Photo by Katrina Taggart-Hecksher
co-founder & artistic director
Jess Burgess co-artistic director & founder of RVA Dance Collective is a performer, choreographer and dance educator living in Richmond, Va. A James Madison University graduate, Burgess has trained extensively with acclaimed professionals in the dance community in the United States and abroad, including Sonia Rafferty, Donald Laney, Toneta Akers Toler, Isabel Gotzkowsky, Scott Smith (Siobhon Davies) and Keith Thompson. Delicately balancing a keen eye for the creative and a strong sense of business development and management, Burgess has flourished after graduation in an arts administration capacity in the nonprofit sector.
Burgess is also the Artistic & Executive Director at Dogtown Dance Theatre. RVA Dance Collective operates as the company in residence at this historic Manchester arts building. She is responsible for conceiving, developing, and implementing the artistic vision and focus of the organization, and for major decisions about the ongoing development of the aesthetic values and activities.
Jess was the 2010 recipient of the Theresa Pollak Award for Excellence in the Arts for her work with RVA Dance Collective, and the 2018 recipient of Style Weeky's Women In the Arts Award for her work with Dogtown Dance Theatre.
Hungry to satisfy her creative needs and entrepreneurial tendencies, Jess immediately began creating work and performing. Jess' work has been seen by patrons of the arts at Jack Guidone Theatre (DC), Dance Place (DC), James Madison University and Courtsquare Theatre (Harrisonburg, Va), Mcvey Studio Theatre (RVA), Grace Street Theater (RVA), Dogtown Dance Theatre (RVA), Trillium Theater (WVA), and Merce Cunningham Studios (NYC). Burgess also worked with Z Mullins Dance Company for three seasons as a company member, choreographer and graphic designer. Jess' choreography Piece of Mind was selected to be a part of the 2009 Dance Place in Washington, DC.
Her passion for dance extends well beyond the stage and into the studio. A seasoned educator, Burgess has taught and choreographed for Dance & Company in Harrisonburg, Va, Little People's Creative Workshop (RVA), University of Richmond, Radford University, James Madison University and St. Catherine's school in Richmond, Center for the Arts in Henrico, Thomas Dale Specialty Center for the Arts, and Trillium Youth Perfoming Company (Lewisburg, WVA). Jess currently teaches the RVA Dance Collective’s free community modern class at Dogtown Dance Theatre.
Photo by Dave Parrish
Danica Kalemdaroglu (co-artistic director & founder) is originally from Norfolk, Va but has been living, creating, dancing and teaching in Richmond since 2007. She began dancing as a child under the Martinez family, descendants of the Cuban National Ballet.
Her passion for modern dance was sparked by Elbert Watson, former principal for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. She went on to continue her education and training, achieving a B.A. from Goucher College and a M.F.A. from the University of Colorado at Boulder; both degrees in dance performance & choreography. Kalemdaroglu has studied intensively and performed works of many renowned artists such as Bebe Miller, Trisha Brown, Jose Limon, Martha Graham and Kevin Wynn. She performed professionally as a full company member of Washington, DC based Bosmadance from 2005-2007.
Her relationship with movement spans a small lifetime. While in college, injury plagued her as it naturally does all dancers. Kalemdaroglu began taking Pilates to supplement physical therapy. It coincidentally unlocked a hidden talent, for teaching that unknowingly fostered her dance career. Referred to by her clients as the "body psychologist", Danica now teaches Pilates with an integrative approach to the human body. Her heightened kinetic awareness layers with her deep understanding of the governing laws of movement. She is fully certified in all levels and on all apparatus through the classical training program of the Pilates Center (Co). Kalemdaroglu offers private lesson (apparatus & mat) out of her home based studio, DK Pilates, in the far west end of Richmond, Va.
As a dance educator, Kalemdaroglu has held many teaching positions. She is former teaching faculty at West End academy of Dance and Virginia Commonwealth University, teaching modern technique and Pilates. Over the years she has taught a variety of classes, styles and workshops for organizations like Excel Movement Studios (DC), Ballet Nouveau Colorado (Co), Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (Co), Joy of Motion (DC) and The Norfolk Academy (Va). She makes regular guest appearances teaching master classes and lecturing for various events such as the Regional Pilates Conference (Md) and the National Dance Convention (Co).
Kalemdaroglu has been creating momentum for her artistic voice with works that are emotionally and socially identifiable to anyone. With each work she strives to conjure reaction from her audience, making them carry a piece of her art home in their contemplation. Her work has been seen throughout the country on stages such as Triskelion Arts Theatre (NY), The Cunningham Studio (NY), Jack Guidone Theatre (DC) and the University of Colorado. She was a 2006 Metro DC/Dance Award nominee for her solo little white pill; a work selected for the annual choreographers showcase at Dance Place (DC). That same year, stuck in the waiting room was featured in the annual showcase presented by the University of Maryland, College Park. Kalemdaroglu is also a founding member of modern dance companies Collective Dance NY and Dragonfly Dance Experiment.
