Mychal Keels

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Sumter, South Carolina native Mychal Keels is a Political Science graduate of North Carolina Central University. Despite his major he has acquired an immense love for dance, exploring a myriad of styles and concentrations in the process. Only beginning dance four years ago, he has grown leaps and bounds having an understanding of jazz, ballet, hip-hop and contemporary, but specializes in Horton Modern technique. Mychal has taught master classes and set pieces on many schools in the NC area including Hillside High School, Longleaf School of the Arts, Durham School of the Arts, and Fayetteville State University. Mychal was able to participate in the American Dance Festival where he performed in Charles Anderson’s repertory piece as well as trained with former Frankfurt Ballet principal dancer Elizabeth Corbett. Mychal has been a member of Koffee Dance Company since 2014.

Justin Williams

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Justin Williams is a graduate of North Carolina Central University with a degree in Mass Communication. However, even though he is busy shaping the world of media, his love for dance has caused him to dive head first into the art form. After taking a long break from dance, he began working in the world of musical theatre where he found his love for dancing again. Since then he has become adept in the styles of hip hop, jazz, Modern Horton technique, and contemporary. Justin was also able to participate in the American Dance Festival (2017) where he was blessed to take part in the Bill T. Jones repertory under Shayla-vie Jenkins. He has also been able to study with former principal dancer of the Frankfurt Ballet, Elizabeth Corbett. Justin has also been able to set pieces on Durham School of the Arts and teach master classes at Hillside High School, Longleaf School of the Arts, and Fayetteville State University. Beyond dance, Justin is an avid photographer, videographer, and graphic designer. Justin has been a member of Koffee Dance Company since 2014.

Clayton Barrier


M. Clayton Barrier is a native of Durham, North Carolina and graduated from North Carolina Central University.  While in college, he took every opportunity to be involved in fitness and dance. Most recently, he is a dancer, choreographer, and teacher for various dance organizations and an up-and-coming local dance company. In addition to being a theater, dance, and physical education/health teacher at a public college prep charter school, Clayton is  trained in various yoga practices through YogaFit. Currently, he teaches yoga and barre in various locations around the Triangle.  Additionally, he teaches ballet and jazz for adults. Clayton prides himself in meeting his students at their level, raising the bar, and serving as support to reaching that goal.  His no-nonsense approach has a number of dancers and athletes who train under him independently.

Avis Hatcher Puzzo


Avis Hatcher Puzzo, founder/choreographer of  Koffee Dance Company

Avis Hatcher Puzzo, is known regionally for her work as a choreographer for numerous dance venues and musicals however in August 2012, she founded her own dance/theater company, Koffee Dance Company (KDC), which premiered in March 2013, at North Carolina School of Math and Science in Durham.

An NC resident since 2008, this Connecticut-native holds a BA in Dance/Theater from Trinity College, an MFA in Theater Arts and Dance from Case Western Reserve University, and a MS in Higher Education from Capella University.  Previously having trained and performed in New England, New York and the Midwest, her choreographic emphasis is in Horton, Cunningham and Graham modern dance techniques as well as jazz, hip-hop cultural and contemporary movement styles.   Avis has developed a hybrid dance style which incorporates the grace of Ailey based modern (Horton) with highly rhythmic and athletic gestures. Studying at Ailey, in addition to Garth Fagan, Ned Williams, and Elisa Monte she founded Wette Paint Dance Theater, in Connecticut a contemporary dance and theater company which toured the east coast.

Winner of the North Carolina Dance Alliance Annual award 2013, Avis most recently performed with Ronald K. Brown / Evidence Dance Company & Community Dancers of Durham for the ADF LifeTime Achievement Award Concert and is also the Associate professor of dance/theater at Fayetteville State University.


