• Josée Garant

    Josée Garant

    Dance Dance Department Chair

    Josée Garant has had an active career as a dancer, choreographer, teacher, and administrator. A Native of Canada, Ms. Garant received an MFA in Dance from Hollins University/American Dance Festival, a BFA (honors) degree in Dance from York University in Canada and graduated from the National Ballet School of Canada Teacher Training Program.

    After a successful career as a freelance modern dance performer, Garant shifted her focus to choreography and to the education of young dancers. She joined the faculty of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. During this long association she created the Modern Dance and Choreographic Programs, was the director of the postgraduate Aspirant Program and collaborated as a choreographer on many productions with Winnipeg’s GroundSwell New Music Series.

    As a choreographer Ms. Garant has garnered numerous choreographic awards, including the Youth America Grand Prix competition in Connecticut and at the International Choreographic Competition in St-Sauveur, Québec. In 1988, Ms. Garant was nominated by l’ADISQ for a ‘Felix’ for Stage Direction and for Scenographer of the Year for her work with singer songwriter Daniel Lavoie.

    Ms. Garant’s choreography has had an international impact and has been presented on many stages around the world ranging from the Olympia Theatre in Paris to the New York Joyce Soho Theatre. Her work has been produced by diverse organizations such as by the Festival of Women in the Arts in North Dakota, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s Du Maurier New Music Festival, and by the 1999 Pan American Games. She has created works for international dance competitions held in Istanbul, Tokyo, Jackson Mississippi, and New York City.

    Prior to joining SCGSAH, she founded Josée Garant Dance in Miami, Florida, a company with a dedicated mission to educate, promote, and increase the public’s awareness, knowledge and appreciation of contemporary dance and arts. While living in the Miami area, she also worked at New World School of the Arts and Harid Conservatory and was awarded the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs Choreographer Fellowship Award. Ms. Garant has served on the Board of Directors for the Florida Dance Association from 2008 to 2012.

  • Gregory Belton Chesney

    Gregory Belton Chesney

    Dance Dance Accompanist

    Gregory Belton Chesney was born in Fountain Inn, SC in 1959. He began piano studies at the age of 9 and organ instruction at 13. Upon graduation from Hillcrest High school in 1978, he attended Brevard on Scholarship and was student choral accompanist for Robert Shaw. Mr. Chesney was awarded the Kenan Organ Scholarship to attend the North Carolina School of the Arts and graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in Organ Performance in 1982. Named Strader Organ Scholar at the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, Greg was a graduate student of Roberta Gary. While in Cincinnati, Mr.Chesney was staff accompanist for the Cincinnati Ballet (Company and Academy), the School for Creative and Performing Arts, and the University of Cincinnati (Dance Division and Preparatory Dept.) A highlight of his tenure at the College-Conservatory of Music was working with Balanchine Trust artists – including Darcy Kistler, Maria Caligari, Bart Cook and Joysanne Sidimus. It was a particular honor to work with the late Freddie Franklin as a rehearsal accompanist for Pas-de-Dix. Mr. Chesney returned to South Carolina in 2013 and is currently organist at historic Fairview Presbyterian Church (1786), accompanist for the Fountain Inn Civic Chorale and Staff accompanist for the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities dance department.

  • Beth Dill

    Beth Dill

    Dance Yoga Instructor

    Beth Dill, owner of the Yoga East studio in Taylors, South Carolina balances life as a yoga instructor, businesswoman, mother, and wife. She began her personal yoga journey in 2008 and earned the 200-hour registered yoga teacher (RYT) certification from Yoga Alliance in 2012. Beth’s teaching involves flowing motions combining a variety of yoga styles and Pilates movements. She builds in time for relaxation and meditation which helps her students balance their minds and bodies. Regular yoga practice with Beth can help you achieve deeper and better sleep, live with greater intention, and be more present in your daily life.

  • Emma Finly Alonso

    Emma Finly Alonso

    Dance Pilates Instructor

    Emma Finly Alonso was born and raised in the mountains of West Virginia. Her love of competitive alpine ski racing brought her to Killington Mountain School in Vermont then onto Boulder, Colorado where she found the non-competitive practice of yoga. Emma completed her Bachelors of Science in Exercise Physiology at West Virginia University in 2015. During that time, she completed her 200 hrs. yoga certification at Charleston Power Yoga. Emma has been comprehensively trained in both classical and contemporary Pilates. She holds certifications through Peak Pilates and Balanced Body Pilates. Emma is also a certified personal trainer through the American Counsel of Exercise. She teaches locally in Greenville, SC at Soul Yoga and Indigo Flow & Art. 

