Meet the Encore DCS Family


Our dream is to give aspiring dancers a beautiful stage to showcase their God given talents in hopes of growing and learning how to be even better. May your light shine bright on the Encore DCS stage and may you always reach higher than you ever dreamed possible, because in the word “Impossible” is “I’m Possible!”

After owning and directing 4 successful dance studios in SC for a combined total of over 50 years, Rhonda Marchant and Naomi Calvert aspired to build the perfect dance competition.

It all began in 1997 at Sottile Theater in Charleston, SC with an invitation-only competition for friends in the dance business. Each year they added a few new cities and made the competition even better. In 2005, Susan Barnes, a former student of Rhonda’s, became Co-Owner and brought a third generation of dance experience to the corporation.

Encore DCS is now proudly hosting over 27 regionals, one huge Grand Finals, and Encore Extreme – an exciting dance convention and competition! We are proud to provide you with the friendliest staff who are all a part of our extended dance family.

Competition always brings out our very best, but let us not lose perspective of the real spirit of competition as spoken by the dance legend, Mikhail Barishnikov…”I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself.”


Encore DCS strives to provide dancers, parents, and teachers with the most organized and professionally run dance competition with the highest level of southern hospitality and superior customer service to promote, inspire, and encourage all dancers with nationally acclaimed judges, a warm and friendly staff, and positive inspiration combined with a fun family atmosphere. We do this all to honor God and seek to share our success by reaching out into our community and helping those in need.

STAFF New 22

Rhonda Marchant

President and Founding Director

Rhonda Marchant is the former owner of Candice Ralston Dance Studios in Batesburg, South Carolina and previous owner of The Stepping Out Studio in Lexington, South Carolina. She has studied tap, jazz, and ballet with Naomi Calvert, Ann Brodie, and summer studies in New York at the Broadway Dance Center and Steps. She is also a USC Cum Laude Graduate with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

She has worked for the SC ETV network as a host for the Carolina Journal show but has followed her heart to continue her career in dance and competition with her former dance instructor and inspiration - Naomi Calvert. In 1989, she founded her very own Stepping Out Dance Companies to promote excellence in training and to provide students with more performance opportunities and community involvement.

A former Junior Miss and State Talent Winner, Rhonda has been successful in training many statewide and national talent champions including five SC Junior Misses and Overall Talent Winners, and America's Junior Miss Overall Talent Winner in 2004. As a performer, choreographer and director, Rhonda has been involved with many college and community theater productions such as "Grease," "Oliver," "Fame," and "42nd Street." Rhonda now resides in Lexington, South Carolina with her husband, Andy, sons Aulston and Dillon, and daughter Mary Elle. She is also the founding director of the liturgical dance ensemble, Wings of Worship, at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church.

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Susan Barnes

Vice President and Executive Director

Susan Barnes began her dance training at an early age with Candice Ralston and Rhonda Ralston Marchant. She danced and performed for over 24 years and was an award winning soloist. Susan was the Overall Talent winner and Top Ten finalist at South Carolina’s Junior Miss, and was a cheerleader for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.

Susan graduated from the University of South Carolina in May 2004 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a directed study in Public Relations and Retail. Susan has performed on many stages across the southeast and has also choreographed and directed musicals for many schools and community theaters. She is a former instructor at Stepping Out where she directed the Stepping Out Tap Companies. Susan continues to teach private lessons and is currently a group fitness instructor. She is proud to be a business partner with Encore DCS which brings a third generation of dance experience to the corporation. Susan resides in Lexington, SC with her husband, Adam, and their 2 children.

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Brandon Girouard

Regional Director

Brandon Girouard is a highly in-demand international choreographer, teacher and dancer – having brought audiences to their feet in Paris, London, Argentina, NYC and most recently Mexico. Known for “compelling, explosive movement”, Brandon has performed with dance companies such as dancetheatreX, Melanie Stewart Dance Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Ailey 2, Koresh Dance, Plasma Dance Theatre, and for Bill Clinton’s Inaugural Presidency Gala.

Professional credits include: Thanks Gregory!, Carnival Cruise Lines, Legends at the Harrah’s Resort Las Vegas, Resorts Atlantic City, Nickelodeon’s Kid’s Choice Awards, and the National Tour of West Side Story. Brandon has worked with such noted choreographers as Mia Michaels, Brian Friedman, Robert LaFosse, Tiffany Mills, Gregory Hines, Brian Thomas, Debbi Dee,  Frank Hatchett, Jared Grimes and Charles O. Anderson both nationally and internationally. Brandon was awarded “Most Promising Performer” by Art Stone Dance, and was featured in Dance Spirit magazine in October of 2003 and 2004. Most recently, Brandon was awarded “Dance Teacher of the Month” and “Video of the Month” by Dance Teacher Magazine. In addition to choreography, Brandon has served as Assistant Choreographer for Broadway Bares and Broadway in Cape Town South Africa. Brandon is the Founder/Director of the Quest Intensive – The most cutting-edge ‘in-studio’ classroom tour working with the industry’s biggest leadings names in Broadway, Concert Tours, Professional Dance Companies, Talent Representation and Casting Directors. For more information on Brandon & The Quest Intensive visit his website at or

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Ashley Becker Payne

Regional Director

Ashley Becker Payne hails from Buffalo, NY holding a B.A. in Dance Performance from the prestigious Point Park University. As an international adjudicator, professional dancer and choreographer, Ashley has studied and taught throughout New York City, Miami, and now Chicago. As a performer, Ashley has appeared in film, television, concert dance and theatre productions.

