Our students learn in a welcoming and non-competitive environment from faculty and musicians who are experts in their fields. We invite you to read their bios below!
SUMMER DROP-INS ARE TAUGHT BY 6 WEEK SCHOOL FACULTY, bios found here.
Suzanne Beahrs is a Durham-based modern dancer, teacher, and choreographer. She loves teaching multiple styles of dance to both children and adults (especially modern, ballet, and creative movement). She is an adjunct professor in Dance at Elon University and teaches at multiple studios around the Triangle. In New York City, she has taught at Dance New Amsterdam, Gibney Dance Center, Mark Morris Dance Center, Dancewave, and others. With her company, Suzanne Beahrs Dance, she has shown work and performed at venues throughout New York City, including at Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, Judson Church, the 92nd St. Y, and Danspace Project, as well as in Boston, San Francisco, and Tempe, AZ. Suzanne received her MFA in Dance from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and her BA in Geology from UC Berkeley. suzannebeahrs.org
Jody Cassell has been dancing since age four. She is a dancing storyteller, teaching artist in dance, and author of the children’s book Where’s Leon? She earned a Master of Fine Arts in Dance from NYU School of the Arts and Master of Science in Dance/Movement Therapy from Hunter College in NY. Her dance and theater work started with Martha Myers, Dean Emeritus of the American Dance Festival. She performs for young children and families with her Dancing Stories! Stories Come Alive! programs and she performs the quirks of life in her Dancing Stories for Adults! Ms. Cassell served as a Master Artist with Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts from 2003-2013. Jody also provides movement for well-being workshops in retirement and memory care facilities. Her current offerings include movement interludes to help those stranded in all-day meetings to stay focused, engaged, and motivated, as well as programs to help caregivers care for themselves. Photo by Catharine Carter.
Gerri Houlihan began her professional training at the Juilliard School, studying with Antony Tudor, Alfredo Corvino, and members of the Martha Graham and Jose Limon dance companies. She performed with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and the Paul Sanasardo Dance Company and spent five years as a soloist with the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company touring extensively throughout the United States and Europe. Ms. Houlihan has taught or choreographed for such institutions as N. Y.’s High School of the Performing Arts, the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, the Bates Dance Festival, the Boston Ballet, the Harvard Summer Dance Center, Meredith College, the University of South Florida, North Carolina School of the Arts, the University of Richmond, the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and Virginia Commonwealth University. From 1984-1987 she directed her own school and company, the Boston Dance Project. She was one of five finalists in the Boston Ballet’s International Choreography Competition. From 1988-1999, Ms. Houlihan was on the faculty of New World School of the Arts in Miami, Florida. During that time, she was also the artistic director of Houlihan and Dancers. The recipient of two Florida Individual Artist Fellowships in Dance/Choreography in 1991-92 and 1996-97, Houlihan and Dancers was on the touring roster for the state of Florida. She is on the advisory board for the American Dance Festival and the American College Dance Association. Ms. Houlihan has been on the faculty of the American Dance Festival from 1981-1983, and from 1987 to the present. As an international representative for ADF she has participated in eighteen international linkages, teaching in Korea, China, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Estonia, Poland, the Philippines, Moscow and Mongolia. She is the 2005 recipient of the Balasaraswati Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching from ADF, and a 2012 recipient of the Pearl S. Tyner Distinguished Professor in Teaching Award from Florida State University. She received her MFA degree in 2007 from the Hollins University/American Dance Festival MFA program.
Stephanie Leathers is a choreographer, photographer, educator, artist, and Durham native. She holds an MA in Dance Theories and Practices and a BA in Dance from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Stephanie previously studied dance at Columbia College Chicago, Giordano Dance Chicago, Lou Conte Dance, and the Paul Taylor School. Stephanie is a former member of Elojes Dance Theater (NYC) and John Gamble Dance Theater (Greensboro, NC). She has also had the pleasure of performing with Mark Dendy, David Dorfman Dance (in underground), Gerri Houlihan, Kirby Reed, and B.J. Sullivan. In addition to connecting to and collaborating with members of the community, she is the curator of Sunday SITES, a site-responsive investigation on the theme of development. Currently, Stephanie is a dance educator for ADF’s Studios and Durham Public Schools. Photo by Chris Cherry
Gaspard Louis was born and raised in Haiti. His performance experience includes touring with the cutting-edge and internationally-renowned Pilobolus Dance Theater. In addition to performing, touring, and teaching globally with Pilobolus, he collaborated on nine major dance works during this formative decade with the company. He has also choreographed for Freespace Dance Company in New Jersey and Kentucky University Dance Ensemble. He is the founder and Artistic Director of Gaspard&Dancers and currently directs the American Dance Festival’s year-round creative movement outreach program, ADF Project Dance, which provides free dance classes to Triangle-area youth.
Allie Pfeffer is a North Carolina native who relocated to Durham from New York City in 2014. She holds a BFA with Honors from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Allie was a founding member of RedCurrant Collective in NY, where she collaborated with other artists on all aspects of dance production from writing grants to hanging lights to creating and performing. Her work has been presented at LaMaMa Moves Festival and at Gibney Dance Center, both in New York. She is currently preparing to present her first evening length work in Durham in February as part of the 3rd DIDA season. She also teaches at Ninth Street Dance. Recently she has been performing with Gerri Houlihan, Stephanie Woodbeck, and Renay Aumiller Dances (RAD).
Meg Poe is dedicated to health and happiness thru movement and mindful living. She is a Duke-certified Integrative Health Coach, a Registered Yoga Teacher, and a certified Pilates instructor with a Masters degree in Exercise Physiology from UNC-Chapel Hill. She has been directly involved in educating and training students in the integration of mindful, healthy movement for over 25 years. A dedicated student comments, “Meg is a skillful practitioner herself and a masterful teacher who knows how to create an atmosphere that is relaxed, respectful, meditative, yet informal and fun. There is no pressure to perform or compete – students are free to adapt the exercises, with Meg’s guidance, to their own abilities and needs.” PoeWellnessSolutions.com.