  • Miriam Mesa Pelly

    Miriam Mesa Pelly

    Dance Dance Faculty

    Miriam Mesa-Pelly, BFA, was born in Havana, Cuba, where she was a 1st Soloist with the world -renowned “National Ballet of Cuba (BNC)” under the direction of Fernando and Ballerina Assoluta, Alicia Alonso. In 1948 this couple, along with choreographer Alberto Alonso, founded the Cuban Ballet Company where Ms. Mesa-Pelly danced for 24 years.

    Ms. Mesa-Pelly danced Principal roles in works by such prominent choreographers as Alberto Alonso, Brian McDonald and Alberto Mendez. She performed throughout Europe, Latin America, the United States and Canada in such venues as the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow; the Opera Theater of Les Champs Elysées; the Colon Theater in Buenos Aires; La Scala in Milan; the Beaux Arts Theater in Mexico City; the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.

    Additionally, Ms. Mesa-Pelly taught ballet at the National Ballet School of Cuba in Havana and received a Golden Diploma of Performing Arts and Dance from the “Cuban Superior Institute of Arts” from Havana University. Ms. Mesa-Pelly also taught ballet at the Fomento Artistic Cordobes (PROVER) in Cordoba, Veracruz and taught Ballet, Pointe, and Repertoire and was a teacher for the Bachelor of Methodology in Ballet at the Mexican National School of Classical and Contemporary Dance (ENDCC) in Mexico City where in 2004 she wrote a textbook for ballet teachers, “Classical Dance Technique,” edited and published under the “National Institute of Fine Arts” (INBA).

    In the United States, Ms. Mesa-Pelly has also participated as a juror for the “Valentina Kozlova Regional International Ballet Competition” in New Orleans. Ms. Mesa-Pelly currently teaches ballet at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities and for the Dance Department is the Coordinator for the Youth America Grand Prix International Competition (YAGP).

  • Keeley Mezzancello

    Keeley Mezzancello

    Dance Nutrition Instructor

    Keeley Mezzancello is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Licensed Dietitian (LD) in the state of South Carolina. She is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and a Certified Health Coach (Wellcoaches). She is currently a Registered Dietitian and Health Coach for Wellview Health. Keeley received her undergraduate degree in Business from Boston College and her Master's in Nutrition from Hunter College in Manhattan. She has experience in private practice combining nutritional counseling with strength and conditioning in New York City. She has also worked in a variety of outpatient settings including rehabilitative, corporate wellness, and multiple eating disorder clinics. She has provided Nutrition and Fitness education to adolescent aspiring models and attendees of Modeling Camp NYC and has lead nutrition seminars for the dancers of the Performing Arts Academy of Marin (PAAM). She holds a certificate in Adult Weight Management from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She has served on the board of the Piedmont Dietetic Association and volunteered as a panel dietitian for LiveWell Greenville. Keeley loves the strong sense of community within Greenville, and enjoys dining out, cooking, travel, the outdoors, running, and yoga.

  • Amanda Neikirk

    Amanda Neikirk

    Dance Lowcountry Youth Dance Academy (LYDA) Ballet Instructor

    Amanda Neikirk studied with legendary dancer Alla Sizova at the Kirov Academy of Ballet under the direction of Oleg Vinogradov. There she had the experience of touring with the Kirov Ballet. After graduation, Neikirk attended the dance program at Indiana University to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Ballet Performance as well as an outside field in English. At Indiana University, Neikirk trained with Balanchine prodigy Violette Verdy and experienced residencies with American Ballet Theatre’s studio company. Neikirk also had the opportunity to dance lead roles in many contemporary and classical works including Carmina Burana, Les Noces, Jacques Cesbron’s Time Landscapes, and The Nutcracker.

    After completing her degree, Neikirk spent time dancing with The Charleston Ballet Theatre under the direction of Jill Barre and Patty Cantwell.  Neikirk danced solo roles in Balanchine’s Serenade and Barre’s Piazzolla. After her time at CBT, Neikirk auditioned and was one of a small group of dancers chosen internationally for The Atlantic Southeast Ballet.

    After her professional experience, Neikirk decided to pursue her passion for teaching and accepted the job as director of dance at Rolling’s Middle School of the Arts. During this time Neikirk worked and performed with Broadway talents Brad and Jennifer Moranz through Moranz Entertainment.  Neikirk has also participated in numerous professional development opportunities including SCALSA, presenting at the SCAAE conferences, and attending Break Floor Production’s New York City Dance Alliance Summit. Neikirk has also served 10 years as dance department chair for Dorchester 2. Her students have danced in college programs, pre-professional programs, and with professional dance companies. More recently, Neikirk has served as a repetieur for the Charlotte Ballet’s Nutcracker in Charleston.         

