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Dance Department Faculty

Click on any faculty member's name to see a list of achievements.

Cynthia Newland Cynthia Newland (2003) Associate Professor of Dance and Chair of the Dance Department

MFA in Dance, Arizona State University
BFA in Dance, George Mason University


Ms. Cynthia A. Newland, earned her MFA in Dance from Arizona State University, with an emphasis on choreography and performance and BFA in Dance from George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.

Prior to her appointment at Belhaven University Ms. Newland served as director for New Field Dance Theater in the East Bay of San Francisco. For nearly three decades she has traveled nationally and internationally as a teacher, choreographer, and performer working with varied arts organizations and institutions such as Campus Crusade for Christ, Children of the World, International Christian Embassy, Intervarsity, Operation Mobilization International, International Christian Dance Fellowship, Youth With a Mission, Project Dance, Christians in Theater Arts, and Dong Ah Institute of Media and Arts.

A portion of her work and artistic endeavors has been in the realm of inclusive dance where she has created numerous choreographed works for people with and without disabilities, which have been presented in the United States through VSA International and USA International Ballet Competition.

She has received recognition as a recipient of the Higher Education Award from the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education and the Humanities Teacher Award by the Mississippi Humanities Council. At Belhaven University she has served on the Faculty Council and Education Advisory Council. She is a board Member of USA IBC (International Ballet Competition), and member of the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education, ACDFA, Alabama Dance Council, CORD, Dance Camera West, NDEO, Performing Arts Medical Association and Screen Dance. Ms. Newland has also been a presenter for NASD's Annual Conference leading the Forum for Institutions with Small or Developing Dance Departments as well as serving on the Committee on Ethics.

Department Duties:


Krista BowerKrista Bower, (2007) Specialty Instructor of Dance

MFA in Choreography, Jacksonville University
BFA in Dance, Belhaven University


Krista Bower earned an MFA in Choreography from Jacksonville University/White Oak and a BFA in Dance from Belhaven University. Bower was a recipient of the Jacksonville University Dean's Award for Excellence in 2011 and 2012. As a student at Belhaven, she received the Bezalel Award for outstanding artistic achievement and the Daniel Award for outstanding scholastic achievement. Bower has presented her research at the Congress on Research in Dance, Society of Dance History Scholars, and National Dance Education Organization conferences.

Bower performed with Living Water Dance Company in Jackson, Mississippi from 2005 - 2006. In 2008, she co-founded Front Porch Dance, a Mississippi-based contemporary dance company. Bower is the co-director of the company, as well as a choreographer and performer. She enjoys the opportunity to collaborate and perform with dancers, musicians, and visual artists throughout the state. In addition to teaching at Belhaven University, Bower owns and directs the Yazoo City School of Dance, training students of all ages. Bower served on the staff of the USA International Ballet Competition in 2006 and 2010, and she was the Dance School Administrator for the 2014 USA IBC Dance School and Teacher Training Program. Krista is also a founding instructor of the Dance for Parkinson’s program in Jackson, MS.

Bower was a 2011 recipient of a Performing Arts Fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a merit-based award given to "professionals producing works of high artistic quality." In 2013, the Mississippi Business Journal named Bower one of "Mississippi's 50 Leading Business Women."

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Eric Lott (2014) Director of Dance Productions

Kellis McSparrin, Adjunct Instructor of DanceKellis McSparrin Oldenburg (2013), Adjunct Instructor of Dance

MFA, New York University's Tisch School of the Artst
BFA, University of Southern Mississippi

Kellis McSparrin, a Clinton, Mississippi native, is a performer, choreographer, and teacher with her training founded in ballet and modern dance. She discovered her love of dance during her time as a singer/dancer of the award-winning show choir, Clinton High School's Attache of Clinton, MS from 2003-2006. She attended the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), where she graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2010, earning a Bachelor's of Fine Arts Degree in Dance Performance and Choreography. She was also named the "Outstanding Dance Major" by the USM Dance faculty.

After graduating from USM, McSparrin moved to New York City, where she attended graduate school at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. In 2012, she obtained her Master's of Fine Arts Degree in Dance. Though her collegiate training focused on ballet and modern, she received additional training in various dance styles such as hip hop, musical theater, jazz, contemporary jazz, and improvisation. McSparrin has also studied acting, music theory, composition and history, voice, writing, and dance history. Most recently, she received her certification in Mind Body Dancer Yoga; a yoga curriculum created specifically with dancers in mind.

