Mary has been involved in dance since she was five years old as a performer, teacher, and choreographer. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Wilkes University, opened Merrilee Studios in 1977, founded the TazWood Dance Company in 1982, and had a second school in Pekin from 1985 to 1996. She then began teaching dance at Illinois Central College in 1989, received an Individual Artists Grants from PAASC to attend the First American Jazz Dance World Congress in 1990 and to the Vaganova Syllabus Seminar in 1995. She participated in the Rhythm Tap Conference in Boulder, Colorado in 1992, worked with the Chairman of the Fine Arts Department to expand the dance program at ICC to include jazz and tap dance and to offer an Associates Degree in Dance in 1993, and was an Instructor and Adjunct Faculty member at Illinois Central College for 23 years. Her students can be seen dancing and choreographing for many of the area’s musical comedy productions, and teaching and owning many area dance studios. Since, she retired from teaching at ICC in 2012, she busies herself with teaching and choreographing in the dance studio and playing with her cats Misha and Gelsey.
Dan began teaching at Merrilee Studios in the Fall of 1977. He started as a tumbling teacher and over the years has added teaching Jazz, Tap, Hip Hop and Broadway as well. Dan has taken classes in New York and Chicago with many of the industry greats including Frank Hatchett, Gus Giradano, Brian Blankenbeuller and Joe Tremaine. He was a dancer with the Tazwood Dance Company for 20 years, and was one of the original Company members. He has an Associate Degree in Graphic Design, and danced in many local theatre productions. He also does freelances choreography for many area theatres including Corn Stock, Peoria Players and Eastlight Theatre. Dan lives in Peoria with his 2 dogs Modey and Delilah.
Lida began dancing at age 5 and grew up at Merrilee Studios learning dance from her mom, Mary Dexter. Lida was a member of the Taz-Wood Dance Company for 8 year and has taken classes in Chicago with many of the industry greats including Frank Hatchett, Steven Boyd, and Jo Rowan. Lida lived in the Philadelphia area for 6 years and worked as an Executive Assistant and Television Producer for local talk shows. She has done makeup and some choreography for several video shoots for websites and commercials. Lida currently teaches Tap, Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary, and is the Director of the Merrilee Dance Company. Lida Lives in Germantown Hills with her husband Brent and 2 cats Zoe and Kaylee.
Hannah has been dancing at Merrilee Studios since she was 6 years old. She started with tap and slowly started adding more classes as she got older. In 2011 she began dancing in the Merrilee Performance Group which became the Merrilee Dance Company. The group allowed her to begin performing locally and at competitions. She has been dedicated to her team ever since and is continuing to dance with the company this year as well. Starting in 2016, Hannah began teaching Tap, Ballet, and Jazz and choreographing for the Company and other soloists in the studio. Hannah is thrilled to be teaching and has loved growing up and dancing at Merrilee Studios!
Miss Bailey is one of Merrilee Studios newest teachers. She is a lifelong homeschool student and in addition taking classes part-time at Illinois Central College. After she graduates in May she plans to attend Indiana Wesleyan University and hopes to get her degree in business. Bailey has been dancing at Merrilee Studios from the age of six and has loved being a part of the studio ever since. In 2016 Bailey was a grateful recipient of the Lydia M. Moritz scholarship. She began as a demonstrator when she was 13, and started teaching when she was 16. This coming year Bailey is teaching various ballet and tap classes, as well as stretch & strengthen, hip hop, and Merrilee Elite!