Artistic Team

A native of Ft. Washington, Maryland, Ashanté Green studied dance at the Dance Institute of Washington (DIW) where she trained in many styles of dance beginning at the age of seven. She simultaneously danced in the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Pre-Professional Residency program at the Kennedy Center for 11 years, working closely with the company’s then Artistic Director, Arthur Mitchell. In May 2014, Ashanté received a BFA degree in dance from Shenandoah University. Ashanté returned to Shenandoah University the fall of 2014 and received a Master of Science degree in Performance Arts Leadership and Management the spring of 2015. After graduating, Ashanté returned to The Dance Institute of Washington to work under Fabian Barnes. She currently serves as the School Manager, overseeing DIW’s Pre-Professional training program and bi-annual productions.
Marcus Johnson - Dance Institute of Washington

Marcus Johnson is a native of Washington D.C who has been studying, and training rigorously in professional dance for 12 years. Marcus is trained in Ballet, Modern, African, and Hip Hop and started professionally training at Duke Ellington School of The Arts. Following his tenure at Duke Ellington, Marcus was chosen to tour in China for an international dance conference. He has performed with Sting and Paul Simon, toured in Los Angeles, where he also kept up his training. Marcus has been teaching dance for about 7 years at the Dance Institute of Washington, where he’s had the pleasure of instilling all that he has learned through the years to the next generation. Marcus believes it is very important to be versatile and adaptive in this field –“it enhances your capability as a young dancer”. Marcus is grateful for the experience of inspiring the next generation to come; to mold great, strong and disciplined dancers at the Dance Institute of Washington and to impact and change the lives of children through the Art of Dance. Marcus is also experienced in the ins and outs of programming and stage productions. While he may often teach, you can also find him in meetings working hard alongside of DIW’s Creative Director.

Aaron Jackson received his formal training in New York City at the School of American Ballet, where he trained year-round and in summer intensive. He attended other summer intensives on full scholarship as well, including Joffrey Ballet School in New York, Pennsylvania Ballet School, and San Francisco Ballet School. Jackson was a 2017/2018 School of American Ballet National Visiting Fellow. He is on the School of American Ballet’s Alumni Advisory Committee on Diversity & Inclusion.Jackson joined The Dance Theatre of Harlem in 2000 under the direction of the late Arthur Mitchell. His repertory included “Firebird,” Arthur Mitchell, Augustus Van Heerden, and Laveen Naidu’s “South African Suite,” and Geoffrey Holder’s “Dougla,” performed at various venues including in China at the Shanghai Dance Festival. In 2001 Jackson joined The Washington Ballet under the direction of Septime Webre. He danced Puck in Balanchine’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” first and second themes in Balanchine’s “Four Temperaments,” Forsyth’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated,” and numerous other productions by various choreographers. After eight seasons at The Washington Ballet, Jackson moved to Company C in San Francisco for two seasons, before retiring and returning to Washington in 2010.

While a full-time company member with The Washington Ballet, Jackson began his teaching career at The Washington School of Ballet’s Summer Intensive and the Jones/Haywood School of Dance. In 2006 he joined the summer faculty of Berrend Dance Centre/Olney Ballet Theatre under the direction of Patricia Berrend. In 2010, Jackson joined the faculties at Berrend Dance Centre, where he taught Levels 4, 5, PP1, and PP2, and at The Washington School of Ballet, where he teaches open adult classes. Jackson’s open classes accommodate dancers from intermediate through professional levels. While a National Visiting Fellow at the School of American Ballet, Jackson designed and taught a Ballet class for Level B1 students.

In addition to teaching, Jackson has choreographed many short ballets for competitions and showcases, including “Entropy” for Berrend Dance Center students at the 2016 YAGP competition in Boston, placing at the semi-finalist level. His career also includes choreographic projects with The Washington Ballet Studio Company and The Washington Ballet Trainees. Jackson’s “Abstract Pieces” was performed by the trainees at The Washington School of Ballet’s 2014 Spring Performances. His other pieces have been performed by the studio company at various events. In addition, Jackson has taught master classes at the Musical Theater Center in Rockville, Maryland, and participated in a choreographic project with the Phillips Collection.

