Since 1980 Joanna has been creating work that uses natural, architectural and cultural environments as points of departure for movement exploration and narrative. Her stages have included grain terminals, a clock tower, the pope’s palace, military forts, and a mile of urban neighborhood streets in the South Bronx. Her work has been commissioned by many arts institutions, including Dancing in the Streets, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Walker Arts Center, the Exploratorium Museum, the National Black Arts Festival, and Festival d'Avignon. She has also been honored with the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, the United States Artist Fellowship, and a New York Bessie Award. Haigood is also a recipient of the esteemed Doris Duke Artist Award. Joanna has had the privilege to mentor many extraordinary young artists internationally at the National École des Arts du Cirque in France, the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in England, Spelman College, the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University, the San Francisco Circus Center and at Zaccho Studio.
Anthony Brown has played a seminal role in contemporary California creative music from his pioneering work with the Asian American jazz movement in the early 1980s to his current leadership of the GRAMMY nominated Asian American Orchestra. Under his direction, the Orchestra has recorded six critically acclaimed CDs, including homages to American composers Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, George Gershwin and John Coltrane. His composition Rhymes (For Children) served as the theme music for KQED's Pacific Time, a Public Radio International syndicated weekly newsmagazine.
Dr. Brown holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in music (Ethnomusicology) from the University of California, Berkeley, as well as a Master of Music from Rutgers University, and is the recipient of numerous grants and commissions from organizations such as Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, Arts International, and Asian Heritage Council. A Smithsonian Associate Scholar, Guggenheim and Ford Fellow, Dr. Brown has served as Curator of American Musical Culture at the Smithsonian Institution and as a Visiting Professor of Music at the University of California, Berkeley.
Associate Director for The View from Here 2017
Jeff Raz has directed dozens of circus, puppet, and theater productions (The Bright River with Traveling Jewish Theater, Snake in the Basement with Lunitique Fantastique, Singing for Freedom with The Rose Ensemble) and performed nationally and internationally for decades, starring in circuses (Cirque du Soleil, Pickle Family Circus, and more) and plays, including Comedy of Errors on Broadway. He is a graduate of Dell’Arte International, has written 17 plays and recently launched his first book, “The Secret Life of Clowns” at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Jeff cofounded Vaudeville Nouveau in 1982, the S.F. New Vaudeville Festival in 1985, the Clown Conservatory in 2000 and the Medical Clown Project in 2010. He continues to direct, write, perform, and teach as well as work globally as a communications consultant.
Wayne Campbell has provided scenic design, props and aerial rigging for Zaccho Dance Theatre since 1998, participating in such projects as Invisible Wings, (1998) at Jacobs’ Pillow; Departure and Arrival (2007) at San Francisco International Airport; Dances around the House (2005), at the San Francisco Exploratorium; Ghost Architecture (2004) at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and Al Pozzo Di Sogno (2011) at Oliver Ranch among many others. He spends most of his time in his studio in West Marin making furniture and art.
Allen Willner (Lighting Designer) is an award winning lighting designer for theater, dance and music. Awards and nominations include: 3 Isadora Duncan Dance Awards for the lighting design of inkBoat’s “Line Between”, “Heaven’s Radio” and Deborah Slater's " Private Life". Nominations for Isadora Duncan Dance Awards for the Visual Designs of Erika Chong Shuch’s “51802” and inkBoat’s “Cockroach”. 2013 TBA Award Lighting Design Nomination for Theater of Yugen's "This Lingering Life". Bay Area Critics Circle Lighting Design Nomination for The Shotgun Players "Eurydice" and “God’s Ear", 2012 Broadway World Lighting and Set Design Nomination for Symmetry Theater’s “Patience Worth”. Lighting Artists in Dance Awards for inkBoat’s “Line Between” , Erika Chong Shuch’s “Sitting in a Circle”, Laura Arrington and Jesse Hewitt’s “Adult." And Scott Wells, Amy Seiwert and Shinichi Iova-Koga's "Take this Dance and Shove it!".
