'Fashion Rocks' choreographer comes home 

Iibada Dance Company
MadamE Walker Theatre

“5, 6, 7, 8 and 1. Lay it out, pull it up, head up. O.K, let’s do it again.”

Early Saturday morning and Jeffrey Page is back home in Indianapolis coaching a cluster of dancers through his new choreography for Iibada Dance Company’s November “Spirit & Place” program. At 1:00 p.m. he’s leading a Liturgical Dance Workshop at the Madame Walker Theatre Center as part of RenFest 2006. This is happening two days after Page was rehearsing and then sitting in the audience at Radio City Music Hall in New York City for the live performance of Fashion Rocks, which aired Sept. 8 on CBS.

“It was the best thing in the world to sit in the audience and especially hear the applause,” commented Page for his choreography for Beyonce’s cameo appearance. And his relentless pushing of young dancers to perfection is happening in his hometown a day before he flies to Las Vegas to work on new choreography for Cirque du Soleil’s O.

These heady credits don’t “turn” Page’s head, neither do they change his commitment to create an authentic African voice in dance, nor his ties to young dancers in Indianapolis. In 1995, at age 15, following four years of training and performing with the Asante Children’s Theatre, Page created his own dance company. Financed through a Youth as Resources grant, Dance Afri’que’ performed in schools throughout greater Indianapolis. Page also established the first African American dance program at an Indianapolis YMCA, in collaboration with the Fall Creek YMCA and the Madame Walker Theatre Center. Sabra Logan, founding artistic director of the Iibada Dance Company, was one of his students.

Logan says Page is an inspiration not only because he has received an Emmy nomination or has toured as a dancer with Beyonce. “It’s his commitment to excellence. He works as hard with Iibada dancers as he does with a star.”

Deborah Asante made the same point in 2004 when Page returned as guest choreographer and director for ACT’s Hip Hop, Bee Bop, Doo Wop program. “Here he is, fresh from appearing with Beyonce in the European MTV Awards and on the Radio Music Awards, and he’s pushing us to places we’d never gone.”

“What I try to do is get across a certain degree of dignity and integrity of the African American culture and what surrounds it,” explains Page. “I came to this place first and foremost as a person who sat with elders living in Senegal and Gambia, but never losing my selfhood as an African American.”

Along with his work as a freelance choreographer, Page is a member of the dance faculty of Santa Monica College, and a frequent guest artist at other colleges and universities. And in his spare time he’s deep into developing with L.A. and Philadelphia-based colleagues, “a humongous work that began with my fascination with music and the emotional places music can take you. It’s full of dualities stemming from the power of paintings, the story behind why a piece of work is created.”

The buzz is his intention to collaborate with diverse cultural organizations in Indianapolis to premiere the work in his hometown in 2010.

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Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn has been covering craft beer and the arts for NUVO for two decades. She’s the author of True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana.

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