Malu Rivera Peoples
“I had such a full, exciting, and rich life as a student and as a young adult because of dance. We trained, traveled and performed around the world. I feel I have been blessed by all the success as well as the disappointing experiences as a dancer,” she said and added, “I owe a lot to my very first teacher Tita Radaic who passed on her passion, dedication, and respect for dance. I learned the discipline from her. I also am very blessed to have had such a professional and creative artistic director (Alice Reyes) in my professional years with Ballet Philippines.” (Alice Reyes is the Philippine National Artist for Dance)
Ms. Rivera-Peoples then went on to the international stage, training with international figures such as Kenneth Gillespie, Armin Wilde, Norman Walker, Luminita Dumitrescu, William Morgan, Alfred Rodriguez, Gray Veredon, and Mikael Kukarev. She has also collaborated and performed with internationally acclaimed guest dancers such as Alicia Alonso, Margot Fonteyn, Patrick Bissell, Fernando Bujones, Leslie Brown, Joyce Cuoco, Martin Van Hamel, Natasha Makarova, Eleanor D’Antuono and Rudolph Nureyev. She has traveled all over the world and has performed solo roles in full-length productions of Swan Lake, Giselle, Don Quixote, Nutcracker and Romeo & Juliet, to name a few.
But her biggest achievement seems to be off the stage – as a teacher.
Ms. Rivera-Peoples’ teaching career began at age 14, under the supervision of her teacher, Felicitas Radaic. At the age of 16, she became a member of the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD, London), qualifying her to prepare children for the annual RAD Children’s Examinations. Then at 19, she opened her own school in Manila, the Silid-Sining Workshop for the Performing Arts in Manila.
In 1983, Ms. Rivera-Peoples migrated to the US. By the summer of 1991, she co-founded the Westlake School for the Performing Arts (WSPA) in Daly City. Under her leadership, WSPA has continued to have the respect and reputation of the community for being an outstanding school. The school and its students have been receiving awards for their ensemble and solo entries in national and regional dance competitions.
“Anyone who runs their own business would say that the work is 24 hours a day. It is the same with running a performing arts school, you are continually on the edge of your seat creating new works (as a choreographer), hiring teachers to replace the good ones who had to move on, letting go of teachers who have not delivered well, promoting students who deserve and having to deal with parents who do not agree with your decisions, so forth and so on,” she explained. “I have learned to take it all objectively, and because of all the human interaction the business has fortunately allowed me to have, I have learned so much about people, relationships, life, and so much about myself as well.”
Aside from these, Ms. Rivera-Peoples is recognized as an excellent choreographer, receiving several awards for modern, ballet, lyrical jazz and musicals. Twice awarded as Outstanding Choreographer by the Youth America Grand Prix in Long Beach in 2004 and 2006, she also directs WSPA’s full-length ballet, The Nutcracker every year at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. (In the Filipino community, she was honored with a Pamana Arts Legacy Award from the Filipino-American Arts Exposition and selected as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the US’ in Washington D.C. by the Filipino Women’s Network. In October 2013, Malu was awarded the “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the Asian-Pacific American Heritage Organization.)
As to her advice to those who wish to pursue a career in dance, she simply said, “Follow your heart and do not give up. When you are true to your goal and true to yourself, everything in the universe will work together to make sure you reach your destination. The journey may not be easy, but the rewards will be beyond your imagination.”
Retrieved from "A Life Full of Passion -- and Dance" by Malou Liwanag Aguilar / AJPress
Musical Theatre Director
Katie Kerwin earned her degree in the performing arts, holding a B.F.A. from New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts CAP21 Conservatory. She has had experience performing professionally and teaching voice and dance for over 25 years. She offers private training in vocal technique, audition, and performances ages 5 to adult. Her vocal background from NYU is classical with training in musical theatre/pop vocal performance. She also teaches classes in Theatre Jazz and Broadway and contemporary tap dance styles from beginner to advanced. Katie is a Bay Area native, but after college joined the artistic staff and acting company at the professional Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Florida in 2003 as an assistant to the Artistic Director. In 2004, she became the Resident Choreographer for the Show Palace where she directed, choreographed and performed in many shows there. Katie’s teaching expertise is Vocal Technique and Performance, Tap (Broadway and
Contemporary), Musical Theatre Performance, and Acting. You may have seen her in TONY award winning director Walter Bobbie and Broadway choreographer Randy Skinners production of Irving
Berlin’s WHITE CHRISTMAS in San Francisco at the Orpheum Theatre in 2005, and subsequent performances at the FOX Theatre in Detroit in 2006, and the Ordway in St. Paul in 2008. You can also
hear her singing in the ensemble of the Broadway cast album of the show which was released in the fall of 2006. Katie recently retired from leading the Musical Theatre Department for 7 years at Asawa School of the Arts in San Francisco. She is a proud member of the Actor's Equity Association and is currently the Musical Theatre Director of Westlake School for the Performing Arts in Daly City.
