ahava silkey
michael jones
cathy yen
jessica hallam
mike avery
imani watson
jasmine wilson
anna marlow
staffThe Dream Team

Dantriell Houston

Choreographer/Dance Instructor


Dantriell Houston, a native of Chicago, discovered his passion for dance while under the instruction of Michael Jones at the south side YMCA. He moved to Los Angeles to attend the California Pacific of the Performing Arts School and became a member of the world renowned Young Americans. With the Young Americans he performed as a featured dancer nationally and internationally. He is currently a member of the Andrea Kelly Dance Theater as well as the nationally acclaimed dance crew Boyz of Poison. Dantriell’s dance training includes: hip-hop, jazz, ballet, lyrical and modern dance. Dantriell commits his time outside of choreographing and performing for local artists to teaching. Dantriell loves sharing his passion for dance with young people. He teaches workshops for the Young Americans, after school dance programs in the Chicago Public Schools, and is now serving as the Director of the Urban Dance Program at the University of Chicago Charter School, Woodlawn Campus.

Ahava Silkey-Jones

Associate Director


Ahava Silkey-Jones is an accomplished non-profit and education leader. She has a passion for building community through the arts, locally and globally, and is a co-founder of the Professional Theatre and Dance Youth Academy.

She has worked to develop and implement high-quality arts programming, global education initiatives, and innovative models for school improvement. Ahava is an integral component of the arts and education community in Chicago. In her role as the Director of Fine Arts for the University of Chicago Charter School she developed a thriving dance program; designed and led student performance and college tours; and facilitated collaborations with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Redmoon Theater, and the Logan Center for the Arts. She was recognized by the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute as Employee of the Year in 2013 for her extraordinary service, exemplary practice, and stellar results. Ahava is committed to working on system-level education initiatives, building school and community partnerships, and improving access to quality arts programming in under-resourced communities.

Ahava is currently serving as Principal of the Perpich Arts High School, in Golden Valley, MN. Prior to her tenure at Perpich, Ahava was with the Newark Public Schools where she served as the Vice Principal for the Girls’ Academy of Newark. Ahava earned her Ed.M. in Arts in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and her M.A. in Educational Leadership from Roosevelt University.

Michael Jones

Executive and Artistic Director of the Professional Theatre and Dance Youth Academy


Michael Jones is a native of Chicago and has traveled and performed for audiences worldwide. A favorite of cruise ship audiences for many years, Michael is known for his incredible vocals and dance style. Michael was a member of the internationally acclaimed Young Americans, performing with such names as Ben Vereen, Arsenio Hall, and the late, great Liberace. He was a featured dancer on the Party Machine with Nia Peeples and did warm up for a variety of television series. In 2008, Michael played the Tin Man in The Wiz at the Jedlicka Performing Arts Center, and was nominated for a Black Theatre Alliance Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. In 2014, Michael was nominated for the Excellence in Theatre Education Tony Award and was honored by the Chicago Music Awards for the Lifechanger Award for his outstanding contributions in Arts Education.


Today, Michael is the Executive and Artistic Director of the Professional Theatre and Dance Youth Academy (PTDYA), which is a nonprofit 501c3 created to keep music and arts education alive in Chicago Public Schools. Through his organization, he has implemented curriculum based and extended-day arts programs at the University of Chicago Charter School Woodlawn and Woodson campuses.

Imani Watson

Administrative Director of the Professional Theatre and Dance Youth Academy


Imani Watson is a recent college graduate, writer, and aspiring higher education professional. The highlight of her writing career was in 2010 when she was one of 20 students selected from of hundreds of applicants across the nation to be accepted into the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program in 2010, where her Opinions piece was published in the Princeton University Summer Journal. This experience fully equipped her to accept the role as Opinions Editor for her college newspaper, The Stentor.


Imani also has a strong background in musical theater that developed through her participation in Storycatchers Theatre, a nationally-recognized musical theater program for Chicago youth. She spent four years with Storycatchers in four different capacities: as a participant, group leader, intern, and stage manager. 


In 2013, Imani reconnected with her former performing arts instructor and now Executive Director of the Professional Theatre and Dance Youth Academy to intern for the organization. After exceeding expectations, Imani was offered a full-time position as the Administrative Director of PTDYA where she handles the daily operations of the organization, composing promotional materials, as well as keeping correspondence with media outlets, partners, and community entities.

Mike Avery

Choreographer/Dance Instructor


Chicago native Michael Avery is new to the Professional Theatre and Dance Youth Academy team. He is an extraordinary choreographer and dancer who discovered his passion for dance at an early age. He has studied at Masters Commission USA and is proficient in various styles of dance including Jazz, Ballet, Contemporary, Hip-Hop and African. He is the Founder of SMC Dance Crew, TNL Fam, and D3 Movement. He has opened for comic icon "Sinbad," and he has also choreographed and performed in numerous music videos such as "Got 2 Make It" by contemporary gospel artist "Nexworld," and “You’re the One” and “Say” by hip-hop artists “Thi’sl” and “Skrip.” He has also performed for thousands at several different events, churches and conferences across the nation.

Mike now serves as the Youth Outreach Director at Sunshine Gospel Ministries in Chicago, IL and is currently one of the teaching artists for the UChicago Woodlawn Campus.

