NIKKI MERCHUT began her journey and passion for dance at the age of 3. By the age of 6 she was training as a competitive dancer, attending conventions and competitions on the east coast. In 2012 Nikki fulfilled her love for modern and contemporary dance by graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Dance Education and Composition from Bowling Green State University. In 2011 Nikki took advantage of training and studying with Unity Dance Ensemble in San Diego under the direction of Tessandra Chavez. The same year she had the opportunity to work under Charlotte Boye-Christensen, artistic director of Ririe-Woodbury Modern Dance Company in Salt Lake City. In 2012 Nikki moved from Ohio to Illinois, accepting the offer to become the director of a local dance company where she built a dance program and company from the ground up.
June 2016 Nikki and Ken tied the knot and shortly after their Honeymoon were opened up to the opportunity to purchase MPA. Nikki had taught at MPA as the Acro instructor for three years prior. The lifelong dream of owning a dance studio became real in December 2016 when the Merchut's officially became owners. They are looking forward to creating a pre-professional program for dancers of all ages with emphasis on performance and making a space in which all the MPA dancers feel welcome.
KATELIN SECOR is a recent graduate from Columbia College Chicago. Where she graduated with a degree in theater and dance. This is her 2nd year performing with the traveling dance company, The Chicago Honey Bear Dancers. A traveling song and dance variety show that focuses on all styles of dance such as tap, contemporary, jazz, broadway and hip hop. But has also appeared in the works most recent works of chorieogrpahers such as Willow Faygenholtz and Emma Hadden.
She also has studied and worked with numerous youth theater companies such as Citadel Theater Company, Previsions Theater Company, and Story Catchers theater company, composing and producing youth productions through out the city of chicago. She's very happy to be working and educating the youth of the chicago land area in the field of dance and theater, in hopes to inspire her students through the arts.
Emma Sterner began her dance training at the age of 2 at Dorothy’s Dance Unlimited in Schaumburg. She has been dancing for 18 years, being trained in numerous styles such as Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Contemporary, Ballroom, Modern, Hip Hop, and Lyrical. Out of all of styles that she had been trained in, her favorite styles to dance and tech are Contemporary, Ballroom, Hip Hop, and Lyrical. Shortly after she started dancing, she then started to get involved with a theater company called Christian Youth Theater at the age of 5 and has been with the company for 15 years. She was in a total of 19 shows, but her favorites that she was in were Les Miserables, Singing in the Rain, and Hairspray. After she graduated high school, she began to choreograph full length productions and teach dance classes with the same company. Throughout her dance career, she started training at Joel Hall Dance Center in Chicago where she got to work and learn from amazing instructors such as Rosetta Fair and David Leaf. Emma has been teaching dance for 5 years and is currently a Junior in college working towards earning her degree in Sports Medicine with a Minor in Dance Therapy. She is so thrilled to be working with the amazing students and staff at MPA and hopes to inspire and have a positive impact on her students.
Sam began dancing at the age of two on Long Island. She studied
ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, kick line, and pointe at June Claire Dance
Center for 15 years. During this time, she worked with some of the
most prestigious teachers in the industry and teachers from NYC. While training there she was a part of their JC Lynn dance company and the Long Island Ballet Theater. She took classes from Broadway
choreographer and performer, Lloyd Cullbreath as well as studied under current and former Radio City Rockettes. She was honored to perform in professional shows such as the Oyster Bay Holiday Show and the Father Charles and Laurie Magano Christmas Show.
She then continued her training in dance at the collegiate level and
attended the State University of New York at Fredonia. She studied
ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz, tap, and attended many guest
artist classes in styles such as ballroom, hip hop, and African to
name a few. She was vice president and choreographer of the dance team and a member of their hip hop team. She took classes and performed in pieces with many choreographers and companies such as Paul Taylor dance company, Randy James and Jon Lehrer Dance Company. She graduated with her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance and Bachelors of Fine Arts in Psychology with an interdisciplinary studies minor in Dance Studio Administration.
While completing her undergrad, she was fortunate enough to teach at
Eclectic Dance Company as a Senior Faculty Member and Technical
Supervisor. During this time Samantha taught a wide variety of styles
such as ballet, modern, tap, contemporary, lyrical, pom, kick
line/character dance, and dance composition. She taught recital
classes, technique classes, and competitive teams.
Sam is excited to begin her fourth year at Momentum Performing Arts!
