Leeway Foundation announces 2008 Transformation Award recipients – 3 awarded for dance!

13 artists representing six counties in the Delaware Valley have been named 2008 Leeway Transformation Award recipients.

“I am so proud of this year’s Transformation Awardees, as they represent some of the most accomplished individual artists in the Philadelphia area,” says foundation Executive Director Denise M. Brown. “Their commitment to social change and the breadth and depth of their artistic work is exciting, setting an example for our region and the country.”

A national panel consisting of artists and cultural workers convened to review applications and work samples in two stages. The 2008 panel consisted of emcee/activist Ilana “Invincible” Weaver, filmmaker and writer Jacquie Jones, visual artist and arts educator Jenifer Wofford, social entrepreneur Martha Diaz, and performance artist Sara Felder (LTA ’07). Acclaimed playwright, spoken word artist and activist Rha Goddess facilitated the second stage.

Award Recipients Representing Dance
Germaine Ingram of Francisville, Dance
Michele Byrd-McPhee of Washington Square, Dance
Roko Kawai of Mount Airy, Dance

Germaine Ingram
Leeway Transformation Award
2008 / $15000
Region: Philadelphia
Discipline: Dance
Germaine Ingram is a jazz tap dancer and a practitioner of a distinctly American dance form that is a direct artistic descendent of the men and women—principally African American—who learned, developed, and shared “hoofing” (jazz inflected rhythm tap) by means of an Africanist oral tradition on street corners, at house parties, jook joints, and nightclubs of Philadelphia. For a quarter of a century she was a protege and dance partner of the late master hoofer LaVaughn Robinson (1927-2008). Germaine strives to make dances that have something to say—and are not just a showcase of tap technique. In 2007 she presented a suite of original choreography, jazz music and spoken word, the result of a yearlong collaboration with bassist/composer Tyrone Brown, interpreting the work of African American literary icon John A. Williams. Germaine is also well known for her tireless work as a public interest attorney and advocate on issues related to education reform, child welfare, and the arts. Currently, she is planning to pursue a new project, a multi-disciplinary collaboration reflecting on the practice of slavery in the President’s House that was located in downtown Philadelphia in the 18th century under President George Washington.

Michele Byrd-McPhee
Leeway Transformation Award
2008 / $15000
Region: Philadelphia
Discipline: Dance
Michele is a hip-hop dancer first and foremost. She creates hip-hop dance for women. Michele’s roles have evolved into director, organizer and activist, but ultimately it all comes back her art. As a dancer she began to miss a sense of sisterhood and female representation in the male dominated hip-hop culture. She responded by organizing a group of female “street dancers” and invited them to join her company of women dedicated to creating Hip-Hop dance works, called Montäzh. Michele is a pioneer for women in hip-hop and is reshaping the field. Montäzh events and full-length shows are known around the country. Michele created The Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival, a Philadelphia festival that focuses on women and their relationship to hip-hop culture. She is dedicated to giving women the tools and the support to change the economy and workplace of hip-hop dance culture, so that women can have powerful, influential, well-paid roles as directors, choreographers, and leaders in the field.

Roko Kawai
Leeway Transformation Award
2008 / $15000
Region: Philadelphia
Discipline: Dance
Roko is a dancer/choreographer who often works in collaboration with other artists. A Japanese-American immigrant, she has lived in Philadelphia for over twenty years. Roko is a classical dance trainee, a contemporary artist, and a survivor whose work explores her personal body politics and specific life history. Her life and work have been touched by domestic violence and loss. By working through this complex lens, she hopes her experience and her art will give courage and clarity to others. She has created, performed, and toured many works, both independently and in collaboration with local and international artists. Her work has been presented in a range of venues, including an adult literacy center and a women’s prison. “Daughter Tongue,” her solo show which premiered in 1994, is about growing up as an immigrant child, struggling to learn both Japanese and English in the face of racism during the 1970s, and the pressure she received from her well-meaning but demeaning parents. Since 2000, Roko has been training primarily in Japanese classical dance in an effort to understand her relationship to Japanese culture and traditions. Through organizing educational and performance workshops, Roko seeks to help her audiences understand her experimental work as it relates to Japanese classical dance. In addition, Roko has worked as a teaching artist in a diverse range of schools and organizations. She takes special pleasure in mentoring immigrant and Asian American artists who may not receive recognition for their work within their families.

About Steven Weisz

A Graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with advanced degrees in Psychology and Education is an entrepreneur and CEO for several for-profits and non-profit corporations in the region. He is also an adjunct professor of Psychology with several local Universities.

Steven is currently the CEO of Delaware Valley on Line, one of the first regional Internet Service Provides that now focuses on business-class web hosting, design, and internet marketing. He is president and founder of Rainbow Promotions Inc., a special events and entertainment agency established in the late 70’s, that services corporate and retail accounts both locally and nationally.

Steven is the Founder of PhiladelphiaDANCE.org, the largest web presence and resource for the dance community in the greater Philadelphia region, and the Founder and Editor of The Dance Journal. His involvement in the dance community extends to being Director of Graffito Works, an international platform for dancers and performing artists to create site-specific work and to make it readily accessible to the public.

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