2024 DILT Participants

2024 Mentees

Ashayla, a brown-skinned Black woman with a black, curly, afro and tapered fade, leans against a turquoise and lavender wall. She faces the camera directly with a soft grin. She wears a canary yellow turtle neck shirt with long sleeves and can only be seen from the mid-chest up. Photo by Drew Elhamalawy

Ashayla Byrd (she/they), raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia, began her dance training at eight years old at Old Donation Center for the Gifted and Talented (ODC). She then trained intensely at the Visual and Performing Arts Academy at Salem High School to strengthen her technique. She explored her love of the arts at Shenandoah University (SU), graduating with a BA in both Dance & English. Ashayla also served as the President of both the Sigma Rho Delta Dance Fraternity as well as the Shenandoah Conservatory Student Council. She has worked with professional artists including Tiffanie Carson, Yoshito Sakuraba, and Anna María Alvarez while also collaborating with various student choreographers. Upon graduating from Shenandoah, Ashayla worked as an intern and ultimately served as the Presentation Administrative Assistant at Dance Place in Washington, DC. In addition to performing and collaborating with various DC-based and national artists, she currently serves as the Manager of Executive Affairs for the Association of Performing Arts Professionals. She aims to support dance communities in many capacities while also creating brave spaces for queer and BIPOC folks to witness and be in fellowship with one another.

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Rhea, a Black woman shown from the neck up smiling against a blue background. Photo by Danny Daniels

Based in Toronto, Canada, Rhea Daniels is an Arts Administrator who is enthusiastic about dance through a lens of inclusivity. With a background in and love of ballet and concert dance, Rhea is motivated by the concept that dance training, performance, and patronage can be made enjoyable for multiple populations. Her training and administrative practice has expanded to focus on engaging communities sometimes overlooked in professional dance spaces. That has meant expanding her knowledge base to learn how to approach dance with seniors, individuals with Parkinsons, and creating welcoming spaces for folks of various ages, abilities, and backgrounds.

Rhea holds a Master of Performing Arts Administration degree from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. She fuses her artistic and administrative passions, working in arts communications, while sharing her love of dance as an instructor of various dance forms including dance fitness, dance for seniors and community line dancing. She currently works as a Development Communications Officer at The National Ballet of Canada, helping to create and manage content for the acquisition, engagement and stewardship of donors.

Rhea received her primary dance training from the Quinte Ballet School of Canada’s Professional Training Program and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Fordham University/The Ailey School and an MFA in dance performance and choreography from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. As a performer Rhea has danced at venues including Dancespace, the 92nd Street Y, Greenspace, Jacob’s Pillow Dance, Dixon Place, New York Theatre Workshop, and at the Stockholm Fringe Festival. As a choreographer, Rhea has had her work presented by Triskelion Arts Comedy in Dance Festival, The Green Space, the Depot Dance Festival, the Hatch Presenting Series, and Legros Cultural Arts.

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Hiroko, a half-Japanese woman with medium length, black hair, bangs, and few freckles scattered across the bridge of her nose stands in the makeshift portrait studio of her friend’s house. In this photo, she is wearing a black tank top with green pants. She is looking off to the left side out at a sunny day in Atlanta, laughing at something funny her dear friend and photographer said. Photo by Dustin Chambers

As a biracial woman from the Deep South, Hiroko Kelly has found herself with a desire to create art that represents hybridity, fluidity of life, and how these can nuance identity. Believing strongly in the limitlessness and the power that comes when you cast away assumptions about the body and identity, and the catalyst it creates in public spheres through movement that helps us collectively find joy, light, love throughout our lives. Hiroko translates these values into work as a moving artist, emerging choreographer, researcher, mixed-media sculptor, and an arts administrator. Reflected in each of these practices is her experience as a Japanese American woman, the daughter of an immigrant, and the intangible truth of intergenerational connectivity rooted in Eastern philosophy.

