Toneta Akers-Toler

Founder/Managing Artistic Director/Choreographer
Toneta has served West Virginia Dance Company (WVDC) since its inception. Toneta has been a teaching professor for the WV Governor’s Honors Academy since 2014 and was a guest teacher for WV Governor’s School for the Arts on many occasions. Toneta has taught on WVDC tours extensively in WV as well as 15 other states and Brazil. She has served as a choreographer, dancer, master teacher, actress and consultant for Theatre WV since 1973. A magical time of dance for her was serving students at the Pineville Dance Theatre for 45 years.
    Toneta was awarded the 2024 Governor’s Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts. The Beckley-Raleigh County 2024 Outstanding Contribution to the Arts Award was given to Toneta  for her work with the WV Dance Company. Toneta’s other awards include the 2005 WV Governor’s Arts Awards for “Excellence in the Arts”, 2011 for “Arts Education”, WV Women of the Year in the arts in 1999, and the National Association of Regional Ballet Award for Choreography in 1984.  Toneta was nominated in 2021 for the prestigious NEA individual artist fellowship and by the State of West Virginia for the mid-Atlantic Alan Cooper Leadership in the Arts Award in 2019. Her premiere dance choreography 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 WV 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. 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 Jung among many other daily classes. Toneta attended the American Dance Festival at Duke University for three summers where she studied intensely with Betty Jones for eighteen weeks. Other studies that have greatly influenced her work were Jerry Rose, Anna Sokolow, Lucas Hoving, Daniel Nagrin, Stuart Hodes, Gerri Houlihan and Doug Varone. She learns and is inspired by all the wonderful artists that she has the pleasure to work with in WVDC. Lifelong learning is something that is a dedicated mission for Toneta.  In May 2024, she was honored to be chosen to participate and learn a new solo for Betsy Miller’s “American/Woman Project”.