Meet The Faculty
Jennie Newman-Scheiwe is the proud owner and Studio Director of Elite Academy of Dance in South Elgin, Illinois, opening her doors on July 2nd, 2007. Under her direction, Elite Academy of Dance has grown to be one of the largest and most sought-after dance programs and competition teams in the Fox Valley. Jennie recognizes the importance of fostering the growth of her students’ technical abilities and is committed to challenging them to reach their fullest potential. Jennie has more than thirty years of dance training and competitive dance experience from various studios in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. She attended Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management, along with serving as captain of the ISU Competitive Dance Team.
With her leadership over the last fifteen years, the Elite Competition Team’s routines have earned numerous high point, top placement, and judges’ choice awards for technique, showmanship, and choreography at regional and national competitions in the Midwest. With over 50 national titles and a Junior Dancer of the Year, the Elite Competition Team is recognized as one of the most competitive programs in the Midwest circuit. Jennie thrives on sharing her passion for dance with her students, encouraging them to work hard, believe in themselves, and dream BIG!
Brittany Gacek Esterl
ASSISTANT STUDIO DIRECTOR
Brittany Gacek Esterl has been a proud member of the Elite staff since the studio’s opening in 2007. After beginning her dance training as a small child in the western suburbs of Chicago, Brittany attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Dance with a Secondary Emphasis in Theatre and Drama. Her pieces have not only won top placements at both regional and national competitions, but have been recognized for her innovative, creative, and imaginative choreography. Brittany’s choreography has also been featured in the American College Dance Festival, at the Perry-Mansfield School of the Performing Arts, and in St. Charles East High School’s productions of The Secret Garden, Curtains, Once Upon a Mattress, and Pirates of Penzance.
With her leadership, Elite’s Pre-Dance program is among the best in the area. She takes great pride in her work as she guides her young students through their first steps on their journey towards a love of dance. As the Assistant Studio Director, Brittany is committed to raising the bar for Elite’s students with each new year and ensuring that Elite Academy of Dance remains one of the strongest programs in the Fox Valley. Brittany is devoted to inspiring a love of dance in all of her students, and pushing them to be the best that they can be.
Bree Anast has been teaching in the Chicagoland area for over eighteen years. She has expertise in a variety of dance styles and enjoys working with students of all ages. Bree traveled across the U.S. and Canada performing with Trent Carlini, as well as dancing for the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park. Bree is so excited to be a part of the Elite family, and loves working with each and every one of her students.
Jen Bertram is originally from Iowa where she trained in the competitive program at Above the Barre Dance Academy. Jen graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 2014 with her BA in Movement and Exercise Science, where she choreographed and taught strength and flexibility classes along with technique classes for dancers of all ages and levels, and worked with the award winning University of Northern Iowa's dance team as their Strength & Conditioning Coach. Jen is a certified Strength and Conditioning coach (National Strength and Conditioning Association), and her extensive background in both dance and fitness has led her to put together a unique strength and flexibly program that hones in on the specific muscles that dancers use to create the power behind their jumps, the strength to turn, and the flexibility to reach extensions they never thought possible, as well as to build cardio endurance helping them to enhance stamina leading to better performances, decreasing the chance of injury, improving posture, and much more! Jen strives to instill self confidence in each dancer that she teaches by creating a safe learning environment.
Sammy Gonzalez is a native of the Chicago land area. After training at various studios, he became a member of the award winning Boom Crack Dance Company based in Chicago. Sammy’s dynamic choreography has won numerous awards and accolades. As an instructor, Sammy
loves to share his passion for dance and his knowledge with his students.
Michele Greene-Larsen has been a professional educator for 30 years, working with a wide variety of students. She has worked with Elite’s Shining Stars program for 9 years. In high school, she was a member of the nationally ranked Lake Park Performance Ensemble. Later, along with her study of mathematics and secondary education, she studied dance in college. Besides teaching high school math and computer science, she is a certified Zumba instructor teaching classes in Hinckley, IL. Michele loves working with the Shining Star students and sharing her love for dance.
