Conversations on Chicago Dance: Founding and Sustaining a Company

On April 27, 2016, CDHP and many members of the community gathered at the Newberry Library to hear from three founding artistic directors – Joel Hall, Dame Libby Komaiko, and Hema Rajagopalan – about what it takes to sustain a dance company in Chicago.

Why start a company? “I craved dance,” Joel Hall simply stated. He started Joel Hall & Dancers in 1974.

That same year, Hema Rajagopalan founded Natya Dance Theatre. She explained, “I had no intention of starting a dance company… but when I came here, I found a dearth of cultural awareness in terms of Indian arts and Indian dance.”

Similarly, Dame Libby Komaiko founded Ensemble Español 40 years ago in order to educate Chicago audiences about Spanish dance, which she had been studying and performing with Jose Greco.

Next generation leaders Jacki Sinclair (Joel Hall & Dancers) and Krithika Rajagopalan (Natya) joined the discussion and addressed moving their companies in to the future. “How we approach the future will be how we are dealing with the history… and how I preserve the original intention of the work,” said Sinclair.

Concerned with passing the information on, Krithika explained that, “We are spending a lot of time on knowledge transfer… understanding everything that someone needs to know when they are training a student.”

As always, history continues.

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