Staff Members

Samara Michelle
Artistic Director

Samara Michelle founded Journey Performing Arts Center in 2004 to provide quality dance instruction in the heart of Atlanta. A native of Detroit, she studied dance from a young age at the Detroit-Windsor Dance Academy. She excelled in varied dance forms such as ballet, jazz, modern and hip-hop and was selected to become a performing member of the Detroit-Windsor Second Dance Company as well as the Cass Tech Dance Workshop.

Dance has taken Samara Michelle across the country, where she has toured and performed in a number of venues. She has been honored at the Michigan Youth Arts Festival for her choreography, performed in the acclaimed All City Dance concerts across Michigan, appeared at Detroit’s premier Music Hall, and been featured at Detroit’s Cobo Hall annual Toys for Tots program.

In January 2007, Samara founded the Journey Dance Company. This ensemble of professionally trained dancers fuses classical ballet technique with modern, jazz, and nuances of street hip-hop. The JDC has performed throughout the metro Atlanta community including The Sweet Auburn Festival, the Independent Black Film Festival, Oglethorpe University, Morris Brown College and Georgia State University.

Samara received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Health and Physical Education from Clark Atlanta University and her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Georgia State University. She went on to serve in Cobb County School’s Central Alternative as a teacher and behavior interventionist.

Her passions for youth and the arts are at the heart of Journey Performing Arts Center. As one of few nonprofit performing arts centers in Atlanta, Journey not only seeks to promote children’s exposure to the arts, but to boost their self-esteem and well-being. Michelle insures that the dance training children receive at Journey is technically proficient and provided in an environment that celebrates children’s diversity and individualism. Leading Journey into its sixth year, Samara combines her natural business sense, artistic training and formal education to achieve success and works tirelessly to position Journey as a premiere resource for Atlanta’s artistic youth. Samara stays grounded by surrounding herself with close friends and family. Samara’s motto is “Live the life you always wanted.”

Rhea Dawkins
Business Manager/
Volunteer Coordinator

Journey Dance Company Member

Dance Instructor
Drama Instructor
After School Teacher

Rhea Dawkins was born to perform and started doing so before she even reached grade school. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Rhea grew up in a loving and artistic environment, where her mother was a liturgical dancer and father, a classical pianist and actor. Rhea began her artistic journey at the age of 6 in Omaha, Nebraska as a ballet student. When she was 13, she auditioned and was accepted into Future World Productions, a production company that toured the Greater Cincinnati area performing numerous Broadway acts and dramatic pieces. There, she held lead roles in the both children plays and musicals, including Cinderella, Tortoise and The Hare, Once on This Island, and The Wiz.

Upon graduating from high school, Rhea traded her conservative city-life for the fast-paced, modern streets of “Hot-Lanta”. She began her undergraduate degree in 2006 at Clark Atlanta University. In addition to class, she took part in numerous on-campus activities including both the artistic and social aspects of campus life. The AUC Drama & Dance Ministry was one of many groups where she allowed her passion for dance to shine in performances. She has also taken part in Spelman’s Choreographer’s Showcase as a dancer and CAU ‘s Freshman Step Show as a stepper and coach/choreographer. For the 2009-2010 school year, she served as the President for the Alpha Delta chapter of Gamma Phi Delta Sorority, Inc.; she was later elected as a member of the national board and currently holds the position of 2010-2012 National Undergraduate Representative. In 2010, Rhea graduated with a B.A. in Business Administration, with a concentration in Marketing.

In 2007, Rhea began her journey with The Dance 411 Foundation (Journey Arts Center) as a Sales and Marketing Intern. She later was promoted to the role of Assistant Business Manager, and currently holds the role of Business Manager and Volunteer Coordinator. She has continued to help grow Journey, but is not limited to just the administrative side of the performing arts center. Rhea has held the role of private tap instructor, Jazz/Hip Hop Outreach class, and Studio Acting 101 class. She is currently an instructor for the center’s Afterschool Program.

Within the last year, Rhea has taken part in productions throughout Atlanta, including Oedipus, Godspell, and Man of La Mancha. She has trained at Georgia Perimeter College and The West End Performing Arts Center. She currently trains at Journey Performing Arts Center and Gotta Dance Atlanta. Rhea’s lifelong goal is to own her own performing arts center and agency. She is receiving training in both the business and artistic aspect of theater management through her managerial work and participation with the Dance 411 Foundation. She is very appreciative of the hands on experience and help she has received from the performing arts center throughout her college career and now adult life. She will continue to pursue this dream as a recent college graduate of her illustrious university.

