2023 New/Now Winners Group Acorde. Photo by Claire McAdams
Commissioned Work: Entrainment
Group Acorde is a performance company formed in 2016 by two contemporary dancers and two experimental jazz musicians who innovatively collaborate in all aspects of the creation process. All of the company's works include original choreography and compositions that feature live music performed on stage with the dancers. The company’s main programs are public performances and community engagement activities that include question and answer sessions with the artists, “pay what you can” dance classes, and partnerships with local organizations. These activities provide accessible and affordable dance to live music performances and workshops for the Houston community. Group Acorde has created original works by its founding members and collaborated with guest artists from diverse backgrounds and art mediums including Israeli choreographer Anat Grigorio, Texas choreographer Jennifer Mabus, Texas composer Andrew Leinhard, Brazilian visual artist Andre Amaral, Texas based choreographer Spencer Gavin Hering, and New York based photographer Christopher Peddecord. Its work has been showcased at a number of prestigious festivals and venues throughout Houston and Austin, TX as well as self produced three evening length works and an immersive art/performance installation at the REC ROOM, MATCH, and the Deluxe Theatre in Houston.
Specially for this Performing Arts Houston commission, Group Acorde is collaborating with New York based musician and composer Robert Boston. He performs jazz, contemporary classical, and electronic music and has recorded and performed with numerous groups, from jazz icon Daniel Carter to new music group SEM Ensemble. As a composer and improviser, Boston fuses his eclectic experience, finding form within a spectrum that ranges from musical elements to mechanical noise. He has scored dances by Korhan Basaran, Diane Coburn Bruning, Giada Ferrone, Loni Landon, Lone Larsen, Jodi Melnick, Pietro Pireddu, Caitlin Trainor, and the Martha Graham Dance Company. Boston has appeared on NPR’s Front Row and in New York City venues including the Prospect Park Bandshell, the Joyce Theater, The Knitting Factory, Rockwood Music Hall and Music Hall of Williamsburg. Formerly Principal Pianist for the Mark Morris Dance Group, he helped create and currently teaches the Mark Morris Dance Accompanist Training Program and is Music Director at Barnard College Department of Dance.
2023 New/Now Winner Kam Franklin. Photo by Claire McAdams
Commissioned Work: Bayou City Comeback Chorus: Vol. 2
Kam Franklin is a singer-songwriter, producer, activist, writer, orator, model, visual artist, director, and actress from Houston, TX. She is best known for her work with the gulf coast soul band, The Suffers. She is a three-time recipient of the Houston Press Music Award for Best Female Vocalist. She has performed on five continents and has performed with the Suffers backed by The Houston Symphony in addition to being featured solo. Kam is known for her unique collaborations, some of which include: La Mafia, filling in for H.R. (of Bad Brains) during the 2016 Afropunk Festival Superjam alongside members of Bad Brains, Fishbone, and Living Colour, performing in the 2016 March For Science band alongside Jon Batiste, Questlove, Judith Hill, and Fred Wesley (longtime James Brown and Parliament collaborator), repeated appearances at Newport Folk Festival where she has participated in numerous tributes and collaborations (most notably with Chaka Khan, Brandi Carlile, Allison Russell, Margo Price, Lucius, and Deer Tick). In 2022, she released the Bayou City Comeback Chorus EP, a social justice album funded by The Houston Arts Alliance featuring over 20 artists from around the Houston area. She is founder of Homegirl Island Records, and her production company is called Sequin Sanctuary.
Forbes and Vice Magazine have featured Kam for her activism and business ventures that seek to create a more equitable and inclusive environment in the arts for black, queer, and femme artists working in all mediums and from all backgrounds. Fronting The Suffers, Kam has performed nationally on The Late Show with David Letterman, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and Jimmy Kimmel Live in addition to speaking with Ailsa Chang and Ari Shapiro on NPR’s All Things Considered, Brené Brown’s “Dare To Lead” Podcast, Samantha Brown’s “Places To Love”, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and National Geographic’s “Texas: Spirit and Soul” short film.
At home, Kam remains a very active participant in the Houston music scene, producing events that have featured up-and-coming acts from around the Gulf Coast area while leveraging her and The Suffers’ international platform to represent the City of Houston and champion her entrepreneurial approach to finding success in the arts for women, minorities, and independent artists. She currently serves on the board of HeadCount.org, as Governor for the Texas Chapter of the Recording Academy, and she also served as the inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion ambassador and the inaugural Recording Academy Black Music Collective Chapter Ambassador for the Texas Chapter of The Recording Academy.
2023 New/Now Winner ShaWanna Renee Rivon. Photo by Claire McAdams
Commissioned Work: Emancipation
ShaWanna Renee Rivon is an award-winning playwright, historian, educator, and activist. ShaWanna’s niche and artists mission: to create period-piece comedies centered around the lives of Black women. In this, she has begun the development of her 7-play cycle, the first of which is Old Black and White Hollywood, about a 1950’s Black woman comic who desires to become the first Black female movie star. Old Black & White Hollywood was developed with Matt Chapman, Suzan-Lori Parks and Theresa Rebeck and won the Edward Albee Playwriting Award. The second installment of her 7-Play Cycle, Power to the Queendom, was developed with the Rec Room Writers. Set in 1970s Houston, the script about a group of female Black Panthers is loosely based on a true story. The third installment of the 7-play cycle, You’re Cordially Invited to Sit-In is about the 1960 sit-in demonstration that took place in Houston, will have its world- premiere at Stages Theatre Spring 2022. ShaWanna is currently under commission with the Alley Theatre.
ShaWanna’s commissioned work, Emancipation, is a play with music that examines how our Black Ancestors in Houston, particularly on Emancipation Street in Third Ward, fought for our freedom. Emancipation involves dancing, singing, and celebration of the accomplishments that Blacks have made in this city but also shows us how we are no freer today than we were during Reconstruction Years. What we do today will determine the legacy of those who shoulders we stand on and how we can all have true freedom in the future. ShaWanna has teamed up with musical director and writer Melanie Bivens who created all new music for Emancipation and directed by Monique Midgette.