Owner - Director
Cary Petrusek received a degree in Dance Performance and Education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and was a four-year member of the UT Dance Company, performing modern, jazz, tap, and ballet. She studied under Laura Gagnon, a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company, learning extensive Graham, Limon and Cunningham technique. While in school, Cary also ran the tap program at Van Metre School of Dance in Maryville, Tennessee, home of the Appalachian Ballet.
Cary relocated to Evergreen, Colorado in 2005 where she became the owner and artistic director of Evergreen Dance Center teaching hundreds of children in the Evergreen community. Her award winning choreography has been performed across the country in regional and national competitions. In 2014, she moved to Asheville where she has taught as an adjunct professor at UNC Asheville and local studios. She is extremely excited to become the owner and artistic director of WNC Dance Academy and continue her passion for dance by training and inspiring young dancers.
Company Artistic Director
Jamie Brege DeVito is a dance educator, choreographer, teacher trainer, and collaborative artist newly based in Asheville, North Carolina. Most recently Jamie served as Assistant Principal for Boston Ballet School, where she taught, choreographed, and worked closely with school leadership, faculty, students, and families to ensure a high-quality dance education experience for students of all ages and abilities. Jamie grew up in Grand Rapids, MI and began her ballet training at the Grand Rapids Ballet School under the direction of Charthel Arthur and Robert Estner. She continued her professional training through attending summer intensive programs with American Ballet Theatre, Vail International Dance Festival, and The Juilliard School. Jamie earned her BFA from the Conservatory of Dance at Purchase College SUNY. While at Purchase, she performed works by choreographers including George Balanchine, Bronislava Nijinksa, David Parsons, and Helen Pickett. Jamie was chosen to serve as an ambassador exchange student at Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts in Perth, Australia, where she performed both classical and contemporary repertoire. Jamie holds a Master of Arts in Dance Education, Ballet Pedagogy from New York University. She is an ABT® Certified Teacher through the ABT® National Training Curriculum, Pre-primary through Level 7 and Partnering. Jamie’s teaching credits include Boston Ballet School, Grand Rapids Ballet School, Purchase College SUNY, Boston University, Dean College, Endicott College, and Lasell University. She has served as guest faculty at American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School and worked as co-artistic director of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp’s International Ballet Ensemble, touring through Germany, France, Belgium, and Denmark. Jamie co-created, and will continue to lead, Adaptive Dance Teacher Trainings for Boston Ballet School in Boston and at schools and organizations around the country.
Vanessa Owen is originally from Amity, Pennsylvania and she received her B.F.A. in Dance from Wright State University. She has danced professionally with Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company, the Washington Reflections, the Dayton Philharmonic’s production of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, the Kennedy Center’s production of Children of Eden and Company E. As an artist with Company E, Vanessa performed regularly at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and worked extensively through the State Department touring as a Cultural Ambassador. These tours took her to Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Russia, Cuba, Israel, Palestine, Republic of Georgia, Azerbaijan, China, and Uruguay where she taught, performed, and choreographed contemporary dance and musical theater productions. Vanessa was awarded a McDowell Regional Artist Grant, a Fellowship in Choreography by the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the Audience Choice Award at the 2018 NYC Dance Gallery Festival, and her choreography has been presented at Wright State University, Women in Dance Conference 2019, the 30th Annual Choreographer’s Showcase, YES! Dance Invitational, Malayaworks’ Intersections, Velocity DC, Agora Dance, Shenandoah University, The Outlet Dance Project, McCallum Theatre Choreography Festival, Asheville Fringe Arts Festival, CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival, Richmond Dance Festival, Dance Gallery NYC, Versatility Dance Festival, Palm Desert Choreography Festival, Stavna Ballet and Company E. Vanessa now lives in Asheville, NC, where she is co-founder of Stewart/Owen Dance alongside her husband, Gavin Stewart.
Gavin Stewart is a freelance dancer, choreographer, and music producer based in Western North Carolina. He began his dance training in Tulsa,OK with the Tulsa Youth Ballet and holds a BFA in Dance Performance from UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance. Over his twelve-year professional career he has had the pleasure of dancing with Richmond Ballet, Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company, Owen/Cox Dance Group, Company E, MOVE: the Company, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Asheville Lyric Opera, and Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance. Mr. Stewart has originated roles in many contemporary works and has performed works by G. Balanchine, V. Caniparoli, M. Cong, J. Lang, J. Malashock, H. Maloy, T. Tharp, and A. Tudor. Gavin’s choreography has been seen on Wylliams/Henry CDC, Richmond Ballet I & II, and Company E dance in Washington DC and abroad. In 2017 he began creating dance works with his wife, Vanessa Owen, and together they operate Western North Carolina-based Stewart/Owen Dance.
