Meet Our Summer Arts Staff 2020

Michál Anna Carrillo- Director/ Meditation / Acting

She has had a dynamic and results oriented career in dance, healing arts, education, community affairs and promotion over the past 20 years. Proven accomplishments in organizing events and developing successful programs and business as an entrepreneur.

Michal holds a BA from The University of Washington, and first started studying West African dance at that time. Having studied jazz, ballet and iceskating since the age of five, she became enthralled with this modality. She has studied West African dance with a variety of master teachers, many of whom she has hosted on the Big Island of Hawaíi, where she resides.

As founder and director of Lavaroots Performing Arts in 2002, based in Hawaii, she teaches West African dance, Salsa, Hip Hop and Creative Movement, and her company has performed island wide for the past 16 years.  Additionally, Kissidugu and Lavaroots are in their Eighth year of hosting the annual Camp Merveilles Hawaii Dance & Drum Conference on the Big Island, started in 2013.

Ms. Carrillo has been a Teaching Artist in schools in the state of Hawaii since 2006, teaching grades K-8, reaching an average of 400 students per year. She is entering her 13th year as Director of The Summer Arts program, hosted at Kahilu Theatre for nine years, Waimea Country School partially for six and in it’s fourth year at Hawaii Preparatory Academy. Summer Arts brings performing arts and natural sciences to the youth in an exciting format, culminating in a theatrical presentation.

As the VP/Development Director for the Kissidugu Foundation, Michál spends 2-3 months a year working in Guinea, West Africa where they are building the Kissidugu School of Music, Dance & Education.  The Foundation is committed to creating sustainable and equitable opportunities for individuals and communities, through civic dialogue, education, cultural preservation and the perpetuation of Guinean music and dance. They also host Lavaroots Summer Arts program. Learn more at

Michal is honored to be WCS board member since 2018, which continues to deepen her support of empowering our youth through education. Michál is also a licensed Massage Therapist and has worked in the healing arts for the last 21 years. She fuses healing work and dance together in a unique and compelling way, allowing her students and clients to peel the layers away and reveal the brilliancy within; and is committed to the expression of one’s true self through movement, culture and self-exploration.


Gabriel Fara Tolno – Dance/Percussion/Soccer

Born in Guinea, West Africa, Fara spent his youth in the village of Kissidugu and Guinea’s capital city, Conakry. He began playing the djembe drum at the age of nine, performing in ensembles at the age of 15, including nine years as the lead drummer for Les Merveilles de Guinea (The Wonders of Guinea) under the tutelage of West Africa’s most influential director and choreographer, Kemoko Sano. This national ballet performed all around Africa and Europe, bringing Fara to the United States to perform in major theatres in 1998.

For the last 21 years Fara has been in the United States sharing his culture, teaching, earning a MFA, and playing with musicians of all kinds. He has founded two different performance ensembles and teaches at numerous colleges and universities as well as teaching community drum and dance classes for students of all levels.

Fara founded Project Drum, which is an organization focused on bringing West African music and dance into schools (and other organizations) by working with students, training teachers and performing in schools. Fara has provided access to the rhythms and dance of Guinea through the Rhythm Reference Project (an online library) and Camp Merveilles, an annual nationwide music and dance conference, both of which he founded.

Fara completed his Master of Fine Arts in dance at the University of Colorado in 2012. He has taken this knowledge and found ways to relate and merge the art forms of dance and music from West African and the Western world. Fara shares this new and innovative perspective when teaching in community and university classes, and training members of his ensemble and companies.

His energetic and compassionate teaching style makes him one of the most sought after drum and dance instructors in the United States. As a solo artist, Fara has performed with many of the world’s premier musicians including Mamady Keita, Burning Spear, Neil Young, Sekouba Bambino, BB King, Otis Taylor, Joe Cocker, Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita, Habibe Koite, and many more. He has been a member of many different bands and assisted with many musical recording projects and shows throughout the nation. Fara’s performance style has been described as “mystical” as he dazzles audiences around the world.


Mario Hill – Capoeira 

Founded in 2013,Capoeira Água De Beber offers classes to youth and adults of Kamuela and North Kohala. Classes are taught by Mr. Mario Hill (Professor Castanho.)  Contact at (916) 752-7275, or or for more information.



Debra McGee – Breakdance/Hip Hop

Debra, a MN native, moved to the Big Island in 2011 after performing, teaching, and choreographing in NY and the Twin Cities for nearly two decades. She received her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Dance from Marymount Manhattan College in N.Y.C. There she performed works by Jose Limon, Milton Myers, Jeffrey Holder, Louis Falco, and Lar Lubovich. Debra is a former member of Garth Fagan Dance and performed his works nationally and internationally. Thereafter, she began teaching again and choreographing while training vocally at the Eastman School of Music in NY. Eventually, she returned to MN for a few years where she worked with former Alvin Ailey principal’s company called TU Dance and performed in numerous musicals. Debra’s true love is any and all dance because she can communicate to any culture with this universal language. She has been teaching on the Big Island since 2012. She teaches at Kona Dance Performing Arts, Prince Dance Institute, The Hub and is a Lavaroots Company Lead dancer and choreographer.


Jan Salerno – Art & Beyond

Ms. Jan Salerno is an artist of over 35 years from L.A. Sets to Ocean Murals in Kona, Jan is one incredibly talented being.  Her creativity and inspiring way of teaching ignites the inner fire and encourages our youth to play, expand and let only their imagination be the limit.



Alea Backus – Circus Arts/ Aerial Silks

Alea Backus is passionate about sharing aerial & circus arts in North Hawaii. She has studied Aerial Arts, including silks, lyra(aerial hoop), and dance trapeze for the last 12 years.  She studied aerial dance under Annie Bunker at UH Hilo/HCC, Katie Schwind; a protege of Annie’s, and has attended numerous workshops and classes throughout the years.
Graham Ellis of Cirque ‘Ohana, who brought circus to the Waimea and Puna communities on the Big Island of Hawaii, gave Alea the opportunity to exploring teaching Aerial and learning to teach other circus skills he had mastered, along with the guidance and support of aerialist Kat Ruess. Alea teaches breath & body awareness, balancing flexibility and strength to develop grace, fluidity and poise and has a background in Yoga, having taught for the last twelve years.

She is also an aerial performer, and has periodically taught adult aerial classes at Cirque Hale in Kailua-Kona.
Alea has been sharing the joy of circus arts with the children of North Hawaii for the last three years through Lavaroots and a Summer Circus Arts program at Kahilu Theater, in honor of Graham’s legacy.



Travis Dodson – Garden

Travis resides in North Kohala where he can always be found cultivating and planting seeds while whirling his wordsmithing to some poetic beat. He brings so much creative perspective to our youth and asks them to feel into the earth and themselves. We love Uncle Travis!



  Kristen Cosmi – Gong

Kristen facilitates the relaxing and moving sounds of the Gong, which can create peace, awakening and relaxation within the self. She offers ‘Gong Events” around the island for more information email her at:



Summer Arts also has Special Guest Musicians and Educators. This year features:

Dr. Michelle Suber
Jesse Synder & Gary Washburn
Dr. Beard
and more….



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