Organizers

Jennifer Calienes, Founding Partner + Project Manager

jenniferJennifer S.B. Calienes is a Massachusetts based consultant working on a range of national dance initiatives with AXIS Dance Company, DANCECleveland, Urban Bush Women and the Hatchery Project. As Founding Director of the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC) at Florida State University (2004-2014), Calienes developed the nation’s first choreographic center, and the only such center in the world situated within a research university. Partnering with artists, presenters, residency sites and funders, the Center became a catalyst, model, and acknowledged anchor for contemporary dance makers across the U.S. during a time of great economic uncertainty. Artists who received subsidized research and developmental residencies at MANCC have gone on to present work to communities across the globe and have received widespread recognition. From 1999-2004, Calienes served as program manager for the National Dance Project, a program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, which supports the production and distribution of dance in the United States. While at NEFA, Calienes helped expand core programming and established international partnerships with the U.K., Japan, the Netherlands, France, and Australia. Calienes is an active advocate for contemporary dance makers and the support of new work, and has served as panelist, chair and facilitator for programs at the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the MAP Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, and United States Artists. Calienes holds a BS in arts administration with a dance concentration from Butler University.

Sara Coffey, Founding Partner

saraSara Coffey is the founder and director of Vermont Performance Lab, a performance incubator that serves as a laboratory for creative research and community engagement. She has been working in the performing arts field as a manager, programmer, producer, and fundraiser for over twenty years. She worked with MASS MoCA on its inaugural performing arts seasons and on developing its dance residency program from 1999-2001. She also has managed the dance companies of David Rousseve and Bebe Miller, and performance projects for David Gonzalez, Martha Bowers, and Laurie McLeod among others. Prior to that she worked with 651 Arts Founding Director Mikki Shepard managing its Neighborhood Arts Network and humanities programs. Sara has served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Vermont Arts Council, the MAP Fund, among others. Currently she serves as a hubsite for the New England Foundations for the Arts National Dance Project and is an active member of New England Presenters, the Alliance for Artist Communities and the Vermont Council on Rural Development. In 2014, she was appointed chair of a task force to lead efforts to redevelop the Broad Brook Grange in Guilford, Vermont, into a community and arts center. Sara holds an M.A. in performance studies from NYU and a BA in anthropology and dance from Marlboro College and the School for International Training.

Sheila Lewandowski, Founding Partner

Sheila 2015 headshot 1Sheila Lewandowski is Executive Director and co-founder, along with fellow Bennington Alumnus Brian Rogers, of The Chocolate Factory, an award-winning incubator for experimental performance in Long Island City, Queens. Sheila’s passion for engagement in her community started as a child of an immigrant father and artist mother living in Staten Island’s largest New York City housing project known as Stapleton Houses. She cofounded The Chocolate Factory in 2004 to help keep arts vibrant in Long Island City, where burgeoning development threatens to displace culture. In addition to her work at The Chocolate Factory Sheila is a community organizer and advocate for artists, and works to increase awareness of the importance of the arts in policy making in everything from education to housing to economic development to labor on a local, regional, state and national level.

Sheila has received recognition for her activities including as a “Top Woman in Business,” “Wonder Woman of Queens,” and a leader in her local community by the Long Island City Business Development Corp., New York State Assembly, New York City Council, Queens County Progressive Democratic Club, New York State Senate, among others. Most recently Sheila was selected to participate in the National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program as one of fifty leaders in arts management from around the globe. She is a member of her local Community Board in Long Island City, the Board of the Non-Profit Coordinating Committee of New York (NPCCNY) and the New York City Council-at-large representative to the board of the Queens Botanical Garden. She continues to volunteer her services on numerous community, city, and state projects.

Carla Peterson, Partner

carlaCarla Peterson was appointed Director of Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University’s School of Dance in Tallahassee, Florida in May 2014 after serving as Artistic Director (and chief curator) of New York Live Arts (2011–2014) and of Dance Theater Workshop (2006–2011). Previously, she served as Executive Director of Movement Research, an internationally recognized dance laboratory in New York City (2002–2006), as both Managing Director of the National Performance Network and Director of The Suitcase Fund at Dance Theater Workshop (1993–1996) and as Assistant Performing Arts Director at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio (1988–1993).

