CDT and MamLuft in Mutual agreement going forward

Contemporary Dance Theater and MamLuft&Co. Dance announced today that the two organizations will merge in September of 2021.

CDT was founded in 1972 by Jefferson James and MamLuft&Co. Dance in 2007 by Jeanne Mam-Luft. Both organizations have histories of presenting, producing, teaching, and championing contemporary dance and diversity. Those principles will remain core pillars of the new organization, which will be led by Jeanne Mam-Luft.

This organization will have a new name, Mutual Dance Theatre and Arts Centers – one in Hartwell (The Hart, on a site recently purchased by ML&Co.) and one in College Hill (The Hill, which has been CDT’s teaching facility since 1999).

The Hart: model by Andrea Fernando and David Eppele, rendering by Jeanne Mam-Luft

MamLuft&Co. Dance will take on the new name immediately, while CDT completes its 48th season in 2020-21. Following the merger, Mutual Dance Theatre’s presentation of touring dance companies will be designated The Jefferson James Contemporary Dance Theater Series.

According to Jefferson James, “This was not an easy decision to make, but I thought the time was right. There is so much change happening in the field of live performance now that one more change seemed appropriate. I will miss the joys of directing my dance organization, but I’m confident I’m leaving the mission of CDT in the hands and heart of an equally dedicated and supremely talented leader. Her job will be to combine the organizations and make an even stronger dance presence in our community than we’ve had.”

Contemporary Dance Theater in “Park Dance” at Fountain Square, 1980. Photo by Jan Van Dyke

While James is retiring from directing Contemporary Dance Theater, she intends to remain involved and available to lend assistance to Mutual Dance Theatre. 

Mam-Luft, a refugee of the Cambodian genocide, is one of only several Asians who are leading arts organizations in Cincinnati. Her vision centers on increasing access and the representation of people of color.

“Contemporary Dance Theater – and, really, that means Jefferson – has been absolutely integral to MamLuft&Co. Dance,” said Jeanne Mam-Luft. “I’ve never met another person who has single-handedly held up a genre of art for an entire city for as long as Jefferson has. When people call her the ‘mother of Modern Dance in Cincinnati’ (and I know she hates the term), they do it with good reason. My organization – actually, the city – owes so much to her, and it’s an immense honor to be trusted with continuing her work. We both have a deep, deep love for Modern Dance and for Cincinnati, and I know that there is no other work that either of us want to be doing.”

“I’ve never met another person who has single-handedly held up a genre of art for an entire city for as long as Jefferson has.” Jeanne Mam-Luft of MamLuft&Co. Dance

ArtsWave is providing a $30,000 grant to assist with this merger.

The two organizations have the next 14 months to make the change-over and hear from supporters about the future. To provide feedback/input. To donate.

The city’s first modern dance academy

Mutual Dance Theatre is also proud to announce the establishment of what they are calling “the city’s first modern dance academy,” to provide rigorous training for Cincinnati’s youth who seek college degrees in modern dance and eventual professional appointments. The academy will provide not only training, but mentorship, resources, connections, and experiences in preparation for university study. The academy’s goal is to present racially-diverse, scholarship-worthy young dancers to university dance departments.

Artistic changes and appointments

Mutual Dance Theatre also announces a transition to a repertory company, re-staging works by national choreographers, while continuing support and collaborative opportunities for the company members. New company members will be announced later this summer, but the organization now announces several artistic promotions.

Jasmine Snellen (Louisville, Ky.) and Steven Evans (Dayton, Ohio) are promoted to company directors. The two will take Jeanne Mam-Luft’s place in daily rehearsal and company leadership. They joined ML&Co. in 2019 and 2013, respectively. According to Mam-Luft, they are “extraordinary movement-makers” who will provide “fresh lead choreography and exciting new creative direction.”

Hannah Williamson is promoted to rehearsal director of the MamLuft professional company, as well as the Academy’s senior ensemble. Susan Honer, who led the professional company from 2016-2019, will continue as resident choreographer and associate curator.

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