2019 faculty bios–check back regularly for updates!
Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie
Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie, a 2016 Bessie Award Winner for Innovative Achievement in Dance, is a New York City based B-girl, dancer and choreographer. As artistic director of Ephrat Asherie Dance (EAD) she has presented work at the Apollo Theater, FiraTarrega, Jacob’s Pillow, New York Live Arts, Summerstage, and the Yard, among others. Ephrat has received numerous awards to support her work including a Mondo Cane! commission from Dixon Place, a Creative Development Residency from Jacob’s Pillow, Workspace and Extended Life Residencies from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, a Travel and Study Grant from the Jerome Foundation and two residencies through the CUNY Dance Initiative. Her first evening length work, A Single Ride, received two Bessie nominations in 2012 for Outstanding Emerging Choreographer and Outstanding Sound Design by Marty Beller. Most recently Ephrat received a National Dance Project award to support the development and touring of her newest work, Odeon, set to premiere at Jacob’s Pillow in the summer of 2018. Ephrat is a regular guest artist with Dorrance Dance and has worked and collaborated with Doug Elkins, Rennie Harris, Bill Irwin, David Parsons, Gus Solomons Jr and Buddha Stretch, among others. Ephrat has been on faculty at Wesleyan University and set pieces for students at Smith College, SUNY Brockport, Alvin Ailey Dance Center, University of Texas Rio Grande and Texas Tech University. Ephrat teaches at Broadway Dance Center and is a co-founding member of the all-female house dance collective, MAWU. She earned her BA from Barnard College, Columbia University in Italian and her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she researched the vernacular jazz dance roots of contemporary street and club dances.
Photo credit: Demetrius Fordham
Ronald k. brown/EVIDENCE, A dance company
Founded by Ronald K. Brown in 1985 and based in Brooklyn, New York, EVIDENCE, A DANCE COMPANY focuses on the fusion of African dance with contemporary choreography and spoken word. This work provides a unique view of human struggles, tragedies, and triumphs. Brown uses movement as a way to reinforce the importance of community in African American culture and to acquaint audiences with the beauty of African forms and rhythms. Evidence tours to some 30 communities in the United States annually.
Taught by: Arcell Cabuag (Associate Artistic Director) & Shayla Caldwell (Assistant Rehearsal Director)
Photo credit: Matt Karas
LEAH COX (Dean)
Leah Cox is an educator, performer, and choreographer. In addition to being Dean of the American Dance Festival, Cox holds the position of Term Associate Professor at Bard College. Leah is an avid educator, teaching classes for all ages and levels of ability nationwide. She has been on faculty at the American Dance Festival, Peridance, and Dance New Amsterdam and is a master teacher and adjudicator for YoungArts. Cox worked with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company in various capacities from 2001 to 2014. She began as a company dancer, briefly occupied the role of rehearsal assistant, became the company’s first education director, launching its education programs, and regularly reconstructed the company’s works on students and professional dancers. When the company merged with Dance Theater Workshop to form New York Live Arts, Cox continued in her education capacity, developing Live Arts’ education programs. Most notably, she oversaw the six-year partnership between Live Arts and Bard College. Her choreography has been presented in New York City at the 92nd Street Y, Dixon Place, the DUMBO Dance Festival, and the CoolNY Festival, in addition to other locations beyond NYC. Cox is inspired by the way that her teaching, performing, and creative practices inform one another and provide a richly layered perspective on dance as it functions in contemporary culture.
Photo credit: Grant Halverson.
Jack Ferver is a New York based writer, choreographer, and director. His genre defying performances, which have been called “so extreme that they sometimes look and feel like exorcisms” (The New Yorker), blur boundaries between fantastic theatrics and stark naturalism, character and self, humor and horror. The critically acclaimed artist has been presented throughout New York City, most recently at New York Live Arts, as well as domestically and internationally. Ferver is a recipient of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant. He teaches at Bard College. As an actor, he has appeared in numerous films and television series. www.jackferver.org
Photo credit: Scott Shaw
K.J. Holmes is an independent dance artist, singer, poet, actor, and director based in Brooklyn, New York. Holmes has helped to define, first as a student and now as a teacher and performer, many contemporary improvisational practices. She collaborated extensively with Simone Forti, Karen Nelson, Lisa Nelson and Image Lab, and Steve Paxton, among many others. Her solo and ensemble performance work has been presented in New York City as well as nationally and internationally. K.J. is a graduate of the 2 year Sanford Meisner acting training at the William Esper Studio in New York City, with master teacher Terry Knickerbocker (2009), a certified yoga teacher through Satya Yoga, teacher Sondra Loring (2007), and a graduate of The School for Body-Mind Centering, BMC (1999). As a sought-after teacher of contact improvisation, somatic approaches to dance, theater and voice, composition and other improvisational devices, K.J. has been adjunct professor at New York University/Experimental Theatre Wing since 2001, at The Juilliard School since 2015, Sarah Lawrence College since 2017, and has been teaching through Movement Research, where she was an Artist in Residence 1993 and 2012, since 1986. She has a private practice in Dynamic Alignment and Re-integration and offers private movement tutoring, voice and yoga sessions. K.J. is currently developing her work HIC SVNT DRACONES, has performed most recently with Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People, Xavier Le Roy and in The Works of Steve Paxton, was cast in Matthew Barney’s new film Redoubt, as well as in the videos of Cristiane Bouger, Dylan Stephen Levers and in Casting Calls, The Project.
