Kids Program Instructors
Mariah Day has had a lifelong love of dance and is trained in many styles, from ballet and lyrical to hip-hop and jazz. She was also the captain and lead choreographer of her high school dance team, which heightened her sense of teamwork and helped hone her sense of originality. Mariah is excited to be teaching contemporary/lyrical dance class at Gotta Dance! and we feel fortunate to have someone with her creative energy on our team. Mariah is also available to give private lessons.
Nikki Ruffalo, from Chicago Illinois, is now a proud wildcat at the University of Arizona pursuing her B.F.A in Musical Theatre. With credits in community theatre productions, including Phantom of the Opera and CATS, she has put her skills to test in each area required to become a “Triple Threat." Nikki is passionate about sharing her secrets for balancing dancing, singing and acting in a way that truthfully presents a character. Besides performing herself, she has choreographed numerous shows as well as taught at various studios around Chicago, and more recently, in Tucson. She recently spent the entire summer at an East Coast girls only dance summer camp as a dance instructor. With fifteen years of training under her belt, Nikki brings a wide variety of skills as well as connections and networking to get young students interested and performing in the theatre arts.
Born and raised in Tucson, Makenna Johnson has been dancing since she was three. Starting with the study of ballet, she has trained in ballet/pointe, tap, jazz, hip hop, lyrical, modern and contemporary. In addition to hours in the studio, as a high school student, she made the dance team all four years and served as Dance Captain for three of them. Makenna is a student at the University of Arizona, studying Special Education and Dance. She keeps her dancing fresh and up to date by taking classes at Breakout Studios. After four years of teaching dance, she has recently enhanced her teaching skills with various trainings, workshops and classes taught by dance and choreography icons including: Mia Michaels, Bonnie Storie, Liz Imperio, Travis Wall and Misha Gabriel. Makenna is thrilled to be part of the Gotta Dance faculty! She will be teaching all genres of dance!
Known as Robot Rock, Matthew Love is a creative individual, experienced in several styles of dance, but finds the best way of expressing himself is through unique choreography in the style of Urban Dance, using Hip Hop and Popping to grab the audience attention. Often his routines have a story and deeper meaning that differentiate him from other teachers. A skilled dance coach, he has earned several choreography awards and has had years of performance experience. He says “Whatever you do in life takes hard work and if you are willing to do what it takes to make your dream a reality, giving it every ounce of blood, sweat and tears to makes it happen.” A passion for working with kids to give them a creative outlet to express themselves makes him an outstanding and engaging teacher. He finds teaching children offers him a chance to influence the younger people with life lessons that are valuable, learned through mentoring.
Monica L. Cunningham began her dance training in Bettendorf, IA at the age of four. She studied with many dance professionals throughout the United States, including Gus Giordano Dance Company, Dance Masters of America, Tremaine, Dupree, and Stars. Monica’s professional performing career included SALOC (Southern Arizona Light Opera Company) in musicals including Mame, Music Man, Unsinkable Molly Brown, Gypsy, Paint Your Wagon and 42nd Street.
After studying theater arts and elementary education in college, Monica opened Monica’s Dance Academy in Plattsburg, MO. Back in Tucson, Monica is a board member and performer with a the non-profit ballet company the AACC (Arizona Arts Conservatory and Collective). She also enjoys working with children as a Bricks4kidz teacher part-time during the afterschool program in the Vail District.
Monica is married to her husband Michael and a mother to their 6.5 year old son Callin. With a child of her own, she understands the importance of positive feedback and encourages students to feel successful in their dancing as well as confident in themselves and relishes the opportunity to share her love of dance with everyone who is willing to learn.