Divas of Dance: Extraordinary Women on a Mission

West Philly Art Rising Presents “ Divas of Dance: Extraordinary Women on a Mission”
A Benefit For Haitian Hurricane Relief
by Patty Bulack
for The Dance Journal

Artists can, and do, change the world.  Dancers do this by engaging themselves heart, mind and body, to lead us to a new way of seeing and being.  In borrowed words from one of my favorite spiritual advisors (Paul ala the New Testament),  we need to  “enlighten the eyes of our hearts” to go on.  The best dancers uncover those eyes, helping us to see where we and the world need to be, which gives us the first step to getting there.  Some dancers tell us by using their voices also (in song and discourse), and that makes it all the better!

On Sunday, December 14th  (6 to 8 pm), we will all have the opportunity to be led to a “new way of seeing” by some of the best dancers in the city, not only technically, but also as defined above.  Some of them will present song and discourse too!  West Philly Art Rising will present an event called “Divas of Dance: Extraordinary Women On A Mission”, a benefit for Haitian hurricane relief.  The performers are: Germaine Ingram, Jaye Allison, Tania Isaac, and Jennifer Janson with her partner Garincha HIlaire.  It will take place at Take The Lead Studio (4701 Pine St., Philadelphia,  PA) owned by Jen and Garincha.   Included will be a talk-back time, where the artists will take questions from the audience, and describe their activities in the city and beyond,  which are greatly impacting many people’s lives on an ongoing basis.  To give us the full experience of being at Take The Lead, Jen and Garincha will then give us a free salsa lesson, and the dance floor will be opened for a dance party!  Refreshments will also be served.  Tickets are $20, and seats can be reserved by calling Patty Bulack (215 906-0243).

Why Haitian hurricane relief?  During this holiday season, there are new challenges to our economic well-being, as well as other troubling current events.  True thankfulness is more elusive, as well as heartfelt giving.  We need to focus on the essentials of life that we are blessed with, especially when we know of others for whom these essentials are threatened or non-existent.  Listen in with me:
“We went to Gonaives … what we found was a city still under water, people trying to find out how to survive while fighting over the smallest things.  Humiliating, demeaning, horrible… use your own words.  It was incredible.” (Neil Van Dine, Director, Haiti Outreach, September 8, 2008).

West Philly Art Rising would like to act on the need to be thankful, and in turn be giving effectively to those who are in crisis and need.   Haitians caught in the aftermath of 4 hurricanes in September are in enormous need, right now.  We can celebrate the abundance of world class talent which is right here in our own neighborhood, and impact an urgent situation at the same time!

West Philly Art Rising will present these four  talented women dancers, who live or work in West Philly.  They are excellent performers, and their lives impact many through the work they do as they pursue their artistry.  In an intimate setting, we will have the delightful opportunity to enjoy their gifts, both as dancers and as cultural activists.  All proceeds will be donated to Haiti Outreach, an organization that over the course of 10 years has overseen clean water projects affecting over 100,000 people, as well as many other construction projects (homes, schools, businesses).  Their model of finding direction from the community itself before lending their technical expertise is respectful and effective.  They are currently engaged in hurricane relief work in the hardest hit city of Gonaives, helping to restore clean water and other essentials.  The results of the fundraising efforts from this special event will go to a proven organization, which is already making a difference.  We will have an opportunity on December 14 to learn more about this organization, and ways that we can continue to support them.  It will be especially gratifying to use our own community-building event as a way to help re-build another community in desperate need, and our hope is that we will all be willing to donate whatever we can to make the impact the greatest it can be.  Please come, but if you aren’t able to , please donate!