Karen Ninos Carpenter
Karen is a professional ballet teacher and choreographer committed to sharing the art of classical ballet with students since 1970. She is a Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB) alumna and is grateful to have been carefully trained by Marcia Dale Weary. She continued her training at American Ballet Theatre School under Leon Danielian. She received the Monticello Award for Choreography in 1982 for a ballet created for Marcia’s students at the North East Regional Ballet Festival. Karen has served on the summer faculty at CPYB from 1982-2020. Karen was a member of the City Center Joffrey Ballet Company, where she served as personal assistant to Robert Joffrey. She taught the children’s roles in Joffrey’s reconstruction of the ballet Pulcinella, coached by Leonide Massine. She accompanied Mr. Joffrey on the company’s ground-breaking 5-week tour of Russia in 1974.
Karen founded the Alfred Ballet Academy in Alfred, NY, where she choreographed original story ballets for her students for 22 years, training many professional dancers, some of whom have formed their own dance companies. She founded the Campbelltown School of Ballet in Campbelltown, PA and the Hershey School of Ballet in Hershey, PA. Karen served on the dance faculty at Alfred University in Alfred, NY, and on the dance faculty at Hagerstown Community College in Hagerstown, MD, where she choreographed original works and taught the academic college ballet dance curriculum. She created a class for the college called “If I were a Dancer”, designed to inspire young dancers in the College for Kids program. Since 2017, Karen worked in collaboration with Heather Maloy of Terpsichorps Dance Theater to build an academic ballet program for serious young dancers. She choreographed ballets for students to showcase their talents. Karen worked at the Academy at Terpsichorps through 2022 teaching dancers from beginners to professionals. Karen lives with her husband Jack, her golden retriever and her calico kitty in Hendersonville. Karen’s Philosophy Karen believes that classical ballet gives children an excellent foundation for finding value in art and aesthetic beauty. It exposes them to a 400-year-old art form that combines music, theater and movement, grounding them in an understanding of the broader world. Karen is committed to keeping ballet relevant and fun for children to explore.
Andrea Martinez graduated magna cum laude from Meredith College with a bachelor’s degree in Dance, concentrating in performance and choreography, with a minor in exercise and sports science. She has taught dance for over 20 years and currently teaches adjunct in the dance program at UNC Asheville. Andrea was the Dance Department Chair at Savannah Arts Academy, the Director of Dance at Rabun-Gap Nacoochee School, an instructor at The Ballet School of Chapel Hill, taught at Savannah State University, was a guest choreographer at UNC Chapel Hill and worked at the American Dance Festival at Duke University. Her choreographic work has toured with the NC Dance Festival and she has performed at the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in work created and cast by Peter DiMuro. Her students have gone on to study with the Joffrey, ABT, Julliard, SUNY Purchase, The New School, The Atlanta Ballet and many have companies and studios of their own. She specializes in teaching ballet technique as a method of mastery and physical training for all types of dancers, as well as being well versed in Cunningham, Humphrey/Limon, contract improvisation and Body-Mind Centering. Additionally, Andrea was a Registered Yoga Teacher with over 4000 hours of yoga teaching experience and has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership.
Emily Dison is an Artist, Movement Practitioner and aspiring designer. Emily has a decade of teaching and considers herself a creative student of life. She has recently returned to Asheville after touring the country working music and art festivals, and living in La Paz, Baja California Mexico where she taught Yoga + Barre classes at retreat centers Casa Tara and Puerta Cortés.
Emily’s classical ballet background and training comes from Vaganova and Cecchetti methods. At a young age, she trained with Natalia Rayevskiy in all five Rhythmic Gymnastics apparatuses while training with the Classical Ballet Academy of Northwest Arkansas. Emily was the hip hop teacher at New Ballet Ensemble in Memphis Tennessee, taught ballet and lyrical in the private and public school systems, and studios around the mid south. She performed with New Ballet Ensemble as a company member in the role of the “Rat Queen” in The Nut Remix and was also an NBA dancer from seasons 2011 – 2016 with the Memphis Grizzlies. During her professional dance career, she trained in Studio City California under the Hollywood Barre franchise, Cardio Barre. She has since received her 200hr Yoga and Adv Reiki certifications.
