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Faculty
Faculty
Evelyn Ireton, owner/director of both Houston Academy of Dance (1971) and West University Dance Centre (1996), has been dancing since the age of six.  Training with the best teachers in Houston during her childhood, she enjoyed all the wonderful opportunities growing up in a studio afforded; classes, friends, performances, dance companies, conventions, school musicals and talent shows.

Ms. Ireton graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science in Education and a dance minor, combining her passion for dance with her love for teaching.  In addition to directing her schools, she taught dance at Episcopal High School for 21 years retiring in 2011.

Believing in a strong classical ballet background as the foundation of all other styles, she built two very successful schools that have numerous students now in the professional field of dance as well as studying dance at the university level.

Ms. Ireton also concentrated in the study of the classic American jazz dance style, training with the pioneering legends of that field both nationally and internationally. She also has extensive choreography, production, and director credits.

Most recently, she started the Mentor Program and participation in the international program known as the Youth American Grand Prix.  She continues to teach and oversee all aspects of the studios to insure a quality dance education for all students.

Ginger Herrera, born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, began studying under the direction of Evelyn Ireton in 1972. Her training has included Royal Academy of Dance Upper Level Exams in London, England, Summer Intensives with the Dallas Ballet and Houston Ballet Academy, Jazz Dance World Congress, Tremaine Dance Competitions, and Dance League Competitions. She attended the Houston Ballet Teacher Seminar in 2013 and 2014 and the University of Oklahoma Summer Teacher Pedagogy Workshop at the Ann Lacy School of American Ballet in 2006. She performed with Exclamation Dance Company, a local Houston based modern/jazz company under the artistic direction of Kenneth Epting, Troy Powell, Choreographer in 2005. Ms. Herrera continues to train and study Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary, Tap, and Pointe. Ginger has been Associate Director of Houston Academy of Dance and West University Dance Centre since 2002.
Staff

Shannon Benton hails from central Virginia. She began dancing at a young age, studying at Dance Theatre of Lynchburg, Virginia School of the Arts and Central Virginia Ballet. She attended Liberty University where she founded Divine Call Dance team, which began her journey as a teacher and choreographer. She was also introduced to the world of arts administration during an internship with The Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation before graduating with a bachelor of science in communications: advertising and public relations. After graduation, Shannon continued her dance training at The Ailey School and Dayton Contemporary Dance 2 before moving to Houston in 2014 when she joined Ad Deum Dance Company and began teaching at West University Dance Centre. She continues to dance as a freelance artist and is beginning her fourth year of teaching at West U. Shannon values the opportunities she has to teach a variety of styles – ballet, modern, jazz, contemporary and African fusion – in Houston, its surrounding areas and internationally.
Jasmine Horne, from Salisbury, NC, trained with Piedmont School of Music and Dance. She danced with the pre-professional company, Piedmont Dance Theatre where she was able to perform leading roles in a range of works including The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, La Bayadere, George Balanchine’s Serenade and Who Cares?, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations, and several innovative works by Daniel Wiley. She continued her post graduate training with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Ballet Magnificat!, and Ad Deum Dance Company. Jasmine graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Dance from Belhaven University in Jackson, MS. Currently, Jasmine is dancing with Ad Deum Dance Company and teaching for WUDC.
Kenneth Epting is a native of Chicago, Illinois, residing in Houston for the past twenty-seven years. Ken received his BS in Metallurgical Engineering from Purdue University, and his Masters in Counseling from Prairie View A&M University. He is a certified secondary mathematics teacher and counselor. Kenneth spent twenty-two years inspiring minds as an educator and administrator in the public school system and currently owns The Kenneth Epting Educational Consultants Company.

Kenneth started his dance training in Chicago, Illinois with noted dance schools such as Joseph Holmes Dance Theatre, Joel Hall Dance Center, and Lou Conte School of Dance. He also received additional training at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center and Martha Graham School. He dedicates his love and gift of dance to his mother, the late Beatrice Epting.

