Tracey Varga discovered dance at the age of 5 while attending her first Tap class. Her performance, teaching and choreographic experience includes works in Maryland, Washington, Idaho, Illinois and New York. Locally she has presented at Dance-a-lorus, Celebrate the Arts, NC Dance Festival, Dance Blast, City Stage, WHQR and The Community Arts Center. Last year she choreographed for The Big Read, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, ” The Last Flapper” presented at the Cameron Art Museum. Tracey teaches modern/ jazz dance at the Wilmington School of Ballet, tap at The Dance Element and is a licensed Physical Therapist. She is program coordinator for the annual Arts Sensation benefit concert, is founder and director of the Forward Motion Dance Company and is honored to be the recipient of the 2013 YWCA Women of Achievement Award for the Arts.
Bonnie Dixon has been dancing and performing in Wilmington since 1998. She has worked with Wilmington Independent Choreographers, The Dance Cooperative, Forward Motion, and Alban Elved; as well as City Stage, Opera House and a variety of films. Dancing feeds her soul, but her most amazing achievement is her son, Dixon Dean. She would like to thank him for his awesomeness, sweetness, understanding and support.
Ashley Barnes is the owner and Artistic Director of The Dance Element. She is a passionate dancer as well as a multi-media artist, and holds a BFA in fine art & dance performance from East Carolina University. Ashley has been described as a “Creative Force” and she has yet to find an artistic project she cannot conquer. Her artwork is focused in painting, as well as creating specialty costumes, and marionettes. As an artist, she is greatly influenced by the work of Jim Henson, Dr. Seuss, and Maurice Sendak. Ashley began her dance training at the age of two, with the Goldsboro Civic Ballet, and grew to become a Senior Company Dancer with the Goldsboro Ballet as well as Artistic Productions of Goldsboro and Kinston. She was accepted to the NC Governor’s School for Dance in 1999. Throughout high school and college, Ashley trained as many as six days a week, and performed many lead roles in dance and theatre productions including “Louise” in Carousel, “Eliza” in The King and I, “Anastasia” in Cinderella, “The Jitterbug” in The Wizard of Oz, “Clara” and “The Mouse King” in The Nutcracker, and “The Temperament Fairy” in Sleeping Beauty. She is currently dancing professionally as a corps member of Forward Motion Dance Company, and frequently performs in Wilmington.
Ashley is certified in the Cecchetti Method of Classical Ballet, and has over 15 years of experience teaching. She founded The Goldsboro Silver Tappers and helped these dancers achieve both regional and state awards in the Senior Games. The development of this project led to Ashley being selected as the winner of a National Scholarship from the Target Corporation. She served as Instructor and Choreographer for Stagestruck and Center Stage Theatre of Goldsboro for a total of nine musical productions, and was honored with the Herman Award for Outstanding Choreography six times between 1998 and 2007.
As Artistic Director of The Dance Element, some of Ashley’s largest creative projects have involved unique adaptations of classic children’s stories, and the choreography of a cast of dancers to perform in her incredible handcrafted costumes. She has produced original versions of favorite stories such as Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, and Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas among many others. In 2012, Ashley wrote a version of Charlotte’s Web to adapt for the stage. She commissioned the recording of an original score of music featuring 5 Wilmington musicians, and narrated by herself and 9 actors. She created costumes and sets, and premiered an entirely original dance production featuring 32 Wilmington kids. In May of 2014 Ashley’s original production of The Velveteen Rabbit, was danced by a cast of 44 talented children in her hand- made costumes, on the main stage at Thalian Hall. Ashley attended a summer intensive with the world renowned Pilobolus Dance Theatre this past summer, and she hopes to never stop learning and growing.
Becky Spivey has been a real estate broker with Landfall Realty for the past 13 years. She began dancing at the age of 10 with Rhonda Scherich outside of Charlotte, NC and attended two intensive dance training summer sessions at the NC School of the Arts. While attending UNCW, she performed in various local productions including Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, and the Nutcracker for five years. Her roles in the Nutcracker include the Arabian, Mechanical Doll, Mirletons, Snowflakes and Waltz of the Flowers. She began dancing with Tracey in the late 1990’s and took some time off to raise her two daughters. Becky’s daughters Parran and Kate also share her love for dance as they are currently performing with Ashley Barnes at the Dance Element. Becky has been involved for several years with raising money for the NHRMC Women’s and Children’s Center and chaired their Gala in 2010. In addition, she also volunteers for the Landfall Foundation, which has raised over $2.7 million dollars for local charities since its inception in 1995. This is Becky’s third consecutive year performing with Forward Motion Dance and she is excited to recently become a member of the company.
Erin Bergmann was born in New Jersey but raised in Wilmington, NC. Her earliest memories are of twirling about on the tips of her toes as a toddler. When her family moved to Wilmington years ago, she began to take ballet, tap, and jazz classes at South East Dance Academy. In the summers of 2013 and 2014, she attended UNC School of the Arts’ comprehensive dance program. She now takes classes with both City Ballet of Wilmington and South East Dance Academy. Though currently a junior in high school, she plans to graduate from Laney High School in January of next year, a full semester early, in order to audition more freely. She hopes to pursue dance out of high school, whether it be in college or in a big city modern company. She is incredibly excited to join Forward Motion!
