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Feb 9, 2021

This week on 5.6.7.EIGHT, Aleksandra speaks with Kevin Iega Jeff — Artistic Director, Executive Director and Cofounder at Chicago’s Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. Throughout his career, Jeff has collaborated on a wide range of professional and community-based projects, including Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It; The Academy Awards; and The Wiz on Broadway. Kevin has received countless accolades for his work, including being named one of Julliard School’s top 100 Outstanding Alumni. 

For Kevin, a dance company is only as good as its people. And, as an artist in dance leadership, it is his responsibility to look after the good of those that fall underneath him — and to do anything less would risk losing his organization. On the podcast, Kevin dives deep on his philosophies as a dance leader and gets “in the weeds” on how to build the foundation for a successful dance company that keeps its people at the center.


Moving Quotes:

"If my company was just about dance, we might have folded during the more difficult times. But that never crossed our mind because growing people is at the core of the work. To grow communities."

"In a capitalistic-focused society, we can tend to lose the spiritual value of how we engage with each other."

"If you can support people through their errors, on the other side of that, you build an incredible amount of trust. You build an incredible amount of visioning and a safe space for you to collaborate."

"Management is art, and art is management. Because you're engaging with people. And the reason why management is there is because things won't work perfectly, and people will need guidance."

"[We've thrived for 25 years because] we identified and began planting the seeds for intergenerational leadership, so that we could make the organic transitions that the organization required to thrive over 25 years, as needed."

"We [put rules in place around dialogues] so that we can move on with the productivity of the business of the organization, while also making sure that we're being accountable to the human engagement. Which is the only way things are going to work. If you lose the human engagement, you lose your organization."

"In my education, having parallel worlds between the professional and the academic were really important to me. I also think mentoring is key."


Bullet Points (w/ timestamps) - Highlighting key topics discussed:

3:15: Kevin discusses the origins of his company — Deeply Rooted Dance Theater — and his current role with the company.

6:08: Kevin explains the secret behind Deeply Rooted’s success, as it embarks upon its 25th year as a dance company. 

11:44: Jeff describes the process that went into crafting his dance company’s compelling mission statement and gives some tips for anyone looking to do the same.

16:32: Jeff sheds some incredible insight into how he managed to create a sustainable business plan for his dance company, while also honoring its core values.

22:26: Kevin walks through his earliest dance journey and discusses the value of hard work and delayed gratification.

28:05: Jeff explains what was most beneficial about his dance education.

32:19: Kevin describes the importance of self-positioning in order to make the best decisions possible and how he is spending his life helping others do that well.


Bullet List of Resources – 

Kevin Iega Jeff


Deeply Rooted Dance Theater