Sean Riley is a master rigger, engineering enthusiast and set designer with an expertise in suspension and load transfer involving large masses and difficult access. He has risen to the height of his field through creating functional and architecturally sound installations. Riley is the founder and principal rigging designer for Gravity Design Inc., a company based in San Francisco, CA, that provides innovative rigging and force management solutions for a wide variety of clients all over the world — from circus acts to industrial installations. He is always hands-on (welding, constructing, wiring), and though he is no stranger to high-risk responsibility, he has a flawless safety record. His passion for mechanics is matched only by his passion for extreme adventure. He drives heavy machinery, jumps off bridges, rock climbs and is a back-country solo survivalist. Riley studied theatre arts at University of California Santa Cruz and has taught college-level theatrical design.
David Freitag is an aerial rigging designer who is somehow lucky enough to still be based in San Francisco. Dave has spent the past 20 years (and hopefully the next 20 more) striving to perfect his craft as a rigger, and making his peace with Sir Isaac Newton. Along the way, he has held the honor of being one of the lead riggers on a wide range of site specific dance productions performing on walls and theaters both internationally and across the Bay Area, including Sens Productions, Zaccho, Capacitor, Flyaway, and Printz Dance Project. Dave spent 8 years touring internationally as lead rigger for Cirque Mechanics USA, and currently bides his time between aerial gigs as the house rigger at the Masonic Auditorium on Nob Hill. A master's graduate of UC Santa Barbara and SFSU, Dave holds rigging certifications in SPRAT, ETCP, and is a journeyman member of IATSE Local 16. When not holding the other end of the circus ropes, on dark days he can be found pursuing his habits of of off-beat adventure, exploring new places to climb, sea kayak, camp, fish, build treehouses, or soak in a remote hot spring. Currently, Dave is looking up, and always stands under his work.
Visual Artist & Religious Scholar
Yohana A. Junker, Ph.D., is Faculty Associate in Theology, Spirituality, and the Arts at the Pacific School of Religion, in Berkeley, California. Her ongoing research probes the salient intersections among the fields of art history, eco-criticism, decolonial studies and contemporary Indigenous aesthetics. She recently earned her doctorate in art and religion from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Her dissertation entitled “Unsettling the Landscape: Appropriation, Representation, and Indigenous Aesthetics in the Land Art of the American Southwest” investigated how the Land Art movement of the American Southwest displays a colonial reminiscence and theological vibrancy while the Indigenous artistic production of North America encapsulates a decolonial poetics of resistance. In her writing, art, and activism, she investigates the ways artists create poetic spaces that allow viewers to come together, to reclaim agency, and to work collectively toward what Paulo Freire calls conscientização, which restores our sense of purpose, our thirst for justice, and our desire for transformation.
Walter Kitundu is a multidisciplinary artist with a focus on kinetic sculpture and sound installation, composition, public art, and teaching. He builds (and performs on) extraordinary musical instruments, while researching and documenting the natural world. Kitundu has created hand-built record players driven by the wind and rain, fire and earthquakes, birds, light, and the force of ocean waves. In 2008 he received a MacArthur Fellowship in recognition of his art practice, and his capacity to make important cultural contributions. Kitundu was a visiting professor at Northwestern University’s Department of Art Theory and Practice, and in the Sound Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was a Bay Area resident for 15 years and is honored to be a collaborator on Picture Bayview Hunters Point.
Marcus Anthony Shelby
Marcus Anthony Shelby is an accomplished teacher, composer, arranger, and bassist. From 1990-1996, Shelby was bandleader of Columbia Records and GRP Impulse! Recording Artists Black/Note and is currently the Artistic Director and leader of The Marcus Shelby Orchestra, The Marcus Shelby Hot 7, and The Marcus Shelby Trio. Shelby was awarded a Black Metropolis Research Consortium Fellowship in Chicago and a Fellow in the Resident Dialogues Program of the Committee for Black Performing Arts at Stanford University. Shelby also has had the honor of arranging for and conducting the Count Basie Orchestra featuring Ledisi, performing and recording with Tom Waits, and receiving the City Flight Magazine 2005 award as one of the “Top Ten Most Influential African Americans in the Bay Area”. As the 1991 winner of the Charles Mingus Scholarship, Shelby’s studies include work under the tutelage of composer James Newton and legendary bassist Charlie Haden.
