Tara (Schroeder) Yantis
Head Coach, Creative Director
Coach Yantis is the Head Coach and Creative Director for the Saint Thomas Aquinas Dance Program. This is her 12th year with the program. After falling head over heels in love with dance after her first tap class in elementary school, Tara’s childhood and teen years were spent in the Kansas City area, training in studios and traveling each weekend for competitions and conventions.
A member of the Kansas City Dance Expressions "Express" Power Performing Arts Company, Tara traveled and competed at competitions, including New York City Dance Alliance, West Coast Dance Explosion, Co. Dance, Starlight, and Showbiz, among many others. She was selected to be an NYCDA Showcase Dancer and earned numerous awards with solo and group performances, earning top 10 placements and the team titles of National and World Champion.
Other performance highlights include Carnival Cruiselines, Country Tonight in Branson, MO, pre-show for Theatre in the Park, an event at the Kansas Expocentre for the President of the United States, NCA/NDA Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship Finals in Daytona Beach, FL, and various corporate and brand promotions.
Tara graduated from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, in 2009, earning a bachelor’s degree in Mass Media with emphases in Public Relations and Media Writing/Publishing. She was a four-year member of the Dancing Blues (the game-day dance team) as well as the nationally-ranked “Washburn Elite” Nationals Dance Squad, serving as captain of both teams. Tara was also an arena football cheerleader for 4 years, serving as a captain and choreographer for two years.
Outside of dance, Tara was the Director of Operations for Campus Activities Board, a Resident Assistant, a member of the Sigma Tau Delta and Order of Omega honor societies, a Student Ambassador, and served as Vice President/New Member Coordinator, Judicial Chair and a Recruitment Counselor as a member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. She is now an alumni advisor for Zeta Tau Alpha.
Each summer, Tara travels around the country for the National Dance Alliance (NDA), working with high school and collegiate dance teams and coaches. After being named the National Rookie Instructor of the Year in 2008, Tara was promoted to Head Instructor in 2009 and just completed her 14th season with the company. Tara was the national delegate for NDA, traveling to London, England, for the London New Year’s Day Parade, facilitating performances by 1,600+ performers from across the United States. The parade was viewed by an estimated 300 million people worldwide. She also spent 7 years in studio settings, teaching students from pre-K to college in both recreational and competitive levels. Tara is an in-demand adjudicator, judging at the high school, regional and collegiate levels, and a motivational speaker and consultant for numerous dance programs, most recently speaking at the Nebraska Coaches Association Conference and Varsity Dance Coaches National Conference. She was recently recognized as the inaugural recipient of the NCA/NDA "The Work is Worth It" award, recognizing the top NDA Head Instructor nationally, demonstrating leadership and contributions to both cheerleading and dance industries. She was also named the national NDA "Excellence in Leadership" recipient in 2015. Tara is also a guest Master Class instructor for Innovative Choreography.
Outside of dance team, Tara works full-time in advertising and is a founding member of the Kansas State Dance Team Coaches Association. She is also a member of the NCDA, KCA and the co-chair of the Spirit Advisory Committee to the KSHSAA. Coach Tara can be contacted via email at: [email protected]
Callie (Henning) DaVila ~ Assistant Coach
Callie is a 2013 graduate of Saint Thomas Aquinas and was a 4-year dance team member and Captain her senior year. She trained at Le Dance studio and graduated from Iowa State University where she was a 4-year dance team member and National Collegiate Champion.
During her college career, she was an instructor for the National Dance Alliance (NDA), a coach at TKO All-Star, and a Chiefs Cheerleader for several seasons. Callie has worked with the Spirits over the last few years to help prepare for Nationals before joining the coaching staff - she knows what it takes to make routines championship-ready. She has a passion for teaching, the high school dance world and the game day experience.
We are so thankful Callie is returning again this season! Coach Callie can be contacted via email at: [email protected]
Kitty Griffith ~ Assistant Coach
Coach Kitty is in her 8th year coaching and her 4th year with high school! Kitty's passion is encouraging self-respect, self-expression and growing the physical and mental strength of the students she works with through dance.
Before coaching, Kitty was a Kansas City Chiefs Cheerleader for two seasons and a youth cheer coach. As a Mill Valley High School graduate, she also participated as a member of their dance team for four years. After high school, Kitty danced under Amy Sellers at Johnson County Community College for two years. Later, she was a part of the University of Kansas Unity Hip Hop crew and a cheerleader/dancer for the Missouri Comets for a season.
When she’s not coaching, she spends her free time with her husband and two baby girls, Vera and Nova!
Coach Kitty can be contacted via email at: [email protected]