July 15, 2020

Meet the CityDance International Summer Intensive Artists!

Using an online platform, we have the unique opportunity this summer to bring together a talented and exciting lineup of international artists and American artists who work internationally and have extensive experience producing their work online. This virtual intensive, July 20 through 31, 2020, serves to ignite a dancer’s creativity and accelerate his or her technical and artistic trajectory.

We will reach across the Caribbean to welcome back Alex Neoral (Focus Cia De Dança, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), across the Atlantic to welcome Liz Gahl (Compagnie José Montalvo, Paris, France), and across the midatlantic states to welcome Nijawwon Matthews (XY DANCE PROJECT, New York). These guest artists will teach alongside CityDance Ignite Artists who have worked extensively internationally, Sarah J. Ewing (Australia) and Choreographer-in-Residence Robert J. Priore, Ballet Master Stanislav Issaev and esteemed faculty members Caroline Rocher and Keith Thomas.

On Friday, July 31 at 3pm, students of the intensive will perform alongside professionals from Alex Neoral's renowned Brazilian contemporary dance company, Focus Cia de Dança, in a livestream performance of his new work, "Hearts on Standby". Please RSVP here to purchase access to the performance link.

Learn more about the intensive here


Meet the Artists 

Lorraine Spiegler, Founding Artistic Director, CityDance School & Conservatory

Lorraine Spiegler has over 25 years of experience in the dance field as an educator, director and choreographer, and she holds a Bachelors in Dance (1979, cum laude) and two Masters in Dance and Arts Management (1991) from American University. She began her studies at the Washington School of Ballet under the direction of Mary Day, who became a lifelong mentor. She later became Artistic Director of Theatre Dance, Inc., a school and company in the Caribbean founded by Atti van den Berg Bermudez, who danced with Kurt Jooss, and set up her first international dance exchange project between Theatre Dance and Bennington College in Vermont. Ms. Spiegler was a full-time faculty member for the Washington Ballet under Mary Day from 1991 to 2001 and also became the co-founder of The Washington Ballet’s DanceDC Program, serving as the organization’s first Director of Education and Outreach from 1999 to 2001. She worked as the Dance Director/choreographer of “Music that Moves” for the National Symphony Orchestra and the Kennedy Center in 1999 and 2003. Lorraine Spiegler is the recipient of the 2013 Dance Metro DC Award for "Excellence in Education" for her role in the founding and development of CityDance Conservatory. Ms. Spiegler’s central focus remains the identification and nurturing of dance talent and the pursuit of excellence in training, education, choreography and performance.

Stanislav Issaev, Ballet Master, CityDance Conservatory

Stanislav is a two-time international gold medalist at the Varna and National Soviet Ballet Competitions and a recipient of the Nijinsky Prize in Paris and People's Artist of Russia title. He also enjoyed a long and illustrious career as a principal dancer with the Moscow State Classical Ballet.  During the two decades of his performing career, Stanislav partnered many famous and highly respected ballerinas including Ekaterina Maximova, the Prima Ballerina of the Bolshoi Theatre.

After moving to the United States, Stanislav presided over the dance department at the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts for more than a decade, followed by two years spent as Ballet Master for the Men's Program at the Kirov Academy of Washington D.C. Stanislav's reputation as an esteemed teacher rivals that of his career as a dancer. His students have gone on to become medalists in international ballet competitions worldwide and earn positions in the world's most elite ballet and contemporary dance companies. In addition, he has been named Outstanding Teacher by Youth America Grand Prix International Ballet Competition in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2011 and 2019. 

Robert J. Priore, CityDance Choreographer-In-Residence

Robert J. Priore is the Choreographer-In-Residence for the CityDance Conservatory program as well as an Ignite Artist. Robert received a BFA in Dance from Point Park University. Since 2010, he has been teaching Contemporary Jazz at the highest levels of the School & Conservatory, and his Choreographer-In-Residence works are directly linked to his mission of creating signature pieces for the Conservatory.

Priore is very proud to be a founding member of 2011 DC-based Company | E, where he has had the honor of dancing works by Ohad Naharin, Andrea Miller, Sharon Eyal, Rachel Erdos, Roni Koresh, Marco Cantalupo and Thomas Noone. In 2015, Robert was a recipient of the John F. Kennedy Center Local Dance Commissioning Project and created a special work, Speak Easy for the artists of Company | E. Speak Easy has been on the road, presented in collaboration with Company | E, in Russia, Azerbaijan, Cuba and most recently in Ukraine.

