Leslie Updyke –

Miss Leslie is the owner, director, and dance instructor of Leslie School of Dance and Artistic Director/Choreographer of the New Heights Dance Theater.


Leslie studied with Madame Halina in Elmira beginning at the age of three.  Leslie opened Leslie School of Dance in Elmira in September of 1991, and the Watkins Glen Studio in September of 2004.  She attended Mercyhurst College and the State University of New York – Purchase, majoring in ballet with a concentration in teaching and has a business administration degree from Corning Community College.


Leslie has performed with the Elmira Corning Ballet Company, the Twin Tiers Ballet Theater and with the Mercyhurst and Purchase Dance Corps.  She was involved with many professional productions performing multiple lead roles.  She has choreographed the Nutcracker in Motion and Walking on the Horizon.  Leslie prides herself on offering a very artistic approach to teaching ballet.


Leslie, and her husband, Greg,  have three children and reside in Watkins Glen. 


Leslie can be reached at either of the Leslie School of Dance locations in Elmira Heights and Watkins Glen

Interested in joining our team?  Send a resume and contact us today.

Christina Ranck–

Miss Tina was born and raised in Elmira.  She is proud to continue to live here with her son.  She is a hair stylist in Painted Post for Shear Illusions, as well continueing her dream in instructing Dance. 


Tina studied classical ballet with Rafael Grigorian for twelve years where she performed in The Nutcracker, Baba Yaga, Chipillino, and Romeo and Juliet.  While studying for eight years at Leslie School of Dance, she performed in the Nutcracker in Motion, Fairytales, and Stepping into the Season.  Tina has been teaching at Leslie School of Dance since 2000, and is a choreographer for New Heights Dance Theater.

Briana Sampsell–

Miss Bri, was born and raised in Elmira, NY.  She began dancing at the age of six.  Miss Bri has studied the art of dance at multiple studios in the area and was very active in competitive dancing.  She was picked for multiple performance teams through competitions including Dance Caravan, and was also named Miss Teen at Stars of Tomorrow in 2008.  Miss Bri danced in the Nutcracker in Motion for two years and spent five years at Leslie School of Dance.


She is very passionate about dance and in continuing her education in dance while teaching others.

She has now taken on the role as our competition team administrator making her responsible for all the paperwork that goes along with registering and competing at competitions.

Leanne Hull –

Miss Leanne has been dancing since age three, studying and dancing competitively at studios in Central New York. She is a graduate of Ithaca College where she received a B.S. in Exercise Science and a Minor in Dance. During college, Leanne was a member of the Ithaca College Dance Team which competed in the Universal Dance Association’s National Collegiate Dance Championships, televised on ESPN, and claimed a spot in the top 20 nationally ranked dance teams.  Her main focus was to study the involvement and importance of nutritional counseling, cardiovascular exercise, and weight training in dancers which lead her to receive a certification as a Personal Trainer & Nutritional Specialist.  Leanne also holds a certification in Progressing Ballet Technique, allowing dancers a deeper knowledge in both ballet and contemporary technique and execution.  In the past Leanne taught and choreographed for the Princess Mhoon Dance Institute in Washington, DC and was the owner of LA Dance Academy in Edmeston, NY for 9 years before moving locally with her husband and daughters. 

Sarah Brown –

Miss Sarah is a Bachelors of Science graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Biology Education and minors in Anthropology and Dance. She began her dancing career at the age of three, studying tap, jazz, ballet, pointe, lyrical, hip hop, and modern at Pat Haggerty School of Dance, and was also in the Nutcracker in Motion for two years with Leslie's School of Dance. 


While enrolled at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Miss Sarah was a member of the IUP Dance Theatre, where she performed modern and ballet for various performances on campus. Miss Sarah was also selected to dance with traveling modern companies, such as the Ben Munisteri Dance Projects, and perform with the companies on and off campus. Miss Sarah was also selected from the company to travel to various school districts within the Indiana area to teach the background and movement of folk dances throughout history. 


Upon graduation from Indiana University of Pennsylvania on 2012, Miss Sarah held a three position as a board member of the Pennsylvania State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance as the Vice President of the Dance Division. During her term as VP, Miss Sarah coordinated the Dance Gala at the annual PSAHPERD Convention, coordinated dance sessions and presentations for the annual convention, and selected the Dance Teacher of the Year Award recipient for 2015. Miss Sarah was also selected to help bring awareness to the dance arts in public education, and was a member of a committee dedicated to passing a Dance Endorsement for Pennsylvania teachers certifications. 


