Meet our Artistic Director & Faculty
As artist director and founder of Dance South Performing Arts and Dance South Youth Company, Tiffany Payton has a passion for dance education in addition to the physical and mental health benefits of dance. Originally from the Atlanta area, Tiffany trained full time with Atlanta's master educators including Magdalena Maury and Marcus Alford. Tiffany was a founding member of Georgia Dance Theatre under the direction of Sherri Davis. While a dance major at Florida State University, Tiffany trained with Richard Sias and Anthony Morgan among others. She holds a BA in English Literature. She is a certified teacher with the American Ballet Theatre® National Training Curriculum, Pre-primary through Level 5. Tiffany is honored to be a 4-time recipient of the Tennessee Governor's School of the Arts Teacher of the Year Award. Her students have been accepted to the most elite summer intensives in the US including the Susan Farrell Cedar Island intensive, American Ballet Theater, American Ballet Theater Collegiate intensive, Joffrey Ballet, Orlando Ballet, University of North Carolina School of the Arts and more. Many of her students have gone on to dance in college (Belmont University, University of Alabama, University of Tampa, Western Kentucky University.) Others have gone on to perform professionally with the Walt Disney World Company, cruise lines, the Grammy's, music videos, print and television commercials, and Busch Gardens Tampa. Her students have also taken part in study abroad programs that bring dance arts to third world countries. Not all of her dancers pursued a dance career, but all contribute part of their success to their dance training. Many participated in dance companies and classes through college as they worked toward degrees in medicine, law, education, and aviation. Tiffany continues to partner with Nutcracker Magical Christmas Ballet at the Ryman, Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Middle Tennessee Youth Ballet, and Celebration Dance Festival to offer her dancers the practical experience needed to prepare for a future in the dance industry. She believes dance education reinforces lifelong lessons in teamwork, discipline, and confidence and looks forward to many more years educating dancers through an innovative approach that welcomes diversity and ensures unanimous participation and achievement by all students.
Rachel is a native of Nashville, having grown up and danced in and around the
community for over 20 years. She started dancing at the age of four in a small
community studio and attended the School of Nashville Ballet through middle and high school. Rachel earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Performing Arts with a Dance Emphasis from Western Kentucky University in 2002. She began teaching in association with Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s, Wolf Trap Early Learning in 2019. Rachel is also a certified teacher from the southern Association of Dance Masters and American Ballet Theater National Training Curriculum. Since her graduation, Rachel has worked professionally all over the southeast as a professional dancer, choreographer, and costume designer, but her true love is teaching. Her students and choreography can be seen working with Moscow Ballet, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Jazz on Tap, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Tennessee Dance Association, as well
as assorted music videos, tours, competitions and performances. This is Rachel’s fourteenth year teaching at Dance South and is excited to bring the love and appreciation of dance to her new students.
Melanie began her dance training at Accent On Dance in Waukesha, Wisconsin where she danced for 15 years. She then graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a major in Elementary education and a minor in dance. She was a dancer, choreographer and board member for Optima Dance (Madison, WI) for 5 years, as well as the founder and choreographer for Fusion Dance Collective (Milwaukee, WI). She taught at the Madison Professional Dance Center, and Accent On Dance Mukwonago before moving to Nashville, TN in 2016 and finding her home as a teacher at Dance South Performing Arts. Melanie has won numerous awards for dance and choreography at the regional and national level. She has also trained under award-winning dancers including, Sonya Tayeh, Mike Minery, Nick Dinicolangelo, Mia Michaels, and Andrew Winghart. Melanie specializes in contemporary lyrical and jazz with an emphasis on technique, emotion and strength training to support her dance students in being well-rounded dancers.
Cassandra Duffy graduated from Western Kentucky University (WKU) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Dance with a Performing Arts Administration Minor. She has been dancing for twelve years, starting at the age of ten. Coming from a studio with a competition and performance background; Cassandra has training in ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary jazz, modern, and hip-hop dance. With continued training in ballet, tap, jazz, and modern at WKU; additionally improvisation, choreography, dance pedagogy, dance anatomy and kinesiology, and dance history. Through her entire collegiate career, Cassandra was a member of WKU’s resident Dance Company and has presented choreographic works in formal showcase Dance Project and in the end of the semester informal student showcase Last Chance to Dance. In previous summers, Cassandra has been a Resident Assistant at the Orlando Ballet Summer Intensive, where she has had the opportunity to train with Phillip Broomhead, former Royal Ballet principle, and award-winning choreographer Parker Esse. Cassandra serves as rehearsal director for the Nashville youth cast Nutcracker Magic of Christmas Ballet at the Ryman and Dance South Youth Company.
Dance Educator/Assistant to Director
Guest Choreographer/Dance Educator
Guest Choreograher/Dance Educator