CCD Location
The Center for
Contemporary Dance
3580 Aloma Ave #7
Winter Park, FL 32792
Dario J. Moore

Dario co-founded The Center for Contemporary Dance and has served as its Artistic Director since 2001. He is an educator, humanitarian, and award-winning artist. A former dancer with Ballethnic Dance Company in Atlanta, Mr. Moore holds an M.A. degree in Dance Education from American University and has taught dance of all disciplines at various colleges throughout Central Florida. Named Seminole County’s Artist of the Year in 2006, Mr. Moore also leads teacher workshops for the Florida Dance Educator Organization.

He has been featured locally on PBS Television, FOX News and the Daily Buzz Morning Talk Show; feature articles about Moore have appeared in the Orlando SentinelOrlando Arts Magazine and Orlando Home & Leisure Magazine. In addition to overseeing CCD’s dance programs and performance companies, he directs U-Turn Dance Company and Moore Dance Project.

Jeré James

Jeré has been dancing for the past 24 years and has more than 8 years of experience in production and rehearsal management. She has been Rehearsal Director for Moore Dance Project for the past 3 years and is responsible for the scheduling of auditions, rehearsals, leading company classes and directing rehearsals as needed.

Ms. James trained under the direction of Joan Miller with the Palm Beach Ballet Center and attended Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s summer intensive program, where she was asked to join their second company, Ailey II. She decided to continue her education and received a B.A. from the University of Central Florida in International Business with a minor in Dance.

Marilyn Gaston

Marilyn Gaston, a native of Washington D.C., began dance training at an early age with the Washington School of Ballet and with Mateo School of Ballet in Arlington, Virginia.  After high school, she graduated from Texas Christian University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Ballet and Theatre and began dancing professionally while still in college, with the Fort Worth Ballet company and in summer stock musicals at Casa Mañana Theatre in Fort Worth, Texas.  After graduation, Ms. Gaston danced professionally with the Atlanta Ballet Company; the German State Theatre Ballet companies of Lübeck and Karlsrühe, Germany; and the Ballet du Rhin of Strasbourg, France, completing a 40-performance tour of Europe with the ballet Romeo and Juliet.

Ms. Gaston has served on the dance faculties of Towson University, Goucher College, Loyola College (Baltimore) and the Orlando Ballet School, and was founder/director of the Ballet Academy of Baltimore and its affiliate performing company (now known as the Baltimore Ballet) for 17 years.  During this time she choreographed many original works for college and private dance studio companies, including a full-length original Nutcracker, and re-staged classics such as Swan Lake and Les Sylphides.

Ms. Gaston holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Dance with ballet emphasis from the University of Oklahoma.  She is knowledgeable in recognized ballet syllabi training and studied the Vaganova training method personally as a young professional dancer with Mme. Vera Volkova, a former pupil of Agrippina Vaganova herself.

Dr. Margo Blake

Dr. Margo Blake began training over 48 years ago. Her instructors included Lester Wilson, choreographer for “Saturday Night Fever,” and Michael Peters, choreographer for Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and “Thriller” videos, and the original Broadway production of “Dream Girls.” She has appeared at Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center, and worked on the film “The Wiz.” She is a founding artist of the FreshStArts Program at Rollins College, and has owned two dance studios. Dr. Blake holds an H.D.D., B.S. and A.S. in Christian Education, an M.A.A.A. from Goucher College and a B.F.A. from Temple University.

Her dance education includes studies in Ghana, West Africa and Katherine Dunham’s Cultural Technique Seminars in St. Louis, MO. She has been a company member with the Bernice Johnson Dance Company and Arthur Hall’s Afro-American Dance Ensemble. Dr. Blake has served as an adjunct dance professor at Rollins College and Temple University. Notably, she was the first African-American female Associate Show Director for Walt Disney World Entertainment, training both choreographers and cast members for Festival of The Lion King at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Dr. Blake is a Teaching Artist for OCAE, FAAE and is been a guest Consultant in African dance for the Clark County School District’s Equity & Diversity Dept. in Las Vegas, NV.

Olivia Gale

Ms. Gale received her BA from Florida State University where she majored in theater and dance. She has studied dance in its many forms from ballet, jazz and tap to African, modern/contemporary and ballroom. Ms. Gale has had the opportunity to take classes with Robert Joffery, Arthur Mitchell, Robert Barnett, Luigi, Al Gilbert, Reginald Yates, Myles Thoroughgood and Pamela Bolling, just to name a few. Students will see the influence of Gus Giordano and Bob Fosse in her jazz style as well. Ms. Gale owned her own performing arts studio outside of Tallahassee for 19 years prior to moving to Orlando, and taught jazz for the Summer Intensive at Orlando Ballet for 9 years. Although dance in its many forms has been a primary focus of Ms. Gale’s work and interest, she is also an actor, artist, writer and poet. Her articles and poetry have been published nationally in dance magazines with cover articles about Ballet Legend Fernando Bujones featured in Dance Teacher Magazine in 2000 and Dancer Magazine in 2003.

