Meet the Directors
Maggie Dennis, Artistic Director & Founder
Maggie grew up dancing under the tutelage of her mother, Evelyn. She earned her Master's Degree in Dance from UCLA and was the Director of the Dance Department at the State University of New York at Fredonia before moving to Connecticut. She opened The Dance Extension in 1984. Maggie has been instrumental in instilling the value of giving back through dance and exposing her students to master teachers traveling to classes throughout New England and New York. Maggie has been recognized nationally for her career in dance education with feature articles in Dance Teacher Magazine, February 2000 edition, and most recently in Dance Studio Life Magazine's "Teacher Spotlight", November 2015.
Maggie is the artistic director and president of the Community Dance Ensemble, a concert company which performs at countless charities and for thousands of senior citizens at nursing homes and hospitals throughout southern New England. She has choreographed for community theatre including the Pfizer Players prooductions of "Can-Can" and "Oklahoma" and stays current in tap, her specialty field, by attending professional workshops in the U.S. and Europe.
Many of Maggie's students have gone on to dance professionally while others are teaching at universities and private studios throughout the country or have opened studios of their own. 2019 marks the 35th Anniversary of The Dance Extension and Maggie's 49th year of teaching in Southeastern Connecticut.
"Maggie: Your true gift is the spirit of performance and the force of magic you instill in all who walk through The Dance Extension doors. Thank you for the love and light you bring to lives and all you have brought to mine." - Lindsay MacDougall
Nancy K. Dennis, Associate Director
Pre-School, Ballet & Tap
Nancy earned a Bachelor of Arts in Dance from the State University of New York at Brockport where she received the Dance Scholar Award & the Rose L. Strasser Award for excellence in dance. She has performed at the American Dance Festival, Tisch School of the Arts and the Doris Humphrey Dance Festival, and has studied with Tim Draper (Draper Ballet), Jennifer Muller the Works Company, Garth Fagan and Ronald K. Brown.
Nancy has been on The Dance Extension faculty for 20 years. She serves as the Vice President of the studio's performing company, the Community Dance Ensemble. She was honored to be on the Global Volunteers 100th Team to Quito, Equador where she taught dance to preschoolers at FUNDAC, a daycare for underprivileged children.
Nancy remains active in the field of dance education attending conferences and continuing education opportunities through the American Academy of Ballet, Dance Teachers Club of Boston, Dance Teacher Magazine, Leap 'n Learn, Project Motivate, Dance Life/Rhee Gold, Little People's Creative Workshop, Music Works, UDMA, Dance Teacher Web Live and the Broadway Dance Center. She is an active member of Dance Studio Owners Association. In Nancy's words: "I'm blessed to come from a family of teachers. Teaching is in my D.N.A."
"Miss Nancy, Thank you for being a thoughtful and kind teacher. Thanks for listening to our "shares" every day." - Sarah D., age 9
Meet the Faculty
Our all adult faculty has decades of teaching experience in the field of dance, and their love of teaching leaves students feeling refreshed, motivated and open to new ideas & creativity. Our faculty gives all TDE students the opportunity to train with a diverse team of teachers to insure they're well versed in a variety styles and methods.
Ballet, Pointe & Preschool
Gayle studied at the New York Juilliard School of Music and at the American Dance Festival at Connecticut College. She became the first ballet mistress and soloist of the original Dance Theatre of Harlem and has extended her career to film, television and musical/theatre productions. With her husband, Professor Donald Muldrow Griffith, she is co-founder/director of Fountainhead Tanz Theatre, Black International Cinema Interdisciplinary Film Festival, The Collegium forum and television program, in association with Cultural Zephyr e.V., which are based in Berlin, Germany.
Gayle teaches classical ballet, jazz & modern movement, as well as Pilates structured body placement. Gayle joined The Dance Extension in 2009.
Paula's training began at the Sylvia Reynolds School of Dance in Waterford, CT. She earned a BS in Physical Eduation with a Dance and Gymnastics concentration from UMass Amherst where she danced with the University Dancers Touring Company in Italy, Greece & Iran. She continued her dance education at the American Dance Festival and Wesleyan University.
In 1975, Paula began choreographing and performng with DANCEWEAVE, a local company. She helped produce two modern dance concerts: Collaborations I (1992) and Collaborations II (1995). Paula has also performed Denishawn repertory at the Dancine in the Millennium 2000 conference in Washington, D.C. and at the National Dance Educators Conference at Rhode Island College.
Paula has been teaching at The Dance Extension for the past 24 years. She is retired from the Waterford School system where she taught Health, Physical Education and Dance. She has been the director of the Waterford High School Dance Club for the past 24 years.
Jazz & Tap
Marcia began dancing at the age of five in her childhood hometown, Escondido, California. She was inspired at a young age become a dance educator by her own teacher, Georgia Copeland. Marcia has been teaching at The Dance Extension for 33 years and currently serves as the Junior Company advisor for the studio's performing company, the Community Dance Ensemble. She attends the Tremaine Dance Convention annually.
Marcia has choreographed over 35 musicals for local high schools and community theatre groups, and has also had many starring roles. Marcia leads a liturgical dance group at the United Methodist Church of Gales Ferry, which has performed for a national audience. Marcia has served as the secretary/treasurer of the Sacred Dance Guild for over seven years. She has taught at three SDG festivals and has been a dance clinician for the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music & Worship Arts in both Florida and North Carolina.