Susan Saenger is a Board Certified Dance/Movement Therapist, a licensed professional counselor in the State of North Carolina, and a certified personal health and fitness trainer. Susan began dancing when she was just 5 years old and had the formative privilege to be exposed to creative movement at that early age. As a child she spent years studying ballet and modern dance. As an adult she continued her exploration into African Dance, Tai Chi and Yoga. From 1990-1992 Susan performed with Orts Theatre of Dance in Tucson AZ. From 1997-2007, Susan was a member of Choreo Collective, a Triangle-based collective for dancers and choreographers, serving as Treasurer and, later, as Co-Director. She helped produce at least 20 programs of original choreography over 10 years. In 2011, Susan took the Mark Morris Dance for PD teacher training. She began teaching Dance for Parkinson’s with Lindsay Voorhees in 2014.
Marsha Thomas has a BFA from East Carolina University and a Professional Diploma from Laban Centre London. Her work as a dancer and choreographer has appeared with the Queen City Jazz Company and Blank Slate Dance Company. After graduation Marsha worked and studied dance with the American Dance Festival and Bates Dance Festival for several years, received an Early Childhood Teaching Certificate, and began her journey of creating movement programs for young children. She has taught dance in the Triangle area, including Dancentre, 9th Street Dance, and City Ballet. Currently she is a dance teacher at ADF’s Studios, North Carolina Dance Institute, Pilates teacher at the National Humanities Center, and the Movement and Yoga teacher at her daughter’s preschool. Marsha is excited to work and present her choreography with the Tobacco Road Dance Productions in it’s third season. Today Marsha owes her endless learning of love, process, and growth to her friends and family, and 3 lovely spirits who in their own beings can be seen as an eagle, a bunny, and a sunshine lion.
Lindsay Voorhees is an occupational therapist (OTR/L), currently working on the spinal cord team at WakeMed Rehab in Raleigh. Trained in ballet from middle school through college, Lindsay has continued to expand her dance repertoire, choreograph, and teach in various capacities, including repertory groups and a therapeutic camp setting for children with serious emotional and behavioral disorders. She believes that, as an embodied creative art, dance has great potential to positively impact mental and physical health, and she is committed to making dance accessible to everyone. Lindsay has been leading the Dance for Parkinson’s program with Susan Saenger since 2014.
Katya Wesolowski has been practicing capoeira for over twenty years. As a member of Abadá-Capoeira, one of the largest capoeira organizations in the world, she has trained with top ranking Brazilian instructors in Brazil, New York, and California. She has performed in various venues including the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, and has been teaching capoeira to adults and children since 2005. Wesolowski also has a PhD in Anthropology and currently teaches in the Cultural Anthropology Department and Dance Program at Duke University.
Ronald West is a graduate of the North Carolina State University / College of Design / School of Architecture and received a Bachelor’s Degree in 2007 for Environmental Design in Architecture. Ronald was mentored and trained under Kirstie Spadie of the North Carolina Dance Institute on a full scholarship while attending the College of Design. He has studied and danced as a company member of the Black Box Dance Theater lead by Artistic Curator, Michelle Pearson; an adjunct company member at the Dance Exchange in Washington D.C. lead by artistic director, Cassie Meador; and has studied at ‘The PULSE’ student and teacher workshops in Atlanta and New York. A natural study, Ronald began assisting six months into his training and went on to teach by the end of his first year. He continues to define and explore a vast range of movement in his classes, in which cutting edge contemporary, hip hop and jazz styles are explored, while his professional work pushes social boundaries with avant garde ideology and uses language, both verbal and nonverbal, to connect to each dancer and audience member. His work has been dubbed “lexi-ography” conceptually, while the movement is progressively athletic, compelling and innovative. To add, he has danced professionally in Modern Dance works, both locally and nationally, under choreographers Diego Carrasco Schoch, Kate Davis, Courtney Greer, Justin Tornow, Killian Manning and Michelle Pearson. He has had works featured and selected in the North Carolina Dance Festival, the Durham Independent Dance Artists premiere season, the North Carolina State University, the upcoming independent documentary, Earth Caster, about the life of Thomas Sayre and has partnered with the North Carolina Symphony. Internationally and most recently Ronald traveled with two colleagues in April 2016 to China to work as a diplomat of the U.S. State Department with an overarching theme of disabilities advocacy to truly use dance as a universal language and test the powers of connection with dancers, special needs children and everyday citizens. He has become one of North Carolina’s most sought after choreographers and master teachers within the University System, dance studio circuit, public and private school systems and he continues to broaden his palette by branching into the commercial music video scene, including choreography for vocalist: Jean Morisson, musician: Sean Magee, the band: Citizen Shade and most recently adding Rupaul’s Drag Race All-Star: Ginger Minj for her debut album.
Beyond choreographing for the previously mentioned, in 2011, Ronald founded BLACK IRISH. BLACK IRISH is focused on the generation of innovative movement, visual design and conceptual content, while utilizing connections with other progressive artists in all genres of the arts, with the simultaneous intent of bringing the dance and greater community together through the love of dance, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. To date, BLACK IRISH has partnered with the band, Citizen Shade; videographer, Michelle Lotker; hand pan musician, Jeremy Lewis; bass guitarist, Ian O’Hare; Jewelry Designer, Rock Kershaw; videographer, Griffin Hart Davis; fashion designer, Kate Erwin; choreographer, Michelle Pearson; videographer, Clark Ivers; and Cellist, Justin Mackey.