Instructors/Staff

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Maria C. Barresi

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

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.

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Damien Caquias

Hip Hop
Just be YOU and have FUN!

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.

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Amanda Scarafile

Ballet, Tap, and Jazz
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!

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.

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Mikayla Ruskey

Primary, Lyrical, and Hip Hop
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.

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!

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Jamie Sitera

Ballet

Jamie began dancing at the age of 4 and has continued her dance education ever since.

 

She trained locally, dancing in the Mohawk Valley Ballet and eventually becoming Ballet Mistress. She taught and coached dancers until her mid-20’s when her passion led her to opening her own studio.

For 33 years she was the Artistic Director for the Dance Academy and the Leatherstocking Ballet, Inc. as well as its founder.

Jamie holds Lifetime Registered membership with the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), submitting dancers for their ballet exams yearly with exceptional results. Students have gone on to study and dance professionally both in the US and abroad. She has an advanced degree with the RAD holding the Teaching Diploma, one of only a few teachers with this designation in the USA.

She also holds teaching credentials with American Academy of Ballet, Progressing Ballet Technique, Acrobatic Arts, as well as NYS Dance teaching certification. Jamie taught in a performing arts school for 18 years prior to going into public school administration. She has held school administrative positions for over 14 years and currently is the Principal of Itinerant Services at Oneida Herkimer Madison BOCES. Since closing her studio, Jamie has freelanced while continuing to serve as the Artistic Director for the Leatherstocking Ballet.

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Robyn Gaffney

Ballet

Robyn began her passion for dance at a young age. She trained in the fine art of Ballet and Pointe for 12 years at John Hayes O'Neill School of Dance and continued her dance training throughout college where she received her degree in Liberal Arts and Psychology.  

 

Robyn has extensive professional dancing experience and has performed with artists such as Jay Sean, Pauly D, T-Pain, and Brody Jenner.  She has enjoyed working with various entertainment agencies including Farrington Productions out of Las Vegas, High Caliber Entertainment out of New York City, and Northeastern Entertainment out of Canada.  

 

Upon moving back to the Utica area, Robyn has danced with the Utica Comettes as well as the Syracuse Silver Knights Dance Team. She has been teaching ballet to children of many ages and truly enjoys all of the work and coaching she has done. Currently, Robyn is working towards a degree in Early Childhood Education and enjoys quality time with her daughter. 

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Mickayla Dicks

Preschool

Mickayla began her love for dance when she was just 3 years old and danced locally until she was 14. The fall season after turning 14 she decided to enroll as a student at Maria Christina’s School of Dance. At MCSD, Mickayla was trained to become a competitive dancer and became a member of the competition team. Mickayla continued to thrive in both Tap and Hip Hop and quickly became one of the strongest members of those teams. Throughout her competitive dance career, she has received many awards including first place overall achievements in her groups as well as solo performances.   

Mickayla is a graduate of Whitesboro High School and is a graduate of Mohawk Valley Community College where she received her degree in Business Administration. Throughout her time in college, Mickayla was a valued assistant here at the studio and cannot be more excited to accept a teaching position working primarily with our Preschool students. Maria is so honored to see a former student passing on her love and passion to the next generation of tiny dancers.

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Karen Pohorecki

Fitness
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.

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!

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Aaron Comeskey

Office Bookkeeper 
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.

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 is a graduate of Notre Dame High School and has a BA in Accounting and a MA in Information Systems from Le Moyne College. You can find Aaron at the front desk maintaining all of the studio's office needs

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Alyssa Whitaker

Office Staff

Alyssa might be new to our studio staff but she is NO STRANGER to MCSD! Alyssa is a proud studio alumni and was one of Maria's very first students when she opened the studio in 2004. Alyssa was born and raised here in the Utica area. She is a graduate of Whitesboro High School and attended MVCC as well as SUNY Poly and received her degree in sociology with a minor in psychology. During the day, Alyssa works for CNY Health Home Network and has been there for many years. Alyssa could not have been happier to join our studio staff team. You can find Alyssa working among the office staff each week at the studio. We are so happy to have her and she has been such a great addition to our staff family.

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Amy Gleitsmann

Graphic Designer
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 Cornell University as a graphic designer in the Marketing and Communications Office of the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. 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.