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.
Marcus Anthony Shelby
Marcus Anthony Shelby is a composer, bassist, bandleader, and educator who currently lives in San Francisco, California. His work focuses on the history, present, and future of African American lives, social movements, and music education. In 1990, Marcus Shelby received the Charles Mingus Scholarship to attend Cal Arts and study composition with James Newton and bass with Charlie Haden. Currently, Shelby is the Artistic Director of Healdsburg Jazz, an artist in residence with the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, and a past resident artist with the San Francisco Jazz Festival and Healdsburg Jazz Festival. Shelby has composed several oratorios and suites including “Harriet Tubman”, “Beyond the Blues: A Prison Oratorio”, “Soul of the Movement: Meditations on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”, “Black Ball: The Negro Leagues and the Blues”, “Green and Blues”, and a children’s opera “Harriet’s Spirit” produced by Opera Parallel 2018. Shelby also composed the score and performed in Anna Deavere Smith’s Off-Broadway Play and HBO feature film “Notes from the Field” (2019). Shelby is also the voice of Ray Gardener in the 2020 Oscar-Winning Disney Pixar film “SOUL”. Shelby has worked with a range of artists including Angela Y. Davis’ “Blues Legacies and Black Feminism” (2019), Joanna Haigood’s “Dying While Black and Brown” (2014), Margo Hall’s “Bebop Baby” (2013), and “Sonny’s Blues” (2008), the Oakland Ballet’s “Ella” The SF Girl Choir (2013), The Oakland Youth Chorus (2014), and many other productions over the past 23 years. Shelby has served on the San Francisco Arts Commission since 2013 and has worked with the Equal Justice Society for over 20 years. The Marcus Shelby Orchestra has released 5 CDs: “The Lights Suite”, “Port Chicago”, “Harriet Tubman”, “Soul of the Movement: Meditations on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”, and “Transitions”.
Mildred Howard is best known for her multimedia assemblage work and installations. Howard completed her Associates of Arts Degree & Certificate in Fashion Art at the College of Alameda, Alameda, CA in 1977 and received her M.F.A. from Fiberworks Center for the Textile Arts at John F. Kennedy University in Berkeley, CA in 1985. In 2015, she received the Lee Krasner Award in recognition of a lifetime of artistic achievement. She has also been the recipient of the Nancy Graves Grant for Visual Artists (2017), the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2004/5), a fellowship from the California Arts Council (2003), the Adaline Kent Award from San Francisco Art Institute (1991), and, most recently, received the Douglas G. MacAgy Distinguished Achievement Award at San Francisco Art Institute (2018). Her large-scale installations have been mounted at: Creative Time in New York, InSITE in San Diego, CA; the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, WA; the National Museum of Women in the Arts; the New Museum in New York, the City of Oakland; and the San Francisco Arts Commission and International Airport. Her works reside in the permanent collections of: the Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA; the de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego, CA; the Museum of Glass and Contemporary Art, Tacoma, WA; the Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA; SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA; and the San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA, among others.
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 theater 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 Dance Theatre, 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 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.
Krissy Kenny began her lighting career as a union stagehand and designer for educational and professional companies throughout Vermont. Since moving to San Francisco in 2013, she has served as Lighting Director for the vertical dance company Bandaloop, Head Electrician for the Curran Theater’s Curran Under Construction series, Lighting Consultant for several schools, non-profits, and a wine cave in Croatia. She has been Head Electrician on numerous corporate event keynotes and product launches, concerts, and has toured circus and dance shows to Mexico, St. John (USVI), Hungary, Canada, and across the US. Her unconventional background in labor gives a unique perspective on what is physically possible in design.
Since joining Lightswitch in 2019, Krissy has additionally taken on architectural lighting and project management. She relies on her collegiate background in anthropology, archaeology, and history, as well as activities that draw her into nature, to help clients tell their stories with exacting detail and boundless creativity. www.lightswitch.net
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.
