Joel Hall Dancers — (Our Primary Company)

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All Photos Credited To Leni Maana-Hoppenworth

Joel Hall Dancers (JHD)

The signature dance style of the Joel Hall Dancers (“JHD”) incorporates ballet, jazz, modern, funk, and “street dance” using contemporary jazz and house music to create an innovative and continuously evolving dance style that is appealing, relevant, and approachable for those frequently underserved by the arts. Both JHD and its audience exhibit a rare diversified spectrum of cultural, ethnic, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds.

The Joel Hall Dancers maintain a city-wide, national, and international reputation not only for their diversity and innovation but also for their substantive sociological content and engaging aesthetic style.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Joel Hall, the Joel Hall Dancers have carried their unique yet universally accessible voice to venues that span the world. In June of 2010, the Joel Hall Dancers presented “Here’s to Life” which included six premiere works in addition to the re-staging of multiple works, including the critically acclaimed piece Y2Day.

In September of 2010, the Joel Hall Dancers performed at the Floral Pavilion in New Brighton, United Kingdom at the invitation of Merseyside Dance Initiative. The Joel Hall Dancers presented “In the Shadow of Nina Simone,” which once again received extraordinary reviews and feedback from both the public and the dance world. Just as Nina Simone always searched for new ways to present her music, the Joel Hall Dancers mirrored this quest for novel presentation, building upon their original unique style rooted in traditional jazz dance. The Joel Hall Dancers also performed several other staples from their repertoire, including “El Gato Negro” and “Compassion of the Sorceress.”

During our 2015 40th anniversary “Celebration Season” — the Joel Hall Dancers electrified audiences across Chicagoland with performances on some of the region’s grandest stages.  From creating the world’s largest kick-line at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park… to “Anja: the Unexpected” an ambitious fusion of live jazz music and dance at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center in Hyde Park  … to the spectacular culminating performance of the Billy Strayhorn centennial celebration: “Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn” at the Auditorium Theatre.

JHD’s performance in this grand show was a highlight of the stellar evening, as Chicago Tribune critic Howard Reich said of “Lush Life” noted in his review: “Add to this the sometimes slinky, sometimes sensuous choreography of the Joel Hall Dancers, and you had a multifaceted Strayhorn homage that captured the intrinsic elegance of the man’s music.”

Meet the JHD Company — click on a name below to see their bio:

Joel Hall
(Artistic Director/Founder)
Jacqueline Sinclair
(Asst. Artistic Director)


Tarah Ortiz






Melissa "Missie"








Joel Hall
Artistic Director/Founder
Joel Hall, a native of Chicago’s Cabrini Green neighborhood, established and co-founded the Chicago City Theatre Company in 1974.

This unique performing arts organization includes the Chicago City Theatre Company, the Joel Hall Dancers, and a training facility, the Joel Hall Dancers & Center.
Hall is the Artistic Director and choreographer for his dance company and the Chief Dance Instructor for the training studio. He has now mentored dancers who direct Joel Hall Dancers II and the Joel Hall Dancers Youth Company.

During the past 40 years, Hall has achieved an international reputation for his Dance Company and acclaim as a choreographer whose work; in his own unique dance style based in jazz, expresses a rich vocabulary embracing both the classical and modern dance idioms. Mr. Hall also served as one of Mayor Harold Washington’s international ambassadors for the arts.....(read more)
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Jacqueline Sinclair
Assistant Artistic Director
Jacqueline Sinclair's most fulfilling artistic endeavor has been as a member of the Joel Hall Dancers.

She is continually inspired by Mr. Hall’s visions and the depth of his work. It is with honor that she has been a part of Mr. Hall’s creative process and has seen the birth of some of his signature ballets.

She has danced in many of his world premieres, including El Gato Negro, The Phoenix, Nuts & Bolts, Great White Cheddak, Te Deum II, Y2 Day, The Crossing, For Marvin, Silkman Suites, An Evening with Nina Simone, Sweets for my Suite, The March and Conversations with Charles Heath. After several years as the company’s Rehearsal Director she is excited to move into the role of Assistant Artistic Director.
In addition to breathing life into Mr. Hall’s choreography she has worked with guest artists Sarita Smith-Childs, Lisa Johnson-Willingham, Ray Mercer, Troy Powell, James Morrow, William Gill, Joel Valentine-Martinez and Jarrett Rashad Kelly. She has traveled nationally and internationally with the company.

Other performance credits include, dancing the Charleston and Black Bottom in the 1920’s review titled Ballyhoo!, guest appearing with Kyle Terry’s TheMassive, performing 1960’s go-go dances with the Revelettes, and demonstrating in Cathy Young’s instructional film Jazz Dance Technique.

