A Delaware native who started dancing at the young age of 3 and studied directly under Anna Marie Leo herself. Ms. Smith went on to have over a 30-year distinguished professional career in dance and choreography. From New York City to Los Angeles, from Broadway to Film, Val has worked extensively in all manner of media. She has trained and studied all across the country with many renowned teachers, dancing with the Eglevsky Ballet and Wilmington Ballet Companies. Some of her Broadway show credits include Beauty and the Beast, 42nd Street, Evita, Meet Me In St. Louis, along with the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in New York City. Other shows include A Chorus Line, West Side Story, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Pajama Game, Crazy for You, Anything Goes, King & I, Me & My Girl, Once Upon a Mattress, Shenandoah, Can Can, Annie, South Pacific, Guys & Dolls, Legends and staring in The Great American Songbook. She also spent three seasons in country music singing and dancing along side the Country Legend Glen Campbell.
Her credits span television, film, commercials and industrials, working with many renown entertainers such as Tony Danza, Joe Mantegna, Gary Sinise, Ossie Davis, Heather Headley, Charlotte Church, Chicago, Tom Hanks, Steve Martin, Barry Bostwick, Richard Chamberlin, Yolanda Adams, Little Richard, Bebe Neuwirth, Elliott Yamin, Jordin Sparks, Jimmy Smith, Josh Groban, Tom Bergeron, Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, Lee Ann Womack, Steve Buscemi, Megan Hilty, Matthew Broderick, Kelli O’Hara, Josh Turner, Amber Riley and Kool & the Gang.
In the New Millennium, Valerie has worked along side the Emmy Award Winning Director/Choreographer Walter Painter who Inspired her to turn her attention to teaching and choreography. She has choreographed for major celebrities for stage and screen, along with creating musicals, commissioned pieces and award winning competition entries.
In 2009 she choreographed the film “The Sophomore” starring Bruce Willis and Micsha Barton.
In 2010 she had her beautiful son, Reed.
In 2011, 2012 she was the associate choreographer of A Capitol Fourth PBS special.
In 2015, Valerie received a Global Arts Award in Los Angeles for her choreography.
In 2019 her studio was given the “Studio of Excellence” award.
In 2020 her studio received the “Best Dance Instruction” award.
In 2021 she was inducted into the Delaware Business Hall of Fame for "Best Dance Instruction" for Two Consecutive Years.
In 2021, Valerie received the Global Arts Award as her dancers received "Excellence in Dance" while representing the state of Delaware, at the Global Dance Festival in Los Angeles, California.
In 2022, her studio's received the "Best Dance Instruction" award for the third consecutive year.
In 2023, her studio has been inducted into the Delaware Business Hall of Fame for "Best Dance Instruction" for four consecutive years.
Valerie is also a well known dance instructor at Universities, Performing Arts high schools and travels extensively throughout the United States, teaching and judging dance competitions/conventions.
Her favorite thing to do is spend time with her son and dog "Barkley"!
Karen Lacy graduated from Skidmore College with a B.A. in Dance and English. She lived in New York City for 21 years, working as a professional dancer, teacher and choreographer, but recently moved to the Philadelphia area. Some of her dance credits include the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, New York City Opera, Neville Dance Theatre, John Passafiume Dancers, Eglevsky Ballet, and Covenant Ballet Theatre. Her choreography credits include La Traviata, Once Upon a Mattress, Romance Romance, The Big One, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Clue, and countless children’s dance recitals. For the past fifteen years, she has worked as a teaching artist in the NYC public schools with both City Center and American Ballet Theatre, and is an ABT certified teacher who has successfully completed the ABT Teacher Training Intensive in Primary through Level 7. Karen teaches at Dance Delaware Studios in Wilmington, guests at Manhattan Youth Ballet (NYC), School of the Garden State Ballet (NJ), and Philadelphia Dance Theatre, and works at Gaynor Minden, where she is Senior Fitter and Dance Teacher Liaison.
Though not a native of Wilmington, DE, Beth has spent her older youth and most of her adult life in Wilmington. Currently, Beth is the Choral Director at Talley Middle School in the Brandywine School District where she also serves as the Fine Arts Department Chair and is the head of the Drama Department. She also serves as a Lead Teacher for the district and this summer ran a Musical Theater Camp to help bring back the district Fine Arts Summer Camps. Beth holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the University of South Alabama and a Master of Music in Choral Conducting from the University of Mississippi. Beth was part of many theater productions, including a few shows with the local Brandywiners, during her time in school as well as two seasons with the Mobile Opera Company before beginning her masters work. She also ran an after-school program for inner city youth in Mobile, AL that centered around musical theater. During graduate school though her studies focused on the choral ensemble, Beth’s love for the stage continued through performances in the opera workshop, as well as competitions such as the NATS vocal competition where she won first place in the Musical Theater category. Beth’s love for the stage started in the annual Christmas pageants and children’s musicals in church and she has continued to carry her passion for church work through her life. She has sung for numerous churches, was the music director at two different churches during her college years and spent the better part of the last 20 years running youth ministry and youth music programs at Richardson Park United Methodist Church here in Wilmington. Beth is a member of the American Choral Director’s Association-and served the Co-founder and Co-Chair of their annual Bass Voices Festival, the National Association for Music Education, Sigma Alpha Iota - Women’s Music Fraternity. Some of Beth’s most recent theater experiences include a four-day Broadway Teacher’s Workshop this past summer in New York City where she got to meet, work with, learn from, and even dance with many of the people who are working in shows currently on Broadway. As a child, Beth’s dream was to dance with the Rockettes, and while never making it to NYC she is NOT afraid of a good pair of tap shoes, and she is excited to help build our young dancers into kind and confident all-around performers who will feel good about their participation in the arts and have the skills to do whatever it is they dream to do!
