Gillian Murphy and Juel D. Lane among star alumni to headline UNCSA Virtual Festival of Dance

Four distinguished alumni of UNCSA will headline the first ever UNCSA Virtual Festival of Dance being held over two weekends  ̶  Jan. 29-31 and Feb. 5-7. Gillian Murphy (high school ’96), principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, and Kyle Davis (high school ’08), principal with Pacific Northwest Ballet, will offer master classes in ballet. Dwana Smallwood, former principal with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and founder of a nonprofit performing arts center in Brooklyn, and Juel D. Lane (B.F.A. ’12), award-winning dancer and choreographer who performs with Camille A. Brown & Dancers, will offer master classes in contemporary dance.

The festival offers dancers aged 11 and up world-class conservatory training from esteemed faculty of the UNCSA School of Dance and guest instructors from across the country. The virtual festival is an adaptation and expansion of the Festival of North Carolina Dance, which annually has brought hundreds of dancers and instructors from studios across the state to the UNCSA campus for a weekend of classes and workshops.


“While we will miss the excitement and energy that festival participants brought to our campus each year, the COVID-19 pandemic has given us the opportunity to reach even more young dancers across the Southeast, who can participate from the safety of their home or local studio,” said Festival Director Dayna Fox, a member of the Dance faculty.

All events will be conducted online via Zoom. Registrants will need a laptop and web camera to participate. Registration closes Jan. 22 for the first session and Jan. 29 for the second session.

“Another advantage of the virtual environment is that we can accept more participants,” Fox said. “We will add more instructors and workshops as needed.”

Participants can register in one of three tracks: young dancers (ages 11 and 12); intermediate; or advanced. The headliner master classes, scheduled on Friday evenings, are open to advanced-level dancers only.

In addition to the four headliners, instructors will include alumni Shelby Finnie (high school ’13), a Radio City Music Hall Rockette who has appeared in “The Prom” on Broadway and “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” on NBC; Lindsay Fisher (B.F.A. ’02), dancer and choreographer who teaches at Point Park University and Slippery Rock University and is codirector of FORGE Summer Dance Intensive; and Ashley Lindsey, who has danced with the Limón Dance company, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, Helen Simoneau Dance and Jessica Gaynor Dance Company and is director of UNCSA Summer Dance Program.

“We are thrilled to offer expert instruction from some of our most accomplished alumni, along with our world-class faculty,” Fox said. “This festival is a must for young dancers who want to take their training to the next level. Opportunities to train with such high-caliber professionals are rare and precious.”

More about the headliners

Originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Kyle Davis trained at Makaroff School of Ballet and on scholarship at Rock School for Dance Education. Davis also trained at summer courses including Milwaukee Ballet, School of American Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet School.

Kyle Davis

Kyle Davis

A prizewinner at the 2008 Prix de Lausanne competition in Lausanne, Switzerland, Davis also won various awards in the Youth America Grand Prix Regional and Finals in 2005 and 2006. He was a 2007-08 recipient of the Elizabeth Harriet Weaver Memorial Scholarship and the Martha and Spencer Love Foundation Scholarship for Excellence in the Arts at UNCSA.

Davis has performed principal and featured roles in Balanchine’s "Agon," Divertimento from "Le Baiser de la Fée," "Jewels" (Emeralds, Rubies), George Balanchine’s "The Nutcracker" (Cavalier, Tea, Candy Cane), "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" (Oberon, Puck), "La Source," "Square Dance," "Tarantella, "Theme and Variations," Peter Boal’s "Giselle" (Peasant Pas de Deux), David Dawson’s "Empire Noir," William Forsythe’s "New Suite," "One Flat Thing," "reproduced," "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude," Ronald Hynd’s "The Sleeping Beauty" (Prince Florimund, Blue Bird pas de deux, Gold and Silver pas de trois), Jiri Kylian’s "Petite Mort," Jean-Christophe Maillot’s "Roméo et Juliette" (Benvolio, Acolyte), Crystal Pite’s "Emergence," "Plot Point" Alexei Ratmansky’s "Concerto DSCH," "Pictures at an Exhibition," Jerome Robbins’ "The Concert," "Dances at a Gathering," Kent Stowell’s "Cinderella" (Prince, Jester), "The Nutcracker" (Prince, Commedia), "Swan Lake" (Jester, Pas de trois), Twyla Tharp’s "Brief Fling" and "Waiting at the Station."

In addition to performing with Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), Davis has choreographed for the company’s mainstage, as well as several works for the Professional Division students at PNB school. He has also created work for Chop Shop Contemporary Dance Festival, was a choreographic resident at UNCSA in 2017 and Gonzaga University in 2020, and a guest repetiteur with English National Ballet.