Mr. Epting was the 1984 Chicago NAACP ACT-SO Gold Medalist in Dance, and honored as a 2008 Houston NAACP ACT-SO Alumni Honoree for Arts and Humanities. He has received high acclaim for many of his works in both Chicago and Houston choreographing for a variety of dance companies, performing organizations, and a host of other local high school dance and drill teams. He served as Artistic Director for the Classic Dance Ensemble at Prairie View A&M University from 1990 – 2000 as well as founding the Exclamation Dance Company. Kenneth is the Purchasing and Technology Manager for the Houston Academy of Dance and West University Dance Centre.

Cody Jackson, a Louisiana native, moved to the Houston area this year to join Ad Deum Dance Company. Cody began dancing when he was 17 years old at a small studio in his hometown in Louisiana. His passion for dancing continued through college where he began his technical training. He is pursing his R.N. degree and dance minor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. His training includes, the ULM Repertory Dance Ensemble and Missy Crain Dance of Louisiana Delta Ballet and workshops such as the MasterWorks Festival, ACDFA, Ad Deum Summer Intensive and Twin City Ballet Summer Intensive.
Michelle Lopez, a native Houstonian, began dancing at West University Dance Centre at the age of three and continued through high school. She is majoring in business with a minor in education, and working on her child life specialist certification. Michelle is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success at her college. She has competed with the Sole Discretion Competition Dance Team and was a member of Exclamation Dance Company under the direction of Kenneth Epting. Michelle has been working as a teacher’s assistant and as part of the office staff for past four years. This year will be her first year teaching ballet and tap to children ages seven and under.
Dorrell Martin is a native Houstonian, former artistic director of Houston Metropolitan Dance Company and founder of Dorrell Martin Dance Fusion. The summer of 2003, the company made its first international debut performance in Veracruz, Mexico. He received Honorable Mention for choreography at the World Jazz Congress. He has taught and set works on University of Louisiana, C.A.D Dance in New York City, Lamar University as well as companies in New Mexico and Louisiana. His studies include Paul Taylor, Ailey School, EDGE Performing Arts in Los Angeles, Steps on Broadway, and 2 years at the New York State Summer Intensive with New York City Ballet. Mr. Martin has worked with choreographers such as Kevin Wynn, Fred Benjamin, Liz Imperio of Los Angeles, Randy Duncan of Chicago and Pattie Obey of Holland.
Bernadette Patten is returning to Houston Academy of Dance after teaching in the public sector. She was the dance director for Cornerstone Academy in SBISD for eight years and taught dance and theater arts for three years at Gregory-Lincoln Middle School in HISD, a performing arts magnet school. Bernadette earned her BA in Theater Arts from San Francisco State University and has continued her education in the arts by attending the 2014 New York Dance Summit, the Oklahoma City University Teacher Training Seminar and the Cecchetti Council Seminar for Teachers of Ballet. She also has performing experience with Beresheet Ballet, Houston and Ballet Hysell, New Orleans as well as Dance One and Plexus Dance Company, California.
Karen Pfeifer, a native Houstonian, began her dance training at age three at West University Dance Centre and danced under the direction of Evelyn Ireton and John Truax. She then continued her dance training, again with Ms. Ireton, at Episcopal High School, where she received several awards for her choreography and was a member of Impact dance company. Karen was given the privilege of working with many acclaimed choreographers such as Eddie O’Campo, Pattie Obey, Troy Powell and Frank Vega. While at Episcopal, Karen was a member of Exclamation Dance Company under the direction of Kenneth Epting. Upon graduating summa cum laude from Episcopal, Karen went on to become a member of the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company for three years, and completed her education at the University of Houston Honors College. Karen graduated summa cum laude in 2011 with a B.B.A. in Entrepreneurship and a Minor in Art History. Karen is thrilled to have dance back in her life and to be working at the studio where she grew up.
Sally Rojas was born in Caracas, Venezuela and moved to Miami, Florida when she was ten. She then began her training with Thomas Annour, Robert Pike, and Judith Reese Newman at the Miami Conservatory. She went on to study at the School of American Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. At the age of sixteen she became a member of American Ballet Theatre II where she remained and toured extensively for two years. Sally then joined the Houston Ballet where she enjoyed dancing in most of the company’s repertoire. As a soloist, Sally danced the lead role in many ballets including Swan Lake, Cleopatra, Snow Maiden, The Merry Widow, Manon, Dracula, Nutcracker and Peer Gynt. She has performed the works of many famous choreographers including George Balanchine, William Forsythe, Ben Stevenson, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Stanton Welch, Christopher Bruce, Jiri Kylian, Paul Taylor, and Glen Tetley. Sally also is currently on staff with Houston Ballet.
