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Faculty & Staff

Tara Z. Mullins, Director

mullinsTara Zaffuto Mullins is the director of the NC State Dance Program, after serving for four years as the Assistant Director.

While at NC State, Tara produced Operation Breadbasket, a mixed media modern dance honoring the civil rights movement, which was featured on WUNC’s The State of Things. She has been nominated twice for a Chancellor’s Creating Community Award and served on the University Diversity Advisory Committee. She recently completed a film entitled Above the Trees with renowned filmmaker Doug Kass that was screened at the NCSU Dance Company Concert and in New York.

Tara has been a guest artist at Radford University, James Madison University, East Central University, Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia, Latin Ballet of Virginia and Dance Arizona Repertory Theatre, among other institutions and companies. In the past, Tara has taught at Henrico Center for the Arts, Arizona State University, Mesa Community College, St. Catherine’s School and the University of Virginia, and was most recently on faculty at the Academy of Arts and Minds in Miami, Florida.

After serving as the educational programs director for the Latin Ballet of Virginia, Tara developed the education- and service-based Z Mullins Dance Company. The company has founded and facilitated such events as the Virginia Dance Symposium, which brings together high school dancers and professors from dance programs, and the Summer Dance Intensive, a ten-day program for high school and college dancers. She also planned and directed many community projects, such as Fitness, Food and FUN, a nutrition and fitness program for fifth grade girls, and the Big Gig, a free youth arts festival in Miami.

Tara has a B.A. in dance from James Madison University and an M.F.A. in dance from Arizona State University, where she received the Faculty Women’s Association Distinguished Master Degree Candidate Award for her work developing arts programs for homeless youth, as well as the inaugural Herberger College of Fine Arts Fellowship.


Francine Ott, Artisctic Director of Panoramic Dance Project & Dance Lecturer

Francine Elizabeth Ott, a native of New Orleans, is the newly appointed NC State Dance Program Dance Lecturer who serves as the artistic director of the Panoramic Dance Project.

Francine received her B.F.A in Dance from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and studied at many dance intensives, including the American Dance Festival and Jacob’s Pillow, where she received scholarships.

She has worked, studied and danced with Camille A. Brown and Dancers, Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, A Dance Company, Brian Green, and Tony Kundu among others.

She has had the opportunity to teach many workshops, classes and residencies and her choreography has been showcased at Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out Festival, Homegrown at the CAC in New Orleans, APAP, SummerStage Dance, BAM: Black Brooklyn Renaissance, Dance Harlem, Aaron Davis Hall, Dance Place in Washington, D.C., This Woman’s Work, Dixon Place, International Association of Blacks in Dance and more.

Ms. Ott has been featured in the July 2011 issue of Dance Magazine in the article, “When Words Hurt,” and the February 2011 issue of SHAPE Magazine, in “Confidence Queens.”

Francine has been a studio assistant and teacher at Cumbe Center for African and Diaspora Dance and Rehearsal Director of Camille A. Brown and Dancers.  She has assisted Ms. Brown in works for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ailey II, Urban Bush Women and LaGuardia High School among others—and presently assists Ms. Brown when needed.  She is also a teaching artist, as well as a choreographer for Crossing Point Arts, Black Girl Spectrum and Whole Heart Productions.

Francine has received her Master’s degree in mental health counseling at Nyack College, and was an Administrative Assistant at Nyack College’s Manhattan Campus for the Alliance Graduate School of Counseling.  Ms. Ott also has her own company, Francine E. Ott/The Walk, where she integrates the arts with the mental health field allowing a person to find their voice, and healing through a unique therapeutic process, while also providing a space for growth, change, and transformation in their life.

Maria Potepalova, Marketing and Program Assistant

Email: mpotepa@ncsu.edu

Maria Potepalova is an NC State alumna –– she earned her M.S. in communication and then began her work with the NC State Dance Program, both as the marketing assistant and a teacher of master classes.

A native of St. Petersburg, Russia, Maria Potepalova performed in the United States for the first time at age fourteen. As a member of the Golden Gates Cultural Program, a collection of folk-based performing arts ensembles composed of artists from Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, she toured throughout the country in 2005, 2006 and 2012.

Having danced since age six, Maria began her dance career in one of Russia’s leading youth ensembles. Her repertoire consists of folk dances originated from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus as well as other European countries, with a primary focus on Russian tradition. By the time she was pursuing her bachelor’s degree in public relations at St. Petersburg State University, Maria had performed in China, Bulgaria, Italy and Germany, among other countries.

Together with the Halle Cultural Arts Center in Apex, NC and the Rotary Children’s Fund, Maria initiated annual Triangle Russian Festival and now serves as its lead coordinator.

Prior to joining the Dance Program, Maria worked as a graduate teaching assistant in the NC State Department of Communication and was part of a marketing team for The St. Petersburg Times, the city’s only English-language daily, and Vedomosti, Russia’s most influential business newspaper.