Vitacca Announces 2018 Resident Artists: Jess Hendricks and Andrea Shelley

Vitacca Vocational School for Dance (Vitacca) is thrilled to announce the launch of the Vitacca Resident Artist Program (RAP) furthering our mission to stay current and grow with the ever evolving contemporary and modern dance forms. Vitacca’s RAP offers a holistic approach to dance training, artistic development and an experience in both a personal and professional environment with leading dance professionals. The RAP is designed to build relationships with influential industry professionals and bridge the gap between guest master teacher and student.

Throughout the Vitacca season and over a pre-scheduled, five weekend commitment, invited RAP dancers will work with Resident Artists in: choreographic laboratories, repertoire rehearsals for performance, master classes at Vitacca and private coaching sessions.

Vitacca is excited to announce Jess Hendricks and Andrea Shelley as the Vitacca Vocational School for Dance 2018-19 Resident Artists. Learn more about our 2018-19 Resident Artists.

Dancers interested in this engaging, training opportunity are invited to audition for Vitacca Vocational School for Dance on April 21, 2018.  Visit to learn more and register for the 2018-19 Season Audition in advance.

About Jess Hendricks

  • Trained at Perry Mansfield School of the Performing Arts, American Dance Festival, Harvard Dance Festival, EDGE Scholarship, Gus Giordano and Hubbard Dance Street.
  • Choreographed the music video Just A Dress for the Berlin Film Festival, Mia Agapi Fotia for European artist Sofia Strati’s Eurovision and has been a finalist for the ACE Awards.
  • She is currently an adjunct professor at Pace University, on faculty with 24 Seven Dance Convention, and a Co-Founder of Dancers Give Back Dallas.


About Andrea Shelley

Andrea Dawn Shelley photo by Peter Mellekas 3

  • Performed with Southern Ballet Theatre (corps de ballet), Maximum Dance Company (principal artist), Miami Contemporary Dance Company, Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, and State Street Ballet (company member).
  • Principal artist and is a Co-Founding Director of iMEE Dance Company.
  • Annual preliminary panelist for the National YoungArts Foundation, YoungArts program in Choreography, Ballet and Modern and has taught as adjunct Dance Faculty at Salve Regina University in Newport, RI and assumed the roles of Resident Choreographer and Company Director for the University’s junior company.
  • Has created original works for professional dance companies and festivals such as: iMEE, Ballet Florida, Miami Contemporary Dance Company, Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, State Street Ballet, O Dance, Ad Deum Dance Company, The Dance Gallery Festival, palcoscenico danza, METdance, Island Moving Co., the black box international Festival, Festival Ballet Providence and Bellingham Repertory Dance.


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Vitacca Dancer Spotlight Series

Vitacca Dance Project is proud to release our Dancer Spotlight series featuring 2016-17 program dancers. This week, we would like to celebrate our dedicated and hard working dancers for all they have accomplished within the past year. Within today’s post you will meet and learn about the following Vitacca Program dancers: Madison Medina,  Ainsley Waguespack, Maddie O’Brien, Evan Leigh Thornton and Beverly Abbott. We are so proud of each and every one of our Vitacca Program Dancers for their growth, dedication, perseverance and achievements!



Graduating program dancer, Maddie Medina, has been accepted into the Julliard School of the Arts for fall of 2017 as well as the Boston Conservatory. Julliard only accepts 12 boy and 12 girls per semester; we applaud Medina for her dedication to her craft. Her grace and strength have proven a great deal for Medina this year. In the coming years, Medina wishes to continue to train to the best of her ability as well as learn to become a more stylistically diverse dancer. Congratulations, and we wish you the absolute best in the coming years, Medina.


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Seventeen year old Accelerated Program dancer, Ainsley Waguespack,  is looking forward to this upcoming summer in which she will be attending the 2017 English National Ballet summer program. Waguespack wishes to eventually dance for the English National Ballet company in contribution to her efforts of becoming a professional artist. Taking it step by step, Waguespack wishes to improve her technique and artistry as well make new friends this summer! Offering a round of applause and we wish you much success Waguespack!




