Meet the 12 extraordinary dance artists nominated for the 2022 Johnson Fellowship.
Americans for the Arts applauds each of these artists for their significant contributions to making positive change in communities across the United States and to addressing issues facing communities, our country, and the planet, including: racism; civic participation; cultural equity for disabled dancers; understanding of and policy change concerning people with disabilities; cultural preservation; Black and queer womxn well-being and empowerment; commemorative justice; spatial justice and gentrification; juvenile justice systems change; and violence, racism and police practices. 2022 Nominators and Selection Panel are also listed below.
MK Abadoo’s (Richmond, VA) work exists at the intersection of dance theater and anti-racist cultural organizing, combining funk/family kitchen dances, classical American modern, and postmodern dance vocabularies, neo-traditional Ghanaian movement, and community-centered creative practice. Since 2017, they have been creating work with local communities organizing towards commemorative justice. In 2019, working closely with Free Egunfemi Bangura, MK choreographed and co-directed “Untold RVA presents Brother General Gabriel,” a site-specific dance work that transformed the unmarked gallows at Richmond’s African Ancestral Burial Ground by celebrating General Gabriel, the 24-year-old enslaved blacksmith who planned the largest rebellion for liberation in US history. MK is currently in a creative process for Hoptown. Based in their ancestral home space of Hopkinsville, KY, this project emphasizes “sistering” as the fortifying wisdom exchange within and between generations of Black women. Considered a "breakout star" by Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch,” and a Clyde Fitch “changing-making artist to track,” MK's work has been commissioned by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Dance Exchange, among others. As a 2016-2017 U.S. Fulbright Fellow, they worked closely with the Noyam African Dance Institute and the National Dance Company of Ghana. MK is an assistant professor of community practice in the Department of Dance and Choreography at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Ephrat Asherie (New York, NY) is a dancer and choreographer and a 2016 Bessie Award Winner for Innovative Achievement in Dance. The Ephrat Asherie company honors the ethos of club culture rooted in Black and Latinx vernacular dance, including Breaking, Hip Hop, House, Vogue, and the Latin Hustle. Ephrat has spent the last 20 years dancing with and nurturing the club culture community, honoring the elder dancers who helped usher in New York City’s underground dance community in the 1970s and uplifting Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ communities’ voices to tell their own stories. Through teaching, creating, collaborating, and research she perpetuates the ethics and values of inclusivity, tolerance, freedom that characterizes the club community and through which “the collective community energizes and celebrates each individual’s uniqueness." She is currently working on UnderScored, a multi-faceted project rooted in the intergenerational stories of seminal elder NYC club heads. It includes an oral history archive to be housed at the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library. Asherie has received numerous awards including Dance Magazine's Inaugural Harkness Promise Award, a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant, and a National Dance Project award to support the development and touring of her newest work, Odeon.
Holly Bass (Washington, D.C.) Choreographer, dancer, teaching artist, community leader, and storyteller, Holly Bass has been committed to community transformation through artmaking for more than 25 years. Her work centers on relationships, as Holly uses the process of dancemaking and performance to build community, resist cultural erasure, bring people together, and seed joy for people of all ages and backgrounds. In her home community of Washington, D.C., she works as a performer and teaching artist in public schools, D.C.’s juvenile detention system, women’s shelters, and community centers collaborating with sanitation workers, classroom teachers, athletes, and people of all ages. Holly’s dancemaking celebrates Black culture and is committed to contradicting and resisting racism. Informed by community workshops on D.C.’s changing demographics, she developed RACE: Talc & Ash, a dance duet about gentrification staged as a sporting event. Her dance theater work, Trans-Atlantic Time Traveling Company, invites audience participation and tells the story of three Black women operating a traveling medicine show circa 1868 who turn out to be time travelers from the future on a mission to eradicate racism and sexism. Through artmaking, Holly leads with love and creates opportunities for people to build trust, see each other more clearly, and acknowledge their common humanity.
