NEFA's Creative City Announces PROJECT LISTEN

NEFA's Creative City Announces PROJECT LISTENThe New England Foundation for the Arts Creative City program announces Project Listen, a series of outdoor public pop-up movement performances by the Deaf community, choreographed by Wendy Jehlen of Anikaya Dance Theater. The performances, free and open to the public, will take place hourly on Saturday, May 5, 2018, throughout Boston: Park Street Station 12noon Chinatown Gate 1pm, City Hall Plaza 2pm, Museum Wharf 3pm, Copley Square 4pm.

A rehearsal of deaf performers for Project LIsten, led by Wendy Jehlen.
Project Listen pop-up performance series marks the culmination of movement workshops taught by Deaf movement artist John Ying, ANIKAYA director Wendy Jehlen, and guest artist Dakei from Tokyo, Japan, and will feature six Deaf performers. "I have been part of the Deaf community since I was a teenager," shares Jehlen, "and Deaf theater and poetry have always been part of my practice as a choreographer and performer." "The performance is non-verbal," shares lead artist and choreographer Wendy Jehlen, "performed by members of the Deaf movement performers living in Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island. Participants have been meeting since last summer and is part of the development of a new Deaf dance theater called Show of Hands Theater Company, taking advantage of elements of Deaf culture to create a new way of communicating in movement."

"We are placing the Deaf experience at center," Jehlen continues, "rather than pulling them into our arbitrary center. In the Deaf community, we talk about 'Deaf gain' rather than 'Hearing impairment.' This concept recognizes the benefits of Deaf culture-- including facility with visual communication, facial expression, and most importantly a sense of community and interdependence - in the creation of the performance work. This multi-centered approach to performance and community is the deeper mission of ANIKAYA Dance Theater. ANIKAYA's mission is to break down the perceived boundaries between people, cultures and art forms. ANIKAYA weaves together music, dance and storytelling to create works that pull from the full range of the body's communicative capabilities. ANIKAYA also has an intrinsic commitment to collaborating with Deaf performers, and incorporating aspects of Deaf culture and American Sign Language Poetry into performances. Our focus on placing the marginalized at the center results in cross-cultural works of visual theater that are accessible at an integral level to both Deaf and hearing audiences."

About Wendy Jehlen, Choreographer, and Founder of Anikaya Dance TheaterWendy Jehlen is the artistic director and founder of ANIKAYA Dance Theater. Her career has been marked by international explorations, study and creative collaboration. Her unique approach to choreography incorporates elements of Bharata Natyam, Odissi, Capoeira, Kalaripayattu, West African dance, Butoh, and a wide-range of contemporary movement forms. Her emotionally powerful choreography has been created and performed in the U.S., Canada, Italy, India, Japan, Korea, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Mali and Turkey. She earned her Bachelors in Ritual and Performance from Brown University and her Master of Theological Studies in World Religions from Harvard Divinity School. Her works include Entangling (2015), a duet with Burkinabe choreographer Lacina Coulibaly inspired by Quantum Entanglement; The Deep (2015), a work for 25 dancers created in São Paulo, Brazil; Lilith (2013), a solo on the first woman; The Knocking Within (2012), an evening-length duet on a disintegrating relationship; Forest (2010), a journey through the archetypal forest; He Who Burns (2006), a trio on the figure of Iblis (Satan); Breathing Space (2003), a collaboration with Japanese choreographer Hikari Baba in Tokyo; Crane (2002), based on images from Japanese Buddhist poetry; and Haaaa (2002), inspired by the experience of childbirth. About Community Partner Show of Hands Theater Company SOHTC is Boston's unique Deaf grassroots community theatre company, and we are known for our commitment to nurturing the true 'Deaf theatre' concept.

Further Creative City projects extend into Boston neighborhoods including East Boston, Allston, and more, and feature creative expression of many disciplines including theater, music, dance, visual art, and culinary culture. Programs offer a variety of opportunities for community participation, including performances, workshops, receptions, and more.

Creative City was launched in 2015 by New England Foundation for the Arts with hopes to support individual artists to enliven neighborhoods and engage communities. The grant program has awarded $445,000 to 46 projects in five rounds of applications. In addition, Creative City has also awarded $27,000 to 27 community partners ($1,000/each) to support/collaborate with the individual artist project (more partner applications are in process now). The deadline for the fifth invitation for individual artist applications was September 25, 2017. For grant eligibility and criteria, visit Creative City is made possible by the Barr Foundation with additional funding from the Boston Foundation.

"Artists are important voices in community life, and it's wonderful to recognize the imagination and vision of these creative leaders," said Cathy Edwards, NEFA executive director. "We are proud that Creative City has supported over three dozen projects including public art installations, bilingual theater, murals, urban dance, story-telling, music composition/performance, web television series, and more--that animate neighborhoods including East Boston, South Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Dorchester, Roxbury, Allston, and others."

San San Wong, Barr Foundation's Director of Arts & Creativity, noted that, "Creative City is supporting artists to work directly with communities. Together they are creating platforms for connection, reflection, and conversation on vital topics like immigration, religious tolerance, and gentrification. Having already reached more than half of Boston's neighborhoods, we are excited to see this model replicated in other parts of Boston."

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