top of page
meet our team
Desiree Catania Dance Studio Staff Member - Owner and Lead Choreographer Desiree Catania

owner, lead choreographer

Desiree Catania

Desiree has been dancing since age seven and started teaching at the age of 16. Her dance training includes ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, hip hop, modern, lyrical and contemporary at the South Philadelphia School of Dance, Performance Center, Cathie Collins School of Dance and West Chester University. During her time as a dance student, Desiree competed in various competitions throughout the area including StarPower, StarQuest, and I Love Dance. She was a member of West Chester University’s Contemporary Dance Company and Dance Production Workshop. She even had the opportunity to perform in Disney World! Desiree is currently a member of the West Chester Alumnae Chapter and still participates in shows. She has a true passion for dance and enjoys watching her students grow into strong and confident dancers. 


West Chester University   B.A., Professional Studies

                                            Minor, Dance Performance

                                            Minor, Elementary Education

Christie Lawler

lead choreographer

Desiree Catania Dance Studio Staff Member - Lead Choreographer Christie Lawler

Christie grew up in Delaware County studying multiple styles of dance at various dance studios throughout the area. Christie’s focus as a young dance student was jazz and hip hop. While in college, she found a new love for both modern and contemporary styles. She minored in Dance Performance at West Chester University where she was able to refine her art as part of the University Dance Company for which she served as secretary and choreographer. Christie participated in and had choreography adjudicated at the American College Dance Festivals. She feels blessed that she has been able to share her passion for dance as a teacher for the past 15 + years. As classmates, Christie and Desiree had no idea that their paths would cross again and that teaching together would become a reality!

West Chester University   B.A., Psychology

                                            Minor, Dance Performance

                                            M.Ed., Secondary School Counseling

Desiree Catania Dance Studio Staff Member - Lead Choreographer Lauren Thomas

lead choreographer

Lauren Thomas

Lauren started dancing when she was three years old. She has trained in many styles of dance, including jazz, tap, hip hop, ballet & lyrical at Barbara Ann's School of Dancing. She continued her passion for dance at West Chester University where she participated in the University Dance Company. During this time, she grew as a dancer learning various techniques in modern and contemporary dance. She has taken master classes throughout her career in the Philadelphia and New York area which has broaden her dance experience. She absolutely loves teaching and her ultimate goal is for all students to grow and improve throughout the year. Lauren enjoys working with children and strives to offer a positive and encouraging teaching environment. She looks forward to sharing the joy of dance with all her students each year! 

West Chester University   B.A., Professional Studies

                                            Minor, Dance Performance

                                            Minor, Nutrition

Taylor Sparks

lead choreographer

T. Sparks - HS.jpg

Taylor Sparks is a dance artist and dance/movement therapist from Norfolk, VA. In 2018, Sparks graduated with honors from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and Choreography. Post-undergraduate, she relocated to Philadelphia, PA, where she became a member of Philadanco II, Apprentice Company. In her dance career, she has performed in works choreographed by José Límon, Bill T. Jones, Donald Lunsford, Todd Rosenlieb, Dr. Gaynell Sherrod, Autumn Proctor-Wadell, Dawn Marie Bazemore, and many more. She is also a dance instructor at Desiree Catania Dance Center in Malvern, PA. Sparks recently obtained her Master of Arts in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling at Drexel University, summa cum laude. She has worked with the Children and Family Art Therapy Center through their Camp Pegasus social skills summer
program. She is currently a school-based therapist in North Philadelphia, where she provides mental health support to students from kindergarten through eighth grade. Sparks continues her dance practice as a 2023 rookie member of the Philadelphia Eagles Cheer Team.

Virginia Commonwealth University   B.F.A., Dance and Choreography

Drexel University  M.A., Dance Movement Therapy and Counseling

Desiree Catania Dance Studio Staff Member - Lead Choreographer Nikki Kirkland

Nikki Kirkland

lead choreographer

Nikki grew up dancing at Desiree Catania Dance Center training in ballet, jazz, modern, lyrical, contemporary and hip hop. During her time at DCDC, Nikki competed many solos at various dance competitions in the area, participated in many conventions, and made a national team. She began lead teaching for two years as well as the mini/junior team competition coach where she led her team to a first place win. She attended the University of Delaware to study Elementary Education with a concentration in Special Education. Nikki is currently a freelance marketing coordinator for businesses in the area. She is excited to be back after graduating and is ready to bring her fun, fresh, style to the dancers at DCDC. 

