Staff & Board

Meet AXIS' Artistic Director Judith SmithJudith Smith
Founder and Artistic Director: Judith was born and raised in Colorado. Prior to becoming disabled in a car accident at age 17, Judith was a champion equestrian. She transferred her passion for riding to dance after discovering contact improvisation in 1983. Upon taking over leadership of AXIS in 1997, she began commissioning works by some of the nation’s best choreographers and composers. Judith teaches dance to youth and adults and lectures at community organizations, schools, universities and conferences.  She has been on the faculty of Florida Dance Festival and Bates Dance Festival. She serves on the advisory board of the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, The National Art and Disability Center, Dancers’ Group and Bates Dance Festival. Judith has earned an international reputation in the field of physically integrated dance.  She received the 2010 Dreamspeakers’ Award, the 2009 Alameda County Arts Leadership Award, KQED’s Local Hero and the Homer Avila danceAble awards in 2005 and Artship Foundation’s Local Hero award in 1999.  She is honored to be receiving and Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Sustained Achievement in 2014. In her spare time she helps rescue and retire thoroughbred racehorses and drives her team of Percheron draft horses.


New Hire KarlKarl Cronin
Managing Director: Karl brings to AXIS a wealth of non-profit management experience, having served as the Program Coordinator for the National Dance Project, Managing Director for Misnomer Dance Theater, and General Manager for The Equus Project. He has produced dance, theater, and music events throughout the country, and in 2010 he moved to San Francisco, where he has helped launch the Center for New Music, Americana Orchestra, and BAASICS. He is passionate about mentoring performing arts producers, and in 2011, was recognized as an emerging arts leader by EAP/Bay Area.


Marc BrewMarc Brew
Guest Artistic Director: is also Artistic Director and Choreographer of Marc Brew Company, trained as a professional dancer at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School and The Australian Ballet School. He has been working in the UK and Internationally for the past 17 years as a dancer, choreographer, teacher and speaker; with the Australian Ballet Company, PACT Ballet of South Africa, Infinity Dance Theatre in New York and for 5 years up until early 2008 with CandoCo Dance Company. He was a guest performer, collaborator and media spokes person for the London Hand Over Ceremony, for the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony and was Associate Director with Scottish Dance Theatre – ‘Scotland’s principal contemporary dance company’ – where he co-directed NQR a work in collaboration with Artistic Director Janet Smith and SDT’s Dance Agent for Change Caroline Bowditch. Since 2001, Marc has been dedicating time to his own choreography with Marc Brew Company and was featured by Time Out Magazine as ‘the best of the new breed of London’s Rising Dance Talent’. His latest work Fusional Fragments was part of Unlimited, a series of commissions across the UK celebrating the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Marc is thrilled to be with AXIS through April 2014.


Meet AXIS' Associate Director Sonsheree GilesSonsherée Giles
Associate Director, dancer, choreographer, teacher and costume designer:  Sonsherée is originally from New Orleans and joined AXIS as a dancer in 2005. Her style is influenced by a dedication to yoga and running – with choreography that represents daily life experiences.  She has taught contemporary dance throughout the country and received her MFA in performance/choreography from Mills.  In 2008, Sonsherée received an Isadora Duncan Award.  Most recently she was honored to receive a Homer Avila Award for Excellence in the field of Physically Integrated Dance.


Meet AXIS' Education Director Annika NonhebelAnnika Presley

Education Director:  Annika relocated to California in early 2006 and joined AXIS in 2007. Originally from the Netherlands, she holds a major in sign languages and has worked on a variety of  theater productions as a choreographer, director, and dance teacher with children of all ages.  After receiving her MA in Dutch Language & Literature in 2002, she was employed as a research assistant and later as education director for a sign language institute.


Managing Director SarahSarah Clautero Soto
Development Manager:  Sarah, a Bay Area native, has recently joined AXIS. She has worked most recently as Development Manager for CuriOdyssey and prior to that as Development Associate for the Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation. She holds an MBA from San Francisco State University and a BS in Applied Ecology from UC Irvine. She is excited for the opportunity to make a valuable contribution to the arts, a personal passion of hers, and to fundraise for the innovative and inspiring work AXIS creates.


Akilah Crossdale
Office Coordinator:  Akilah is thrilled to be a member of the AXIS team. With a family history of arts administration, she returned to the Bay Area after graduating from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television in 2008. Beginning her career in performing arts administration while still in college, she has worked for the Center for Performance Art at UCLA,  TJTSF, and San Francisco Ballet. She has a passion for the arts, yoga, Bay Area culture, and baking, with a superior knowledge of chocolate which she uses daily.

