Board of Directors


Dance Ontario has an active Board made up of working professionals and members of the dance community across the province. Our Board includes dancers, choreographers, educators, studio owners and more!

Interested in joining? Members in good standing are eligible to nominate another member or to self- nominate leading up to our AGM in September each year. If there are spots available on the Board, nominations are also taken throughout the year. If you are interested in joining the Board of Dance Ontario please email

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Helming your board is Samara Thompson (Chair) who is an independent choreographer and dance educator, specializing in the integration of computer technology with dance. She has presented her choreography across Canada, was the recipient of a Paula Citron Dance Award for choreography, has spoken at the CORPS de Ballet International Conference, and written for the Dance Current. Samara graduated with her MA and Honours BFA in Dance from York University. She trained in Canada and the United States with many notable artists and performed in works by Dana Reitz, Carol Anderson, Chuck Davis, and Trish Armstrong. Samara is also a co-host on the Toronto radio show Evi-Dance, where she interviews local and international guests, such as Ohad Naharin, Bill T. Jones, Crystal Pite, and Christopher House. She currently teaches dance at York University.

Lee Sela (Vice-Chair) currently practices law in Simcoe County and the GTA as a sole practitioner with her own criminal defence firm, as well as prosecutes for the Public Prosecution Services of Canada as a Federal Crown Attorney in Simcoe County. Her entrance into law followed a long history in the Arts. At a young age, Lee studied at Canada's National Ballet School's Professional Ballet Program and Associates Program. In her last year at NBS, Lee was cast to sing the role of the 3 Boys/Spirits in Opera Atelier's production of The Magic Flute, and thus followed a number of years performing as an Apprentice with the Atelier Ballet and singing opera with Opera Atelier, The Canadian Childrens' Opera Chorus and Canadian Opera Company. Her love of theatre spilled into her studies at Queens' University, where she graduated with Honours with a BA(H) in Drama with a focus on directing and a thesis in "Body-Mind Centering: Somatic Awareness" in dance.




Jennifer Watkins (Treasurer) holds a B.F.A. degree from York University with special honours in dance. Following graduation she continued her dance training at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre as well as exploring other modern and jazz styles in Toronto and New York City. She has served in administrative capacities for the Danny Grossman Dance Company, the Young Audience Division for R.H. Entertainments, Dance Umbrella of Ontario, Theatre Direct and CADA-ON, as well as Interim Grants Officer for the Toronto Arts Council.
She received a Harold Award in 2000, worked with Moving Pictures Festival, and currently works with the Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company.



Anuschka Roes (Secretary)  has 40 years experience in the dance field teaching classical ballet, national/character dance, Benesh Movement Notation andf pedagogy, as well as producing a series of informational training videos on the latter.

An examiner for both RAD and ISTD, she was appointed manager of the NBS Teacher Training Program in 1996.



Debbie Kapp taught Dance at L. B. Pearson School for the Arts, London, for over 20 years and is a graduate of York University's Dance Program (1979). She taught ballet and Creative Dance at the Thornhill School of Ballet and wrote the Dance curriculum for the Thames Valley District School Board, regularly presenting workshops for teachers on how to teach Dance in the school setting. Debra is the Producer/Artistic Director of the show "Art Harvest", an annual showcase of Dance Education programs in Southwestern Ontario, produced as a benefit for the Jason Edmonds Emerging Artist Fund. She won an Award of Excellence from the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America for the innovative and creative programming of the presentation Resilience in the Face of Trouble and Despair. Debra is a co-founder of The London Alliance of Dance Educators,and co-owner of Action Pak, a Resource for Dance Educators.

Emily Cheung is an educator, performer and choreographer. She received her B.F.A., B. Ed. and M.A from York University specializing in Dance. Most of her training was completed in China, Hong Kong, United States and Canada. She is recognized as one of the leaders in cross-cultural exchange and liaison with foreign artists practicing traditional and contemporary Chinese dance in Toronto. Ms. Cheung also received an award as one of the ten “Voices of Chinese Canadian Woman” in Ontario during the 150th Anniversary celebration of Canada. Ms. Cheung is the Artistic Director of Little Pear Garden Dance Company in Toronto. She specializes in both Chinese Classical dance and Chinese Contemporary dance. Cheung is involved in preserving traditional Chinese dance, creating contemporary dance that honours Chinese traditions, and collaborating with artists from other disciplines and ethnic backgrounds to create works with unique aesthetic sensibilities.




