‘Chicago Takes 10’ Features Virtual Performances by Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago Alums and Faculty June 24-July 22

Ambe’r Johnson (Photo: Bruce A. Williams)

Chicago Takes 10 — a free virtual series featuring performing artists from across the city — will showcase the work of several Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago alums and faculty members between June 24 and July 22. On Thursday, June 24, the series continues with a presentation featuring former Columbia College Dance Center student Ambe’r Johnson. A Philadelphia native who relocated to Chicago to study dance at the Dance Center of Columbia College, Johnson identifies as a West African dancer along with the elements of house, afrobeat, dancehall, and modern. She is a principal dancer and rehearsal director with Ayodele Drum & Dance, and also serves as an instructor and choreographer for Ayodele Youth Programs. She is also on staff at the Dance Center of Columbia College.

Ambe’r Johnson and Ayanna London

Johnson and her creative partner Ayanna London will perform under the auspices of See Chicago Dance (SCD), a service organization for dance in the Chicago area, whose mission is to advocate for and strengthen a diverse range of organizations and artists through services and programs that build and engage audiences. Its vision is to fearlessly inspire an ever-growing inclusive community to share in and spread the power of dance in Chicago. The See Chicago Dance presentation begins at 6 PM on June 24. For more information, click here.

Tia Greer (center) flanked by Alyssa Gregory and McKenzie Chinn

Chicago Takes 10 will continue Thursday, July 8, with a virtual presentation featuring Dance Center alum Tia Greer ’13, a graduate of the Dance Center’s BFA Program in Dance, in a solo dance piece with choreography and direction by Alyssa Gregory and music and lyrics by McKenzie Chinn of the Growing Concerns Poetry Collective. Greer has been dancing in Chicago for more than 12 years, working with such artists as Columbia College alum Erin Kilmurray ’08, a graduate of the Dance Center’s BA Program in Dance, and with former Columbia College Dance Center chair Peter Carpenter. Greer’s performance will be included in a segment curated by Arts + Public Life, an initiative of UChicago Arts that advances and promotes a robust, collaborative, and evolving relationship between the University of Chicago and the South Side’s vibrant civic, cultural, and artistic communities. The presentation begins at 6 PM on July 8. For more information, click here.

Raquel Monroe (Photo: Maeve Jackson)

On Thursday, July 22, at 6 PM, Chicago Takes 10 will conclude with a program that includes a performance by the artists’ collective Propelled Animals, featuring Columbia College Dance Center faculty member Raquel Monroe, presented under the auspices of curating partner organization High Concept Labs, an organization providing accessible residency programs for artists across disciplines interested in experimentation, discovery, exchange, and risk.

Raquel Monroe

A performance scholar and artist with a Ph.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles, Monroe is also co-director of the Academic Diversity, Equity & Inclusion program at Columbia College. Monroe and her creative partner Esther Baker-Tarpaga are a core member and co-founder, respectively, of Propelled Animals, an artists’ collective organized in 2014. They create site-specific work to facilitate conversations around anti-racism, gender inclusivity, and environmental justice. Their process encourages audiences and collaborators alike to consider the efficacy of the body, resilience, protest, and radical tenderness as strategies against institutional racism. Monroe and Baker-Tarpaga will perform a working draft of Two, too (CCT cut), a continued exploration of their interdisciplinary dance work with Propelled Animals. Scheduled to premiere winter 2022, Two, too (CCT cut) is inspired by the social mixing of people who populated Chicago’s Black social dance night clubs from the 1920s to the 1960s. Conceived and directed by Monroe, the dance piece asks what it means to forge and sustain friendships between Black and white women in 2021. “How can you literally work things out on the dance floor?,” says Monroe. “Two, too (CCT cut) captures all of it. It allows me/us the opportunity to travel to the past, be in the present, and project into the future. It allows us to travel through time to honor the past and envision collective futures.” The presentation begins at 6 PM on July 22. For more information, click here.

Previous presentations by Chicago Takes 10 have also featured the work of Dance Center of Columbia College alums. These performances can be viewed online: click here. Among the artists:

Keyierra Collins

Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago alum Keyierra Collins ’16, a graduate of the Dance Center’s BA Program in Dance, whose performance under the auspices of Links Hall was inspired by a solo from the 1938 film Swing danced by Consuela Harris, considered the best hot, shake, swinging dancer of the 1930s;

Po’Chop (Photo: Candice Majors)

Dance Center alum Jenn Freeman, also known as Po’Chop, a burlesque artist who uses elements of dance, storytelling, and striptease to create performances and inspire students and collaborators across the country. Freeman‘s performance, Devotion, is a movement-based piece originally performed as part of The People’s Church of the G.H.E.T.T.O (Greatest History Ever Told To Our people), a company that offers re-imagined worship services that use the life and work of poet Audre Lorde to illuminate the legacies of Black women based in Chicago’s Bronzeville. The performance was presented under the auspices of Pivot Arts, which creates, develops and presents adventurous and multidisciplinary performance collaborations between artists, businesses and organizations bringing diverse people together through unique performance events;

Aaliyah Christina

Columbia College alum Aaliyah Christina ’16, a graduate of the Dance Center’s Dance BA program. Based in Washington Park on the South Side of Chicago, with roots in Louisiana and influences from Maryland, she improvises dances and writes poetry/prose about power/love, mental health, and her Blackness. Her performance under the auspices of Pivot Arts, the improvisational movement work Almost was, emphasizes loud silence, removed/embodied text, and bursts of accelerated dance to travel a pathway created by boxed lights to emphasize the journey from the Life/process to the Death/transition of Love;

Keisha Janae

Former Columbia College Dance Center student Keisha Janae is a performer, teaching artist, and dance maker whose teaching platform integrates dance education with self-development and collaborative learning. Honored as a 2020 recipient of the 3Arts Make a Wave Award, she has worked as a dancer with former Dance Center chair Onye Ozuzu and with Dance Center faculty member Jane Jerardi. Her career mission is to create more opportunities for people of color to discover spiritual, physical, and mental healing and reawakening. Her collaborative performance with composer/cornetist Ben LaMar Gay, presented under the auspices of Elastic Arts, explores the rural ear inside of urban soundscapes and the urban ear inside of rural soundscapes, manifesting how the body listens and responses to its environment. To see the performance video, click here.


Chicago Takes 10 is a virtual performance series sponsored by the Walder Foundation to provide support to performing artists and arts organizations who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The series highlights diverse performance styles throughout the Chicago region, featuring local musicians, performers, and dancemakers.