Yesterday and today. SPIRIT features two historical works alongside two groundbreaking world-premieres.
RAINBOW ROUND MY SHOULDER - (1959) by Donald McKayle
Donald McKayle’s masterwork, Rainbow Round My Shoulder, is acclaimed as a modern dance classic. A searing dramatic narrative, it is set on a chain gang in the American south where prisoners work, breaking rock from “can see to can’t see.” Their aspirations for freedom come in the guise of a woman, first as a vision then as a remembered sweetheart, mother, and wife. The songs that accompany their arduous labor are rich in polyphony and tell a bitter, sardonic, and tragic story.
FEATURED WORKS BY MICHIO ITO
As the official U.S. repository for Michio Ito's work, RDT will perform various pieces from our repertory choreographed from the early 1900s.
Her Joy - WORLD PREMIERE COMMISSiON- by Tiffany Rea-Fisher
Celebrating the power of female relationships and features the four women of the Company. Check out a full video interview here>>
Say Their Names - WORLD PREMIERE COMMISSION- by Natosha Washington
A response to contemporary social issues that marginalize populations and individuals. Check out a full video interview with Natosha here>>
Donald McKayle, recipient of honors and awards in every aspect of his illustrious career, has been named by the Dance Heritage Coalition as “one of America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures: the First 100.” His choreographic masterworks, considered modern dance classics, Games, Rainbow Round My Shoulder, District Storyville, and Songs of the Disinherited are performed around the world. He has choreographed over ninety works for dance companies in the United States, Canada, Israel, Europe and South America. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley, the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and the Lula Washington Dance Theatre serve as repositories for his works. He is the Artistic Mentor for the Limón Dance Company. Ten retrospectives have honored his choreography. In April 2005, Donald McKayle was honored at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and presented with a medal as a Master of African American Choreography.
In 2001, he choreographed the monumental ten-hour production of Tantalus, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in collaboration with the Denver Center Theatre Company. Five Tony Nominations have honored his choreography for Broadway musical theater: Sophisticated Ladies, Doctor Jazz, A Time for Singing, and for Raisin, which garnered the Tony Award as Best Musical, and for which he received Tony nominations for both direction and choreography. For Sophisticated Ladies he was also honored with an Outer Critics Circle Award and the NAACP Image Award. His most recent choreography for Broadway was showcased in It Ain’t Nothing But the Blues, that earned a Tony nomination for Best Musical. He received an Emmy nomination for the TV Special, Free To Be You and Me. His work for film included Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Great White Hope, and The Jazz Singer. His other media awards include a Los Angeles Drama Logue Award for Evolution of the Blues and a Golden Eagle Award for On the Sound.
In dance he has received the Capezio Award, the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award, the American Dance Guild Award, a Living Legend Award from the National Black Arts Festival, the Heritage Award from the California Dance Educators Association, two Choreographer’s Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Dance/USA Honors, an Irvine Fellowship in Dance, the Martha Hill Lifetime Achievement Award, the Annual Award from the Dance Under the Stars Choreography Festival, the Black College Dance Exchange Honors, the Dance Magazine Award, and the American Dance Legacy Institute's Distinguished and Innovative Leadership Award. In May 2008, Cornish College of the Arts conferred an honorary Doctorate Degree on him. On May 22, 2009 the Juilliard School awarded Donald McKayle an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts. On May 20, 2011 California Institute of the Arts presented him with an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts.
For his work in education, he has earned the Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching, UCI’s Distinguished Faculty Lectureship Award for Research, and he is a recipient of the UCI Medal, the highest honor given by the University of California, Irvine. At the University of California, Irvine he has also been awarded the title of Claire Trevor Professor in Dance, an endowed chair, and is a Bren Fellow. Mr. McKayle has served on the faculties of numerous international forums and many prestigious national institutions including the Juilliard School, Bennington College, Bard College, Sarah Lawrence College, the American Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and was the Dean of the School of Dance at the California Institute of the Arts.
His autobiography, Transcending Boundaries: My Dancing Life, published by Routledge was honored with a Society of Dance History Scholar’s de la Torre Bueno Special Citation. A television documentary on his life and work, Heartbeats of a Dance Maker, was aired on PBS stations throughout the United States.
MICHIO ITO (1892-1961), born in Tokyo, was a student of Kabuki and Noh theater before moving to Paris in 1911. At the beginning of World War I, he moved to Britain and then to the US and choreographed Broadway revues and experimental dance pieces. Ito divided his time between New York and Hollywood, where he choreographed for films. He fused traditional Japanese concepts with some theories of Dalcroze and created his own unique movement technique which included 10 symbolic gestures of the arms that he compared to the 12 notes on a piano. Ito influenced many dancers in New York City in the 1920's with his inner concentration, inventive gestures and fusion of Eastern and Western art. He was deported from the United States in 1941, and returned to Tokyo to establish a modern dance school.
TIFFANY REA-FISHER is the newly appointed Artistic Director of Elisa Monte Dance. Tiffany joined Elisa Monte Dance in 2004 where she was principal dancer until 2010, performing lead roles in such classic works as Treading, Pigs and Fishes, Shattered and Volkmann Suite. She was named Dance Magazine’s “On the Rise” person for their 2007 August issue based on her performance during the company’s 2006 season at the Joyce Theater and since then has been featured in nation and international publications for both her dancing and choreography. As a choreographer Tiffany has had the pleasure of creating numerous pieces for the company most notably meeting and having her work performed for the Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg.