Germaine Ingram, is both an artist and a scholar.  Her law degrees from Penn and Harvard were the beginnings of an illustrious career as a professor, and lawyer.   If that isn’t impressive enough, she has had an entire “other career”.  Our focus at the “Divas of Dance” show will be on her artistic side, which has one of its expressions in tap dance.  Her long partnership with LaVaughn Robinson, Philadelphia tap icon, was the impetus for her development as a gifted tap dancer herself.  She has shared bills with tap greats  including  Honi Coles, Jimmy Slyde, Buster Brown, The Nicholas Brothers, Gregory Hines, Dianne Walker, Brenda Bufalino, Savion Glover and Bakari Wilder.  She was recently inducted into the Second Generation Silver Belles.  And of special importance to West Philly Art Rising is her work here with The Philadelphia Folklore Project, located at 735 S. 50 St.  Germaine is the interim associate director, helping traditional and folk artists connect to funding and support so they can continue to do their work.  As for her artistry as a performer, the experience of watching her dance with live musicians  is like watching a private conversation unfold:  lively, vibrant, with constant give and take.  And then she steps up to the mike….  Don’t miss this chance to see her expertise in action, with live musicians Thomas Owens and Ed Stokes, and to hear a little bit about her current work at the Folklore Project!

Jaye Allison is celebrating her 29th year in the performing arts world.  She has been a performer, educator, choreographer, and director of her own dance company.  She is skilled across many genres of dance, but  her abilities as a tap dancer have especially put her in the limelight.  She is a colleague of Germaine’s,  having also been inducted into the Second Generation Silver Belles this past year.  Important to us at West Philly Art Rising is that she has been a long-time teacher at Gwendolyn Bye’s Dance Center located at 3611 Lancaster Ave.  Jaye’s current project is “Jaye Allison’s Philly Tap Challenge”, an annual tap festival that brings students and tap greats together in Philadelphia to share the stage, and to enjoy dance and tap history workshops.  In includes a competition between dancers,  in the spirit of good-natured comparison that is part of the fabric of tap society.  It is only fitting that such a festival should take place here in Philadelphia, one of the birthplaces of many great tap dancers, and the home of so much tap history.  Jaye has stepped up to lead us into recognizing and celebrating that history.  Last year, one of the performers was Jason Samuel Smith, and his performance was breathtakingly phenomenal,  one that no one should have missed!   Come see Jaye perform a modern jazz piece, with musician Janice Harrison-Fullard,  and hear more about the next Tap Challenge coming up this spring.

Tania Isaac was one of the invited artists in the 2008 Live Arts Festival, performing her show “Stuporwoman”  at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre.  In 2006, she was listed as one of the “25 To Watch” in Dance Magazine.  She is currently in a residency at the Annenberg Center, and recently had a residency at the Painted Bride.  “Tania Isaac walks as if sand and water coursed through her veins…” (Lisa Traiger, Washington Post), describing her unique blend of Caribbean movement with modern American dance.  Her home is here in West Philly with us, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share in her thoughts while taking in her expression of them through dance and narrative.  She will perform an excerpt from her piece “Standpipe”, which highlights the central place that the village water source takes in the life of that village, drawn from her experiences growing up on the island of St. Lucia.

Jennifer Janson and partner Garincha Hilaire own Take The Lead Dance Studio, located at 4701 Pine St.  Their vision and hard work have provided a special place in the community for social dance, and for educating children and others in that art form.  Jen and Garincha are teachers in Pierre Dulaine’s  Dancing Classrooms program, which Jaye Allison also is part of.  This program was made famous by the movies “Mad Hot Ballroom”, and “Take The Lead”.  In their ongoing development as artists, Jen and Garincha have managed to open up the world of dance to hundreds of children, and nearly as many adults “who thought they could never learn to dance”.  Come enjoy their performance, while hearing about the ongoing ways they are bringing dance to others.

Contact Patty Bulack at 215 906-0243 for more information, and send your tax deductible checks (made out to Haiti Outreach) to Take The Lead Studio, Attn: Patty Bulack, 4701 Pine St., Philadelphia, PA  19143.  Thank you, and see you there on December 14th!

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One reply on “Divas of Dance: Extraordinary Women on a Mission”

  1. Steven,
    Thanks for publicizing West Philly Art Rising’s event “Divas of Dance”, a benefit for Haitian hurricane relief, featuring Jen Janson, Jaye Allison, Tania Isaac, and Germaine Ingram. The performances were marvelous, and we were able to collect $1300 for Haiti Outreach. I really appreciate how you reached out to me in order to provide another venue to promote the event!

    Gratefully, Patty Bulack

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