Dance Teaching Team

Laura-Ann Smith - Principal

Laura-Ann Smith began her professional career at 19, when she flew to Los Angeles to join Princess Cruises enjoying the next four years travelling the World and performing in their award-winning production shows including:

Dance Da Beat, Shake Rattle & Roll, Words & Music, Rhythms of the City, Lights Camera Action, Gotta Sing Gotta Dance, Ports of Call - and many more on ships such as Grand Princess, Star Princess & Pacific Princess.

Upon returning to the UK, Laura-Ann has featured in music videos, fashion shows and corporate events, not only performing but also as choreographer.

Continuing to work as a professional dancer working in commercial dance and musical theatre she has gained many credits including:

  • Ensemble - Mother Goose (Palace Theatre, Kilmarnock)
  • Ensemble / Dance Captain - Mother Goose (Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent)
  • Ensemble - Aladdin (Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent)
  • Ensemble/Dance Captain - Cinderella (Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent)
  • Ensemble - Spirit of the Dance - Spirit Productions (UK Tour)

Alongside performing, Laura-Ann has been awarded her diploma in teaching Classical Ballet and is a fully qualified Vertical Dance and Fitness Instructor. Qualifications include:

  • British Ballet Organisation (BBO) registered teacher in Ballet, Tap, Jazz dance
  • YMCA qualified fitness instructor, Exercise to Music and Circuit Training certificates.
  • Qualified Vertical Dance instructor (pole dance for fitness)
  • Many years teaching experience in education and the private sector, all ages and abilities.
Laura-Ann Smith Defy Gravity Dance Teacher

Dance Classes

  • Ballet
  • Tap
  • Street Dance
  • Jazz
  • Fitness
  • Zumba
  • Muscial Theatre

Dance Teaching Team

Tanya Eaton - Cheerleading

Tanya began Cheerleading in her early teens at school. She quickly developed a passion for Cheer and as soon as she left school began working towards her coaching qualifications. She started out by teaching in many High Schools and Primary schools across Staffordshire.

Tanya soon realised this was going to be a long term career and so started an activity leadership apprenticeship gaining more coaching skills and qualifications in other sports as well as developing her Cheerleading skills. Once her apprenticeship came to an end Tanya began to work for stoke on Trent city council leading a programme called 'Street Games' teaching muti-sports and Cheerleading in Burslem Gymnastic Centre.

Tanya is thrilled to be a part of the team at Defy Gravity and excited to pass on her knowledge of Amercian cheerleading to our students.

Tanya Eaton Defy Gravity Dance Teacher

Dance Classes

  • FA Level 1
  • CSLA Level 2
  • NVG Level 2 
  • Cheerleading level 2 and level 3:
  • Street cheer level 2
  • Pom Cheer level 2
  • Cheer Dance level 2
  • Stunts level 3 
  • CAMHS Tier 1 (Understanding the mental health of children & young people)
  • Basic Level 1 Zumba instructor course 
  • Basic basketball course 
  • Gymnastics key stage 1&2
  • Athletics key stage 1&2
  • Level 2 First Aid
  • Level 1 Safeguarding

Dance Teaching Team

Julie Pye - Ballet, Tap, Jazz dance, Zumba and Head of Fitness

When Julie was 16 she won a teaching scholarship with the British Ballet Organisation (BBO). By the age of 19 she had passed both parts of the teaching diploma and taught many classes in the local area.  She then moved to Mallorca, Spain where she danced in many hotels and cabaret shows which toured the island.

During her ten years in Spain she worked for MTV as a backing dancer and choreographed and performed in shows working with celebrities such as Jason Donovan, East 17, Tony Hadley and Chesney Hawkes. Julie also worked for the television production company "Palma Pictures" where she had parts in TV commercials. Alongside a professional performing career Julie continued her teaching  development and coached dance and fitness classes at "viva sports" gym in Palma Nova.

In 2002 Julie left Spain briefly  to dance in the circus "Zucherro" in Cologne, Germany. Julie returned to the UK in 2009 to teach dance and fitness classes here at Defy Gravity Dance.

“I teach many classes at Defy Gravity, both at the Tunstall studios and in Newcastle, I currently teach Ballet, Tap and Jazz dance here and I take great pride in seeing the students progress in both their technique and performance skills and I endeavour  to promote  the fun element in my classes to keep the students motivate whilst still working towards BBO graded examinations”

Julie is head of Fitness at Defy Gravity where she teaches group sessions in Kettle Bells, Zumba, Abs Blast, Thai-bo, Body Blast, Circuit training and Boxercise . She also offers one to one personal training upon request.

Fitness qualifications include:

  • Level 2 ETM
  • Advanced Level 3 Personal Trainer
  • Zumba Instructor
  • Level 3 in Kettle bells
  • TRX
  • Viper
  • Power bag
  • Functional training and combat
  • and expert level in Pilates

“I enjoy keeping fit and pushing the barriers and this has become a passion for me.  My determination and enthusiasm seems to rub off onto my clients thus helping them achieve their fitness goals”

Julie Pye Defy Gravity Dance Teacher

Dance Classes

  • Ballet
  • Tap
  • Jazz
  • Zumba
  • Fitness

Dance Teaching Team

Lucinda Stevenson - Lower School Ballet, Tap, Street Dance, Zumbatomic and Zumba (Tunstall and Barlaston)

Lucinda began to dance at a very early age and went on to achieve top marks in Exams and gained experience performing locally in variety shows and pantomimes. At the age of 13 Lucinda successfully auditioned to become a Stoke City cheerleader known as the "City Slickers". Her love of dance got stronger and at 19 she decided to qualify as a teacher with IDTA and then also qualified as an aerobics and gym instructor. Lucinda is also a qualified Zumba and Zumbatomic Instructor (zumba for children).

