Francisco Gella Dance Works
The Francisco Gella Dance Works (FGDW) Advisory Council is a group of esteemed dance professionals with diverse skills and experiences invited to share regular and timely input on the organization's educational and creative projects. Our members are asked to assist in shaping curriculum, programs and events for our future professional performing artists and leaders of the field. We are grateful for their service as they are some of our strongest advocates!
Alesia Michelle Young (she/her)
Performing Arts Department Advisor & Program Lead: Dance
Windward School, Los Angeles
Alesia Young has worked professionally as a Performer, Choreographer, and Dance Educator for more than two decades. She received her earliest dance training at The Performing Arts Center in New Jersey, New York's Steps and Broadway Dance Center, and throughout Europe, with a brief stay at Amsterdam's School for New Dance Development. As a Presidential Arts Scholar, she gained a B.A. in Dance and a B.A. in American Studies with a focus in Multiculturalism from The George Washington University. Young made the move to Los Angeles in 1998, shortly after completing her undergraduate studies, and later gained a M.F.A. in Dance from UCLA.
Alesia has danced professionally since she was 16, working as a principal dancer for an eclectic group of classic modern and contemporary touring companies, throughout her dance education and performance career working with artists like Doug Caldwell, Sean Curran, Katie Duck, Jodie Gates, Joe Goode, Finis Jhung, Liz Lerman, Steve Paxton, and David Rousseve to name a few.
Alexa Kershner (she/her)
Co-Chair, LACHSA Dance Dept.
Los Angeles County High School for the Arts
Julie Rose Friedrich (she/her)
Associate Director for College and Career Programs
Francisco Gella Dance Works
Ballet and Composition
Alexa Kershner began her dance training at 14 in Pasadena, CA, with Cynthia Young, Phillip and Charles Fuller. She holds a BFA from SUNY Purchase, where she studied composition under Kazuko Hirabayashi and Tarin Chaplin. She became a founding member of Shen Wei Dance Arts in her Junior year at Purchase and worked closely with Shen Wei in creating Near the Terrace Part 2, Behind Resonance, Rite of Spring, Connect Transfer, and Map. She moved back to Los Angeles, becoming a founding member of BodyTraffic and a freelance artist with Strange and Elegant/String Theory Productions. Being an alumnus of the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA) and current Co-Chair of the Dance Department, she continues to teach dance composition and improvisation at her alma mater.
Ms. Kershner also works with TheatreWorkers Project inside the California prison system.
Cindy Montoya (she/her)
New Mexico School for the Arts
Cindy Montoya is co-founder of New Mexico School for the Arts (NMSA), a statewide, residential, public high school for the performing and visual arts. Now serving 330 students, the school opened its doors for the first time in 2010 with 127 students. A charter school with a private partner, NMSA-Art Institute, is committed to providing access to pre-professional arts training and college-readiness academics to students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to access mastery arts training. Cindy started as the School’s Head of School. In 2016, she became President of the Art Institute overseeing fundraising, community and legislative partnerships, and art programs. She brings over 25 years of experience in education, both in high-performing and struggling schools.
Dale Lam (she/her)
Columbia City Jazz Conservatory
Angela Carter (she/her)
Administrative Coordinator, Marketing and Programs
Francisco Gella Dance Works
Dale Lam was named "Top Private Studio/Conservatory Teacher" by Dance Teacher magazine, and was also appointed as an ambassador to the The Dance Teacher Summit in 2015! Formally a professor of dance at USC in Columbia, S.C., Dale has taught internationally at the Kiradjiev Cultural Center in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Danz Studio in Costa Rica, and the Singapore Dance Association at Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore.
Evelyn Cisneros-Legate (she/her)
Ballet West Academy
Evelyn Cisneros-Legate was Prima-Ballerina of The San Francisco Ballet for many years beginning under Lew Christensen (brother of Ballet West Founder Willam Christensen) and continuing under its current Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson. Ms. Cisneros-Legate holds an honorary doctorate from both Mills College and the University of California at Monterey Bay. Considered one of America’s leading ballerinas and the first Mexican-American principal ballerina, Ms. Cisneros-Legate is a renowned dance educator who has taught at some of the most prestigious dance schools in the world, a former Principal at The Boston Ballet School, she is a sought-after adjudicator and speaker.