Mary Ellen Strom
Mary Ellen Strom is an artist, curator and educator. Her installations and site-specific projects unearth submerged narratives within art, history and cultural discourse. Her work has been exhibited in a wide range of contexts including museums, galleries, passenger trains, on rivers, cattle ranches, large-scale video projections onto industrial sites and mountain rock faces, in empty retail stores and horse arenas. Recent awards include an International Fulbright Scholar Fellowship, a Bogliasco Fellowship to the Liguria Study Center for the Arts and Humanities, The MAP Fund, Artadia The Fund for Art and Dialogue, Art Matters and Creative Capital. Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, Museum of Modern Art, NYC, the ICA Philadelphia, The Contemporary Art Museum Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Walker Art Center, Mpls., the Wexner Center in Columbus, OH, the Pompidou Centre-Metz, Paris, the Satouchi Triennial in Japan, the Hayward Gallery, London, Nagoya Museum of Fine Arts, Nagoya, Japan, Fundacion Union-Espacio Cultural Contemporaneo, Montevideo, Uruguay and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, Australia. Strom is a Senior Researcher and Project Director for the Center for Art, Design and Social Research. She is a professor, Media Arts at Tufts University in Boston, MA.
Jack Carpenter designs lighting and scenery for Dance, Music, Theater, and Museum Exhibits and consults on permanent installations. His work can be seen with the Bishop Museum, Oakland Museum, Exploratorium, SF Ballet, SF Symphony, Kronos Quartet, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Joe Goode Performance Group, Zaccho Dance Theatre, and Project Bandaloop. Notable productions for Mr. Carpenter include, the world premiere of Angels In America, for the Eureka Theater Company, Ghost Architecture, Picture: Powderhorn, Invisible Wings and Departure and Arrival for Zaccho Dance Theatre, Bound(less), for Project Bandaloop, Beauty Queen of Leenane for Berkeley Repertory Theater, Traveling Light, and Rambler, for Joe Goode Performance Group, Concerto Romantique for San Francisco Ballet, and MLADA for SF Symphony. Mr. Carpenter was recently appointed lighting design lecturer at UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, and has received four Bay Area Critics Circle Awards, and five Isadora Duncan Awards.
José Joaquín García
José Joaquín García began his professional acting career in 1986 with Pregones Theatre Company, located in the poorest congressional district in the United States, the South Bronx. He has continued to work extensively with Pregones, and has performed in New York with The Public Theater, The New Group and worked on Paul Simon’s The Capeman on Broadway. As a director, Garcia has worked extensively to bring the New York Latino voice to the stage, namely through Rubí Theater Company, which he co-founded in 2001. He directed Martín Espada's Imagine the Angels of Bread (New York Hip Hop Theater Festival, New World Theater, University of Massachusetts/Amherst) and has appeared as a tenor soloist in Handel’s Messiah, Mozart’s Requiem, and Schumann’s Dichterliebe, among other pieces. He is a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and has pursued advanced studies at the Westminster Choir College and the International New Theatre School at Essen, Germany. Recording credits include Tanga Sweet by Mario Bauzá, and the Grammy winning album Catch That Train by Dan Zanes.
Robert Henry Johnson
Robert Henry Johnson a San Francisco native, is a member of Francisco School of the Arts, and studied ballet on full scholarship at the San Francisco Ballet. He has danced with Oakland Ballet, ODC/San Francisco, appeared on Levi’s jean commercial and an appearance with award winning recording artists En Vogue on the Soul Train Music Awards Cer# emony. In 1993, he founded the Robert Henry Johnson Dance Company and has choreographed for various companies such as Bayersiches Staatsballet (Munich, Germany), Ballet British Columbia (Vancouver, British Columbia), and Oakland Ballet. He is the Artistic Director of 60 Million Plus Theater, a company that provides staged reading opportunities for play# wrights who use experimental forms. Robert Henry Johnson has danced for Zaccho Dance Theatre as Master Juba in Invisible Wings.
