Jordan McHenry, a Colorado native, has returned to Colorado Springs to open a studio for the newly-renamed Dance Alliance of the Pikes Peak Region, after a storied career working with Cirque du Soleil and the Martha Graham Dance Company.
McHenry said he has come to see Colorado Springs as a wonderful place after learning to overcome the dangers of “cultural subjugation expressed as microviolence.”
McHenry cites many women teachers, including Karen Swartley and Linda Weise, with helping him focus his love of dance. He graduated from Air Academy High School and moved to New York, where he attended The Ailey School, a multicultural institution founded by Alvin Ailey. He said he discovered an “entirely new ecosystem of POC understanding, and a slap in the face in terms of what the real world thought and did.” He worked in Montreal for a year, and then with Cirque du Soleil for seven years. Later, he toured with Martha Graham Company globally, representing modern dance to audiences around the world.
“Then I hit 30, and my body started to get tired, as I realized I couldn’t do all that work on my own anymore,” McHenry said. Before deciding on his next career path, McHenry studied in an ashram in Thailand for a year, then traveled around Europe for four more years. The latter years opened McHenry’s eyes to the structure of those companies with social safety nets, which allowed the arts and social services to flourish.
McHenry said his Las Vegas work with Cirque du Soleil centered on a role in an adult burlesque show, which expressed androgyny and helped McHenry affirm his identity. After McHenry entered graduate school in London, the Colorado Springs Dance Theatre reached out to the dancer to seek consultation on how to enhance leadership. McHenry gave them two choices: shut down and transfer the funds to another organization, or “you implement a three-year strategic plan that includes a new name and new mission, with myself as executive director for a three-year stint.” McHenry was hired, and the renamed Dance Alliance of the Pikes Peak Region was halfway through its three-year mission “when the pandemic hit and eviscerated all previous models of what might work.”
Now DAPPR has a new website, launched Aug. 2. In his third year as executive director, McHenry finally feels the organization is realizing its goal.
“I never dreamed I’d be back in Colorado Springs because as a child, this place was traumatic,” he said. “Yet I saw so much possibility and potential here.”
During the pandemic, DAPPR offered needs-based scholarship programs based on passion of the nominees. It was based on a 25-year program that formerly was a merit-based “best of best” approach, with a retooling to examine passion instead of skill sets or achievement. The organization awarded every person who applied — plus the bonus of a set of dance shoes. In recent weeks, DAPPR has been rehabbing a space Downtown above King Chef adjacent to Acacia Park. The site includes two historic dance studios that have been there for a century. The dance space, Movement Gallery, was unveiled to the public during the August First Friday. DAPPR calls it a “flex space for everyone.”
DAPPR has created a direct link to School District 11 through Lorilee McDaniels of D11’s visual and performing arts administrative team. McDaniels found funds to create a six-part series called “Every Body Dances.” The 21-minute episodes try to attract kids without internet to get involved in movement through the district’s on-air Channel 16. Also, a new after-school program called “Ignite” starts in D11 elementary schools this fall.