Vania Clairborne

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Vania Claiborne is from Charlotte, NC by way of Boston, MA. She holds her BFA in Dance Choreography and a minor in Business Entrepreneurship from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. As a student she studied Contemporary, African, Jazz, Safety Release, and Ballet under the tutelage of B.J Sullivan, Janet Lilly, Robin Gee, Justin Tornow, and more. There she has performed multiple works including in Standing Tall by Yoav Kador, Conversations by Nathan Trice, Rubrics of Lace by Christal Brown. She has performed on various stages including the Kennedy Center and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello for the 50th Anniversary of the National Endowment for the Humanities. As a Choreographer she has set works on JOYEMOVEMENT dance company and on students in the Forsyth county school system. As an Administrator she has served the national and international dance community through the 2018 American Dance Festival, and while there presented the solo Opportunity Cost, at an informal showing. Choreographically, Vania interested in the intersection faith and ethics, “I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages.”- Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Justin Tornow

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Justin Tornow is a North Carolina native, currently based in Durham, NC. She is the artistic director of COMPANY, a producer of the local artist series PROMPTS, and a co-founder and -organizer with Durham Independent Dance Artists (DIDA.) Justin’s work is often collaborative and inter-disciplinary, partnering with composers, musicians, film and video artists, and visual artists. Her projects have been presented by CAM-Raleigh, Tanzart Atelier in Germany, 21c Hotel and Museum, UGA Dancz Center for New Music, The UNC Process Series, the SaxOpen Festival in Strasbourg, France, UGA-Cortona in Cortona, Italy, DUMBO Dance Festival, WAXworks, CoolNY Festival, Philly Fringe, and the NC Dance Festival. In 2010, Justin received an MFA in Choreography from UNC-Greensboro; she lived and worked in NYC from 2010-2013, and relocated to Durham, NC in June 2013. Justin served as artist-in-residence at Tanzart Atelier in Kirschau, Germany in Fall/Winter 2017. She is faculty at the American Dance Festival Summer Dance Intensive teaching composition and Cunningham-based technique courses, and serves as part-time dance faculty at UNC-Greensboro and Elon University, teaching studio courses in technique, composition, and repertory. Additionally, Justin is a Merce Cunningham dance research fellow for the New York Public Library this Fall/Winter 2018-2019.

Emily Arocho

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Emily Arocho is 25 years old from Reidsville, NC. Her dance career started when she was 3 years old at Academy of Dance. She attended University of North Carolina of Greensboro where she studied in Dance Education for 4 years. She is currently teaching dance and coaching cheerleading at Shelby Middle School in Shelby, NC. She enjoys hanging with friends and her husband in her free time.

Matthew Rock


Matthew Rock was born in Pinehurst, North Carolina on July 8th, 1992. Matthew first started in the arts with training in music and theatre, playing a medley of instruments and acting in an array of plays. The art of dance was soon added to the list by taking ballroom dance lessons in 2008, followed by Summer training of ballet at Taylor Dance in 2009, and transferred to Terpsichore in 2010, where he trained in ballet, contemporary, and jazz technique. In 2011, he attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, majoring in BFA dance performance and choreography. Matthew began studying a myriad of genres of dance more in depth, such as, African, ballet, ballroom, contemporary, improvisation, jazz, and choreography. After graduating in 2014, he relocated to Washington D.C. to further pursue his career in dance and the performing arts. Dancing with companies such as ArasDance, Jane Franklin Dance, and Light Switch Dance Theatre, and under the instruction of various renowned dance artists, he has performed in a myriad of venues and theatres throughout North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. He has also choreographed his own works for various festivals and events along the East coast, providing different insights and perspectives on current societal events and human experiences through athleticism and artistry. He is also artistic director of MARO Movement and had dabbled in dance journalism as an active concert reviewer in D.C. Through choreographing, performing, teaching, and writing, Matthew hopes to continue to grow and expand his knowledge as an artist, sharing his experiences and voice through a movement medium and promoting social change.

Aparna Pisharody


Aparna Pisharody (Greensboro NC) is an active performer, teacher and choreographer of Indian Classical Dance - Bharatanatyam. Growing up in Mumbai (India), Aparna was introduced to Bharatanatyam at a very young age. She continues to nurture her passion for Bharatanatyam under Sathvikaa Shankar (A senior disciple of world renowned artist Smt. Anita Guha). Understanding the compelling nature of Bharatanatyam and how it connects one to the divinity within themselves is an exhilarating and ongoing journey for her. To move the audience through the presentation of this ancient art form is an inspiration for her. Aparna has performed at various prestigious events within India and the US. Her performances reflect her devotion to this spiritual artform and they never fail to evoke an emotional experience in the spectators.

