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Photo Flash: Ruth Page Center for the Arts Honors Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Robert Battle, & Chicago Dance History Project

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Venetia Stifler, executive and artistic director of the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, on behalf of the 2019 Ruth Page Award Committee, awarded the 2019 Ruth Page Awards to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and its Artistic Director Robert Battle and Chicago Dance History Project and its Artistic and Executive Director Jenai Cutcher. The special event took place Friday, March 8 before the sold-out performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater celebrating its 60th anniversary as a company and the 50th anniversary of performing at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr.

Stifler shared the history of the award and the legacy of Ruth Page with the guests and the audience. "The Ruth Page Awards returning to the historic Auditorium stage after our presentation of the 2014 Ruth Page Awards is a fantastic way of celebrating Ruth Page and the rich history of dance," said Stifler. She then introduced Heather Hartley, the executive director of the 2018 Ruth Page Award recipient See Chicago Dance, formerly Audience Architects.

Hartley presented the award to Jenai Cutcher and Chicago Dance History Project (CDHP) saying, "[CDHP has had] a tremendous impact to the betterment of the Chicago dance field in a short number of years," and spoke of the organizations achievements including "almost 100 in depth interviews with artists from throughout Chicago's history. You can see the list on their website and it represents various genres, time periods, many who are luminaries, and some who are up and coming and emerging into the next generation." Hartley presented the award to Cutcher and said Cutcher, "is involved, fiercely dedicated, shows up for everything and has a warmth about her that is all the more enhanced by her knowledge and love of the art form." Cutcher thanked Stifler, the Ruth Page Awards Committee and all who were there saying that it is an honor to work to preserve and promote Chicago dance. Cutcher spoke of her own history of becoming the executive director of the organization and how she enjoys what she does because of the people she interviews and meets. She then encouraged all to take time to listen to the interviews and learn how the depth of the dance community and how the variety of styles and influences help make Chicago a dominant city in the world of dance.

Stifler then returned to the podium to share a story of how as a young dancer she remembers seeing former Ailey dancer and Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison dance and how witnessing this scene greatly impacted her life as a dance artist. Stifler spoke of the importance of the company and its long-standing connection to Chicago, congratulated them on its 60th anniversary as an organization and their 50th Anniversary of annually performing in Chicago, noting that "we consider you one of our own." She then presented current Artistic Director Robert Battle the 2019 Ruth Page Award by reminding the audience of the unique skills Mr. Battle offered the world of dance and the fact that he is only the third person in 60 years to wear the mantle of artistic director at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, personally selected by Jamison.

Battle accepted the award to great applause from the audience with his first few words, "This is my kind of town." Battle then spoke of how Alvin Ailey and Ruth Page complemented each other with their dedication, their drive and their creativity, saying Page was as much a trendsetter as Ailey and he was honored to be in Chicago to accept the award and to celebrate 50 years of performing in Chicago with the current Ailey engagement.

ABOUT Robert Battle

Robert Battle became artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in July 2011 after being personally selected by Judith Jamison, making him only the third person to head the Company since it was founded in 1958. Battle has a long-standing association with the Ailey organization.

A frequent choreographer and artist in residence at Ailey since 1999, he has set many of his works on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey II, and at The Ailey School. The Company's current repertory includes many of his ballets. In addition to expanding the Ailey repertory with works by artists as diverse as Kyle Abraham, Mauro Bigonzetti, Ronald K. Brown, Rennie Harris, and Paul Taylor, Battle has also instituted the New Directions Choreography Lab to help develop the next generation of choreographers.

Battle's journey to the top of the modern dance world began in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami, Florida. He showed artistic talent early and studied dance at a high school arts magnet program before moving on to Miami's New World School of the Arts, under the direction of Daniel Lewis and Gerri Houlihan, and finally to the dance program at The Juilliard School, under the direction of Benjamin Harkarvy, where he met his mentor, Carolyn Adams. He danced with The Parsons Dance Company from 1994 to 2001, and also set his choreography on that company starting in 1998. Battle then founded his own Battleworks Dance Company, which made its debut in 2002 in Düsseldorf, Germany, as the U.S. representative to the World Dance Alliance's Global Assembly. Battleworks subsequently performed extensively at venues including The Joyce Theater, Dance Theater Workshop, American Dance Festival, and Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.

Battle was honored as one of the "Masters of African-American Choreography" by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2005, and he received the prestigious Statue Award from the Princess Grace Foundation-USA in 2007. He has honorary doctorates from The University of the Arts and Marymount Manhattan College. Battle was named a 2015 Visiting Fellow for The Art of Change, an initiative by the Ford Foundation. He is a sought-after keynote speaker and has addressed a number of high-profile organizations, including the United Nations Leaders Programme and the UNICEF Senior Leadership Development Programme.