Ms. Sinclair holds a BA in dance from Columbia College of Chicago, a secondary teacher’s certification from Northeastern Illinois University and a MA in Theatre from Northwestern University. She is currently Director of Dance at Maine South High School.
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Michelle Bronstein
Michelle Bronstein started dancing at a very young age and had the opportunity to train and dance with Master teachers in Florida, Pittsburgh and Chicago. She graduated from Point Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in dance, concentrating in jazz. She also received her minor in advertising and public relations.

Michelle has had the opportunity to work with Joel Hall Dancers II, Noumenon Dance Ensemble, Duwane Pendarvis Dance Theatre, and KCD Dancers for Non Violence. She also teaches in the fitness field as an instructor in Pure Barre, Pilates, and Aqua Zumba. She is thankful to be a company and faculty member with The Joel Hall Dancers & Center.

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Kareem Dixon
Born in California, raised in NYC, Kareem began training in the arts in Georgia at the Tri-Cities VPA Magnet High School, majoring first in Voice and then adding Dance as a double major. At Iowa State University he earned a B.S. in Biology/Pre-Veterinary Medicine and a Dance minor.

His passion for the arts took him to Chicago and The Joel Hall Dancers – working his way up from the junior company – JHDII, to a first company apprentice and eventually a Joel Hall Dancer first company member.

In addition to the occasional music video and movie, Kareem has also danced for Alliance Dance Company, Duwane Pendarvis & Company, Ballet Entres Nous, Innervation Dance Cooperative, Chicago Dance Crash, Lucid Banter Project, and other Chicago-land area companies.
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Tarah Ortiz Durnbaugh
Tarah Ortiz Durnbaugh is proud to be in her 7th season with The Joel Hall Dancers. Her dance journey began over two decades ago in her first class at The Dance Shoppe in Waterford, MI, which was of course, jazz.

After graduating from Northwestern University, Tarah found her Chicago dance home when she joined the JHDC family in 2009 as a member of JHDII, and was promoted to JHD in 2010.

Today, she also performs with rhythmic performance ensemble Be the Groove, teaches at Kaleidoscope Dance in Skokie, and works in arts education administration at Urban Gateways, and choreographs for various theatre and dance projects across the city.

Endless thanks to family, friends, JHDC, and most of all Kevin and Ivy for the continued support and enthusiasm.
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Dria Fair
Dria Fair is a Chicago native who began her dance training on scholarship at The Joel Hall Dancers & Center. Dria previously performed with the teen company, JHD 1511, under the joint direction of Katy Kempen and Courtney Hischke Ring. She later trained with JHD II, under Duwane Pendarvis, for one year before joining The Joel Hall Dancers as an apprentice in 2013. In Fall 2014 she was granted full company status. In recent years Dria has filmed scenes as a backup dancer for the Bollywood hit movie Dhoom 3, and she has also been a finalist for the Chicago Luvabulls.
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Rosetta Fair
Rosetta Fair, a Chicago native, began intensive training at the Joel Hall Dancers & Center and holds a B.S. in Education from DePaul University. Additional dance studies include workshops/intensives at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York City, Katherine Dunham Technique Seminar in St. Louis, Deeply Rooted Community Ensemble, Hyde Park School of Dance, and The Academy of Music & Movement.

Rosetta has been a company member with the Joel Hall Dancers since 2012 and is excited for another season. She has also danced for Tamboula Ethnic Dance Company, JHD II, and various freelance projects. Rosetta is deeply fulfilled with embracing jazz dance & Joel Hall’s strikingly unique movement vocabulary in jazz dance.
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Carl Jeffries
Carl Jeffries began dancing on the streets of Chicago where he honed his skills as a breakdancer on the Southside. A few years later he attended Columbia College and soon after became a member of Shirley Mordine Dance Company.

He received intense training in dance theatre that led him to study with Joseph Holmes Dance Company. Carl has worked with various Chicagoland choreographers including Muntu African Dance Company, SonDance Productions, Homer Bryant, Mahdi Theatre Company and more.

After a few years away he’s back on the scene with 20 years of experience as a dancer, actor and choreographer.
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Melissa Metro
Melissa Metro grew up in Chicago where she played sports in Grammar School and danced at Joel Hall in High School. She attended the University of the Arts where she graduated with a BFA in Dance.

After getting certified in group ex and yoga, she began teaching in gyms, schools and corporate offices all over Philadelphia.

Upon returning to Chicago she returned to Joel Hall, guested with Chicago Dance Crash, entered in multiple hip hop battles and teaches multiple styles of yoga, dance and weight training for multiple gyms all over Chicago.
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Michelle Reid
Michelle Reid began her dance training at the age of 4 dancing at Pontecorvo Ballet in Dayton Ohio. She continued dancing throughout her youth and later pursued her passion in college by attending The Ohio State University where she obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance.