Maddie O’Brien, a three year Vitacca Program dancer, has been accepted into Boston Ballet, Ballet West (on scholarship), and Ellison Ballet Summer Intensive Programs. In addition, she was also accepted into the renowned, Ellison Variation intensive as well. O’Brien shows great dedication and ambition in mastering her craft; we hope this summer proves to be as demanding and challenging as O’Brien expects it to be. We are proud of you O’Brien and we wish you all the best in your summer endeavors!




Founding Vitacca Program Dancer, Evan Leigh Thornton, is well on her way to a very active career in dance! Thornton has been accepted into multiple summer intensives including, Boston Ballet, Washington Ballet, Ballet West (full scholarship) and Ballet West Choreography Workshop (full scholarship). In addition, Thornton was selected as a top 20 Finalist within the  Youth America Grand Prix NY competition. We are thrilled to announce that Thornton has accepted a 2017 Studio Company position with Sarasota Ballet. As she embarks on her professional dance career, we wish Thornton an exciting year with Sarasota Ballet!


Three year Vitacca Program Member, Beverly Abbott, has achieved big things for herself this year! She was selected as “Russian Pointe One to Watch YAGP Houston 2017” and placed top 24 with her Classical Variation, titled, “Satanella” at YAGP Houston. She was also selected as “Russian Pointe Brand Ambassador for 2017.” She was accepted into Ballet West Academy, Salt Lake City, Utah Ellison Ballet, New York City, New York HARID Conservatory, Boca Raton, FL and will be attending HARID Conservatory 2017 summer intensive. At HARID, Abbott wishes to develop stronger technique, better artistry, and work on staying positive. Congratulations Abbott, we wish you a wonderful summer of training!
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Fusion Dance Intensive 2017 Faculty

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Vitacca Dance Project introduces the 2017 Fusion Dance Intensive Faculty line up: Phillip Broomhead, Jess Hendricks, Jim Nowakowski, Fara Scuilli Bowen, Autumn Eckman, Britt Wallis. Fusion will be held June 5-10 at Vitacca, located at 2311 Dunlavy. Register today!

Fusion Dance Intensive is six days of motivating, challenging and inspiring training for dancers ages 10-18. Fusion offers two class levels with a faculty of leading industry professionals from across the country. Classes include: Ballet, Variations, Contemporary Jazz, Modern, Fusion Rep and more! All Day Classes: 10:00am – 4:00pm, followed by additional Fusion Rep with Jess Hendricks 4:00-5:00pm.

Jess Hendricks graduated from the University of Colorado with a BFA in Dance. Her training consists of Perry Mansfield School of the Performing Arts, American Dance Festival, Harvard Dance Festival, EDGE Scholarship, Gus Giordano and Hubbard Dance Street.

Her credits include commercials and industrials for Godiva, L’Oreal, Reebok, Toys R Us, Universal Studios, Volkswagen and Warner Brothers. Jess worked on the tour of HAIR as Dance Captain for years, performed for the opening premiers of Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby and can be seen in such movies as Living Out Loud and Between The Sheets. She has danced in or been the assistant choreographer to the Elan Awards, Bob Fosse Awards, Ms. America Pageant, Carnival, Dance Break and Broadway Bares.

Jess has choreographed the New York musicals “The Shaggs”, “The Book Of The Dun Cow” and “Dead City” as well as the movie musical “Free Fall”. She has choreographed the music video “Just A Dress” for the Berlin Film Festival, “Mia Agapi Fotia” for European artist Sofia Strati’s Eurovision and was one of the choreographer finalists for the ACE Awards in New York City in 2011.

Jess has taught at Universities and Festivals throughout Canada, Costa Rica, Cyprus, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway and the United States. Jess has danced with “The Wes Veldink Movement” and co-created her own company “Two Peas & A Pod”. She recently created live work for the band “A Great Big World” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, set work to be performed at Carnegie Hall and assisted with choreography for the Alicia Keys tour. She is currently an adjunct professor at both Pace University and Marymount Manhattan College in New York and thrilled to be on faculty with 24 Seven Dance Convention.

Phillip Broomhead was born in London, England, trained at the Royal Ballet School, and joined The Royal Ballet in 1981. He was promoted to Soloist in 1983 and to Principal in 1986. Several roles were created specifically for Broomhead, including The Southern Cape Zebra in Still Life at the Penguin Café and roles in Varii Capricci, Isadora, Pursuit, Number One, Enclosure, and L’Invitation au Voyage. He performed numerous times in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen, the Queen Mother, and at many other royal galas. Broomhead joined Houston Ballet as a Principal dancer in January of 1991 and made his debut in Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella. He was featured in all of Stevenson’s ballets, and many other works.

