Andria Nikoupolis Weliky,"The Cosmic-tologist," brings a lifetime of dance with over 35 years of instruction and 20 years as a cosmetologist to her work as a movement and holistic beauty practitioner. She is a student of the stars- mythos, psyche and cosmology, a practicing astrologer, sacred astronomer, and budding herbalist. She is continually inspired by nature and celebrates that through connection, balance, and oneness, we can all strive to practice and incorporate it everyday. Working with and co-creating these elements is something Andria celebrates with her client work and artistry- holding in high regard, honor and respect for those she works with for herself and for our precious planet.
Chloe Grace Michels & Enid Smith first danced together with Same Planet Performance Project in Chicago. They performed a work by Joanna Read in the inaugural year of Death’s Door Dance Festival and are back for year two with their own choreography. Chloe graduated with a BFA in Dance from Columbia College Chicago. She has worked with choreographers Timothy Buckley, Margi Cole, Paige Cunningham, Fred Darsow, Emma Draves, Hannah Santistevan, and Emily Stein. Enid is a graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. In NYC, she performed with Ivy Baldwin Dance, The Merce Cunningham Repertory Understudy Group, Anita Cheng Dance, and MAC cosmetics. In Chicago, Enid has worked with Khecari, and Lucky Plush Productions.
Cyenthia Vijayakumar is a Kathak dancer, performer, choreographer and teacher from Milwaukee. She has undergone her training from Guru Murari Sharan Gupta and Guru Hari and Chetna from Bangalore, India. She is currently undergoing her training under Guru Sujatha Banerjee from London. She is the artistic director of Aarambh Kathak Dance School, which she founded in 2019 in Milwaukee. Her school is ISTD certified, which is a recognized system in the UK and US. Aarambh Kathak Dance School is the only school that is at the forefront of promoting Kathak – North Indian classical dance in the Midwest. Cyenthia has performed extensively in various prestigious platforms in the US and India.
Emma Draves is a dance artist and educator navigating intertextual spaces of identity. She draws from training in modern, bharatanatyam, ballet, jazz, and ethnography, to weave work of kinesthetic narrative - derived through colliding multiplicities of physical effort, idiosyncrasy, and emotional landscape. Emma’s choreographic work has been shown internationally in Edinburgh (UK) & Vancouver (BC), as well as at NYU, Hamlin Park, High Concept Labs, Links Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, Columbia College Chicago, and Comfort Station; and commissioned by Danceworks Company and UW-Milwaukee. As a performer, Emma has worked with several companies and as an independent artist. Notable experiences include Mordine & Company, Hedwig Dances, Jonathan Meyer, and Archana Kumar; and theatrical productions at Victory Gardens and Lookingglass Theatre. Trained in bharatanatyam under Smt. Hema Rajagopalan, Emma has enjoyed a long association with Natya Dance Theatre as a performing artist - participating in several national tours and international collaborations with Yo-Yo Ma & Silk Road Project, NanJombang (Indonesia), and Astad Deboo (India) - grant-writer and archivist. She now works as Natya’s Executive Director. Emma holds a GLCMA & MFA - and serves on faculty at Columbia College Chicago.
Gerald Casel (he/they/siya) is a dance artist, equity activator, and antiracist educator. As director of GERALDCASELDANCE, his choreographic work complicates and provokes questions surrounding colonialism, collective cultural amnesia, whiteness and privilege, and the tensions between the invisible/perceived/obvious structures of power. Casel is Professor and Chair of the Dance Department at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. He has previously been a faculty member at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Palucca Hochschule für Tanz Dresden, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, California State University Long Beach, and UC Santa Cruz where he also served as the Provost of Porter College. A graduate of The Juilliard School with an MFA from UW-Milwaukee, they received a New York Dance and Performance Award “Bessie” for sustained achievement dancing in the companies of Stephen Petronio, Michael Clark, Stanley Love, Zvi Gotheiner, Sungsoo Ahn, and The Metropolitan Opera Ballet. Casel founded Dancing Around Race, an ongoing community engaged-participatory process that interrogates systemic racial inequity in 2018 and continues to expand its depth and reach. www.geraldcasel.com
Janet Lilly, a former principal dancer and teacher with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, is the Director of Dance at the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG). Lilly joined UNCG after over 15 years at the Peck School of Arts Department of Dance at the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin, where she was instrumental in creating a low-residency MFA program for returning dance professionals. Awarded a 2008-09 Fulbright Lecturer Fellowship, Lilly has choreographed and taught as a guest artist and teacher on college campuses in the United States and abroad.