While at USM and NYU, McSparrin held several teaching assistant positions in the areas of rhythmic analysis, music analysis and dance composition. Most notably, she was chosen by the Tisch Dance faculty for the competitive Music Graduate Assistantship in 2011. She was also selected to perform in several professional company works during her collegiate education, including choreography by Cherylyn Lavagnino, Sydney Skybetter, Chris Elam and Chrystal Brown. McSparrin has successfully orchestrated a freelance choreography career for the past seven years, choreographing and teaching for various musical theater programs, show choirs, and dance schools throughout the Southeast.

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Caleb MitchellCaleb Mitchell (2009) Assistant Professor of Dance

MFA in Dance, University of California, Irvine
BFA in Dance, University of Arizona
Houston Ballet (1998-2007)

Caleb Mitchell was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan where he received early ballet training at the age of 16 under Rose Marie Floyd. After graduating cum laude in 1998 with a BFA in dance from the University of Arizona, Caleb joined the Houston Ballet under Ben Stevenson, O.B.E.-emeritus and later Stanton Welch, artistic director. During his tenure with Houston Ballet (1998-2007), Mr. Mitchell performed many featured roles in works by George Balanchine, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Sir Frederick Ashton, Ben Stevenson, O.B.E., Glen Tetley, William Forsythe, Paul Taylor, Christopher Bruce, Ronald Hynd, Lila York, Natalie Weir, Julia Adams, Trey McIntyre, Stanton Welch, James Kuldelka, and David Parsons. In 2007, Caleb was awarded a Chancellor's Distinguished Fellowship (Helen Russell Scholar) at the University Of California- Irvine. While pursuing his degree at UCI, Caleb danced in featured roles by Jodie Gates (Joffrey Ballet, Frankfurt Ballet) and William Forsythe. Mr. Mitchell received his MFA in dance June 2009.

Mr. Mitchell's choreographic projects include works set on, Neos Dance Company, Hosannah Sacred Arts, dancers from the Houston Ballet, Houston Ballet II, Houston Metropolitan Dance Company, Ad Deum Dance Company, Le Lien Ballet Theater and Masterworks Art Festival, and University of California, Irvine. During his tenure at UCI, Mr. Mitchell was Ballet Master for Professor David Allen (former National Ballet of Canada, Diamond Project), and in 2008 was awarded the Medici scholar grant to do choreographic research with world renowned choreographer Alonzo King (Lines Ballet) and Jacopo Godani (Frankfurt Ballet) for his thesis. Mr. Mitchell's many recent choreographic projects include "Sanctuary", a world premiere, was a collaborative with world renowned choreographer Dr. Donald McKayle and performed by the Etude Dance Ensemble and the UCI Symphony Orchestra at UCI Irvine in April 2009. He also staged his graduate work created on University of California, Irvine Dance entitled "Rain" on Brigham Young University Contemporary Dance Ensemble performed winter 2012.

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Laura MortonLaura Morton (2004), Associate Professor of Dance

BS in Psychology, University Of Houston
Instructor, Houston Ballet Ben Stevenson Academy
Co-director, Ad Deum Dance Company

Laura Morton's background includes extensive training in classical ballet, jazz, and modern from prestigious dance educators such as Anne and Nicholas Polajenko, ABT's Alexander Minz, and at Ballet West with director Bruce Marks and Toni Lander. Her professional credits include Milwaukee Ballet, Delia Stewart Dance Company, Houston Metropolitan Dance Company and Ad Deum Dance Company. She has also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from the University of Houston.

Morton has taught nationally and internationally. Her teaching credentials include serving on the faculties of Summer Arts Session (Ravensburg, Germany), Pacific Northwest School of Ballet (Seattle, WA), Evergreen City Ballet (Auburn, WA), Houston Metropolitan Dance Center, (Houston, TX), Houston Ballet Ben Stevenson Academy (Houston, TX), and Ad Deum Dance Company (Houston, TX). While holding these various positions, her responsibilities included instructing, rehearsing, restaging classical ballets, choreographing, as well as lighting designer and stage manager. All of these responsibilities enabled her to share the invaluable information passed on to her by the many remarkable teachers that have mentored her as well as her own years of teaching experience.

Within her technique classes, Morton implements an anatomical approach. She focuses on what capacities need to be developed and attempts to untangle and correct any alignment, placement, and/or performance challenges. She stresses to her students the importance of a healthy lifestyle so as to avoid injury in technique class, rehearsal, and performance.

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Erin RockwellErin Scheiwe Rockwell (2008) Specialty Instructor of Dance

MFA in Dance, California State University, Long Beach
BA in Dance, St. Olaf College
Pilates Certification, Body Arts and Science International (BASI)

Erin Scheiwe Rockwell graduated Summa Cum Laude with a MFA in Dance from California State University, Long Beach (2008) and Cum Laude with a BA in Dance from St. Olaf University (2001). Her choreography has been presented nationally by several dance companies, schools, and festival. During her four years between degree programs, Rockwell lived in New York City where she enjoyed choreographing for a dance theatre company called Notes In Motion and performing with a variety of independent choreographers.

