Connect With LEAP Staff
Shaunna Vella, Program Director
Shaunna Vella is a choreographer, dancer, educator and activist as well as being the Program Director for LEAP (Liberal Education of Arts Professionals) at Saint Mary’s College of California. Shaunna has been teaching at the college since 2004, and currently teaches Technique, Composition and Dance Studies courses in the undergraduate and the MFA dance programs on campus. Her choreography is political and interdisciplinary, and her pedagogy is an intersection of creative practice for survival, performance as ritual, and dynamic community building. Shaunna continues to teach, study, collaborate and perform around the world with artists she admires greatly. She has had a celebrated performance career working as a dancer for many nationally recognized dance companies in which she had the opportunity to travel on many international tours. She has created and performed works with Rogelio Lopez and Dancers, Anne Bluethenthal and Dancers, Davalos Dance Company, Liss Fain Dance, Paufve Dance, Agora Dance Project, Josh Prince, Dance Ceres and Deborah Slater Dance Theater. In 2007, she served on the Isadora Duncan Dance Committee. She is the co-director of Vella & Merrell Dance Project, a queer dance-theater company based in Oakland, CA (vellamerrell.org). She believes in the power of art and expression to transform our narratives and the physical world, and she is honored to be supporting other artists in pursuing their educational goals through the LEAP Program.
She holds an MFA in Dance: Creative Practice and a BS in Psychology and Dance: Performing Arts from Saint Mary's College.
Stephanie Miller, Associate Director
Stephanie Miller began dancing at the age of three, and received her BA in Dance from Saint Mary's College, as well as an MFA in Choreography and Performance from Mills College. She danced primarily with Paufve Dance from 2002-2011, and has performed with several other Bay Area dance companies such as Dance Ceres, Little Seismic Dance Company, Davalos Dance Company, and Stranger Lover Dreamer. Stephanie also had the privilege of dancing in Trisha Brown's seminal work, Glacial Decoy Redux, restaged at Mills College by former company member, Shelley Senter. After many years of performing, teaching, and working in the non-profit world, Stephanie became a mother and was cast in her most rewarding role yet. In July 2017, she returned to her alma mater to step into the role of Associate Director for the LEAP Program. Stephanie is proud to be able to support dancers as they pursue their educational goals, and grow into the next phase of their careers.
Phone: (925) 631-4538
Andrew Pearson, Assistant Director
Andrew Pearson comes to LEAP with a still-growing 10-year-career as a performer and creator within the LA dance community. Career highlights include 6 years with the LA Contemporary Dance Company; gallery performances with the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and Los Angeles Art Exhibitions (LACE); opera performances with The Industry and the Los Angeles Philharmonic; original work presented by Highways Performance Space, The Bootleg Theater, and The Ruby Street; and music video choreography featured on NPR.com and Billboard.com. His experience has also led to opportunities to perform in Paris, Buenos Aires, New York City as well as share his work in San Francisco, Chicago, and Gdansk, Poland. Andrew continues to perform and produce creative works through his platform Bodies in Play (www.bodiesinplay.com).
In addition, Andrew's extensive career in higher education includes faculty positions at California State University, Channel Islands, the Art of Acting Studio, and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) as well as to guest classes for UCLA, California Institute of the Arts, Northern Kentucky University, Chapman University, and Transit Dance in Melbourne, Australia. Andrew is currently an MFA candidate at Wilson College.
Phone: (925) 631-5015