Past Doctoral Cohorts

2014 Doctoral Cohort in Dance

Lyn Wiltshire is progressively discovering herself as an educator, consultant, and steward for best practices in movement education. As the Head of Dance and Pedagogy Programs at the University of Texas at Austin, she has had ample opportunities to merge her interests as a choreographer, master teacher, and movement educator. She investigates alternative movement therapies and learning behavior theories, e.g., multiple intelligences, and through this research she is able to question and develop additional study and training methods in dance, to include her interest in exploring the relationships between physical characteristics and how a student learns and practices movement.

Melanie Anastacia Van Allen holds an MA in Performance Studies from NYU-Tisch School of the Arts and an MFA in Dance Choreography/Performance from the University of Michigan. Her choreography has been presented with members of Ballet Oficial de Bolivia and the professional modern company ARTEMÓVIDA in La Paz, Bolivia; The International Dance Carnival, Berlin, Germany; and at National Dance Education Organization Conferences. Melanie’s scholarly endeavors encompass her passion for dance and choreography by investigating intersections between the practical and theoretical, with interests in theoretical choreographic research, movement analysis, dance anthropology, Indigenous dances of Bolivia, and interdisciplinary methodologies of research and performance.

Addie Tsai received her MFA in Creative Writing; however, dance is intertwined throughout her current artistry. She co-conceived Victor Frankenstein with Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, a psychological ballet based on the life of Mary Shelley and its intersections with Frankenstein, and she collaborated on Camille Claudel, a dance theater production based on the sculptor’s relationship with Rodin. A professor of Literature at Houston Community College, she incorporates dance studies into her curriculum, emphasizing dance’s intersection with culture. Currently, her interests include the divide between popular and concert dance, and the major figures of dance forming bridges between the two.

Boston-based teaching artist Mila Thigpen is a graduate of Kenyon College (BA), The Boston Conservatory (MFA), Harvard University (EdM), and the Emerging Leaders Program at UMASS Boston. Mila has coordinated a Fulbright exchange in the Netherlands and is an alumna of the Choreographer’s Lab at Jacob’s Pillow. Her faculty appointments include Boston Ballet, Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, Tufts University, and Artistic Director of AileyCamp Boston through Celebrity Series. Mila is a “lively dancer” (The Boston Globe) and has performed a vast array of dance repertory. Her scholarly interests include dance ethnology, interdisciplinary studies/performance, and pedagogy.

Mara Mandradjieff received her M.Ed. from the University of Pittsburgh, where she later choreographed and taught as a part-time faculty member. She danced professionally with Bodiography Contemporary Ballet, Columbus Dance Theatre, Texture Contemporary Ballet, and The Georgia Ballet. Currently, she is an adjunct professor at Emory University and Kennesaw State University, as well as the Executive Director and Founder of Lume Foundation. Her research investigates embodiment phenomena as a means to unravel the power structures in and around the performing body. Her goal is to take this theoretical underpinning and create practical applications to improve the lives of professional dancers.

Alfdaniels Mabingo holds an MA in dance education from New York University, and an MA in performing arts and a BA in dance, both from Makerere University in Uganda where he also worked as an assistant lecturer of dance. He is currently an adjunct faculty of African dances and Intercultural Dance at New York University. Mabingo is a recipient of E. George Payne Award at NYU and Fulbright Junior Staff development Scholarship. He specializes in dance in higher education and professions, African dance in urban education, pedagogy of African dances, study abroad and exchange programs in dance, and community dance.

Bridgit Lujan, MA in dance and MBA in International Business at UNM, began studying dance at age 2, training in ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, flamenco and Spanish dance as well as the piano, violin, and viola. As a professional she specializes in Flamenco, touring nationally and internationally as a recognized performer, teacher and published author. She has taught at the University of New Mexico and the Santa Fe Community College and is the only American teacher in the Professional Association of Flamenco Professors (APDE) in Madrid, Spain. Her research interest is the influence of African dance on Flamenco’s early development.

A civilian survivor of the Lebanese Civil War, Carol Abizaid is a scholar, professor, and artist researching and writing on memory, identity, war, borders, body as archive, and oral narrative (re)creating historiographic articulations-installations using interdisciplinary modalities and forms. Her research queries the limits of language outside of movement where spoken and written language fails and the moving/holding body somatically fills gaps/spaces/abyssal openings with tellings and hidings looking for (un)Truths. Her current focus on normative(ized) social pathology(ies) and affectivity(ies) interfaces with written reenactment as re-performance of war zones as historicity ask for a rewitnessing for the purposes of Truth.

2012 Doctoral Cohort in Dance

A’Keitha Carey (Nassau, Bahamas) (2012) received her B.A. in Dance from Florida International University and M.F.A. in Dance from Florida State University. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of CariDanco, a performance and research- based dance company at The State University of New York at Potsdam, where she is also an Assistant Professor of Dance in the Department of Theatre and Dance. A'Keitha created CaribFunk technique, a genre fusing ballet, modern, Afro-Caribbean, and somatic fitness principles. She teaches, lectures, and performs this technique nationally and internationally. Her research attempts to redefine Black femininity, establishing the relationship between the technique and Caribbean popular culture, addressing why it is important to Black women in academia, and reinforcing the marriage between Caribbean dance, sensuality, strength, and eroticism. CaribFunk intersects ethnomusicology, anthropology, ethnochoreology, history, and Women and Gender studies. A'Keitha is a member of Cynthia Oliver's COCo Dance and the New York based dance company Kristin McArdle Dance.

