Joy of Motion Dance Center is proud to employ a diverse team of world-class instructors. Our faculty members embody our core values in their instruction. They offer student-centered teaching with a focus on progress and individual care in a nurturing environment where every student counts.
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Michelle Ava, M.A. (George Washington University 1975), dance educator, choreographer, performer, and empowerment coach, celebrates her 40+ years of dance in DC as a vital force in DC’s dance and holistic communities. Approaching movement as a technical, creative, and healing art, she inspires, encourages and supports individuals of all ages and backgrounds to discover their authentic dance voice. She received the Alan M. Kriegsman Award in 2012 and the Pola Nirenska Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.
A native New Yorker, Michelle started dancing in a storefront studio in Brooklyn studying tap and musical theatre. Ava moved to the DC area in 1971 to earn her masters in dance education at GWU, focusing on the connection between dance, psychology, meditation and spiritual practices. She was a founding member of the notable Free Association Dance Company and collaborated with Jack Guidone. She founded Joy of Motion Dance Center where she served as artistic director from 1976 to 1990 and is currently Board Member Emeritus. She has created experimental and traditional work performed in alternative and formal venues, from rooftops, art galleries, metro stations and lofts to the Kennedy Center, Dance Place, the Jack Guidone Theater, and the inaugural Capital Fringe Festival.
AVA Technique—a transformational technique based on the life-enhancing qualities of Authenticity, Vibrancy, and Awareness—informs her teaching and mentoring. Current projects include directing ImproVolutions Dance Company; CREATE: a choreography workshop; the dance/drum celebration SpiritMotion Jams; numerous dance and creative arts programs in senior assisted living and nursing homes throughout the DC area; and a book exploring dance as a healing art.
Jessyka Bagdon grew up in New Hampshire where she studied dance and theatre from an early age. She went on to earn her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Dean College. Jessyka has had the pleasure of studying a wide variety of dance styles, including Tap (Broadway, Rhythm), Jazz (Luigi, Fosse), Ballet (Vaganova, Cechetti, Balanchine), Modern (Release, Limon, Graham, Horton), Contemporary, Pointe, and Musical Theatre Dance. She has also had training in Hip Hop, Street Funk and Ballroom. Jessyka has experience teaching an array of dance styles, spanning all levels and ages, from toddler through adult. Jessyka has completed Teacher Training School of Dance Masters of America – level two. She served as the choreographer for the 2014 New Hampshire Professional Theatre Association Auditions and was honored to perform with the American Tap Dance Foundation at the City Center in 2014. She spent time training in NYC, while bringing Ballet to underprivileged public school children as a Teaching Artist for the American Repertory Ballet, and working as an instructor, choreographer, and production assistant at various dance and performance organizations in Northern New Jersey. Jessyka is currently on faculty as a teaching artist with multiple Washington D.C. area arts organizations including Joy of Motion Dance Center, Knock On Wood Tap Studio, and Perfect Pointe Dance Studio. Jessyka is the director of Jazz Corps, a youth performance company at JOM, in addition to an active performing member of District Tap and SOLEdarity tap dance companies.
Lauren Borchard, a native of New York State, moved to Washington, D.C. in 1998. She currently teaches modern dance at Joy of Motion Dance Center and yoga throughout the DMV area. Borchard performs with the Glade Dance Collective and has worked with The PlayGround, CrossCurrents Dance Company, and DanceAntonini. While working with Kelly Mayfield and Megan Oakley, she performed in several choreographers’ showcases in the DMV area, as a guest with Propaganda Dance Theater, and at the Grace Street Theater in Richmond, VA. She began dancing in grade school and participated in the Modern Traditions Workshop at Jacob’s Pillow while attending Alfred University, where she created a major in American Studies and minored in dance. Borchard also completed an MA in American Studies at The George Washington University and works as a historian. Borchard aims to provide students of all levels the opportunity to challenge themselves and build confidence in a fun, safe environment. She encourages students to listen to and learn from their bodies and especially wants to help them develop a solid technical basis so they can dance for many years.
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Derek Brown is a professional choreographer, dancer, artist, and director based in the DMV. He has worked with such companies as BET, Def Jam, Disney, FOX, J Records, Manhattan Records, Motown, Seagrams, TV One, Touchstone Films Step Up, and Universal. Brown has worked with such artists as Jennifer Hudson, Chrisette Michelle, Monica, Mya, Pink, Prince, and Tanu. He choreographed the “Pan Am” girls in Sean Paul’s music video, “She Doesn’t Mind,” which, in its first week, received over 5 million hits. Most recently, Brown had the opportunity to direct Grammy Award-winning songstress, Mya, for the music video “Mr. Incredible.” Brown prides himself on not only bringing original concepts to class and going against the grain, but also his need to bring the best out of the artist he is working with and the best out of himself.
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Vanessa Carmichael has been teaching jazz, hip hop, and modern in the DMV area for the past decade. She began dancing in college while majoring in kinesiology at the University of Maryland. She has studied ballet, jazz, and modern with Alvin Mayes, Bonnie Slawson, Tim Roberts, and Douglas Yeuell. Carmichael is a certified Personal Trainer and integrates her knowledge of exercise physiology and body mechanics into her dance curriculum. Carmichael has performed with local companies CityDance Ensemble and Jam Crew, and currently dances with the DC Contemporary Dance Theater. Carmichael has performed on the stages of Dance Place, the Jack Guidone Theater, and the Kennedy Center. Carmichael brings her myriad of experiences, cultural influences, and athleticism into her choreography. Her three children can also be found dancing in the studio.
