Armour Dance Theatre provides dance training to over 850 students annually, with nearly 600 on scholarship in five locations. Through our programs, we work to remove obstacles and use dance as a vehicle to success. Over the last three decades, our programs have grown in scope and impact. To see where our alums are today click here.
We believe dance is merely the vehicle that transports children through doors that maximize their options in life. We are thrilled when one of our graduates is accepted into a major dance company; however, our ultimate goal is to give children choices beyond their present limitations.
The mission of Armour Dance Theatre is to create a pathway to educational and professional opportunities, for the youth of Miami-Dade County, through the study and performance of dance.
Serve youth regardless of income level.
Reflect the diversity of the community in all programming.
Facilitate the removal of obstacles that may impede success.
Offer inclusive programming for youth with or without disabilities.
was a world-renowned classical ballet dancer, trained in Paris by the legendary Olga Preobrajenska. During his career, he was a principal soloist with the Ida Rubenstein Company, the Nijinska Company, the Woijikowski Company, the De Basil Company, and finally, Leonid Massine’s famed Ballet Russe De Monte Carlo. His performing contemporaries included; Alexandra Danilova, Igor Youskevitch, Andre Eglevsky, Rosella Hightower, Alicia Markova, and Frederic Franklin. One of his most celebrated roles was Vaslav Nijinski’s “Spectre de la Rose”.
After being drafted into Military Intelligence during World War II, Mr. Armour’s performing career ended. In 1949, after the war, he returned to South Florida, where he took over a small ballet school. He started the Miami Ballet Guild, which became the Miami Ballet, with 501c3 non-profit status, in 1951. The Miami Ballet’s goal was to provide first-class training and stage experience for aspiring dancers, by presenting full-scale classical ballets, with professional guest artists, such as Cynthia Gregory, Edward Villella, Natalia Makarova, Peter Martins, and Violet Verdy, to name but a few. Ballets presented, including Giselle, Swan Lake, Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty, and La Bayadere. The Miami Ballet was also a co-founder of the Southeastern Regional Ballet Association (SERBA). Mr. Armour was honored with many awards over the years, most recently a “Lifetime Achievement” recognition from Dance For Life for his contributions to the South Florida dance community.
was a member of the Miami Conservatory faculty and administration for over 47 years. Mr. Pike received his dance training at the Chicago Conservatory of Music and Ballet, and later at the Ballet Theater school in New York with William Dollar and Anatole Vilzak. For several seasons, he performed with New York City Opera Ballet as a soloist and with the touring companies of ”The Student Prince” and “Bells are Ringing”. In 1953 Mr. Pike returned to Miami to study with Mr. Armour, and joined the faculty of the Miami Conservatory and the Miami Ballet Company as a dancer and choreographer. He danced in many ‘summer stock ‘ productions in Miami and in such musicals as “Red Head” and “Pal Joey”. For several years Mr. Pike performed on cruise ships sailing in the Caribbean. Mr. Pike retired from the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet in 2006.
CAMILA GIL, Executive Director
Born in Bogota Colombia, Camila holds a Masters in Global Governance from Florida International University and a Bachelors of Arts in International Studies & Political Science from the University of Miami. Ms. Gil trained at Armour Dance Theatre from the time she was 13 years old under the artistic leadership of Ruth Wiesen. Even though she no longer dances, she believes in the importance of dance education, having benefited from it firsthand. During her High School years, Camila became a volunteer for the organization and upon graduating began working as a Student Assistant. She has dedicated her professional career to Armour Dance Theatre holding multiple roles including Student Assistant, Executive Assistant, Director of Community programs, and more recently Associate Director. Ms. Gil has supported and led the growth of the scope and reach of Armour Dance Theatre for the past decade and is passionate about making arts education accessible to all children in the Miami Dade Community. To contact Camila click here.