Jackson has established himself as a guest teacher in the U.S. and internationally. He served as guest teacher and choreographer at City Youth Ballet in Johnson City, Tennessee, under the direction of the late Susan Pace White; and in 2015 served as a Guest Instructor at TAD, Tennessee Association Of Dance – Dance Festival in Murfreesboro, TN. He also served as a guest instructor at Tanz Akademie, Tanzwerk 101, and Zürcher Hochschule der Künste in Zürich Switzerland, Tanzkompanie des Theaters St. Gallen in St. Gallen, Switzerland as a Guest Instructor for Company Class, and The Musical Factory in Lucerne, Switzerland. Jackson has under his own initiative in Zürich organized and conducted numerous workshops. He served as a guest instructor in Stavanger, Norway, for “Don’t Forget To Dance 2017”. In addition, Jackson coaches dancers privately, including several who are dancing professionally or who have been accepted at prestigious ballet schools.
Barbra Chin has been a ballet instructor with DIW since 2012 when she moved to DC to pursue her graduate studies at Howard University. Originally from Salt Lake City, UT, Barbra trained in classical ballet and Character dance under the Cecchetti method at the Children’s Ballet Theatre (CBT) and at the University of Utah, dancing in the non-major ballet program under the direction of notable instructors such as Conrad Ludlow, a former principal of the New York City Ballet under George Balanchine. Barbra began teaching ballet while still in high school and has over 13 years of teaching experience. As a ballet instructor, Barbra has taught dancers ages 3 to adult and thoroughly enjoys the process of teaching classical ballet technique to dancers of all ages.
For more than forty years, Lettie Battle has performed, directed and/or choreographed on Broadway , films, videos, television, concert dance companies and productions across the US and Japan. Lettie is an internationally recognized performer, director, choreographer and educator. Known for her uncompromising pursuit of artistic excellence she has maintained a deep connection to innovative cognitive education and community outreach initiatives.

As a Teaching Artist with the prestigious companies, Alvin Ailey and the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and Dance Institute of Washington, she has recently added the Orlando Ballet to the list as the National Master Teaching Artist. A consummate educator, she bring her Broadway experiences, original cast of the Wiz, Raisin, Don't Bother Me I Cant Cope, Purlie and the principles and methodology of internationally renown, cognitive psychologist, Dr. Reuven Feuerstein, Structural Cognitive Modifiability theory to her teaching endeavors. Her work in Israel and the US is featured in the Award Winning Canadian film, The Mind of a Child. She was a coauthor of the Teacher Manuals for the Peabody Award Winner PBS Special, Making the Music created by Wynton Marsalis.

Having the privilege to appear in the films such as The Color Purple, The Wiz, and The Women of Brewster Place and with entertainment icons as Geoffrey Holder, Chaka Khan, Lena Horne, Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Steven Spielberg, George Faison, Phylicia Rashad, Taraji P. Henson, Prince, Sir Peter Hall, Wynton Marsalis to name a few, she learned early in her career, humility and the obligation to contribute positively to the integral aspects of human existence.
Kevin Malone
Kevin Thomas Malone, a native of Washington, DC, is currently on staff at Jyla’s School of Dance, Metropolitan School of The Arts, Katherine Smith Contemporary Dance Ensemble, Dance Institute of Washington (DIW) and Ballet Nouveau. Kevin has choreographed contemporary ballet solos for dancers representing the Ukraine and the U.S who competed in the 2006 International Ballet competition and the Youth America Grand Prix. A graduate of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts (DESA) and the University of the Arts with a BFA in modern dance, Kevin has had additional training at the Ailey School, the Washington School of Ballet and the Adrian Bolton Dance Company. He was also a principal company member with Liz Lerman Dance Exchange and Philadanco, touring the U.S., Europe, Canada, Asia and the Caribbean, and taught for the Rock School of the Pennsylvania Ballet, Alvin Ailey Dance Camp, DESA and Ballet Royale Academy. Kevin served as Associate Artistic Director for the Bermuda Dance Company and DIW. Kevin also served as a guest Master Teacher for Olga Tozyiakova’s Ballet Studio #7.
Julia Battist is a French ballet dancer trained at the Paris National Conservatory and at the Paris dance school, Le Monde de la Danse. In 2008, she won the Grand Prize for the role of Nikiya (la Bayadère) at The Dinant International Contest in Belgium. For two years she toured Europe with Le Ballet Classique de Paris under the artistic direction of Jeannette Jacquet, performing classical repertory such as Swan Lake and The Nutcraker. In 2015, Julia moved to the U.S. to develop her modern and contemporary dance technique. She has worked with Nhiane Khosi Dance Theatre in New York and toured in the U.S. and India with Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company of Washington, DC. Her most recent projects with Company E includes (In)Security: Or, Jack And Nikki Do The Cold War Tango and the Jungle Book and The Four Seasons, performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Beyond full-time dance commitments, Julia instructs ballet at the Dance Institute of Washington and leads a unique program for children at BloomBars called “ Le Ballet en Français”. Julia Battist has been deeply inspired by the artists of her family, especially Clément Bottier and Frederic Veys. She considers her teacher and friend, Muriel Duclos, as her cherished mentor.
Justin began dancing in conjunction with his early training as a youth gymnast, earning experience in each of the events of men’s gymnastics. As a dancer, he became an original member of Culture Shock International Hip Hop Dance Troupe of Washington, DC until 2003, when he received a scholarship to dance at The Ohio State University-Columbus. There, he studied intensively in classical ballet, modern, and African techniques. To supplement his university studies, he was an instructor at BalletMet Columbus Dance Academy. He has trained on scholarship in San Francisco, CA with Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, earning acceptance into the LINES Ballet Repertory Program, and receiving training from numerous dance professionals in New York City, Philadelphia, and Paris, France.
Monique Watson
Monique is a professional dancer, choreographer, and director from Havre de Grace, Maryland. She is currently the Deputy Artistic Director of the 16th Season of Culture Shock Washington DC and serves as the resident Hip Hop Instructor and Commercial Dance Track Artistic Advisor for the Dance Institute of Washington.

