Classes & Programs / Dance

Young Dancer Intensive

Young Dancer Intensive

Ages 6- 9 years

June 22-26,2020 M-F 1 – 4 p.m.

Do you dance in your dreams and everywhere you go? Grab your dancing shoes and get ready to spin and soar. We will start each day off with ballet to build a strong dance foundation;, then explore a “genre of the day” class including jazz, modern, or hip hop; and end the day with a creative class such as costume design or acting to ignite your imagination and performance skills. No dance experience necessary.

Fee: $119. Fee includes a camp T-shirt. Students will need to bring a snack and water bottle daily.

Dancers 9+ with three years or more dance experience should explore our Junior Training Program for Dancers.

Questions & Answers about the Young Dancer Intensive

Who is this Intensive for?

MCA’s Young Dancer Intensive is the perfect experience for young male and female dancers ages 6- 9 years old who love to dance. No experience is required, but past experience in a dance class of any kind is helpful. Students who have not danced at MCA are also welcome. During the camp dancers will be broken into groups or given differentiated instruction as needed to make sure each dancer is nurtured and challenged.

This is a perfect experience for dancers who are serious about dance and ready to take their dance experience to the next level, stay conditioned over the summer and explore the dance world in new ways.

Dancers ages 9+ with at least 3 years of experience should explore our Junior Training Programming for Dancers.

Do you need to be a current MCA student to participate?

No, MCA welcomes dancers who have danced at any studio. If you have questions about the level of dance experienced needed for success in this camp or any other MCA program, please feel free to contact us at 507-453-5500 or by email:

When and where is the Intensive?

The Young Dance Intensive will run Monday- Friday, June 22-26, 1am- 4pm at Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts home the Valencia Arts Center

Are there Auditions for the Intensive?

No, there are not auditions for the MCA’s Young Dancer Intensive or Junior Training Program for Dancers. 

Click here information about auditioning as a boarding or commuter student in our intermediate-advanced Summer Dance Intensive for 11-22.

What is the cost?

$99 (Early Bird Special), $119 (after May 1). fee includes 15 hours of instruction and camp t-shirt. Students will need to bring a snack and water bottle daily.

What will a normal day look like?

As you will see from the sample schedule below, dancers will have the opportunity to learn from a variety of qualified teaching artists, explore dance forms and important dance related topics that will help dancers grow into a well-rounded dancers. Ballet technique are offered daily, as this is the foundation for all dance forms.

Sample Schedule:

Monday, June 24

1 – 2 pm  Ballet Technique with Natasha Posey

2 – 3 pm  Jazz Dance Technique with Jessica Dienger 

3 – 4 pm  Exploring Acting with Jamie Schwaba

Tuesday, June 25

1 – 2 pm  Ballet Technique with Natasha Posey

2 – 3 pm  Modern Dance Technique with Natasha Posey 

3 – 4 pm  Site-Specific Dance with Jessica Dienger 

Wednesday, June 26

1 – 2 pm  Ballet Technique with Natasha Posey 

2 – 3 pm  Hip Hop Dance Technique with Jessica Dienger 

3 – 4 pm  Costume Design with Tammy Schmidt 

Thursday, June 27

1 – 2 pm  Ballet Technique with Natasha Posey

2 – 3 pm  Irish Dance with TBD

3 – 4 pm  Progressing Ballet Technique with Tammy Schmidt 

Friday, June 28

1 – 2 pm  Ballet Technique with Natasha Posey 

2 – 3 pm  Musical Theatre Dance with Jessica Dienger

3 – 4 pm  Dance Composition with Jessica Dienger 


Is there boarding available for this program?

Unfortunately, at this time our mini-intensive is only open to area students.

Dancers who are 11-22 years are welcome to audition for our full-day Summer Dance Intensive which does welcome students from afar who are housed overnight at the Alverna Center which is located right next door to MCA.

How is dancing different at MCA?

There are other opportunities to study dance in the Winona community, but there is nothing that compares with the the long rich history and unique experience MCA offers. MCA begun as the Ballet School under the direction of our founder, Stefannié Valéncia Kierlin in 1973. We invite you to join us for a class, camp or free Family Arts Academy Workshop to experience the difference for yourself, in the mean time below is a list of a few things that make the MCA experience special.

Quality Instructors

MCA instructors hold degrees or comparable experience that allow them to help students develop technique as well as artistry in a fun and supportive environment.