While studying in California, Rockwell obtained her comprehensive Pilates teacher training with dance specialization through Body Arts and Science International and taught Pilates and modern dance at CSULB. She studied directly with master Pilates instructor and dance scientist, Karen Clippinger, who developed a dance specific repertoire based on classical Pilates philosophy and technique. With background in both classical and dance specific Pilates repertoire, she appreciates working with diverse populations to help individuals and groups achieve their specific fitness goals.

Throughout her career, Rockwell's interest in technology has inspired her to direct and edit several short dance films, attended and present work at international film workshops/festivals, as well as fuse screendance within her stage choreography. She has developed curriculum for Belhaven's dance department aiming to expand student's knowledge and creative potential to support their academic and choreographic pursuits.

In 2008, Rockwell co-founded a dance company called Font Porch Dance (, a Mississippi based dance collective aimed at creating approachable dance art that promotes awareness and appreciation of contemporary dance. The company continues to present original choreographic work throughout Mississippi often in collaboration with local musicians and visual artists. In addition to sitting on the company's Board of Directors, Rockwell works as Production Director, choreographer, and performer.

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Ravenna WagonRavenna Tucker Wagnon (2006), Associate Professor of Dance

Masters of Creative Industries, Queensland University of Technology
Pilates Certification, Body Arts and Science International (BASI)
Associate of The Royal Academy of Dance
Royal Ballet School Teachers' Course for Professional Dancers (TCPD).
The Commonwealth Society of Teachers of Dancing Diploma (C.S.T.D.)

Ravenna Tucker, as known throughout her career, was born in Malaysia and began dancing in Hong Kong under Paula Lau. In 1978, she won the Adeline Gen&eqcutee Gold Medal Competition, and in 1979, the French Foundation Prize at the Prix de Lausanne. She joined The Royal Ballet in 1979, and was named "Dancer of the Year" by Dance and Dancers magazine in 1984. She was promoted to principal dancer in 1985 and danced the title roles in the Royal Ballet versions of the classics. In 1990, she joined the Birmingham Royal Ballet until 1996. Tucker has also performed with Singapore Dance Theatre, International Dance Day 2001 in Manila, Rose Borromeo Dance Company (Flamenco), Project Dance London in 2011, and the Mississippi Dance Festival in 2012.

In 1997, Tucker joined LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts in Singapore as a full-time dance lecturer, and in 2006 she became Associate Professor of Dance at Belhaven University. She has guest taught for Singapore Dance Theatre, Debra Colker Dance Company, and the USA International Ballet Competition 2010 in Jackson.

Tucker has served as Secretary for the Dance Association (Singapore)/World Dance Alliance Asia-Pacific Dance Bridge 2001 conference, Artistic Committee of Singapore Dance Theatre, Artistic Director of Singapore Dance Legacy: The Unsung Heroes - Tony Llacer in 2004, and as a selection committee member for the USA International Ballet Competition 2010 in Jackson. She has examined for the Royal Academy of Dance Solo Seal and judged various ballet competitions in Britain, Hong Kong, and Malaysia.

Tucker is a certified teacher for the Royal Academy of Dance, the Commonwealth Society of Teachers' of Dancing, Body Arts and Science International (BASI) Pilates, and holds a Masters of Creative Industries from Queensland University of Technology in Australia. Tucker is now married to Stan Wagnon.

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Emily Wright, Belhaven Dance FacultyEmily Wright (2008), Associate Professor of Dance

PhD Candidate (ABD), Texas Woman’s University
MFA in Dance, Arizona State University
BFA in Dance, Belhaven University


Emily Wright received her BFA in Dance from Belhaven University in 2002 and her MFA in Dance, with an emphasis in performance and choreography, from Arizona State University in 2007. Wright has presented her research on dance and American Christianity at numerous national and international conferences, including the Congress on Research in Dance, the National Dance Education Organization, and the Nordic Forum of Dance Research. Her work has been published in Fields in Motion: Ethnography in the Worlds of Dance (2011), the Journal of Emerging Dance Scholarship (2013), and the Journal of Dance, Movement and Spiritualities (2014). Wright is currently completing her PhD in Dance Studies (ABD) at Texas Woman’s University where she is writing her dissertation on the professionalization of Christian dance. Wright was also a founding member of the Jackson-based contemporary dance collective, Front Porch Dance. She currently serves on their board of directors

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Adjunct Faculty

Sol Nazario, Adjunct Dance InstructorSol Maisonet (2010) - Adjunct Instructor of Dance

AD, Public Administration - University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico
History of Arts - University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Ballet Training Certificate - Cuban Method - Pro-Danza Company - Ms. Laura Alonso. Habana, Cuba.
Principal Dancer: Ballet Puertorriqueéo - Ramon Segarra, National Ballet of Colombia - Bogota, Colombia, Ballet Theater Municipal of Puerto Rico.
Ballet Mistress, Rehearsal Director, Trainee Program Director and School of the Arts Principal- Ballet Magnificat!