Photo credit: Rosalie O’Connor
raja feather kelly
Nia Love’s career spans forty years, beginning in 1978 when she became one of the youngest international apprentices with Havana’s world-renowned Ballet Nacional de Cuba. In 1986, Love studied Butoh and toured with celebrated Japanese Butoh master Min Tanaka. She received her B.F.A.in Theater from Howard University (1987) and an M.F.A. in Choreography from Florida State University (1992). A Fulbright Fellow (2002-03), a Brooklyn Arts Exchange/BAX Artist-In-Residence (2011-12, 2013-14), and a Movement Research Artist-in-Residence (2016-17). Love received the New York Live Arts Suitcase Fund (2013-14), the Alvin Ailey New Directions Lab Choreographer Award (2013-14), the CUNY Dance Initiative (2014-15), a Bessies award for the Most Outstanding Performer (2017) as part of the ensemble of Skeleton Architecture, and the CUNY Incubator Grant (2018-19). Currently BAX Racial Equity Advisor, and Adjunct Professor at Queens College, Hunter College and The New School. In Spring 2018, she was the Movement Research Exchange Guest Artist/Lecturer UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Culture/Dance. In Fall 2018, she will be a guest professor at BARD College, and in Winter 2019 a visiting professor at University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign.
Photo credit: Rhonda Haynes
johnnie cruise mercer
Johnnie Cruise Mercer (a native of Richmond, Virginia, a BFA graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Dance and Choreography) is a maker, freelance-performer, community educator, and artistic entrepreneur based in New York City. As the Choreographic/Company Director of Johnnie Cruise Mercer/TheREDprojectNYC, his work has been presented/commissioned/shared at The Center for Performance Research-CPR, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD!), The Dance Place of DC, Gibney: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center, Judson Church Movement Research, The Bolls Theater of Detroit, The Jamaica Performing Arts Center, 92Y Harkness Dance Center, The Billie Holiday Theater (RestorationARTS), Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX), NYU Skirball’s AUNTS, the NADA Conference, as well as recently at the 2018 Fusebox Festival where he received the 2018 Austin Critics Table Award for Best Toured Performance 2018. As an artistic leader/educator, Mr. Mercer facilitates and teaches within the New York Public School system through The Leadership Program- a mentorship based organization that uses art to foster/engage restorative justice, and motivate the true empowerment of self. Mercer has also been on teaching faculty/a guest artist at The American Dance Festival, Bates Dance Festival, NYU Tisch Summer Dance Program, Gibney, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Desales University, Muhlenburg College, and the University of Texas at Austin (in residence as their 2016 Vangaurd Choreographer). Johnnie is currently a 2018 Choreoquest AIR at RestorationARTS, and an inaugural recipient of 2018 Partnership Residency at the Stephen Petronio Residency Center (in collaboration with Danspace and DanceForceNYC). www.trpnyc.com
Photo credit: Jonathon Hsu
Jennifer Nugent danced with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company from 2009-2014 and David Dorfman Dance from 1999-2007, receiving a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie) for her work in the company. She has also performed with Martha Clarke, Lisa Race, Doug Elkins, Bill Young, Colleen Thomas, Kate Weare, Barbara Sloan and Dale Andre. Jennifer’s teaching and dancing is inspired by all her teachers and mentors, most profoundly by Daniel Lepkoff, Wendall Beavers, Gerri Houlihan, David Dorfman, Bill T. Jones, Janet Wong, Wendy Woodson, and Patty Townsend. Jennifer is currently a guest faculty at Sarah Lawrence College, teaches regularly at Gibney Dance and Movement Research NYC, and has been a guest artist at numerous universities and dance festivals.