Family Friendly Environment

One of the remarks that we hear most often from MCA students and families is that they feel that MCA is like a second family with teachers that are caring and positive role models. They also love the progression they are making in dance without the pressure of competition. Dress codes and careful selection of music also help foster a positive environment for all ages. Family discounts, payment plans, scholarships, apprentice opportunities, and our adult wellness discount help make MCA programs accessible to everyone. Learn more about our policies & discounts.

State-of-the-Art Facilities

MCA is located inside of the Valencia Arts Center (VAC) in Winona, MN. The VAC features 3 dance studios equipped with wood sprung floors (that are gentler on joints than other surfaces), a black box theatre, recital hall, four practice rooms for private music lessons, class piano lab, lobby and other waiting areas. Our building equipped with free Wi-Fi, reading materials to enjoy while you wait and our lobby features a TV that streams a closed circuit view of youth dance classes. 

Variety of Offerings

MCA’s Dance Division offers classes for students’ 18mo- Adulthood. We even have adults in our Adult Dance and Wellness Program and Seeding Vitality Arts Program (for ages 55+) that are staying fit and active well into their 80’s. Dance and Fitness styles taught at MCA include; Ballet, Pointe, Tap, Jazz, Musical Theatre, Modern, Hip Hop, Creative Movement, Irish, Barre Fitness, Yoga, Dance Conditioning, Choreography. MCA also runs a Boys Dance Program that has received national attention and a three-week Summer Dance Intensive with a boarding option that attracts students from as far away as Alaska, Texas and Mexico. Thanks to our affiliation with Saint Mary’s University of MN, some dance classes are eligible to be taken for credit. Special arrangements have also been made at Cotter High School to accept hours of dance instruction and rehearsal to be counted towards Physical Education requirements.

Performance Opportunities

MCA is not a recital based studio so students that wish may take classes just for the sake of learning the technique, artistry and physical benefits. However, with two productions yearly with our pre-professional Dance Repertory Company (DRC) offers students the opportunity to perform in fully mounted dance concerts. Dance Concerts range from the biannual production the the full length ballet of The Nutcracker to stagings of new contemporary works. DRC holds auditions and rehearsals that are separate from classroom instruction time, so students can focus on technique and artistry during class time. Intermediate and advanced dance classes regularly have an opportunity to perform throughout the community at special events such as the National Tap Dance Day Celebration, St. Patrick’s Day Events and more.

More than Dance

MCA dancers not only have the opportunity to dance but they can also develop leadership and other life skills through participation in our Apprenticeship program and by joining our National Honors Society for Dance Arts Chapter. Parents, Alumni, and Community Members are invited to join our Friends of MCA, a board to help support what is happening at Conservatory and have input into future programming and policy changes.

Proven History of Success

Dance can provide students of any age coordination, balance, strength, and motor skills but it can also teach valuable life skills such as; confidence, teamwork, poise, and perseverance. MCA offers both recreational and pre-professional students what they need to meet their goals. MCA students and alumni have studied at or performed with American Ballet Theatre, Ananya Dance Theatre, Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, Minnesota Ballet School, Ballet Austin, Milwaukee Ballet School, Continental Ballet, St. Paul Ballet, Limon Dance Company, Juilliard, Ordway Theatre,University of Oklahoma, and the Joffery Ballet among others.

Meet the 2018 Mini-Summer Dance Intensive Faculty

(subject to change)

Natasha Posey

Natasha Posey

Instructor - Dance

Natasha Posey, a Georgia native, began her dance career performing with Augusta Ballet Company. She earned a BFA in dance from Point Park College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has since performed with Lynda Martha Dance Company (Chicago), Wisconsin Ballet Theatre (Green Bay), Ballet Madison and Danceworks Performance Company. Natasha is currently on staff at Milwaukee Ballet and Danceworks Inc. of Milwaukee. Natasha’s “day job” is a schoolteacher at Maryland Avenue Montessori School.  She earned her teaching certification at UW-Madison where she graduated with honors. Natasha then began integrating the arts into education with her project “Language Arts Learned Through the Creative Arts.” As an artist-in-residence at Schenk Elementary School in Madison, Natasha taught classes that combined dance with reading, writing, and arithmetic to the whole school. She has led teacher-training workshops through Very Special Arts-Wisconsin where educators are taught how to integrate movement with students of all abilities.

