Instructors

Diggs School of Dance currently has five teachers with extensive training in all forms of dance. The teachers work together to align curriculum throughout the classes to ensure a quality dance education for the students.

 

DebbieDebbie Diggs is the owner and operator of Diggs School of Dance. Debbie received her dance training from Ballet Florida, Ballet Royal, and the Cecchetti Council of America. She has studied with Marie Hale, Lea Darwin, Gus Giordano, Alvin Ailey, Jo Rowan, and Edith Royal. Her teacher training has included Dance Masters of America, Cecchetti Council of America, the Vaganova School of Teaching, University of Nebraska, and Kent State University. Debbie has owned and operated studios in Florida, South Carolina, Nebraska, and in addition to the Gloucester studio, owned and operated a studio in Mathews for 35 years.

 

DanileDanile Giesy, Co-Director of BYB, began her training in Norfolk, Virginia. She has been performing professionally since 1981 and teaching dance since 1983. Danile has performed with Tidewater Ballet, Chamber Ballet, the Governor’s School of the Arts, TRDance Center and for Sun King Dance. Danile is a third generation classical Pilates instructor and a certified EBAS (Elemental Body Alignment System) instructor. Continuing her education and training have always been extremely important to Danile. To support her strong desire to train dancers in a sustainable and injury free way, she has studied and practiced Thai bodywork since 2017. She also has had the opportunity to guest teach for many wonderful schools and programs. and continues to take class with guest teachers and participate in workshops and intensives.

 

HopeHope Andrews Hunter is a native of Gloucester, Virginia and began performing with Bayside Youth Ballet in 1993. She performed a variety of solo and ensemble roles in ballets such as Giselle, Nutcracker and The Snow Maiden. Through BYB, Hope not only found an expressive outlet for performing, but also for creating choreography. At the age of 12, she set her first piece for the company. Hope graduated from Shenandoah University magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Education and a minor in psychology. Hope has been on the faculty of Diggs School of Dance and a resident choreographer for BYB since 2004. Additionally, Hope has taught at Woodside High School since 2004 and promoted to Director of Dance in 2014. She has previously served as the Fine and Performing Arts Lead, Youth Development Lead, and resident choreographer for the Woodside Theater Program, working on shows such as Hairspray, Pippin, and Mamma Mia, among others. Hope is currently pursuing her masters in educational leadership and certification in administration through ODU.

 

Melody Thompson has been dancing since she was three years old and became a member of Bayside Youth Ballet when she was in fourth grade and is currently Dance Captain for the company. Melody has choreographed numerous pieces, including those for the ballet company. She has performed with BYB in community performances, most recently as a guest dancer in Christopher Newport University’s Dance Concert. She has completed her Teacher Training with Diggs School of Dance and has been teaching at the studio this past year. Melody teaches FUNdamentals, Ballet, and Jazz classes. She also attends Virginia Peninsula Community College, studying education and science and plans to transfer to a four year university in the spring of 2024.

 

Savanna Klaus is a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University with a major in pre-nursing. She has been dancing since she was 4 years old at Diggs School of Dance and was accepted into BYB at the age of 9. She began her Teacher Training with Diggs in early 2020 and soon after began teaching PreBallet and Ballet II/III and Danspirations. Savanna has continued to use her dance training in the Fan Dance Club at VCU for the past 2 years. She wants to pursue a career in neonatal nursing and possibly become a neonatal nurse practitioner in the future.

 

Gwendolyn Morris Szulgit has been dancing since she was 3 and joined Bayside Youth Ballet in 2013. After graduating from Gloucester High School, Gwen attended Longwood University and joined the Longwood Company of Dancers. She has performed in various pieces and has choreographed for the Company as well. Gwen graduated from Longwood University in 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in History Secondary Education and has been teaching history at Gloucester High School since 2022. Gwen completed her Teacher Training at Diggs School of Dance and teaches Fundamentals, Jazz, and Danspirations.

 

Nadine Dorrington grew up in Mathews and began her dance studies at Diggs School of Dance. She continued her training in Williamsburg, Virginia as a company member of Contemporary Ballet Theatre under Sandra Balestracci and deepened her Vaganova and Character Dance studies at the Mansur Kamaletdinov School of Ballet. In 2000, Nadine returned to Mathews and began teaching Ballet and Jazz for Diggs School of Dance while choreographing and performing numerous classical and contemporary works with Bayside Youth Ballet. Nadine moved to Richmond in 2004 where she has been teaching ballet and conditioning for dancers for almost 20 years. Her passion for movement arts combined with a love for wellness and injury prevention led her to teach yoga and eventually train yoga teachers in the Richmond area. Nadine is overjoyed to return to her roots and work with Debbie and the talented Diggs faculty once again.

