Board

Dr. S Ama Wray

S. Ama Wray, PhD, was recognized by the Comparative & International Education Society, receiving their African Diaspora Emerging Scholars Award in 2018. An Associate Professor of Dance at UC Irvine, she gave the 2019 closing plenary for Dance/USA’s conference in Cleveland, Ohio. She received her PhD in dance studies at the University of Surrey, developing – Embodiology® her Africana-informed improvisation praxis. Embodiology® has been introduced at the following institutions: Temple University, Martha Graham School, UC Berkeley, Atlantic Center for the Arts, University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Ghana, Legon, University of Texas, Austin, World Dance Alliance Conference, NDEO Conference, Dance Studies Association, Middlesex University, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Princeton University, Urban Movement Arts, Serendipity-UK, Jazz Antiqua, and the California Dance Educators Association. She is the custodian of Jane Dudley’s emblematic solo, Harmonica Breakdown (1938). Awarded a National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts Fellowship in the UK, she co-produced the award winning Te x t e r r i t o r y, a cellphone-based interactive storytelling performance. As founder of JazzXchange her collaborators have included music: Wynton Marsalis, Bobby McFerrin, Gary Crosby, MBE, Zoe Rahman and Julian Joseph, OBE, Gary Crosby, MBE and Derek Bermel. Her work continues to be performed and commissioned on three continents.

Toni Jones

Toni Lynn Jones, a native of Pittsburgh, PA, obtained her BA in dance from Point Park University, and her MFA from the University of California, Irvine. For over two decades Ms Jones was a member of The Pittsburgh Black Theater Dance Ensemble, Barbara Sullivan’s Atlanta Dance Theater, and Chester Whitmore’s Central Avenue Dance Ensemble.
Under the direction of Chuck Davis and the African American Dance Ensemble, she had the pleasure of studying in West Africa. Ms Jones had the exceptional experience of escorting 40 middle school students to Beijing and Shanghai, China, to perform for the 2008 Olympic Committee.
Dedicated to establishing and promoting arts in education Toni Jones’ production company, Toni Thomas Productions worked throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District producing shows for elementary school students.
A dance and physical education teacher for over 20 years for grades K-12, Ms Jones occasionally lectures at colleges on various dance cultures and currently teaches Modern dance at Paul and Arlene Kennedy’s Universal Dance Design School.
She is the proud mother of two adult sons, an author, an authority and documentarian of the Black American Dance experience. She authored the biography of Matthew Rushing, Associate Artistic Director for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Sylvia Jackson

A St. Louis, MO native started her professional career as a vocalist and dancer touring nationally and as far afield as Canada and Japan. Parenting replaced touring and Sylvia became the host of the “Original Comedy Store” the “Belly Room” in Hollywood.
Sylvia is currently the Recruitment Director for the Riverside County Black Chamber of Commerce whereas a successful recruiter and trainer management professional with over thirty years experience and measurable achievements, she is a visionary leader and team player affecting customer relationship management, and community outreach penetration. Sylvia is the recipient of the RCBCC People Award for outstanding Community Outreach 3 years consecutively.
She is an active and dedicated volunteer with our youth, the homeless, the hungry, and incarcerated women. Music and Dance is crucial in Sylvia’s life and creativity while being a consistent and committed supporter of the arts. She can still be persuaded to take on small performing assignments from time to time just for pleasure.

SAUNDRA HOLMES

Saundra is the Principle Contract Manager for the Government and Commercial Systems at Safran Electronics & Defense, Avionics USA LLC formerly Rockwell Collins, Electromechanical Systems Division (EMS). She directs Safran’s EMS contract functions throughout the division, providing strategic policy, leadership, and direction. She guides and oversees Safran’s EMS contacting activities in every area from programs studying advanced material testing to Aircraft Pilot Controls Systems. She represents Safran EMS and oversees contracting procurements to various Agencies of the Federal Government, industry, and international organizations. Mrs. Holmes holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Southern California and a Master’s Degree from Loyola Marymount University. She is a long standing member of the National Contract Management Association, serving two terms in the Southern California South Bay Chapter as Treasure and two years serving the National Black MBA Association as Publications Chair.

