Skip to Content
Parks and Recreation


Dance Division Staff

Kathryn Wilkening comes to Metro Parks and Recreation from 92nd Street Y in New York City, where she served as manager and then assistant director of the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center. While at 92Y, she coordinated a range of programs including a full schedule of adult, children and teen classes, three performance series, social dance parties, Dance Education Laboratory, Dance/Movement Therapy Training, a company-in-residence and a dance lecture series. She was also involved with the Arts Achieve project, funded by an Investing in Innovation five-year grant, partnering with Carnegie Hall, Cooper-Hewitt, Studio in a School, Arts Connection and the New York City Department of Education to assess and improve arts achievement of students in elementary, middle and high school and measure the impact of higher arts achievement on other subject areas. She was recently invited to serve on the editorial board of National Dance Education Organization’s new journal, Dance Education in Practice. Kathryn grew up in Franklin, TN and moved to New York to earn her bachelor’s degree in Dance Education from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education. She served on the board of the American Dance Guild in 2003-2004 and co-chaired two annual conferences during that time. While working full-time at 92Y, she maintained an active performing, choreographing and teaching schedule. She presented work at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, Manhattan Movement and Arts Center, 92nd Street Y as part of the New York Jazz Choreography Project; at Brooklyn Arts Exchange and the Bushwick Starr as part of Alphabet Arts’ Puppets and Poets project; and presented her full evening work, Metamorphopolis, at Spoke the Hub after being selected as their 2010 Winter Follies winner. She created and hosted dance-a-raoke, a cabaret-style dance improv game show presented in 2009-2010 at 92YTribeca. She recently performed in Going to Tahiti’s original production of Bella’s Dream by Dana Boll and has performed with Renata Celichowska, Nancy Allison, Azul Dance Theatre, Mora XXIII in collaboration with members from The Hold Steady, Graceann Dorse, Nancy Smith, Amir Khosrowpour and Dave Broome, among others. She taught modern dance for children at 92Y and Spoke the Hub.

BARRY GAGER (Ballet Master)
A graduate of Birmingham Southern College (B.A., Dance), Barry Gager began his career as a professional dancer with Alabama Ballet. He joined Nashville Ballet in 1987 as a principal dancer where he performed in Nutcracker (Cavalier, Snow King), Swan Lake (Siegfried, Von Rothbart), The Moor’s Pavane (Moor), and George Balanchine’s Donizetti Variations and Square Dance, among others. He has danced as a guest artist with Huntsville Ballet, Louisville Ballet, Carlisle Project, and Ballet Hawaii. He received his early ballet training at University of Alabama Ballet, Dupree Dance Academy, and Southwest Ballet Center. He has completed teachers’ courses at Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet School (certificate), Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto, and New York’s American Ballet Theatre (certified in primary level through Level 7 and partnering). He has been certified by John White of Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet in the Vaganova Syllabus (Grades I-VI).He has taught at School of Nashville Ballet, Andalusia Ballet Association, Nashville School of the Arts, and the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts. He currently teaches intermediate and advanced ballet with the Dance Division of the Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation and partnering at Belmont University.

Matthew Christensen, from Salt Lake City, UT, began his training in high school at the Ballet West Conservatory and received a full scholarship to the University of Utah, majoring in ballet performance. Two of his earliest and most influential teachers were NYCB principal dancer Conrad Ludlow and the late Willam F. Christensen. He has also studied with Marc Borchelt and Mark Lanham, both principal dancers with Ballet West, and was coached by Royal Ballet first soloist Elaine Thomas. Matthew accepted a contract with Indianapolis Ballet Theatre for his first professional job, where he danced both corps de ballet and soloist roles in ballets including the world premiere of 1001 Nights by Artistic Director Eldar Aliev. He was requested as the primary partner for principal dancer Tatiana Pali’s performance of the Rose Adagio in The Sleeping Beauty, and shared the stage with luminaries such as Evelyn Hart at the company’s gala performance honoring ballerina Irina Kolpakova. Matthew subsequently joined Eugene Ballet and was promoted to principal dancer in his second season there, performing both classical and contemporary roles including the Sugarplum Cavalier and Prince Désire, as well as roles in Artistic Director Toni Pimble’s Slipstream and Charles Bennett’s Dracula. Matthew married fellow company dancer Jennifer McNamara, and they joined Nashville Ballet where they frequently danced principal roles together. Matthew has been noted for his exquisite partnering skills and effortless technique in performances of the principal male roles in The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Scheherazade, Romeo and Juliet, and the late Michael Smuin’s Eternal Idol pas de deux. Matthew is currently on the faculty of the Harpeth Hall School of Dance; has taught and choreographed works for Northern Plains Dance, the Ensworth School of Dance, and the Vanderbilt Dance Program; and has been a guest artist and teacher at workshops and performances around the country. He was the 2005 recipient of the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Fellowship in Dance.

