Thursday, August 11, 2016

Chicago dance artists rock latest NEFA RDDI Dance Lab

Chicago-based dance artists from NEFA's NDP RDDI Dance Lab 2016
at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Back row, l-r: Erica Mott, Molly Shanahan, Jenn Freeman, Jonathan Meyer,
Ayako Kato, Jan Bartoszek, Julia Rae Antonick
Next row, l-r: Sara Zalek, Nico Rubio, Kristina Isabelle (behind Rubio), T. Ayo Alston
Front: Jessica Cornish
(photo courtesy of NEFA)

The Regional Dance Development Initiative (RDDI) is part of NEFA's National Dance Project (NDP), which provides professional growth for dance artists in regions across the U.S. through programs including a ten-day dance lab designed to help dance artists clarify goals, develop strategies, hone public presentation skills, and strengthen partnerships between artists and presenters. Since 2004, RDDI dance labs have been held in the Pacific Northwest, the San Francisco Bay Area, New England and Minnesota. RDDI Chicago (July 29-August 8, 2016) was produced by NEFA and the Chicago Dancemakers Forum.

I'm certain that serving on the faculty of this summer's RDDI Dance Lab for Chicago choreographers at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign will prove to be one of the great turning points of my life. Working with talented faculty peers and twelve remarkable artists has inspired renewed commitment to dance community and sparked the sense that I can contribute even more to the field than I have in the past.

Heartfelt thanks to Sara Nash (Program Manager, NEFA's National Dance Project) for inviting me to join the project and for her calm spirit of generosity throughout the many twists and turns of an intense, high-energy process.

Nash was not alone in making and holding this unique space. Thanks, also, to the delightful and supportive Jane Preston (Deputy Director, NEFA); Ginger Farley, Victoria Bradford and our indispensable logistics coordinator Shawn Lent (all of Chicago Dancemakers Forum); consultant Elspeth Revere (formerly of the MacArthur Foundation); and our steadfast leader Michèle Steinwald, charged with keeping the faculty--and pretty much everyone else--on point.

As faculty, I shared responsibility and laughter with an ideal team including Rob Bailis (of CAL Performers), knowledgeable, impassioned veteran of RDDI; Peter DiMuro (Public Displays of Motion, The Dance Complex); choreographer Dayna Hanson; independent consultant David Sheingold; and independent manager, producer and curator Marýa Wethers. Their sensitivity and adaptive creativity made each day an adventure and a reward.

For the final few days, presenters came from as far away as California, Oregon and Florida to meet with our artists and enjoy showings of samples of their work. They relaxed into RDDI's atmosphere of discovery and offered the artists their best strategic ideas and encouragement.

But my biggest thanks go to our cohort of artists who, from the first day we met, knocked our socks off. Clearly, they came ready to rock'n'roll--each one smart, accomplished, emotionally available and artistically curious. We ended each work day with them in amazement and gratitude, hungry for more. As for literal hunger, we had little of that. Thank you, NEFA, for treating us to the culinary charms of Urbana-Champaign!

I will remain connected to each of these good folks, new friends:

Julia Antonick of Khecari
T. Ayo Alston of Ayodele Drum and Dance
Jan Bartoszek of Hedwig Dances
Jessica Cornish
Jenn Freeman/Po'Chop
Kristina Isabelle of Kristina Isabelle Dance
Ayako Kato of Ayako Kato/Art Union Humanscape
Jonathan Meyer of Khecari
Erica Mott of Erica Mott Productions
Nico Rubio (Groundhog)
Molly Shanahan of Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak
Sara Zalek

and deeply interested in their growth as artists. Chicago is fortunate to have these committed "ambassadors for dance" and creators of community.

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