Charya Burt (Windsor, CA) is one of two dance artists selected to receive the 2022 Johnson Fellowship. Charya is a master dancer, choreographer, and teacher of classical Cambodian dance whose purpose is to help the Cambodian diaspora reconcile the ongoing effects of the Khmer Rouge Genocide in order to build healthier communities and to strengthen cultural identity. As a traditional artist, she trained with Cambodia’s foremost dance masters who survived the genocide. Through formal instruction, workshops, public performances, and the creation of new works, she advances the classical tradition to new generations in Cambodian communities in urban and rural California and across the U.S. Charya also boldly pushes the form in contemporary ways to speak to American-born generations. Original works provide a platform to understand and talk about contemporary issues such as immigrant and refugee displacement, while amplifying the importance of traditional arts in community healing and celebration as well as in achieving racial and cultural equity. Her classical and original works provide a bridge between new and old generations in which elders suffer from PTSD and generational trauma reverberates in families. Charya works to help Cambodian American communities to heal and move beyond their tragic history and define themselves by the values and beauty of their rich culture. Click here for more.
Maria Bauman-Morales (Brooklyn, NY) is a dance artist and community organizer from Jacksonville, FL. The choreography, generative scores, and writing for her company MBDance center the non-linear and linear stories and bodies of Black queer people in non-proscenium performance ritual settings. In this creative work, Maria brings the same organizing tenets of undoing racism as she employs with ACRE (Artists Co-creating Real Equity), the grassroots body she co-founded. Maria’s work in and with community draws from a long association with Urban Bush Women which began in 2002 as a dancer and Director of Education and Community Engagement. She worked with Jawole Zollar to pilot and codify UBW BOLD (Builders, Organizers, and Leaders through Dance), a unique approach to using movement and dance to facilitate dialogue within organizations. Maria’s choreography is based on physical and emotional power, desire for equity, and fascination with intimacy. One of her early works, 50 ways to say…, is an achingly powerful meditation on the police murder of Sean Bell by looking at the Sisyphus myth. She has continued to evolve her creative practice through powerful works such as (Re) Source and Dying and Dying and Dying. Her current work centers Black victories and focuses on themes of Black rest, desire, and wealth in many forms.
Shira Greenberg (Albuquerque, NM) is founder and artistic director of Keshet Dance Company and the Keshet Center for the Arts in Albuquerque. Her M3 Program (Movement + Mentorship = Metamorphosis), begun in 1996, uses a movement-based curriculum to teach academic subjects, social skills, and conflict resolution techniques to incarcerated and paroling youth. It has become a daily embedded program for nearly every post-adjudicated young person in New Mexico, providing support through parole and reintegration. The program has led to successful policy changes in the NM juvenile justice system. Shira has also brought to fruition the Keshet Ideas and Innovation Community, a dynamic maker space for dance artists which supports and strengthens arts entrepreneurs and champions the value of the artist and arts economy, as well as several arts and justice initiatives. She has been recognized by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Multicultural Council’s Keep the Dream Alive Award, the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Outstanding New Mexico Women; the New Mexico Humanitarian Award, and the New Mexico Ethics in Business Award recognizing the highest standards of ethical conduct, integrity, and civic and social responsibility. As a choreographer, she has created over 60 original dance works for stage and film.
Julie Johnson (Decatur, GA) works at the intersections of creative practice and research, African Diaspora movement aesthetics, community interaction, and social justice to discover ways that dance can serve as a practice of inquiry, empathy, and empowerment. She is executive artistic director of Moving Our Stories, using participatory dance, memory mapping, and interactive site-specific performance to amplify Black women as a strategy towards building collective empathy, empowerment, and joy for all. Julie was selected as a Partners for Change Artist as part of the inaugural 2020-23 cohort through Alternate ROOTS and the Surdna Foundation in support of Idle Crimes & Heavy Work, a dance and multimedia collaboration focusing on Georgia’s carceral history through the lens of Black women’s labor. She was a member of the 2020-21 cohort of the Jacob’s Pillow Curriculum in Motion Institute. Julie is the Chair of the Dept. of Dance Performance & Choreography at Spelman College and co-founded and is consulting editor of The Dancer-Citizen, an online dance journal exploring the work of socially engaged artists.