Dawn Branch

Dawn Branch is a native New Yorker and a graduate of the world-renowned LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts. She holds a BA in Media & Communications from State University at Old Westbury and is DEA Certified Level II. Ms. Branch was a soloist with the Bernice Johnson Dance Company and was a scholarship student with the Alvin Ailey American Dance School. She studied under the guidance of Mde. Darvarsh, Penny Frank, Denise Jefferson, Kevin Austin Hunt and Kevin Iega Jeff, the founder and artistic director of the Chicago-based Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre and artist-in-residence for Howard University’s dance major program.

Ms. Branch co-choreographed with Michael Peters (choreographer for Michael Jackson) for “On Stage America,” performed with Ben Vereen at Avery Fisher Hall in New York and performed with Diana Ross at Central Park, also in New York. She was the rehearsal director for The Chocolate Nutcracker (Orlando, FL) performed with Moore Dance Project (operating out of The Center for Contemporary Dance in Winter Park, FL), and is the Founder and President of Dawn Branch Master Dance Series & Performances.

Craig W. Johnson

Craig W. Johnson has more than 15 years of experience in arts management, arts marketing, fundraising and event production. A graduate of Rollins College, his philosophies in arts administration have been featured in university textbooks, international magazines, and local newspapers. Johnson co-founded The Center for Contemporary Dance and has served as its Executive Director since 2001; Creative Director for U-Turn Dance Company in Washington, DC (1994-2001); Development Director for the Little Red Theatre in New Jersey (1990-1994). He has served as a consultant for several Florida arts organizations, including Nao Dance, Emotions Dance Company, the Asian Cultural Association, Yow Dance, DRIP and Patelworks Dance Theater.

He is the co-founder of the Florida Dance Education Forum, which ensures quality dance programming at the public school level. As Executive Director, Johnson has successfully launched partnerships and produced major projects with more than 50 Florida organizations, including the Orange County Arts Education Center, United Arts of Central Florida, the Orlando Public Library System, the Osceola Center for the Arts, Rollins College, Bethune-Cookman University and dozens of local public schools.

Whitney Shulman

A former professional ballet dancer with Boston Ballet, Indianapolis Ballet Theatre, and Ballet Arizona, Ms. Shulman has been teaching ballet and modern dance for more than a decade. She was a student of Magda Aunon in Ft. Lauderdale, FL before attending the State University of New York at Purchase, where she obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance Performance.

In 2000, Ms. Shulman left the stage to focus on teaching the next generation of aspiring professional dancers. In addition to private instruction and coaching, Ms. Shulman was on the faculty of Miami City Ballet and was a professor with Florida International University’s Department of Dance. She has taught at several notable dance schools in South Florida and is a frequent guest of the Florida Dance Masters Association, serving as both an adjudicator and master teacher for their annual conventions.

Jennia Shanley

Jennia Shanley is a dance educator, choreographer and performer. She has over twenty years of training and educational experience. Ms. Jennia graduated Cum Laude with a B.F.A. in Dance from Florida State University. There she studied with internationally celebrated artists including Gerri Houlian, Dan Wagoner, Anthony Morgan, Lynda Davis and Suzanne Farrell. After graduation, Ms. Jennia performed with Staib Dance in Atlanta, GA. Originally from Chattanooga, TN, Ms. Jennia honed her passion for dance under the direction of Karen Smith at Baylor School. Professionally, she returned to Baylor as a member of the dance faculty. She was also on faculty at Ballet Tennessee and was a guest artist at various schools and organizations in Chattanooga. Additionally, Ms. Jennia owns Ascension Dance, LLC which brings exciting dance education to early childhood learning centers. Recently, her choreography “Restless Revolution” was a featured work at the Tennessee Dance Festival.

Through dance education and performance, Ms. Jennia creates a learner-centered environment where students are both challenged and inspired. She believes dance is an enriching medium for physical, intellectual and artistic growth.

Kellina Rutherford

Kellina (Kelly) Rutherford began her technical career as a gymnast, practicing and competing from the age of three until 14. Kelly was introduced to the world of competitive cheerleading and dance through UCF All-Stars, where she used her skills as a gymnast to contribute to the success of the team. Under the tutelage of Julie Johnson, she progressed quickly, utilizing her skills as a gymnast to maximize her potential. After only a year of training, Kelly started her career as a professional dancer and has been training and performing ever since. In 2009, she received first place at the World Of Dance Tour in New York, NY as a part of Studio One Productions. In 2010, she also won first place at Worlds in Orlando, FL, the largest, most competitive international All-Star dance competition.  Kelly also competed on the hit show America’s Got Talent Season 5 as a part of Studio One Young Beast Society. Her team achieved much success, making it to the competition’s top 5 finalists and touring the United States in over 20 major locations. Kelly has also toured the world performing with Fighting Gravity, a black light illusionist act that was one of the final 4 competitors on America’s Got Talent Season 5. Kelly is currently teaching hip hop to all ages, including instruction in House, Popping, Locking, Waacking, Breaking, Tutting and Street Jazz. She continues to broaden her dance vocabulary by taking a variety of dance classes and maintaining a student-like mentality. Kelly plans to further her dance career by taking advantage of her gifts, staying humble, and always giving back.

