Create Amazing Things Where You Are: Taneisha Duggan’s Vision for Hartford’s Future

The grass isn’t always greener; sometimes, it’s more meaningful to create amazing things where you are.

Many of the artists featured on this blog have either moved to the Greater Hartford area as a transplant or returned after some time away. In this way, Taneisha Duggan’s story is no different. After graduating from the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, Duggan went on to pursue Acting at SUNY Purchase and ended up pivoting to American Girl, where she worked in events and marketing for a decade. She used this opportunity to launch her career as a full-time artist, eventually attaining her Actors’ Equity card at TheaterWorks, where she currently serves as Artistic Producer. It was partly through her experience as a National Arts Strategies Creative Community Fellow where she discovered the importance of home and using local artists and resources to activate spaces on her home turf.

“I believe in you, tell me what you want to do.”

According to Duggan, producing is harnessing and investing in creative energy as much as it is putting together the countless logistical pieces of a puzzle. The first step in creating something amazing right here in Greater Hartford is saying “I believe in you, tell me what you want me to do.” At the same time, she compares her job to running the show at Grand Central Station: “If I’m doing it well, the trains run on time with no delays, no weird snafus…everyone’s having a good time.” Producing is both a visionary and technical effort, not one or the other. Over time, Duggan has noticed a shift in thinking, particularly more recently, in how theatres are seeking talent. Not only is there a deeper interest in engaging artists on a hyperlocal level, but there is also a need to directly connect artists and creatives to funders and donors, and she is curious about how to make those connections. For Duggan, theatre is all about gathering people together around a story, having the same experience at the same time, whether it be on stage and in the audience or through screens. The story, in this case, is emphasizing the importance of quality work by artists in our own backyard.

The past year has been rife with challenges for the artist community – from closed doors to lost revenue, artists and organizations from all over have had to adapt in ways they may have never found imaginable before this point. Duggan and company are proud to have led the way in creating at-home theatre experiences for their audience. Within just a couple months of closing their doors, TheaterWorks announced an entirely virtual 2020-2021 season, including full productions, scripted readings, live conversations, and a podcast. They still hired and brought talent to Hartford as they would for a live production, but they did so under strict safety protocols, establishing “actor pods” to limit interaction outside of work. Behind the scenes, they provided actors with “studio in a box,” a full production toolkit including a computer, mobile phone, backdrops, lighting, and how-to videos to sync up actors from the comfort of their own homes.

Cast photo of “Hooded: or Being Black for Dummies” directed by Duggan at Juilliard

As we are asking questions about the future of theatre in Hartford and beyond, Duggan is unpacking individualistic ideologies; how “legacy trumps all.” Conversations about climate, race, and other front-of-mind societal issues will never change with an individual-forward mindset. This will be at the center of TheaterWorks’ upcoming production of “Walden” in August, their first in-person show since the pandemic shut-down. “Walden” is being developed as an immersive project, with audiences wearing headsets, ambulating around the scene construction; an entire property built on the grounds of Riverfront Recapture reserved specifically for this show. The play is set in a near future where humans are starting to colonize Mars. The protagonist Earthbound couple lives off-the-grid; one partner is an “Earth activist” trying to save the planet and keep it relevant. “Walden” puts forth the question, “how do you want to live?” Ticket sales open to the public on June 19.

Photo still from a Duggan-helmed filming of “Jesus Hopped the A Train” at the Hartt School

Duggan thinks similarly about the city and society at large – how are we leaving this place? Do we have the capacity to think big? She cites “Dirty 30” as one of her favorite projects; a celebration of TheaterWorks’ 30th anniversary in 2016 where the theater collaborated with activation thinktank Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner and artists like Hong Hong and Arien Wilkerson (artists both known for their work in the Hartford area who now live in Houston and Philadelphia, respectively). She envisions a citywide projection mapping, lighting up downtown facades with massive public art.

TheaterWorks’ founder Steve Campo thought of Hartford as the “center of the universe.” Duggan is interested in how the city could use that framework to envision our future. With all the innovation that TheaterWorks and other arts organizations have incorporated into their practice, there is no reason why we can’t bring the world to us in 2021 and beyond.

– Dan Deutsch, Marketing & Communications Manager

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Living in the In-Between: Jasmin Agosto on Curating, Collaborating, and Code-switching

There is no doubt that the experiences we have growing up inform how we see the world and move through space, even beyond our formative years into adulthood.

