ZUZI|Dance Company

Dance Company : Company Bios


  • Previous Dance Company Members
  • "Many Limbs" Youth Aerial Company
  • ZUZI! Apprentice Company
ZUZI! Dance Company
Photo: Larry Hanelin

Nancy Mellan, ZUZI! Co-Founder, obtained her BFA in dance from Temple University. Before moving to Tucson, Nancy had established her own school and collaborative dance company in the Philadelphia area. She has served as artist in residence in synagogues locally and nationally and teaches Modern Dance at Pima Community College and ZUZI! Dance Lab. Nancy continues to develop her artistry through intensive study with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange.  Nancy is the proprietor of  the Casa Luna Bed and Breakfast in Tucson.

Beth Braun is the former ZUZI! Associate Artistic Director. Beth has been performing professionally and teaching since 1982 in Tucson, throughout Arizona, in New York, California, and internationally. Originally from New York, Beth received her MA Degree in Dance from State University of New York at Brockport and has studied at the Alvin Ailey Contemporary Dance Center. Beth has worked with just about every modern company in Tucson, starting back with Territory Dance Theatre, and while in NY she worked with Randy James Danceworks for their first season. She has taught every age student from 13 month old babies to 60 year old differently-abled adults. Currently Beth directs the dance program at Rincon/University High School. Beside her work with ZUZI!, Beth created and produced her own work with musician/composer/husband, Arthur Miscione. Beth was the 2005 recipient of the Buffalo Exchange Arts Award.

Alison Hart started performing and choreographing for ZUZI! in 2005. She is also the director of the ZUZI! Youth Company. Alison's involvement with dance and performance began at a young age and continues to be her life's focus and work.  In 2004 Alison graduated from Arizona State University with a BFA in Dance Education. For 4 years she was the artistic director of the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Dance program, teaching classes and choreographing for children of all ages. Alison has had the privilege of working with many choreographers and companies including Mary Fitzgerald, Jennifer Tsukayama, Brad Garner, David Dorfman, Lisa Race, Yvonne Rainer, Dance Arizona Repertory Theatre, CONDER/dance, and Flam Chen. In 2008 she had the wonderful opporutnity to choreograph and perfrom at the American Dance Festival. From 2005 to 2011 Alison taught dance full time at Utterback Middle School.

Nathan Dryden holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in art from U.C. Irvine and is a Certified Skinner Releasing Teacher. Along with his own choreography, Nathan has danced and performed with John White, Stephanie Skura, ORTS Theatre of Dance, Zenith Dance Collective, and New ARTiculations Dance Company. Nathan has served on the staff at the Florida Dance Festival and with Robert Davidson at the University of Washington where he taught Aerial Dance. Nathan has been teaching, choreographing and performing with ZUZI since its beginnings in 1998.

Lia Greisser began dancing at the age of three.  She has studied modern, jazz, aerial, tap, ballet, hip hop, and step. Lia has been dancing with ZUZI! since its beginning, starting in the youth aerial company. Outside of ZUZI! Lia has danced competitively on A Tucson Dance Company’s dance team and has performed with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange and the Moscow Ballet

Wendy Joy has an MFA in dance from the University of Arizona and a BA in Dance from Douglas College at Rutgers University. She has extensive training in both classical ballet and modern dance. Wendy was the owner and Artistic Director of dance images by Wendy joy in Ventnor, NJ. Currently, she is a teaching artist with TUSD’s OMA program as well as the director/developer of PROJECT:connect, a dance program linking TUSD and the University of Arizona. Wendy has been teaching, choreographing, and performing with ZUZI since its beginnings!

Ekida Sarang Laurie is from Korea and grew up in Japan. She's been dancing since she was nine, participating in numerous modern dance competitions. When she was 20, she went to the Netherlands to dance with the NDT Company, and also traveled and danced in Europe. In 2002, she moved to Canada where she taught modern dance at the Canadian School of Ballet. With another winter approaching, she decided to accompany the snowbirds for their seasonal migration and arrived in Tucson in late 2008. She joined ZUZI! in 2010 just over a year after having her second child. Ekida is passionate about motherhood and performing, loves travelling, gardening, cooking and skiing.

Melissa Buckheit is a poet, dancer/Dance teacher, choreographer, English professor, photographer, and massage therapist. She began dancing at the age of 5, studying primarily classical French and Russian Ballet/Pointe, until she became an undergraduate at Brandeis University, and discovered Modern Dance and Martha Graham. Melissa has continued her study of multiple dance/movement modalities, studying Modern Dance, Choreography, Aerial Trapeze, Contact Improvisation, Mind-Body Centering, Dance Therapy, Hakomi, Authentic Movement and Skinner Releasing Technique. She holds a B.A. in Dance/Theatre, English & American Literature/Creative Writing and French from Brandeis University and an M.F.A. in Poetry from Naropa University. Melissa has danced and performed her original choreography in Boston, Boulder and Tucson, as a member of Brandeis Dance Collective in Boston, with Zuzi! Dance Company and through New Articulations Dance Theatre. Recent work includes, Maitri with Karen Reim, Dos Bracos with Maria Villa, when it is night, an island, Fall (repertory by Susan Dibble of Susan Dibble Dance Theatre), and This or That Life, an Aerial solo. She is a recipient of a 2007 Tucson-Pima Arts Council grant in Dance, has served on the TPAC Dance Grant panel for the last couple years, and has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, a Best of the Net Award, and a Best of the Web Award through Sundress Press, for her poetry. Her poems, photography, and other writing have appeared or are forthcoming in nth position, Blue Fifth Review, The Drunken Boat, Taiga, Cutthroat, Pirene's Fountain, Bombay Gin, and Sonora Review, among others. Her first manuscript, On the Back of the Animal Is the Mouth of the Vase, has been a finalist for several prizes and her chapbook, Arc, was published online through The Drunken Boat in 2007. Melissa has taught Creative Writing and Modern Dance at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Writing at The Art Center Design College and currently teaches Literature, Writing and Creative Writing at Pima College and Aerial Trapeze, Creative Movement and Creative Writing at Zuzi. She also founded and curates the Edge Reading Series for Younger and Emerging Writers, through Casa Libre, in Tucson.

