The Houston Metropolitan Dance Company now known as, METdance, is concert based repertoire company with 13 dancers that are contracted from August - September and are in-house trained. METdance complete season includes seven main performances per year in Houston at the Discovery Green, Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, MATCH, The Raven Tower and the Miller Outdoor Theatre. METdance also has a large Educational and Community Outreach component that aims to excite, inspire, and expose the art of dance to as many spectators as possible. The company conducts master classes, workshops and residencies in private studio, high school and university settings, both local and nationwide. The dancers serve as teachers, mentors, choreographer and most importantly ambassadors for the company. The company tours nationally and performs in the local festivals and community events and was voted by Houston Press "Best Contemporary Dance Company" in 2005, 2014 and 2017.
METdance has also collaborated with the following organizations for the 2018-2019 Seasons.
Mercury Ensemble, Apollo Chamber Players, Houston Chamber Choir, Bruce Wood Dance, Houston Symphony, Black Iris Project and the Texas Civil Rights Project.
“The MET has clearly mastered artistry and creativity. If you didn’t catch them in April, don’t wait another 15 years.”
-Mandy Oaklander, Houston Press, April 2011
"METdance’s gorgeous dancers push the choreography to its fullest and most generous capacity, while sharing the joy and electric verve of their craft with the audience."
- Adam Castaneda, Houston Press, May 2016
"The DanceFest highlight came from METdance of Houston. Kate Skarpetowska’s Consumed, beginning with an awesomely frenetic solo and then into a brilliant ensemble number, with the dancers in black business suits and white shirts, displaying quickly contorted body movements and jaw-dropping cohesion, was out-of-this-world thrilling."
-Mark Lowry, Star Telegram, September 2015
Michelle Smith, FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR of the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company (aka METdance) has more than 24 years of ballet training including training with the New York City Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from Texas Christian University and during her college years she performed at Summer Stock/Casa Manana Musical Playhouse earning leading roles in "Grease," "Oklahoma," and "Chicago." After graduating from TCU in 1981 she and her husband moved to Houston. Her passion for dance lead her to join the Delia Stewart Dance Company. Over the next 15 years she performed as a principal dancer with the company and was a primary faculty member for the school. In 1985 she became the Manager of the professional dance company and added the role of Director of the Delia Stewart Dance Center in 1989. She established a children’s program and diversified the classes offered in the program for adults. She balanced performing with the company and being Director of the Dance Center while having three children, who are now young adults. Simultaneously she managed three commercial real estate firms for seven years. In 1995 Delia Stewart retired and Smith focused her passion and energy on becoming a full time arts entrepreneur. She transformed the Delia Stewart Dance Center into the Houston Metropolitan Dance Center. Smith developed the schools clientele to its current enrollment of 1,000 students – both children and adults. Today there are more than 450 children, from 3 years to 12 years old, who take class weekly and perform in an annual recital. More than 700 adults enjoy a diverse mix of classes including ballet, jazz, broadway, modern, tap and hip-hop. METdance offers training for the beginning student up to and including professional level training. The Dance Center also includes a pre-professional training program, MET too, which focuses on student’s ages 13 to 18 years old, with the vision of these students pursuing dance in college and beyond. In 2001 she retired as a dancer to focus on the growth and development of the school and professional company. For 10 years Smith championed a need for a new facility and in June 2013 METdance moved into a new space featuring four studios and ample parking. This space allows for the expansion of METdance’s programs as well as much needed rehearsal space to the Houston dance community. Her appointment will allow Smith to focus on the continued growth of the school and professional company. Michelle Smith believes that dance can help to develop self-esteem and discipline in students of all ages which contributes positively to their life on many levels. She has been involved in the Houston arts and dance community for more than 30 years.
