Taking Our Place Centerstage

The Ordway’s mission includes working outside of Ordway’s walls.

Our artistic, educational, and community programs create opportunities for artists to interact with local community groups and partner organizations that support young people, and more.

In October 2010, the Ordway along with Ms. Robin Hickman Winfield, Ordway’s Organizational Partner Strategist and former CEO of SoulTouch Productions, launched Taking Our Place Centerstage (TOPC) in partnership with communities of African ancestry, an initiative committed to artistic, educational and economic engagement.

This partnership has enabled the development of new and unique programming created in collaboration with leadership from Indigenous and communities of color and Ordway staff.  These annual cultural celebrations led the foundation for opportunities to deepen and develop long-lasting relationships with our local communities.

Artwork by Armando Gutierrez G., part of the Mexican Art Exhibition at the Ordway in October 2012.


Máscaras y Milagros: Mexican Arts In Minnesota

Through the leadership of Mary Ann Quiroz and the Máscaras y Milagros Community Council, Target® and the Mexican Consulate, more than 13,000 Minnesotans attended 33 events in 18 days in the 2012-2013 season, connected to the public performances by Lila Downs, Delfos Danza Contemporánea and Poncho Sanchez and His Latin Jazz Band. Máscaras y Milagros included lectures, master classes, performances, receptions and an art exhibition, all with the goal of enriching and stimulating artistic programming that celebrates Mexican and Mexican-American identity and artistic expression.

Panelists (left to right) Dr. Leon Rodrigues and Sowah Mensah shared knowledge of African music and experience with Apartheid during an Ordway Extra moderated by TOPC-ADIH Program Manager Leah Nelson in February 2014. Photo by Sherine Onukwuwe.


The African Diaspora in Harmony

Taking Our Place Centerstage: The African Diaspora in Harmony was developed to explore the rich cultural heritage of artistic expression within the African Diaspora and found enthusiastic support through the Mardag Foundation. As an enhancement to the WMD series and part of Taking Our Place Centerstage, The African Diaspora in Harmony journey included a variety of exciting workshops, master classes, lectures, cultural conversations, performances and the announcement of a fine Art Exhibit, titled Movement, Sound and Memory. The work led by Program Coordinator Leah Nelson and TOPC founder Robin Hickman, engaged more than 50,000 Minnesotans during 50 events throughout the 2013-2014 season that connected and included Rennie Harris Puremovement, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Maria de Barros, the Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, including an advance visit with choreographer Ronald K. Brown, and Step Afrika! View more photos from Taking Our Place Centerstage: African Diaspora in Harmony >>

Nachito Herrera – A Night in Havana concert at the Ordway in October 2014. Photo by Steve Peterson Photography.


Raíces y Sueños: The Artistry of Cuba

As enhancements to the live performances the Ordway presented a series of community engagement activities with the goal of opening new doors into Cuban culture for artists and audiences alike.The Ordway connected with thousands of community members during this celebration of Cuban artistry in Minnesota through performances by Nachito Herrera and his Cuban Orchestra, the Creole Choir of Cuba and CONTRA-TIEMPO during the 2014-2015 season. Guided by the Raíces y Sueños Community Advisors and led by the Community Engagement Coordinator Natalie Kennedy-Schuck, the Ordway partnered with numerous Latin-owned and run businesses and organizations, such as the restaurant Victor’s 1959 Café, the Minnesota Cuba Committee, Midwest Latino Entertainment and Talent Inc., Accentos Inc., and Nueva Imagen Media Group, and Rene Thompson Dance Studios. A visual art exhibit complimented the performances and more than 30,000 engaged during 28 events throughout the season.

Young Cambodian Americans perform classical Cambodian dances during MOVEMENTS, the final Notes from Asia event in August 2016. Photo by Tommy Sar.


Notes from Asia: Vocabulary of Movement and Sound

Notes from Asia connected 15,000 people through 42 events, including four productions during the 2015-2016 World Music and Dance season — Dengue Fever, Hanggai, TAIKOPROJECT and SEOP (honoring Cambodia, Mongolia, South Korea, and Japan) — through connective marketing, community leadership and surrounding programming. The artists in this series not only honor the traditional forms of those cultures, they’ve also re-conceptualized the sounds and forms to communicate/reflect their dynamic realities as artists practicing today, in their cities, as global citizens, as commentators of “now.” The community engagement work was led by community coordinator, Saymoukda Vongsay, working in partnership with Ordway staff and a group of community advisors, who convene to advise on content of pre-show Extras, community-based events, ticket offers, communications and marketing and community outreach with the APIA community. Learn more about Notes from Asia: Vocabulary of Movement and Sound >>

“A Survey of Native American Dance in the Twin Cities” presented by The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts in partnership with Rosy Simas Danse, All My Relations Arts, NACDI – Native American Community Development Institute, and Ordway at The Cowles Center in February 2017. Pictured above: (from left to right): Kristin Van Loon, Janice Bad Moccasin, Michèle Steinwald, Jose George Santos-McCauley, Sandy White Hawk, Winona Tahdooahnippah, Athena Cloud, Larry Yazzie, Lumhe Sampson, Locv Sampson and Rosy Simas. Photo by Tommy Sar.


Oyate Okodakiciyapi: a unique celebration of Native music and dance >

Several renowned Native American, Native Hawaiian, and First Nations musicians and choreographers performed spring 2017 at the Ordway, including Oyate Okodakiciyapi: An Evening of Native Contemporary Dance, Indigenous, and Native Pride Dancers presented “Ketti Nimiko!”

