2019 Dance Forum Speakers

2019 Dance Forum

Friday, January 4, 2019
9am-12pm
New York Hilton Midtown
1335 Avenue of the Americas | New York, NY
FREE! No registration required

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2019 Dance Forum Speakers

PART I: 

Dance Advocacy: What Are the Key Issues?



Brandon Gryde has served as the Director of Government Affairs for Dance/USA and OPERA America since 2011, representing the membership in front of Congress, the White House, and Federal agencies. He advocates on a range of issues that include support for the National Endowment for the Arts, support for arts education under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, nonprofit tax policy issues, and cultural exchange at the U.S. Department of State. Brandon previously worked as Director of Communications at Youth Service America, an international youth engagement organization. He also served as Director of Publications at Jump Street in Harrisburg, PA, where he managed a re-granting program in partnership with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and launched AND Magazine, a quarterly arts and healthy lifestyles publications written by teens for teens. Brandon has a B.A. in Ethnomusicology and American Literature and Culture from UCLA and an M.A. in American Studies from Penn State.     

PART II: Regional Touring Snapshots with South Arts and NEFA

Michelle Ramos (Moderator), JD, PhD, has committed her career to servicing our most marginalized communities, those adversely impacted by issues of by race, gender, socio-economics, inequitable laws, and public policies. As project director of the Vera Institute of Justice, New Orleans office, she works with government and community partners to improve the criminal justice system through strategy, research, and policy work. Prior to her legal career, Ramos, a retired professional ballet dancer, worked as an executive director for multiple non-profit arts organizations and served as a program officer for Women’s Foundation of California. She was director of Dance/NYC from 2006-2010. She has served as a panelist for several organizations including the NEA, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. Ramos consults in communications strategy, diversity and equity training as well as leadership with non-profit organizations in addition to her legal practice. She is the proud mother of a professional dancer, and since retiring from her own dance career Ramos has become a competitive Ironman triathlete and marathoner.


Nikki Estes, Program Director at South Arts, has worked in the Atlanta nonprofit arts community for 25 years. She joined South Arts in May 2003 and manages the grants program which awards more than $600,000 annually to approximately 100 presenters within a nine-state region. She also manages professional development programs and special initiatives that support the presenting and touring dance field. Prior to her work at South Arts, Nikki was the Grants Supervisor at the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA). While at the OCA, Nikki also assisted with the management of the youth arts program and music festivals. Nikki has participated as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, Alabama State Council on the Arts, Georgia Council for the Arts, Kentucky Arts Council, Louisiana Division of the Arts, Mississippi Arts Commission, South Carolina Arts Commission, Fulton County Arts Council, and Woodruff Arts Center. Nikki has served on the Board of Directors for Atlanta Celebrates Photography and Advisory Board for the Atlanta Foundation Center. Nikki holds a BA for Arts Administration and MPA for Nonprofit Management from Georgia State University. 


Eric B. Fliss is the Managing Director of South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center. With more than thirty years’ experience nurturing the arts in South Florida, Eric Fliss has served as a facilities manager, artistic director, presenter, designer and consultant for cultural organizations and government agencies.

As the Cultural Facilities Manager for the City of Miami Beach from 2002 - 2007, he established a business plan for operating a network of cultural venues and supervised the $8.3 million renovation of the historic Colony Theater and the development of the Byron Carlyle Theater renovation.

In 2008 he joined the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs as Managing Director for the grand opening of the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center. The Center has quickly become the model venue for the Department of Cultural Affairs continuing the mission of the department of promoting opportunities for artists and the residents and visitors who are their audience.

Mr. Fliss has numerous lighting design credits in theater and dance, his work in the field of dance has been seen throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and South America. In 1986 he co-founded the Acme Acting Co. in Miami, serving as Artistic Director and Scenic Artist through 1995.

In 2018 Mr. Fliss was awarded the Knight Foundation Champions Award for his contributions to the South Florida cultural community.


Cathy Edwards joined New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) as Executive Director in January 2015. The New England Foundation for the Arts invests in artists and communities and fosters equitable access to the arts, enriching the cultural landscape in New England and the nation. NEFA accomplishes this by granting funds to artists and cultural organizations; connecting them to networks and knowledge-building opportunities; and analyzing their economic contributions. The New England Foundation for the Arts serves as a regional partner for the National Endowment for the Arts, New England’s state arts agencies, and private foundations. 

Prior to NEFA, Cathy was director of programming at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven, CT. She previously served as artistic director at both the Time-Based Art Festival at PICA in Portland, OR, and Dance Theater Workshop in New York City, and as co-director of Movement Research in New York City. 

Cathy has served on numerous grant-giving and funding panels including the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, Connecticut Department of Culture and Tourism, United States Artists, the Japan Foundation, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, MAP Fund, and NEFA.  She has served on the board of directors for the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, Movement Research and the National Performance Network. She holds a BA in Humanities from Yale College.