Tristan Cunningham started performing when she was ten with Vermont’s Circus Smirkus. After touring for eight years, she changed her focus to acting and graduated with a B.F.A from S.U.N.Y Purchase Acting Conservatory. Her Bay Area credits include A Winter’s Tale, The Comedy of Errors, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream with California Shakespeare Theater, The Arsonists with Aurora Theater and Tree with the San Francisco Playhouse. She is a proud member of Actors Equity Association and a TBA and BATCC Award winner for her work in The Taming at Marin Shakespeare Theater. She is honored to be working with Zaccho for the second time. Up next: Around the World in 80 Days at Theaterworks.
Alex Allan is an aerialist and dancer from Sydney, Australia. In 2008 he completed a BA in Communications (Theatre/Media) with a focus in physical theatre creation. 6 months later Alex was accepted into the Professional Aerial Program at the San Francisco Circus Center where he specialized in Aerial Rope. Alex has performed and taught workshops in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. He currently resides in Seattle, WA. Alex combines his background of Theatre, Dance and Circus to create unique and original work. Whether in coaching or onstage, Alex utilizes directionality and momentum-based movement to create choreography that is both fluid and dynamic. Alex is also a LMP and Certified SOMA Practitioner.
A Bay Area native, Antoine Hunter is an award-winning African-American Deaf and Hard of Hearing choreographer, dancer, dance instructor, actor, poet and Deaf advocate. The founder and artistic director of Urban Jazz Dance, Hunter has performed with Savage Jazz Dance Company, Nuba Dance Theater, Alayo Dance Company, Robert Moses’ KIN, Man Dance, Sins Invalid, Amara Tabor-Smith, Kim Epifano, Push Dance Company, Flyaway Productions, Joanna Haigood and the Lorraine Hansberry Theater. He has performed throughout the Bay Area and the world including Cuba, Rome and Paris. Hunter is a faculty member at East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, Shawl-Anderson, Youth in Arts and Dance-A-Vision. He is the founder of Iron Tri-Angel Urban Ballet in Richmond, was an instructor and rehearsal director for the Ross Dance Company, and dance captain for Expedia.com commercials.
Awards include the 2011 National Dance Week Dancer's Choice Award, Margaret Jenkin's CHIME award, the 2009 VRS Award (the international organization on arts and disabilities), and the 2000 Bay Area Star Award. He has been featured in Dance Spirit Magazine and Dance Magazine, and is the former president of the Bay Area Black Deaf Advocate and Director-at-Large for the Northern California chapter of the California Association of the Deaf. He has been featured in Oakland North and is a representative for Purple Technologies, which sells Deaf services and products. Mr. Hunter is an active supporter of DeafHope, an organization whose mission is to end domestic and sexual violence in Deaf communities through empowerment, education, and services. He teaches dance and ASL in both Hearing and Deaf communities and is the founder and artistic director of Urban Jazz Dance Company and has been producing the Bay Area Deaf Dance Festival since 2013. His projects have been awarded funding by both CA$H Theater Bay Area and the Zellerbach Family Foundation.
Calvin Kai Ku
As a performer of many talents, Calvin Ku has entertained audiences in all varieties of stages from International Festivals to large production shows in theaters and theme parks, and even performs at private events. Using elements of magic, circus, and theater, he creates unique performances in all of his shows. You can also find him performing in hospitals for CPMC, Kaiser, On Lok, and Laguna Honda through the Medical Clown Project, a San Francisco Bay Area organization founded by a former Cirque Du Soleil artist.
Adonis Damian Martin Quiñones
Adonis Damian Martin Quiñones was born in Contramaestre, a province of Santiago de Cuba. He is a graduate from Jose Maria Heredia Heredia Dance Academy with a degree in Modern Dance. He was a soloist for The Danza del Caribe for 2 years. In the Bay Area, he has danced with Kim Epiphano, Dance Brigade, Berkeley Ballet Theater, Joanna Haigood and Alayo Dance Company.
