OUR TEAM

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Maia Wirth

Artistic Director
Company Co-Director
Dance Instructor
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Caitlyn Van Houten

Assistant Director
Company Co-Director
Dance Instructor
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Katie Mundt

Company Co-Director
Dance Instructor
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Maia Wirth

Artistic Director
Company Co-Director
Dance Instructor
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Caitlyn Van Houten

Assistant Director
Company Co-Director
Dance Instructor
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Alena Campbell

Dance Instructor
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Laina Cleaton

Dance Instructor
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Emily Horowitz

Dance Instructor
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Madison Morgan

Dance Instructor
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Deb Schmitt

Acro Instructor
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Jenica Davidson

Director of Customer Delight
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Laura Parker

Queen of Administrative Goodness
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Theresa Ballinger

Customer Care
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Gabby Fekete

BFF Director
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Samantha
Barefoot

Dance Instructor
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Layla Ballinger

Emerging Teacher
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Kaya Phillips

Emerging Teacher
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Jackie Russell

Emerging Teacher

Maia has been teaching music and dance for more than fifteen years as both a private dance and music instructor and a public school educator, and was a semi-finalist for the Wake County Public School System's Teacher of the Year Award in 2011. Maia earned her B.A. in Dance and B.S. in Music Education from Elon University where she studied as a N.C. Teaching Fellow and Presser Music Scholar.  She is fully trained in Facilitative Leadership and Positive Behavior Intervention & Support and is always working to learn more about how to effectively manage her classroom and business for the success of all involved.  Maia has also trained extensively in the A+ Schools Program, an arts-integration and multiple intelligences based approach to teaching, learning, and school reform.

A dedicated yoga practitioner in her own life, Maia completed her Children’s Yoga Instructor Certification at the Asheville Yoga Center in 2013. She has performed as a vocalist and dancer throughout Europe and the United States and has shared the stage with the N.C. Symphony, Ben Folds, David Dorfman, Springs Dance Company, elan Vocal Jazz, and many more. When she is not teaching, dancing, or bending, Maia serves as a board member for Pawfect Match Rescue & Rehabilitation, and has been on the leadership team for the Morrisville Innovation Foundation’s East Meets West Festival since 2014.  She has a passion for service and giving back to the community and loves sharing this passion, along with her love for teaching and the arts, with her students and the Morrisville community.

Maia's most favorite role in life is being "Mama" to her son, Gunnar, who you'll often see hanging out at the studio! He loves to help clean the floors. check the mail, reorganize the props, and interrupt ALL of her phone conversations.

Maia Wirth
Artistic Director
Company Co-Director
Dance Instructor
 
 

Caitlyn began her dance journey at the age of 2, studying under several talented instructors including Open Arts’ very own Ms. Maia. As a student she dreamed of teaching and choreographing for students of her own one day. That dream came true when she became a part of the Open Arts Instructor Family in 2016.

Caitlyn has worked with many different age groups since becoming a dance teacher, offering classes in ballet, tap, jazz, modern and acro dance . She has extensive training in Early Childhood Dance Education and holds certifications as an Acrobatic Arts Instructor, Once Upon A Ballet Instructor and as an Intellidance Method Instructor. She strives to maintain a positive and encouraging atmosphere in all of her classes where students feel confident in their individual power to succeed. Her main goal as a dance educator is to meet each student where they are and teach her students about the power of movement and how it  impacts the world around them.

With a passion to dance and perform herself, Caitlyn has studied alongside So You Think You Can Dance finalist, Katheryn McCormick, and some of Walt Disney’s master choreographers and performers.

If you find Caitlyn outside of the studio, she will most likely be just that: outside! She enjoys being outdoors on a hike or walk and loves spending time with her sweet fur babies Leo and Mowgli. She also enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and on the art canvas.

Caitlyn
Van Houten
Assistant Director
Company Co-Director
Dance Instructor

Alena grew up dancing in her hometown of Asheville, NC. She has taught dance for over 15 years, mostly at her home studio in Asheville. Her teaching has focused primarily in modern and ballet, but she has also taught many other classes including contemporary, jazz, tap, and creative movement.  Alena holds a B.A. in Dance from Elon University where back in the day she danced alongside Maia! In addition to teaching dance, she has also worked many years as a pediatric Occupational Therapist. Her most recent job and most special privilege has been being “Mama” to her vibrant daughter Feirin. When not in the dance studio teaching or taking classes, she is often hiking, camping, writing/reading poetry, researching all things interesting that day, or having long dinners and conversations with her family and friends. Alena loves building relationships with her dance students and dance family and uncovering all the continuously surprising and wonderful ways movement connects us to ourselves, others and the world. Being in the dance studio and leading classes is a gift and one of her most favorite things to do. She takes her job of creating a space that feels safe, FUN, and empowering seriously and hopes you will hold her to this! She really looks forward to building family at Open Arts.

