Karisa Vander Weele - Studio Owner
Karisa started her dance training at Hearts In Step Dance Academy in 2013 where she has trained mostly in Ballet, Modern, and Pointe, but has also taken classes in Jazz, Tap, Hip Hop and Contemporary. She joined HIS Ensemble in 2016 and enjoyed dancing in several ballet productions and is now doing costuming for their shows. She also enjoyed being a part of their outreach, and appreciated the opportunity to minister to and encourage people through the art of dance.
In April of 2022, Karisa graduated from Calvin University with a degree in graphic design and minors in both business and dance. During her time at Calvin Karisa was very involved in Dance Guild, a student run organization which puts on a dance performance every semester. She appreciated being able to not only learn and perform various dance styles through Dance Guild, but the opportunity to choreograph several dances including lyrical, pointe, ballet and modern as well.
Karisa took over ownership of Reverence Dance Academy in June of 2023. She is excited to see how God will use the studio in the coming years.
Jessica began dancing at the age of 3 in the Vaganova method and has since trained in various dance methodologies. Over the past 12 years, she has trained at HIS Dance Academy, training in ballet, pointe, modern, and contemporary while performing in many original ballets as a member of the Senior Ensemble. She also participated in many Outreach events, and danced/assisted in teaching dance at her church. She has performed in West Michigan Youth Ballet's production of the Nutcracker, danced with Academy of Dance Arts, and spent the summer of 2016 training at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. She has been teaching and assisting dance for over 10 years for ages 3-18.
Jessica has taught at Reverence Dance Academy since 2018, and was owner from 2020 to 2023. As owner and artistic director, she choreographed full length ballets including The Nutcracker Ballet and Swan Lake, and two original ballets alongside Karisa Vander Weele. Currently, Jessica is pursuing degrees in biochemistry, neuroscience, and psychology at Calvin University. She plans on attending medical school, specializing in cardiovascular surgery. At Calvin, she is on leadership for Dance Guild, Calvin’s largest student org and has choreographed and participated in dances ranging from lyrical, pointe and ballet, to swing dancing, contemporary and jazz.
Jessica values strong technique in a loving, encouraging, Christian environment. She is so excited to share the joy and freedom found in dancing for Christ with her students, and is excited to see what the Lord has in store for the future of Reverence Dance Academy!
Elianna has been dancing since the age of three. She is originally from the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts, and completed most of her dance training at Arlington Dance Place in Massachusetts. She trained in multiple styles, including ballet, tap, jazz, modern, contemporary, lyrical, and hip hop. Elianna performed in many of her studio’s original shows including their version of the Nutcracker. Additionally, Elianna was a member of her studio’s competition team, where she explored many dance styles and got her start as a choreographer. Elianna also taught classes in ballet and tap for 3 years.
Elianna is currently pursuing a degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Science as well as a minor in Dance at Calvin University. Elianna acquired much more diverse training in dance through Calvin’s Dance Minor program, where she learned about the history of dance as well as dance styles from many different cultures. Elianna is also very involved in Calvin’s Dance Guild program where she served on Leadership and has choreographed many dances in different styles, as well as learned new techniques.
Elizabeth has been dancing at Hearts In Step Dance Academy since she was 4 years old. She is heavily trained in ballet and pointe work as well as modern techniques. She has performed in several performances through HIS Dance Ensemble, and also had the opportunity to participate in Reverence’s performances of Swan Lake and Cinderella. Elizabeth is a graduate of Rockford High School. While at Rockford High School, she was a member of the National Honor Society, Honors Orchestra, and was also heavily involved in her youth group through Ada Bible Church and led a small group of kindergarten children in the Discovery Village children’s ministry.
Elizabeth is currently studying Child Development at GRCC, with the intent of transferring to CMU to complete her degree in Child Development, along with a minor in dance. She is so excited to have this opportunity to teach students. Elizabeth says “I want to create the same bond with my students as I got the privilege to have with my instructors when I was younger. I want to not only teach dance, but I hope to instill the same kind of passion in their hearts that was placed in mine and that I still have today!”
Harlee has studied dance since she was two years old. She has trained heavily in ballet, modern, contemporary, partnering, and pointe. Harlee trained at West Michigan Youth Ballet for ten years, under Jen Norder and Stephen Sanford. She also trained with HIS Dance Academy for nine years, under Tassia Johnson, Olga Smelik, Sarah Walters, and Hannah Sullivan. Additionally, Harlee trained with Ada Dance Academy for three years under Stephen Sanford, Laura Berman, and Hannah Trulock. Privately, she has trained with ABT instructor Samantha Shelton. Harlee has performed in countless productions through HIS and WMYB, including principal roles in The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and many others. In 2019, she attended Grand Rapids Ballet’s summer intensive on merit-based scholarship, as well as competed in the world renowned Youth American Grand Prix.
Harlee has taught dance at many studios, including HIS Dance Academy, Turning Pointe School of Dance, West Michigan Youth Ballet, and LoMi Studios. Additionally, Harlee has been teaching, choreographing, and directing at Reverence Dance Academy since 2020. Her past accomplishments include directing, choreographing, and costuming Reverence’s 2021 full-length production of Cinderella, as well as coordinating and teaching Reverence’s summer camps in 2021, 2022, and 2023. Additionally, Harlee is a collaborator with the Grand Haven Musical Fountain. Specifically, she choreographed, coordinated, and danced as Elsa in the “Frozen Live!” musical fountain show that premiered in June of 2022.
