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PAD Showcases

We’re excited to announce the 10 selected artists for the 2021 Performing Arts Discovery Showcase! The National Endowment for the Arts Performing Arts Discovery program first launched in 2015 to help promote U.S. artists to international programmers, festival directors, and venue managers. In May 2021, the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations and Western Arts Alliance (WAA) announced a virtual international showcase opportunity for performing artists as a part of this year’s PAD program.

Plan to catch the Performing Arts Discovery Showcase performances on Friday, September 17 from 3:15-4:30 pm CST, in the virtual Conference platform, Boomset. Performances will be available to stream after their initial airing until September 30.


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Ananya Dance Theatre (Minnesota)

Ananya Dance Theatre is an artistic community of BIPOC women, womxn, and femmes, based in St. Paul-Minneapolis, who create original dance theater, drawing on social justice themes inspired by the lives and dreams of BIPOC women, womxn, and femmes from around the globe. Our artistic work unfolds through Yorchha, a unique movement aesthetic of contemporary dance that draws on traditional Odissi, the martial art Chhau, and Vinyasa Yoga to celebrate a feminine aesthetic. We have performed in nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia, and six countries in the Caribbean, Africa, Middle East, and South Asia.

Sutrajāl: This 10:48 excerpt occurs near the end of a 90-minute work in five movements that premiered at St. Catherine University in 2019. Ananya Chatterjea’s choreography typifies the company’s Yorchha aesthetic. Renée Copeland’s original sound design and composition includes vocals, silver flute, double-reed wooden flute, bamboo flute, melodica, alto-saxophone, mbira, gongs, pakawaj, electric guitar, ukulele, midi-keyboard instruments, and found objects. The excerpt features lighting design by Kevin A. Jones, scenic design by Chelsea Warren, media design by Darren Johnson, costume design by Annie Cady, and animation by Tim Quinlan.

Shaatranga: This 04:12 excerpt ends a 103-minute epic choreographed by Chatterjea for premiere at St. Catherine University in 2018. Overall composition and sound design by Dameun Strange included section compositions by Greg Schutte and Queen Drea. The excerpt features lighting design by Jones, scenic design by Warren, and costume design by Cady. Shaatranga toured domestically and internationally.

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PUBLIQuartet (New York)

PUBLIQuartet is a GRAMMY-nominated, New York-based improvising string quartet whose programming blurs genres and highlights American multiculturalism. We are committed to supporting living composers and to widening the quartet canon to include works by historically underrepresented voices. This showcase centers around the question, “What is American?”; as we reflect on this question, we celebrate the lineage of Black artists and their essential contributions to American music: from the spirituals that inspired Dvorak’s “American” Quartet to our improvisations on jazz, blues, rock, and hip-hop. First on our showcase is “Voodoo Dolls” (2008) by Jessie Montgomery, founding violinist of PUBLIQuartet. In Jessie’s own words, “The piece is influenced by West African drumming patterns and lyrical chant motives, all of which feature highlights of improvisation within the ensemble.”

Second is “Wild Women Don’t Get the Blues” – our latest MIND THE GAP work, in which we use improvisation and arranging to make connections across time and musical genre. Inspired by Ida Cox’s 1924 blues standard “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues,” this piece also spotlights works by Tina Turner, Betty Davis, and Alice Coltrane, honoring the legacy of independent women who hold their own. (Heard here are Turner’s “Black Coffee” and Davis’ “They Say I’m Different.”).

Last is the final movement of MIND THE GAP: What Is American?, which weaves together excerpts of Dvorak’s “American” String Quartet with improvisations that link the Black and Indigenous music that inspired Dvorak to the blues, jazz, rock, and hip-hop traditions that they would ultimately inform.

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Versa-Style Dance Company (California)

Versa-Style is a non-profit dance ensemble that represents the diversity and beautiful complexity of Los Angeles. Founded in 2005 by LA natives Jackie “Miss Funk” Lopez and Leigh “Breeze-Lee” Foaad, we create highly energetic work that fuses street dances that are culturally significant to our community. We identify ourselves as Hip Hop ARTivists. For over 15 years, VSDC has created full-length dance theater productions that promote the empowerment, artistry and value of street dance styles such as Hip Hop, House, Popping, Locking, Whacking and Krump, as well as Afro-Latin styles such as Salsa, Merengue, Cumbia, Bachata and Afro-Cuban.

Our latest full-length work, “Freemind Freestyle,” consists of high-energy, unadulterated Hip Hop movement that explores the depths of improvisational dance. Using Streetdance vernacular such as House, Popping, Hip Hop and Krump as vehicles of expression, no show will be the same, as each night will offer a brand-new experience of FREESTYLE Streetdance live on stage. Audiences will walk away with a visceral immersion into Hip Hop dance culture.

The work dives into the concept of freedom from all angles: the personal, the political, the physical, and the spiritual. How do we experience freedom? What confines us, oppresses us, and what ultimately allows us to break free? “Freemind, Freestyle” explores these questions from both an evolutionary and ancestral lens, blending cutting-edge Hip Hop, Popping, and Krump movement with traditional House dance that pays homage to the Afro-Latin roots of Hip Hop.

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Ensemble Mik Nawooj (California)

Led by classically trained composer JooWan Kim, the Oakland CA based hip-hop orchestra Ensemble Mik Nawooj (EMN) consists of a rapper, soprano, flute, oboe, clarinet, french horn, bassoon, strings, piano, drums and turf dancers. EMN makes unique music by sampling principles of hip-hop and classical. For this showcase, the symphony meets hip-hop act performs music from their new album, “Death Become Life” including the works commissioned by Yerba Buena Gardens Festival in collaboration with Asian Art Museum. The commissioned suite, the Fountainheads reimagines iconic repertoires of Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach by deconstructing and reframing them with the pulsating rhythm of hip-hop.