Garrett Anderson (he/him)
Wilson Mendieta (he/him)
Jazz and Musical Theatre
Garrett Anderson received training from some of the country’s premier academies, including Contra Costa Ballet Centre, San Francisco Ballet School, American Ballet Theatre and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. Following this, he danced with The San Francisco Ballet, Royal Ballet of Flanders, Trey McIntyre Project, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Garrett went on to perform as a guest artist with Ballet Chicago, Civic Ballet of Chicago and SF Danceworks. Over the course of a 20 year professional career in both classical ballet and contemporary dance companies, Garrett worked with some of the world’s most celebrated choreographers and directors performing the works of Forsythe, Kylían, Morris, Wheeldon, Ek, Duato, Naharin, Robbins, Balanchine, Tharp, Cerrudo, McIntyre, Rowe, and many more in theaters around the world.
Following his full time performing career, Garrett became Chair of the Dance Dept. at New Mexico School for the Arts in Santa Fe. After two years with this institution he moved to Boise to become the Artistic Director of Ballet Idaho, where he has served as Artistic Director since 2018. Garrett was the recipient of the American Ballet Theatre National Dance Scholarship and holds a B.A. with honors from St. Mary’s college of California. He has been on guest faculty of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Civic Ballet of Chicago, Ballet Chicago and Francisco Gella Danceworks and served as a finalist juror for the American Dance Competition/International Ballet Competition. In addition to his role as Artistic Director of Ballet Idaho, he oversees the Ballet Idaho Academy and Ballet Idaho Trainee Program.
Jeffrey Lloyd Smith (he/him)
Professor of Dance
New World School of the Arts
Jeffrey Lloyd Smith is a Miami-based choreographer, multimedia artist, and dance educator. He became full-time faculty at New World School of the Arts in 2016 teaching Modern Technique, Film Making for Dance, and Projection Design. Smith choreographs works for NWSA as well as for other university programs and professional companies, stages work by Paul Taylor, and serve as rehearsal director for guest choreographers. Originally from Rhode Island, he received his BFA from The Boston Conservatory and later earned his MFA from Florida State University focusing on multimedia technology.
After moving to New York, he performed with several dance groups and was a member of The Martha Graham Ensemble and Taylor 2, touring and teaching domestically and in New York City's five boroughs. In 2005 he became a member of The Paul Taylor Dance Company touring across the globe and performing roles in over 40 of Mr. Taylor's masterworks. Creatively, Jeffrey's multimedia pieces, choreographic works, and films have been seen at numerous festivals and events.
Jim Vincent (he/him)
Creative Consultant, Director, Teacher, Choreographer
, Contemporary, Improv, Choreographer
Courtney Henry (she/her)
Ballet, Contemporary Ballet, Contemporary, Modern
Jim Vincent, who studied dance at the Washington School of Ballet, Harkness House for Ballet Arts (NYC) and UNCSA, became the Artistic Director of Nederlands Dans Theater in 2009. He previously served as the Artistic Director of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago from 2000-2009, following an extensive career as a dancer, teacher, ballet master and choreographer. Vincent’s distinguished career as a professional dancer includes a 12-year tenure with Jiri Kylian’s Nederlands Dans Theater and two years with Nacho Duato’s Compañía Nacional de Danza in Spain. As a dancer, he worked with many choreographers including Kylian, Duato, Lubovitch, William Forsythe, Mats Ek, Hans van Manen, Christopher Bruce, Bill T. Jones and Ohad Naharin. In 2012, he became Executive Creative Director at Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment.
