Shauna Mitchell: Co-Director
Shauna Mitchell has been a studio owner since 2008. She has studied dance since the age of 2 under Dance Shop instruction/ Connie Draper, Ballet Spartanburg, and Carolina Ballet Theater. She is a graduate of Lander University with a Bachelors Degree in Science majoring in Exercise Science. At the collegiate level she danced on the University of South Carolina Dance Team. After college she danced and cheered at the professional level for the Carolina Panthers as a Topcat. She enjoys teaching at the recreational and competitive level with jazz technique being her speciality. In her classes she strives for all dancers, even the youngest, to exceed far beyond their own goals. It is her mission as a teacher to provide a class where students discover that dance is fun and gives more satisfaction when hard work is applied and that this work ethic can be carried into your job later in life. She is mother of Braxton and Eli who love their own dance classes and is married to Brett Mitchell.
Neely Lashford: Co-Director
Neely Lashford started dance at the age of 2 and has studied with Allison Rawl, Dance Theater on Main, and Ballet Spartanburg. She continued her dance training at The Dance Shop in high school. At the collegiate level Neely danced with the Lander Dance Company. She is a graduate of Lander University with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. It is her mission as a teacher to inspire dancers of all ages to explore their creative side, and be inspired to dance out of their comfort zone. She hopes that what her dancers discover about themselves in the classroom, will stay with them through life. Through teaching in her specialty style of contemporary she is able to achieve this. Neely has been an owner of the studio since 2008, and looks forward to continue working with Dance Shop students at the recreational and competitive level. When out of the studio Neely loves to spend time with her husband Thomas and daughter Lottie Clare.
Ashley Martin is in her 10th year on staff with TDS Dance Studios. Ashley received her training at the Fine Arts Center and the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities. She attended Clemson University as an Education major where she was a member of the Central Dance and Concert Committee and vice president of the Clemson Dancers. She studied in New York at Broadway Dance Center and was a featured performer with David Dorfman Dance. She has performed with International Ballet in La Sylphide, Lady and the Hooligan, Walpurgis Night, Don Quixote, A Soldier's Tale, Paquita y mas, Coppelia, and Nutcracker. It is her mission to give students a proper base in classical ballet training that they can build on for years to come.
Connie Draper has danced since the age of 3 and has never stopped. She began her dancing education at Marjorie Palmer School of Dance. As a teen she continued to dance with Barbara Selvy and became a member of the Carolina Ballet Theater where she danced various roles for the company. She founded the Dance Shop in 1988. She has had students attend The Governor School, North Carolina School of the Arts, University of South Carolina Conservatory, and Alvin Ailey. It is her mission as a teacher to help children thrive in dance in an environment of discipline and love. She loves teaching our youngest dancers to begin this type of training at their age. She is the mother of Shauna, Sara, Jazz, and Kollin and is married to Ken Draper.
Sarah St. Clair
Sarah St. Clair is married to her husband of 16 years Tim and is mother to six amazing daughters. Their family relocated from MI 9 years ago to get involved in the wonderful Fine Arts community in the Upstate. Sarah and her husband both taught dance and theatre at Artios of Greenville for 5 years. Sarah also opened Selah Ballet in Taylors for two years teaching ballet and worship dance to ages 3-adult. She has loved ballet all her life and is passionate to share the joy dance brings to the young and old! She is very excited to join the awesome teaching staff at TDS!
John Roche was born in Latvia. He ws adopted and raised in Spartanburg. He began training at Ballet Spartanburg at the age of four, and has performed various roles such as Fritz and the Nutcracker in The Nutcracker, the boy in Carnival of the Animals, and Peter in Peter and The Wolf. John has attended summer intensives with The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and the USC Dance Conservatory in Columbia, SC, and has performed with SLT, SYT, Spartanburg Repertory Opera and Converse College Opera Theater. He is very excited about his second year as an apprentice with The Company. We look forward to having John as a part of our ballet program staff this season.
Megan Smith has been involved in dance since age six and is passionate about dance education. She recently completed the Broadway Dance Center Training Program in New York City, where she studied under Al Blackstone, Heather Rigg, Lane Napper, Shelia Barker, Justin Boccitto and Katherine Ponza. One of the highlights of her training in New York was participating in master class sessions with the Fosse/Verdon Legacy Program. Before going to New York, she had the opportunity to dance captain and assist Choreographer Kimberlee Ferierra with local theatre productions. Megan currently choreographs shows for local theatres including Mauldin Youth Theatre and Younts Center for Performing Arts. She particularly loves working with young performers to help them grow in their confidence with dance technique and storytelling. Megan spent ten years training as a competitive figure skater and gold level ice dancer. As a figure skater and ice dancer, she worked with world champion level ice dancers and choreographers. She still enjoys, teaching off ice workshops for figure skaters. Megan is excited to work with the students at TDS and looks forward to sharing her love of dance.