Petra Kuppers (Ipsilanti, MI) is a wheelchair dancer, international disability culture activist, teacher, and poet who creates participatory community performance environments. Rooted in disability culture methods, her work challenges common ideas of disability using methods of joy, community, trance, and mystery. Her work centers on the connection between environment and embodiment, examining how bodies are impacted by their surroundings and, ultimately how dance fosters a full life for those who are disabled. In the Salamander project, Petra visited bodies of water around the world to swim with other disabled people and able-bodied allies, using collective movement to generate joy and embody communal self-care. Petra’s work also aims to heighten the visibility of the disability community, empowering them to take over various public spaces—vacant car lots, abandoned buildings, parks, empty sidewalks--gathering en masse to move and perform in strange and intriguing patterns. These experimental performance experiences push the limited and defined boundaries of dance, originating fully inclusive spaces and atmospheres that press toward a more socially just and equitable future. Petra has organized workshops and symposia internationally and authored many publications on the subject of disability culture and community performance.
Donald Lee (Brooklyn, NY) is a disabled artist and a company dancer with Heidi Latsky Dance (HLD), a physically integrated dance company featuring atypical bodies as sights/sites to address the ideas of beauty, physicality, and transformative inclusive culture. In his transgressive artistic practice, he prides amateurism as an approach to create varied work that challenges and delights all audiences and questions conventions in methods and structures. He has been a key figure in the success of ON DISPLAY, HLD’s global portfolio of site-specific sculpture court installations of atypical bodies. Also with the company, Donald was involved in a research and movement project with individuals with spinal cord injury which culminated in a group performance at the NYC Disability Pride. As an extension of his work with HLD, Donald has mentored middle and high school students at NuVu Studio, an innovative school on inclusive designs and technology to examine design dilemmas such as developing costume designs for disabled dancers. In 2019, Donald was featured along with other leaders and luminaries in the LGBTQ+ community in the World Pride NYC 2019|Stonewall 50 campaign. For his contribution to disability artistry and community work, Donald is a recipient of Dance/NYC’s Disability. Dance. Artistry. Dance and Social Justice Fellowship Program. In 2021 he was featured in #PBS for the Arts Artist Spotlight.
Christopher “Mad Dog” Thomas (Chicago, IL), dancer, choreographer, educator, and activist, is one of two dance artists selected to receive the 2022 Johnson Fellowship. He is an exemplar of Juke/Footwork, a dynamic dance form arising out of the streets of Chicago and rooted in a culture of urban artistry and activism. He is famous for his 170 beats per minute footwork, musicality, and stage presence. Born and raised in Chicago’s Altgeld Gardens housing project, he turned to Footworking to survive the trauma of gun violence to which he lost a friend, and as a way to rise above toxic masculinity. He became a member of and lead choreographer and spokesperson for the FootworKINGz. In 2005, Mad Dog joined Kuumba Lynx (KL), a culture-making organization working for liberation through artistic expression for Chicago’s youth and their families. As a teacher and KL’s program manager, he has built an inclusive space for young people, grounded in critical thinking, artistic excellence, and popular education and built on a foundation of love. Drawing on lived experience, he engages youth and creates space to understand and address issues of environmental racism, police violence, and the carceral system. Devoted to Chicago communities impacted by these issues, he also teaches footwork at a juvenile detention center and is developing a performance tour of a new project to Chicago’s subsidized housing facilities in partnership with the National Museum of Public Housing. Click here for more.
Mark Tomasic (Los Angeles, CA) has dedicated his artistry to the promotion of physically integrated dance for more than 25 years. He has been instrumental in the development of learning tools to enable educators, choreographers, and teachers to understand the principals necessary to incorporate the teaching and inclusion of individuals with disabilities in the arena of dance--Translation, Equity, Accessibility, and Meaning. Through intensive investigation and research and his long partnership with Mary Verdi-Fletcher and the Dancing Wheels Company & School in Cleveland, Mark co-published the first teacher training manual on Dancing Wheels’ methodologies of translation, inclusion and practice. As a choreographer, he has created five major works for the Company, some abstract and others that center the disability experience. As an able-bodied dancer, Mark has worked with Ballet Contemporaneo de Buenos Aires, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Cleveland San Jose Ballet, Tom Evert Dance Company, The Dancing Wheels Company & School, and Verb Ballets. Mark's passion and respect for the work of integrated dance has resonated with the community of dancers with disabilities who describe his allyship as dynamic and where, as one dance artist wrote, “Mark’s heart foregrounds his activism.”
