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Artistic Staff

Artistic Staff

Shirley Ubell, the Founder, began teaching dance in her home in the 1950s, incorporated CMDE in 1962 as a non-profit community organization, and was its Director for most of the organization’s existence. Ms. Ubell had a BA in Psychology and a Master of Science in Movement Therapy from Hunter College and is a Registered Dance Therapist. She took her first modern dance lesson at the late age of 19 from Maya Kyla and continued at The Martha Graham School and at The Mary Anthony Dance Studio. After stepping back from running CMDE, she continued for many years to serve in an advisory capacity to CMDE’s artistic and administrative staff and to assist with fundraising, all to have everyone experience the joy of dance. Shirley moved to sunny California in 2015 to be closer to most of her family.

Elissa Machlin-Lockwood, Artistic Director, began dancing at age 3 at CMDE and began teaching dance over 30 years ago. She attended The Martha Graham School, Jacobs Pillow Summer Dance Festival, Bennington College, Simons Rock College, and the New School for Social Research. She has taught students ranging in age from toddlers to seniors and from beginner to advanced in a wide variety of settings, has developed and implemented numerous original programs for CMDE, and continues to teach and present her own choreography. In her role of Artistic Director, she manages all of CMDE’s artistic and professional-development programming, supervises all staff, and is the primary liaison between CMDE staff and the Board of Trustees. Elissa is the Chairperson of the Committee for the Bergen County Week of the Young Child Family Fun Festival, a member of the Advisory Committee for the Bergen County Teen Arts Festival, a board member of ArtsBergen, a member of the Creative Hackensack Team, and serves on the ADA Advisory Board for the Bergen County Department of Cultural and Historical Affairs. She is a former member of the Bergen Arts Grants Panel and a former Board Member of Dance New Jersey. She is also a member of the musical group Hipanonymous.


Allison “Allie” Brown grew up in Hackensack, N.J. As a toddler, Allie would always dance around the house to the music that was always being played. Her parents knew then that she had the gift of dance. When she started middle school she began taking ballet and hip-hop classes at the Center for Modern Dance Education, then went on to join CMDE Dance company under the direction of Janelle Smith- Reed. She graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2015 with her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a minor in Dance. Allison is the liturgical dance leader of the New Hope Baptist Church of Hackensack. She is currently working on obtaining her Master in Education and Dance. She is proud to be a part of the CMDE faculty family (2015).

Kalena Brown was born in Bronx, NY, and raised in New Jersey. She holds a dual (BA) degree from Penn State University in Dance and Psychology. Kalena began dancing at the age of 5 and has studied various genres of dance such as West African Dance, ballet, jazz, hip-hop, and modern dance. She attended Five Star Dance Center during her early childhood years and was a part of the Repertory Company at Center for Modern Dance (CMDE) in Hackensack, New Jersey. In 2010 she attended the NYU Tisch Dance Program for high school students called Dancemaker. During the summer of 2012, she attended the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Professional Division Summer Intensive Program where she studied with prestigious choreographers and teachers such as Keith Alexander and Quenia Ribeiro. Kalena was a part of the Afi-Mojah Dance Company at Penn State where she danced and performed around Pennsylvania. She was a member, fundraising chair, and choreographer of Ambitions Dance Organization at Penn State. Also during her years at Penn State, she attended the American College Dance Festival Association (ACDFA) where she networked and took dance classes to broaden her horizons of dance. Recently, she has finished a winter dance intensive at the Martha Graham School. Kalena has danced and choreographed for the dance company, Forza Malizia Dance Company in NYC where she performs many different genres of dance. Kalena is also a dance teacher at several studios/schools in New Jersey and New York and choreographed for Dwight Morrow’s High School musical Footloose. Kalena continues to train and works on becoming a wonderful dance artist and educator.

