Our Mission Preparing Young Dancers for Life
At TDS Dance Studios, it goes without saying that we love to dance! But our mission goes further than just teaching techniques and training for performances. We want every student to feel at home and to achieve their full potential in life— and have a lot of fun while doing it!
It is our mission at TDS Dance Studios to provide quality dance instruction with an emphasis on traditional values, discipline, and love. It’s our hope that we can encourage all our students to lead happy, healthy lives in and out of the studio.
Our History Celebrating Over Three Decades of Dance
TDS Dance Studios has spread the love of dance to thousands across the South Carolina Upstate for more than 30 years. We count it an incredible privilege to have been involved in the lives of so many wonderful students over the years!
Originally founded by Connie Draper in 1988 as The Dance Shop of Laurens, she was joined by her friend Susan Keitt in 2002. Together, as business partners and friends, they worked to grow the young business and teach students the joy of dance.
Two special students, their daughters Shauna and Neely, grew up immersed in the world of dance. After graduating college, Shauna and Neely stepped into managing the studio, working to open more locations and serve even more students. In 2015, Shauna and Neely formally took complete ownership of the business their mothers had worked to build and grow.
In 2017, The Dance Shop of Laurens rebranded as TDS Dance Studios, emphasizing the multiple locations now available. We’re honored to be trusted with the dance education of so many amazing young minds from our local Upstate communities. We take seriously the trust parents place in us, and are proud to encourage confident, happy, and healthy children across our entire dance family!
Our Team Meet Your Amazing Instructors
Shauna Mitchell has been dancing almost since she could walk. At just 2 years old, she began training at the Dance Shop, where she is now co-director, under the close instruction of her mother, Connie Draper. Her training continued at Ballet Spartanburg and the Carolina Ballet Theater. A graduate of Lander University with a degree in Science, with an emphasis in Exercise Science, she danced at the collegiate level for the University of South Carolina Dance Team. After graduation, she danced and cheered professionally for the Carolina Panthers as a Topcat.
Since 2008, Shauna has been a studio owner at TDS where she teaches at the recreational and competitive level, with jazz technique as her specialty. As a teacher, she finds great joy in helping her students at every level achieve and surpass their goals. Shauna and her husband Brett are the proud parents of three sons, Braxton, Eli, and Silas.
Neely Lashford has been dancing as long as she can remember. Since starting at the age of 2, Neely has trained with Allison Rawl, Dance Theater on Main, and Ballet Spartanburg. In high school, she began training at the Dance Shop, where she is now co-director. Neely danced with the Lander Dance Company in college, and is a graduate of Lander University with a degree in English Literature.
A studio owner with TDS since 2008, Neely specializes in teaching a contemporary style at the recreational and competitive level. She finds great satisfaction in helping her students leave their comfort zone behind and dance boldly. Outside of the studio, Neely can often be found with her husband Thomas and their daughter, Lottie Clare.
Alison Rawl began dancing at a young age with Dianne’s School of Dance in Greenville, SC. She attended the Fine Arts Center during high school where she continued pursuing her passion for dance and under the training of Barbara Selvy and Pat Lusk. After graduation from Lander University, where she was a Lander Dancer all four years, she opened Alison’s School of Dance in Laurens, teaching all styles of dance from 1993-1998. She is a certified judge for the Miss South Carolina Organization and remains involved in the pageant circuit. She and her husband Bubba are the proud parents of Catie and James.
Anna Grace is a senior at Laurens District 55 High School and has been dancing since the age of 3. She has been on the Competitive team at TDS Dance Studios since the age of 5 with training in Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Contemporary, Hip-Hop, and Clogging. In her free time, she always enjoys a good book and spending time with friends and family. Anna is so excited to share her experience with her students and continue to learn even more from them!
Ashley Martin is a classically trained dancer who studied at the Fine Arts Center and the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities before attending Clemson University. While completing her degree in Education, Ashley was a member of the Central Dance and Concert Committee, and served as vice president of the Clemson Dancers. She later trained in New York at the Broadway Dance Center, and was a featured performer with David Dorfman Dance. She has performed with the International Ballet in La Sylphide, Lady and the Hooligan, Walpurgis Night, Don Quixote, A Soldier’s Tale, Paquita y mas, Coppelia, and Nutcracker.
