Owner & Director
Ahkai Franklin is a New York City native. After graduating from Wesleyan University in 2004 with a bachelor's degree in Theater he went on to work with a local theater company while dancing, teaching, and performing across the United States. In 2006 Ahkai and his business partner began work on a not-for-profit dance company, The Breakthrough Movement. Recently Ahkai was in A Sketch of New York, Mary V at Theater for the New City, King Lear at the brick, and can be seen in the movie Barry now streaming on Netflix. He continues to teach and perform throughout the tri-state area.
Courtney began dancing at a young age, training and competing on Long Island, later studying at American Theater Dance Workshop and Eglevsky Ballet. She continued dancing at Manhattanville College where she received her BA in Dance & Theater with a concentration in Dance Therapy. During her time at Manhattanville, she was privileged to perform in works by many choreographers including Peter Pucci, Bill Hastings, Earl Mosley, Kazuko Hirabayashi and Wallie Wolfgruber and it was there that she also had the opportunity to debut her own choreography. Courtney has always felt drawn toward dance and the performing arts and knew she was meant to share that passion with others. She teaches ballet, tap, jazz and lyrical styles to ages 3 through adult. Courtney has been a part of Merrick Dance Centre since 2011, fulfilling her lifelong dream of studio ownership when she took on the honor of becoming its director in 2018. She is thankful for the wonderful dancers and parents that are apart of the MDC family.
Samantha Watson has been dancing for as long as she can remember. Originally from New Hampshire, she studied at the Brattleboro School of Dance in Brattleboro, Vermont for 13 years. She has attended various summer programs including The Rock School for Dance Education, Next Generation Ballet, José Mateo Ballet, and Burklyn Ballet. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Hartford’s Hartt School in May of 2019 where she received her BFA in Dance Pedagogy and a minor in English. Ms. Watson was a dancer with the New York State Ballet from 2019-2021, where she performed soloist and corps roles. She then went on to spend two seasons with Newport Contemporary Ballet, where she danced varied reparatory from choreographers such as Amy Hall Garner, Yoshito Sakuraba and others. Ms. Watson has taught in many different dance schools including the Hochstein School for Music and Dance in Rochester, NY; New Bedford Ballet in New Bedford, Mass; and New England Dance Academy in North Attleboro, Mass. She has worked with a wide range of students, in both competition and classical ballet schools, and has a passion for passing on the art of ballet to the next generation of dancers. She is thrilled to be teaching at Merrick Dance Centre this year!
Nia Deliso started dancing at the age of 3 in her hometown of Middletown, NJ and went on to study
contemporary, lyrical, ballet, tap, jazz, and musical theater. She began her work in dance education at 15
years old and has since taught classes for ages 2 through adulthood across New York State. In 2018 she
graduated with BA in Dance from Eugene Lang College, where she had the privilege of performing in
works by Rebecca Stenn, Juliette Mapp, Stacy Spence, Larissa Velez-Jackson, and Nami Yamamoto.
Outside of being a dedicated dancer, choreographer, and dance instructor, Nia studies American Sign
Language and works as a freelance video editor. She works alongside various NYC based artists to create
dance video productions, as well as live performances. Over her 10 years of teaching, Nia has fostered a
love for movement as a mode of self-expression and continues to share that creative outlet with students
of all ages.
Miss Julia’s story with dance started 18 years ago when she was 3 and already hitting the stage. At 12 years of age she had entered the adults professional company taking part in many performances and competitions around Brazil and even took part on the Flash Mob that opened the Olympic Park in Rio 2016. She started teaching kids at 14 years of age and 3 years later she moved to the Big Apple. Recently started teaching for the Latin Workshop Society at the United Nations and currently teaches Ballet, Jazz, Lyrical, Musical Theatre, Hip Hop and FitDance in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
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