Candace Hundley-Kamate, is a multi-disciplinary artist who is trained in Modern Dance and Umfundalai, among other dance techniques, as well as in drumming, storytelling, and visual arts, including fabric design. Candace has a BFA in Printmaking from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and has worked as a visual artist and instructor as well as a performing artist. She studied movement with Kariamu Welsh Asante at Temple University, and with Peter McCoy, Craig Spider Moore, Karen Bamonte, Ron Brown, Mamadou Dahoue, Youssouf Koumbassa, Marie Basse, Wiles Rosangela Silvestre, Kevin Jeff, Marlies Yearby, Ned Williams, Gaynelle Sherod, Lamine Thiam, Hodari Banks, and Theo Jamison, and at the Dunham Institute. Her choreographic experience includes serving as Co-Founder and Artistic Director of The 7th Principle West African-Modern dance company. Candace also has performed with Urban Bushwomen and taught at Columbia University, Manhattanville College, New Jersey City University, The Ailey School, the Annenberg Center Institute for Arts in Education, Broadway Dance Center, and for Young Audiences NJ, Arts Horizons, and the NJPAC Teaching Artist program. She has worked with CMDE as a guest artist in the past, including providing workshops, and choreographing the successful NJSCA grant-funded community work “Violet Moon” in 2004. Her company The 7th Principle was also in residence at CMDE from 2000-2011. Candace says, “As a multi-disciplinary artist, my choreography and teaching reflects many experiences…..I think of dance as one beautiful expression that radiates from the heart; and adds to the legacy of art that has existed throughout the ages..” In 2015-16 Candace will be working collaboratively with dancers on the creation and performance of ONE LOVE, a dance and multi-media work made possible with a grant from the NJ State Council on the Arts.

Yahaya Kamate is the Associate Artistic Director of the Seventh Principle Performance Company and the Founder of Kamate Traders, “trading art for smiles”. He has per¬ formed worldwide and soloed with companies including the National Ballet Cote D’Ivorie, Ballet D’Afrique, and Mask Dance Company. He is has taught at Mark Morris Dance Center, for NY and NJ Young Audiences, Alvin Ailey, and elsewhere. He has been with Seventh Principle as principal artist/choreographer since 1997. He has taught and performed for CMDE since 2004.

Silinea Lucius, a Maryland native, began her ballet training at Jones-Haywood School of Ballet. Her love of dance eventually led her to Howard University, where she earned a BFA in Musical Theatre. She also trained with the Broadway Dance Center in NYC and the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England. She has taught at the Dance Institute of Washington, Dance & Body Works, and Hudson Repertory Dance, and has performed with various regional theatres including The Shakespeare Theatre and The Kennedy Center. She was a member of Seventh Principle Contemporary African Performance Company and has been a member of the CMDE faculty since 2005.

Linda Mensch has a BA in Choreography from Bard College and is currently the Artistic Director of The Moving Company in Warwick NY. She taught for many years at the Gowanus Arts Exchange in Brooklyn, at bard College, and the Center for Modern Dance Education. Her choreography has been performed from London to NYC. In 2007 she choreographed the work “CMDE Family Tree” for the Center’s students, staff, and alumni, which was performed at the organization’s 45th Anniversary Gala. In 2008-2009, she taught people living with cancer at Gilda’s Club Northern New Jersey as part of the Can Dance! collaboration with CMDE. She currently teaches and assists with marketing at CMDE, and teaches in the Road Recovery program.

Alexandra-Evangelina Stavrou has developed a repertory of expressive dance pieces which often incorporate the live performance of her own music. She has performed in New York City, throughout the US. Greece, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea, at venues ranging from NYC’s Brooklyn Academy and City Center, homeless shelters, and mental health centers to dirt clearings in remote villages in Papua New Guinea. Reared with traditional Greek music and dance, Alexandra went on to train and perform with artists from Java, Bali, West Africa, and India. For 8 years she was a member of the NYC- based Haitian Troupe “Shango” which performed dances from the Voudon Ceremonies and danced with the Balinese-American Dance Theatre. Invited to be a Guest Director by the National Theatre Company of Papua New Guinea, Alexandra remained as a Visiting Artist, where she was known as “meri bilong singsing” (woman who sings and dances) to the villagers. Next, she went to New Zealand, choreographing, teaching, and composing, and performing with “Spartan Wave” at theatres and music festivals, for seven years. Alexandra received a BFA in Dance Theatre from Tisch School of the Arts, where she performed in the works of Gladys Bailing, David Gordon, Yvonne Rainier, and Anna Principal. She was a Clark Center New Choreographer and a NYFA recipient. She composed the music and dances and acted in “Gogol” at the Public Theatre, and was an original cast member of the Glass/Wilson opera “Einstein on the Beach” Returning to her native NJ, Alexandra was welcomed at CMDE. She currently teaches for CMDE’s outreach programs for individuals with disabilities. She joined the faculty around 1997.