In March 1991, while on vacation in Washington, D.C., he attended a Royal Ballet performance of Swan Lake. During Act I, their Principal dancer sustained a serious injury and Broomhead found himself thrust onto the Kennedy Center Stage as Prince Siegfried; his performance won him worldwide critical acclaim. Broomhead has also created roles numerous world premieres including Glen Tetley’s Lux in Tenebris, Ben Stevenson’s Eclipse, and Trey McIntyre’s Peter Pan. He retired from Houston Ballet as a dancer in June 2004 after performing with the company for 13 years at which time he joined the artistic staff as Ballet Master, a position he held until 2011. In 2012 Broomhead joined Vitacca Productions & Company as Artistic Advisor.


Fara Scuilli Bowen began her intensive ballet training under the direction of renowned master teacher, Roberto Munoz, in the children’s school at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While attending Point Park’s International Summer Dance Program, Fara was taught by legendary ballet coach, Laura Alonso. At the age of 15, Fara was invited by Ms. Alonso to perform with Ms. Alonso’s youth company in Argentina, Brazil and throughout Cuba. After performing with Ms. Alonso for two years, Fara joined Lexington Ballet, in Lexington, Kentucky. While dancing in Lexington, Fara performed ballets choreographed by Trey McIntyre, Sean Kelly, David Cesler, and others. After two years with Lexington Ballet, Fara auditioned for Ben Stevenson, O.B.E, at Houston Ballet and joined the company for the next six seasons. Fara had the privilege to be a part of the creation of Dracula, Cleopatra, and Snow Maiden. Fara danced in many ballets while with Houston Ballet. Among her favorites were Ben Stevenson’s Peer Gynt, Swan Lake, Dracula, Cleopatra, Snow Maiden, Romeo and Juliet, Nutcracker, Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow, George Balanchine’s Four Temperaments, Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Gloria, Harold Lander’s Etudes, and William Forsythe’s In the Middle Somewhat Elevated, among others.

Upon retirement, Fara moved back to her hometown to start her family and begin teaching at the school where she grew up, Point Park University. She enjoyed teaching and had the honor of working as ballet mistress for Francis Patrelle and Karl von Rabenau. After being inspired by such noted choreographers, Fara choreographed two of her own pieces, The Sound of Forza and DVS1.

Now, Fara returns to the great state of Texas (which she considers her second home) and is thrilled to be back in the Houston dance community and on the Vitacca Dance Project Faculty!


IMG_4365Jim Nowakowski began his formal ballet training at the Timothy M. Draper Center for Dance Education Rochester, New York. He performed as a Rochester City Ballet company member in 2002 in productions of the Nutcracker, Cinderella, and Firebird.

In 2002, Jim attended the Youth American Grand Prix where he was presented the Junior Grand Prix Prize. Later in 2004 he took home the junior Men’s Gold and again in 2007 was awarded the Senior Men’s Gold Award. He was a finalist at the National Foundation for the Advancement in the Arts youngARTS Week and was presented with the Gold Award in Dance from Mikhail Baryshnikov. He also was a Presidential Scholar of 2007 Nominee, as well as Carnival Cruise Line youngARTS winner in Dance.

Jim joined Houston Ballet as a corps member in 2007. His roles included the Fire God and the God of Dreams in Stanton Welch’s La Bayadere, Step Sisters and Lead Ghost in Stanton Welch’s Cinderella, and numerous roles in Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker.

Other repertoire of Jim’s includes featured roles in Stanton Welch’s Tu Tu, Nosotros, Falling, Elements, and Tapestry; Hans van Manen’s Solo; Blue Boy in Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Patineurs; Jiri Kilyian’s Soldiers Mass; and The Bluebird in Ben Stevenson’s The Sleeping Beauty.

In 2015, Jim made the Top 6 of So You Think you Can Dance and completed a 75-city tour of the United States and Canada.

Most recently, Jim became a featured cast member in Travis Wall’s “Shaping Sound” Company and joined them on the road for the fall 2016 tour of “Dance ReImagined.”