Carla has worked widely as a freelance arts consultant with artists, not-for-profit arts organizations and foundations and continues to serve on national dance and performing arts panels. She received a 2005 “Bessie “ (New York Dance and Performance Award) in recognition of her leadership at Movement Research and service to the dance community. In 2012, she was made a Chevalier de L’Ordre Des Arts Et Des Lettres by the French government. She currently serves on the boards of Movement Research and Mount Tremper Arts, and on the Steering Committee of the New York Dance and Performance Awards, aka The Bessies, since 2009. She holds an M.F.A. from The Ohio State University and a B.S. from the University of Illinois.

Craig Peterson, Founding Partner

Craig Peterson Headshot 2Craig T. Peterson, currently the Director of Programs and Presentations at Gibney Dance in NYC, is a curator, cultural organizer and programmer of contemporary performing arts.  For ten years he served on the staff at Dance Theater Workshop (DTW, now known as New York Live Arts), one of America’s preeminent contemporary performing arts institutions based in NYC.  For four years he served as the organization’s Co-Artistic Director, responsible for developing, implementing and producing a platform of programs designed to support, serve and present the work of local, national and international performing artists.  After moving to Philadelphia in 2009, Peterson launched and directed the Live Arts Brewery (LAB), a research and development program meant to support integrated, long term residencies and engagement activities for local and national artists as part of the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival (now known at FringeArts).  For three years he was the Director and Producer of the annual Philly Fringe Festival, a three-week city-wide festival featuring the work of more than 150 performing artists and companies. He has served on numerous panels for inter/national arts funding institutions, consulted with various arts and social service organizations as a program site assessor and lecturer, and has traveled extensively nationally and internationally to identify emerging talent and connect with artists and arts organizations worldwide. 

Brian Rogers, Founding Partner

Brian RogersBrian Rogers is a director, video and sound artist, co-founder and artistic director of The Chocolate Factory, which supports the creation of theater, dance, music and multimedia performances at its 5,000 sq ft facility in LIC, Queens.

Since 1997, Brian has conceived and/or directed numerous large-scale performances at The Chocolate Factory and elsewhere including Hot Box, the Bessie-nominated Selective Memory, redevelop (death valley) (2009), 2 Husbands (2007), Gun Play (2006), Audit (2004), and Fundamental (2002). As a video, sound and performance artist, Brian has collaborated with numerous dance and theater artists including Shaun Irons and Lauren Petty, Aynsley Vandenbroucke, Tara O’Con, Jillian Sweeney, and the Movement Research Spring 2008 Festival. He presented his first solo exhibition of new video works in November 2012 at Ventana 244 Gallery in Brooklyn, self-released an album of electronic music in September 2013, and collaborated on a new performance by Irish dance artists Emma Fitzgerald and Aine Stapleton at the Project Arts Center in Dublin in June 2014.

In addition to his own work, Brian curates The Chocolate Factory's Visiting Artist Program (now in its eighth year), which supports the work of more than one hundred theater, dance, music and multimedia artists each year.

Claudia La Rocco, Project Documenter/Evaluator

claudiaClaudia La Rocco is the author of The Best Most Useless Dress (Badlands Unlimited, 2014), selected writings encompassing poetry, performance texts and criticism. She edited I Don’t Poem: An Anthology of Painters (Off the Park Press, 2015) and Dancers, Buildings and People in the Streets, the catalogue for Danspace Project’s PLATFORM 2015, which she also curated. She founded thePerformanceClub.org, which won a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, and is a contributing editor to Emergency Index (Ugly Duckling Presse). She is on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts graduate program in art criticism and writing, and has been a guest lecturer and artist at numerous universities, including Princeton, Stanford, and Yale. She has been presented by such organizations as The Kitchen, The Drawing Center, The Poetry Project, O Miami, San Francisco’s Center for New Music, On the Boards, Kiria Koula and Tokyo’s Dance New Air Festival. Her current collaborators include the choreographer Michelle Ellsworth, the performance company Findlay//Sandsmark and the composer Phillip Greenlief. A contributor to Artforum and The New York Times, she is writer-in-residence at On the Boards for the 2015-16 season. She has essays in the anthology Danse-A Catalog (Noemie Solomon, ed., Les Presses du Reel, 2015) and On Value (Ralph Lemon, ed., forthcoming from Triple Canopy). She has had residencies at Arizona State University, Headlands Center for the Arts, and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Her first novel has been commissioned by The Chocolate Factory, where it will have its premiere performance in December 2015.