Toneta Akers-Toler

Founder/Managing Artistic Director/Choreographer

Toneta is the Founder and Co-Artistic Director of West Virginia’s only professional touring dance company in the history of the state. Toneta’s awards include the 2005 WV Governor’s Arts Award for “Excellence in the Arts,” WV Woman of the year in 1989 by the WV Women’s Commission and the WV Federation of Women’s Clubs, and Monticello Scholarship for Choreography from the National Association of Regional Ballet. Toneta has served as Choreographer and Master Teacher for Theatre West Virginia since 1983. WVDC was chosen for the National Endowment – WV Commission on the Arts pilot project, Arts in the Classroom which involved an eighty-eight school tour. Her premiere dance presentation of the Glass Menagerie with the Greenbrier Valley Theatre through the Challenge America Grant by the National Endowment for the Arts and the WV Commission on the Arts was listed in the Charleston Gazette as “The Best Arts Event in 2002.”

Toneta graduated from the Conservatory of the Arts at Point Park College in 1977 where she studied with and became friends with Leonide Massine who greatly influenced her ambitions to become a choreographer. While at Point Park, she trained in ballet with Edward Caton, Graham with Judith Leifer and Luigi jazz technique with Ron Tassone.

Her studies at Point Park included theatre and acting training from Tom Thomas, Jim Prescott, Cecil Kitkat and Alan Clarey. Toneta continued her studies in New York City at Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Center where she was demonstrator for Hector Mercado’s jazz class, received a certificate from Gelabert’s Dance Kinetic Institute, studied with Pearl Lang and others at the Martha Graham School, ballet with David Howard and Finis Jhung among many other daily classes. Toneta attended the American Dance Festival’s six weeks training program for three summers. She studied intensely with Betty Jones for eighteen weeks. Other studies that have greatly influenced her work were Anna Sokolow, Lucas Hoving, Daniel Nagrin, Stuart Hodes, Gerri Houlihan and Doug Varone.

She has taught workshops on many WVDC tours throughout West Virginia as well as 13 other states and Brazil. Toneta has been the master teacher for the WV Fine Arts Teachers Academy and has been both a master teacher and performer at the WV Governor’s Honors Academy.

Donald Laney

Producing Artistic Director/Tour Manager/Dancer/Choreographer

Donald Laney graduated from the University, of California, Irvine, with an MFA in Dance.  He is currently the Producing Artistic Director of the WV Dance Company, the first and only professional touring dance company in the history of the state of WV.  Before entering the graduate program at UCI, Donald performed with the WV Dance Company, Houlihan & Dancers (Miami, FL), Randy James Dance Works (NYC), X-Factor (NC), and Trillium Performing Arts Collective (WV). While attending UCI, he had the opportunity to perform for Donald McKayle, Loretta Livingston, Lisa Naugle, and Christine Chrest, as well as presenting his own choreography which was chosen to represent the university at ACDFA in 2003 and 2004. Donald’s work with Lisa Naugle and John Crawford has produced 3 dance videos that have been presented at the Lincoln Center and in dance video conferences in Yugoslavia, Japan, New Jersey, Michigan, Arizona, and at ADF in Durham, NC. Donald has served as the WV Governor’s School for the Arts instructor in Dance, from 2005 to present.

Besides performing, Mr. Laney also pursues a career as a freelance artist in teaching, choreographing, and costume design and construction. His choreography has been a staple of the West Virginia Dance Company’s repertoire for the last ten years.  He has created original modern dance pieces for the WV Dance Company, James Madison University, Marshall University, WV Wesleyan College, Charleston Ballet, and various high schools around WV. Donald has been a guest instructor in modern dance at ACDFA -Southwest & Mid Atlantic Regions, James Madison University, UCI, Lees-McRae College, Charleston Ballet, and Jack Britt High School (NC), and as an Adjunct Professor at Marshall University, Davis & Elkins, and WV Wesleyan College.

In 2008 Donald was granted permission to perform Daniel Nagrin’s 1948 masterpiece “Spanish Dance”.  This was Mr. Nagrin’s last project before his passing.  Donald Performed “Spanish Dance” for two years all over West Virginia as well as at a memorial service for Mr. Nagrin in Philadelphia.

Musical Theatre choreography credits include assistant choreographer to Tony Nominated Donald McKayle on My Fair Lady (UC Irvine), Chicago, Beehive!, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Quilters, Cabaret (Greenbrier Valley Theatre)Hair and Little Shop of Horrors (Marshall University), High School Musical (Theatre West Virginia), Urinetown (Davis & Elkins), Gypsy, Nunsense, Anything Goes, Urinetown (WV Wesleyan), HONK! and The Music Man (Cape Fear Regional Theater).