RUTH WIESEN, Artistic Director
Born in Bethesda, Maryland, received her BFA in Dance from the University of Florida/New World School of the Arts. Ms. Wiesen trained at the Miami Conservatory with Thomas Armour and Robert Pike and with Judith Newman and Gerard Ebitz at New World School of the Arts. She performed as a soloist with the Miami Ballet and New World School of the Arts. Ms. Wiesen joined the faculty of the Miami Conservatory in 1984. She progressed from instructor to Ballet Mistress of the Junior Company and assumed the Directorship of the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet in 2003. In 1989, Ms. Wiesen founded the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet Scholarship Program which under her direction has grown from 20 students to over 500 students at five locations. In addition to her directorship of the TAYB, Ms. Wiesen is a member of the dance faculty of the New World School of the Arts. Ms. Wiesen has been honored by the Arts and Business Council for her contribution to encouraging diversity in the world of dance in Miami-Dade County and for the impact she has had on the lives of so many talented, underprivileged students. Dance is Ms. Wiesen’s second career. Prior to returning to her first love, dance, Ms. Wiesen held a variety of positions as a Registered Nurse, including Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Duke University Medical Center.
ADDYSON FONTE, Marketing Director
Born in Miami, Florida is a former Thomas Armour Youth Ballet student and attended New World School of the Arts and Miami-Dade Community College. Ms. Fonte joined the Armour Dance Theatre faculty in 2008 as a student assistant and has since held various positions within the organization. To contact Addyson click here.
KELLY ROBOTHAM, Community Programs Director
Born in Bronx, New York raised in Miami, Florida Kelly Robotham is an alumni of New World School of the Arts and holds a Bachelor in Fine Arts from The Juilliard School. Ms. Robotham danced with Ailey II for one year and was promoted to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater where she danced from 2011-2014. During her time dancing with Ailey, Ms. Robotham was an administrative intern with Ballet Austin and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater specializing in outreach projects, arts development and financing, as well as stage management. In 2014 Ms. Robotham returned to her city Miami and worked at Miami City Ballet as Executive Assistant, Development Coordinator, and Special Events Coordinator. In 2015, Ms. Robotham joined the Armour Dance Theatre as Outreach & Arts Education Coordinator. Ms. Robotham has been working closely with ADT’s Community Programs for the past 8 years. She is thrilled to take on the role of Director of Community Programs. To contact Kelly click here.
SARAH DONATE, Development Director
Born in Syracuse, NY, Mrs. Sarah Donate earned her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Le Moyne College. Upon completing her degree, Sarah worked on the front lines of wildlife conservation both in the U.S. and in South Africa for 7 years. In time, Mrs. Donate felt she could affect greater change, championing this cause outside of the fieldwork and into the non-profit and fundraising sector. She has spent the last four years building her professional experience as a Development Officer at the local institution of Zoo Miami, and she understands the importance of these cornerstone cultural facilities within our diverse South Florida community. At Zoo Miami, Mrs. Donate worked to ensure that meaningful programs were funded to include education and allow all children, no matter their socio-economic background, access to the knowledge and educational opportunities at the zoo.
Sarah joins our team with unbridled enthusiasm and adoration for the arts: “I have always been passionate about the mission of non-profit organizations to uplift and better our beloved South Florida community. As a new mother, I embrace the notion that each and every child in our city and beyond should be afforded those opportunities to thrive in what they desire, especially in dance and art education. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this important cause and community.” To contact Sarah click here.
SCARLETT G. QUINTO, Administrative Assistant
Scarlett G. Quinto (Miami, FL) started dancing at the age of 4 and is educated in the styles of Jazz, Modern, Ballet, Hip-Hop, Tap, and Flamenco, as well as being trained in Modeling and Acting. She has been to multiple dance intensives such as American Dance Festival, Joffrey Ballet School in New York, and Ailey Camp Miami. She attended South Miami K-8 and South Miami Middle Community School in the dance program. Graduated high school at New World School of The Arts and has her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Florida and New World School of the Arts. She’s a current dance teacher at Armour Dance Theatre in the Outreach Program. Scarlett has numerous repertory work under her belt; pieces by the Batsheva Dance Company, Robert Battle, Peter London, Yara Travieso, Rebbeca Cannan, Jennifer Archibald, Paul Taylor, Ron K.Brown and Mark Morris.
