Umoja Dance Company

Instructors Bios


Jelan Gaston

Jelan began dancing at the age of three in South Orange, New Jersey. She started taking ballet, tap, and jazz classes. As Jelan got older, she was able to perform in older dance groups and went on to training in African dance, Pointe, and Hip-Hop. Throughout her high school career, she was introduced to modern dance technique, improvisation, choreography, and dance history. Jelan recognized that her love for hip-hop dance grew more everyday.

Jelan went to Rowan University, located in Glassboro NJ, in the fall of 2016. She quickly adapted to Rowan Theater and Dance style of moving as she consecutively performed in student choreographed showcases as well as pieces directed and synthesized by different artistic directors in the department. She also participated in some of Rowan’s well known dance crews and companies. Now being a college graduate with a BA in Dance, Jelan has returned back to her hometown and is now apart of the East Orange School District as a teacher assistant at Cicely Tyson School of Performing Arts. She will continue on to explore the creative process and possibilities of the professional dance world.

Brinda Guha

Brinda Guha has been learning North Indian Classical Kathak dance for over 20 years under the tutelage of her mother, Smt. Malabika Guha. She has performed professionally over a decade in the tri-state and midwest areas, as well as internationally on group and solo projects.   She has collaborated with many east coast performing artists and musicians and has been on the bill at several theater venues and community concerts.

Brinda has choreographed pieces for her company and many local dance groups, presenting work at Brooklyn Dance Festival, NYCDA Dance Festival, Young Choreographer's Festival, Broadway Dance Center Professional Semester Showcase,  NJ State Theater, Hammerstein Ballroom, Madison Square Garden, and much more.

Brinda is currently on permanent faculty at House of Duende, guest faculty at Broadway Dance Center and teaches permanently for Kalamandir of NJ.

Chris Livsey

For over 20 years Christopher Livsey, a NJ native, has been a performer/ teaching artist (acting, musical theatre, jazz/hip-hop) working throughout the tristate area. Chris toured Europe in several productions and served as dance captain in Euro-tour of the musical Hair, directed by its creator James Rado. He also toured the US working with award winning director/choreographer George Faison (The Wiz, Making It!).

As a drama coach/teacher, Christopher works with students/ performers of all ages and levels using the voice, improvisation, character development and scene-study in developing confidence and strong stage technique.
For nearly 20 years Christopher has been on staff with Sharron Miller Academy of the Performing Arts helping to develop and implement core curriculum standards for their artist in resident programs serving Newark, East Orange, Hillside and Paterson NJ. He also serves as drama teacher for SMAPA Prime Time Summer Arts Program writing/ directing eight original productions over a 6 week period. And recently bringing musical theatre to the Umoja Dance Studio summer program.

Lauren MacAllister

Lauren MacAllister is a native of Connecticut, having begun her formal training in high school at ACES Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven, CT. It was here Lauren discovered her passion to study and pursue dance professionally

Lauren is a graduate with honors from Montclair State University holding degrees in dance performance as well as dance education. Lauren was able to work with Frederick Earl Mosley whom made a huge impact on her training. Lauren has been on staff of the Earl Mosley’s Institute for the arts for over 5 years, teaching street jazz as well as choreographing many works. Lauren has been studying extensively at Broadway Dance Center and Steps on Broadway.

Lauren is so grateful to have met and began studying Afro-Urban technique; Afro beats and hip hop with Angel Kaba for about three years. Lauren has performed at Jacobs Pillow, Sybarite Choreographers Showcase, as well as many festivals around the tri state area. Currently, Lauren is a full-time dance teacher in the Newark Public School system where she works with students in grades K-12th grade.

Also, having taught at Steps on Broadway and most recently presented her newest work at Target’s First Saturday’s in the Brooklyn Museum!

Stephenni Miller-Allen

Obtained her Master’s Degree in Dance at The American University, Washington, DC. Ms Miller-Allen had the opportunity to study under the direction of Naima Prevost, Kristin Gamb, Daniel Burkholder, Vonn Turner and Alice Howes. In 2010, she began developing dance programs and teaching dance in the New York public charter schools.

She has performed in New York venues such as: Alvin Ailey American Theater, Harlem Repertory Theater, The Harlem Arts Festival, Roots, Waxworks, and Dance New Amsterdam. Currently, Ms. Miller-Allen is the Founder and Artist Director of S.M.A Dance Academy in Harlem, New York.

Ms. Miller-Allen feels blessed to share the gift of dance with others as she strives to create a positive environment for students, and the community.

Brianna Santigate

Brianna Santigate is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in dance performance from Montclair State University (MSU). As a member of the MSU Repertory Dance Company Brianna has performed the choreographic works of Bill T. Jones, Larry Keigwin, Christian von Howard, Maxine Steinman and various others. Her dance training began under Gina Forcella at the Dance Stop Dance Education Center in Parlin, New Jersey. Brianna has taught jazz, lyrical, ballet, acro and tap at many studios throughout the tristate area including; Dancin’ on the Edge, The Cool School, and Prestige Academy of Dance. Her choreographic work Amphibian Demeanor was presented during the 2016 Dance Collage Series at MSU.

Kia Silliman

Kia Silliman was born in Manhattan and raised in Montclair, NJ. Before pursuing dance, Kia trained in gymnastics from the age of 3 and competed between ages 7 and 16. Kia's passion for dance always came out in her floor routines, when she was finally able to combine strength, flexibility, and grace. She always danced in school, but began her formative training at age 14 at Theater Arts Dance America (TADA) in Verona, NJ in addition to being a member of Montclair High School’s Dance Company. She graduated with honors from the University of the Arts with a BFA in Dance Performance. Upon graduation in 2014, Kia moved to Las Vegas to pursue her professional dance career. She was a member of the final cast of one of the longest running Showgirl shows on the Las Vegas Strip, Donn Arden’s ‘Jubilee!’ She also rekindled her love for gymnastics through coaching at nationally ranked Brown’s Gymnastics (Las Vegas, NV) where her love for teaching grew. While at Brown’s, Kia choreographed routines on both balance beam and the Floor Exercise with their competitive team, as well as weekly classes refining their (ballet) lines and performance techniques.

Just before her move to Los Angeles, Kia performed in an original Cirque du Soleil production, “One Night for One Drop: AMANZI” at the Smith Center, and later premiered in theaters. Since her move to Los Angeles, Kia has appeared in ads for Tiffany & Co. and Equinor (formerly Statoil), shared the stage with artists such as Jussie Smollett (“Empire” on FOX) and Lyrica Anderson, and performed in the Music Video for Fifth Harmony’s recent single, “He Like That.” Kia brought her love for teaching and gymnastics to Los Angeles, where she works as a gymnastics coach and has begun teaching nationally ranked studios in the area. Her mission through each class is to successfully draw attention to the connection between (her) technical training, performance and teaching experience and use them to push the body’s limits all at once.

Since returning to the East coast, Kia has been featured in the music video for Wyclef Jean and Showtek’s single, “Down Easy", as well as Zaylan’s single, “Sweetest Melody” which she also choreographed.