NCYTE is proud of our hundreds of alumni. Our dancers have gone on to success throughout the country and the world in a range of careers. Here are just a few who have continued on in dance:
Find her on twitter or instagram @elizabethrburke for performance and teaching updates.
Elizabeth Burke is a founding member of two award-winning companies: Dorrance Dance and Caleb Teicher & Company. She also dances for New York-based choreographers Derick Grant, Aaron Tolson, and Xander Weinman (Reaction). Elizabeth is on faculty at the American Tap Dance Foundation and can be seen in Nostalgia: A Tap Movie. Most recently, she understudied in Jason Samuels Smith’s run at the Joyce Theater, and presented her own work at the Yard Festival on Martha’s Vineyard.
“My time in NCYTE proved to be a unique experience. NCYTE nurtured my development as both an artist and human being. I maintain close relationships with former and current members, and enjoy working with the ensemble and watching it evolve. I am forever indebted to Gene Medler and his phenomenal teaching, mentorship, and friendship.”
Years in NCYTE: 1987 – 1997
A 2011 Bessie Award and 2012 Princess Grace Award winner, Michelle Dorrance is one of the most sought after tap dancers of her generation. She has received critical acclaim for both her performance skills and innovative choreography. Dorrance Dance / New York, which Michelle founded in 2011, tours the world to rave reviews.
Michelle performed for four years in the Off-Broadway sensation, “STOMP” and has also performed with Manhattan Tap, Savion Glover’s “Ti Dii,” Jazz Tap Ensemble, Barbara Duffy & Co, Rumba Tap, Derick Grant’s “Imagine Tap”, and Jason Samuels Smith’s “Chasin’ the Bird.” Her performing credits also include a number of television shows and commercials. A highly sought-after instructor throughout the world, Michelle is on faculty at Broadway Dance Center. She holds a B.A. from NYU.
“NCYTE is my rock. The foundation upon which my love for and life in tap dancing and hoofing was built. I couldn’t have asked for a more thoughtful, artful and inspiring mentor than Gene Medler. Like Gene says ‘Dance to express, not to impress’- an NCYTE motto for life!”
Years in NCYTE: 1991 – 2000
Whitney Goodman grew up dancing and performing with the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble under the direction of Gene Medler. She has a background in conservation biology, and currently teaches school in Durham. Whitney enjoys making chocolates with her mom, climbing, traveling, and dancing with Footnotes Tap Ensemble.
“Dancing with NCYTE cultivated my love of dance and performance and helped me to develop discipline and skills that are useful in any endeavor. I loved my years with NCYTE and have so many wonderful memories of friends, practices, performances, and the amazing opportunity to study with incredible master dancers.”
Years in NCYTE: 1996-2003
Rachel Kiel grew up in Chapel Hill and started dancing with Gene Medler at the age of five. After high school, she majored in music at Wesleyan University. She is a songwriter, singer, and instrumentalist who has released two albums of original music: Table Manners and Television Waltz. Rachel currently lives in North Carolina and incorporates tap dancing into her recordings and live performances with her band.
“NCYTE is truly a family in which all members push each other to be their best selves both personally and artistically. I feel so grateful for the friendships I made in the company and for the lessons I learned there about self-confidence, hard work, and musicality.”
Years in NCYTE: 1983 – 1991
Zans McLachlan began tap dancing with Gene Medler at age eight and became a founding member at age 10 of what became NCYTE. Since majoring in dance and biology at Swarthmore College, Zans has tapped in North Carolina, Chicago, and Russia. He also finds time to hang out with his family, do origami, and work on the web. His artistic influences include Honi Coles, Thelonious Monk, Michelle Dorrance, George Clinton, Sam Weber, and Gene Medler.
“NCYTE could not exist without Gene Medler. He was my greatest mentor, and helped me find an artistic voice through tap, pushing me to be more than I thought I could be. I can’t hear a song without laying polyrhythms on top in my head or with my feet. It is only with an adult’s hindsight that I realize the sacrifices and passion Gene required to build such a wonderful and cohesive community out of a ragtag crew known then as The Children’s Tap Company. Tap is love, and Gene is the heart.”
Years in NCYTE: 1999-2001
Mary Fletcher Peña has danced since early childhood but it wasn’t until her teenage years that she began focusing on dance forms that put special emphasis on feet: flamenco, Irish step dancing, and her favorite, rhythm tap. When she’s not dancing, playing in the backyard with her little girl, or having a nice meal with her husband and friends, Mary is practicing law at a firm in downtown Raleigh.
“I count my relatively brief tenure with NCYTE as one of my most positive and formative experiences as a dancer. The talent and commitment of Gene Medler and fellow company members back then – and still today – is an exceptional legacy to the tap community.”
Years in NCYTE: 1994 – 1996, 1999 – 2002
Darwin Smith is a singer/songwriter/producer/guitarist/rapper/dancer/all-around-fun-guy. He started his own indie pop/rock band called Darwin Deez in 2007 in New York City. The band tours internationally. He lives in Asheville, NC.
“NCYTE was a sweet chance to feel some real agency as a young artist and a budding human being. Gene Medler always brought his whole self to the proceedings, and in doing so he modeled so much more than great dance technique.”
Years in NCYTE: 1996-1999
Erica Bava Summerlin has been involved in the dance industry for over 25 years. She has danced her way across the country from California to North Carolina and everywhere in between. An accomplished dancer and performer, over the past 10 years she has become a well known and highly accomplished teacher and choreographer. In addition to being the Director of Competitive Dance at ExtravaDance & Tumble, she also directs the TUTU Express Daycare Dance Program and works alongside the executive producer for Northbend Productions to produce theatre camps, musical productions, and shows for fund raisers and charity events.
“Being a member of the ensemble was a huge part of my high school life. I have so many great memories that are still with me today. The first class training from Gene, along with all the teachers he brought to us and performance opportunities I had, have been the basis for all of my dance endeavors moving forward.”
Years in NCYTE: 2000-2005
Leah Wilks is a Durham-based dancer, teacher and choreographer. She currently teaches release technique, contact improv and composition at a number of schools and studios in the area, dances for Gaspard and Dancers in Durham, and works on a variety of video, movement, theater and multi-media projects throughout the Triangle under the guise LeahWilksDance.
“One of the primary things I learned from my years with NCYTE was how to be professional when it comes to dancing, something which I think very few professional dancers ever receive at such a young age. In terms of the dancing itself, even though I am primarily a modern dancer nowadays, the rhythmic sensibilities I honed in NCYTE make up a large part of the underlying structure of much of my work.”