Souleymane “Solo” Badolo is a Brooklyn-based choreographer and dancer born in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. He started his professional career as a dancer for the DAMA, a traditional African dance company. In 1993, he founded his own Burkina Faso-based troupe, Kongo Ba Téria, which fuses traditional African dances with western contemporary dance and continues to tour internationally. Solo has danced with world-renowned contemporary African dance company Salia ni Seydou, worked with French choreographers Elsa Wolliaston and Mathilde Monnier, and performed with the National Ballet of Burkina. He and Kongo Ba Téria are featured in the widely-screened documentary Movement (R)evolution Africa which documents the continent’s emergent experimental dance scene. Since moving to New York City in 2009, Badolo has created a number of solo and small ensemble projects commissioned and presented by Danspace, New York Live Arts, Dance New Amsterdam, Harlem Stage, the 92nd Street Y, the Museum of Art & Design, River to River Festival (R2R), and BAM. He has collaborated with Nora Chipaumire, Ralph Lemon, Reggie Wilson, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar of Urban Bush Women. His ongoing research in Africa has been supported by The Suitcase Fund of New York Live Arts. Mr. Badolo was nominated for a 2011 Bessie Award (New York Dance & Performance Award) as Outstanding Emerging Choreographer and in 2012, received the Juried Bessie Award (from jurists Lar Lubovitch, Yvonne Rainer and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar). In 2015, his dance for two dancers and one percussionist, Yimbégré, was recognized with a Bessie Award for Outstanding Production. Solo is the recipient of Wesleyan University’s 2014 Mariam McGlone Emerging Choreographer Award and the 2015 Harkness Foundation Dance Residency at BAM Fisher. He graduated from Bennington College with an MFA in June 2013. Since that time, he has been a guest instructor at The New School, Bennington College, Williams College, and Bard College. He has also taught traditional and contemporary forms to children and teens in Burkina Faso.
Maia Claire Garrison is a former member of the critically acclaimed dance company, Urban Bush Women. She currently resides in South Orange, New Jersey and is the Artistic Director of Reel.Dance.Music and Sequence of Leaps. She was raised amidst two vibrant artist communities in both New York City and Rome, Italy. Her father, world renowned Jazz bassist, is the late Jimmy Garrison. Her mother, Roberta Escamilla Garrison, is a prominent Italy-based choreographer and founder of the dance department at St. Stephen’s School in Rome. Maia’s physical education started in childhood competing as a gymnast. At age 10, she was discovered by The Big Apple Circus, with whom she toured as a child acrobat for two years. As a teen, she transitioned from gymnastics to dance initially studying with her mother and Andé Peck. She later joined her first professional dance troupe, Afro-Danza, directed by Bob Curtis. As an undergraduate, she attended Sarah Lawrence College where she furthered her dance education with Rose Anne Thom, Pat Catterson, Viola Farber, and Phyllis Lamhut. In addition to studying ballet and contemporary on campus, she made frequent trips to New York City to study a mixed bag of African-derived dance forms. Between 1995 and 2001, with a desire to hone her skills as a choreographer, she directed M’Zawa Danz and was awarded three consecutive grants from the New York Foundation to the Arts. Along with some of her contemporaries, she played a key role in popularizing the synthesis of modern dance with traditional West African idioms. Presently, she works collaboratively with multi-media artist, Carlos Funn, to create short films integrating imagery, song and choreography.
Erin Jennings is a professional dancer and dance educator. She loves teaching children and adults and has taught dance, yoga and fitness in private studios and programs as well as in the public school system. Erin has performed professionally in many dance, theater and film productions in NYC and throughout the US and Europe, performing such roles as Kristine in the tour of A Chorus Line, Graziella in West Side Story at Teatro ala Scala and Louise in Westchester Broadway’s Carousel. Hailing from Maryland, Erin first tasted modern dance with Pam Marcin/GT Dance and then at Bucknell University with Shellie Cash and Danna Frangione and at Dance Place in DC. Erin relocated to NYC, where she continued dance studies at many studios and as an ensemble member on scholarship at Steps. Erin performed with companies such as Pilobolus, and those led by Olsi Gjeci (Sublime/Trisha Brown DC), Germaul Barnes (ViewsicEx/Bill T Jones), Valerie Green & Caron Eule(CEule Dance). She is honored to also have performed choreography of Alvin Ailey, Abel Costa, Doris Humphrey, Gaspard Louis, & Alwin Nikolais among others. She earned her masters degree from NYU, where she assistant-taught Musical theater and Pilates. Erin’s choreography has been presented & positively mentioned in NYC at the World Financial Center, John Jay College, DTW (Live Arts) and various showcases. Erin can now be found dancing in the Hudson Valley, where she lives with her husband, two children, bunnies and Schnoodle pup. With Marie Carstens, Erin co-directs Putnam County Dance Project, which has presented dance performances in the Hudson Valley at Arts on the Lake, Studio Around the Corner and Dancing Dialogue in Cold Spring. Erin holds a B.A. psychology degree from Bucknell University and is a member of Actor’s Equity Association and NDEO.
