Dance Department Faculty

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

Krista BowerKrista Bower, (2007) - Chair and Associate Professor of Dance

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


Krista Bower earned an MFA in Choreography from Jacksonville University 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. She enjoys the opportunity to collaborate and perform with dancers, musicians, and visual artists throughout the state. Bower owns and directs the Yazoo City School of Dance, which trains students of all ages and employs two Belhaven University dance graduates as instructors.  In 2006 and 2010, Bower served on the staff of the USA International Ballet Competition, 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.

In 2016 and 2011, Bower received Performing Arts Fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission, merit-based awards 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."

Departmental Duties:

  • Chair of Dance Department
  • Resident Choreographer
  • Dance Ministry Ensemble Co-Director (2013-2016)


  • Modern Dance Technique
  • Improvisation
  • Performance
  • Teaching Methods for Modern Dance
  • Graduate Pedagogy

Laura Morton - Associate Professor of DanceLaura Morton

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). Morton presently serves as an Associate Professor of Dance at Belhaven University in Jackson, MS. 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. Morton is presently pursuing a Master of Science in Applied Exercise Physiology.

Erin RockwellErin Scheiwe Rockwell (2008) - Associate Professor 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 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.

Departmental Duties:

  • Resident Choreographer
  • Senior Project Mentor
  • Student Advising
  • Website Coordinator


  • Modern Dance Technique
  • Improv II
  • Composition I
  • Choreography
  • Dance and Technology
  • Choreography with the Camera
  • Performance
  • Production I
  • Graduate Choreography
  • Graduate Seminar
  • Performance Media Techniques

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 (ARAD)
Royal Ballet School Teachers’ Course for Professional Dancers (TCPD).
The Commonwealth Society of Teachers of Dancing Diploma (C.S.T.D.)


As a dancer, Malaysian-born Ravenna Tucker, began dance training in Hong Kong then at the Royal Ballet Upper School in London. In 1978 she won the Adeline Genée 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. On promotion to principal dancer in 1985 she 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), Ecnad Project Ltd., Project Dance London (2011), and the inaugural Mississippi Dance Festival (2012).

Wagnon taught as a full-time dance lecturer at LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts in Singapore, and guest taught for Singapore Dance Theatre, Debra Colker Dance Company, the Mississippi Dance Festival, the Alabama Dance Festival, American College Dance Association 2013 and 2016, and competitor classes of the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson in 2010 and 2014.

Wagnon has served as Secretary for the Dance Association (Singapore)/World Dance Alliance Asia-Pacific Dance Bridge 2001 conference, Artistic Committee of Singapore Dance Theatre, and as Artistic Director of Singapore Dance Legacy: The Unsung Heroes – Tony Llacer in 2004. She has examined for the Royal Academy of Dance Solo Seal and judged various ballet competitions in Britain, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. She was a member of the selection committee in 2010 and an evaluator in 2014 for the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi.
Wagnon is a certified teacher for the Royal Academy of Dance, the Commonwealth Society of Teachers’ of Dancing (Australia), Body Arts and Science International (BASI) Pilates, and holds a Masters of Creative Industries from Queensland University of Technology in Australia. She is currently an Associate Professor of Dance at Belhaven University and is married to Stan Wagnon.

Departmental Duties:

  • Student Advisor
  • Senior Project Mentor
  • Faculty Advisor for the Urban Dance Club


  • Pilates I and II
  • Ballet Technique
  • Pointe Technique
  • Variations
  • Conditioning for Dancers
  • Performance
  • Dance History (Ballet)
  • Pas de Deux
  • Performance Technique

Emily Wright (2008) - Associate Professor of DanceEmily Wright, Belhaven Dance Faculty

PhD in Dance, Texas Woman’s University
MFA in Dance, Arizona State University
BFA in Dance, Belhaven University


Emily Wright began her dance training at Dancers’ Studio in Knoxville, Tennessee, in German expressionist and Graham-based modern techniques under the direction of Irena Linn. She received her BFA in Dance from Belhaven University (2002) and her MFA in Dance from Arizona State University (2007). Wright’s research, which focuses on intersections between dance and religious practice, is published in Fields in Motion: Ethnography is the Worlds of Dance (2011), the Journal of Emerging Dance Scholarship (2013) and the Journal of Dance, Movement, and Spiritualities (2014). She has presented her work at numerous national and international conferences, including the Congress on Research in Dance, the National Dance Education Organization, and the World Dance Alliance. Wright is currently working on a book manuscript, Dancing to Transform: How Concert Dance Becomes Religious in American Christianity, forthcoming from Intellect Press.

Wright’s teaching specializations include modern dance technique, pedagogy, and dance history, with additional expertise in research and writing practices. Her teaching focuses on practice-based research models and critical inquiry into the ways in which power relations and socio-cultural location influence knowledge production. Wright also directs the modern division, where she oversees modern teaching faculty and the consistent delivery of the modern technique curriculum. In recognition of her efforts, Wright was awarded the “Excellence in Higher Education Award” from the Mississippi Arts Alliance for Education (2016). Wright also serves as faculty sponsor for the dance department’s chapter of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts.