Kuma Hula Anthony Waipa Manaois
Te Orama Director
Anthony is an instructor, choreographer, musician and composer for the Tahitian Dance Group "Otea Api" in Fremont. He has led the group Otea Api to Overall Titles at the San Jose Tahiti Fete, Kiki Raina Tahiti Fete, Kauai Tahiti Fete, and Kauai Polynesian Festival. Actively performing and teaching throughout the state of California and abroad, Anthony comes from a family dedicated to the Polynesian culture and arts. His mother is Kumu Hula Ruth Nalua Manaois. She is a graduate of Kumu Hula Aunty Loeklani Noeau Thomas and graduate/understudy to the late Kumu Hula Master Joseph Kamohai Kahaulelio. His sister is Katrina Haleemaile deJesus Kumu Hula. They are a family that shares the knowledge of a rich culture with pride and respect for their art. Kumu Anthony directs Te Orama and assures continued education of the music and culture of Tahitian and Hula.
Patrick Rivera Cruz
Urban Dance Director
Patrick Rivera Cruz started his dance journey at WSPA. As a young student at the age of 6, he studied everything the school had to offer. Pat trained for ten years in many different styles including tap, jazz, ballet, and Russian character. At the age of 15 he was first introduced to street dance styles and instantly fell in love. Knowing that he wanted this to be his main focus, he devoted all of his time to pursuing his new found passion. At the age of 18 he met Shaun Evaristo and his life forever changed. With Shaun as his mentor, he was able to train in Urban Dance at the highest level. Together they founded The Company, which is now considered one of the top dance teams in the world. At age 25 Pat moved to LA to further pursue his dance career. During this time and with the help of Movement Lifestyle, he found his calling as a traveling choreographer. Pat would spend the next five years teaching at camps and workshops throughout 32 different countries around the world. While in LA he would also find a brotherhood and sense of belonging in the Kinjaz. Together they have become one of the biggest Urban Dance brands and are most recognized for competing on television shows like ABDC and NBC’s World of Dance. Pat moved back to the Bay Area a few years ago to focus on building and growing the Urban Dance department at WSPA. He is still teaching abroad and continues to pursue his dance dreams with The Company and Kinjaz.
Ballet Mistress and Contemporary
Cristina, fondly called Ms. Tina, has been a teacher, choreographer, and coach at WSPA for 22 years. Her choreography has garnered the school top awards in competitions such as the Youth America Grand Prix, World Ballet Competition, New York City Dance Alliance, and most recently at the Spotlight Dance Cup. In 2016, she was named outstanding teacher at YAGP, Las Vegas. In July 2017, she returned to her home-town, Bacolod City, Philippines and was presented with a National Award for Mentorship at the 2nd C-MAP Choreographer’s Festival Internationale.
Tina began her ballet training at the age of 5 under the tutelage of Lydia Gaston. At 16 years of age, she began her apprenticeship with the Cultural Center of the Philippines Dance Company, also known as Ballet Philippines (BP). In 1980 she was accepted as a member of BP and danced as soloist soon after. For 11 years she danced for BP and assumed the position of rehearsal mistress from 1985 - 1999. She taught ballet and modern dance to the apprentice of BP, CCP Dance School & The Philippines School of the Arts. While with BP she had the privilege to perform alongside internationally acclaimed artists like Natalia Makarova, Fernando Bujones, Patrick Bissell, Martin Van Hamel, John Meehan, Leslie Brown, Joyce Cuoco, Yoko Morishita, and Alicia Alonso. In the Ballet Classics, she performed lead roles in Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, Giselle, La Bayadere, Cinderella, Les Sylphides, Paquita and Napoli. In 1991, Tina was invited to join the City Contemporary Dance Company in Hong Kong where she continued her professional career until 1996. In the 16 years of her dancing career, Tina has toured Russia, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Venezuela, Canada, USA, and most of Asia. The mentors who inspired her most are Alice Reyes, Norman Walker, William Morgan, Luminita Dumitrescu, Mikael Kukarev, Armin Wilde, Laura Alonso, Helen Lai, and Denisa Reyes. Tina has a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing Management from De La Salle University, Philippines.
