Dancers  / Collaborators


Alex HeadshotAlexandra Ajose-Nixon’s
love of dance began at the age of 4 when she first saw the Nutcracker and boldly declared her intention to dance in it.  She’s been studying ballet at Danspace ever since, and proudly debuted onstage as the scene-stealing Tiny Polichinelle in Graham Lustig’s 
The Nutcracker at the age of 8. Since then she’s been cast as a Drummer Mouse and a Candy Cook in The Nutcracker, and has twice performed in Ronn Guidi’s The Secret Nutcracker as a Gingersnap. Her love of performance extends to the theatre where she’s been on stage in the Bay Area Children’s Theater’s productions of Aladdin and Peter Pan. In December 2016 she enthusiastically appeared in Winter Journeys at Diablo Valley College.  She’s excited to dance with dNaga.


danspace-june-4-2016-0371Yael Berrol has danced since she was 7, beginning with jazz and moving onto ballet, modern, composition and hip-hop. She has performed in Ronn Guidi’sSecret Nutcracker as a Chinese tea, gingersnap, and licorice. Over the past three years, Yael has also performed in Lovely Gibberish, Shaking and Shocking, the GIRL Project, andProteinology with dNaga.


danspace-june-4-2016-0353Seosaimhín (Shosi) Black has been dancing since she was two. A former Irish dancer, she appeared in a number of dance productions at Walden Center and School, Berkeley, under the direction of Russell Wright. Shosi has taken Ballet, Modern, Choreography, and Modern/Jazz while at Danspace. She has participated in CODA’s summer performances for five years and previously danced in Graham Lustig’s Nutcracker. The PEACE Project; Shaking & Shocking was Shosi’s first performance with dNaga; she also performed in the Girl Project two years ago and just performed in Lovely Gibberish.


Danspace June 4 2016-0441Warren Brunetti retired from the Internal Revenue Service in 2003. This concluded a varied career that included marketing research, independent retailer, property developer and high school math teacher. Currently Warren does volunteer notary services for the Mastick Senior Center in Alameda, takes Osher Lifelong Learning Institute courses at UC Berkeley and participates in dance classes from PD Active. During his younger years, Warren took tap and ballet from Pearl Kay in Berkeley. Warren lives with his wife, granddaughter and son in Alameda. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008.


LydiaC2HiResLydia Clinton was born and raised in Milpitas, CA. She started dancing at 7 years old taking ballet, jazz, and lyrical at Soaring Spirit Dance Studios and then adding modern while training at Grace Dance Academy under the tutelage of Jen Daugavietis until graduating from high school. She also participated in the LINES Ballet Summer Program performing works by Alonzo King and Kara Davis. She then went to Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA to pursue a BA in dance with a concentration in modern dance under the direction of Susan Stowe and Rubén Graciani. At Point Park, she had the opportunity to learn from Judith Leifer-Bentz, Rubén Graciani, Dana Arey, Kwan Suk Choi, Garfield Lemonius, and Jason McDole as well as perform works by Ron Hutson, Keisha Lalama, Shana Simmons, and Kellie Hodges. During college, Lydia also studied at San Francisco Conservatory of Dance learning from Summer Lee Rhatigan, Christian Burns, Doug Letheren, and Bobbi Jene Smith in addition to performing pieces by Ohad Naharin (Echad Mi Yodea and Decadance), Alex Ketley, and Robert Moses (Lucifer’s Prance). Additionally, she participated at the American Dance Festival where she studied with Jennifer Nugent, Pamela Pietro, Teena Marie Custer, and Jack Fervor. Since moving back to the Bay Area last fall, Lydia Clinton is currently working in projects with Axis Dance Company, Claudine Naganuma with dNaga Dance, Joe Landini, and Sarah Berges Dance.


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Martha Friedberg has been practicing immigration law in Oakland since graduating from Golden Gate University Law School in 1978. She is now officially semi-retired, leaving more time to devote to dancing with dNaga. As a child, Martha took ballet classes on Long Island, and over the years dabbled with other forms of dance, although, ironically, she never performed before having Parkinson’s. Martha is honored to be part of the wonderful, whimsical world of dNaga, the opportunity to work with Claudine and dance with dNaga’s dedicated and sparkling dancers, young and old.