A native of Cuba began her ballet training at the age of 11 in Miami at Ballet Concerto and continued her studies with Thomas Armour and Martha Mahr. At the age of 16, she received a Ford Foundation Scholarship to the School of American Ballet in New York. Ms. Alvarez performed for five years with The National Ballet of Washington where she worked with renowned choreographer, Ben Stevenson. She also performed as a soloist with the Ballet Nacional de Caracas in Venezuela and with the San Francisco Ballet. Ms. Alvarez has been honored for her choreography by the Association de Criticos y Comenristas de las Artes Teatrales Clasicas y Literaris in Miami. She has been a guest performer and adjudicator at the International Festival Mundial de Ballet in Lima, Peru. Ms. Alvarez joined the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet faculty in 1990.
NATALIE AXLEY, Ballet & Jazz faculty
A Miami native, trained with Thomas Armour and Robert Pike at the Miami Conservatory. She was a member of the Miami Ballet for six years and a graduate of the Performing Arts P.A.V.A.C. program that later became the New World School of the Arts. Ms. Axley danced with the Milwaukee Ballet Company for two years and performed with the Miami City Ballet for two seasons in the Nutcracker and Serenade. Ms. Axley also danced with Freddick Bratcher Dance Company for five seasons. She has been teaching with Mencia Pikieris School of Dance since 1996. Ms. Axley joined Miami Conservatory of Ballet in 2005 to and heads the outreach program in Perrine
MEREDITH BARTON, Ballet Faculty
MICHELINE CACCIATORE, Ballet Faculty
Micheline Cacciatore moved to Miami in 2010 from Massachusetts where she was the owner and founder of The Ballet Space. After much success and over 300 students, she sold her school to be able to spend more time with her husband and two young children. Micheline was a well-respected teacher in the Boston area for over 20 years. Before opening her studio, her teaching credits included Walnut Hill School for the Arts, Brookline Academy of Dance and the Acton School of Ballet. After graduating from Walnut Hill School for the Arts in 1991, Micheline continued her training at The Rock School, Ballet West, and the University of Utah’s BFA program. She has performed many classical and contemporary ballets under the direction of Willam Christensen, Conrad Ludlow, and many other world-renowned teachers. Micheline began teaching for Alison Hesh/Soul Purpose Studio in Miami in 2011, to whom she loaned the name The Ballet Space until June of 2021. With ballet and teaching as her passion, Micheline is thrilled to join the faculty of Armour Dance Theatre.
PAULA CASTAÑO, Flamenco faculty
Paula Castaño grew up in a family of musicians and began her education in ballet, contemporary dance, and music very early in life. At the age of 10, she jumped into her professional career as a percussionist and a dancer, of an all-women aggrupation, touring and performing around the world. After being awarded a scholarship to study at the Alvin Alley Dance Center she
moved to New York City where she continued to train in dance, drama, and music while discovering her love for teaching. After graduating she moved to Madrid, Spain where she specialized in flamenco, contemporary dance, and Drama. Her passion has taken her around the world pursuing an extensive artistic and teaching career. After receiving a Cum Laude degree in psychology at FIU, she is achieving a Master of science in curriculum development/Global strategic communication. Currently, she continues to pursue her passion for performing and teaching with her organization Combined Arts Project where she uses the arts as a tool for education.
is a Miami native and a former TAYB scholarship student. Ms. Carroll joined the TAYB faculty in 2019 teaching the creative movement, mommy & me, and pre-ballet levels. She graduated from New World School of the Arts High School in Dance and earned a Bachelors in Dance from FIU. She danced freelance for two years in New York. She has been a member of the interactive performance group CircX, Crystal Peattie’s The Haunted Ballet, and Jenny Larsson’s Wild Beast Collective.