Jessie Levey founded and directs Barefoot Dance Center where she teaches both yoga and dance classes to all ages. She developed curriculum which focuses on dance education through the lenses of somatic understanding, creativity and personal identity. Jessie has the privilege of working with young dancers which allows her to emphasize healthy patterning from the beginning of their dance experiences. By encouraging her students to deepen their understanding of and trust in their unique bodies, dance and yoga practitioners gain greater body-mind connectivity and a sense of agency. Through her work at Barefoot, Jessie developed a syllabus which aims to empower girls through the platform of dance, which you may read about here. In addition to teaching classes at Barefoot, she also directs Choreolab Performance Workshop and Barefoot Dance Company, and brings dance into surrounding schools and senior centers as a dance artist-in-residence.
Jessie is a contemporary post-modern dancer and has been teaching for thirty years. Her training is grounded in Cunningham, Limón and Alexander techniques, as well as yoga and improvisation. In addition to making her own work, she has performed with choreographers, Nadra Assaf, Jill Ann Schwartz, Dani Nikas, Risa Jaroslow, and Mel Wong among others throughout the New York Metropolitan area, Wisconsin, Lebanon, and the Hudson Valley.
In 2021, Jessie was honored to receive the Outstanding Dance Educator Award from New York State Dance Education Association. She was also the recipient of the 2015-17 Jubilation Foundation Fellowship for excellence in teaching, and holds an MFA in Dance from The Peck School of the Arts at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is married, has two grown children and is certified as both a childbirth educator and yoga instructor. She is also a Registered Somatic Dance Educator and member of National Dance Education Organization where she attends annual conferences to both present and participate. In addition, Jessie leads workshops to classroom teachers and dance educators nationally and internationally through New York State Association of Independent Schools, Early Childhood Institute Hudson River Valley, and the International Dance Day Festival Lebanon, among others.
Harriett Meyer is a dancer, dance-maker, and educator based in Kingston, NY. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Bard College in 2012, and her Master of Arts in Teaching from the same in 2016. She has performed and shown work at Danspace, Turtle Bay Music School, the Bowery Poetry Club, Dixon Place, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, and the Galapagos Arts Space in New York City, at the Peace School in Ludhiana, India, and at Bard College and Bennington College. Now immersed in literacy education, Harriett is continuing to explore dance and pedagogy simultaneously.
Leslie Partridge Sachs, born and raised on Manhattan’s upper west side, is now a recent resident of Beacon NY. Leslie has spent the majority of her life as a dance artist, teacher, performer and choreographer in New York City. Her training and performance began with New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theater. With her foundations in classical movement she entered
the contemporary dance world through study of a wide variety of modern dance techniques. She is an alumna of the High School of Performing Arts, Bard College and the University of Washington, the latter where she received her MFA in dance. Leslie has held positions at Purchase College Conservatory for Dance, Balettakademien in Stockholm, University of Massachusetts, Dance Space Center in NYC, and is currently on the dance faculty at Vassar College. Her work has been presented in venues across the US and Europe. She is married to Sun Sachs and has two daughters, 6 cats and 2 dogs.
Sarah Billings Wheeler is a dancer, dance educator and choreographer who recently moved to the Poughkeepsie region from Queens, New York. She holds a MFA in dance from Saint Mary’s College of California, a MA in dance education from New York University and worked for over a decade as a licensed dance educator in the New York City public schools. Her choreographic work has been presented at the Process Dance Festival, Moraga, CA, Lincoln Theater, Yountville, CA, the Harlem Arts Festival, NYC and under the High Line in NYC. With a career chapter as a dancesport professional, Sarah Billings and her partner Richard Jones taught, competed and performed in the International Latin division nationally and internationally. Sarah is currently working toward her Master Practitioner certification with the Language of Dance USA and enjoys integrating motif concepts into her teaching practice. She continues to appreciate how dance fosters social connections and, as co-founder of Guerrilla Dance Collective, looks for ways to make dance performances happen in unexpected places.
Past faculty members, teaching artists, and guest choreographers include:
Eva Astor, Pam and Mimo Camara, Hannah Fox, Charlotte Gibbons, Zvi Gotheiner, Betty Skeen Gorinson, Hillary Jackson, Nina Jerka, Nancy Judson, Yoav Kaddar, Zoë Lefkowitz, Isabel Levey-Swain, Julie Ludwick, Tara Lorenzen, Maureen Mansfield, Kathy McDonald, Mei-Yin Ng, Rupa Parikh, John Zullo.