Our passion and excitement at Inspire Academy of Dance come straight from the heart - let us introduce ourselves


Alex Wright

Alexandra Wright

Alexandra Wright graduated from Webster University in St. Louis with Bachelor of Arts degrees in dance and journalism. After college, Alex spent a summer interning at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts, where she worked alongside well-known dancers and arts administrators from around the world. Later, she completed her master’s degree in secondary education at Maryville University in St. Louis.

Alex has trained in and performed a variety of dance styles, including ballet, jazz, tap, modern, contemporary, lyrical, and aerial. She performed in St. Louis as a company member with En L’Air Aerial Dance Company.

For the past 12 years, Alex has focused on teaching and choreography. Before relocating to the Seattle area in 2012, Alex worked as assistant director of the competitive dance company at Renee Johnson’s Dance Floor in Chesterfield, Missouri. Since moving to the Seattle area, Alex has taught for a number of studios on the Eastside and has choreographed many competition pieces. Her choreography has received recognition and awards at regional and national dance competitions.

Alex established Alexandra Dance Academy in partnership with Maple Valley Parks and Recreation in August 2013. Though not a dance studio in the traditional sense, Alexandra Dance Academy quickly became a successful program dedicated to providing affordable, quality dance instruction to students ages 2-10.

Alex created Inspire Academy of Dance with Michelle Chandler-Smith in 2016. Alex and Michelle share a passion for bringing a family-oriented, positive, nurturing dance environment to Issaquah and the surrounding community. Alex is excited to begin this new adventure in her dance journey, and can’t wait to share her passion with you and your family!


Michelle Chandler-Smith

Michelle Chandler-Smith

Michelle began her dance journey at age 12. With over 25 years of experience, her interests and expertise are in jazz, lyrical, contemporary, ballet and modern. She spends her free time teaching and traveling the country continuing her dance education, choreographing, teaching master classes, intensives and judging.

Michelle has studied under the guidance of Joe Tremaine, Gus Giordano, Dave Massey, Doug Caldwell, Sean Greene, and several others. She has also had the privilege of performing as a member of the jazz-based Eastside Moving Company and the modern-jazz Company Fusion, both in Seattle.

After three years at Chapman University in Orange, California and a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Theatre, she began her teaching career in Bellevue, Washington at Backstage Dance Studio. Several of Chandler-Smith’s students have won title awards regionally and nationally and have gone onto careers with Holland America, Carnival Cruise Lines, Stiletto Entertainment and are seen in many industrial pieces in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and New York City, as well as Company work in Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Pennsylvania, Saipan and London.

Michelle also sits on the judging panel regionally and nationally for KAR, Rainbow Dance and other esteemed Dance Competitions and is excited to be a part of the Showbiz and Primetime family now as well. Michelle continues to teach master classes, convention classes on staff at Kids Artistic Revue (KAR) and Dance Masters of America (DMA), and shares her choreography across the country, all of which she feels so honored and blessed to continue to do.

Michelle created Inspire Academy of Dance with Alexandra Wright in 2016. Michelle and Alex share a passion for bringing a family-oriented, positive, nurturing dance environment to Issaquah and the surrounding community. Michelle is truly excited to be sharing her choreography, knowledge and insight with students willing to pursue the heart and soul of dance as an innovative and expanding art form.


Cara Whitaker

Cara Whitaker

At age four, Cara began her dance journey at Dancer’s In Motion in Costa Mesa, California. There, Cara trained under the guidance of Jean Dean Savapolous, a Julliard trained instructor for thirteen years. During her training she not only competed but performed for several nationally broadcasted events such as the Orange Bowl half time show dancing for Christina Milian as well as performances at the Rose Bowl and Holiday Bowl half time shows. At the age of 17, Cara moved to Seattle, Washington to train under Michelle Chandler Smith at Backstage Dance Studio where she continued to compete as well as teach.  

Along with dance, Cara has a passion for business. She graduated from Washington State University with a degree in International Business and Finance in 2015. Currently, Cara works at the Boeing Company in a business position.


Claudia Houston Aragon

Claudia Houston Aragon

Mrs. Houston Aragon, originally from Cali, Colombia, brings to Issaquah a world of experience as both a professional dancer and teacher. She began her professional career at the age of 9 performing with the Incolballet, Colombia’s only full time educational fine arts institution specialized in dance. Her classical ballet training was completed in a period of 8 years, with a daily study that exceeded 9 hours. She graduated at age 16 with her degree of Bachelor of Performing Arts in Classical Ballet.  She has also trained in and performed a variety of dance styles, including contemporary, Colombian folklore, Character folklore, jazz, salsa, and flamenco. After graduation she began working on her Law Degree at Universidad Libre in Cali, which she finished in 2011. In 2009, Claudia joined the Santiago de Cali Ballet Company as a Professional dancer and teacher where she danced in several neoclassical ballets as both Soloist and corps of ballet. She also started teaching in various studios around Cali.

In 2011 she received full-time residency in the United States and joined the Brandon Ballet Company after moving to Tampa, FL.  In 2012 through 2014 she taught ballet, jazz, pre-pointe, pointe and salsa in the after school program at Music n Arts academy in Riverview.  She was a guest teacher for Victoria’s School of Dance in the summer intensive in 2013. In 2013 and 2014, she danced with Florida Dance Theatre in Lakeland Fl. In 2014 she began teaching ballet in New Tampa Dance Theatre.  She became a US citizen in 2015 and went back to dancing with Brandon Ballet, and began teaching in Ultimate Dance Center in Lakeland and in The Center Stage Dance academy in Brandon.  She recently moved to the Seattle area and is looking forward to discovering the Emerald City.

Claudia spends her free time teaching, traveling the world where she always takes advantage to learn the local dances, continuing her dance education, painting, spending time with family, gardening, and posing for photos in parks.  She is happy to be a part of Inspire Academy of Dance so she can continue spreading the joy of dance to all.

Amanda White

Amanda White

Amanda discovered a love of dance at the early age of four when she began taking ballet and tap classes that her preschool offered. Her dance background is extensive, including ballet, jazz, lyrical, musical theater, and tap, and is complimented by performance experience, having competed regionally and nationally with a local pre-professional performing team in Redmond.

Her teaching career began at the age of 17 at Gotta Dance with younger dancers, and quickly grew when she started teaching teens and specialty classes. Amanda’s teaching knowledge was expanded when she was privileged to be an instructor at Flourish Dance Project starting in 2015 and Summit Dance Co. in 2016. Throughout her different teaching experiences, she has found joy teaching all ages and levels of dancers. Her strength as an instructor shows in her commitment to providing a meaningful dance foundation to her students with tenderness and care.

Enthusiastic about nurturing their love of dance and confidence in themselves, Amanda creates an upbeat and inviting learning environment where individuals excel. Through a collection of formative experiences instructing and choreographing in the greater Seattle area, she developed a lifelong respect for this art form and considers it a joy to share this passion with Inspire Academy of Dance.


Kendal Ruland

Kendal Ruland is a classically trained dancer, teacher, choreographer, and certified Gyrotonic Trainer. She has spent the last decade teaching at various dance schools in the PNW and choreographing for local high school's seasonal musicals. Kendal's training includes Washington Academy of Performing Arts, International Ballet Academy, San Francisco Conservatory, LINES Ballet, San Diego City Ballet, and an apprentice with Ballet BC. She loves teaching the traditional disciplines of dance while encouraging students to explore their own style of movement. Kendal is excited to be a part of Inspire Academy of Dance.


Haylie Hunt