Michelle Reid has performed in many dance performances as well as theatre performances in college such as Aida and Chicago the Musical. She has also studied with dance companies including Alvin Ailey and Hubbard Street Dance.
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Melissa "Missi" Roh
Melissa "Missi" Roh began her training at the Ruth Page Center for the arts studying ballet under Mr. Larry Long. She was a contracted apprentice for Ruth Page’s Civic Ballet of Chicago. At age 15, she began dancing at Homer Bryant’s Chicago Multi-Culutral Dance Center (CMDC). At age 16, she was offered her first teaching opportunity in Latin Ballroom at CMDC. Miss has since danced for many companies and celebrities ranging from The Boston Ballet, Busch Gardens, and background dancing for Hip Hop Artist, Twista.
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Jacquelyn Sanders
Jacquelyn Sanders loves to dance and has been dancing since she could walk. She began her professional dance training with the Kalamazoo Ballet Company.

She later trained at the Ailey School and relocated to Chicago where she trained and performed with Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre.

She has also danced with Tyego Dance Project, Ascension, The Kirby Reed Project, and Nucleus Dance Collective.

Although she loves ballet and modern even more, she needed some jazz, funk, and house in her life. Then she met Poppa Joel and he turned the Ballerina into a Jazzarina and the rest is history.
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Luewilla Smith-Barnett
Luewilla Smith-Barnett started her dance training at age 7 with the Doris Jordan School of Dance on the south-side of Chicago and continued to develop her dance training by taking classes with Joseph Holmes, Hubbard Street, Homer Bryant, and at The Joel Hall Dance Center. She decided to take her dance training to a higher level in 2013 with Deeply Rooted’s Pre-professional Program and then again in 2014 with intense formal training with Joel Hall. Luewilla trained during his summer intensive then joined JHDII, quickly earned a role as a JHD Apprentice. She is honored and humbled to now be a first company member.

Luewilla has choreographed and performed with several organizations, including the Mahdi Theater Company, Harlem Theater Company, IDream Productions, Mbari Dance, Folklorico Dance and Spiritwing Dance. Luewilla is a mother of three, an educator with CPS, and co-founder of Zenith Dance Company, Inc.
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Moo Vang

Moo Vang started his studies under Stephanie Barto, director of Read My Hip. His performances combine the vibrant art of belly dance with modern, ballet, jazz, and hip-hop – with an Asian flare. He's still a staple performer with the group - with performances every weekend at Alhambra Palace.

In 2010, Moo won the Chicago Oriental Dance Competition and performed with Mario Kirlis in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was invited to Spain (March 2013) to perform and teach at the 7th International Oriental Festival in Valladolid. He can be seen in Taproot's music video "Release Me". In 2016-2017, he toured with Bellydance Evolution in Morocco, Egypt for their first production of Scheherazade, and in Germany and Bosnia for their production of Fantasm: Odyssey of Dreams and the east coast in the States in Alice in Wonderland.

Currently, Moo continues to train at Joel Hall Dancers & Center as a lifelong student, where he also performs locally and nationally as a member of the Joel Hall Dancers First company.
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Kristin Vollmer

Kristin Volmner began her dance career at the age of 3 training at the Kehl School ofDance in Madison, Wisconsin. She later studied as a member of the Madison YouthBallet, Ballet Chicago, Milwaukee Ballet, and Alvin Ailey in New York City.

In her professional career Kristin has worked with the Joel Hall Dancers performing works bysuch choreographers as Joel Hall, Paul Sanasardo, Jim Morrow and Jarrett Kelly, in a variety of performances including the Jazz Dance World Congress.

She has also worked with Cerqua Rivera, Inaside Chicago Dance, Chicago Dance Crash, danced in a USO tour in South Korea and performed as a backup dancer in Bollywood film Dhoom 3.

Kristin completed her Business Management and Dance degrees at Northeastern Illinois University and hopes to continue to share the gift of dance with the generations to come.
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Heather Zimny
Co-Artistic Director: JHDYC
Originally from Park Ridge, Heather holds a BA in dance from Columbia College Chicago and both a 200 hour Power Yoga and Yoga Sculpt Certification from Corepower Yoga. She is happy to spend another season setting the marley on fire with her Joel Hall family.

Other dance credits include Rasa Dance Chicago, Lucid Banter Project, Trifecta Dance Collective, Alliance Dance Company, Ballet Entre Nous, D. I. A. L, Paul Sanasardo and numerous independent choreographers as well as appearances in music videos. She is grateful to be directing, choreographing, and teaching throughout both the city and the subburbs when she is not performing. Heather is continually inspired by Joel, her fellow dancers, her students, and the vibrant place that is the JHDC. She continues to train and develop her artistry at the JHDC, Lou Conte Dance Studio, and Visceral Dance Center in addition to sprinkling in some yoga and aerial silks for good measure.
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For information on upcoming events, please visit our Performances and Calendar pages.

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