Difficult Conversations: Cultural Divides
Monday, April 16 6pm-8pm at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., 5th floor. Co-presented with Chicago Artists Resource
FREE! Light refreshments will be provided
North side storefronts. Downtown dance. South side community centers. The City that Works is also a city divided, both geographically and artistically. How does this geography influence our artistic health and output? Is art really available for all in Chicago, or just those who live in certain neighborhoods? How might Mayor Emanuel’s stated objective to take art back into the neighborhoods influence our divides? Should there be a greater marriage between cultures and their output and audiences, or do our dividers strengthen the loyalty of the audiences and the ethnic integrity of the productions? The answers are for us to decide. Difficult Conversations = No whining allowed. Just seeking solutions...
Hema Rajagopalan, Artistic Director, Natya Dance Theater
Phil Reynolds, Executive Director, The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago
Baraka de Soleil, Independent Performance Artist
Cescily Washington, Founder and President, CW Arts Consulting
Hema Rajagopalan (Natya Artistic Director) is a Bharata Natyam dancer, teacher and choreographer of international repute. She is the founder and artistic director of Natya Dance Theatre, a professional touring company and school that has specialized in Bharata Natyam for the past 37 years. Her innovative work preserves Bharata Natyam in its full integrity, developing the art form in new directions and bringing it to diverse audiences all over the world. Her gurus are some of the foremost figures in Bharata Natyam - Padma Shri K. N. Dandayudapani Pillai and Padma Bhushan Kalanidhi Narayanan, the Abhinaya exponent. Hema has performed as a soloist at prestigious venues throughout the world, receiving critical acclaim. As a choreographer, she has created numerous short works and over 50 evening-length productions. Students trained under her have distinguished themselves as performers.Noteworthy among the many prestigious awards that Hema has received are an Emmy Award, seven National Endowment for the Arts choreography awards, and the Vishwa Kala Bharati award for artistic excellence (in India). In 2004, she was named Nrithya Seva Mani by Cleveland Thyagaraja Utsavam in Cleveland, Ohio. Hema was the first US-based dance artist to receive this award. The same year, she was also the first choreographer working in an Indian tradition to be selected among leading Chicago choreographers to create new work by the Chicago Dancemakers Forum. Other accolades include a Lifetime Achievement Award from Soorya Performing Arts in St. Louis, the Master Teacher Award from the Asian American Heritage Council and the Master Teacher Award from the City of Chicago.
Phil Reynolds began his tenure as Executive Director of The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, Chicago's leading presenter of contemporary dance, in 1998, and has more than 20 years of experience as a performing arts presenter. Reynolds oversees The Dance Center's annual presenting season. Additionally, he has taught as an adjunct faculty member for the Dance Department's BFA degree program. At The Dance Center, Reynolds has presented more than 100 world-class national, international, and regional contemporary dance companies in extended campus-based residencies. These residencies are a model for the integration of public performances, learning opportunities for students, and community engagement initiatives. Under his leadership, The Dance Center has launched numerous programs and initiatives, including its FamilyDance Matinee series, a subsidized theater rental program, and the Friends of the Dance Center individual donor program. Phil Reynolds was awarded the Chevalier de L'Order des Arts et des Lettres from the French Ministry of Culture and Communication in 2006 for his work with Francophonic African choreographers and their companies. In 2004, he was named by the Chicago Tribune "Chicagoan of the Year in the Arts, Dance."He was recognized by New City Publications in 2011 as one of Chicago's "Top Ten Players" in arts and culture.
Baraka de Soleil is an award-winning performance artist & creative practitioner; having worked as a director, choreographer, curator and performer inside the experimental movement, music and performance art scene, throughout the country and internationally, for the past two decades. His artistry reflects moving images excavated from the multilayered traditions of the African diaspora; actively crafting from ancestral memories, post-modern aesthetics and cultural legacies. As a teaching artist & facilitator, Baraka has taught for various communities and institutions across the country; most recently receiving a Brooklyn Arts Exchange/ BAX Ten Award nomination for excellence & innovation in arts education and named one of the innovating practitioners in the theatrical jazz aesthetic for the 2011 Theatrical Jazz Institute at DePaul University & Links Hall. He spearheads D UNDERBELLY - celebrating its fifteenth year in existence as an network for independent artists of color, focused on interdisciplinary explorations & communal exchange. For his choreographic work on Sango: Lord of Thunder, Baraka received NYC's prestigious Katherine Dunham AUDELCO Award for excellence in black theatre. Presently an artistic associate of Insight Arts, acting as curator of special projects including the A.I.R./R.I.A residency at Rumble Arts Center in Humboldt Park, he travels between Chicago, New York and the Bay area to continue his practice of facilitating & teaching, cultivating creative process and collaborating with various artists, organizations and neighborhoods.
Cescily Washington, M.Ed., has devoted her life to the performing and fine arts. She performed, studied, and held an apprenticeship with Philadanco, Alvin Ailey, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Ballethnic, Deeply Rooted Dance Company, The Black Ensemble Theatre, and Light Opera Works in Chicago. Cescily toured within the United States and abroad, where she performed and choreographed for on/off Broadway shows such as Ragtime and Back to Broadway, starring TC Carson. Cescily has worked with well-known recording artists, movie and television actors, and civil rights activists. She has also made appearances on television and film. Cescily has served as an Arts Administrator and Performing/Fine Arts Educator in Chicago and Phoenix, AZ and is the founder of CW Arts Consulting Inc.