Dr. Wright is a founding member of Front Porch Dance, a Jackson-based contemporary dance collective. In addition to making and performing dance works, she served as Development Director from 2008-2012, where she was awarded grants from the Greater Jackson Arts Council, the Mississippi Arts Commission, and the Mississippi Humanities Council. Wright currently serves on their board of directors.

Departmental Duties:

  • MFA Program Director
  • Director of the Modern Division
  • Graduate and Undergraduate Student Advisor
  • Chapter Sponsor for the National Honor Society for Dance Arts


  • Modern Dance Technique
  • Research and Writing for Dance
  • Performance
  • Critical Issues in Dance Studies

Specialty Instructors

Owen Rockwell, Specialty Instructor for Dance and MusicOwen Rockwell

Owen Rockwell, DMA is Specialty Instructor of Dance and Music at Belhaven University where he serves as Director of Music for the Department of Dance and Director of Percussion Ensembles in the Department of Music. He provides music for modern dance classes, coordinates musicians and musical activities within the department of dance, teaches private percussion lessons, and coaches the Belhaven Percussion Ensemble. In 2014, he began the Belhaven Night of Percussion (and Classical Guitar), a much anticipated, annual event held in the Belhaven University Center for the Arts.

“Doc Rock,” as his students affectionately refer to him, is a versatile performer and experienced music educator committed to challenging his students towards musical excellence and lifelong personal growth. His former students are high school band directors, graduate students, and professional performers throughout the country.

Additionally, Dr. Rockwell teaches as an Adjunct Instructor at Jackson State University, where he was formerly an Assistant Band Director with the famed “Sonic Boom of the South” marching band, and Instructor of Music from 2006-2012. While there he has taught Graduate and Undergraduate applied percussion lessons, Honors Music Appreciation and Percussion (Methods) Class

Rockwell performs regularly with the Mississippi and Meridian (MS) Symphony Orchestras, as well as his jazz trio, the Vibe Doctors. He has appeared on NPR, PBS, and participated in the 1994 World Cup opening ceremonies in Orlando, FL as a snare drummer with the World Finalist, Magic of Orlando Drum and Bugle Corps. In July of 2016, he was interviewed on ”The Mississippi Arts Hour,” an radio show produced by Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB) that features Artists and Arts organizations from around the state.

He can also be heard on several recordings, including Vibe Doctors (Elegant Trainwreck label, 2015), The Celestial Sliphorns (Sea Breeze Jazz label, 2007), with Universal Republic label recording artist Matt Wertz on his collaborative recording, Damascus Road (Windmill Music label, 2001), and on his own solo percussion recording: Owen Rockwell, Percussion (produced by the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 2001).

He is the recipient of many awards recognizing his skill as a performer. In 2015, Rockwell was granted a Performing Arts Fellowship by the Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC). While a graduate student at the University of Illinois, he was named the 2000 “Debut Artist,” the School of Music’s highest honor for a student performer each year, culminating in a professional “Debut” recital, held in the Foellinger Great Hall in the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Rockwell earned the Master of Music and Bachelor of Music degrees in Percussion Performance from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His primary teachers were marimba virtuoso William Moersch, and long-time percussion educator and scholar Thomas Siwe. Prior to moving to Jackson, MS, he worked as a free-lance musician and educator in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Nashville, TN. In 2015, he completed the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Percussion Performance and Pedagogy, at The University of Southern Mississippi where he was a student of Dr. John Wooton.

Elizabeth Sweatt (2016) - Specialty Instructor of DanceElisabeth Sweatts

BFA in Dance, Belhaven University
Company Member, Ballet San Antonio
Company Member, TALK Dance Company


Elizabeth Sweatt began her training in Shizuoka at the age of 7. Elizabeth received dance and academic scholarships to attend Belhaven University in Jackson, MS. While at Belhaven she performed in numerous new ballets and modern works set by choreographers from around the country. Elizabeth danced with Ballet San Antonio and with TALK dance company for a number of years. She has taught and choreographed extensively around the US as well as in many parts of Asia. Elizabeth has returned to Mississippi and is currently an instructor of dance at Belhaven University.

Departmental Duties:

  • Dance Ministry Ensemble Co-director
  • Ballet Technique
  • Pointe Technique
  • Modern Technique
  • Performance

Mia Whitehead (2012) - Specialty Instructor of DanceMia Whitehead

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


Mia Whitehead began dancing under her mother, Melvina Whitehead and at Ballet Magnificat! School of the Arts. She completed Belhaven University’s Dance Apprentice program, receiving extensive training under Lauri Worrill-Biggs and Laura Morton. While at Belhaven she received scholarships to Joffrey Ballet School, Nashville Ballet, and Dance Theatre of Harlem. Miss Whitehead danced professionally with Ballet San Antonio and TALK Dance Company, expanding her horizons not only by dancing but by teaching on a national and international level. She values the lives of her students, and seeks to provide an environment for them to learn and develop their discovered and undiscovered gifts.