Jasmin Agosto, a Boston-born, queer Puerto Rican artist and scholar, knows quite a lot about possessing multiple identities and living them fully. Agosto and her family experienced a culture shock of sorts, moving from Boston to West Hartford at a young age. With one parent at the Hartford Seminary and another at Maria Sanchez Elementary School, Agosto and her brother became accustomed to inhabiting multiple spaces. They looked around and saw a community vastly different from that of which they grew up with but found their homes away from home in places like their predominantly Spanish-speaking church.

“In high school, I was fearless.”

Agosto quickly dove into the local scene at a young age. While studying at the Greater Hartford Academy for the Arts, she was hired as a summer creative writing instructor at Milner School, and she found another home in the community of the North End; they took her in and gave her even more youth education and engagement opportunities. She discovered that she had many resources at her disposal: audiences, a space (a benefit of having a parent employee), and raw talent. By the age of 15, she was putting on “collectivist events;” all-ages potluck open mics in Hartford. In her senior year of high school, she attended the first annual Trinity International Hip-Hop Festival and was ignited. As an undergrad at Trinity, she gained even more boots-on-the-ground experience as an event organizer: budgeting, booking artists, promotion, and more. After getting a crash course in nonprofits as the executive assistant at Sankofa Kuumba, Agosto took a temporary step back from Hartford as she entered graduate studies at NYU Gallatin School for Individualized Study. It was here that she discovered curating and organizing are completely different experiences when funded, and you have a team of staff and colleagues collaborating together. However, graduate school was a predominantly white space, and she found herself craving Hartford, her home. it is from these often-binary experiences that she has adopted a unique worldview.

photography: Quiana Grant

An epiphanic moment came through her involvement with Be A Boss, a collaboration of women of color led by Trudi Lebron, exploring the question “how do we want to live our own lives?” Agosto’s answer: Sageseeker Productions. This was a culmination of years of curating, organizing, and community-building, synthesizing with her vision of cooperative economics. Perhaps the most well-known event to come out of this company has been La Sala Femme, an evening of performances featuring Black femmes, womxn of color, non-binary and queer artists of color. Agosto has been intentional over the years to incorporate a spiritual aspect to her events; La Sala Femme emphasizes the significance of rituals that connect with those who are no longer with us. These libations along with the performances specifically celebrate the lives of Black and Brown womxn and queer folks of color, and part of what Agosto wants participants to take away is that these folks’ stories live through us as we live through them.

design: Sageseeker Productions

Agosto discovered her voice, identity and purpose through a myriad of vastly different experiences and continues to do so today. She has developed a wealth of knowledge and skill sets to not just bring to different environments, but also to mentor future artists and creatives. Since graduating from Trinity, Agosto has stayed on as a Hip-Hop Festival community partner through Sageseeker Productions, helping student organizers develop their own identities as producers. Her worldview as a code-switcher has enabled her to occupy multiple spaces. As curator, she sees herself as an amplifier for marginalized voices and aims to use her identities as leverage to not only strengthen connections through collaboration, but also between these creative communities and those of funders and institutions. Having been on both sides — school and church, nonprofits and businesses, community and institutions, and in a way, life and death – Agosto is a medium of sorts, helping to bridge gaps. When asked about the world we’re living in now, the new in-between of gathering in the real world and behind screens, she echoed much of what’s been said: “we’re going to be able to be in physical space but it’s going to take time.”

The 15th Annual Trinity International Hip-Hop Festival takes place this weekend, April 9-11. Read on and register here.

– Dan Deutsch, Marketing & Communications Manager

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The Restless Artist: Diana Aldrete on Academia and Endless Creativity

How many readers grew up with boundless energy? Whether it’s playing in a park, taking after school music lessons or cooking with a parent, creativity is instilled within us at an early age.

This is how Diana Aldrete remembers growing up. She was never bored; much of her time was spent drawing, cooking, writing, singing, and more. As a professor of Hispanic Studies at Trinity College, Aldrete has gradually incorporated creativity into her practice – not just in lesson planning, but in pedagogy as well. Hispanic Studies might not be the first class you’d expect to make space for artistic creativity. However, Aldrete asks her students about their personal creative pursuits, and it surprises them that she wants to know their interests outside of the classroom. Going above and beyond in this way has helped her form stronger connections with her students, and some of these conversations have led them to pursue their creativity even further.

“Being attentive…that’s what artists do.”