Photo credit: Jim Coleman
rokafella & kwikstep
Ana “Rokafella” Garcia is a New York City native who has represented women in hip-hop dance professionally over the past two decades. She has taught workshops at NYU, Queens College, MIT, UMASS, and Howard, as well as at neighborhood high schools and community centers. Presently, she is an artist in residence at the American Tap Dance Foundation, an Adjunct Professor at The New School, and a DANCE NYC Annual Symposium planning committee member. She co-founded Full Circle Prod Inc, NYC’s only non-profit break dance theater company, with her husband, veteran b-boy Kwikstep, generating theater pieces, original poetry, and New York City-based dance related events. She directed a documentary highlighting the b-girl lifestyle entitled All the Ladies Say with support from the Ford Foundation and performs music based on her experiences growing up in hip-hop’s Mecca. She is hired internationally to judge break dance competitions based on her mastery of the classic hip-hop dance style, and she teaches unique workshops aimed at evolving and preserving its technical aspects. She has worked within the New York City public school system exposing young students to the possibility of a career in dance. In May of 2017, she launched Shiroka, a t-shirt fashion line, with Shiro, a Japanese graffiti writer. She has been featured in pivotal rap music videos, tours, films, and commercials and has choreographed for diverse festivals and concerts such as Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Momma’s Hip-Hop Kitchen, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Rokafella is a multi-faceted hip-hop artist who references street and Latino culture as her foundation.
Gabriel “Kwikstep” Dionisio, aka DJ KS 360, started dancing between the ages of 6 and 7 influenced by Soul Train and block parties in New York City. He has taught highly sought-after workshops in breaking techniques at the Broadway Dance Center, Red Bull Beat Riders, and Red Bull BC One. For over 20 years, Kwikstep has taught workshops in New York public schools and libraries and colleges across the country in an effort to make students aware of hip-hop lifestyle and fundamental movement as well as the history and meaning behind hip-hop culture. Kwikstep has performed in PBS’s Peabody Award-winning Everybody Dance Now, the Great Performances 20th-anniversary special, and Kurt Weill’s September Songs, which was nominated for an Emmy Award. In 1991 he won a “Bessie” award for choreography and founded the internationally known Full Circle in 1992. In 1996 Kwikstep and his wife Rokafella established Full Circle as a non-profit hip-hop collective known as Full Circle Productions Inc, and its members are known as Full Circle Souljahs. Today he is an international icon in breaking and is best known for his smooth style, versatility, and signature head spins. He was also an original founding member and principal dancer in companies such as Rhythm Technicians and GhettOriginal which were the creators of Jam on the Groove, nominated for a Drama Desk Award in 1996. In 2002 he, along with his wife, wrote, choreographed, and directed a hip-hop theater piece called Soular Powerd, which ran to sold-out audiences for 3 weeks at the New Victory Theater. Kwikstep and his wife wrote, choreographed, and directed a new hip-hop theater piece commissioned by the Kennedy Center called Outside The BachX. Most recently, in the fall of 2017, Kwikstep was Associate Director and Choreographer for a hip-hop theater piece, Syncing Ink, directed by Niegel Smith which ran at the Flea Theater.
Learn more on www.fullcirclesouljahs.com. Follow them on Twitter: @FULLCIRCLESOUL
Melissa Toogood is a Bessie Award winning performer. She was a member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, has taught Cunningham Technique internationally since 2007 and is a 2013 & 2015 Merce Cunningham Fellow. Melissa is an official stager for the Merce Cunningham Trust, having staged his work on institutions such as the Stephen Petronio Company, The Washington Ballet, Vail Dance Festival, and Bard College. She currently performs with Pam Tanowitz Dance where she also serves as Rehearsal Director, and Assistant to the Choreographer on many projects. She has performed with Abraham.In.Motion, Kimberly Bartosik, Wally Cardona & Jennifer Lacey, Michelle Dorrance, Rosie Herrera Dance Theater, Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener, Miro Dance Theater, Stephen Petronio Company, Sally Silvers, Christopher Williams, The Bang Group:Tap Lab, Bill Young and others.
