What Our Alumni Are Doing
Rita Donahue (BFA, 2002) is a member of the Mark Morris Dance Group,
one of the world’s most respected modern dance companies. Rita was selected at
an audition of 350 dancers only months after her graduation from George Mason,
and after a year of apprenticeship, was named a company member. In October 2003,
Rita returned to George Mason with the company to perform on the Center for the
Arts Concert Hall stage --- a theater she had performed in frequently as an
undergraduate – as a professional. She was part of the cast of “All Fours,” a
dance Mark Morris choose to debut on our campus. Since becoming a company member
and performing in a season that includes 100 shows a year, Rita has traveled all
over the country, from New York to Hawaii; and internationally to Ireland and Puerto Rico.
Other alumni who are professional performers include: Billy Smith (BFA
2007), a member of the Mark Morris Dance Group; Leonardo Giron-Torres (BFA 2006),
a member of STREB; Heidi Kershaw (BFA 2006), touring internationally in
West Side Story, and Durell Comedy (BFA 2008), a member of the Limon Dance Company.
Deborah Jinza Thayer (MFA 1997)is an independent choreographer
based in Minneapolis, whose work is frequently featured in the Minnesota Fringe Festival, sponsored by
the Minnesota Dance Alliance. Her work is often multi-disciplinary and in it she transforms her performance spaces into vividly illustrated
“other worlds.” The work she performed in the Best Feet Forward 2004 concert was a blend of modern dance, visual art, theater and interactive sound sculpture. She has
twice been named a semi-finalist in France’s Renocentres Choreographies Internationales de Sein-Sait-Denis, and teaches
technique and composition at Zenon Dance Company.
Other alumni who are professional choreographers include:Elizabeth Johnson (BFA 1994) whose Milwauki based company, Your Mother
Dances, performs in New York as well as the midwest; Natalie Moffet Smith (MFA
1999), whose Washington, D.C. based company is called DanceSmith; and Jennifer Ruhl
Kubilus (BFA 2007) who recently established her company Jenn Ruhl Contemporary
Barbara Parker (BFA 1998), Director, Operations and Artistic Initiatives at Wolf Trap Foundation
for the Performing Arts, also served as the first executive director of Friends
of George Mason Dance, the fund raising organization which supports scholarships
to talented incoming dance majors. Barbara received the university’s 2004 Alumni
Service Award in part for her efforts in establishing an advisory board to which
she recruited renowned choreographer Mark Morris to serve as honorary chair,
expanding membership and special events programming, and exceeding all previous
fund-raising objectives. In service to the Dance Department, Barbara
participates in career panels, reviews resumes for undergraduates, and
orchestrates numerous internship opportunities for dance majors. Her
professional responsibilities include initiating choreographic commissions and
planning performances and residencies.
Other alumni who are arts administrators include: Daniel Zook (BFA 2008), manager of City Dance Centers
and Allie Gallo (BFA 2005), manager of special events for the Corcoran.
Nancy Soderlund Gross (BFA 1997) directs the dance program at Woodbridge High School’s Center for Fine and Performing Arts.
The vision for the Center is to “encourage and develop creativity, self expression, academic achievement, and critical thinking in
the young artist.” Nancy wrote the dance curriculum for this new specialty program in the Price William County School system, and
continues to develop it as the program grows. Students in grades nine through twelve, learn the skills necessary for success in a university
Lisa Girdy (BFA 1988), in addition to establishing her studio, Encore! Studio of Dance, is the founder of the Free to Dance Foundation
which provides scholarships (including one to George Mason University) for students with a passion for dance who intend to give back to their
Other alumni who are teaching dance to young people include: Brittany Kneussl (BFA 2005) who directs the Summer Dance programs for CityDance
Joy DiLillo (BFA 2007) who teaches in the Children’s program at American Dance Institute.
Karen Williamson (MFA 1998)is a tenured Associate Professor of Dance at Northern Illinois University. Karen, who completed her B.F.A. in
Dance at Cincinnati Conservatory and who danced with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and the Joyce Trisler Danscompany, teaches
ballet and modern technique as well as choreographing for and directing department concerts.
Other alumni who are teaching dance in universities include: Kristin Fieseler (MFA 2002) who is an Assistant Professor at DeSales
University; Emily Berry (MFA 2003) teaches at Queensborough Community College; and Michelle Dunleavy (MFA 2004) teaches at Penn State.
Stay in Contact
Dance alums who want to stay in contact with the department and one another should email Marjorie Summerall at
firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the alumni email list.
You will be forwarded information about performances, job opportunities, and department news.
Would you like to help organize a Dance Alumni Chapter? We'll put you in touch with some alums who are
making it happen.