Kelly Anderson is the Founder/Director of the Death’s Door Dance Festival and is the Artistic Director of the Chicago-based, Door County-lead performance company Kelly Anderson Dance Theatre- a dance company inspired by humor, theater and pop culture. KADT creates relatable work driven by complicated topics. By “seamlessly weaving movement and dialogue," Anderson's evening works strive to bridge the gap between artist and non-artist through comedy “filtered perfectly throughout a series of serious moments.” Anderson's work Skits & Pieces was presented in the LookOut Series at Steppenwolf Theater, her work THE END IS HERE and that's ok. appeared in the 40th Anniversary Season of Links Hall Chicago, and she was awarded a 2019-2020 Links Hall CoMISSION Summer Residency. Theater collaborations include two devised theater works with Writer/Director Olivia Lilley- In Sarah's Shadow: The Eleonora Duse Story & the development of Diary of an Erotic Life, a dance/theater/opera with Milwaukee Opera Theatre- 26, Wrinkle in Time with Director Mark Metcalf at First Stage, and Gal Friday Films' Missed Connections. Anderson's choreography has been performed and commissioned throughout the Chicago area, NYC, Milwaukee, Detroit, Minneapolis and Portland, OR. “A master of comedic timing… Anderson proves that dance doesn’t have to be dead serious.” *Credits- Lauren Warnecke (Chicago Magazine) and Kristin Vasilakos (Performance Response Journal).
Kerensa DeMars is a choreographer, performer and educator working in Flamenco. Her work explores the ‘Flamenca’ archetype, the diverse roots of Flamenco and the poetry at the heart of the form. Elements of digital collage, poetry and cross disciplinary musical collaborations feature prominently in her productions. Kerensa has performed internationally at venues like the Royal Festival Hall in London, the Tivoli in Barcelona, Madrid's Teatro Calderón and the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco. The founding director of the San Francisco Flamenco Dance Company, Kerensa lived in Spain from 1997-2004 where she trained intensively in Flamenco dance with Spain’s foremost artists. Kerensa is the recipient of major choreography commissions from the San Francisco Arts Commission, Theatre Bay Area/Dancer's Group, the Azahar Dance Foundation and the Teatro Pradillo of Madrid. Her recent work Volver paired the poetry of Cecilia Woloch, Federico Garcia Lorca and Leonard Cohen with traditional Flamenco and interpretations by Palestinian musicians. Kerensa is currently the director of Studio K Flamenco, Milwaukee’s home for the Flamenco arts. With programs like the annual Flamenco Nutcracker, the Compás Youth Project and the FlamencoMKE performance series, Studio K is committed to furthering the art of Flamenco in Milwaukee and beyond.
Named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to watch”, Li Chiao-Ping has been praised by critics in the New York Times, Village Voice, Dance Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and San Francisco Bay Guardian, calling her work “...marvelously imaginative...engrossing, intelligently put-together.” “Li Chiao-Ping in performance is a case of the dancer transcending the dance...When Li’s onstage, you don’t want to blink.” (Dance Magazine). A 7-time NEA grant awardee and a MAP Fund grant recipient, Li is a multi-hyphenate artist who creates layered works that combine multiple art forms to explore themes of culture and identity. Li Chiao-Ping earned her graduate degree from UCLA, was Director of the Hollins College Dance Program (1989-1993), and Chair of the UW-Madison Dance Department (2011-2014). Li’s work has been shown in major venues/festivals in the U.S. and abroad, including Jacob’s Pillow, Bates, ADF, Kennedy Center, Walker Art Center, Dance Place, Danspace Project, DTW, Theater Artaud, CounterPulse, and in Canada, Mexico, Taiwan, Argentina, and more. Li is the creator of The Extreme Moves Training Method SM/TM. She has received fellowships from the Wisconsin Arts Board and Scripps/ADF Humphrey-Weidman-Limon, was the American representative in ADF’s International Choreographer’s Program, and honored with an Outstanding Woman of Color in Education Award. Li is a UW-Madison Vilas Research Professor and the Sally Banes Professor of Dance, the first person in Dance to receive either professorship and also the first BIPOC faculty hired and tenured in Dance at UW-Madison. She recently won the Best Direction Award for her screendance work “Provenance: A Letter to My Daughter” from the 2023 Experimental Dance & Music Film Festival.