Cited as one of “Tap’s Leading Ladies” by Dance Spirit Magazine, Melissa Tannús is a world renowned professional tap dancer, teacher and choreographer from Brazil. In addition to her solo career, Melissa is a member of the Syncopated Ladies, tap dance company worldwide known for their viral videos that reached over 50 million views online and were shared by Beyoncé herself on both her website and social media. The company’s credits include the launch of Beyoncé’s clothing line Ivy Park for TOPSHOP in London, commercials for Cantu Beauty, their sold-out full-length concerts in Los Angeles, NYC, DC, Mexico and Dubai and many other performances all over the country and the world.
While in Brazil, Melissa trained at Studio Uai Q Dança and toured the country with the show Partituras as a member of Christiane Matallo’s tap company and the band O Teatro Mágico. Her talent and hard work was quickly noticed by acclaimed teachers such as the Emmy Award winner Jason Samuels Smith and the Bessie Award Winner Michelle Dorrance, awarding her with scholarships to train in the United States with some of the world’s best tap dancers.
Ever since she moved to the United States, Melissa has been a member of some of the greatest tap companies in the world such as Tapestry Dance Company, Sarah Reich’s Tap Music Project, Melinda Sullivan Dance Project, Jason Janas’ Co.MMIT, Rhythmic Tap Co. and Chloe Arnold’s Syncopated Ladies. She was also chosen to be a part of Universal Studios Hollywood’s weekly tap shows performing for nearly 20 thousand people a day.
Melissa has appeared on television several times including NBC’s America’s Got Talent, FOX’s So You Think You Can Dance, winning the Crew Battle with the Syncopated Ladies and many other news shows such as Good Day LA and DC. She was featured in articles on the New York Times, LA Times, DanceSpirit Magazine, Dance Magazine and also in various important websites such as the Huffington Post, Elite Daily, The Cosmopolitan, Elle, Self, Nylon, MTV News and many more. Furthermore, Melissa was featured on Visa’s Online Commercial “What’s Stopping You From Achieving Your Goals”.
Along with her extensive performance credits, Melissa has choreographed for the professional adult tap company Footnotes Tap Ensemble (NC), directed the adult multiform dance company Tapestry Too (TX) and taught at Debbie Allen Dance Academy (LA), Millennium Dance Complex (LA), Pineapple Dance Studio (London), Academia Tap Jazz Center (Chile) University of East Anglia (Norwich) and many others. She is currently on faculty at Billy Clower Dance Studio, Dance Dimensions and Fifth Row Performing Arts Center. In addition, Melissa was invited to and taught at several tap festivals all over Brazil and the United States such as DC Tap Fest (DC), Portland Tap Festival (PO), Tap in Rio (BRA), Tap Week Brasil (BRA), Footprints Tap Jam (CHI) and the Syncopated Ladies Bootcamp (LA, NY, CHI, BRA).
Melissa continues to be passionate about tap dancing and aims to spread this art form all over the world and inspire young dancers to go after their dreams, like she did.
Jessica Manalo Angeles
Te Orama Assistant Director and Ballet
Jessica Manalo Angeles is a student pioneer of WSPA since its inception in 1991 and by 1994 was a ballet soloist in WSPA’s dance company. She has studied a variety of dance disciplines and styles ranging from classical ballet to modern to Polynesian, under the tutelage of world-renowned artists and teachers. Jessica has performed in numerous award-winning routines in various dance competitions throughout the nation, most recently a proud part of WSPA's award-winning Te Orama performance in Heiva I Kauai (Hawaii) in the summer of 2017. Known for her stage projection and character, she has performed lead roles in The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, and Cinderella. Jessica has traveled with WSPA to represent the school in the Philippines in 1995 and to Macao, China to represent the United States in the Macao International Youth Dance Festival in 2008. She has completed summer intensives with the LINES Ballet School, the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, and with the Oberlin Dance Company (ODC). Jessica completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in both Liberal Studies and Theatre Arts with an emphasis in Dance from Santa Clara University in June of 2005. Currently, Jessica teaches the Junior Performance Program ballet students and serves as a rehearsal mistress for WSPA's full-length production of "The Nutcracker" which is presented annually in December. She also choreographs for Archbishop Riordan High School and will be directing their upcoming production of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" in the spring of 2018.