Fabiola Torralba (San Antonio, TX) is a movement artist, cultural worker, and educator who was born in Acapulco, Guerrero and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Yanaguana. Fabiola shares their passion for embodied learning with inner city youth, seniors, im/migrants, Spanish monolingual speakers, QTBIPOC, working class people, students and artists. Through independent initiatives and interdisciplinary collaborations, their grassroots social justice efforts have focused on anti-displacement housing policy coordination, mutual aid support, and land-based practice. Fabiola’s approach is influenced by rasquachismo, concert dance, public action, site specific installation, street performance, and experimental elements that are informed by jazz, contemporary, hip-hop, social, improvisation, ceremonial, and Afro-Indigenous forms. Fabiola has trained under Urban Bush Women, Dance/USA, the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, and NALAC, and has worked for companies such as SpareWorks Dance, Dance Exchange, Safos Dance Theatre, Forklift Danceworks, and Dancing Earth Contemporary Creations. Current initiatives include the East to West Project, the goal of which is to build solidarity with Afro Mexico of the Costa Chica. Fabiola has launched the full-length performance project, nx/sx or nos(otrxs) ¡somxs! for kuir, questioning, gender-fluid, and non-conforming im/migrant artists to premiere in 2022.
Jennifer Calienes (Middletown, CT) is Interim Director of the Center for the Arts at Wesleyan University and a national arts consultant since 2014, designing and launching new initiatives with Urban Bush Women, the New England Foundation for the Arts, AXIS Dance Company, and the National Center for Choreography at the University of Akron. She served as Interim Deputy Director at Jacob’s Pillow Dance in 2018. Prior to her consulting practice she served as the founding Executive and Artistic Director and Associate in Dance at the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University (2004-2014). From 1999–2004, Calienes served as Program Manager for the National Dance Project, a program of the New England Foundation for the Arts. Calienes is an active advocate for contemporary artists, and has served as panelist, chair and facilitator for programs at The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, The MAP Fund, National Endowment for the Arts and United States Artists.
Madison Cario (San Francisco, CA) is the new CEO of the Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco and until September was the Executive Director of the Regional Arts & Culture Council in Portland, OR. They have more than 20 years of experience working as a connector, curator, artist, writer, Marine Corps veteran, and more. Prior to joining RACC, Madison was the inaugural Director of the Office of the Arts at the Georgia Institute of Technology. They received the Georgia Tech 2016 Staff Entrepreneurship Award, Faces of Inclusive Excellence Awards in 2017 and 2018, and the Georgia Tech 2015 Diversity Champion Award. They have held positions at the East Bay Conservation Corps in Oakland, Painted Bride Arts Center in Philadelphia, and the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. They have been an advisor to the National Dance Project, the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA), and served on advisory boards for Public Broadcasting Atlanta, Alliance Theater, and T. Lang Dance, among others.
Angela Harris (Atlanta, GA) is a choreographer and dancer and executive artistic director of Dance Canvas, Inc. in Atlanta, GA, a career development organization for emerging professional choreographers and youth. Through Dance Canvas, Angela has been a catalyst, consultant, and resource for numerous new dance organizations and artists throughout metro Atlanta. She has developed youth dance/career development programs for the City of Atlanta's Office of Cultural Affairs; recording artist, Usher's New Look Foundation; and the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation. Angela has forged partnerships with the Atlanta Ballet, Atlantic Station, Rialto Center for the Arts, and the National Black Arts Festival. She received the 2011 Emerging Leader Award from Americans for the Arts and American Express and was selected to be in the 2014 class of Arts Leaders of Metro Atlanta (ALMA). Angela is a member of Dance/USA.
Germaine Ingram’s (Philadelphia, PA) career in arts and culture includes tap dance and vocal performance, choreography, stage production, oral history, writing, filmmaking, and arts/culture strategy at the intersection of art and social change. Her work channels styles and traditions learned from legendary Philadelphia hoofer LaVaughn Robinson, her performance partner for more than 25 years. Germaine creates multi-disciplinary works that explore themes related to history, collective memory, and social justice. Her recent performance projects include an evening-length production inspired by the establishment of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia and a performance piece for the 150-year commemoration of the Battle of Atlanta, a turning point in the Civil War. In 2015/2016, Germaine was a collaborator in an exploration of how art addresses sudden loss of human life. Currently she is the principal designer and a collaborator in a project that excavates the history and evolution of the practice of Yoruba performance traditions and culture in Philadelphia.