Julia Herrmann began dancing at the age of 4 at Dance Time Studios Inc. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she studied ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, lyrical, contemporary, gymnastics, acro and pointe under the instruction from Point Park University staff. Along with competing nationally as a student, she began her teaching career as an assistant instructor at the age of 15 before teaching on her own at age 18. While studying Dance Education at Columbia College in Chicago, Julia became the Head Dance Coach for the Jones College Prep Dance Team, taking the team to the State Finals multiple times over ten years. During this time, she also began teaching children’s classes in tap, jazz and ballet for FFC Gym in the South Loop. In 2005, Julia formed her own hip hop dance company, GraffitiDancers, who performed throughout Chicago and the Midwest. Julia has been privileged to choreograph for both DJ Flipside for the B96 Bash and MMA Champion Jason Miller, in addition to coaching dance at Saint Ignatius College Prep and Saint Viator High School along with several other high schools. She has served as a judge for IDTA, and has taught tumbling, acro, and dance at many Chicagoland dance studios including Extensions Dance Company, Steps Dance Center, Center Stage Dance Studio, Intrigue Dance Studio, Movement & Sound, Dance Xplosion and On Your Toes Academy. Julia cannot wait to work with Elite’s talented students!
Courtney Krachtus is a graduate of Lindenwood University, having received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Dance. While at Lindenwood, Courtney was able to pursue performance through both the University’s Dance Program and seven time National Champion Lion Line Dance Team. Additionally, Courtney performed off-campus at events including the American College Dance Association, Boston Contemporary Dance Festival, and St. Louis National Dance Week. Courtney’s choreographic credits include works for Lindenwood University’s 2017 Fall Dance Concert, 2016 and 2017 Winter Dance Concerts, and a variety of both dance studio teams and high school dance teams. Most notably, Courtney has had the honor of presenting her work, 41,87, for adjudication at the 2017 American College Dance Association Midwest conference, and has most recently, presented at Inaside Chicago Dance’s 2018 Choreographic Sponsorship Event. In addition to performance and choreography, teaching has always been a passion of Courtney’s, and she loves sharing her knowledge and passion with the Elite Academy of Dance students.
Colleen Lullo is a proud graduate of Davenport University. While attending Davenport on a dance scholarship, her hip hop and dance teams competed on a national level. Prior to attending Davenport University, Colleen was a member of the state championship winning St. Charles North Drill Team. She is so excited to be working with the talented students at Elite and loves sharing her passion for dance with them.
Myrria Ludy began her dance training at a young age with a focus on ballet, jazz, and tap. At the age of 14 she began training under Madame Beata Sorell, formerly of the Paris Opera Ballet. She later became a member of the Sorell Ballet Ensemble, performing as a soloist in works such as Sleeping Beauty, Les Sylphide, Aida, Le Pas de Quarte, and others. In addition to performance training, she also began her teaching career at this time at the Sorell Ballet Academy. She has been sharing her love of ballet as an instructor in the Chicago suburbs for over fourteen years with companies including Faubourg School of Ballet, Mohler Dance Academy, and State Street Dance Studio. By focusing on the fundamental technical training of ballet dancers, Miss Myrria inspires all of her students to reach their full potential.
Samantha Newman grew up in a south suburb of Chicago and has been dancing all her life. She started her teaching career at Brigham Young University in 2002, where she taught credited tap dance courses to all levels. Samantha received a bachelor's degree at BYU in Theater Arts Studies with an emphasis on theory, design, and playwriting. While at BYU, Samantha performed tap dance and folk dance pieces around Utah, led the Tap Dance Club, and worked as a designer for University theatrical performances.
Samantha has been teaching at studios in the Chicago suburbs for 14 years with a focus on early childhood dance and tap dance for all ages and levels. She's studied tap under some of the best dancers and teachers working today, in addition to completing two years of teacher training at the American Rhythm Center. Samantha is also a certified group fitness instructor and works as coordinator for a local Park District Dance Program. Samantha feels privileged to be a part of Chicago's dance teacher community, and to share the joy of movement and community with her students.
Olivia Ziesmer is an alumna of Elite Academy of Dance, graduating from their program in 2019. Olivia began dancing at the age of three and started her training at Elite when it first opened in 2007. Olivia attended St. Charles North High School where she was on the dance team for three years, serving as team captain her senior year. Olivia is currently a senior at Iowa State University where she is majoring in Entrepreneurship as well as being a member of the award-winning Iowa State Dance Team. She has traveled to NDA nationals as well as the ICU Worlds, resulting in winning a national championship and a first place gold medal. Olivia is thrilled to join the Elite Academy of Dance staff and can’t wait to share her knowledge and expertise with her students.