Sylvana Christopher is a native Washingtonian, choreographer, performer, and teacher. She teaches adult modern and Afrobeat at JOMDC, and has taught for several local schools including Holton-Arms, Lowell, Mundo Verde, Sidwell Friends, St. Coletta, and at Wolf Trap. A graduate of Ohio State University, Sylvana holds a BFA in Performance and Choreography. She trained at The Washington School of Ballet and has danced professionally with Bowen McCauley Dance Company, Rincones & Company Dance Theatre, Arts United of Washington, Gesel Mason, BosmaDance, Contradiction Dance, and Kate Jordan Dance. Abroad, Sylvana studied dance in Cuba, France, and Senegal and performed in Mexico and Germany. She co-founded Glade Dance Collective (gladedance.org) and is their Outreach Chair. “My advice is to move with people who inspire you to grow and in places where you feel free to move. Learn new styles as much as possible but always return to your base. Expand your dance vocabulary. Clarify your style and embrace what makes you both different and the same.”
Krystal Leniece Collins is a dance maker, rising community organizer and Chicagoland native. She is a recent graduate and holds a BFA in Dance from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). She has performed in many works by UIUC professors, students, and guest artists including: C. Kemal Nance PhD, Renée Wadleigh, Michelle Gibson, Linda Lehovec and Abby Zbikowski. Her dance work is informed by Black womanhood and contemporary/traditional dances of the African diaspora. Currently, she is a company member with DMV based ClancyWorks Dance Company and is excited to continue growing as a dancer, choreographer and educator!
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Hayley Cutler, M.F.A. is a choreographer, performer and dance educator based in Washington, DC. She is the founder and Artistic Director of darlingdance, a feminist postmodern dance company currently in its eighth season. Her work has been presented locally at Dance Place, Dance Exchange, Atlas Performing Arts Center, The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Greenberg Theatre, Jack Guidone Theater, Torpedo Factory Art Center and in Boston, Chicago and London. As an educator, Hayley is currently on the faculty of The George Washington University’s Theater & Dance department, and is the founder of darlingspace, a boutique dance education studio located in Shaw, DC. She is also a teaching artist with a number of arts non-profits including ArtStream, Inc., Melwood VA, Project Create DC, Imagination Stage and Joy of Motion Dance Center. Hayley received her MFA and BA in Dance from The George Washington University, and a postgraduate diploma from the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London. When Hayley is not creating, performing or teaching dance, she’s watching it, writing about it and talking about it.
Jenifer Dobbins is a passionate dance educator, choreographer, theater technician, and arts organizer, advocate, and administrator. Her passion for ballet pedagogy has led her to licensure in the Cecchetti Method of Ballet, through the Cecchetti Council of America. Her philosophy for teaching is anatomically sound, inclusive, and nurturing. A graduate of UMBC Department of Dance, Jen performed with Baltimore Dance Project and received an Undergraduate Research Award to study with the Jose Limon Foundation. Jen has performed and choreographed in the DMV for over 15 years, specializing in technology driven and theatrically inquisitive works. As an educator, Jen has taught dance regionally for over 12 years and her students have won numerous awards and scholarships, with many going on to dance in college and professionally. Jen is exhilarated to be a part of the Joy of Motion Faculty.
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Nikki Ranee Gambhir is a performer, teacher, and choreographer in the DMV, currently working in hip-hop, contemporary, jazz, tap, ballet, and Bollywood fusion. Gambhir is a member of Culture Shock DC and Tappenstance, Joy of Motion Dance Center’s Resident Adult Tap Company. Gambhir was a former director of DCypher Dance (Joy of Motion Dance Center Resident Company) and was Company Director of Urban Impact, Joy of Motion Dance Center’s teen hip hop dance company. Her performance highlights include: BET’s 106 & Park, opening for B2K and Darrin Henson, NFL Redskins Halftime Show, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival. She performed with Cirque du Soleil and danced at the White House for the First Family, with the Broadway cast of Hairspray, in the PBS special “A Tribute to Broadway”. Gambhir is a featured dancer in the Bollywood movie Ta Ra Rum Pum. She has been a guest artist at Georgetown University, Oberlin College, and Dreyfoos School of the Arts. Her choreography has been showcased at the Kennedy Center, National Dance Day with Nigel Lythgoe, the Dizzy Feet Foundation, the NBA Wizards’ halftime show, and the Metro DC Dance Awards Ceremony. She was selected to choreograph the tribute performed for the James Brown movie screening, live at the Lincoln Theatre, which was nationally televised on NBC. In addition to teaching at dance studios, Gambhir was a teacher at Albert Einstein High School and she choreographs musicals for Woodrow Wilson High School. Gambhir has performed in countless dance assemblies in local schools, presenting dance as a constructive alternative for at-risk youth, through Joy of Motion Dance Center partnerships with DARE Dance, DEA Youth Dance Program, and Joy of Motion Dance Center’s Motion Express. She believes that the arts are an essential part of the community and hopes to promote positive and healthy expression through dance.
Samantha Greymont was born and raised in Needham, Massachusetts, where she began her dance training under the direction of Paulette Harwood. She continued her training at The Ailey School in New York City as a student in the pre-professional division, and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance from Marymount Manhattan College with a concentration in Modern Dance.
While living in New York City Samantha performed with Arch Contemporary Ballet in venues across the country including the Ailey Citigroup Theater, Paramount Center Boston, and Tempe Center for the Arts. She has also performed works by Trisha Brown as a part of the Dance/Draw Exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, and Jiwon Lee as a part of Freddie Moore’s Restoring the Dance at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Samantha has taught at several institutions in the D.C. area including BalletNova Center for Dance, Bowen McCauley Dance, Jane Franklin Dance, and Metropolitan Ballet Theater. She has performed with local companies Gin Dance Company, Karen Reedy Dance, DancEthos, and DanceArtTheater.
