March 31, 2017

Year-long celebration features eight new works inspired by Brooks’ poems with performances by Joffrey Ballet’s Exelon Strobel Step-Up dancers


First public performance at The Poetry Foundation, Saturday, April 1


CHICAGO – A collaboration sponsored by the Poetry Foundation in partnership with The Joffrey Ballet and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, presents a year-long series of free public performances to celebrate the live and legacy of poet Gwendolyn Brooks in honor of the 100th anniversary of her birth. The one hour tribute performance, entitled “For Gwendolyn,” will be performed over 10 times at various cultural institutions throughout Chicago in 2017 and will feature new dance works inspired by Ms. Brooks’ poems performed by dancers from the Joffrey Ballet’s Exelon Strobel Step-Up Program. Selections of Ms. Brooks’ poems will also be performed by students from the Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy and Rebirth Poetry Ensemble. This initiative marks the first time The Joffrey Ballet, Poetry Foundation, and Logan Center have partnered together.


“For Gwendolyn” premiered at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center School Matinee program on Thursday, March 16, 2017. The first public performance is presented on Saturday, April 1, from 10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m., at “Young People’s Poetry Day: A Celebration of Gwendolyn Brooks” event at the Poetry Foundation, 61 West Superior Street. Additional public performances will be announced throughout the year.


Performances of “For Gwendolyn” will feature eight of Ms. Brooks’ poems (The Chicago Picasso, The Wall, The Bean Eaters, Kitchenette Building, Obituary for a Living Lady, We Real Cool, To Those of My Sisters Who Kept Their Naturals and I’ll Stay) recited by students of Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy and members of Rebirth Poetry Ensemble, both groups are award-winning Chicago-based poetry slam teams. Following each poem, dancers from The Joffrey Ballet’s Exelon Strobel Step-Up Program will perform a new work inspired by the poem as choreographed by Joffrey’s Director of Community Engagement, Erica Lynette Edwards and Community Engagement Coordinator, Michael Smith, who both previously danced in The Joffrey Ballet. Founded in 2006, The Exelon Strobel Step-Up Program is a rigorous scholarship program for promising high school students which offers advanced pre-professional training and performance opportunities to help participants develop their dance skills and provide opportunities to showcase their talents.


“The Joffrey Ballet is honored to celebrate Gwendolyn Brooks and her practice as a poet with the language of dance. This centennial has brought communities together – it has fostered collaboration, partnership, and as a result joy,” said Greg Cameron, Executive Director of The Joffrey Ballet. “For so many young students, finding a place within a community is closely related to the discovery of one’s self. By using dance to illuminate Gwendolyn Brooks’ momentous impact, students can reflect on the past to build their own sense of community today. We’re honored to partner with the Poetry Foundation and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts and look forward to connecting with Chicago audiences in the years to come.”


“For over 15 years, Joffrey Ballet’s Community Engagement programs have offered Chicago youth the opportunity to grow as leaders by providing access to dance experiences that enrich and inspire,” added Erica Lynette Edwards. “Gwendolyn Brooks was a fearless pioneer who paved the way for so many and I couldn’t be more honored to align the Joffrey’s mission with her lasting legacy. This is a phenomenal opportunity for our Exelon Strobel Step-Up dancers, and I look forward to creating inspirational education and artistic opportunities for students across Chicago this year.”


“Partnership is a critical component of our cultural and community engagement. We are thrilled to partner with The Joffrey Ballet and the Poetry Foundation on this historic collaboration which honors the legendary Gwendolyn Brooks,” said Bill Michel, Executive Director of UChicago Arts and the Logan Center. “As a center that nurtures interdisciplinary arts practice and inquiry, we are excited about this innovative performance that pairs youth dancers and poets to reflect o the past and engage the complex, contemporary reality of Chicago and our nation.”


“We are proud to share this program with city wide youth and adult audiences as part of efforts to commemorate the continued impact of Brooks’ artistry and humanity,” added Emily Hooper Lansana, Associate Director of University Arts Engagement at the University of Chicago. “The Logan Center is pleased to celebrate the work of the dancers as well as the Gwendolyn Brooks Academy and Rebirth Poetry Ensemble poets directed by award winning artist, avery r young.”


Raised on Chicago’s South Side, Gwendolyn Brooks is one of the most highly regarded, influential and widely read poets of 20th-century American poetry. Her work frequently focused on the realities of urban black Chicago and the civil rights activism of the 1960s. Brooks’ many accolades include being the first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize, the first black woman to hold the position of poetry consultant to the Library of Congress and the first black woman to serve as poet laureate of the State of Illinois, a position she held until her death in 2000.


This tribute performance is part of the city-wide Our Miss Brooks: A Centennial Celebration. To honor her legacy and her contributions to Chicago, and to inspire a new generation, dozens of institutions, artist, and educators have joined to create programming. For more information on centennial performances, visit


About The Joffrey Ballet

Classically trained to the highest standards, The Joffrey Ballet expresses a unique, inclusive perspective on dance, proudly reflecting the diversity of America with its company, audiences, and repertoire which included major story ballets, reconstructions of masterpieces, and contemporary works.


The Company’s commitment to accessibility is met through an extensive touring schedule, an innovative and highly effective education program including the much-lauded Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet, Community Engagement programs, and collaborations with myriad other visual and performing arts organizations.


Founded by visionary teacher Robert Joffrey in 1956, guided by celebrated choreographer Gerald Arpino from 1988 until 2007, The Joffrey Ballet continues to thrive under internationally renowned Artistic Director Ashley Wheater and Executive Director Greg Cameron.


For more information on The Joffrey Ballet and its programs, visit


About the Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. The Poetry Foundation seeks to be a leader in shaping a receptive climate for poetry by developing new audiences, creating new avenues for delivery, and encouraging new kinds of poetry through innovative literary prizes and programs. For more information, please visit


Follow the Poetry Foundation and Poetry on Facebook at or on Twitter @PoetryFound.


About the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts

Designed as a home for the creative life of the University of Chicago campus and the City of Chicago, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts is a partner, resource, and catalyst for developing deeper cultural networks and richer creative projects citywide and beyond. The Logan Center is an innovative hub for arts education for UChicago students, adults, and youth; a platform to showcase today’s most innovative creators across all media; and a locus for impactful and collaborative artistic innovations with partners in nearby South Side communities and across Chicago.


“For Gwendolyn” is one of the many programs honoring the legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks at the University of Chicago. For a complete list of Centennial events at UChicago visit


Learn more about the Logan Center at Follow the Logan Center on Facebook at or on Twitter @LoganUChicago.