ZUZI|Dance Company

Dance Company : Company Bios

ZUZI! Dance Company:

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  • Dance Company Members

  • Youth Ensemble

  • Previous Dance Company Members

Aja Squires began her performance training in the theatre arts and moved to dance when she discovered aerial apparatus, flying and suspending movement in the air.  She began 15 years ago on the low flying trapeze  under the tutelage of Patti Lopez and the Arivaca Arts Council.  In Tucson, she expanded this skill with Annie Bunker, Charles Thompson, and Nate Dryden.  She has taken workshops with Robert Davidson, Nancy Smith of Frequent Flyers Productions, Terry Sendgraff, the trapeze twins, Elsie and Serenity Smith, and French Aerialists Jacques Bertrand and Frederique Debitte.  She has previously performed and collaborated with O-T-O Dance, Sugarbeast Circus, Airloom Aerial and Zuzi Dance where she is also and educator, integrating life's metaphors into dance theory and practice.

Aarlin Murrieta AcuñFull-time Pima Community College undergrad, Aarlin Murrieta was born in Hermosillo, Sonora; she is 19 years of age and has been dancing since she was 12. Aarlin has danced with ZUZI! for over a year now and is excited to be branching out with her dance styles while at ZUZI!. Aarlin also delves into drawing and painting and often uses both along with dancing as complimentary forms of art.

Arts for All Adult Dance Ensemble is a performance group that gives dancers of mixed abilities the opportunity to deepen their expressive movement techniques and dance improvisation skills to create original works to share with the community.  Dance improvisation, the creation of dance while dancing, captures unique moments in time and tells distinct, deeply-felt stories.  The Ensemble encourages a collaborative environment of artistic creativity where each individual is a creative energy and force for the whole group.  Dancers work closely together to create and structure pieces for performance.  The Adult Dance Ensemble performs regularly at multiple venues, including at Arts for All, Zuzi!Dance and Pima Community College.  Membership is by audition and ensemble dancers are held to high standards of commitment and dedication.  Ensemble rehearsals continue throughout the year and rehearsals are held every Wednesday and Thursday from 3 – 5 pm.  

Bethanne Griffin is a native Tucsonan who began her dance training at the age of six. She built her dance foundation on ballet, tap, and modern. In 2001, she moved to New York City and began a teaching career; dancing and training with The Fred Astaire Ballroom Company. She worked as a Teaching Dance Artist, and designed movement-based learning curricula for NYC's public schools in the south Bronx. Upon returning to Tucson, she began designing and implementing integrative dance curricula for local fine arts programs. In 2010, she began "Dance Aloud"; a children's performing arts education program designed to introduce and reinforce literacy-based concepts through creative movement. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education, and a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education from Northern Arizona University. In 2011, she began working as a Teaching Dance Artist with Tucson Unified School District's, Opening the Minds through the Arts (OMA) program, and as of this year, she has joined on with the OMA Design Team.

Billbob Brown was Chair of the School of Dance at the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts, and before that the director of the Dance Program at UMass Amherst.  Co-founder and artistic director of Desert Dance Theatre in Phoenix (now in its 36th year) in the 1980s, he has performed and taught across the globe, including tours in Japan, Thailand, Great Britain, and Mexico; created shows for the Utah Shakespearean Festival, and choreographed and performed in TV work and commercials for the Chicago Cubs, Molson Canadian Beer, Disney Studios, and ABC-TV, which have received numerous awards.  He has toured internationally with the Bill Evans Dance Company, and was director of Buen Viaje Dancers, a group of people with disabilities. His Emmy-award winning video, "Opening Doors," with Buen Viaje, has been seen on PBS stations across the country.  His teaching and choreography emphasize spatial and energetic awareness, community and social connectivity, through humor, serious topics, and digital arts. 