Danielle Sandia Sexton
Danielle Sandia Sexton is a San Francisco based aerial artist and instructor. An alumnus of the Circus Center’s Professional Aerial Program, Sandia uses her conservatory training as a foundation for exploring acrobatic and aerial techniques in immersive theater and traditional vaudeville performance, and as a platform for social commentary. Sandia choreographs solo performance as well as collaborates with Bay Area innovators of aerial dance, walking the line between stuntwoman, fine artist, and circus performer. She has performed for Zaccho Dance Theatre, Vau De Vire Society, Flyaway Productions, Treat Social Club, Cielo Vertical Arts, Capacitor Dance, Extra Action Marching Band as well as in festivals and supper clubs locally and internationally.
Travis Santell Rowland
Travis Santell Rowland is an American interdisciplinary performing artist who holds BA degrees in both Drama (Popular Theatre) and Dance (Performance & Choreography) from San Francisco State University. His solo performance and choreography of Residual Sugar (2006) was featured in the American College Dance Festival Association's (ACDFA) Southwest Regional Conference Gala Awards Concert in January 2007. He has performed for Paco Gomes & Dancers, Della Davidson’s Sideshow Physical Theatre, Emily Keeler, Printz Dance Project, TalisMANIC Physical Theatre, Aura Fischbeck Dance, Natalie Greene, Fauxnique/Monique Jenkinson, the Tim Carr Project, Kendra Kimbrough Dance Ensemble, Cathleen McCarthy & Dancers, Deborah Slater Dance Theater, Kevin Clarke/Falsetta Knockers, Raissa Simpson’s Push Dance Company, requisitedance, Jetta Martin, Funsch Dance Experience, Amie Dowling, trixxie carr, Crowded Fire Theater, Urban Opera, and in Taylor Mac’s The Lily’s Revenge at Magic Theatre. Presently, he enjoys performing as a creative collaborator with the Erika Chong Shuch Performance Project, the House of Glitter, Erling Wold's Fabrications, California Shakespeare Theater, Joanna Haigood’s Zaccho Dance Theatre, and Peter Griggs’ Burning Monk Collective.
Amara Tabor Smith
Amara Tabor Smith is a San Francisco native and Oakland resident whose dance theater work can best be described as Afro futurist conjure art. She is the Artistic Director of Deep Waters Dance Theater and co artistic director of Headmistress, an ongoing performing collaboration with movement artist Sherwood Chen. Tabor-Smith has performed in the works of Ed Mock, Joanna Haigood, Pearl Ubungen, Ronald K. Brown, Faustin Linyekula, Adia Tamar Whitaker, Marc Bamuthi Joseph and is the former Associate Artistic Director and dancer with Urban Bush Women. She has also performed in the works of theater artists such as, Anna Deveare Smith, Aya de Leon, Herbert Siquenza, and The San Francisco Mime Troupe.
Amara choreographed and appeared in Shakti Butler’s documentary film, “Making Whiteness Visible”. She has performed with her companies, DWDT and Headmistress in Salvador, Bahia, The Republic of the Congo, Judson Church/Movement Research and many venues throughout the San Francisco/Bay Area and United States.
Tabor-Smith has taught her version of contemporary dance which she calls Roots Modern Experience technique, and Capoeira at Naropa University in Boulder, CO; University of Omaha, NE; SUNY Pottsdam; Columbia College in Chicago; The Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM; San Francisco State University; Mills College in Oakland, Ca. Amara is currently on faculty in the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies at UC Berkeley.
