Faculty & Staff

395-4188 / FAH-130

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A native of Florida, Melissa Brenner attended Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, Florida Community College at Jacksonville and ultimately the University of Florida, where received her BFA in dance in 2003. Upon graduation, Melissa moved to New York City to continue her training by studying and performing with various modern dance artists.

In 2010, Melissa received her MFA in dance performance, choreography and pedagogy from Arizona State University. While studying in Arizona, Melissa served on the board of the Arizona Dance Educators Organization, the University Graduate Council, was the President of the Graduate Dance Organization, and taught a number of classes at Arizona State including Modern, Ballet, Pilates, Yoga, and Introduction to Dance. Melissa received Best Performer and Student Service Award for 2009/2010 and received the Faculty Emeriti Fellowship and Graduate Research Grant for her thesis project titled “Recipes for Work and Play”, a site-specific production presented at the Bragg’s Pie Factory in 2009.

As a performer, Melissa has danced professionally with Mary Fitzgerald Dance and Karen Schupp Dance, and has performed the works of Ashleigh Leite, Shapiro and Smith Dance, Kelly Drummond-Cawthon, Elina Mooney, and many others. Her choreography has been selected and presented on stages and site-specific locations throughout the U.S. since 2001. Melissa spends most summers performing and participating in festivals such as Bates Dance Festival in Maine, American Dance Festival in North Carolina, La Alternativa in San Francisco and Strictly Seattle in Washington.

Melissa holds a Pilates certification from Pilates Sports Center and is currently on the dance faculty at Santa Fe College where she teaches Modern, Pilates and Yoga, World Dance, and Dance Fundamentals. In addition, Melissa is part of the ‘creative team’ for Dance Theatre of Santa Fe.

395-5590 ext. 6412 / E-137

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Mohamed DaCosta (African Dance), from Boke, Guinea, is Lecturer in African Performing Arts in the Department of Theatre and Dance and the Center for African Studies, and affiliate faculty in the Center for World Arts at the University of Florida. Mr. DaCosta served as choreographer for the African Ballet of Gambia and performed with the company from 1980-85. In 1996, he performed across Europe as featured drummer with Culture Movement, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense. Mr. DaCosta has also been featured in performance by the internationally renowned Chuck Davis African American Dance Ensemble. As three-time University of Florida Center for World Arts artist-in-residence, Mr. DaCosta has used his exceptional command of West African performance traditions and engaging teaching persona to develop appreciation of West African culture at the University of Florida, New World School of the Arts, Santa Fe College, and in the greater communities of Florida and North Carolina. Mr. DaCosta's abiding warmth, vitality and artistry are an inspiration to students, fellow artists, community members and audiences of all backgrounds.

395-5674 / E-137

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Credit: Rick McCullough

Sarah Harkness-Sebastian serves on the Dance Faculty of Santa Fe College.  She received her MFA degree from The Florida State University School of Dance and earned her BA in Theatre Arts, with a minor in Dance, at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles.  After earning her undergraduate degree, Sarah worked for Sherry Lansing, former CEO of Paramount Pictures, and founded Meh-Tropolis Dance Theatre, in Los Angeles, serving as the company's Artistic Director for six years, and producing many full-length evening works including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty.  Sarah has also performed with Oberlin Dance Company and with Martin Sheen, Stockard Channing, and other cast members of The West Wing, in the Los Angeles production of Raising Our Voices.  She has directed and/or choreographed such productions as A Chorus Line, Rocky Horror Show, and South Pacific for the Theatre and Dance Department at Loyola Marymount and has been a guest choreographer on multiple occasions at Pepperdine University.  Performances include “Maria” in Sound of Music, “Minnie Fay” in Hello Dolly, “Ariel” in The Tempest, and “Alice’ in Closer.

Sarah was a company dancer of The Florida State University’s Dance Repertory Theatre, working with Lynda Davis, and choreographers Alan Danielson, Michael Foley, Tim Glenn, Gerri Houlihan, Rick McCullough, Andrew Noble, Dan Wagoner, and Jawole Zollar. She has served as Assistant Director, Workshop Coordinator, and Faculty for the Suzanne Farrell Workshop for Young Dancers and the FSU Summer Intensive for Young Dancers Workshop.  Internationally, she has studied and performed with the Oxford, England School of Drama, the Montpellier, France World Dance Festival, Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and in Valencia, Spain in the Conservatorio Superior de Danza.  Sarah served on the Faculty of Caxton College, in Valencia, Spain, instructing courses in Drama and Modern Dance.  While in Spain, she performed her original work and that of choreographer, Tim Glenn, in Tasia, a performing artists’ exhibit in the heart of Valencia’s main city center. 

Locally, Sarah has worked with Valencia College, in Orlando, was a guest choreographer for Tallahassee Ballet, and was awarded artistic residencies, for the summers of 2013 and 2014, at the Lillian E. Smith Center for Creative Arts, in Clayton, Georgia.  Her work “Returning” was featured during the Joffrey Dance Group Concert winter tour for 2014, during the company’s residency at Santa Fe College. Recently, Sarah choreographed West Side Story and Sweet Charity for the Fine Arts Department of Santa Fe College, and has been creating work for multiple Dance Theatre of Santa Fe productions as well as mentoring student choreographers for their annual concert Room to Dance. She has also served as Coordinator for the Florida Dance Association’s Young Dancers Workshop, 2012-2014.

395-5296 / E-137

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Born in Austin, Texas, Ms. Haynes is the Chair of the Fine Arts Program at Santa Fe College. She was appointed to this position in 2005. Formerly, she was the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Dance Theatre of Santa Fe and Director of the Santa Fe College Dance Department. Ms. Haynes is a well- known advocate for Arts Education, and a master teacher, choreographer, and performer in the Southeast.

