Podcast Episode 14: Taryn Kaschock Russell

My guest for Episode 14 is Taryn Kaschock Russell, a dancer, teacher, director, mentor, wife, mother, sister, friend, and all-around wonderful human.

In September of 2019, Taryn embarked on a new journey as the Director of the Harkness Dance Center at the 92nd Street Y. Before making her way to the Upper East Side, she served on the Artistic leadership team of the Juilliard Dance Division as Associate Director in the 2016-17 and the 2018-19 academic years, and as the Acting Artistic Director in 2017-18. Education is one of her passions, and since relocating to New York in 2013, she has taught both as part of the faculty of the Juilliard School and as a lecturer for the Conservatory of Dance, SUNY Purchase. She has also worked as a guest teacher with Abraham in Motion, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, Ballet Hispanico, Ballet BC, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC), and as a regular company teacher for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater when they are in NYC.

Photo by Guiliano Correia

From 2008-2013, she directed Hubbard Street 2 programming and staffing the HSDC summer intensives and curating HSDC’s National Choreographic Competition. During that time, she also oversaw the production of its first full-length children’s program, Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure, which had its premiere at the Kennedy Center to a sold-out house in October of 2010.

Taryn also performed for 12 years in Chicago with both HSDC and The Joffrey Ballet, performing works by George Balanchine, John Cranko, Agnes de Mille, Martha Graham, Lar Lubovitch, Jiří Kylián, Nacho Duato, Ohad Naharin, and William Forsythe. You can read her full bio here.

92Y’s Harkness Mainstage Series at the Kaufman Concert Hall opens tonight with FLOCK (Alice Klock & Florian Lochner). In-person or digital ticket information is here.

Photos by Cheryl Mann, Todd Rosenberg, Guiliano Correia, and gingerb3ardmen.

Podcast Episode 13: Randy Duncan

Episode 13 features Chicago-based teacher/choreographer Randy Duncan. We discuss the beginning of his dance career, transition into leadership, and natural talent for choreography. Duncan is known for his famously difficult and inspiring finales for Chicago’s Dance For Life finales.

Randy Duncan, a native of Chicago, who began his dance training with Ms. Geraldine Johnson and credits much of his artistic development with Harriet Ross, has the unique privilege to be a three-time recipient of Chicago’s prestigious Ruth Page Award for Outstanding Choreographer of the year. He has received numerous other awards including the Artistic Achievement Award from the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters, three Black Theatre Alliance Awards, and the Gay Chicago Magazine After Dark Award. He earned an American Choreography Award Nomination for his choreography in the blockbuster movie Save the Last Dance starring Julia Stiles.

Mr. Duncan’s work has been seen in the companies of The Joffrey Ballet, Giordano Dance Chicago, Ballet Met, and many others. He has created choreography for such theaters as The Goodman, Manhattan Theatre Club, South Coast Repertory, Actor’s Theatre, Court Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Washington Shakespeare Theatre, and Portland Opera. Most recently, his work can be seen in season four of Showtime’s The Chi.

For the past 28 years he has been on the faculty of the Chicago Academy for the Arts, where he now serves as Dance Department Chair and received the 2019 Faculty Legacy Award. He has been choreographing the finale the Chicago’s annual Dance For Life gala since 1994 and received the 2013 AIDS Foundation Chicago Civic Leadership Award for his work with Dance For Life.

Podcast Episode 12: Cheryl Mann

On episode 12 of the Rogue Ballerina podcast, I chat with dancer-turned-photographer (and one of my favorite people) Cheryl Mann. We hear about her career with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, transition to photography, and the importance of never giving up on your dreams. 

Photo by Selena Moshell

Cheryl Mann began her professional career at the age of 17, dancing at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL, and received her dance degree from Point Park College in Pittsburgh, PA. She performed with the Civic Light Opera in South Pacific as “Liat” under the direction of Robby Marshall in Pittsburgh. Upon moving to Chicago, she danced with River North Dance Chicago before joining Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a Hubbard Street dancer in May of 1997, where she remained for over a decade, she has been fortunate in her career to travel to and perform in 17 countries, as well as countless cities in the U.S.

