Melissa Braswell Gravely
Melissa has been the Creative Director and Owner of VDS for 25 years. She founded and directs the Village Performing Company and the Advanced Dancer’s Program. She began her dance career at the Governor’s Magnet School for the Arts and received her BFA in Dance and Choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University. She danced and choreographed with Steve’s House Dance Collective for six years and received a Partner’s in the Arts grant for her video dance piece, Without Warning. She served as a board member for Ground Zero Dance Company for many years. She teaches all levels and ages and has taught in the Richmond community for over 25 years.
Instructor & Administrative Director
Paige Honbarrier began her training at Valley Dance Theatre in Staunton, VA at the age of six, where she studied ballet, tap, lyrical, jazz, modern, hip-hop, acrobatics, and acting. She was a member of the Valley Dance Theatre Performance Company, competing at various venues along the east coast. She also began her teaching career here in 2013 instructing lyrical, jazz, and hip-hop. Paige continued her training at George Mason University, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance and minor in Early Childhood Education for Diverse Learners in 2019. While at school, she worked alongside renown artists, including Susan Shields, Roger Jeffrey, and Christopher D’Amboise, as well as acted as Rehearsal Director for Lucinda Child’s “Dance #1” for the annual Gala. She also had the opportunity to choreograph and perform in various student works. During her summers, she has enjoyed working at a local preschool and teaching fitness classes as a certified Zumba Instructor. She is currently a Physical Education Instructional Assistant with Henrico County Public Schools and a member of Dogwood Dance Project’s Professional Company. At VDS, she teaches all styles and ages. Paige cannot wait for the upcoming season!
Instructor & Technical Director
Instructor and Assistant Director of Teen and Advanced Programs at The Village Dance Studios, Rob Petres holds a BFA in Dance and Choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University. He has taught workshops and company classes for Ground Zero Dance Company and Steve’ House Dance Collective, in Budapest, Hungary, Mexico and Istanbul, Turkey. In 1992 he co-founded the Richmond-based Steve’s House Dance Collective with Ray Schwartz, where he worked as a choreographer, dancer, technical director, and lighting designer. Rob currently choreographs and performs with Ground Zero Dance Company, of which he is co-founder and co-artistic director.
Hip Hop Instructor at The Village Dance Studios, Deandra Clarke graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University. Upon graduation she began her professional career by founding 4 The Streetz Choreography in 2003. This professional dance company served as a way for dancers in the area to fulfill their dreams without having to leave Richmond for high profile cities such as New York or Los Angeles. Providing dancers with similar opportunities to build their dance resumes, gain experience in the dance industry and help prepare them for when they do decide to make that move into a professional dance career. She is now continuing her mission by focusing her attention on her newest projects, MOVE! Dance Workshops, a traveling dance workshop that makes stops all over the country, providing hip hop and contemporary master classes for aspiring and semi-professional dancers from established choreographers in the industry. Deandra is also Co-Owner of DE Management company, where she co-manages various dance crews along the east coast. In addition to her many business ventures, she still choreographs and dances regularly for several independent/local artists as well as teach weekly hip hop classes in her hometown.
Grace Carter is an alumni of the Village Dance Studios, graduating in 2013. During her fifteen years at VDS she took modern, ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, and hip hop. She was also a member of the Village Performing Company. While in high school, Grace danced for her school’s dance team. She helped choreograph dances for the team and also volunteered as an Assistant teacher at VDS. Grace then went on to James Madison University and focused her studies on Education and Dance. While at JMU she was enrolled in dance technique courses and also participated in her sorority’s annual “Greek Sing.” As a senior she was elected to choreograph for “Greek Sing.” She graduated from JMU with her Bachelor’s degree in 2017, and went on to begin her fifth year Master’s program. Grace graduated again from JMU in 2018 with a Master’s of Arts in Teaching. She will begin her career as a first grade teacher at Gayton Elementary School. Grace is excited to return to the Village as a dance teacher, working along side the other staff and dancers!
Lexis Firestone is originally from Bel Air, Maryland, where she began her training at the Maryland School of Ballet and Modern Dance at the age of 6. In May 2019, Lexis graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance from George Mason University, and a minor in Tourism and Events Management. In her time at Mason, she had the privilege to perform in works by Roger Jeffrey and many of her talented peers. She also had the opportunity to perform at the Kennedy Center in the summer of 2018 in the American College Dance Association’s National Dance Festival. She has choreographed four pieces for the School of Dance and her work has been presented at Harris Theater (GMU) and the Jack Guidone Theater (Washington D.C). Lexis has been a member of Gin Dance Company and Bowen McCauley Dance Company and is excited to move to Richmond to dance with Virginia's newest dance company, the Landing. Lexis teaches Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary, Pointe and Modern and also has her Certification in Sugarfoot Therapy for Injury Prevention. She is excited to join the VDS team.