DEJA DARBONNE, Ballet faculty
Deja Darbonne is a Miami-based performer, choreographer, yoga instructor/enthusiast, and educator. From an early age, Deja watched her mother’s dedication to mentoring children from a vast array of backgrounds through dance, health, wellness, and community leadership. Taking this inspiration into her adult life, Deja has taught at numerous dance facilities, mentored children as a dance coach for UP2US: Coaches Across America, toured the city of New York to perform for young people performing Ballet Hispanico’s repertoire, and continues to educate children in Miami, FL. One of her most cherished memories was of receiving the opportunity to teach yoga at Laurel Creek Elementary School, where she attended in her home city Fairfield, California.
She was a Miami-Dade College Honors Dance award recipient in 2015. She completed her Bachelors in Fine Arts from New World School of the Arts & University of Florida, graduating with Honors. Deja has danced with companies such as Peter London Global Dance Company, Dance Now Miami, National Water Dance Project, Ballet Hispanico Dos, Ruddur Dance, OCA Dance, Miami Movement Collective, and Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami. She has performed works by Robert Battle, Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa, Ronald K. Brown, Talley Beatty, Gustavo Ramirez, Jamar Roberts, Eduardo Vilaro, and others. She recently performed for Miami Light Project’s Here & Now 2021 participant Enrique Villacreses in Golden Society and Latin Grammy award-winning hip hop artist Gloria Martinez, aka Goyo, for HBO Max.
MARIA TERESA DEL REAL, Ballet faculty
Maria Teresa del Real received her early ballet training at Ballets de San Juan, and later studied at the School of the American Ballet, NYC, and with Vaganova specialist Gabriella Taub-Darvash. She held the position of Principal Ballerina with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, the Royal Ballet of Flanders, and the English National Ballet and has been partnered by Rudolph Nureyev, Fernando Bujones, Carlos Acosta, Jose Manuel Carreño, and Kevin O’hare among others. In 1983, Ms. del Real won a bronze medal at the Varna International Competition, bringing the United States its first medal in nearly 10 years. Upon her return to the U.S., she was extended an invitation to meet with the President at the Oval Office to receive his personal congratulations. After retiring from performing, she joined the full-time teaching staff at the Central School of Ballet in London. Ms. del Real now lives in Miami, Fl where she is an adjunct professor at New World School of the Arts.
GEETA DIAS, Bollywood faculty
was born and raised in Mumbai, India the home of Bollywood movies and dance, where she received her training in classical Indian dance and in Bollywood Dance. In 1993 she moved to Miami, Florida where she currently resides and has been teaching dance in South Florida for the last 18 years. She and her students have been a part of the 2009 and 2010 Miami Dance Festival. Her dances have been featured on FOX’s Deco Drive and on NBC’s South Florida Today. Ms. Dias teaches the Indian Classical style of Kathak and Bollywood Dance at her own studio, at Miami Dade College and as a guest lecturer and choreographer at the University of Miami, as well as in Elementary, Middle and High Schools. Ms. Dias joined the TAYB faculty in 2016.
ANGELICA DIAZ, Ballet faculty
A native of Havana, Cuba, and studied classical ballet for eight years at the National School of Art in Havana and Camaguey, Cuba. In 1981, Ms. Diaz joined the Ballet of Camaguey under the artistic direction of Fernando Alonso where she danced as a soloist and toured throughout Europe, South America, Africa, and China. Ms. Diaz came to the United States in 1990 and has lived in Miami ever since, where she has danced with Miami Ballet, Ballet Rosario Suarez, Momentum Dance Co, Creation Ballet Co, and Ife-Ile Afro-Cuban Dance & Music Ensemble. Ms. Diaz has also appeared in the featured film, The Lost City (2005). Ms. Diaz has taught at Jill Mallory Dance Studio, Creations Art Center, Florene Litthcu’s t Inner-City Children’s Touring Co, Ballet at your School, and Martha Mahr School of Ballet. In 2004, Ms. Diaz received her B.A. in Dance Education from Florida International University, receiving an award for Outstanding Academic Achievement in Dance. In 2007, Ms. Diaz received a certificate of appreciation for her contributions to the community of Liberty City while working under Ms. Litthcu’st’s Inner City Children’s Touring Co. from the Miami-Dade County Office of the Mayor and Board of County Commissioners. Ms. Diaz has been on the faculty of the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet since 2009, teaching creative movement through advanced classes.
