The Department of Performing and Media Arts invited thirteen distinguished dance guests in Fall 2023 as part of the Choreographing Justice Series, which continues in Spring 2024. The Choreographing Justice Series is a collaborative project by Assistant Professor of the Practice Danielle Russo and Assistant Professor Juan Manuel Aldape Muñoz. A yearlong program of guest artist talks, curricular & extracurricular workshops, symposia, and live and multimedia performances, the series challenges to us think and move in more just ways. “How can dance and performance disrupt a space, a consciousness, a culture?” Russo asks. “How can the dancing body be a site of healing, empowerment, and resistance to systemic injustices and erasures? How can dance be a practice of justice?”
The series features artists who use dance and movement to reshape issues linked to racism, sexism, anti-intellectualism, and anti-LGBTQIA2S laws. From bachata to breaking to tap, the programming is united in promoting choreographic thinking and practice as critical to being politically engaged—of moving with a cause. This series has been made possible through the generosity of Cheryl Whaley and Eric Aboaf, the Lisa Lu Foundation, and President Martha Pollack’s Freedom of Expression Theme Year.
DISTINGUISHED DANCE GUESTS
Scroll to the bottom to read the artists’ full bios.
Ana “Rokafella” Garcia was a distinguished guest during the Fall 2023 semester for an array of courses and events. She met with students in PMA 3226: Global Dance I, PMA 2280: Dance Improvisation, and PMA 3214: Dance in America, and students in campus and student led dance groups. She also participated in events as part of “The Wild Gather” series, which also included Visiting Lecturer Olive Prince. A community-wide ALL STYLE/FREE STYLE CYPHER was held at the Class of ‘56 Flex Theatre, which featured her breaking and MCing with DJ’ing by DJ ha-MEEN. Afterwards, she participated in an Artist Talk in conversation with Ben Ortiz, Curator of the Cornell Hip Hop Collection, discussing her experiences as an original B-girl.
Christian Omar Masabanda & Andrés Velarde Coba were distinguished guests in the PMA 2280: Dance Improvisation course. “Beginning with a brief study of Latin American corpography, students studied different physical states of the body," Christian and Andrés said. “Through exercises in improv, we explored ways of remaking and reconfiguring ourselves through movement… Beyond the skin is an invitation to immerse in the skin’s memory, where the void without borders or limits can sustain our existence that escapes to the world of dreams and desires.”
Ishmael Houston-Jones was a distinguished guest in the courses PMA 3214: Dance in America and PMA 2280: Dance Improvisation. He will be returning for the Spring 2024 semester with his creative partner, performer and choreographer Keith Hennessy, along with activist and movement artist Eiko Otake, for the making of new evening-length dance and performance projects with Cornell Students to take place in the Kiplinger Theatre on April 25-27. Building on the rich legacy of improvisation as “freedom practice,” Houston-Jones and Hennessy present dance practices that are designed as portals for embodied inquiry into power, collaboration, equity, and a liberated imagination.
Carcaju was a distinguished guest in the PMA 2280: Dance Improvisation course. He generously opened up his Capoeira practice throughout the semester, teaching three sections on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays. Carcaju’s Capoeira practice features the art’s dance, defense, musical and historical aspects, for a holistic and enriching experience for all attendees. Participation in any portion of each session was based on each person’s comfort level and attention.
Kieron Dwanye Sargeant was a distinguished guest in the PMA 2280: Dance Improvisation course and taught an African Diasporic Music and Movement Improvisation workshop. Renowned for his expertise in both Caribbean and Western African dance traditions, Professor Sargeant taught students about the essence of Rhythmic Acumen – the instinctual ability to make swift and sound rhythmic decisions. Centered on the intricate bond between kinetic and sonic intelligence, his exercises explored the layers of understanding needed to authentically execute African and African diaspora dance forms in tandem with rhythm and with percussion.
Yvonne Meier was a distinguished guest for a series of PMA events. During her artist talk in the Film Forum, Yvonne screened excerpts of her dance/performance projects, spoke about her creative process, and exchanged questions with the community. She held an Open Level Movement Improvisation Workshop called Releasing into Scores in Studio 320. Finally, she led a performance called Physical Presents with Cornell’s Experimental Sound Project and PMA 2280: Dance Improvisation Students at Willard Straight Memorial Hall. The event was held in memory of Gustavo Sorzano and his Musika Viva Ensemble, which made its home in Memorial Hall.
Rosy Simas was a distinguished guest in PMA 4821: The Politics of Movement seminar. Rosy facilitated an intimate and familial dance workshop with graduate students and guests from the seminar. They discussed, explored, and embodied Indigenous sovereignty.