Bryn Girard is a 2019 graduate of Montclair State University where she earned a BFA dance degree and a minor in business. She received her high school diploma from The Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts in Bethlehem Pennsylvania in 2015 and studied dance at Nardi Dance Studio for 14 years. Bryn spent her last 6 years at Nardis as a substitute and student teacher. Bryn has also taught at Nardis summer and winter dance intensives, Save the Last Dance and Heat Wave. Bryn has taught at Dance Xplosion, Dynamic Dance Academy, and Michele's Dance Studio where she taught ballet, tap, hip-hop, musical theater, contemporary, modern, and creative movement. She has trained under Carolyn Sarik, Lynne Mariani, Kimberley Maniscalco, Christian Von Howard, Fredrick Earl Mosley, Sharon Hockstein, Jessica DiMauro, Nicholas Ade, Maxine Steinman, Nancy Lushington, and Lauren Grant. She has also performed works by The Bang Group, Rebecca Moyer, Amy Berry, Jennifer Weaver, Kimberly Maniscalco, Jessica DiMauro, Maxine Steinman, Charles Weidman, and Remy Charlip. Bryn is excited to join the Village Dance Studio family!!
Instructor Natalie began her dance career at The Village Dance Studio at the age of 2 when she took her first Creative Movement class with Melissa Gravely. She danced at VDS for the next 16 years in styles including modern, jazz, tap, ballet, point, and hip-hop, while also choreographing and performing in the Village Performing Company for 11 of those 16 years. Throughout her high school years, Natalie integrated dance into her academic curriculum while dancing and choreographing for Collegiate’s Advanced Dancers Program. Natalie continued to expand her studies in dance, movement, and human anatomy while at the University of Virginia where she received a Bachelor of Science in Education in Kinesiology with a dance minor. Natalie has performed in four Dance Concerts through the UVA Drama Department, and performed and choreographed for seven performances with Mahogany Dance Hip-Hop Troupe. She also served on the Executive Board of Mahogany Dance Troupe for three years as the President, Vice President, Events Coordinator, and Historian and choreographed many dances for their biannual showcases. Natalie is thrilled to be back at The Village as her dance career comes full circle where it all began!
Instructor & Personal Fitness Trainer
Instructor at The Village Dance Studio, Suzanne founded the Children’s Creative Workshop at The Village Shopping Center and later co-directed The Village Dance Studios for several years. She has brought the VDS Pre-School Program to several area pre-schools and continues to inspire children through her creative movement instruction. She received her BA in Dance from Randolph Macon Women’s College. Upon graduation she studied dance in New York and London. Suzanne later returned to Richmond and studied at the Richmond Ballet and Virginia Commonwealth University. She has trained dancers for over 18 years. She is a certified physical trainer and barre instructor.
Instructor at The Village Dance Studio, Taylor started dancing at the age of 6 at VDS and participated in the Village Performing Company and the Advanced Dancers Program until her graduation. Upon graduation she studied dance at Old Dominion University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance. She taught dance at Art of Dance Academy in Va. Beach for 3 years before moving back to Richmond. She is excited to be back at VDS to share her love of dance with her students. She studied Early Childhood Education Development at J. Sargeant Reynolds and is an instructional assistant for Early Childhood Education at Henrico County Public Schools.
GUEST ARTISTS & INSTRUCTORS
Kaye Weinstein Gary
Guest Artist & YogaBarre Instructor
Kaye Weinstein Gary, choreographer, performer, teacher, is artistic director of K Dance, a professional contemporary dance/theatre company which produces an international dance festival every year, bringing outstanding talent to the Richmond area. YES! Dance Festival features guest artists from Dance Magazine’s annual recognition “25 to Watch”. Richmond Times-Dispatch (2017) featured Ms. Gary in an article “Behind the Kaye…K Dance’s one-woman dynamo continues to stretch boundaries of contemporary choreography” and has been recognized by Richmond Magazine as a “Dancing Master." Ms. Gary holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in dance and has had an extensive teaching career nationally in higher education as well as private studios. She developed the modern training program at Richmond Ballet and was past acting chairman of VCU’s Department of Dance and Choreography. She earned her yoga teaching certificate from LA based YogaWorks in 2015.
Kate Kobiashvili Christner comes to us from Premiere Dance Studio in Powhatan, VA where she taught intermediate and advance ballet for the past four years. Kate began her dancing in The Woodlands Texas where she was a member and a principle dancer of The Woodlands Dance Company. Kate’s favorite role while with the Dance Company was the Sugar Plum Fairy in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. She was also a member of the nationally recognized competitive dance team The Highsteppers. She spent her summers taking classes at the Houston Ballet and the South Carolina Dance Conservatory. She has a B.A from Hollins University where she continued taking dance classes.
Instructor at The Village Dance Studios, Kaitlyn McMillion began her training at Staunton Academy of Ballet at the age of three. There she studied classical ballet, tap, and jazz, completing all twelve years of the Performance Awards curriculum. She began teaching in 2012 at the Staunton Academy of ballet, where she taught ballet, tap, and contemporary to various age groups. Kaitlyn also spent a year dancing with the Charlottesville Ballet as a trainee and working as an assistant teaching for their academy. She taught at VDS for five years and is currently teaching in Virginia Beach.