Meet the Instructors
Styles: Modern, Ballet, Contemporary,
Nicole Oxendine has been a proven and acknowledged dance professional, instructor, choreographer, curriculum specialist, movement theorist, and entrepreneur. Nicole pursued a career in dance at Hollins University in Roanoke, VA, studying psychology and dance. For Nicole, it was more than just getting the physical training and understanding of dance, it was understanding how the mind and the body are connected. Under the tutelage of Donna Faye Burchefield, Nicole studied movement recall for dancers for her major thesis work, and the Black female relationship between hair and self. She trained under, Mark Haim, Andrea Woods-Valdes, Donald McKayle, Jenefer Davies, and Marlies Yearby. Nicole has also performed with David Dorfman and worked with Mark Morris Repertory. She received her ballet training with Teresa Ruth Howard, modern and hip-hop under Nicholas Leichter, and African dance with Baba Chuck Davis.
Returning to her hometown Durham, NC, Nicole taught dance at her alma mater Hillside High School, and authored the dance curriculum for the public school system. Nicole became an adjunct faculty member at North Carolina Central University and continued to dance as a principal dancer at the Bellan Contemporary Dance Theater. While working with the students, Nicole discovered many of them used movement to process their own trauma and feelings and decided to further connect the relationship between dance and psychology. Nicole pursued a Masters in Dance Movement Therapy at Columbia College in Chicago, IL, focusing her work on adolescents with developmental disabilities. She worked with this population and trauma survivors. It was in 2015 when Nicole stepped in line with her purpose and founded Empower Dance Studio.
Under Nicole’s leadership, Empower Dance Studio has been in high demand for performances and workshops from Durham Public Schools, Durham Chamber of Commerce, North Carolina Museum of Art, African American Heritage Commission, North Carolina Museum of History, East Durham Children’s Initiative, Duke Performances, and American Tobacco Campus. Through the Empower Dance Foundation, founded in 2017, Nicole has been able to create opportunities for underserved communities to experience dance education through financial assistance and community outreach. Nicole is also a community arts engagement consultant using the power of the arts to connect communities.
She has been named as the Triangle Business Journal 40 under 40 award recipient, featured in Spectacular Magazine, Durham Magazine, and stories on ABC 11, Newsy, Spectrum News, and more. Nicole is a member of the Public Art Committee and Vice Chair of the Durham Performing Arts Center Oversight Committee. She is passionate about supporting other local business owners and giving back to her community that has given so much to her.
Nicole prioritizes quality time with her family, who all have been an integral part of her personal success and the success of Empower. Her favorite place in the entire world is the beach and she enjoys vacationing in the Outer Banks. In her free time, she explores other arts disciplines, specifically painting these days, and enjoys trying out new recipes at home.
Styles: Ballet, Salsa, Kizomba, Contemporary
Tina Vasquez is a first generation American of Puerto Rican, Cuban and Jamaican decent. She is the co-founder of the consulting firm, biwa|Emergent Equity, and joined Empower both as a parent and dance teacher. Originally from New York, Tina moved to the Triangle in 2016 after a 15-year professional dance career. She is a Certified as a Movement Analyst by way of the Laban Institute for Movement Studies, has a B.A. in Individualized Study from NYU Gallatin and an MS in Organizational Behavior, Systems and Analytics from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering Polytechnic Institute. She has also been trained by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond on Undoing Racism. She has infused anti-racism principles throughout her professional career of teaching, dancing and organizing. Tina enjoys creating art whenever possible and feels incredibly fortunate that she and her family get to be a part of the Empower community.
15 Years Dance Experience
McDaniel Roberts, Assistant Artistic Director of the African American Dance Ensemble, Artistic Director of the Harambee Collective and Co-Director of Baba's Rising Sons. A native of Durham NC, and 2016 Emerging Artist in Dance. McDaniel loves to share the culture of dance throughout communities near and far. He pays homage to his dance father, the late Baba Chuck Davis and all the ancestors. He lives by his mantra, "Believe in yourself, Keep the Faith, and Don't Give Up".
Lee Edwards (they/them/theirs)
Styles: Contemporary, Modern, Lyrical
Lee Edwards is an interdisciplinary movement artist and embodied storyteller, working in dance, sound, video, and ethnography. Their layered corporeality shapes the lens through which they investigate, create, and express their experiences. They are a glitched body (as coined by Legacy Russell) navigating multiple realities, living underneath and within systems that oppress and shape their body and self. As a navigator, Lee offers reflections on society, time, and place in its present. Lee’s practice takes shape through the use of performance, installation, improvisational and somatic techniques, and writing. Their work allows them to make sense of the present by examining it alongside the past in the hopes of creating otherwise possibilities in our nearest future.
Lee’s formal dance training started at The Dance Theatre of Harlem School, after which they went on to receive their BFA in Dance from The University of the Arts, Philadelphia (c/o 2015). Lee has danced and performed with companies Lela Aisha Jones | FlyGround, Putty Dance Project, Dancespora, KCBC, and Jo-Me’ Dance. They have worked with choreographers Michael Mao, Jasmine Powell, Raphael Xavier, and Joanna Kotze. Their writing has been featured in works by iKada Dance, Drye Marinaro Dance Company, and by artist Surya Swilley. They are a past artist in residence with The Wassaic Project (July 2018), and Activation Residency (September 2019).
Lee recently received their MFA in Dance: Embodied Interdisciplinary Praxis and Master's Certificate in African and African American Studies from Duke University (2022)
There is so much joy and healing in movement. Yoga helped me find my purpose and create the life of my dreams. It is my deepest desire that you’ll join me in this beautiful practice.
