Dancing with Class™ was founded in 2006 as the youth outreach division of May I Have This Dance™. Co-founders Margot Toppen (Executive Director of Dancing with Class™) and Nino DiGiulio (Founder/Owner of May I Have This Dance™) used their collective backgrounds in Education and Arts Administration to design an engaging youth dance program specifically geared toward the learning styles of children and young adults. DwC's large and diverse staff of professional teaching artists has been trained to use this curriculum to deliver excellent quality programming.
Margot Toppen, Executive Director
Margot is a visionary educator, administrator and communications specialist with 16+ years of experience working in the arts education sector. A graduate of Northwestern University, Margot has focused much of her career on developing resources and programs for kinesthetic learners to support Social Emotional Learning. In partnership with May I Have This Dance, Margot developed the Dancing with Class curriculum as well as Dance Around the World. Her focus on building tiered partnerships that actively engage teachers, administrators, parents, and students has been key to creating successful and sustainable programs.
As a dancer, Margot has enjoyed an extensive teaching and performing career. She has danced live on stage with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and is a featured instructor as part of the City of Chicago's SummerDance series. Her choreography has been featured twice in Dance Chicago and she has a number of screen credits including "The Road to Perdition."
Margot is also the author of Jitterbugs! A dance-along story inspired by real American Jitterbugs. This children's book was inspired by her work teaching swing dance to young people. The book is available at jitterbugsbook.com along with music and video downloads and a classroom activity guide for educators.
Colleen Uspensky, Director of Programs and Partnerships
Affiliated with May I Have This Dance since 2005 and Dancing With Class since 2006, Colleen is a passionate social dance teacher of all ages. With her degree in Dance from the University of Northern Colorado, she has put her knowledge of dance, body movement, curriculum development and pedagogy throughout Chicago, the Midwest, Colorado, Tel Aviv and Oslo. Still actively on the stage, her performance credits include placing in the top 12 at the US Open Swing Dance Championship, performing professionally with Jayson Dance Company and Disney Cruise Line.
Denita Inez, Director of Outreach – DwC All-Stars
Denita received her Bachelors of Science in Dance at Wayne State University. Denita currently performs as a solo artist and with her Latin Jazz dance company, Desueño. She is currently on staff at Lake Forest Dance Academy, Dancing with Class and May I Have This Dance. Denita has danced with Noumenon Dance Ensemble, Modern Clave, and Chicago Dance Crash. She was the Technical Director and Choreographer for the Civic Dance Ensemble for the Detroit Opera House. She has trained in various styles including Modern (Horton and Dunham), Jazz, Ballet, Latin and Social Dances.
Christine Keyes, Director of Business & Operations
Christine is a graduate of Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies. Christine Joined the Dancing with Class team in 2014. Prior to her time with Dancing with Class, Christine led the operations department for a telecommunications company based out of Chicago. Throughout her career she has been recognized by her peers for her accomplishments.
Chris Van Houten, Lead Teaching Artist – Staff Development & Training Director
Chris completed a BA in Theatre Arts/Anthropology with minor in Asian Studies at Drew University in 2004 followed by an MA in Performance Studies at Northwestern University in 2005. He worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Northwestern University from 2005-2010; and as a Teaching Consultant at Northwestern University from 2007-2010. He has trained and taught at May I Have This Dance since 2005 and has taught in schools as part of Dancing with Class since 2009.
Dancing with Class™ Teaching Artists
Dancing with Class™ recruits, trains and maintains a roster of high-quality teaching artists with a diverse array of experience and dance background. Our teaching staff includes professional dancers involved in the ballroom, modern, ballet and hip-hop dance communities, as well as several instructors with degrees in Education. Our team-oriented approach to training results in a highly motivated and dedicated team that benefits from the diversity of talent that exists within the staff.