In 2013, Monique moved to College Park to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Human Development from the University of Maryland. The DMV area bursted at the seams with quality dance training opportunities and she successfully went from a dancer on Phunktions Dance Co. to Artistic Director; core member on Culture Shock DC, to Captain, and now the Artistic Director as well. Being a performance artist as well as a choreographer/director are equal passions for her.

Currently, Monique also teaches at ZD Dance Academy and pop up classes at various major events, (DC Hip Hop Theater Festival, National Dance Day, John F. Kennedy Center: Sound Health Series, Culture Shock Canada Showcase Masterclasses). Monique hopes to fuse her love for performing and directing to fuel her journey to being the next biggest hip hop and commercial dance headlining choreographer/creative director.
Becky Lallande
Rebecca (Becky) Lallande is a lifelong dancer who specializes in working with young children in dance and the arts. A trained dancer in the Isadora Duncan technique, she is a company member of Word Dance Theater in Washington, DC and serves as their Director of Youth Programs for instruction in the Duncan technique. She has been teaching dance to youth in DC, Maryland, and Virginia for over 10 years and is a teaching artist with the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning in the Arts, InnerCity – InnerChild, and Sitar Arts Center. In addition to dance education, she has presented choreography at the Atlas Intersections Festival, been a member of the DC hip hop team Capital Funk, and performed across the city in venues such as the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, Capital Fringe Festival, and Dance Loft on 14.
Jacqueline Higgins
A native New Yorker, Ms. Higgins trained at the official conservatory of the Joffrey Ballet, principally under Ann Parson, Meredith Bayliss and Maria Grandy, teachers of high integrity. She performed in New York in her early dance career with Ballet Academy Youth Dancers at numerous high school theaters, Sandra Genter Dancers at New York City Parks Department venues, Grant’s Tomb and on Wall Street; Barnard-Columbia Dance Concerts at Columbia University, The Chapin School Dance Club; and Bernice Johnson Dancers at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Joffrey Ballet’s Petrouchka at City Center Theater. Ms. Higgins has a Master of Arts from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and an AB from Columbia University, Barnard College. Ms. Higgins has taught ballet and pointe technique classes for over 15 years in the DC metro area. During this time period, she has choreographed, held private lessons, coached students for auditions, and re-staged and coached over 20 classical repertory variations to student dancers at the pre-professional level.
Gina Safadi

Gina Safadi, dancer, teacher, dance coach, director, producer and cultural manager. Originally from New York , Gina shared her knowledge for over 15 years in Ecuador and is now working her magic in Washington DC.

Gina earned her B.A. in Dance & Sociology from Marymount Manhattan College and received her Certificate in Arts Administration from New York University. Gina is a Certified International Latin Dance Judge and a World Salsa Summit Member. She is currently an administrator at Dance Institute of Washington and a Latin dance event producer.

