The Creative Arts Guild Dance Department 2017-18 Faculty
The Creative Arts Guild Dance Department is excited to announce its staff for the 2017-18 school year. In addition to Guild Dance Director Jessie Fincher, Paige Retchko will be returning for her sixth season with the dance department as our Assistant Dance Director.
Aaron "Cherokee" Ellison was born and raised in Chattanooga, TN. Movement of all sorts has always been a part of Cherokee's life. His older cousin, Anthony Byrd, taught him how to flip, he studied breakdancing by watching VHS tapes, and practiced moves while trying not to break his mother's furniture. His performance credits include dancing as part of Chattanooga hip hop dance group called The Hot Boys. The group served as an opening act for Outkast and MJG 8 Ball. He modeled with Chattanooga's Ambiance Model and Talent Agency and also taught hip hop classes there. During his time at the agency he was cast in the movie Remember the Titans and won a speaking role.
Cherokee eventually moved to New York and while there, he honed his break dancing skills at the legendary 14th St Union Square. When he moved to Atlanta his capoeira journey began. He trained with Communidade De Capoeira Atlanta. He continued to travel around the U.S. and eventually made his way back to Chattanooga, while continuing his training in Atlanta and Nashville. His trips to Nashville proved to be very fruitful because he was introduced to Mestre Gulliver through fellow capoeirista Xulu. Under the tutelage of Mestre Gulliver, Cherokee began teaching a capoeira class in Chattanooga and Cleveland. He also has visited Mestre in New York to study at capoeira intensives. During this time Cherokee also began to learn the proper technique to teach tumbling under the tutelage of David and Heather Pendergrass, owners of Cheer Madness Elite in Cleveland, TN. During a brief time in Baltimore, MD, Cherokee has had the pleasure of teaching tumbling at Inertia Performing Arts and hip hop at Wombworks Productions Inc.
Joining the Guild’s dance faculty to teach both Hip Hop and Capoiera classes, Cherokee is excited to return to the Chattanooga and Northwest Georgia area with his wife Monica Ellison to teach at the Creative Arts Guild.
Monica Ellison is a graduate of the Baltimore School for the Arts, and earned her BFA in Dance Performance from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. Additionally, Monica is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training in Pre- Primary through Level 3 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum.
Ms. Monica is well versed in teaching ballet, pointe, jazz and modern techniques to dancers of all ages. Her teaching career began in Chattanooga, TN where she was one of the lead dance teachers and resident choreographer at Cleveland City Ballet, taught at Chattanooga State, and other studios throughout the Chattanooga area. She has had the pleasure and good fortune to dance and choreograph many dances in Chattanooga including choreographing for two operas at UTC, Treemonisha and The Gondoliers. Monica also started Love Beyond Dance which provided free ballet lessons to children ages 6-10 at Shepherd Recreation Center. She branched out to the north Georgia area teaching at the Creative Arts Guild for 2 years prior to her move. Her brief time back in her hometown included teaching at studios throughout the Baltimore area and southern Pennsylvania.
In addition to her teaching experience, Monica also has significant professional credits including ensemble work with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company 2 (Dayton, OH), principal work with Balance Dance Theatre (Brooklyn, NY), and guest work with Sudden Enlightenment Theatre (Queens, NY) including a performance in Seoul, Korea. Her last work before heading south was at the North Shore Music Theatre Company (Beverly, MA) as an ensemble dancer in the off-broadway production of Susan Stroman's CONTACT directed by Tome´Cousin.
Monica and her family are excited to return to the area and look forward to many years teaching dance at the Creative Arts Guild. The Creative Arts Guild is thrilled to welcome Monica back and is looking forward to many years of working and creating together!
Guild Dance Director and Guild-North Center Director has an extensive background in Classical Ballet, Pointe, Modern, Jazz and Tap Dance. She began her dance training at the age of 3. Over the years she has worked with such notable instructors as Robert Barnett (Former Artistic Director of Atlanta Ballet), Mary Munro (RAD), Maniya Barredo (Joffrey Ballet, Atlanta Ballet), Nicholas Pacana, Cornelius Carter and Carl Ratcliff. Her studies continued with Diane Callahan (San Francisco Ballet), Carol Smiarowski, Heidi Longwith, Stanislav Issaev (Moscow State Ballet Theater), Amy Card Lillios, Andrea Pell, Vincas Green, Jolie Long and Martha Goodman.
In 1999, Ms. Fincher earned her B.F.A. in Dance Pedagogy from Brenau University after being awarded a four year dance merit scholarship. Her studies included Ballet, Modern and Jazz Techniques, teaching internships with Gainesville School of Ballet, Ballet Terminology, Anatomy and Physiology, Kinesiology for Dancers, Music for Dancers and Improvisation as well as Dance Practicum, Choreography and extensive performance credits. While attending Brenau University, she performed soloist roles with Gainesville Ballet and Brenau Dance Ensemble as well as making guest appearances on other projects. Ms. Fincher was also a substitute dance instructor for Brenau University and Gainesville School of Ballet.