My movement story began as a serious dancer and athlete. Years later, I discovered the practice of yoga while grinding away at a corporate job. I was searching for peace of mind and found my divine purpose. After much study, I was certified to be a Registered Yoga Teacher with the Yoga Alliance in 2019, and haven’t stopped learning since. Now I share the knowledge and practices that have transformed my life, radiating in a new and vibrant light for everyone to enjoy.
With me, every class is an event! Every teaching moment is an opportunity for connection, community, and growth. Maybe you laugh, maybe you cry, maybe you just get that deep stretch, this is your personal practice — have fun with your flow! My classes help cultivate a positive mindset while gradually increasing strength, range of motion, and a greater mind-body connection. I would be honored to be part of your journey.
Avery Lythcott-Haims is studying dance and cultural anthropology at Duke University (’23). Growing up in Palo Alto, CA, she danced at Dance Connection Palo Alto, where she studied ballet, pointe, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, and tap, and performed annually in ballets such as The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. She spent two years competing with the Dance Connection Performing Company, and one year as a member of the Dance Connection Ballet Company. Avery was also a member of the Gunn High School Titanettes dance team, and later was a member of the Duke Dancing Devils. Avery is looking forward to beginning a career in dance and the performing arts.
Alyah Baker is a dance artist, scholar, and entrepreneur working at the intersection of art and embodied activism. Her work is informed by her intersectional identity and a desire to build diverse and equitable creative communities. She has trained and performed professionally with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet of New York, Oakland Ballet, Richmond Ballet, and Carolina Ballet. Over the course of her career, Alyah has performed in classical and contemporary repertoire as well as film. She has danced featured roles in works by Balanchine, Antony Tudor, Laura Dean, José Limón, and Alonzo King, among others.
In addition to choreographing and performing, Alyah has two decades of teaching experience and is the founder of Ballet for Black and Brown Bodies, an advocacy platform for BIPOC ballet dancers. She is also the founder of Show & Tell Concept Shop, a community-centered retail enterprise.
Alyah holds a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in Dance from Duke University and is a member of the inaugural MFA in Dance: Embodied Interdisciplinary Praxis graduate class. In 2020-2021 she was the recipient of the Kenan Institute of Ethics Graduate Arts Fellowship in Social Choreography and Performance. Currently, Alyah lives and works in North Carolina and teaches dance at Duke University.
Durham North Carolina Native, Trey Fletcher, has been teaching dance to all ages across the country, from Murrietta Dance Project in California to Alvin Ailey Extension Programs in ATL for the last 3 years. He found his love of dance at a rather young age when dancing in different musicals in Middle School soon to be directing and producing them in High School and has been dancing for the last 10 years. Trained by Duke professor and studio Owner, Nina Wheeler, in classical collegiate Jazz and Ballet for for all his pre-professional training. He has been titled many awards for his dance skills and choreography including awarded NCASA Best Male Dancer in 2019. He danced next to many including Travis Wall, Brian Friedman, and Autumn Miller etc. Trey studied dance at The Juilliard School for summer Intensives and Fordham University at Lincoln Center/The Ailey School. Trey Loves giving back to his community with his gift of dance knowledge and performance capabilities. He is enthusiastic, creative, and has a passion for dance like no other.
Styles: 90s Cardio Funk, WERQ, VideoSould
Erika Bianca Vinson fell in love with dance during her college years, performing hip-hop with Pamoja Dance Company at the University of Georgia. A native of Augusta, Georgia, Vinson's passion for dance led her from the deep south to Chicago to pursue her master's degree in Art Therapy. During her graduate studies, Vinson auditioned to train with Culture Shock Chicago, a nonprofit organization focused on bringing hip-hop dance to families and youth as a positive outlet for creative expression. When recording artist Kid Sister approached a Culture Shock rehearsal one day, offering manicures and Subway sandwiches in exchange for dancing in her music video, Vinson jumped at the chance, launching her career as a professional dancer that would take her around the world, making a stop on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and meeting Kanye West along the way. Following her graduate studies and touring career, Vinson sought opportunities to continue sharing the feeling of unbridled joy experienced when moving in community with others, training in and teaching a variety of dance and dance fitness techniques over the past decade. Building on her experience as a full-time educator and mentor for Exceptional Children in Chapel Hill-Carrboro public schools, Vinson focuses on creating a space where students of all ages and abilities feel safe and supported in a body-positive, nonjudgmental environment - where all are free to experience the joy of dance. Finding perfect alignment with her values and those of Empower, Vinson joined the studio in 2018 to teach adult and children's dance and dance fitness, drawing on her touring years to keep people moving and, most importantly, having fun!
Styles: Bollywood, Bharatanatyam
Neha Giridharan has been dancing for most of her life! She is formally trained in Bharatanatyam, a South Indian Classical dance style, and graduated from the Arathi School of Indian Dances in Arizona. She moved towards Bollywood in college, where she co-founded the collegiate Bollywood dance team "Om Shanti," and competed from LA to NY. When Neha moved to the Bay Area, she started her dance company “White Swan Dance,” through which she taught a weekly class in San Francisco, made dance videos, and choreographed for weddings. She is currently an advisor for the Bay Area-based dance company Duniya Dance and Drum. She hopes to continue her dance endeavors here in North Carolina! Apart from dance, Neha is a Hospital Pharmacist and loves traveling the world with her husband!