In 2017, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Kennesaw State University (KSU), with a concentration in ballet. During her studies, she was able to work with world renowned choreographers, like Ido Tadmor, Lisa Lock, and Ivan Pulinkala. Through the KSU dance program, Hiroko was awarded the opportunity to study abroad with the Batsheva Dance Company, learning various repertories from former company members. While she felt deeply passionate about dance, she felt a larger pull towards her community. It was through joining the social arts platform, glo, based in Atlanta, Georgia, that she was able to find a movement practice rooted in community led by social activism, first as a moving artist from 2014-2022 and later in 2023 as an artistic associate. Many might consider her major accomplishments as a moving artist/ artistic associate to be winning first place in the XII Florence Biennale (2019), a 6-week residency at the High Museum of Art (2019) or being in Creative Time’s Drifting in Daylight (2015) in Central Park, but she considers her greatest accomplishments to be found throughout the Rural South. Hiroko considers the movement choirs made with children in Marion, Alabama, the choreographic mappings around the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, and many more small moments that have been shared through civic action with the public as her greatest accomplishments.

Now, she is invested to carry these values into an arts practice that reflects her own AAPI experience, adding to these Southern tapestries myths, legends, and stories from the Far East. In 2021, to further develop her social activist skills, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in Urban and Public Affairs from the University of San Francisco, completing this program in May of 2023. Hiroko finds herself continuously committed to decolonizing movement practices, dedicating herself to community and family.

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Cameron, an African American male, with short black hair, wearing a gray shirt with black flowers on it. Photo by Shevaun Williams

Cameron Terry, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, is a visionary choreographer reshaping the landscape of contemporary dance. Having commenced his dance journey at the Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts (CCCEPA), Cameron quickly discovered his flair for choreography. Unrestrained by conventional boundaries, he seamlessly integrates influences from The Ailey School, Nashville Ballet, Luigi, and West African Dance into his distinctive choreographic style. Cameron’s repertoire seamlessly blends the technical finesse of classical ballet, the precision of Horton technique, and the rhythmic vitality of West African dance.

Cameron earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Modern Dance Performance from the University of Oklahoma (OU) in 2021, where he showcased twelve original works at the School of Dance. He has also contributed choreography to OU’s Young Choreographer’s Showcase, the American College Dance Association, and various independent productions nationwide.

In 2023, Cameron attained his Masters Degree in Performing Arts Administration from New York University (NYU), leveraging this experience to refine his leadership skills. During his tenure at NYU, he collaborated closely with the CEO of American Ballet Theatre (ABT), acquiring invaluable insights into arts management.

Driven by a commitment to inclusivity and innovation, Cameron founded Shades Dance Theater as a platform for diverse artists to engage in groundbreaking storytelling that resonates with universal themes. Under his visionary leadership, Shades Dance Theater has expanded its reach through the creation of its  affiliate group, the “Shades Society”, fostering strategic partnerships with  members of esteemed organizations such as Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority Inc. Additionally, Cameron spearheaded the company’s community outreach program, “Expose the Shade,” amplifying its impact beyond the stage.

Cameron Terry’s transformative vision has garnered widespread acclaim, with ArtsATL praising Shades Dance Theater’s productions as “Make no mistake, a new generation is here.” As the Artistic Director & CEO of Shades Dance Theater, Cameron continues to shape the future of dance, pushing boundaries and inspiring audiences worldwide.

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Amanda, with long brown hair, is leaning against a grey textured wall. Her focus is calm but direct and her hair is tossed about her face. She is wearing a black buttoned shirt. Photo by Emily Duncan

Amanda Kay White, a founding member and the associate artistic director of the esteemed dance company Backhausdance in Orange County, California, has evolved from her beginnings as a performer with the company to become a significant creative force behind its productions. Since 2019, Amanda has crafted both proscenium and site-sensitive works for Backhausdance, pushing the boundaries of spatial perception and offering audiences intimate experiences.

With a BFA in Dance Performance and a BA in Communication Arts (Advertising emphasis) from Chapman University, Amanda pursued further education, earning a Master’s of Fine Arts in Choreography from Jacksonville University. Her academic endeavors and research focus on exploring the intricate connections between bodily knowledge, embodied cognition, and spatial theory within choreography. Amanda’s distinctive approach to her craft involves inventive exploration, seeking to unlock the physical repositories of experience and memory.

Through Amanda’s roles as a choreographer and educator, she has left an indelible mark on diverse communities, from studios to college campuses. She extends her impact by providing performative coaching for Backhausdance artists, believing that movement education is not only about technical proficiency but also about nurturing well-rounded artists.

Her choreographic works have graced prestigious institutions including Highways Performance Space, Orange County Museum of Art, Pasadena Dance Festival, Oulu Dance Hack, Centro Negra, University of Tampa, American College Dance Festival, and MixMatch Dance Festival. Presently, Amanda imparts her expertise as a faculty member at Chapman University, Backhausdance Education and Outreach, Orange County School of the Arts, and South Coast Conservatory.