Other choreography and performance credits include dance soloist and ensemble work with Memphis Playhouse on the Square for shows like “Mama Mia!” , “Rock of Ages” and “Memphis” the musical. Television credit includes a series as a burlesque dancer on season 1 of Hulus “Reprisal” . She was show girl choreographer and performer for Harrahs casinos in Tunica Mississippi, and back of dance and choreographer for Maui Hawaiis “Burning Love” during Elvis week.
Amanda Hoyte is a proud graduate of both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.S. in Psychology, and the University of South Florida with a M.S. in Medical
(Health) Sciences, with over 25 years of formal dance training in styles including ballet, tap, and jazz dance, and theatrical and concert stage performance experience that spans 20
years. Over the years, she has traveled and performed regionally and nationally with several dance companies and maintained a love for performing, however, Amanda has devoted
most of her professional dance career to examining the relationship between dance, music, and culture throughout history, to educating individuals of all ages in the art and joy of
music through movement, and to building a diverse dance community in Western North Carolina. Since 2017, Amanda has been resident instructor, as well as jazz and tap
choreographer for Art of Dance Studio’s competitive dance team and, in 2020, Amanda joined the Theatre Arts Department faculty at Mars Hill University as the Dance Program
Director, where she is working to build a holistic dance program that creates informed and experienced practitioners/performers. Amanda has frequently been a guest instructor at
other institutions/studios teaching tap and jazz intensives and master classes. In addition to teaching, she continues to choreograph (recent credits: BLVCK BRILLIANCE: A
Celebration of Melanin (2021), Little Shop of Horrors (2021), Sweet Charity (2023)) and to perform, appearing in music videos for artists including The Get Right Band, Alfred
Nomad, and Eleanor Underhill and on theatrical stages (recent credits: BLVCK BRILLIANCE: A Celebration of Melanin (2021), The Wedding Singer (2022)). Amanda is also
very active as a tap dancer/musician in Asheville's live music scene and is a leader in the NC Chapter of the Southern Open Rhythm Collective. Amanda is passionate about
motivating her students through music and movement and is looking forward to sharing that passion with WNC Dance Academy.
Elizabeth has a passion for dance, bodywork, movement, and creativity. Her interest in dance, exercise, and sports began at a young age when she started taking dance classes, playing tennis, and running track. Bodywork and dance has now become her career and joy. Elizabeth graduated from Appalachian State University with a B.A. degree in dance studies and education. Her dance training is in release technique, Limón, and Ballet. She is a Classically and Authentically trained, 3rd generation Pilates instructor. She is also a Certified to teach Pole dance 1 & 2 and sultry pole through Aradia Fitness. Elizabeth has taught modern/contemporary dance, jazz, ballet, improvisational dance, somatic dance, Pilates mat and Pilates equipment, flexibility, exercise bar classes, cardio dance, and dance conditioning classes. She has attended Pilates workshops from Mejo Wiggins and Blossom Leilani Crawford, and she also has continued to develop her dance training through the American Dance Festival in Durham, NC and by attending release technique workshops at LaCantera in Mexico City, Mexico. Elizabeth performed with Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre from 2015-2019 and continues to enjoy dancing with the Asheville Ballet. She’s currently dancing in an independent project with Idelle Packer. She has also choreographed for the Asheville Fringe Festival in 2018 and for “Women’s Work” a dance event organized by Kathy Meyers Leiner. Elizabeth also keeps up her own practice by attending dance classes, Pilates classes, flexibility classes, cardio, and pole dancing.
Elizabeth has been dancing since the age of 10 when she was introduced to Jazz at The French Woods Performing Arts Camp in New York. In 2016, she received her degree in dance from the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Over the past 20 years she has studied from such notable dancers as Joyce Stahl, Denis Hyland, Ann Dunn, Tricia Renshaw, Fleming Lomax, Allison Hertzberg and more. She has studied gymnastics, ballet, pointe, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary ballet, and character dance. Elizabeth has danced with the Coffee Mill Dance Studio in her hometown of Key West, Florida, the Burklyn Ballet Theatre in Vermont, the Key West High School Competition Colorguard and Eurythmics Team, the local Key West Dance Team, and the Asheville Academy of Ballet. She has studied at Steps on Broadway and Broadway Dance Center in New York City.