Autumn Eckman

Autumn Eckman, originally from Atlanta, GA, is Assistant Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer of Giordano Dance Chicago. She received her classical training from the Houston Ballet Academy under Clara Cravey and Steve Brulee, and from the late Tom Pazik of the Atlanta Ballet. In 2000, Autumn moved Chicago and began her performance career as a Giordano company member. She has also danced with other renowned companies including Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Ron De Jesus Dance, Luna Negra Dance Theater, Lucky Plush Productions, State Street Ballet (Santa Barbara) and the Cangelosi Dance Project. Autumn has created several works for the Giordano main and second companies and has been commissioned by  Williams and Henry Dance Company, DanceWorks Chicago, Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan University, Northern Illinois University, KRESA, State Street Ballet, Chicago Repertory Ballet, Missouri Contemporary Ballet, State Street Ballet, Contemporary Dance South, Inaside Chicago Dance, Momenta, NoMi LaMad and the Vittaca Dance Project.  She was awarded Dance Chicago’s “New Artistic Voice” in 2009, and named as a “Standout Choreographer” for 2010 in theChicago Tribune. The same paper recently featured her in the Fall Dance Preview of 2012 in which Dance Critic, Sid Smith described her as “a bright choreographic stylist, mixing solid design with color and sparkle.”.  Autumn is also dedicated to training dancers in ballet, modern, jazz and contemporary dance. She is currently a full time instructor of dance at Northern Illinois University, and is on faculty at several Chicagoland area studios. She has recently been a guest at the Florida Dance Festival, State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara and Summer Dance Lab in Walla, WA. This past summer she served as guest jazz instructor at the Bates Dance Festival in Maine.


BIMG_4366 (1)rit Wallis, a native Houstonian, grew up training at Shelly Power’s Academy of Dance, and continued her studies at the Houston Ballet Academy. She was a member of the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company for 5 years, and had the opportunity to work with luminaries such as Kate Skarpetowska, Margo Sappington, and Mario Zambrano. She spent a season in Chicago working and touring with Luna Negra Dance Theater, and a summer in New York City performing with Molly Rabinowitz/Liquid Grip. Brit remains actively involved in the Houston dance community. She is currently in her 4th season with Hope Stone Dance, her 2nd season with NobleMotion Dance, and her 1st season with Frame Dance Productions. Additionally, she is performing with Vault, 6 Degrees, Recked Productions, Chapman Dance and on Faculty with Vitacca Dance Project.






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The Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP) is the world’s largest global network of dance.  YAGP strives to support world class dancers from ages 9-19 and of all economic, ethnic, and geographical backgrounds by promoting dance education through scholarship auditions, master classes, alumni services, educational and outreach activities, performances, and films. YAGP offers performance and education opportunities in an effort to connect young dancers with teachers, schools, dance companies, and audiences across the world.

For the second consecutive year, Vitacca Dance Project was graciously awarded with the YAGP “Outstanding School” award. Recognition and congratulations goes to all the performers and family members involved.  Their incredible work ethic and dedicated performances awarded Vitacca Dance Project not only the 2017 “Outstanding School” Award but also, First Place in the Ensemble category as well as Top 12 and Top 24 in both Contemporary and Classical categories. Vitacca has been invited to the the YAGP New York Finals to perform works choreographed by Ballet Master, Phillip Broomhead (“Adoration”) and Faculty Member, Elijah Gibson (“Negative Space”). Soloist and Vitacca Program Dancer, Evan Leigh Thornton will also take the stage in the YAGP NY Finals performing works by Marius Petiipa and Artistic Director, Kelly Ann Vitacca. Program Dancer, Rhys Hudson, was also awarded 3rd place in Men’s Classical Variations for his powerful performance at the Dallas Regionals.

We are so fortunate to say that we had an enjoyable and successful 2017 YAGP season, and would like to send a warm thank you to all who contributed this year. We could not have done it without you all.

Looking forward, Vitacca Dance Project is excited to take the stage at the New York Finals April 8th-13th. Best of luck to all those performing! Check out these wonderful behind the scenes shots of Vitacca program dancers from 2017 YAGP.

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Artists for Hope Performance


Photo: David Jacobson

Vitacca Dance Project is proud to announce their position in this year’s Artists for Hope collaboration project!