Susan Gresko began studying ballet at age 12 with Janis Ray in Annandale, Virginia. She continued her training on scholarship at the National Academy of Arts in Champaign, IL with Petrus Bosman and Robert DiCello, at Jacob’s Pillow with Benjamin Harkarvy, and at the Pennsylvania School of Ballet with Lupé Serrano and Cherie Noble. She graduated with Highest Distinction honors from George Mason University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in dance and performed with the George Mason University Dance Company. She is a yoga teacher in the Viniyoga tradition and received her certification from the American Viniyoga Institute. She is also certified in the Zena Rommett Floor-Barre Technique. Gresko has taught youth and adult ballet, yoga, and Floor-Barre throughout the DMV area. In 2004, she joined the D.A.R.E. Dance program to teach movement and choreography to elementary school children. Gresko joined the Joy of Motion Dance Center faculty in 2004, where she teaches ballet.
Tiffany Haughn is the director and founder of DancEthos, a DC based modern dance company that creates and presents dances that reflect the beliefs and spirit of our culture. Her choreography has been performed at The Kennedy Center, Dance Place, The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Woolly Mammoth Theater, and the Atlas Performing Arts Center, among other venues. In addition to teaching at Joy of Motion Dance Center, Haughn has also been on the faculty of George Washington University, George Mason University, The University of Mary Washington, Northern Virginia Community College, and BalletNova (previously Arlington Center for Dance). While living in New York City, she performed with The Lindt International Ballet, Saltare Dance Company, Jennifer Walker & Company, and Threshold Dance Company. Haughn graduated magna cum laude with departmental and university honors from Jacksonville University with a BFA in Dance and a BA in Psychology. She earned her MFA degree in Dance at George Mason University.
Natasha Hawkins began dancing at the age of four at the RJV School of Dance in Washington, DC and has never loved anything more! Hawkins has trained with local and national talent in hip hop, ballet, and modern. She was the former Director of DCypher Dance, Joy of Motion Dance Center’s Resident Adult Hip Hop Company, and a dancer with Life, Rhythm, Move Project. Hawkins has performed at venues throughout the region including: the White House, The Kennedy Center, National Theater, the Atlas Performing Arts Center, and the Jack Guidone Theater.
Helen Hayes, Director of JOM’s Dance Institute, oversees the Youth Dance Ensemble, the American Dance Conservatory and LEAP! (JOM’s adult conservatory training program for adults) and serves as a core faculty member. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in dance. She has danced professionally with the Maryland Dance Theater, Perlo/Bloom and Co., Cathy Paine and Friends, Deborah Riley Dance Projects and Dupont Alley Dance Company. Touring internationally, she has been featured on Good Morning Hong Kong. She has performed throughout the United States including the Honors Gala in tribute to Chita Rivera at the Kennedy Center. Hayes was the co-founder of CrossCurrents Dance Company (former Resident Arts Partner at Joy of Motion) which she co-directed from 1996-2008. She spent the summer of 2002 teaching jazz and modern in Varna, Bulgaria at the International Ballet Competition. She was on the adjunct faculty at the University of MD in 2006 and has taught numerous master classes in the United States and abroad.
Hayes is an instructor of modern and jazz dance for adults at Joy of Motion, in addition to directing the Dance Institute.
Under Hayes’ direction, the Youth Dance Ensemble has won the Metro DC Dance Award for Most Outstanding Youth Performance in 2006, 2010 and 2012. In 2009, Hayes was the recipient of the prestigious Metro DC Dance Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance Education. Several of her students have gone on to enjoy professional careers in repertory dance companies on Broadway and form their own professional dance companies. In September 2015, Hayes celebrated her 25th year of teaching dance at Joy of Motion Dance Center. Hayes is dedicated to building community through dance and believes that dance builds strong minds and strong bodies.
Tamara Henry is a dancer, musician, and artist who started her dance career at the age of four in Tuckahoe, New York. After moving to Wheaton/Silver Spring, Maryland, she continued her studies at Peter’s Studio of Dance. In college, Henry studied dance at the University of Maryland, danced with the University of Maryland Dance Team, and danced with the Morgan State University Modern Dance Ensemble. While earning her undergraduate and master’s degrees, she was the dance coordinator and choreographer for Morgan State and Bowie State marching band dance lines. Henry loves performing, choreographing, and has taught various styles of dance throughout the DMV area, including ballet, tap, jazz, salsa, and poms. At Knock on Wood Tap Studio, she was a member of its Resident Company Step Aside for eight years, had the chance to study with several renowned tap dancers, and learned salsa rueda/casino. In 2009, she founded and became the director of Artistic Rhythms Alliance/ARA Tap. In 2010, she began producing A Holiday SpecTAPular, an annual tap show that brings over 100 tap dancers from the DMV area together for a festive holiday concert. She is the director of Body Rhythms Dance Camps and Competitions, was a High School Pom & Dance Team Coach and county competition director, and enjoys judging local pom/dance competitions. Henry has had the opportunity to perform at several venues including: the Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap, Black Rock Center for the Arts, Publick Playhouse, Dance Place, Montgomery College, the Jack Guidone Theater; tap festivals in Austin, Chicago and New York; and at the Lincoln Center with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Marvin Hamlisch.
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Sara Herrera hails from Fort Worth, Texas, where she began taking dance classes at a young age and furthered her training at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, Texas. Herrera received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Modern Dance from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA., where she had the opportunity to work with established choreographers such as Gabriel Mason, Donald Lunsford, Molly Misgalla, Wayne St. David, Brian Sanders, and Ronen Koresh. After completing her degree, Herrera moved to New York City where she taught and performed with the Kennedy Dancers and Peyari Dance Project. Herrera has been teaching dance since 2001, in styles of jazz, modern, musical theatre, hip-hop, and lyrical dance. Herrera has had the privilege of working as a guest artist with esteemed DC area choreographers such as Jaime Coronado, Hayley Cutler (darlingdance), Tiffany Haughn (DancEthos), Esperonto Bean, Roxann Morgan-Rowley, and Erica Rebollar (Rebollar Dance). Herrera has worked with local theater companies such as the In Series, with performances at the Gala Hispanic Theatre and the Embassies of Indonesia, Austria, and Hungary.