Alena Campbell
Dance Instructor
 

Laina is a Freshman Honor Student at Meredith College pursuing a double major in Dance and Business. She started dancing at four years old, and while she has studied a variety of styles over 13 years, ballet is her favorite. Laina auditioned and was accepted into The Carolina Ballet Summer Intensive for two years. During this time she had the pleasure of studying under NY City Ballet principal dancer Megan Fairchild, Carolina Ballet master Pablo Javier Perez, and Carolina Ballet principal dancers Jan Burkhard and Margaret Severin-Hansen. Laina called Open Arts home for seven wonderful years where she studied pointe, ballet, modern and some jazz. She was the recipient of The Hilda Sakaniwa Scholarship in 2018 and the Performance Company Member of the Year Award in 2019. Open Arts gave her the opportunity to perform at various local events and parades, on a NYC Broadway stage, in Times Square, and down Main Street USA in Disney World. Her many responsibilities at Open Arts included working the front desk, being a Teacher Assistant, Emerging Teacher, co-leader of Intensive Track Training, and a choreographer for the OAPC Gala. Laina is very excited to return to the Open Arts family as a ballet teacher. Ballet has been such a huge passion and light in her life, and she’s delighted to share, teach, and encourage that passion for younger dancers.

Laina Cleaton
Dance Instructor
 
Madison Morgan
Dance Instructor

Madison began her dance journey at the age of 2 at Carolina Dance Center in Raleigh NC for 12 years, where she was trained in jazz, hip hop, contemporary, and lyrical. She attended Millbrook High School, where she was a 2-year member of the dance team and a 4-year member of the cheerleading team, serving as Captain her senior year. Madison's love for teaching dance grew as she entered her sophomore year of high school. She taught guest classes at various Wake County high schools and at small studios in Raleigh. 

Madison's passion and favorite class to teach is hip hop, and she hopes to share that love with her students. Her biggest personal goal is to become a backup dancer for Beyonce, as she is her idol. Her biggest goal as a dance educator is to make all her students feel appreciated and confident and mold them into the fantastic dancers she knows they can be!! 

Her classes are fast-paced and energetic, offering a challenging, but fun atmosphere. Outside of dance, Madison is an Assistant coach for Millbrook Cheerleading. She enjoys baking, catching up on all the true-crime docs, and spending time with her dogs, Oreo and Angel!! Madison is beyond excited to continue her teaching journey at Open Arts and cannot wait to meet all her future exceptional dancers!!

 
 

Deb Schmitt has an extensive background in Gymnastics and Acro Dance. She was a gymnast herself in high school. As an adult, she coached competitive gymnastics for many years both at eNeRGy kids and Tri-County Gymnastics. She is USAG safety certified. "Safety first" is always foremost when she teaches.

 Deb also has a passion for dance. Combining her love of gymnastics and dance made perfect sense to start teaching Acro. She taught at Angie's Dance Academy in Henderson for 10 years until the owner retired,  and  8 years with Dance Dynamics in Wake Forest (which recently closed due to Covid). 

Deb is also a Certified Realtor Mentor. She is the mother of 3 boys (now grown) and grandmother of 2. She resides in Youngsville with her husband, Jay, 4 cats and a dog named Honey.

Deb Schmitt
Acro Instructor
 

Emily began dancing at age 4 and hasn’t stopped since. She trained pre-professionally in ballet at The Raleigh School of Ballet—spending summers training at SanFrancisco Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, American Repertory Ballet, and American Dance Festival—and then continued her education at Butler University in Indianapolis. There she expanded her dance vocabulary with modern (Graham, Taylor, Cunningham, and Horton), jazz, character, laban, improvisation, and choreographic studies. She received her bachelor of arts in dance pedagogy and a minor in psychology in 2021. Since then, Emily has moved back to Raleigh and lives with her partner and cat (she may be obsessed with) and works with dance in every one of her many jobs. Outside of teaching, she loves choreographing and had the honor of showcasing her most recent piece at the Regional Dance America festival at Daytona Beach in 2022. She also works as a pointe shoe fitter and lead sales associate at Releve Dancewear, and she is super excited to begin her professional dance performance career with Black Box Dance Theater this season. Emily loved joining the Open Arts family last year, and can’t wait for another wonderful year of moving and growing together!

