Annika Nonhebel Presley


When Annika started her new role as Education Director for AXIS Dance Company in 2007, she sought out Luna for professional development. “When I began I wasn’t familiar with creative dance, Luna taught me a lot of the basics.” From an introductory workshop with Nancy Ng in San Anselmo, to one of the selected Summer Institute ‘07 participants, Annika quickly applied what she learned from Luna to her teaching with AXIS, then returned to share her continued inquiry, stories, challenges and successes from the field. She has facilitated dance and disability workshops at our Summer Institute, engaged in discourse as a featured panelist, and led discussions around accessibility and inclusion at Luna’s Practitioner Exchanges. Chosen to be part of Luna’s first Leadership Institute cohort in 2013, Annika established herself as an educator and leader while building a legacy through AXIS’s dynamic community education program.  “Beyond the basics, Luna taught me to believe in myself, to value my own creativity, thoughts and expressions. They helped me become a stronger leader in the field.”

Annika now acts as Managing Director for Amy Seiwert’s Imagery, a Contemporary Ballet Company in San Francisco, and has recently been teaching dance and drama at the Arc of San Francisco, a learning and achievement center for adults with developmental disabilities. Her investigation in teaching practice prevails: How can I push my students beyond what they think they are capable of, beyond their movement habits, and ensure that their self-confidence grows along the way?

She tells this story: “When I started teaching at the Arc, I was told that one of the participants Melvin (60+) would likely never participate in the class. “He might sit in the room, but don’t count on him participating”. Melvin who had annika_2_photobyscotgoodmanbeen going to the Arc most of his life was known for never interacting with others, just sitting on a chair all day holding a basketball. During my first classes this was true. My classes begin in a circle with the brain dance followed by a group phrase in which every participant makes one movement. We would go around the circle and every time I would ask Melvin to give me a movement. No matter how small his reaction, I would take that as his movement: a shrug of the shoulder, shaking his head, and everyone would do Melvin’s movement. I continued this for a few weeks and all of a sudden one day Melvin joined the circle. His involvement was still very minimal, but he was there. Over the months Melvin started participating more and one day after we did a structured improve showing, Melvin came up to me and said: “I want to be in the performance next year, I want to be a star!” People working at the Arc couldn’t believe their eyes and ears. Melvin began interacting more with other clients, became more communicative and a year later he performed at one of the Arc’s events. To everyone’s surprise he even walked up to the microphone and addressed a room of 300 people. This was the man who I was told would never participate in my class. It’s progress like that that keeps my teaching bug going.”


In our 25 years, Luna has worked with hundreds of teachers who we’re now proud to say are teaching all around the globe. From Emily Blossom to Jakey Toor, our past Professional Learning colleagues are collectively and cumulatively teaching tens of thousands of children. Starting in 2017 we will share their stories, one each week, about how they continue to positively impact the dance education field, the future, the world. To read the growing anthology, please click here.