BARNY ESPINAL, Afro contemporary faculty
Barny A. Espinal is a mother, mover, dancer, choreographer, and scholar exploring different aspects of her artistic self within the dance community and life. As a descendant of the land of tamboras and merengue, Barny was born with rhythm in her veins. Dance and music were languages spoken in her home far before words were ever formed, though her formal training did not begin until she was 15 years old. Being a graduate of the School of Dance at Florida State University, and an alumnus of the Miami Dade College – Kendall Campus Dance Program, Barny has had the honor, pleasure and privilege of working with such artists as Roger Belman, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Victoria Marks and Ronald K. Brown. Barny has been involved in various choreographic and film projects, and aspires to continue developing her personal choreographic work entitled “ROAR”, inspired by the Women’s March of 2017. She has also discovered a knack for teaching that has been enriching her artistic life. Barny is currently in pursuit of spreading love and light to those she comes in contact with through her love of dance and the arts while continuing to expand her voice as an artist, woman, and mother.
TAWANNA HALL, Hip Hop Faculty
Born and raised in the vibrant streets of Miami, Florida, Tawanna Hall cultivated her unique style of choreography that is a rich mixture of diverse cultures. These multicultural influences touched her everyday life and was truly the substance that formulated her unique style and identity as a choreographer today.
Tawanna Hall, Founder and Creator of Style Child Creations, LLC., has been a force to be reckoned with in the dance world for over 20 years. Her artistic prowess and unique teaching style have made her one of the most sought-after teachers/choreographers throughout this country and abroad. Tawanna is currently serving as the Resident Choreographer for several dance companies located in Haiti, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Canada.
Tawanna has appeared in many music videos and has worked with national choreographers within the television industry including Daren Henson, Dave Scott, Chuck Maldonado and Fatima. Her credits included B2K, Bow Wow, Omarion and Marquis Houston for the Scream III World Tour, P. Diddy, Missy Elliot, Usher, Tank, Back Street, Justin Timberlake, MTV Music Awards, Hip Hop Source Awards, Soul Train Awards, Nike, Reebok Industrials, and the NBA Miami Heat Dancers.
Currently, Tawanna is running an in-home dance school called THE MAGIC BOX, as well as, serving as the Resident Choreographer for several dance companies located in Haiti, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Canada. Her efforts and passion for the art of dance in all.
MIGUEL HERNANDEZ, Salsa faculty
Miguel Hernandez was born and raised in Havana, Cuba. At the age of five, he joined the Conga group, LOS GUARACHEROS DE REGLA, where there were sixty-four partners. In this group he learned to dance in the Carnivals and festivals in Havana. In seventh grade, he started at the ‘Casa de Cultura in Centro Habana’ to dance in the elite company, (a part of LOS GUARACHEROS DE REGLA), an ensemble of twenty dancers. In this company, he learned popular dance, (cha cha cha, rumba, mambo, pilon, Mozambique, danzon, contradanza and more), and Folklore dance, and the company performed in dance workshops in Havana. This dance experience led him to enroll in Escuela Nacional Instructor de Arte to become a dance instructor, and later went on to study at Instituto Superior de Arte, where he graduated in 1992. He went on to graduate from Centro Nacional de Ensenansa Artistica in 1988. For more than 15 years, Hernandez taught in multiple venues in Havana for tourists and locals of all ages. Concurrently he was also performing throughout the country where he performed annually in prominent Festivals, Carnavals and Theaters. In 2011 his salsa company, LOS GUARACHEROS DE REGLA, performed in Colombia at the Feria de Cali Colombia and in 2012 they performed in Mexico at Carnaval de Vera Cruz. In 2013 Hernandez moved to Miami, and has been teaching adult salsa classes in studios around the city as well as providing high-quality private lessons. His mission is to keep the culture and traditions of cuban salsa in tact and generously share it with everyone who comes to his class. He has a big heart for children, and is excited to now be teaching for Armour Dance Theater in their community programs!