Juel D. Lane is a dancer, choreographer, filmmaker, and one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch.” Most recently he won Celebration of Dance: Choreographer of the Year and Best Choreography for Live Performance for Ailey II’s "Touch & Agree." 

Juel D. Lane

Juel D. Lane

In 2012, Lane became the first Black independent Atlanta-based choreographer ever to be commissioned by the Atlanta Ballet, choreographing “Moments of Dis” for the company. Lane was selected to participate in the 2015-16 Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation New Directions Choreography Lab. Lane’s dance on film, "The Maestro," was featured on He recently choreographed on Ailey II and Dallas Black Dance Theatre. Lane was last seen as a dancer in the Emmy Award-winning TV special, "Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert" on NBC.

He was recently awarded the UNCSA Alumni Artpreneur of the Year Award, Southwest Arts Center Young Innovator Award and Best Music Video for Bronze Lens Festival. Currently, his film “Touch & Agree” is being screened at multiple film festivals.

Gillian Murphy’s repertoire includes leading roles in all of American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) current full-length classics and in shorter works by Balanchine, Robbins, Kylian, Tudor, Forsythe, Graham, Lubovitch, Taylor, Ashton and de Mille. She has also starred in world premieres of new creations by Ratmansky, Morris, Millepied, Dorrance, Elo, Barton, Quanz, Weir, Neumeier, Hill, Wheeldon, Stiefel and Tharp.

Gillian Murphy

Gillian Murphy

Murphy was raised in Florence, South Carolina, and received her high school education and advanced dance training under the tutelage of Melissa Hayden at UNCSA. As a teenager, Murphy was awarded the Prix de Lausanne Espoir and joined ABT in 1996. After being honored with a Princess Grace Foundation Award, she was promoted to soloist in 1999 and to principal dancer in 2002. She starred as Odette/Odile in ABT’s PBS television production of "Swan Lake" and as Giselle in the New Zealand Film Commission’s movie of Stiefel and Kobborg’s production of "Giselle" at the Royal New Zealand Ballet, where she was a principal guest artist for three years.

Murphy has danced as a guest artist throughout the world, performing with the Mariinsky Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, the Staatsballett Berlin, the Kiev Ballet, the Australian Ballet, as a ballerina with the Metropolitan Opera and in numerous other international engagements and galas. She is a proud charter member of the concert ensemble Stiefel and Stars, and for three summers in Martha’s Vineyard, she directed a training program for dancers aged 12 to 14, Dreamcatchers.

In 2009, Murphy was the recipient of a Princess Grace Statue Award, the organization’s highest honor. In 2014, Murphy received an honorary doctorate in the performing arts from UNCSA. In 2018, she graduated summa cum laude from St. Mary’s College of California with a Bachelor of Arts.

Proclaimed “one of the greatest modern dancers” by Vogue magazine, Brooklyn-born dancer Dwana A. Smallwood danced before millions as a guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” as a part of her “The Best…” series. Smallwood learned to dance at an early age, which led to her tenure as a principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Dwana Smallwood

Dwana Smallwood

She has appeared on "Sesame Street," "Good Morning America," "The Today Show," "Vibe," "BK Live," Wbls FM 107.5, ABC 7 NY News, “The Kennedy Center Honors” and was featured on Oprah’s "Where Are They Now." Smallwood was also featured in American Public Broadcasting’s "Great Performances" and the documentary "Beyond the Steps," and appears in the documentary "A Hymn for Alvin Ailey." She was featured in Vogue magazine, photographed by Annie Leibovitz; National Geographic; Girl Scout Magazine; Harper’s Bazaar; New York Moves; Essence Magazine; and was the second black woman to ever grace the cover of Dance Magazine. 

In 2013, she founded the Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center (DSPAC), as a not-for-profit, bringing top-flight dance instruction for children and youth, aiming to mold elite dancers, create community identity, and encourage creative activity in neglected inner-city neighborhoods.

Smallwood studied at UNCSA and received a B.A. from SUNY Empire State College with a dance major. She also studied at the Ailey School, London Contemporary Dance School, Brooklyn Arts & Cultural Association, the Martha Graham School, Jubilations and The Palucca School in Germany.

She has received numerous accolades, including an honor by New York City Council member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. (Key to the District, 36th District City Council Proclamation), Brooklyn Borough President Citation, City Council Citation (Outstanding Arts & Culture Leader), Brooklyn’s Best Honors, and Bedford Stuyvesant Museum of African Art (Nelson Mandela Humanitarian Award), among others.

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January 12, 2021