Earthdance Staff

Krista DeNio
Executive and Artistic Director

Krista leads organizational vision & programmatic direction, provides overall staff management, oversees Marketing & Development efforts, and with the Board of Directors, and the Associate Director, engages long-term & strategic planning for the organization.  She is delighted to work with such an incredible staff team to manifest the Earthdance vision!  Krista is a choreographer, director, performer, writer, educator and arts administrator.  She has worked in San Francisco CA, New York City, New Mexico, Colorado, Western Massachusetts,  and internationally.  From aerial dance to clown, post-modern dance to interview-based theater projects, and lots in between, she is committed to constantly evolving the forms of work she presents, and to the development of interdisciplinary thinking & creation of performance forms within and between the fields of dance & theater.  CONTACT,  conceived & directed by DeNio, is an interactive performance installation, in collaboration with Matt Mitchell's 100Faces  Written & performed by a mixed ensemble of veterans of war & civilians, the audience is both directed and invited to be interactive of their own accord.  Krista is devoted to making work that engages communities at large or small, re: issues of social justice & the contemporary human experience.

Jess Lotak
Associate Director

Jessica is a community development practitioner and ballroom dancer.  With a professional background in permaculture, agroecology, ecovillage design and strategic financial management, Jess has aided communities and civic organizations in resilience planning and implementation.  Jessica has designed and taught courses on photovoltaic engineering in Mexico, permaculture in Costa Rica, public health and nutrition in Nicaragua, Participatory Action Research (PAR) in Senegal, and environmental awareness and conservation in the United States. She was awarded an MA in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University and a dual BA in Economic Anthropology and Psychology from Humboldt State University.  She continues to explore the practices of environmentally conscious communities, linking best practices to form models for sustainable community and economic development. As Associate Director of Earthdance, Jessica is focused on building organizational resilience by leading in the development of financial and business planning, facilities and land use planning, and rental programming.  She is thrilled to become part of the creative community that is Earthdance.

Matt LaSalle
Operations Director

Matt is a musician, artist, dancer, and a lover of life! He studied mechanical engineering at the University of Rochester and has since worked in facilities maintenance, technical theater, and in the solar industry in sales and installation capacities. He has resided in Western Massachusetts for over 11 years and is thrilled to now be living and working in the Earthdance community. 

As Operations Director, Matt coordinates logistics for rental groups and Earthdance programs, and otherwise provides oversight for Seasonal Interns, Support Staff, Buildings and Grounds, and the Kitchen.

Hilary Lake
Office Manager

Hilary most recently graduated from Harvard Divinity School with an MDiv in Buddhist Ministry that brought her passions for dance, Buddhist practice and philosophy, ritual, yoga, sustainability, community development and improvisation in all areas of life together.  She had been living in cooperative houses and working in the non-profit and social service realm for the last 6 years while exploring the art of movement and spirituality after living in various communities in Thailand studying sustainable development and Buddhism.  Following the completion of her BA in Comparative Religion at Kalamazoo College she worked at the Fetzer Institute, that is aimed at promoting the power of love and forgiveness to make lasting change.

She's thrilled to be a part of the Earthdance community, which integrates her passions.  Hilary holds down the main office and hosts most of the Earthdance workshops and events with a deep attention to the connections and needs of the community.

Ayla Rector
Head Chef and Kitchen Manager


Ayla incorporates many forms of art into her daily life. She shares her expression through food, dance, music, painting and theater. Aya has been cooking for many years. She loves both the diversity and the nurturing outcome of preparing food for friends and family. Above all she appreciates the constant learning process that comes with being a chef. Wether she learns from people, moods, cultures, or books she strives to retain all the information she can, and incorporate it into her daily meals. Ayla studied both fine arts and theater at Ulster Community College in eastern NY. She became a connoisseur of acting and starred in a few greek tragedies along with traditional Shakespearean plays and more contemporary works. At a young age she cultivated her love for dance. She studied traditional styles of dance including Ballet, Point, Jazz, Tap, and finally was introduced to Modern dance. Modern dance opened Ayla's mind and expanded her horizons so forcefully, she practically was thrown into the world of contact improv. Today Ayla still wonders how different she might have been if she hadn't found the gloriously beautiful world of free expression. Ayla also studied Macrobiotics at the Kushi institute in Becket MA, along with the meditation of cooking and coAmplete body-mind wellness. She has been influenced by many different cultural styles of cooking including, Japanese, French, Vegan, Vegetarian, Southern comfort, Backyard grilling, Mexican, Mediterranean, Indian, and Italian. Ayla strives to keep an open mind to continue her learning experiences. She holds responsibility and professionalism above all, but feels its important to stay uplifted and have fun. Her position at Earthdance is Head Chef and Kitchen Manager.  

