About Us > Instructors
Christiana Barnett-Murphy Christiana Barnett-Murphy has had a passion for dance since childhood, studying ballet, modern, and other dance styles. She began dancing professionally while in high school with 2 Near the Edge Dance Company and has also performed in works by Andrea E. Woods Valdes and Dendy Dance Theater. During the summers of 2012 and 2013, Christiana was the personal assistant to ADF faculty member, Jesse Zaritt. Christiana was also the recipient of the 2013 Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artists Grant. She has taught dance to students of all ages at local studios.
ShaLeigh Comerford holds a Masters degree in Visual and Performing Arts and toured with the Roanoke Ballet Theatre of Virginia. She lived for several years in New York City, where she danced with Tina Croll and Company and apprenticed with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane. In 2005, she formed ShaLeigh Dance Works, a dance-theatre company dedicated to creating socially conscious works. ShaLeigh has just returned from Israel, where she studied Gaga technique with Ohad Naharin and the Batsheva Dance Company
Christina Conley began dancing at age three, focussing her training on jazz, tap, and modern. She holds a BA in modern dance from the George Washington University and is certified in yoga, Pilates mat, and Pilates apparatus. Christina has taught in the Triangle since 2006 and has performed with Killian Manning, Ava Vinesett, for the UNC-G graduate dance department, and recently at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. She also practices massage therapy in Chapel Hill.
Darlene Downing is a certified Blue and Green Belt Nia® instructor who discovered Nia in late 2008. She has had a personal commitment to fitness and health most of her adult life, and thought she’d tried just about everything! Hearing about Nia in a conversation with a stranger at a bookstore one day, she decided to try a class. After experiencing it for herself, it became clear she wanted to share Nia with others. She is extremely grateful for the balance, peace, and healing that the practice has given her, and has a heart-felt desire to guide others on their path of health and well-being.
Michelle "LaRubia" Draughon has trained with Latino professionals from all over the country and has been teaching since 1993; she has appeared in hundreds of events and on local television.
Kat Folckomer discovered modern dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and continued on to earn her BFA with Honors in Dance at Hollins University. Throughout her time at Hollins she had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of international artists and was an active member of the Hollins Repertory Dance Company. After graduating she moved to Durham, NC to work for the American Dance Festival and has taught at the Samuel H. Scripps ADF Studios and Ninth Street Dance. Currently, she teaches modern technique and Bikram Yoga throughout the Triangle and continues to make collaborative work with fellow artists of NC.
Whitney Goodman grew up dancing, and spent ten years performing nationally and abroad with the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble under the direction of Gene Medler. She currently teaches high school in Durham and dances with Footnotes Tap Ensemble. She loves to teach and spread her passion for tap - a beautiful and expressive American art form!
Beth Hoke started dancing with tap and ballet classes at the age of four and got her first taste of partner dancing at age six. She has studied and taught a wide variety of partner dance styles, including ballroom, swing, salsa, shag, and country western. Beth says she is never happier than when dancing, and her friendly, upbeat and encouraging teaching style ensures that her students leave class with smiles on their faces.
LeBrandi Johnson began dancing at age 5 and continued through high school and college. She performed African and multi-cultural dance with DanceVisions and La Raza de mil Colores at NCSU, and guest performed with the Duke University Dance Ensemble and with Ron K. Brown at the Kennedy Center. LeBrandi teaches hip-hop, AfroFusion and preschool dance.
Alicia and Eduardo Lazarowski moved to the US from their native Argentina US in 1986. They have studied both tango and teaching technique with some of the most renowned tango Maestros, and have danced at some of the most legendary milongas in Buenos Aires. Alicia and Eduardo have performed around NC since 2007 and are very active in the local tango community, Triangle Tango. Check out their website here.
Amy Levine has enjoyed dancing since childhood and studied at Washington University in St. Louis and University College in London. She has taught children and adults for 11 years.
Laylianah Mahasin has been devoted to the art of Belly Dance for over 11 years. She has studied many styles of belly dance with world-renowned instructors, and is excited to share her knowledge and passion with her students. Laylianah emphasizes the importance of correct technique, while providing a fun and supportive atmosphere for students who are just discovering what amazing belly dancers they can be!
Kurren Mehta has studied Indian dance for over six years and is a member of the Duke Bhangra team.
Nicolette (Nicki) Miller studied ballet, tap, and jazz as a young girl and later focused primarily on ballet and modern. She studied at the Virginia School of the Arts and at the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Conservatory of Music and Dance. Nicki has performed with several Triangle-area dance companies, including ShaLeigh Dance Works.
Bryant Newsome has been teaching hip-hop since 2010 and is president/captain of the urban dance crew, Toxic Rhythm.
Danielle Oldziey studied ballet with renowned teachers such as Gelsey Kirkland, Cynthia Gregory and Cynthia Harvey and has danced professionally in Seattle, WA, as well as in North Carolina. She holds a BA in Dance from Winthrop University, a Zumba and Zumbatomic licensure, and is an ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor. Danielle has extensive experience teaching preschool and has her Early Childhood Education Certification for the state of North Carolina.