DK Dance Productions, Kalemdaroglu's solo dance company, merged with jessburgess|dance in 2007. Jess Burgess and Kalemdaroglu joined out of an intense need to live within their art form. They are able to give more of themselves through collaboration while maintaining their individuality as artists. They strive to connect with artists across disciplines to enrich the community as a whole.
Marge describes herself as a lover of movement and languages, having spent most of her ambulatory years calling upon the body as her chosen tool of artistry. Her affinity for languages blossomed in adolescence after travels to Chile and France, and she pursued a minor in Spanish alongside her BFA in Dance Performance & Choreography from VCU (2011). Upon graduation, she ran away to join the circus (literally!) and set off to complete the 2-year professional contemporary circus program at FLIC Scuola di Circo in Torino, Italy as a hand balance and dance acrobatics specialist.
Photo by PEPE LUARCA
After performing with companies in France and Spain, her visa tragically dried up; Marge returned stateside and dove headfirst into the world of yoga and has been accruing practice, training, and teaching hours ever since, currently certified as an E-RYT 500-hr through Yoga Alliance.
As a result, her current movement style marinates at the intersection of dance, contemporary circus, and yoga asana. She has been privileged to travel, study, teach, create, and perform worldwide in places such as Italy, Spain, France, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica, Trinidad, Chile, and all along the US Eastern coast.
She is thrilled to join the RVA Dance Collective family and is looking forward to being immersed in the Richmond art scene. Don’t miss her company classes - practitioners in Marge’s hands can expect a unique blend movement, grace, passion, and awakening to one’s own innate artistry. Read more about Marge and her current offerings at www.margarucia.com.
Photo by Mike Keeling
Shannon Comerford, who grew up in Amelia, VA, got her start dancing at Joy’s School of Dance. During her time there she was able to compete in several regional and national competitions and had the opportunity to perform on cruise ships and at Walt Disney World.
She continued her dance education at Radford University and recently graduated with a BFA in Dance Performance. She performed in many main stage productions in works choreographed by different faculty members and guest artists.
At Radford, Shannon was lucky enough to perform works by danah bella, Bob Boross, Amy VanKirk, Deborah MchLaughlin and Margaret
Devaaney, as well as complete a residency with Jenai West. She was also blessed to perform in New York at the New York Jazz Choreography Project and was an apprentice for d a n a h b e l l a DanceWorks.
On top of performing, Shannon was given the opportunity to work backstage both as the co-stage manager and assistant stage manager for ballet productions at the University. She also loves choreographing and on top of presenting work in student shows was fortunate enough to present a piece at the Mid-Atlantic region of the American College Dance Association in 2015.
In her free time Shannon enjoys sleeping, watching Netflix and browsing BuzzFeed! She is so excited to be a part of RVA Dance Collective for the 21-22 season and can’t wait to continue learning and growing.
Helene Leichter was born and raised in Stamford, CT. She is in her third year
of undergraduate studies at the University of Richmond, where she is pursuing
a B.A. in dance and English with a minor in Women, Gender, & Sexuality
Helene began as a hip hop dancer at a very young age, and eventually
discovered a passion for contemporary and modern dance. She has received
training from New Canaan Dance Academy (CT), Greenwich Academy (CT), NYU Steinhardt’s summer dance intensive, Urbanity Dance (MA), and the University of Richmond’s Department of Theatre and Dance.
In 2018, Helene was the president of Greenwich Academy’s Dance Corps, where she gained experience as a choreographer. In the fall of 2019 she choreographed a contemporary dance piece, Safe Zone, about the rising prevalence of gun violence in American schools.
To accompany the piece, she wrote a spoken word poem. She later partnered with #UNLOAD, a Connecticut-based organization dedicated to using the arts to create a discussion about gun violence, to organize a community performance of Safe Zone.
Helene has performed with Urbanity Dance’s summer intensive as an ensemble dancer in the Boston Contemporary Dance Festival since 2018. Helene was also an ensemble dancer in Olga Kisseleva’s music video for her song “Breaking Old Ties” in 2018. She performed with her studio’s hip-hop company in the Stamford Thanksgiving Parade (2015) and the New Canaan town’s Holiday Stroll (2017-2019). In her first year at the University of Richmond, she performed a solo structured improvisation for the Department of Theatre and Dance’s Celebration of Dance. That same year, her Advanced Contemporary class was tasked with creating a collaborative final performance while in quarantine. This video project was recognized by the Dean of Arts and Sciences as one of the most inspiring student projects to be created during the pandemic.
This is Helene’s first season with RVA Dance Collective, and she could not be more excited!
Hailing from Queens, NY, Elkey Love started dancing at the age of 19 at Miami Dade College. He continued his training at the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet where he was contracted dancer. Elkey graduated with his BFA focused in dance from New World School of the Arts. He has attended the American Dance Festival at Duke University three years in a row on a scholarship. This is Elkey's second season with RVA Dance Collective.
Katy McCormack, a Richmond native, began dancing at Richmond Dance Center at the age of three where she studied ballet, jazz, tap, and lyrical. In
high school, Katy attended Henrico High School’s Center for the Arts where she studied under Victoria Fink and fell in love with the art of Modern
Dance. In 2009, she began her education with a BA in Theatre and Dance at James Madison University and Minor in Exceptional Education.