Jane Gardner is General Manager of Quinte Ballet School of Canada that offers professional training program for students in Belleville and provides recreational dance and outreach programs for all ages including Dancing with Parkinsons. She has managed cultural facilities, touring companies, regional theatres and creation-based companies all over Ontario.

While Executive Director at Theatre Ontario, she launched a health & safety training program for theatre managers, supported joint marketing programs for summer theatres and worked with Ontario's arts service organizations to secure the initial funding and resources that helped to create ArtsBuild Ontario.


Kaylynne (Kate) Lowe is a retired Halton District School Board teacher who taught Dance and Drama to intermediate students for many years. She also wrote programmes and curriculum and ran workshops for colleagues. Kate directed and choreographed numerous school musicals and coached school dance teams. She was part of the planning team which developed HDSB's Creating A Scene held annually at Mississauga's Living Arts Centre and was creator/founder of HDSB's annual dance festival Florescence celebrating International Dance Day for which she received an Award of Merit. Kate is a dancer with Burlington Footnotes (a senior's performance troupe), also designing and constructing costumes. She volunteers in several schools helping with their Dance and Drama programmes, choreographing musicals and developing original dance and drama pieces for festivals. Recently Kate began working with autistic children in an educational setting. She coordinates the Halton Dance Network together with Alan Faigal.




Dr. Lisa Sandlos has been a faculty member at York University since 1998, teaching in the Department of Dance, the School of Kinesiology and Health Sciences, the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, and the Faculty of Education. Dr. Sandlos holds a PhD in Gender, Feminist, and Women’s Studies and an MA in Dance at York. She is qualified as a Certified Movement Analyst (CMA) through the Laban Institute of Movement Studies (LIMS) and as an Expressive Movement Analyst (EMA) at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). These certifications equip her to work with a diverse range of students in educational or coaching contexts. Building on her doctoral thesis, a main trajectory of Dr. Sandlos’ research focuses on the sexualization of young female dancers and the impacts of this trend on dance education, public perceptions of dance, and girls’ psychological and social development. Another branch of her work is accomplished through Soma-City, an organization that uses interdisciplinary methods of research and teaching to explore topics at the intersection of human movement and landscape design. An enthusiastic presenter of her academic research and the various embodied movement/dance modalities that she practices, Dr. Sandlos has been invited to share her expertise at various conferences, educational and training programs and festivals in locations including Theatrum Mundi in Paris, France; The University of El Paso, Texas (UTEP); The University of California Polytechnic, Pomona; The University of the West Indies, Bridgetown, Barbados; and Etobicoke School of the Arts (ESA) in Ontario, Canada. Drawing on her extensive experience in facilitating inclusive, community-based dance, she is the co-director of a dance-environmental activism project in Erin, Ontario which is part of the international Global Water Dances initiative.

Lola Ryan Past Chair is fluently bilingual and has been involved in theatre and dance across North America and Europe as a teacher, performer and writer since 1975. She has taught and performed across North America and Europe and was a founding member of EDAM, Vancouver's innovative dance and music collective. Currently, she teaches in the Theatre Department at the University of Ottawa, trains dancers and actors in improvisation for performance in Ottawa and Athens, Greece and teaches public classes in Improvisation at Ottawa's Dance Network. Lola also works extensively in the schools, teaching dance and movement. She has served on the commissioning committee of  Dance Ontario and on the board of the Council for the Arts in Ottawa. She was a member of the Arts Advisory Committee to the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.



Patrick Parson, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, has been a dancer and musician from the age of 10. He continues to draw much of his artistic inspiration from the vibrant multicultural community that makes up the Caribbean. Patrick spent his early years singing in choirs, composing and singing calypsos, playing with steel orchestras, dancing and drumming with community folk groups, and studying ballet and modern dance at the Caribbean School of Dance and the Dance Academy of Trinidad and Tobago. He was trained in the dance and drumming styles of Guinea and Senegal by Mor Thiam, the Artist Director of Les Ballets Africains, and in Canada graduated from The School of Toronto Dance Theatre. Patrick’s founding of Ballet Creole in 1990 brought Black Dance to mainstream Canadian stages, establishing the Company as the forerunner of Black Dance in Canada. Patrick is the recipient of the Entrepreneurial Award of Merit from the African Caribbean Chamber of Commerce, and the New Pioneers Award from Skills for Change, for his pioneering work in the world of dance in Canada. He has served as cultural adviser to the Toronto Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, Metro Cultural Affairs, Ontario Arts Council, Harbourfront Centre, Laidlaw Foundation, and the Arts Advantage Program at Downsview Secondary School. Patrick holds a Masters Degree in Dance Ethnology from York University where he has been a course director in the Faculties of Fine Arts and Kinesiology. He regularly conducts workshops and lecture demonstrations for universities and schools in Ontario. Through extensive studies at the Katherine Dunham Institute for Humanities, Patrick has been awarded certification as a teacher of the Dunham Technique, which he teaches in Canada where it is little known and practiced.