 

GUEST FACULTY

Kamilah Turner was born in Oxford, England but grew up in Mathews, Virginia where she began her dance training at Diggs School of Dance. She was a member of the Bayside Youth Ballet and performed in the community and neighboring cities. Upon graduation she attended college at NC School of the Arts to study ballet and transferred to NY to receive her BFA from Alvin Ailey/Fordham University. She apprenticed with Urban Bush Women and performed with the national tour of Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida.” She danced with Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble for 5 1/2 years where she was assistant rehearsal director to the company. She joined the Brazilian dance company DanceBrazil in 2013 where she danced in Salvador, Bahia and toured the US. She lived in London, UK and performed in the West End’s Disney’s The Lion King where she was an ensemble dancer for 2 years. She is currently performing on Disney Cruise Line going into her 3rd year as a performer.

Caitlin Beadle Nichols began her training with Diggs School of Dance at the age of 12 and was a member of Bayside Youth Ballet from ‘01-’08. Some memorable roles and performances with BYB are Odette from Swan Lake, Kitri from Don Quixote, and the corps pieces from La Bayadere. Caitlin was a student teacher for Diggs and later a member of the faculty before marrying and moving to follow her husband’s career in the U.S. Coast Guard. She returned to VA several times over the years and taught for Diggs from 2015-2018 while living in New Kent. Caitlin was also a member of the Ballet Hawaii faculty in Honolulu, HI for over 5 years and has had the opportunity to guest teach for studios in Hawaii as well as her new home in St. Thomas, USVI.

Kathy Sawyer Holtgrave trained at the Academy of Tidewater Ballet, North Carolina School of the Arts, School of American Ballet, and the Joffrey Ballet. She danced professionally for eighteen years with Joffrey Concert Group, San Antonio Ballet, Northwest Florida Ballet, and as principal dancer with Louisville Ballet. She worked with notable dancers and choreographers, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Nicholas Beriozoff, Frederic Franklin, Niels Kehlet, and Sallie Wilson. In addition to dancing title roles in the majority of the classics, her repertoire includes works by Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, John Cranko, and Antony Tudor. Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Kathy currently teaches and coaches both locally and nationally. She has been a guest instructor for Corpus Christi Ballet, Northwest Florida Ballet, Santa Barbara Festival Ballet and Virginia Ballet Theatre, and has been a faculty member for Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts. In addition, she serves as Ballet Mistress for Nutcracker Key West.

Suzanne Lownsbury, Co-Artistic Director Ballet Virginia International, began her training with the Toledo Ballet and Charlotte Regional Ballet, continuing her studies in Tidewater Ballet Association’s residency program under the direction of Gene Hammett. During her residency, she earned a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City. Suzanne embarked on her professional dance career with Cleveland Ballet as a trainee, progressing to soloist and principal roles within a year. For the next 11 years, she danced professionally for the Cleveland/San Jose Ballet. She has toured throughout the United States and Europe including a tour to the Edinburgh Festival. Her teaching credits include School of Cleveland Ballet, Cleveland City Dance, Evelyn Ott School of Dance, and Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts.

Lauren Morris graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University cum laude with a BFA in Dance and Choreography and received recognition with the Outstanding Performer Award. Morris’ solo work, Within Roots premiered at the American College Dance Festival and is the 2012 recipient for the Michigan Dance Council, Maggie Allesee New Choreography Award. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a MFA in Dance Choreography. Morris is on the dance faculty at The College of William and Mary and is producing her work in the Richmond and Washington DC area.

Scott Putman, Artistic Director of Amaranth Contemporary Dance, and Associate Professor at VCU Dance and Choreography. Mr. Putman is the creator and master teacher of the Elemental Body Alignment System© (EBAS). He received his BA from Columbia College, Chicago and MFA from University of California, Irvine where he was a Chancellors Fellow and a William Gillespie Scholar.

Lydia Roberts-Coco began her training under the direction of Thaddeus Hayes in Norfolk, Virginia. She briefly trained with ODU Ballet and Tidewater Ballet. She began her professional training with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center with a full scholarship. Ms. Lydia was invited to become a member of the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble; Ailey’s junior company where she danced for three years. She then went on to perform with the Jamison Project under the direction of Judith Jamison for one year. Ms. Lydia was also invited by Judith Jamison to dance with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. With her partner Desmond Richardson, Lydia traveled abroad to perform Pas De Duke (a ballet created for Mikhail Baryshnikov and Judith Jamison choreographed by Alvin Ailey) for various guest performances. After retiring from AAADT, Ms. Lydia taught ballet, modern and jazz at the Russell School of Ballet (home of the Fairfax Ballet in Fairfax, Virginia). Currently, Ms. Lydia teaches modern and ballet at BVI.

Heidi Winton-Stahle began her training in Saratoga Springs, NY with world-class teachers Melissa Hayden, Elizabeth Carroll, Felix Smith, Tomislav Vuchovich, and Michael Steele. At age 17 she was accepted into The Boston Ballet School where she trained for 6 months. At 18 she joined The Louisville Ballet and performed in many classical works including Serenade, La Sylphide, Billy the Kid, and Romeo and Juliet and The Nutcracker. After two years of performing with them she set off for college at The University at Buffalo to pursue a degree in dance. In 2000 she started Sun King Dance, which focuses on providing learning opportunities for adult students. Currently she lives in Richmond, VA.