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Michelle Johnston was born and raised in Scotland where she began learning Scottish country dancing as part of her elementary school curriculum, as Scottish country dancing is an integral part of the culture. After settling in California 40 years ago she became a Nurse-Midwife and a Mum, and dancing faded out of her life. Recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, she was encouraged to join Claudine in dNaga and is now exploring dance and movement in ways she had never dreamed of. Working with young dancers and others with Parkinson’s has helped her to have courage in creating a new way of moving in the world.


danspace-june-4-2016-0405Ellie Kerwin has been dancing at Danspace since she was 3 years old, mainly taking ballet and modern classes. She began dancing with dNaga in 2015 and is inspired by talking about social justice issues and creating dances in response to these topics.  In addition, Ellie loves being able to dance with people of all ages.


Aliyah HeadshotAliyah Khalfani-Bey has been a self-taught dancer since the age of four. She was introduced to dNaga through participating and performing in the GIRL Project in the summer of 2016. Aliyah’s favorite dance styles are contemporary modern dance and hip-hop. She regularly trains at In Groove Studios and Danspace. Aliyah joined dNaga January 2017 and is excited to dance professionally! 


ChiaraKovacHeadshotChiara Kovac has been taking ballet since she was 4 years old. She performed in a version of the Nutcracker with Pacific Ballet in Mountain View and in The Secret Nutcracker with Dancspace. In October 2016, Chiara danced in the modern dance performance ”Alone Together” with LEVYdance. Chiara also enjoys hip hop and ice skating. 


Ashley HeadshotAshley LeBlanc is a new transplant to the Bay Area from Southwest Florida. She is proud to join dNaga this year in 2017. Ashley also dances with Dancing Earth and teaches classes regularly at the Athletic Playground, East Oakland Sports Center, and Lazear Charter Academy. She received her BFA in Choreography and Performance at the University of Florida, where she trained heavily with Nita Little, Kristin O’Neal and Tzveta Kassabova. She has also trained at multiple festivals including ImPulsTanz in Vienna, Body Traffic in Los Angeles, and Bates Dance Festival in Maine. She recently had a choreographic residency at the Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville, FL and completed her Dance in Medicine Certificate from Shands Hospital. Ashley also has received grants for her work/residences within arts education in high schools. She teaches a wide variety of ages from 8 years old to 80 and a variety of styles from improvisation to musical theatre. She loves water and sunshine, bouldering, cooking and parkour!


SemaSema Lew has been dancing at Danspace since the age of 3, taking ballet and modern dance classes. She has performed with the Oakland Ballet Company in Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker since 2010, and has appeared in Ronn Guidi’s Secret Nutcracker as a Chinese Tea and an Angel. She joined dNaga in Fall 2016 and enjoys using dance to explore current issues in the world.


danspace-june-4-2016-0377Leila Massoudi has been dancing since age four, dancing Persian style from her father’s native country of Iran. Throughout her elementary school years at Walden Center and School, Leila danced hip hop, jazz, and ballet with her dance teacher, Russell Wright. Leila joined Danspace in fifth grade, taking a Modern dance class. She has subsequently joined choreography which she loves and is dancing her third year of ballet. This year Leila is loving taking a full class load of ballet, dNaga company class, choreography, and modern dance. “I have had an amazing experience at Danspace!” says Leila. Leila is thankful to her family, “for getting me to all my classes and supporting me!”


Danspace June 4 2016-0431Cathy Quides has just retired after spending the last twenty-one years working as a pediatric nurse practitioner for patients with developmental disabilities. The courage and dignity with which her patients and their families and caregivers faced the challenges they encountered inspire her as she begins her journey as a person with Parkinson’s. Also inspirational to her are those in her Dance for PD class guided by the wonderfully talented and enthusiastic Claudine Naganuma. Growing up, Cathy wanted to study dance but the opportunity escaped her. Since joining the Dance for PD class she feels she is finally fulfilling her childhood dancing dream. The privilege of performing with dNaga is icing on the cake and she is very grateful for the opportunity.


