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.