She served as the Artistic Associate of Visceral Dance Chicago until she moved to LA to with Ate9 under the directorship of Danielle Agami. LA credits include NBCUniversal’s Little Big Shots featuring Steve Harvey, Associate Choreographer of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Live at the Hollywood Bowl, and Axis Connect led by the Barton Sisters. She also had the pleasure of casting and choreographing Moby’s latest music video Motherless Child.

She is the owner of Cheryl Mann Productions, where she travels the world setting dance works for world-renowned choreographers, as well as photographing companies such as Ate9, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Joffrey Ballet, Ballet Hispanico, Thodos Dance Chicago, among many more.

Podcast Episode 11: Matthew Harvat/Circuit Mom

My guest for the Pride month episode is a dear friend, former boss, and one of my mentors.

Matthew Harvat designs events and environments, from the intimate to the grand and from the enduring to the spontaneous. As principal and lead designer of his own Chicago-based event company (Circuit Mom Productions), Harvat has transformed both public and domestic spaces for more then twenty-seven years. His event production includes such major venues as the House of Blues Chicago, the Aragon Ballroom, the Uptown Theater Grand Lobby, SideTrack Video Bar, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and countless other performance spaces locally and nationally where he has worked as artistic director, actor, performance artist, and DJ. His DJing includes headline appearances in Vancouver, Prague, Miami, Chicago, Orlando, Toronto, and Hollywood.

Concurrent with this evolution, over the last twenty-seven years, Harvat developed the alter ego, drag superstar Circuit Mom and became an iconic presence in dance music festivals around the world. Gay and straight audiences alike embrace his unique combination of DJing, production and performances that fuse glamour, wit, and audacity. His creativity is irrepressible and his keen eye for fostering talent has also become a hallmark of his productions. Up-and-coming artists, DJ’s, photographers, dancers, actors, musicians, costume designers, and more have not only added their incomparable talents to countless event productions, but have become family and continue to work as a collective force to bring Harvat’s audiences the very best.

Podcast Episode 10: Rory Hohenstein

Rory Hohenstein was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Maryland where he began dance at the age of seven, studying tap, jazz, and modern. He joined the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C., graduating from the full six-year program. At the age of 17, he joined the company Le Juene Ballet de France in Paris, France. After spending a year touring around Europe, he joined the San Francisco Ballet as a corps member in 2000, and was promoted to soloist in 2006. He then joined Christopher Wheeldon in his new company Morphoses in 2008, splitting their home season in both New York and Sadler’s Wells, London. After several seasons, he then spent a season dancing with the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company before joining The Joffrey Ballet as on of the leading artists in 2011. After eight seasons with the company, in 2019, he joined the Atlanta Ballet as a Ballet Master.

Over his nearly 20-year career, he has worked with such choreographers as Justin Peck, Lar Lubovitch, Christopher Wheeldon, Mark Morris, Alexei Ratmansky, Wayne McGregor, Alexander Ekman, Yuri Possokhov, William Forsythe, Helgi Tomasson, Val Caniparoli, Stanton Welch, and John Neumeier.

Some personal highlights for Hohenstein include Romeo in Krzysztof Pastor’s Romeo & Juliet, dancing the role of Levin in Yuri Possokhov’s Anna Karenina, Step Sister in Antony Tudor’s Cinderella, Amor in John Neumeier’s Sylvia, The Lovers in Alexander Ekman’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Monk in Yuri Possokhov’s RAkU, Cassio in Lar Lubovitch’s Othello, and in Fancy Free and Riff in West Side Story Suite, both by Jerome Robbins. He has also enjoyed working in stage productions with Debbie Allen, Neumeier’s opera Orphee and Eurydice, as well as working with Wade Robson from TV’s So You Think You Can Dance.

Podcast Episode 9: Annabelle Lopez Ochoa

My guest for episode 9 of the Rogue Ballerina podcast is world-renowned choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. We discuss her career and process, using the studio as a playground, creating new heroine roles for ballerinas, and pandemic silver linings.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa is an award-winning and sought-after choreographer that has created works for 67 dance companies around the world such as the Dutch National Ballet, English National Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, West Australian Ballet, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, San Francisco Ballet, New York City Ballet, Ballet Hispanico, and Dance Theater of Harlem, among others.