Candice Elliott
Outreach Director

Candice Joanne Elliott’s passion for dance began at the tender age of 3 years old in Detroit. Since then she has been surrounded by the arts in every aspect of her life. As a child she balanced playing the violin and viola, gymnastics, cheerleading, and attending classes with her aunt at Detroit-Windsor Dance Academy. It was at Detroit-Windsor she realized dance was an intricate part of her life. She excelled in classes such as Jazz, Tap, Modern, African, Ballet and Pointe. She was a member of the teen mentorship program which taught her responsibility, confidence, work ethic, team work, and a plethora of other traits that she still carries with her today. At 15 she became a member of the Detroit–Windsor Jr. Dance Company, where she continued her dance education throughout high school. Throughout her dance career she has performed at Cobo Hall, The Fox Theatre, The Music Hall, Hart Plaza, and various other venues from Michigan to Bermuda.  Candice graduated from Clark Atlanta University with a B.S in Mathematics.  After college she worked several years in the banking and finance industry.

Through it all Candice never lost her love for dance and the arts. She takes several adult classes at Journey Performing Arts Center and at other studios throughout Atlanta. Candice is currently the Outreach Director for Journey Performing Arts Center.  Through outreach she has the opportunity to expose and enlighten other children and teens about the benefits dance and the arts brought to her life.  Candice believes that without her training in dance and exposure to the arts she wouldn’t be the well-rounded woman she is today. She loves working with outreach because she is adamant about teaching children the same concepts that helped to shape who she is.

In her spare time Candice enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, shopping, playing with Sunny bird, and most of all DANCING!

Silka Simmons

Journey Dance Company Captain & Member (2008)
Dance Instructor

At the age of 3, Silka Simmons was placed in dance classes, because it has been said “she could not stop dancing around her grandmother’s kitchen.” It is evident dance has always been in her heart. Silka continued to take classes off and on until she joined with the New Birth Dance Ministry in 1998 under the direction of Tamera Brown. She continued with them for the next 5 years; dancing in the pulpit, on stages in the Georgia Dome, Philips Arena, and different concerts and conferences, under the direction of Sabrina McKinley. Once in college, Silka continued to take dance classes to increase her technical training. She taught African dance at Dance Steps Inc. in Snellville, Georgia. She then traveled to London to study Modern a semester at Middlesex University.

On her return and last year of school, Silka opened her own one-room Studio called Divine Dance Studios in South Atlanta. The studio lasted a year and produced ten students. After college, she continued to dance with New Life Dance Ministry, through New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, once again under the direction of Tamera Brown. She continued with New Life for 2 years until she was introduced to the Journey Dance Company in 2008. Silka is presently dancing with the company and teaching dance classes at Journey Arts Center. Silka loves the atmosphere at Journey and plans to stay with the company as long as her body allows her to dance.

Zehra Abdul-Halim

Dance Instructor
Journey Dance Company Member

Zehra Abdul-Halim is a native of the Pittsburgh community, residing in Atlanta with 19 years of experience as a dancer, instructor and choreographer. As a child she dreamed of dance and began her first class with Ms. Holland, her elementary school PE teacher. The dance class was West African dance and was taught by Sister Tokwase, Sister Omelika, and Baba Autu. Later, these 9 little girls would form Barefoot Ballet Dance Ensemble in addition to training with Spelman’s Children’s Dance Extension. Next, Zehra attended North Atlanta High School where she studied under great dancers like Gary Harrison, Leonard Robertson, Jennifer Bell, Terri Axum, Kris Cangelosi, and Jerylyn Warner. After graduation, she attended Bethune-Cookman College, where she found dance again, with Orchesis, under the direction Ms. Carla Lester. She later transferred to Spelman College and joined the Spriggs-Burroughs Players, a drama club. There, Zehra obtained a BA from Spelman College in Drama/Dance & Psychology.

Throughout her exciting dance career, she has performed in the 1994 Super Bowl halftime show and during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.  She has also volunteered with students at Kippways Academy West End and Atlanta Public Schools through Hands On Atlanta.

Zehra would like to have her own professional group to inspire others in dance as well as motivate African American children to be educated and successful in the arts. Also, she would like to one day reunite and thank the dancers/teachers who loved and motivated her throughout her life. Zehra has taken classes at Total Dance Theatre and trained with Ray Hall Dance Ensemble and Gotta Dance Atlanta.

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