Departmental Duties:

  • Rehearsal Director
  • Assistant Director of the Dance Ministry Ensemble


  • Ballet Technique
  • Pointe Technique

Adjunct Faculty

Carleigh Chitwood (2014) - Adjunct Instructor of DanceCarliegh Dunbar

Carleigh Chitwood grew up in Murfreesboro, TN with a diverse training background in dance and musical theatre and received her BFA in Dance from Belhaven University. In addition to performing and presenting choreography at the American college Dance Festival Southern Regional Conference, she was a member of the Belhaven Bal Malhada Dance Ensemble’s 2014 dance tour of South Korea. She is currently an Adjunct Professor of Dance at Belhaven and dance instructor at public and private schools throughout the Jackson area.

Andy Leatherman (2012) - Adjunct Instructor of DanceAndy Letherman

Andrew Leatherman received his BFA in Dance from Belhaven University.  He has performed with At Marah Dance Theatre, Inlet Dance Theatre, and appeared as a guest artist with Delta Festival Ballet.  He currently teaches gymnastics and is the co-founder and artistic director for Intersect Dance Collective in Jackson, MS.

Sol Nazario, Adjunct Dance Instructor

Sol 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 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, Maisonet 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 Maisonet 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, Maisonet, 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, Maisonet 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.

Departmental Duties:

  • Rehearsal Director

Cynthia NewlandCynthia Newland (2003) - Adjunct Professor of Dance

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, 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 in Korea, Dong Ah Institute of Media and Arts, Hang Yang ERICA University and FEBC.

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 Awards from the Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education including the Lifetime Achievement Award 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 Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education, and member of 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 Conferences.

Currently she teaches part time at Belhaven while traveling nationally and internationally providing dance training, presentations and choreography, as well as offering equipping tools for all ages on “Nourishing the Body, Soul and Spirit”.

Clara Grace Watts (2015) -Adjunct Instructor of DanceClara Grace Watts

Clara Grace Watts received her MFA in dance performance and choreography from Belhaven University and her BFA in dance education from the University of Southern Mississippi. She holds her dance licensure, K-12, and taught dance within the public school system prior to Belhaven. Watts' continues to pursue other avenues of performance and instruction, such as showchoirs, musical theater, colorguards, winterguards, dance studios, and high school bands. She performed with the 2008 Phantom Regiment Drum & Bugle Corp in their show Spartacus, where they won the DCI World Championships. She currently serves as the resident choreographer for the Jackson Academy band program and the Mississippi Lions' All-state Band, who are the reigning international champions.


Miranda Layman (2013) - Dance Athletic TrainerMiranda Layman

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 Layman graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, IL in 2011 and graduated 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.  Miranda continues to expand her knowledge in athletic trainer through continuing education courses and dance specific education. 

Miranda 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, Miranda developed a six week sports performance program for junior high and high school athletes.  During her time at Belhaven, Miranda has also worked with the International Ballet Competition. 

Growing up, Layman 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. Layman provides vital attention and work in the care, evaluation, treatment, and prevention of the dancers' injuries. Layman also assists dance students and faculty with conditioning and strengthening programs and is the lab instructor for Dance Kinesiology.

Eric Lott - Director of Dance ProductionEric Lott

Eric Lott received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre, Design & Technology from University of Southern Mississippi in 2008. Since earning his degree he spent 5 years working in the Audio Department at Center Stage Theater in Baltimore. After leaving Center Stage he worked at Design Foundry, an event design and decor company outside of Washington, DC as the Assistant Production Manager before moving back to Mississippi to join Belhaven University.

Chelsey Schuller (2014) - Director of Dance CostumeChelsey Schuller

MFA in Costume Design, University of Maryland
BFA in Technical Theatre, University of Southern Mississippi

After earning her MFA from the University of Maryland, Chelsey worked as a freelance costume designer and assistant in the Washington DC area with such companies as Adventure Theater MTC, Signature Theatre, Ford’s Theatre, Imagination Stage, The Washington Ballet, The Kennedy Center, Rebollar Dance, and others. While in DC she spent two seasons as the costume designer for Bowen McCauley Dance and designed costumes for their touring show Victory Road.  She is excited to now be at Belhaven University where she can continue to explore the art of costuming and be a part of encouraging creative growth in other artists.

Departmental Duties:

  • Costume BUDE concerts and the Dance Ministry Ensemble
  • Manage the Dance Department costume shop
  • Costume consultant for MFA Thesis Projects and Senior Projects


  • Costume for Dance
Megan Voos - Administrative Assistant for Dance and Visual ArtsMegan Voos