Faculty

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 Shari True - Director

 

Ms. Shari True started her own dance academy, True Dance & Co., in Lincoln in 1980, and has since provided instruction in classical ballet, jazz, Pointe, lyrical and tap to countless area youth. In 1985, she helped form Ballet Midwest Dance Company (now Lincoln Midwest Ballet Company) in order to give young dancers the opportunity to perform in major works of classical ballet.  This year marks Ms. True's 34th season to choreograph The Nutcracker ballet. 

 

Ms. True is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln with degrees in Children's Education and Dance. She was a member of the Orchesis Dance Ensemble, UNL Flag and Dance Corps, and Nebraska Dance Ensemble in Classical Ballet. She danced in Ballet Omaha's production of The Nutcracker for five years and was assistant choreographer of the Lincoln Community Playhouse production of The Nutcracker in 1982 and 1983. She has been on staff with Ballet West Summer Dance Camp in Colorado and the St. Louis Ballet. Ms. True wrote and choreographed an original ballet entitled The Crystal Slippers, which premiered in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1993. In 1994, it was performed by the Chamberlain Ballet Company in Dallas. Ms. True has taught master ballet classes in Denver, Dallas and Kansas City. She and six of her students studied in New York City at Broadway Dance Center.

 

Ms. True has choreographed for Pinewood Bowl's productions of Hello DollyCarousel and for the Pinewood Players. In 1985, she danced with Academy West, Rolland DuPree, and taught for Act III Studio in West Hollywood. Ms. True had the delightful opportunity to appear in Universal Studio's movieTo Wong Foo with a speaking part as the dance teacher. She choreographs for UNL's Scarlett and Cream singers under the direction of Paula Bach. Shari and her competitive team travel nationally and hold many prestigious awards. She welcomes students of all ages, who have the desire to study all genres of dance. 

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 Ashley Durst

 

Ashley Durst grew up dancing at True Dance & Company and is excited to be a part of the teaching faculty this year. Born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, she was a ten-year member with the Lincoln Midwest Ballet Company, performing roles such as Snow Queen, Spain and Clara. She has spent summers studying with the American Ballet Theatre, the American Academy of Ballet, and the Lincoln Midwest Ballet Company. In high school Ashley was a member of the True Dance & Company competition team in which she earned numerous awards and scholarships. In 2005 she was Nebraska’s Junior Miss, and in 2009 was Miss Central Nebraska where she placed in the top eight at Miss Nebraska. She is still very active in the pageant world judging and coaching dancers for pageants.

 

Ashley attended the University of Nebraska for one year where she was a member of Scarlet’s Dance Team. She transferred to Oklahoma City University where she received her Bachelors and Masters degree in Dance Performance and Dance Teaching. While in Oklahoma she taught and choreographed for numerous dance studios throughout the state, including judging and teaching for Dance Masters of America Dance Convention. At Oklahoma City University she was a member of the American Spirit Dance Company, in which she toured with the company serving as the company representative. She also danced on the school’s Pep dance team, Liturgical Dance Team, and spent a summer as a dancer in the Oklahoma City Theme Park Production Shows. Post graduation Ashley spent eight months dancing and traveling with Carnival Cruise Lines as a dancer in their Production Shows. In the fall Ashley will be teaching dance part time at Creighton University as well as teaching dance at True Dance & Company.

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 Betsy Andersen

Betsy Andersen began dancing at age three.  Her training is in ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, lyrical and contemporary, but her main love is ballet! Betsy danced with the Lincoln City Ballet Company from 1987-1989 in Peter and the Wolf and The Wizard of Oz.  She has danced with the Lincoln Midwest Ballet Company since 1989 and has performed for more than 20 years in The Nutcracker.  Betsy was a Company Member for five years and has also performed in LMBC productions of Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty, and Festival of Dancers.  She attended numerous LMBC summer programs and was accepted to the Colorado Ballet summer dance program.  

Betsy is a LMBC Rehearsal Assistant (1996-1999) and 2010 to present.  She was an advanced ballet student at the University of  Nebraska-Lincoln under the direction of Dr. Lisa Fuscillo.  She was awarded a ballet scholarship, appeared in University dance performances and was selected to dance with Opera Omaha.  

Betsy taught dance in Omaha for ten years. Her choreography won top honors, finishing in the top three at the Hall of Fame Nationals in Chicago in 2010.  She danced with the Omaha Modern Dance Collective and continued her ballet training in Omaha under the direction of the late Mary Waugh-Taylor.  She has also danced with the Lincoln Contemporary Dance Project.  Ms. Betsy has a BSBA from UNL in Human Resource Management with minors in History and Dance and attended graduate school at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.  We are happy to have Betsy and her vast experience, knowledge, and talent to share with the students at True Dance & Company!

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 McKenzie True

 

As an Elementary Education major at Nebraska Wesleyan University, Miss True especially enjoys working with the youngest, and most delicate, members of True Dance & Company. She teaches the Creative Movement classes for the young boys and girls, as well as pre-school ballet and tap. McKenzie danced under the direction of her mother for 14 years. An avid horse lover, she has raised horses and competed with them on a national scale for many years. She holds the title of World Horsemanship - 2011 World Pinto Show.  McKenzie is the director of True Knowlege preschool located at True Dance and Company.

