Artistic Director/ Owner - Maria Ruffato
Choreography/technique all genres
Maria has had a love of dance since she was 4 years old. Miss. Maria worked in Walt Disney World Entertainment industry and has experience in auditioning for music legend Missy Elliot to performing with music group B5, Raven Symone and Mitchell Musso. She loves teaching and giving out knowledge to all her students! "Making them feel that they are in a safe-loving environment where they can express themselves" is something she strives for The 716 Dance Lab.
Studio Manager- Brittany Leighbody
Brittany brings a new zest into The 716 Dance Lab and the dance world. Graduating at the top of her class with a Bachelor's in Business Administration, to having over 20 years of cheerleading experience from youth to collegiate level! She took her many students to National Competitions around the country and Disney, and competed on national television! She is USASF certified for levels 1-6 and she looks forward to furthering The 716 Dance Lab in tumbling and Acrobatic technique! "I want to help the kids technically and nurture their love of dance."
Instructor- Kelsey Martin
Jazz, Lyrical, Tap I and 5 & Under Combo
Competitive Team Instructor
Kelsey is super excited to be a part of the 716 dance family. She has been dancing since the age of two and trained in many styles including tap, jazz, ballet, acro, lyrical, contemporary, and hip-hop. She has competed in numerous local and national competitions and has received scholarships. Kelsey also traveled to Pittsburg, PA to dance with the Abby Lee Dance Company for two summer intensives. Kelsey has her bachelors in Childhood and Special Education and is continuing with her Masters in Literacy. Kelsey is looking forward to sharing her love of dance with all her students. “My goal is to make every student feel comfortable and confident while dancing!”
Instructor- Jessica Schmigiel
Tumbling, Acro, Strength & Flexibility
Miss. Jess has over 25 years tumbling experience. Her strong background stems from competitive cheerleading. She has diverse knowledge from cheerleading in elementary school all the way through college and then for All-stars. She started teaching in 2007 and has been ever since.
Miss. Jess stresses tumbling technique and will bring a different approach to The 716 Dance Lab to grow the Acrobatics programs. Her biggest takeaway is needing a growth mindset. "Everything changes and you must be adaptable to stay successful"
Instructor- Linda Heitman
Jazz, Musical Theater and 5 & Under Combo
Miss Linda started taking dance lessons at the age of three. Her “big break” however, was when she was 16 and was the only student of her high school to be selected to perform as a member of the touring group, The Spirit of Youth. Her experience with “SOY” gave her the chance to perform over 40 shows per summer throughout Western New York and record professionally. After high school, she studied musical theatre and dance at Dean College in Franklin, Massachusetts and soon after, briefly worked as a cast member with the Walt Disney World Company. While raising her daughter, she was a makeup artist for the Greater Buffalo Youth Ballet and spent 10 years taking afro-brazilian dance classes as a hobby. She is currently enrolled in the Dance Masters of America’s “Teachers in Training” program which takes place yearly at the University of Buffalo and hopes to become certified to teach in all concentrations of dance in the years to come. When she’s not celebrating the arts, Linda is a Registered Dental Hygienist and proud mom.
Instructor- Naomi Greenstein
Ballet, Pointe & Jazz
Miss Naomi has been dancing since she was 3 years old and has been en pointe since she was 12. She danced with the Collage Performing Arts Center in Fredonia, NY, and was active on the studio's NY Majestics Dance Team which placed several years in a row at the UDA National Dance Team Championships in Orlando, FL. During her time with the NY Majestics and CPAC, she also was invited to perform at the London New Year's Parade as well as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade after performing a solo at UDA summer dance camp. Miss Naomi attended Mercyhurst University in Erie, PA for English & Graphic Design and continued her education in Galway, Ireland where she studied for her Master's Degree in Literature & Publishing at the National University of Ireland.
Instructor- Emily Shulte
5 & under Combo
Miss. Emily began her 10-year dance journey by taking tap, ballet, jazz, advanced acrobatics, and contortion. She has since organized several local fundraising events (including WNY Idol Contests, Erie County Fair Talent Show, and Dancing with the Stars) and expanded her physical training to include MMA, boxing, CrossFit, and self-defense. She is a recipient of the Children’s Miracle Network’s national Jim Hart award in 2011, and she accomplished all this while studying early childhood development and special education at NCCC. After a long history of fundraising, event coordination, and dedicating her life to children, Emily hopes to “combine these experiences and return to her love of dance.”
Instructor- Abby Alessi
Summer Classes Instructor
Abby is currently studying for her BA in communication with a minor in Dance at Geneseo. She plans to complete her BA to return to the Dance Lab to teach full time and continue her education at UB for her MFA in dance. Abby began dancing at age 3 and competed for 9 years. She trained in Tap, Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary & Pointe. She is a member of the Geneseo Dance Ensemble and member/choreographer or Orchesis.