Metropolitan Dance Alliance | The Instructors | Shakopee, MN Dance

From left to right: Tess Nelson, Morgan Weickert, Nicole Bladow, Maddie Lund, Jennifer Carlson, Cathy Christenson, Sharon Haag, Joan Madren

Jennifer Carlson


Jen began her dance career at three years old dancing with Shari's Dance Center here in Shakopee. Jen trained for 14 years with Shari Heitz and one year under Cathy Christenson. Jen studied ballet, jazz, lyrical, tap, musical show, and pointe. After graduation, Jen attended the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, where she continued her education in dance under the likes of Cathy Young, Zoe Sealy, and Danny Buraczeski. Presently, Jen continues her training through various conventions and dance outlets.

After graduating from the U of M with a BA in Political Science and a Minor in History, she continued her education at William Mitchell College of Law, earning her JD in 2000. Jen is also a licensed Staff Attorney working for the State of Minnesota. In her free time (of which there is not much), Jen enjoys skiing, camping, and generally finding something to do outdoors. She is also a big fan of avocados and is often seen eating them around the studio.

Jen began working at Metropolitan Dance Alliance in the Fall of 1998 and has been loving her job ever since. She loves working with children and helping them explore their creative outlets.


Cathy Christenson


Cathy Christenson grew up dancing in a studio similar to Metropolitan Dance Alliance, under the direction of John P. Hallahan.  

She began her training at an early age and studied primarily ballet and pointe; however, Cathy also trained in tap, jazz, lyrical, ethnic, modern, musical show, and Pilates for ballet. Her training continued for one year at Branitski Ballet Company where she studied Russian Ballet methods.

Cathy pursued her jazz dance training when she auditioned and was placed on the Reebok Performance Team, during the Inaugural Season by the Minnesota Timberwolves. The experience gave her opportunities to mix with Minneapolis' elite group of dance choreographers and dancers. While part in the Timberwolves organization, she resumed her ballet training with the Continental Ballet Company (CBC) in Bloomington, MN under the direction of Riet Velthulsen, where her performances included The Nutcracker Fantasy; Paquita, Carnival of the Animals; Coppelia; leading role of Kitri in Don Quixote; and solo role of Sylvia under the direction of John P. Hallahan.

"Dance comes from the heart, not from the mind. You can do all the creative movement you want, but if you do not express it from your heart with passion, you aren't dancing."

When Cathy isn't teaching, she spends every moment she can with her kids, Jacqueline and Tyler, who are her life.

Joan Madren | Metropolitan Dance Alliance | Shakopee Area Dance Minnesota

Joan Madren


Joan has been dancing since she was three years old. She studied at the Dubuque Dance Studio and Gymnastic Club under the direction of Carolu Digman Welbes, where she studied tap, ballet, jazz, and pointe. Through high school and college, she taught dance classes ranging from preschool to junior high students as well as coached the high school dance team.  She also taught entry-level tumbling classes and assisted gymnastic teams and choreography for their floor routines. She was active in cheerleading and dance line through high school and college as well.

Joan joined Metropolitan Dance Alliance in 2002 and has enjoyed teaching primarily tap and musical show to all class levels from recreation to elite performance lines, in addition to other dance styles.  She also works with soloists, trios and small groups.  She has watched some of her youngest dancers grow up to perform at the college level as well as become amazing teachers.

Joan's philosophy in working with children is: "The most important thing I want to instill in my students is a sense of self confidence and respect for themselves and others. When a child accomplishes something, and is having fun in the learning process the outcome will be much more successful.”

Joan’s family includes her husband Russ, son Davis and daughter Sydney, who grew up at MDA.  When she is not teaching she works full time as a director of consulting for a large health care data company.

Tess Nelson | Dance Instructor | Metropolitan Dance Alliance

Tess Nelson


Tess Nelson began dancing at the age of nine at Shari's Dance Center, which later became Metropolitan Dance Alliance. She has trained in ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical/contemporary, pointe, and hip hop. Her first teaching opportunity came after she graduated high school in 2005 when she began teaching stretch classes, ballet, and tap technique. She has since moved forward to teaching jazz, lyrical, ballet, tap, and hip hop to all ages and has also choreographed dances in these styles. Her ability and passion to move make her a well-rounded instructor.