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Sarah Preston

 

 

Jonathan Moats

 

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Lila Swope

Lila Swope began dancing at True Dance & Company when she was 3 years old, started competing at age 5, and graduated from the studio in 2019. During her time competing, she received many various scholarships and awards individually and with her team. In addition to her commitments with studio dance, Lila was on the Lincoln East High School dance team, where she would be elected Administrative Coordinator (junior year) as well as Captain (senior year). During her second year, the team placed 3rd and 5th in the National Dance Team Competition through UDA, as well as placing in many other UDA state, regional, and national competitions. Swope also studied and competed with YAGP during her earlier years, competing both solos and trios. Lila danced 5 years in the Lincoln Midwest Ballet Company’s production of The Nutcracker, where she was both an Apprentice member and Company member. 

Swope is currently a full-time student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is a psychology major with a double minor in human sciences and family/youth studies. She is on a Pre-Occupational Therapy (OT)  track, and will hopefully attend graduate school after her four years at UNL concludes in 2023. She is also a member of Alpha Phi sorority, where she is able to spread her love and awareness for Women’s Heart Health. 

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Molly Cardenas

Molly Cardenas grew up in Lincoln and was a graduate of Lincoln East High School. Throughout her middle and high school years, Molly trained at True Dance and Company, and is so happy that she is still able to be a part of the True family, now as faculty.

While growing up, Molly enjoyed participating in the Lincoln Midwest Ballet Company’s, The Nutcracker, for several years, as well as being a company member. During the summer, Molly participated in the Joffrey Ballet School’s summer intensive program in New York City, receiving scholarships for both her Junior and Senior years in high school. Upon graduation, Molly began her teaching career at a studio in Norfolk, NE, where she was introduced to the performance group, “Up With People.” Molly auditioned and was accepted to become a member of Up With People, in which she traveled internationally for a year, performing over 100 shows in 11 different countries, all while staying with host families and participating in community service projects all over the world. It was a very special and cherished year.

Upon return from tour in 1999, Molly became a member of the IFL and AFL2 Indoor Football League’s dance teams from 2000 to 2005. In 2005, Molly and her husband, Jerry, welcomed their first of three children. And, for nearly the last 20 years, Molly has enjoyed teaching dance in Lincoln and the surrounding area, and is grateful to be able to share her love of dance.

Kaitlyn Biester
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Natalie Tavlin
 

Natalie has displayed a love for the arts and dance since she began classes at 2.5 years old. She was an original member of the CPD dance troupe, one of the first competitive dance troupes in Lincoln. She enjoyed dancing in LMBC’s productions of The Nutcracker for several years and was honored to be an apprentice in the company. Natalie participated in the LMBC summer dance intensives and was a member of the LSE Shirettes dance team her junior and senior years of high school, earning a UDA "All American" award.

 

After high school, Natalie attended Kansas State University for two years. She was cast in a lead role in the KSU mainstage production of Company, and she was also the Dance Captain.

While at KSU she continued her dance studies, which included ballet and musical theatre ballroom dance, under David Ollington. She also studied vocal music with Dr. Jennifer Edwards. Natalie transferred to UNL in 2004 and studied ballet under Lynne Nevin and vocal performance with Alisa Belflower. During her years at UNL Natalie earned numerous 1st place individual state and regional Musical Theatre and Classical vocal music awards. She was cast in multiple lead roles within the Theatre and Opera departments. In 2006 Natalie was nominated for an Irene Ryan award for her portrayal of “Karen” in the Theatrix production of Speed the Plow. In 2007 Natalie traveled to Ireland with the UNL Opera Department’s production of The Most Happy Fella in which she performed the lead role of “Cleo." The show competed in the Waterford International Festival of Light Opera and was awarded FIRST PLACE. In 2007 Natalie graduated from UNL with the degree, Bachelor of Arts With Distinction in Vocal and Theatre Performance.

 

Natalie has been cast in numerous roles at The Lincoln Community Playhouse, including “Cassie” in A Chorus Line and “Rapunzel” in Into the Woods. Her most favorite roles of all have been “Maria” in The Sound of Music AND “Maria” in West Side Story. Natalie also performed on the Lied stage as “Marcy Park” in the TADA Theatre production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Since 2015 Natalie has been performing professionally as “Ruby Diamond," a lead vocalist with the renowned big band, The Johnny Manhattan Orchestra. Natalie was thrilled to return to LMBC's production of The Nutcracker as a Party Parent in 2018 and plans to continue participating as long as she can!

 

Natalie works full time at Nebraska Diamond and is a proud mother of two young children. She loves nothing more in the world than spending quality time with her children and sharing her love of the arts with them. She is absolutely thrilled to be teaching the TDC “babies” and fostering the same love and passion for dance that she has always treasured. You will find her singing and dancing throughout her classes and laughing along with all of her amazing little dancers!

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Chloe Kagan
Gracie Firestone
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