In 2008 Lucinda joined DefyGRAVITY (Stone) and when the Tunstall studio opened in January 2009 she took on a part time position as Ballet, Tap and Street Dance teacher on a Saturday morning to the lower school. In April 2011 I made the decision to leave my full time employment as a Police Community Support Officer to pursue a career as a Dance, Fitness and zumba instructor. Performance experience includes:

  • Spice Mania Victoria Hall for ATT productions
  • Rent, Regent Theatre for Stage Productions
  • Let me entertain you, Regent Theatre for EMR productions
  • As well as numerous Fashion shows, Charity events and Productions shows with DefyGRAVITY

"Working with Children is my Dream career. I have a patient and calm teaching style which I believe creates a warm environment. I thrive from watching my students grow whether it being achieving exam success or simply gaining the confidence to dance in class on their own"

Lucinda Stevenson Defy Gravity Dance Teacher

Dance Classes

  • Ballet
  • Tap
  • Street Dance
  • Zumbatomic
  • Zumba

Dance Teaching Team

Victoria Gotham - Drama/Acting

Victoria trained at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts on the acting course. Since graduating from LIPA in 2000, Professional theatre credits have included;

  • "Luce" in The Comedy of Errors for Stafford Castle,
  • "Jim" in Treasure Island and "Sea Witch" in Little Mermaid for Twin Lakes Theme Park
  • Scarefest: The Terror of the Towers for Alton Towers
  • "The Wicked Queen" in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the Queens theatre Burslem Stoke-on-Trent
  • and spent time at sea as "Prince John" in Robin Hood for P and O cruises.
  • She played the baddie "Baroness Boot" in Jack and the Beanstalk at Grimsby auditorium alongside Chesney Hawkes.
  • And more recently "Mrs Darling" in Peter Pan at The Lowry theatre, Manchester, alongside Coronation Street baddie "Richard Hillman" Brian Capron.

Filming work includes TV adverts;

  • for Scholl
  • the Co-operative bank
  • Iceland and Heinz
  • corporate video work for One Stop Shop
  • Boots
  • Mothercare
  • Republic
  • the Co-operative group and Toyota
  • a feature film called "Inside Out"
  • and more recently "The Crash" a short film for the NHS.

Last year she performed as a "ghost" in the scare rooms at Alton Towers, and played "Lady Rose Alton" for the Alton Towers murder mystery evenings. Victoria teaches drama at many schools in Stoke-on-Trent. She also works for Stagecoach, Steelworks Senior Academy and runs the Regent Theatre Senior Academy. She has directed productions for children at the Victoria Hall, was the assistant director for "Fame" last summer at the Regent Theatre, and directed "Fright Fest" for the New Vic Theatre.

"I believe drama is a fantastic tool for confidence building, and to help develop creativity. At DefyGRAVITY we have fun with focus building games, and improvisation activities. Script work is also covered leading to performances, and literacy skills are improved in a fun environment. Teamwork is vital and any new starter is always made to feel really welcome!"

Victoria Gotham Defy Gravity Dance Teacher

Dance Classes

  • Drama
  • Acting

Dance Teaching Team

Emma Wingfield - Teacher and Studio Coordinator

in 2008 Emma started a 3-year Performing Arts course at the Steelworks Performing Arts Academy.

Emma has completed her BBO classical Ballet teaching diploma level 3 and level 4 and is also a qualified Zumba Instructor.

Following a successful Audition Emma joined Carnival cruise lines as a dancer and enjoyed 12 months sailing around the Caribbean performing in their onboard production shows.

Emma then returned to the UK to focus on her teaching career and is very much enjoying being part of our team at Defy gravity.

‘I cant wait to pass on all my knowledge, technique and experience in dance to other passionate students. I love being in a dance environment as it feels like home to me. I am a people person and like to be very organised which is why I love the balance of working reception but also working with the students.’

Emma Wingfield Defy Gravity Dance Teacher

Dance Classes

  • Ballet
  • Tap
  • Street Dance

Dance Teaching Team

Nicole Whitby - (Tunstall and Barlaston) Lower school Teaching Assistant. Ballet, Tap and Jazz

Nicole trained at Preston College of Dance, completing a three year Professional Dancer and Dance Teachers course in July 2010, prior to this Nicole was a pupil at both Elmhurst School of Dance (Birmingham) and St Margaret Ward Performing Arts College (Stoke-on-Trent) for three and two years respectably.

On completing her Preston course Nicole successfully gained Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance (ISTD) teaching qualifications in Ballet, Tap and Modern Theatre Dance, along with ISTD Ballet, Tap and Modern Theatre Dance, and Royal Academy of Dance Ballet, up to and including advanced two grade.

A former Royal Ballet Junior Associate, Nicole has performed in numerous pantomimes and shows including the National and English Youth Ballets. Since leaving Preston Nicole has taught both for DefyGRAVITY and at the YMCA.

"I bring a calm style with my experience and knowledge of classical technique to my classes. I am patient but passionate which I believe rubs off on my students"

Nicole Whitby Defy Gravity Dance Teacher

Dance Classes

  • Ballet
  • Tap
  • Jazz