Miss Sarah is currently an honors Biology teacher at Troy Area School District in addition to a teacher Miss Leslie's School of Dance. Miss Sarah is also currently a graduate student of California University of Pennsylvania, where she is studying Advanced Secondary Education in Teacher Leadership and National Board Preparation and will graduate in May 2017. 

Courtney McMinds –

Miss Courtney was born and raised in Reading Center, NY. She is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University with a Bachelor of Science Degree with certifications in Childhood Education and Students with Disabilities.
She began dancing when she was three years old with Glen Rhythm and Tumbling and then Leslie School of Dance. Over the years, she studied tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop, modern, lyrical, musical theater and acro. She also participated on competition teams and performance teams with Leslie School of Dance.
In addition to teaching at Leslie School of Dance since 2014, she has also been an instructor at Stage Door Performing Arts Center since 2015, and instructed at an after school dance program at Watkins Glen Elementary School. 


Bryce Ripley-

Miss Bryce is a 2016 graduate from Corning Community College and will further her career studies, Fall 2016, by attending the Finger Lakes School of Massage.

Miss Bryce danced at Leslie School of Dance for 15 years and with New Heights Dance Theater performing in the Nutcracker in Motion for 10 years.  Over those 15 years, she studied ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, acro, and musical theater.  In addition to dance classes, she was an active member of Leslie School of Dance competition and performance teams.

While at Leslie School of Dance, she was a class assistant for many years before going through the teacher training program, and taught class her senior year of highschool.  Miss Bryce is excited to continue her instruction of dance with the children here at Leslie School of Dance.

Jessica Hyland

Miss Jess is a professional actress, dancer and choreographer, She is a Chemung native, and started dancing at age 3 At age 7  she took a break and studied martial arts until receiving her black belt at age 11.  She then Continuing her dance training at Pat Haggertys Dance studio and studied  various dance styles from ballet, hip hop, lyrical, jazz, tap, and theatre dance.: all while perusing music and theatre in her Highschool programs.

   She then attended Seton Hill University and continued her learning of dance and theatre and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in musical Theatre. After graduation she moved to NYC  to attend a theatre conservatory program at Stella Adler studio of acting. Her first teaching job was there at the Academy for music and dance teaching ballet. 

   After a year she moved back to the area and started pursuing theatre and working as a dance instructor for Leslie School of dance and Endicott Performing Arts Center. She has also been choreographer for several shows for Tiahawaga  Community Players in Owego for shows such as “Bright star” and “Spamelot”. 

   Her main focus with her students is to encourage their love of dance and self expression in movement to help them come into themselves and out of their shells as dance did for her.

Calyssa Cardenas-

Miss Caly was born and raised in Beaver Dams, NY. This is where she happens to currently reside with her 2 boys. She is a proud stay at home mom who also runs a day care out of her home.

Caly started dancing at 4 with Glen Rhythm and Tumble and continued with Leslie School of Dance. She practiced ballet, jazz, and lyrical but has a special passion for Acro. Miss Caly briefly competed with the Leslie School of Dance competition team and performed with New Heights Dance Theater for several years.

Caly became a teacher's helper in her teenage years to kill time between her own dance classes and further her love for dance. She has always dreamed of being a teacher of her own classes so, here she is living that dream..  She looks forward to a great year working with students at the Watkins Glen studio.  

Ashlee Johnston-

Miss Ashlee lives in Beaver Dams, NY with her husband and two children.  Growing up she danced at Leslie School of Dance.  She was also a cheerleader throughout her youth. She has always had a special passion for children and Acro.  In her hip hop flip flop classes she is able to combine her love of cheerleading and tumbling into one class utilizing both of those.  Miss Ashlee teaches at both the Watkins Glen and Elmira Heights studios.

Justine Clarkson-

Miss Justine was born and raised in the Watkins Glen area where she is now excited to begin raising a family of her own, expecting a little boy in November 2020. 


She is a 2017 graduate from Corning Community College’s registered nursing program. She then continued her education with Keuka College to obtain her Bachelors of Science in nursing degree. She currently works at the Falck Cancer Center.  


Her love of dance began at the age of 4 with Filippettis Dance Academy and then continued at Leslie’s School of Dance at the age of 5 where she studied ballet, pointe, lyrical, musical theater, jazz, and acro throughout the years. During this time, she loved having the opportunity to be a teacher’s helper in between her classes. Miss Justine is very excited to return to  Leslie School of Dance family and begin her own journey in teaching.