Directors

Spencer John Powell (Artistic Director) – Lifelong performing arts participant and proponent Spencer John Powell is passionate in his quest to empower youth as artists and performers through choreography. Providing a platform for them to express their voices and talents is fostered by his ongoing work with Visionary Dance Theatre and Visionary School for the Performing Arts, which is rooted in his own experiences and accomplishments of more than thirty years. Powell’s early background in musical theatre, ballet, and modern dance, that included performances in all dance genres, cultivated his passion for choreographing and paved the way to his multi-faceted career as an award-winning choreographer and actor, and as a director, producer, and teacher. Collaborations with best-selling authors, talented musicians, and notable visual artists enhance Powell’s ability to engage with a wider arts community that welcomes participation by all populations – irrespective of being able-bodied, or of economic, ethnic, gender, racial, or social status.

As an educator, Powell served as Education Coordinator for the Utah Head Start Program, and has worked as a dance and theatre instructor for a variety of institutions. He has been a guest teacher for North Coast Repertory Theatre and was invited to teach master classes in African-American dance form and in collective choreography at Soul Music and Performing Arts Academy in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Powell has performed with Utah Musical Theatre, Orchesis Dance Theatre, Weber State Performing Arts, Discovery Dance Theatre, Junction City Theatre, and Another Language Performing Arts Company. He played the lead role of Edna in Hairspray before retiring from the professional stage in 2015.

Powell’s passion for choreography, exhibited in his first major work (when nineteen years old), led to a commission from the Utah Arts and Humanities Book Group for his second work, the 1989 award-winning “Kaffir”. A more recent piece, “Son of Cain”, was commissioned by The Movement Kitchen, sponsored by the American Embassy in Vietnam, and performed in Vietnam.

A foundation in both performing and creating stage productions prepared Powell for directing and producing. While in Utah, he held the position of Artistic Director at Ogden Contemporary Dance Theatre and also co-founded and directed Tanner-Powell Dance Theatre. In 1994, Kidz Danz Kompany was founded by Powell and later relocated to San Diego where he currently is the Artistic Director for Visionary Dance Theatre. In addition, Mounarath-Powell Productions was co-created (with Visionary Business Director Mickey Mounarath) to produce works by emerging and professional artists in all art forms. In the capacities of producer, director, and/or choreographer, Powell has helmed multiple performances by various artists and regional productions, as well as professional and community theatre musical revues and plays (such as The Wiz, Gypsy, The Music Man, Next To Normal). Most recently, he directed and choreographed the Coronado Playhouse production of Ain’t Misbehavin’, for which Powell earned a 2022 Best Director nomination.

Students of Powell have graced the Broadway stage and have danced in major ballet and modern dance companies around the world; others have become teachers, college professors, or notable professionals in the arts field. What better tribute to the living legacy of a dedicated performing arts advocate such as Spencer John Powell!

Mickey Mounarath (Business/Technical Director) – With a wealth of technological and corporate experience, Mickey Mounarath is ideally suited for his position as the Business Director of Visionary Dance Theatre, Visionary School for the Performing Arts, and Mounarath-Powell Productions. Expertise Mounarath has gained through a decades-long career in the computer industry is a vital asset in maintaining both the financial solvency and the technical artistry necessary for all operations associated with Visionary and Mounarath-Powell Productions.

As a former member of Ogden Contemporary Dance Theatre and performer with Orchesis Dance Theatre and Another Language Performing Arts, Mounarath’s earlier involvement with the arts as a dancer informs his current endeavors as a producer and co-producer. All of the dance concert productions for Visionary Dance Theatre are co-produced by him, as are all recitals and musical theatre productions presented by Visionary School for the Performing Arts.  Mounarath has co-produced theatrical productions for Visionary Musical Theatre Company, as well as numerous plays in the Directors’ Showcase Series. He has also coordinated and arranged multiple public performance events and opportunities to promote Visionary Dance Theatre, Visionary School for the Performing Arts, and Visionary Musical Theatre Company.

In addition to Mounarath’s career as a computer expert, he is a consultant in both instructional technology and the performing arts – as well as an occasional participant as a dancer in Visionary Dance Theatre shows!

Artistic Staff

Caley Hernandez (Studio Manager, Dancer) – Born and raised in San Diego, Caley Hernandez began dance training at the age of eight. Five years with The Dance Conservatory led to performances, competition awards, and at thirteen she became the youngest member of La Diego 2, under the direction of Daniel Marshall. Caley went on to earn scholarships at The Academy of Performing Arts for three years of professional training from owner and director Kevin Charles Patterson, and she performed in San Diego Ballet’s Nutcracker before moving to the Pacific Northwest. She danced professionally at Polaris Dance Theatre with director Robert Guitron, as well as training at Northwest Dance Project and The Portland Ballet, choreographing for Portland’s Fertile Ground Festival, and participating in film and other dance projects. In 2018, Caley returned to San Diego as an instructor, choreographer and company dancer for Visionary Dance Theatre. She has performed in San Diego Dance Theatre’s Young Choreographer’s Showcase, Jason Mraz’s 2020 musical production Shine, and La Jolla Playhouse’s 2021 Pop-Up Without Walls (WOW) Festival. Caley continues to dance, teach, choreograph and manage the studio at Visionary, where she also made her directorial debut in 2022 with The Nutcracker: In A Nutshell.