ROSA GARCIA

Rosa Garcia is the recipient of the Donald McKayle Medal Scholar from
UC, Irvine with a MFA in Dance Choreography in Mexican-American Dance &
Cultural Identity. Originally from Santa Ana, she has degrees in dance
from CSULB and New York’s Alvin Ailey American Dance School paid by
scholarships. Her passion in education brought her back to southern
California to give back to her Santa Ana community receiving
certifications in classical ballet Cecchetti USA. Her passion in
teaching dance of various styles has become a journey for her in
becoming an eclectic teacher for over 30 years in higher education.
Seventeen of those years, she developed dance programs for ages 1 and up
for various organizations and community venues. She coaches, mentors her
Santa Ana College students where she teaches to develop entrepreneurial
skills and choreographing for Quinceañeras. She brings guest speakers
to the Santa Ana community such as, the Executive Producer for the
upcoming docu-drama film, “Think: The Legacy” where he addressed helping
families in financial literacy. That same month, Mrs. Garcia was
appointed by Santa Ana City Councilman Jose Solorio to serve as
Commissioner of the Arts & Culture. She’s been an Ambassador for
JazzXchange – Shinning Stars.

Ms. Garcia has performed for various venues and for many award-winning
choreographers such as Marie de la Palme and featured in a documentary,
“Rhythms of Peace” https://youtu.be/pDPJLDviAeM

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on October 18, 1961, to Ellis and Dolores Marsalis, the second of six sons. At an early age he exhibited a superior aptitude for music and a desire to participate in American culture. Wynton assembled his own band in 1981 and hit the road, performing over 120 concerts every year for 15 consecutive years. With the power of his superior musicianship, the infectious sound of his swinging bands and an exhaustive series of performances and music workshops, Marsalis rekindled widespread interest in jazz throughout the world.

Advisors

Amir Banifatemi

Amir Banifatemi is a twenty five-year experienced high tech executive having worked in Europe, Asia, and in the US. He is both an avid entrepreneur and promoter of everything innovation.Amir has held various senior executive positions with P&L responsibilities within very large companies such as EADS, AP-HP (largest European hospital group), and the European commission division for information society and media. His career began in Europe working in R&D and system design for on-board spacecraft medical and scientific experiments. His vision of a broader industrialization led him to establish partnerships with university labs and incubators to productize and market their research projects.His constant focus has always been on identifying and developing future and emerging technologies that can impact society. He has contributed to the formation of more than 20 startups with emphasis on healthcare, medical devices, media technologies and telecom. He was at the origin of the first implementation of a pediatric telemedicine network in Europe in 1989 and won France Telecom best technological innovation award in 1991 for his work in the tele-health field.Amir Banifatemi is an active angel investor, and President of Tech Coast Angels Orange County Network. He is a founding member of K5Launch, one of the first startup accelerators in Southern California. He is the curator of TEDxOrangeCoast and has high hopes for Orange County and Socal as a new center for the arts and science, entrepreneurship and engaged lifestyle

GAVIN HUNTLEY-FENNER

Gavin Huntley-Fenner received his doctorate in Brain and Cognition Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1995 and moved to Irvine in 1996 as an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Irvine. Since then, he has been heavily invested in Irvine’s civic life. Dr. Huntley-Fenner has served as a Governing Board Member for the Irvine Unified School District since 2005, including as President in the current year and in 2008-09. Through the years, he has been actively involved in numerous local boards and education-related leaderships groups, including as a founding member of the Irvine Education Partnership Fund, a member of the Irvine Prevention Coalition, a board member of the Irvine Public Schools Foundation, and a member of the Irvine Chamber of Commerce Legislative Action Committee.

DEIRDRE LOVELL

Dancer, Choreographer, Actress, Director, Producer, Film maker, Photographer, Arts & Health Science Researcher, Holistic Wellness Practitioner, Globetrotter, Mother, Gardener Chef, Mentor, Arts/Health/Environmental Activist, Warrior. Following a twenty-five year international career in dance performance, pedagogy, theater/film production and arts and business management, Ms Lovell embarked on her fourth career as a holistic bodywork practitioner starting her next entrepreneurial venture Body & Soul Therapies in 2004. Film credits include documentary and art house short films commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain, London’s Jazz FM, Tyne Tees Television, Granada Television, Central Television, Channel 4, La Sept, BBC2 and Central Television.

