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 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 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 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

Podcast Episode 4: Jeraldine Mendoza & Dylan Gutierrez

On episode 4 of the Rogue Ballerina podcast, we welcome Joffrey Ballet Company Artists Jeraldine Mendoza and Dylan Gutierrez. It’s also the Valentine’s episode, and this real-life couple is THE cutest!

Jeraldine Mendoza joined The Joffrey Ballet in 2011. She was born in San Francisco, CA, and trained at City Ballet School of San Francisco since the age of five. At 17, she was invited to graduate in the Russian course at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. She later won 1st place at the YAGP San Francisco Regional Semi-Finals in 2011. In 202, she won the young artists’ scholarship from the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund and later graced the cover of Dance Magazine in May 2015, the magazine’s first international issue. You can follow her on Instagram @jeraldm

Dylan Gutierrez joined the Joffrey in 2009. He grew up in Van Nuys, CA, and received his training at the Los Angeles Ballet Academy under the direction of his mother Andrea-Paris Gutierrez. In 2006, he was awarded a full scholarship to train the The Royal Ballet School in London and later was offered a job as an apprentice with the San Francisco Ballet. You can follow him on Instagram @dylanrgutierrez

You can read their full bios and learn more about the roles they’ve danced by visiting joffrey.org. All photos by Cheryl Mann.

Links to topics discussed:

Jeraldine wins the Annenberg Grant

Jeraldine and Dylan dance together in Gerald Arpino’s Sea Shadow

WTTW’s Emmy-Award winning Nutcracker documentary (with a cameo by Kahlua)

Action Lines: Interim Avoidance showings will take place Feb. 1 – April 30 at 150 N. Riverside Plaza, Monday – Friday: 8:00 – 9:30 AM, and 4:30 – 8:00 PM, and Saturdays: 1:00-7:00 PM. All attendees are required to wear a face covering.

It Was All A Dream video

Interview on the making of It Was All A Dream

Black Star Project

Excerpt from Joffrey’s 60th anniversary book.

Restaurants mentioned:

Formento’s

The Bristol

Pacific Standard Time (now closed)

Wasabi

Mirai Sushi

Quartino

Cafe Tola

ABA

SKY

Podcast Episode 3: Ahmad Simmons

Ahmad Simmons. Photo by AMBE J Photography.

My guest for Episode 3 of the podcast is Ahmad Simmons. Ahmad is a dancer, choreographer, educator, and creative producer based in New York City. He was last seen on Broadway as Diesel in Ivo Van Hove’s groundbreaking revival of West Side Story. Previous credits include the Original Broadway Cast of Hadestown, and most recent revival casts of Carousel and Cats. Regional theater includes A Chorus Line at New York City Center and a dozen shows with the Pittsburgh CLO. Ahmad co-starred alongside Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams as Ben Vereen in the Emmy nominated FX mini-series Fosse/Verdon. Other TV appearances include ABC’s remake of Dirty Dancing. Prior to his career on Broadway, Ahmad toured internationally and all across the United States as a dancer with Parsons Dance Company, River North Dance Chicago, and Eisenhower Dance Detroit. He is a graduate of Point Park University.

Listen to our conversation here.

Additional links to topics discussed:

Pittsburgh CLO: CLOse Ups! interview

Beat by Ashley Roland danced at River North Dance Chicago (excerpt)

Ahmad Simmons Takes Center Stage

Broadway Sandwich interview

Fosters Theatrical Artist Residency

Black Broadway Men

Podcast Episode 2: Nan Giordano

Nan Giordano. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

On the second episode of the Rogue Ballerina podcast, we chat with artistic director of Giordano Dance Chicago, Nan Giordano. Nan trained with her father, jazz dance legend Gus Giordano, dance with the company, became the associate director in 1985 and artistic director in 1993.

She developed the Nan Giordano Certification Program (R), continuing to teach the essence and discipline of the Giordano Technique and teaches master classes to student around the world.

Honors include: the Manford Byrd Jr. Wizard of Oz Award for Outstanding Service from Howland School for the Arts, the Grace Wakefield Lifetime Achievement Award by Star Dance Alliance, she serves on the International Ballet Competition, National Honorary Committee and the Advisory Board for Dance Magazine.

She is positive, delightful, and beloved by her dancers, students, and the Chicago dance community. Listen to our conversation here!

Links to topics discussed:

Uprooted: The Journey of Jazz Dance

Follow me on social @rogueballerina

Podcast Episode 1: Christopher Wheeldon

I’m so excited to finally share the first episode of the Rogue Ballerina podcast! I chatted with the ever-charming Christopher Wheeldon about two of his “reimagined” ballets, his upcoming project on Broadway, and what has kept him busy and sane during the pandemic.

You can access the first episode on Apple Podcasts (which includes Overcast, Castro, Castbox, Pocketcasts, and Podfriend apps), Spotify, and PodcastAddict. It will be available soon on other platforms. Stay tuned for updates. Or, you can listen to it right here!

Choreographer/Director Christopher Wheeldon. Photo by Angela Sterling.

Welcome to the Rogue Ballerina podcast. My first guest is Christopher Wheeldon. If you haven’t heard of him, then you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of decades. He studied and danced at The Royal Ballet, he was a soloist and the first resident choreographer at the New York City Ballet, he was on the cover of Dance Magazine, he founded his own company Morpheses, he choreographed the closing ceremony for the Olympics, and he has has created numerous ballets for companies and operas around the world.

His many awards include an O.B.E. designation from Queen Elizabeth II and a Tony Award for Best Choreography for An American In Paris. If I were to list all of his accolades, we would be here all day, so to learn more go to his website at christopherwheeldon.com. Aside from his many professional accomplishments, he is one of the nicest and most down-to-earth people I know. You can listen to our conversation here.

The Joffrey Ballet’s YouTube page offers many behind-the-scenes videos for Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. You can read the program from the 2016 world premiere here, and you can view the Emmy Award-winning documentary The Making of a New American Nutcracker at wttw.com/nutcracker. The Art on the Mart exhibition mentioned in the podcast was also featured in the Chicago Tribune.

HUGE thanks to Christopher Wheeldon for being such a gracious guinea pig and my brother – Michael Crain – for writing my theme music and sound editing. You can learn more about Ross Rayburn’s yoga classes at Peleton and follow him on Instagtram @rossrayburnyoga.

Don’t forget to subscribe and rate the podcast on your favorite platform, and follow me on social @rogueballerina.