Melinda Jean Myers is a multidisciplinary artist who creates in the areas of dance and choreography, theater and storytelling, and music composition. Her research includes solo choreography and performance, and collaborations with theater artists, filmmakers, writers, music composers, media designers and dance artists. At University of Iowa, she is an Assistant Professor of Contemporary Dance and Choreography. In the last few years, Myers has made collaborative choreographic works with Donika Kelly, Kurt Chiang, Ramin Roshandel, Heidi Wiren, Mathanki Kalapathy, Lex Leto, Laila Franklin, Kate Vincek, and University of Iowa dance students. Her interdisciplinary works have been presented in South Korea, Germany, New York and throughout the Midwest. Myers earned her MFA from University of Iowa and BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She was honored to perform internationally with the Trisha Brown Dance Company for four years, and has been privileged to re-stage repertory works. As a member of The Cambrians, her collaborative work Clover was named one of Chicago Tribune's Top 10 Dances of 2015. She also created three new works as a devising ensemble member of Lucky Plush Productions and toured nationally with the company for ten years. In fall 2022, Myers presented her collaborative dance-theater work, Unfinished Business, created and performed with Kurt Chiang, at Links Hall in Chicago, IL. This work was supported by an Embodied Research Grant, awarded by Lucky Plush Productions.
Maria Gillespie (she/they) is a choreographer, performer, dance and somatic educator. She directs MG/The Collaboratory and Hyperlocal MKE, both dedicated to interdisciplinary collaboration and improvised performance practice. She directed LA-based Oni Dance (2003-2015) and was named one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch". Her work has been presented at The Ford Amphitheatre, The Getty Museum, REDCAT, Cal Arts, Highways Performance Space, Joyce SoHo, CounterPULSE, Guangdong and Beijing Dance Festivals. She received her BFA from Purchase College and MFA in Dance from UCLA. She is a CLMA Laban Bartenieff Movement Analyst, Pilates teacher, and Associate Professor of Dance at UW-Milwaukee.
Milwaukee Ballet was founded in 1970. Led by Artistic Director Michael Pink, Milwaukee Ballet creates a rich and diverse community through its inspiring dance performance, education, and outreach. Milwaukee Ballet hosts an international Company of dancers and maintains its own orchestra. Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy is the only professional dance school in the Midwest accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance, teaching beginner through pre-professional levels in three locations: Third Ward, Fox Point, and Brookfield. Milwaukee Ballet’s award-winning Community Engagement department serves thousands of people in Southeastern Wisconsin each year through original, interactive programs.
Danielle Gilmore and Melissa Pillarella are Chicago-based artists, trained and mentored under the direction of Shirley Mordine since 2011. Gilmore is originally from Yuma, AZ, where she attended the University of Arizona to receive her BFA. Pillarella, originally from Chicago, received her BFA from the University of Illinois. Gilmore and Pillarella have performed at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, Columbia College, Smart Museum, and Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival with Mordine and Company. As part of The Mordine Legacy Project they are working to preserve the performance and repertoire of Shirley Mordine and Mordine and Company Dance Theater. Gilmore and Pillarella first premiered choreography in 2018 and have continued to create separately and collaboratively.
Nekea Leon is a performer, choreographer, and teacher. She began her love of dance at the age of 5 and continued her studies at her middle and high school. As a Milwaukee native, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a BA in dance in 2018. She has performed with DPMKE, DanceCircus, Wild Space, and other community dance experiences. Nekea is currently located in the Atlanta area.
Under the direction of Ashley Deran and Emily Loar, Project Bound Dance is a Chicago-based modern dance group rooted in the practice of collaboration. Since its founding in 2013, Bound has created work that is both curious and accessible. Creating both live concert performance and dances for camera, Bound draws from both modern dance and somatic fundamentals. Incorporating vigor, athleticism, and intricate gesture exploration Deran and Loar weave together the vision of two distinct artistic voices to create richly textured dance performance.
Rachel Molinaro (she/her) has been active in the Chicago arts community as a performer, choreographer, administrator and educator for nearly 10 years. After receiving her dual degrees in dance and international studies from Northwestern University, Rachel has danced professionally with companies such as Project Bound Dance, Striding Lion Performance Group, Kelly Anderson Dance Theatre, Mish Mash Productions, enidsmithdance, and The Leopold Group. Rachel currently creates her own work as an independent artist. Rachel recently joined the Senn Arts High School staff as their Fine & Performing Arts Program Coordinator, is the Artistic Director of the youth dance company ede2, and she sits on the board of directors for Project Bound Dance. Rachel Molinaro has been active in the Chicago arts community as a performer, choreographer, administrator, and educator for nearly 10 years. Rachel has led a variety of arts schools in program development and outreach, including acting as Dance Program Director at Music House School of the Performing Arts and was the founding manager of Dovetail Studios, where she has led dance and fitness classes.
