Plenaries

Dance/USA was pleased to host the Opening Plenary speakers for the Dance/USA 2016 Annual Conference: Ron Berry (Fusebox Festival), Sandra Organ Solis (Choreographer, Teacher), Eliot Gray Fisher (ARCOS Dance), and Prakash Mohandas (Agni Entertainment).


Berry moderated a discussion between Organ Solis, Fisher, and Mohandas, an all Austinite line-up. Each of these speakers represented an area from the programmatic elements of the Conference: financing dance, technological change, and the social responsibility of dance. The speakers were part of the kick-off for the Conference on Thursday, June 9, 2016 from 11:00am- 12:30pm CT at The Long Center for the Performing Arts. The Opening Plenary was live streamed here. Each speaker joined us for the duration of the Conference and once again took the stage at the Closing Plenary on Saturday, June 11, 2016 from 12:00pm- 1:00pm CT at Ballet Austin to share their experiences from various programming sessions at the Conference.


Speakers

Ron Berry is the founder and Artistic Director of Fuse Box Austin, a multidisciplinary arts organization located in Austin, TX. Ron has guided the organization through twelve years of critically acclaimed programming which has been nominated for and won over 200 awards. The organization is most known for its annual Fusebox Festival, which attracts up to 20,000 attendees each year. The festival features local, national, and international artists working across all disciplines and takes place in over twenty locations around the city. He has served as a panelist for a number prominent organizations including: the NEA, Creative Capital, the MAP Fund, Texas Commission on the Arts, and SXSW. He has been invited to speak at festivals and conferences all over the world, including: Festival Transamerique (Montreal), Push International Festival (Vancouver), Time Based Art Festival (Portland), TPAM (Yokohama/Tokyo) and APAM (Australia). 


Sandra Organ Solis was Houston Ballet’s first African American ballerina, dancing there for 15 years and as a soloist under Ben Stevenson. She then founded her own contemporary ballet ensemble, Earthen Vessels, The Sandra Organ Dance Company, for which she created 100 ballets and employed more than 120 dancers over sixteen seasons of programming in theatres and sacred spaces. Organ has served on the boards of Dance/USA and Dance Source Houston, as a panelist for Houston Arts Alliance, and has written and received grants from local, state, and family foundations. She participated in Urban Bushwomen’s Leadership Institute in New Orleans, and with Liz Lerman’s Dance Exchange Institutes as well as in Regional Dance America’s Craft of Choreography Conferences.  Organ taught in the adult and Parkinson’s for Dance programs at Houston Ballet Academy for 18 years, and was a master teacher at various dance academies, universities, and regional ballet schools in Houston and beyond. While she continues to choreograph locally and nationally, she teaches ballet at a private school in San Antonio, and for adults at Ballet Austin, as well as yoga and water fitness for the Austin YMCA.  Organ is pursuing Bachelor’s of Arts from Antioch University online, and lives in Wimberley, with her husband Carlos, where they moved after 30+ years in Houston.

Eliot Gray Fisher is an interdisciplinary artist with BA degrees in Film Studies from Wesleyan University and Documentary Studies from Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College. He has composed music and designed sound for short and feature film, theater, and dance, created documentary and animated shorts, built interactive new media installations, and written and directed original theater. As one of the directors of ARCOS Dance, Fisher propels the company’s rigorous experiments to discover adventurous new interdisciplinary forms of contemporary performance—inspired by questioning dominant understandings of the world, turbulent processes of traditions in flux, and the complexity of being human today. With ARCOS, he has presented performances at SITE Santa Fe, CURRENTS International New Media Festival, {254} Dancefest, Barnstorm Dance Festival, and Edinburgh Fringe, where the company received Mervyn Stutter’s “Spirit of the Fringe” award. He has served as a guest artist in residency at Connecticut College, Texas State University, Colorado College, Playa Summerlake, Ucross Foundation, and KHN Center for the Arts, and received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Rea Charitable Trust, Donors Trust, Hatchfund, and New Mexico Arts.


Prakash Mohandas is a dancer, instructor, actor, musician, filmmaker, philanthropist, and a successful entrepreneur. He is the founder of Agni Dance, the first Bollywood dance company and academy in Austin, TX and also currently serves as an instructor at Ballet Austin. He is also the founder and CEO of Agni Entertainment, a film and theater company which produces, promotes, and distributes independent film and theater projects globally.


Mohandas produced and starred in Om Shanti, Texas's first large scale Bollywood musical. He has created productions such as Lanka and has also recently created a touring production that brings together Physics and Dance called Strings of Time.

In the arena of film, Mohandas has been successful in producing a series of short films that have been featured at various film festivals and a feature film called Food for Thought that is now available online on Amazon Prime. He is currently working on a film fund that will fund three mainstream South Asian feature films to be produced in 2017 and a media and entertainment news platform called NRI Glitz that aims at popularizing film professionals working on south Asian films made outside of India.

Mohandas is also involved in philanthropic projects namely Danscribe - a movement that aims to create a language for dance through Braille and also supports various other not-for-profits. He serves on the board of numerous other entrepreneurial and cultural organizations in Austin. Mohandas was recently featured by Roshni Media in their book called Global and Emerging Leaders recognizing him as one of the top hundred emerging South Asian Leaders under the futurists category.

Mohandas also currently has his hands full with a gamut of new projects which include the next big touring Broadway style musical project called Disco Deewane, a three-part fantasy novel called Lanka, two new business ideas, and an arts foundation called the Well-Fed Artists Fund.