A versatile choreographer, Lopez Ochoa creates regularly within the dance field but also for theater, opera, and musical theater. Her wide-ranging body of work includes short conceptual pieces, full-length narrative ballets, and dance films. The Colombian-Belgian Lopez Ochoa completed her dance education at the Royal Ballet of Antwerp. After a 12-year career in a number of European dance companies, Lopez Ochoa decided in 2003 to focus solely on choreography. That same year, she was hailed as the “rising star of the Dutch dance scene (NRC newspaper) and only seven years later, the Temecula Performing Arts Examiner wrote: “Ochoa is truly a masterful choreographer with an edge for what dance can and should be in this constantly changing industry.”

In 2012, she was awarded the Best Classical choreography award by the Circle of Critics of the National Dance Award UK for A Streetcar Named Desire, created for the Scottish Ballet. That same year, the work was nominated for an Olivier Award. In 2016, Broken Wings, choreographed for the English National Ballet was nominated for numerous awards and reworked into a full-length ballet, FRIDA, for the Dutch National Ballet in 2020.

In 2019, she became the recipient of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award, as well as being named the program director of the Jacob’s Pillow Contemporary Classical Summer Course, a position she will hold for three years. During the pandemic of 2020-2021, she pioneered remote choreography and dance film creations premiered online. She has created 22 short dance films for which she has been featured in several articles in Pointe Magazine, Bachtrack, Tv5 Mondo, Dance International, and Dance Magazine.

Podcast Episode 8: Carrie Hanson

Photo by Julie Ballard

My next guest on the Rogue Ballerina podcast is the Artistic Director of The Seldoms, Carrie Hanson.

Carrie Hanson is a choreographer, dance educator, and the Founding Artistic Director of The Seldoms. Her work involves research and embodiment of social, political, environmental issues and history, as a mode of pressing performance to speak to larger subjects. She has created connections with artists across Chicago, designing projects with practitioners of visual arts, theater, music/sound design, fashion, and architecture. Hanson pursues a type of performance that stages articulate, rigorous, problem-solving bodies.

In 2015, she was named Chicago Tribune’s “Chicagoan of the Year in Dance,” honored for her “brawny, brainy movement.” Time Out Chicago called her work in an outdoor pool, Giant Fix, on of the “best dance moments of the past decade.” Her 2015 work about the figure Lyndon B. Johnson, Power Goes, was commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, received a National Performance Network Creation Fund and NEFA National Dance Project Award, and toured to ten U.S. venues, hosting community members as on-stage performers via a workshop entitled “Bodies on the Gears.”

She has received commissions from Texas Performing Arts, the Morton Arboretum, and the National Theater of Mannheim, Germany, and was a resident artist at the National Center for Choreography at Akron. She teaches at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, and was an Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence for Fall 2019 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She is certified in Laban Movement Analysis, earned a BFA at Texas Christian University and an MA Laban London. Hanson has received two Illinois Arts Council Fellowships, a Ruth Page Award, was a Chicago Dancemaker’s Forum Lab Artists, and one of Dance Magazine‘s “25 To Watch” in 2012. The Chicago Tribune wrote, “Hanson is among the more fascinating and surefooted of our contemporary choreographers.”

You can see two virtual excerpts of the work, Floe, on Thursday, April 22, on the Art Institute of Chicago‘s Earth Day webpage. Floe is The Seldom’s dance theater work about our climate crisis: vanishing polar ice, rising sea levels, extreme weather, forced migration, the tension between denial and evidence, and adaptation and resilience. Hanson will also be part of a Virtual Panel: Art and Climate Crisis on April 23 from 12:00 – 1:30 PM. More information and registration here.

Topics discussed:

Podcast Episode 7: Erica Lynette Edwards

Photo by Cheryl Mann.

