Full Circle: Trained Under the Tutelage of Presidio Dance Theatre, These Dancers Share the Wealth

Four students, now grown and still loyally committed to Presidio Dance Theatre, its myriad outreach programs, and socially conscious events sing Melania’s praises and attribute their success as adults to their dance training with her. We talked to them to hear their story in their own words. 

Sherene Melania, Director of Presidio Dance Theatre (PDT), has been fascinated by tiaras and tutus since she was a toddler. At age eight and without her parent’s knowledge, she called San Francisco Ballet to ask for an audition. The rest is history. But her long career in dance has embraced more than pirouettes and pas de deux. This dance maven, social advocate, and role model has been giving back since the beginning, and years later, her dancers, longtime members, and associates of Presidio Dance Theatre, join her to keep the torch lit.

Melania’s story goes back to when, as a young apprentice dancer at St. Petersburg’s famed Mariinsky Theatre, she met an orphan on the street. Moved by the child’s plight, Sherene enlisted her fellow dancers to help organize a benefit concert for the orphanage. Since then, Melania’s never ceased mentoring and helping others. “I’ve combined my love of performing with humanitarian work. I believe it is critical to mentor the next generation to do the same,” she says on her website. She adds, “Our Young Ambassador Program, international tours, and community programming enable our students to gain a global perspective while developing leadership, service, and cultural diplomacy skills. By instilling a sense of awareness, students develop empathy and compassion for others.”

Four students, now grown and still loyally committed to Presidio Dance Theatre, its myriad outreach programs, and socially conscious events sing Melania’s praises and attribute their success as adults to their dance training with her. We talked to them to hear their story in their own words. 


Now a practicing registered dietician living in Palo Alto, Alyssa Kwan was born in San Francisco, working at Stanford Health Care. Part of the PDT family for more than 18 years, she started with them in third grade, performing local and international tours in both folk dance and ballet. Today, she serves as the company’s registered dietitian, providing educational workshops in health and nutrition.

HL: What do you love about dancing here, and how has it made a difference in your life?

AK: I have loved dancing with PDT. Starting at such a young age and committing to the arts and dance have truly impacted me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. Sherene Melania has always been a large role model for me, and having her as my dance instructor for all these years has helped me grow as an individual. What I have appreciated the most from dancing at PDT is the unique genre of dance the studio provides and its mission to develop culturally competent dancers and professionals. Having immersed myself in learning various folk dances across the world has helped me appreciate the diversity of dance and even in my personal profession, nutrition and dietetics. 

HL: Some thoughts on PDT?
PDT has truly laid the foundation for dancers and youth alike! I cannot be more thankful for my time and commitment to PDT. I would not be so far personally and professionally if it weren’t for dance. It’s the main reason why I decided to be in the health profession, to obtain my master’s in nutrition at Columbia University, and become a registered dietitian. It sparked my interest in health and well-being, and now I am a working health professional.

HL: How does dancing inform your world? 

AK: Dancing has informed my world and broadened my horizons! I was fortunate enough to participate in two international dance tours with PDT to St. Petersburg, Russia and Budapest, Hungary. From these international tours, I was able to share my love for dance with students around the world and to use it as a universal language to communicate.

HL: What else do you love to do? 

AK: Sherene and PDT have also taught me the importance of mentoring, and I now coach students aspiring to become registered dietitians. In 2020, I founded The RD Route, an online platform aimed to mentor prospective dietetic students and nutrition professionals in pursuit of becoming registered dieticians.


Raised in San Francisco, 18-year-old Natalia Garcia Moreno was introduced to dance at age three through Mexican Folklorico. At age six, she began her formal dance training with PDT. The first in her family to attend college, she currently studies at the University of San Francisco, majoring in social justice and performing arts. As a company artist and instructor with PDT, she continues her training in both ballet and contemporary dance at PDT.

HL: What do you love about dancing here, and how has it made a difference in your life?

NM: For me, dance has always been a form of expression. Whenever I entered the studio, I was able to channel and portray sentiments that I would not have been able to express through words. Dance has made me a very perceptive and analytical person and, in some ways, a perfectionist. I am always finding ways that I can improve as an artist and adapt these skills to my personal life as well. Sherene has been such a wonderful mentor to me and I’m so grateful for her continued support.