Guest Instructors

BECKY ALLEN (Contemporary Modern + Improvisation) Becky Allen is originally from New Orleans, Louisiana where she began her dance training with the Jefferson Ballet Theatre. She studied both dance and the visual arts at Loyola University and the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts. In 2001, she received her B.A. in Cultural Studies from the University of New Orleans. Upon moving to Nashville that same year, she taught high school physical science and chemistry for three years. In 2004, she studied contemporary dance at Tulane University in New Orleans. The following year, she attended the American Dance Festival to study both Cunningham and Release Technique. Shortly thereafter she became assistant to the director of StillPoint Dance Theatre and performed with the company for seven years. In 2007 she was privileged to perform Missa Brevis with the Limon Company. She has taught both ballet and contemporary technique in several Nashville area schools including Vanderbilt University, where she earned a Certificate in Dance Studies. In 2010 she choreographed, directed and designed the set for her first children’s ballet Where the Wild Things Are. Since then she has directed several children’s productions including Hansel and Gretel, The Nutcracker, and The Little Mermaid. She is currently collaborating with Banning Bouldin and New Dialect, both as a dancer and a teacher in New Dialect’s Contemporary Cross-Training Series. In her spare time, Rebecca enjoys reading about art and dance history, working in clay, and collaborating on creative projects with friends.

SHIRLEY BLACKBURN (director emeritus; Centennial Youth Ballet Primary Division) Shirley Blackburn holds degrees in dance (Stephens College, Columbia, MO) and English (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN). She recently retired as director of dance for the Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation, where she oversaw a multi-faceted program that included classes in ballet, creative rhythms, Flamenco, dance for musical theater, and tap as well as three performance groups: Centennial Youth Ballet, Music City Ballroom Kids, and Metro Parks’ Swinging Seniors. She reviewed dance for The Tennessean for 21 years and has contributed articles to professional dance publications including Pointe Magazine. She served on the board of the Tennessee Association of Dance for nine years and received that organization’s Margaret Martin Award for furthering the public image and accessibility of dance in Tennessee. She has studied ballet with Petrus Bosman, Bryan Koulman, John White, Robert Barnett, Manny Rowe, André Eglevsky, and Andrei Ustinov. Modern teachers include Harriette Ann Gray, David Wood, Ernest Morgan, Mary Anthony, Donna Rizzo, Yuriko Kikuchi, and Tom Pazik. She attended summer courses at American Dance Festival and Birmingham Southern College. She has completed teachers’ training courses at Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet School (certificate) and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (certificate). She has been certified in the Vaganova method of teaching ballet (Grades 1-3) by John White of the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet. She currently teaches beginning level ballet for Metro Parks and Belmont University.

MICHAL CHRISTIAN (Ballet) A Nashville native, Michal Christian danced with The Centennial Youth Ballet under the direction of Kathleen Callaghan. Michal earned a B.A in Dance from Belhaven University and a Pilates Certification through the Physical Mind Institute of New York. Since graduation in 2010, she has pursued a number of performance opportunities with regional companies in Jackson, Mississippi, Jerusalem, Israel, and with Fort Worth’s Ballet Concerto, where she professionally danced and taught for the past three years. In summer 2013, Michal relocated back to Nashville to be closer to family and to teach master classes with The Centennial Youth Ballet and other regional studios and joined School of Nashville Ballet’s teaching faculty as an instructor for the Elementary and Intermediate levels.

NOMALANGA ENIAFE (Afro-Caribbean) Nomalanga teaches movements based upon traditional African dance forms. Her style and class regime is designed to bring forth new life and new energy through the power of rhythm and dance. Her students develop a new consciousness about themselves and traditional African culture. Nomalanga has traveled to Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and Kentucky to teach and perform her art.

KEITH FITZPATRICK (Hip-Hop) Keith Fitzpatrick is a Hip Hop Choreographer, dancer, and Hip Hop dance teacher born in Nashville, TN. A self taught dancer, he has choreographed for Jason Aldean, Dove week, new artists Drew Baldridge and Rome Logan, and Vanderbilt and Austin Peay Universities. He has also been featured on the NASHVILLE TV show, opened for Anthony Hamilton at the Ryman Auditorium, performed at the Grand Re-opening of the Opryland Hotel, and several Toyota & WSIX commercials. He has also taught several workshops across the country, including Dancers Rock, TAD, and Dancemasters, and is currently a Hip-Hop dance teacher in the Nashville, TN area. With a dance style that has an urban edge, with a lyrical twist, Keith has become a very sought after and respected Hip Hop choreographer, dancer, and teacher. 