Joori Jung (Detroit, MI) is the founder and artistic director and choreographer of ArtLab J in Detroit. Originally from Seoul, South Korea, she toured internationally with the Seoul Dance Theatre and danced with various dance companies in Korea before moving to New York in 2009. There Joori joined Time Lapse Dance and Amanda Selwyn Dance Theatre and began her own choreographic work. In 2012, she moved to Detroit to pursue a goal to expand contemporary dance in Detroit and established ArtLab J. At ArtLab J, she produces and directs the international Detroit Dance City Festival which was a 2014 Knight Arts Challenge winner. She is also the curator of many other “lab” projects, including Detroit Dance Race, the local choreography showcase; Detroit Revival Project, a collaboration concert; and is the publisher of the annual Moving with Detroit Dance Resource Magazine. Joori was a 2014 Ted Fellow.
Heidi Latsky (New York, NY) is Artistic and Executive Director of Heidi Latsky Dance (HLD), a New York-based organization dedicated to the creation of relevant, immersive performance art that is accessible to all. HLD was founded in 2001 and has gone through different creative phases. The first ten years of her choreographic career focused on evening-length works that examined aspects of humanity that deeply affected her. Her critically acclaimed DISJOINTED (2006) was a trio with a Greek chorus of 25 that dealt with her mother’s long bout with illness and the repercussions of her death. In 2006, Boston-based disabled interdisciplinary artist Lisa Bufano commissioned Heidi to create a 25-minute solo. This collaboration was the catalyst for an artistic shift towards inclusivity and unconventional diversity, sparking a 10-year period of work titled The GIMP Project. Currently, HLD is expanding into interactive technology through collaborations with entities like Google’s Creative Lab, Fashion Institute of Technology, and Evolving Technologies.
Lily Kharrazi (San Francisco, CA) is special projects manager with the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) where she brings her training in dance and anthropology and many years of working with community-based arts practice. In her 14 years with ACTA, Lily has contributed to the development of traditional arts roundtable series; Community Leadership Program; provided technical assistance, advocacy and consultation locally and nationally, and has served on many review panels for arts funding. She is a consultant to Dance/USA Fellowships to Artists. She has worked in refugee resettlement and was formerly program director at World Arts West, producing nine seasons of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. A first generation American, Lily is trying to figure out if it is family folklore or truth to say that she is the first one in her family to be born outside of Iran in 14 generations.
Shawn Lent (Chicago, IL) is the programs and communications director at Chicago DanceMakers Forum where she runs the Lab Artists program. She is a social practice dance artist and manager with experience in many settings, from a field in Bosnia, to a children’s cancer hospital, to an embassy in revolutionary Egypt. Shawn is a U.S. Fulbright Scholar and UN Alliance of Civilizations International Fellow and is leading a community initiative with refugee families in Chicago. She was the EducationUSA Coordinator for AMIDEAST/Egypt, served on the editorial team for The Clyde Fitch Report, and has spoken at the German Mission to the United Nations, Brigham Young University, University of Maryland, Universal Exposition Milan, and TEDx Shibin El Kom. Shawn holds a Masters degree in Arts Management with a concentration Arts in Youth and Community Development from Columbia College Chicago and a Professional Certificate in Youth Arts Development from Goldsmith’s College, University of London.
Alberto Mejia (San Antonio, TX) is the Deputy Director of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC). Prior to joining NALAC in 2020, he served as: manager of Cultural Funding & Investments with the City of Austin, a senior director of Community Programs at Creative Action, Manager of the Dougherty Arts Center, Executive Director of Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in Seattle, WA, and Community Engagement Manager at MoPOP in Seattle, WA. Mejia is an alumnus of NALAC’s Advocacy Leadership Institute (ALI) and has served as panelist for local and national grantmaking programs including ARTPLACE America and the National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town program. Mejia is active in cultural policy issues & dialogue. He is an artist in the in hip-hop genre and devotes time to the practice of indigenous cultural tradition, community building, and dance.
