Our Dance Instructors
Miss Debby, Owner + Director
Miss Debby found her passion for dance with her first class at age three and has been dancing ever since. Along with modeling, local commercial promotions, and winning local and state talent competitions, she is also featured in The Who’s Who of baton twirling in 1967. Miss Debby was crowned Miss Lancaster in 1971 and was Miss Congeniality and runner up to Miss New York State in 1971. She continues to judge and work with Miss America Preliminary pageants in New York State. Having a passion for Dance and Theater, she has also been the choreographer for the Lancaster High School annual musical and show choir for the past 28 years.
After teaching at a local studio for 10 years, Miss Debby opened the Lancaster Dance Center in 1979, to share her love of dance and children with her hometown community.
Susan Schlegel began dancing at Lancaster Dance Center at age three and has been with the studio for over thirty years. She grew up loving all types of dance but her favorite is Tap. Sue holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology from Elmira College. While in college Sue continued to study jazz, lyrical, and modern dance with 171 Cedar Arts Center in Corning, NY. Ten years ago, she joined the LDC faculty working with our youngest students in our combo classes and assisting in tap and jazz. Sue lives in Lancaster with her husband and 4 children. Sue enjoys sharing her love of dance with children of all ages.
Melissa Payne Smith began dancing at Lancaster Dance Center at age three and has been with the studio for thirty-two years. Throughout her years as a dancer at LDC, Melissa won various awards at local and regional dance competitions. When her competitive dance years were over, Melissa became a dance teacher and has been teaching and assisting the studio for the past 18 years. Melissa holds an MS in Education from Canisius College and completed the Associate Level of Dance Masters of America Teachers Training School. Outside of the studio, Melissa is a science teacher at Pembroke Jr/Sr High School and has choreographed their school’s musical for 10 years. Melissa is one of our Broadway Barre instructors and has been Certified by Buffalo Barre as a Barre Fitness Instructor.
Emily Weber started dancing at Lancaster Dance Center at the age of four. Here she trained in tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical, modern and musical theater. She attended Lancaster High School where she performed as a specialty dancer for the annual school musical four years in a row. Emily recently graduated from St. Bonaventure University with a BA in Theater. She played several roles in the bi-annual theater productions including Belle in A Christmas Carol. She was also the director/choreographer of her senior capstone project entitled On With the Show. There she was also a member/choreographer of the SBU Dance Team and continued her training in tap, jazz, musical theater, hip hop and contemporary. When she wasn’t in rehearsal you could find her sharing her love of dance as a substitute teacher at the Neighborhood School of Dance in Olean.
Monica Karwan grew up dancing in North Buffalo, and graduated with a BA in theater and dance from UB. She spent a year abroad studying modern and contemporary dance in London, England, and Kingston, Jamaica. Monica went on to complete a Master’s degree in Dance and Expressive Arts Therapies at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. She has been teaching at LDC since 2007 where she teaches Lyrical and Modern Dance.
Monica has been studying Contact Improvisation since 2012, with Nancy Hughes and guest teachers from around the world. She is active in the Buffalo contemporary dance performance scene, most recently working with Anne Burnidge Dance. Monica also co-directs the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts Youth Performance Workshop, a creative summer dance experience for children ages 8-16. Monica lives in Lancaster with her husband and three children.
Miss Melissa O. (“Mo”)
Melissa Olejniczak has been dancing since the age of 5 and she joined the Lancaster Dance Center family in 2004. Since the beginning of her training, Melissa fell in love with dancing and her family quickly learned that they could not keep her off of the dance floor. For the past 15 years, Melissa has enjoyed various forms of dance and has been trained in Jazz, Tap, Lyrical, Pointe, Ballet, and Modern. Melissa became a class assistant at LDC at age 12 and throughout the years she was able to work with students of all ages.
Melissa has attended various workshops and conventions to further her dance training such as the New York City Dance Alliance (NYCDA). Melissa has attended the Dance Masters teacher training for the past 3 years. This summer she will be testing to receive her certification. Outside of the studio, Melissa is in her fourth year at Buffalo State College and she is working towards her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Childhood Education. Melissa is excited to continue her journey at Lancaster Dance Center and she cannot wait for the next dance season to begin!
Aimee Walker’s love of dance and theater began at Lancaster Dance Center when she was 5, where she spent 12 seasons studying Tap, Jazz, Ballet and Lyrical. She attended Lancaster High School and was honored to perform in the annual musical every year. Aimee holds a BFA in Musical Theater from the University at Buffalo and trained in Musical Theater Dance, Tap, Jazz, Ballet, Modern, Social Dance, Voice and Method Acting. While attending UB she was chosen to represent the school as one of four candidates sent to Costa Rica as part of the “Promising Young Artists of the 21st Century” where she taught Musical Theater dance and performed at the Teatro Eugene ONeill in San Jose. Aimee is a former Buffalo Jill and Nightlife Music Award Winner for her work with her band “The Teasers”. She has also performed in numerous shows in the Buffalo theater community, and spent 10 years performing and choreographing live shows at Theme Parks across the Country.
Aimee’s love for music, dance and sharing these passions with children led her to teaching students of all ages and skill levels over the years. Aimee returned to LDC in 2016 and teaches Musical Theater and Jazz.
Miranda began her dancing career at the Lancaster Dance Center at age 4. She has trained in ballet, jazz, modern, lyrical, and tap, as well as hip hop, acrobatics, aerial silks/circus arts and musical theatre. She is currently studying at the University at Buffalo pursuing three degrees in Dance with a concentration in ballet and jazz, Psychology, and Health and Human Services. At UB, Miranda has performed in Emerging Choreographer’s Showcase, Dancer’s Workshop and Legally Blonde, through the Department of Theatre and Dance.
She is also a Student Representative for the UB Dance Department. Miranda is pursuing a Dance Teaching Certification through Dance Masters of America. She has choreographed group and solo work at UB and has volunteered at Danceability Inc. She has also interned for The Elmwood Arts Festival Summer Performing Arts Camp for the past two years. Miranda joined the LDC staff in 2016 and teaches Jazz, and Hip Hop.