Jessica Hallam

Operations Manager/Choreographer


A native of Madison, Wisconsin, Jessica received her BFA arts degree in dance with an emphasis on Ballet and Modern dance at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Her professional career has taken her around the world performing for many prestigious companies expanding her talents in the areas of ballet, modern, jazz, adage, hip-hop to company and commercial dance. Companies include Wisconsin Dance Ensemble, Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Universal Studios Florida, Hardrive Productions in Atlantic City, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Dream Cast Entertainment (a cirque de soliel style Corporate production), and a dancer for the Los Angeles Avenger Pro Arena Football Team in L.A. In addition, her television credits include: NBC Suddenly Susan, Lagrimita and Costel, Caliente, Mercury Insurance commercials, Disney 50th anniversary special with Julie Andrews, DISNEY Movie Premiers, including Herbie Fully Loaded, Brother Bear, Finding Nemo, Emperor’s New Groove, Monsters Inc., as well as the DVD release of the hit movie CHICAGO. She has also appeared in various music videos as a back up dancer for Christina Aguilera, Monica, Julio Iglesias and Harry Connick Jr. She has been a soloist in Hart Pulse Dance Company in Los Angeles as well as Wayne Foster Entertainment performing for New Year’s Eve Celebrations in Las Vegas and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. In addition, she has done modeling for companies such as Redken NYC, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line brochures as well as fashion modeling for BEBE SPORT in Beverly Hills, and Columbia College Chicago.

While living in Los Angeles, she had the pleasure to teach from private dance studios, master classes and competition circuits nationally. She has had the honor to serve on faculty at Glendale College teaching modern in spring of 2003 as well as CALS Charter School in Eagle Rock, CA. In addition, she has completed a 10 week artist in training through the Los Angeles Music Center for the Arts (Funded by the National Endowment of the Arts) which focused on teaching ethics, strategies, standards and the mission of bringing arts into the schools. While performing and teaching in California, Jessica received her certifications in both Pilates, and Gyrotonic.

Jessica has completed the Graduate Certification of Laban Movement Analysis at Columbia College Chicago (May 2011). In addition, she teaches Pilates, Ballet, and Jazz In the Chicago surrounding area, as well as on faculty at University of Chicago Charter School-Woodlawn campus in the Middle school and Highschool.

Cathy Yen

Chief Administrative Officer


Cathy Yen is a sought-after advisor on general business management to small and mid-sized for-profit, not-for-profit and need-to-start-making-a-profit companies. With over thirty years of business experience, she has amassed a wealth of knowledge in business planning, finance, accounting, marketing, communication and human resources. As co-founder and principal of www.localoakpark.com, Cathy shares her insights on business practices using examples from her local business community. She also runs a busy consulting practice. Her client list reflects a wide range of industries including food service, retail, online, health, education and performing arts. Cathy graduated from Princeton University and earned an MBA from the University of Chicago. She hails from Oak Park, Illinois where she is an active community member, serving on numerous boards and enjoying time with her husband and two children.

Jasmine Wilson

Administrative Director


Jasmine D. Wilson hails from the south side of Chicago, Illinois. She is an alumna of Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, where she first began dancing as a member of the GnDance Company. Jasmine is also a recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, from which she earned her Bachelor Degree in Fine and Applied Arts for Dance Education and Performance. During her four years at the university, Jasmine was blessed with many opportunities to work with a number of admirable artists within the dance community, including Sahar Azimi, Darrell Jones, T. Lang, William B. McClellan, and Cynthia Oliver. Jasmine's passion for dance and choreography has lead her to numerous opportunities including choreographing and teaching at the Champaign campus and co-founding Wrapsody Dance Company. Jasmine is currently teaching dance for various outreach programs in Chicago and Lansing, Illinois and is the newest member of the PTDYA team, working as the Administrative Director.

Keyon Kemp

Director of Marketing


Kemp, the hard working community advocate, grew up overlooking the skyline and bright lights of Chicago’s big city. Kemp, becoming accustomed to these remarkable sites, felt great things would be in his future. He realized one of ways to reach these heights would be through perseverance, which later led to developing the values of discipline, goal setting, and creativity. Key factors which include GOD, family, friends, school, mentors, sports, and role models played a huge part in his success. All of Kemps’ hard work paid off after graduating from college, and receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Business. However, the highlights of his accomplishments shine through playing professional football. In spring of 2002 his dreams of becoming a professional athlete became a reality. He gained a tremendous amount of exposure, acting roles, commercials, exclusive interviews, and guest appearances. Kemp’s partnered with some of the industries leading brands helping to create vendor and consumer experiences to last a lifetime. These impressions helped to establish him in the market place, and expand his reach to support communities, organizations, schools, families and individuals. Part of his mission is to assist others with navigating through the obstacles and challenges of life; as a result he has created and developed the Compete For Your Life initiative. A not for profit campaign which provides personal direction, mentoring, development, training, and life skills for youth, in hopes that someday, they too may live out their dreams and shine like the bright lights Kemp envisioned in the big city.

Anna Marlow

Vocal Instructor


Anna Marlow was born and raised in Rogers, Arkansas. She grew up in a musical household, playing and competing in various instrumental music competitions from when she was six years old, and her biggest joy has always been through the performing arts. After graduating from Rogers High School, Anna studied and toured extensively with the Young Americans International Outreach Program, working in schools, theaters, and prisons in the United States, Germany, Holland, Sweden, Poland, Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea, and was also a performing and managing member of the Boyne Highlands Dinner theater In Harbor Springs, Michigan for three years.

Through her experiences with The Young Americans and moving to Chicago, Anna has taught and directed children in musicals and shows around the world and is truly passionate about the success of children, in and out of the arts. She has most recently musically directed Xanadu Jr at the Bravo Performing Arts Academy in Oak Park She studies improv and musical improv at Second City and iO and can be seen performing with The La-Di-Da's at iO.