Ashley strives to provide each of her students with a solid base in classical technique that they can use as a strong foundation for excellence. She has taught at TDS since 2007.
Caroline Barnard grew up in Laurens,SC and graduated from Laurens District 55 High School. She later continued her education through Piedmont Technical College in Newberry, SC becoming a Licensed Veterinarian Technician. During this time she has enjoyed supporting and watching her daughter, Reece, grow up with the TDS family and establish an unwavering love for dance. Caroline has a passion for children and loves to see them smile. She is excited to be an addition to the TDS staff. She hopes to be a positive influence in the lives of young dancers as they establish and achieve their goals in the art of dance and looks forward to meeting TDS parents in the office.
Connie Draper began dancing at the age of 3 and has never looked back. She began her training at the Marjorie Palmer School of Dance, continued as a teenager with Barbary Selvy, and became a member of the Carolina Ballet Theater where she danced in various roles for the company.
In 1998, Connie founded The Dance Shop (now TDS) to share her passion for dance. Her students have attended The Governor’s School, North Carolina School of the Arts, University of South Carolina Conservatory, and Alvin Ailey. Connie most enjoys working with our young dancers, sharing her passion for dance in a loving, disciplined environment. Connie and her husband Ken have four children, Shauna, Sara, Jazz, and Kollin.
Eva Miller is a hard-working young lady accustomed to helping run a tight ship! As a recent homeschool graduate and the 3rd oldest of 12 siblings, Eva has plenty of experience with children of all ages! She has a servant’s heart, loves people, and understands the value of a strong work ethic – especially when it comes to quality customer service. In her spare time, Eva is an avid reader and enjoys journaling. Eva is excited about joining the TDS staff, learning how to better serve fellow staff members, teachers, and students! From fielding phone calls to helping tie dance shoes, Eva is eager to do her part to help TDS continue to be a place where dancers can excel!
Haylee Jones is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at the University of South Carolina Upstate. She started dancing at the age of 2 with Dancers Corner in Greer, South Carolina where she quickly realized her love for dance. She spent the last 9 years on their competitive teams and also began teaching as an assistant in recreational dance in 2018 and competitive dance in 2020. Her training includes ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, hip hop and musical theater and she also loves creating choreography. Haylee has a huge heart for teaching and some of her favorite things about teaching is getting to share her love, passion and knowledge of dance with each of her students, as well as the bond she gets create with them.
Karen Alewine began dancing at age 10 with Performing Dance Arts in Huntsville, AL. She continued her dance education in college at Coker College in Hartsville, SC. While in college, she attended the American College Dance Festival, where she was exposed to a variety of styles taught by some of the best dance educators in the U.S. Karen earned her bachelor’s degree in Dance with a concentration in Movement Analysis and Therapies and a minor in Business Administration from Coker College. Shortly after college, Karen received certification to teach Pilates on the mat and recently she finished her comprehensive Pilates certification, which allows her to teach on all the Pilates apparatus. She has performed with DanzArtz Co!, Pointe Station, Inc., Images Dance Ensemble, Coker Repertory Dance Company, Columbia Classical Ballet, the Wanda Project, and Redemptive Dance Ministries. Karen has taught at studios in South Carolina, Alabama, and Colorado. Karen desires for her students to find joy in dance and the confidence to be who God created them to be.
Kiera Morgan has invested years into her training as a professional ballet dancer and is currently with the Carolina Ballet Theater, Greenville’s only professional ballet company. Before joining TDS, Kiera was active in Virginia’s Richmond Ballet, dancing in a number of productions, including one of her favorites, ‘Theme and Variations’ by George Balanchine. She has also spent time with the Charlotte Ballet in North Carolina and worked with several renowned choreographers.
In addition to her dancing pursuits, Kiera has held a number of teaching positions and loves nurturing the next generation of dancing talent!
Kristen Wilke started dancing at the age of three and has studied with Dance Explosion, Let’s Dance, and TDS Dance. She has training in tap, ballet, pointe, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, and clogging. One of the original members of the TDS Simpsonville studio, she joined as a dancer in 2017, its opening year. Kristen is currently pursuing a degree in elementary and early childhood education with a minor in global studies. Her favorite dance style is tap and her favorite ballet is Nutcracker.