Tiffany’s work extends well beyond the stage creating work for the film, fashion and the music industry. In 2012 Tiffany was chosen to create a new work for the Louis Vuitton / Reconstruction 3.0 Life is a Journey project. In 2015 Tiffany choreographed Transcendence a dance film for fashion designer Paola Hernández 2015 fashion week runway show. Paola and Tiffany are currently collaborating on a live fashion, dance film event for Paola’s line for the winter of 2016.
Teaching is a big part of Tiffany’s position and she has since taught master classes and workshops at The Ailey School, City Center, Dance New Amsterdam, Dickinson State University, George Mason University, Juilliard, NYU Tisch, Peridance, SUNY Purchase, and Wells College . Currently she is on faculty at the Joffrey School of Ballet and a substitute teacher at Steps on Broadway.
In 2009 Tiffany and her husband started the non-profit Inception to Exhibition (ITE) which supports NYC-based artists in the fields of Dance, Theater, Music and Film through monetary grants and performance/exhibition opportunities. Tiffany's current affiliations include Women of Color in the Arts Member, Dance/USA Member, Steps on Broadway (substitute teacher) and Purchase College (substitute teacher).
Tiffany Rea-Fisher received her BFA from the Conservatory of Dance at Purchase College SUNY. While at Purchase she co-founded ForArts, the school’s first interdisciplinary presenting organization, which provided opportunities for students from different conservatories to create collaborative works. In 2004 Tiffany created, directed, and curated Dance at the Tank. She left the Tank in 2007 and currently serves on their advisory board.
Natosha Washington has been a choreographer and director her entire life, but professionally since 2004, after receiving her bachelor's desgree from the University of Utah in Modern Dance.
As a student, Natosha’s work House of Timothy was selected to be showcased in the National College Dance Festival at the Kennedy Center. It went on to receive the Best Performance award and was featured in Dance Magazine. In addition to The Penguin Lady, Natosha co-directs the Utah-based dance company RawMoves which consistently gets featured in Salt Lake City Weekly and received a Slammy Award for Best New Dance Company in Salt Lake City in 2005.
Her work has been seen on many professional, collegiate and secondary school companies, both in and out-of-state, including, Repertory Dance Theatre, University of Utah’s Performing Dance Company, Brigham Young University’s and BYU-Idaho’s Contemporary Dance Theatre and Utah Valley University’s Dance Ensemble, Sunset Studio Company of West Virginia, and Saint Mary’s Hall Dance Company of Houston Texas.
As a teacher at Judge Memorial High School (2005-2012), Natosha developed and created curriculum for the Men's Dance Program. Currently, she is teaching at Northwest Middle School, Utah's BEST OF STATE for all Public Education K-12 where she is developing an educational program for Title-1 students to work in tandem with University of Utah Dance students in realizing the possibilities of receiving higher education.
Natosha is now one of Now and Next Dance Mentoring Project's newest teaching staff members. N&N is a nationally recognized mentoring organization that develops leaders in dance and movement education and broadens the cultural relevance of dance through teacher training programs and workshops.
Originally from the south but now living in Utah, Washington is a highly sought after choreography, educator, performer, and speaker. As a voluptuous black woman raised in an LDS southern family, making her way in a white dance community, she has a multifaceted lens; she negotiates stereotyping, privilege, and identity every day in her work and loves the challenge the issues present. Ms. Washington is a talented community leader and facilitator. She recognized art is only as strong as the community it serves.
LesWatanabe is a NTT Assistant Professor at Western Oregon University, where he teaches Ballet, Modern and Dance Seminar. Also, an Adjunct Prof at Univ. of Portland. Les Watanabe received his B.F.A in dance from California Institute of the Arts and his M.F.A. from UC Irvine as a Chancellor’s Fellow. He has been Artist in Residence at: University of Oregon, University of California-Irvine, University of Arizona, University of Maryland, Portland State University, Theater An Der Wien in Vienna, Austria and the Rotterdam Academy in the Netherlands. Les has also taught master classes at dance festivals in France, Austria, The Netherlands, German and Spain.
In addition to his expansive career as a dance educator, Mr. Watanabe has had an illustrious career as a performer. He performed as soloist for such companies as: Donald McKayle's Inner City Repertory Company, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, Joyce Trisler's Danscompany, Alvin Ailey II, Burch Mann Folk Ballet, Sachiyo Ito Japanese Dance Company, L.A. Jazz, and with Peter Goss Dance Company in Paris, France. Performances in theater and television include: Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim's Broadway production of Pacific Overtures, The Who's Tommy, Leonard Bernstein's Mass, Alvin Ailey Presents Duke Ellington CBS special, the Bill Cosby Shows, Academy Awards, Emmy Awards, French variety television and a national tour with Rita Moreno's ('Westside Story') The Act.
As a choreographer, Mr. Watanabe is known for his eclectic and stylistic dynamism. Luna which he set for Djazzex in the Netherlands was nominated for the American Choreographers Award and toured Europe for one year. Cantes de Ida y Vuelta (a dance illustrating Creolization of cultures in the New World) was showcased for Univ. of California, Irvine and the Lester Horton Festival in Los Angeles. His theatrical credits include: Pajama Game, Blood Wedding, Company, Journey, Rhinocerous (Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts), Midsummer Night's Dream, Guys and Dolls, Beethoven n' Pierott (Denver Center Theatre Company); Judy Garland (St. Pölten Stadt Theater in Austria); Gift of the Magi (Cleveland Playhouse).
SPIRIT will be performed for about 500 junior high and high school students. Check out the study guide they are given to help understand the program. Download here>>