Leslie L. Nifoussi
Leslie L. Nifoussi took her first dance class at the age of 2 and her love and passion for dance has been growing and evolving since. She spent her childhood years dancing at Ocean Center of Performing Arts, home of the Rising Star Dance Ensemble under the direction of Connie A. Blatt. She had the privilege of starring as “Dorothy” in the Rising Star Dance Ensemble’s production of The Wizard of Oz and “Wendy” in their version of “Peter Pan”. During those years, Leslie also competed nationally in all areas of dance including tap, jazz, ballet & musical theater. At the University of Delaware, Leslie was a member of the dance team as well as the president of the Delaware Repertory Dance Ensemble. She currently teaches ballet and jazz for Dance with Me, an outreach program that provides quality dance instruction at local daycare centers. Upon moving to Wilmington from her home state of New Jersey, Leslie feels very fortunate to have found such a welcoming and enriching dance community.
Jeneen Cleare, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, began dancing at age seven taking ballet at the Brooklyn Music School. She also studied jazz, gymnastics, and tap at Albee School of Dance. By age eleven, Jeneen was a “dance major” at Nathan Hale/Intermediate School 293. The Ballet Hispanico of New York, artists in residence at 293, offered Jeneen a scholarship to study flamenco, modern and ballet at their school. Simultaneously, she won a scholarship to study ballet at the Dance Theatre of Harlem. She accepted both and became a very busy young dancer. She began performing traditional flamenco dance throughout NYC with the junior company of Ballet Hispanico. She attended the High School of Performing Arts (Fiorello H. LaGuardia) from 1986 to 1990. While in HS studying ballet and Graham techniques, she continued studying dance after school on scholarship at the Martha Graham Conservatory. Upon graduating HS, Jeneen went to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts on a trustee scholarship. While at NYU, she summered at the American Dance Festival also on scholarship. As a college freshman, she won the Grand Prize Award in the Saraband Ltd. Competition of New York in Modern Dance. In 1992, she trained at Dance Theatre of Harlem on scholarship once more. After earning her BFA in Dance in 1993, she apprenticed with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company for a short time. For five years, she danced with a modernized-African dance company, M’Zawa Danz. She also danced for other modern dance troupes in New York City. Jeneen landed her first full time public school position as a dance teacher in Brooklyn, at PS 167. After moving to NC in 2004, she was the theatre arts teacher at Burgaw Elementary for three years. At the Dreams Center of Wilmington, Jeneen has taught drama, hip-hop, African, and contemporary, since 2007. She worked as a choreographer for the Wilmington Ballet Company’s “Nutcracker” for many consecutive years, beginning with choreographing the entire first act of their first production in 2008. She also performed in WBC’s “Nutcracker” as the Rat Queen from 2009 to 2011. She has taught ballet, contemporary, tap, and broadway at the Wilmington School of Ballet since 2008, and has been teaching Zumba at WSB since 2011. She is a core member of the Wilmington based modern-jazz dance company, Forward Motion Dance, since 2008. Currently, she is the dance teacher at Snipes Academy of Arts and Design and is a graduate student at University of North Carolina at Greensboro majoring in dance education.
James DeVita is originally from Owego, NY where he began his training in ballet, tap, and jazz at age 3 at Kathy Hansen’s School of Dance. At age 12, James continued his technical training at Ballet Arts Theatre in Endicott, NY under the direction of Tina Christina-Price where he performed in several regional performances of The Nutcracker and other originally choreographed works. He continued his training while attending Colgate University where he also taught ballet, jazz, and technique classes at the United Academy of Dance in Oneida, NY. From 2001-2004 James performed with and taught for several regional companies in the Northeast, including New England Ballet Company, Ithaca Ballet, and Hangar Theater Company. One of his most memorable roles was as Mister Mistoffelees in the Hangar Theater Company’s 2004 production of the musical CATS. While working on his graduate degrees at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville from 2005-2010, James performed with, taught and choreographed for the UT Dance Company. James moved to Wilmington in August 2012 when he began working as an Assistant Professor of Higher Education at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. He also teaches ballet, modern, and jazz at Southeast Dance Academy (SEDA) in Wilmington. James is excited to join Forward Motion Dance Company as a core member after first performing with Tracey and FMDC in the Big Read Event at Cameron Art Museum in Spring 2013.
Kaitlin Davis was born in Wilmington, North Carolina and began dancing at the age of three. She danced competitively for eleven years before attending East Carolina University where she received a BFA in Dance Performance in Spring 2014. While at ECU she has studied under Teal Darkenwald, John Dixon, Tommi Galaska, Dirk Lumbard, Galina Panova, Clarine Powell, and Patti Weeks. She has performed in three of the Dance mainstage productions in her time there and has been in numerous smaller shows. Davis has also been involved in several musical community theater productions as well as NBC’s Gametime: Tackling the Past, where she was not only a featured dancer but also the choreographer for the film. She has taught children of all ages in several studios in the Wilmington area and was an instructor at the ECU Summer Jazz Dance Intensive in 2013.
Nicole Dalier was born and raised in Charlotte, NC where she studied at the Charlotte Ballet, as a part of their pre-professional division, under the advisement of Patricia McBride, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Mark Diamond. Later she attended Texas Christian University, in Fort Worth Texas, where she completed her BFA in ballet and modern dance. Nicole was able to access many avenues through Texas Christian University where she was able to choreograph a number of dances, both classical and modern. Nicole’s extensive training at TCU and various summer intensives such as Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet and Milwaukee Ballet have provided her with extensive training in classical ballet and modern dance. Her experiences have opened her to all varieties of dance techniques including but not limited to Cunningham, Horton and Graham. Nicole has been serving as a faculty member of the Wilmington School of Ballet since 2014. She is also a member of The Wilmington Ballet Company as one of their resident professional dancers. Nicole is excited to call Wilmington her home.