Abra Johnson and Meida McNeal have collaborated on artistic works for nearly a decade, centering a variety of themes including re/defining “home” and cultural identity in a global economy, investigating and comparing racial and ethnic identity between the Caribbean and the United States, and interrogating notions of urbanity, class, race and gender. As collaborators, McNeal and Johnson have performed and been festival participants in equally broad locales, among them: Northwestern University, the University of West Indies (Trinidad campus), Chicago Cultural Center, Columbia College, Kenyon College, University of California-Irvine, Chicago Fringe Fest, LadyFest Chicago, and Striding Lion InterArts Festival, to name a few. Ms. Johnson and Dr. McNeal are currently working on cultural wellness and sexual/reproductive health education workshops for urban girls, partnering with Chicago’s Mercy Hospital. Recently, they co-facilitated a one-week artist residency at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Having obtained her MFA in Choreography from the Ohio State University (2000) and her doctorate in Performance Studies at Northwestern University (2007), McNeal specializes in critical dance studies, ethnography and historiography with a focus on postcolonial performance and African diasporic cultural production. Dr. McNeal’s most recent academic appointment was as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Global Dance Studies at Brown University in the Department of Theatre & Performance Studies and the Cogut Humanities Center (2007-2009). Dr. McNeal is currently a Teaching Artist, Dance Researcher for the Chicago Artists Resource website project, and also teaches for Interdisciplinary Arts at Columbia College Chicago. She is a 2010 Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist and curates the Dancers At Work forum, a series designed to bring together dance artists and dance supporters in panel discussions and workshops encouraging the growth of dance in Chicago.
Holding an M.A. in Sociology from DePaul University and earned a B.A. from the University of Illinois in Liberal Studies and Economics, Abra Johnson is a teaching sociologist with the City Colleges of Chicago and its Bridge Program with Depaul University. Ms. Johnson’s scholarly focus is on the convergence of race/ethnicity, gender, class, and culture discourses at the site of popular music genres and subcultures that coalesce into both a creolized national language and a meta-cultural globalized dialogue. In the spring, she was chosen as a faculty scholar for the National Endowment for Humanities Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop to study Gullah and Ogeechee African-American subcultures in Savannah, Georgia and its Sea Islands. Ms. Johnson has spent the last four years both teaching sociology and creating performance art.