Director of Operations and Educational Programs
Melissa is a dance teaching artist born in Queens, New York. She values having grown up in a diverse community, and is proud of her Dominican heritage. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Dance Education from Hunter College, NY. Melissa was already dancing at family celebrations before her formal dance education began at the age of five.
In high school, she studied under an Alvin Ailey-trained instructor, introducing her to new modes of inner expression, communication, and disciplines. This was the turning point at which she began to form her own voice and truly understand how to express herself through choreography and performance.
As co-founder and choreographer of a performing arts society, Melissa started her freshman year of college by building community relationships. Melissa found meaning through dance and through the celebration of her Dominican heritage - speaking the beautiful Spanish language, and dancing merengue, bachata and many other Latin American dance styles. She sought opportunities to learn more about the rich culture and heritage of people through dance, which earned her a scholarship from Hunter College to Study Abroad in Cuba in January 2004.
Her educational experiences led naturally to her moving into teaching arts and in 2006 she began teaching dance for the New York City Department of Education. In 2010, she started teaching for Charter Schools in Los Angeles. Melissa strives to provide scholarship opportunities, performance venues, and community involvement for her students through dance. The most recent collaboration her students participated in was the Dance The Dream 50 Project in LA, where they performed alongside local schools and professional dance companies such as: Los Angeles Ballet and Diavolo Dance Theater.
As part of her continuing professional development as a teaching artist, Melissa is an active member of the National Dance Society and has also participated in the following: Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts, Catalyst Series of Conferences - "Shaping the educational landscape with respect to arts integration, civic engagement, and democratic pedagogy"; Storyline Training Certificate - A Scottish method of teaching through the integration of art, academics, and social skills; Special Education Through the Arts Workshop - Led by Dianne Duggan in New York; New York Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts K-12 workshops led by the New York City Department of Education dance department; Joyce Theatre Education Program Workshops - Collaboration amongst professional artist and teaching artists, that provided dance enrichment for her students, in affiliation with The Alvin Ailey, Arts In Education community outreach program.
Currently, Melissa is pursuing a Master's Degree in Special Education, and plans to obtain a certification in Dance Therapy. She looks forward to new opportunities that integrate her educational and professional experiences with her passion for making meaning of the wonders of life through dance. She is committed to getting to know her students, community building, advocating for the arts in education, and helping students explore the many benefits of dance as part of their wider education.
In the words of Isadora Duncan, "Movements are as eloquent as words", through dance, Melissa believes in providing students with the avenues through which they may explore their own voices.