Dr. Natalia Duong was a distinguished guest in PMA 4821: The Politics of Movement seminar. Natalia discussed her latest choreographic research and publication on the links between disability, diaspora, and dance with graduate students and guests.
Some of the Fall 2023 distinguished guests generously joined PMA dance classes virtually to give workshops, share personal experiences, and engage in Q&A sessions with students.
Preya Patel was a distinguished guest in the PMA 3226: Global Dance I course. She joined the course virtually to share personal experiences about her work as a Kathak practitioner, and her work as an educator and preservationist of the form. She presented a workshop on the form and participated in an open Q&A with students.
Carlos Fittante was a distinguished guest in the PMA 3226: Global Dance I course, and virtually led a Balinese Legong workshop. He also participated in a Q&A session with students, in which he spoke about his ongoing research and practice in Balinese dance traditions as a lifelong student, professor, preservationist, and choreographer.
Dionisia García was a distinguished guest in the PMA 3226: Global Dance I course. She joined the course virtually for a flamenco workshop and Q&A with students, engaging in conversations about the historical trajectory, preservation, and ongoing cultural significance of flamenco in Spain and worldwide.
Marshall L. Davis, Jr. was a distinguished guest in the PMA 3226: Global Dance I course. He joined the course virtually, sharing the breadth of his own lifelong experiences and practice in Tap, and in doing so, emphasizing the critical importance of oral and embodied histories that have been historically and systemically erased from the dance research canon for far too long. He also led a movement practice and engaged in conversations with students about the importance of embodied practice and research, and authentic relationships and community as members of the field.
DISTINGUISHED DANCE GUEST BIOS
Ana “Rokafella” Garcia is a multi-faceted Afro Latin Hip Hop artist and pioneering B-girl. Born in NYC, she references Nuyorican culture as her foundation. Rokafella co-founded Full Circle Prod Inc. with her husband Kwikstep, focusing on the cultural roots, trajectory, and growth of classic styles of Hip Hop. She has been featured in pivotal Rap music videos, tours, commercials, and television and film, including the Netflix's The Get Down, alongside choreographic commissions for The New York Philharmonic, The Kennedy Center, and Jacob’s Pillow, among others. She is currently an adjunct professor at The New School and producing her own TV series called Kwik2Rok. Learn more about Rokafella’s work at hiphopeducation.org/people/ana-rokafella-garcia/ or @larokafella.
Christian Omar Masabanda is an Ecuadorian dancer, coreógrapher and teacher. He has been a professional dancer in dance companies in Ecuador and Mexico, and has participated in festivals and artistic residencies throughout Latin America and Europe. He is currently a Guest Lecturer at Universidad de las Artes and the director of the artistic collective “Callejón Vacío.” His recent work focuses on the research of the body based on concepts such as: space-body-movement, and principles of anatomy for movement. Learn more about his work @chompo29.
Andrés Velarde Coba is an Ecuadorian musician, composer and artistic researcher. In recent years, he has participated and created music for the performing arts with dance, theater and circus groups in Quito, Ecuador. He has developed studies and participated in training workshops for guitar, voice, dance and theater, with national and international teachers. He is the composer of the Particula Mu project, with two albums released since 2019. Learn more about his work @andres_velardecob.
Ishmael Houston-Jones is a choreographer, author, performer, teacher and curator. His improvised dance and performance work has been performed in New York, across the US, and in Europe, Canada, Australia and Latin America. Drawn to collaboration as a way to move beyond boundaries and the known, Houston-Jones celebrates the political aspect of cooperation. He has won four Bessie Awards, including Service to the Field of Dance in 2020, and is the recipient of many accolades, including the Guggenheim Fellowship, Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant, and USArtists Award. As an author Houston-Jones' essays, fiction, interviews, and performance texts have been published in several anthologies. His work has also appeared in the magazines: PAJ, Movement Research Performance Journal, Bomb, and Contact Quarterly. His first book, Fat and Other Stories was published in 2018 by Yonkers International Press. He is faculty in the Experimental Theatre Wing at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Learn more about his work at ishmaelhouston-jones.com or @ishmaelhoustonjones.
Carcaju grew up in Central NY and began taking Capoeira classes in 2003. He was drawn to Capoeira because of the effortless movements through which its practitioners could learn to defend themselves. In 2017, Carcaju was appointed the leader of the Ithaca Capoeira Angola Quintal group. Carcaju is passionate about helping those who face adversity, seeking to make Capoeira available to anyone who may find empowerment in its practice. Learn more about Carcaju’s work with CAQ at ithacacapoeira.com or @ithacacapoeira.
