About Dance Institute

Dance Institute of The University of Akron is a ballet-based pre-professional program for students ages 7 through high school. Founded in 1967, Dance Institute is nationally recognized for its curriculum, which prepares students for careers in concert dance performance and dance education, and for its faculty and guest teachers, who represent extensive professional performance experience and academic backgrounds, and many decades of teaching expertise.  Graduates and former students are currently performing in Pennsylvania, California and Ohio and teaching throughout the country.

Dance Institute’s full-length story ballet, The Snow Maiden, which premiered in 1998 and has been staged at E. J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall since 2006, is performed every other year during the winter season. Dance Institute students also perform locally in residence at The University of Akron and in collaboration with northeast Ohio area dance companies and other arts organizations. Students also make outreach visits to various non-profit civic and community organizations.  Since the inception of the city of Akron’s Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, Dance Institute has provided the festival’s Children’s Interactive Program for 38 of the 40 weekends. Most recently, Dance Institute students performed with the Akron Symphony Orchestra as part of their 2016 summer concert series. All Dance Institute classes are held in the seven technology-enhanced studios of the Center for Dance and Theatre at Guzzetta Hall located on The University of Akron campus. The University of Akron is an institutionally accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Dance.

Directed for 28 years by Gena Carroll and for 14 years by her daughter, Lana Carroll Heylock, Dance Institute established a heralded reputation for training and performance excellence. Mrs. Carroll was recognized with a Beacon Journal Woman of the Year Award in 1973 for her significant contribution to the art form, and Ms. Heylock was the 2003 recipient of the Akron Arts Alive! Outstanding Artist in Dance and a member of the founding steering committee of the Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival. Ms. Heylock, who was a soloist with the Jennifer Muller/The Works Dance Company for 14 years prior to leading Dance Institute, is currently on the faculty of Jacksonville University and has taught nationally and internationally throughout her career in dance.

Dance Institute’s current manager, Christina Foisie, received her early training from dance artist and scholar Jan Van Dyke in Alexandria, Virginia. She was selected to attend the Academy of the Washington Ballet at the age of 13, where she trained under the direction of Mary Day, founder of The Washington Ballet. Upon graduation from the Academy, Ms. Foisie moved to New York City to dance professionally, performing throughout the United States for 4 years with the NYC based company U.S. Terpsichore/Richard Thomas Theatre Ballet represented by Columbia Artists Management, Inc. She moved to Ohio to join the Cincinnati Ballet Company, where she worked extensively with CBC’s resident choreographer and renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo principle dancer Frederic Franklin, and was coached by Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo Prima Ballerina Alexandra Danilova and Victoria Simon (George Balanchine Trust).  

Dance Institute's ballet-based curriculum for children age 7 through high school offers rigorous training in ballet, pointe, jazz, and tap, and its summer intensives also include concentrations in modern, ballroom/character, and hip-hop. Dance Institute’s training emphasizes the  artistic development, technical proficiency, and positive dance experience of each student, and the physical, educational and creative value of dance training.

In addition to its pre-professional program, Dance Institute offers introductory dance classes for children ages 5-7 and recreational non-credit evening dance and conditioning classes for adults, teens and children ages 7-12. All Dance Institute classes are held in the seven technology-enhanced studios of the spectacular Center for Dance and Theatre at Guzzetta Hall located on The University of Akron campus. 

Dance Institute believes that physical and mental health is enhanced through dance training. The synthesis of movement and music is a valuable and important experience for body, mind and spirit. Dance Institute students build strength and control of their bodies while also building mental dexterity, determination and discipline. Motor skills are heightened and strengthened and aesthetic sensibilities are developed and enhanced through our carefully designed program. The physical, mental and personal discipline afforded by such training is of value not only in the student’s efforts to excel in dance, but can be applied to all aspects of their life, into and throughout adulthood.

The University of Akron is an institutionally accredited member of the
National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD).

Christina Foisie
Manager, Dance Institute

Leslie Sullivan DelPrince
Assistant Manager, Dance Institute