Inspiration. Experience. Connection.

Meet the 2019 RDA NCI Directors

Regional Dance America presents Peter Chu as the Director of Choreography and Jake Kelberman as the Director of Music for the 2019 NCI. These amazing professionals demonstrate vibrant energy in their work and are excited to bring that energy to the NCI choreographers and dancers.

Peter Chu
Director of Choreography

Born in the Bronx, NY, & raised in Cocoa Beach, Florida, Peter began his training as a competitive gymnast, later nurturing his artistry at Dussich Dance Studio. Upon graduation from The Juilliard School, he performed with BJM Danse, EZdanza, Aszure Barton & Artists, Kidd Pivot, & in Celine Dion’s Vegas spectacular, A New Day. Peter can be seen as the lead in Christina Perri’s Jar of Hearts music video.


In 2008, Peter formed a Las Vegas project based dance company, chuthis., which showcases the work of Chu & his collaborators. chuthis. also provides movement education programs which foster technical & artistic development.


Chu has been an honoured recipient of choreographic awards & commissions, including the Hector Zaraspe Prize, A.C.E. Capezio Award, & Hubbard Street Dance International Commission Project. He was also named a Blodgett Distinguished Artist by Harvard University for 2018. Additionally, Chu has served as the Rehearsal Director for Nederlands Dans Theater 2, and as a Guest Rehearsal Director for NDT1.


Chu has created works for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street 2, Charlotte Ballet, Charlotte Ballet II, Orlando Ballet Theatre, Giordano Dance Chicago, SYTYCD, Naomi Stikeman’s Çaturn, Houston MET Dance, New Dialect, SALT Contemporary Dance, Nederlands Dans Theater Summer Intensive, Springboard Danse Montreal, Harvard Univeristy, Point Park University, & The Juilliard School, among others.


This season, Chu looks forward to premiering new creations for Staatstheater Augsburg, Germany, and HSPro. He will also be working on a creation with his own company, chuthis.

Jake Kelberman
Director of Music
Jake Kelberman is a guitarist, composer, and educator from Philadelphia who has performed at venues around the world including Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola at Lincoln Center in New York, The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, and the Bimhuis in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He has performed in the Montreux Jazz Guitar Competition in Montreux, Switzerland and has been a finalist in both the Wilson Center Jazz Guitar Competition in Milwaukee and the “Keep an Eye” Jazz Competition in Amsterdam.


Jake has performed and recorded with artists including Wycliffe Gordon, Ulysses Owens Jr., Jim Snidero, Gerald Veasley, Walt Weiskopf, Deana Martin, Justin Faulkner, and Larry McKenna. A frequent collaborator with dancers, he performs for swing and blues dances with groups such as Chelsea Reed and the Fair Weather Five and Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders and has collaborated with choreographer Peter Chu, composing new music for works which have been performed by The Juilliard School and the Charlotte Ballet.


Jake has worked as a teaching artist with universities and organizations including the EMESP Tom Jobim School in Sao Paolo, Brazil, The National Youth Orchestra of Belize, West Virginia Wesleyan University, the Philadelphia Community Arts Network, and the West Park Cultural Center in Philadelphia. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Jazz Performance and Political Science from Temple University and is completing a masters’ degree in Jazz Studies at the Juilliard School under the direction of Wynton Marsalis.

Choreographers and Dancers: Are you ready for an amazing experience?

2019 RDA NCI Dance Faculty

Regional Dance America is excited about the amazing faculty lined up for this summer. Check out these instructors — then sign up to come work with them in person!

Jenni Gordon
Jenni Gordon, a freelance movement artist and educator, received a BFA in Dance, Magna Cum Laude, from the Conservatory of Dance at Purchase College. A Houston native, Jenni graduated from the High School for the Performing & Visual Arts and trained at Rowland School of Ballet in Kingwood, Texas.


Jenni is honored to have been a part of chuthis., a contemporary dance company under the direction of choreographer Peter Chu, from the beginning. Most recently, Jenni has staged Peter’s work on SALT Contemporary Dance Company, Booker T. Washington HSPVA, Charlotte Ballet’s Pre-Professional Program, and The Grier School, among others. Jenni has also acted as assistant and rehearsal director for many of Peter’s recent creations, including pieces for Ballet Augsburg, Germany, Charlotte Ballet, and Giordano Dance Chicago. Teaching highlights include SpringboardX | shift perspective, Brigham Young University, & MIP2. Jenni recently relocated to Austin, TX with her family.

Joshua Manculich
From Windber, Pennsylvania, and a Point Park University graduate, Joshua was a dancer with Thodos Dance Chicago, The Pillow Project, JMT-JLS Productions, Jaxon Movement Arts, and Chicago Repertory Ballet. Returning to school after dancing for several seasons, he received his MFA from The Ohio State University where he was awarded a three year Dean’s Distinguished University Fellowship.