Taylor May

Taylor May comes to us from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  She spent five years as a “Performance Company” dancer at the Rocky Mountain Dance Academy studying Hip-Hop, Jazz, Modern and Ballet.  In the summer of 2006, she attended the Summer Theatre program at Columbia College in Chicago. There, she took courses in Unarmed Staged Combat and Musical Theatre. Taylor graduated from Colorado Mountain College on the Dean’s List with an Associates of Arts Degree, which included advanced courses in Ballet and Modern.

Miss Taylor has been with the Center for Contemporary Dance for three years, and she brings her extensive experience from nearly a decade of childcare to each of her dance classes. Taylor looks forward to strengthening her student’s talents and to share her love of art through dance.
Marsha Montgomery

Marsha Montgomery has studied, taught, performed, and choreographed in Florida for many years. Locally, she has appeared in productions with Southern Ballet Theater, Ballet Orlando, The Orlando Opera and numerous musical theater groups. In 1985, she founded The Abba Dancers and was ensemble’s artistic director for 12 years. During that time she was resident choreographer for The Dance Arts Center of Melbourne, owned and directed The Ballet School, taught for several dance schools, special interest groups, and for the Morning Star School, teaching children with special needs in an after school program. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and resides in Longwood with her husband.

Mila Makarova

Mila Makarova continues a strong family dance tradition. After receiving her initial training from her parents Nikolai, Bolshoi trained star of the famed Don Cossack Chorus, and Juanita, who performed for Michel Fokine in New York in the 1940s, Mila continued her studies at the North Carolina School of the Arts and later with Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago. During her career, she has performed principal and soloist roles with many of the leading choreographers of our day. Among her favorites are Ann Reinking, Lar Lubovitch, Claire Bataille, Lynn Taylor-Corbett, Randy Duncan, Frank Chaves, Pattie Obey, Andre’ George, Wayne Bascomb, Ze’eva Cohen and Dwight Rhoden.

Lily Vi

Lily Vi has trained in Latin ballroom, modern, and various hip-hop and jazz styles. She received her professional training at the University of South Florida in ballet, modern and Latin ballroom. She also performed with Moore Dance Project and various artists including Salera, Group 1 Crew, and Martha Munizzi. In 2011, Lily Vi joined Studio One Dance Company and had contributed tremendously ever since. In 2012, she was selected to intern at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, where she received further technical training.

Emily Way

Emily Way is a professional dancer and dance educator. Emily began her professional dance training at The Florida Ballet Training Center and Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville, Fl. She graduated Magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance from the Florida State University.  During this time she performed in works by Monica Bill Barnes, Stephen Koester, Lynda Davis, Gerri Houlihan, Tim Glenn and Anthony Morgan. She was a member of the University’s Dance Repertory Theater and this past year she was a company member of Ella Rosewood Dance. Emily has performed in New York City festivals such as DUMBO Dance Festival and Dance Gallery as well as internationally in London’s Cloud Dance Festival.  She currently dances professionally with Mary Love Dance Projects in Winter Park, Fl.

Emily has taught dance technique to students for over five years at training centers such as the Florida Ballet, the Orlando Ballet and Rollins College.  She is excited to share her passion for the arts, love for movement and teaching experiences with The Center for Contemporary Dance!
Patrick Casimir

Mr. Casimir has always had a love for the performing arts. At Florida State University, he danced in a multicultural company on campus. While finishing a degree in Hospitality Administration at FSU, he took charge of this dance company, directing and creating evening length productions that included tours throughout Florida.

Upon finishing his degree Mr. Casimir moved to Orlando where he earned a Masters in Business Administration, while continuing his performance career with Moore Dance Project at The Center for Contemporary Dance and Universal Studios. While dancing in numerous venues in Orlando, Mr. Casimir obtained a degree in Dance Studies at the University of South Florida where he expanded his training with faculty and guest choreographers, including Michael Foley, Andee Scott, Jeanne Travers, Ben Munesteri, Kevin Iega Jeff, Jennifer Archibald, Jennifer Scanlon (Limon Company) and Derrick Minter.

Nikki Peña

Nikki Peña is an artist and educator. As a student she trained at Deborah Case Dance Academy in McAllen, Texas and Southern Dance Theatre in Boynton Beach, Florida. After high school Ms. Peña studied with numerous professors at Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University, and Valencia Community College.  She also has had the opportunity to attend various dance festivals, including the American College Dance Festival in San Francisco, California and the annual Florida Dance Educators Organization conference. As a performer, she has danced with various Central Florida dance companies including U-Turn Dance, Patelworks Dance Theater, NAO Dance Collective, and Explore Theatre & Dance Co.  While working with NAO Dance Collective, she had the opportunity to act as the Associate Artistic Director and Rehearsal Director. Ms. Peña was also the Artistic Director for Explore Theatre & Dance Co.  for a summer production project. In the fall of 2012, Ms. Peña founded her improvisational dance company, Coby Project, and was accepted into The Center for Contemporary Dance’s Residency Program. She is excited to join the faculty at The Center for Contemporary Dance and share her passion for dance with the community.