Angela Ingram
Angela Ingram, originally from Pittsburgh, PA, is a life-long dancer and for the past 20 years has taught dance educator is a master instructor. Starting ballet at the age of 9 where she was trained in the Cecchetti Style of Ballet, Jazz,Tap, and Hawaiian. Angela built her dance experience through training in New York City which included the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater , Fred Benjamin, Frank Hatchet, Luigi, Bob Fosse Styles of Jazz, and Martha Graham, Angela then became interested in Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian dance, upon seeing how folkloric dance influence contemporary dance styles, such as jazz. She traveled to Havana, Cuba and Bahia, Brazil several times, studying the folkloric (Orisha) dances of Cuba as well as rumba, salsa and son, and folkloric (Orixa), samba, and samba-reggae dances of Brazil. In the DC area, Angela continues her studies in Flamenco and other folkloric dance techniques, modern jazz with Maurice Johnson, and modern and ballet with Danilo Rivera. Angela has taught at the U.S. House of Representatives, Office of Naval Intelligence, DC Dance Collective, Flow Yoga Center, George Mason University, George Washington University, Joy of Motion Dance center as well as many middle and highs schools in the DC area. She has performed at Fiesta Latina at the White House for President Obama, and in several dance companies. She lectures and choreographs on stories of Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Cuban dance, as well as the anthropological relationships of rhythms and dances to contemporary dance styles and Musical Theater. She applies traditional and folkloric techniques, and her experiences to her instruction of Ballet, Modern , Fosse and Luigi-styles of Jazz. Angela encourages her dancers to understand the cultural context of their dance style to reach a higher quality of movement and to connect with the experiences that originated the dance technique they are bringing to life.
Elena Ovchinnikova
Dr. Elena Ovchinnikova graduated from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy obtained her PhD in Pedagogic Science (Theory and Methodology of Professional Education in Choreography) and Master Degree in Ballet Pedagogy. Elena has taught in Russia at Moscow State Academy of Choreography (the Bolshoi Ballet Academy) and in the USA at the Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington DC. She is the former Artistic Director of Reston Ballet Conservatory. She is a guest Lecturer of Dance at the International Ballet Festival in Panama, guest lecturer in Methodology of Teaching Character Dance at the Dance Department of Michigan State University, and a guest teacher and choreographer for ballet academies across the USA, Austria, Spain, and Hong Kong. Elena was awarded in three International Ballet Competitions in Vienna (Austria), Roma (Italy), and Zagreb (Croatia). She has professional performing experience as a soloist and principal dancer in ballets of the classical repertoire to include Swan Lake, Raymonda, Nutcracker, Giselle, Cinderella, Coppelia, Paquita, and Don Quixote. She performed with renowned companies to include Russian State Theater “Ballet of Russia” (Moscow, Russia), Astana Opera (Astana, Kazakhstan), New Classical Ballet (Moscow, Russia), and Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker (USA) which toured internationally. Additionally, Elena graduated from Russian State Medical University in Moscow, Russia and obtained Master Doctor/Master Science degrees, and thus, possess both a PhD and MD. Dr. Elena Ovchinnikova is the author of scientific publications in ballet pedagogy, psychology and ballet medicine. Her publications and PhD thesis are stored in the database of Russian State Library – the leading scientific library of Russia.
Afi Soul Lydia
Afi began her studies in African dance in a non-formal setting in the Spiritual/African centered community of Washington DC primarily in traditional Ghanaian dance. When Afi was 2years old, she began taking classes with Melvin Deale and the African Heritage dancers. This was her first formal introduction to African dance technique. As Afi got older, she began to explore her love for dance in other style of dance primarily modern, jazz, tap and ballet. Some of her main instructors her Carol Foster (DCYE), Toni Lombre (Tap), Sandra Fortune-Green (Ballet). When Afi was 14 she went back to studying Sene-Gambian technique at Kankouran West African Dance with Assane Konte. Since then Afi has explored Traditional Yoruba dance (Nigeria and Trinidad and Tobago) as well as Afro-Cuban dance and continues to travel worldwide to learn and explore indigenous and traditional dances throughout the African Diaspora. Some of her dance performance highlights are GWU Lisner Auditorium, Howard Crampton Auditorium, Curacao Jazz Festival, and Cote D’Ivoire, West Africa.
Lesina Martin - Dance Institute of Washington

Lesina Martin is a native of Detroit, MI. She graduated from Howard University in 2003 with a B.A. in African Studies. While there, she co-founded Nsaa Dance ensemble – the University’s first campus organization for African dance and drumming. Also during her time at Howard, she joined Farafina Kan under the direction of Mahiri Keita-Edwards – son and protégé of Mamady Keita. In 2004, she appeared on Moustapha Bangoura’s instructional video series Tinkanyi (1 and 2). For ten years, she taught outreach throughout the Washington, DC area with Traditional Expressions, a program designed to teach African folkloric studies (dance, music, song) as youth arts enrichment. She entered the classroom full-time teaching Social Studies in 2014, and is now a Teaching Artist and Co-Director of Farafina Kan Junior Company. Over the years, Lesina has travelled to West Africa on several occasions to study traditional folklore in Guinea, Senegal, Gambia, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire. Most recently, she rejoined Moustapha Bangoura to record Tinkanyi 7 and 8 in Conakry, Guinea. Lesina endeavors to continue the mission of working with the community and fellow educators to increase awareness of African cultural heritage.

Edwin Sort - Dance Institute of Washington
Edwin Sorto is a life-long dancer who has spent the last decade specializing in Afro-Latin dances: son, salsa, bachata, and rumba.He dances professionally with CaziKe Dance Company (10 years), directs youth company Estrellitas de Sorto (5 years), and teaches elementary school dance as his profession. His current artistic focus is creating the next generation of Latin dancers, predominantly focused on the youth farthest from opportunity. His work centers the African influence on Latin dance and culturally relevant instruction to Black and Latinx youth. His work has been viewed millions of times online and has been featured on Inside Edition, in Huffington Post, in an Emmy award winning short documentary, and other news outlets.