She has choreographed musicals for summer art camps at Imagination Stage in Bethesda, MD, and Acting Manitou in Oakland, ME. She has also choreographed for Imagination Stage’s professional stage and will be making her debut as a performer in their early childhood theater show, Paper Dreams, in Spring 2017, in collaboration with Barcelona company, Mons Dansa.
Currently, Herrera is in her third season as the artistic director and choreographer of her company, ArasDance, a proud cast member of the highly anticipated show What’s Going On: The Marvin Gaye Project under the direction of Vincent Thomas, Sylvia Soumah, and Ralph Glenmore, and also the founding artistic director of the Petworth Dance Project, a new outdoor dance series in Washington, DC, which will be entering it’s second season this summer.
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Under the instruction of Robin Pitts, Laverne Reed, Mya, Savion Glover, and many more, Jocelyn Isaac developed a love for dance at a young age. She was a student at DanceMakers Studio, the Royal Academy of Dance in Annapolis, and the Ballet Theatre of Maryland. While earning her BFA in Dance and Marketing from Temple University, Isaac studied under Pat Thomas, Kim Bears-Bailey, and Milton Myers in the Philadelphia Dance Company’s Training Program, and performed annually in the company’s showcases. Isaac holds a MFA in Dance from SUNY Purchase College Conservatory of Dance. Isaac has worked with Charles O. Anderson’s DanceTheatreX, Danse4nia Repertory Ensemble, Phil Grosser, Dr. Kariamu Welsh, and Abdel Salaam. Notable musical theatre performances include: The Chocolate Nutcracker at the Historic Lincoln Theatre in DC, All Shook Up, Annie, and South Pacific< at the Jenny Wiley Theatre in KY (dance captain), The Christmas Spectacular at La Comedia Theatre in OH, and FAME at the Surflight Theatre in NJ and the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in MN. Isaac played ‘Tiger Lily’ in Peter Pan at Jenny Wiley Theatre, ‘June’ in Chicago at the Media Theatre in PA, and a Dynamite in Hairspray aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. Isaac’s choreography has been presented at the 76ers Halftime Show, Hershey Park, Andrea Clearfield’s Salon, The Fourth Wall Arts Salon, Frontline Philly’s Dance Review, Temple University, SUNY Purchase College Conservatory of Dance, and Koresh Dance Company’s Artist Showcases. She has taught at Steffi Nossen Dance Foundation in NY, Harlem Dream Center, SUNY Purchase College, Rockland Community College, Princess Mhoon Dance Institute, and George Mason University.
Angela Ingram began her dance career at the age of nine studying ballet, jazz, tap, and Hawaiian. Her passion for dance and movement led her to study intensively with Alvin Ailey, Frank Hatchett, and Fred Benjamin. Ingram is especially attracted to folklore dance and she frequently travels to Brazil and Cuba studying Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Cuban folklore as well as samba and rumba.
KY native Maurice Johnson is the Associate Artistic Director of DC Contemporary Dance Theatre (DCCDT). He is a teacher, educator, choreographer, and performing artist. He graduated with honors from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Public Relations. He started his professional dance career as a feature dancer in the opening and closing US Olympic ceremonies (Atlanta). He completed a six-month national tour with the two-time Grammy Award-winning music group Arrested Development. Further credits include: Jennifer Lopez and Gloria Estefan (White House performance) as well as the production teams of Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, and Paula Abdul, to name a few. Johnson started his teaching career at Joy of Motion Dance Center in 1999. His challenging and energy-charged classes have been defined as unique, inspirational, and motivating. His classes serve as a tool to educate and further develop students’ technical and artistic proficiency. As a firm believer in practicing what you preach, Johnson is still very active as a professional student and performing artist. He has trained and performed with The Lexington Ballet, Alvin Ailey (school), Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, Classical Repertoire Dance Theatre (CRDT), and DC Contemporary Dance Theater. Johnson’s work has been performed and taught in China, Germany, and the U.S. He served as the Interim Artistic Director of Georgetown University Dance Company (GUDC) and was formerly an adjunct Professor at American University. Currently, Johnson is on the faculty at Joy of Motion Dance Center, Catholic University, and the National Cathedral School (NCS)
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Desmond “Dez” Jordan, a dancer and up-and-coming choreographer, has been a breakthrough artist throughout his years. Through dedication and hard work, he became Executive Director of Kaution Dance as well as Assistant Choreographer for Impact Entertainment’s Hip Hop Company. He later joined Fierce Collabo and became team captain in the 2014-15’ season. He has performed at renowned venues including World of Dance NYC, Monsters of Hip Hop, Prelude DMV, National Dance Day DC, Toronto Pride, Capital Pride, and Cherry Blossom Parade, with artists such as Deborah Cox, Debbie Reynolds, and Radio Disney’s Kicking Daisies. His talent continues to grow and he hopes that his performances and teaching can help inspire many.
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Kat Flores’ dance experience began in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan, with the Magic in Motion competitive jazz team and the Cranbrook Theater School throughout her childhood, and later evolved to focus on Latin and Ballroom dance styles in her adult life. While attending George Mason University in 2006, Kat excelled in the Afro-Cuban, and Afro-Latino dance styles, which spurred her peers to elect her President of the school’s salsa club, Azucar. Her official teaching career began in 2009 with group and private classes at a local studio, and she has been teaching full time ever since. Flores holds a Bachelor of Science in Health Systems Administration with a minor in Business from George Mason University. She has trained under top coaches in the DC area, and received 1st placements in all her amateur ballroom competitions. She has also assisted with dance publications including the North American Dance Almanac and Topline Magazine. Flores has been performing with Dynamix Dance Team for the past two years in the DMV area. She loves inspiring students to find their own passion for dance, and especially loves teaching beginners. When Flores is not dancing, she is creating new flavors of chocolate truffles for her business, Kat’s Konfections, founded in March of 2014.