2024 Mentors

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Against a backdrop of blurred trees, a brown-skinned Pilipino man with graying hair and black t-shirt smiles. Photo by Crystal Birns

Gerald Casel’s choreographic research complicates and provokes questions surrounding colonialism, collective cultural amnesia, whiteness and privilege, and the tensions between the invisible/perceived/obvious structures of power. To this end, Casel has led a community engagement program called Dancing Around Race, activating the community through candid discussions around racial equity.

GERALDCASELDANCE creates and presents dances that ask questions about human beings – who they are, what they do and how their actions affect the world in which they live. Each dance provokes reflection and implants its imagery into the viewer’s psyche by combining movement and spatial composition with metaphor. Dropping hints of narrative while inviting space for contemplation, the dances deliver multiple levels of interpretation and meaning.

The company’s creative process strives for inventing new movements and structures that seek explanations to what humans fear, love and hate. GERALDCASELDANCE supports collaboration between dance, sound design, and emerging technology – mixing performance with recorded and live video projections to enhance the experience of seeing and feeling dance.

GERALDCASELDANCE has been presented at La MaMa, Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church, Movement Research at Judson Church, Dance New Amsterdam, Dance Theater Workshop (Fresh Tracks and SplitStream), Joyce SoHo, Dixon Place, Dancenow NYC, Aaron Davis Hall, 92nd Street Y’s Sundays at 3, The Yard, Jacob’s Pillow (Inside/Out), Danceworks (Milwaukee), Conduit (Portland), ODC Theater (San Francisco) and throughout Scotland following a company residency at Dancebase Edinburgh. Gerald has been an artist in residence at ODC Theater, Movement Research, and has been awarded fellowships though the Hellman Foundation, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (Freedom Fellow), National Center for Choreography Akron, Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, and The Bogliasco Foundation. The company received a New England Foundation for the Arts National Dance Project grant to present and tour Not About Race Dance in 2020.

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Originally shot for New City Magazine Iega is smiling with hands reaching towards the camera while wearing a muted red scarf. Photo by Joe Mazza

Kevin Iega Jeff, an esteemed figure in the dance community, is celebrated for his multifaceted career as a dancer, choreographer, artistic director, and educator. His journey in the arts has garnered significant accolades, such as being honored as one of the Juilliard School’s 100 Outstanding Alumni alongside luminaries like Viola Davis and Robin Williams, and receiving recognition from entities including the National Endowment for the Arts and the Field Foundation. Iega’s creative oeuvre includes Broadway stints in productions like “The Wiz,” memorable performances at events such as the 1994 Academy Awards, and the creation of over fifty dance works commissioned by globally renowned dance companies.

Iega’s commitment to community engagement is evident in his work, which often merges art with social impact initiatives. His educational and lecturing efforts have taken him to prestigious institutions worldwide, reflecting his dedication to spreading the transformative power of dance. His formative years in New York at The Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center laid the groundwork for his eventual establishment of JUBILATION! Dance Company, and his co-founding of Deeply Rooted Dance Theater in Chicago. Under his stewardship, Deeply Rooted is poised to inaugurate the Deeply Rooted Center for Black Dance and Creative Communities, a hub aimed at cultivating Black dance excellence and fostering artistic collaboration.

Transitioning from his roles at Deeply Rooted, Iega now leads iegaMOVES, concentrating on projects marked by ubunifu*, thereby extending his legacy of artistic innovation.

Iega’s purpose, deeply intertwined with Deeply Rooted’s ethos and his iegaMOVES journey, aims to unveil human-centered truths, challenging narratives shaped by perceived superiority. His ambition extends past correcting historical misrepresentations to enhancing understanding, healing, and appreciating global and indigenous contributions. Iega’s legacy is founded on anti-racism, identity celebration, and fostering innovative, joyful spaces. Through his artistic endeavors, he aspires to build communities anchored in excellence, authenticity, and ethical living, aiming for a legacy that honors history, enriches the present, and lights the way for future generations to revel in the transformative power of art and shared human experiences.