CARRIE GEROW (Modern Dance) Carrie Gerow earned her BFA in dance at New World School of the Arts in Miami, Florida. She has since danced with New Dialect, Epiphany Dance Company, Nashville Ballet 2, Momentum Dance Company, Karen Peterson and Dancers, a mixed ability company making works for able-bodied dancers alongside dancers with disabilities, as well as with the Limon Company during their residency at Vanderbilt University in 2007. Touring the Southeastern U.S., Brazil and the Caribbean with many of these and other dance ensembles created wonderful opportunities for her to experience a variety of techniques and movement voices. Carrie now serves on the faculty of Belmont University's dance program where she created and teaches the first dance kinesiology curriculum offered at the university. Having served as a teaching artist with the Art Smart Program through the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, she draws on the ideas of aesthetic education to facilitate all her teaching. Carrie teaches private lessons, and classes for movers of all levels of experience designed to facilitate comfort, skill and pleasure through movement. In 2013, she joined the roster of teaching artists for New Dialect’s Contemporary Cross-Training Series. She also continues to create and perform solo dance pieces often presented in sacred spaces with a focus on respect for and great delight in all life.

ASHLYN HALL (Ballet) Ashlyn Hall grew up dancing with Appalachian Ballet Company under the direction of Amy Morton Vaughn with training and adjudication in the RAD syllabus. She expanded her training in college, graduating from Belmont University in 2012 with both dance and journalism minors and a BA in Spanish. While in the Belmont Dance Company, Ashlyn performed annually in the Mixed Bill; was company manager; acted as liaison to the Dean's Advisory Council; and was a two-time recipient of the department's "Legacy Award" for lasting contributions to the program. On campus, Ashlyn’s choreography was featured in multiple Composition Showcases, Belmont Opera’s presentation of The Bartered Bride, and musical theatre senior shows. Meanwhile in the community, she performed modern and tap pieces by Carrie Gerow and Debbie Belue in the Tennessee Association of Dance Annual Gala, danced in the 2010 Urban Pop Showcase and appeared with Epiphany Dance Company as an apprentice in the 2011 “Christmas at Belmont” featuring host Laura Bell Bundy. Following her apprenticeship with Epiphany during college, Ashlyn has continued to dance with the company since graduating. In addition to performing with Epiphany, Ashlyn teaches modern, ballet and tap at Rejoice School of Ballet in East Nashville, appears as a guest artist with Blue Moves and privately tutors middle, high school and college students in Spanish.

ANDREA HOWAT (Dance Fit, Tap) began her dance training 20 years ago at a studio in the northern suburbs of Chicago. There she studied jazz, ballet, lyrical, hip hop, and tap with several of Chicago’s finest instructors. Discovering her love for rhythm tap, Andrea pursued her passion for hoofing all the way to Chicago’s South Side. For two years she studied under Idella Reed-Davis at the Sammy Dyer School of the Theatre, one of the oldest known tap schools in the country. Before leaving for college, Andrea was honored to dance with M.A.D.D. Rhythms, a rhythm tap company comprised of some of the finest tappers in the business including Martin “Tre” Dumas III, Bril Barrett, and Jumaane Taylor.  In 2007, Andrea received her Bachelor’s Degree in Musical Theatre & Dance from Palm Beach Atlantic University in South Florida. While there, she was featured in several musicals including “Me and My Girl”, “Kiss Me Kate”, and most notably as the Witch in “Into the Woods”.  Acting as dance captain, Andrea also had the opportunity to reset the original Broadway choreography for “West Side Story”. Ms. Howat has been brought in as a substitute tap teacher for beginner through advanced levels both at the renown Joel Hall Dance Center and the Lou Conte Dance Studio in Chicago. In 2009, she directed and choreographed her first full-length musical, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” with the GreenRoom Theater.  Relocating to Nashville, Ms. Howat has continued to hand down the tap legacy she has inherited by teaching at area dance studios.  Andrea loves to laugh and is known in the studio for her enthusiasm for dance, rhythm, and music.  She hopes to inspire others to create art that is excellent and to use their passion and abilities to make an impact beyond themselves.

THERESE KEEGAN (Modern Dance) Thérèse Keegan is a seasoned performer and teacher who holds a bachelor’s degree in dance and a master’s in arts administration. In addition to her dance training on the ground, she has studied aerial work at the International Aerial Dance Festival in Boulder, Colorado, and also trained with Elsie and Serenity Smith of Nimble Arts in Vermont and Jo Kreiter in San Francisco.  Thérèse has performed throughout the mid-Atlantic region as a solo and ensemble artist with contemporary dance companies in the Washington DC area, was a founding member of Air Dance Bernasconi, based in Baltimore, and has appeared as an aerial dancer in Caravan Stage’s New Orleans production of “Vanishing Currents.” Thérèse provided artistic leadership to touring company, Updraft, for 10 years, as well as operating Slipperyslope Institute, providing dance and movement classes and private instruction.

