Maria C. Barresi

Owner/Director/Chief Choreographer

Since the young age of 5, Maria knew she had a future in Dance. In 2004 she fulfilled her life long dream of opening a dance studio. Maria currently attends classes and workshops at the Broadway Dance Center in Manhattan, New York City, NY. Maria is passionate about her job with her students. Her students have successfully taken home many first place awards in their category as well as division, from numerous competitions all over New York State, as well as New Jersey. These awards include Platinum & Elite Gold trophies and medals. Maria's students have been selected and invited to attend honorable events such as “Power Pak” Convention in Las Vegas, NV and “The Outback Bowl Performance Tour” in Tampa, FL. Maria’s competitive students have won multiple overall high score awards. Recently, this past summer one of her competition teams were titled National Champions at the National Finals in Atlantic City, New Jersey for the second year in a row! Maria is truly dedicated to her students and gleans even more joy from watching them succeed.

Technique, expression and passion is what makes a performance perfect.  If this is accomplished, your body shape, height or hair, is forgettable!

Damien Caquias

Hip Hop

Damien was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. His loving and independent mother moved to the United States to provide the best life for Damien and his family. They settled in Utica, New York where Damien was raised, and would attend and graduate from local schools. The passion for dance was always in Damien growing up. His fondest memories were the years he committed himself to Hip Hop Drill Teams. He has had the privilege of working with choreographers such as Jared Jenkins, of Touchstone Pictures’ "Step-it-Up," and Ryan Davis, best known for his work with Jennifer Lopez & Nikki Minaj. Damien teaches all Hip Hop classes from ages 5-19 and is currently continuing his dance education, taking courses at Broadway Dance Center in Manhattan, New York City, NY. It’s his personality and fun filled demeanor that all of his students cherish! Damien is a firm believer that dance can be anything you want it to be. He teaches his students that as long as you work hard you can be as great as you have ever imagined.

Just be YOU and have FUN!

Erika Brescia

Ballet/Technique, Jazz & Lyrical

Erika was born and raised here in Utica, New York and attended local catholic schools. Her dance education started at the young age of 3 with local studios and teachers. Erika became a competitive dancer at the age of 9 and has won numerous awards for her group and solo performances, and has qualified for national level competitions. At the age of 12, Erika was “put up” and began training in the fine art of Pointe. She captivated her audience with her grace, emotion, and beauty on stage. Erika has had experience working with North Utica's Junior Pee Wee Pop Warner Cheerleading squads where she worked as a choreographer. Her students have had the opportunity to compete for and have won many overall awards. Erika has attended and completed workshops at the Broadway Dance Center in Manhattan, New York City, NY. She loves working with dancers aspiring to be the best they can be.

Dance is beautiful! Perseverance, commitment, and dedication will ensure you are successful and truly shine!

Amanda Scarafile

Primary, Jazz, Lyrical

Amanda's dance education started when she was 4 years old at "Take a Bow" dance studio. After the closure of that studio in 2004, she found MCSD in downtown Utica. At MCSD, Amanda started to become a competitive dancer and was part of the Senior Competition Team for 7 years. Her biggest accomplishments at the studio have been bringing home multiple 1st place overall awards that are still displayed in the studio lobby today! Amanda completed her collegiate program and received her degree in Psychology. Amanda's position at the studio requires her to take a firm role in the students’ dance education. She works with the students on technique as well as preparing them for higher, more difficult levels. Amanda has completed various workshops with instructors at Broadway Dance Center in Manhattan, New York City, NY. Amanda's love for MCSD has inspired her to take what she has learned and pass it on to a younger generation of dancers.

This place has taught me to be myself, no matter what! When the day is done it's been my dance family who always accepted me... for me! That's something so special that I am determined to pass on!

Karen Pohorecki


Karen began teaching fitness classes in 2011. She began with ZUMBA classes and completely fell in love with the thrill of fitness dance classes! Karen proudly holds over 16 certification including 6 styles of Zumba, POUND, Piloxing, Piyo, R.I.P.P.E.D., Red Warrior Nation, and Flirty Girl Fitness. Karen also holds a CPR/AED certified, AFAA Group Certified Fitness Instructor, AEA Aquatic Certified Fitness Instructor, and AFAA Personal Trainer Certificates! Karen can provide her students with a new love of exercising. She does this by making class fun, even a little silly at times! Her classes are great for all ages and they allow students to put as much as they want into it. Karen believes that it is a part of human nature to help others. Teaching fitness classes is her chance to fulfill this. Her spirit is lifted in helping women embark on their health and wellness journey. She is driven by witnessing women push themselves beyond their limits, and is elated with their fitness accomplishments!

In my class you will laugh, sweat, and push yourself a little out of your comfort zone, all in an effort to make your health and wellness a natural part of your life.

Dawn Olney-Kochan


Dawn began her dance career of 30 years in 1970 with Bauer's School of Performing Arts. She studied acrobatics, ballet, jazz, lyrical, and tap. She has 5 years of baton twirling and ballet pointe experience also. In 1972, Empire School of Gymnastics opened and Dawn was one of their first gymnastics students. In 1974, she became a competitive dancer and gymnast; as well as an assistant instructor at Empire in both gymnastics and dance. She then knew, she wanted to pursue a career in teaching gymnastics and some day own her own business! Over the course of her competitive career she received awards at the NY State gymnastics Championships, and numerous competitions. She was a member of the "Aerialettes", the 1980 NYS Fair Grand Champions award winning acro. dance group. At 16 years old she became a certified gymnastics judge (one of the youngest ever). After graduating, she attended Alt's Gymnastics Teaching Academy in Cold Spring, NY. After college, she returned to the head gymnastics instructor/coach position at Empire Gymnastics & Dance, Inc. In 2003 Empire closed their gymnastics program, and this opened the doors for Dawn to achieve her dream of owning her own facility. In May 2004, she made it a reality and opened Empire Gymnastics & Fitness, Inc. in Frankfort-Schuyler, where she successfully runs her business today. Dawn joined the MCSD team 2 years ago, teaching students to achieve their personal best in acrobatics/tumbling classes.

