We are full of passionate people dedicated to helping New York City youth
Board of Directors
Elizabeth Candido Petite
Ms. Petite is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey. She received her B.A., cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania; her J.D., cum laude, from New York Law School; and her LL.M. in Taxation from New York Law School. She is a member of the Junior League of Morristown and enjoys staying active, cooking and spending time with her family and dog.
Executive Director & Vice President
Since retiring from performing, Lindi has been forging her path in the NYC fitness and education world, working as a personal trainer, a leading instructor at Physique 57, creative movement director at the Nursery School at Congregation Habonim and founder her own company, Dance Motivation Fitness (DMF). She built DMF into one of the leading dance cardio workouts in NYC and become well known for her upbeat, motivational, and positive approach to wellness. Though she loved working with adults, her true passion is working with kids and teens and motivating them to achieve greatness is in all aspects of their lives.
While working as a “big sis” mentor, and teaching specialty DMF classes to inner-city youth, Lindi was blown away by the lack of physical exercise in NYC schools and the dramatic rise of childhood obesity. After further research, she found the majority of NYC public schools fail to meet the state PE requirements due to lack of space and lack of teachers. Afterschool opportunities for low income and transient families were also extremely limited and she knew she could create a program to help alleviate these issues.
Lindi’s motivational approach to teaching worked extremely well with K-12 children, but she wanted to create more than just a dance-fitness program. She wanted a program that exposed children to imperative life skills like goal setting, dealing with emotions, and facing fears. By working with educators, phycologists, and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) specialists, she created a unique curriculum that increases her students’ self-esteem and confidence, helping them realize their ultimate potential.
Heather is the head of e-commerce strategy and initiatives for Remy Cointreau USA, and has a background in Marketing & Media. Heather is passionate about fitness as a part of daily life, and making fitness, dance and sports accessible to everyone is a mission she has long believed in. Heather lives with her 11-year-old son, Micah, in New York City.
Served since 2018
Katie Cook is a licensed real estate broker with Elegran. With her family’s background in construction and real estate investing, Katie has a broad knowledge of the real estate landscape and is committed to providing her clients creative solutions to their needs. Prior to joining Elegran, Katie worked for Wellness in the Schools, a national nonprofit that inspires healthy eating and fitness for kids in public schools. She works in high need schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn, providing nutritional education, cooking lessons, and culinary support to the school community. Katie received her bachelor’s degree in communications from Loyola College, and a Culinary degree from Institute of Culinary Education. Katie is an active member in the community volunteering with the New York Junior League. There she currently serves on the Management Council, overseeing critical community programming. In her free time, she likes to stay active by running and playing tennis.
Served since 2018
Anne Koski serves as senior legal council for the Segal Group, an international benefits, compensation and human resources consulting firm. She focuses on drafting, reviewing and negotiating contracts, with an emphasis on regulatory (Investment Advisers Act, ERISA) and data security (particularly HIPAA) issues. Prior to joining the Segal Group, Anne worked for the Metropolitan Opera in the development department. She brings her knowledge of foundation research, donor acquisition, and development to the DMF Youth Board. In her spare time, Anne volunteers for the Junior League of NYC.
Member since 2019
What our community say about us
Founder, Lead Teaching Artist, Trainer
Lindi has performed and taught for 20 years in both Los Angeles and New York and has been seen in numerous music videos, industrials, musical theatre productions and tours across the country. She has also served as an adjudicator for several national dance competitions. Lindi holds degrees in both Dance Education and Journalism from Chapman University and has multiple certifications in mindfulness and fitness. She has worked with children for over 20 years in many educational capacities—teacher, dance instructor, tutor, mentor—and is well known for her upbeat, nurturing, and motivational teaching style.
Lindi serves as a lead teaching artist, teacher trainer and supervisor for DMF Youth, overseeing all trainings, program implementation, and professional staff development. She is passionate about teaching educators how to effectively work with underserved youth and provide the support they need to thrive. She firmly believes that just one positive relationship can change the course of a child’s life, and she works diligently to make sure every child has a champion in his or her corner. Her work with curriculum development and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) models has led her to teach professional development workshops for companies and nonprofits across the USA focusing on the “psychology of happiness,” and how to implement practices into programming and company culture.
She hopes to grow DMF Youth into a national organization, bringing movement, mentorship, and life skill development to children across the US.
She is currently an instructor for Nimbus Dance Works’ Dance to Learn program, which collaborates elementary school academics and movement to further students’ understanding of the topics they’re learning in school through exploration of the three tenants of dance: time, space, and energy. Alison is thrilled to be a part of the DMF Youth team to bring dance, fitness, wellness, and fun to the underserved youth of NYC!
A 5-6-7-8, that’s as far as Melissa can count. Math was never her strength but performing is and always has been. A Baltimore native, born and bred, Melissa started dancing at the early age of 5 at the Peabody Conservatory Prep program. After that she went on to dance for various programs within the Baltimore area such as T.W.I.G.S, Cahill Performing Arts, YATTAS Performing Arts. Her love of dance coincides with her love for singing and acting which has led her to be a professional musical theatre performer here in NYC. She is a 2012 graduate from The Catholic University of America and holds a bachelors degree in Musical Theatre. She has traveled the world singing and dancing in various productions such as the all black iteration of Oklahoma at Denver Center for the Performing Arts, The Wiz at Ford’s Theatre in DC, and was the dance captain for the National Tour of Diary of a Worm, a Spider and a Fly. Her favorite styles of dance include hip hop, jazz, stepping and contemporary.