These performances united during Oyate Okodakiciyapi (oh-YAH-tay oh-KOH-dah-KEE-chee-yah-pee), an Ordway community engagement series guided by Community Coordinator Christal Moose and an advisory council of Native and Indigenous community members that continually work to promote and practice cultural artistic expression. The name Oyate Okodakiciyapi, given to us by Gwen Westerman, a Dakota educator and writer, means “people coming together.” Read more about the extended celebration of Native music and dance >>.

ROOTED Rehearsal at ALL DAY STUDIO featuring McKnight Fellow Herb Johnson III, aka Fair Warning, aka J.Dot Tight Eyez (center). Photo by Digiemade Photography.


From the Ground Up: A Celebration of Hip Hop Culture >

From the Ground Up: A Celebration of Hip Hop Culture was a vision developed by Ordway’s Artistic Director of Programming, Dayna Martinez. Co-curated by 2018 Sally Award winner and Maia Maiden Productions Curator and Director, Maia Maiden, this extravaganza pulled together artists and experiences from a variety of mediums, and featured performances ROOTED: Special Edition and Caravan: A Revolution on the Road along with workshops, panel discussions, exhibitions and more that culminated in 4,519 touch points with community members in 16 unique events in and around the community. Artists and experts from both the local and national scenes were featured at events that were intergenerational and welcoming. This truly was a celebration of Hip Hop and Black culture, right here in Saint Paul! Read more about this month-long extravaganza>

Taking Our Place Centerstage also enables the creation of out-of-school programming that engages young people as artists and creators, and inspires them to explore careers in performing arts and programming & supports family involvement at live performances.

Raul Midón Workshop with Sabathani programs We Win Insitutute, Horizons, and Connections to Independence, coordinated by Program Manager Lisa Brimmer and Sabathani Program Manager Sandra Richardson in September 2013. Photo by Bianca Rhodes.


Young Voices Centerstage

An Arts Programming Partnership between Ordway Center for Performing Arts and Sabathani Community Center in collaboration with WE WIN Institute, Horizons `Youth Program, Step Up and Connections to Independence. Young Voices Centerstage Celebrated the power of live performing arts through artist residencies, community celebrations and live performances at Sabathani Community Center Auditorium and the Ordway! Coordinated by Lisa Brimmer, the program connected touring artist Raul Midón with youth performers and supported families to attend the performance at the Ordway.

Youth practice for their performance onstage at the Ordway during Twin Cities Harambee in October 2015. Photo by Sherine Onukwuwe.


Twin Cities Harambee

Twin Cities Harambee formed in the Summer of 2015, partnering LoveWorks Academy for Visual & Performing Arts, Voice of Culture Drum + Dance (VoC), and WE WIN Institute in an Ordway residency. The project connected more than 60 youth with Twin Cities-based artists and choreographers from June through October thanks to a generous grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board’s Arts Access fund. Harambee is an East African word meaning “pull together.” This group united to explore cultural and artistic learning that is grounded in a positive identification with and knowledge of African and African American cultural traditions. Led by the artistic team of Leah Nelson, Kenna Cottman, Chad Heslup, and Jamar Smith, the youth performed a collaborative piece onstage prior to the Lula Washington Dance Theatre public performance. The piece was formed by a creative circle of teaching artists in collaboration with the youth and includes composition and choreography in various forms – West African djembe drum and dance, original recorded music, spoken word, and contemporary movement.

Members of the Dream Team pose with teaching artist Jason Noer, also known as B-Boy J-Sun during the Hip Hop and Media Residency at Neighborhood House in May 2016.


Hip Hop and Media Residency

In November 2015, the Ordway presented Hip Hop Nutcracker an innovative mash-up that blends Tchaikovsky’s classic score with explosive hip hop choreography. Youth, ages 11-24, from Neighborhood House attended the performance as part of their cultural and educational field trip programming.  During March-May, 19 participating youth (who call themselves the Dream Team) experienced the high-energy of Hip Hop dance and learned the history behind this popular art form with teaching artist Jason Noer, also known as B-Boy J-Sun, a respected member of the Twin Cities hip hop community. The focus of the residency was to increase youth’s hip hop dance vocabulary and technique while fostering their creativity through a choreographed project which utilizes their technical skills. They created a 15-minute choreographed piece formed in collaboration with the teaching artist that includes original composition and music selection by the youth and performed at the Youth Leadership Awards Ceremony Showcase on May 19, 2016 .

A second component to this residency included an integration of technology, social media and video production with media artist, Destiny Roberts from Saint Paul Neighborhood Network. A smaller group youth used technology as a way to communicate and document the participating Hip Hop youth’s experience and integrated it into a presentation through a short documentary, their preferred technology medium. Clips of this documentary can be viewed at: https://vimeo.com/174720584. This program was made possible in part with support from the Best Buy Foundation.

A consistent thread is the economic empowerment of businesses and organizations that are led by people of color, and the paid engagement of artists from racially and culturally diverse communities who not only share their artistic gifts, but who have a voice in the way their work is presented and contextualized.

Taking Our Place Centerstage has created the foundation for the Ordway’s current diversity, equity, and inclusion work guided by Dr. Gordon Nakagawa.

The results are significant. In over five years, more than 200,000 community members have been impacted by Taking Our Place Centerstage programs and performances.