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Rachel Luebbert is a dance artist, choreographer, and teacher from Colorado. Rachel graduated with a B.F.A. in Dance with Honors, a B.A. in Spanish, and a minor in Business from the University of Utah. She has performed in the Performing Dance Company (Salt Lake) in works by Daniel Clifton, Stephen Koester, and Luc Vanier. Rachel received the Utah Fine Arts Fees Grant to travel and perform Tectonic by Sharee Lane and Juan Carlos Claudio (2016) in Berlin and then to teach dance in Panama through the Movement Exchange Program (2017). Rachel has taught modern dance, ballet, jazz, creative movement, latin social dances and improvisation to people and children of all ages. As a choreographer, Rachel produced an evening length show New Year (2017) based on her research of embodying coming-of age narratives through text and movement.
Gabriel Mata is an independent artist activist, choreographer, educator, and performer. He graduated from San José State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. Gabriel Mata/Movements is his solo-based performance project. The Star Tribune has called him “sly, subtle and totally virtuosic, theatrical dancer-choreographer Gabriel Mata holds the stage with expressive movement and witty words.” His most recent work, “Out of the Shadows,” was awarded the Twin Cities Arts Reader Best of Fringe Award 2017. His dances have been performed in Minnesota, California, New York, and DC. He has performed for companies such as sjDANCEco, Post:Ballet, Spector Dance, Zenon Dance Company, and Mark Foehringer Dance Projects SF. Mata has also performed for artists such as Diane Frank, Joel Smith, Margaret Wingrove, Keith Johnson, and Wynn Fricke. He has been awarded the Mina Garman Award for Excellence in Choreography and the Carol Ann Haws Award for Excellence in Performance.
Robert Woofter is a control freak, sporadic drag queen, and mother of haus of bambi (hausofbambi.com), a dance and film company. His work has been presented in New York City at the wild project, Movement Research at Judson Church, Dixon Place, and Triskelion Arts, and he was named one of Dance Magazine’s “Best of 2012” for his work “Six Movements to the Music of Nicki Minaj.” Robert is interested in the juxtapositions of the gaudy and subdued, the crude and refined, and the classical and contemporary as he lives by the motto “extravagance is a virtue.”
Before earning an MFA from the University of Michigan, he studied at The New School, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Ballet Austin, The Rock School, The Boston Conservatory, Hubbard Street Dance, and The School at Jacob’s Pillow. Since then, Robert performed professionally in New York with Ishmael Houston-Jones, Christopher Williams, Austin McCormick’s Company XIV (as an originating member in the New York Times critic’s pick Baroque Burlesque), and Gillian Walsh (as performer/collaborator in the Bessie Award nominated Grinding and Equations).
Robert currently teaches at Joy of Motion Dance Center and American University and is a member of PrioreDance in Washington, DC.
Chivas Merchant-Buckman, a native of Washington, DC graduated from Duke Ellington School of the Arts. He then received his BFA in Dance from Marymount Manhattan College where he worked with choreographers such as Robert Battle, Jiri Kylian, Chris D’ Ambroise, Jose Limon, Sean Curran, and Donald Byrd. Previous companies that Merchant-Buckman has worked with are Eisenhower Dance Ensemble (Detroit, MI), Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble (Denver, CO), Dallas Black Dance Theatre (Dallas, TX), Elisa Monte Monte Dance (New York, NY), and guested with The Big Muddy Dance Company (St. Louis, MO) and Dance St. Louis. His musical theater credits include Petrouchka in The New York Musical Festival and The Wiz with The St Louis Black Repertory. Teaching credits include Grand Center Arts Academy, Belleville School of Ballet, Belleville Elite Dance Academy, Allegheny Ballet, Stompin Beatz Professional Dance Company, First Class Dance Studio and Joy of Motion.
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Michelle Michaels has been tap dancing for over twenty-five years, and has been actively performing in the DC area since 1999 with Tappening. Since 2013, she has been creating and performing holiday pieces for Tappenstance. The most recent additions to her tap portfolio include choreographing for Tappening, performing with Sundays on Tap, and co-founding Play Time Tap, a northern Virginia based tap group. She has performed in productions and venues including: TAPS Alive!, Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Annual Holiday SpecTAPular, DC TAP Fest, and the Lincoln Center (NYC). Michaels is grateful for all of the amazing opportunities and talented people she has met through tap and looks forward to continuing to create great rhythms with her fellow tappers!
erah Minor-Jones started her dance training at Wheaton Studio of Dance and with Strathmore’s CityDance Program. There, she trained in modern, jazz, and hip hop dance. She auditioned for Future Shock DC, a youth, pre-professional hip hop company, and trained there for three years. While dancing with Future Shock, she attended James Hubert Blake high school in Montgomery County, Maryland. There, she danced on their D1 Champion Pom Squad. Since then, Terah has had the opportunity to dance with a number of different dance organizations such as WNBA Mystics Mayhem Dance Team and Towson University Poms Squad. In 2015, she got the opportunity to dance for BET’s 106&Park and BET College Tour. She currently attends Towson University for Middle School Education and dances competitively with one of DC’s many hip hop companies, Capital Funk.
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Megan Morrison began teaching dances of the swing era in Seattle, Washington in 2005. She has since taught, performed, and competed in cities around the United States. Her favorite dances include lindy hop, blues, collegiate shag, Charleston, and balboa. As a teacher, Morrison brings creativity, humor, connection, and engagement to the classroom. She encourages students to keep the spirit of street dances alive by trying new things, making mistakes, and fostering community. Morrison loves to share these dances because she believes in the power of movement to bring joy, play, and freedom to people’s lives. When she is not teaching dance, she runs her full-time life coaching practice (www.megantaylormorrison.com), as well as leads dance trips for her company Dance Adventures (www.danceadventures.org).