She believes that ballet is the base for all styles of dance and that proper training in ballet will improve a dancer's ability to excel, not only in dancing, but in sports requiring agility, strength, stamina, and flexibility. Ballet also teaches and improves discipline, personal responsibility, and work ethic.

Tess believes that being a dancer has taught her many things, but most importantly it has taught her perseverance and has given her a drive in life that she could not have gained anywhere else. As a dance instructor, sharing her passion with students is a very gratifying experience and she strives to help all students be the best dancers and people they can be.


Maddie Lund


Maddie Lund graduated college from Gustavus Adolphus College, where she received her education degree. Working with children and dancing have always been two of Maddie's passions. She began her dancing career at the age of three. She grew up dancing at Metropolitan Dance Alliance here is Shakopee, where she studied ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, musical show, and pointe. While dancing at MDA, Maddie enjoyed assisting classes and working the desk.

After high school, Maddie attended Gustavus Adolphus College, where she continued to dance. During college, Maddie was captain of the Gustavus Dance Team, studied under the Gustavus Dance Program, and founded and coached the local high school dance team.

Maddie loves having the opportunity to teach and inspire others through dance. She believes that the connections made at Metropolitan Dance Alliance are life-changing, and she is glad to have the chance to share those experiences with others. When Maddie isn’t working, she enjoys traveling, biking and exploring the outdoors with her husband, Justin and son, Beckett.


Nicole Comstock


Nicole Comstock started her dance career at Shari’s Dance Center when she was only three years old. She continued dancing with Metropolitan Dance Alliance here in Shakopee for 13 more years, until she graduated high school. During that time, Nicole studied ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, and pointe, and attended many workshops training in hip-hop and contemporary. She also received a total of three special judge’s awards in ballet solos, was awarded a Hall Of Fame soloist award, and earned a scholarship at West Coast Dance Explosion convention. Her most valued award was the Motivation Determination and Attitude award she received in 2009 from her teachers Cathy and Jen, here at MDA. While at MDA, Nicole assisted with teaching younger students for five years, which later inspired her to become a teacher.

After graduation in 2009, Nicole moved to Duluth, Minnesota to attend the University of Minnesota Duluth pursuing a degree in Elementary and Special Education and a certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders. At UMD, Nicole participated in the Attitudes Dance Association club organization, learning, training, and performing with the group for three years. In 2013, Nicole student taught in Galway, Ireland, where her knowledge of dance became her core curriculum for the third class physical education instruction. Being able to bring her dance life with her to Ireland and share it with youth there was an amazing opportunity she is grateful for everyday. After completing another semester of student teaching here in Minnesota, Nicole graduated from UMD in December 2013. Nicole is now a Pre-Kindergarten Readiness Teacher at the Shakopee Area Catholic School.

Nicole has taught many classes and ages over the years. This year, Nicole will be teaching classes at the recreational levels of many age groups. She looks forward to inspiring young dancers to dance their hearts out!

Missy Bigot


Prior to college, Missy was a student at MDA for 15 years. Her two main teachers were Jen Carlson and Cathy Christenson where she studied jazz, tap, ballet and lyrical. She was the first recipient for the Junior MDA (Motivation, Determination and Attitude) Award.

This will be Missy’s fifth year teaching at MDA. In previous years she has taught a wide range of students from tiny tot’s to senior competition line. Missy believes a great dancer takes the technique and choreography their teachers taught and apply the emotion and energy they feel from the music. It is the movement and passion of the dancer that can cause the audience to feel a wide variety of emotions, such as happiness and sadness. A successful dancer is not one who wins all the top awards, but the one who can pull us into the story of the music with them.

Outside of teaching at the dance studio, Missy works as an assistant project manager for Greystone Construction. Some of the projects she has worked on around Shakopee are the HomeTown Bank by HyVee and Rahr Malting’s Corporate Office Expansion. Her free time is spent with her three dogs, family and friends.


Kati Mousel


Kati (Hoen) Mousel has been dancing in some capacity since she was three years old. She started her dancing career here at this dance studio when it was under the direction of Shari (Sinn) Heitz, and upon graduation it was under the direction of Cathy Christensen and became Metropolitan Dance Alliance. Growing up, Kati was exposed to many different styles of dance including ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical, musical show, ethnic, and pointe. Shari and Cathy, along with her family, were instrumental in creating the foundation of dance that has turned into a passion. Dance has opened doors and created relationships throughout her life that she truly treasures. 

