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Zachary Whittenburg
Dance Events
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United States
Chicago, IL

Chicago Dance History Project announces “Conversations on Chicago Dance: Founding and Sustaining a Company”

by Zachary Whittenburg
April 2, 2016
Chicago, IL
The Chicago Dance History Project is delighted to announce its second public event produced in partnership with the Newberry Library and second in its “Conversations on Chicago Dance” series, following the inaugural “Tap Over Time” panel at the Old Town School of Folk Music in April 2015. “Conversations on Chicago Dance: Founding and Sustaining a Company” brings together for discussion the founding leaders of three of the city’s most enduring dance institutions: Dame Libby Komaiko of Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater, currently celebrating its 40th anniversary season; Joel Hall of Joel Hall Dancers & Center, founded in 1974 as Chicago City Theatre Company; and Hema Rajagopalan of Natya Dance Theatre, also founded in 1974, and devoted to the classical Indian dance form of Bharata Natyam. Next-generation administrators also attending include Ensemble Español co-artistic director Irma Suárez Ruíz, Joel Hall Dancers & Center assistant artistic director Jacqueline Sinclair, and Natya associate artistic director Krithika Rajagopalan. Admission is free and no advance reservations are required.

Says CDHP executive director Jenai Cutcher West: “Over the past four decades, across the U.S. and in Chicago in particular, the environment for nonprofit dance organizations has shifted greatly. By gathering local leaders whose companies have withstood these significant changes, CDHP and the Newberry hope to prompt a valuable exchange about organizational identity and creative practice, as well as successful strategies for adaptation and evolution. We are thrilled to welcome three additional guests who can speak to maintaining a company’s legacy in the future climate for dance in Chicago and beyond.”

“Conversations on Chicago Dance: Founding and Sustaining a Company” will take place in Ruggles Hall at the Newberry Library from 6–7:30pm on Wednesday, April 27 and is part of Chicago Dance Month, a comprehensive calendar of dance-related events happening throughout April, spearheaded by Audience Architects in support of International Dance Day on April 29.

“Conversations on Chicago Dance: Founding and Sustaining a Company”
Joel Hall, Dame Libby Komaiko, and Hema Rajagopalan

Newberry Library, Ruggles Hall
60 West Walton Street
Chicago, IL 60610
Wednesday, April 27 from 6–7:30pm

About Joel Hall

A native of Chicago’s Cabrini Green, Joel Hall has passionately and diligently dedicated his life and career to using the arts to enrich communities and their members through dance education and performance. The recipient of numerous accolades and awards, Hall has been recognized by, among others, the African American Arts Alliance with its Lifetime Achievement Award, and his 2014 interview for online series The History Makers has been archived by the Library of Congress. As an international ambassador for the arts from the City of Chicago during the administration of Mayor Harold Washington, Joel Hall brought dance from the streets of Chicago to the far reaches of the globe. As the choreographer and creator of more than 70 works to date, he has earned international acclaim for his unique vocabulary, which expresses dynamic, unique movement based in jazz dance, while drawing from both classical and modern dance forms. Volumes that address Hall’s considerable influence and body of work include Black Dance by Edward Thorpe, former dance critic for the London Evening Standard; and Richard Long’s The Black Tradition in American Dance. Visit joelhall.org to learn more.

About Dame Libby Komaiko

Dame Libby Komaiko is founding artistic director of Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater, as well as the internationally acclaimed American Spanish Dance and Music Festival. Among the company’s extensive repertoire of more than 125 works, half were choreographed by Dame Komaiko. She has also produced numerous flamenco ballets and folkloric suites with guest artists Paco Alonso, Ana González, Juanjo Linares, Juan Mata, Manolete, and many others. She is the recipient of numerous civic honors, national awards, and choreography fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Dame Komaiko is professor emerita at Northeastern Illinois University’s Department of Music and Dance, where she created and developed the first complete academic program in the U.S. for Spanish music and dance. In 1983, His Majesty Don Juan Carlos I bestowed upon Dame Komaiko Spain’s highest honor for foreign nationals, La Real Orden de Isabel la Católica (the Ribbon of the Dame). Visit ensembleespanol.org to learn more.

About Hema Rajagopalan

Hema Rajagopalan is a Bharata Natyam dancer, teacher, and choreographer recognized internationally, as well as the founder and artistic director of Chicago’s Natya Dance Theatre, a professional touring company and school founded in 1974. Rajagopalan’s innovative work preserves Bharata Natyam in its full integrity, sends the art form in new directions, and brings it to diverse audiences, both domestically and overseas. As a solo performer, Rajagopalan has appeared in prestigious venues around the globe; as a choreographer, she has created more than 30 evening-length productions, plus numerous short works and collaborations. Among her gurus are many figures at the forefront of Bharata Natyam including Padma Shri K. N. Dandayudapani Pillai and Padma Bhushan Kalanidhi Narayanan. Recognized on six of the Chicago Reader’s “Best of Chicago” lists as a Critic’s Choice, Natya was, in 2003, the first Indian dance company to receive the prestigious Chicago Dance Award and is a 2004 recipient of the Paul Berger Arts Entrepreneurship Award from Columbia College Chicago. In 2005, Natya was featured in the 13-part PBS series The Chicago Dance Project and in Arts Across Illinois: CenterStage on WTTW in 2006. Rajagopalan received an Emmy Award for her work on the 1994 PBS production, World Stage Chicago. Visit natya.com to learn more.

About the Chicago Dance History Project

The Chicago Dance History Project (CDHP) seeks to investigate, preserve, and present the oral and corporeal histories of theatrical dance in Chicago and its vicinity. It aims to honor the vast number of national and international dance artists with roots in the city; to surface lesser-known individuals, organizations, and venues that have anchored Chicago’s strong local dance community; and to link various collections of historical knowledge and traditions with present and future generations.

During an initial, three-year phase to conclude in late 2017, CDHP will pursue three primary modes of research: conducting in-depth interviews with area dancers, choreographers, educators, advocates, and others associated with the form; hosting panel discussions and other events that facilitate collaborative explorations of specific historical topics; and establishing partnerships with area institutions and individuals housing dance archives in order to link the various strains of knowledge maintained throughout the city.

These recorded interviews and events, along with various supplemental materials, will serve as a public platform for establishing a body of original and collected research that examines how Chicago has shaped dance — and how, in turn, dance has shaped Chicago — throughout the 20th century and into the present.

Board members of the Chicago Dance History Project are Ginger Farley, Executive Director of the Chicago Dancemakers Forum; art and dance historian Elizabeth A. Liebman; Susan Manning, Professor of English, Theatre and Performance Studies at Northwestern University; and Zachary Whittenburg, Associate Director of Marketing and Communication at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Visit chicagodancehistory.org to learn more, follow @ChiDanceHistory on Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to updates on Facebook at facebook.com/cdhproject.
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