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 the Dance Department

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

601-965-1413
kbower@belhaven.edu

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)

Courses:

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

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)

601-965-1422
erockwell@belhaven.edu

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 (www.frontporchdance.org), 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

Courses:

  • 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

Elizabeth Sweatt (2016) - Specialty Instructor of Dance

601-965-1421
esweatt@belhaven.edu

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.

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 (CSTD)

601-965-1420
rwagnon@belhaven.edu

Ravenna Tucker, as known throughout her career, was born in Malaysia and began dance in Hong Kong under Paula Lau. 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. 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, the Mississippi Dance Festival, the Alabama Dance Festival, American College Dance Association 2013 and 2016, and taught the competitors of the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson in 2010 and 2014.

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 in 2010 and as an evaluator in 2014 for the USA International Ballet Competition 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 (Australia), Body Arts and Science International (BASI) Pilates, and holds a Masters of Creative Industries from Queensland University of Technology in Australia. Tucker is married to Stan Wagnon.

Departmental Duties:

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

Courses:

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

Mia Whitehead (2012) - Specialty Instructor of Dance

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

601-965-1402
mwhitehead@belhaven.edu

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

Courses:

  • Ballet Technique
  • Pointe Technique

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

601-965-1461
ewright@belhaven.edu

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 will defend her dissertation, entitled “Dancing Christian: Narrative, Body, Choreography in American Evangelical and Emergence Christianity, at Texas Woman’s University in October 2016.

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.

Ms. 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

Courses:

  • Modern Dance Technique
  • Dance History I & III
  • Research and Writing for Dance
  • Performance
  • Critical Issues in Dance Studies

Adjunct Faculty

Carleigh Chitwood (2014) - Adjunct Professor of Dance

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 Professor of Dance

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.

Eric Lott (2014) - Director of Dance Productions

601-965-1400
elott@belhaven.edu

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!

601-965-1461
smaisonet@belhaven.edu

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.

Departmental Duties:

  • Senior Project Mentor
  • Director of the Dance Ministry Ensemble
  • Rehearsal Director

Courses:

  • Ballet Technique
  • Pointe Technique

Chelsey Schuller (2014) - Director of Dance Costumes

Chelsey Schuller graduated with her BFA in Technical Theatre with an emphasis in costume design from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2008. She earned her MFA in Costume Design form the University of Maryland in 2011. After graduating form UMD, Chelsey worked As a freelance costume design in the Washington DC art at such companies as Adventure Theater MTC, Signature Theater, Imagination Stage, Ford’s Theatre, Alight Dance Theater, The Washington Ballet, The Kennedy Center, and others. Chelsey also worked two seasons ate the costume designer for Bowen McCauley Dance. 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 artist.

Lauren Ashlee Small (2015) - Adjunct Professor of Dance

MFA in Dance Candidate, Belhaven University (2017)
BFA in Dance, Belhaven University

lsmall@belhaven.edu

MFA in Dance candidate (2017), Lauren Ashlee Small, graduated Cum Laude with a BFA in Dance (2010) from Belhaven University. During her time at Belhaven, Small performed the work of Stephen Wynne, Erin Rockwell, Betsy McMillan, Britta Wynne, Krista Bower, and in the restaging of Charles Weidman’s historic Brahms Waltzes by Valerie Henry. Small also performed and presented original choreography at the American College Dance Festival, at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

After graduation, Small continued her dance training in workshops and intensives with Inlet Dance Theatre, Paul Taylor Dance Company member Julie Tice, and the International Ballet Competition dance school, before moving to New York City.

A recipient of the Oprah Winfrey Foundation Scholarship Award at The Ailey School’s professional division in New York City, Small trained with Anna Marie Forsythe, Carolyn Adams, Joan Peters, Jacqulyn Buglisi, Pedro Ruiz, Marianne Bachmann, Tracy Inman, and Melanie Person. In NYC, Small performed with Amalgamate Dance Company and Dance into Deliverance, after joining the cast of the 2011 film and performance installation, Persona, at the American Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. Her original choreography was selected as one of ten dances performed in the Ailey School’s Fall Fest showcase and was presented at the 92nd Street Y and the New York Jazz Choreography Project.

Following her return to Belhaven in 2014 for the newly established MFA in Dance program, Small performed Caleb Mitchell’s Of Children at the 2015 International Association of Blacks in Dance conference in Cleveland, Ohio. She also presented original research, “Movement by Movement: Practicing Freedom, Mobilizing Change,” at Jackson State University’s 2016 Creative Arts Festival. Small’s choreography has been performed at the first annual Art-Er Limits Oxford Fringe Festival (Oxford, MS) and Kinetic Etchings Dance Company Showcase (Jackson, MS).

Courses:

  • Modern Dance Technique

Clara Grace Watts (2015) -Adjunct Professor of Dance

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.

Lisa Renee Wissing (2015) - Adjunct Instructor of Dance

Lisa Renee has taken her knowledge and experience in the professional dance field from the Midwest to Mississippi. She had the privilege of working in 6 local professional dance companies east of Detroit. In the past three years alone, she’s taken administrative roles in 15 workshops, 3 internships, an independent film, and has also choreographed for over 29 different dance productions including Guys and Dolls (2012) and Urinetown (2013). She created and produced Eastern Michigan University’s Informal Dance Concert series as well as multiple contact jams. Having studied 15 different forms of movement throughout the US and Canada she has also worked to expand her physical dance experience by researching the concept of identity in the studio space. After serving as Hip Hop Dance Program Director at Daryl Jervis Dance she continues her journey teaching at Xpress Dance Company and Belhaven University while working to receive a Masters of Fine Arts degree by 2017. Recently she founded CIC Dance Theatre, an international performance company who collectively work to cultivate authentic worshipful experiences. She and her company’s aim is to walk in Christ and inspire others to engage in rooted relationships with Christ and His body.

Staff:

Miranda Layman (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

601-965-7003
mlayman@belhaven.edu

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.