I've been teaching gymnastics for 40 years. Dance and gymnastics have always been my passion, my love, my life and my dream come true...  I wouldn't change anything!

Mikayla Ruskey

Pre-School/Personal Assistant

Mikayla started her dance education was she was 3 years old. For 5 years she trained in the art of Ballet, Tap & Jazz under the instruction of Karen Drake, director of KDR in Whitesboro, NY. In the fall of 2005 Mikayla registered as a student at Maria Christina’s School of Dance. Under the training of Maria, Mikayla became a competitive dancer. She was a member of the very first competition team in studio history and won many awards that are still displayed in the studio today. While a member of the Senior Team, Mikayla attended many workshops in NYC in the fields of; Ballet, Jazz, and Hip Hop. On her final season as a competitive dancer she was titled a NATIONAL CHAMPION at the National Finals in Atlantic City, NJ in 2014. In the fall of 2015 Mikayla accepted a position on the MCSD Staff. Her position as a teacher's assistant offers her the opportunity to be Maria’s personal assistant and work along side her each week. She has also been given the opportunity to run her own Jazz class. Mikayla has taken her new role at the studio very seriously and has been so excited about it!

This place is where I could always let go of my problems for a few hours, I want to teach the generations behind me that this studio is going to be your second home where you can just let go... and dance.

Alexis Clark

Personal Assistant

Alexis started her dance education when she was 10 years old. For 9 years she trained in the art of Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Lyrical and Hip Hop. Alexis was a competitive dancer from 2007-2013. Her competition teams took multiple 1st place overall trophies and medals that are still displayed in the studio today. Alexis has had the opportunity to attend Jazz, Tap & Hip Hop master classes and workshops in NYC. Alexis is currently working towards a degree Hospitality Management. In the summer of 2017 Alexis accepted a position on the MCSD Staff. Her position offers her the opportunity to work with all Hip Hop & Competitive students. Alexis cannot be more thrilled to be working at the studio and with students she loves. 

Why fit in when you were born to stand out!

Christine Zemanek

Alumna Instructor

Christine began dancing when she was 10 years old and from the beginning was "a natural." After her first year of recreational classes at MCSD she started her training as a competitive dancer. The experiences and memories she made while being a competitive dancer are some of her fondest. Christine has won 2 National Titles in both 2014 and 2015. Christine graduated from Notre Dame High School and is currently a pharmaceutical major at the University at Buffalo. Besides maintaining her studies, she is also on the college's dance team and is a member of the "UB Dazzlers." When Christine is home from college she comes back to the studio to help train the competitive dancers and loves working with the recreational students. She teaches workshop style classes in Technique, Jazz and Jazz Funk.

No matter where life takes me, my heart will always lead me back to MCSD. This is the place that got me through so much in my life and taught me not only how to dance, but how to be me.

Amy Gleitsmann

Office Staff/Graphic Design

Dance has always been a passion of mine, and the studio has been my second home. I am so lucky that I am able to combine this passion with my love for design, allowing me to show everyone the studio as the amazing place it is!

Amy began dancing at the age of 5 and joined MCSD as a competitive dancer when she was 15 years old. Not only was she able to grow as a dancer at MCSD, but she learned many life lessons and made lasting memories. Amy graduated from Syracuse University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She currently works at Bremer's Wine and Liquor in New Hartford, NY as their Marketing Director. On the side she works as the graphic designer for the studio, creating and maintaining our website, designing our class advertisements as well as designing our showcase programs and slideshows.

Aaron Comeskey

Office Bookkeeper 

Although Aaron does not have any formal dance training he is very musically talented. Aaron has 6 years of Musical Theater experience. At the age of 8 Aaron began learning how to play the piano and quickly found his talent. He has played for local church events and concerts. Aaron has recored many classic pieces at Big Blue North recording studio in Utica that the MCSD staff currently uses in classes during warm-ups. Recently, Aaron has teamed up with Erika Brescia and plays music for her ballet dancers live during MCSD shows and recitals. Aaron is a graduate of Notre Dame High School and is currently and accounting major at LeMoyne College. On each school break you can find Aaron working in the office and assisting with many of the studio's accounting needs.

What I love most about MCSD is the closeness of the entire ‘family.’ It is such a welcoming community and students never want to leave.

Carm Guarnieri

Office Staff

Having involvement with the studio from inception, I have seen the students grow and evolve into great dancers who never cease to amaze me!

You can find Carm at the front desk. She is here to greet parents, take attendance, receive payments for classes and to answer questions parents may have. Carm herself does not have any dance experience. She was first involved in the studio because she has three granddaughters that are MCSD Dancers! Every show, recital or competition, Carm watches her granddaughters with great pride! She has over 10 years of experience being and MCSD supporter. It's because of this experience that she is fully knowledgeable in all class, costume, shoe and performance information. Carm does a wonderful job in the office and enjoys seeing the students and parents each week!