Amanda Trott has been dancing since she was 3 years old. She took a children’s class at CMDE until she was 9 and then she joined the Meaningful Movements until 2010. She became a member of the Meaningful Movements Dance Company in 2001 and performed with them all over the east coast for 9 years. In 2010, she joined marked dance project and served as the company’s Community Outreach Coordinator for 5 years. She returned to CMDE in 2009 as a student and joined the faculty in 2015, co-teaching a class for teens and adults with disabilities. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Ramapo College in Social Science and a Master’s Degree from Montclair State University in Counseling. She was born with Spina Bifida and she uses a wheelchair to dance. She believes that dance is for everyone.

Barry Rochester has a 3rd-degree Black belt in Combat Jujitsu and holds a first degree in the art of the Samurai sword. In addition to teaching non-combat martial arts for CMDE, Sensei Barry instructs police officers, correctional officers, and bodyguards. His training includes various throwing arts and weapons. Barry graduated with a BSEET from NJIT. He also instructs fitness classes, including Zumba®, Zumba Gold®, and Tai Chi. Barry is a member of the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA/NASM) and is certified as a Personal Fitness Trainer and professional Group Exercise Instructor. Barry has served his country as a United States Marine in the Vietnam Conflict and participated in the retrieval of the Mayaguez from the island of Koh Tang on May 15, 1975. Barry’s objective is to share his experience and knowledge while giving his students the strength and confidence to live a safe and enjoyable life. In 2009, Barry received a Russ Berry Foundation award for outstanding community service, in recognition of his work volunteering and running a mentoring program at NJIT since 1990, a program that Barry still runs to date. In July 2014, Barry was recognized as Fitness Instructor of the Month by Hackensack UMC Fitness & Wellness Powered by the Giants Group.

Katonya Rochester is the founder of Glorified Bodies Fitness, LLC and has been working in the fitness industry since 1984. Katonya holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Physiology and an Associate’s degree in Exercise Science. She also has a NJ Teacher Certification in Health and Physical Education and Driver Education. Katonya is a member of the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA/NASM) and is certified as a Personal Fitness Trainer and professional Group Exercise Instructor. She also has a dance background in Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Hip Hop, and African Dance, which contributes to her high energy and skill in instructing fitness classes. Katonya’s goal is to educate and motivate individuals to keep their bodies healthy and strong, not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. Katonyah was voted HackensackUMC Fitness & Wellness Powered by the Giants Group Fitness Instructor of the Month for May 2015.


Lateefah Fleming began her dance career at the age of seven, as part of the Afro-Caribbean group La Rocque Bey Dance Company in Harlem NY. She earned a degree from City College of New York, and is certified in Pilates Mat, Pilates Reformer, Personal Training, Group Fitness, Pre- and Post-Natal Fitness, and Vinyassa Yoga, and also holds a Masters Degree in Natural Health. She has performed with The Perry Dance Company, the Middle Eastern Dance Company Rainbow Essence, Oasis, and her own company, Raqs la Majali World Dance Fusion Experience. She has trained in numerous dance techniques at Broadway Dance Center, The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, Steps on Broadway, Perry Studios, and with various masters of Eastern dance. She started her own fitness firm, empowerfit, and has extensive experience in the exercise and fitness fields. Lateefah taught Middle Eastern and other dance forms at CMDE for many years and still returns to present occasional workshops and performances.

