Helen Phillips is a native of Greenwood SC where she discovered her love for dance at a very early age. She began her teaching career at Susie’s Academy of Dance at the age of seventeen. She became a studio owner at the age of nineteen, when she relocated to Ware Shoals SC and opened the doors to DanceWorks & Company. She produced numerous winning competition numbers at both the regional and national levels. She also had several students move on to have successful dance careers. Helen coached cheer for 11 years at both Brewer Middle School and Emerald High School. She continues to share her love of choreography and creativity as a private instructor for participants competing in pageants and other talent venues. Helen is currently employed as a Job Coach with Greenwood School District 50. Helen is absolutely delighted to be returning to Susie’s Academy of Dance!

Arie Catherine O’Dell may be from the small town of Batesburg-Leesville, but she has a big heart and her students absolutely love her. Her dance career spans the course of 17 years and has accomplished many things during the course of this time. At the age of 11, she was given the opportunity to perform in the Disneyland parade. Her dance background includes instruction from Broadway Stars from the shows Memphis, Shrek, Knights of the Round Table, and Billy Elliot. She has won numerous awards and accolades for her competitive performances and even earned her first national choreography award at age 16. Arie Catherine served as the former Miss Lander University and was recently a Miss SC Contestant. She is currently an Education Major at Lander University where she also performs and travels with the Lander Dance Team. We are so glad to have her as a part of our faculty. 

​​​​"I am very blessed to have a job that I love & the opportunity to share the gift of dance with my students."

-Susie Pennington, Owner/Director



Susie Pennington has been teaching, choreographing and directing for over 30 years. She initially opened Susie’s Academy of Dance with an artistic vision and passion for teaching that sparked the same excitement in her students.  Her competition teams over the years have won numerous awards and recognition. Most recently, her team competed at a National Competition in Rock Hill, SC where they won several top awards and placements. All of her students perform in the Greenwood Christmas Parade as well as the annual Spring Production held at Lander University. There are several opportunities for students to perform at various events including the Polar Express, the Greenwood Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, Susie’s Halloween Spooky Bash, the American Kidney Association and various Nursing Homes around the community. She teaches her students to value the importance in serving the community through involvement. Some of her students are now dance teachers in the public school system, dance studio owners and teachers in her studio. Susie says seeing her students continue the love of dance is her greatest accomplishment.

Grae Markward has studied gymnastics since the age of 6 and competed Regionally and Nationally.  She was heavily involved in cheerleading, beginning with JV and Varsity in the middle and highschool years and continued her cheer career and Lander University and Coastal Carolina (#GoChants). After college, she began teaching gymnastics and tumbling classes at the local YMCA and became a staff member at a local gymnastics center in town where she taught tumbling classes, competitive and non-competitive gymnastics, cheer classes, and private lessons. She has thoroughly enjoyed her time at Susie’s Academy of Dance and is excited to share her knowledge with her tumbling students.

Julie Kirkland has had a passion for dance and instruction at a very early age. She danced competitively as a child and attended various dance conventions in the Southeast taking Master Classes under Frank Hatchett, Tommy Alexander and Janice Barringer. Julie minored in dance at Lander University and was a Company member of the Lander Dancers where she was awarded a Fine Arts Scholarship for her choreography.  During the summers, she attended ballet classes with The Arts Center in Spartanburg, SC. Over the years, Julie was blessed enough to share her art form through instruction with various dance schools in Greenwood and in Ware Shoals, SC. Some of these students have chosen to continue to pursue their dream of dance through college and have become dance studio owners and instructors. Her competitive students have received numerous overall awards and Judge's awards at Regional and National Competitions in the Southeast.  Julie is married and is a mother to twin college-aged daughters and a dance mother to several current and former students. 

Susie Pennington

Director & Owner





Taylor Kirkland is a Greenwood native and long-time student of Susie’s Academy of Dance. She was a competitive student for a number of years winning Regional competitions and most recently, a National competition with her competitive dance team. She was a former Varsity Football Cheerleader with Emerald Highschool and was the Junior Miss Emerald and Miss Emerald Highschool in her Senior year. She is currently a Lander University student where she is majoring in Elementary Education and minoring in History. Her background includes several dance conventions where many SYTYCD judges taught Master classes. Her favorite style of dance is tap and she loves bringing the excitement and passion to her tap classes.