Contemporary Lyrical, Ballet,Tap Ashley, a Delaware native, who has been dancing for many years. She has studied with many renowned teachers and companies throughout the country such as The Joffrey Ballet, The Kansas City Ballet, and The Austin Ballet. Ashley has a masters from the University of Delaware for exercise science. She has performed at DisneyLand, Frontier Town as a cancan dancer, the Liberty Bowl with the Beach Boys, Judith Jamison at the White House, Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines. Ashley has performed and competed in many National/International competitions/conventions throughout the United States. Ashley has choreographed many award winning pieces throughout her years here at DanceDelaware Studios.
When Ashley isn't dancing, she enjoys going to the beach and spending time with family & friends!
Jazz, Acrobatics. Payton is currently attending the University of Delaware and was a graduate of the Cab Calloway School for the Arts as a dance major. She performed in the dance company and on their varsity dance team. She has trained at DD studios since she was 4, trained in ballet/pointe, jazz, contemporary lyrical, tap, musical theatre, modern, hip hop and acrobatics. She has performed and competed in many competitions and conventions throughout the United States with numerous winning numbers. She has been in DD Studios assistant teacher program for 5 years, and transitioned into her own classes during the 2020-2021 season. Payton is certified with Acrobatic Arts and her choreography has won many awards throughout the country.
On her freetime, she loves to take care of her dog, and go paddle boarding.
Matthew Grassa began dancing before he could walk – but his formal dance training started at the age of 3 with Ballet, Tap, and Jazz. He added Hip Hop one year later and has been trained in all subgenres of Hip Hop, including but not limited to House, Popping, Locking, as well as
Funk and Street Jazz styles. During all his years of training and performing he eventually was educated in all dance styles such as Lyrical, Contemporary, Musical Theater, and Modern as well as those previously mentioned. As a competitive dancer and performer in all styles for years, Matthew developed a love of being on stage. First as a student of dance, then as a dancer on the Competition Circuit, progressing as a Singer/Dancer and Actor in Musical Theater productions, and ultimately as a choreographer and teacher.
After years of Hip Hop training, Matthew joined Beat Addikts United as a dancer and received a scholarship for his accomplishments throughout his very first season. He eventually became Captain of their Beat Performance Team performing with his Crew across the tri-state area. Matthew was also the Lead Host and Editor of their YouTube channel pre-pandemic. Beat Addikts United pushed Matthew as a dancer by working with multiple talented and respected choreographers in the business; thus instilling his passion for choreography as well as creative use of music and music editing. He’s embarked upon multiple facets of teaching and choreographing in the area. From choreographing for high school musicals, backup dancing for professional entertainment, as well as teaching at multiple studios in the Tri-state area.
His love for dance is only surpassed by his passion for teaching and performing Hip Hop. Matthew has studied Hip Hop from Industry level teachers such as Jim Green, Tori Closson, Todd Munoz, Reggie Oliver, Kevin Maher, Rhapsody James, and Luther Brown. He has won multiple Scholarships at Monsters of Hip Hop and performing at the Monsters Conventions is always an exciting opportunity.
Throughout the years Matthew has earned multiple scholarships and titles such as Mr. Broadway and Mr. Onstage America as well as multiple
invitations to participate and assistant teach at convention master classes. He currently is enrolled at Wilmington University and continues to teach and perform across the tri-state area.
In Matt's down time he enjoys playing baseball, editing videos and music, play ultimate Frisbee and watch a little TV!
Artists in Residence:
DanceDelaware is thrilled to have Haley join us in our Artists in Residence Faculty and as a choreographer for our Award Winning Dance Team.