LARA MURPHY, Ballet & Contemporary Faculty
Lara began her training with Martha Mahr and Thomas Armour and is a graduate of New World School of the Arts High School. She holds a BA from New York University and an MA from the University of Miami. She is a full-time faculty member and choreographer at New World School of the Arts. She has performed with several professional companies, most recently with Maximum Dance Company and Miami Contemporary Dance Company, and choreographed the Nestor Torres’ Concert for a New Renaissance.
HERMAN PAYNE, Musical Theater & Jazz faculty
Juilliard graduate in Ballet, Herman Payne has appeared in a number of theatrical productions. A few of such include: the Aspen Ballet Company; the Second National tour and the International tours of Ann Reinking’s Tony Award-winning show “Fosse”, choreographed and directed by Debra McWaters; the International tour of West Side Story, under the Direction of Joey McKneely; 9 to 5 on Broadway, choreographed by Tony Award-winning Andy Blankenbuehler; The New York City Center Encore’s productions of The Wiz, choreographed by Tony Award-winning, Andy Blankenbuehler; House of Flowers choreographed by Tony award-winning Kathleen Marshall; Pajama Game, choreographed By Tony Award-winning JOHN CARRAFA; THE ID of BOB, directed by HINTON BATTLE; and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, choreographed by LINDA HABERMAN, where Herman worked for 14 years (2000 – 2013).
In addition to Herman’s copious theatrical work on Broadway, internationally and with the Rockettes, he has spent many hours working in a completely different language of dance. He has performed in; Michael Jackson’s 30th Anniversary Special; with Mariah Carey, Usher, Mya, Destiny’s Child, Whitney Houston, Deborah Cox, Thalia, Tony Moran, Lisa Lisa, Kevin Aviance, Love INC., and Camp LO, among others.
Herman has choreographed various industrials, and corporate events and has worked for a number of summer intensives, such as The Broadway Theatre Project, where he is now the Co-Artistic Director with Debra McWaters, the Miami City Ballet, the Springfield Ballet, Performance Edge 1 and 2, The Theatre Arts and Minds, and The New World School of the Arts. Industrials Herman has choreographed and directed include such events as LANA MARKS; Herbal Life; and The International Hustle and Salsa Competition Corporation.
Herman’s extensive and formal education in dance, other than Juilliard, is rounded out by his studies at; Interlochen School of the Arts, The Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Houston Ballet, Alvin Ailey, The Boston Ballet, and Jacobs Pillow. He is an ARTS winner, (Recognition and Talent Search which is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts), where he won the 2nd award level in Modern Dance and an Honorable Mention In Jazz Dance. He also received a 4-year partial scholarship to attend The Julliard School where he received his Bachelors in Fine Arts.
Ultimately, Herman’s Dance studies have made him far more than proficient In Ballet, Modern, Jazz, a Theatrical Approach to all types of Dance, and Hip Hop / Jazz Funk. His work experience has made him one of the most popular choreographers and instructors in today’s dance world.
He is an Adjunct Professor at the New World School of the Arts, University of Florida, and Miami-Dade Colleges, and a Resident Faculty member at the world-renowned Miami City Ballet school.