Photo credit: Chad Kamenshine
Whitson is an LA/NYC is a gender nonconforming interdisciplinary artist, “Bessie” Award winning performer (skeleton architecture), and writer, referred to as “majestic” and “magnetic” by The New York Times, and recognized by Brooklyn Magazine as a culture influencer. Through a global, critical intersection of gender, sexuality, race, and spirit, they engage a nexus of transdisciplinary and African diasporic performance practices in street, sacred, and conceptual performance. Whitson is a 2018 MAP Fund awardee and Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center Fellow Candidate. Additional residencies and fellowships include Camargo, Dance in Process at Gibney, Hedgebrook, LMCC Process Space, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Movement Research, Bogliasco Fellowship with commissions including St. Mark’s Church at Danspace, American Realness and Vision festivals, ICA Philadelphia, and recent support from Mertz Gilmore and Jerome Foundations. As a noted innovating practitioner of the Theatrical Jazz Aesthetic, Treinel in Capoeira Angola, and accomplished improviser, Whitson performs nationally with renowned musicians, including a close collaborative partnership with Douglas Ewart of the AACM. Other collaborations include experimental and conventional theater, music, and performance with Cynthia Oliver, Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, Virginia Grise, Sharon Bridgforth, Byron Au Yong, and Aaron Jafferis. Whitson received an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a second MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College, receiving merit and artist awards at both. They are the founder/artistic director of The NWA Project and an assistant professor of experimental choreography at University of California at Riverside. www.nijawhitson.com
Photo credit: Ian Douglas
abby z and the new utility
Abby Z and the New Utility creates works that pay homage to the effort of living, tactics of survival, and the aesthetics produced as a result, citing choreographer Abby Zbikowski’s practice of Afro-Diasporic dance forms such as hip-hop, tap, and West African, and punk music/aesthetics/values as major influences on her sensibilities. The company was founded in 2012 with core company members Fiona Lundie and Jennifer Meckley to experiment with the potential and choreographic possibility of the body being pushed beyond its perceived limits, as well as to create a new movement lexicon that works towards triangulating dancing/moving bodies across multiple cultural value systems simultaneously. Their work together has focused on reclaiming the brutal rigor that goes into the practice and performance of hyper physical movement forms by shifting the mindset of the labor away from product and repositioning the choreographic work as a vehicle for transformation that welcomes failure as an inevitability on the path to growth. In 2017, Abby Zbikowski was the recipient of the 2017 Juried “Bessie” award for choreography. Visit www.abbyznewutility.org for more info.
Photo credit: Ian Douglas
Jesse Zaritt is a Brooklyn, NY based dance artist. He is an Assistant Professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA, having previously been the inaugural 2014-2016 Research Fellow in the University’s School of Dance. Jesse has performed his solo work in Taiwan, Uruguay, Russia, Korea, Germany, New York, Japan, Mexico, Israel and throughout the United States. His solo ‘Binding’ is the recipient of three 2010 New York Innovative Theater Awards: Outstanding Choreography, Outstanding Solo Performance, and Outstanding Performance Art Production.
In 2017, Jesse presented work in San Diego as a commissioned choreographer and solo performer in the youTurn Arts performance series. Jesse worked collaboratively with choreographer Jumatatu Poe from 2012-2015; their evening length duet was presented by Gibney Dance Center in New York City in October 2015. Their work was also shown at AUX Performance Space (Vox Populi) and Fringe Arts in Philadelphia (PA) and at the Baryshnikov Arts Center (through the sponsorship of Triple Canopy), Dixon Place and New York Live Arts (through the Studio Series Program) in New York City. A duet created in collaboration with choreographer Katie Swords premiered at the Museum of Art and Design in New York City in Late October 2015. Jesse was commissioned by the American Dance Festival to create a duet with choreographer Mark Haim which premiered as part of the 2015 ADF performance season.
From September 2008 through June 2011, Jesse was an artist in residence at the 14th Street Y in Manhattan as part of LABA, a laboratory for new Jewish culture. He was the recipient of a 2006-2007 Dorot Fellowship in Israel which enabled him to study the relationship between political conflict and choreography. Jesse was a performer with the Shen Wei Dance Arts Company (NYC/2001-2006), the Inbal Pinto Dance Company (Tel Aviv/2008), and in the work of Netta Yerushalmy (NYC/2009-2016). Jesse has also performed in the work of Faye Driscoll (NYC/2010-2015) and works as an artistic adviser for her current projects. Jesse currently works in creative dialogue with Sara Shelton Mann.
Jesse has taught at Bard College (NY), the American Dance Festival (NC), Hollins University (VA) and Pomona College (CA), as well as at schools and festivals in Taiwan, Uruguay, Mexico, Japan, Korea, and Russia. Jesse received an MFA in Dance from Hollins University/The American Dance Festival (2008) and a BA from Pomona College (2000).
Photo credit: Olivia Blaisdell
jawole willa jo zollar
After earning her B.A. in dance from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, she received her M.F.A. in dance from Florida State University. In 1984 Jawole founded Urban Bush Women (UBW) as a performance ensemble dedicated to exploring the use of cultural expression as a catalyst for social change. Jawole developed a unique approach to enable artists to strengthen effective involvement in cultural organizing and civic engagement, which evolved into UBW’s acclaimed Summer Leadership Institute. She serves as director of the Institute, founding artistic director and visioning partner of UBW and currently holds the position of the Nancy Smith Fichter Professor of Dance and Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor at Florida State University.
2008 United States Artists Wynn fellowship, 2009 fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial, 2013 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award. 2014 Meadows Prize from Southern Methodist University, the 2015 Dance Magazine Award, 2016 Dance/USA Honor Award, 2017 Bessies Lifetime Achievement Award.