Aparna founded Svasti School of Dance in 2013 to impart devotion to Bharatanatyam in all students with the hope that they make it a meaningful part of their lives. She loves to teach because every class is a learning experience for her. She grows artistically and spiritually with every student, every day. Being able to encourage, challenge, and develop passion in the next generation is a sadhana (spiritual prayer) for her. She strives to teach Bharatanatyam through a traditional curriculum, and rigorous practice. Through it all she encourages creativity and humility. Svasti School of Dance performances are held all over the Triad area raising money for Temples, Flood Relief and various charitable organizations. The ultimate wish is that physical and spiritual discipline required on this artistic voyage will guide all to success in every pursuit of their life.

Ballet Masterclasses with Pedro Ruiz


When: June 3rd, 2018

Where: 417 Brooks Street, Wake Forest, NC 27587

Time: 1:15-2:45pm


When: June 5th, 2018

Where: 1002 Durham Road #300, Wake Forest, NC 27587

Time: 6:00-7:30pm


Cost: $20 cash per student (collected at the door)

Registration: to register please email

DON’T MISS THESE TWO OPPORTUNITIES to study with the celebrated dancer and choreographer Pedro Ruiz! Presented by Wake Forest Dance Festival and hosted by Destiny Dance Institute (6/3/18) and Wake Forest Academy of Fine Arts (6/5/18) the masterclasses will focus on Ballet Technique for students ages 13 and up. SPACE IS LIMITED!

Pedro Ruiz was trained in his native country, Cuba and in Venezuela, Mr. Ruiz choreographed three celebrated ballets while a principal dancer with Ballet Hispanico for twenty-one years. Choreography credits include: The Joffrey Ballet, Luna Negra, New Jersey Ballet, The Tribeca PA C, The Jacob's Pillow Festival, The Marymount College, the Ailey/Fordham B.F.A. Program, Ailey’s Spring Celebration and Summer Sizzler concerts. He is on the dance faculty of Marymount College, the staff of The Ailey School and Scarsdale Ballet. Awards include: the Bessie Award, the Choo-San Goh Award, The Cuban Artist’s Fund, and The Joyce Foundation Award to create a new work for The Joffrey. Mr. Ruiz has performed at the White House and was profiled nationally on PBS’s In the Life.

For extended bio please visit:

Absent Bloom

When: May 27, 2018

Where: E. Carroll Joyner Park's Performance Garden

Time: 3:30PM


Join us for the premiere of Absent Bloom! This new work was developed in choreographic collaboration by the dancers Brianna Cooper, Kaitlin Clow, and Masha Dashkina Maddux. Together with musician and composer Dallas Brown, Absent Bloom was brought to life through exploratory improvisation combining music and dance. 

In Absent Bloom the first hopeful hint of spring is captured in movement. The piece calls to memory the moment when winter’s harsh edges are starting to melt away and soft, delicate new life is beginning to blossom. 



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BraindDance(c) Interactive Performance


When: May 13, 2018

Where: E. Carroll Joyner Park (Performance Garden)

Time: 3:30-4:00pm


Come join us this Mother's Day at 3:30pm, prior to Six Sundays in Spring Concert, for a FAMILY FRIENDLY, FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC performance at Joyner Park's Performance Garden. Jody Fabso Cassell will lead you in BrainDance(c) developed by Anne Green Gilbert who was awarded the highest teaching award by the American Dance Festival in 2016.  BrainDance (c) is a way to move the body to wire the brain to become focused, energized, and prepared to meet the challenges of the day.  It is a fun and easy way to reduce stress and become capable of responding rather than reacting to people and events during the day.  It can be performed by all ages, either standing or seated. Come join! Jody will also lead a short demonstration in how a dance is built.
This performance is interactive with whomever wants to participate.

This event is sponsored by Wake Forest Dance Festival and the American Dance Festival.

Pedro Ruiz


Artistic Director/ Choreographer / Teacher / Dancer

Pedro Ruiz is a celebrated choreographer and dancer who was born and trained in Cuba, and later in Venezuela before coming to the US.  During his 21-year career with Ballet Hispanico as principal dancer, Ruiz choreographed three critically acclaimed ballets for the company — Club Havana (the company’s signature piece), Guajira and Cecilia. As a dancer,  Ruiz was distinguished with a Bessie Award, the New York Dance World’s highest honor.