Tyrone Murray is originally from Brooklyn, NY and attended Howard University in Washington, DC. He has studied and performed with Mike Malone, Melvin Deal, Laverne Reed, Debbie Allen, Jason Taylor, James Thurston, Louis Johnson, LaRocQue Bey, and Assane Kounta. Murray was the opening act for Carmen McRae, Stephanie Mills, the Bill Blass Fashion Gala, and an Illusionist Choreographer at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas, Boston, Miami, and San Francisco. He has taught master classes and has been a faculty member at Duke Ellington High School, Baltimore School of the Arts, Dance Place, Feet First, Maryland Youth Ballet, Cacho African Drummers and Dancers, Holton-Arms School, and several universities, including: Howard University, University of the District of Columbia, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Maryland, and Georgetown University. Murray was the Rehearsal Director for DC Contemporary Dance Theatre, touring and teaching in Jordan, Dominican Republic, and Thailand. In addition, he has done promotional commercials for WUSA Channel 9, has been a Dance Grant Panelist for the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and an NEA Choreography Grant Recipient.
Stephen is a company member of the Washington Ballet and previously danced with Ballet West. He was a two-time finalist in the finalist in the Youth American Grand Prix Competition and trained at the Miami City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and the Staatliche Ballettschule Berlin.
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Josephine Nicholson has degrees in dance from Wilson College, where she began her dance training, and George Washington University. She studied dance with Trina Collins, Liz Lerman, Buffy Price, Maida Withers, and Colette Yglesias. Nicholson began teaching dance at Joy of Motion Dance Center in the mid-1990’s. In addition to teaching at Joy of Motion Dance Center and in the Motion Express Program, she is with the Kennedy Center Artists-in-Residence Program. She has taught at a number of area dance programs including Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, Children’s Studio School, Fillmore Summer Arts, and Primary Movers Dance Studio. Nicholson danced in Dianne McIntyre’s commissioned recreation of How Long Brethren? at George Mason University and at the French Embassy in Portrait of Dora choreographed by Kimberly Mackin. She has been a member of Word Dance Theater, Dance Place Moving Company, and St. Mark’s Dance Company, as well as performed in the works of many Washington area choreographers. She has presented her choreography at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, Capitol Fringe Festival, The Jack Guidone Theater, Dance Coalition Studio Theater, and Adams Morgan Day. She is currently a Co-Director and member of the Erika Thimey Dance Company.
Tanya Nuchols packs a ton of fun into her Zumba® classes and has been teaching all over the DMV area for several years. Trained in Classical and Filipino styles, Nuchols is also drawn to Latin, Brazilian, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern rhythm she became hooked on Zumba® while losing 50 mama pounds, dancing to salsa, samba, merengue, hip hop, and much more. Nuchols is active in the community, volunteering to teach Zumba® classes and performances for various local causes, including the H Street Festival and the Capital Pride Parade. She continues to study styles from all over the world, and is currently working toward her yoga teacher’s certification.
Fondly known as “Mr. Yao”, Yao E. Odamtten (pronounced oh-dam-TIN) is passionate about the power of dance to transform both lives and society.
Mr. Yao’s interdisciplinary career has always been a dance – spanning the fashion world of Yves Saint Laurent, to international development with the UN/World Bank/IMF, to brand development with Fortune 100 companies, to integrative medicine and dance. Throughout his career, communications, education, and storytelling have been central themes. His most transformative experience involves using dance and health education with children and adults in under-resourced communities grappling with the crippling effects of generational poverty, endemic violence, and systemic racism.
Mr. Yao began training in West African movement in his native Ghana. He then trained in classical ballet, modern, Afro-Caribbean/Asian movement styles, and dance pedagogy at Hamilton College under Leslie Norton, Elaine Heekin, and Bruce Walczyk. There, he studied dance composition, dance history, music, and theater arts by exploring the socio-historical, technical, scientific, and creative elements of dance and the human body. At Hamilton, he also gained expertise in curriculum development from Prof. Barb Tewksbury. Later, he expanded his technical training in Horton, Límon, Bartenieff, Barre à Terre, Gyrokinesis®, and Release Techniques at The Ailey School, Garth Fagan Dance School, and Danza Contemporánea de Cuba. He credits additional coaching to Dr. Elana Anderson, Vincent Williams and Dr. Rima Faber. He was the Youth Dance Manager for Bono’s Heartland of America Tour.
Mr. Yao has a B.A. in World Politics from Hamilton College and an M.A. in International Affairs from The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. In 2015, he received his license as a Chronic Disease Health-Nutrition educator from the Stanford University School of Medicine. Currently, he is the Health-Nutrition/Disease Risk Reduction Specialist and Psychosocial-Physical Therapist in the Pediatrics/Child Health Department at Howard University School of Medicine and Howard University Hospital. He concurrently teaches for The Washington School of Ballet, Maryland Youth Ballet, Howard University Department of Theatre Arts, Joy of Motion Dance Center, and the District of Columbia Public School system.
Whether on a stage, in a studio, classroom, or medical exam room, Mr. Yao prides himself on helping to mold better human beings – who think critically, creatively, and compassionately about the world inside and outside of themselves. He dares to believe that we can heal the world – one dancer at a time.
Krystal Odom has been dancing her entire life but began her formal training at the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet. She has performed with the Jones-Haywood Youth Dancers, Bren-Car Dancers, and in Adrian Vincent James’ 40th Anniversary in Dance and the Arts. She has taught ballet and tap at the New School of Dance and Arts and Bren-Car School of Dance. She has taught hip hop with the D.A.R.E.® Dance program since 2007. She is very excited to continue teaching ballet and hip hop at Joy of Motion Dance Center.