She believes that everyone can dance and wants to inspire students to
reach their fullest potential.
Norah Flaherty began her dancing in Oswego, IL at Dance With Flair, LLC. She trained in ballet, pointe, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, musical theatre, and tap, and has over 5 years of experience teaching these styles to every age and every ability. While at the studio, she aided classes and choreographed for showcases, and recitals, and danced through over 20 theatre productions in the Chicago Suburbs. She believes in the importance of sharing the arts with the community, and also taught classes for elderly individuals at Open Door, and helped with the program "Dancing with Special Stars" to help special needs students enjoy the arts. She then took her dancing to North Central College in Naperville, IL, where she graduated with a degree in Theatre and a Minor in dance, studying under a variety of instructors including Cindy Hartigan, and Dyanna Daniels, while performing a variety of shows and taking classes on-and-off at Lou Conte in Chicago. During her first year at North Central she had the opportunity to study under Dmitri Peskov and be a part of a contemporary dance ensemble that produced the show: Fragments: a Theatrical Dance Experience. Norah was a 3 time contemporary dance choreographer for the Cardinal Dance Company, and danced in a variety of musical theatre, tap, jazz, modern, and contemporary performances for the company. Her last year 2 years at North Central she shifted her dance focus more towards choreographing, as she was a preceptor for college dance classes, co-choregraphed a one-night production in the style of Bob Fosse, and began teaching tap and creative movement classes at the School of Performing Arts. When Miss Norah isn’t teaching dance or theatre, she can be found coaching college and high school speech teams, auditioning and performing in theatre productions in Chicago, stretching with her cat, and taking aerial arts classes for fun!
Cynthia Kiehnau trained with SF Conservatory of dance; NYC (Perridance, Marjorie Mussman, formerly with Joffrey,); Pam Moore (National Ballet of Md). Ms. Kiehnau has performed professionally for 30 years and taught for 36 years. She has her Cecchetti teachers certificate to the advanced level. (The Cecchetti method is the Italian method and the oldest classical methodology of dance).
Performance experience (reduced), Windemere Ballet Theatre (NYC), Long Is Ballet Theatre (NYC); Asaph Ensemble (Va); National Ballet of Md (Md). Ms. Kiehnau started Crossroads Dance Project (contemporary & ballet co.) that toured Va and produced full-length dance productions for ten years.
After CDP, she formed Virginia Civic Ballet, a professional studio in Va,training classical dancers and producing full length ballets.
Ms. Kiehnau accepted the position as Dance Coordinator for PWC Parks & Rec in Va. The program was started from nothing and developed for ten years to one of the most successful programs at the DCRC Center ( and still running).
Ms Kiehnau and her husband (semi)retired to move closer to children/
Rylie Ann Taylor is a Chicago-based actor, singer, dancer, and teaching artist. She originally hails from Indianapolis, IN where she grew up with her Dad and two little sisters. She began her collegiate career at Ball State University where she double-majored in Dance and Theatre Studies before transferring to North Central College (with Miss Norah!) where she earned double degrees in Musical Theatre and Theatre Performance. Rylie finally graduated in 2020...right into the pandemic...hooray!
During that time when performing live wasn't an option, she landed a couple of teaching jobs to stay afloat and discovered a new love for this side of the industry. In addition to Momentum, she currently holds teaching positions as a youth hip hop, tap, and musical theater instructor and is the manager of a Theater Academy and Music Studio. She was also involved
as a work study at Visceral Dance Center for 1.5 years.
When she's not running around the city to her various gigs, Rylie enjoys painting, weightlifting, and attempting not to kill her 12 apartment plants. Easiest way to make her happy is by bringing her a cold brew or chips and salsa! She's a simple woman.
Peyton holds a BFA in Dance and Choreography from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle WA and received the “Outstanding Achievement in Dance” award two years in a row. She has had her choreography showcased in Seattle before moving to Chicago in 2021. She has performed in works by Stephanie Liapis, Wade Madsen, Laura Ann Smyth, Alana Isiguen, and others. Peyton has been learning the craft of teaching since high school. She is constantly inspired by and reflects on her surroundings, experiences, and aesthetics; putting humanity and empathy at the forefront of her teaching, performance, and choreography. When Peyton is not teaching, she is taking local dance classes, hanging with her dog Bruno, or finding a new baking recipe. She is super excited to be joining the MPA team!