For almost 25 year, Chicago’s professional black dance company “Deeply Rooted Dance Theater” has been championing the art of modern, ballet and African dance. The mission of Deeply Rooted Dance Theater is to re-imagine and diversify the aesthetics of contemporary dance by bringing together modern, classical, American and African-American traditions in dance and storytelling. Co-founders Kevin Iega Jeff and Gary Abbott have established a world-class dance company inspired by the African diaspora in a community dedicated to nurturing artists, supporting human relationships and sharing common values through engaging in dance.
Kevin Iega Jeff began studying dance formally at age thirteen. He trained at the Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center, New York City’s High School for the Performing Arts, Darvash Ballet School, and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center before matriculating into The Juilliard School. As a dancer he has been praised for his technical brilliance and rigor, his dramatic power, and the singular ability to perform and bridge different dance forms in a seamless manner, whether it be ballet, modern, contemporary, or African American dance.
Gary Abbott began his career as a dancer in Atlanta, GA with Barbara Sullivan’s Atlanta Dance Theatre. There he developed his interest in choreography and created works for musicals presented by Jomandi Productions and The Clark College Players. Receiving a scholarship to attend California Institute of the Arts in 1979, Abbott studied with dance legends Crystine Lawson, Nicholas Gunn and Mia Slavenska. Abbott later moved to Los Angeles where he danced with Lula Washington Dance Theatre and Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Theatre.
Deeply Rooted has been at the forefront of arts activism with them being the first American dance company to appear in the 15th annual JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience in Durban, South Africa. Their works have also included themes of living with HIV/AIDS and the soul’s quest for freedom, reflections on American’s Civil Rights era.
Being committed to the intersection of dance and activism, Deeply Rooted is set to continue to serve as a force in the arts community.