Allison Orr (Austin, TX) creates dances that highlight the beauty and skill in the virtuosic movement of work. Collaborating primarily with working class people, Orr and her team at Forklift Danceworks use performance as a catalyst for long-term community-led action. Allison has honed a methodology of ethnographic choreography that engages community members as co-authors and performers in the creation of large-scale civic spectacles. In recent years, Allison has been named a MacDowell Fellow, a Dance/USA Fellow in Social Change, and a Doris Duke United States Artist Fellow. Currently a Distinguished Fellow of the College of Environment at Wesleyan University, Allison directed The Artist in the City, a course in which Wesleyan students were embedded within the local water/wastewater department to create collaborative artistic projects with city employees. Before founding Forklift Danceworks in 2001, Allison danced and studied with Deborah Hay and MacArthur Award winner Liz Lerman.
Mary Verdi-Fletcher (Cleveland, OH) is president artistic director of Dancing Wheels World Center for Integrated Dance & Arts Access which she founded in 1980, and one of the first and foremost professional wheelchair dancers. Realizing the dire need for training and career advancement for dancers of all ability levels, she created the multi-arts Dancing Wheels School in 1990 which became the most sought-after site for training in the formal techniques of physically integrated dance. Mary leads a full-time company of 10 stand-up and sit-down dancers who travel the globe performing and educating individuals with and without disabilities. Mary’s current and past professional affiliations include board, committee, and advisory roles with the: National Careers in Arts Summit at the Kenny Center for the Performing Arts, Association of Performing Arts Presenters’ annual conference, Arc of Greater Cleveland, Singing Angels, Ohio Arts Presenters, Professional Flair, Inc., and Dance/USA.
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar (Tallahassee, FL) founded Urban Bush Women (UBW) in 1984, a performance ensemble dedicated to cultural expression as a catalyst for social change. With a ground-breaking performance ensemble at its core, and ongoing programs—the Summer Leadership Institute, BOLD (Builders, Organizers & Leaders through Dance), and the Choreographic Center Initiative—UBW projects the voices of the underheard and people of color, addressing issues of equity in the dance field and society. In addition to creating 34 works for UBW, Jawole has choreographed works for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco, and others, and collaborated with Compagnie Jant-Bi from Senegal. She recently performed in a sold-out tour presented by 651 ARTS. Zollar is a 2021 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellow. Jawole has also received a 2015 Dance Magazine Award, 2016 Dance/USA Honor Award, and the 2017 Bessies Lifetime Achievement Award and many other distinctions. She is featured in the PBS documentary, Free to Dance, which chronicles the African American influence on modern dance.
Sandy Agustin (Minneapolis, MN) is a choreographer, dancer, and consultant with an extensive background in arts, social, and racial justice leadership. Her career as a dancer includes hula, modern, Afro-Haitian, Filipino folk dances, and Korean Mask dance. As a choreographer, Sandy’s work has been presented by the Walker Art Center, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Southern Theatre, and Mixed Blood Theatre. She is a teaching artist who has taught in K-12 public schools, Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota. During her 16-year tenure as artistic and interim executive director at Intermedia Arts, Sandy helped found the Institute for Community Cultural Development. She was the first artistic director for the Neighborhood House, a 100+ year old human service organization located on the Westside of St. Paul, MN. She is the recipient of a Leadership Initiatives in Neighborhoods fellowship that allowed her to explore intergenerational creativity in families and cultures throughout the U.S.
Jeremy Guyton (Los Angeles, CA) is a dancer, choreographer, and teaching artist and a board member and former Education Director for Dancing Grounds, a multigenerational arts organization in New Orleans that brings inclusive and accessible dance programs to New Orleans residents of all ages. It is guided by core values of equity, racial justice, integrity, relationships, learning, collaboration, abundance, and joy. Prior to joining the Dancing Grounds staff, Jeremy taught Kindergarten and K-3 Dance at Success Preparatory Academy. He is currently a company member of KM Dance Project and B.U.K.U. Dance Krewe. He wrote “Justice in the Movement” for the series about artists honored through the Dance/USA Fellowships for dance and social change. A Los Angeles native, Jeremy received a B.A. in Theatre and Performance Studies in 2012 from Georgetown University. While at Georgetown, he danced with Groove Theory, a hip hop team, and since in New Orleans has immersed himself in second line footwork and bounce.
