Next year marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919 and ratified on August 18, 1920. Yes, it was only one hundred years ago that after years of marching, protesting, campaigning, and in some cases sacrificing their lives, women were given the right to vote.

Deborah Brockus – Photo courtesy of the artist

On Friday, August 16th the Ford Theatres will present Women Rising: Choreography from the Female Perspective assembled and produced by one of LA’s leading advocates for dance, Deborah Brockus. This one night only celebration of women in dance, women’s rights and the power of women will feature ten Los Angeles-area choreographers and dance companies performing site specific works on the theater grounds, works created especially for this event, and others that have been re-worked to fit the multi-layered Ford Amphitheater stage.

During the interview for this article Brockus said that her inspiration for creating Rising Women goes back a few years. “I did a lot of looking at how dance was created in Los Angles and I took a lot of inspiration from how grassroots influenced it all.” She expressed how awestruck she was with the amount of conviction that the early pioneers in dance possessed. “The women who were creating dance were not simply creating for creating sake, but they had strong messages that they had to get out – messages that were broader than just a dance move.”

There was a New York Times article that came out the same year that Brockus produced the first LA Dance Festival in 2012. The article focused on how in New York most of the dance companies were run by men. Following a discussion during with colleagues, they agreed that this was not the case in Los Angeles. They knew that most companies here were run by women. Brockus looked at the history of dance in Los Angeles and the lack of national coverage that it was receiving and concluded that one reason female choreographers had the freedom to form companies was because they did not have that hierarchy. They are able to do what they wanted because no one in New York was paying attention.

Brockus stated that she grew up marching for Equal Rights and remembered explaining to her students that it was not that long ago that it was legal for men to beat their wives. She reminded me of how Secretary Hillary Clinton was written off as an old woman while Senator Bernie Sanders, who was older, did not receive the same treatment. Along with this, the 2017 Women’s March, the Me Too Movement, the fact that August 9th is National Women’s Day, and the centennial of the 19th Amendment is August 18th all came together to play an enormous role in Brockus creating the Women Rising concert during this month.

We chose our date to doubly celebrate the power of all women, and to lift up the Los Angeles area women who created the modern dance movement over the last century as well as the women – my contemporaries and colleagues – who are its standard bearers today.” Brockus wrote in her press release and told me that she feels that women today are now changing what their ancestors worked hard to accomplish.

The companies and choreographers appearing on Women Rising include Blue13 Dance (Artistic Director/Choreographer Achinta S. McDaniel); BrockusRED (Artistic Director/Choreographer Deborah Brockus); JazzAntiqua (Artist Director/Choreographer Pat Taylor); Choreographer Kitty McNamee (former Artistic Director of Hysterica Dance Company); Kybele Dance Theatre (Artistic Director/Choreographer Seda Abay); LA Contemporary Dance Company (Artistic Director/Choreographer Genevieve Carson); Luminario Ballet (Artistic Director/Choreographer Judith FLEX Helle) presenting “Turf”  choreographed by Bella Lewitzky in 1992; MashUP Contemporary Dance Company (Co-founded by Choreographers Victoria Brown and Sarah Rodenhouse), Rosanna Gamson/World Wide (Rosanna Gamson), and Sarah Elgart/Arrogant Elbow (Sarah Elgart).

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LA Contemporary Dance Company - Force Majeure by Genevieve Carson - Photo by Taso Papadakis

Site specific performances that are to occur near and around the water fountain in the entrance areas and elsewhere will begin between 7:30 and 7:50 PM, and at 7:55 PM companies will take part in an opening production number created by Deborah Brockus that, broadly stated, Brockus sees as a tribute to iconic women choreographers with the performers in their iconic costumes. They will not be performing the actual choreography, but simply giving a loving nod and expression of gratitude to their contributions to the art form.

Several factors went into the selection of companies. Availability was a given, but because Brockus anticipated the producing challenges ahead of her, she wanted to include companies that she already had a working relationship with and that covered a variety of dance styles. Brockus is aware that with only one performance many companies and dance styles will not be represented. She, and I, hope that in the not to distant future the funding will be provided for a larger festival of all women choreographers that includes not only jazz, contemporary, modern and Bollywood, but also ballet, ethnic companies, avant-garde and commercial dance. “This (Women Rising) is just a drop in the bucket.” Brockus said. “It will be a wonderful celebration and it is a family show. Come enjoy the summer weather, picnic and wear white if you want.” Referring to the all white dresses worn by Women’s Suffragettes Movement that began in 1848.

What: Rising Women: Choreography from the Female Perspective

When: Friday, August 16, 2019

Time:     Site Specific performances begin at approximately 7:30 PM and Sarah Elgart/Arrogant Elbow’s “Detained” during intermission around 9:45.

Opening dance at 7:55 PM

Company performances begin at 8:30 PM

Where: John Anson Ford Theatres, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood, CA. 90068

Tickets: $25 – available online at and by calling (323) 461-3673.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle, August 6, 2019.

Featured image: LA Contemporary Dance Company – Force Majeure by Genevieve Carson – Photo by Taso Papadakis