Meredith Brown (she/her)
Junior BFA Student
Fordham University/The Ailey School
Meredith Brown was raised in Asheville, North Carolina where she began her dance training at a local studio. There, she worked with former Alvin Ailey company member Raquelle Chavis, which allowed her to develop a deeper love for Horton and other styles of modern dance. For her junior and senior year of high school, she attended University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where she performed repertory works by Merce Cunningham and Jose Limon, as well as original works by Ming-Lung Yang, and Juel D. Lane. In 2020, after graduating, Meredith moved to New York to attend Fordham University, where she is currently a sophomore receiving her BFA in dance from The Ailey School. Meredith has also trained with Alexandra Damiani, John Bond, and Rebecca Margolick during her time as an artist and has had the pleasure of furthering her training at intensives such as Complexions, LINES Ballet, UNCSA Professional Studies, and many more.
During the summer of 2021, Meredith danced as a trainee with Zeitgeist Dance Theater under the co-direction of Francisco Gella and Yusha Sorzano and she was grateful to return for the summer of 2022. Meredith is also an alumni of the Jacob’s Pillow Contemporary Program, under the direction of Milton Myers, where she worked with many different artists such as Sidra Bell, Rena Butler, and Antoine Vereecken.
Pablo Piantino (he/him)
The University of Utah
Karl Watson (he/him)
Ballet, Modern, Contemporary, Improv, Choreographer
Pablo Piantino is originally from Mendoza, Argentina. He studied privately with Héctor Zaraspe among many other teachers, and at the Colón Theatre Ballet School. At a very young age, he entered the corps de ballet of the Colón Theatre and remained there for three years, until he was offered a full scholarship to study at The Juilliard School where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Following graduation, Pablo joined the San Francisco Ballet where he danced a broad span of classical and neo-classical repertory in the works of Mark Morris, Hans van Manen, George Balanchine, Kenneth McMillan, Jerome Robins, Paul Taylor and Christopher Wheeldon to name a few. He eventually joined Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and had the pleasure of working with choreographers such as Aszure Barton, Nacho Duato, Mats Ek, William Forsythe, Jirí Kylián, Ohad Naharin, Alejandro Cerrudo and Twyla Tharp, among many others.
Upon culmination of his time at Hubbard Street, Pablo moved to Seattle where he received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Dance Education from the University of Washington. Since graduation, Pablo has taught at George Mason University, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Joffrey Ballet Trainee Program, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, Grand Rapids Ballet, USC Kaufman School of Dance, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, New Century Dance Project Festival of Performance and Choreography and was Music Director at the Regional Dance America National Choreography Intensive. He has staged works by Choreographers Nacho Duato,
Rachel Harris (she/hers)
Rachel Harris started dancing at Dance Productions, a studio under the instruction of Denise Britzclarke-Clarke in Charlotte, North Carolina. She graduated Cum Laude from the University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance where she received her BFA with an architecture concentration in 2020. While in school, she also trained at Jacob’s Pillow, Abraham.In.Motion, and Ailey School summer intensives, performed at Summerstage NYC 2019, and was featured in a music video by popular artist Brandy. Upon graduation, Harris joined Zeitgeist Dance Theatre as an inaugural company member. She later joined Parsons Dance in July 2020, where she is in her third season as a dancer and previously worked for two seasons as Diversity Liaison and Director of Education and Apprenticeship.
Harris has been named Howard University’s 2021 Spring Emerging Choreographer to Watch, Inaugural Gibney Dance Converge2Emerge Film Grant Recipient in 2021, Internationship Choreography Online Scholarship Award Recipient, and 2022 Finalist for New Century Dance Project Professional / Emerging Choreographer Finalist. She was assistant choreographer for About Sprouts - an immersive experience performed by the students of Ballet Tech NYC Public School at the Battery, a playground on the southern tip of Manhattan. She has also choreographed popular artist Alicia’s Walters’ music video “Standing at Your Doorstep” and created numerous films of her own: Hand of God, Solo One, and many others. Harris taught master classes and set award-winning choreography for the Kennedy Center, MoveNYC, Windward School, and several competition studios across the country.