In one instance, Aldrete was teaching a course on Immigration, and let the students choose whether to write a traditional research paper or create something unconventional to pair with their research. For example, a student majoring in neuroscience chose to paint. After putting it up for sale, they donated all of the proceeds to help immigrant families in need. In an effort to maintain this connection with her students in the pandemic, Aldrete led a virtual art session where she learned that one of her students was going to pursue art therapy for a career. Arts and academia have a mutually beneficial relationship. In an interview for Hartford Public Library’s “Big Read,” asked how academia has helped her in the arts, Aldrete cited the skill of time management: When you’re young, it is much easier to devote energy to a creative flow when inspiration hits; as an adult, it becomes more and more important to structure one’s creative flow to break up the day.

Aldrete has been based in Hartford for most of the last 15 years, and one of her favorite aspects of the local arts scene is the geographic and thematic proximity of our region’s various arts institutions and cultural offerings. The reader may remember us promoting a multi-week virtual art workshop Aldrete ran with LGA Blog alum Rebecca Maloney last summer. Guess where they met? La Sala Femme, a curated evening of performances featuring Black femmes, womxn of color, non-binary and queer artists of color, produced by Hartford’s own Jasmin Agosto and her company, SageSeeker Productions. Aldrete and Maloney were sitting next to one another and struck up conversation. As things tend to happen in our local arts scene, this conversation between kindred spirits led to the aforementioned collaboration and a lasting friendship.

As both an artist and educator, Aldrete has felt the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in multiple ways. If you had a chance to view Zulynette’s “A Little Bit of Death,” you may have seen Aldrete’s segment “Return to Self,” a combination of bilingual singing and storytelling, accompanying herself on electric guitar. She hadn’t seen her artistic pursuits as much more than a hobby, but the pandemic served as a catalyst for her to think of art as part of her identity. The same catalyst coincided with a massive change at Trinity College, where the student community has been advocating for more faculty of color, both on the current roster and that of the future. Aldrete knew she could address this change in her curriculum, too. She has since started incorporating art history into her classes on Latin American femicide, connecting students to lesser known but significant contemporary figures, beyond Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. As someone who received a full scholarship to art school and almost went to culinary school before delving into the world of academia, Aldrete serves as a shining example of how the arts and education work in tandem with one another.

– Dan Deutsch, Marketing & Communications Manager

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Creating Our Future: Arts Council Launches Survey for Community Input

Make your voice heard.

For 50 years, we’ve used the power of the arts to improve lives and transform communities. Artists and arts organizations across disciplines have been able to create, collaborate, and make an impact on thousands of people through our granting programs and community events.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused us to shift our focus to emergency funding and arts sector rehabilitation, something we couldn’t have done without the help of our corporate and community partners, generous donors, and most importantly: you.

The Arts Council has recently embarked on a new Strategic Planning process, with the help of Leading Culture Solutions. We are kicking off the planning process with a survey to gather input on how we can best serve the community in the near future and beyond. The results of this survey will be used to help shape our direction forward in terms of what, who, and how we fund the arts and partner in the community.

Your voice matters and we hope you will consider sharing your opinion. All data collected will be anonymous and confidential. Please complete this survey by March 2nd.

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Speed, Scale, and Synchronicity: Corey Pane and his Limitless Canvas

Corey Pane has certainly left a mark on the city of Hartford, and a signature one at that.

His mural work can be seen on buildings across downtown and beyond, far beyond city lines. Just in the past couple of years, Pane has traveled Boston, Chicago, and the United Kingdom for work. He’s created art for local bands such as West End Blend and Among the Acres, and a Juice Wrld album cover that’s been seen and loved by millions. Our region has its fair share of talented visual artists, and Pane is certainly helping put Hartford on the map.

Webster Bank, Bristol, CT

A graduate of the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford, Pane had his beginning in the capital city, and those roots helped him establish strong connections which he continues to build upon today. Working with kids is his favorite way to collaborate; giving youth different opportunities and outlets to change their viewpoint is a significant part of his community work. He was inspired by this youthful energy when approached to paint the side of Webster Bank on Main Street in Bristol. According to Pane, they gave him complete artistic freedom, which resulted in a bright and youthful mural, looking towards the future.

Pane with his mural of Nipsey Hussle at Heaven Skatepark, Hartford, CT

He’s always been interested in murals and public art, but many of his first commissions came from a connection with the NFL. One of his friends asked him to paint cleats for his inaugural season, and it blew up from there. To this day, he’s been painting cleats for athletes of all kinds. He’s tried a multitude of mediums and materials throughout his career, for the purpose of building a repertoire, even if it’s something he doesn’t like. Whether he’s working on a pair of cleats or a multi-story building, he treats it all like a blank canvas. He may not know the material of this canvas in advance, but he applies the same basic skills of composition and technique that he learned in school.