Cynthia Wasco  has been studying ballet and modern dance for over 15 years. After leaving the performing arts, Cynthia turned to yoga as a form of exercise and spiritual guidance resulting in completing her 200 and 300-Hour yoga teacher training from The Yoga Connection. Professionally, Cynthia  is currently the Annual Fund Manager for Arizona Theatre Company. After years of being away from the stage, dance found Cynthia again and she is very honored to be dancing with the ZUZI! for a third season.

Glenn Weyant, Musician  is a Tucson-based sound activist working with traditional and improvised instruments for more than four decades. Over the past two decades Weyant's sound work has been primarily focused on using a cello bow and implements of mass percussion to “play” the Sonoran Desert’s assorted ephemera, both natural and human. His sound work has been been featured internationally in films, books, photographs, audio recordings and sound installations. Weyant's most recent work is a three part suite composed entirely from City of Tucson field recordings titled: The Sonorous Desert City Project. In 2012 Weyant’s performance of John Cage’s 4' 33" performed upon the Nogales Border Wall was included in the New York Public Library/John Cage Trust retrospective: John Cage unbound A Living Archive. http://www.sonicanta.com/.

Karenne Koo is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Evolve Dance Inc., a nonprofit dance organization founded in 2006 with the mission of pursuing understanding, advancement and realization of the human experience through dance.  She serves on the Board of Directors of Mettler Studios, Inc., is a member of the International Association for Creative Dance and is trained in ballet, modern, jazz, hula and Metter-based Creative Dance.  In 2013 and 2014, Karenne conducted Dance Together residencies at multiple sites in Vietnam to girls and women rescued from gender-based violence and to affiliated staff and program managers.  In 2015, Karenne completed a 2-week dance residency in Indonesia at a school for children with multiple local community NGO’s, including a school for children with autism.  She taught in NYC for children experiencing deep post-traumatic stress due to the effects of “reverse-migration separation phenomenon” and completed a June 2016 residency in Lima, Peru for children overcoming trauma of abuse.  Karenne teaches an ongoing Mettler-based creative dance residency for adults with mixed abilities and co-directs the Adult Dance Ensemble at Arts for All, Inc. in Tucson, AZ.   Karenne is thrilled to have this opportunity to dance for ZUZI Dance.  www.evolvedance.org

Nanette Robinson is a choreographer, educator and dancer is ZUZI! Co-Founder and Director of Arts Education, holds a BFA in Dance from Temple University and is an introductory and ongoing certified instructor of Skinner Releasing.   She has travelled internationally teaching and performing and has extensive experience as an aerial dancer and teacher having worked with Robert Davidson and Terry Sendgraff. Nanette’s choreography has been showcased locally with O-T-O, Zenith Dance Collective, Arts for All, University of Arizona Dance Department, Rick Wamer, “Mythos” Project, NEW ARTiculations, Funhouse Movement Theater, The Tucson Poetry Festival,Ballet Rincon,  the ADAA Showcase and the Flagstaff Summer Dance Festival. Nanette is currently teaching at Paolo Freire School, with Mirasol Recovery Treatment Program and ZUZI! School.  She is thrilled to be a part of ZUZI!. It has been her home and artistic toolbox for creating dances, flying, teaching and working with all levels and ages of dance lovers.  For more information visit nanutdancer.com 

Sabrina Geoffrion is a mother of wonderful boys and teaches college psychology courses online.  She was first introduced to the joys of dance as a toddler in Malawi (Eastern Africa), and studied dance as a child in Indiana and at the University of AZ Dance Dept under John Wilson, Isa Bergsohn and Douglas Nielsen.

Sherry Mulholland is a Tucson native and has been on the local dance scene for a long time.  She had the honor of dancing with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company in the Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin- The Promised Land.  She has also danced with Zenith Dance Collective, Zeffirelli 8, and Funhouse movement theater and has loved her time as a guest artist with Bloodhut Productions and Safos.  She is the new artistic director of Funhouse movement theater and continues to study dance and to teach youth residencies in southern Arizona.

 

 

 

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 Firefly Celebration Performance, April 23, 2016

Youth Ensemble Firefly Celebration Performance, April 23, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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