Meet Our Instructors

 

 

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Alison Dutka Jones

Alison Dutka Jones is a native of Wilmington, NC and has called GAFA Studios home for two decades. Having trained at GAFA for most of her formative years, she is very dedicated and attached to the mission of GAFA Studios. She left GAFA in the fall of 2007 to pursue a B.A. in Dance which she accomplished in spring of 2010 from Belhaven University. She was offered employment at GAFA immediately following college, and was very honored to be offered the position as a Ballet and Pointe instructor. In 2011, Alison was offered an internship position in London, UK for Springs Dance Company. The year spent at Springs was one which influenced her teaching methodologies as well as her choreographic processes. She returned to GAFA in 2012 and is proud to be GAFA’s Director.  Beyond the world of teaching Alison has received training in technique and performance in North Carolina as well in Mississippi, Texas, and New York. She has toured internationally in England, Scotland, and Canada with Elevate Dance Company, and domestically with Intimation Dance Company and The Story Collective. In 2012 she was offered a position in Kibbutz Dance Company apprentice program  located in northern Israel, as well as Re:Birth Dance company located in South East London in 2011. Dance has always been close to Alison's heart, and she has always loved to share her passion for dance with others whether through teaching or performing. She is so proud of all of her students, could not ask for a better staff and is so exceedingly blessed to be a vital piece of the GAFA Studios family. Outside of the walls of GAFA, Alison enjoys spending time with her husband, Patrick, her family, and little dog, Benedict Cumberbark. 

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Charlotte Culotta

Charlotte Culotta has been dancing for almost thirty years. She grew up in Florence, SC where she studied ballet, tap, jazz and pointe at The School of Dance Arts. She later became a member of their classical ballet company, South Carolina Dance Theater, where she furthered her study of ballet and pointe. She began teaching dance at The School of Dance Arts while in high school. Charlotte went on to Winthrop University where she received a BA in psychology with a minor in dance and performed with Winthrop Dance Company. Upon graduating she spent a year working for Cru in New York City and then moved to Wilmington, NC when she married her husband, Kevin. Charlotte enjoys teaching and instilling a love for dance in young children and is grateful for the opportunity to do so at GAFA. Most importantly, Charlotte loves being a wife to Kevin and a mom to her three little ones, Jack, Addrew and Katy.

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Molly Giffin

Molly Gumbert, an Ashland, Ky native, started dancing at age 2 where she found her home on the stage. She was blessed with the opportunity to perform with various companies, such as The Ashland Regional Dance Theatre, The Ashland Youth Ballet, JADCO, Jeslyn Performing Arts,  and many more! She received a scholarship in dance with Milligan College in Johnson City, TN where she was captain of her dance team all 4 years. After graduating with a B.S in Communications and Humanities and Bible minor she continued to teach, choreograph, and dance professionally with local companies. Molly moved to Wilmington the summer of 2016, and immediately found studios to be involved in. Molly currently works in admissions at Cape Fear Academy, and in the evenings teaches dance and coaches the CFA Cheer squad. 

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Debra Berger

Debra Berger is currently on the artistic staff and faculty for US
International Ballet Company. A native New Yorker she trained with The School of American Ballet and performed as a young dancer with The New York City
Ballet Company. Debra has taught Master Classes in Ballet and Jazz while
performing across the US and Brazil. It is a joy to work with the students at GAFA and contribute to the dance community in Wilmington.

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Melanie Dubel

Melanie Dubel received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance from UNC-Greensboro in 1995.  Her teaching experience of over 22 years includes studios, community arts programs and an adjunct dance instructor position in Lees-McRae College's Theater Arts department. She has been Artistic Director with GAFA since 2005. Though she loves to teach, Melanie also enjoys being on the receiving end of the choreographic process. Her many community and outreach performances include Dance-a-lorus, Wilmington Dance Festival, Lumina Festival, Forward Motion Dance, The Story Collective, Project Dance NYC and American Dance Festival. But her heart is with her students. Sharing her passion in faith and artistic expression with the most amazing students is the best work anyone could do. When not in the studio, Melanie can be found walking her dogs, doing Pilates or spending time with the most supportive husband in the world.
 

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Mandy Butler

Mandy Butler attended high school at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts where she began her intensive ballet training. She spent summers studying with the American Ballet Theatre in New York City, Boston Ballet, and The Hungarian International Ballet.  Upon graduating high school she accepted a job offer with the Nashville Ballet where she performed for three years. While performing Mandy taught in the ballet school associated with the company and fell in love with teaching children. She retired from performing and moved to Wilmington to earn a teaching degree from UNC Wilmington. She also graduated with her Masters in Language and Literacy Education. She is currently a nanny and teaching at GAFA so she can spend time with her boys, Murphy and Winston.

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Leigh Williams

Leigh Williams received a B.S. in Dance Education Grades K-12 from East Carolina University. She has taught Drama, Music, Art, and Dance in public and private schools, grades K-12 for 25 years. Leigh and her husband Jeff built The Arts Company, Inc., a performing arts school located in Faison,NC, providing quality arts education to ages two through adult. Seven years later they founded Project Reclaim Ministries, a non-profit ministry with the mission of reclaiming the arts for God’s glory, hosting main stage concerts, arts collaborations, and community events, reaching thousands of children and implementing a child sponsorship program with World Vision International. While her degree is in arts education, she has a deep love for teaching little ones and being a part of the spark that ignites a love for learning, and she teaches early language arts and cultural and historical dance at Christian Homeschool Center. Leigh believes that children thrive in education and the arts and are inspired towards excellence in all things when they know they are loved and valued, when they understand that they have been carefully knit by God, and when they see arts and education as a means to know Him deeper. She recently developed The Have Knots, a community organization which awards scholarships to students in the arts, athletics, and academics. Leigh has been homeschooling her four children for 11 years and she is excited to join the amazing vision of GAFA Studios.
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Elizabeth Ferguson

Elizabeth started dancing at the age of 3 in Atlanta, Ga. At age 6 she danced at a Russian ballet school and started pointe at 8 years old. She went on to dance at Atlanta Festival Ballet and became the youngest professional company member. She performed as Clara in The Nutcracker, soloist in The Little Mermaid, Michael in Peter Pan, and many other roles. She went to the Philippines with AFB's artistic directors to the sister studio in Cebu and performed and toured Beauty and the Beast as Beauty. She has danced for many years in different styles from ballet, contemporary, and jazz. She is very excited to be able to teach and help students grow, she has always wanted to share her knowledge of ballet to others. She thanks God for this opportunity and for giving her this beautiful talent to share. She hopes for a great season and to make her students into beautiful ballerinas.