If you’ve never seen him working, that may have something to do with the speed at which he works; Pane is sought after for his quick turnaround, which he attributes to his passion for the work. This may be why he’s able to work on so many different projects with differing scales at once. As mentioned above, music-related artwork represents a large portion of Pane’s commissions. He is a musician himself, so one can imagine that this connection plays a large role in his work. Whenever he takes on a musical client, he listens to their music as preparation, and internalizes their lyrics to use as inspiration for the artwork – whether it be artwork for a single, entire album, or show poster – no matter the genre. Pane views this work as a conversation between himself and his clients. A number of these conversations have resulted in synchronicity; the artist’s musical vision matching up with how he would have visually interpreted the work had there been no prior communication. At other times, his clients may not have a full idea coming into this conversation, and his work may inspire change for their overall vision.

While many of us are waiting until what this year brings, Pane is already planning some large mural work for a multi-story building in Hartford – location TBA. “That’s the kind of scale I’m most excited about.”

(All photography and artwork courtesy of Corey Pane)

– Dan Deutsch, Marketing & Communications Manager

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GHAC + Covid-19

Artists, educators, facilitators, entrepreneurs, communicators, administrators, change-makers – we’re in this together. 

⁠We’re doing all that we can to gather support for the capital region’s arts and culture sector and continue to be a resource for artists and organizations. We will be regularly updating this page with links for artists, organizations, and families looking for resources.

For grantees with approved projects and funding that experience delays or cancellations due to COVID-19, please contact the Greater Hartford Arts Council directly at grants@letsgoarts.org.
Here is an ongoing list of resources for artists and national information regarding preparation and prevention.
CDC – Centers for Disease Control + Prevention
WHO – World Health Organization
Crowdfunded list of resources for freelance artists
National resource for artists and arts organizations specializing in advocacy, research, and connection
National cultural philanthropic organization
Grassroots community organizer with a focus on social justice
Artist-funded philanthropic organization
Emergency preparedness service for arts organizations
National philanthropic organization with a focus on music
Federal resource for local and national arts organizations
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (CT)
Support for self-employed workers
Artist-founded design agency aligned with social causes
Supporting sustainable careers for craft artists

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Making the Band: The New Mosaic

A question for former choir kids: Were you ever singled out for being “overactive” in class? It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, to hear that singer-songwriter, bandleader and composer Erica T. Bryan was known to dance throughout her own choir class in grade school. Yet instead of channeling her boundless creative energy into marching band or other creative pursuits at the time, she took it on as a lifelong passion. She promptly said goodbye to her choir days after being called out and took to studying jazz with educators such as Jeff Fuller in high school and Noah Baerman at Wesleyan’s Center for Creative Youth. She found her way into other genres that allowed her to groove while singing, which has become a signature part of her performance.

“Funk and jazz are different conversations in the same room.”

Bryan met bassist Tom Sullivan as they joined Hartford’s own West End Blend – back then, it was a roaming collective of 14 undergraduate musicians at The Hartt School of Music, with Bryan taking the lead vocalist/emcee role in emulation of her idol, Chaka Khan. As the band’s audiences and opportunities got bigger, the group slimmed down to a core of eight with a growing national repertoire of venues. It took a while for the idea of representing Hartford on a national scale to sink in. When conversing with audiences, they would get the reaction “Hartford? Really?” Yes, Hartford, really! The culture shock was mutual. It was on tour that Bryan learned the invaluable lesson of knowing your audience.

After a few years of gigging and touring, Bryan also knew what she’d want as a bandleader; she had been feeling the desire to branch out to create a sound and a vibe that was more her own. In 2018, she recruited hip-hop drummer Dwayne Keith, jazz keyboardist Michael Carabello, and Sullivan (by then a frequent collaborator and significant other) to create The New Mosaic – a culmination of different styles influenced by each other, but creating a bigger picture. As a frontwoman, Bryan had never wanted to be a stereotype – a singer who doesn’t contribute more than their primary talent. She has used her strong background in music theory to maintain equal footing with her bandmates in all of her projects. In this process, her band isn’t simply interpreting Bryan’s lyrics and melodies – it is a true collaboration through and through.