  • Irina Peace

    Irina Peace

    Dance Dance Accompanist

    Irina Peace is a collaborative pianist and piano teacher. She has served as accompanist for the Music Department at Converse College, Furman University, and Governor’s School. Ms. Peace has collaborated with SC Opera Company, Converse Opera, Furman Lyrical Theater, and Donetsk Opera and Ballet Theater. Ms. Peace is a native of Ukraine. She received her musical training, M.M. and B.M. in Piano Performance and Pedagogy from Donetsk State Conservatory and Kherson Music College. Prior to moving to the U.S. in 1995, Ms. Peace lived and worked in Ukraine, where she held a position as staff accompanist at Khmelnytskyi State Philharmonic and taught at Khmelnytskyi Music College.

  • Thomas Shoemaker

    Thomas Shoemaker

    Dance Dance Faculty

    Thomas Shoemaker was an acclaimed principal dancer with companies including the Atlanta Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Louisville Ballet, Augusta Ballet, and Charleston Ballet Theatre in a professional career that spanned 25 years. As a guest artist and choreographer, he has worked with numerous dance and theatre companies throughout the U.S. and abroad.  As an educator, Mr. Shoemaker has taught elementary through college-aged students in studios, schools, colleges and summer programs throughout the southeastern United States. He received a Masters of Fine Arts in Dance from Hollins University/American Dance Festival. Before joining the faculty of the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, Mr. Shoemaker taught and choreographed for the Vanderbilt University Dance Program and was Artistic Director of Vanderbilt Dance Theatre. He also served on faculty with Middle Tennessee State University Dance Program, Austin Peay State University Dance Program, Tennessee Governors School for the Arts Summer Program, and American Dance Festival. Mr. Shoemaker also served as
 Associate Artistic Director for StillPoint Dance Theatre.

    In May 2009, Shoemaker’s ballet “just let go” was awarded “Best Ballet” at the Panoply Choreographic Competition. In 2010, he won the same award for VS.  His ballet Foreverly (based on the lives of the Everly Brothers) was awarded “Best Live Performance of 2005” by the Augusta Chronicle.

    As artistic director and ballet master, Mr. Shoemaker has staged or restaged numerous works including Nutcracker, Cinderella and Les Sylphides; George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante and Tarantella; Fernand Nault’s Carmina Burana and many classical pas de deux.

    Mr. Shoemaker teaches Men's Ballet & B Ballet Technique, Men's Technique, Junior & Senior Men's Ballet Variation, Pas De Deux, Repertoire, Dance History, Junior Career Preparation, Aspects of Production, Coaching & Stretch & Strength, and is an Audition Preparation and Senior Showcase Mentor, and the YoungArts Coordinator.

  • Christine Smith

    Christine Smith

    Dance Low Country Youth Dance Academy (LYDA) Modern Instructor

    Christine Smith is a dancer, choreographer and educator located in Summerville, South Carolina. Trained in classical ballet from a young age, Christine has studied dance at Hilton Head Dance Theatre, Rollings Middle School of the Arts, the South Carolina Governor’s School for Arts and Humanities, the Classical Ballet Centre, and the University of South Carolina. Christine graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BA in Dance Education from the University of South Carolina. She also holds a K-12 South Carolina Teaching Certificate. While in school, she was an active dancer and choreographer with the UofSC Dance Company. Christine is an avid arts advocate and dance researcher. She has participated in Arts Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the SC Statehouse. In 2018, Christine traveled to New York on a grant to research and write a middle school arts integrative curriculum with dance and social studies. Currently, she is a dance educator at Rollings Middle School for the Arts. 

  • Rachel Solomon

    Rachel Solomon

    Dance Low Country Youth Dance Academy (LYDA) Modern Instructor

    Rachel Salomon grew up in Farmington hills, Michigan, where she trained at the Rochester School of Dance under Cornelia Sampson and the home of the Michigan Ballet Theater.  She spent her summers taking classes at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and River North Dance Chicago. She has won regional and national competition choreography awards and the Wayne State University Copperfoot Award in 2005 for contribution of repertoire. Rachel has been teaching dance for over 12 years in dance studios and public school programs. She has spent 4 years as a full time public school dance teacher with several teacher of the year nominations from 2008-2012. She started the first elementary school dance department in the Fairfield Country School District at Fairfield Magnet School for Math and Science in Winnsboro, South Carolina. From 2010-2012 she was the Dance Department Head Teacher at Summerville High School. There, she built the first competitive dance company and active National Honors Society for Dance through the NDEO. Rachel is currently the manager of the Hanahan location of Dance Moves of Charleston and is also the Associate Director of the Dance Moves of Charleston Youth Company, a modern dance technique based Performance Company for dancers in the low country.