Throughout his career, Joshua’s interest in the incubation, production, and exploration of movement has been a guiding force. In 2015, he was awarded a Princess Grace Choreography Fellowship and has worked with DanceWorks Chicago, Eisenhower Dance Detroit, METdance, Santa Barbara Dance Theater, The Big Muddy Dance Company, Thodos Dance Chicago in addition to Grand Valley State University, Point Park University, University of Dayton, and Western Michigan University. Joshua is an Assistant Professor of Dance at Sam Houston State University.

Betty Nicolay
Betty Nicolay’s professional performing experience is with the Contemporary Dancers Canada under the direction of Bill Evans, Rachel Browne, and Tedd Robinson. As a member of the company, she performed coast-to-coast across Canada. Among the many outstanding choreographers with whom she had the privilege of working are Bill Evans, Charles Moulton, Dan Wagoner, Lynn Taylor-Corbett, and Rodney Griffin. Among her favorite roles were ‘Lady in Black’ in Lynn Taylor-Corbett’s “Spy in the House of Love”, the youngest wife in Bill Evans’s “The Legacy”, and ‘The Turning Girl’ in Rodney Griffin’s “Rialto”. Another of her favorite works to perform was Dan Wagoner’s “Spiked Sonata”. Ms. Nicolay received Manitoba Arts Council grants for continuing education at Toronto Dance Theatre and with Bill Evans in Winnipeg.


Betty graduated with the Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Texas Christian University and a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Texas in Austin. She earned her comprehensive Core Connections Pilates mat and equipment certification from Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle of the Pilates Center of Austin in 2006. She became certified as a Pilates Method Alliance instructor in 2012 and completed her BASI Pilates Dance – Specialization certification with Karen Clippinger and her Balanced Body Mat and Reformer Instructor Training in 2014.


Betty is also certified for Primary through Level III in American Ballet Theatre’s National Training Curriculum. She teaches ballet, Pilates, and other forms of dance at Sam Houston State University while also teaching classes and private clients in the Pilates Method at a private studio in Huntsville.

Dana Nicolay
Dana Nicolay toured extensively, as a member of professional companies such as the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Houston Ballet, the Houston Grand Opera, the Dayton Ballet, Contemporary Dancers Canada and Space/Dance/Theater. With these companies he performed the works of many noted choreographers including George Balanchine, Sir Frederic Ashton, Eugene Loring, August Bournonville, John Cranko, and John Neumier. He has worked professionally with Agnes De Mille, Rudy Van Dantzig, Hans Van Manen, Bill T. Jones, Dan Wagoner, Bill Evans, Lynn Taylor-Corbett, James Clouser, Sir Peter Hall, and Sir Peter Wright among others.


Mr. Nicolay is a Full Professor of Dance at Sam Houston State University. Last spring, he choreographed the SHSU production of Dido and Aeneas which toured to Kobe College in Japan. In the fall, his company, Nicolay Dance Works, performed his innovative immersive production of The Nutcracker in the Victorian Wynne Home mansion for the fourth consecutive year. He is currently developing a production of Alice in Wonderland that will be also be performed at the Wynne in an immersive setting.


Mr. Nicolay’s choreography has been recognized for excellence by Regional Dance America, The American College Dance Association, and the Mid-America Dance Network. It has been performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the Ailey Theater in New York City and in Osaka Japan. Dana is a Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst (CLMA) and he holds the Master of Fine Arts degree in Modern Dance from Texas Christian University.

Jennifer Pontius
Jennifer Pontius trained in classical ballet and was a member of The Birmingham Ballet, performing also with The Sarasota Ballet, The Cobb-Marietta Ballet, and The South Bay Ballet. She later performed with several modern dance companies in the Los Angeles area, including Donna Sternberg and Dancers, Pacific Dance Ensemble, and Charles Edmonson.


Ms. Pontius has a BA in English with a minor in Dance from the University of Alabama in Birmingham and a MA in English from California State University. After earning her MFA in dance at Florida State University, she taught at Birmingham – Southern College, The University of Alabama, and is now Associate Professor and Chair of the Dance Department at Sam Houston State University.


She has staged classical repertory, including Pas de Quatre, excerpts from Giselle, Don Quixote, and Les Sylphides, and has created original works in both ballet and modern genres.

Sallie Werst
Sallie Werst grew up performing in Regional Dance America/Northeast, as well as studying at Vermont Chamber Ballet, Bossov Ballet Theatre, and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. She received a Bachelor’s of Business from Pace University in NYC, during which time she also studied on scholarship at Ballet Academy East and Steps on Broadway.


Ms. Werst discovered her love for hip hop upon her first master class in the genre, taught by Darrin Henson, who is most known for his choreography for such notable pop artists as NSYNC, Britney Spears, and Jennifer Lopez. She then studied under Buddha Stretch, Jonathan Lee, and Jay T. Jenkins in New York and continued her ballet studies at Ballet Austin.


Ms. Werst has traveled to Africa where she helped develop a dance outreach program in Arandis, Namibia. She later moved back home to New Hampshire and took her dancing to yet a new context as a New England Patriots Cheerleader. She has also performed with Ragged Edge and FreeFall Contemporary dance companies. She is on faculty at Broadway Bound Performing Arts Center and Southern New Hampshire Dance Theater.

Need more details? Check out the NCI page for additional information.