All of her artistic projects are taking things carefully, as her two larger groups continue to maintain and build their audiences virtually. Last year, West End Blend was signed to Colorado-based talent agency Madison House. The New Mosaic has been steadily building a local and regional fan-base with their smaller, yet just-as-full neo-soul sound. Right now though, the groups are trying to make the best of this “weirdly indefinite” time. Even though she’s disappointed about the lack of gigs, Bryan is grateful for the opportunity to breathe, and is focusing on creating and publishing art on her own time.

The New Mosaic (L to R): Tom Sullivan, Erica Bryan, Michael Carabello, Dwayne Keith

(photography: Denis Semenyaka)

– Dan Deutsch, Marketing & Communications Manager

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Building Hope from the Ground Up: Local Artist Joins Linked4Life to Break Silence around Mental Health

How do you find hope in challenging times? Alyssa Haley, owner of Born & Bred Studio in Hartford found a way to build it with her own hands.

Haley also constructed this bottlecap sign for Bear’s Smokehouse in New Haven prior to its grand opening.

Earlier this fall, Cheryl Antoncic of Bear’s Restaurant Group worked with the Jordan Porco Foundation to develop Linked 4 Life, a new initiative that aims to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and suicide prevention. Cheryl’s vision was to link together 11,000 carabiners as a public art installation as a symbol that we are all linked together, and it is OK to ask for help. The installation would also set a world record. However, Cheryl was looking for a local artist to put it together; that is where Haley came in.

Some of the best ideas start small, like a napkin drawing – and that is exactly what happened here. Haley knew that the sculpture’s foundation needed to be solid, yet lightweight to help with portability. Seeing as her whole family are crafters and/or tradespeople, she is no stranger to working with metal and other materials left as refuse. After her father connected her to Ironworkers Local 15, she started working with apprentices Sam Cook and Parker Maulucci on a 3D version of her drawing using donated scrap metal, which is a sculpture of “HOPE,” done in the style of Robert Indiana’s “LOVE” sculptures, seen in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Last week, the team finished sanding the 7’ x 7’ x 3’ frame, and had a chance to reflect on the work they had done. Ironworkers, construction workers, and other tradespeople don’t usually get to see much of the finished product, as they work on our infrastructure systems. Yet with a work of art, they marveled at the chance to create something that would make a different kind of impact.

The structure itself differs from its inspiration in a significant way; it is a frame rather than block letters. This symbol of hope is represented by the idea of community coming together around one idea, and that is breaking the silence and stigma surrounding mental health. Haley and the Linked 4 Life team is using art to bring us together, emphasizing that we are all struggling and that everyone’s individual experience is different. While collaboration is something that happens constantly both in front of our eyes and behind the scenes, there is a deeper need this year to come together for a larger purpose. Alyssa and her team were able to transform a napkin drawing into a record-breaking public art installation within a matter of weeks in a project that doesn’t just raise awareness for a cause, but also honors the often overlooked yet crucial work of essential workers.

On Saturday, October 10, Linked 4 Life will celebrate a temporary installation at Yard Goats Stadium before it is permanently placed elsewhere in downtown Hartford, and teams from around the state have been collaborating on selling the branded carabiners which Haley will assemble over the following weeks. Carabiners ($3 each) are being sold at all Bear’s Restaurant Group locations, as well as through online donations, and all proceeds go towards the Jordan Porco Foundation. As of writing, half of clips made have been sold. Visit linkedforlife.org learn more.

– Dan Deutsch, Marketing & Communications Manager

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Local Violinist Inspires Hope in Light of Global Pandemic

“Feel the fire in your belly.”

Those of us lucky to have had at least one peer, teacher, or colleague make a profound impact on the rest of our lives know what it’s like to hear that phrase. If you pursued an art form to any degree outside of the classroom, you’ve heard something like this before. Whether it inspired you to keep going or choose another path is a different story. Dr. Gary Capozziello is the epitome of the former.

photography: Ruth Sovronsky

Capozziello, a self-proclaimed “product of the Fairfield public school music programs,” initially gravitated towards the drums. However, like many elementary school music students, he was given an instrument he would end up either reviling or embracing: the violin. He had already started learning the Suzuki method on his own when he started tutelage under Yuval Waldman and Deborah Graser, whom Capozziello calls his “musical mother.” The quote at the top of this article can be attributed to renowned violinist Isaac Stern, who Capozziello had the honor of playing for in a masterclass in high school. Seeing as this time period is pivotal for any teenager, Capozziello had already accrued guitars and amplifiers as a second musical interest, but with his teachers’ influence in his mind and Stern’s words in his heart, he sold them all to pursue violin in New York.

photography: Ruth Sovronsky

His resume is embellished with positions, guest spots, and pedagogy all around the world, but he calls Connecticut his home. He has been in the Northeast for the better part of a decade, but had to leave New York after coming down with a case of COVID-19 in May. Not only did he deal with the disease for at least a month, but he’s also a high risk patient. Now, he feels better than ever after seeing much success with his doctor, who was able to address Capozziello’s symptoms and chronic illness all at once. Although he was reluctant to make his story public at first, he has seen an overwhelming amount of support, in part from the Greater Hartford arts community.