After high school, she attended the College of St. Benedict where she received her degree in elementary education. While there, she was a dancer and captain on the St. Ben’s Dance Team where she was instrumental in the organization and choreography for the team. In 2003, she was given the opportunity to come back and teach at MDA, which she did for seven years. During those years, she truly enjoyed teaching the younger competition lines. 

In 2010, she took a break from teaching to start her family and focus on furthering her education by earning a Masters degree in curriculum instruction. While she stepped away from the dance studio, she was able to continue passing on her love of dance by coaching the Shakopee Area Catholic School Dance Team. Within that time, her own children started dancing and brought her back to the studio on a regular basis, because of this, she was given the opportunity to once again teach at MDA. As a dancer and teacher, her favorite part of dance is the performance. It is such a treat to watch all the hard work pay off and see the growth, excitement, and pride of each dancer. 

When Kati is not at the dance studio, she keeps herself quite busy as a mom of four and a middle school teacher at Shakopee Area Catholic School. All four of her children dance at MDA, as well as her husband.


Sarah Hellman


Sarah has been dancing since the age of 5. Taking classes in ballet, jazz, lyrical, hip hop and tap being her absolute favorite. She has been teaching as a professional tap instructor in the Twin Cities metro area since 2000. Since beginning her choreography career, she has earned choreography awards along with her dancers earning high point, overall and judges awards at numerous competitions locally and nationally.

Sarah continues to learn and expand her tap skills by taking classes from many renowned teachers, traveling to festivals and taking classes geared towards how to teach technique to dancers. Sarah's favorite part about teaching is seeing that "ah-ha" moment of her dancers getting and being able to master a concept.

She currently resides in the Northwest metro suburbs and enjoys spending her spare time in coffee shops, reading, exploring small towns, cooking and spending time at the family cabin.


Abby Pleiss


Abby grew up in Albert Lea, Minnesota and began dancing at the age of 8. She was a member of her high school dance team, as well as choreographer and captain. During her summers she began teaching for children ages 4 to 11 for recreational programs. While in college, she studied dance history abroad in Paris, France. In May (2018), she graduated with a degree in K-12 Dance Education from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has spent the last year choreographing and teaching around the Twin Cities Area and has won Choreography awards, an Entertainment award, and various Judges awards.

Abby is as passionate about performing, as she is teaching. Abby is excited to share the language of dance and her passion with her students and watch her students grow.

When she’s not at the studio, Abby loves to spend my time with her beautiful nieces and nephew, and traveling!


Amanda Sachs


Amanda Sachs was born and raised in New Jersey. She started her training at The Academy of Dance Arts in Red Bank, New Jersey. She studied the Royal Academy of Ballet syllabus and received Distinction from all exams taken in the syllabus progressing up to Advanced II. At age 17, Amanda moved to San Francisco to be part of the Alonzo King Lines Training Program. During this program she had original roles created on her by Iratxe Ansa, Sidra Bell, Maurya Kerr, Gregory Dawson, Erik Wagner, Kara Davis, Keelan Whitmore, Sandrine Cassini, and Uri Sands as well as performing excerpts of King’s Rasa and Ocean. Following the training program, Amanda joined The Francesca Harper Project in New York City where she performed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Joyce Theatre, and Brooklyn Academy of Music. She also traveled with Francesca Harper as her assistant and set works on Dance Theatre of Harlem and TU Dance. Amanda also participates in the Metamorphosis International Dance Residency under the direction of Iratxe Ansa and Igor Bacovich and has traveled internationally performing with this residency. Ms. Sachs joined TU Dance in 2017 as a company member. With TU Dance, Amanda has performed in many theatres throughout the Twin Cities as well as touring nationally to places such as The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and The Kennedy Center in DC. Amanda is an original member of the TU Dance and Bon Iver Collaboration "Come Through" and is featured in Bon Iver's latest music videos "Naeem" and "We".

Amanda loves to share her passion for movement with her students and encourages everyone in the room to take risks and discover something new within themselves in her class. She hopes that she can use her experiences to help mold the next generation of dancers and truly believes in the power of dance. This is Amanda's first year teaching at MDA and she is so excited to become part of the community!

Amanda loves to be outside and active. On the weekends, when she's not performing, you can find her biking around the city or in yoga. She also loves spending time and laughing with friends, trying new restaurants, or seeing live music throughout Minneapolis.