Home News & Events Catch up with last year's Spotlight Showcase artists

Catch up with last year's Spotlight Showcase artists

We asked the 2019 artists and ensembles what they’ve been up to

After working closely with the artists and ensembles who performed at our 2019 Spotlight Showcases, we wanted to check back in with them to see what they’re working on now. Check out these highlights from the past few months or plans for their year ahead.

Don’t forget: Applications are now open for the 2020 Spotlight Showcases – apply before February 27 for your chance to showcase in Omaha this September.

Learn more and apply now

“Written in Water.” Photo by Kyle Flubacker

Ragamala Dance Company

“Ragamala is excited to bring one one of its signature works, Written in Water, to the Ordway in St. Paul on Saturday, February 15. One of the Chicago Tribune’s ‘Best of 2019,’ Written in Water has toured venues worldwide, including The Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.), NYU Abu Dhabi (UAE), The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (Beckett, MA), Cal Performances (Berkeley, CA), University Musical Society (Ann Arbor, Michigan), and The Harris Theater (Chicago, IL) among others. The company just performed this piece at The College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University on February 8, with live music, to a terrific audience response. One of our favorite audience comments – “This performance (even with no external knowledge of its inception) provided a window into South Asian culture through the beauty and intention of the performance, its many layers of artistic inspiration, and inspiring collaborations.“—Ashwini Ramaswamy, Ragamala Dance Company

Cantus. Photo by Nate Ryan.


Cantus opened its 25th anniversary season in September with a concert at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where the ensemble began as a student group in 1995. The evening’s program, One Giant Leap, a reflection on space and the spirit of discovery – included world premieres by Catherine Dalton, Chris Foss, and Grace Brigham, the winner of Cantus’ inaugural Young & Emerging Composer Competition. One Giant Leap’s repertoire spans Schubert through Stroope to create a thoughtful examination of why humankind seeks to explore the heavens. Beyond the Twin Cities, Cantus will perform One Giant Leap for audiences from coast to coast this season. Rounding out its 25th anniversary season, Cantus launched a new choral series in partnership with Graphite Publishing. The ensemble will also welcome back two-dozen of its former singers for an anniversary gala concert on May 3 at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota. This special concert brings together Cantus singers past and present, as well as the Viking Chorus of St. Olaf College and students representing Cantus’ award-winning High School Residency program.

Las Cafeteras. Photo by JP.

Las Cafeteras

“I’m happy to tell you that the Arts Midwest Conference was terrifically successful and fruitful for Las Cafeteras. We got a lot of work out of it, because we put a lot of work into it. Subsequent to the Arts Midwest Conference, at APAP and FAI recently, our Las Cafeteras booth banner led to dozens of buyers stopping by to either talk about 20/21 dates or future opps. Much like our WAA showcase of 5 years ago, an Arts Midwest Conference showcase will serve us for years to come.“—Mel Puljic, awesome company

“Table Bed Mirror.” Photo by Deirdre Malfatto.

Bridgman|Packer Dance

Art Bridgman and Myrna Packer, Artistic Directors of Bridgman|Packer Dance performed in October in Yerevan, Armenia at the High Fest International Arts Festival. Fall/winter also brought them to Monmouth University (NJ) and Mainstage Theatre (Tampa). Alfred University (NY) presented their work TRUCK (inside a box truck). Their film Look Out was selected for the LA Experimental Dance & Film Festival, winning Best Cinematography. They’re currently creating Ghost Factory, inspired by the vast deserted factories of upstate NY. Live dance merges with striking video images of abandoned architecture, revealing a larger context of post-industrial decline. They’re also on the dance faculty of Juilliard and NYU Tisch.

The Okee Dokee Brothers. Photo by Beth Blenz-Clucas, Sugar Mountain PR.

The Okee Dokee Brothers

The Okee Dokee Brothers took to the red carpet at the 62nd Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020 to celebrate their latest album, Winterland. Inspired by the cold Minnesota winters, the project raised funds for the Keep The North Cold initiative and spread the message that our winters need protecting! It was their fourth Grammy nomination in the Best Children’s Album category. They won the Grammy in 2013 for “Can You Canoe?” Not ones to rest on their laurels, the band is releasing their next album in Summer, 2020, with armfuls of new-fashioned folk songs meant for singin’!

Jamie Adkins. Photo by Amanda Russell.

Jamie Adkins

Jamie Adkins has been performing Circus Incognitus internationally for 13 years and has given over 1,000 performances in 24 countries. Jamie has had the pleasure of presenting this show with several runs in Paris, France including 3 months at Les Bouffes Parisiens in 2015 and 4 weeks at the Théâtre de l’Atelier in 2019 as well as a run at the New Victory Theatre in New York City 2011. In 2018 Jamie teamed up with Montreal tuba player Julie Houle to create his new show Espièglerie, a show about friendship and perseverance. Jamie is originally from San Diego, California and has been based in Québec for the last 20 winters.

