Author: jessilliams

Grant writer by day and dancepreneur by night.


Marta Ortega

In this episode, Jessica was in Havana, Cuba interviewing Marta Ortega, a dancer with Acosta Danza. Acosta Danza was formed in 2016 when international ballet star, Carlos Acosta retired from a highly regarded 30-year ballet career with the Royal Ballet and moved back to Cuba.  The company commissions international choreographers such as Mats Ek and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui to create original contemporary works on its dancers.  In 2018, Acosta Danza will perform in Havana and tour in Europe and Singapore. Learn more at

A Note from Jessica:

After my interview with Marta, she showed me a video of her and Carlos performing a recent piece by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui at Sadler’s Wells in London. It was clear that she is a versatile, powerful and natural contemporary dancer with a strong ballet foundation, stemming from her traditional ballet and modern dance training in Havana.  The vibrant dance scene in Cuba is part of a prominent cultural tradition of contemporary art in Cuban society which can be seen in galleries, murals, street art, and institutions throughout Havana, including Fabrica de Arte Cubano, a contemporary arts venue presenting visual arts, live music, dance, and film screenings in a fun party-like atmosphere where one can drink, eat, wander around galleries, and then make their way to a DJ-dance floor.

Cuban performance artists are increasingly being shown in the U.S. Recently, the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis presented a series of Cuban artists. After our interview, Marta expressed that there are a great number of talented dancers in Cuba and she wished there were more opportunities for them to be supported and presented. Unlike most Cuban dance companies, Acosta Danza receives external funding from private international donors (and a partnership with Sadler’s Wells) which allows the company to commission international choreographers and provide more opportunities to its dancers, like exposure and touring opportunities. It will be interesting to see how this international focus will influence Cuban choreographers in such an established and rich tradition of dance.

More about Marta Ortega:

Prior to joining Acosta Danza, Marta danced with Danza Contemporanea de Cuba. Hailing from Havana, Cuba Marta Ortega trained at the School of Ballet “Alejo Carpentier,” National Ballet School of Cuba and the National School of Art. In 2006 she participated in international cultural exchanges in Italy and the Netherlands. In 2008 Ortega won first place in her specialty at the National Contest of Schools of Art. In that year she graduated with honors and joined Danza Contemporánea de Cuba. In this company, led by maestro Miguel Iglesias, she reached the rank of principal dancer, and danced in Casi Casa by Mats Ek; EquationCarmina BuranaMeKniksmoMambo 3XXI,Identity- 1Matria Etnocentra by George Céspedes; Demo-N / Crazy by Rafael Bonachela, Folia and Compass by Jan Linkens, Sombrisa by Itzik Galili; Horizons by Pedro Ruiz; Reversible by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa;Tocororo, Cuban fable by Carlos Acosta; Cuban tangos by Billy Cowie;Capricis by Angels Margarit; Crystal and Mercury by Julio César Iglesias and Transire. Not wanting to look back by Norge Cedeño. As part of the cast of The equation, by the Cuban choreographer George Céspedes, in 2010 she won the Audience Award at the 24 Internationaler Wettbewer fur Choreographen in Hannover, Germany. She graduated from the University of the Arts in Cuba (ISA) with Golden Title Bachelor’s of Art in Dance, specializing in Contemporary Dance. Since 2015 she has been part of Acosta Danza where she has danced Alrededor no hay nada, by Goyo Montero; De punta a cabo, by Alexis Fernández (Maca); and Carmen, by Carlos Acosta.

Marta spoke Spanish during the interview. Read her fully transcribed interview in English and Spanish here.


Stephan Quinci



In this episode of Pod de Deux podcast, Clara and Jessica interviewed Stephan Quinci while traveling in Berlin.  Originally hailing from Italy and Ohio, Stephan now calls Berlin his home where he collaborates with artists and investigates his own performance work. Stephan shared how his current training in release technique influences his performance work and free expression on the Berlin Club dance floor.  We talked about his dialectic process for creating conceptual performance, and the European performance landscape.

Check out his recent dance fashion feature in Sleek Magazine:

Following graduation from Kenyon College in Ohio, Stephan was invited to create an installed performance dialogue at the former MINT Gallery, a collective art and project space in Columbus, Ohio. Shortly after that, he relocated to Berlin, Germany.

In Europe, Stephan has been involved in numerous solo, group, video, and performance projects and collectives. He has performed works by Isabel Gotzkowsky, Sarah Grether, new media artist Leonard Traynor, and, most recently, he took part in MoDem Pro with the Compagnia Zappalà in Catania, Italy.

