Making it team


Jesse Keller

Jesse Keller has played an instrumental role in developing and implementing MAKING IT, a creative dance-making curriculum and creativity initiative now active in all Martha’s Vineyard Public and Charter schools, as well as at the YMCA, in afterschool programs, libraries, senior centers, and elsewhere around island.  In 2014 she was named ‘Woman of the Year’ by Women Empowered for her work in dance education.


Deborah Damast

Deborah Damast (Program Director) is Professor and Artistic Advisor of the Dance Education Program at NYU, and in summers she teaches at DEL/92Y and the Yard. Deborah conducts Professional Development for NYCDOE, and wrote curriculum for NYCB and Paul Taylor. She has been on faculty of Peridance, 92Y, NYCB, Oregon Ballet Theatre, shown choreography in numerous venues in NYC, internationally in Italy, Japan, Korea and Uganda and is President of NYSDEA. She received awards from NDEO and NYU.


Leah Crosby

Leah Crosby co-teaches for the MAKING IT program, offered to all Vineyard Public and Charter Schools. When she's not dancing with grown ups or kids, Leah likes to play in other people's gardens, pet other people's cats, make puppets, make music, and make pickles.


guest making It team

The Bang Group

The Bang Group has performed at The Yard every year since 2011, including multiple residencies and celebrated performances of "Nut/Cracked" during the Winter Yard Season. The Bang Group works within schools island wide, teaching improvisation and choreography. "Nut/Cracked" also includes community performers. The Bang Group's mission, based on choreographer David Parker's vision of diverse dance forms united by a common purpose, is to facilitate the creation and performance of Parker's work and to promote, mentor and present the work of artists who embody this vision. Standards of craftsmanship, creative liberty and aesthetic diversity are present in the rehearsal and mentoring process, in the curation of the company's performances and those presented by The Bang Group at venues throughout the U.S. and Europe.


Godfrey Muwulya

Guest artist, Godfrey Muwulya, is an integral part of the MAKING IT team. He works with island schools to celebrate Ugandan culture, offering Ugandan dance workshops open to teens and adults, and performing around the Vineyard at different locations. 

photo by beowulf sheehan

photo by beowulf sheehan

Stefanie Batten Bland

Stefanie Batten Bland, 2016 Jerome Robbins Award winner, and company visit with Martha's Vineyard Schools and community dancers including a ten day residency in 2016. Stefanie Batten Bland is a choreographic artist and artistic director of Company Stefanie Batten Bland (Company SBB).  New York Resident Magazine in 2012 wrote“When it comes to tackling demanding subject matter, there are few choreographers as intellectually ambitious as Stefanie Batten Bland.” Through the dance arts, she creates performances rooted in community, highlighting the delicate threads that connect us to one another and to our planet. Based in contemporary dance theatre, Batten Bland construct futuristic environments with installations ripe in poetic theatrical flavors that are emotionally driven.


Sokeo Ros / Case Closed

Sokeo Ros, Director of Case Closed!, has been teaching and running high quality arts/dance programs, as well as workshops, master classes and residency work throughout New England and many other states. Sokeo received another RISCA grant to work on a project called “From Refugee Camp to Project” which tells of his experiences of being born in a Thailand refugee camp and coming to the United States to live in an impoverished neighborhood. He works with Island schools to celebrate diversity and promote an understanding of underprivileged communities. 


HT Chen & Dancers

HT Chen & Dancers have been teaching and involved in residencies at The Yard since 2011. Cultural education programs can simply entertain, or they can educate and provide an experience that encourages audiences to grow. Suitable for lower, middle, and upper school students, H.T. Chen & Dancers' annual lecture/demonstration series and interactive workshops de-mystify the process of choreography while providing a valuable lesson in Chinese history and culture.


Leo Manzari

Leo Manzari (of the Manzari brothers) is a Helen Hayes Award and Ovation Award nominated tap dancer/performer. With his brother he has performed all over the United States at renowned venues such as Off-Broadway's New World Stages, The Kennedy Center, The Lincoln Theater, The Apollo Theater, Lincoln Center and Arena Stage. He has performed to standing ovations at The Yard and now enjoys being an integral part of the MAKING IT team. 

MAKING IT is The Yard’s dance-making curriculum and creativity initiative with programs for all ages across the island in various locations. MAKING IT is a model that uses dance as an outlet to connect curricular themes, build collaborations, spark creativity, and support critical thinking. The Yard is committed to the success of MAKING IT and has pledged to absorb 100% of the program's cost. MAKING IT is currently supported by The Doris Duke Charitable Fund, Barr Foundation, The Tower Family Fund, Permanent Endowment of Martha's Vineyard, and The Martha's Vineyard Savings Bank.