Maria Benjamin

Born and raised in the Caribbean, Maria started formal dance training while in college in Boston,
Massachusetts. She majored in International Business at Northeastern University, but had
spent one year in Paris at the Sorbonne also majoring in French literature, history, culture and
Maria’s Caribbean culture (which is influenced by French, British and African ancestries) plays a
key role in her love of dance and its different styles and flavors. In Boston, she started studying ballet in her early 20’s but fell in love with Jazz, Limon and Graham techniques. Dance became a passion that she’s continued to nurture and train in. Maria moved again to Paris and lived there for 4 years before finally making the Bay Area (San Francisco and Oakland) her home and the place where she would discover the style of dance that really spoke to her heart and spirit. It’s a fusion of Horton, Graham, Limon, Gospel, Afro, Blues and Ballet technique, influenced by Alvin Ailey. This style, which is being taught by her
mentors and teachers in San Francisco, is called Modern Jazz Blues. Maria has trained at the ODC and Lines Ballet Dance schools in San Francisco for the past 20 years. During this time she taught dance to adults, and to high school students in the dance program at the SF School of The Arts (SOTA). At SOTA Maria choreographed pieces that the students performed at the end-of-year dance performance at the SF Palace of Fine Arts and the Cowell Theater.
She’s performed her own choreography and also works by Elvia Marta at the SF Black Choreographers’ Festival on several occasions. Maria now lives in beautiful San Diego and is excited to teach and share the joys of dance within this community.

Rachel Catalano

Rachel Catalano received her formal training from Dennis and Kathy Landsman at American Dance Center in Kansas City, where she studied classical ballet for eleven years. Here she had multiple opportunities to work closely with renowned dancers/choreographers such as Francie Huber (Paul Taylor) and Judy Rice (The Joffrey Ballet). At 15 years old, she was accepted into a traineeship with Störling Dance Theater where she continued her modern and contemporary training further. This led to her dancing with contemporary companies such as MAXXAS Dance Theater, Kansas City Movement, Fall Contemporary Aerial Dance, and most recently Numinous Flux in Nashville. Mrs. Catalano has booked multiple commercials, music videos, and live performances including the privilege of performing on stage with Jason Mraz in his debut of “Shine” in February 2020. Rachel recently spent a year in Paris, France at Studio Harmonic’s contemporary school, where both of her choreography projects were chosen to be performed and featured in the showcase. At the core of her teaching is the belief that the most profound impact you can have on someone’s life is to make them feel understood and that art is the vehicle to that.

Alexa Fote


Nicole Francesca

Nicole Francesca is a performance artist and choreographer, specializing in movement research through Contemporary Improv, Afro Modern, and Yoga Practices.

Nicole originates from San Diego, California. At the age of four she began training at California Ballet under the direction of Andrea Feier. Nicole has received a variety of scholarships to dance intensives across the United States including Alvin Ailey Summer intensive, The American Dance Festival, and Katherine Dunham Technique Seminar.

Based out of Philadelphia for the last seven years, Nicole attended University of Arts where she received her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance. She’s performed and trained under a variety of renowned choreographers, including Group Motion’s 50th Year Anniversary. Nicole has been part of the Katherine Dunham Technique Certification Program Since 2014. This technique is an African America dance form engaging the mind, body, and spirit through modern, ballet, and traditional dances of the African Diaspora.

In 2020, she became a 400hr Certified Yoga Instructor. Teaching for the last 12 years, her classes correlate self-awareness and the healing aspects of dance. Fusing her contemporary Improv, Afro-Modern, and Yoga Practices, Nicole’s Dance and teaching values are based around the holistic elements of movement.

Natalia Hill

Natalia Hill is from Lancaster, PA where she started dancing at 3yrs old. She continued her training at multiple studios, several ballet intensives, and multiple genres until receiving her BFA in Modern dance Education from The University of the Arts, Philadelphia. Her passion for dance and teaching have sent her to NY, LA, Vegas, and as far as Italy before settling into San Diego,CA. She has taught at over 20 studios across the country and has been an instructor for Outreach Dance classes through Malashock Dance School since 2016. Natalia is a singer in her band, Nothing Special, and a session musician for local original and cover bands. Professional credits include: MGM, Las Vegas with the Pointer Sisters, Temptations, and The Four Tops, City Opera San Diego WOW Festival, opening performance for 5th Dimensions, PGK Dance Project, Dance Envoy (Italy), Malashock Dance Company, and with a regional theater in PA performing in Will Rogers Follies and Peter Pan. She is grateful for the opportunity to have performed stunning work by local choreographers of San Diego such as Alyssa Junious, Shauna Tyser, Celeste Lanuza, Laura Segura, and Ron Davis. Natalia has also choreographed across the country for things such as Pirates of Penzances and P.T. Barnum, “Dance Your A** Off” promotion in Times Square, NY for Oxygen TV Network, ballet production of Beauty and the Beast, and a dance sequence for an independent film in LA. Natalia is grateful her path has lots of turns and detours that have blessed her with so many amazing people and opportunities. She looks forward to sharing this with her students to guide them on their journey and with her audiences to help them feel connected as people through art.

