Mary Ellen School of Dance

Offering The Best Dance Education in Ocala, Florida for 40 years!

 Studio Owner

Mary Ellen Vowinkel- Owner of Mary Ellen School of Dance, was born in Buffalo, New York and danced and trained at her mother's dance studio with her three sisters. She moved to Ocala with her husband and family in 1977, and opened Mary Ellen School of Dance in 1979. Mary Ellen has trained and educated thousands of students in the Ocala and surrounding areas. She has received most of her training from New York, dance conventions and from many head choreographers and teachers all over the US. All classes are under the personal direction of Mary Ellen thereby assuring a quality method of teaching of the art of dance through a graded system with discipline and correction for each student by trained , dedicated, and committed dance instructors.

Studio Director

Lisa Whitaker - Lisa began dancing in Melbourne , Florida, at the Nancy Haram School of Dance and then became the head choreographer for her high school dance/drill team for three years, traveling throughout the State of Florida to many competitions. She continued dancing for two years at the University of Florida taking various classes. She came to Mary Ellen School Of Dance in 2002 starting as an assistant and then teaching her own classes: Lyrical, Jazz, Tap, Ballet. She is the Studio Director for Mary Ellen School of Dance.

Office Staff

           Angela Stoddard                                                           Kelly Clemons                

   Dara Summers 


2018-2019 Faculty

Alison Swearingen - Alison received her dance training at Mary Ellen School of Dance.  As she brought her daughters to the school of dance training, she redeveloped an interest in dance involvement for herself.  She started as a class assistant and has been teaching Tiny Tots since 1999. She is co-director of the Performance Team and also teaches Jazz and Tap.

Samantha Lewis - Samantha is a former student of the Mary Ellen School of Dance and a graduate of Florida School of the Arts at St. John's River College.  Samantha has taught Tiny Tots, Lyrical, Bumblebees, and Jazz. She is the director of Mary Ellen School of Dance Performance Team.

Maycee Dominguez- Maycee Dominguez started dancing at the age of 2 at Mary Ellen School of Dance and is versed in many different styles. She began competing at the age of 6 at regional and national competitions and earned many top scores and titles throughout Florida. After high school, Maycee continued her dance training in Los Angeles, working with some of the top choreographers and dancers in the industry. She worked for 4 years as a character performer for Walt Disney World Entertainment and is currently the director of the Ocala Dance Force Company. Maycee is humbled to teach dance at Mary Ellen’s and looks forward to getting in the studio everyday.


Leah Whitaker - Leah started her dance training at Mary Ellen School of Dance at age 6. She competed with Ocala Dance Force and was Principle Dancer of The Florida Dance Theater. At age 16 she began training with the Central Florida Ballet Academy. Also performed in Nutcracker productions, which were nationally televised. At age 21 Leah became co-director of the Florida Dance Theater. Then at age 22 wrote and directed her own shows for the Company. At age 23 she began training with Pofahl's/ Dance Alive National Ballet. Then was an employed dancer/performer for Universal Studios. Currently, Leah is a teacher and choreographer for Mary Ellen School of Dance Performance Team.  


Jennifer Eggers - Jennifer's dance training began at the age of six in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Her foundation was built studying Luigi's jazz technique, as well as Cecchetti, an Italian graded method of ballet.  Upon high school graduation, Jennifer studied dance at Point Park College (now Point Park University) with an emphasis on classical ballet.  Within a year, Jennifer booked her first Broadway show, the Will Rogers Follies.  Before she retired from the stage, she worked on two Broadway shows and three national tours.  She even performed "eye high" kicks as a world famous Radio City Rockette in NYC. 


Vanessa Carnes - Vanessa grew up in Ocala sharing her skills within our local community. She began cheerleading at the age of 9 with MCYFL and continued through highscool at Vanguard. She spent a year displaying those skills through The College Of Central Florida Cheerleading Team. She has coached Elementary, Middle and High School Levels. Also growing up she attended Jeanne Benson Dance Academy. She is excited to now be sharing her skills with others.

Hannah Robarge- Hannah received her dance training at Mary Ellens School of Dance and has been a member of the MESD Performance Team. She started teaching as a student teacher and now teaches hip hop and choreographs for the Performance Team. 


Trish Perkins- Trish received her dance training from Dancer's Image in Westfield, MA. When her daughter was two, she started taking dance classes at Mary Ellens School of Dance which led her to become involved in dance again. Trish has assisted Tiny tot dance classes here at MESD and is very excited to share her love of dance with her students. 

*Christine Vianello- Christine started dancing at Mary Ellens at the age of 3. She became a member of the MESD Performance Team at age 10 and later joined ODFC where she had the opportunity to apprentice several classes. She has been competing at regional and national dance competitions for 6 years. She is now excited to teach what she has learned througout the years. 

*Riley Thoresen- Riley started dancing at the age of 3. She became a member of MESD Performance Team at the age of 10. She started choreographing lyrical dances for performance team and now is student teaching stretch and core as well as assisting several other classes. 

*-Student Teacher