Alison Rawl began dancing at a young age with Dianne’s School of Dance in Greenville SC . In high school Alison danced with Barbara Selvy at Carolina Ballet and with Pat Lusk. Alison attended the Fine Arts Center in Greenville during high school for dance. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from Lander University in Greenwood and minored in Dance. While attending Lander University she was a Lander Dancer for 4 years. After college Alison opened Alison’s School of Dance on West Main Street in Laurens and taught all styles of dance from 1993-1998. Alison is a certified judge for The Miss South Carolina Organization and is very involved within the pageant circuit. Alison is married to Bubba Rawl and is mother to Catie, who is a rising junior at The University of South Carolina, and James, a rising freshman at Laurens High School.
Merry Chandler assisted Group Fitness Classes while attending the University of South Carolina and during her senior year began to learn how to organize and form her own fitness classes. After graduation and returning to Laurens, she started teaching at The Family YMCA of Greater Laurens. Currently and for the past 15 years, you can find her leading fitness classes at the Laurens Y. Merry doesn't take a single day for granted that she can be active and enjoys pushing others to reach their fitness goals. She is married to Walter Chandler and they have two children, son, Ellis and daughter, Amelia. Amelia loves participating in her own dance classes at TDS Dance Studios.
Hannah Gault has been involved in the dance and gymnastics industry since the age of 5. She grew up tumbling, dancing, and cheering in Chapin, SC. At the collegiate level, Hannah was a coed flyer for the Presbyterian College cheerleading squad. She graduated from PC with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management. Hannah has coached competitive and recreational gymnastics, dance, and cheer teams. Hannah is married to Matt and they have one son, Logan.
Ashley Brown began her dance career at The Dance Shop as a young child and continued her studies through high school. She has been a valuable student and staff member through all three locations of the Laurens studio. Ashley has made the jump from DanZforce Dance Shop competitive team member to staff member with ease and loves working with TDS parents and students alike, making sure their experience is stress free and fun! Ashley is a graduate of Piedmont Technical College and was the 2017 Laurens County Highest Academic Achievement award winner! She is the TDS office manager.
Morgan Leverett is originally from Atlanta, Georgia. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing at Mars Hill University.
She has been dancing for 21 years with extensive training in clogging and Irish step dance. Morgan has danced with the Southern Belles, Bailey Mountain Cloggers, and now Unity Cloggers. She has performed in many states across the United States as well as internationally. She has performed in several different countries at folk festivals with the Bailey Mountain Cloggers including Poland, Czech Republic, Colombia, the Netherlands, and Portugal.
She is a former clogging program director at Studio K Dance Academy in Morganton, NC and now has created her own team this past year, Unity Cloggers.
Morgan has won several national titles throughout the years. She is also the Overall 2020 Miss American Clogging Hall of Fame.
Molly Lynn Smith
Molly is excited to bust a move with the awesome students at TDS. She started dance at age three and has experienced so many aspects of it including musical theatre, hip hop (her personal favorite), jazz, contemporary, ballet and ballroom. She is currently continuing her education and currently dances with a several competition teams. In addition to her competitive dance, she loves assisting with choreography for shows and creating choreography. Some of her favorite performing roles were Jasmine in Aladdin, Babette in Beauty and the Beast and Sally in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Her other favorite pastimes are lake days, singing with her worship team at church and spending time with her family. Molly Lynn has a big heart for teaching, and she is especially looking forward to collaborating with her big sis Megan, who joined TDS last year.
Naja Copeland is working toward her Dance Studies degree at Columbia College. She has a background in ballet, jazz, contemporary and other various styles of dance studying with TDS Studios. She is now focusing more on somatic techniques and contemporary which compliment her collegiate studies. She is also exploring her artistry and growing as a performer. Copeland currently performs with company Yuhas and Dancers based out of Columbia, SC. She has performed at many festivals on the east coast including Asheville Fringe Festival, PortFringe Theatre Festival, and American Collegiate Dance Festival. Her work has been featured in the Student Choreographers showcase at Columbia College. She has also had a residency at the Midlands Art Conservatory. Naja plans to continue her dance career as a performing artist when finishing her degree.
Samantha Cain is from Laurens, SC and is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Education at Piedmont Technical College, with plans to transfer to a four-year school with a minor in dance.
She has been dancing since the age of 2 and has danced with TDS Dance Studios on the competitive team for 10 years. She performed with the International Ballet Academy for three years. She has also studied at the South Carolina Governor’s School for their 5-week summer Intensive for three years. Samantha is excited to share her love of all styles of dance to her students.