ABOUT CHICAGO DANCE HISTORY PROJECT

The Chicago Dance History Project (CDHP) seeks to investigate, preserve and present the oral and corporeal histories of theatrical dance in Chicago and its vicinity. It aims to honor the vast number of national and international dance artists with roots in the city; to surface lesser-known individuals, organizations, and venues that have anchored Chicago's strong local dance community; and to link various collections of historical knowledge and traditions with present and future generations.
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The initial and foundational phase of CDHP involves exploring Chicago dance histories through three primary modes of research: in-depth, on-camera interviews with area dancers, choreographers, educators, advocates, and others associated with the form; recorded panel discussions and other public events that facilitate collaborative explorations of specific historical topics; and establishing partnerships with area institutions and individuals housing dance archives in order to connect disparate threads of knowledge maintained throughout the city.
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These recorded interviews and events, along with various supplemental materials, will serve as a public platform for establishing a body of original and collected research that examines how Chicago has shaped dance - and how, in turn, dance has shaped Chicago - throughout the 20th century and into the present.

ABOUT THE Ruth Page AWARDS

The Ruth Page Award has been given by the Ruth Page Center for the Arts on behalf of the Ruth Page Foundation and the Chicago dance community since 1986. This award, in honor of dance icon, Ruth Page (1899-1991), is a unique opportunity for the Ruth Page Center to acknowledge or help further an individual's or organization's artistic momentum. The award also continues the tradition of honoring those whose contributions to dance share Page's passion, artistry and vision.

Established in Chicago by Ruth Page in 1970, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization committed to the education, promotion and presentation of dance in Chicago. The Center carries forward the mission and vision of its founder, Ruth Page, to be a platform for developing great artists and connecting them with audiences and community. With a focus on dance as a critical art form, its programming ensures that children and dance artists have a place to train, work and perform at the highest level of excellence. The Center also promotes Page's vision of dance as an innovative and accessible art form that fosters artistic excellence and creates a dance destination in Illinois.

The Ruth Page Award honoree is selected through the Ruth Page Award Selection Committee, composed of members from the Chicago dance community, former Ruth Page Award winners and Ruth Page Center for the Arts staff.

Recent Ruth Page Award Recipients:

2018 - Mark Morris Dance Group and Silkroad Ensemble's Layla and Majun and Audience Architects and its founders Carol Fox and Nikki Morrison

2017 - Batsheva Dance Company and Chicago Film Archives
2014 - Diane Rawlinson
2012 - Sid Smith
2011 - Patti Eylar
2010 - Chicago Dancing Festival and its founders: Lar Lubovitch, Jay Franke and David Hero

2009 - Pamela Crutchfield, Bill T. Jones
2008 - Peggy Sutton and The Mayfair Academy
2007 - Gail Kalver, Harriet Ross, Salme H. Steinberg
2006 - Billy Siegenfeld
2005 - Margaret Nelson, Scott Silberstein
2004 - Keith Elliott and Dance For Life
2003 - Dame Libby Komaiko

Photo Credit: Anthony Robert La Penna

Photo Flash: Ruth Page Center for the Arts Honors Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Robert Battle, & Chicago Dance History Project
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Artistic Director and 2019 Ruth Page Award Recipient Robert Battle, The Ruth Page Center for the Arts Director of Marketing & Communications Silvino da Silva and The Ruth Page Center for the Arts Executive and Artistic Director Venetia Stifler

Photo Flash: Ruth Page Center for the Arts Honors Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Robert Battle, & Chicago Dance History Project
The Ruth Page Center for the Arts Director of Marketing & Communications Silvino da Silva, Chicago Dance History Project Executive Director and 2019 Ruth Page Award Recipient Jenai Cutcher, The Ruth Page Center for the Arts Executive and Artistic Director Venetia Stifler and See Chicago Dance Executive Director Heather Hartley,

Photo Flash: Ruth Page Center for the Arts Honors Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Robert Battle, & Chicago Dance History Project
See Chicago Dance Executive Director Heather Hartley, Chicago Dance History Project Executive Director and 2019 Ruth Page Award Recipient Jenai Cutcher, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Artistic Director and 2019 Ruth Page Award Recipient Robert Battle and The Ruth Page Center for the Arts Executive and Artistic Director Venetia Stifler

Photo Flash: Ruth Page Center for the Arts Honors Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Robert Battle, & Chicago Dance History Project
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Artistic Director and 2019 Ruth Page Award Recipient Robert Battle, The Ruth Page Center for the Arts Executive and Artistic Director Venetia Stifler and Ruth Page School of Dance Director Victor Alexander


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