James LaRose (Dance Manager, Dancer) – James joined Visionary Dance Theater in 2016 and trained with Spencer John Powell. In 2019, he performed Powell’s choreography for “Son of Cain” at the Soul Music & Performing Arts Academy for Holding Common Ground: Pathways to Cultural Exchange in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. James has also worked with Jeanne Travers, Kiona Daelyn, Emily Navarra, and Trixi Agiao. In 2019, he played Puck in Opera Neo’s production of The Fairy Queen. More recently, James was selected to participate in the Virtual LA Dance Festival and served as the artistic director for Powell’s Kidz Danz Kompany where he directed a sold-out production of Matilda Jr. As an actor, he gained praise for his 2022 lead performance in the award-winning short film, Cronch.  James currently holds the position of Dance Manager for Visionary Dance Theatre.

Sharla Mandere (Youth Theatre Coordinator) – Sharla Mandere is so happy to join the VDT team as the director of the Visionary Youth Theatre program. She has directed, choreographed and taught dance, circus, acting and playwriting at schools across San Diego County, San Diego Jr. Theater, Purdue University, Peter Pan Jr. Theater as well as with her own performing arts studio she owned for 13 years. As an actress she has performed locally and across the country in professional productions and is an award-winning actress. her claims to fame are being featured in a San Diego County Credit Union commercial and coming in 3rd place on Wheel of Fortune. In her spare time, she helps people live their happiest and healthiest lives without sacrificing any fun, and is a keynote speaker on finding motivation when you think you’ve lost it. Thank you to all the parents who support their kids love of theatre, and to her husband Sean and kids Delia and Sorella for always going along with her crazy ideas.

Khamla Somphanh (Master Teacher) – Currently part-time faculty at San Diego State University, The Kennedy Center Dance Lab, Lynch Dance Institute, Visionary Dance Theater and holds open community movement classes throughout San Diego. Somphanh received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Performing Arts from St. Mary’s College of California, graduated from Duke Ellington Performing Arts High School in Washington, D.C. and attained Certification in Theory and Practice of Horton Pedagogy from The Alvin Ailey School in NYC. Her choreographic works have been commissioned by dance companies, conservatories, performing arts high schools and competition dancers across the country. Some of Somphanh’s performing credits include ODC/San Francisco Dance Company (San Francisco), Wylliams/Henry Dance Ensemble (Kansas City), the Broadway production of “The King and I” and 1st national touring company, Na-Ni Chen Dance Company, East/West Repertory Ensemble, Soundance Dance Company (New York City), Dance Esaias (Miami), New World Dance Company (Washington, D.C.), Malashock Dance Company, San Diego Opera (San Diego).

Annabell Walker (Teacher) – Annabell attended the Coronado School of the Arts Musical Theatre Conservatory where she developed a true passion for dance. Her ballet training continued at the School of Ballet Arts in Santee under Leila Parello. Annabell earned a BA in Theatre and Community Development with a minor in Education at the University of California at Santa Barbara where she trained with the UCSB Department of Theater and Dance. She performed and choreographed for the Shrunken Heads Production Company in Santa Barbara and worked as a Teaching Artist under City at Peace (a non-profit dedicated to using art as a developmental tool), and Boxtales Theatre, an acro-yoga-based devised theatre camp.

Dancers

Trixi Anne Balinggan Agiao – Trixi’s first experience dancing was with traditional Igorot dance she learned from the Northern California chapter of BIBAK. BIBAK is the acronym for the subgroups of Cordillera Country in the Philippines: Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, Apayao, and Kalinga. Trixi later studied dance at the University of California San Diego with Allyson Green, Margaret Marshall, Judy Sharp, Terry Willson, Liam Clancy, and Eric Geiger. She also performed for and learned from directors Corey Madden and Cirque du Soleil’s Jacques Heim. She is a UCSD graduate with a BA in dance and psychology and was awarded the Stewart Prize in Choreography and the Kendall Laurel Lui Scholarship Award. Trixi has danced with [the] movement initiative, Continuum Dance Project, The Corps Dance Crew, and performed for choreographers such as Jeanne Travers, Gina and Kyle Sorenson, Isabel Beteta de Cou, Jeremy Zapanta, Greg Sample and Marcella Torres-Sánchez. Trixi danced as a core member of Visionary Dance Theatre for five years and served as Visionary’s Assistant Artistic Director in 2018.  She is currently the Artistic Coordinator of Visionary’s V2 Pre-Professional Training Program.