Haley began dancing at the age of 3 and hasn't turned back since. Starting with ballet and tap, her love for dance snowballed into her training amongst a wide range of styles. From Jazz, Ballet, Tap, Lyrical, Acro, Pointe, Hip Hop, Modern & Contemporary. Haley has been with DanceDelaware from the beginning and has competed on the dance team as an original "mini" at the age of 5. Throughout her time at DanceDelaware, she has won numerous First Overall, Title, High Score, and Special Awards for solos over the years, convention faculty recognition scholarships, as well as performing in award winning group dances. Haley graduated from Cab Calloway School of the Arts where she was a dance major since the 6th grade. Her time a Cab included being a member of the dance team, and dance company. She has also been a specialty chosen assistant teacher volunteer for Cab's "Beyond the Dancer" camp that provided dancers with Cerebral Palsy & Autism a chance to discover the joy of dance! In 2021 Haley won the distinguished title of "Miss Delaware's Teen" in the nationally recognized Miss America Organization where she received a nearly perfect score for her lyrical dance in talent portion of the competition. She went on to serve the State of Delaware and represent the diamond state at the Miss America's Teen Competition! With the opportunities provided by the Miss America Organization, Haley is currently a rising junior Dance & Kinesiology major at the University of Alabama! She is honored to have received the Outstanding Sophomore Award chosen by the Dance Professors in the Theatre & Dance Department. Throughout her time at UA Haley has been cast in numerous pieces for Dance Alabama, as well as, the prestigious and super selective Alabama Repertory Dance Theatre(ARDT) fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023 shows! She was recently elected to the Executive Board of the esteemed student organization: Dance Alabama, where she is excited to serve as the Social Media Coordinator for this upcoming year!
Matt Loehr is a professional actor, singer, dancer, choreographer, director, and teacher who believes in the transformative power the arts can inspire in all.
As a performer, he has played Elder McKinley in the blockbuster hit, The Book of Mormon, on Broadway. Additionally on Broadway, he has appeared in the original casts of The Producers, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins, Promises, Promises (2010 revival), and Elf the Musical, as well as stepping in to the productions of Fosse, Movin’ Out, and Evita.
Most recently, he made his Off-Broadway debut starring as GJ in R.R.R.E.D. a Secret Musical as well as playing the duel roles of Albert Harmon and Englishman in the world premiere of the new musical, The Sting, starring Harry Connick, Jr. at the award winning Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ. He is a four time Carbonell Award Winner, South Florida’s highest theatrical honor, for Me and My Girl (Bill Snibson), The Music Man (Harold Hill), Crazy For You (Bobby Child), and Hello Dolly! (Cornelius Hackl)- all performed at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in Jupiter, FL. He has co-starred in the world premiere of IDAHO! (Slim) at the Smith Center in Las Vegas and has performed starring roles in numerous professional productions around the country that include Nice Work if You Can Get It (Jimmy Winter) at Broadway at Music Circus in Sacramento, CA, Singin’ in the Rain (Don Lockwood) at North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA, Kiss Me Kate (Bill Calhoun) at the Cape Playhouse on Cape Cod, and White Christmas (Phil Davis) at Houston’s Theatre Under the Stars.
As a teacher, Matt was a visiting Guest Artist for two years at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts where he taught dance for the School of Drama as well as directing and choreographing the University’s mainstage musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, in the Fall of 2015. Additional teaching/ choreographing experiences have been on faculty for The Performing Arts Project (TPAP), The Broadway Experience in NYC, the Commercial Dance Intensive at UNCSA School of Dance, Wake Forest University (guest Choreographer for their Fall dance concert in 2014), Center Stage in Westport, CT, and Mobile Ballet in his home town of Mobile, AL.
Samantha is a Graduate of Rider University, where she studied Dance and Elementary Education along with English as a second language and multidisciplinary studies. She grew up at DDstudios taking every class possible, competing for the competition team, and teaching classes. She is a part of the Rider Dance Team and club. With experience in ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, acrobatics, hip-hop, lyrical, contemporary, modern, her main passion lies with musical theatre. She has performed with the Young Americans in California, been awarded many titles through dance competitions/conventions, and worked with the Radio City Rockettes during their summer intensives in New York City. She hopes to continue dancing for the rest of her life.
Ryan Blackson was born and raised in Wilmington, DE. He started dancing at the age of 10 training in genres such as ballet, tap, jazz, musical theater, contemporary/lyrical, modern, and hip-hop. At the age of 18 he moved to New York City and earned his BFA in Dance with a jazz concentration from Marymount Manhattan College. Ryan has had the privilege to train with some of the top professionals in the industry, both in New York City and Los Angeles such as; Al Blackstone, Sheila Barker, Lorna Ventura, Jason Wise and many more. Upon graduating from Marymount he completed three contracts with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines allowing him to dance and travel the world. Ryan toured the United States with the national tour of Christmas Wonderland and most recently performed as a soloist and company member with Step One Dance Company. He has also had the opportunity to perform in various regional productions around the United States including; Cats (Mr. Mistoffelees), A Chorus Line (Larry), La Cage aux Folles (Cagelle), Chicago, My Fair Lady, Legally Blonde the Musical, Guys and Dolls, and many more.
As a choreographer Ryan has taught and choreographed nationally as well as internationally and has won numerous awards and accolations for his choreography. He traveled to Brazil in 2017 & 2019 as a headliner teacher for master class series. As an active member in the community of New York City, Ryan feels he is able to inspire students and provide a learning environment that is pertinent to what directors and choreographers are looking for and hiring today. He likes to focus on technique and the ability to execute choreography the way one would have to in an audition, while also incorporating a mental and emotional awareness to the choreography given. He places emphasis on finding a story and discovering a level of dance beyond just doing steps. Ryan’s goal as a member of the dance community is to inspire students in the way he was inspired as a child to make a lifelong career out of doing something you love.