*Emily Booth Masters, Founder, Owner and Artistic Director/DancEast Workshop Program Director has been dancing since she was a young child, and she has been teaching for more than twenty years. Her training began under a former Vaudeville performer, from whom she learned the tap style known as “hoofing.” She was one of a competitive tap dance duo throughout her teen years. She studied ballet and jazz under many esteemed teachers, including Terrell Paulk and Gus Giordano, before becoming a member of the Appalachian Modern Dance Ensemble (while attending Appalachian State University). She is a certified ballroom dance instructor and the early years of her professional dance career were spent performing and competing in American Style Ballroom dance - both Smooth and Rhythm. She holds an undergraduate minor in dance in addition to her Masters Degree in English Literature. She founded DancEast (formerly Studio 1406) in 2008 after deciding she wanted to create a unique environment in which her own children and the children of her neighborhood could learn to express themselves creatively through movement.
*Lauren Magnifico Melancon, Co-owner Emeritus/DancEast Workshop Program Founder holds a Minor in Dance and a BA in Art History from Saint Mary's College. She has dance education and performance experience in the areas of jazz, ballet, pointe, modern, tap, composition, improvisation and history. She has been sharing her love for and knowledge of dance with children since 2001. Although she now resides in Indiana, DancEast welcomes her back to instruct special classes and workshops when she is available.
*Lindsay Fine Smith, Studio Director began dancing at the age of 3 in her hometown of Huntsville, AL. She earned her BFA in in Musical Theatre/Dance from the University of Mississippi. Upon graduation, Lindsay moved to L.A., where she taught dance at several studios and trained under Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company artistic director and founder Kate Hutter. She moved back to Oxford, MS to teach dance for the University of MS. While there she also developed Hinge Dance Company, along with dance partner Lydia Siniard, and she served as the company's co-owner and artistic director for 5 years. Hinge expanded the dance community throughout North MS with exciting and innovative performances while building a base for open-level adult classes. Lindsay also worked in Tupelo, MS as Studio Director for the Tupelo Academy of Dance Arts and held the position of Associate Artistic Director for the Tupelo Ballet. Lindsay moved to Nashville in the Spring of 2015 where she quickly found a home at DancEast, joining the faculty that August. She founded Transit Dance Company in 2016; the not-for-profit dance company is based in East Nashville and still under development, so watch for a launch date soon!
*Whitley Hill, Master Choreographer was born and raised in New York City. She was a child actor, performing at New York's famed La Mama Theater, with the New York City Shakespeare Festival and with the New York City Opera. She is a graduate in drama from NYC's High School for the Performing Arts. She has a degree in dance from the University of Michigan and an MA in performance studies. She directed an award-winning dance company in Michigan for 14 years, and her dances have been commissioned and performed by companies across the country. She has worked with students of all ages in multiple dance genres, and she has taught extensively and served as guest artist in many universities. She is the choreographer of many of DancEast's most beloved pieces and a favorite instructor among students of all ages. She has been a part of the DancEast faculty since 2008.
*Christen Heilman, an Ohio native, has been teaching and performing throughout the country for more than a decade. She is a graduate of the Performing Arts School of Metropolitan Toledo, and she trained in New York City at Ballet Hispanico in their professional training program. After her time in New York, Christen returned to Ohio, where she earned a BAC in theater - with a focus on musical theater - from Bowling Green State University. Her passion for dance education has opened many doors, including a position as adjunct faculty at Hocking College, where she helped build their theater program. She has worked at schools training young dancers all over the country. As a professional dancer, her credits include the Metropolitan Repertory Ballet out of New York City, the North American Ballet, and the Toledo Ballet. She continues to work and perform locally, and she believes that each performance experience offers her new new insight, ideas, and inspiration to take with her back into the classroom. Recent collaborations include Act 1, Actors Bridge Ensemble, Chaffin's Barn, Tennessee Women's Theater Project, and the Music City Theater Company. In addition to ballet, Christen is trained in musical theater, tap, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, modern, swing, and flamenco. It has been her privilege and joy to share her talents and dreams with the students and families of DancEast since 2012.
