On February 4, 2017, Chicago Dance History Project and members of the Chicago dance community met to celebrate 20 years of Deeply Rooted Dance Theater (DRDT). Co-founder Kevin Iega Jeff and dance education director Nicole Clarke-Springer reflected on their time with DRDT and looked towards the company’s promising future.
Both Iega Jeff and Nicole Clarke-Springer were eager to share advice from their experience with the company. When asked how she became a part of DRDT, a chuckling Clarke-Springer explained how she was in the process of moving out of the city when she decided to audition for the company on a whim—to get in another dance class. During the audition, she said, she just knew she had to stay, and eventually became the dance education director. “Find what ignites inside you, and take it to your community,” Clarke-Springer advised.
Jeff also spoke to the role of the arts as a whole in the country’s recent transformations. “There’s an opportunity for us to respond to world events with our spirits intact and with accountability,” he said, highlighting the importance the arts can and should play in the near future. “The wonderful thing about the arts is that we create a construct that keeps us together rather than holds us apart,” Jeff said.
The company, rooted in African-American traditions, has been a consistent presence in the Chicago dance community and shows no signs of wavering. Both dancers agreed that what members learn in the company stays with them—DRDT will always be a home base. It is a space to learn and to grow, and the experiences apply everywhere because “the language of our dance is human,” Clarke-Springer said.
The panel took place prior to DRDT’s performance “Aspects of Love” at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts centered on the varying embodiments of love.