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
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. 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.”
Melanie was born and raised in Massachusetts and began dancing at the age of four. She studied ballet, tap, and jazz at In Sync Center of the Arts for 10 years and was invited to join their competition team. Melanie was a member of the Weymouth High School Dance Team from 2008-2012 where she served as captain during her final season. She performed and competed jazz, pom and hip hop routines.
After high school, Melanie attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in New York where she earned her Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry and Biophysics in 2016. While at RPI, Melanie was a member of the RPI Dance Team where she served as secretary and captain. She is currently earning her PhD in Cancer Biology.