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.
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.
Becky began training in dance and gymnastics at an early age, and competed in private club gymnastics through high school. After a break from active competition, Becky obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, and turned her focus to dance. She trained in jazz, lyrical, ballet, hip hop, and contemporary from some of the finest teachers in Los Angeles. She has also attended Paula Morgan’s teacher’s workshop on conditioning and technique.
For twelve years, Becky co-owned and managed Fusion Dance Studio in California with her sister Rita. During that time, she instructed and choreographed for their award winning performing company. Becky also produced Fusion Dance Studio’s own Choreographers Showcase for 10 years.
Becky’s outside choreography projects include: Imaginations Entertainment Industrial for Tarbell Realty 2005, Peninsula High School 2004 and 2006, Assistant Choreographer for The Presets music video “If I Know You” directed by Eva Husson in 2009, Peninsula Performing Arts 2007 – 2010, and the Redondo Beach Festival of Arts 2008 and 2009.
Becky has received many regional and national choreography awards spanning from 2005 to 2019. Her work was selected for the “Under The Stars” Choreography Festival in Palm Springs 2009. Becky’s choreography was also scouted and selected for a private audition by the casting director for America’s Got Talent. Many of Becky’s students have gone on to work professionally and have been awarded scholarships and dance program placements including: The Boston Conservatory, UCLA, Irvine University, Loyola Marymount University, Chapman University, Edge PAC scholarship program, Westside Ballet Summer Program, Complexions Summer Program, Hubbard Street Dance Summer Program, Alvin Ailey Summer Dance Intensive, Point Park University and Juilliard Summer Dance Intensive.
Becky is also a skilled costume designer/seamstress. Her costumes have been used by: Commonality Dance Company, Theatre Bethune, Ray Bradbury’s Frost and Fire, Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance, Edge Performing Arts Center, Imaginations Entertainment Company, and WNC Dance Academy.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Dana Harris began her dance journey when she was just two in St. Petersburg, Florida. At age 19, after being selected for Edge Performing Arts Center’s prestigious commercial dance scholarship program, Dana relocated to Los Angeles. At the commencement of the year-long program, she was quickly sought after and signed by Bloc Talent.
Since the start of her professional dance career just five years ago, she has grown a very diverse resume, appearing in Netflix’s One Day at a Time, American Horror Story, 9-1-1 Lonestar, dancing behind artists like Farruko, Chino y Nacho, Elva Hsaio of Taiwan, Disney’s Skylar Steckar, Sean Van Der Wilt, and assisting and working closely with world renowned choreographers Sheryl Murakami and Helene Phillips in world tour performance samples for artists like Beyoncé and Pitbull. She also performed in many major award shows, including the Radio Disney Music Awards, the Latin American People’s Choice Awards, and many live productions, including a Las Vegas New Year’s event, a Lamborghini press release, and much more.
Dance education being Dana’s first love and ending career goal, she has gained 7 years of experience in the field. She has taught for many local LA studios, including the youth program at Edge PAC, as well as frequenting her hometown in Florida where she teaches and choreographs for students all over the state. Additionally, last year she travelled the U.S. as an awards host and Emcee for Hall of Fame Dance Challenge.
Now having relocated to the Asheville area, Dana is very excited to pass on her knowledge and experience to the professional dancers of the future, while only continuing to grow as an instructor and educator of the youth.
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.