Lauren Proctor has pursued a love of dance for over twenty years. Recently certified as a Pilates Mat instructor, she has been studying the Pilates method for nearly a decade and feels that its many benefits are ideal for the well-being of both dancers and non-dancers.
McDaniel Roberts is a principle dancer with the African American Dance Ensemble and the Artistic Director of The Harambee Collective. He has performed with a number of companies, including the Cultural Movement African Dance Company and NCCU Dance Group. McDaniel has traveled and performed around the United States and abroad exploring various dance styles and rhythms. He pays homage to his ancestors and current mentors, as well as to his family and Almighty God who gives him strength.
Carol Ryner taught movement and martial arts for seventeen years, and has also studied a variety of partner dances. A long-time and beloved social dance instructor at NInth Street Dance, she says that dance is her passion and that she teaches with the belief that "if you can walk, you can dance.
Aya Shabu is a professional dancer, instructor and choreographer. She has performed with the renowned African American Dance Ensemble and was awarded a 2012-2013 Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artist Grant. She is a member of The Magic of African Rhythms and has taught African dance and healing at the Bennu Cultural Center.
Jenn Shinn holds a BFA in Ballet from Texas Christian University; she has danced professionally and has taught children of all ages.
Iya Silva began her study of Brazilian dance in 1990 in San Francisco, where she performed with some of the top Brazilian dance companies and was crowned the 2003 Queen of Carnaval. She has taught Samba since 2000 in both California and North Carolina and is artistic director of the Charlotte-based dance company, Movimentos de Samba.
Paige Smith has 17 years of pre-professional classical ballet training, studying in Cary, NC and spending summers dancing and training with the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Washington Ballet, Ballet Chicago, and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. While training at Cary Ballet Conservatory, she had the opportunity to perform with Carolina Ballet in the productions of Nutcracker, Carmen, and Romeo and Juliet. Paige has taught ballet to children ages 3 and up since her high school days and has a special love for teaching all ages.
Jules Szabo is a classical ballet graduate of the UNC School of the Arts whose dance focus includes ballet, jazz, contemporary, and hip hop. She teaches The Dancer’s Workout at several locations throughout the Triangle. Jules has an infectious love of dance and is known for her ability to teach intricate pop choreography in a manner which is fun and easy-to-learn.
Justin Tornow ("Justy") was born, raised, and educated in NC but has been moving back and forth between NC to NYC to work and live since 2010, when she received an MFA in Choreography with a concentration in Pedagogy from UNC-Greensboro. Her teaching background spans a decade, and includes work as an adjunct professor of dance and as guest artist; she has also taught children of all ages in private studios. Justin is currently living in Durham, NC and is focused on making and performing work on independent and collaborative projects. Her work is regularly presented in NC and on the East Coast, including NYC and Philadelphia. She will soon be producing various performance events around the Durham area under the name JCTworks. Justin also engages in photography (dance and portrait).
Eddie Valdez hails from Santa Monica, CA. He began his dance career studying tap, jazz, modern, ballet, and gymnastics but found his true passion in partner dancing. He has studied and taught ballroom, Lindy Hop, East Coast Swing, Hustle, and Salsa but now focuses on West Coast Swing. Eddie travels and competes on the National Association of Swing Dance Events circuit and ranks among the top dancers in the nation.
Matt Vazquez and Christine Dove together have over thirty years of dance experience. Matt was "bitten by the swing and blues bug" in his teens and began teaching swing dance in the year 2000. Chris has danced much of her life, beginning with ballet as a child, teaching ballroom dance right out of high school, and subsequently falling in love with swing and blues.
Cristina Velasquez studied with Hannan Sultan and has performed with Hannan’s student/professional dance troupe “Zohour al Sultan”. She has assisted with belly dance workshops taught by internationally known dancers, including Mohamed Shahin, Tamalyn Dallal, Bozenka, Tito, Camelia, and Yousry Sharif. Cristina currently performs as a soloist at local events, private parties, and venues around the Triangle and continues to study belly dance at workshops abroad.
Jose Velasquez grew up dancing, but it wasn't until high school that he attended his first hip-hop class. Largely self-taught since then, he has had the honor of opening for several big events, including The Gospel Choice Awards in Atlanta, 102 Jams Super Summer Jam, KC and Jojo and New Edition, and more.
Erika Bianca Vinson began performing hip-hop with Pamoja Dance Company at The University of Georgia. She continued her training with Culture Shock Chicago NFP, through which she met and began touring with recording artist Kid Sister. She has performed in several music videos, international festivals, and on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (NBC). Photo: Megan Henson Photography
Leah Wilks is a Durham-based dancer, teacher and choreographer. She has taught creative movement, release technique, improvisation and composition to kids and adults in a variety of settings. She likes getting her students moving and is constantly inspired by the ways in which they make her imagination grow.
Becca Wilusz began dancing at age three in Hamilton, NJ and grew up competing in NJ and New York City. As a student at Duke, she choreographed and performed with two dance groups and currently dances with nosi dance theater here in Durham. She holds a B.S.E. in biomedical and mechanical engineering and is pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at Duke.