Kali Lucey has been dancing with ZUZI! since she was eight, focusing primarily on aerial trapeze. She's currently majoring in Anthropology at the University of Arizona and will hopefully be minoring in dance. She loves making dance a part of her life and is very excited to be a part of the Company. 

Karyn Reim is a manual physical therapist, holding a doctorate of physical therapy from University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences.  She is also a graduate of Shenandoah University where she earned her BFA and BA in dance performance and choreography.  Karyn has been a featured performer in national venues including St. Mark’s Church in NYC, Ohrstrom-Bryant Theater in Winchester, VA, and Wayside Theater in Middletown, VA.  She has also presented her choreography at Joy of Motion’s, Jack Guidone Theater in Washington D.C. for which she received a favorable review in The Washington Post.

Emily Willard

Zan Savage

Bridget Gunning

Yumi Shirai

Michelle Briscoe

ZUZI is delighted to present its Youth Aerial Company - unique to Tucson and begun in 2004 by Nanette Robinson and Emily Willard! This company is currently composed of 8 talented youth ages 9-14, who have made a commitment to working together and performing for the Tucson community. We are honored to work with these beautiful, creative and promising youth.

Through this program ZUZI hopes to provide the challenges necessary for growth as a dancer and an individual –through choreography, performances, and aerial and modern technique classes.

Much of the choreography is the creation of the youth themselves under the current facilitation of Carie Schneider.


Many Limbs Youth Aerial Company Members:

Maddie Brown is 13 and attends St. Michael’s Parish Day School as a seventh grader. When she’s not dancing, she enjoys cycling, drawing, beading, loom knitting, snorkeling in the ocean, playing in the desert and spending time with her family. This is her third season performing with ZUZI! and she is loving every minute of it!

Frieda Muller is in the eighth grade at Miles ELC where she enjoys studying violin and American Sign Language along with her general education courses. She likes spending time with friends and her dog, Roxy. This is her second season in the Many Limbs Youth Company.

Annie Radillo is 11 years old and is in the 6th grade at Miles ELC. This is her first season with youth company, but she has been dancing at ZUZI! for 6 years. She likes dogs. 

Lucy Cotten bio coming

Lily Kelley bio coming

Monique Kelley I’m 11 years old in 6th grade at Paulo Freire Freedom School.  This is my first year in the youth company.  I've been dancing since I was three and I like to dance, draw, sing, and talk a lot.

Piper Gelb bio coming

Photo by Larry Hanelin

Winter Solstice Performance, 2010 Photo by Larry Hanelin.



Apprentice Company
Photo: Larry Hanelin

Skye Aslaksen was in the Youth Company for one year before joining the Apprentice Company. She loves ballet, modern, and is just beginning trapeze. She loves being a part of the ZUZI community and has made some very dear friends. She is excited to begin her second season with the Apprentice Company.

Amanda Boyd was in the Youth Company for 3 years before joining the Apprentice Company. She has been dancing with ZUZI! since she was six years old.

Celia Patania is 15 and a junior at Tucson High Magnet School. She has danced at ZUZI! for half her life, starting with children's aerial classes, then the Youth Company, and now the Apprentice Company. She loves  to dance! Her other favorite things are her cat Skittles, her boyfriend Nick, and her baby brother Frankie.


Ross Sounart is a student at Catalina Foothills High School and has been dancing at ZUZI! since her was six. Ross enjoys dancing, reading, and spending time with his friends.

Galyn Sumida Ross has been dancing at ZUZI since the age of four. She has taken a variety of dance classes at ZUZI! and Arizona Ballet theater. She is a senior at University High School and a member of Primavera Dance program there. Besides dancing, she enjoys swimming, reading, drawing, and playing the harp.

Eris Shaver is a student at Tucson High. Eris has been dancing for four years. She loves dance, poetry, trapeze and photography.

Erin Sorensen is 14 years old and is a freshman at Tucson High. She has been dancing at ZUZI for roughly five years. This is her third season with ZUZI! and her first season in the Apprentice Company. Erin loves Rainbow Lollipops.

Megan Sorensen is 14 years old and is a freshman at Tucson High. This is her third season with ZUZI! and her first season in the Apprentice Company. She has been dancing for about five years. In addition to dancing she loves to draw and volunteer her time to help animals.