Laura Black earned her Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts with a concentration in Dance from California State University, Fresno in the spring of 2010. She is currently working toward her Master of Fine Arts in Dance at the University of Oregon where she teaches ballet, jazz, hip hop, African and modern dance. She has recently completed a comprehensive yoga teacher training program through the Zen Spot Teacher Training Institute and is now a certified 200 hour registered yoga teacher. She is deeply passionate about her yoga practice and enjoys studying yoga history, practice, and philosophy. Laura is thrilled to being her second year of participation with Dance Africa where she can further explore and share the joy she experiences when working with African rhythm and movement.
Ida started dancing at age six and has been trained in modern, ballet, tap, jazz, and African dance. She was originally with the company for the '98-'99 and '99-'00 seasons. This year will be Ida's third year back with Dance Africa, and she is very excited to be part of such a wonderful and diverse group of individuals, determined to bring African dance and culture into schools that may otherwise not have the opportunity to offer these experiences to their children. She is also the proud mother of a 4 year-old daughter who already shows a desire to "dance like Mama."
Erinn Ernst received her M.F.A. in Dance from the University of Oregon in 2011. Iin 2005, she earned her B.A. in Dance with an emphasis on Modern from the University of Colorado at Boulder. While in Boulder, she attended The Guild for Structural Integration and became a Certified Practitioner of Structural Integration and a Massage Therapist in 2005. After a brief hiatus of dancing and teaching in Colorado, Erinn is energized to return to the Eugene/Springfield dance community as Administrative Assistant to the Director of Dance Africa and Guest Artist for the dance program at Springfield’s Academy of Arts and Academics high school. She is looking forward to an exciting year of celebrating Dance Africa’s 20th Anniversary!
This is Emily's second year in Dance Africa. She didn't begin her professional dance training until 2001 at Lane Community College where she went on to dance with the Lane Dance Company for two years. She has also performed in the work of UO undergraduate, graduate, and faculty members. As well as loving to dance, she is an avid choreographer of modern dance. As a senior at the University of Oregon, she will be graduating this Spring with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance. Upon completion of her degree she will be going on to study at Pacific University and obtain a Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree. Emily is passionate about healing through movement and is also completing Teacher Certification Training in the work of Body Mind Movement.
Jessie Newell is a Colorado native who moved to Eugene for school. She graduated from the University of Oregon in 2005 with a B.S. in Dance and Human Physiology. Locally, she has performed with Traduza Dance Company and The University of Oregon Repertory Dance Company. Currently, Jessie is teaching movement classes at Hosanna Dance in Eugene, mat pilates at Lane Community College, private mat and reformer classes at Midtown Pilates and works with four other local health clubs on a regular bases. In time for the New Year, Jessie will be a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), which will help create a better foundation to enhance technique and reduce injury in young dancers. In her free time, Jessie loves being outdoors with her three children, Elizabeth, Alyssa and Ryan; taking walks, playing at the park, hiking and biking. This is Jessie's seventh year with Dance Africa.
Rachel started her undergraduate studies in England before coming to the University of Oregon. She joined the university's dance community in 2007 and participates in Belly, Hula, and African dance. She was a member of the Belly dance company Sirens and performs with the Hawaii club. She is also currently training for the U of O racquetball team. Rachel is planning on attending graduate school next year to study forensic anthropology. She is very excited to be with the company for a third year.
Julie has been dancing with the company since 1999. She has also performed with Expressions Dance Company, Rita Honka Dance, and Traduza Dance Company. Her varied career in education includes teaching dance and physics to high school students in Manhattan, leading adults on Mount Baker's Squak Glacier, introducing seventh graders to the native flowers and trees on Eugene's Mount Pisgah, and drumming and dancing with elementary students here in Eugene. Her children, Sylvan and Elena, now lead her and her husband, Chris, on dragon-hunting expeditions and tramps through nearby streams and forests. She feels lucky to have the opportunity to share the joy of African movement and rhythm with fellow Dance Africa members and local students.
Rhian grew up in Corvallis, OR, and came to Eugene to follow her dream of becoming a teacher. While studying Elementary Education at the University of Oregon, she discovered her first African Dance class in 2004 and subsequently joined Dance Africa as a drummer in 2008. She is currently a long-term substitute for a 2nd grade class at Edgewood Elementary school, and loves the imagination and spontaneity of her students. In the summers, she also teaches for a local non-profit organization, Nearby Nature. Rhian is a member of the Middle Eastern Dancing Guild of Eugene (MEDGE) and can be seen performing belly dance at local MEDGE shows. When she is not drumming, dancing, or teaching, she enjoys hiking, traveling, or just curling up with a cup of coffee and a good book.
Laura currently lives in Eugene and works at the Dancers Closet. She has a passion for dance and is active in the dance community. She continues to self-educate herself about plants and their medicinal properties. She hopes to study medicine with a specialty in herbalism.
Helen is currently working toward a B.S. in Biology and researching odorant receptor genes in the Wyeomyia smithii mosquito, but her love of science has not eclipsed her love of dance, and she is delighted to be beginning her first year with Dance Africa. Helen is mostly ballet-trained and performed in six ballets with Portland Metro Performing Arts, spending two years as a company member. She took her first African dance class at UO as a freshman, and immediately fell in love with its beauty and expression. She dabbled in bike racing for a year on the UO cycling team and enjoys spending time outdoors, and plans to obtain a graduate degree in Evolutionary Biology after finishing at the UO.
Lindsey could not be happier to have joined Dance Africa this year. She comes from Illinois and has found that Oregon is a superb place to learn and grow. She has danced in three student run dance companies back home and participated in two productions of the University of Oregon's Spring Student Dance Concert. Upon graduating, Lindsey would like to take a big bite out of life by traveling around the globe.
Kelly grew up in Bellingham, WA, but is currently in love with Eugene in particular and Oregon in general. She just received her Bachelors of Arts in International Studies this past summer of 2012. Her involvement with Zimbabwean marimba bands in Bellingham and Eugene sparked her interest in African rhythms, and in 2011 she started taking African drumming classes at the UO. This will be her first year with Dance Africa. Apart from her musical activities, Kelly is an educational aide at Kalapuya High School in Bethel and also interprets at Volunteers in Medicine.
Kyle is currently a student of the U of O studying Art History and English Literature, and is thrilled to be a new addition to Dance Africa this year. Kyle’s musical background comes primarily from his decade-long engagement to the flute and his involvement with a variety of vocal ensembles. After taking an African dance class his freshman year of college, he began practicing hand drumming at U of O technique classes, as well as taking part in improvisational drum circles and gatherings. When not drumming, Kyle enjoys yoga, dabbling in different dance styles, and anything that gets him outside when the sun shines.