Elizabeth has performed in the Dirty Dancing Festival for the past three years, is the contemporary dancer for a band called Grendel’s Mother, and is currently a member of the Trillium Dance Company. She has worked at Vance Elementary teaching dance in the after school enrichment program. Elizabeth is a ballet, tap, jazz, and contemporary instructor and teaches all ages at beginning and intermediate levels. Currently, Elizabeth teaches at WNC Dance Academy, Art of Dance Studio, and is the Founder of Looking Glass Dancers Society, a local community organization. Teaching is inspiring and making connections with kids and adults in a dance class is such a rewarding experience for her. She believes that dance is the most wonderful experience for people of all ages and can express creativity like nothing else.
Born in Asheville, NC, Nick Kepley trained with Sandra Miller and spent summers at School of American Ballet and The Juilliard School. Concert dance: Ballet Austin, Kansas City Ballet. Broadway/NY stage: Mary Poppins, Cinderella (Asst. Choreographer), Waitress (Asst. Choreographer), Camelot (NY Philharmonic), American Dance Machine for the 21st Century (Joyce Theatre). TV/Film: SMASH (NBC), Great Performances (PBS). Choreography: Working (Prospect Theatre NY, Assoc.), Cake Off (Bucks County Playhouse, Assoc.), West Side Story (Mill Mountain Theatre), Dirty Dancing in Concert, Guys and Dolls (Flat Rock Playhouse). Kepley has served as Rehearsal Director for Dance Lab/New York (2016-2018), Ballet Master of Ballet Austin II (2013-2015), and on full-time faculty for Milwaukee Ballet teaching technique, pointe and variations for the Rolando Yanes Pre-Professional Program (2021-2022). In 2010, Kepley founded MOTION Dance Theatre, a summer choreographic residency program in Asheville, NC, and served as artistic director until 2015.
Tina Simms has been teaching ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary, and musical theater, throughout the East Coast since 1994. Entering the dance world at the age of 4, Tina’s passion and love of dance came at a very young age. Growing up she was a member of the competition team, performing team, and set choreography. She also performed in the Nutcracker with the Repertory Ballet Company , and was accepted into the Joffrey Ballet Company Summer Program. In 2004, Tina moved to Expression of Dance in Nazareth, where she taught and choreographed for the award winning Allegro Ballet Company, Lyrical/Contemporary and Jazz Company, until she relocated to Asheville in 2009. Tina attended numerous classes and workshops in New York City including Steps, and Broadway Dance Center, with many amazing instructors including: Frank Hatchett, Mia Michaels, Savion Glover, Mary Ann Lamb, Gus Giordano, Bob Rizzo, Pamela Bolling, Wade Robson, Slam, Tracie Stanfield, and Chris Judd. She received additional instructor training from the Dance Teacher Summer Conference’s, and BDC Teacher Intensives. Tina’s competitive groups, solos, and duets have won numerous awards, including “Outstanding Choreography”, “Apogee Award”, Overall awards, and Special awards. In addition to studio work, Tina performed and choreographed for multiple community theater productions, which include: Cabaret, Dames at Sea, Brigadoon, 42nd Street, and The Music Man. Her goal is to build a nurturing environment for students to grow into confident artists. Her focus is on providing the inspiration, the tools, and training necessary for those interested in a professional career, and a rewarding experience for those who just love to dance. Tina owned and directed the WNC Dance Academy for eight years and is so excited to get back to choreographing, inspiring, and teaching students.
Melvin AC Howell
Melvin AC Howell is an internationally cultured choreographer and creative director who has been transforming and molding lives, while evolving the art of dance, for over 13 years. His approach is his purpose: “Spread positivity, encouragement, and guidance through dance. The positivity movement.” With a background in fitness, art, and many different cultural styles of dance, Melvin brings a unique vision to the world that is dance. His visionary style and technique promotes growth physically and mentally, encouraging a strengthened body, foundation, and creative capacity. As a movement expert and master instructor in Hip Hop, Contemporary, Jazz Funk, and Freestyle; Melvin emits a genuine uplifting abundance of positive energy and inspiration, which fills the atmosphere and effortlessly uplifts your spirits, leaving you motivated and wanting more. With dance serving as the primary purpose in his life, Melvin not only touches at the center of what inspires people to move; the desire to create, to feel, to connect, to speak without words. Moreover, Melvin focuses on the core of the human desire for motivation, support, inspiration, and love. It is his mission, his passion, his life goal: “To Change People’s Lives for the better.”