Engaging Dance Audiences: Stories of Collaboration

Friday, June 9 | 1:30pm – 3pm

Suzanne Callahan (Moderator)

Suzanne Callahan is founder of Callahan Consulting for the Arts. Since 1996, Callahan’s firm has helped artists, arts organizations, and funders realize their vision through planning, fundraising, evaluation, and philanthropic counsel. Her firm manages Dance/USA's Engaging Dance Audiences program, and before that, other funding programs for Creative Capital and Dance/USA. She served in the Dance and Inter-Arts Programs at the NEA and chaired the agency’s AIDS Working Group. An author and lecturer, her book Singing Our Praises: Case Studies in the Art of Evaluation, published by APAP, was awarded Outstanding Publication of the Year from the American Evaluation Association. She conceived of and produced Dance/USA's Dance from the Campus to the Real World (and Back Again): A Resource Guide for Artists, Faculty and Students. Both books are used as college texts. Her firm has conducted research studies for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Chicago Community Trust.

Rhonda Greene (Speaker)

Rhonda Greene is executive director of Heritage Works, a Detroit-based cultural-arts organization with a mission to promote youth and community development through cultural traditions, arts and education. Her favorite work experiences include: coordinating the creation and installation of the International Underground Railroad Memorial (Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario); consulting on the audio tour for Kelly Ingram Park—the park directly across from the 16th Street Baptist Church (Birmingham, AL) and site where civil rights activists often gathered in the 1950s before marching, and all things Heritage Works.

Rhonda began dancing when she was 12 years old, attending W. African (Guinean and Malian) classes with Ngoma Za Amen Ra Dance Theatre (Detroit, MI). Although she majored in science during her undergraduate studies, worked at some of the best labs in the country, she fell in love with the arts when she interned her senior summer at the National Black Arts Festival (NBAF). Her favorite projects at the NBAF were the Folklife festival, the literary celebration, and Dances of the Diaspora. Her internship turned into a full time position with NBAF and later a consultancy.

While living in in Atlanta she added Senegalese and Ghanaian dance to her West African studies, and performed with African Dance Ensemble and Faiza Dance Theatre. She went on to pursue an M.F.A. in poetry at Brown University and continued her dance studies. It was the combination of these studies—dance and writing, her work with Rites and Reasons Theatre, and a talk on 'literary archeology' (Toni Morrison) that led Rhonda to an understanding of West African orality; the use of dance, writing and music as tools of excavation; and eventually the founding of Heritage Works.

The favorites of her published work/contributions to publications include Full Circle and Means (Catalyst Literary Magazine, Atlanta, GA), and Women Turning (Broadside Press, Detroit, MI), and Light Theory/Color Theory: Spectroscopy Lesson Plans, Harvard Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, MA).

Holly Bass (Speaker)

Holly Bass is a multidisciplinary performance and visual artist, writer and director. She creates solo and ensemble performances with professional collaborators as well as public art happenings and socially engaged art with untrained members of the community. Her performance work, which combines dance, theater and writing, has been presented at respected regional theaters and art spaces such as the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, the Seattle Art Museum, Art Basel Miami Beach (Project Miami Fair) and the South African State Theatre. Her visual art work spans photography, installation, video and performance and can be found in the collections of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the DC Art Bank, as well as private collections. A Cave Canem fellow, she has published poems in numerous journals and anthologies. She studied modern dance (under Viola Farber) and creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College before earning her Master’s from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. As an arts journalist early in her career, she was the first to put the term “hip hop theater” into print in American Theatre magazine. She has received numerous grants from the DC Arts Commission and was one of twenty artists nationwide to receive Future Aesthetics grant from the Ford Foundation/Hip Hop Theater Festival. Since 2014, she has directed a year-round creative writing and performance program for adjudicated youth in DC’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar (speaker)

From Kansas City, Missouri, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar trained with Joseph Stevenson, a student of the legendary Katherine Dunham. After earning her B.A. in dance from the University of Missouri at Kansas City, she received her M.F.A. in dance from Florida State University. In 1980 Zollar moved to New York City to study with Dianne McIntyre at Sounds in Motion.

In 1984, Zollar founded Urban Bush Women (UBW) as a performance ensemble dedicated to exploring the use of cultural expression as a catalyst for social change. In addition to 34 works for UBW, she has created works for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco, University of Maryland, Virginia Commonwealth University and others; and with collaborators including Compagnie JantBi from Senegal and Nora Chipaumire. In 2006 Zollar received a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie) for her work as choreographer/creator of Walking With Pearl…Southern Diaries . Featured in the PBS documentary, Free to Dance, which chronicles the African American influence on modern dance, Zollar was designated a Master of Choreography by the John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center in 2005. Her company has toured five continents and has performed at venues including Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and The Kennedy Center. UBW was selected as one of three U.S. dance companies to inaugurate a cultural diplomacy program for the U.S. Department of State in 2010. In 2011 Zollar choreographed visible with Chipaumire, a theatrical dance piece that explores immigration and migration. In 2012 Zollar was a featured artist in the film Restaging Shelter, produced and directed by Bruce Berryhill and Martha Curtis, and currently available to PBS stations.

Zollar developed a unique approach to enable artists to strengthen effective involvement in cultural organizing and civic engagement, which evolved into UBW’s acclaimed Summer Leadership Institute. She serves as director of the Institute, founder/visioning partner of UBW and currently holds the position of the Nancy Smith Fichter Professor of Dance and Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor at Florida State University. A former board member of Dance/USA, Zollar received a 2008 United States Artists Wynn fellowship and a 2009 fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial. Still dancing, she recently toured in a soldout national tour presented by 651 ARTS as a leading influential dancer/choreographer on a program that included her early mentor Dianne McIntyre, her collaborator Germaine Acogny, Carmen de Lavallade and Bebe Miller. As an artist whose work is geared towards building equity and diversity in the arts Zollar was awarded the 2013 Arthur L. Johnson Memorial award by Sphinx Music at their inaugural conference on diversity in the arts. In 2013, Zollar received the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and recently received honorary degrees from Tufts University and Rutgers University.