Roko Kawai is a dancer and choreographer. Born in Japan, she immigrated to the U.S. first as a three-year old with her family and has continued to ping pong back and forth between cultures ever since. As a result, Roko developed a lifelong passion for translating and communicating complex ideas in ways that spark awe and action. Originally trained as a visual artist, Roko later spearheaded ways of communicating issues of biculturality through a full-time career as a dancer/choreographer, for which she was awarded The Pew Fellowship on the Arts for Choreography, Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Fellowship, and a Leeway Transformation Award for women artists working in social justice. Concurrently, she became widely recognized as a highly successful grants strategist and a powerful voice on national and regional panels. Roko also has more than 20 years of teaching experience, both in schools and with communities, which included work with Asian American youth, incarcerated women, and others. Most recently, she served as the Senior Grants Officer at STAND! For Families Free of Violence, a family violence services agency where she oversaw a portfolio of over 60 grants and helped secure nearly $500,000 in new monies. Roko remains deeply invested in trauma-informed work, empowering girls, women and all peoples to thrive. She is the Senior Director of Institutional for Girls, Inc.
Ruby Lopez Harper (Washington, DC) Mexican, Mother, Wife, Dancer, Photographer, Poet, and Social Justice Warrior. Ruby has carried dance in her soul from a young age, choreographed for many community-based theatre companies in Ohio, and worked with high school students and cheer squads in Southern California where she also taught children’s tap, jazz, ballet and hip hop at the American Dance Academy. Ruby is the vice president for equity and local arts engagement for Americans for the Arts. Her portfolio includes external equity strategies and field education, leadership development, local arts advancement, and cohort building for the local arts agency field, arts and culture administrators, and arts marketers. Ruby was selected as a 2019 Arizona State University Practices for Change Fellow and also recognized as a 2019 Inspirational Woman (Arts Advocate) by “And I Thought” Women in Literature. Ruby is a 2017 National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures Advocacy Leadership Institute Fellow and American Express Leadership Academy Alum.
Alanna Morris-Van Tassel (St. Paul, MN) Alanna Morris-Van Tassel Productions (AMVTP) is a Black-led arts organization that develops and produces provocative and soulful arts programs centering the creative genius of the African Caribbean archive. It employs Minnesota artists of color and builds bridges and partnerships with arts organizations that share a similar vision. Areas of focus are arts programming in collaboration with Minnesota artists, skill and capacity-building, resource-sharing, networking, mutual aid, and movement-building for social change. In 2018, AMVTP launched a coaching/mentorship program for pre-professional female dancers of color to address racial inequities in access to dance education. In 2019, AMVTP focused on mid-career women to create tools, pathways, and systems of support for this often underresourced population. Also in 2019, AMVTP received three choreographic commissions and that supported research in Ghana and Benin for new choreographic work.
Judith Smith (Oakland, CA) is founder and director emerita of AXIS Dance Company. Judith led the development of the field’s most extensive integrated dance education and outreach programs with a range of programs serving all ages, abilities and interests from recreation to the pursuit of a professional career in dance. Her advocacy/equity work led to the first-ever National Convening on the Future of Physically Integrated Dance in the USA. This project culminated in an extensive report and the launch of the AXIS Artistic Advancement Platform to Advance Artistry, Opportunity and Equity for Dancers with Disabilities. She was instrumental in the creation of the Dance/USA Disability and Dance Affinity Group and co-chairs the group. Her awards include the Alameda County Arts Leadership Award; KQED’s Local Hero; an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Sustained Achievement; the O2 Initiatives Sabbatical Award; Red Oak Foundations’ inaugural Community Excellence Award.
Blake Worthey (Springdale, AR) is a dance-theater artist from Memphis, TN and Community Organizer with the Creative Arkansas Community Hub & Exchange (CACHE). He has been a guest artist of the Northwest Arkansas Ballet Theater for the past three years where he had a feature role in Ryan Jolicoeur-Nye’s Immortal Beloved: Possessed by Genius. He has performed as part of a “Looking for America'' exhibit in 2019 and was selected to provide an artistic response to Nick Cave’s Until exhibition at the Momentary/Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. He started dancing in rehab for a sports injury then continued his training in Limon and Graham-based modern with a sprinkling of strong ‘80s jazz. Most notably he got to perform WHATT?!!! by Rennie Harris. Blake studied at Modus Operandi in Vancouver, British Columbia and recently attended Orsolina28 where he studied the process of Crystal Pite and William Forsythe.