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Cary Morin (Colorado)

Described as “one of the best acoustic pickers on the scene today,” Cary Morin brings together the great musical traditions of America like no other. With deft fingerstyle guitar and vocals that alternately convey melodic elation and gritty world-weariness, Morin crafts an inimitable style often characterized as roots-infused Native Americana with hints of bluegrass, folk, blues, and rock. He has performed at renowned venues across the globe, including the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center, and is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades. David Bromberg remarks, “Cary Morin is a unique and brilliant guitar player, songwriter and singer. As a guitar player, I have huge respect for Cary’s style and technique. If you haven’t heard him yet, you should. Try to remember that it’s only one guitar.” Music critic Bill Hurley writes, “His guitar skill is jaw-dropping, his voice is warm, worn of world experience, and his songwriting allows both of those things to flourish and captivate anyone in the room.” Morin’s seventh solo release, “Dockside Saints,” merges Cary’s celebrated brand of Americana with the spirit and sounds of Cajun, Creole and Zydeco music. The album was produced and engineered by multi-Grammy winner Tony Daigle at the renowned Dockside Studio. A Crow tribal member, Morin was raised in Great Falls, Montana. When not touring the US and Europe, he calls Northern Colorado home.

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Boca Tuya (New York)

Boca Tuya is a NYC-based artistic incubator providing mature contemporary dance artists with multifaceted, high-level experiences that characterize a holistic life in the arts. The company was founded in 2018 by artistic director and choreographer Omar Román De Jesús.

Sombreristas awakens a long-forgotten code of rules solidified by secret handshakes, footraces, and subtle nods. Set on a cast of one dozen dancers and an equal cohort of lively hats, this work invites us to shed the skin of adult propriety and experience an alternate timeline governed by the shamelessly volatile logic of pavement games. Mentor: Risa Steinberg Repertory: (All creations are by Omar Román De Jesús) Sombreristas, Muerte Cotidiana, Los Perros del Barrio Colosal, Matriarca, Like Those Playground Kids At Midnight.

This fall, Boca Tuya is proud to be presenting Sombreristas at international festivals in Colombia and Panama. This engagement is supported by our donors and Mid Atlantic Arts through USArtists International in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Howard Gilman Foundation. The work was commissioned by Bruce Wood Dance, Dallas, TX in the spring of 2021.

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Jamison Ross (Louisiana)

Jamison Ross is a singer/songwriter and 2x GRAMMY nominee delivering messages of humanity through soul and jazz. Jamison is based in New Orleans and his band members are spread across the southeast. Jamison’s live presentation showcases his genius as a multi-instrumentalist as well — singing while playing drums as well as piano during shows. Jamison’s objective as a recording artist is clear: to make great music that impacts listeners in a meaningful way.

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Degenerate Art Ensemble (Washington)

Degenerate Art Ensemble makes performances inspired by punk, protest, cinema, nightmares and fairy tales driven by the power of live music and visceral movement theater and dance. Recent highlights include a major exhibition at the Frye Art Museum, a commission from Robert Wilson to interpret his work Einstein on the Beach, and collaborations with the Kronos Quartet. DAE’s newest work Skeleton Flower appeared at the Spotlight USA Festival in Bulgaria, had its world premiere in Seattle, and was performed at the International Festival of Contemporary Dance in Mexico City in 2021.

“Skeleton Flower” is a semi-autobiographical exploration of director Haruko Crow Nishimura’s struggle with identity, depression, childhood trauma, and the awakening of personal power. It is told with humor and imagination, casting her family as monsters from a Godzilla movie, and traces her personal struggle through three fairy tales read to her by her mother growing up. Skeleton flower is a multi-dimensional patchwork quilt that conjures and consoles her female ancestors through the use of hand felted wools, ten thousand hand painted silk flowers, and knitted sweaters which fill fantastic worlds in the work’s cinematic imagery.

“Through creative work, I was able to navigate my own darkness. Skeleton Flower also deals with a violent assault that I experienced as an adult which became the catalyst for healing and the realization of feminine power. Skeleton Flower is a commitment ceremony that confronts the painful energies and tangled karma of my women ancestors and forges a new path for the future.” – Nishimura

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REBOLU (New York)

With some of the finest Colombian musicians in the United States, Rebolu with founders Ronald, Morris, and Johanna join their talents to lead and ensemble rich of musical traditions of their ancestors; the afro-descendants of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. With the strong mesmerizing beats, of urban modern Caribbean sounds, this music goes into your system like a dose of pure contagious energy!

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Love Movement (New York)

MICHELA’S LOVE MOVEMENT is an uplifting hybrid celebration of music and hoofing, reflecting a journey through the seven levels of love we experience throughout life. Inspired by Dr. King’s speech Levels of Love, NYC native, bandleader and master tap dance artist Michela Marino Lerman takes audiences on an immersive musical journey with original songs, spirituals and jazz alongside traditional and electronic tap boards. This work utilizing uniquely American forms empowers audiences to embrace the beauty of all forms of love in their lives and has been presented in venues nationally including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. The New York based ensemble of MLM is very flexible and typically consists of 1-2 tap dancers in addition to Lerman, a vocalist, trombonist, trumpeter, pianist, guitarist, upright bassist and drummer.


Showcases are only available to registered Conference attendees.

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Photo credits, in order of appearance:
Isabel Fajardo, Lelanie Foster, George Simian, Pat Mazzera, Gretchen Troop Photography, Jacob Jonas, Elton Anderson, None submitted, Bryan Bravo, Michela Marino Lerman

The Performing Arts Discovery Program is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with WESTAF, South Arts, Arts Midwest, New England Foundation for the Arts, Mid Atlantic Arts, and Mid-America Arts Alliance.