Meet the Faculty

Debbie Felton's Academy of Dance Faculty are all trained in CPR/First Aid/AED

Debbie Felton, M.D.E. Director

Debbie has been dancing and teaching for well over 30 years.  Debbie is a Master Dance Educator, President for Chicago National Association of Dance Masters and also certified member of Cecchetti Council of America.  She is continually receiving dance education as “there is always something new to learn.” Debbie loves teaching and seeing her students grow.  She is very proud of all her students and wants them to have fun while learning proper dance technique.

Nikki SHerman

Nikki Sherman joined the DFAD family in the fall of 2009, and has loved every minute of her teaching experience. She studied various types of dance for over 20 years at Robert Lee, Central City and Eastern Michigan University. “I am so proud to have the opportunity to share my talent in such a friendly environment with people I love more and more every day.” One of her proudest moments is dancing aboard the Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship. She is very excited to continue educating herself in dance, as well as others. She is always looking forward to what exciting challenges the next dance season will have in store for her. Thanks to Ms. Debbie, Nikki has finally found a place where she can feel comfortable creatively expressing herself, doing what she loves to do most.

Gayla Gregor, DFCCA

Gayla Gregor Norris began her training with her mother and mentor, Rose Marie Gregor, who was an Executive Board Member and examiner with Cecchetti Council of America, Inc.  She also trained with Rose Marie Floyd in her teen years.  Since her youth, Gayla has studied all over the US and Europe in master classes with legendary ballet and jazz teachers.  Gayla has over 35 years of teaching experience of ballet, jazz and tap and directed the Birmingham Ballet and Jazz School 10 years.  She has been guest ballet and jazz faculty for numerous Cecchetti seminars and summer workshops.

Currently, Gayla is certified to teach classical ballet by the Cecchetti council of America, Inc. of which she is a fellow member and former General Board Chair.  She is qualified to teach the Royal Academy of Dance method, and also has training in the Bournonville and Vaganova methods.  She also has a professional background in dance and vocal performance.

Jennifer Porter

Jennifer has danced with Debbie since 2000 and is overjoyed to be working with her at the studio this year!  “Being a part of a child’s growth, confidence, and teamwork is a treasured reward.  We are the D*FAD family and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it!!” Jennifer’s specialty is Tap, however, she loves working with the preschoolers and they love her. Jennifer continues her dance education through current classes and through Chicago National Association of Dance Masters (CNADM) as well as the Detroit Hoofers Club.

Being a member of the Detroit Hoofers Club which is directed by the legendary tap master Professor Robert Reed has been an experience of a lifetime.  Jennifer has performed with the club locally and at the St. Louis Tap Festival.

“To dance. To express the individual soul.  To silently witness a personal story of all emotions.  It’s not always about being the best.  Sometimes it’s more important to be connected and communicate with all cultures.”

Heather Coppola

Heather Coppola is a DFAD alumni who grew up dancing with Miss Debbie since the age of six. She has danced competitively for over 10 years and has performed in many award winning routines.  She has continued her dance education through attending numerous workshops and conventions, including Chicago National Association of Dance Masters. She studied her way through the CNADM Student Honors program. Heather is also a teacher certified to instruct the Cecchetti ballet method and is one of the competitive team coaches.  She enjoys sharing her love and passion for dance in a positive environment. She wants all children to have the opportunity to find their love of dance. “I am excited and honored to be part of DFAD as an instructor teaching all styles of dance”.

Stephanie Penner

Stephanie started dancing at age 3 and has over 15 years of dance experience, performing, teaching, and choreographing. She is exclusively trained in all classical and commercial styles including Polynesian dance. Some of her professional work includes dancing in the Thanksgiving day Lions halftime shows, KIA motors, Elvis to the Max, Wilson, choreographing, and traveling nationally with local tribute band Your Generation in Concert. Stephanie is a licensed physical therapist assistant and loves to incorporate her knowledge of science into training and educating young dancers. She joined the DFAD family in 2015 teaching recreational and competitive level dancers. Her dancers have gone on to win local, regional, and national awards. 

Megan Duby

Megan Duby has been dancing since the age of three and is a DFAD alumni who was part of the competition team for thirteen years.  Megan furthered her dance experience at Eastern Michigan University(EMU) where she participated in the EMU dance team while obtaining her Bachelor of Science degree in dance.  Megan is excited to teach and share her love and passion for dance with her students. “I am excited to help my students grow and fall in love with dance in the studio that I grew up in.”  DFAD has always been a second home and a family.

Janet Coppola

Janet Coppola your studio Office Manager started working with Debbie in the fall of 2002. Janet enjoys being part of Debbie’s faculty. “This position is perfect for me, as I have worked as an office manager for a CPA firm and steel company for many years prior to having children.” Organizing, planning and creative thinking are what makes this job so perfect for Janet. She loves being the first person you see when coming through the studio doors. Jan enjoys greeting everyone, keeping people informed and making families feel comfortable when leaving their dancers here at the studio.

Nance Porter

Office Assistant has been with the DFAD family for the past two years.  She works at the front desk and enjoys greeting the dancers and parents.  Nance is an essential part of keeping the office organized.  “I am enjoying being a part of what keeps DFAD a fun place to be at.”

Alexandra Cetin

Director of marketing and operations Alex has been with the academy for many years.  After a long hiatus from the academy due to teaching in a middle school and college courses Alex has returned to teaching and working in the place that she calls "home".  As a former D*FAD competition team dancer, daughter of Debbie Felton, Alex works at the front desk, teaches dance classes and works on the behind the scenes parts of the academy.  Focusing on technology, functionality and helping the academy continue to grow and adjust through the year.  Currently she is working on her CDA and always working on her technology skills.

Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith is a passionate performing dance artist, choreographer, and educator. Aaron earned a Master of Fine Arts in Performance and Choreography from the University of Arizona. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in Dance and served as an adjunct instructor at Wayne State University. As a performer, he danced in principal and featured roles with companies such as Ron De Jesus Dance, Autumn Eckman Dance, ArtlabJ Contemporary Dance, Squeeze and Release, and Chicago Dance in the Parks. Aaron trained under the guidance of Complexions Contemporary Ballet Artistic Directors Meg Paul, Dwight Rhoden, and Desmond Richardson. Additionally, Aaron has performed in works by renowned choreographers, including Sonya Tayeh, Mandy Moore, Larry Keigwin, Michael Williams, Sam Watson, Nicholas Leichter, and Miguel Perez. As a choreographer, assistant choreographer, and repetiteur, Aaron has created original works, and restaged classical and contemporary dances at collegiate dance schools and institutions nationwide, including Jacksonville University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Oakland University, Northwestern University, Shenandoah University, Washington and Lee University, Ball State University, Visceral Dance Chicago, and Joffrey Academy of Dance.

Notably, Aaron's passion for dance extends to his role as an educator. As an adjunct instructor at the UofA, he had the privilege of teaching jazz and modern dance, for which he was recognized with the 2017 Creative Achievement Award. From 2020-2021, he assumed the position of Artistic Director for Tucson Regional Ballet.

Aaron currently serves as the Program Coordinator for the Complexions Contemporary Ballet Academy Summer Intensives at the University of Southern California and Marymount Manhattan College. Recently, he made the exciting move to the Detroit area, where he looks forward to sharing his vast experience and passion with the students at DFAD!