Beryl Poon Stoutenberg is a registered teacher with the Royal Academy of Dance and also holds teaching certificates in The Method Pilates, Progressive Ballet Technique by Marie Walton-Mahon, artistic gymnastics and aquatics. After graduating from Goh Ballet Academy in Canada, she studied dance and kinesiology at the University of Calgary. Beryl began her career performing such shows as “La Bayadere,” and “KPMG’s Centennial celebration” (TV and radio). She has performed with and choreographed for Boney M, Econoline Crush, Snoop Dogg and Vince Neil. She has worked with companies such as Maxim Magazine, Urban Male Magazine, Bacardi and Benson & Hedges Extreme Sports and Music Series. In 2010, Beryl was a representative for Canadian Arts and Culture at the World Expo in Shanghai, China. Beryl has won numerous choreography awards in dance and gymnastics throughout North America. Her commitment to her students has helped them further their training at The National Ballet of Canada, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Houston Ballet and Cirque du Soleil.
Julie Comfort graduated Magna Cum Laude from the State University of New York College at Brockport with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics and a Minor in Dance. She performed with Danscore, the college’s touring company, visiting local schools and universities promoting dance awareness and education. During college and after, she was a teacher for six years at The Dancenter in Medina, New York and performed in a local production of “42nd Street”. After moving to Houston, Julie began teaching at Houston Academy of Dance in August 1995, while maintaining a full-time business career outside of the studio. Julie’s primary focus at the studio has been the Teen/Adult Leisure program and Saturday morning children’s classes. Julie feels very fortunate to have the opportunity to share her love of dance with her students and is proud of being a long-time faculty member at HAD.
Christie Taylor began her dance training at the age of 3 with Cunningham Dance Studio in her hometown, Mason, Ohio. She later graduated with a BA in philosophy from Wheaton College in Chicago, where she danced with Zoe’s Feet Dance Ministry. As chaplain, and later, director of Zoe’s Feet Dance Ministry, Christie began teaching, choreographing, and developing a passion for using dance as a means of
healing and personal transformation. Christie dreams of founding a transitional fine arts boarding school for adolescents healing from trauma and abuse. She is currently dancing with Ad Deum Dance Company 2 and is looking forward to another year investing in her students at West University Dance Centre.
Danielle Garza is from San Antonio, Texas and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Sam Houston State University with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Dance. Over the past six years, Danielle has enjoyed performing in Houston’s art scene. She danced with NobleMotion Dance for five years, serving as Managing Director for three. She worked with Frame Dance Productions for four years and with Aimed Dance for the past seven years. Additionally, Danielle has performed with The Texas World Dance Company, Earthen Vessels- Sandra Organ Dance Company, Emotions Physical Theatre, as well as in works by Tino Seghal at the Menil Collection, Jane Weiner for Hope Stone, Laura Gutierrez, Laura Harrell, and Jesus Acosta. Most recently, Danielle was hired by the Los Angeles based company Kreate Inc. to perform at events such as Super Bowl LI and SXSW. She has toured nationally at venues in New York, California, Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Arizona. Outside of performing, Danielle also choreographs, judges, and teaches dance teams across the nation with MA Dance. Currently, Danielle is a company member with METdance and teaches at West University Dance Center and Houston Academy of Dance where she co-directs the youth company HADco.
Jamie Anderson, from Batesville, Arkansas, was a member of North Arkansas Dance Theatre for twenty years before relocating to Houston. She has taught tap, pointe, jazz, and ballroom to dancers of all ages. Jamie has also choreographed multiple pieces for dance productions and competitions. Ms. Anderson looks forward to sharing her love and knowledge of dance with the dancers of Houston Academy of Dance and West University Dance Centre. This is Jamie’s second year with the studios.
Sarah Roes began her dance training with the Rome Civic Ballet in her hometown of Rome, Georgia. She graduated from the University of the Nations in Kona, HW with a degree in Dance. She toured internationally with the University’s School of Dance Studies Company. Sarah is now beginning her third season with Ad Deum II Dance Company in Houston. Sarah teaches for both schools and is a rehearsal assistant with our performing companies, 713 Dance Ensemble and HADco.
Logan Blount, born and raised in Louisiana, began her training at age 8 with Theatre School of Dance. She was trained in various styles of dance and participated in ballet examinations with the Royal Academy of Dance. She continued her training outside of her home studio every summer with the Joffrey Ballet School’s Summer Intensives in New York City, San Francisco, and Dallas, TX. Logan was a member of Theatre School of Dance’s teaching staff as well as their performing arts company, Adorare, She danced as principle dancer and soloist with the company. She recently moved to Houston to dance with Ad Deum II Dance Company.
Crystal Knabeschuh began her dance training under the direction of Bonnie Cokinos in Beaumont, Texas at the age of three. She performed with the pre-professional company, Beaumont Ballet Theatre and competed through Dance Masters of America in the Miss Dance Texas pageants. She has had the privilege to study under artists such as John Magnus, Sean Carmon, Valery Lantratov and many more.