Cheri Opperman has worked for over a decade with the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, working with artists, funders, agents, and organizations to support the creative process and the distribution of live dance performance across the nation. Previously she taught, created dances and mentored dance theater majors at Emerson College. She has worked as a program assistant at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Visual Arts Program. Cheri was a co-founder and co-director at Green Street Studios in Cambridge, MA, where she taught advanced technique and repertory, and help to create and support activities in its black box theater.  As a member of Concert Dance Company of Boston, Cheri performed in works by Mark Morris, Merce Cunningham, Bebe Miller, Mark Dendy, Deborah Wolf, Lucinda Childs, Kei Ta Kei, and Laura Dean among others. As a long-time company member of Susan Rose’s DanceWorks, she performed and taught throughout New England, New York, and Arles, France. With Young Audiences of Massachusetts, Cheri performed and taught as an artist in the schools. Cheri has worked with numerous Boston-based choreographers, institutions, and studios throughout her 30 + year career. She holds a BFA from the Boston Conservatory.

PART III: Next Wave of Dance Leadership: Discussion and Roundtable conversations

Malik Robinson (Moderator) is the Executive Director of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (CPRD), a not-for-profit cultural arts institution based in Denver, Colorado. As an internationally recognized arts organization, CPRD has served as a leader in preserving the rich heritage of legendary American modern dance choreographers. The organization is also distinguished for its arts-in-education and arts advocacy work. In his role, Malik directs a small administrative staff with an operational budget of $1.3M. 

During his tenure with CPRD, Malik led organizational efforts to host the Annual International Association of Blacks in Dance Conference in 1999, 2009 and 2016. He was responsible for securing award-winning international tours to Israel, Italy and Egypt for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble (CPRDE). As the booking manager for CPRDE, Malik successfully secured funding from national foundations for new work creation and tour support. He also booked and managed national tours to an average of 15 cities annually. 

Through his dedication to education and the arts, Malik created the after-school program Aye (Yoruba for “Life”), serving high-risk youth in northeast Denver. Through partnerships with diversionary programs and probation departments, the project served an average of 125 teens per year. In 2015, Malik initiated efforts to establish the Bachelor in Dance program in partnership with Metropolitan State University of Denver. The Dance Major is the first offered by any institution of higher learning in Denver. 

As the primary fund developer for CPRD, Malik recently led the organization in a successful $1M capacity building campaign in addition to a $250K renovation project in the historic CPRD headquarters. He was also the CPRD lead in forming the partnership with the Denver Housing Authority on the $20M award from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grant helped build the CPRD Annex in addition to the redevelopment of dilapidated housing that formerly surrounded the organization. Under his direction, CPRD has evolved into an anchor cultural institution and destination for dance in Denver with more than 25,000 visitors annually. 

Malik serves on several boards and committees including the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District Inclusivity Fund Committee, charged with developing the criteria for a $9M fund designed to increase cultural equity among Denver’s marginalized communities. He serves on the Board of Directors for the International Association of Blacks in Dance, Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, Denver School for the Arts Friends Foundation, and is Chair-elect for Dance/USA. Malik is an Association of Performing Arts Professional Fellow, Livingston Fellow, Leadership Denver graduate and American Express 2.0 Aspen Institute Fellow. Malik earned his B.A. in African Studies from Regis University. 

Malik is the son of Tom and Cleo Robinson, and he is married to Olga Gonzalez with one son, Nez, two daughters Ximalma and Xareni. 


Betsy Smulyan is the Executive Vice President of BRIC, where she helped to found the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Management Program in collaboration with the Mark Morris Dance Group, Theatre for a New Audience and The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts.  She has 30 years of experience in social mission business and non-profit management, with a focus on employment and quality jobs.  She served as Vice President of Cooperative Home Care Associates, a worker-owned home care company and President of Earn Fair LLC, a social mission staffing agency.  She holds a Masters Degree in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Christopher K. Morgan is Executive Artistic Director of Dance Place in Washington, DC, where he curates 40 weekends of performance annually by national and international dance companies and choreographers, oversees a school for youth and adults and continues Dance Place’s role in creative placemaking. His curatorial vision is grounded in reflecting the community he lives in; 64% of the companies/choreographers in the first season under his curation identify as people of color, 65% of the companies are women lead. This parallels the audience one might see at Dance Place on any given weekend. 

He founded dance company Christopher K. Morgan & Artists in 2011; the same year Dance Magazine profiled him as 1 of 6 breakout choreographers in the US. Born in Orange County, CA, Christopher’s Native Hawaiian ancestry and wide-ranging performance career influence all aspects of his work. Said to be “direct, transcendent and entrancing" (The Washington Post), his choreography has been presented in 18 countries on 5 continents. His artistic practice is deeply informed by his identity, an identity that is an accumulation of multiple senses of Other-ness; the tensions of a mixed race heritage, a non-descript ethnic appearance, queerness, and his own personal residue of colonization – knowing first hand the ancestral land he comes from where he has never been able to live. 