Choreography credits include: Fire Island Dancers Responding to AIDS Dance Festival, Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance, Ballet Contemporaneo de Camagüey Cuba, Danza de Contemporanea de Cuba Havana, Danza del Alma Santa Clara Cuba, National Ballet School of Cuba, Ballet de Camagüey Cuba, The Joffrey Ballet, Luna Negra, The New Jersey Ballet, The Tribeca Performing Arts Center, The Jacob's Pillow Festival, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Opus Dance Theater, Nimbus Dance Works, the Italian international gala "Notte di Stelle," Il Piccolo Teatro dell’Opera, Alvin Ailey Summer Sizzler and Ailey Spring Concerts, Marymount Manhattan College, Ulster Ballet Company, President George Bush’s Birthday celebration, 50th Anniversary Gala of Goya with Tito Puente, and The Boston Conservatory. National television appearances include the CBS Sunday Morning Show, NBC’s “Hispanics Today,” “The Hispanic Heritage Awards,” a PBS “In The Life” series profile Pas de Deux, and WNET/13 documentary, Pedro Ruiz: Coming Home — an hour-long, Emmy-nominated film about Ruiz’s return to Cuba and his 2011 collaboration with the national Cuban dance company Danza Contemporanea de Cuba. For additional information on “Pedro Ruiz: Coming Home”, click here. Ruiz is on the dance faculty of Marymount College, the staff of The Ailey School, a master-class teacher of The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Pace University, Complexion Contemporary Ballet and Resident Artistic Director of the Arnhold Graduate Dance Education Program at Hunter. He has also taught master classes and performed throughout the United States, Europe, and Central and South America.In February 2010, Mr. Ruiz created “The Windows Project,” a groundbreaking endeavor celebrating the art of dance as a cultural bridge between the U.S. and Cuba. After 30 years Ruiz returned to his native land and was commissioned to create an original work, Horizonte, for Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, thus becoming the first Cuban-American ever to set a dance work on this national company. Horizonte had its world premiere in January 2011 at Teatro Mella in Havana. When Danza Contemporanea toured the U.S. in May 2011, Horizonte was featured in the company’s repertoire.In January 2012, Ruiz premiered his second commission for a Cuban dance company, El Camino, performed by Danza del Alma at Teatro Caridad in Santa Clara, Cuba. On March 17 of that year, Ruiz headlined the annual gala for The New Jersey Ballet with a new work, So Proudly We Hail — a fist-time collaboration between The New Jersey Ballet and the West Point Military Band.In 2013, Pedro Ruiz was commissioned to create a new collaboration with Ballet Contemporaneo Endedans of Camaguey, Cuba. Moments in the Wind premiered on January 24, 2014, at Teatro Principal in Camageuy as a part of a year-long series of cultural events planned to celebrate the beautiful colonial city’s 500th anniversary; and Moments in the Wind premiered to critical acclaim in Havana at Teatro Marti on July 18, 2014. On May 24, 2015, Ruiz premiered a new ballet in the Havana Biennial with principal dancer from Ballet Nacional de Cuba, Viengsay Valdes, as well as dancers from the school of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. In November 2014, Ruiz was officially appointed Associate artistic Director of Ballet Contemporaneo Endedans of Camagüey Cuba. In 2015/2016, Ruiz’s highly successful ballet, Club Havana was featured in Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance. And Ruiz’s celebrated poetic duet, Lasting Embrace, premiered in the US in July 2016 at the Dancers Responding to AIDS Dance Festival on Fire Island and at Marymount Manhattan College.

Awards include: The Bessie Award, the Choo-San Goh Award, The Cuban Artist’s Fund, The Joyce Foundation Award and The American Friends of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba. The FBI honored Ruiz for his Public Service during Hispanic Heritage Month Mr. Ruiz has performed at the White House for several presidents.