Jazz, Modern, Poly, Ballet n' Jazz
Alexis Pineda has trained in Ballet, Polynesian, Modern, Contemporary, Jazz, and Hip Hop throughout her former years as a student at WSPA. She has also taught throughout the academic year in 2014-2016. She has been a part of many groups that have traveled across the globe to perform in dance competitions such as NYCDA Nationals and dance festivals including Aberdeen International Youth Festival in 2012 and Farereira'a I Tahiti in 2015. While attending WSPA, she also graduated from San Francisco's Ruth Asawa School of the Arts High School in 2016 where she furthered her dance and choreographic education. Alexis has just recently graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a BFA in Dance - Performance and Dance - Choreography, and a BA in Education Sciences. Alexis has been invited to come back to teach at WSPA's Summer Camp for the past four years and is excited to be back to teach Jazz to the students this summer!
Jazz, Modern, and Ballet
Jonalyn began dancing at WSPA at the age of four and has been a member of the Performance Program for the last 14 years. She has trained in several styles during her time at WSPA - Ballet, Modern, Tap, Jazz, Polynesian, and Urban Dance. She has danced the roles of Clara, Princess Flora, and Snow Queen in the Nutcracker, and has had leading roles in "Paquita" and "Swan Lake.” Jonalyn began competing as a soloist at the age of 7 and has received top awards in ballet and contemporary from Youth America Grand Prix, New York City Dance Alliance, Showstoppers, Spotlight, and Onstage, as well as in Polynesian from Manahere, Tarena Tahiti, and Tahiti Fete. She performed at the Ballet Philippines 45th Anniversary Homecoming Gala and the CMAP Choreographers’ Festival Internationale in Bacolod. Jonalyn has also received professional scholarships, such as the Complexions Contemporary Intensive and Steps on Broadway Contemporary Intensive. Jonalyn is currently a member of WSPA’s Urban Dance team, APT. She enjoys being a teacher and choreographer for general school ballet and for the performance program in modern and jazz. Jonalyn is a second year nursing student at the University of San Francisco.
Melissa started dancing with WSPA in 1992 at the age of 3 doing ballet and tap. She participated in all of the performance opportunities WSPA had throughout her time here including The Nutcracker, multiple competitions, Urban Paradise, and traveling internationally for the Aberdeen International Youth Festival. She began teaching ballet and tap with WSPA in 2004 and continued teaching during the summer programs while in school at UC Irvine. After spending a few years in New York, she is thrilled to be returning as part of the Musical Theatre program.
Te Orama Assistant Director and Polynesian
After trying out ballet at the age of 5, Morgan continued to explore other styles of dance until she found her love for Polynesian dance at the age of 10 while training at Hokulea Star of Gladness in San Francisco. Morgan joined WSPA's Polynesian Performance Program at age 14, which allowed her the great opportunity of traveling to Scotland for the Aberdeen International Youth Festival in 2007. Morgan has also trained and competed as a Tahitian soloist in San Jose Tahiti Fete, Heiva i Reno, and has placed in Manahere I Ori Tahiti and Heiva i Kaua'i. She has performed and competed with Te Orama under the direction of Kumu Hula Anthony Waipa Manaois at San Jose Tahiti Fete, Heiva i Reno, and Heiva i Kaua'i where the group garnered top awards. Morgan has led the Tamari'i group of Te Orama with the mentorship of Kumu Hula Anthony to 1st place in both Aparima and Otea at Heiva i Reno in 2013 and 2016. When not teaching dance, Morgan spends her time teaching at the elementary level in SFUSD.