Joe Celej, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, is a New York City based creative artist whose career spans nearly fifteen years of professional concert dance performance, choreographic investigation, and passionate instruction and mentoring of students. Joe graduated summa cum laude with a BFA in dance performance from SUNY Buffalo, where he was a performing and creative arts honors scholar, and supplemented his training with scholarships to Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, The Edge, and the Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles. Joe is an honored recipient of a 2010 Presidential Scholar Teacher Recognition Award from the US Department of Education. Joe began his relationship with METdance, then called Houston Metropolitan Dance Company, as a dancer in 2001, and worked with artists such as Robert Battle, Kate Skarpetowska, Peter Chu, Mario Zambrano, and Eddy Ocampo. During this time, Joe served as Resident Choreographer of METdance, creating several works for the company including audience and critic favorite, What More? (2005). In the fall of 2005, Joe relocated to New York City and performed for over eight years with the internationally touring/acclaimed concert company Elisa Monte Dance. As a senior company member and soloist, Joe performed extensively throughout the US (including multiple Joyce seasons) and Europe with EMD, most notably meeting and performing for the Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg. Through the EMD choreographic initiative, Joe enjoyed creating six works for the company, and was honored to have his Joyce Theater choreographic premiere in 2011. During this time, Joe continued his relationship with METdance as a guest choreographer, creating new works including ForeverFleeting (2007) and primed (2014), guest faculty, and served on the company’s advisory board. Joe is incredibly honored to have been appointed Associate Director of METdance at the opening of its 2015-16 20th Anniversary Season. Joe is a guest teacher/choreographer throughout the US and Europe at a variety of educational institutions including Steps on Broadway, Peridance Capezio Center, SUNY Buffalo, Rice University, Salve Regina University, the High School for Performing and Visual Arts Houston (HSPVA), Episcopal High School, St John's School, and the Hetrick-Martin Institute. Joe is proud to have been a teacher/mentor to dancers who work(ed) with LA Dance Project, Lar Lubovitch, Ballet Hispanico, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, the Radio City Rockettes, and Disney, as well as current students/graduates of the Juilliard School, Point Park University, NYU, SUNY Purchase, SUNY Buffalo, Chapman University, University of Arizona, SMU, and many other secondary educational institutions. As an independent artist, Joe has presented his choreography at numerous venues including the Reverb Dance Festival/APAP, the Dance Gallery, the Pink Ribbons Project, the Big Range Dance Festival, the Great Friends Dance festival, Zodiaque Dance Company, Extensions Dance Company, Dance Harlem, American Dance Guild, Vision of Sound, Dumbo Dance Festival, The Tank, Pushing Progress Showcase Series, Cool NY Dance Festival, and the Solar Powered Dance Series. Joe is a co-creator of a new digital comic book entitled Drawn In: The adventures of Jamo Lady and Magners Man. www.joecelej.com
*Listed in Alphabetical Order by Company Members and Apprentices
SINCLAIR DAVIS, from Oak Park, Illinois began training at the age of three and studied at various studios throughout Chicago. She graduated Western Michigan University in 2017 with a BFA in dance. While in college, she performed works by Lew Christensen, Antony Tudor, Joshua Manculich, James Gregg, Frank Chaves, Ohad Naharin and Kyle Abraham. She was also a member of Western Michigan University’s touring ensemble, Western Dance Project. She has furthered her training at the Lou Conte Dance Center’s summer scholarship program, Interlochen Arts Camp, and Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion’s summer intensive. In 2016, her choreography was selected to represent WMU at the American College Dance Association east central regional conference. After college, she danced as an apprentice with Eisenhower Dance Detroit. Sinclair is very excited to begin her first season with METdance!
RISA D’SOUZA (COMPANY LIAISON) is a native to Houston, TX, where she began her training in the MET too Youth Company. During this time, she had the opportunity to perform works by Pattie Obey and Kiesha White, and danced in Tidal Intersections by Katarzyna Skarpetowska with METdance in 2010. She graduated from Point Park University in December of 2013 with a BFA in Dance. During her time in college, she performed works by Randy Duncan, Alejandro Cerrudo, Ohad Naharin, Toru Shimazaki, Doug Bentz, and Garfield Lemonius, and worked with Cheryl Mann, Tobin Del Cuore, and Jamy Meek. She also was awarded a scholarship to the 2013 Parsons Dance Summer Intensive. After college, she danced with a Pittsburgh project-based company, Reed Dance, where she got to perform work by Terence Green and Christopher Huggins. She finished her fourth season with METdance performing work by Mario Zambrano, Rosie Herrera, Joshua L. Peugh, Camille A. Brown, Joe Celej, Larry Keigwin, Jess Hendricks, jhon r. stronks, and her all-time favorites Kiki Lucas and Katarzyna Skarpetowska. Risa is extremely excited to start her fifth season with METdance
DAMOND LEMONTE GARNER from Charlotte, North Carolina, attended Northwest School of the Arts where is studied orchestra, musical theater, and dance. This led him to Point Park University where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance under the direction of Garfield Lemonius. While at Point Park, DaMond was blessed to perform works by renowned choreographers including Sidra Bell, Lucinda Childs, Alexandra Damiani, Lar Lubovitch, Jessica Hendricks, and Anthony Tudor alongside the Conservatory Dance Company. DaMond also extended his training at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance as well as Northwest Dance Project’s LAUNCH. He has worked as a guest artist with Texture Contemporary Ballet, The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and The Johnstown Symphony Orchestra. As an emerging artist, DaMond is working to be an advocate for all art forms, both in and out of creative spaces. He is very excited to perform with METdance for his first season!