Artists for Hope, which began in 2008, is a creative arts collaboration project that works towards the benefit of a chosen charity organization. Artists for Hope provides a two part collaborative experience showcasing a charity dance concert event from both the professional and pre-professional dance scenes, as well as a collection of visual art works that will be showcased and open for purchase. All proceeds from performance tickets and art sales for this event will be presented to a chosen outreach organization. This year’s organization is Houston’s, Project Joy and Hope, founded by the courageous efforts of Dr. Jan Wheeler. PJH aims to improve the lives of children who live with debilitating conditions or their families who may be dealing with life-limiting situations. PJH strives to provide the resources and educational knowledge for families while promoting the importance of physical and psychological well-being. PJH will be celebrating their 16th anniversary and we are more than thrilled to be a part of the celebrations!

Vitacca is looking forward to sharing the stage with a wonderful gathering of Houston dance artists including: Ad Deum, Frame Dance, HSPVA Dance Program, Houston Met and Met II, Jane Weiner, Jared Doster and Victoria DeRenzo, Leon Dance Arts, Open Dance Project II, San Jacinto College Performing Arts Company, and our very own Vitacca Dance Project. Artists for Hope is a one night event hosted by the San Jacinto College Dance Program on Saturday, October 22nd, 2016 at 7:30 PM at the Marie Spence Flickinger Fine Arts Theatre at San Jacinto College, South Campus.

In addition, Artists for Hope will be offering the dancers involved in the project free master classes to encourage a stronger dance community within the greater Houston area.

To access information about the event and to purchase tickets, click the link provided: Artists for Hope Ticket Information

Please note that ticket purchases may only be made online, no sales will be offered at the door.

Merde to all the dancers performing and happy dancing! Hope to see you all out there!


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Let the season begin!

Vitacca Dance Project is excited to launch into the new 2016-17 season!

We would like to welcome back our returning dancers as well as extend a warm welcome to all new dancers joining the program. Great things are happening this season in the studio.

We want to start off by welcoming back our amazing Vitacca faculty, including the new Alex Pandiscio and Jennifer Mabus, returning Phillip Broomhead, Kelly Ann Vitacca, Terrill Mitchell, Somya Gupta, Elijah Gibson, Fara Sciulli Bowen, Cori Miller Capetillo, and Jane Weiner. It is great to have them all back and we are looking forward to the entire 2016-17 faculty here at Vitacca.

Vitacca is offering the Teen Enrollment program classes as well this season so sign your dancers up for those select enrollment classes soon! Deadline for enrollment registration ends September 30th, 2016. Check below for a link to the registration form.

Vitacca Registration Form

Vitacca is also proud to announce their 2016-17 season partnership with Hope Stone Dance Company! We will be offering open adult/pro classes in ballet and modern. Ballet will be taught by both former Houston Ballet Artists,  Alex Pandiscio and Phillip Broomhead and modern will be taught by Houston’s very own, Jane Weiner. For more information regarding class dates or times, please refer to the 2016-2017 term one season schedule below.

Vitacca Term One Season Schedule

We are excited to see everyone back in the studio working hard this season! Bring your leotards and your ballet shoes and let’s dance!

Modern w/ Jane Weiner

Open Adult/Pro Modern class Tuesday’s at 9:30am with Jane Weiner

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FREE Holiday Open House Sat. Dec. 12

Give the gift of dance! Join Vitacca for a Holiday Open House featuring free classes for toddlers to teens (ages 2.5+) and a performance for the community at 2pm. Holiday specials and giveaways throughout the day.

Sat. Dec. 12 from 9am to 3pm @ Vitacca 2311 Dunlavy
FREE event (Donation suggestion $10)

Creative Movement, Ages 2.5‐4
Beginner Ballet, Ages 5‐7

Adult/Pro Ballet with Phillip Broomhead
Pointe Prep, Ages 10‐12, with Fara Sciulli-Bowen
Jazz, Ages 10‐12

Levels A/B/AC1 Ballet Class Demo with Phillip Broomhead
Levels C/D/AC2 Ballet Class Demo with Phillip Broomhead
2:00‐3:00 Holiday Studio Showcase

Visit the Facebook event page! 

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