Lauren Mechell

Lauren Mechell

Instructor - Piano

In 2018, Lauren Mechell joined the MCA faculty with a dream to create a top-notch Class Piano
Lab. Within a year, a brand new state-of-the-art lab was completed. Lauren’s focus is to bring
the power of music to students of all ages. A passion for learning itself is not exclusive to
young students or to older students. People can develop a passion for learning and music
throughout life - from beginning to end.”
Graduating with honors from Temple University Esther Boyer College of Music in Philadelphia,
PA, Lauren holds professional teaching experience that spans over forty years and four states.
Lauren served as adjunct professor at Winona State University for sixteen years as part of the
WSU music faculty where she specialized in class piano instruction. She has been active as an
adjudicator for the National Federation of Music Clubs in Illinois, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and
the Wisconsin Music Teachers National Association. Lauren has been a member
of the National Association for Music Education, Minnesota Elementary Music Educators, and
the American Choral Directors Association. Lauren sang with the Winona Oratorio Chorus for
twenty years where she served on the WOC Board of Directors.
A few acknowledgements include Lauren’s Pond - dedicated in Lauren’s honor on the
WSU campus, WSU Delta Phi Epsilon Outstanding Professor award - for dedication to excellence
in teaching, and the Winona Home and Community Options Community Builder Award -
acknowledging individuals who provide outstanding volunteerism to the community.
“As teachers, my parents taught me that intelligence is measured in different ways. They also
taught me that each student has their own unique learning ability. Discovering a student’s
unique ability to learn is a guiding principle that stays with me to this day.”

Mariah Ciangiola

Mariah Ciangiola

Instructor - Music

Mariah Ciangiola has come back to her midwest roots and is excited to lead vocal lessons at the Music Conservatory of the Arts in Winona, Minnesota. She most recently finished a 7-month contract as a lead vocalist with AIDA Cruises based out of Germany. Before cruise work, she lived in New York City for ten years. While in New York she performed off-Broadway, in regional theaters, and toured as an Equity actress. She is now performing locally with jazz and blues bands as well as writing original music with The Mettalarks. Please feel free to check her website out at for any updates and inquiries! 

Jamie Schwaba

Jamie Schwaba

Managing Director

Schwaba earned a Masters degree in Adult and Continuing Education Leadership from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre with a minor in Communications from Carroll University in Waukesha, WI, and is a certified Rhythm Works Integrative Dance Instructor. In addition to her role at MCA, Jamie is a member of the Education Committee for Great River Shakespeare and a former Secretary of the River Arts Alliance. Before relocating to Winona for this position she was the Director of Continuing Education and Children's Theatre Director at University of Wisconsin- Marinette from 2007-2014.  Also while living in Marinette Schwaba was an active member of the Menominee Area Arts Council who's mission was to promote, educate and support local arts activities.  Prior to living in Marinette she spent 8 years in the Milwaukee area where she was the Education Director at Milwaukee Youth Theatre, taught at First Stage Milwaukee, Danceworks, To The Pointe Fine Arts Academy and the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music as well as performed professionally with Skylight Music Theatre, Discovery World and Windfall Theatre. Contact Jamie at: or 507-453-5501

Raina Racki

Raina Racki

Instructor - Dance

​Raina's dance roots and shoots sprouted here in Winona, training, performing and even starting to teach ballet with Stefannie Valencia Kierlin.  After 10 years with Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts (formally known as The Ballet School and Children in Concert), Raina dove barefoot into modern dance at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee where she earned a BFA degree in Dance, after which, she attended a Summer Intensive at the Alvin Ailey School in New York City.  Raina has enjoyed teaching dance in Honolulu and Hilo, HI, Durham, NC, Chicago, IL, Haifa, Israel and Winona, MN.  Her performing career has included a range of work in ballet, modern and hula dance, musical theatre, theatre, choral singing, French horn tooting and a touch of aerial strap flying.  Raina feels blessed to have traveled the world and performed in places such as Kyoto, Japan, Vilnius Lithuania, and at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Some companies Raina has worked with are:  Children in Concert of Winona; Chicago Moving Company, Rachel Bunting and the Humans, and Lyric Opera Company of Chicago; Convergence Dance Theater, Ohi'a Productions and Wai Company of Oahu, Portland Musical Theater Company and Randee Paufve and Dancers in Oregon. When not in the studio, Raina loves spending time gardening and being with her beloved husband and children.


Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts
1164 West Howard (10th) Street
Winona, MN 55987

Phone: 507-453-5500
Fax: 507-453-5507


Contact Us



Monday - Thursday- 9:00am-3:00pm and 3:45-8:00pm

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday- Closed


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This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

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