PrioreDance, Robert’s professional company, was founded in the fall of 2016. In January of 2017, Robert traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he facilitated a workshop at La Fábrica, and set and presented work for local professionals. In April of 2017, Robert traveled to Holguin, Cuba to set an original work on the dancers of CoDanza. He returned to Holguin in the fall with PrioreDance company member, Abby Leithart, to premiere his work Casita with CoDanza at the Vladimir Malakhov Grand Prix, where the piece won the audience choice award. In July of 2018, PrioreDance was chosen to perform Casita at the Inside/Out Program Theatre during the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Summer Festival. That same fall, Robert and five dancers returned once again to Holguin to present excerpts of Robert’s Cirque De Nuit for the Vladimir Malakhov Grand Prix performance.

In 2016, 2017 and 2018 Robert also was named an outstanding fellow in the arts in his home of the District of Columbia. In November of 2019, Robert presented a new work at the Dance Gallery Festival in New York City, being named one of the three Level-Up commissioned choreographers. From 2016 to 2020, Robert was named an outstanding fellow in his home of the District of Columbia. In tandem, Robert was the recipient of several project grants from 2018 to 2020 to create evening length works for the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Most recently, Robert was commissioned to create a work for the Mark Twain Prize Award Ceremony which was nationally televised on PBS in November of 2018. In 2019, Robert was awarded the prestigious Pola Nirenska Award for outstanding contribution to art in the District of Columbia.

Alex Neoral, Artistic Director of Focus Cia de Dança

Founded in 1997, brilliant contemporary dance company Focus Cia De Dança embodies a movement that builds art and meaning about the daily lives of the people in its home city of Rio de Janeiro. The company has performed more than 270 presentations in 50 cities around the world.. Led by Alex Neoral, the company delights audiences with innovative and technical choreography performed with precision and a poetic depth.
Alex Neoral, who had an artistic residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts – Paris in 2017, began his dance training in 1994. In Rio de Janeiro, he was a company member with Deborah Colker Dance Company, Cia Nós da Dança, and Grupo Tápias e Cia Vacilou Dançado, among others.

In 1997, he founded Focus Cia De Dança where he began researching his first choreographic works. In 2000, the company presented its first evening-length show, VÉRTICE. As a contemporary dance teacher, he has taught guest classes in Washington, DC and Italy, as well as classes and workshops throughout Brazil. He has set numerous works as a guest choreographer including PATHWAYS for the CityDance Ensemble in Washington, DC, and choreographed for the Bolshoi Theater, São Paulo Cia of Dance, and Rio’s yearly carnival celebrations.

Nijawwon Matthews

Nijawwon Matthews is the current recipient of The Director’s Choice as the new featured choreographer for Dallas Black Dance Theater. Nijawwon was also featured as an artist and teacher in Dance Teacher Magazine. Mr. Matthews restaged his work ‘Cycles’ on The Alvin Ailey/Fordham B.F.A. Sophomore class. He is also the Founder/Artistic Director of his own project-based company called XY DANCE PROJECT. He is also a  resident artist, teacher, and choreographer for Joffrey Ballet School, Broadway Dance Center & TOKYOTHECOMPANY under the direction of Kevin “Tokyo” Inouye and Alisha Lorraine Captain.

As a guest freelance artist; Nijawwon performed as a soloists for Glenn Close and Ted Nash “Transformation”Jazz at Lincoln Center. Matthews has performed works by Cirque Du Soleil (Macy’s Day Parade) Donald McKayle, Christopher Huggins, Milton Myers, Otis Sallid, Kevin “Iega” Jeff, Gary Abbott, George Faison and many others. Some of the companies Mr. Matthews has worked for include Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Williams Henry Contemporary Dance Company, Cecilia Marta Dance Company, Philadanco!, and Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company and several others. As a dance educator and choreographer, Mr. Matthews has travelled nationally & internationally to instruct masterclasses and choreograph for a host of academic schools, dance studios, and professional companies as well as institutions in the British Virgin Islands, Germany, Singapore, Poland, South Africa, China, Bermuda, Curacao, Peru, Helsinki, Italy, and Taiwan. To his credit,  Matthews orchestrated theatrical performances Jesus Christ Superstar, Oklahoma! Footloose, Chicago & Partnership For Results, a community-wide after-school youth program under the direction of Susan Muldoon. Nijawwon is inspired to continue to work with artists from all around the world.


Elizabeth Gahl

Elizabeth Gahl, born in Washington, DC, is currently a dancer with the Compagnie José Montalvo in Paris, France and choreographer of her own Compagnie Elizabeth Gahl. Alumni of the Washington School of Ballet, Elizabeth has been a teacher and choreographer on faculty at WSB and the CityDance School & Conservatory. She danced with CityDance Ensemble, performing repertory pieces from choreographers as diverse as Paul Taylor, Sophie Maslow, Kate Weare, Alex Neoral, Christopher K. Morgan and Paul Emerson. She was a founding member and rehearsal director for Christopher K. Morgan & Artists. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Pre-medicine from Georgetown University and a Master’s degree in International Affairs from the American University of Paris.

