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.
STEPHANIE SHPARAGO has been working as a dance educator and choreographer for over 12 years. Stephanie trained at Giordano Dance Center where she was a member of the Giordano Juniors performance company. She was versed in many styles of dance, including Giordano Jazz Technique. Stephanie graduated with honors from Northeastern Illinois University where she was a dance scholarship recipient and received her Bachelors Degree in Social Work. Stephanie works in the Social Services Department at Elk Grove Township as a Caseworker/Community Outreach. Stephanie recently earned her Masters Degree in Social Work at Aurora University and is working towards earning her LCSW. Stephanie is the founder and director of Dancing for Dancers, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with the mission to connect communities, provide opportunities, and to support dancers in need. Stephanie has been growing the organization since 2014 to include scholarship programming, community outreach and benefit concerts. Stephanie is excited to begin her third season with MPA!
JONNY BASTEK began his dance training at the age of 16 at TranscenDance Studios in Oak Park. He took strictly hip hop classes at first, but after realizing his passion for dance, he branched out to breakdance and tumbling as well. After taking classes and training under Cait Jones and John Diaz, he joined a competitive dance team and competed for 3 years around the Chicagoland area. Wanting to better himself and gain more experience, he attended many workshops and master classes with top name choreographers in the industry. At the age of 19, he started teaching hip hop and jazz funk classes at TranscenDance Studios, where he still currently teaches all levels and is a contributing choreographer for the hip hop companies that run out of the studio. He has taught at TranscenDance Studios, Longfellow Elementary School, and Mixed Motion Art. He also has experience backup dancing, dancing in small music videos and concept videos, and has been hired for club openings, fashion shows, and a web series.
In November of 2013, he started dancing hip hop professionally with Gifted Souls under the direction of Rocky Quinones. He is currently still with them and is a contributing choreographer for the company as well. He has performed with Gifted Souls numerous times over the years, some notable performances including The Chicago International Salsa Congress (2014, 2015, and 2016), World of Dance, Hip Hop International, The Las Vegas International Salsa Congress, The Midwest Latin Dance Festival, The Chicago Salsa and Bachata Festival, The Orlando International Salsa Congress, and many other events in Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Texas, Orlando, and Las Vegas. Over the years of training and dancing, he has found his passion and currently specializes in hip hop, jazz funk, and urban contemporary, but also has breakdance, tumbling, and salsa under his belt as well.
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.