street. At age 12 Lydia Performed with the Joffrey Ballet in The Nutcracker. 

Lydia is looking forward to moving on to a professional dance career.  She has been offered a few different options and will most likely take an offer from Fort Wayne Ballet this fall.  We are very excited for her to continue her dance career.


Aleesa Gunderson

Aleesa Gunderson is a current resident of Sycamore.  She began dancing at the young age of 3 and has continued into her adult life.  She recently returned home from Arizona where she taught dance, tumbling and cheer for the past 9 years.  She has a great love of teaching children and watching them grow to reach their fullest potential.  She has a passion for all types of dance while specifically favoring ballet, jazz and tap.  Aleesa is very thankful to the parents that allow her to be an important part of their child's dance experience.  She is very excited to be a part of the Performing Arts Academy!


Rachael Rapp

Rachael Rapp has been dancing with the Performing Arts Academy since its opening in 2002. She has graduated through our dance program.  Rachael has been a loyal student and dedicated dancer. She spent several days a week rehearsing and training throughout her childhood at the Performing Arts Academy.

Rachel has beautiful stage presence which pulls the audience into her story while she dances. She has a natural ability to teach children.  She has been teaching at the academy for the past 3 years.  She has a love and passion for teaching students of all ages.

This year Rachael will be attending Northern Illinois University.  Rachael is a blessing to have on our staff and we are excited about her future success in life!




Shauna Havener
Coming Soon!




Erika Ellis

Erika Ellis is a native of Haiti.  She began dancing upon her move to the United States in 2010 when she was 12 years old.  She has been dancing at the Performing Arts Academy for several years training in ballet, jazz, contemporary and aerial.  Erika aspires to be a profressional aerialist someday soon.  She will graduate from Sycamore High School this spring and continue her training at Aerial Dance Chicago.

Erika enjoys working with her students and challenging them every step of the way.  She has high expectations and in return gets a lot of hard work from her dancers.  We are excited to see where her future takes her!


Samantha Scaccianoce

Samantha teaches ballet, pointe, and contemporary at the Performing Arts Academy in Sycamore where she promotes a high level of technique and encourages the development of artistic expression.

Samantha has been dancing for 19 years.  She has trained in many styles including, but not limited to classical ballet, variations, pointe, contemporary, Pilates, modern, jazz, tap and hip hop.  In her teen years she trained with the Beth Fowler School of Dance and was accepted into the company in 2010.

In December 2016 Samantha graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BFA in Dance Performance.  Some of her most notable roles include specialty roles in Paquita and Swan Lake as well as a leading role as a demi soloist in Raymonda.  She was also cast in Spent Days Out Yonder by Bill T. Jones and Deconstruction by Septime Webre.

Currently Samantha teaches around the Chicagoland area.  In addition to teaching at the Performing Arts Academy she teaches at Southport Performing Arts Conservatory and Entertainment and is the Huntley High School JV Orchesis Coach.

Samantha has had the honor of training and interning with Ruth Page Center for the Arts and River North Dance Chicago.  She will also be traing with Ruth Page Center for the Arts, Eisenhower Dance Ensemble and DanceWorks Chicago in the near future.  Samantha is excited to share her knowledge with her students and looks forward to choreographing for the Performing Arts Academy Competition Team 2017-2018 as she transitions into a professional career.






Performing Arts Academy   |  (815) 901-7653 |
212 West State Street
Sycamore, IL 60178
425 Lincoln Highway
Rochelle, IL 61068

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