Alumni Updates

The Department of Dance acknowledges the wonderful and exciting achievements of our alumni since they have embarked upon their professional careers.

Graduate Students

Carisa Armstrong, MFA '02, is director of the Academy for Visual and Performing Arts at Texas A&M University in College Station,Texas, where she is a clinical associate professor in the Department of Health and Kinesiology.

Jane Baas, MFA ‘78, is an associate dean in the Honors College at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Karina Browne, MFA ‘14, is director of dance at Notre Dame College in Cleveland, Ohio, and is also the co-director at All That Jazz Dance Academy in Castalia, Ohio.

Christopher A. Bell, MFA ‘12, is working in New York with renowned choreographer Mark Dendy in his Mark Dendy Projects. Recent projects include performing in Dendy’s NEWYORKNEWYORK@AstorPlace in May 2015.

Carissa Bellando, MFA ‘13, following her time working on the AIDA Cruise Line, Bellando now teaches at Wagner College in Staten Island, New York.

Jenn Birou Lakamp, MFA ‘10, owns a dance studio Dance Haven in Youngsville, LA, where she offers a wide range of dance studies to more than 60 students.

Michelle Blanton Strong, MFA ‘11, received the Excellence in On-Campus Teaching Award and the Award for Outstanding (Faculty) First Generation Student Advocacy from the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health in 2023-23.

Karlie Budge, BA ‘16, was offered an apprenticeship with the internationally renowned Mark Morris Dance Group, September 2018.

Victoria Chu, minor ‘11, is a company member at Columbus Modern Dance Company (CoMo) in Columbus, Ohio.

Amanda Clark Tanruther, MFA ‘15, was appointed as full-time dance faculty and co-director of dance performance at the noted Cleveland School of the Arts in September, 2018.

Kristy Clement, MFA ‘13, is currently performing with the Detroit Dance Collective.

DeWitt Cooper III, MFA ‘07, teaches modern dance at the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida where he is also artist in residence at La Villa School of the Arts creating a new work to music by Carl Jenkins titled, “STILLL SURVIVING.” Since 2012, he has been the artistic director of the Jacksonville Center for the Arts, one of Florida’s finest dance institutions, and he continues as the founding artistic director of CooperMorgan Dance having recently celebrated 10 years of performances.

Lauren Fekete, BA ‘12, is a musculoskeletal physiotherapist at National Health Service in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Scotland.

Patricia Gay, BA ‘09, is an associate archivist at the renowned Jacob’s Pillow. Patsy was a double major in dance and art history and was a summer intern at the Pillow as an undergraduate. Following graduation from CWRU, she earned her MA degree in dance history at Florida State University.

Gina Gibney, MFA ’82, is founder of Gibney Dance in New York where she has expanded her Gibney studios to include the newly renovated Performing Arts Center at 280 Broadway. She also founded the Dance in Process program which is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Emily Johnson Boyd, MFA ‘02, is currently associate professor of dance at Tarrant College in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. In recent years she performed with long-time colleague and fellow CWRU alumna Carisa Armstrong, at the Dallas Dance Festival following a collaborative project in New York with Mosaic Dance.

Sherry Harper, MFA ’11, is currently an instructor of dance in the Health and Human Performance Department at Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas, where she both teaches dance and serves as the artistic and executive director of the Classic Dance Ensemble. She is also adjunct professor at Lone Star College in Cypress, Texas, and the vice president of Black College Dance Exchange.

Lin Kahn, MA ‘03, was named a 2014 Jewish Chicagoan of the Year and one of 100 Women of Inspiration by Today’s Chicago Woman magazine for her work in dance education and performance. She is entering her seventh year at DePaul University in Chicago as an adjunct professor where she has been recognized with the DePaul Excellence in Teaching Award.

Evangel King, MA ‘75 continues to collaborate with Bob Marsh, among other pursuits, on a project that explores the variety of meanings, literal and metaphorical, of windows, doors and rivers. They present their often site-specific work throughout northern California. Recently, Evangel performed a newly adapted excerpt of FIRE Now, choreographed by Deborah Hay, at Dance-A-Rama in Berkeley, CA on Sunday, May 3, 2015. Dance-A-Rama is a yearly event held in several of the dance studios in the Sawtooth Building, which is an artist’s center in West Berkeley.

Jamie Knurek Smith, MFA ‘09, having recently completed the DPT in Physical Therapy at Cleveland State University, is now employed at Sports Rehabilitation Consultants in North Royalton, Ohio. She continues to work with the Dancer Wellness Team in the Department of Dance at CWRU.