Jody Cassell


Jody Cassell is a Teaching and Performing Artist in dance, dancing storyteller, and children’s author of the book Where’s Leon? who has taught creative movement for those ranging in age from infant with parent to elders at 103.  She began her adventures in dance/theatre improvisation while a student at Connecticut College under the direction of Martha Myers, former Dean of the American Dance Festival and continues her ADF connections by teaching youth classes at the Samuel H. Scripps Studio.  She earned a MFA in Dance from New York University School of the Arts, NY and a MS in Dance/movement therapy from Hunter College of the City University of New York.  Jody now takes her sessions in the body/brain connection into work places to help people stay focused, refreshed and motivated throughout their work day.  Jody believes that the more movement possibilities we have, the more possibilities we have in life.  Visit Jody’s website:

Dallas Brown


Dallas studied music theory and composition at various institutions including UNC – Chapel Hill, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, and several private instructors. He has worked in audio recording since 2008. His interests lie in the world of synthesis, and he draws inspiration from modern ambient composers as well as West Coast pioneers.

Brianna Cooper

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Brianna holds a BFA in Dance Performance from East Carolina University. During her time at ECU she performed in several faculty works, student choreographed shows, at multiple ACDFA events, and with guest artists including Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and Madeline Reber. During her time at ECU and after graduating in 2011, she continued her training at the American Dance Festival. For two years she had the privilege to dance and work with La Bella Vita Arts based in Livorno, Italy. Currently, she performs with North Carolina based dance companies including Code f.a.d. Company, Natalie Marrone & The Dance Cure, and KT COLLECTIVE.

Brianna also has a passion for educating young dancers. She is currently the Jazz and Contemporary Company Director at Destiny Dance Institute, in addition to teaching and doing freelance choreography for other private studios throughout the region. She has also worked with undergraduate students as a guest instructor at The Tuscan Summer Dance Intensive and Duke University. When she is not dancing, Brianna works in group fitness and as a certified Pilates Instructor, and holds certifications from the American Council on Exercise as a Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer.

Sponsors sought for second season of the Wake Forest Dance Festival

Wake Forest Dance Festival is seeking SPONSORS and INDIVIDUAL DONORS for the second season of this free and open to the public Day of Dance. If you are interested in supporting this event please visit our SUPPORT page for more information:

SAVE THE DATE! SEPTEMBER 29, 2018. Come see what your donation helped accomplish!!!

Check out the highlights from last year's event!

Second Season for the Wake Forest Dance Festival

Over 800 audience members attended the event throughout the day. 

Over 800 audience members attended the event throughout the day. 

In her State of the Town speech the Mayor of the Town of Wake Forest, Vivian Jones, acknowledged the Wake Forest Dance Festival by stating:

"... I do want to mention one new event that began last year thanks to Wake Forest Arts. I hope you attended the Dance Festival.  Frankly, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and talent exhibited by all involved from the high school students to the professionals. I hope they will keep this going for 25 years like they have Six Sundays in Spring."

                                                                                                                    -Mayor Vivian Jones

Thank you Mayor Vivian Jones for the kind words of encouragement. The Wake Forest Dance Festival is thrilled and honored to announce that the planning for the second season is well underway. And we have many exciting things lining up already. 

This year the event will pay tribute to the American Dance Festival based in Durham, NC. Heralded as “One of the nation’s most important institutions” by the New York Times and as “The world’s greatest dance festival” by the New York Post, the American Dance Festival’s sustained record of creative achievement is indivisible from the history of modern dance. Since 1934, ADF has remained committed to serving the needs of dance, dancers, choreographers, and professionals in dance-related fields.

With ADF being such an integral part of the dance community here in North Carolina we will celebrate its contribution to the art of dance for over 84 years around the world, 40 years here in our North Carolina, and highlight ADF’s incredible lineage of dance history showcasing a diversity of genres, performers, choreographers and music.

Last year the Wake Forest Dance Festival was a great success, with over 800 audience members attending the inaugural event throughout the day, the festival was very well received by the community. We would like to express our most sincere gratitude to our sponsors and individual supporters, we have so generously contributed and supported the event. Thank you Wake Forest Arts, Town of Wake Forest Parks and Recreation, Dancing Angels Foundation, The Holding Family, Carol Norris Maddux, Youngsville Family who loves dance, Wege Foundation, Destiny Dance Institute, Dance ETC., Klok's School of Martial Arts, Wake Forest Academy of Fine Arts, and Holly Eisenhour.