After high school, Crystal went on to study dance at Texas A&M University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in Dance Science. She performed as a member of the Brazos Dance Collective at Texas A&M.
Crystal was able to blend the two worlds of dance and anatomy to learn how to create better, stronger dancers. Focusing on injury prevention, she turned her attention to ankle injuries, after tearing her anterior ligament in her right ankle, and how to incorporate cross training to rehabilitate and prevent similar injuries. She attended the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science conference in Basel, Switzerland to network with doctors who study dancers and their specific injuries. Christine Bergeron and Carisa Armstrong were her instructors and mentors throughout her college career and inspired her to take dance even further.

Upon graduating, Crystal moved to Houston, Texas and is now teaching under the direction of Evelyn Ireton through Houston Academy of Dance and West University Dance Centre. She plans on continuing to teach, choreograph, and create smarter, healthier dancers through the empowering knowledge of their own bodies and eventually design a Dance Science curriculum to be taught in dance studios everywhere.

Christy Shepherd grew up on the sunny coast of Florida where she trained at various studios until moving abroad in 2010 to help start a performing arts program for a non-profit organization. During her time abroad Christy facilitated performing arts tours in Edinburgh, Scotland and was privileged to teach classes in France, Switzerland and Scotland. Christy moved to Houston two years ago and is excited to begin teaching here at West University Dance Centre.

Christy is an ABT Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 3 of the ABT National Training Curriculum.

Madie Farmer began her dance training in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania continuing in the pre –professional level of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School. Madie spent three years with Ballet Magnificat! In Jackson, Mississippi. The first two years she trained at their School of the Arts and then went on to become a trainee for the next year. Through her training with Ballet Magnificat, Madie developed a love for contemporary dance. Currently, she is training and dancing with Ad Deum II Company focusing on expanding her contemporary training. This is Madie’s first year at WUDC. She will be assisting in the office as well as the dance classroom.
Ginger Arrieta was born and raised in Marquette, Michigan where she began her dance training in the Cecchetti Method at age five. She participated in summer programs at ABT, Milwaukee Ballet, Dance Olympus, and Just For Kix. Ginger is a graduate from Belhaven University, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. At Belhaven, she studied under Stephen Wynne, Laura Morton, Britta Wynne, and Ravenna Tucker. After college, she continued her training in Milwaukee at Danceworks. In 2012, Ginger moved to Houston to dance with Ad Deum Dance in the second company. At that time, she began teaching at West University Dance Centre and Houston Academy of Dance. Ginger teaches all levels for the studios and continues her own training in ballet and contemporary dance.
Leah Knight was born and raised in Florida, where she trained at Flex Dance Studios and Zero Gravity Dance. She was awarded “Outstanding Graduate” in the School of Music and Fine Arts, Palm Beach Atlantic University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Dance Performance and a minor in Exercise Science.
She then interned with Miami City Ballet for three years. Currently, Leah is dancing her fourth season with Ad Deum Dance Company. It is her fourth year teaching at West University Dance Centre as well as her third year co-directing the West University Performing Company.