Kristen believes in having a joyful attitude while living life to the fullest! She loves teaching young dancers and hopes to inspire them to love dance as much as she does. Kristen strives to provide a loving environment in the classroom where students can be comfortable and creative.
Kristie began dancing at age 4 with Vicky’s School of Dance in Greenville, SC and since then she has studied, performed, competed, and taught tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop and clogging. Kristie earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Erskine College with a double major in Business Administration and English with an emphasis in Theater. While at Erskine Kristie was an EC Fly Girl for 4 years and continued studio classes. This year marks Kristie’s 25th year since she began teaching dance. She has taught in Simpsonville with Dance Explosion, Cabaret and most recently at TDS. Kristie’s mission is to share her joy for dance with students and loves seeing students’ smiles and confidence grow as they become more comfortable in their bodies through dance. Kristie is married to Curtis Smith and they have three daughters (and dancers!) Sydni, Darcy, and Kensley.
Megan Smith has been involved in dance since the age of six and is passionate about dance education. Megan’s enthusiasm carried her to the Broadway Dance Center Training Program, which she completed while participating in master class sessions with the Fosse/Verdon Legacy Program. For ten years, she trained as a competitive figure skater and gold level ice dancer. As a figure skater and ice dancer, she worked with world champion level ice dancers and choreographers and still teaches figure skating workshops. Megan currently choreographs shows for local theaters, including the Mauldin Youth Theatre and Younts Center for Performing Arts. She particularly loves working with young performers to help them grow in their confidence with dance technique and storytelling.
Merry Chandler began working in Group Fitness Classes while still attending the University of South Carolina. Working as both an assistant and lead organizer, she continued following her passion after graduation, returning home to Laurens where she began teaching at The Family YMCA. For more than 15 years, she has taught fitness classes, never taking a moment for granted while finding joy in helping others achieve their goals! Merry and her husband Walter have two children, a son, Ellis, and a daughter, Amelia.
Molly Lynn Smith
Molly started dancing at age of three and has been thrilled to experience so many aspects of the art, including musical theater, hip hop (her personal favorite), jazz, contemporary, ballet, and ballroom. She currently dances with several competition teams. In addition to her competitive dance, Molly loves creating show choreography. Some of her favorite performing roles were as Jasmine in Aladdin, Babette in Beauty and the Beast, and Sally in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Molly Lynn has a big heart for teaching and loves working with the students at TDS!
Reece Barnard started dancing at the age of three with TDS at our Laurens location. She started our competitive program “PAC” the next year, and is currently still competing with TDS. She trains in ballet, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, and tap. Although jazz is her favorite, she is thankful that ballet has given her placement and structure to perform all styles. Reece is still a student with hopes of a degree in exercise science. Her wish is to provide a loving and hard working environment, and a second home for each of her dancers!
Samantha Cain has been dancing since she was two years old, and has been a member of the TDS Dance Studio competitive team for ten years. She performed with the International Ballet Academy for three years and has also studied at the South Carolina Governor’s School. Samantha loves sharing her passion for all styles of dance with her students! She is currently pursuing a degree in Education.
Sarah St. Clair
Sarah St. Clair has loved ballet all her life. After moving to the South Carolina Upstate from Michigan, Sarah immediately found ways to get involved in the area’s wonderful Fine Arts community. Together, Sarah and her husband Tim taught dance and theater at Artios of Greenville for 5 years. Later, Sarah opened Selah Ballet in Taylors where she taught ballet and worship dance to ages 3-adult.
Sarah’s contagious enthusiasm for dance makes her classes a joy to be a part of. She and her husband Tim have six amazing daughters.
Teri Thomas is a professional dancer turned teacher that recently moved from New York to Greenville. Before transitioning to teaching, she performed in multiple shows on Broadway, was a Radio City Rockette, and A New York Knicks City dancer to name a few highlights. She has been a teacher at a competitive dance studio in New Jersey for the last 15 years, where she choreographed and taught classes in Tap, Jazz, Ballet, Lyrical, Contemporary, Hip Hop, and Acrobatics. Her routines have won numerous awards for choreography and her students have won accolades for technique, performance, and overall excellence.
Let’s Start Dancing Choose Your Dream Class
With classes for all age groups, skill levels, and dance styles, we’re confident we have the perfect fit for your little ones. Find the class you want and complete our easy registration process to reserve your place! We can’t wait to get started.