Erica Lynette Edwards is an accomplished consultant and public speaker who champions change to advance social justice. With diversity, equity, and inclusion as the core foundation of her work, she transforms visions into reality. After a rewarding 15-year career as a ballerina at The Joffrey Ballet and five years as the Director of Community Engagement, she founded Cultivating Better Tomorrows. Through this consulting company, Erica reshapes the dynamics of performing arts communities to produce environments where all can thrive. Highly skilled in delivering consistent success and effective change, she is passionate about facilitating results-driven conversations and workshops focused on reflection and knowledge-building. Her visionary leadership has earned her many honors and opportunities, including speaking on national panels, giving a TEDx talk, and being selected as a member of Crain’s Chicago Business “40 Under 40.” By developing shared understandings, Erica inspires communities to make the world a more just place.

Topics discussed:

Podcast Episode 6: Ethan Kirschbaum

Photo by Noah Powell of Osprey Visuals.

My guest for episode 6 of the Rogue Ballerina podcast is Ethan Kirschbaum, founder of the Chicago Movement Collective. I thought it would be fun to leave this episode RAW: UNCUT, UNEDITED, UNCENSORED – so there is explicit language. You will hear our entire conversation including flubs, faux commercial breaks, sirens, commentary, and lots of laughs. Enjoy.

Ethan is originally from Oakland, CA, and began his dance career as an apprentice with the Savage Jazz Dance Company while still in high school. He studied at the Ailey School/Fordham University in NYC, graduating summa cum laude with departmental honors in dance performance and a BFA degree. During his junior year, he joined Hubbard Street 2, dancing and teaching workshops around the globe while concurrently completing his degree.

He has performed with the Sante Fe Opera and danced internationally in various countries including Canada, Mexico, Holland, Germany, Israel, Switzerland, Luxemboug, France, and Russia. In 2011, he moved to Germany to dance with Donlon Dance Company under the direction of Marguerite Donlon. He was on faculty at the Lou Conte Dance Studio since 2012 and was named the scholarship mentor, delegating scholarships to promising pre-professional and early-career artists until its closure in March of 2020. Ethan also performed as a company member of River North Dance Chicago for five seasons.

Ethan is certified by the Ailey School to teach all levels of the Horton Technique and is a freelance artists performing at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, choreographing locally, and teaching nationally as a guest to dance studios and university programs alike.

Ethan is proud to be the founder of Chicago Movement Collective and director of the Claire Bataille Legacy Program, continuing to provide a home for talented and passional pre-professional dancers.

Photo by Noah Powell of Osprey Visuals.

Click HERE to donate to the Chicago Movement Collective. If you want to take class (you may qualify for a FREE class!) or audition for the Legacy Program, email chicagomovementcollective@gmail.com.

Other topics discussed:

Podcast Episode 5: Melissa Thodos

On episode 5 of the Rogue Ballerina podcast, we welcome Melissa Thodos, Artistic Director of Thodos Dance Chicago. We discuss her career, the evolution of her company, and her long friendship with Broadway’s Ann Reinking.

Melissa Thodos and Ann Reinking.

At the age of six, Melissa Thodos wanted to really MOVE…so she did, by training at the Evanston School of Ballet, choreographing in high school as part of “Esande” the Evanston Township High School dance club, and doing both at Skidmore College. Following acadamia, she became a featured performer, educator, and choreographer with the Chicago Repertory Dance Ensemble, performing works by Paul Taylor, Lar Lubovitch, and Ze’eva Cohen, among others until founding Thodos Dance Chicago in 1992.

Thodos Dance Chicago served as a platform for her own choreography and for other American choreographers from the national dance landscape. Melissa also collaborated with such noted artists as Ann Reinking, Yoko Ono, and accomplished architect Jeanne Gang to bring blended vision and voices to the stage and many communities. For a quarter century, the Company performed in over 25 states and six continents, and beyond the stage, Melissa created a professional environment that not only trained dancers, but also nurtured them as choreographers, and activated them to grow as educators.

The NEW Dances choreography project was part of Thodos Dance Chicago’s fabric and structure since 2000, and this special creative project for our community continues in collaboration with DanceWorks Chicago.

Listen here:

Other topics discussed:

Chicago Repertory Dance Ensemble

Dance For Life

New Dances Choreography Project

Broadway Theater Project

Thodos Dance Chicago Vimeo page with interviews and dance excerpts

The Devil in the White City

Carpe Diem String Quartet

Chris Olsen

SHINE: Making A Light in the Dark