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Gulistan ​Dance​ Theater

Company Members

NIKII HENRY

Principal Dancer

Nikii began her ballet training in Pittsfield, MA—first with Terpsichore Dance Studio, then Canterella School of Dance, moving into company roles with Berkshire Ballet, 1984-1988. She left formal dance for eight years, returning to perform with Lexington Ballet in Kentucky in 1996 and 1997. Injuries led her to bellydance with Rakadu Gypsy Dance, also in Lexington, KY. Here in Los Angeles, she joined Pars National Ballet in 2000, Gulistan Dance Theater in 2002, and co-formed Subee Djinn in 2001. She danced "Kali" both in the 2004 and 2005 productions of Desert Sin's "Musee des Femmes." She is now also a member of Elysium Dance Theatre and is a costume and clothing designer. Her remarkable creations are featured throughout Gulistan's repertoire and in many company photographs. 


AYGUL MAKSUTOVA

Dancer

Aygul’s love for the performing arts blossomed at an early age. A member of Gulistan since 2014, she is a Russian native of Tatar and Uzbek descent. Aygul spent her early years in a small settlement in the Republic of Komi in Northern Russia where her family’s mountain home, nestled in a snowy forest landscape, was cut off from the outside world. Aygul and her family created entertainment by dancing to Tatar songs and singing along with her mother’s accordion playing. Videos of folkloric dances provided her mother with ideas for dances and costumes and Aygul performed these dances at school gatherings and celebrations. Summers were spent in Uzbekistan visiting her father’s family in Tashkent, Margelan and Ferghana. Now, Aygul lives in Los Angeles where she juggles dual careers as an actress/filmmaker and a full-time bellydancer.

DONNA SPECKMAN

Dancer

Donna fell in love with Middle Eastern dance as a child after attending a performance featuring a Lebanese dance soloist. She began studying Middle Eastern cabaret-style dance and was performing and teaching by the age of 18. Her dance training expanded to include ballet, Modern jazz and Latin jazz, and she has been a member of several Los Angeles-based companies including Jazz Dancers, Inc.; AMAN International Music and Dance; and Viviane's Egyptian Folk Art Ensemble. Donna has also performed with the Persian dance company, SABA, and is a Founding Member of Gulistan Dance Theater.

AKIKO TANIKAWA

Dancer

With ten years of classical ballet training in Tokyo, Japan, Akiko Tanikawa has been exposed to various world dance styles since the age of three. After moving to the United States, she was introduced to Middle Eastern dance in 2005 and has continued to pursue cultural learning through dance. She was a long-time member of Jenna's ensembles and in theatrical productions with Zahra Zuhair's Po Na Na Dance Theater, along with other performances around the state. She has studied such other traditional forms as Bharatanatyam, Turkish Roma, and Moroccan Guedra. She has also been a member of Abdulla Nazemi’s Persian dance company, Pars National Ballet. Akiko joined Gulistan Dance Theater in 2013. In addition to the training in Gulistan, her study of Central Asian dance has expanded to ongoing online lessons from Uzbekistan since 2020, such as Khorezm Dance School in Urench led by Gavhar Matyaqubova and Alina Babeshko in Tashkent.

RON WAGNER

Percussionist

Coming Soon

DAVID YOHE

Actor/Dancer

David thinks of himself as an entertainer. His early love of acting gave way to a passion for Middle Eastern dance and culture. He has performed with Perfumes of Araby, Avaz International Dance Theater and two Persian dance companies: SABA and Pars National Ballet. David began performing with Gulistan in 2005, developing masked characters who act and dance. His numerous trips to Turkey have enhanced his beloved portrayal of Nasreddin Hodja—the Wise Fool of Central Asia and the Middle East—who has been featured in numerous GDT performances. David  also serves as Gulistan’s Co-Producer in partnership with Carolyn.

MARIE SILVA-ALEXANDER

Storyteller & Mask Maker

Marie’s fantastic masks and masterful storytelling have been enjoyed in many of Gulistan’s imaginative dance/theater productions. Marie received her Theatre Arts degree from Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles and is a former member of the repertory company Greyfriar’s Theatre Ensemble. She has also appeared on several popular television series. She is well-known for her long career as one of the most popular Los Angeles Middle Eastern nightclub dancers of her era, and has toured extensively as a featured dance artist, performing in Canada, Europe, and the Middle East. She also owned Habu, a dance studio and costume company in Hollywood. Marie began working with Gulistan in 2003.

Remembering Jane Kirkland-Glaser

1956 - 2021

Jane’s love of dance began at age four with ballet and she later pursued competitive figure skating. Age 13 was when her “World Dance” education began. She had extensive training and performed with many dance companies such as Zadruga Bulgarian Folk Ensemble, Otea Polynesian Folk Ensemble, Bel Air Liturgical Dancers, Karpatok Hungarian Dance Ensemble, and Viviane’s Egyptian Dance Theater where she was also Assistant Director. For 15 years she toured locally and nationally with the AMAN International Music and Dance Ensemble as a principal dancer and vocalist. She was a Teaching Artist with the Los Angeles Music Center and Segerstrom Center for the Arts and taught dance workshops for numerous school districts in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas. In addition to performing with Gulistan, which she joined in 2009, she was also pursuing competitive ballroom dancing at the time of her passing. We love you and miss you, Jane.

Former Members

Laurie Buenafe-Krsmanovic (Founding Member), Gigi Corkett, Tara Gurung, Trina Hetherington, Zarina Kobilova, Rizvan Mamet-Bush, Alexandra Rozo, Monica Ramos (Founding Member, pictured), and Chi Zhang.

Guest Artists

Cynthia Beckett, Paul Boynton, Eli Danker, Judi Garrett, Diana Goodwin, Kathy Inscore, Arthur Kusuhara, Marguerite Kusuhara, Michael Lee (pictured), Laurie Miller, Micah Moch, Sina Muckenfuss, Sayaka Pereira, Kate Slepicka, Pawan Tulachan, Silas Willis, and Zahra Zuhair.

Guest Musicians 

Nancy Cappelle, Joe Carson, Michael Cox, Chris Henry, Donavon Lerman, Kathy Inscore, Tolkin Isakov, Richard Johnson, Nina Kaufman, Abbos Kosimov (pictured), Rakhmatov Kosimov (pictured), Linda Levin, Dr. Tanya Merchant, Maurice Mitri, Ian Price, Susan Rudnicki, and Jeff Willis.

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