Keith Lamelle Thomas

Keith Lamelle Thomas, is a graduate of The Baltimore School for The Arts. After graduating, Mr. Thomas received a full scholarship to Dance Theater of Harlem. He worked his way up the ranks to become a principal dancer. Mr. Thomas then went on to have a wonderful career on Broadway and film. Doing such shows and movies as: Ragtime, Red Shoes, Jellys' Last Jam, Harlem Song and Black and Blue. Movies: Malcolm X, Stompin at the Savoy, and The Producers, to name a few. Mr. Thomas was an adjunct professor at Towson University, and Director of their Childrens’ Dance Division. He has had the pleasure of teaching, choreographing, assisting and consulting many seasoned and up and coming artists. Mr. Thomas is very grateful to become a part of the CityDance faculty. What a blessing!

Caroline Rocher

Caroline Rocher trained at the Conservatoire de Montpellier in France with
Madame Claparède and later graduated from the Rudra Béjart art school in Lausanne, Switzerland. In 1998, she moved to America to study at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center in New York. In 1999, Mrs. Rocher joined The Dance Theatre of Harlem under the mentorship of Arthur Mitchell and was promoted to the rank of Principal dancer the following year. Her professional career extends internationally as she danced with the Bavarian State Ballet in Munich, Germany, the Lyon Opera Ballet in France, and Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet in San Francisco.

In 2001 Mrs. Rocher was named "25 to watch" in Dance Magazine.  She also collaborated with international ballet star Vladimir Malakhov at the Career Transition For Dancers Gala in New York and was invited to perform at “Le Gala des Etoiles du 21ème siècle” in Paris in 2004.  

Mrs. Rocher has performed works by acclaimed choreographers such as Marius Petipa, John Cranko, George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Hans Van Manen, John Neumeier, Maurice Béjart, Maguy Marin, Jacopo Godani, Dwight Rhoden, William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian, Arthur Mitchell, Michael Smuin, Glen Tetley and Alonzo King.  Alongside her dance career, Mrs. Rocher has been a great advocate for passing on her craft to the next generation of dancers. For the past 15 years, she has been teaching worldwide, and she is currently part of the Alonzo King Discovery Project team, an intensive workshop offered nationwide whose mission is to use dance to bridge gaps created by the diversity of experience, perspective, culture, and socioeconomic background. Furthermore, in 2015, she traveled to Cape Town as part of The LEAP-SOUTH AFRICA organization. There, together with a team of inspiring artists, she taught young dancers at the CAPA Art School, as well as the public schools located in the townships of Khayelitsha, and Guguletu. Mrs. Rocher is also a certified GYROTONIC® instructor and a GYROKINESIS® apprentice instructor. 

Sarah J. Ewing, CityDance Ignite Artist

Sarah J. Ewing is an Australian born dancer and choreographer, a CityDance Ignite Artist, and the Director of S. J. Ewing & Dancers. Sarah has a close relationship with the School and Conservatory as an esteemed Faculty member and choreographer. Ewing often creates new works on Conservatory dancers, which she presents alongside her Company's works, and also casts current students and numerous alumni in her professional productions.

In 2019 Ms. Ewing was one of the first artists commissioned by the Kennedy Center to create an original work for its newly expanded campus, the REACH. She also toured a new work, Analog OnSite, to New Zealand's premier alternative arts festival, The Arcade Festival, and toured twice to Detroit. She presented a new full-length work, Gallery, at FlashDC. The work was re-presented by CulturalDC and CityDance at Source Theater in September for Cultural DC's 20th anniversary season. Sarah was selected to choreograph for Maryland Lyric Opera's new production of Thais, which premiered at the Kay Theater at the Clarice Performing Arts Center in January 2020.

Her Company,  S. J. Ewing & Dancers, has presented throughout DC at The Kennedy Center, Dupont Underground, Dance Place, Atlas Performing Arts Center, and in site-specific installations at Bread for the City, 2M Apartment Building, Flash nightclub, and The Warehouse. The Company has toured across the US to Green Space (NYC), Boston Contemporary Dance Festival (MA), White Wave Dance Festival (NYC), Ailey Citigroup Theater (NYC), Your Move JC (NJ), Dance Gallery Festival (TX), CityDance Studio Theater at Strathmore (MD) and twice to the Detroit City Dance Festival (MI). In the 2018-2019 season, the Company had residencies in Michigan at Cranbrook School and Lightbox Theater.