Master Class Guest Artists
Choreographer, Cultural Ambassador, Educator, and Performing Artist Michelle N. Gibson received her BFA in Dance from Tulane University and her MFA in Dance from Hollins University/American Dance Festival at Duke University. Michelle is a nine year faculty member with the American Dance Festival’s school intensive held at Duke University. She has taught and set choreography at various intensives, institutions and universities such as Middlebury College, Spelman College, and Henderson State University just to name as few. Michelle has also choreographed for several theater companies and live entertainment organizations locally and across the country. Michelle’s choreographic works range from genres of the African Diaspora, Afro and Contemporary Modern, Afro Funk, Jazz, and her own New Orleans Second Line Aesthetic. One of her latest choreographic works, Voices of Congo Square, uses the rich culture and history of the Black Mardi Gras Indians that premiered in 2018 during the 300th Tri-Cenntinal Celebration of New Orleans at the Orpheum Theatre in
New Orleans LA.
Leticia Oliveira Coomer
Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Leticia Oliveira began her comprehensive training at the age of seven at the School of Teatro Municipal of Rio de Janeiro. Beginning he professional career at 16, she danced with Teatro Municipal of Rio de Janeiro as well as The Joffrey Ballet and Houston Ballet, where she was a principal dancer. In 2007, she joined Texas Ballet Theater. She is currently the Principal of Texas Ballet Theater School in Fort Worth.
Li-Chou Cheng started his professional training when he was 13 at the Beijing Dance Academy in China. At the age of 19, he joined the Beijing Central Ballet as a dancer and soloist and served as a Ballet Master and Rehearsal Director for the company. Since immigrating to the United States in 1980, Cheng has served as Assistant Professor at the University of Utah and Arizona State University. In 1988, Cheng was named the Principal teacher for both the Boston Ballet Company and School.
Recently retired, Cheng was Professor of Professional Practice in Ballet with the School for Classical & Contemporary Dance at Texas Christian University for 28 years.
Yordanka Cancino Lamar
Yordanka was born in the province of Matanzas, Cuba and has been studying dance from an early age. Her first professional experience, at age 4, was as a member of Corcel de Esperanza. She performed and played in different cultural festivals and activities. At age 12, Yordanka begin performing in a group led by the renowned choreographer Angel Luis. With this group, Yordanka learned many folkloric Cuban dances including Tumba Francesa, Danzones, Bailes Campesinos, Zapateo, Karinga, as well as popular styles like Mambo, Cha-cha-cha, Mozambique, and Pillon. By 16, Yordanka became a lead ballerina and soloist with the Afro-Cuba De Matanzas Company, an international touring group led by famed choreographer, Francisco Zamora Minini. Yordanka has been a life long student and dancer of all Cuban folkloric dance styles including Yambu, Bata Rumba, Vudu, and Yoruba pantheon dances. Today, Yordanka lives in Houston, TX where she teaches dance and performs with her husband in a Cuban Rumba band.
Gabriel Speiller is a native New Yorker raised in Queens. He graduated with a BFA in dance from Belhaven University where he received the Bezalel Award for outstanding artistic achievement. abriel has previously danced with Bruce Wood Dance Company, Paul Taylor 2 and Ad Deum Dance Company, where he toured both nationally and internationally. He has also performed with project-based companies such as NOW Dance Project, Jessica Gaynor Dance, Hivewild, Wanderlust Dance Project, Zion Dance Project, Chadash Contemporary Dance Movement, and Robert Mark Dance. Gabriel has performed works by Bruce Wood®, Joy Bollinger, Yin Yue, Garrett Smith, Bryan Arias, Katarzyna Skarpetowska, Omar Roman De Jesus, Gregory Dolbashian, and many more. Currently, he is pursuing his MFA in choreography and performance at The University of Arizona. Gabriel teaches throughout the United States and has choreographed on Bruce Wood Dance Company, Ad Deum Dance Company, Wanderlust Dance Project, Zion Dance Project, The University of Arizona, Belhaven University, Frank Sinatra School of Performing Arts, Awakening Movement, Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts, and American College Dance Festival.
Cassandra began West African technique and dance training over two decades ago in Milwaukee, WI., with KoThi Dance Company, under the direction of Ms. Ferne Bronson and Roxanne Kess. As a company member, she performed in several dance pieces, including the crowd pleasing “Juba” in DanceAfrica Chicago, and Hottentot Venus, during Ko-Thi’s home season. After leaving Milwaukee and settling in Dallas, Cassandra continued training in dance forms of the African diaspora by studying in California, New York, Florida, and West Africa, to name a few.
Cassandra was a long-standing member of the Bandan Koro Drum and Dance Ensemble, serving as lead dancer, choreographer, community class instructor, and briefly, the associate artistic director for their youth ensemble. As a member of the adult company, she fully choreographed two dance pieces: Sofa, a warrior/ hunting dance, and Balanta, a dance of resistance of the Balanta people of Guinea-Bissau. Both works have been featured in Chuck Davis’ DanceAfrica Dallas. Cassandra founded Bahdae Dance Company in Dallas, Texas, with the sole purpose of getting our youth involved in African dance and history, and to stand proud.
Cassandra remains deeply involved in this craft by working with students in elementary school settings, teaching adult dance classes, choreographing for her youth and adult company, and bringing her own unique style into her programs. Cassandra credits her love for African dance to DeAngelo Boston of Ko-Thi Dance Company, for his unwavering role in her dance process. As someone who is truly passionate about this art form, her focus is to educate and engage our communities, especially our youth, with stories untold of our magnificent history and inspire others to keep traditional customs of the diaspora alive.
Christina Johnson’s 25-year performance career began with Boston Ballet. She then joined Dance Theatre of Harlem where she became a principal dancer over her 13-year tenure with DTH. She was an original member of Complexions Contemporary Ballet and was a featured guest artist with several companies, including the Royal Ballet of London, where she and Ronald Perry were the first African-Americans to perform with the company. Christina also performed in Switzerland with Le Ballet du Grand Theatre de Geneve and Ballett Basel.
In her post-performance career, Christina has been a Rehearsal Director for several important companies, among them, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Washington Ballet, Armitage Gone! Dance, Trey McIntyre Project, and Complexions Contemporary Ballet. She is sought after as a master teacher and coach and works with schools, universities and professional dance companies around the world.
Christina Johnson holds a Master of Fine Arts in Dance degree from Hollins University in Roanoke, VA. Recently, she was on faculty at Marin Ballet in San Rafael, CA, and she is currently Adjunct Faculty at Dominican University in the LINES/Dominican BFA in Dance Program.
Sara Herrera is an artist; choreographer, educator and performer with over 17 years of experience teaching dance in the Washington, DC metro area, NYC, NJ, summer stock in Maine and at the Sapperlot Youth Theatre Festival in Brixen, Italy.Currently, Sara is entering her 2nd year as the Education Director and Dance Instructor for Artes de la Rosa’s Artes Academy located in the Historic Northside. She will also make her Fort Worth directorial debut in Arts Fort Worth’s Original Work Series this Spring. Sara holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Modern Dance from the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA.
To learn more about Sara Herrera please visit: http://herrerasara.squarespace.com/company-info