Retired, Ms Lovell currently lives in New York, impacting her various communities as a business-as-usual disrupter, environmental, health and arts activist, business mentor, wellness consultant to an international client base, and learning to love the creative forces that nurture and shape every aspect of her life.

NOELLE WHITE

Noelle White graduated from University of California, Irvine in 2014 with a BFA in Dance Performance and a Minor in Education. In August 2014, Noelle was selected to attend a three week professional workshop in London taught by Dr. S Ama Wray, being one of the founding members of Embodiology®. Noelle served as a research assistant for Dr. Wray in a Dance Therapy Research Study at UC Irvine, where Embodiology®
was implemented for healing purposes for non-dancers. Noelle served on the non-profit Bare Bones Dance Theater committee for 4 years as their Event Coordinator. Currently Noelle serves as an Administrative Assistant to Dr. Wray and Embodiology® along with Assistant Artistic Director and Company Dancer for the non-profit JazzXchange.

PHOENIX ALEXANDER

Since completing graduate degrees from the University of California, Irvine’s School of Social Sciences and Claire Trevor School of the Arts, she has worked both in arts/entertainment and insurance/finance, with forays into technological fields. In all positions her abilities to communicate, plan and manage have been paramount. At UCI, she served as a planning analyst, developing capital improvement proposals and strategic plans. She was the guiding force behind UCI’s Library Facilities Master Plan, and her work was instrumental in obtaining State funding for the $35-million Science Library.After working in non-profit arts management in Los Angeles for several years, Dr. Alexander entered the insurance industry, where she served for more than eight years. As VP and chief operating officer of Worksafe Goup, a subsidiary of Mutual Risk Management (MRM), she built and managed an in-house staff of 13 and 20 contract consultants. She currently works as COO and Producer for Mannatee Entertainment, a start-up film production company where she recently produced a comedy short for the national film festival circuit. She also freelances as a writer/editor and dramaturge. Her recent credits include business and strategic plans, scripts, marketing collateral and website copy.

SOLEDAD TAYLOR

For the past 33 years Soledad Taylor has worked diligently in the financial sector. She is an EA Tax Advisor, licensed to practice before IRS. Committed to giving back she is on the board for two other non-profits besides JazzXchange; both are in the health sector – MRSA and mental health. Additionally, since 2001 she’s remained committed to her church in Orange County – a program that feeds the homeless. Most importantly, Soledad is a mother of 3 children and grandmother of 6.

Volunteers

JANICE STIEBER ROUS

Janice Rous is the founder of Body Dialogues, a practice that teaches Alexander technique, yoga, Chi gong, breathing coordination, and depth psychology. She has a master’s in arts education and has been teaching her work since 1981. She continues to train people from all walks of life and has been invited to teach in five countries and in many schools in the USA, in addition to her private practice. Her most current position is art and wellness ambassador at Atlantic Center for the Arts.

KIMBERLY DENNIN

Kimberly Dennin is a graduate from Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, with her bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Anthropology. After graduating she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA for a year with the non-profit ONE Neighborhood Builders in Providence, Rhode Island working on community engagement and affordable housing. After finishing her VISTA year, Kimberly moved back to Irvine and has been involved in a variety of activities, including work for the Heritage Museum of Orange County. Kimberly aspires to have a career in academia studying representation in video games specifically focusing on gender and sexuality.

NATALIA PINPIN

Natalia Pinpin is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Irvine, double majoring in Dance and Computer Science. As an interdisciplinary student, she is interested in exploring the intersection between technology and dance in areas such as artificial intelligence and computer vision. In the Computer Science department, she is participating in faculty research about algorithms education, and she enjoys teaching programming, working at Code Ninjas where she teaches game development to kids. After graduation, she plans to have a career in the tech field.

MIA CUTLER

Mia Cutler studies Dance and Political Science at University of California, Irvine and will graduate in 2022. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Mia was working as a professional dancer for the Walt Disney Company and Make-A-Wish foundation, but at present is studying full- time and teaching dance part time. At UCI, she works with the founder of JazzXchange, Dr. S. Ama Wray, as both a student and research assistant. Mia looks forward to continuing her personal and professional development under Dr. Wray’s guidance. She hopes to continue with her success as an emerging artist, activist, and assistant as she transitions into graduate school and beyond.