Stephan’s most recent personal project, Extract, has evolved from video to performance installation. It includes two parts, one of which premiered in Italy and the other of which is still a work in progress.

Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes or listen at Dance Network!



In this episode of Pod de Deux, Clara and Jessica interviewed performance curator, Ali Rosa-Salas, who serves as the Director of Performance Programs at Abrons Arts Center.  We spoke about the many roles of a performance curator and how Ali approaches her work at Abrons as she strives to create a place for inquiry and community.  In the process, we learned about the history of Henry Street Settlement and its founder, Lillian Wald. Clara joined Ali and Jessica via skype from Minnesota where she was visiting her family for Thanksgiving.

Ali oversees the curation of Abrons Arts Center’s performance season with Artistic Director Craig Peterson and manages artist relations. As an independent curator, she has produced visual art exhibitions, performances, and public programs at Danspace Project’s Food For Thought Series, AFROPUNK AFTER DARK 2015, Knockdown Center, MoCADA, MINKA Brooklyn, Weeksville Heritage Center, and more. She has also organized discursive events as an Alumnae Fellow at the Barnard Center for Research on Women, with Movement Research as part of their Studies Project platform, and the DISCOURSE series as the Associate Curator of the 2017 American Realness Festival. Ali was co-founder of the curatorial platform MAMI (2016-2017), which produced a music compilation, an exhibition, performances, and nightlife with NON WORLDWIDE, Fake Accent, BUFU, BBZ London, GET ARTISTS PAID, and over 150 DJs, artists, collectives, and activists. She graduated from Barnard with a B.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and interdisciplinary concentrations in Dance and Race/Ethnic Studies.  She is currently an M.A. candidate at the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance at Wesleyan University. 

Check out the array of forthcoming performances on Abron’s Arts Center’s website!

This episode was recorded at Btoven Music studio.

WE’RE THERE TO CELEBRATE: Ben Oddo and Michael Mahany of Dance Network

Michael Mahaney Still


In this episode we spoke to Ben Oddo, Content Manager of Dance Network as well as Michael Mahany, NYC Dance Network Correspondent. We learned how co-founders, Julie Stadler and David Medeiros, formed Dance Network. Michael shared his favorite moments as a correspondent and journalist of dance in New York City, as well as his passion for dance, wine, and cooking.  Ben and Michael spoke about the network’s growing dance content and future plans for the platform.

We are also so excited to announce our new partnership with Dance Network which will be launched with the release of this episode!  Pod de Deux will now be featured on Dance Network along with their family of programs.

Dance Network is the first-ever, over-the-top, digital network dedicated to showcasing all styles and genres of dance. Dance Network’s goal is to help dance lovers celebrate together. Featuring over 400 hours of original and licensed video content, live event coverage, revealing blogs, and The Barretender, an in-house podcast featuring in-depth interviews with leaders in the world of dance, Dance Network is becoming the premier outlet for dance entertainment, lifestyle, education and inspiration.

Dance Network offers viewers across the globe access to its content for $6.99 a month. This includes original shows, dance competitions, feature films, documentaries, video instructional, blogs, news, podcasts, and live streaming all at your fingertips.
This episode was recorded at Btoven Studio in Manhattan.


FranKirmserHeadshot Tumblr1

In this episode, we interview Fran Kirmser, co-author of the new book, A Life in Dance: A Practical Guide. Fran revealed how a class assignment turned into a quest with Rebecca Stenn to create a resource book for dancers. Fran read from the book and shared some stories from contributing artists.  Throughout our conversation, we talked about the various strengths and skills dancers possess that they can rely on to make their own life in dance and beyond.  Look for the book on Amazon and (more…)

Sarah Benvenuti


Jessica and Sarah Benvenuti, founder of Benvenuti Arts, met up for a friendly chat and drink on a rooftop bar in New York City.  Sarah shared her seasoned approach to fundraising for small arts organizations and artists while sharing helpful tips for artists interested in increasing their fundraising impact.  They talked about practical fundraising strategies, donor and audience engagement, the case for support, grant writing, crowdfunding, fiscal sponsorship, and more.  Artists, this is not an episode to miss! (more…)

Jennifer Tipton

Jennifer Tipton

Jessica had the pleasure of interviewing lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, who was recently nominated for a Tony award for her work on A Doll’s House Part 2 (on Broadway through July 23rd).  Jessica and Jennifer chatted over coffee about many aspects of her process starting with her approach to collaboration with directors and choregraphers, to how she gets inspiration, key differences in lighting dance and theater, as well as trends in lighting, and tricks of the trade. (more…)