Kieron Dwayne Sargeant is an interdisciplinary artist, choreographer, drummer, and dance researcher from Trinidad and Tobago. Over two decades, Kieron has meticulously documented Caribbean and Western African dance traditions. Kieron’s choreographic endeavors have graced stages internationally. In 2020, he established the Kieron Sargeant Dance and Dance Education Foundation in Trinidad and Tobago. Recent accolades include the 2021 International Artist Award and an influential mentorship role with the Mojuba! Dance Collective. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Dance at Skidmore College. Learn more about Kieron’s work at kierondwaynesargeant.com/about or @mr.ksargeant85.
Yvonne Meier has lived and worked in New York City since 1979, when she became a collaborating artist with the founders of Performance Space 122. Her work, spanning big spectacles to quiet solos, has been supported by numerous accolades, including three Bessie Awards, and multiple fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and Guggenheim. She has been produced widely across the world by Creative Time, Danspace Project, Dia Art Foundation, Franklin Furnace, The Kitchen, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, MoMA PS1, Movement Research, and Performance Space 122 Meier has been teaching Releasing Technique and Authentic Movement nationally and internationally for the last 30 years. After a lifelong commitment to improvisation, she has developed her own improvisation technique known as Scores. Learn more about Yvonne’s work at newyorklivearts.org/artists/yvonne-meier or @ymeier01.
Rosy Simas is an enrolled member of the Seneca Nation, Heron clan. Simas is a dance and transdisciplinary artist who creates work for stage and installation. Simas’ work weaves themes of personal and collective identity with family, sovereignty, equality, and healing. Simas creates dance work with a team of Native and BIQTPOC artists, driven by movement-vocabularies developed through deep listening. Simas is the Artistic Director of Rosy Simas Danse and three thirty one space, a creative studio for Native and BIPOC artists in Minneapolis. Learn more about Rosy’s work at rosysimas.com or @rosysimasdanse.
Natalia Duong is a scholar, teacher, director, choreographer, and performer. Her interdisciplinary research weaves performance studies, transnational Asian American studies, disability studies, and the environmental humanities in a study of the chemical compound Agent Orange. She received a Ph.D. in Performance Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality from the University of California, Berkeley. Natalia is currently a UC President's Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles. Learn more about Natalia's work at nataliaduong.com.
Preya Patel is a revered Kathak practitioner, instructor, and the Artistic and Executive Director of Vivarta Arts Inc., a distinguished institution for North Indian Classical Dance in NYC. She is also curator for the prestigious Erasing Borders Dance Festival. Committed to mainstreaming classical South Asian arts in the US, Preya conducts classes in Queens and Long Island. With over 25 years of Kathak training, Preya’s artistry has graced stages worldwide. Learn more about Preya’s work with Vivarta Arts at vivartaarts.com/about-us.html or @VivartaArts.
Carlos Fittante specializes in Ballet, Baroque, Balinese, and Spanish Escuela Bolera dance styles, and is currently the Artistic Director of BALAM Dance Theatre. His performances and choreography have been presented at renowned establishments including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Hispanic Society of America. Known for his well-researched, imaginative choreography and charismatic dancing, he has received critical praise from the New York Times and Dance Magazine, and has performed internationally. He is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Queens College: CUNY. Learn more about Carlos’s work at qc.cuny.edu/academics/dtd/carlos-fittante/ or @carlosfittante.
Dionisia García studied classic ballet with Marichu and Emilia Bailo, and flamenco at the prestigious Madrid flamenco studio, Amor de Dios. In 1995, she received the Spanish National Theater Award and represented Spain at the World Film Theater & Dance Festival. In the last 15 years, Dionisia has been invited to perform in Portugal, Argentina, Russia, Mexico, France, Sweden and the United States. Dionisia García currently resides in New York City, where she continues to perform and teach the art of flamenco. Learn more about Dionisia’s work at flamenconyc.org/biography.html or @flamenconyc.
Marshall L. Davis, Jr. began tap dancing at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center. He is the protégé of the late Steve Condos of the Condos Brothers. Marshall has also received guidance from James “Buster” Brown, Edwin Holland, Paul Kennedy, Ted Levy, Lavaughn Robinson, and Sam Weber. As an adolescent, he won his home state’s 1989 Florida Tri-Star Pictures Tap Day contest, a promotion for the movie Tap starring Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis, and the 1991 Star Search Teen Dance Champion. Marshall was the associate choreographer to Savion Gloverfor the Broadway show Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921, and has performed in the musical Babes in Arms and the original Tony award-winning Broadway production Bring in Da’ Noise Bring in Da’ Funk, also with Savion Glover and George C. Wolfe. Marshall is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, and currently serves on faculty at Queens College. His latest virtual work is Revelations In Rhythm. Learn more about Marshall’s work at qc.cuny.edu/academics/dtd/marshall-davis/ or @marshalldavisjr.