Nicole Oxendine

Nicole D. Oxendine's passion for dance spans over 26 years, a passion that inspired her to dedicate her life to teaching and mentoring. Nicole has successfully taught dance at Hillside High School for ten years and is currently a part-time faculty member at North Carolina Central University, and authors the dance curriculum for the Durham Public School system. She was as a principal dancer for Bellan Contemporary Dance Theater as well.

Now, Nicole is a full-time entrepreneur and owner of Empower Dance Studio, a studio based in Durham, NC that nurtures and fosters natural beauty, instills self-confidence, and reinforces positive images of dancers from all backgrounds.

Nicole graduated from Hollins University in 2003 with a B.A. in psychology and dance. She received her M.A. in dance/movement therapy from Columbia College Chicago in 2011 and her course of studies was focused on adolescents with developmental disabilities.

Nicole’s work in the non-profit sector is extensive, having been a program coordinator for A Long Walk Home in Chicago, a program that uses arts to advocate against sexual violence. She worked in various capacities at the prestigious American Dance Festival. Her charitable work includes founding her own non-profit organization, the Empower Dance Foundation, and she a patron of the local Boys & Girls Club. Nicole continues her philanthropic efforts, serving on the Board of Directors for The Carolina Theater of Durham and North Carolina Arts in Action. 

Jessica Burroughs

Jessica Burroughs has a passion and drive for dance that goes beyond twenty years. She has trained at Hillside High School under the direction of Lisa Wilder and Nicole Oxendine.  Ms. Jessica studied Ballet at the American Dance Ensemble, Modern & Jazz with Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Ballet at Orange School of Performance Arts (OSPA), and Ballet & African with Ballethnic Dance Theater.

Ms. Jessica has over 10 years of teaching experience at various studios in North Carolina and Virginia.  Her office administration experience currently American Dance Festival Scripps Studio.  She has been Studio Manager and Assistant Director for Ari’s House of Dance & Performance Arts Studio and Mayeisha’s Fine Arts Studios.


She has devoted her talent and love for this art in teaching, nurturing and motivating children, teenagers and young adults. She relentlessly gives back to her alma mater the Hillside High School.  For the Performing Arts Department she is the Dance teaching assistant; Guest choreographer for Drama Productions; and Auxiliary Assistant for the Band.  She also is the Auxiliary Assistant for Research Triangle Charter Academy; Assistant Choreographer at Lyon Park Recreation Center; and Performer and Choreographer for Durham’s Black Nativity. She is a dancer with Andrea E. Woods & Dancers SOULOWORKS and an improvisation dancer with Tony Johnson.

Jamie Oxendine

Office Manager

Lakeya Hardy

Academy Coach & Instructor

Brittany Harlan

Academy Ballet & Administration

Anthony "Ay-Jaye" Nelson, Jr.

Academy Modern

Anthony “Ay-Jaye” Nelson Jr is a Durham native performer, choreographer, and instructor. With Hillside High School being his first dance home, he has thus branched out broadening his movement vocabulary and technique with a particular focus on modern movement, ballet, release technique, hip-hop, and jazz influenced styles. He has been featured in various Dance Theatre performances and has performed works for Chris Grant, renowned choreographer for Beyoncé, Leah Wilks of VECTOR, ShaLeigh Dance Works (SDW), and continues to perform around the Triangle with various independent dance organizations such as The Triangle Dance Project, Tobacco Road Dance Productions, DIDA and more. Anthony is currently a primary dancer of ShaLeigh Dance Works (SDW) under the direction of ShaLeigh Fairbanks.

Kyra Alston


Deborah Ross


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Tianna Sharpless

Teen Intern

Shaleigh Comerford


Bio: ShaLeigh Comerford received a Masters degree in Visual and Performing Arts from Hollins University as well as a Bachelor’s with honors in Painting and Poetry. She began her formal dance training with the Roanoke Ballet Theatre in VA. She also trained under numerous master teachers at the American Dance Festival, NYC and at P.A.R.T.S in Brussels, Belgium. In addition, Comerford was personally invited to train in the Gaga movement language with Ohad Naharin and the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv, Israel for their inaugural teacher training program. Comerford’s professional dance career began with the Roanoke Ballet Theatre where she performed and toured principle roles with the company from 2000-04. She performed as a member of Tina Croll & Company and apprenticed with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. Leading roles with the Virginia Ballet Academy, Keigwin & Company, the Dendy Dance Theater, Carolina Ballet, Martha Clarke, as well as a restaging of Batsheva Dance Company’s Minus Sixteen, an Official Music Video for Blind by Christian Loffler, and Cirque USA. In 2005, Comerford founded ShaLeigh Dance Works, a dance theatre company dedicated to creating socially conscious works. Comerford’s choreography has been described as dance theatre with a “stark and inventive” physical language. She was featured as an emerging New York choreographer at Chen Dance Center’s 2007 newsteps series and was a recipient of Dance Theatre Workshop’s 2007-2008 Creative Residency.

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