Shaunnah Ray HeadshotShaunnah Ray is an Oakland native who is committed to applying her passion for the performing arts and expression to perpetuate effective activism. Shaunnah is a graduate of KPFA Radio’s Frist Voice Apprenticeship Program which lead her to become a radio producer for KPFA’s Full Circle, Evening News, and Free Speech Radio News as well as National Radio Project’s Making Contact. Shaunnah gets her inspiration from working with the youth of Oakland and in particular with organizations that focus on the wellbeing of girls, specifically Girls Rock Camp and Mamacitas Café. A cornerstone of Shaunnah’s life has been the sisterhood she has found through dance, she is honored to participate in a program which fosters that crucial safe space amongst the city’s most promising and its most valuable demographic.


danspace-june-4-2016-0362Sylvie Rodgers has been dancing since she was 3, but began with dNaga in 2013. She has performed in multiple dNaga pieces and traveled to Portland, Oregon for the World Parkinson Congress. She enjoys taking ballet and choreography at Danspace. Her favorite part of dancing with dNaga is being able to dance with people of all ages and discuss current social issues.


Danspace June 4 2016-0435Gary Turchin is an award-winning poet and writer, performer, and visual artist. His repertoire includes books, films, performances, illustrations, as well as digital and photo/graphic art. Gary is the author/illustrator of the wondrous, If I Were You (Simon DeWitt 2011) and the award-winning illustrated verse collection, Ditty-Ditty Doggerel; A life From Bad to Verse (Simon DeWitt, 2012). His most recent poetry collection, Falling Home, was published in 2013 by Sugartown Publications. Gary’s illustrations have been collected in The Book of Self & Other Drawings (Green Man Press, 1995). His fine art has been shown in galleries near and far. Gary has written/produced and performed three one-man shows for adult audiences, and one show for kids that appeared in more than 350 schools and libraries over the course of a decade. Speaking of a “decade,” that’s how long Gary has been wrestling (dancing?) with this PD devil, but it hasn’t put a dent in his creative productivity. He’s thrilled to be sharing the stage with such an exuberant collection of young and talented dancers.



unnamedJoel Davel (Composer and Live Musician) has a diverse percussion career that includes performance and recording credits with groups led by electronic-diva Amy X Neuburg, percussionist William Winant, violinist Kaila Flexer, guitarist Jack West, guitarist David Tanenbaum, tenor John Duykers, composer-performer Guillermo Galindo and electronic pioneer Don Buchla.  He has performed on-stage accompaniment–often as a soloist–for many productions including for The California Shakespeare Theater, West Edge Opera, and South Coast Repertory.

Davel holds Bachelor of Music from Northern Illinois University in percussion performance and MFA from Mills College in electronic music. His close relationship with his electronic instruments extends from over 20 years of technical work with the synthesizer pioneer and mentor Don Buchla.  Using electronic music tools in the role of composer-performer, Davel has written and performed solo and duo accompaniment for dance company dNaga’s productions Reveal, Shaking and Shocking, Freedom House, and Lovely Gibberish.

His closest musical partner and most frequent collaborations are with Paul Dresher as part of the Duo, the Electro-Acoustic Band, Double Duo and through several dance productions. The Duo has performed in numerous venues, most notably Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City, Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, Australia and Russia.

unnamed-1Dale MacDonald (Lighting Designer and Technical Director) revels in the play of light. In addition to dNaga he has worked with Moving Arts Dance, San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep Chorus, Terrain Dance Collective and Ruth Botchan Dance Company. He studied with David Elliot at UC Berkeley where he received his M.F.A. He combines his experiences as artist, scientist, designer and engineer to bring a certain alchemy to interactions with information. Much of this work has been done for public settings which add a significant social component to the design space. Currently, he works as Associate Dean of Creative Technologies at the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication, University of Texas at Dallas