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.
Leola Smith, or Ms. Leola as she's affectionately called, is the mother of three adult children. Her daughter, Melanie Smith, is the owner of Dancin’ Jazzi Dance Studio.
Ms. Leola has been a dance mom for almost 40 years, which is one of the qualities that makes her very suited to be the Studio Director of Dancin’ Jazzi. Raising two daughters that were competitive dancers, Ms. Leola has 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 has continued to run the day-to-day operation of Dancin’ Jazzi Dance Studio. Ms. Leola is very proud of Dancin’ Jazzi, its instructors and its students.
As an addition to Dancin’ Jazzi, Ms. Leola recently opened Queenbee's Dance Apparel & More, a dance boutique inside of Dancin’ Jazzi Dance Studio.
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!
INSTRUCTOR | CHOREOGRAPHER
Kailah Jones started taking dance classes when she was two years old. She started dancing at Dancin’ Jazzi when she was four and was an original member of Lil’ FLAVA, the Preparatory Company of FLAVA Dance Company.
Kailah is a leader amongst her peers. She is an energetic and artistic dancer. In the eleven years that Kailah has been training in dance, she has also attended numerous dance conventions and competitions, winning dance scholarships and highest honors in her competitive dances.
A gifted choreographer, Kailah enjoys the artistry and different genres of dance, especially contemporary. She is excited to be on staff and Dancin’ Jazzi is excited to have her.
INSTRUCTOR | CHOREOGRAPHER
Dajia Horton began dancing at Dancin' Jazzi Dance Studio the age of seven. She is one of the "garage babies," dancing in Miss Melanie's garage studio. Dajia is also one of the founding members of FLAVA Dance Company. As a member of FLAVA, she won many awards at both regional as well as national competitions. In high school she danced on the Pflugerville Lady Panthers Dance Team for four years. During her senior year, she was an officer. After high school, she went to Tyler College, majoring in dance and business. While there, Dajia worked with local elementary through high school students in workshops sponsored by the dance department. She also helped choreograph for the school's production of The Nutcracker.
Dajia is very excited to be back at her home studio, where it all happened for her. She is excited to help mold the young dancers that are currently students of Dancin' Jazzi. We are happy to have Dajia back, this time as an instructor! She will also be assisting with choreography for FLAV Dance Company. Welcome home, Dajia!
Ava Adams began dancing at the age of 2. She started dancing at Dancin' Jazzi at 6 years old and joined FLAVA Dance Company soon after.
Ava is a national award winning dancer, earning countless awards for solos, duets, and group routines. At age 9, she began assistant teaching with her mom in the Manor studio. This opportunity gave her the experience she needed to become a leader.
After dancing for a while, Ava decided to take a break and pursue her musical interests. She was interested in percussion for her school's band program and was able to quickly pick it up, thanks to her background in tap. She is currently the percussion section leader at her high school.
Though she has tried many things, dance has always been her first love. Ava is excited to come back to Dancin' Jazzi as an instructor. We are happy to have Ava as a part of the 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.
Alaena is multi-faceted talent and her dream is to become a major animator with a company such as Pixar, Illumination or Fun Imation. Alaena is a focused and driven young lady who always strives to give her very best and leave it all on the stage and in the books. She is currently a student at Manor New Tech High School. Alaena is a member of FLAVA Dance Company and has won numerous awards and scholarships. Alaena began her passion in dancing by participating in an African dance performance during a Black History Program at her elementary school in the 3rd grade. Since then her passion has blossomed into not only African dance but hip-hop, ballet, jazz, contemporary modern, lyrical and tap. Alaena was also a featured soloist at her Middle School Fine Arts end of year program. In her spare time she's either drawing new characters for her own Manga style comic book, reading or dominating online playing with friends on Apex Legends. Dancin' Jazzi is happy to have Alaena as one of our Teacher Assistants.
Leila James is an energetic, fun loving dancer from Austin, Texas. She is also a student at Harmony Middle School. Always the entertainer, Leila grew up singing and dancing and putting on her own concerts for her family. She started taking dance classes at the age of 3 as a student at Manor ISD's Community Ed After School program. Leila has studied dance at Dancin' Jazzi Dance Studio for the past 6 years. Her favorite genre is Musical Theater but she also enjoys ballet, tap, jazz and especially hip hop! Leila is also a 3 year member of the National award winning FLAVA Dance Company. Leila loves helping other students at the studio and is excited to be a new officer and team lead for the new FLAVA Manor team. Dancin' Jazzi is excited to have Leila as one of our Teacher Assistants.