Currently, Harlee is pursuing a degree in both dance and exercise science at Hope College, studying under professors Julie Powell, Matt Farmer, and Kara Brems. She danced in Julie Powell’s “Pieces of Her” in Hope College’s Dance 48, as well as danced in her Dance 49 piece, “Untethered”. She was named Julie Powell’s rehearsal assistant for the 2023-2024 season, specifically for her piece “Untethered”. Harlee is the president of the Hope College Ballet Club, leading the organization, teaching weekly classes, and choreographing for the club’s bi-annual productions. Harlee is on West Michigan Youth Ballet’s board of directors, and she is currently working at Grand Rapids Ballet as their 2023 Dance Festival Coordinator.
Gabrielle started ballet at the age of 3 at HIS Dance Academy, transferred to Dance Dimension for a year, and then continued her training at Reverence Dance Academy when it first opened. She is the daughter of Reverence’s first owner Roy Shaw and is a living testament to the strong impact of Reverence Dance Academy on its students! She gives credit to the numerous men and women in her life for pushing and encouraging her to pursue this beautiful art form. Gabrielle has trained in ballet, tap and pointe for over 15 years and is now returning for her second year of teaching at Reverence. Last year she taught Ballet III and this year is excited to be teaching Ballet IV and Advanced Ballet for the 2023/24 school year!
Gabrielle is currently a sophomore at Cornerstone University, and is majoring in Film and Video production. Gabrielle says “In my time away from the studio, you’ll find me capturing art through cinematography! It is my hope that through art, whether it be film or ballet, I may point towards Christ in everything I do!” One of her favorite Bible verses is from Isaiah 43 which says “Have no fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.”
Sydney started dancing when she was 3 years old at Kathy’s Dance Company in Grandville, Michigan. She started out with tap and ballet, but once she started dancing competitively at the age of 6, she expanded her styles. Sydney has competed in tap, jazz, lyrical, musical theater, and hip hop, as well as taking ballet classes throughout her 10 years of doing so. She specializes in tap, but she enjoys every genre of dance as well. Sydney has won many titles while competing in both group dances and her half a dozen tap solos, including multiple national titles over the years. She has also taken classes in the contemporary and modern styles at conventions held at KDC. Sydney has also had the privilege of choreographing and teaching dances for her high school choir shows and musicals.
Sydney is now an undergraduate student at Calvin University and is studying Biology with a Neuroscience concentration, as well as minoring in Psychology and Biochemistry. She is currently on the Pre-Optometry track, and is excited to continue her education in becoming a certified Optometrist after college. In her years at Calvin, Sydney has participated in the Dance Guild organization and has been able to continue pursuing her love for dance by partaking in many genres and styles. She currently serves on Dance Guild’s Leadership team and helps put on the shows every semester, and has also had the opportunity to choreograph and teach her fellow students through this organization. Sydney is extremely excited to become a part of the Reverence Dance Academy community, and she can’t wait to share her love of dance with young dancers as well!
Clara was classically trained in ballet and modern for twelve years at HIS Dance Academy. She has performed in countless original ballets through being a part of the HIS Ensemble where she performed various styles including ballet, pointe, partnering, modern, and even some hip hop.
Currently, Clara is majoring in Biology and Spanish at Calvin University, planning to go pre-med. At Calvin, Clara has continued to dance through the Dance Guild program where she has participated in many new styles and worked to choreograph her own pieces. She serves on the Dance Guild Leadership team planning, organizing, and creating their shows. At Calvin, Clara has also served as a Freshman Student Senator, dove deeper as a biologist in a Phage Hunters Program, and created as a part of the Artist Collaborative Cohort.
Kayla Vander Weele
Kayla grew up dancing and has done ballet, tap and jazz at various studios. In May 2023 she graduated from Cornerstone University with a degree in exercise science and cardiac rehab. During her time at Cornerstone Kayla was a student athlete on the cheer team, where she did competitive and sideline cheer. While on the team Kayla got to help lead as a captain, plan daily devotions, help with dances and cheers and teach freshman content. The past two summers Kayla has traveled all over the country with a traveling ministry called EveryHeart. Spreading the gospel, serving those in need, and unifying and encouraging the local church. Now Kayla is working as an exercise physiologist at a local hospital helping patients rehab from surgeries as well as help them reach fitness goals. When she is not working, she loves running, working out, baking, hanging out with friends and being outside.
Kayla says “I am so excited for this year of teaching. I love working with kids and I am passionate about helping everyone find fun ways of being active. Most of all I love the Lord and desire to honor our creator with everything that we do. It is my goal this year that kids leave class loving dance and knowing God; the one who gave them life and ability to dance, more deeply!”
Maddie started dancing when she was five years old at Zeeland Recreation in Zeeland, Michigan. She started training in ballet, then continued on with training in jazz, tap, contemporary, musical theater, and a little bit of hip hop and modern. Her primary focus is ballet, contemporary, and jazz. Maddie was also a member of Zeeland Dance Company for 9 years where they focused mostly on ballet productions. In high school, she was a teaching assistant for Zeeland Recreation and Zeeland High School Dance II. Maddie was also a member of Zeeland High School’s Dance Ensemble for 2 years where she trained daily and travelled to different dance festivals and master classes to continue learning from a variety of professionals, such as Michigan Youth Arts Festival and Oakland dance festival. During her membership she also had the opportunity to travel to Disney World and perform there. She also took classes from professionals of other studios such as Spotlight Dance Academy, Body Language Dance Company, and Turning Pointe School of Dance.
Maddie is now studying speech pathology at Calvin University and hopes to work with kids one day. At Calvin, she has been involved in and on the leadership team for Dance Guild, Calvin’s largest student organization. She has a passion for working with differently abled kiddos and affirming that everyone is a precious child of God. Dance is one of Maddie’s favorite ways to worship the Lord and is excited to pass on her passion for dance to others.