University of Delaware   B.S., Elementary Education

Toni Zappitelli

dance instructor

TZ Prof Pic.jpg

Toni trained at Oxford Center for Dance for 16 years. During that time, she trained in Ballet, Jazz, Modern and Tap. She performed in numerous Nutcracker Ballets, Star Power competition and in Disney at Magic Kingdom. At Thomas Jefferson University, she was the Vice President of the Dance Team. She performed during half-time at basketball games and coordinated annual spring performances for the University and community. After graduating from college, Toni returned to Oxford Center for Dance for five years and taught Jazz, Adult Jazz. She choreographed solos and group dances for competitions, Father/Daughter dances and Alumni dances for the recitals. In 2019, Toni decided to enter the world of dance fitness and became a certified ZUMBA instructor. She loves to bring fun and smiles to fitness through dance! Toni is currently a senior buyer for QVC Inc. in the West Chester area, but dance continues to be her true passion. She loves to help others “dance like no one is watching”.

Thomas Jefferson University   B.S., Fashion Merchandising

Desiree Catania Dance Studio Staff Member - Administrative Assistant and Front Desk Leslie Bechtel

administrative assistant/front desk

After a short lived dance career in ballet at age 5, Leslie found herself picking up dance once again in her thirties as her daughter became more invested in dance at the studio. Leslie marched on tour in DCI with The Crossmen Drum and Bugle corps as a cymbal player in '97 and '98. She is a talented instrumentalist, clarinet being her first. Leslie's energy is contagious and she is always ready to greet our dance families with a cheerful welcome and smile. When not at the studio, you can find Leslie curled up with a good book; author Ruth Ware is her favorite! 

Leslie Bechtel

Kristin Cortese

owner/front desk

Desiree Catania Dance Studio Staff Member - Owner and Front Desk Kristin Cortese

Kristin would have never guessed in her adult life she would be able to name and demonstrate ballet positions, know what tap dust is, or be able to identify a sickled foot. What a beautiful adventure it has been and continues to be! What she loves most about the studio? Watching the shoulders of our dancers lower from their ears the moment they walk in; it is a place they can leave the stress of their day behind, embrace their dance family and truly feel at home. 

Penn State University   B.A., Psychology

Immaculata University  M.A., Counseling Psychology, School Cert. K-12

Staff: TeamMember

Hannah Young

From her very first ballet class, Hannah’s love and passion for being involved in the dance community continues to grow. Hannah previously trained in various genres of dance including hip hop, jazz, lyrical, modern and ballet in both recreational classes and on competition teams. Throughout high school, she was able to volunteer her time as a studio intern where she would assist lead teachers and observe different teaching styles. After graduating, Hannah continued her education earning a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Management from Widener University. She also participated in the modern dance program, served as Widener Dance Company’s fundraising chairman and continued to teach recreational classes. As a dance instructor, the past 7+ years have shown Hannah an even greater appreciation for the art of dance. Hannah loves to share her passion for dance with her students and aims to help them grow in a fun and encouraging environment.

lead choreographer

H Young.jpeg

Widener University     B.A. Business Administration, Management

Monica Evangelista

lead choreographer

M. Evangelista.jpg

MONICA EVANGELISTA has had a passion for dance since she was three years old when she started taking dance classes at Oxford Center for Dance; from then on, the studio became her second home. She trained for fifteen years in ballet (her favorite discipline!), pointe, tap, jazz, and modern. Over the years she has performed in numerous productions including Openings, competitions, and The Nutcracker ballet in which she was cast as Arabian Lead, Dancing Doll and Dew Drop Fairy. Monica was also part of OCD’s first “Performing Group” which led her to participate in Starpower competitions, the New York City Dance Alliance, and enjoy a mock audition with the Rockettes in NYC. While attending Arcadia University, Monica became an officer, and later president, of their dance team. During this tenure, she had the opportunity to perform at the Wachovia Center as part of the Philadelphia Wings Lacrosse Team’s halftime show for three years in a row. In May of 2013, she graduated from Arcadia with a B.A. in psychology. She is thrilled to continue teaching her love of dance with us!

Arcadia University    B.A. Psychology


Choreographer / Instructor

bottom of page