Urban Dance Assistant Director
Jason joined WSPA’s General School Urban Dance Program back in the fall of 2003. From his natural love of dance, he was recruited to APT (Apprentice Level) 2 months later and then into The Company (Company level) in the fall of 2005. He taught his first choreography workshop in the spring of 2009 and has had the opportunity to teach internationally in places such as China, Russia, and Germany. In the Fall of 2012, Jason became the co-creative director for The Company and APT. His choreography has been seen by thousands at Various Urban Dance Shows including World of Dance, Vibe, Urban Paradise, and Body Rock. Currently Jason is the Assistant Director of WSPA’s Urban Dance Performance Program.
Matthew started dancing at WSPA in 1997 training in Musical Theatre, Ballet, and Russian Character under teachers Malu Rivera-Peoples and Tina Fargas-Newell, to name a few. He has also performed in WSPA’s Nutcracker as Fritz, Arabian Prince, Spanish Lead, The Nutcracker Prince, Mother Ginger, and The Mouse King. An original member of APT and The Company training extensively under Pat Cruz and Shaun Evaristo, he is now a Co-Director for APT, finding success in competitions and garnering top awards at Collaboration Dance Competition - 1st Place, NYCDA (Judge's Choice - Santa Clara Regional, Senior Overall High Score, Critics' Choice Regional - Santa Clara, and Senior National Critics' Choice - 2015), and Bridge Norcal - Junior Division 1st Place Champion.
Sharing his love of dance, he has been blessed with opportunities to teach at workshops held in New York, Boston, Colorado, Las Vegas, and all throughout California. Matthew completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Exercise and Sports Science with an emphasis in Youth and Child Studies from the University of San Francisco and a Masters in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University. Currently, Matthew is a member of the Golden State Warriors Dance Team - Blue Crew and is the Dean of Community Life at Sacred Heart Preparatory in Atherton.
Alfred Remulla began dancing at WSPA in 2005 under Chris Aldeguer (former WSPA Urban Dance instructor). Alfred has called WSPA his second home for the past 13 years, dancing his way through our general school and performance programs under the direction and guidance of Jason Rillera and Patrick Cruz. He has flown internationally to teach Master Classes in China and Russia, domestically to New York, as well as up and down the California coast. Alfred is the Co-Director of WSPA's adult urban dance team Training Ground and currently dances and choreographs for WSPA's professional dance team, The Company.
Ballet, Jazz, and Musical Theatre
Reina began her training at the age of three and joined WSPA in 1993. As a member of the Performance Program, she rose to the rank of principal dancer with leading roles in Raymonda, Paquita, Cinderella, Don Quixote, La Bayadere, and Sleeping Beauty, and she danced the role of Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker. In 1999, she was voted the most outstanding student of WSPA. In 2001, she received the highest score award at the American Dance Awards Regional and garnered top honors in North American Dance Championships the year after. In 2003, she was Senior Dancer of the Year for the American Dance Awards and qualified for the national finals of Youth American Grand Prix. Reina is truly a valued member of the WSPA faculty who is loved by all.
Ballet and Tap
Angela began to dance at the age of three at the South San Francisco Recreation Center. At the age of six she continued her dance education at Schumacher’s School of Dance and then joined WSPA’s Performance Program in 2000. Angela has garnered numerous high-level competition awards at Showstoppers, Showbiz, International Dance Challenge, the California State Talent Competition and various other national talent competitions. She is a graduate of the University of San Francisco with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and Political Science. In 2010 Angela moved to London, England to complete a Master’s in Business Administration in International Business. She finds great joy and happiness in teaching Ballet & Tap as well as Tap to her many students.
Ballet and Tap
Soraia started dancing when she was two at the community center in Sunnyvale, beginning in ballet and tap. She continued dancing at Pacific Ballet in Mountain View from age four to seven. She began dancing at WSPA in 2010, starting in the Ballet Performance Program in junior two. Soraia has gone on to dance in the Modern, Ballet, and Neoclassical Performance Programs. She has competed with WSPA since her first year, attending many competitions such as New York City Dance Alliance, Spotlight Dance Cup, International Dance Competition, and Onstage Dance Competition. She is now a company member in the Neoclassical and Modern Performance Programs. She is currently a junior at Lowell High School and was a part of the advanced dance program throughout her sophomore year. Soraia has loved aiding classes for the past four years and is very excited to be teaching her own classes this year.