Joseph Lister

Laray Egea-Saez has been dancing since she was nine years old. She studied and trained in multiple styles of dance throughout her school years beginning at San Diego Creative and Performing Arts High School (SDSCPA) and continued learning through college. In May of 2018, Laray graduated with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Dance & Science from San Diego State University. She performed with a University Dance Company for three years and also had the opportunity to share her experiences through an internship as a teacher’s assistant at Duke University in North Carolina. Dance to her has always been more than just movement; it is about sharing passion and allowing others to find a place where they can be themselves and create their own art expression in addition to embodying skills for their well-being.

Dakota Matos

Dakota Matos is a recent graduate from Shenandoah Conservatory where she earned her BFA
in Dance. She is also well traveled in her training and has gotten to train in studios and
companies across the west and east coast of the United States of America as well as several
countries in Europe. She has performed works by artists such as Sidra Bell, Yoshito Sakuraba,
Ginger Cox, Ballet Hispanico, and others. One of Dakota’s professional highlights is being
adjudicated at ACDA Spring 2022 and having her choreography honored in the ACDA Gala
performance in their location at Slippery Rock University. Dakota is currently a freelance dancer
working in southern California and is working with companies in the San Diego Area. Recently,
she has also ventured outside the concert dance realm and is working as a dancer with
Seaworld at Sesame Place. As Dakota continues her journey through this crazy thing we call
dance, she hopes to share her knowledge, experiences, and joy for this beloved art form with
other aspiring dancers

Lucia Padilla

Lucia Padilla was born and raised in National City, California and started her training at transcenDANCE Youth Arts Project. From there she practiced a variety of dance styles such as modern, afro-cuban, and improvisation. After two years of being a student at the organization, she attended San Francisco State University where she graduated in spring of 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Minor in Women Studies. During her time in university, she focused her studies on Horton Technique and was a teacher’s assistant for multiple Horton based classes instructed by Ray Tadio. Lucia was also a dancer for University Dance Theater for two years and presented her own choreographies in her department. After she moved back to San Diego due to the pandemic, she reconnected with transcenDANCE and trained to be a Teaching Artist by the help of Tonnie Sammartano. From there, she grew a passion for teaching elementary and neurodivergent youth. Lucia‘s current purpose is to spread the joy and importance of dance education to San Diego communities.

Cleo Person

Cleo Person is a dancer, emerging choreographer, and writer. Her work explores the soulful qualities of human beings and the mysteries of the natural world. Working with the languages of classical ballet, modern dance, and poetry, she aims to connect audiences with the environments, both inner and outer, in which they live. She is a graduate of The Juilliard School dance division and currently resides in Southern California, where she works as a collaborative, multi-disciplinary artist and teacher. She has worked with groups such as the Arts Fusion Initiative of NYC, has been commissioned to choreograph by Perry Mansfield Performing Arts in Steamboat Springs, CO, and has taught dance across the country.

Hailey Peterson

Hailey began her training in Richland, Washington at Tri Cities Academy of Ballet and Music and pre-professionally with Mid-Columbia Ballet under the direction of Debra Pearse-Rogo. During her training she performed works by Ashley Walton, Philip Strom, Rex Wheeler, Debra Pearse-Rogo and many more. Hailey attended summer intensives at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Indiana University and the University of Utah. After a summer at Miami City Ballet she decided to stay for the year round pre-professional program under the direction of Arantxa Ochoa. Hailey then decided to pursue a degree at the University of Utah’s College of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City, Utah. Graduating in the Spring of 2022 she obtained her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Ballet with a Certificate in Studio teaching for ballet and additional courses in Nutrition. She has performed in pieces by Susan Jaffe, George Balanchine, Christopher Alloways-Ramsey, Daniel Ulbricht, Rick McCullough and many more. Hailey is currently a dancer with City Ballet of San Diego in Pacific Beach. 

Rachel Torres

Rachel Torres graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a BA in Literature with Honors and a minor in Dance. Upon graduation, Rachel began taking classes and working with artists in the San Diego community. She has had the pleasure of performing works by several local artists including John Malashock, Jean Isaacs, Sadie Weinberg, Debi Toth, Lara Segura, Erica Buechner, Erin Tracy, and Lavina Rich. Rachel has been a company dancer for the Malashock Dance Company since 2016 and teaches adult Intermediate/Advanced Modern for the Malashock Dance School.

Upcoming Events

Check out a schedule of our upcoming performances and events.