Faculty & Staff

Marlene Peña-Marin

Marlene Peña-Marin

Director, International Dance Conservatory; Coordinator, Ballet Folklórico Program

Teaches: Folklórico Repertory

marlene.penamarin@ocsarts.net

Marlene Peña-Marin studied at La Escuela Nacional de Danza Folklórica del Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (National School of Folkloric Dance in the National School of Fine Arts) in Mexico City to enhance her teaching and research skills. She returned to Mexico City to participate in the third annual Seminario Transnacional de Danza, studying technique and pedagogies of dance specific to folklórico. Since 1987, she has been an instructor for Relámpago del Cielo Grupo Juvenil. In 2002, Ms. Peña-Marin was appointed director of the Ballet Folklórico Conservatory (now the International Dance Conservatory), and in 2003, she was officially appointed artistic and general director of Relámpago del Cielo Grupo Folklórico.

Ms. Peña-Marin was exposed to the performing arts at a very early age. Her first professional performance, at age nine, was featured at the International Folk Dance Festival at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. Her talent is recognized throughout the dance community, and she has performed in events, such as the Mariachi USA Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, the L.A. Fiesta Broadway hosted by Univisión TV, and El Grito festivities for the City of Los Angeles. She studied Mexican folk dance under various renowned directors, including: Carlos Ochoa, Rosie Peña, Emilio Rivas, and a variety of maestros from the United States and Mexico. She has participated in many dance conferences sponsored by the Asociación Nacional de Grupos Folklóricos (National Association of Folkloric Groups, ANGF). In 2013, she choreographed the holiday show Disney ¡Viva Navidad!, which premiered in Disney’s California Adventure. She continues to remount the production every holiday season. Her contributions to the Mexican folk dance community are invaluable. Her dedication to ensuring the historical and cultural accuracy of the regions she presents is crucial to the success of the groups under her direction.

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Jonathan Nieves

Jonathan Nieves

Instructor

Teaches: Folklórico Repertory, Folklórico Technique

jonathan.nieves@ocsarts.net

Jonathan Nieves is an alumnus of OCSA’s Ballet Folklorico Program. He holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and a minor in dance from California State University, Los Angeles and is pursuing a master’s degree in dance from the University of California, Riverside. His professional experience includes performances at Disney ¡Viva Navidad! in Disney’s California Adventure.

Mr. Nieves joined Relámpago del Cielo Grupo Folklórico in 2004. He continues his study of folklorico with the Santa Ana-based dance company and attends dance workshops and national dance seminars. He advanced to a teaching position for the group in 2009. Mr. Nieves received training in classical ballet, lyrical, and modern dance. He had the privilege of studying modern dance under the direction of master teachers, Hae Kyung-Lee and Diavolo from Japan.  

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Brenda Rodriguez

Brenda Rodriguez

Instructor

Teaches: Choreography Composition, Dance History

brenda.rodriguez@ocsarts.net

Brenda Rodriguez holds a bachelor's degree in dance from California State University, Fullerton. She was a performer at the Disney Theme Parks for over six years in various parades and shows, including Eureka! A California Parade, The Electrical Parade, Grad Night Tour 2004 and Fantasmic!. She choreographed and directed the national tour for Barbie with Mattel in 2003. She also managed and toured with several special events for Hershey, Nike, and New Balance.

She was recently featured as a dancer and actress in the musical staging of The Who’s Quadrophenia for Luna C Productions. Ms. Rodriguez is a stage manager for Guest Talent Programs at Disneyland Resort, and teaches jazz dance, acting and dance history at OCSA during the school year for its Elective and Conservatory programs.

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Amanda Kay White

Amanda Kay White

Instructor

Teaches: Modern

amanda.white@ocsarts.net

Amanda Kay White is an alumna of Chapman University with a bachelor’s degree in dance performance and communications with an emphasis in advertising. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in choreography at Jacksonville University. She is a founding member of Orange County’s critically acclaimed dance company, Backhausdance.

Ms. White’s works have been presented at American Celebration, American College Dance Festival, Chapman University faculty concerts, Chapman Touring Company, The Core Collective, Epilepsy Network Benefit Concert, MixMatch Dance Festival, and Pasadena Dance Festival. She is currently on faculty at Chapman University and the South Coast Conservatory. Along with teaching at the South Coast Conservatory, she is the executive advisor to their national award winning dance team and managing director of the Jazz Department. In 2009, she founded Compass Dance Company, a pre-professional contemporary dance company for emerging artists ages 14 and older.

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Christiana Mann

Christiana Mann

Instructor

christiana.mann@ocsarts.net

Christiana Melendez Mann began her dance training at Saint Joseph Ballet and attended training programs at Idyllwild School of the Arts, National Ballet School of Canada, Hartford Ballet School, and Joffrey Ballet School. After high school in 1999, Ms. Mann went on to attend the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City with a full scholarship. While in New York City, she danced professionally with Ballet Hispanico, was a guest artist with the Florida Ballet, and danced with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. Ms. Mann has been teaching ballet and modern dance at the Wooden Floor since 2006, and she is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and dance education.

Lilia Muñiz

Lilia Muñiz

Instructor

lilia.muñiz@ocsarts.net

Bio coming soon!

