Meet Our Instructors
Alison Dutka Jones
Alison Dutka is a native of Wilmington, NC and has called GAFA Studios home for over a decade. 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 has remained on staff as a Ballet, Pointe, and Contemporary instructor. In addition to having a very heavy teaching schedule, Alison is proud to call herself Artistic and Company Director of the junior and senior company at GAFA. Also, recently she accepted a short term teaching position at Snipes Academy of Art and Design as their Dance Instructor. Beyond the world of teaching Alison has received training in technique and performance all over 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 spot in Kibbutz Dance Company 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, and is so exceedingly blessed to be a vital part of the GAFA Studios family.
Melanie Dubel received her formative training beginning at age nine. Growing up in a competition studio, jazz and tap were her favorite classes. But it was her Ballet/Pointe teacher, Marilyn Cloutier, who set a fire in her students to pursue their passions and cultivate their talents for life. Thanks to Marilyn's inspiration, Melanie continued training in ballet, modern, jazz, African and Flamenco throughout college, at the American Dance Festival and in Spain. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance from UNC-Greensboro in 1995. Her teaching experience of over 25 years includes dance studios, community arts programs and an adjunct dance instructor position in Lees-McRae College's Theater Arts department. She has been a director with GAFA, formerly Glory Academy of Fine Arts, since 2005.
In addition to teaching and choreographing, Melanie 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.
Melanie also furthered her training through certification with IM=X Pilates in 2009 and taught reformer classes for a few years. While she no longer teaches pilates classes, she integrates her knowledge and experience into her dance classes to help students with strength and injury prevention.
Teaching students to use dance as the medium to communicate their faith is one of the greatest and most humbling rewards Melanie has experienced in her career. She is grateful for GAFA and those who have been participants in pursuing the vision set before us.
When not in the studio, Melanie can be found walking her dogs, spending time with her family or in the pilates studio.
Anneke De Jong
Anneke is originally from Minnesota where she began her Vaganova training at age 6 with St. Croix Ballet in her hometown of Stillwater. Some of her favorite memories are dancing as Snow Queen in Nutcracker and Diamond Fairy in Sleeping Beauty. During high school Anneke attended Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists and received her first contract at age 17 with Continental Ballet as an apprentice.
In 2013, she moved to NYC to train with Gelsey Kirkland in her Professional Program for two years where she danced in the company premieres of Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, and Nutcracker. Returning to MN, she danced with St. Paul Ballet as an apprentice and then as a demi-soloist with Metropolitan Ballet, where she performed in Romeo and Juliet; Marie in the Nutcracker; the Generosity and Jewel Fairies in Sleeping Beauty and Midsummer Night’s Dream. In 2017 she joined Texas Ballet Theater Professional Division and performed in Ben Stevenson’s Alice in Wonderland and also as the Sugar Plum Fairy guest artist in Clara’s Dream in the Twin Cities. Most recently Anneke has danced as a founding company artist with Magnum Opus Ballet in Madison, WI for two seasons. She had the opportunity to perform many lead and corp roles and choreograph her first professional piece, Cherish, for MO.
Anneke furthered her training during summers with Texas Ballet Theater, Open World Dance Foundation, Dutch National Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, Gelsey Kirkland Academy, English National Ballet, Bossov Ballet Theatre and Kirov Academy of Ballet. A summer highlight was performing a contemporary piece by HET Nat’l Ballet’s Ernst Meisner in Amsterdam.
Anneke was asked to represent Russian Pointe as an Ambassador in 2017 and honored now to be an RP Pro for the past 2 years. She has taught and choreographed ballet and character dance at multiple studios around Madison and the Twin Cities. She feels blessed to share her love of ballet both as an artist and as a teacher with her students! Anneke is grateful for the opportunity to give glory to God through ballet!
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.
Danielle Boisse grew up dancing from the age of 4 and has decided not to let her passion take a back seat as an adult. Dancing at a traditional dance studio in Massachusetts from age 4 to 18, dance was the best part of Danielle's childhood. She stills stays in touch with her dance teacher at age 29 because of the role model Ms. Heidi played in her life, giving her lead roles in recitals as well as teaching opportunities. Danielle moved on to a college dance team where she was introduced to contemporary and hip-hop as well as competition. Breaking her traditional roots, Danielle fell in love with hip-hop and began to teach large classes of college students. Teaching children, choreographing and performing are always going to be a passion, hence why Danielle is so excited to be a part of GAFA!
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.
Karen Pray has been on staff with GAFA for the past 8 years. She also teaches art at Myrtle Grove Christian School. She considers it an honor and privilege to help children explore their creativity and faith through art.
Abbi Jean Howard
Abbi Jean, a Wilmington native, started dancing at age three. She began her official training with Glory Academy of Dance Arts, the former name of GAFA Studios. A few years later, her family moved to South Carolina where Abbi Jean continued her training under the instruction of Kendra Eikenberry at Kendra's Academy of Dance. In 2008, her family relocated yet again to Virginia where Abbi Jean began training at The School of Richmond Ballet. During her six years of instruction with the School of Richmond Ballet, Abbi Jean attended the summer intensives of North Carolina Dance Theater (now known as Charlotte Ballet), University of South Carolina, Richmond Ballet, and Joffrey Ballet. As senior year rolled around, Abbi Jean realized that she no longer wanted to dance for herself or to merely please audiences, but wanted to dance for Christ. As an answer to prayer, she heard of the Christian ballet company Ballet Magnificat and auditioned to be a part of their trainee program. Once accepted, she attended Ballet Magnificat's summer dance intensive to learn more about the ministry. After graduating high school in 2014, she moved to Mississippi that August to begin her training. She was in the trainee program for three years, taking class daily and performing in the community frequently. In 2016, she had the opportunity to travel to Honduras and performed Ballet Magnificat's original works Ruth and Arrival. In 2017, Abbi Jean traveled to Guam, South Korea, and SE Asia performing the same ballets. In 2017, Abbi Jean was promoted to Alpha Company Student Apprentice. During that time, she was able to travel stateside and to the countries of South Africa and Israel performing original works Deliver Us, Arrival, Light Has Come, The Prodigal's Journey and Heaven Come Down. After a year with the company, Abbi Jean received an injury and returned to her family in North Carolina to recover. While recovering, she began teaching with GAFA Studios in the fall of 2018 and couldn't be more thankful for the opportunity.
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.