  • Irina Ushakova

    Irina Ushakova

    Dance Dance Faculty

    Irina Ushakova was born in Chelyabinsk, Russia, and trained at the Perm State Choreographic College. Upon receiving her Diploma with Honors she became a soloist with Chelyabinsk State Opera and Ballet Theatre (Russia). Shortly after joining the company, she danced the roles of Maria (Fountain of Bakhchisarai), Aysha (Gayane), and Giselle (Giselle) before being promoted to principal dancer. She was awarded the Best Role of the Season prize for the role of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. In 1986 and 1988, she became a bronze and silver medalist at the International Ballet Competition “Arabesque” in Perm, Russia. In 1989, she toured the United States with the Donetsk Ballet, followed by a tour of Israel and Turkey with the Bolshoi Ballet. She was invited to join the Donetsk State Opera and Ballet Theatre (Ukraine) as a principal dancer in 1989. Ms. Ushakova was a finalist in the 1990 International Ballet Competition held in Jackson, Mississippi.

    Since her arrival in the United States in 1990, Ms. Ushakova has been a principal dancer with both Ballet Mississippi and Tulsa Ballet. She has performed leading roles in many classical ballets such as Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, Nutcracker, Coppelia, La Sylphide, and others, as well as neoclassical works such as Andre Prokovsky’s Anna Karenina, Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias, Ronald Hynd’s Rosalinda, George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, Four Temperaments, Concerto Barocco, and Who Cares? She also has danced contemporary and modern works. In 1997, she returned to Russia as a guest artist to dance the role of Anyuta in Vladimir Vasiliev’s Anyuta with the Chelyabinsk State Opera and Ballet Theatre.

    Since 2002, Ms. Ushakova has been a faculty member of the Dance Department at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities in Greenville, South Carolina. In 2007, she graduated from Chelyabinsk State Pedagogical University (Russia) with a Master’s Degree in Dance and Education.

    Ms. Ushakova teaches A & B Ballet Technique, Pointe, Senior Ladies Ballet Variation, Historical Dance & Character, Repertoire, Methodology, is an Audition Preparation and Senior Showcase Mentor, and the National Honor Society for Dance Arts Coordinator.

  • Elizabeth Wright

    Elizabeth Wright

    Dance Modern Dance Instructor

    Elizabeth Disharoon Wright, from Baltimore, Maryland, is a graduate of the Baltimore School for the Arts and The Juilliard School, where she received Scholastic Distinction for her thesis on Nutrition and Dancers. Elizabeth is a principal dancer with the Isadora Duncan Dance Company, led by Lori Belilove. She has performed both nationally and internationally with the company since 2002, and has taught residencies and master classes for the Isadora Duncan Dance Foundation, as well as regularly teaching company class. From 2003-2011, Elizabeth was also a senior member of Jennifer Muller/The Works, creating and performing signature roles throughout the repertory, as well as teaching, assisting, and coaching, both within the company and for outside workshops and master classes. As a freelance dancer in New York City, Elizabeth also performed with Buglisi Dance Theatre, Eidelon Ballet, Fly-by-Night Dance Theater, Andrew Jannetti & Dancers, Sue Bernhard/Danceworks, Laura Glenn Dance, Saba Dance Theater, J Mandle Performance, and Nimbus Dance Theater, among others. Elizabeth has performed throughout New York City on such stages as the Joyce Theater, the State Theater, and City Center, and internationally in Italy, Hungary, Russia, Bolivia, Brazil, Thailand, and China.  In addition to numerous company residencies, Elizabeth has taught at Randolph College, Mills College, Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp, The Ailey School, Totts Gap Arts Institute, Silva Dance Academy, and the Fine Arts Center. Her own choreography has been presented in New York City at Alice Tully Hall, the Juilliard Theater, the Clark Studio Theater, the HATCH Performance Series, and the Storm Theater on 46th Street, and also at the Kate Theater in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, where she shared a program with Julia Pond Dance. In 2015, Elizabeth relocated to Greenville, South Carolina.  In addition to teaching ballet and modern at the Fine Arts Center, she has choreographed for their annual concert at Wade Hampton High School and staged a suite of Duncan dances that were performed at Artisphere and the Kilgore-Lewis House in downtown Greenville.