HL: How does dance inform your world?

NM: Dance has paved my path both in the artistic world as well as my life. By gaining cultural diplomacy, I have been able to have a better understanding of the importance of creating equal opportunity and accessibility to the arts. I have also been able to use dance as a platform to speak my truth.

HL: What else do you love to do?

NM: The first thing that comes to mind is helping people. I love being able to bring joy and serenity into people’s lives whenever I can, and I think dance has been a great medium for doing so.

HL: What is something that makes you feel grateful? 

NM: I am eternally grateful for the opportunities that Presidio Dance Theatre has provided, such as being able to travel the world (Ireland and Italy) and spread love and appreciation for dance.


This San Francisco native began her dance training at PDT in 2006. A student of a plethora of dance styles, she has traveled the world with the company, performing ballet, modern, jazz, folk, and ethno-classical ballet.

Hanna was recognized as an advanced level dancer and choreographer for multiple years in the pre-professional program at the San Francisco School of the Arts where she was trained under directors Elvia Marta and Andrea Hinman. After a stint at the University of Southern California and more dance honors, she joined PDT as a company dancer and administratively as PDT’s programs and outreach director.

HL: What do you love about dancing here, and how has it made a difference in your life?

HP: The “PDT fam” has served as a second home to me and has always been a supportive environment where I feel encouraged to reach my full potential as a dancer and in my personal life. Over the course of 15 years with the company and under Sherene’s guidance, I have developed a deep appreciation and understanding of different cultures, motivating me to pursue a degree in East Asian languages and cultures. Dancing with PDT hasn’t just impacted my life, it has also truly molded me into the person I am today.

HL: How does dancing inform your world?

HP:  Dancing has allowed me to express myself creatively and physically, helping me to develop my identity and sense of self. I have also developed fundamental leadership skills that have served me well in my academic and professional life.

HL: What else do you love to do?

HP: I love to exercise; spend time with my family, friends, and dog; and travel.

HL: What’s something interesting about you we might not expect?

HP: I speak Korean fluently. And, I will begin law school at Hastings College of the Law in the fall. 


An athlete and dancer in multiple disciplines, LeVander Brown, the first of his family to attend college, is a private trainer at Bay Area Professionals Fitness and Wellness and a football coach at Riordan High School. A former pro football player, he began dancing at PDT nearly 18 years ago and attributes his dance training to his “better coordination” in other sports. As a member of the adult company, he also serves as PDT’s strength and conditioning coach. His goal for all clients is to teach them that working out is not just good for you, but fun, too. 

HL: What do you love about dancing here and how has it made a difference in your life?

LB: What I love is the different dances and cultures and being around wonderful young ladies and men who love to be a part of dance and perform in front of thousands of people. Most people don’t expect me to dance at all, so to show I can dance brings me great joy. Last summer, I traveled to Italy with PDT. It was my first international trip and I’m so grateful to Sherene for making that possible.

HL: How does dancing inform your world?

LB: If I didn’t do dance, I don’t know where I would be. I don’t know what I would do without dance. Dance is just that one thing that you can use and where you can just get out and be free, and Presidio Performing Arts Foundation is what started it all.

HL: What else do you love to do?

LB:  I love to work out, go on hikes with my dog, travel, and train/coach.

HL: What’s something about you we wouldn’t expect?

LB:   I spent some time playing in the NFL. My junior and senior years of high school at Washington High, San Francisco in basketball playing against one of our rival high school, Lowell High School, I performed a dance routine during our varsity girls basketball game, and then played the boys varsity game later that night at Kezar Stadium.

Upcoming Event

On May 18, Presidio Dance Theatre presents its 25th Anniversary Gala Celebration: Honoring the Women of Iran. The performance will be held at 5 p.m. at the Herbst Theatre, followed by a gala dinner in the Green Room at 7 p.m. The evening will feature our signature pieces as well as a world premiere, honoring the women of Iran. This piece will additionally be streamed globally for UNESCO’s World Dance Congress in July.  Proceeds from this event support our local educational and dance programs as well as the Center for Human Rights in Iran, which works tirelessly to promote and protect the rights of all Iranians. 

  • Click HERE to purchase a performance-only ticket.
  • Click HERE to purchase a ticket for the gala and performance.