*”Ubunifu” is a Swahili term that translates to “innovation” or “creativity” in English. It encompasses the idea of coming up with new ideas, methods, or products, and can also imply inventiveness and original thinking. While it might not be a direct equivalent to the Western concept of “avant-garde,” which often implies a radical departure from tradition in the arts, “ubunifu” captures a similar spirit of breaking new ground and pioneering new approaches in various fields, including the arts, technology, and business.

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Michelle in a gold turtleneck sweater, carmel colored skin, and salt and pepper short hair. Photo by Nkechi Chibueze

Dr. Michelle Ramos applies critical race theory and lived experiences to disrupt long standing white supremacist structures and systems. Her work focuses to shift power to black, brown people through pushing boundaries, challenging status quo and reflecting values of equity and justice in her day to day practice. Most recent leadership roles include Executive Director of Alternate ROOTS, Managing Director for the Vera Institute of Justice New Orleans and Program Officer for the Women’s Foundation of California. She serves on the boards of Foundation for Louisiana, Dancing Grounds and Grantmakers in the Arts.


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Rhetta is a dark skinned woman with long dark hair. Wearing an orange color short sleeved shirt and two necklaces. Photo by Jerry Metellus

Rhetta Shead has worked in the Denver Metropolitan area for over 40 years in Marketing, Public Relations, and Special Events and Community Affairs while working in radio, television, special projects, local Government, and Non-Profits.

Rhetta also worked with many Denver area non-profits and is currently the VP of Theatre Operations for Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. She served three terms as chair of the Dance/USA Managers Council for Member Companies with Budgets from $750,000-$2.9 million, Chaired, Awards Committee and served two years on the Board of Directors. Rhetta is also on the board of The Dance Archive (with the University of Denver).

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Melissa, a Honduran American woman with a caramel skin tone and shoulder-length cherry cola hair, is inside a photo studio in front of a charcoal grey backdrop. She is wearing gold hoop earrings and a soft, warm smile. She is wearing a long sleeve turtleneck dress, a gold bangle, and a rose gold ring and is seen from the waist up. Photo by Kent Barker

Melissa M. Young is a Honduran American raised in Santa Ana, California. She attended Orange Coast College with a focus in Business Administration. She is a graduate of The Ailey School—The Official School of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City. During her Fellowship studies, she was one of five students selected to train as an exchange student at Amsterdam University of the Arts in the Netherlands.

Melissa is celebrating her thirtieth season with Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT). Young started her career at DBDT as a dancer for eleven years, then moved up the ranks as Rehearsal Director, Academy Director, Associate Artistic Director, Interim Artistic Director, and was appointed as Artistic Director in September 2018. Her most notable performances include The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, and for the U.S. Ambassadors to Ireland and Zimbabwe. She has restaged and rehearsed the diverse repertoire of DBDT, which spans over 100 ballets. She was an Assistant to the Choreographers, Hope Clarke for The Dallas Opera’s Porgy and Bess and Christopher L. Huggins for Dallas Theater Center’s production of The Wiz. Melissa is most proud of thoughtfully leading DBDT through the pandemic by using the many restrictions as a guide to push the boundaries of her imagination into a creative reality.

Teaching master classes both nationally and internationally, Melissa specializes in the Dance Technique of Lester Horton. She was the primary Horton Technique Instructor for the Dallas Black Dance Theatre company dancers from 1998-2017. As an Adjunct Instructor, she has taught at Southern Methodist University, Texas Woman’s University, and Abilene Christian University. Over the years, she has led several movement workshops for Leadership North Texas and Leadership Dallas.

Melissa is a graduate of the Leadership Arts Institute, Class of 2022, a program of Business Council for the Arts in Dallas County. She is a member of the International Association of Blacks in Dance, Inc. Melissa has served as an advisory panelist for arts organizations that include the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture, Texas Commission on the Arts and Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, and is a former board member for the Dance Council of North Texas.

Melissa was presented with The Dancer’s Award in 2000 for her artistic excellence and dedication to Dallas Black Dance Theatre. She was chosen as one of “The Talented Tenth” by The Dallas Weekly in 2010, for being a Young and Emerging Leader. In 2014, she received an Award of Recognition from the South Dallas Dance Festival for her service to dance and in 2016, the Natalie Skelton Award for Artistic Excellence. In 2017, Melissa received the Shining Star Award from the Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance for her significant contributions to dance in Texas and beyond. During the 57th Annual South Central District Conference of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc. in 2019, Melissa was honored with the “We Speak Your Name” Career Achievement Award.

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