Jahari Dance Troupe

Jahari Dance Troupe

Established in 1971, the Jahari Dance Troupe is a vibrant student dance company trained in techniques that range from traditional to contemporary trends of black dance. "Jahari" is Swahili for jewels, and these students often shine as such when they perform a dance repertoire that includes African dance, ballet, Caribbean, folk, jazz, modern dance and music video.

Since its inception, the troupe has performed at various university campuses, secondary schools and community centers throughout the Midwest. The dancers have been involved with cultural exchange programs with similar dance companies in the region.

The dancers have received instruction from such internationally recognized dancers and choreographers as Darlene Blackburn, Kwame Botwey, Archie Savage and Joseph Holmes.

Jahari's credits include performances with African dancer Kwame Botwey and ethnomusicologist W. Komla Amoaku in "Roots Africana," and the premiere of choreographer Joseph Holmes's "Jonestown." Jahari performs primarily in October, November, January, February and March. The group hosts its home season in April.

Jahari is the true expression of the African American experience from African to hip-hop. Jahari's work is often laced with personality and style. The troupe strives to provide excellent aesthetic and kinesthetic awareness to its audience and participants alike.

The troupe is available to make concert appearances for schools, churches and civic organizations. A performance fee is required to cover expenses. Persons interested in engaging the Jahari are encouraged to confirm arrangements at least three months in advance.

Artist-in-residence, Kevin Iega Jeff.

Artist-in-residence, Kevin Iega Jeff

A New York native, Kevin Iega Jeff served as artist-in-residence at Howard University; the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Goucher College; and the State University of New York before his work at Purdue. Jeff has captivated audiences with his direction and choreography for more than 25 years.

Jeff trained at some of the nation's top artistic institutions including: Bernice Johnson's Cultural Arts Center, New York City's High School for the Performing Arts, Darvash Ballet School, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center and The Juilliard School. In 2005, he was named one of The Juilliard School's 100 Outstanding Alumni in celebration of the school's 100th anniversary. It's an honor he shares with actor Robin Williams and musician Wynton Marsalis.

At the age of 21, Jeff founded JUBILATION! Dance Co. in New York City. The company was created out of a need to provide a forum for African American artists to be nurtured emotionally, spiritually and physically through the arts. For 10 years JUBILATION! toured internationally, inspiring diverse audiences and communities all over the world. In October 1994, he was appointed artistic director of the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theater. In 1995, he co-founded Deeply Rooted Productions in Chicago, where he continues to serve today as artistic director.

His work has been featured in several on-screen and off-screen productions including Spike Lee's "She's Gotta Have It" and Broadway shows "Comin' Uptown" and "The Wiz." He performed the role of the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast," dancing with prima ballerina Cynthia Gregory during the 1994 Academy Awards. His credits for direction and choreography include an international tour of "Porgy and Bess," choreography for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, River North Dance Co., Dallas Black Dance Theater, Cleveland Contemporary Dance Theater, and the Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Co.

Jeff's "Walls" premiered at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. In 2003, Jeff and associate artistic director Gary Abbott co-choreographed "Jagged Ledges," featuring Tony Award-winning spoken word artist Staceyann Chin. In 2006, he and Abbott were commissioned to choreograph "Three Brazilian Dances" for the Chicago Sinfonietta orchestra. In 2007, he received nominations for best direction and best choreography for "Nefertiti: A Concert of Music and Dance."

Jeff's awards and acknowledgements include a New York Dance and Performance "Bessie" Award nomination, the Broadway Theater Arts Academy's Best Choreography Award for "Church of Nations," National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and National Council for Culture and Arts recognitions. He received a merit award from the International Association of Blacks in Dance, and joined their board of directors in January 2006. Most recently, Jeff was awarded the 2009 Chicago Dance Makers Forum grant to support creation of a new piece, "I Am Deeply Rooted," which premiered in 2010.

A universal element of Jeff's achievements is the inspiration people draw from his art.

"I want my work to grow truer, more focused and relevant," Jeff says. "My art is born out of human examination, and my desire to communicate authentically informs what I create. For me, dance is the perfect catalyst. It reflects the inner voice and bares who, why, and what we are and who we strive to become."

The Jahari Dance Troupe Ensemble Presents: Carnival Unveiled