GENENE MCGRATH is originally from Philadelphia, PA. She graduated with a BA in dance from Point Park University under the direction of Susan Stowe. While at Point Park, she worked with various choreographers such as Robert Battle, Melissa Barak, Whitney Moncrief, and Jason McDole. Genene worked professionally for three seasons with the Missouri Contemporary Ballet under the direction of Karen Mareck Grundy. While with the company, Genene worked with distinguished choreographers, including Kiesha Lalama, Autumn Eckman, Jennifer Medina, Shannon Lee West, and Lisa Belrose. Before joining METdance she performed with Peridance Contemporary Dance Company, in New York, where she performed pieces by Igal Perry, Bryan Arias, and Dwight Rhoden. While at METdance, Genene has had the great pleasure of performing works by Camille A. Brown, Joe Celej, Margot Gelber, Rosie Herrera, Jessica Hendricks, Kiki Lucas, Caleb Mitchell, Robbie Moore, Joshua L. Peugh, Andrea Dawn Shelley, Katarzyna Skarpetowska, jhon r. stronks, and Mario Zambrano. As well as performing for the first time on the Inside/Out Stage at Jacob's Pillow in 2017! She has also had the pleasure of touring with METdance to the Green Box Arts Festival, Dallas Dance Fest, Austin Dance Festival, and Spring to Dance. Genene is very excited for her fifth season with METdance!
ELIZABETH SUTTON is originally from Moorpark, CA. She began dancing at the age of three and has trained at various studios around Southern California. Elizabeth performed annually in Moorpark Civic Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” performing lead roles such as Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy. During her senior year of high school, she joined the pre-professional dance company Innovate and had the opportunity to work with and perform pieces by distinguished choreographers like Sonya Tayeh, Lauren Adams, Melissa Jackson, Teddy Forance, and Jason Parsons. After graduating high school, Elizabeth moved to Tucson, AZ, to attend the University of Arizona. She graduated summa cum laude and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications with a Business Administration minor. During her time at the University of Arizona, Elizabeth performed in works by Sherry Zunker, Ohad Naharin, Miguel Perez, Amy Ernst, Tamara Dyke-Compton, Michael Williams, and Sam Watson. She also spent her summers training with renowned dance companies such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, BODYTRAFFIC, Houston METdance, SoulEscape, and River North Dance Chicago. She is also a Perry Mansfield alumni. During her first season with METdance, Elizabeth had the honor of performing works by choreographers Dominic Walsh, Margot Gelber, and Tsai-Hsi Hung. Elizabeth is very excited to begin her second season with the company!
DWAIN TRAVIS is a Houston native, trained locally in dance from ages 3 to 11. At 12, he began training at the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington DC, where he performed many variations from classical Vaganova ballets. He started his professional career with a company in Houston, BAHBT, where he spent four years as Principal and Artist in Residence under Luis Fuente and director Lynette Mason Gregg. His first piece of choreography, Dearly Departed, was selected for the RDA/SW Dance Festival, as well as the 2010 Craft of Choreography Conference, and further awarded the RDA Choreography Connection Grant with the opportunity to choreograph on the Canton Ballet in Ohio. His next original work, Pulse, was chosen for the 2012 RDA National Festival in Montreal, Canada. Dwain has also toured and worked with many other schools/companies including Houston Ballet, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, the Joffrey Ballet's JKO School, the Harid Conservatory, and Houston Dance Theater, among others. Alongside joining the METdance family in 2017, he became co-founder and choreographer for Juxtapose Arts Collective in South Houston. Dwain is proud and excited to be starting his second season with Houston METdance!
PAIGE WHITE was born in Chicago, Illinois and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. She began her dance training as student at The Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts at Pebblebrook High School where she graduated. In 2013 she moved to New York City to continue her dance training at The Joffrey Ballet School. During her time at The Joffrey Ballet School, Paige was cast as Lead Flower in The Nutcracker and Canary Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty. After three years at The Joffrey Ballet School she then joined METdance in 2016 as a member of the professional company. Paige has since performed works by Bridget L. Moore, Camille A. Brown, Katarzyna Skarpetowska, Rosie Herrera, Mario Zambrano, and Robbie Moore. With METdance Paige has traveled to Dallas Dance Festival, Austin Dance Festival, Green Box Arts Festival, and Jacob's Pillow. Paige is thrilled and eager to see what this 23rd season has in store!
DYLAN ALLEN (TRAINEE) is from Houston, Texas and attended High School for the Performing and Visual Arts as a dance major. While there, he performed works by Jose Limon and Troy Powell. He also was a part of the Houston Met Too Youth Company on scholarship, and performed works by Marlana Doyle, Kiki Lucas, Terrill Mitchell, Sydney Skybetter, Joe Celej, and Roman Vasquez. He Graduated Point Park University with a BFA in Dance. He has been able to perform works by Ruben Graciani, Matt Pardo, Kiesha Lalama, James Gregg, Douglas Bentz, Adam Hougland, and Jason McDole. Dylan’s ethnic backgrounds include Mexican, Spanish, Japanese, Irish and is also a well-versed cook. Dylan would like to thank his parents for always supporting him, and his younger sister for always being an encourager. He would also like to thank God for everything in his life. This is his first season with METdance.