Since moving to this area, Ms.Fincher has taught and choreographed for Dalton School of Ballet, Baker-VanCura Ballet Centre, Mountain Laurel Dance Studios, Bessy Smith Hall and created a dance program for The Lutheran School in Chattanooga, TN. She has also judged for the state of Georgia in the Georgia Governor's Honors program for many years. Ms. Fincher also served 3 terms as well as two additional guest terms as a dance panelist for Georgia Council for the Arts. Since 2001 and prior to joining the Guild, she owned and directed Dalton School of Ballet and Ballet Dalton. In 2005, she merged Dalton School of Ballet with the Creative Arts Guild and became the Director of Dance. In addition to her position with the Guild, she is also an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga teaching Dance Tech I and II classes.
Paige Retchko received her early training in St. Marys, Georgia under Monica Harris. Some of her early performance credits include Chinese Soloist, Marzipan, and Sugarplum Fairy from "The Nutcracker Suite." Later, she attended Brenau University Women's College where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Dance Studies. While at Brenau, Paige studied Ballet from Carol Smiarowski, Dianne Callahan, and Nikki Bybee; she also learned the joys of Modern dance from Vincas Greene and Jolie Long. Paige was a member of the Brenau Dance Ensemble, an educational outreach program that created lecture-demonstrations to encourage dance in education. She also performed in several student concerts and faculty concerts while in college.
Paige was a member of several guest choreographer pieces including "Joiners" by Melanie Lynch of Zoetic Dance Ensemble and "Newspapers" by Gladys Bailin who trained under Alwin Nikolai. Some of her favorite pieces have included "Dixit Diem" by Vincas Greene and "Les Fleurs" by Jolie Long. Paige also spent a summer at the American Dance Festival, where she took part in "The Pearl Primus Project" overseen by Ursula Payne. While there she also trained with Brenda Daniels, formerly of the Merce Cunningham School, and Makehda Tomas, from Urban Bush Woman. Other training experiences include Roger Belman, Mark Dendy, and Gerri Houlihan, Lonnie Davis, and Matthew Rose. Paige has been the Ballet Dalton and Assistant Dance Director since 2011.
Rosalyn Zock began her dance training when she was three years old. She grew up in the Dalton School of Ballet and The Creative Arts Guild/Ballet Dalton and has been trained in Ballet and Pointe, Modern, Jazz, and Hip Hop under instructors Jessie Fincher, Elizabeth Manley Fisher, Monica Coulter, Dana Smith Crain, Jessie Johnston Carmon, Lonnie Davis, Josh Keenum, Kara Marcum, and the late Michael Hollier. When she was only nine years old, Rosalyn was accepted into the Charleston Ballet Theatre, Atlanta Ballet, Joffrey New York, North Carolina School of the Arts, and the Nutmeg summer dance intensive programs. That year, she attended the Charleston Ballet Theatre dance camp for four weeks. At the Charleston Ballet Theatre, she trained under Patricia Cantwell (Executive Artistic Director), Jill Eathorne Bahr (Choreographer), Stephen Gabriel (Musical Theatre), Jessica Roan (Pointe), Janet V. Meister (Jazz), and Jonathan Tabbert (Variations).
Rosalyn graduated from Northwest Whitfield High School in 2010. Along with dancing, she played clarinet in the marching band and wind ensemble and attended District Honor Band all four years of high school. Rosalyn was a two-time semi-finalist in dance for the Georgia Governor’s Honor’s Program. During Rosalyn’s freshman year, the Creative Arts Guild began its annual winter ballet, “The Snow Queen,” and she was cast as “Kay” in the inaugural production. As a sophomore, she portrayed the title character “The Snow Queen.” As a junior, Rosalyn was “Queen of the Sprites,” and she graduated out of Ballet Dalton as “Gerda” for her final performance. Since then, she has returned almost every year to work backstage for “The Snow Queen.” Rosalyn has also been a substitute teacher for dance classes and has worked as an administrative assistant at the Creative Arts Guild Dance and Gymnastics Center. In addition to her work at the Creative Arts Guild, Rosalyn has been a volunteer at the Women’s Enrichment Center, and she has assisted in several Youth Ensemble Theatre productions at the Dalton Little Theatre.
Rosalyn attended Berry College, where she earned a B.S. in Sociology and Anthropology in 2014. She participated in the Wind Ensemble and Clarinet Choir and was the president of the Sociology and Anthropology Club at Berry. After college, Rosalyn applied for and was accepted into the Peace Corps as a Community Health Promoter in Telpaneca, Madriz, Nicaragua for 27 months (March 2015-June 2017), where she became fluent in Spanish. She worked side-by-side with Nicaraguan counterparts to educate community members and health promoters on HIV prevention, teen life skills, and infant and maternal health. She has just recently returned to the United States, and along with instructing at the Creative Arts Guild, has begun working as a Medical Assistant and Office Assistant to Dr. Timothy Dindoffer, OB/GYN. She is delighted to be back with her Creative Arts Guild family.
Jenison Owens began her training in 2003 through the Dance Alive and TIP Scholarship Program at Ballet Tennessee, under the direction of Barry and Anna VanCura. She was featured in many roles as a company member and professional training student, and assisted Barry VanCura in the musical productions of The Broadway Project (2011) and Aida (2012) at Covenant College. Ms. Owens began her teaching career in 2013 and has been on faculty at Ballet Tennessee and Weave Dance Company. She has studied with The Ailey School, Sidra Bell Dance New York, and Weave Dance Company. Jenison holds a Bachelors of Arts in Communications from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and plans to further her performing and teaching career.