Tristan Ching Hartmann
Tristan Ching Hartmann has been living, dancing, and learning in the Bay Area since 1991. After receiving her early training at the Westside School of Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet School, she began studying modern dance with Diane Frank and Robert Moses at Stanford University, where she received her B.A. in English and her M.A. in Education. She is grateful to have danced with Robert Moses’ Kin for 11 years before retiring from the company to pursue a range of performance experiences including work with the 2009 BRIT Awards, Tango Fatale, RAWdance, Project B, and Sharp and Fine. Tristan was on faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance - teaching technique classes, leading creative writing sessions, and making work - until the school’s closing in 2018. Tristan continues to present work, often collaborating with the fabulous writers of Red Light Lit as well as her dance heroes/friends. Tristan currently dances with the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company and is moved by the generous opportunities she has been given to explore how an aging body experiences dance, art, life, and love. Tristan would like to thank her family and communities for their relentless love and support.
Ciarra D’Onofrio (they/them) is a queer dancer, aerialist, and educator with a passion for using dance as a means of storytelling, social analysis, and community building. They specialize in dance trapeze, contemporary dance, and vertical dance. They have performed in redwood forests, cathedrals, and on trampoline walls, and most recently have danced here in the Bay Area with Zaccho Dance Theater, Epiphany Dance Theater, Olallie Lackler, and Helen Wicks Works. They studied dance and choreography at Lewis & Clark College where they received the 2015 Distinction in Dance Choreography Award. They then expanded their training in the circus arts as a member of the Circus Project’s Training and Performance Company. They are a head of the aerial department at Camp Winnarainbow and run their own aerial program here in the Bay Area. Their current choreographic work explores grief, the co-creation of queer identity, and how gender lives in the body and in physical space. Recently their work has been presented in the San Francisco Aerial Arts Festival and the Tenderloin Arts Festival, and will be presented in FACT SF’s 2023 Summer Dance Festival at ODC Theater. They are currently a member of Bandaloop’s Training Group and a Shawl Anderson Dance Center Artist in Residency.
Erik K. Raymond Lee
Born and raised in Oakland, California, Erik K. Raymond Lee began his dance journey at 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 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.
Jocelyn Reyes (she/her) is a Latin American contemporary choreographer, performer, and filmmaker based in San Francisco. A first generation LA native, Reyes holds a B.S. in Cognitive Science and a B.A. in Dance from UCLA, and is the artistic director of REYES Dance. Reyes has training in contemporary dance as well as Latin social dances including cumbia, merengue, and salsa, which she learned as a kid at family social gatherings. In her choreographic work, she blends athleticism, everyday gestures, and humor to tell stories that challenge toxic belief systems and ingrained behavioral patterns in order to reimagine healthier ways of coexisting with each other. Since relocating to SF and founding REYES Dance in 2017, she has self-produced three evening length works and presented choreography in many festivals and curated events. Reyes has been a Joe Goode Performance Group Co-Production Artist, a RAWdance Radiate Fellow, a Berkeley Ballet Theater Resident Artist, and recipient of the San Francisco Arts Commission Artist Grant and Dancers’ Group CASH Grant Award. She is currently a resident artist with ODC’s Queer & BIPOC Space Initiative and the Dresher Ensemble Residency Program.
Nina Sawant is a multidisciplinary circus artist with a fascination for visual storytelling. Nina began her career as a dancer at Busch Gardens Tampa in 2006, where she discovered circus through fellow cast mate Vitaliy Krymskyi. She went on to tour with Vitaliy and his family in Ukraine, and has since performed across the US and Europe. She is a founding member of The Dahlias, a woman of color led circus ensemble, and performs locally for Vespertine Circus, Sweet Can Productions, and Misfit Cabaret. When she's not on stage, Nina can be found making costumes, short films, and more for her Patreon.
Saharla Vetsch (she/her) is a Somali American independent dance/drag artist born and raised in Minnesota. Now residing in the Bay Area, Saharla has earned a degree in Performing Arts and Social Justice with a concentration in dance from the University of San Francisco. Her work centers around questions and curiosities about individuals’ intersecting identities and how they relate to one another. Her drag persona Major Hammy seeks to spread joy and love by being the life of the party, and bringing the freedom of self expression he experiences through dance to others. Saharla was recently a collaborating artist in Detour Dance's "WORK MORE! 9" and participated in other pieces as part of their "Up On High" film series. She has also performed with Joe Goode Performance Group in "Time of Change" and is currently a RAWdance Radiate fellow.