Awards include a 2013 Native Arts & Cultures Foundation Fellowship, 2014 NPN Creation Fund, 2014 NEFA National Dance Project Production Grant, 2015 Montgomery County Outstanding Artist Award, 2011, 2014 & 2017 Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Awards, and an inaugural 2018 Native Launchpad Award from the Western Arts Alliance.From 2007-2011 Christopher was Resident Choreographer of CityDance Ensemble, creating 5 original works and staging several other works. His performing career has been expansive, dancing for Liz Lerman, John Malashock, Kevin Wynn, Selfish Shellfish (Germany), Hernando Cortez among many others. He was a soloist with the Washington National, Houston Grand, New York City Operas, in the original Olivier nominated cast of Michael Keegan Dolan’s Giselle, the original cast of David Gordon’s Bessie Award Winning Production FAMILY$DEATH@ART.COMedy and the original cast of David Gordon’s NEA Masterpiece Dancing Henry V. Television and film credits include a PBS Great Performance with Placido Domingo, and on film dancing with Kate Winslet and Christopher Walken in John Turturro’s film Romance & Cigarettes. Teaching credits include American University (2011-14), the BA and MFA programs at the University of Maryland (2014-17), and residencies at over 20 conservatories and institutions of higher learning in the US and abroad. 

Since 2006 Christopher has directed Art Omi: Dance, an annual collaborative residency for international choreographers in New York, where he created an utterly unique international cultural exchange program. Sought as a speaker and grants reviewer for his informed and balanced perspective, he has been at the forefront of national discussions on equity in the arts. He and his husband, opera director Kyle Lang, reside in Washington DC.


Ali Rosa-Salas is the Director of Programming at Abrons Arts Center/Henry Street Settlement. She develops the Center’s live programming, exhibitions, and residencies with Artistic Director Craig Peterson. As an independent curator, she has produced visual art exhibitions, performances, and public programs with AFROPUNK, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Danspace Project, Knockdown Center, MoCADA, Weeksville Heritage Center, and more. She has also organized discursive events as an Alumnae Fellow at the Barnard Center for Research on Women and as the Associate Curator of the 2017 American Realness Festival. She graduated from Barnard with a B.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, with interdisciplinary concentrations in Dance and Race/Ethnic Studies and has an M.A. from the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance at Wesleyan University. In addition to her role at Abrons, Ali supports electronic music DJs and producers as Special Projects Manager for Discwoman.


Chisa Yamaguchi was born into a multicultural family and simultaneously celebrates her passion for tradition and innovation. Her desire to discover, collaborate, and deepen her empathy has taken her to 6 continents whether embarking on community service projects, undertaking family pilgrimages, or gracing historic stages and theaters as a professional dancer. Driven by intuitive nurturing and a zealous need to contribute joy to the world, she avidly advocates for cross-disciplinary practices and creations as the means to dissolve perceived barriers between people and cultures. As the newest member of Sozo, she is on a mission to align her personal power with her professional values, bringing her caring presence and grounded discipline to everything she undertakes and creates. Mindful to balance her psyche with fire and nectar, she nourishes herself with yoga, high-intensity interval training, home cooking and never turns down a glass of champagne.

Tamica Washington-Millerchoreographer, performing artists, community arts leader, dance educator and the Associate Director of Lula Washington Dance Theatre, (LWDT), based in Los Angeles, CA. Tamica sets work on the company, coaches, trains dancers and helps to retain guests work. She handles programing and outreach for the professional company and the LWDT school .Tamica oversees LWDT’s Youth and Young Adult Dance Ensembles, the school’s Summer Programs and Company Training. Tamica is an LWDT Board member. She helps to prepare grants, organizational planning and strategy for the future of LWDT. 

Tamica’s Youth, Family and Educational work, SIUITE FOR KEATS will premiere at Lewis Family Playhouse in Ranch. Cucamonga CA March 7-9, 2019. She is also currently working with the Anchorage Concert Association in Anchorage, Alaska on a year-long project. She will present new work and a collaborative expression through her experience working with RAIS, (Refugee and Immigrant Services, through Catholic Social Services), local artists, refugees and immigrants High schools local dance studios and Anchorage Native Heritage Center.  The project will culminate April 2019. 

Tamica has been working with Roberta Uno and Art Change US REMAP: LA which will take pace in Los Angeles March – August 2019.  Tamica is very excited to be working with The Western Arts Alliance on the Los Angeles and National Black Arts at WAA Program which will Launch in Los Angeles August 2019, during the WAA conference. 

She is the current Co-Chair of the Next Generation Leadership Committee for the International Association of Blacks in Dance, (IABD). In 2015, Tamica was voted onto the National Board. Tamica played a Major role in producing the 2018 30th Anniversary IABD conference in Los Angeles. 

Tamica is a graduate of UCLA in Dance and Choreography; of the inaugural Association of Performing Arts Professionals Leadership Fellows Program. She participated in Dance/USA leadership Fellowship program; and recently completed Activate Arts: Cultural Policy, a program in Los Angeles that trains Artists to work with local government agencies and organizations to create access and opportunity through the arts. She has participated in the California Community Foundations’, (CCF), Preparing Achievers for Tomorrow, (PAT), program. She earned a scholarship to participate in the Fund-Raising Academy for Communities of Color lead by Compass Point. Tamica also earned a scholarship from the Los Angeles County Arts Commission to complete training in the Leadership LA program. 


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