Kathleen Kohatsu, MFA ‘03, is the owner/director of the Creative Edge Dance Studio located in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. The studio is partnered with The White Mountain School, a small private boarding and day school, where Kathleen is also on the faculty. In the spring of 2014, Kathleen’s dance, Water Wheel, was reconstructed and performed on the celebratory 30th Anniversary of MaDaCol concert series.

Holly Labbe, MFA ’99, is teaching a “Movement for Theatre” class at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, as well as costuming their production of “Twelfth Night.” She is also working on Bridgewater College’s production of “Agamemnon” —movement/choreography and costume design.

Sharon Manuel, MFA ‘04, completed the doctorate of physical therapy from Cleveland State University in December of 2014.

Janet Meskin, MFA ‘83, recently retired from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) where she was a traveling elementary dance teacher and taught creative movement for children since the Visual and Performing Arts Program began with LAUSD in 1999. 

Kelli Sanford, MFA ‘07, recently toured to the San Diego Fringe Festival with fellow CWRU alumna Shannon Sterne and the Cleveland Dance Exchange. Sanford is the artistic/executive director and founder of RED Company in Akron, Ohio, now in its fourth season ( The RED School of Modern Dance offers modern dance technique and other genres such as ballet, modern-ballet fusion, creative movement, and jazz for all ages and levels of experience, as well as upcoming summer intensives for the community. 

Kaysie Seitz Brown, MFA ‘01, is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre & Dance at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, where  she received a highly competitive internal grant from the Research Enhancement Program to implement a tuition-free after-school program at Crockett Elementary in San Marcos,Texas–“Enhancing the Learning of Science through the Creation of Dance.” In August 2016, she performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland and is the artistic director of the ensemble CIM TEYA, Creation in Motion Touring Ensemble for Young Audiences. CIM TEYA, Creation in Motion Touring Ensemble for Young Audiences.

LeAnne Smith Stedman, MFA ‘83 is the director of dance at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, and is undertaking a collaborative project with long-time colleague and fellow CWRU alumnus, Louis Kavouras, to set up an Erick Hawkins archive.

Shannon Sterne, MA ‘04, recently toured with the Cleveland Dance Exchange, a collective she founded, to the San Diego Fringe Festival where she both presented her own choreography and performed in works by colleagues and members of the exchange.

Rachel Stoneking, MFA '12, is assistant professor of dance at Anderson University in Indiana.

Chun-Jou Tsai, MFA ‘13, produced an evening-length work, The Dream Project, sponsored by Boston’s Penumbra:Exchange and performed at the Green Street Studios. In addition to choreographing in the Boston area, Tsai also performs with Urbanity Dance and teaches for the Chinese Folk Art Dance Workshop, Bright Pearl Dance Academy, Jia Yun Dance Company, and Winchester Wen Chen Dance Group. She is one of very few professional dance artists in Boston currently merging Asian traditional dance with Western contemporary forms.

Susan Vencl, MFA ’90, presented her evening-length work "About Long Before Afterward" in New York City at the Graham Center of Contemporary Dance. The work for five dancers was created to music composed by Arlene Sierra.

Ying Xu, MFA ‘12, is an adjunct at Coker University and also has her own dance studio, Living Stream Enrichment Center, where she teaches and choreographs. She is also coordinating an International Dance Teacher’s workshop between China and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Undergraduate Students

Majors: BA in Dance

Eve Lanyi, BA ‘14 currently resides in St. Francis, South Dakota, where she teaches fourth grade English language arts at Saint Francis Indian School. She plans to share her passion for dance with her students and community through the school’s drama program.

Majors: BA in Theater Arts

Claire Cobb, BA ‘11, completed her degree physical therapy from Northwestern University and is currently practicing at the Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.

Lauren Fekete, BA ‘12, completed the Master of Sciences (MSc) in dance science & education from the University of Edinburgh in 2013 and will be returning to Scotland in 2015 to pursue an MSc in physiotherapy.

Patsy Gay, BA ‘09, was a double major in dance and art history at CWRU and was a summer intern at the Pillow as an undergraduate. Following graduation from CWRU, she earned her MA in American Dance Studies from The Florida State University (FSU).  Currently, Gay is an adjunct instructor for FSU’s New York City program run by Sally Sommer. She is also the archivist and personal assistant for Eiko, of Eiko & Koma. In 2017, Patsy was appointed as the associate archivist at the renowned Jacob’s Pillow.

Keely Saslow, BA ‘13, is living in New York City where she continues her studies in dance at the Limon Institute and pursuing performance opportunities.

Dance Minors:

Sarah Robinson, Dance minor, ‘10, has founded her own company based in Cleveland, Fire and Light Performing Arts LLC.