Emily Horowitz
Dance Instructor
 

Gabby is our resident "Love Your Body" Queen here at Open Arts although you may also find her wrangling baby dancers at Showcase, keeping us organized at Costume time, and building all the props that require a glue gun. She's also the Co-Creator and Director of our Brave Fearless Friends Program. She is passionate about helping young people grow up feeling good about their bodies and all they can accomplish after losing her beloved sister to an eating disorder.  She is a low-key expert of all things Juvenile and Young Adult Fiction & she loves mentoring young people through the stickiest parts of life.
Gabby is the proud mom of Open Arts Dancer Olive and her son Evan and everyone's favorite furry studio greeter, Ruby!

Gabby Fekete
Enrichment Staff
Jenica Davidson
Director of
Customer Delight

Jenni has a background in education and counseling and a lifelong passion for the arts that probably started with spending sick days as a kid watching hours of musical theater VHS tapes. After being a dance mom at Open Arts for a few years (to her two girls Emme & Juliet), joining the team in a support role just felt natural.  She also works from home as an academic editor for graduate students and faculty, loves to paint with watercolors and modern calligraphy, and is always reading at least two fiction books at a time. 

 

Since 2015, Laura has filled many roles at Open Arts, including assisting in the classroom, at the front desk, and at events. In addition, she and her husband have enjoyed producing videos for Open Arts since 2018.  Laura finds much joy and fulfillment at Open Arts and is grateful to be a part of this amazing studio. She is passionate about empowering children and young adults to be kind and loving to themselves and others.

Laura graduated from Wake Forest University and UNC Chapel Hill School of Law. She practiced law for 14 years as an Assistant District Attorney, Child Abuse Resource Prosecutor, and a North Carolina Assistant Attorney General. After her two girls were born, Laura decided to focus on them. Her daughters have been Open Arts dancers since 2014.

Laura Parker
Queen of 
Administrative
Goodness
 
Kaya Phillips
Emerging Teacher

Kaya is excited to be starting as an emerging teacher at Open Arts this year! This will be her 10th year dancing at Open Arts and she has been asssisting a various classes, camps, and events at Open Arts for more than 4 years. She is currently a junior in high school and loves constantly learning new things and fun facts! Her favorite style of dance has always been musical theatre and she had such a fun time helping direct the summer musical production at Open Arts this summer. Her favorite thing about teaching dance is getting to watch dancers grow and improve as well as develop confidence in themselves, not only dance-wise. She loves being a part of the long term installation of self-love and determination that dancing at Open Arts provides to all their dancers.

 
Layla Ballinger
Emerging Teacher

Layla is thrilled to be joining the Open Arts staff as an Emerging Teacher! She is currently in her senior year of high school and has been dancing for 12 years. In her 7 years at Open Arts, she has been a member of OAPC for 6 years, a TA for 6 years, and was a Disney Dance the World choreography captain. Her favorite styles of dance are modern/contemporary and ballet. Her goal is to not only help younger dancers grow in their technique, but also in their confidence and passion for dance.

 
Jackie Russell
Emerging Teacher
 

Jackie is super excited to start as an emerging teacher at Open Arts this year! This is her senior year of high school and she has been dancing for about 9 years. 8 of those years at Open Arts where she has been a TA for 4 years, and this is her second year being part of OAPC. This past summer she was part of Disneys dance the world! Her favorite style of dance is modern/contemporary, and is grateful that’s the class she gets to teach this year! She can’t wait to see all these students grow throughout this year and gain confidence in what they are doing, and most importantly she hopes they all have fun!

 
Theresa Ballinger
Customer Care

Theresa is Open Arts' biggest fan and exceedingly grateful for how this creative community has shaped her kids since 2015. She loves sharing information with newer dance families to help them have a great experience. Theresa has had many jobs including photographer, brunch chef, kitchen renovator, and children’s ministry director- but her favorite role is mom and wife. She loves baking pies, snuggling her golden retrievers, and everything Star Wars.

Sam is an exercise and nutrition major with a certification in group fitness and Pound Fitness. She danced competitively until she was 15. Sam loves spreading the love of movement and music to everyone around her. She's been a part of our studio for the last 6 years cheering on all of our dancers and guest teaching classes. She is so excited to expand that role and begin to teach the love of dance to our youngest dancers at Open Arts. When she is not at the studio you can find her in the garden, cooking, or enjoying all the outdoor activities with her family."

Sam Barefoot
Dance Instructor