Rachel Slater is an international award-winning dance artist and filmmaker based in New Orleans, LA. She believes artmaking can be a radical, humanist act which can support and amplify communities, stories, and empathy. Rachel holds a BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She has performed with Minh Tran & Company, Franco Nieto of Open Space Dance, Tracey Durbin Dance, the Detroit Dance City Festival and Éowyn Emerald & Dancers, among many others. Rachel is the co-Artistic Director of Muddy Feet Contemporary Dance in Portland, OR. With MFCD, she has produced, choreographed and performed in three award-winning dance films which have screened in 16 countries, and 45 festivals worldwide. Their most recent screendance, how we live, won five Best Dance Film laurels, as well as Best Pandemic Film. Rachel has received artist residencies from the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity (Canada), Dance Days Chania (Greece), Hambidge Center (Georgia), New Expressive Works (Oregon), Sou’wester (Washington).Currently, Rachel is pursuing an MFA in Interdisciplinary Dance Performance at Tulane University. She is a Mellon Fellow for Community-Engaged Scholarship and has been working with the Lower Ninth Ward Center for Sustainable Engagement, as well as with BODYART Dance.
Creative partners, Lucy Riner and Michael Estanich, established RE|Dance Group in 2009 as a means to explore long distance collaborations and present dance theatre works that examine the many facets of human relationships. Executive Director, Lucy Riner, is a Chicago based dance artist and teacher. Artistic Director, Michael Estanich, lives in Stevens Point- at the University of Wisconsin as an associate professor of dance. Their creative process embodies rich emotional content and dramatic imagery through the layering of music, text and sculpture. They seek to establish physical memories that enrich their dancing and the relationships created in their works.
“My name is Ria Thundercloud, I am a mother, professional dancer, bead enthusiast, artist, designer, activist, bursting with decolonial love whose art is influenced by my Ho-chunk and Sandia identity. My arts speak through movement and vision, often bringing to light my political concerns of dignity and human rights. I am dedicated to the development of my art and education while holding strong ties to the north and south with kinship to my tribal communities in Wisconsin and New Mexico, which contribute to my diverse and broad experience with regional indigeneity. My cultural experiences have inspired the range of artistic expressions seen in my art which I create through the integration of traditional imagery and modern stylistic conventions. My art honors my culture and family while celebrating the persistence of native America that speaks of truth and healing.”
Silvita Diaz Brown is a Mexican/American choreographer, dancer, yoga instructor and director of Sildance/AcroDanza. Based in Chicago since 2008, She holds a BFA in Dance from Universidad de las Américas Puebla, Mexico and an MFA in Theater/Choreography from York University, Canada. In Chicago, her work has been presented/supported by several venues and organizations across the city. In 2019, she was awarded The Individual Artists Grant and The Links Hall Artists CO-MISSION FELLOWSHIP for her project Leyendas y Realidades that was also part of 2020 American Dance Abroad Pitchbook. Silvita has been nominated twice for 3ARTS award in Dance (2020/2021). In 2021, She won a Chicago Dancemakers Forum Digital Dance Grant for her dance-film Visita a Nuestros Muertos. Silvita was selected for a Ragdale Residency in 2022 and in 2023 she received a Chicago Cultural Center Dance Residency to continue developing her work Ellas y Yo Mexicanas. For the last 15 years, her work has been presented at venues/festivals in Spain, India, Mexico, Canada, and the USA and this summer it will travel to Cuba. Her work interlaces dance, acroyoga, sound, video and spoken word. She uses her art to celebrate her Mexican heritage and to awaken insights about gender equality and female empowerment. Her goal is to discover and articulate deep strengths and insights that inspire audiences to feel empowered in their identities and futures.
A native of São Paulo, Brazil, Simone Ferro is a choreographer, movement practitioner, somatic researcher, and Fulbright scholar. She joined the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Department of Dance in 2001 and retired in 2022 after decades serving as MFA program director and department chair. After a professional career as soloist with dance companies in Brazil and Switzerland, she completed her graduate work at the University of Iowa, a Laban Movement Analysis Certification by the Columbia College of Chicago and a Certificate as Fascia Trainer. Simone collaborates extensively with the local dance, theater and opera community, as well as visual artists, writers, musicians, and filmmakers. Her project Milwaukee Through Embodied Research has engaged research students addressing social and environmental justice and community resilience through oral histories in the central city community of Milwaukee. Simone works with movement for mindfulness, as well as classical dance technique with an applied somatic vision in which she uses concepts of movement analysis, kinesiology, anatomy, biomechanics, fascia studies and the body as a home for empathy. Since 2007, she has traveled to Brazil to research popular culture in Maranhão with her research partner and life companion Meredith W. Watts.