Elizabeth Keen is a dancer/choreographer/teacher hybrid who stages dances for opera. theater and the concert stage. She directed her own group, THE ELIZABETH KEEN DANCE CO. from 1965 to ’91, with support from the NEA Dance Touring program, Artists-in-the Schools and NYSCA. Theater/opera credits include: SALOME with Maria Ewing (LA Opera & Covent Garden, Winter’s Tale, The Tempest, Royal National Theater, La TRAVIATA, FALSTAFF (Glydebourne) & CARMEN Glyndebourne and The NY Met) – all directed by Sir Peter Hall; L’Ange de Feu, LA Opera, Netherlands Opera, Geneva), directed by Andrei Serban.  
She is emerita from Juilliard dance division and currently teaches composition in the Alvin Ailey-Fordham BFA Program. BA Barnard College, MFA Sarah Larah Lawrence College.
Claire Porter has had her work performed in Germany, Holland, Latvia, Korea, India, throughout the United States, including at The Joyce Theater, NYC Town Hall, NY Horticulture Society, American Dance Festival, Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, Bates Festival, Jacob’s Pillow, Florida Dance Festival, and the Kennedy Center, among others. She performed at the Mikhail Baryshnikov Art Center Gala, set a solo on Kansas City Ballet, and performs her one-hour forensic poetry piece about the muscles, Namely Muscles, at festivals, medical schools, and universities. Porter has received many fellowships, including from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. Currently, she is working on a project supported by a Live Music for Dance Award and receives support from the Jody and John Arnhold Foundation. She has an MA in Dance from Ohio State University, a BA in Mathematics, and is a Laban Movement Analyst. She was delighted to be working again with CMDE. More information at www.cportables.com. Claire is an advisory board member and frequent guest artist and choreographer for CMDE.


Dian Dong, Co-founder and Associate Director of H.T. Dance Company/Chen & Dancers in NYC, began her dance training at CMDE and earned her BFA from the Juilliard School. She has performed with Anna Sokolow’s Player’s Project, Kathryn Posins, and Kazuko Hiraboyashi, and at Lincoln Center Institute and the American Dance Festival. Ms. Dong has taught at New York University, Montclair State College, CMDE, and the Arts Gate Center in Chinatown. In 2002, the HT Dance Company received the New York State Governor’s Award for the Arts. Her two daughters both commuted to study at CMDE for many years, and they performed with Dian at CMDE’s 45th Anniversary Gala in 2007.

Susan Thomasson has performed with the companies of Kathryn Posin, Raymond Johnson, Bill T. Jones, Bill Evans, and Rosalind Newman, soloed with Anna Sokolow’s Players’ Project, and assisted in the reconstruction of Sokolow’s repertory. Susan also tours a solo/duet concert of Pilobolus Dance Theatre’s work. In addition to her own work, she now performs with Claire Porter, Elissaveta Iordanova, and Mark DeGarmo. As a teaching artist for Lincoln Center Institute, she helped in the development of many of the Institute’s national affiliates. She has been a faculty member of Brooklyn College, the Rutgers University system, Hofstra University, Manhattanville College, Fairleigh Dickinson University, the University of Northern Iowa, and Brooklyn’s Berkeley Carroll School. She is an artist-in-residence for the 92nd St. Y, NY City Center, the Joyce Theater, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the Theater Development Fund. Her work has been presented at DanceNow, NY’s 40Up Series, Dance Theater Workshop, the 92nd Street Y’s Harkness Dance Series, the American Dance Guild, NY International Fringe Festival, Flea Theater, New York’s Riverside Dance Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, Hopkins Theatre at Dartmouth College, and Iowa’s Cedar Arts Forum. She received a 2011 Choreography Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and was recently commissioned by the University of Nebraska’s Lied Center for an evening-length work. In 2006 Susan received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Teaching Artists and the New York State Council on the Arts and a Governor’s Award in the Arts from the State of New Jersey. Susan is a frequent master teacher and panelist, and a writer of arts and arts education materials. She holds a BFA from the University of Utah. Susan is on CMDE’s advisory board and she has performed and taught as a guest artist at CMDE.