Sarah Van Os (she/hers)
The Pulse Dance Centre
Jeffrey Smith (he/him)
Modern, Contemporary , Partnering
Sarah Van Os was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. She trained extensively as a dancer in her youth, participating in numerous pre professional shows and intensives throughout Canada. Upon graduation, she attended the Contemporary Post Graduate Program, Main Dance and then went on to complete a major in Contemporary Dance and Minor in Education from Simon Fraser University. Although she continued to perform throughout, Sarah developed a love of choreography and instruction at a very young age, recognizing this would be her path in her early twenties. With 17 years of teaching experience, she still believes heavily in evolving herself as an educator and has attended numerous Contemporary, Modern and Dance Science workshops/certification courses throughout North America and Europe. She is currently the co-Artistic Director of PULSE dance centre, which was founded in 2013.
With collaboration of care, cutting edge training and a wholistic approach, she and her team have developed numerous dancers who are currently attending Post Secondary Universities throughout North America, Post Graduate Conservatory Programs, Various Dance Companies, International Summer Intensives and continue to work professionally onstage as well as Television and Film in the arts and academics. Her leadership in the classroom and as a Director is always led by love and respect for all her students whom she has the pleasure of working with. She is honoured to be a part of the Francisco Gella Council and looks forward to continuing collaboration, for the benefit of the next generation of artists in her care and throughout our industry.
Sue Sampson-Dalena (she/hers)
The Dance Studio of Fresno
Sue Sampson-Dalena has enjoyed a lifetime of passion for dance. Celebrating 41 years as Owner and Artistic Director of The Dance Studio of Fresno, she has attracted thousands of dancers from throughout the State of California and especially from the Central Valley. As a business leader in the dance world, Sue served as Ambassador for the New York City Dance Teacher Summit for several years, delivering insight on developing high student enrollment and new studio construction. In 2012, she was also a special guest speaker at the Dance Studio Owners Association in Las Vegas, Nevada. And for several years, Sue was the KMPH Fox-26 Local Expert Commentator for the hit TV series, “So You Think You Can Dance”.
As a choreographer, Sue has set routines for the San Francisco 49ers and the Sacramento Kings Cheerleaders, as well as various other professional sporting events, including half time shows for the Western Athletic Conference. She was the Director and Choreographer for the Miss California Pageant (Miss America Scholarship Program) for nine years.
Wilson Mendieta (he/him)
Assistant Professor of Dance
Benjamin Peralta (he/him)
Ballet, Contemporary, Yoga
Wilson Mendieta, a graduate of the University of Washington, earned his MFA degree in dance and certificate in nonprofit management from UW’s Evans School of Public Affairs. He received his BFA degree in acting and a B.A. minor in dance from Montclair State University, NJ. Prior to earning his master’s degree, Mendieta lived in the New York City area where he worked as a performer for television, radio spots, commercials, concert dance companies and Broadway and Off-Broadway musicals; these include Broadway performances in Chicago (national tour) and Man of La Mancha; performing with concert dance companies such as Joy Kellman & Co. and Shapiro & Smith; and working in television, film and commercials for Dr. Pepper, episodes of the Law and Order television series, and Dancing with the Stars television show. His choreography has been seen throughout the United States, including The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and he has been invited to festivals in Venezuela and Australia.
Mendieta’s teaching experience includes University of Washington; University of Minnesota; Purchase College, NY; Montclair State University, NJ; Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, NY; CAP 21 at Molloy College, NY; Steps on Broadway, NY; and Dance New Amsterdam, NY to name a few. His expertise includes jazz, modern, contemporary, ballet, Latin dance, theatre dance, musical theatre history and dance, song interpretation, and “the entrepreneurial performing artist.”
Rachel Harris (she/her)
Advisory Council Committee Charter
The Advisory Council is a voluntary group of dance professionals created for the purpose of providing expert advice to the Francisco Gella Dance Works (FGDW) Management and Staff.
Want to learn more about them? Read the charter below.