EMILY RICCA, Ballet faculty
Emily Ricca is a freelance ballerina. She has danced professionally for Ballet de San Juan, Florida Dance Theatre, Boca Ballet Theatre, Albany Berkshire Ballet in New York, and the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami. Miss Ricca has been a guest ballerina in Paris, France, dancing with the legendary Michael Denard of the Paris Opera Ballet excerpts from Swan Lake, Giselle, and Raymonda. In 2011, Emily started the RomanceProject, an informative, educational, and engaging live music and dance performance for all ages. Currently, Miss Ricca is bringing this unique ballet performance to independent memory care and assisted living facilities in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and all over South Florida. She guested as the Sugar Plum Fairy for Joyce Stahl’s accredited production of The Nutcracker in Key West. She also created, choreographed and produced Emily Dance Thru Time at Sandrell Rivers Theatre. This film was part of the One@SRT project designed for solo artists during the COVID pandemic. She also had the wonderful opportunity to work with Eulyce Eason- the director of the dance department at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Centers (AHCAC). For the past year, Miss Ricca has been teaching ballet and qigong principles to teens at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center After School Program. She also had a residency at their center for two consecutive years. Last summer, she was guest artist, teacher, and choreographer for Freddie De Jesus’ Dance Company in Lakeland, Florida as well as Florida Arts and Dance Company and Live In Color Hip-hop Dance Company. This September, She performs in NYC, bringing her ballet performance for seniors there. In October she will perform her choreography for the Daniel Lewis Sampler in Miami.
KELLY ROBOTHAM, Ballet, Contemporary, & Hip Hop faculty
Born in Bronx, New York raised in Miami, Florida Kelly Robotham is an alumni of New World School of the Arts and holds a Bachelor in Fine Arts from The Juilliard School. Ms. Robotham danced with Ailey II for one year and was promoted to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater where she danced from 2011-2014. During her time dancing with Ailey, Ms. Robotham was an administrative intern with Ballet Austin and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater specializing in outreach projects, arts development and financing, as well as stage management. In 2014 Ms. Robotham returned to her city Miami and worked at Miami City Ballet as Executive Assistant, Development Coordinator, and Special Events Coordinator. In 2015, Ms. Robotham joined the Armour Dance Theatre as Outreach & Arts Education Coordinator. Ms. Robotham has been working closely with ADT’s Community Programs for the past 8 years. She is thrilled to take on the role of Director of Community Programs.
HIROKO SAKAKIBARA-SILVA, Ballet faculty
Originally from Nagoya, Japan. Her professional career has started at age 15. She trained under Ms.Yoko Tsukamoto and The Royal Ballet school Antwerpen with full scholarship from Prix de Lausanne. Ms.Sakakibara-Sliva has received numerous awards including Scholarship prize at Prix de Lausanne International Ballet Competition in 1989, Gold medal at Paris International Dance Competition in 1990. She joined The Royal Ballet of Flanders in 1991 and danced her first full length Ballet Don Quixote at age 17. She was promoted to Soloist in the end of the first season, performed many more rolls and traveled worldwide. Ms.Sakakibara-Sliva moved in Miami and joined Maximum Dance Company year 2000. She has danced for over 8 years in Miami and left to Complexions Contemporary Ballet where she had her final bow as a dancer. She is now adjunct ballet faculty at New World School of the Arts and owner of B Concepts where she focused on private coaching and training.
JERON SANDERS, Jazz Faculty
DAVIN THOMPSON, Hip Hop Faculty
Davin Thompson born in Miami Fl, has been dancing ever since he was 3 years old. He attended Perrine Elementary, Southwood middle, and Mays Conservatory Of The Arts in which he was in the dance magnet at all schools. Davin is a very sought after dance teacher in Miami and the Caribbean. He is certified in hip-hop and is well versed in other styles as well. He recently taught dance in the the islands of Jamaica in 2018, and Anguilla in 2017 and 2019. He also joined the Miami City Ballet team teaching creative movement in 2021 and is a teacher at Armour Dance Theatre.
MELISSA VERDECIA, Ballet faculty
is from Miami, FL, and received her early training from Mencia-Pikieris School of Dance and New World School of the Arts where she graduated summa cum laude in 2008. In 2012, Melissa went on to earn her BFA in dance from The Juilliard School under the direction of Larry Rhodes. While attending The Juilliard School Melissa performed works by Sidra Bell, Alex Ekman, Nacho Duato, and Jerome Robbins among others. In 2008, Melissa was selected as a modern dance Finalist in the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (NFAA) YoungARTS competition. She was also featured in the HBO series “Master Class.” In 2012 Melissa joined Ballet Hispanico of New York City and had the joy of being presented along with her Ballet Hispanico colleagues in Lincoln Center at the Movies Great American Dance Series in 2016 where she performed lead roles in works by Gustavo Ramirez Sansano and Pedro Ruiz. During her 9 seasons with Ballet Hispánico she toured nationally and internationally performing works by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Eduardo Vilaro, and Michelle Manzanales among others. Melissa has also choreographed several works for the Peter London Global Dance Company in Miami, FL, and Dimensions Dance Theater of Miami. Currently, Melissa has returned to her hometown of Miami and is excited to be an educator in the community as well as a new mom to her son.