Bio Coming Soon
Estela Vélez de Paredez trained intensively with Maestro Antonio Santaella of Granada, Spain, to whom she owes her development as a flamenco dancer, teacher, and choreographer. Estela trained with other notable Spanish figures such as Carmen “La Talegona,” David Coria, La Farruca, Rocío Molina, Mercedes Amaya, Joaquín Grilo, Pastora Galván, Israel Galván, Belén Fernández, and Cristóbal Reyes, to name a few. She has a background in ballet, jazz, tap, and belly dance. She has been performing flamenco in the DMV area since 1998. Estela is recognized for her strong technical desivery and for her style, which combines the traditional gypsy with a modern touch. Critics have described her as a “stunning performer with a gaze that enraptured” (Washington Post, November 2002). Estela has performed locally and abroad. In 2001, she was invited to perform with Ballet Flamenco Antonio Santaella in a production of Julia en Flamenco at El Centro de Bellas Artes in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In August 2011, she was invited to perform in Managua, Nicaragua, in the production Ida y Vuelta: De Donde Vienes Mestizo at the Teatro Nacional Rubén Darío. In the Washington area, Estela has performed at many venues, including: the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center, the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater, the Lincoln Theatre, Harmon Hall, National Theatre, Atlas Performing Arts Center, the Jack Guidone Theater, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Dance Place, Publick Playhouse, Roundhouse Theater, and Alden Theatre. She has also performed at tablaos locally and in Puerto Rico. In 2004, she founded Furia Flamenca Dance company for which she is the Artistic Director and choreographer. Furia Flamenca, a Resident Arts Partner of JOMDC, has become the most sought-after flamenco dance company in the DMV area with performances in some of the most prestigious venues including: the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage and Terrace Theater, Lincoln Theatre, National Theatre, Wolf Trap, Baltimore Lyric Opera House, Publick Playhouse, and Alden Theatre, to name a few. The company is regularly invited to perform at Happenings at Harmon Hall and regularly performs at some of the biggest DC festivals, such as the Washington Folk Festival, INTERSECTIONS: A New America Arts Festival, Cherry Blossom Festival, Dance DC Festival, Velocity DC, Taste of Bethesda, and DC’s annual Feria de Sevilla. The company’s choreographers have been selected to participate in the area’s most prestigious choreographer’s showcases including Dance Bethesda, World Dance Showcase, and Dance Place’s New Releases Choreographer’s Showcase. Their performances and productions have been recognized as some of the best in the region with two Metro DC Dance awards in 2009 and five finalist nominations in 2012. Estela is faculty at Joy of Motion Dance Center and is summer faculty at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, DC. She is also regularly asked to teach master classes in ballet studios and theaters in the region, most recently at Wolf Trap. She collaborates with Teatro Lirico DC, choreographing and dancing for some of their zarzuela productions. She currently serves as the chair of the board of directors of Dance Metro DC.
Bio Coming Soon!
Bio coming soon!
Samantha Salters, recently earned a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Dance from the University of Colorado Boulder (UCB). Upon attending UCB in the Fall of 2013, she was the recipient of a Teaching Fellowship and the Gail Pokoik scholarship, awarded by faculty, to graduate students based on talent and dedication to the arts. In addition to obtaining a MFA in Dance in performance and choreography, Samantha also earned a certificate in Comparative Ethnic [Africana] Studies. During her time in Boulder, CO she studied West African (Ghanaian, Guinean, Ewe), hip hop, Afro-Cuban, house, transnational fusion and modern dance styles and performed under the direction of Gesel Mason, Nii Armah Sowah, Larry Southall, Faye Driscoll, Millicent Johnnie, Ananya Chatterjea, Dr. Amma Ghartey-Tagoe Kootin, the Logo Ligi Dance Ensemble, The Sankofa Project, and Creative Strategies for Change. A Kent State University (KSU) Alum, Samantha has undergraduate degrees in Dance Education (B.F.A.) and Teaching English as a Second Language (B.A.) as well as a variety of collegiate organizational experience including; becoming a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, a Public service organization. She studied classical modern, jazz, and ballet techniques from 2008 to 2013 at KSU and rediscovered her pre-collegiate passion for African Diasporic movement and history after attending The Garth Fagan Summer Dance Intensive, in the summer of 2012, as a scholarship recipient. In the summer of 2014, she traveled to Ghana, as a part of cultural project, to expand her knowledge of Contemporary West African(Ewe) culture, not limited to; dance, drumming, song, and language. In 2015, Samantha attended the bi-annual Exploration of Afro-Cuban Music and Dance, hosted by Humboldt State University, as a scholarship recipient. Samantha has returned to the Washington, D.C. area where she is currently an apprentice of the Production Management team at Dance Place and a returning Modern dance Instructor of the Joy of Motion Step Ahead Dance Camp, and a member of Afromoda Dance Theater.
Mackenzie Shimon began competing in dance competitions across Southern California at the age of six, in jazz and tap. In her teens, she trained with Emmy-nominated and American Choreography Award-nominatee Monie Adamson, known for her work with Warner Bros. programming Family Matters, Step by Step, and MAD TV. She worked with Tim Stevenson, known for his choreography of music videos and tours for Jennifer Lopez, Destiny’s Child, and Mandy Moore. While in high school, Shimon was asked to choreograph for her high school’s award-winning musicals and her former elementary school’s musicals, both of which both produced Broadway and Hollywood performers. Shimon was selected to serve as dance captain and main choreographer for her high school varsity dance team alongside Gigi Torres, who is now one of the industry’s leading hip hop teachers and choreographers. In college, Shimon began training and choreographing in contemporary and hip hop. After graduating from James Madison University with a Minor in Dance, Shimon began training solely in hip hop in Washington, DC. Since 2010, Shimon has performed at The Kennedy Center, The White House, The Verizon Center, and in concerts in NYC, NJ, and PA. Shimon has always felt passionate about dance and hopes to help her students of all ages and styles grow, both technically and in their love for dance.
