At Gray's School of Dance, our classes are taught by professionals who are proficient in technique and in patience. They are devoted to building a studio of excellence and possess uncompromising dedication to the ideal quality of dance education. Please take a moment to get acquainted with our dance staff and their backgrounds:
Patty Gray embarked on her dance career at the tender age of three. Following many years of disciplined training, Patty studied and danced at Dance Educators of America for four years and danced professionally in both New York City and Chicago. Patty has danced her way through countless seminars, courses, auditions and performances.
For over thirty years, Patty has bridled kids’ energy from age two to eighteen and beyond into the art of beautiful, inspiring and just plain fun dance. Patty loves and stands strong with her pupils as is evident from her students returning year after year, and show after show. Whether an elegant relevé, a spirited pirouette or a funky jump, her students learn it with poise and precision (and the occasional giggle.) Patty was Ottawa High School’s Swing Choir’s choreographer for fifteen years as well as for many Pirates Invade the Ballroom Booster Club dancers and the Ottawa and Marquette High playmakers. She mentors oodles of dancers from the Fine Arts Festival, pompom teams, cheerleading squads and dance competitions.
Patty is no stranger to community. It’s her passion, it’s her mission. Her school has performed for over thirty years in the Easter Seals telethons and she single handedly raised over $8,000 in her own dedicated show for the cause. She produced Miss Ottawa Pageants and Cerebral Palsy Telethons. She has even pulled out her “Simon” as a judge for the local “Dancing with the Stars” competition.
Patty is without question the quintessential student, teacher, mentor and volunteer.
Sarah Heuser is a born and raised Gray’s School of Dance dancer. She joined the Gray’s School of Dance teaching family as an assistant teacher in 6th grade and continues to teach with Miss Patty at 32 years of age. Although Sarah is a rounded dancer, teaching and learning all subjects, her love is standing side-by-side in tap classes with Miss Patty.
Even though Sarah does not have a college education in dance, she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Special Education (Illinois State), and two Master degrees (Aurora University) in Educational Leadership and Reading Instruction. She is currently in her ninth year at Ottawa Township High School as a Special Education teacher and Reading Specialist.
Sarah danced on Illinois State University’s competitive dance team in college. She starred in the Maud Powell Festival as Peter Pan and performed in Nutcracker performances conducted by Illinois Valley Symphony Orchestra. Miss Patty even hired Sarah out as a folk dancer in her younger days. Sarah choreographed for Shepherd Middle School poms as well as parallel coached the OTHS pom and cheer squads. She was selected to work as a Universal Dance Association (UDA) instructor providing summer dance camps for high school dance teams. Sarah volunteered to choreograph for Pirates Invade the Ballroom and performed many dances for community events including Easter Seal Telethons.
Sarah recently limited her dance teaching and coaching hours to spend time with her growing family. She loves to dance at home with her son Hunter and daughter Gianna “Gia”. Currently, Hunter is a new student for Miss Patty and staff and Gianna will be registering in a few short years. Sarah hopes to instill her passion and commitment for dance into her children. Her goal is to teach her children dedication, discipline, sense of community, and importance of involvement as Patty did for her, in hopes that it will transfer over to the extra-curricular activities they enjoy growing up. Sarah created lifelong friendships with her dance family and continues to gain additional (younger) dance friends as she loyally returns to teach with Miss Patty for “one last year”, year after year.
Joely was born and raised in Ottawa, Illinois. Her love of dance originated at a local dance studio bring-a-friend day when she was four years old! She was able to continue dancing through high school both in the studio and also as an Ottawa Pomerette. While attending the University of Iowa for her freshman year of collage, Joely was able to participate in dance there, before transfering to Illinois State University. During that time, She stepped into the roll as dance instructor at the studio teaching various ages of Ballet, Jazz, Tap and ipP Hop all while working toward her degree, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Sociology. After graduation, she returned home to Ottawa and took a short break from danceto enter the work force. In 2009, she found her way back to dance and found a home teaching Jazz classes for Patty. Joely enjoys working with the dedicated staff and wonderful families here at Gray's. Through the years, she has also spent time as the Marquette Academy Crusaderette Coach and participated in Pirates Invade the Ballroom. She has also expanded her family to include two children, Quinn and Emmett.
Sam has been dancing at Gray's school of dance since the late 1990's and has been part of the dance family ever since. Her knowledge of dance includes a variety of styles including; ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, pointe, and tumbling. Outside of the studio Sam led the Ottawa High School dance team from 2010-2012 and later went on to coach the competitive dance team at Streator High School from 2013-2014. She continues to spread her love of dance to children of all ages.
Hannah began dancing at Gray’s School of Dance in third grade. She started with ballet, tap, jazz, and tumbling and later began pointe as well. By the time she was in sixth grade, she began assistant teaching and continued teaching for Patty until she graduated high school. By being an assistant teacher, she gained leadership experience and an even stronger knowledge and love for dance. Throughout her dance career at Patty Gray’s, she was able to earn a spot on the Ottawa High School Pomerettes, runner-up in Pirates Invade the Ballroom her junior year, and Champion of Pirates Invade the Ballroom her senior year. Now, Hannah is studying finance at the University of Illinois and was able to continue dancing as a member of the Illinettes Dance Team where she dances for all the home Illini football and basketball games. In addition to games, she traveled with the Illinettes to Ireland where she performed in the 2014 Dublin St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Although she is away at school now, she looks forward to helping with future recitals and teaching while she is home for her breaks.
Jason began dancing in 1999 when he was in 8th grade by taking a tap class. It did not take long for Patty Gray to convince him to give the jazz and ballet classes a try. He continued to take classes at Gray’s School of Dance through much of his college career, returning to Ottawa for recitals and performances, often serving double duty as the Stage Manager in addition to performing in numbers. He also has performed the Pas de Deux with three different partners in the Illinois Valley Symphony Orchestra’s production of The Nutcracker. Dancing opportunities also presented themselves in productions of The Nutcracker and Best of Broadway at Northern Illinois University, where Jason received his B.S. in Elementary Education. He has recently completed his M.Ed. in Curriculum Technology and Education Reform from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Dancing at Gray’s enhanced Jason’s other performing opportunities that have included numerous productions with many different theatres located in the Illinois Valley and Chicago area. He has co-directed two children’s musicals at Engle Lane Theatre, where he served as a board member for two years. Currently, he is working as a Technology Coach at an elementary school in the Northwest Suburbs and continues to dance, sing, and act should the opportunity arise. Jason loves to come back to Gray’s School of Dance every chance he gets to take a class, assist with rehearsal, or support a production.
Jake Winter Newberry
Jake is a former teacher and student of Patty Gray's School of Dance. He has been tap dancing since age 4 and was in a traveling jazz dance company as well. Jake also plays the piano, guitar, trumpet, and sings and was in a classic rock cover band for 5 years. His band, Granite Rock, has been featured in one of Patty's shows.
Jake studied film producing in Chicago at Tribeca Media Arts Academy. Some of his credits include the Roger Ebert Documentary LIFE ITSELF andTRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION. He recently worked as a staff assistant at Warner Bros. Studios for the upcoming film MIDNIGHT SPECIAL.
On stage, Jake has played lead roles in the musicals LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS and SUGAR based on the classic film SOME LIKE IT HOT. He now lives in Los Angeles, California, has representation and has been cast in three upcoming short films. You might also catch a glimpse of him this season on Fox's THE MINDY PROJECT, Hbo's SILICON VALLEY, and as a student on GLEE.