Brice Smith was born and raised in Raleigh, NC. He graduated from North Carolina State University where he studied Communication, Public Relations, and Nonprofit studies in 2012. He is a test engineer at SAS Institute, where he tests SAS products against web accessibility standards and trains other SAS employees how to use screen readers. Before joining SAS in 2015, he worked for a corporate communications agency to provide services for a variety of nonprofit senior living and affordable housing communities. He also taught blind and visually impaired students throughout North Carolina as a part-time assistive technology instructor with Invision Services, Inc. In his free time, Brice enjoys lifting weights, tandem cycling, and traveling. He joined ShaLeigh Dance Works in 2021 as a creative collaborator for the creation of enVISION: Sensory Beyond Sight.
Hillary began dancing as a child in NYC despite degenerative blindness. She studied modern dance at the schools of Graham, Ailey, Interlochen, Perry-Mansfield, and Zina Romette. In 1970 she was introduced to Haitian and African dance, the perfect rhythmic platform she needed to express herself given blindness. She has studied with the greatest masters and traveled the world in pursuit of the African root of other dance forms like tango. Hillary graduated from Hamilton College with a BA in the Arts, trained as a chef at the CIA, Hyde Park, NY, and has certification in Nonprofit Management from Duke and Wake Tech. For 25 years, she owned and operated two restaurants and A Wandering Feast Catering. She is a proud mother of two plus her guide dog Nettles. Currently, Hillary has been working as a consumer advocate to eradicate stigma and promote inclusion for those with disability in the Durham community.
Marco Orellana-Portillo is a Salvadorian American contemporary/modern dancer who jumped into the Durham dance community right out of high school. He started dancing from a young age by learning traditional Latin American dances from bachata, cumbia and merengue which eventually led to a smooth transition learning ballet, modern and jazz styles, along with some viral TikTok dances. Since making the jump to become an independent dancer, Marco has participated as a dancer in: Tobacco Road Dance Productions “In Concert,” Richmond Dance Festival, American Dance Festival and the NC Dance Festival. Working with choreographers such as: Marsha Thomas, Megan Ross, Jess Shell, Lindsay Winthrop, Tony Johnson, ShaLeigh Comerford and Rosie Herrera. What started as a hobby quickly bloomed into a beloved passion while also being an expressive outlet.
Cindy Pan is a second-year graduate student at Duke University in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program. She is passionate about the power of movement in all forms and dancing for all abilities. Cindy has over ten years of training in classical ballet, jazz, tap, and lyrical. Her friendship with Janie Desmond brought her to enVISION and a beautiful first experience with modern dance and ShaGa.
Kevin Higgins is a high school junior from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He started dancing at age 5, and for more than a decade his passion for dance has been constantly growing. He studies modern, ballet, jazz, and tap at the Ballet School of Chapel Hill and has also developed a love for choreography. His choreography was selected by ADF to be featured alongside the Nasher Art Museum’s RESIST COVID/TAKE 6! exhibit by Carrie Mae Weems, and he has also helped choreograph for dance companies that he is a part of. He has performed in Voices: A Walking Tour, hosted by the Process Series at UNC, and has been a member of the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble for 8 years. He has participated in summer programs from UNC School of the Arts, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and the Joffery Ballet. Last summer he performed with ShaLeigh Dance Works for The Stars Are Out at ADF, and he is excited to be performing with them again for this season of ADF!
Alexa Velez is a video artist and dancer based in North Carolina. In 2017, she completed her undergraduate studies at the University of North Florida where she received a BFA in photography and a BA in English with a minor in film studies. In 2021, she graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with an MFA in Visual Art. As a graduate student, she was a recipient of the Chancellor’s Fellowship and won best in show for her thesis work. Over the last few years, her short films have screened both nationally and internationally.
Mauri Terra Connors is a multidisciplinary dance artist new to Durham, NC, originally from Lexington, VA. She makes work with movement, paper, and words. She received her BA in Dance with honors from Connecticut College in 2015, where she studied with David Dorfman, Heidi Henderson, Shani Collins-Achille, Lisa Race, and Shawn Hove. She has performed with Jenny Davies/ Progeny Dance and was a performer in Vicky Virgin’s Arm Dance #1: Forgiveness, a dance for camera. She has worked with collaborators Mindy Toro, Bailey Anderson, and Susanna Young to create dances. Her writing and visual work have been included in Contact Quarterly and About Place Journal. From 2018-2021 she was the Artistic Director of Halestone Dance Studio, a nonprofit dance education organization in Lexington, VA. She is a passionate advocate for dance education for all ages, and is currently listed on the Virginia Commission for the Arts’ Teaching Artist Roster.
This is her first project with ShaLeigh Dance Works and she is very excited to learn from and contribute to this project!
Kate Gupton is a graduate of The University Of North Carolina At Greensboro. She holds a BFA and Choreography and a K-12 public school teaching license in dance. Kate is currently the dance teacher at North Graham Elementary school, a public title 1 school in Graham North Carolina. Additionally, Kate is a Choreographer for the Rainbow Dance Company, a multi-generational modern dance company, in Raleigh NC. Kate also enjoys teaching dance to all ages at private studios throughout the state. Kate has had the pleasure of training at American Dance Festival in Durham NC, Unitec in Auckland New Zealand, and Arts Together in Raleigh NC.
Janie Desmond first began her dance training with ShaLeigh Comerford in 2005. Together they have created a movement relationship and bond that has spanned more than ten years. They have moved together through the forms of Ballet, Modern, Creative Movement, Improvisation, Composition, Choreography, and ShaGa. In 2018, they presented their duet, J’aime ma soeur at DPAC for Reality Ministries annual talent show. Janie began working with ShaLeigh Dance Works as a Guest in 2019 with a performance of enVISION at The Cary Theatre. Janie is a 2015 graduate of UNC Greensboro with a certificate in Integrative Community Studies. Her goal is to share her love for dance through teaching all ages with a special interest in elementary education. She is currently working as a dance instructor with Inspire Inclusion Dance.
SeoHyun studied rhythmic gymnastics at the age of 9 and did not dance again until her mid twenties. Her passion was reignited when she began studying contemporary dance and fell in love with learning to move in a way that expressed her inner thoughts and feelings. Each and every day, she continues to discover herself through movement. She is currently studying Dance Movement Therapy and her future goal is to learn to facilitate the healing of others emotionally and physically though dance.