NATASHA WILLIAMS, Tap faculty
Natasha Williams is a professional tap dancer and teacher born and raised in Miami of Cuban descent. She is a graduate of New World School of the Arts High School Dance Division and holds a Masters in Business Management from Florida International University. Natasha is also an alumni of Jacob’s Pillow. Natasha has performed at various venues in Miami including Ball and Chain, El Tucán, The Wynwood Yard, the Miami Herald, Art Basel, and more. She has also performed in New York City, Los Angeles, Wisconsin, and Washington DC. In 2012 Natasha presented at TEDx Youth Miami at the Adrienne Arsht Center. In 2015 Natasha had the pleasure of tapping alongside Billy Stritch, accompanist of Liza Minnelli, at The Cabaret South Beach’s CAST Party. Natasha has been teaching for Armour Dance Theatre since 2007 and is the director of the Tap Team. The Tap Team has been producing their own shows and performing at locations such as Faena Miami Beach, the Biltmore Hotel, the Adrienne Arsht Center and more.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Oliver Von Gundlach, President
Amanda Noboa-Mejia, President Elect
Dennis Edwards, Treasurer
Jacqueline Calderin, Secretary
Beatriz Del Castillo
Marissa P. Gray
BOARD OF DIRECTORS ADVISORY COUNCIL
Daniel Lewis, President Emeritus
Mary Lynn Young
The School was founded
The Thomas Armour Youth Ballet, now known as Armour Dance Theatre was founded in 1951 as a school of classical ballet named The Miami Conservatory, and a non-profit performing company called The Miami Ballet.
Scholarship program created
A scholarship program was created, to help talented children from low-income neighborhoods to access placement in Miami-Dade County Public School Dance Magnets.
Summer in New York program
Armour Dance Theatre formerly known as Thomas Armour Youth Ballet began to send advanced students to intensive summer programs with professional companies in New York City. Armour Dance Theatre covers all expenses.
Opened first community program
The first community program site was opened in Little Haiti at Morningside Elementary School.
Building purchased and new site
Armour Dance Theatre is formerly known as Thomas Armour Youth Ballet purchased the historic South Miami building in which it was housed. This main site serves over 800 children and holds administrative offices.
The second site was opened within the Redland Christian Migrant Association campsite and Homestead Housing Authority in South Miami Dade County.
Opened third community program site
The third community program site was opened in the West Coconut Grove at Elizabeth Virrick Park.
Opened fourth community program site
Thomas Armour Youth Ballet now Armour Dance Theatre received the Arts & Education Impact Award from the Arts & Business Council.
Award from Miami-Dade County
Thomas Armour Youth Ballet now Armour Dance Theatre received an award from Miami-Dade County’s “In the Company of Women” in Arts and Entertainment.
Award from Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County
TAYB received the prestigious “Excellence Award in Youth Programming for School & Life Success” from the Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County.
Fourth community program site opened
August- The fourth outreach site was opened in Miami Gardens at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Center.
Relocated Homestead site
2014 – Thomas Armour Youth Ballet now Armour Dance Theatre relocated Homestead outreach site to South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center.
2015 – Relocated South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center location to Robert Russa Moton Elementary School.
Celebrated 40 years of the Nutcracker
Relocates Elizabeth Virrick Park location to Frances Tucker Elementary School.
Celebrated the 40th Anniversary of its production of the Nutcracker
Armour Dance Theatre received national accreditation