Azantia Limon (Apprentice) – Azantia’s love of dance comes from her Afro-Caribbean heritage where movement continues to be a means of communicating, celebrating, and showing creativity. Azantia was on the Lisle Drill Team and in high school she joined the Lionettes Drill Team in Illinois. She won regional competitions in pom, high kick, and hip hop. She also performed as a soloist at the Annual African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Christian Education Conference. As a dancer in the San Diego Queens Dance Team for the San Diego King Basketball Team, Azantia won the “Rookie of the Year” award in 2018. Azantia has been a part of Visionary Dance Theatre since November 2020.  In 2021 she joined the San Diego Guardian Angels Dance Team.

Tanya Lewis – Tanya has been with Visionary Dance Theatre for the last ten years and has had many roles including dancer, choreographer, Assistant Artistic Director, and company teacher. Her most recent work with VDT was choreographing and directing Cradle in 2022. She has performed work for local, national, and international choreographers such as Erika Moore, Eric Geiger, Patricia Rincon, Monica Bill Barnes, Trixi Agiao, Jean Travers, Emily Navarra, Spencer Powell; and most recently Fresh Congress directed by Rachel Catalano. As a choreographer her independent projects include, You’re Late, You’re Late II, Prism, and Ebb &. Tanya’s film projects include Between Two Ends, featured in the international film festival, 40North, and Becoming. Her choreography for the short film, Song of Birds and Bees, won her the Silver Award for best choreography from International Film Awards.  She is a University of California San Diego graduate with a BA in dance and a theater minor and was awarded the Stewart Prize in Choreography.

Gianna May – Gianna is an award-winning performer with three National Youth Arts Awards for the roles of lead dancer. She has been a student of Kids Danz Kompany since she was six years old and transitioned to become a member of the professional adult company, Visionary Dance Theatre, at the age of fifteen. Gianna has been a working actress and dancer in movies and television since the age of seven. Her resume includes parts in Yes Day, 911, Animal Kingdom, The Neighbors, The Romanovs, Wonderful Wizard of Quads, Verizon, Wells Fargo, and Samsung Commercials, along with many other major network and studio projects.

Heather Medlin – Heather grew up dancing at the City of San Diego’s Park and Recreation Centers, San Diego Civic Dance Association, and San Diego Civic Youth Ballet. She continued her education at San Diego Mesa Community College before she transferred to California State University, Fullerton, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Dance. She was able to receive professional experience during her studies, which landed her dance related jobs performing, teaching, and choreographing for kids and adults. Heather has performed and taught in various venues including public dance programs, private dance studios, elementary schools, theme parks, nightlife, non-profit programs, and pro-action dance.

Margaret Moreno –  Margaret began dancing when she was eleven and was educated in West African Dance, Dunham, and Horton technique, ballet and pointe, jazz, and hip hop. While attending the College at Brockport SUNY, she performed works by Zelma Badu-Yung, Clyde Morgan, Oluyinka Akinjola, Bill Evans, and Mariah Maloney, and studied abroad in Bahia, Salvador (Brazil) under Rosangela Silvestre. She received her BFA in Dance in 2015 and was a guest choreographer for Borinquen Dance Theatre. Margaret has also performed with the Syracuse Opera and the Redhouse Theatre. Before joining Visionary Dance Theatre, she served as Dance Director for Hollywood Music and Dance, performed in Jowapao Live! and “Quinceneras” by Optika Moderna at the WoW festival in Liberty Station, and produced “the Feathered Serpent” at the SD Fringe Festival.

DeVonté Murphy – DeVonté’s passion for dancing has led him to become a noteworthy performer in the San Diego dance community. His has had disciplined training in hip-hop, modern, contemporary, ballet, and jazz and showcases a variety of styles with performances.  At Grossmont Community College, DeVonté danced in concerts and trained under Colleen Shipkowski and Blythe Barton. He has performed with Jean Isaacs San Diego Dance Theater, Common Ground Theater, and Bite Dance Company. DeVonté became a professional company dancer with Visionary Dance Theatre in 2020.

Isaac Stoudmire – Isaac, born and raised in San Diego, was introduced to modern dance at Mission Hills High School under the instruction of Heather Almanza. He studied and performed at Palomar College with Molly Faulkner and Patriceanne Mead and Southwestern College with Mary Jo Horvath and Dana Maue. Later, he trained and performed with Faith Ismay-Jensen and the Mojalet Dance Company. His experiences and passion for percussive and dynamic movement carried him into Visionary Dance Theatre. As a vital member of the dance company for the past two years, Isaac has continued to grow and develop his artistic abilities with Spencer Powell, Tanya Lewis, and Khamla Somphanh.

Jr RamírezJaír (he/they), from California’s Imperial Valley, was educated at the Southwest Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts in El Centro. He learned contemporary, lyrical, hip hop and jazz from Jessica Stroech Brooks. Over the past decade, Jaír performed at Disney World, under Dimitr Marinov, and Jeanette Knight musical productions, as well as collegiate hip hop competitions in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. He directed and choreographed for KidzNextDoor and FemNextDoor and trained with Greg Chapkis and Chapkis Dance Family. Jaír joined Visionary Dance Theatre in 2021 where he has studied under Spencer Powell, Tanya Lewis, Caley Hernandez, Trixi Agiao, and Khamla Somphanh.