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.
Caitlyn Van Houten
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.
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.
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.
Arden is a recent graduate from Converse University with a degree in Marketing with minors in Dance and Accounting. She started her dance career at 2 and continued until she was 21 years old. She began dancing at Open Arts in 2016 and she was a member of the performance company, a teacher assistant as well as a front desk assistant. She studied tap, jazz, modern, ballet, pointe, and hip-hop during her career. She had opportunities to dance in Epcot, Time Square, and alongside Broadway dancers/choreographers while dancing with Open Arts. Arden was accepted into the American Dance Festival for two summer intensives as well as took several classes from world-renowned choreographers, which included choreographers from the Alvin Ailey Company. During college, she was the founder of the Converse Dance Team and choreographed and maintained several jazz and hip-hop pieces that were performed. Outside of the dance world, Arden has a full-time job with Inserv Corporation as a Document Controller and is living in Angier. She loves to travel, try new things, and meet new people! She is very excited to begin teaching at Open Arts and return to her forever dance home!
Alena grew up dancing in her hometown of Asheville, NC. She has taught dance for over 15 years, much of this time spent at her home studio in Asheville. She primarily teaches modern and ballet but has taught many other styles 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. When not in the dance studio 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. She loves building authentic relationships with her dance students and dance family and uncovering all the surprising ways movement connects us to ourselves, to others and to 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 is so grateful to be part of Open Arts and looks forward to moving with you!
Laina is a Sophomore Honor Student at Meredith College pursuing a double major in Dance and Mathematics. She is involved with several dance clubs at Meredith, including Meredith Dance Theatre and Meredith Jazz and Tap Company. 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 New York 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. She loves being a part of the Open Arts family, and enjoyed celebrating ten years of Open Arts as a choreographer and performer in Hawaii. Laina is very excited for her second year at Open Arts as a ballet teacher. Ballet has been a great passion and light in her life, and she’s delighted to share, teach, and encourage that passion.
Jenna began dancing at City Ballet in Raleigh, NC, where she trained in ballet, modern, and jazz. She continued to dance during her four years at North Carolina State University, where she earned a minor in dance and performed with the State Dance Company. While at NC State, she performed at the Wake Forest Dance Festival and the American College Dance Association Regional Conference, in addition to numerous University concerts. Jenna recently completed a masters program in dance science at Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London, UK, during which she also worked as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at the Royal Ballet School. Jenna loved teaching at Open Arts in the 2021-2022 season and she is so excited to be back! Modern is her favorite style to teach and perform and she looks forward to helping her students express themselves through movement. Her classes blend several different techniques to offer a challenging, fun, and exploratory approach to dance. Outside of dance, Jenna loves hiking, cooking, and traveling. She is so happy to be joining the Open Arts community for the 2023-2024 season!
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 the Head Coach/Director of the Millbrook High School Dance Team and the Assistant Coach of the Millbrook High School Cheerleading Team. 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 teaching at Open Arts for her 2nd season!!
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.
Hi, I'm Ashlyn and I am super excited to be an emerging teacher at Open Arts this year! This is my 9th year of dance at Open Arts and my 4th year being a TA. I am also on my high school dance team, and this is my 2nd year competing with them. I love all styles of dance and experimenting the art of movement! I enjoy applying everything I've learned in dance to teaching, so the dancers can have the opportunity to grow in their own way. I can't wait to help and encourage all the young dancers and witness their love for dance blossom!
Anna is thrilled to be starting as an emerging teacher this year at Open Arts! She has been dancing for 14 years and this will be her 11th season dancing at Open Arts. She has been a teacher assistant for over 8 years. She is also a member of the Open Arts performance company and leadership team. She is currently a junior in high school and loves everything to do with dance, art, singing, and theatre. She loves every style of dance, especially musical theater and tap. Her favorite thing about teaching is seeing kids grow and develop new skills. She loves the positive and loving atmosphere that Open Arts provides for every student that not only helps them grow as dancers but as people as well.
Kaya is excited to be continuing as an emerging teacher at open arts this year! This will be her 11th year dancing at open arts and 4th year as an assistant! She is currently a senior in high school and loves constantly learning new things and fun facts! Her favorite style of dance has always been musical theatre and had such a fun time helping direct the musical at open arts last 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.
Brave Fearless Friends Co-Creator & Director
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 former Open Arts Dancer Olive and her son Evan and everyone's favorite furry studio greeter, Ruby!
Front Desk Staff
Charlotte is a sophomore in high school, and she loves reading and playing with her cats in her free time. She danced at Open Arts for eight years, and her favorite style was modern. She enjoys being at Open Arts because it’s more than just dance, you make new friends and family along the way. She is looking forward to seeing everyone’s smiling faces in the lobby!
Front Desk Staff
Lauren is super excited for her first year helping with Open Arts! She has been in the triangle area for about 15 years after graduating from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in Psychology. She stayed in the area to own and operate a few restaurants with her husband but now she works in an accounting office for a local tire company. She started her daughter at Open Arts when she was 3 years old and they love it here! In her spare time, Lauren loves to travel and play board games with her family.
Front Desk Staff
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.