Gabrielle Slack (Hip Hop)- Ms. Slack, a New Orleans native, has been a back-up dancer for musical acts in  the McDonalds 365 Black Awards, the Miss USA Pageant, and the Orange Bowl, working with artists Jordin Sparks, Florida Georgia Line, Nelly, and ZZ Top, to name a few, and was in the film, “When the Game Stands Tall” as a cheerleader. Ms. Slack has assisted Griffin Collins at Dance Teachers United and is co-artistic director of New Orleans-based Synergy Dance Productions, featuring contemporary jazz choreography. A graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi’s Dance program, Ms. Slack was the president of both Chi Tau Epsilon and Rhythm Rush Dance Team during her collegiate career and recently performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest.

MDF Faculty

FEATURED GUEST ARTIST 2017: Zachary Whittenburg

Zachary Whittenburg spent ten years as a professional dancer with companies including Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, BJM Danse Montréal, Pacific Northwest Ballet and North Carolina Dance Theatre, now Charlotte Ballet. His subsequent freelance career included work with, among others, Lucky Plush Productions, Same Planet Performance Project and Molly Shanahan / Mad Shak, plus instruction and coaching for the artists of DanceWorks Chicago, Luna Negra Dance Theater, Mordine & Co. Dance Theater, River North Dance Chicago and Thodos Dance Chicago. Dance Editor at Time Out Chicago from 2009–12, Whittenburg has written for numerous print and online publications, contributes regularly to Dance Magazine, is a panelist and guest speaker, and tweets @trailerpilot about contemporary culture and the performing arts. As Associate Director of Marketing and Communication at Hubbard Street, he represented the company on the Chicago Dancemakers Forum consortium, and he is currently Communications and Engagement Director at Arts Alliance Illinois, promoting advocacy, community, education policy, research, the intrinsic value of the arts and the voice of a creative state. Whittenburg remains engaged with dance as a member of the executive committee for the Chicago Dance History Project, and serves on the artistic advisory council for High Concept Laboratories.

Brianna Jahn (Pilates)- Ms. Jahn received her M.F.A. in Dance from the University of Arizona, her B.F.A. in Dance from The State University of New York at Buffalo and is a qualified Fletcher Pilates teacher. Jahn is currently a full-time instructor at The University of Southern Mississippi and served as adjunct faculty at SUNY Buffalo. As a member of Configuration Dance Theatre, founding member of ConvergeDance Buffalo, and freelance artist Brianna has performed in and choreographed for numerous festivals and concerts in the U.S. and Mexico. Her work is often collaborative, crossing artistic disciplinary boundaries by incorporating film, poetry and site-specific elements.

Mississippi Dance Festival

Kellis McSparrin Oldenburg (Ballet)- Ms. McSparrin Oldenburg is a dancer, choreographer, and teacher from Clinton, Mississippi.  In 2010, she received her BFA in Dance from The University of Southern Mississippi.  Following her undergraduate studies, she earned an MFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2012. Kellis is a former instructor of dance at Belhaven University and at USM, and she specializes in ballet, contemporary, jazz and musical theatre techniques. She has orchestrated her own freelance choreography business for the past ten years. Kellis and her husband, Kirk, currently live in New Orleans, where she is the Assistant Rehearsal Director and a dancer with the Marigny Opera Ballet.


Robertson emerged as a principal dancer for Dayton Contemporary where her performance career spanned twelve years. She received training from and was cast in ballets by some of the most famous choreographers and teachers in the field: Talley Beatty, Maria Benitez, Merce Cunningham, Ron Brown, Bill T. Jones, Bebe Miller, Anna Sokolow, James Truitte, Doug Varone, Kevin Ward and Jawole Zollar, to name a few. She performed the dances of these historic and contemporary figures in theatres across the United States including the Kennedy Center, Washington DC, the Joyce Theatre, New York, NY, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and the American Dance Festival and in Bermuda, France, Germany, Russia, and Poland. In 1998 she received the Josie award created by Dayton Contemporary founder, the late Jeraldyne Blunden. At the pinnacle of her artistic achievement, as a dancer, Robertson accepted a job to direct the dance department at Stivers School for the Arts. Today she mines the depth of historic, contemporary and personal phenomenon through her choreography for young dancers whose child’s eyes freshen the cycle of creation. As teacher, rehearsal coach, and most importantly, choreographer, DeShona allows students to investigate historic events that have preceded them, such as the Birmingham church bombings privileged in her dance, 4 Denise, Carole, Addie, and Cynthia (2006). In 2008, Robertson received the Excellence in Teaching Award at Stivers. Mrs. Robertson holds a Master’s in Education from Antioch University Midwest, a BFA degree in Dance and a BA in Business Marketing from Barat College Conservatory of DePaul. She has taken graduate classes at the University of Dayton and The Ohio State University. She is a member of Omega Baptist Church and lives in Dayton, with her husband and son.

FEATURED NATIONAL GUEST ARTIST 2014: Rhonda cinotto (jazz dance)

Rhonda Cinotto (MDF Guest Artist and performer) currently teaches in the dance programs at the University of Washington and the Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences. She recently co-choreographed and produced an evening of jazz dance called Contemporary Jazz Dance Project of Seattle. Rhonda graduated with her M.F.A in dance in 2007 from the University of Washington. After graduating, she spent a year teaching modern and jazz at Western Michigan University. Prior to entering the M.F.A program, she was a member of Spectrum Dance Theater, performing works by Anne Reinking, Dwight Rhoden, Daniel Buraczeski, Daniel Ezralow, Frank Chaves, Lar Lubovitch, Margo Sappington and Donald Byrd, among others.

Erin Scheiwe Rockwell (Modern)-  Ms. Scheiwe Rockwell is an Associate Professor of dance at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi, and holds a MFA from California State University, Long Beach and a BA in dance from St. Olaf College. She is certified in Pilates with BASI and teaches at Pilates Place of Mississippi.  Her choreography has been presented around her home state of Colorado and across the U.S. from Los Angeles to New York City. Erin is co-founder and co-director of Front Porch Dance, a contemporary dance collective established in 2008. Her artistic interests lie mainly in creating and performing dance works for both stage and screen.

Rebecca McArthur (Ballet variations)- Ms. McArthur is a professor of dance at The University of Southern Mississippi, where she teaches ballet, modern, choreography, and dance history.  Her choreography has been presented in New York City, Chicago, and Dallas, and she is a past board member of the New York State Dance Education Association.

2017 Faculty classes & bios