While at James Madison, she performed for various works by students, faculty and guest artists such as Daniel Burkholder and Julio Matos and was
a member of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble.
Photo by Mike Keeling
During the summer 2012, Katy was fortunate enough to travel to London, England where she saw over forty performances and studied modern dance technique with instructors from the Laban Center. In the spring of 2013, Katy’s piece “Ladylike” was chosen as one of the student works for The Contemporary Dance Ensemble’s concert, New Voices in Dance.
Upon graduating from James Madison University in 2013 Katy participated in the first Richmond Dance Festival, performing in a piece by Pamela England of Ground Zero Dance and also interning with Becky Ferrell of FDance. Katy stays busy by working at a dietician’s office in the Richmond area, nannying, and also teaching modern technique at Richmond Dance Center. Katy is thrilled to be with RVA Dance Collective for her fifth season and can’t wait to see what other adventures come her way!
Photo by Mike Keeling
LaWanda S. Raines earned a B.FA in Dance and Choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University. She choreographed Children of Eden (Manchester High School), pieces for Latin Ballet of Virginia productions (2004-2014), and Langston is My Man (African American Repertory Company).
Her adjudicated works have presented at Black College Dance Exchange Star Foster Choreographer’s Showcase, and the Richmond Dance Festival. Her performance experience includes repertory in Modern, Contemporary, Latin Jazz, Musical Theater, Hip Hop, African Caribbean, Latin Social Dances, and Flamenco.
LaWanda works as a teaching artist, and has a M.F.A in Dance and Creative Process with a Certificate in Dance Production from St. Mary’s College, California. Her work tackles issues of mental illness, social justice, and addiction. Mrs. Raines strives to create work that is both entertaining and thought provoking. She is grateful for each opportunity she gets to create with the language of dance. LaWanda is excited for her first year as a company member with RVA Dance Collective!
Photo by Kat Super
Grace has always been dancing in Virginia’s Commonwealth; she was born in Henrico, she started dancing at the age of three- following her older sister. Grace worked closely under Glenda (Sink) Hale and Sara Clayborne, training year-round at The Dance Company and attended summer ballet intensives at Charlottesville Ballet. In 2013 she began taking modern dance classes from Jess Burgess. This lead to guest performing in RVA’s Dance Collective 2016 show “HOME” and then again in the 2018 show “Voices” that same piece was also performed in the 2018 Richmond Dance Festival. In 2019 Grace was in “This Title Gave Me Anxiety” a piece Shannon Comerford choreographed which was performed at Small Plates RVA at Dogtown Dance Theatre.
In 2016 Rosenberg participated in the first year of Broadway Commercial Dance Intensive at North Carolina’s School Of The Arts under the direction of Elizabeth Parkinson. Taking classes from multiple Broadway performers such as Mary Ann Lamb and Peter Chursin. In early January of 2021 Grace was able to learn more from Parkinson in her beginning Dansphere co-founded with Samantha Burns. Dansphere gave Rosenberg the opportunity to take virtual classes from Dylis Croman, Krisha Marcano, and Julia Mayo.
Photo by Shaun Aigner-Lee
Danielle danced with River City Dance Theater throughout her youth. As she furthered her dance education, she attended Appomattox Regional Governor’s School with a focus in dance. During this time Danielle had the opportunity to intern with two dance companies: MalayaWorks by Annielille Gavino and The Red Project by Johnnie Cruise Mercer, as well as train for a summer with Joffrey Ballet School in New York for their contemporary dance intensive. These three experiences were formative for Danielle’s dance training and catapulted her passion for dance and personal expression through dance.
Throughout Danielle’s university studies she was a part of Virginia Tech’s Fusion Dance Team where she participated in choreographing group pieces for end of the semester showcases. Missing her Richmond roots Danielle returned to RVA where she had the privilege of guest performing with Starr Foster Dance Company. Danielle is a Registered Yoga Instructor (RYT 200) and has a degree in Biology from VCU. Combining yoga with dance allowed her to improve not only her mobility, but also, increasing her strength as a dancer. She is beyond ecstatic to be joining RVA Dance Collective.
Photo by Mike Keeling
Kayla Xavier, LMT has spent the last 4 years in Denver, Colorado pursuing her professional career with Third Law Dance Theater touring *The Sea" under the direction of Katie Elliott. She spent her time out west teaching at the Colorado Ballet and Performing in side projects with Maedee Dupre, D.N.R. Blood Lust, Louder Than Words, and Between the Bones. She is a Virginia Commonwealth University alumni from the College of Dance and Choreography. Other educational intensives include Boulder Jazz Dance Workshop, We Are Artists, and Pilobus. Her preferred style of movement is strongly Horton influence mixed with capoeira and challenged with bits of humor and contact improvisation she learned in her summer intensive with Pilobolus.
Upon graduation, she graciously accepted scholarship to Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy where she became a licensed massage therapist in Denver and now in Virginia. Kayla has her own business specializing in sports massage at Method Massage. She wants to thank her husband for all of his support and compassion for the arts. This is Kayla's second season as a company member with RVA Dance Collective.