Sol Maisonet-Nazario is originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico. She started teaching Classical Ballet in the year 1977 and has coached many professional dancers in several ballet companies in Puerto Rico, Colombia, Costa Rica, and the USA. During her 25 years as professional dancer, the Puerto Rico Institute of Culture awarded her several times to travel to New York City to train under Madame Maggie Black, Ramón Segarra and David Howard. As Principal dancer with Ballet Puertorriqueéo, Ballet Theatre Municipal of San Juan, Ballet Concierto, and Ballets of San Juan, Nazario has performed leading roles in well-known ballets, including Waltz of Ravel, Symphony in Three Movements, The Nutcracker, Les Sylphides, Swan Lake, Rites of Spring, Tango Expectro, The Merry Widow, and George Balanchine's Rubies, Serenad, Who Cares, as well as other companies' repertoire.

In 1984, the Colombia Government invited her to perform with The Ballet National of Colombia in Bogotá under artistic director Ramon Segarra. Several ballets where choreographed for her during her one year as Principal Dancer. In 1988 Nazario was invited to represent Puerto Rico, with Ballets de San Juan, at the 5th Iberoamerican Festival, Oscar Lopez in Barcelona, Spain and finished as a finalist with Petra Bravo's (a Cuban choreographer) piece, Que Signo Lleva el Amor (what is the sign of love). In 1993, Nazario, co-founded with choreographers Gabry Christa, from Holland, and Gloria Llompart the company called Danzadentro in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She performed the company's repertoire in Puerto Rico and New York City until 1995 when she once again represented Puerto Rico in Barcelona, Spain with her own choreography, Una Vez al Mes. On another two occasions, she was chosen to represent Puerto Rico with Petra Bravo's Un Solo Dueto and the Virgin Islands with Gabry Christa's Matutina in the Latin-American Dance Congress held in Caracas, Venezuela. In 2001, Nazario moved to Jackson, Mississippi to join the premier Christian Ballet Company, Ballet Magnificat, where she was the Ballet Mistress and Principal for their School of the Arts until December, 2009. In January 2010, she joined Belhaven University's Dance Department faculty as Adjunct Instructor of dance.

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Mia Whitehead (2012), Adjunct Instructor of Dance

Dance Apprentice Program, Belhaven University
Company member, Ballet San Antonio
Company member, TALK Dance Co.


Mia Whitehead graduated from Belhaven University's Dance Apprentice Program (2004). Whitehead moved to San Antonio, TX to dance professionally with Ballet San Antonio for three years, and later returned to Jackson, MS where she danced with TALK Dance Co. for two years. Whitehead has also danced and taught internationally with Shachah Touring Dance Company (2008). Whitehead became the dance instructor for the USA International Ballet Competition's outreach program, CityDance (2010).

As an instructor at Belhaven University, Whitehead has worked extensively with the lower ballet levels to create a good foundation for more complex movement. She also works with the Dance Ministry Ensemble, scheduling presentations and directing rehearsals.

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Miranda Williams (2013), Dance Athletic Trainer

Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training, Eastern Illinois University
Master of Science in Sport and Human Performance, Delta State University
NATA Board Certified Athletic Trainer
First Aid, CPR, AED Certification


Miranda Williams graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, IL in 2011. She will graduate May 2013 with a Master's of Science in Sport and Human Performance from Delta State University in Cleveland, MS. Miranda is a National Athletic Trainer's Association Board Certified Athletic Trainer. She is also certified in First Aid, CPR, and AED use.

Williams worked as a Graduate Assistant Certified Athletic Trainer for a year and a half with Delta State University Athletics, primarily women's basketball and women's soccer. At Eastern Illinois University, part of her clinical experience involved working with certified athletic trainers in care of the women's soccer, women's basketball, and football teams, as well as experience and observation in hospitals, surgery, and outpatient physical therapy clinics. Between graduation from EIU and beginning her assistantship at Delta State, Williams developed a six week sports performance program for junior high and high school athletes.

Growing up, Williams participated in dance classes recreationally and competitively. Her history with dance has led to her interest in working with and caring for dancers with the Belhaven University Dance Department as the Dance Athletic Trainer. Williams provides vital attention and work in the care, evaluation, treatment, and prevention of the dancers' injuries. Williams also assists dance instructors with conditioning and strengthening programs.