Helen Wicks is a dance artist and teacher based in the Bay Area. She’s been training in gymnastics, acrobatics, modern dance, and ballet since early childhood. As a dancer, she’s worked with Cielo Vertical Arts, Abby Crain, Leah Cox, and Paul Matteson. Helen currently performs with Zaccho Dance Theatre and El Circo Dia. She received a BA in Dance and Psychology from Bard College, where she had the opportunity to perform works by Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company and Merce Cunningham. Her own choreographic work has been presented at OMNI Commons, Eighth Street Studios, SAFEhouse Arts, and ODC. She teaches creative movement, acrobatics and circus arts in the Young Creative Program at ODC, Zaccho Center for Dance & Aerial Arts, and East Bay Center for Performing Arts.
jose e abad jose e abad is a queer social practice performance artist exploring queer futurity through an intersectional lens. Their artistic practice is rooted in collaboration and community engaged arts as a form of resistance and liberation and uses dance, storytelling, and ritual, to unearth lost histories, memories, and wisdom that are held within the body that the mind has forgotten or dominant culture has erased. abad is a collaborator in two queer performance collectives, Yum Yum Club and Lxs Des, and has performed solo and collaborative works nationally and internationally with artists including Joanna Haigood, Keith Hennessy, Scott Wells, Anne Bluethenthal & Dancers, NAKA Dance Theatre, Ivo Dimchev, Alleluia Panis, Seth Eisen, Brontez Purnell Dance Company, and Detour Dance. In 2018, jose was accepted into the DanceWEB scholarship program at Impulstanz in Vienna, Austria and was the inaugural artist in resident at Les Amis de la Maison Baldwin in Saint-Paul-De-Vence, France.
Delvis Friñon was born in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. He is graduates of the José María Heredia, Academy of Art with a degree in Modern,Contemporary and Folkloric cuban dance.He was evaluated by the national court and gained the place of solist dance.In Cuba he danced professionally with “Danza Teatro del Caribe.” His career extended abroad, dancing in Spain at the Expo Zaragoza, the biggest water festival in the world. He was invited also to perform several times with NDTC-National Dance Theater Company of Jamaica. Delvis came to San Francisco in 2013 to collaborate with the Ramón Ramos Alayo’s Cuba Caribe and to dance with Krissy Keefer-Dance Brigade, Zaccho Dance Theatre, Kim Epifano production, Nicole Klaymoon, Robert Moses’s Kin and Soulskin Dance Company. Delvis is a passionate artist who gives back to the community where he teaches both private and group modern and salsa dance classes.
Lydia Clinton, a Bay Area native, went to Point Park University receiving a BA in Dance (Modern) under the direction of Susan Stowe and Rubén Graciani. During college, she attended the American Dance Festival on scholarship and San Francisco Conservatory of Dance’s summer program performing pieces by Ohad Naharin, Robert Moses, and Alex Ketley. Since returning home, she has worked with Stephan Koplowitz with AXIS Dance Company, SAFEhouse Arts, Garrett+Moulton Productions, Cali & Co, Sarah Berges with West Edge Opera, Capacitor, and PUSH Dance Company. She also attended Northwest Dance Project’s LAUNCH program performing works by Menghan Lou and Kristen Céré.
Jarrel Phillips is a Capoeira performer and instructor from San Francisco. Recently, he’s been featured in When We Move, a short film by San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and Picture Bayview Hunters Point, a production by choreographer Joanna Haigood. Phillips believes that through movement we embody, explore and share our stories; enriched with information, feelings and experiences.
Frankie Lee III
FRANKIE LEE III is an Izzie Award nominee, freelance artist, who received his BFA from UNCSA. He has performed with Zion Dance Project, dawsondancesf, dendy/donavan projects, RAWdance & Oakland Ballet, among others and has choreographed for the Bay Area Ballet Conservatory, Gritty City Repertory Youth Ensemble, and Zion Dance Project. He was recently an Adjunct Professor at Mills College and teaches for LINES Dance Center, Bay Area Ballet Conservatory, the Boys & Girls Club and Dance Mission. His brand is, “fLEE dance”; which stands for the acronym: fleeked, loving, enlightened & educating.