Mahalaya Tintiangco-Cubales started dancing at three years old at WSPA in 2007. Mahalaya is an award-winning dancer in classical and contemporary ballet, modern, jazz, and hip hop. Mahalaya has been performing in WSPA’s production of The Nutcracker since 2009 and has played many roles from Baby Angel to Mouse to Mother Ginger’s child, to part of the party scene, to Clara, to a butterfly, to Princess Flora and Sugar Plum Fairy. Some of the most prestigious awards that Mahalaya has received were the 2016-2017 National Junior Outstanding Dancer title along with the Regional 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 Youth Grand Prix regional awards, and also the 2019-2020 Grand Prix award. She has also received scholarships to attend intensives at the American Ballet Theater, Joffrey Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Houston Ballet, Ballet West, Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Complexions, BodyTraffic, Master Ballet Grand Prix Intensive, and Seattle Dance Advance. Mahalaya was also invited to go to the Philippines in 2017 to dance in the Composition and Movement Analysis Program’s Choreographers’ Festival Internationale. In 2019, she also had the honor of representing WSPA in the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Ballet Philippines.
Hailey has been a dancer at WSPA since she was five years old. Hailey has played many roles in WSPA’s annual Nutcracker performance. This past year Hailey received the principal roles of Princess Flora and Snow Queen. Some achievements that Hailey has accomplished in the past years include placing in the top 12 in classical and top 24 in contemporary at YAGP regionals (2019). She was also given an honorable mention at California Dance Classics (2019). Outside of the ballet competitions, Hailey has placed in the top 20 as a junior outstanding dancer (2017) and top 25 as a teen outstanding dancer (2018) at NYCDA Nationals. Hailey is currently a member of the Senior Professional Ballet Division, Company Modern and Jazz. Hailey has been a teachers’ aid at WSPA for about 4 or 5 years now and loves working with little kids. She has aided for Ms. Hannah, Ms. Bridget, Ms. Jadyn, and Ms. Jessica. She hopes to inspire and help our little ones be the best dancers they can be. Other than her love and commitment to ballet, along with other styles, Hailey is going to be a junior at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco.
Rinoa Longhitano has been in the Polynesian Program at WSPA for ten years. Her first teacher was Auntie Camille, where she began her love for dancing. After being taught by Auntie Camille, Rinoa moved onto the Performance Program where she has been taught by Auntie Katrina DeJesus, Auntie Janelle, and now Auntie Morgan Chang-Jimenez. She is grateful to have Kumu Hula Anthony Waipa Manaois as a mentor for almost 9 years and to be a student under Te Orama. Her first competition with Te Orama was at the 2013 San Jose Tahiti Fete, and ever since she has been passionate to perform and compete. Rinoa was a Teacher’s Aide for four years, and is now excited to teach students herself about the Tahitian and Hawaiian cultures. Dancing is what Rinoa loves most, and she can’t wait to share the love and mana with others. This year, Rinoa has been able to learn more about the Tahitian Culture with Anthony Abellana teaching her how to play the To’ere. Dancing with Te Orama has brought Rinoa so much closer to the Tahitian and Hawaiian culture, and she hopes to dance and teach as long as she can. Rinoa is currently a junior at Westmoor High School in Daly City.
Melissa Batesting began her dance training at the Westlake School for the Performing Arts in 2007. She found herself under the direction and mentorship of Patrick Cruz, dancing and competing with WSPA’s Urban Dance performance program group, APT. It was during these early stages of her dance journey that she quickly found herself directly aligning with the school’s values and goals. She truly found her passion for Urban Dance and teaching at WSPA and owes so much of her success and opportunities to the training and guidance of the school and its staff. Fast forward to the present, Melissa is now in her ninth year with WSPA's professional dance team, The Company, as Co-Director, choreographer, and dancer. Over the years she has found herself traveling both domestically, up and down the California coast, Texas, and Boston, and internationally, to Macau, Vietnam, and the Philippines, with the opportunity to teach and share her love for dance. Melissa has been teaching the General School Urban Dance department for the past six years and loves working with our beginner dancers as they begin their own dance journeys at WSPA!
