ZUZI|Dance Company

Dance Company : Company Bios

ZUZI! Dance Company:

  • Calli Blackwood
  • Lucy Cotten
  • Josey Jamarta Nee
  • Katie Rose Wilbur
  • Raine Ugstad


  • Previous Dance Company Members

  • Youth Ensemble


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.

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.

Scott Bird began dancing when he was 30 and has been exploring aerial dance, contact improvisation and modern dance with ZUZI! for more than ten years.  After years as a tile contractor, yoga teacher and massage therapist, Scott is now a program director for a study abroad program in China and an installation manager for a local tensile fabric sculpture company.  Scott has a daughter entering teenage years and lives in the Sonora Cohousing community.”

Mechelle Tunstall grew up in London, England and began dancing in 2004. She received her B.A. in dance/theatre at the University of Houston (Texas).  She has worked with Becky Valls, SUCHU, Psophonia Dance Company, Teresa Chapman (including Cunningham Dance Studio, NYC, 2007), Toni Leago Valle, Douglas Dunn, Laban Center (London), Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, and remains a current member of Travesty Dance Group, and Vault.  Mechelle has presented solo/collaborative work in Texas at ACDF, Big Range Dance Festival, Diverseworks, Offshore Technology Conference and Merging Modes. This is her third year with ZUZI!

Jamey Garner is the former Operations Manager, an instructor and company dancer at ZUZI! Her works have been seen in a variety of venues, including the Williamsburg Fashion Weekend in Brooklyn, NY, the Walker Art Center's Choreographers' Evening in Minneapolis, MN, the Eat It! Comedy Festival in New York, NY, and as part of the FirstWorks festival in Providence, RI. Combining the Western traditions of postmodern dance, modern dance and ballet with elements of mysticism, she investigates postmodernism, postcolonialism and hybridity. While in Minneapolis, she had the pleasure of co-founding and co-directing Three Dances with Brinsley Davis and Suzanne Wiltgen, along with dancing in the works of several Twin Cities-based dance artists. Jamey attended Oklahoma State University, traveled to Kenya with the School for International Training, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN, and spent six months of field study in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Felice Espinoza - Felice is a specialist in Dance as a form of transformative education.  She has a natural gift  for creating curriculum and techniques that lead to lasting change in the body, mind and Spirit.  A Cecchetti trained classical Ballerina for 14 years and a Modern Dancer for 17, Felice moves fluidly from one style to another.   She believes all forms of movement inform one another other, revealing sacred secrets of the body and soul.  Felice has been involved with the Dance and Performing Arts world for over 25 years as both a dancer and teacher.  She taught High School and Jr. High English teacher for 5 years and is an educator by nature.  For the past three years, she has been teaching Dance, Creative Movement, Poetry and Choreography to children and adults at ZUZI Modern Dance Company School and Theater.  Felice has practiced meditation for six years and is deeply devoted to the Divine Feminine.   She has studied with living masters of Interfaith, Buddhist and Hindu traditions in India and the United States.  With a genuine Love, Felice invites students to  explore their creative potential and experience their own Beauty.  She provides a sacred and safe setting for experimentation and play.  Felice is dedicated to helping all Beings learn to recognize and worship their own Divinity.

Emily Willard

Zan Savage

Bridget Gunning

Yumi Shirai

Michelle Briscoe

ZUZI! is delighted to present its Youth Ensemble - unique to Tucson and begun in 2004 by Nanette Robinson and Emily Willard! This company is currently composed of 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 ZUZI! teachers.  

 Youth Ensemble Dress Rehearsal

Youth Ensemble Members:

Calli Blackwood...bio forthcoming. 

Lucy Cotten is 11 years old and has been dancing with ZUZI! since she was in the womb. She attends Green Fields School and loves all things creative including visual art, piano and chorus. 

Josey Jamarta Nee is 11 and in 5th grade at the Montessori Schoolhouse. She has been dancing with ZUZI! for 4 years, and enjoys it very much! She also enjoys swimming, biking, and rollerblading.

Raine Ugstad was born here in Tucson, Arizona and is 11 years old and in 6th grade at Paulo Freire Freedom School. She has many hobbies and loves dancing, singing, acting, doing martial arts, and creating art and also being and talking with friends.  She has been dancing with ZUZI! for almost 5 years in both dance and aerial, loves it, and hopes to continue to grow. 

Katie Rose Wilbur...bio forthcoming. 

Youth Ensemble Firefly Celebration Performance, April 23, 2016

Youth Ensemble Firefly Celebration Performance, April 23, 2016