Thank you to all the generous in-kind contributions. The event was a combination of efforts of many who gave their time and resources to make this day a reality. Thank you: Arrow Tree Boutique, B & W Hardware Store, Bright Funeral Home, Communicopia Marketing Services Inc., Dylan Powers, George Randy Bass Photography, Brueggers Bagels, Alex Dashkin, Gooey's American Grill, Maksym Kolotun Photography, Lemon Tree Cafe, Mary & Mak Boutique, Barbara Massenburg, Phillip Maddux, Palani Mohan, Ollie’s Cafe and Gifts, Page 158 Bookstore, Panera Bread, Will Roberts, Rosatis Pizza and Sports Pub, Strategic Insights, Wake Forest Birthplace Museum, Wine and Beer 101, and the Town of Wake Forest Women's Club.

We are so excited for the year 2018 and we hope that you will join us on September 29, 2018 for a day of dance! Until then please follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest news and updates. 

Modern Dance Master Class/Audition with Antonio Fini

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WHEN: March 15th, 2018

WHERE: 1839 S Main St # 370, Wake Forest, NC 27587

TIME: 4:15-5:45 Advanced Level students ages 14 and up

           5:45-7:15 Intermediate Level students ages 10 and up

COST: $20 cash per student

REGISTRATION: to register please email

DON'T MISS THIS UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY to study with an acclaimed dancer, teacher and director of the Fini Dance Festival, Antonio Fini! Presented by the Wake Forest Dance Festival and hosted by Destiny Dance Institute, the master class will focus on modern dance technique. Advanced students may also audition for the summer intensive in Villapiana, Italy.

LIMITED SCHOLARSHIPS will be awarded by the Fini Dance Festival and the Dancing Angels Foundation for the program.

Antonio Fini is an Italian born modern dancer, choreographer, and director. Antonio has performed with the Martha Graham Dance Company and Graham II, Eric Hawkins Dance Company, Kosovo Ballet, Staten Island Ballet, Boca Ballet Theatre, Mare Nostrum Elements, and Michael Mao Dance, with whom he has performed as principal dancer since 2011. In 2011, he created Alto Jonio Dance Festival in Villapiana, Calabria to provide exceptional dancers in Italy the opportunity to perform with established companies in New York. In 2013, Antonio expanded his vision by founding the Italian International Dance Award, which recognizes phenomenal Italian and international dancers for their accomplishments. In 2014 Alto Jonio was transformed into Fini Dance Festival with the mission of establishing greater connections between dancers in New York and Italy. The festivals have been listed as one of the top summer dance festivals in the United States (Dance Informa) and Europe (Ballet 2000). Furthering his mission to unite the international dance community, Antonio has developed a dance competition and mentorship program for television called The Audition. Distributed in partnership with Delta Star Pictures, the show will premiere in 2018 on Amazon Prime.

For more information please go to:

Jasmine Powell

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Jasmine Powell is a dance artist of the community from Hillsborough, NC.  Locally trained, her performance career began with Durham's Collage Dance Company, then moved to join Dance Diaspora, and Philadanco! where she studied, performed and choreographed original work. She continued exploring art and its meaning with a B.A. from Oberlin College, and M.F.A. from Hollins University in collaboration with the American Dance Festival, and Frankfurt University for Music and Performing Arts. Jasmine enjoys the pleasure of having performed original work by Dianne McIntyre, KT Niehoff, Milton Myers, and more. As an artist surrounding herself with the creation of visual, and choreographic art, Jasmine does not exclude the art of nature, culture, teaching, learning, and listening. Currently, she is on the Performing Arts faculty at Cary Academy where she brings cultural history into the dance curriculum with multiple forms. She is a member of COMPANY and KT Collective Dance Company in addition to creating her own aesthetic choreography locally and regionally through performances and workshops. As research inquiries fuel her passion, Jasmine is thankful to have learned the value in exploring the organic movement of the body’s personal story and is investigating genre-crossing dance as the inquiry to how opposite embodied features reside in each other.