Board of Directors
Deirdre Spencer
Board President: Deirdre Spencer is a marketing graphic designer specializing who has worked with a wide range of clients, including visual effects companies, authors, cities, museums, schools and other non-profit organizations. Deirdre joined the AXIS Board in 2010, having created brochures and other promotional materials for AXIS’s Home Season Performances over two years on a volunteer basis.  She currently is Senior Designer for Placemaking Group, a PR and Marketing firm in Oakland.

Jan Garrett
Vice President: Jan joined the AXIS board for the second time in 2012, after serving in the mid-1990′s.  For almost 20 years, Jan has worked in the disability rights field as a lawyer and trainer, as well as the Executive Director of the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley.  Jan currently serves as the Program Manager at Pacific ADA Center in Oakland.  For Jan, AXIS is the perfect combination of exceptional art, rich culture and promotion of disability rights.
“Through its performances and education programs, AXIS creates beauty and awe in the present, along with assurance of greater awareness and acceptance in future generations.”

Anne Finger
Secretary:  Anne is a fiction and non-fiction author, lecturer and professor. Her short story collection, *Call Me Ahab*, published by the University of Nebraska Press, was awarded the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in fiction for 2008. She has been an AXIS board member since 2008.

Kerline Astre
Treasurer: Kerline joined the AXIS board in June 2013. She is an accomplished leader and social entrepreneur whose ideologies and unorthodox approach to entrepreneurship call people to self-actualize in a manner that cultivates concepts that sustain community. Most recently she has worked as Director of Development and Co-founder/Executive Director of NonProfit,MD. Currently, she is the Development and Communications Director at Girls Inc. of the Island City in Alameda, CA.
“I’ve never resonated with the term ‘developmental disability’ or ‘disability’. I feel like human kind, or as people, we are challenged daily. All of our goals are to acquire the tools and support to make trekking through life simpler for others and ourselves. “Live simply, so that others can simply live”, is a quote that has remained dear to me. My late brother was “diagnosed” with a developmental disability early in his life. We, family, just thought he was creative and processed things differently – no labels needed. I’m moved daily by what AXIS does and continues to aspire to do. It celebrates difference in way that preserves the basic mantra that as human beings we are all capable and with support and advocacy, we are changing the world.”

Rebecca Fortelka
Rebecca joined the AXIS board in January of 2013. She is a freelance web designer, social media marketer and blogger. In her free time, she loves to read tech related books and watch Netflix. Rebecca joined AXIS because this organization empowers, inspires and educates people in the fields of disability rights, art, and culture by the way of dance expression and movement that it has inspired a movement and helps form a more inclusive and understanding world.

John McCoy
Assistant Director of Development for the Washington Hospital Healthcare Foundation. His professional background is rooted in nonprofit community engagement work, including time spent with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Holy Names University. He was invited to attend an AXIS performance and subsequently joined the Board of Directors. Since that first performance, John has been inspired by the company’s inclusive artistic vision, commitment to educational programming, and industry leadership. John hopes to utilize his skills and experiences to help promote and advance the AXIS mission and the company’s core values of collaboration, accessibility and inclusion.

Judith Smith
Artistic Director and founding member of AXIS, has earned an international reputation in the field of physically integrated dance. She teaches integrated dance and lectures at community organizations, schools, universities and conferences.  She received the 2010 Dreamspeakers’ Award, the 2009 Alameda County Arts Leadership Award, KQED’s Local Hero and the Homer Avila danceAble awards in 2005 and Artship Foundation’s Local Hero award in 1999.  She is honored to be receiving and Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Sustained Achievement in 2014. In her spare time she helps rescue and retire thoroughbred racehorses and drives her team of Percheron draft horses. (See Additional Bio Above)

Andrew Thorrens
Andrew joined the AXIS Board in January, 2013 by way of Chicago. He is a pharmaceutical executive with Durata Therapeutics, Inc., a hands-on Dad, a contemporary dance aficionado and an all-around people connector. Andrew brings to AXIS his broad network of connections and skills to further promote and advance the future state of AXIS Dance Company.


Friends of AXIS Committee
The Friends of AXIS Committee helps to create a sense of place and of community amongst AXIS many friends and supporters.  The committee convenes to plan events that will encourage a robust audience base and individual donor support for AXIS ongoing dance performances and education programs for people with and without disabilities.  The committee meets seven times annually. They will engage in any number of activities based on various committee member’s interests, time and resources.  Opportunities will primarily include special event planning; solicitation of in-kind services and donations; and communication surrounding fundraising campaigns, performances and events. We are so grateful to the following friends and all they give on behalf of AXIS:

Jeanie Bunker
Joanna Cornes
Dawn Fairbanks
Ellen Goldstein
Chuck McAvoy
Enver Rahmanov
Danae Rees
Laurie Sanchez

If you’re interested in serving on the AXIS Board of Directors please visit our Board Opportunities page for more information. If you’re interested in volunteering for the Friends of AXIS Committee, download more information and an application here.