Erik K. Raymond Lee
Born and raised in Oakland, California, Erik K. Raymond Lee began his dance journey UC Berkeley where he trained and earned a BA in Dance & Performance Studies and Art Practice with a concentration in painting . Erik since has Joined Dimensions Dance Theater under the direction of Deborah Vaughn, as a company member and choreographer; debuted choreographic work as a participant in the Artist in Mentorship Program (AMP) with Black Choreographer’s Festival (BCF) directors Laura Elaine Ellis and Kendra Kimbrough Barnes (2015) earned his MFA in Dance from Mills College. Erik also volunteers in dance ministry with the Worship in Arts Ministry (WAM) at Covenant Church for now 10 years functioning as Artistic Director/choreographer since 2014. His work whether within the realm of dance theater or faith-based events aims to inspire, give hope and uplift the community.
Veronica Blair has emerged as one of the top Black aerialists in the country, and has taken her high-flying talents all around the world.
Blair, a Bay Area native, began her career at the age of 14 at the former San Francisco School of Circus Arts, now known as the Circus Center San Francisco. Shortly after making her debut at 17, she was noticed by Cedric Walker, the founder of the Universoul Circus. Walker named Blair as a solo trapeze artist, and she was Universoul’s Resident Aerialist for over five years.
Blair has performed in “Afrika! Afrika!,” Germany’s largest circus event, and also worked for Universal Studios Japan. She still works with the Circus Center, and has put on shows featuring other Black aerialists and circus performers for themed events, such as a tribute to recording artist Prince that took place in 2014.
Black circus performers are rarely recognized, and Blair has taken on the task of filming a documentary that puts a new light on those who work in the industry. Blair’s The Uncle Junior Project came about after the death of little-known Black circus animal trainer of the same name. In an attempt to uphold Junior’s legacy and that of the Black circus, Blair has the ambitious aim of bringing those unknown entertainers to the forefront.
Azraa Muhammad is an emerging aerial artist, dancer and performer. She received her training from artistic director of Zaccho Dance Theatre, Joanna Haigood, and began flying with the Zaccho Youth Company at the age of 7. After 10 years of training she began apprenticing as a member of Zaccho Dance Theatre. A native of San Francisco, Azraa believes in drawing inspiration from current social and political issues, such as racial profiling, poverty, identity, and ancestry as a way of expression in her choreography. As a member of the Zaccho Youth Company, she has collaborated with and performed for Flyaway Productions, Baycat, Dance Vision Series Festival, California Youth Circus Center Festival, Circus for Arts in the Schools and much more. Her most recent projects include performing for the American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) 2016 New Strands Festival and being featured in a promotional video for the Golden State Warriors honoring Black History Month. Apart from creating and performing, Azraa also enjoys teaching at Zaccho for the Youth Program of Center for Dance and Aerial Arts with a class of Aerial Dance technique for beginners.
Clarissa Dyas is from Berkeley, CA and graduated from San Francisco State University in 2017 with a B.A. in Dance and a B.S. in Health Education. Clarissa is a company member of Flyaway Productions and ka·nei·see | collective along with being a collaborating member of bananarama. Additionally, she was a company member of Robert Moses’ Kin from 2017-2018 and has performed in works by Talli Jackson, Raissa Simpson, Sarah Bush and many others.
Ciarra D’Onofrio is a dancer and aerialist with a passion for art, social justice, and creating community through movement arts. She was born and raised here in the Bay Area where she began exploring dance and aerial arts at age 5. Since then, she has trained in movement arts ranging from circus arts to contemporary and jazz dance. She studied dance and choreography at Lewis & Clark College where she received the 2015 Distinction in Dance Choreography award, an award given to one graduating choreographer each year. As a member of the Circus Project’s Training and Performance Company (Portland, OR), she specialized in trapeze and aerial silks. Her performance background includes work with the Circus Project, Aerial Arts Fairfax, Aerial Dance Marin, Evening Star Presents, Camp Winnarainbow, and Lewis & Clark College. Ciarra has completed 3 aerial teacher training programs with Carrie Heller of the Circus Arts Institute and Camp Winnarainbow. She has taught aerial arts to youth and adults for over 7 years and loves seeing the growth, confidence, and joy her classes bring to her students.