Ali Duffy (Lubbock, TX) (2012) is an Assistant Professor of Dance at Texas Tech University and the Founding Artistic Director of Flatlands Dance Theatre. She holds an MFA from UNC Greensboro and a BA from UNC Charlotte. Ali has toured internationally with Stiletto Entertainment and has performed in American Dance Festivals Acts to Follow, Central Parks The Gates exhibit, NC Dances Festival, PILOT Festival, and Colorado Dance Alliance, among others. Alis written research has been presented internationally with Texas Tech honoring her with the Gloria Lyerla Memorial Research Award. She has been published in World Dance Reviews, Ballet-Dance Magazine, Dance Spirit Magazine, and The World and I. She sits on the Dance Critics Association National Board of Directors, and has undertaken extensive reviews of dance publications for Resources for College Libraries. Ali is most interested in the pedagogy of choreography in higher education and the aesthetics of concert dance.

Merry Lynn Morris (Tampa, FL) (2012) holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in dance performance and choreography from Florida State University and is an instructor in the dance program at the University of South Florida, Tampa, FL. Ms. Morris utilizes dance in diverse, integrative, and therapeutic ways and her collaborative work crosses multiple disciplines including engineering, physical therapy, and architecture. Her scholarly interests reside in several areas: the science of dance training and performance, the psycho-emotional exploration inherent in dance/movement experience, and the utility and innovative possibility of dance in a diverse and interdisciplinary culture. She began exploring the venue of mixed ability dance in 2002, and, as caregiver to a disabled father over a 21-year period, her interest in disability needs has been ever-present. Her dance/mobility chair project ( involves approaching wheelchair design from a dance performance perspective to increase options for differently-abled individuals and to expand perceptions regarding human mobility.

Melonie Buchanan Murray (Grand Junction, CO) (2012) is currently a tenured Associate Professor of Dance at Colorado Mesa University and serves as the Artistic Director of ballet productions for the Grand Junction Symphony. She holds a BFA degree in Ballet from Friends University (Wichita, KS) and an MFA degree in Dance from the University of California, Irvine (UCI). She attended UCI on a full fellowship, was the recipient of an Arts Bridge scholarship, and studied with the legendary Donald McKayle. After receiving the 2011 Moss Performing Arts Faculty Grant, Melonie completed the first tier of American Ballet Theatres National Teaching Curriculum and is now an ABT certified ballet instructor. Her performance experience includes Radio City Rockettes, Wichita Ballet Theatre, Musical Theatre of Wichita, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Francisco Martinez Dance Theatre. Most recently Melonie has been seen onstage with the Beyond Boundaries Dance Collective, Wilder Productions (Aspen), and the Aspen Dance Connection. Melonie has experience teaching ballet, pointe, modern, jazz, musical theatre, and tap dance. Choreography credits include ballets (The Nutcracker and Firebird), many full-length musicals, and numerous concert dance works. Research interests include Enrico Cecchetti and the evolution of ballet pedagogy.

Anisha Rajesh (Kerala, India and Houston, TX) (2012) is an Indian classical dancer, instructor, choreographer and researcher. She is the founder and artistic director of Houston based Upasana Kalakendra. She is trained in Indian classical dances Bharathanatyam, Mohiniyattam, Kathakali, Ottanthullal and in South Indian classical (Carnatic) music. She was recently awarded the „Natya Jyothi‟ („The Light of Dance‟) title by Njeralathu Trust in India. She has a Masters and Mphil degree in English literature. She is qualified by the University Grants Commission (UGC) for lectureship in India. In the past few years, she has been spending substantial time with various Indian classical dance gurus in Kerala, India in order to delve into the origin, traditions, evolution, influences, and relevance of Indian classical dance forms. She is keenly interested in pursuing research in “Mohiniyattam,” the female classical dance form of Kerala.

Emily Wright (Jackson, MS) (2012) is a Specialty Instructor for Dance at Belhaven University in Jackson, MS, where she teaches contemporary dance technique, dance history, theory, and pedagogy. She received her BFA in Dance from Belhaven University (2002) and her MFA in Dance with an emphasis on Performance and Choreography from Arizona State University (2007). Ms. Wright has presented her research on contemporary trends in North American Protestant dance at numerous national and international dance research forums, including the National Dance Education Organization, the Congress on Research in Dance, and the Nordic Forum for Dance Research. Her most recent publication is in the text, Fields in Motion: Ethnography in the Worlds of Dance (2011). Ms. Wright is also a founding member and director of development for Front Porch Dance, a Jackson-based contemporary dance collective.

Page last updated 3:10 PM, September 15, 2017