*Rachel Parker-Shields, DancEast Workshop Program Coordinator, began dancing at the age of five in her hometown of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. She graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in dance. Rachel has performed in various theaters along the East coast, and she has visited more than twenty-five countries as a dancer with Princess Cruise Line Productions. She has performed with a variety of dance projects in Nashville, including the Grand Ole Opry and the Nashville Opera. Rachel has appeared in commercials, music videos, films, and TV series. She is also a certified yoga instructor, continuing to study and grow in the art of movement. Rachel is grateful to be a part of DancEast and a member of the Nashville dance and yoga community. She has been a member of the DancEast faculty since January 2014.
*Curtis Thomas holds a BFA (magna cum laude) from The Boston Conservatory. His areas of expertise include Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Tap, Partnering, Improvisation and Pedagogy. He served as Teaching Artist for New Orleans Ballet Association, where he taught dancers between the ages of 8 and 17 Classical Ballet, Horton Technique and Improvisation. As Teaching Artist/Choreographer for The School at TU Dance Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, he taught Intro to Dance, Composition, Ballet and Modern to kids ages 9-17. He also worked in elementary schools teaching classes to children in grades K-8. Curtis recently relocated to Nashville to dance with New Dialect, a nonprofit contemporary dance collective and training program founded by Banning Bouldin to be a place where dancers, teaching artists and choreographers can explore the wide variety of groundbreaking movement vocabularies that exist in the world of 21st Century dance.
*Ashley Lawless holds a BFA in Dance Performance & Choreography from the University of Southern Mississippi. She has studied with a myriad of great teachers and performers, and her dance education ranges from aerial dance to botoh. In 202, she co-founded and directed whiteroad Dance Media in New York City and has presented her work to audiences across the country in many venues, including the Built on Stilts Festival in Martha's Vineyard. Ashley has been performing, creating and teaching dance for over 12 years, focusing on contact improvisation and performance art. Ashley's most current project is a collaboration with fellow dancer and choreographer Janelle Bonfour-Mikes on a dance/poetry/performance art/film arts collective Panama Red Arts.
*Holly Cannon-Hesse began her studies at Middle Tennessee State University, where she majored in Speech and Theatre with an emphasis on education and minored in dance. She studied under the likes of Anne Holland, Nancy Turpin, and Rossi Turner in a variety of disciplines, such as Modern, Ballet, and choreographic technique. She has been a member of Blue Moves Modern Dance Company since 1993; the company takes on important social and personal issues through quirky and creative movement. She has been teaching dance to children for more than 15 years. In addition to teaching at Second Story Studio and DancEast, she is a teaching artist for the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s many outreach programs.
*Erin Kouwe holds a BA in Dance with a Jazz Concentration from Point Park University's Conservatory of Performing Arts. Her areas of expertise cover a wide range: Contemporary, Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Pointe and Improvisation. She has performed with Luna Negra Dance Theater and Visceral Dance in Chicago, and she recently relocated to Nashville to dance with New Dialect. When teaching Improvisation, she places focus on task-oriented creation and research as a means to open dancers' minds to new movement possibilities. Her Contemporary dance technique focuses on neutral alignment, dropping weight into the floor and efficient movement.
Tony Perrin has been dancing since he was seven years old. He is trained in ballet, tap, jazz, modern and contemporary. He attended NYU's Tisch School of the Arts dance conservatory. He recently completed a Yoga certification program, as well. His performance experience ranges from North East Ballet Company to The Yard at Martha’s Vineyard to Michael Mao Dance in New York City to Marsha Barsky's Company Rose here in Nashville. He has been a part of the DancEast faculty since May of 2015.
*ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF EYERIS PHOTOGRAPHY