Since 1979 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 Cal/Alpert Award in Dance, the US Artist Fellowship, and a New York Bessie Award. Most recently, Haigood was a recipient of the esteemed Doris Duke Performing 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.
YPAP Associate Artistic Director
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.
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.
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.
Jo Kreiter is a nationally recognized choreographer and site artist with a background in political science. She engages physical innovation and the political conflicts we live within. Kreiter’s tools include community collaboration, a masterful use of place, an intersectional feminist lens and a body-based push against the constraints of gravity. She makes large scale public art via apparatus-based dance. Her work democratizes public space. Jo has spent 25 years building coalitions with women marginalized by race, class, gender and workplace inequities. Noted partners include Essie Justice Group, UC Hastings Center for Work-life Law, Tenderloin Museum, Code Tenderloin, Au Co Vietnamese Cultural Center, and Tradeswomen, Inc. Her work has been supported by Guggenheim and Rauschenberg Fellowships, New England Foundation for the Arts, the and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Creative Work Fund, Wattis and Rainin Foundations, the CA Arts Council, SF Arts Commission, and by seven IZZY awards. She is currently creating The Decarceration Trilogy: Dismantling the Prison Industrial Complex One Dance at a Time.
Meche is a native San Franciscan, singer-songwriter, music educator, aerialist, and aerial instructor. She feels fortunate to have been trained in aerial dance since she was 12 years old with Zaccho Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director Joanna Haigood and is an alumna member of the Zaccho Youth Company. Since graduating from Berklee College of Music in 2018, Meche has also been a teaching assistant with Zaccho’s youth education programs. Meche has a multidisciplinary approach to her artistic work. As a performer, Meche has collaborated with and performed for Flyaway Productions, Youth Circus Center Festival, and BAYCAT. She is also co-founder of The Humxn Collective, a creative consulting company for queer and BIPOC musicians. Over the years, Meche has contributed her songwriting, singing, and acting talents to Zaccho performances. She especially loves working with Zaccho because of the social justice aspects of their work. Through dance, choreography, and music, Meche hopes to inspire youth to learn more about themselves and their communities.
San Francisco native, Inez Schynell is a choreographer, social justice facilitator, dance educator, and beauty-prenuer working at the intersection of justice, identity, and dance.
Inez is currently a dance educator and choreographer with Zaccho Dance Theatre’s Youth Performing Arts Program (YPAP). Inez began training and competing in gymnastics at 7 years old. She furthered her studies in Dance performance with D-Fuse West African and Nigerian Folklore dance company, GRRRL Brigade dance company with emphasis on Ballet, Modern Jazz, Belly Dance, and Hip Hop along with studios from the Bay Area to New York. As a Notre Dame De Namur University dance scholarship recipient, Inez deepened her studies in Dance. Inez uses dance to reclaim identity and justice.
In 2020, Inez was a host and member of the comedy ensemble for Bakanal de Afrique, a Global international arts and culture festival that highlights Dance, Art, Film, and Culture across 10 different countries.
Inez is a facilitator for restorative and environmental justice working to advance equity in California and beyond. She currently leads weekly sessions at FLY (Fresh Lifelines for Youth) for young people impacted by the juvenile justice system, encouraging them to unlock their potential, disrupt the school to prison pipeline, while learning the current laws that impact them and their rights to advocate for themselves.
In 2018 Inez founded Ctrl Galore; a platform for young women to cultivate, create, and explore ways to take control of their beauty narrative. As a signed model with Rae Agency, she has taken the message to the commercial and global markets.
Goldie and Izzie Award winner Shakiri has been a performer and choreographer in the San Francisco Bay Area for over thirty years. Her improvisational style developed by performing to live music and by working with the great Ed Mock helped her to become one of the Bay Area’s most exciting and energetic performers. 4’7 Shakiri learned her stature would not allow her to go the traditional route. As a result Shakiri, who has studied African Haitian, various styles of African, modern, and jazz has performed in all genres, and used her experience to develop work of her own. Shakiri has written, directed, and choreographed several dance and theater pieces including, With My Face On Their Face, Breathe, Barnstormin’, and And Their Children’s Children. Her work has a reputation for confronting difficult issues and has been listed twice on the “Best Ten” of the year by the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Shakiri is a member of the internationally acclaimed Zaccho Dance Theater Company touring around the country and abroad since 1988. Shakiri has choreographed for Berkeley Repertory Theatre, danced and toured with Dance Brigade, Ellen Sebastian, Hassan Al Falak, and with her own company Shakiri/Rootworkers. She was a principle performer in famed Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie, and enjoyed dancing the part of Nutcracker for several years.
Shakiri is proud to be an arts educator and has taught kindergarten age children to adults at recreation centers schools, Colleges and Universities. She’s also a visual artist and has shown in local galleries, as a part of Art in Public Places, and taught at the Crocker Art Gallery this past summer. As a writer she has short stories published in Zica anthologies, and her latest novel 14 Years Later can be purchased from Amazon. She continues to work on her one woman show Lottie’s Ghosts premiered at Brava For Women in the Arts in San Francisco, and a piece dear to her heart titled Crazy Black Women addressing grief over murdered children. Shakiri is presently collaborating with Bay Area dance company NAKA on a project titled RACE, and an audio book in collaboration with singer composer Melanie Demore.