As a performer, she attended the Alabama School of Fine Arts, where she worked under internationally renowned ballet teacher Dame Sonia Arova and her husband Thor Sutowski. Before coming to Santa Fe College she performed as a principal dancer and Ballet Mistress for the State of Alabama Ballet under the direction of Arova and Sutowski. She has performed solo roles in many classical ballets such as "Swan Lake", "Nutcracker", "Les Sylphides", and "Raymonda" as well as neo-classical ballets under such choreographers as Thor Sutowski, Alberto Alonso of National Ballet of Cuba and Earle Seiveling of New York City Ballet. Her other company affiliations are: The Alabama Ballet Theatre, Montgomery Civic Ballet, The Southern Theatre Ballet, of Miami, Florida, and Dance Alive!

Ms. Haynes holds a BFA in Dance from the University of Alabama-Birmingham and an MFA in Dance from Florida State University. Ms. Haynes has been employed at many colleges and universities including; the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Florida State University, Springhill College, Huntingdon College, the University of Florida and twenty-five years with Santa Fe College. As a teacher, Ms. Haynes was a finalist in the SF chapter of the Florida Association of Community College's "Instructor of the Year." She also was honored on SF's "Wall of Fame" in 200-01 for her contributions to SF. In 2001, she received the NISOD Excellence Award from the International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence for the installation of the SF Summer Dance Institute, an intensive dance workshop held on the campus of SF. As an administrator, Ms. Haynes collaborates with many artists and companies to bring teaching excellence to SF college including: Finis Jhung, Brian Brooks, Denise Vale, the Joffrey Dance Group, Marion Caffey, Rennie Harris, American Ballet Theatre, Peter Kalivas and many more. In 2003 Ms. Haynes is a member of the Board of Directors of the Florida Dance Association and the Gainesville Orchestra. She enjoys serving in her role as a promoter and supporter of the growth and development of art, music, dance and theatrical arts at SF and in the community of Gainesville.

395-5916 / E-137

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Tari Kendall is the Co-founder and Co-director of the Dance Theatre of Santa Fe(DTSF), the performing company of the Dance Department of Santa Fe College. Since its inception, DTSF has blossomed into a strong company performing a variety of dance styles to sold out audiences. Ms. Kendall is also the Executive Director of the SFC Dance Department. Besides directing the company, Ms. Kendall still performs and choreographs for DTSF. She is most remembered for her role in Alberto Alonso's "Legend in my Living Room", which premiered in 1996 with DTSF. Ms. Kendall began her professional career with Dance Alive! and toured the Southeast and Midwest as a master teacher of jazz dance and soloist while with the company. Gainesville audiences may remember Ms. Kendall in her roles of Lady in Red in Tom Pazik's "Carmina Burana" and the lead in Kim Tuttle's "Bolero" both performed while she was a soloist with Dance Alive!. She has received two Monticello Scholarships to attend the Craft of Choreographers Conference and has performed in a nationally televised Dr. Pepper commercial. She is equally at home with musical theatre and has portrayed "Judy" in "A Chorus Line" at the Alhambra Dinner Theatre and has choreographed many musicals for the SFC Theater Department which include: "Working", "At Home with the Television", and "The Haunted Taxi Ride".

Ms. Kendall holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Management from St. Leo College with a specialty in Arts Management. Ms. Kendall is currently a member of the Florida Dance Association and the National Dance Education Organization along with the American College Dance Festival Association. She also serves on the Dual-Enrollment Performing Arts Committee for the State of Florida. Most recently, Ms. Kendall has become the Executive Director of the Santa Fe Summer Dance Institute which is an annual dance intensive held at SFC under the direction of Alora Haynes. Ms. Kendall was chosen by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) to be a recipient of the 2001 NISOD Excellence Award for her role in the Summer Dance Institute.

395-4188 / FA-130

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Jessica Mayhew was born and raised in Miami, Fl where she attended Coral Reef Senior High. She accepted a scholarship to Santa Fe College where she became a member of the performing company Dance Theatre of Santa Fe (DTSF), working closely with artist in residence, Alberto Alonso. She was featured in many of his ballets and appeared in the documentary film “Dance of my Heart,” which followed Mr. Alonso’s professional career. Jessica made her own professional debut with Florida Dance Theatre of Lakeland, FL before finishing her undergraduate degree at the University of Florida in Criminology and Law. Upon graduation, Jessica was asked to serve as an adjunct faculty member at Florida School of the Arts, teaching modern, choreography and repertory. Soon after, Jessica went on to receive her M.F.A. degree from Florida State University in Performance and Choreography. Here, she performed with Dance Repertory Theatre and in works by José Limón, Gerri Houlihan, Michael Foley, Andrew Noble, Tim Glenn and Lynda Davis to name a few. She was fortunate to teach multiple levels of non-majors dance courses in ballet, modern and jazz throughout her time at Florida State.

She has had the great honor of presenting her work internationally in Kazakhstan as a collaboration with Peter Kalivas and the PGK Project of San Diego. Nationally, Jessica work has been presented at the Dumbo White Wave Festival and the Dance Gallery Festival in NYC, the Alabama Dance Festival, ACDFA, Florida Dance Festival, NewGrounds Festival, and the Ringling International Arts Festival. Jessica has most recently been commissioned to set work for The Tallahassee Ballet and a M.F.A. thesis concert at Florida State.

Jessica is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Dance at Santa Fe College. She dances professionally with Surfscape Contemporary Dance Theatre in New Smyrna, FL and enjoys photography when she’s not in the studio.