JULIA MARX (First Dance, Rainbowdance, Dancing with Parkinson’s) Julia Marx hold an M.F.A in modern dance and has danced professionally for choreographers in Utah, San Francisco, and Boston. She has taught creative movement to young children for more than 15 years in schools, studios, after-school programs and community centers. Julia is passionate about teaching children to use the elements of dance to explore movement and their unique forms of expression. Julia is also a registered dance/movement therapist and mental health counselor with particular expertise working with children with disabilities and has completed the teacher training workshop offered by Dance for PD®.

JENNIFER MCNAMARA (Ballet) Jennifer is from Syracuse, NY and received her early training at the Center of Ballet and Dance Arts, with further study at the School of Cleveland Ballet and the School of Richmond Ballet. She was a member of the company in Richmond for two seasons before joining the Eugene Ballet, where she danced for ten years, creating lead roles in many of director Toni Pimble’s works. From 2001 – 2007, Jennifer was a principal dancer with Nashville Ballet, especially noted for her portrayals in narrative and dramatic works. She is a certified Pilates instructor and teacher trainer for Balanced Body; she maintains a private and group practice at Simply Balanced and works specifically with dancers at her home studio. Previously on the faculty of the Ensworth School of Dance and the School of Nashville Ballet, Jennifer is delighted to be joining the faculty at Metro Parks’ Dance Program as well as the staff at the Nashville School of the Arts. She is currently pursuing her teaching certification through the National Dance Education Organization. Jennifer was the 2005 recipient of the Individual Artist Fellowship in Dance awarded by the Tennessee Arts Commission.

EMMA MORRISON (Creative Movement, Contemporary Modern) Before beginning her dance education, Emma trained as a rhythmic gymnast from 2004-2008 and competed in the Junior Olympics. Gymnastics introduced her to ballet, in term introducing her to everything the dance world has to offer. In 2009 she began taking ballet, modern, and jazz at the Franklin School of Performing Arts in Franklin, TN. In the summer of 2009 and 2010 she received a scholarship to BalletMET's summer intensive in Columbus, OH. In the fall of 2011 she was awarded the Kitty Sharp Scholarship from the Tennessee Association of Dance. That same fall, she was awarded Student of the Year at my home studio, FSPA. In the summer of 2011, she went to the UNCSA 4 week intensive as a contemporary major, where she received training from Trish Casey, Dianne Markham, and Juel Lane. In the fall of 2012, she had the honor being invited by FSPA to teach beginner modern, ballet, and creative movement, which sparked her love for teaching. In 2013, she spent six weeks in North Carolina at Duke University for the American Dance Festival's 80th Anniversary Season where she had the opportunity to train with teachers and choreographers that included Jesse Zarritt, Pamela Pietro, Michelle Gibson, and Twyla Tharp. After that incredibly enriching summer, she came back home to Nashville where she began training weekly with Banning Bouldin and is currently a part of her company New Dialect. She is excited to be a part of the growth of the company, and also to be a part of the growing dance community in Nashville!

TONY PERRIN (Contemporary Modern, Tap, Theater) Tony Perrin, a Los Angeles native, started his dance training at the age of seven. After working in the television industry during his formative years, Tony headed east to New York where he studied at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. While earning his BFA he worked with such choreographers as Doug Varone, Douglas Becker and Joy Kellman, to name a few. In addition he studied with Pennsylvania Ballet’s Rock School. Upon graduating from NYU in 1999, Tony had the privilege of working with the Michael Mao Dance Company, the North Eastern Ballet Company and as an Artist-In-Residence at The Yard on Martha’s Vineyard. After taking some time off from the dance community to pursue a career in the fashion industry, Tony is excited to once again be dancing and teaching. He looks forward to learning and growing as a dancer, and to bringing his energy, creativity and insights to dancers of all ages!

EMILY RHYNE (Contemporary Modern) Born in Florida, Emily began her dance training at the age of two, studying classical ballet, jazz, and contemporary dance. She moved to Nashville in 2010 to dance with the Nashville Ballet 2, performing in many productions, including Sleeping Beauty, Dracula and Nashville Ballet’s Nutcracker. In 2012, she performed in the national tour of Veggie Tales Live. Emily began studying under Banning Bouldin, founder, artistic director, and choreographer of New Dialect, at the Nashville Ballet in 2011, and is now blessed to be a part of New Dialect as a company dancer/artist. Emily taught ballet, jazz, and contemporary dance technique at HisTown dance studio 2012-2013, and is embarking on her second year with Fellowship School of Dance, along with teaching contemporary dance technique at Metro Parks and New Dialect.

SONYA SMITH (Centennial Youth Ballet Primary Division)