Philadelphia Dance Projects concludes its 25th season with the premiere of Tommie-Waheed Evans’ “softly as i leave you” from June 10-11 at 7 pm at Christ Church Neighborhood House.
Building from his fellowship work with Center of Ballet and the Arts and his research at Jerome Robbins Library of Dance, Guggenheim award winning choreographer Evans explores the nuances and intersections of desire, love, longing and survival in his work.
Evans is queer Black dance maker, born and raised in Los Angeles, California, amidst racial divide, gang warfare, and earthquakes, and says his work explores “blackness, spirituality, queerness and liberation.”
He began his formal training with Karen McDonald before receiving a fellowship at the Ailey School, and a Master of Fine Arts in Choreography from Jacksonville University.
But interestingly enough, he says, “I didn’t start out wanting to be a dancer. My original goal was to enter the fashion market somehow. But when I was in the 10th grade, I met a teacher who thought I should study dance instead. I was always interested in the arts, and that conversation was about to change my future.”
Evans says that’s when he became addicted to dance, and after his senior year decided to move to New York. ‘That’s when I got a fellowship to the Ailey School and my whole life began to change.”
He moved back to Los Angeles for a time, but in 2002 wound up in Philadelphia with Philadanco, an association that lasted for 14 years. He is now the company’s Artist-in-Residence, and continues to maintain a warm and welcoming relationship with the group.
Since 2004, Evans has created more than 50 original dance works that range widely in scope, length, tone and subject matter. “waheedworks,” his Philly based dance company, is the primary vehicle for his creative research.
Additionally, he’s been commissioned to create works for BalletX, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Ballet Memphis, The University of the Arts, and the Boston Conservatory at Berklee, among others.
Along the way, Evans has also received many accolades and honors, including the 2020 Center of Ballet and Arts resident fellow, the 2019 Princess Grace Honoraria Award in Choreography, Joffrey Ballet Winning Works 2019, and many, many more.
Today, after two hip replacements, Evans no longer dances with his company but continues to train others and stay happily involved. “I maintain a high profile and continue to enjoy all my work with young and eager dancers.”
He also states that he wants to do “work that matters,” and work that acknowledges the rejection of the LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities from society. “And although I can no longer dance and have had to make that transition, I’ve learned how to work with the cards I’ve been dealt.
“In the end, I am most moved by my dancers’ hunger to continue working, despite the circumstances. I just want to keep working and help others find their artistic way,” he concludes.
For more information, visit philadanceprojects.org.