Visceral Dance Chicago has been engaging and connecting our artists with audiences since 2013. Celebrating its 10th Anniversary, Visceral Dance is a national and internationally recognized driving force in contemporary dance founded and led by Artistic Director, Nick Pupillo. This company exemplifies his daring vision to explore the infinite possibilities of contemporary movement and present the best of emerging, established, and innovative choreographers. The company is recognized for its exceptional technicality, diversity, versatility, and daring athleticism. Visceral Dance has been praised for its accessibility in programming by presenting dynamic performances that appeal to a wide range of audiences. In Chicago, Visceral Dance performs over 25 times a year and provides educational programming - expanding their reach while ensuring dance and art is accessible to all communities.
Water Street Dance Milwaukee is a multifaceted dance company exploring diversity in our art, artists, and audiences. Water Street features athletic, innovative, and entertaining performances, for all to enjoy! As Milwaukee’s premiere repertory dance company, we aim to constantly push the boundaries of contemporary art. In 2019, Water Street Dance Milwaukee was named Overture Center Rising Stars Winner recognizing the company’s talent and potential on a national level.
Dan Schuchartis an interdisciplinary artist and educator. Since 2002, Wild Space Dance Company has been his creative home as a company member, choreographer, and now Co-Artistic Director. Wild Space is known for site-specific dance and artistic collaboration. Schuchart’s choreography has been presented from coast to coast and extensively throughout the Midwest, being heralded as, “razzle dazzle of a different sort—intelligence, honesty, psychological insight, and often breathtaking beauty” (Milwaukee Magazine). His interests in dance include collaborative creative process, dance-theatre, improvisation, and contact improvisation with standout performances in work by Susan Marshall and collaborations with the “all-star, all-female band” (Time Out New York) Victoire. Schuchart is a Wisconsin Dance Council board member, advocating for dance performance and education in Wisconsin. In 2013, he earned his MFA in Experimental Choreography from the University of California, Riverside, where he was honored to be a recipient of the 2012-13 Dissertation Year Program Fellowship. Schuchart has BFA degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee's Peck School of the Arts in both Dance and Painting/Drawing, and continues to work professionally in both fields. In addition, he earned a Graduate Laban Certificate in Movement Analysis from Columbia College Chicago in 2015, and recently became a Certified Fascial Fitness Trainer. Schuchart is currently Teaching Faculty at the UW-Milwaukee Department of Dance. He has also taught dance and movement studies at Lawrence University, Beloit College, UC Riverside and has been a guest teacher at the Milwaukee Ballet, American College Dance Association Conferences, and in public school outreach programs. Outside of dance, Schuchart has worked as a scenic painter, including for the movie Public Enemies, and scenic charge for the Milwaukee Ballet, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Florentine Opera, and Skylight Music Theatre.
Photo Credits: Jen Aldrich (Andria Nikoupolis Weliky) // Vin Reed (Chloe Grace Michels & Enid Smith) // Soulful Odisha (Cyenthia Vijayakumar) // William Frederking Photography (Emma Draves)// Crystal Birns (Gerald Casel) // Hannah Long (Janet Lilly) // xoME Studios (Kelly Anderson) // Arthur Wilinski (Kerensa DeMars) // John Hart (Li Chiao-Ping) // Benjamin Wardell (Melinda Jean Myers) // Rachel Malehorn (Milwaukee Ballet) // Chuck Osgood (Mordine Legacy Project) // Nekea Leon (Christal Wagner Photography) // A. Deran Photography (Project Bound Dance) // Stephanie Toland (Rachel Molinaro) // Chris Peddecord (Rachel Slater) // Taso Papadakis (RE|dance) // Leroy Grafe (Ria Thundercloud) // William Frederking Photography (Silvita Diaz Brown) // Meredith W. Watts (Simone Ferro)// MREID Photography (Visceral Dance Chicago) // Kat Stiennon (Water Street Dance Milwaukee) // Jeff Pearcy (Wild Space Dance Company)
Header Design:Charlie Stephens Header: Allison Evans at Wild Nest Photography