Suzan Richards is a loving mother of Julianne and Samuel. She is the proprietor of The Cultural Arts Studio, School of Afro-Caribbean Dance, Wellness Community for the past 26 years. Formally trained in Ballet Jazz at The Montreal Jazz Dance Academy and the West Can Folk PerformingCompany in Montreal, she is an inspired performing artist, seasoned teacher and choreographer. Her strong cultural roots from the island of Dominica motivated her to create The Cultural Arts Studio, School of Afro-Caribbean Dance, a space where folk dances from Africa & The Caribbean can be shared and celebrated. Known in the community as “Teacher Suzan”, she has touched the lives of thousands of youth in this community through this endeavor. In addition Suzan is a Professional Artist & Arts Educator with Multicultural Arts In Schools and Communities (MASC) a local non profit organization that offers schools and communities arts experiences led by professional artists that awaken the creative process, deepen cultural awareness, encourage engagement, and give vivid demonstration of Canada’s diversity. She is also the co-cost of Caribbean Calendar on Rogers-22 and is a ZYIA ACtive Representative holding strong to the pillars to Uplift, Light and Empower the Community.


Valizan (Rob Galbraith) began his joureny into Middle Eastern Dance in 1995 when he joined The Society for Creative Anachronism, an education group that learns about the Middle Ages by recreating it. Teachers Rayah Bint Youssef and Moria The Black instilled basic technique while classes with the sublime Roula Said took him to a new plateau. Current influences include Yasmina Ramzy, FatChance Bellydance, Jillina, Rachel Brice and Francisco Carranza. He has become a sought after solo performer and teacher for his powerful style and energy. He also heads up his own tribal group, Shades of Araby, celebrating its 15th year of dance. Appearances include Arabesque Dance Company productions Asala and Oum, Black Forest Tribal Fest in Offenburg Germany, The International Bellydance Conference of Canada, Tribalcon, Sacred Circles, Tribal Camp Oslo in Oslo Norway, Tribal Revolution in Chicago and Face Zenna at the Royal Ontario Museum. He also headlined In the Heat of the Hafla in Milwaukee, Belly Boo Bash in Dayton, Ohio, and appeared at Cabin Fever and the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, NY. He began teaching American Tribal Style bellydance at Arabesque Academy in 2004 and became an apprentice in the company in 2005 when he began training in Egyptian Folklore with master teacher Yasmina Ramzy. He was honored to be a lead dancer in the Arabesque Dance Company, and in the all male bellydance troupe, The Righteous Rogues of Raks. He continues to teach regularly across Southern Ontario. Valizan holds a degree from the Ryerson School of Journalism, took the Arabesque Academy Pro Course, is the first male to graduate from the FatChance BellyDance Teacher Training program and is the first FatChance BellyDance Brother Studio.


Yasmina Ramzy is a choreographer and visionary committed to the expression of Bellydance as high art. She spent the first 15 years performing throughout the Middle East for royalty and heads of state, then founded the critically acclaimed Arabesque Dance Company and Orchestra, Arabesque Academy and the International Bellydance Conference of Canada (IBCC). She received her key training from leading masters in Egypt and Syria including Aida Nour of the Reda Troupe and Mohammed Khalil, director of the National Folklore Troupe of Egypt. Her unique and highly creative choreographies have won numerous awards and commissioned by many dance ensembles internationally including the Bellydance Superstars. She regularly performs, teaches and lectures in over 60 cities on 5 continents. Bravo TV says she "has taken Bellydance to another level" and the Globe and Mail says "she will go down in history as having redeemed Bellydance".