Post graduation, she has taught at Mark Morris Dance Center and several Long Island studios. She has performed with Jessica Gaynor, Impact Movement Collective, eSKay Arts Collective, Victory Dance Project, and two international tours with Vissi Dance Theatre. She is also a NCCA certified personal trainer and exercise fitness specialist. She is so excited to be part of the DMF Youth team and feels honored to be a part of the mission.
Alyssa M. Parnell is from Birmingham, Alabama. She is a graduate of the Alabama School of Fine Arts. In 2017 Alyssa attained her BFA in Dance from The Ohio State University. She has trained with the American Dance Festival, the Bates Dance Festival, the American Ballet Theatre, and the Alabama Ballet. Alyssa currently works as a freelance dance artist throughout NYC.
Barry Givens-Paige has a BA in English and hails from the Bronx, NY. He began dancing in high school, performing in shows and continued in college, providing hip hop choreography on the dance team. He has participated in a triple threat program that involved acting, dancing, and singing. Aside from dance, he is a teacher in many other areas including English, performing arts, nutrition, and step. His favorite part about teaching are the smiles emanating from each student, and the knowledge they attain along the way. Barry also works with foster children who have developmental disabilities at the Center for Human Development and Family Services. Outside of these professions, Barry is an actor and poetic music artist. He performs procuring poetry to the ears of city souls throughout New York. He is passionate about helping others, whether in the form of dance, social work, or poetry.
Jalisa Brown started her dance training at Happendance School and Everett High School: Magnet School for the Performing Arts in Lansing, Michigan. She furthered her dance studies at Western Michigan University (WMU) where she was one of eight dance majors selected to study and perform in Taiwan and China the summer of 2013 with the College of Fine Arts Global Initiatives Grant. During her time at WMU, she performed works by renowned choreographers Ohad Naharin, Peter Chu, and K.T. Nelson. Jalisa relocated to New York City in 2016 and since has performed with Alma NYC, Impact Movement Collective, GM + Dancers and Bloodline Dance Theatre.
In 2017 Grit Dance Chicago selected her dance film, “I’MMA”, to be presented in their evening-length show. Most recently, Jalisa was awarded the Diane Newman Award for distinguished alumni from Happendance School. Jalisa is so excited to be a part of the DMF Youth team where she can help students build self – esteem, discipline, self – expression.
Rathi Varma, born and raised in Mumbai, India started dancing at the age of 15 in various dance styles alongside pursuing her Diploma in Visual Arts and working as an Illustrator. In 2018, she moved to New York to pursue her passion in Dance professionally at Peridance Centre to study Contemporary and Ballet. In Mumbai, she trained under Shiamak Davar’s Institute of Performing Arts and The Danceworx in Jazz, Ballet and Contemporary. In 2006, she had the opportunity to perform at the Closing Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia through Shiamak Davar’s Institute. She has also performed at the 9/11 Table of Silence Project with Bugilsi Dance Theatre. Currently, she is a dancer with Apollonia & Dancers (Artistic Director Apollonia Holzer).
Tumi Nkomo (Choreographer/Founder/Artistic Director: Nyane Khosi Dance Theatre) was born in exile in Wilmington, Delaware, USA. Her family moved back to help rebuild their home, South Africa, in 1992. Tumi graduated from the University of Cape Town specializing in African dance and Contemporary dance, during which time she trained under Maxwell Xolani Rani. She has been dancing professionally since 2005, both on-camera and onstage. Her on-camera work has aired nationally and internationally. Her repertory experience has included African, Modern, Contemporary, Hip Hop, as well as an array of historical, cultural and social dances. She has also trained with the Garth Fagan Dance Company. Her work as an artist has sent her to various parts of the world; including Mauritius, Japan, the USA and Australia. In 2012 she founded the touring dance company Nyane Khosi Dance Theatre in New York City.
Celine Leigh has been dancing since the age of seven with choreographer Obediah Wright. She has performed throughout NYC at The Brooklyn Borough President Showcase, Sakura Park Festival, The Audelcos “VIVE” Awards and more. For the past three years, she has been teaching children and adults tap dance with Balance Dance Theatre Inc. Learning and growing with Obediah Wright has helped Celine develop into the dancer and educator she is today. She has performed with people like Carla Hall from “The Chew” and “The Black Panthers” at Brooklyn Commons. Celine believes that dance is for everyone, and with the right education, anyone can learn how to dance. Dance is critical tool for expressing emotions and building confidence and self-esteem.
Nayanika Vyas is a dancer from New Delhi, India. At the age of 5, she started to train with The Danceworx and later joined the repertoire company. Being from India where western dance is an unconventional career, she set foot in the US where she graduated with a BFA in Dance and minor in Business at The University of the Arts under the direction of Donna Faye Burchfield. Nayanika was awarded the International Presidential as well as the Dean’s Scholarship for all four years of her education at The University of the Arts. Trained in classical ballet, modern and jazz among others, she has performed in works set by Eryc Taylor, Lamont Joseph, Sidra Bell, Jesse Zarrit, and Jimena Paz.Nayanika currently works as a Teaching Artist and Performer in New York City.
ModArts Dance Collective (MADC) was established in 2011 by Leah Tubbs to celebrate minority female choreographers while building a safe, sustainable community of artists in Harlem, as well as other underexposed cities. She has a passion for sharing the arts with young minds and has taught all over the United States including Joffrey Ballet School, University of Alabama, Harlem Holistic Center, Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy, and Texas Empowerment Academy to name a few.
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