July 14, 2014/For Immediate Release

Media Contact: Lauren Whitaker, 336-734-2891, whitakerl@uncsa.edu



Alumnus Matthew Donnell will preside over auditions on Aug. 9

WINSTON-SALEM – Alumnus Matthew Donnell returns to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) as director of the Preparatory Dance Program, which provides after-school training for 3rd-8th grade students.  A native of Mount Airy, he began his dance training in the UNCSA preparatory program, and received his high school diploma from UNCSA in 1999.

Donnell will preside over auditions to the program on Saturday, Aug. 9 in the Robert Lindgren Sonja Tyven Founders Studio (formerly Studio A) in Gray Building on the UNCSA campus, 1533 South Main St. Open registration is from 9:30 to 10 a.m., and auditions are from 10 a.m. to noon. For more information about the auditions, contact Donnell at donnellm@uncsa.edu, or 336-734-2939.

Matthew Donnell

Alana Niehoff

Joining Donnell on the Preparatory Dance faculty is Alana Niehoff, a former Radio City Rockette and performer with American Ballet Theatre Studio Company. She will be primary teacher for the program.

“This is exciting news for our very young dancers,” said Dean of Dance Susan Jaffe. “As a veteran of the program with more than a decade of experience both dancing and teaching dance, Matthew is uniquely qualified to direct our preparatory program. And Alana brings a wealth of energy and expertise to her role.”

The program provides pre-professional training with live accompaniment, in UNCSA’s state-of-the-art dance facilities. It features low tuition rates, with scholarship assistance available.  No prior dance experience is required for third and fourth graders, and a special boys class will be offered. Preparatory dance students have the opportunity to perform in UNCSA’s critically-acclaimed production of The Nutcracker.

“This appointment brings me full circle,” Donnell said. “My experience with the preparatory dance program was my entry into a gratifying career in the performing arts. “I am eager to introduce children to the beautiful world of dance.”

He succeeds Dayna Fox, who directed the program for 25 years. She joined the School of Dance faculty fulltime in 2008.


Matthew Donnell attended the preparatory program for three years, beginning in 1991, and completed four years of high school at UNCSA.  Following a 10-year career with the Kansas City Ballet, he moved to New York City to focus on acting. His regional theatre credits include Kansas City Starlight Theatre, Kansas City New Theatre, Houston Theatre Under the Stars, and the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Donnell recently wrote, produced, and performed in his first oneman clown show The Chapeau Show in New York, benefitting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. His silent short film series, THE ADVENTURES OF JIM has been screened in film festivals based out of Winston-Salem and Los Angeles. He is a contributing writer for the online publication DIY Dancer, and currently sits on the board of governors for the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), the union that represents ballet and opera performers. He has taught for and rehearsed professional ballet companies and schools across the country including UNCSA, the University of Alabama, Kansas City Ballet, Montgomery Ballet, and Alabama Dance Theatre.


Alana Niehoff is a native of Aurora, Colo. As a child she trained and tested in the Royal Academy of Dance, Cecchetti, and Vaganova Ballet Techniques. In 1998, at the age of 15, she was ne of four Americans chosen to compete at the Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland. Upon arrival home, she was invited by Wes Chapman to join the Alabama Ballet where she performed soloist and principal roles. Following her time in Alabama, she was selected by John Meehan to join the American Ballet Theatre StudioC ompany in New York City. While there, she also performed with the main company during their Metropolitan Opera Season. After ABT, she became one of the World Famous Radio City Rockettes and performed with the company for 11 years. As a Rockette she appeared on various national television shows and was featured in Dance Spirit Magazine. Additionally, Alana has performed with Lemon Sponge Cake Contemporary Ballet in Colorado and alongside stars such as Liza Minnelli, Richard Simmons, Tim Gunn, Jane Lynch, and the cast of “UglyBetty.” She received her acting training at T. Schreiber, and William Esper Studios in New York, and appeared in the world premier of Maury Yeston's Hans Christian Andersen with Maine State Music Theatre. She has taught and choreographed across the United States for almost two decades.


As America’s first state-supported arts school, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in music, dance, drama, filmmaking, and design and production. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.