Artistic Advisory Council

The Dancewave Artistic Advisory Council is a critical community champion of Dancewave. Members share their gifts in service to our mission by providing their professional expertise, leveraging their diverse knowledge of constituent perspectives, and sharing their connections to local, national and international resources. The Artistic Advisory Council's mission is to ensure the sustainability of Dancewave's programming and offerings in the dance community, ensuring the long-term health of the organization.

Upcoming Artist Development Event

Inside the Process: Maleek Washington on Creativity in a Time of Crisis

Wednesday, March 24 | 7:00-8:15pm | Zoom

Join Dancewave for an intimate conversation with renowned dance artist Maleek Washington and emerging artist and alum Tess Strohm. Gain insight into the creative process, learn how education and training informs and enhances creative expression, and hear how artists negotiate the various social, political and personal challenges through their art making. 

Moderated by Dancewave's Artistic Advisory Council Chair, Tiffany Mellard, and Executive Director, Nicole Touzien.

Registration & Pricing:
$5 admission serves as a donation to benefit Dancewave's tuition-free Company Program, providing young artists with barrier-free access to pre-professional dance training and whole person development grounded in SEL and restorative practices.

If a $5 donation proves to be cost-prohibitive, please email us and we will make accommodations.

2021 Dancewave Artistic Advisory Council

Yesenia Ayala

Growing up in North Carolina, Broadway performer Yesenia Ayala spent countless hours from an early age in the studios and on the stage dancing with Gaston Dance Theatre. After a summer dance intensive at North Carolina School of the Arts, and a year of studies toward a biology major and medical degree, she couldn’t fight the pull of the theater, and graduated with a BFA in Theatre Arts from East Carolina University. After a handful of regional theater work, she headed to NYC and shortly headed right back out on the national tour of the Broadway revival of West Side Story. She then continued on to the international tour of West Side Story, and then back to NYC, where she hasn’t had a break since. She has been seen at Radio City Music Hall in the Christmas Spectacular, and Off-Broadway in Trip of Love and Sweet Charity, for both of which she received Chita Rivera Award nominations for Best Female Dancer. On Broadway, she has been seen in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Carousel, for which she received her third Chita nomination for Best Female Dancer, and won the Chita Award for Best Ensemble. After playing Clary in the Steven Spielberg directed film adaptation of West Side Story, due in theaters in 2021, Yesenia is now back on Broadway in her fifth production of West Side Story, for which she earned a Drama Desk Award nomination for her portrayal of the iconically sassy and soulful Anita. She was also recognized by Dance Magazine as one of 25 to Watch in 2021. Yesenia is excited to bring her professional experience and artistic perspective to help further Dancewave’s mission.


Rena Butler

Rena Butler hails from Chicago, IL. She began her studies at The Chicago Academy for the Arts, studied overseas at Taipei National University of the Arts in Taiwan, and received her BFA from SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance. Rena danced with companies such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (also a choreographic fellow), AIM by Kyle Abraham, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, David Dorfman Dance, Manuel Vignoulle/M-Motions, The Kevin Wynn Collection, and Pasos Con Sabor Salsa Dance Company. Currently, she dances for Gibney Company, and was recently named its Choreographic Associate. 

Rena's choreographic work includes BalletX, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Boston Dance Theater, The New Orleans Museum of Modern Art in collaboration with Academy Award-Winning jazz composer, Terrence Blanchard, CHTV Stories television program in Switzerland, a film short in collaboration with Third Coast Percussion x Devonte Hynes/Blood Orange, The Young Choreographer's Festival in NYC, The Ailey/Fordham School, The Dance Department at Hunter College, Loyola University, The Joffrey Ballet School NYC, University of Texas at Austin Department of Theater and Dance, and more. In 2019, she was the recipient of the prestigious Princess Grace Award for Choreography. 

Rena has taught dance and choreographic workshops at places such as The Chicago Academy for the Arts, Ecole Nationale Superieure de Danse de Marseille in France, Macau Cultural Center in China, Dancers' Workshop in Jackson, Wyoming, Ailey Camp Chicago, New World School of the Arts in Miami, SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance, among others.

Butler also served on the Consortium for Chicago Dancemakers Forum for 3 years, was on the annual panel for Black Girls Dance in Chicago, and co-created DanceLab--a free, choreographic course for Chicago teens, empowering participants of varying socioeconomic backgrounds + identities to find commonality in creation. She currently serves as a dance and choreographic mentor for young, aspiring artists as part of the Pointe People Mentorship Program.


Julian DeGuzman

Julian Marcus DeGuzman (he/him) is a performing artist specializing in musical theater and contemporary dance. Julian was born and raised in occupied Chochenyo Ohlone territory (San Francisco Bay Area). Julian has performed in various Broadway and nationally touring productions (Newsies, Miss Saigon, Hello, Dolly!). Julian received his BFA in Dance Performance and BA in Sociology from the University of California, Irvine, where he studied under choreographer Donald McKayle. During the pandemic, Julian is currently pursuing his Masters degree in Asian American Studies, at San Francisco State University’s College of Ethnic Studies.


Monique Smith

Monique Smith is an Honors graduate of the Fordham/Ailey BFA Program. Performance credits include After Midnight (Broadway), Memphis (Broadway), Hot Feet (Broadway), and dance companies including Philadanco, Sonya Tayeh Dance, and Forces of Nature Dance Company. She has performed for Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden and the New York Philharmonic and is a Fred and Adele Astaire Award nominee. She most recently performed in a national commercial for SquareSpace. Teaching credits include American Ballet Theater (NY), Westchester Dance Academy (NY), Dance World Academy (NJ), Company One (NY), Inspire School of Dance (IL), The Dance Spot (TX), Adrenaline Remix and The Dance Sessions. Monique is a teacher and judge for the National Dance Showcase and Youth America Grand Prix. She has also worked as choreographer for Fantasia Barrino at Circle of Sisters, Savion Glover's Associate Choreographer for Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope at City Center, and is currently Associate Choreographer for Caroline, or Change on Broadway.


Nola Sporn Smith

NOLA SPORN SMITH is a dance & theater artist from Brooklyn, NY. Nola was nominated for a 2019 “Bessie” Outstanding Performer Award for her performance in Stacy Grossfield’s metamorphosis, and also works with cakeface, Nicole Mannarino, Eryka Dellenbach, Georgia b Smith, and recently with Donna Uchizono. Her ongoing collaborations with Molly Ross as MOLLY&NOLA have been presented throughout NYC and in Albuquerque, NM, where they were in residence in 2019 at the Keshet Dance & Center for the Arts. She has ongoing improvisational performance practices with musicians Paco Cathcart/The Cradle (Brooklyn, NY) and Betsy Soukup (Detroit, MI). Nola has worked in assistant director and producing roles for multiple directors and choreographers, and side-hustles in various food- & nutrition-related exploits. She was a member of the Dancewave Company from 2004-2010. Mollyandnola.com


Maleek Washington

A native New Yorker Maleek Washington is a performer, choreographer, and teaching artist at Broadway Dance Center. Previously Maleek has worked with Sia, Kyle Abraham, Rihanna, ASAP Rocky and currently a collaborator and Principal Dancer with Camille A Brown and Dancers. With multidisciplinary, experiential performance works that investigate the people, practices, and spaces shaping Washington's black identity, he is proud to present his art in 2017 at the Boston Dance Festival, Pepatian and BAAD!, Periapsis Dance and Music Noesis, and at the legendary Movement Research at Judson Church in Spring 2018. Washington is also a 2017-18 Dancing While Black top 10 choreographic finalists. Gibney granted Mr. Washington an evening length show in 2019.