Emily Heier, originally from Milwaukee Wisconsin, grew up training in ballet, tap, jazz, and contemporary at a competition studio. Throughout high school and college, Emily has taught at Miss Becky’s Dance Studio coaching their competition team and at local recreational dance departments. She attended Loyola University Chicago, graduating Summa Cum Laude with her BA in Dance and soon to graduate with her BBA in Entrepreneurship. She is so excited for her first season with YDA!
YDA Mission Statement
Yvonne’s Dance Academy exists to educate and inspire children in a loving, safe, and nurturing manner. Our structured environment teaches developmentally appropriate skills while simultaneously encouraging creative expression. Our YDA staff uses dance as a tool to build self-esteem and good character while cultivating an appreciation for the art that is dance.
YDA is currently home to dancers from 20 Chicago-area schools. This vast range of children reminds us that dance is a universal language that teaches multi-cultural understanding and appreciation. From our reception area with live video feed into our studios, to our homework/kitchenette area, there is always a place for dancers and their families to feel at home.
Healthy Body & Mind
At YDA we believe dance is a form of physical education which allows children to explore their own physical and creative potential in a safe, non-competitive environment. We have no doubt that dance provides children with an understanding and appreciation of the body that will translate into a long-range commitment to fitness, good nutrition, and health. Dancers at YDA are taught to love their bodies and themselves through dance. This powerful message resonates with our dancers and helps them to build confidence.
Our dedicated instructors are known for utilizing a wide array of creative methods and teaching styles to educate their dancers. YDA teachers not only model complete ownership of their craft, but are also experienced in differentiation. Our teachers use a variety of manipulatives during instruction to help each child reach their full potential: ballet barres, scarves, stability balls, floor ladders, resistance bands, BOSU, stepping stones, hand and ankle weights, etc.
Ms. Yvonne Grabe-Liddell
Ms. Yvonne Grabe-Liddell is the founder and artistic director of Yvonne’s Dance Academy (YDA), established in 2008. For many years, she has managed the creative vision of her studio from the front lines.
Ms. Yvonne has instructed everything from Mom and Tot classes to Adults Over Fifty classes in most genres of dance.
YDA was created sixteen years ago to educate students about dance in a healthy, positive, and innovative manner. While traditional rules exist within a dance environment, Ms. Yvonne’s solid classroom management style allows her to personally understand the limitations of each student, allowing for differentiated learning with a focus on fun, yet, requiring that all students be engaged and progressing. A delicate balance is easily seen in all of Ms. Yvonne’s classes.
Ms. Yvonne regards dance as an incredibly special and unique art form. The structured environment allows each dancer to progress individually, while simultaneously learning how to work as a collective member of the group. This important developmental skill can easily be translated into many other aspects of the child’s life outside of dance.
Ms. Yvonne firmly believes that dance offers children a chance to express creativity, allows time to be introspective, and contributes to the overall shaping of the child. Her goal is to provide a loving and safe atmosphere for students to take dance to whatever level they desire.
Ms. Yvonne’s early dance training began at the age of three in her hometown of Chicago, Illinois where she studied classical ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, gymnastics, and modern at various studios throughout the city. Her dance teaching experience began in 1989 as a teaching assistant under founder and artistic director, Kathleen Katsoudas, at Kathleen’s Dance Asylum. Upon completing her teacher training with Ms. Kathleen in 1993, Ms. Yvonne began teaching her own classes of three-to-five year old students. Soon after, Ms. Yvonne was teaching the art of dance to a wide variety of levels and in most genres. She continued teaching for Kathleen until 2000 when she left to focus on college. Yvonne credits Ms. Kathleen for guiding her to her life’s passion and work.
In 2006 Ms. Grabe-Liddell completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in Developmental Psychology and Social Sciences at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. While at DePaul University, Ms. Yvonne danced as a Demonette for the DePaul University Dance Team.
Upon graduation, she joined St. Benedict Preparatory School (SBPS) community and has been on staff for the past seventeen years. During her tenure at SBPS her accomplishments have included:
- third grade teacher in the Elementary School (ES) (2006-2011)
- Secondary School (SS) Language Arts teacher (2011-2013)
- creator and director of the SS Dance Program (2013-current)
- director and choreographer for spring musicals (2006-2008)
- director and choreographer for ES Christmas musicals (2006-2011)
- choreographer for SS Christmas Celebrations (2011-2018)
Ms. Yvonne is an active member of the dance community and holds memberships with the following organizations:
- Youth Protection Advocates in Dance (YPAD)
- International Dance Entrepreneurs Association (IDEA)
- Unity of America’s Dance Organizations, Inc. (UNITY)
- National Dance Education Organization (NDEO)
- Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE)
Callie Luckenbach grew up in Columbus, Ohio, where she received her most formative dance training at Marjorie Jones School of Dance. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BFA in Dance and a minor in Nonprofit Management from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA. Callie has performed in the Columbus Arts Festival and Emergence Dance Festival. She has presented solo work in Ten Tiny Dances® Columbus and her choreography has been commissioned by New Vision Dance Company. This is Callie’s fifth year teaching at YDA!