Jessie Muñoz started his dance training with his high school dance team. In 2012, he joined WSPA's general school program and eventually joined the performance program group, APT. He is now in his fifth year with WSPA's The Company as a dancer and choreographer. Over the past few years, Jessie has been given the opportunity to teach Master Classes in and around the Bay Area, as well internationally. He hopes he can inspire all of his students the same way his directors and teammates inspire him every day.
Marina Cotton’s love for dance began when her mom placed her in a ballet class at the young age of three. In 2013, Marina began training at WSPA in General School ballet, jazz, and urban dance. She quickly developed an affinity for urban dance and decided to pursue it solely. She worked her way through the urban dance program ranks; she danced with ADV, APT, and she is now in her third season with The Company. Marina is currently earning her BA in Media Studies at the University of San Francisco, and will graduate in the Spring of 2021. Marina hopes to inspire her students to have the same love for dance that she has.
Nikiya began dancing at WSPA at the age of 3. She studied several dance styles including ballet, modern/contemporary, Polynesian, tap, jazz, and urban dance. At the age of 13, Nikiya decided to pursue ballet professionally. She trained under master ballet teachers including Inna Bayer, Jorge Esquivel, Lauren Main de Lucia, and Viktor Kabanieav. She attended summer training programs of world-renowned ballet companies across the country including American Ballet Theatre and Joffrey Ballet, and was awarded a scholarship to attend the Washington Ballet School summer intensive. She participated in international dance festivals with WSPA in Macau, China and Aberdeen, Scotland. Nikiya studied dance at Chapman University for one year with a scholarship from the NYCDA College Foundation. After her freshman year, Nikiya left Chapman to train full-time with Alonzo King Lines Ballet. While Nikiya loves to dance, she also has an affinity for academia. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a BA in Media Studies in 2019. During her time at Cal, Nikiya rediscovered her passion for urban dance. She is currently in her third season with The Company and enjoys teaching urban dance to young students. Nikiya hopes to instill a deep appreciation and love for dance in the next generation of artists and movers.
Samantha is sixteen years old and is currently a junior at Immaculate Conception Academy in San Francisco. She began her Musical Theatre training at the age of six under the instruction of Katie Kerwin-Gielniak. Besides Musical Theatre, Samantha has also been trained in Tap and Jazz. She has performed in musicals such as The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, The Wizard of Oz, Once on This Island, and many more. Samantha has also competed in several competitions in Anaheim and performed as an All-Star at the Junior Theatre Festival in Sacramento. In 2019, she was announced the most outstanding Senior Musical Theatre Student by Katie Kerwin-Gielniak. For the past two years, she has also been aiding in the Musical Theatre Performance Program and is currently teaching Musical Theatre to General School students.
Samantha started taking classes at WSPA when she was three years old, doing everything from Ballet & Tap, Jazz, Urban Dance, and Musical Theatre. Samantha was in MTC Senior/Pre-Pro from 2010 to 2015 under the direction of Ms. Katie Kerwin-Gielniak. She has experience stage managing backstage and in the booth for Holiday Shows, Galas, and WSPA's annual recitals. She used her training at WSPA to secure a job at Rochester Institute of Technology (RTI) in events planning. Samantha moved back to the Bay Area after earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Computing Security from this May from RTI. WSPA has always been a part of her life, as a baby being watched in the main office by Auntie Debbie to calling the 2019 Holiday Show for Ms. Malu. She is very excited to be teaching Musical Theatre alongside Samantha Glean this year.
Executive and Administrative Staff
Malu Rivera-Peoples, School Director
Paul E. Peoples, Chief Executive Officer
Debbie Knutson, Office Manager
Joey Bough, Collections Manager
Melissa Batesting, Administrative Assistant
Cylyn Montero, Administrative Assistant
Nikiya Peoples, Content Editor and Marketing Manager
Melissa Batesting, Website Administrator
Marina Cotton/Mhaysie Ruiz, Social Media
Sonia Lockwood, Office Staff
Charlie Rualo, Office Staff
Alejandra Rocha, Office Staff
Christina Soto, Office Staff
Norilyn Wolf, Office Staff
AIM Bay Area Staff
Jessica Wallack-Cohen, President
Rebecca Wheeler, Vice President
Donna Lacsina, Treasurer
Alla Bolsheva, Secretary
Carlen Chin, Parent Liasion
Hannah Hapin, Press Relations Officer
Jenny Nelson, Parlimentarian