Music City Hit-Makers. Photo by Preston Leatherman.

Music City Hit-Makers

Music City Hit-Makers continues performing across the country, most recently with a special Valentines Day show in Columbus, GA featuring 2019 Grammy-award winning Hillary Lindsey, Cary Barlowe, and recent Hall of Fame inductee Rivers Rutherford. MCHM fuses two things uniquely American — the songwriter and symphony pops. Featuring GRAMMY, CMA, ACM nominated and Award-winning Nashville songwriters who have penned hits for Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Dixie Chicks, Rascal Flatts and many more; “The Songs, Their Stories, A Symphony” is part storytelling, part comedy, and mostly, unforgettable symphony acoustic performances of sixteen #1 songs!

Gina Chavez. Photo by Ismael Quintanilla.

Gina Chavez

“Hello Arts Midwest! My band and I are excited to send you a quick update from the road, via Austin, Texas. My year started with a special invitation from NPR to be a judge for the 2020 Tiny Desk Contest! And I just returned from NYC where I cut a track for my new album that’s due out in April 2020. It tells the story of a woman coming into her own power. And on that same note, our Ninas Arriba college fund for young women in El Salvador just accepted an incredible new student, Leidy —we couldn’t be more proud to provide these young women a platform to go after their dreams through the power of education! Here stateside, a dream of mine is coming true — by the time you read this, our own NPR Tiny Desk Concert will have hit 1,000,000 views! Thank you for helping us get our first million! The band and I can’t wait to share new music in the Midwest and beyond — we’ve been working on a new show and hope to see you soon.“—Gina Chavez

Bridge + Wolak Duo. Photo by Bo Huang.

Bridge + Wolak Duo

“Do you have anything vegetarian?” Michael asked at a restaurant, late one night after a concert.
“Um, well, we used to have a vegetarian employee,” the server replied, with a straight face.

“Despite this one setback, if you want to know all the good vegetarian restaurants from Chicago to Denver, and Fargo to Omaha, Bridge & Wolak can give you the scoop! Our first year touring in the US Midwest has been a roaring success — 30 standing ovations and counting. Our managers at Cadenza Artists have been busy with PAC bookings for 2020/2021 and beyond, thanks to Arts Midwest! And you might have heard the rumour about Bridge & Wolak’s forthcoming Tango-Fusion show, twisting Tango up with everything from Baroque to Heavy Metal. Tangorium premieres in fall 2021 — clarinet, digital accordion & FULL ORCHESTRA.“—Bridge + Wolak Duo

Akropolis Reed Quintet in Arizona, 2020.

Akropolis Reed Quintet

Since their Arts Midwest showcase in September, the Akropolis Reed Quintet has performed in Mississippi, Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut, Saskatchewan, California, Iowa, Nevada, Arizona, and Texas, not including upcoming concerts in Maine, New York, Virginia, and Alabama! On February 7th they premiered a concerto grosso for Akropolis and band with the University of Michigan Symphony Band, repeating that performance with the Syracuse University Wind Ensemble on February 27th. They have given collaborative concerts with percussionists from Latitude 49 and the icarus Quartet, and this March will embark on a collaborative 10-show run with BodyVox Dance in Portland, Oregon. They’ve even managed to fit in some time to read sketches of new works composed by Detroit high school students that they will premiere this May. Thanks to their Arts Midwest showcase, Akropolis is confident that 2021 will be even more jam-packed than 2020!

Ensemble Español. Photo by Dave Suarez.

Ensemble Español

This 2019/20 season has been a whirlwind of activity for Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater with world premieres of seven new works, successfully raising $1.5 million as part of its Raised in Chicago, Ready for the World campaign, and the establishment of the Dame Libby Komaiko Legacy Fund, dedicated to ensuring that the legacy of Founding Artistic Director Dame Libby Komaiko, who passed away February 2, 2019, will continue through the work of Ensemble Español. Ensemble Español was named “Best in Chicago in Dance 2019” and “Dance Chicagoans of the Year 2019” by the Chicago Tribune. Ensemble Español’s Luis Beltran was singled out by Dance Magazine in their issue of “Introducing the Top 25 to Watch.” The professional company is comprised 19 dancers and there are 23 dancers in the youth company. Ensemble Español has reached more than 50,000 people through its artistic and educational programming this season.

Robert Post

“Hello fellow travelers. I used my trip (I drove from Ohio) to Minneapolis to film more footage for Post from the Road, my documentary about my touring life that will premiere within the next year. I’m always looking for the weird and wonderful and on this trip I filmed: The Worlds Largest Paul Bunyan in Akeley, MN; The Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk in (I’m not making this up) in Riverside, Iowa; The Largest Ball of Twine (of course!) in Canker, Kansas; The Jolly Green Giant statue in Blue Earth, MN; and finished up with the amazing Geode Grotto in Jasper, Indiana. In case you’re interested here’s a link to my 5 minute trailer for my documentary, Post from the Road. Wishing you all a wonderful touring season!“—Robert Post