Ashley’s first standout roll was in the University production of Contact where she was a featured dancer and served as dance captain. Professional credits include: Regional Performances of: Contact; Grease; Mame; Fame and Sing, Sing, Sing; Episodes of: The Rachel Ray Show, Blue Bloods, The Dark House, and Company Work: 11:11 (The Company by Slam); DSMR; Crazy Love. Ashley has served as a choreographer for Jordan Sparks, Flash Mob America and the Chicago Freelance Dance Festivals. You may recognize Ashley from promotions for Oreo Cookies, M&Ms, Estee Lauder, Suave and Avon. Ashley spends her time traveling internationally for multiple dance competitions and conventions as an adjudicator, teacher and choreographer. In addition to her dance training she is a licensed Group Fitness Instructor and teaches Zumba, Zumba Kids, LifeBarre, Aqua Fitness and Pilates. Most recently, Ashley was named the Director of Management for Quest Intensive, the most prestigious in-studio intensive working alongside the industry’s leading names in casting, Broadway commercial and concert dance. With Quest Ashley develops educational programs for studios across the country as well as teaches master classes on technique, musicality and creating artistry! She is very excited to be back with Encore DCS this season!

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Allynn Simons

Regional Director

Allynn Simons is an NYC based freelance casting director who has the pleasure of casting for TV/Film, commercials, theater and print. She
holds a B.A. in Musical Theater with a minor in dance from Point Park University. While in school, Allynn was chosen to dance in original pieces choreographed by Kiesha LaLama and Kiki Lucas, just to name a few. 

Before settling in New York City, Allynn taught dance and musical theater all over Pennsylvania and New Jersey and still teaches numerous classes all over the country. She is also a regular faculty member of QUEST Intensive; a prestigious in-studio dance experience that brings the industry to the studio.

She is currently a faculty member at THRIVE Dance Convention where she teaches contemporary and how to market yourself. She also adjudicates for numerous dance competitions in the U.S. Some of her favorite casting credits include: the North American premier of Dirty Dancing, The Mansion which premiered at Sundance and a multi-million dollar campaign for NIKE that had her casting on the streets of NYC. She enjoys traveling to choreograph all over the county for which she has won numerous awards for. She grew up in the dance competition community and loves seeing young artists flourish. The future of the arts is in the hands of the next generation, so let's cultivate it!

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Jessica Schaefer

Regional Director

Jessica Schaefer is a Northeast Director of Encore DCS and her experience includes over 20 years of ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, modern and lyrical. She has performed in countless theater productions, musicals and competitions. She trained in New York City during summers at Broadway Dance Center and became the featured dancer for Dance Theatre of Columbia for 5 years.

Jessica earned a B.A. in Dance and Theatre and a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of South Carolina. She taught dance for over 10 years at many studios and schools in her area and has choreographed dances for South Carolina Junior Miss and many high school dance teams. Jessica and her family decided to move to Colorado in Jan 2020 for new adventures! She lives there with her husband Eliot, daughter Ellie, and her son Cameron. They have a Golden Retriever, Marley and cat, Lilly. She is teaching pre-school part time and they are enjoying exploring the west!

She loves coming back to the East Coast to visit friends, family, the beach, and especially for Encore weekends!

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Lauren Hummel

Regional Director

Based in Charlotte, NC, freelance artist Lauren Hummel is an award-winning choreographer and dancer in the industry. She began her artistic career in the Syracuse, NY area where she grew up training in all styles of dance and was a competitive/convention dancer for 15 years. Lauren holds a BS in Business Administration with a Minor in Dance from SUNY Geneseo where she completed an additional 4 years of performance dance and worked with numerous artists including John Lehrer and Guy Thorne. 

Lauren is a sought after Contemporary/Contemporary Fusion choreographer who travels to dance studios all over the country sharing her passion and knowledge with young artists. Most recently, she worked as a choreographer for Encore DCS’ Dream Team promotional videos. Lauren is currently on faculty with Quest Intensive as a choreographer and director, and teaches for Encore Extreme Dance Convention. She has also worked as an adjudicator for Encore DCS for 3 years and is now a Regional Director for the company. Lauren’s work in Contemporary dance continues to receive Choreography and “Best in Category” awards at both the regional and national levels all over the country including most recently: Revel Dance Convention, NUVO, and Hall of Fame Dance Challenge. Her innovative and distinctive style of movement as well as teaching practices have captured the hearts of so many.

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Jenny Oehlwein

Regional Director

Jennifer Oehlwein grew up in the competition circuit and has now made a career out of dancing, choreographing, and directing professionally. A graduate of Point Park University with a B.F.A. in Dance and a minor in Musical Theater. I have been blessed to have been dancing professionally ever since graduation. In addition to dance I am also a singer and aerialist. Upon moving to NYC 3 years ago a new challenge fell into my lap as a rehearsal director/installer for an entertainment company that casts for a multitude of different arenas. 

Cruise-ships, national tours, theme parks, industrial gigs, etc. When I am not working on their shows and installing their casts of professionals. I also work with their casting team assisting there dance calls all over the world and teaching master classes. Most recently I have taken a step back into the performance side of the dance world performing in Legally Blonde, The Bodyguard, and the national tour of Elf the musical! I am very passionate about dance education and students who love what they do just as much as I do. I consider myself lucky to have made a career out of my life passion and look forward to continuing it with inspiring dancers this competition season!

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