Mercedes Ibarra

Mercedes Ibarra

Instructor

mercedes.ibarra@ocsarts.net

Mercedes Ibarra discovered flamenco in college at the University of California, Los Angeles. She had studied other forms of dance throughout her childhood and was looking for any dance class to squeeze into her college schedule. She fell in love with flamenco immediately, and her teacher, Liliana de Leon-Torsiello, described her as a natural, asking her to join her company, DeLiRitmo, within a year. After college, she became a member of the Gabriela Garza Flamenco Dance Company, performing at several venues in Los Angeles and Orange County, California.

In 2005, Mrs. Ibarra and her husband moved to Spain, where she studied at the world-renowned Centro de Arte Flamenco y Danza Española, Amor de Dios in Madrid. While she was there, she studied with flamenco masters, such as: La Truco, David Paniagua, Inmaculada Ortega, Marta Jimenez, and Manuel Reyes Maya, the latter being her primary influence during that time. While in Madrid, Mrs. Ibarra also performed at the tablao, El Juglar, in the historic Flamenco district of Lavapiés.

In addition to her solo work, Mrs. Ibarra has collaborated with many other artists. She performed as a featured dancer in the Briseyda Zarate Flamenco Dance Company. She collaborated with Collage Dance Theatre’s 25th anniversary performance, Governing Bodies at Los Angeles City Hall in 2010, under the artistic direction of Heidi Duckler. She joined Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre for a reprise of Governing Bodies at Ventura City Hall in 2015. She regularly works in partnership with Karina Velasco and her company, Cuatro Caminos Flamenco, as well with Claudia de la Cruz and her company. She continues to perform with Linda Andrade, and she is a featured dancer in her company Sakai Flamenco, which works in collaboration with the Los Angeles Music Center to bring Flamenco performances to Los Angeles area schools. Because of her various projects and collaborations, Mrs. Ibarra was nominated for and accepted into the International Dance Council at UNESCO in 2014.

Audience members and peers have described her as possessing deep musicality, elegant arms, and detailed hand technique, aire, and an infectious joy for dancing. Mrs. Ibarra is often introduced as a dancer that embodies the true intensity of Flamenco, primarily due to her expressiveness and powerful stage presence. She has been teaching at local dance studios since returning from Spain and is regularly invited to local schools as a master teacher and guest performer. Mrs. Ibarra can be seen performing regularly at various venues on the local Los Angeles and Southern California Flamenco circuits.

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Heather Luis-Martinez

Heather Luis-Martinez

Instructor

H.Luis-Martinez@ocsarts.net

Heather Luis-Martinez holds two bachelor’s degrees from the University of California, Santa Cruz in environmental studies and Latin American / Latino Studies, where she focused on agroecology and Mexican history and integrated both majors through the study of indigenous agroecological practices. She went on to earn her master’s degree and credential in educational counseling.

Advisory Board

Olga Nájera-Ramírez, Ph.D.

Olga Nájera-Ramírez, Ph.D.

Professor of Anthropology

University of California, Santa Cruz

Dr. Olga Nájera-Ramírez, professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, received her bachelor’s degree at University of California, Santa Cruz and her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Texas, Austin. As an anthropologist specializing in folklore, she concentrates on documenting and critically examining expressive culture forms, such as festivals, dance, rodeo, and music as practiced by Mexicans living in the United States and Mexico. In particular, she examines the ways in which expressive forms are invested with meaning, transmitted, experienced, and otherwise employed by members and non-members of a community.

Author of La Fiesta de los Tastoanes: Critical Perspectives in a Mexican Festival Performance, she also produced the award-winning video, La Charreada: Rodeo a la Mexicana, and Danza Folklórica Escénica: El Sello Artístico de Rafael Zamarripa, a bilingual documentary that traces the transnational development of Mexican folklórico dance through the experiences and artistic productions of the internationally acclaimed choreographer Rafael Zamarripa. She is co-editor of several anthologies, including Chicana Traditions: Continuity and Change, Chicana Feminisms: A Critical Reader, and Dancing Across Borders: Danzas y Bailes Mexicanos.  

“The impressive folklorico dance program at the Orange County School of the Arts has set a national standard for others to emulate.”

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José Tena

José Tena

Founder

Ballet Folklórico Tierra del Encanto

Internationally acclaimed Folklórico dancer and instructor José Tena has been dancing for more than forty years, setting thousands of other dancers in motion over 30 years with his dance troupe, Ballet Folklórico Tierra del Encanto. He has been the recipient of several coveted honors and supporting grants for his outstanding contribution to the arts.

José Tena has traveled from coast-to-coast hosting and teaching Folklórico workshops. He served on the board of directors. as well as a conference director multiple times for the Asociación Nacional de Grupos Folklóricos, and until recently, he served as their national advisor. He teaches folklórico at New Mexico State University, where he also directs the Folklórico group. Maestro José Tena is the recipient of the Danzantes Unidos Lifetime Achievement Award, awarded 2014.

“The Orange County School of the Arts’ Ballet Folklórico program is a leader in the standard for students to become dancers, choreographers, directors, and educators in the field of Mexican Folk Dance.”

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