Mrs. Sarah Lammie, a Chicago native, began her training on the south side at Kathleen’s Dance Asylum and has been dancing since the age of 7! She studied tap, ballet, jazz, and pointe, and was a competitive dancer through high school with Ms. Yvonne as one of her teachers! She continued her dance training at Knox College, focusing on modern. In high school and after college, Sarah taught at Linda’s Dance Studio, where she learned ballroom, Latin dance, and Mexican Folkloric and taught ballet, tap, jazz, and musical theatre. She now studies tap with Reggio “The Hoofer” McLaughlin, and preforms...
Catie, originally from Minnesota, trained competitively at Summit Dance Shoppe in ballet, tap, contemporary, jazz, and hip hop where she was a three-year senior line member. In high school, she was a four-year varsity captain of the Minnetonka Dance Team where she was recognized as All Conference and All State. Following high school, Catie joined the TCU Elite Dance Team and worked as a summer dance intensive instructor at Just For Kix. She has over 9 years of teaching and choreography experience, working with dancers across Minnesota, Utah, and Illinois. This is her third year instructing at Yvonne’s Dance Academy...
Melody Kay Paul is an artist who enjoys many disciplines and exploring new physical challenges. She graduated magna cum laude from Columbia College Chicago with a BFA in Dance and a BA in Marketing. She is an active member of Chicago National Association of Dance Masters (CNADM) and earned her Master Dance Educator (MDE) certificate in 2023. Melody is certified in all levels of the Nan Giordano Certification Program (NGCP®) and is a member of Dance Masters of Wisconsin (DMW). This year is Ms. Melody’s fifth year teaching with YDA!
Haley Baker is originally from Enola, Pennsylvania and has been dancing since the age of three. She began her classical ballet training at Pennsylvania Regional Ballet in 2010 under the direction of Sandra Carlino. She also attended Ribbon Mill Ballet in Carlisle, Pennsylvania with individual coaching from Leslie Hench. She has attended summer programs at Pennsylvania Ballet, Miami City Ballet, the USA/IBC Dance School, and Joffrey Ballet Chicago. Baker went on to attend Indiana University and graduated from the Jacobs School of Music in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Ballet and an Outside Field in Psychology. In her...
Cheryl Okuda began her dance training at the age of seven and has trained in ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, modern, pointe, musical theater, and hip-hop. Cheryl has earned many awards for her dancing and choreography in several Midwest Competitions throughout the Chicagoland area. She has a minor in dance from Columbia College and was a proud first generation company member of Boom Crack! Dance Company. Cheryl has performed and competed in many dance shows including Prelude, World of Dance, Carnival Choreographerʼs Ball, and Hip Hop International. While dance and choreography will always be a passion of hers and something she continues...
Emily Pfriem (she/her) is a teaching and performing artist from Seattle, Washington. Emily holds a BA in theatre and a minor in dance from Western Washington University. She has been teaching dance and theatre for the last 5 years. She started dancing at age 4 and started pursuing theatre in high school. Most of her dance training is in ballet, jazz, contemporary, hip-hop, and musical theatre, but in college she fell in love with modern dance and is a member of the Perceptual Motion Dance Company. In addition to teaching, Emily has choreographed many children’s musical theatre productions and performs...
Kenzie is originally from Pittsburgh, PA where she began her dance career. She has been training for over 20 years and specializes in hip-hop, jazz, contemporary, and Pom. She attended the University of Cincinnati where she was a member and captain of the University of Cincinnati dance team. Following graduation in 2020, Kenzie moved to Chicago where she continued her training and is a dancer/choreographer for Boom Crack! Dance Company. She has traveled across the country choreographing for college and high school dance teams. In addition to choreographing, Kenzie was featured in Famous Footwear’s Holiday commercial and continues to train...
Kaylah King is a dancer, choreographer and teaching artist based in Chicago, IL. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with her BFA in Dance from Sam Houston State University in May 2022. She began training in Houston, TX under the direction of Sherese Campbell. King has showcased original choreography in the SHSU undergraduate showcase “Dances @ 8” as well as presented her film “ARE YOU OKAY” in DanceWorks Chicago’s DanceChance. Furthermore, her piece “Les Funérailles Du Jazz” was featured at the Barnstorm Dance Festival in June 2023. She has had the honor to learn and work with a variety of acclaimed...
Alicia Pak, a California native, holds a BFA in Dance with a Minor in Digital Media from California Institute of the Arts. She currently trains with Visceral Dance and has showcased her choreography in various locations, including Korea, New Mexico, and Paris. As an alumna of Jacob’s Pillow, Alicia remains dedicated to contemporary dance and continues to make her mark through her creative work.