Meet the Faculty
YEARS OF DANCE EXPERIENCE & A LOVE FOR TEACHING
Under the leadership of Melanie Smith, the faculty at Dancin' Jazzi bring years of dance experience, combined with a love of teaching. Every dancer receives thoughtful, individualized attention in a warm and welcoming enviroment.
FOUNDER | ARTISTIC DIRECTOR | CHOREOGRAPHER | INSTRUCTOR
Melanie Smith has been dancing since the age of three. She later joined Body Talk Dance Company, studying Jazz, Tap, Ballet, and Hip Hop. Melanie has won numerous awards, scholarships and other titles. She soon began choreographing for special shows and mentoring and encouraging other dancers. She has been a performer, choreographer and instructor in Austin and Central Texas for over 20 years. Melanie firmly believes in what she calls her “ABCD philosophy;" Any Body Can Dance. She has a tough, yet gentle approach that makes students want to become their best while helping them realize their full potential.
Melanie's first dance scholarship was won at the tender age of 6 while attending a Los Angeles Dance Force (LADF) dance convention. As a SAG member, Melanie has many national commercials and movies to her credit. She has had the opportunity to train with Savion Glover; the late Gregory Hines; Acia Gray; Laurie Johnson; Jeff Amsden; Keith Clifton; Mia Michaels; Wade Robinson; Bill Prudich; Nick Bowman and many others.
A gifted choreographer, Melanie is competent in Tap, Jazz, Ballet, Hip Hop, Lyrical, Liturgical, Contemporary and Drill Team. Her favorite style of dance is Tap.
While in high school Melanie danced with the Regan RR's and the Lanier Vikettes as well as Austin Independent School District's All City Dance Team. In college Melanie served as captain of the Temple College Dance Team 2000 – 2001. She also danced with the Blinn College Treasures, 2001 – 2003.
In August 2006, Melanie fulfilled her dream of establishing Dancin’ Jazzi Dance Studio. In 2007, she founded FLAVA Dance Company. FLAVA has established itself as a National award-winning team.
In Loving Memory
Dancin' Jazzi studios recognizes in loving memory, Leola Smith, or Ms. Leola as she was affectionately called. Her daughter, Melanie Smith, is the owner of Dancin’ Jazzi Dance Studio.
Ms. Leola was been a dance mom for almost 40 years, which is one of the qualities that supported her formally serving as the Studio Director of Dancin’ Jazzi. Raising two daughters that were competitive dancers, Ms. Leola traveled extensively to many, many Dance Competitions, Dance Conventions, and attended Dance Recitals and on and on everything dance.
After retiring from her State Government position, Ms. Leola continued to run the day-to-day operation of Dancin’ Jazzi Dance Studio and Queenbee's Dance Apparel & More, a dance boutique inside of Dancin’ Jazzi Dance Studio.
We will continue to cherish Ms. Leola's contributions, kindness, and support of her love of family, dance, the Austin area community and her Dancin' Jazzi family.
INSTRUCTOR | CHOREOGRAPHER
Austin native LaTifia Jackson has been dancing since she was four years old. She was one of Dancin’ Jazzi’s first students, studying ballet, tap, jazz and hip hop. She also danced with the award winning Spiritual Expressions Praise Dance Ministry. While in high school, LaTifia was a three year member of the LBJ High School First Ladies Dance Team.
After college, she moved to Ft. Worth, Texas and became a behavior therapist for children with autism. Using her gifts of music, dance and teaching, she helped misunderstood children through therapy with music and dance. In 2015 LaTifia moved back to Austin and naturally found her way back to Dancin’ Jazzi. Though tap is her favorite style of dance, she is also proficient in ballet and jazz.
Known to her students as “Ms. T,” LaTifia is the loving, patient “Baby Whisperer” to the Teeny and Tiny students of Dancin’ Jazzi. We are very happy to have LaTifia as part of our Dancin’ Jazzi family!
Essence Summers is a native Austinite and a student at Manor New Tech High School in Manor, Texas. She started dancing when she was three years old after a daycare friend showed up to class one day in a beautiful pink leotard and tutu. Essence with confidence said, "I want to do that!"
As 10 years would pass, Essence fell in love with more than the tutu. She fell in love with the many different dance genres, artistic expression, performing, and the lasting friendships she has formed. Essence has studied at Dancin Jazzi Dance Studio, under the direction of Melanie Smith for the last 5 years. She has competed and is proud member of FLAVA Dance Company for 4 of those years. Prior to that, she danced for 5 years at Tinka's Dance Studio. Essence is also a Praise Dancer at her church home.
Essence has received numerous recognition's and awards at various competitions and conventions, as well as being a part of the 2018 Grande Champion National Award winning FLAVA Dance Company. She recently earned the position of a new FLAVA Officer for 2019-2020 season and will be the team lead for the Mini dance company. Her goals are to learn the business and entrepreneur world and one day be the proud owner of her own dance studio.
In her free time, Essence loves to babysit, go shopping, spend time with her friends and family, and of course…dance! Dancin’ Jazzi is happy to have Essence as one of our Teacher Assistants.