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Stephanie is a native of Syracuse, NY where she trained at Liverpool School of Dance. From the ages of 3 through 18, she studied ballet, tap, jazz, and lyrical and was an award-winning member of their competition team. She also participated in community theatre in high school and college. She was introduced to modern dance at SUNY Oswego through Cheryl Wilkins-Mitchell where she received her B.A. in Human Communications. After moving in late 2007 to the DC area, she jumped into the dance scene and added hip hop among the styles of dance she would train and perform in. Over the years, Stephanie has been a member of multiple DC area dance companies of varying styles including Tappenstance, Afta Shock DC, Next Reflex Dance Collective, ARA Tap, and most recently as a guest dancer with Glade Dance Collective for their premier six show run in the 2015 Capital Fringe Festival. In 2014, she was also a member of xx, The Cabaret playing the tough girl from the farm named Stella. Other performance credits include: dancing for the Utz National Chip Day Celebration on the Baltimore National Harbor, dancing on the National Mall for Earth Day and the 100th Anniversary of the Cherry Blossom Festival, multiple DC Tap Fest All-Star Concerts, National Tap Dance Day, and can also be seen dancing in the documentary titled, “James Brown: The Man, The Music, The Message” which aired on NBC. In addition to teaching at Joy of Motion, Stephanie also currently teaches at The New School of Dance and Arts and Knock on Wood Tap Studio. Stephanie also has a love for singing and photography. Her hope is to keep growing as a student and educator of dance and one day spread the love of dance throughout U.S.
Ghita von Bonsdorff found her passion for Latin dances in Finland, where she lived until 2008. She attended several dance schools in Helsinki and performed with salsa, merengue, bachata, and reggaeton groups. Upon moving to the DMV area, von Bonsdorff wanted to keep dancing and joined a Rueda de Casino group as well as Tanya Nuchols’ inspiring Zumba® classes at Joy of Motion Dance Center. Von Bonsdorff earned her own Zumba® certification in 2012 and recently certified in Zoca®. Von Bonsdorff teaches many dance fitness classes throughout the region including: Zumba®, Zumba Gold®, Zoca® , Zoca Smooth®, and Body Tone®
Elizabeth Watson earned her BA in Dance and Choreography from Mercyhurst University in 2010 and upon graduation, Elizabeth performed as a soloist with Ballet Theatre of Ohio in Akron, Ohio. In 2011, Elizabeth moved to Tucson, Arizona where she performed with numerous local dance companies and was instrumental in the opening and management of the Animas Center for Pilates, Yoga, and Dance. In May 2015, Elizabeth earned her MFA in Dance from the University of Arizona where she performed soloist works by James Clouser, Jory Hancock, and Melissa Lowe. Elizabeth was a professional company member with the Tucson-based contemporary dance company, Artifact Dance Project, for two years before moving to DC. She was also the owner and creator of the bakery, The Bakerina.
Elizabeth comes to Joy of Motion from HillVets; a non-profit that provides veterans with education, contacts, and resources to gain the skills and experience needed to excel in Second Service careers on Capitol Hill. As their Director of Programs and Communications, Elizabeth designed curriculum and systems for HillVets’ programs and created partner relations with Members of Congress and private organizations. Prior to HillVets, Elizabeth served as the Business Services Coordinator for the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership and the Alexandria Small Business Development Center as well as a project and communications assistant for large initiatives such as the announcement of Amazon HQ2.
Elizabeth also served as the Community Manager for Capitol Post; a business incubator, accelerator, and co-working space for military veterans and their spouses. Externally, Elizabeth performed professionally with Gin Dance Company from June of 2016 until August of 2019 and continues to perform with District Dance Company in Gaithersburg, MD. She also serves on the Board for Local Motion Dance Project and is the incoming Chair of Dance Metro DC.
When she is not dancing or teaching or putting out fires, Elizabeth enjoys running, spin classes, whipping up new recipes from her obsessively large recipe book collection, or playing with her corgi puppy, Karen.
Sharon Werth has been dancing since her youth. She was a dance major at California State University at Long Beach. Upon moving to the DC area, she danced with The Erika Thimey Dance Theater from 1975–1979, when Erika retired. She has taught and performed in many venues since that time, including directing Starting Point Dance Studio (Leaps & Bounds) in College Park. Werth is currently a Co-Director of the revived Erika Thimey Dance & Theater Co. and the Artistic Director of the Chalice Dancers at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church. She also teaches numerous children’s classes locally and through Joy of Motion Dance Center.
Vincent Williams is an accomplished performing artist; he sings, acts, drums, choreographs, and dances in addition to being a celebrated dance educator. He has worked with renowned artists such as Mercedes Ellington, George Faison, Marilyn Manson, Cheryl Porter, and Joyce Yuille, to name a few. Williams’ unique performance style ranges from jazz and blues, to hip hop and gospel, and he tours throughout Europe, the Bahamas, Jordan, Thailand, and the Dominican Republic. Williams’ talent in choreography led to developing dance segments for MTV Europe and International Dance Bassano in Italy. In the U.S. he created signature dance segments for television and movies. Williams’ diverse acting career includes performances in two international Broadway shows, Sing Mahalia Sing and A Chorus Line. Williams also collaborates on recording projects with Mike Sponza, Michele Bonivente, and Marco Pandolfi in Europe. Most recently, Williams was a dance coach and choreographer for X Factor Italy’s Dynamo girl group. As a longtime DC native, Williams has taught at Montgomery College and at DC’s annual Brazilian festival. Williams has taught for Joy of Motion Dance Center’s Motion Express Program for many years, bringing his zest for life to local public and charter schools throughout the region.
Cynthia Word is the Founder and Artistic Director of Word Dance Theater, a non-profit performing arts organization founded in 2000. Born and raised in Abilene, Texas, Word has a Bachelor of Science from the University of Texas, Austin, but began her modern dance training at the University of Illinois with choreographers Beverly Blossom, Chester Wolenski, Mary Anthony, and Sarah Rudner. She later received her Master in Fine Arts from George Washington University, where she also served on the teaching faculty. Based in Washington, DC, Word and Word Dance Theater create Isadora Duncan-based dance/theater productions, blending compelling story, live music, and the masterful dances of Isadora Duncan, as well as new dances employing the Duncan technique and philosophy, to create theatrical productions that are powerfully engaging to audiences. Word has toured with the Isadora Duncan International Institute, performing Duncan repertory in Greece and Italy.