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Recipients of the Distinguished Achievement in Dance Award for 2021
Rachna Ramya Agrawal is an extraordinary dancer, master teacher, poet, academic scholar, author and visual artist. A native of India, Ms. Ramya Agrawal is a distinguished scholar and performer of Kathak. She holds numerous advanced degrees, awards and diplomas. Since her arrival in the US, Ms. Ramya Agrawal has been committed to the practice and education of Kathak. Either through her own school, the Sumbhaav School of Kathak Dance, or as a Master Teaching Artist sponsored by The Connecticut Commission on the Arts, the New England Foundation for the Arts, and Young Audiences of Connecticut, Rachna is an inspiration. Her teaching embraces those in the Indian community and beyond through workshops and master classes on college campuses and throughout the state and region. She may be best known as the coordinator for the Ted Hershey Dance Marathon. Her latest endeavor, CjacksArts.com, a social media platform, is her call to action in support of performing artists and Indian arts. Rachna is a woman with bells on her ankles and “fire underneath her feet.”
Libby Nye, a New London, CT native, has devoted her life to dance and dancers regionally, nationally, and internationally. During her professional dance career with the José Limón Company and American Dance Theater at Lincoln Center, Ms. Nye was noted for her expressive interpretations and intense hunger for movement. She directed and choreographed numerous works for her own company in New York, and has taught and reconstructed Limón works throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States. Ms. Nye has taught at the Juilliard School, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, and the José Limón School, along with colleges and universities throughout the United States including The Hartt School at the University of Hartford. She has coached the José Limón Company, developed the dance major at Pomona College in California, and has taught on the faculties of Connecticut College, Harvard University, The Boston Conservatory, Brown University and the Folkwang University of the Arts in Germany. Most recently, Ms. Nye is the founder and co-director of the N.A.D.I.N.E. Project (New Artists Dance In New England), which is based in Ledyard, CT.
Recipient of The Jill Henderson Award for 2021
Barbara Ally is presently an adjunct professor at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School in the Dance and Music Industry Divisions, and is an independent consultant specializing in nonprofit management. Prior positions have included Director for Programs and Events at Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts, Executive Director of the historic Cheney Hall Theater, Artists Collective Inc’s development and marketing coordinator, and Executive Director of WORKS Contemporary Dance. Ms. Ally has served on the Connecticut Dance Alliance Board of Directors, Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz Producing Board, National Dance Presenters Leadership Forum, and as a mentor for National Dance Project’s Dance Lab and a Connecticut State Peer Advisor.
Recipients of The Jump Start Award for 2021
Megan Boyd, of Southbury, is a Connecticut choreographer, performer, and teacher whose former performance career was in New York City. She was co-founder of MUTE, a performance collaboration that explored choreography and improvisation for the concert stage and for digital media. Megan’s choreography has been presented at Dixon Place and WAXworks in New York City, and at the 5×5 Dance Festival at the University of Saint Joseph and in dance concerts at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Connecticut. She holds an MFA in Dance from Sarah Lawrence College and a BFA in Dance from Cornish College of the Arts. Megan was Assistant Professor of Dance at Naugatuck Valley Community College from 2014-2020. Most recently she became the artistic director of MBDT: MB Dance Theater.
Lili “Bloom” St. Amand, of West Hartford, has been teaching Hip Hop since she was sixteen! She found her love for Hip Hop when she was six years old. She believes in spreading her love and knowledge for Hip Hop through her teaching and is always eager to teach the next generation so Hip Hop can stay alive. Lili has participated in countless battles. In May 2017 Lili won World of Dance New Jersey Head Bangerz Brawl. She was asked to come back in 2018 to judge the battle and preform on the World of Dance stage. She has also participated in Breakdancing Shakespeare at Hartford Stage, performing in Hamlet in 2015 and Romeo and Juliet in 2016. Three years later she came back to Hartford Stage to be the assistant choreographer for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Through the summer of 2019 she did countless street performances with Hartford Live, a program the Greater Hartford Arts Council created to bring lively performances to light the streets of Hartford with art. Lili continues to constantly educate herself and be on the Hip Hop scene so she can stay current and give her students the best knowledge and teachings possible.
Leanne “Laska” Zalewski, of New Britain, has performed at professional shows, festivals, cultural centers, street fairs, restaurants, haflas, university events, private parties, and hookah lounges. Laska began performing in 2010, but has been dancing for her entire life! She trained as a cabaret dancer in New York, Boston, and Hartford. She also spent three years studying Afro-Caribbean dance, and tried her hand at Jazz, Modern, Flamenco, Salsa, and Isadora Duncan dance. She danced with Lynchburg Tribal for five years before moving to Connecticut. She also has practiced Pilates for over ten years and yoga for over two years