Ballet & Pointe
Jillian, of Derry, NH, began her training at age four in the Royal Academy of Ballet under Barbara Mullen of the Londonderry Dance Academy. She then furthered her studies with Mary McCarthy of Dance Progressions before attending a private high school to train with Andrei Bossov and Natalya Getman of the Bossov Ballet Theatre. Jillian spent her summers partaking in summer intensives offered by Bossov Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, and Ballet Theatre of Maryland. She was a Company Member with Ballet Theatre of Maryland from 2010-2016 and performed roles such as Carmen, Morgan LeFey, the leading female in Excalibur, Pas De Trois and a Little Swan in Swan Lake, Snow Queen in The Nutcracker, Princess Isabel in Dancing Princesses, Anthony Tudor's Continuo, as well as many featured roles in Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, Cinderella, Mid Summer Night’s Dream, and Original Company Ballets. As an instructor for The Ballet Theatre of Maryland for 6 years, she taught Pre-Ballet classes through Advanced Levels, Tap and Jazz. She also was an instructor for the company ballet classes and worked closely with the professional trainee levels. Jillian was chosen by the BTM Director to represent the company teaching outreach and master classes for the local education program.
Preschool, Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Acrobatic Arts
Sarah started dancing at The Dance Extension at the age of three in the preschool program. Through the years, she studied ballet, tap, jazz, modern, and pointe. She performed with the Community Dance Ensemble for seven seasons, and was a class assistant in preschool, tap, and jazz classes for seven years. She served as the Dancers’ Representative on the CDE’s Board of Directors for two years and was inducted into the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA). After graduating from Ledyard High School, Sarah attend Hofstra University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Political Science (2018). While at Hofstra, Sarah was a member of Danceworks Productions, the largest run student organization on campus, and Rhythmix Tap Club. Sarah has attended the Rockette Experience at Radio City Music Hall, the Tremaine Dance Convention (NYC) and Broadway master classes led by cast members of Wicked, Billy Elliot, and Chicago. Sarah is an Acrobatic Arts Certified Teacher, and she also teaches Little Leapers, Rising Stars, Tap, and Jazz at TDE. Her favorite part of teaching is sharing the moment when a student achieves a step they’ve been working on for weeks, and “their eyes light up like you wouldn’t believe.”
Preschool, Ballet, Tap, Jazz
Kiana began her dance education at The Dance Extension at the age of three. She studied
ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop, and pointe. Kiana was a Class Assistant for the studio’s
preschool program, and tap, and ballet classes for 8 years. At the age of 10, she was invited to
perform with Kids in Motion, and at age 11 she successfully auditioned for the Community
Dance Ensemble (CDE). She danced with the CDE for six seasons and served as the Dancers’
Representative on the CDE’s Board of Directors for two years. In 2016, Kiana was inducted into
the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA).
Kiana graduated as an Honors Scholar from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor of
Science in Elementary Education and minors in Human Rights and History. While completing
her undergraduate degree, Kiana was a competing member of UConn’s Tap Team, a student-
run Club Sport that competes in regional and national competitions, for four years. During this
time she worked with choreographers such as Ryan Casey, artistic director of Off Beat
performing ensemble (Boston), and Kate Cavenagh, founder of the Connecticut Tap
Kiana has attended several dance festivals, including Beantown Tap Festival and Wesleyan’s
DanceMasters Weekend, as well as master classes where she has had the privilege of studying
various dance styles from many dancers distinguished in their styles, such as Michelle
Dorrance, Dianne Walker, Wendy Whelan, and Stephanie Pope.
Kiana is currently earning her Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction at UConn’s Neag School of
Education where she is serving as President of Leadership in Diversity (LID), a mentoring
program that works to maintain and encourage confidence and success in students of color as
they pursue careers in the field of Education.
A life-long learner, Kiana is very passionate about community and uplifting and empowering
those around her. She is very excited to share these passions as well as her passion for dance
with her students.
Sarah began her dance education at The Dance Extension at the age of three in Miss Helen's Rhythm & Movement class. From that moment on, she knew dance was something she would love for the rest of her life. Growing up Sarah studied ballet, pointe, jazz, modern, and tap and performed with the Community Dance Ensemble from ages 10-18. Sarah was inducted into the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA) for her years dedicated to the art of dance.
Sarah has attended the Tremaine Dance Convention (NYC), multiple Broadway master classes, the Rockette Experience at Radio City Music Hall. While she in high school at Saint Bernard, she helped found a dance club that performed regularly at school functions and events, and she choreographed for the Saint Bernard School Drama Club.
Sarah continued her dance education at Adelphi University where she studied with Frank Joseph Augustyn (principal dancer of the National Ballet of Canada and the Berlin Opera Ballet), Orion Duckstein (Paul Taylor Dance Company), and many other notable professionals. She performed in the Dance Adelphi Spring performance in choreography by Oliver Tobin (Graham 2 and the Martha Graham Dance Company). Sarah graduated from Adelphi University in 2019 with B.B.A. in Management and a specialization in Marketing. She is absolutely thrilled to be back at The Dance Extension as a teacher and is excited to share her knowledge of dance with her students.
Anna began her dance education at the age of 5 at The Dance Extension and continued to dance for 14 years through high school. She performed with The Community Dance Ensemble for eight years. While studying at The Dance Extension, she joined the Class Assistant Program and worked with children in the Young Movers and Spotlight programs for five years. She had the opportunity to assist in jazz, hip hop, tap, ballet classes. Anna was the 2018 recipient of the Evelyn Erving Dance Scholarship at The Dance Extension and in 2019, she was inducted as a member of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts.
As a young girl Anna dreamed of being a professional dancer, but as a teen she realized that she most enjoyed the role of the assistant. She decided that her future would be dedicated to sharing her love of dance with others as a teacher. Anna has taught Ballet and Broadway Jazz at Ledyard Parks and Recreations, and continues to teach Ballet through the program. Anna is passionate about teaching children the art of dance and seeing them progress each week. She is excited to be a member of the TDE Faculty.