Kalyan Uprichard
Building and Grounds Manager

Kalyan is a builder with 10 years experience working mostly with other carpenters in the dance community.  Home schooled with a yogic/health-oriented background and primarily self-taught questioning the viability of sustainability on the community level.  Discovered Permaculture after several years of study identifying the individual aspects required for sustainability in an effort to put them together into a system that could be modeled and replicated.  He is actively asking the question: How do we go about having a wholelistic relationship with the larger world and the Earth in a manner that is conducive of regeneration on a local and global scale?  As the Building and Grounds Manager here at Earthdance he is excited to steward this land and find new and beautiful ways to encourage Earthdance to bloom and grow. 

Ali Skalli
Sous Chef and Operations Assistant
Victor Mistretta
Building & Grounds Assistant
Julia Handschuh
Marketing and Design

Julia writes, moves, and makes objects; oftentimes in relation to issues of improvisation, ecology and the politics of space.  She spends her time organizing around the need for radical user-driven space, makes performance for video and works as a freelance graphic designer and marketing consultant.  

Julia is creator of Valley Art Share, a hub for creative exchange in the Pioneer Valley and sometimes writes about things on her blog. She likes to perform in things that are made by Athena Kokoronis, and is on the board of iLAND, Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art Nature and Dance.  

Julia coordinates marketing for Earthdance, is editor of The Score, Earthdance's monthly e-newsletter, and creates most of the center's print and digital design.

Gary Powsner

Gary spends his time dancing among business management, dance, music health education, environmental and social activism and play. Believe it or not, he actually enjoys(!) nitty gritty detail work such as bookkeeping, editing and organizing. He even enjoys vacuuming! 

When not at Earthdance he can be found on the contradance floor or doing other kinds of dance, including West African, Scandinavian couples dancing and waltzing. He first learned of Earthdance when he participated in some of our great programming. He is also likely to be found singing (currently with the Amandla Chorus and Greenfield Harmony amongst others), gardening, biking, camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing... (you get the idea), as well as helping to produce the Whole Health Expo, coaching and consulting with entrepreneurs and business owners, or in his home office marketing Shaklee health and environmental products.

Gary earned his BA from Franconia College in Philosophy and Education and has two years of work towards an MA in Social Work and Community Organization from the Goddard Cambridge Program in Social Change. He also spent many years studying NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) while helping to run the New England Institute for NLP. He has been on a number of non-profit boards of directors including several years as VP of Rowe Camp and Conference Center, and is glad to be able to bring his skills and experience to his role as bookkeeper, supporting the continuity and growth of the Earthdance community.

Monel Chang
Executive Intern


Monel Chang is a social practice artist focusing her work on developing insight, empathic attunement, and transcending societal boundaries through somatic self-education. She most recently exhibited her multi-media work about compassionate active listening, “Ears on Loan,” at the Williams College Museum of Art in May 2012. Monel is also a burgeoning bodyworker, chef, Contact Improvisation dancer, and practitioner of Vipassana meditation as social action. Monel graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, MA in the Class of 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art.
As the Executive Intern at Earthdance, Monel works with the Executive Artistic Director to manage programming and organize events, such as the annual Gala and E|MERGE Interdisciplinary Artists Residency, as well as research and instigate initiatives for development and fundraising. She is involved with strengthening Boundaries & Sexuality, the policy, protocol, and educational resource surrounding consent and contact improvisation at Earthdance. Monel gratefully absorbs Earthdance as an opportunity to be in community, forage wild edibles, engage in improvisational movement and thrive!
Kelsey Hobbs
Office Assistant

Kelsey is a mover, choreographer and artist from Albany, NY. She received her BA from Goucher College in Dance Choreography with concentrations in French and International Relations, and has studied music, dance and history at the School for International Training (SIT) in Senegal.  She is a closet history buff and is dedicated to the idea of art and movement improvisation as a powerful means of social change. She is constantly questioning, searching for new ways to interpret and interact with the world in which she lives, and is thus so grateful to be a part of such a wonderfully creative, open and diverse community of explorers here at Earthdance!

As the Earthdance office assistant, she works directly with the office manager, assisting in the management of administrative and marketing projects, and helping to keep things running smoothly here at this busy non-profit. 


Jake Wise
Volunteer Web Developer
Heather Meehan
Operations Assistant

Heather is in her third year of study (concentrating in Creative Nonfiction and Critical Geography) at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in western Massachusetts, and is working at Earthdance in lieu of visiting a foreign country (because Earthdance is truly a land unto itself). As Operations Assistant, she helps with research, general logistics, and overall vibes and spaciousness to keep the place running smoothly and to meet gracefully with unpredictable occurrences. She has a burgeoning personal interest in outdoor skills and communing with plants on many levels, including tree climbing and cooking wild edibles. She has been dancing since she left the womb and embraces the spirit of improvisation in all aspects of her life. 

Building and Grounds Intern
Sean Kearney
252 Prospect Street, Plainfield, MA 01070 | map | directions

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