In July, Capozziello started posting short solo violin recital clips in hopes of raising money for fellow musicians affected by COVID-19. At the time of writing this post, he has raised almost $4,000 for an individual artist relief fund with the Arts Council, with the goal of raising $10,000 by the end of the month. In addition to a feature in the Hartford Courant, Capozziello earned a primetime spot on WTNH in an interview with Ann Nyberg, a surefire way to spread the word. Immediately after the clip aired, other musicians started coming out of the woodwork asking him for advice and sharing their stories. He’s been able to lend an ear and share his perspective, an experience he’s found immensely rewarding.

“I love sharing something that brings magic into people’s lives.”

He wants to “use music to do good in a time when we need to look out for each other,” and he’s looking for more ways to spread love, compassion, and kindness through music. Creating the fundraiser inspired a sense of purpose, and he’s been able to give hope to others who are dealing with the disease themselves.

photography: Carol Gimbel

Capozziello’s fundraiser ends October 4th, when he will perform a full-length solo violin recital in culmination of several weeks’ worth of shorter clips. Tune in to his Facebook page or visit his fundraiser page to contribute.

– Dan Deutsch, Marketing & Communications Manager

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Keeping It Moving: How Savana Jones Becomes One With the Music

“I embody multiple styles…I move with what’s given to me.”

Take one look at Savana Jones’ resume and you’ll see that she’s done it all – and if you see a gap, she’ll seize any opportunity to take on a new challenge. Having grown up listening to pop, doo-wop and R&B, the leap to ballet and contemporary wasn’t as far as one might think. A young Jones watched in awe as ballerinas close to her age glided across the screen in White Christmas, and asked her mother, “how do I do that?” It wasn’t long before Jones, already a student at the Artists Collective, was dancing with Hartford City Ballet, which exposed her to the world of dance through programs that usually offered lessons in multiple types.

photography: Mike Marques

A pivotal point in Jones’ dancing career was in 2012, when she decided to take on dance professionally. Darlene Brandon hired Jones as the Assistant Choreographer for Mapeach ProductionsThe Wiz, and it was from there that Jones’ dance circle grew exponentially. Over the years, she’s worked with Anne Cubberly of Night Fall, XY Eli Blues Band, Ruth Lewis and Dimensional Dance, and Ballet Theatre Company. While inspired by the classics – Lena Horne, Alvin Ailey, and more – her true inspirations are people she’s been able to share time with. These artists come from multiple disciplines, which highlights her multifaceted background: ballet, ballroom, jazz, hip-hop, samba, Bollywood, and traditional dances from China, Trinidad, Barbados, and Jamaica.

In addition to the never-ending love and encouragement from her mother, Jones’ flexible homecare job has enabled her to pursue all of these different artistic ventures, including featured spots with Ed Fast and Conga Bop at the Iridium in New York City last year. Jones met Fast in a typical fashion for Hartford artists: at a gig. During pre-COVID times, Jones constantly sought out live music. One night after a gig of her own, she walked into La Casona as Conga Bop was finishing their last tune. She serendipitously met Fast through a friend, and the conversation was brief: “You dance?”

photography: Mike Marques

“I’m in love with who I am and excited about where I’m going.”

With the downsizing of live arts events to participate in and attend, Jones has found the time to use dance to its fullest extent. She’s used this newfound time to keep in shape, increase flexibility, work on strength and conditioning, and meditate through movement. When she’s “focused on becoming one with the music, everything else goes away.” She’s adapted to the transition from in-person teaching to virtual lessons, and is actively expanding her business practices to be more flexible to her students’ needs.

Jones’ love of live music isn’t connected solely to her active dance career. Growing up, she loved all kinds of instruments, particularly strings, percussion, and the piano; she’s always wanted to play acoustic guitar. Recently, she’s been wanting to take up the bass guitar. When we’re all able to gather together again to celebrate our local arts scene, take a close look at the rhythm section of the band – you may see a hidden dancer.

– Dan Deutsch, Marketing & Communications Manager

photography: Edward LaRose
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