773 DANCE PROJECT
Photo by John Evans
WHERE IT STARTED
Upon making the decision to pursue a career as a choreographer, Executive Artistic Director Tyler Thompson realized many of the people who could benefit from the stories she sought to tell would not have access to them under the traditional ways concert dance is presented. This led to her founding of 773 Dance Project, a nonprofit organization that would work to present her choreography in a way that is accessible to all people in the city of Chicago.
773 Dance Project works to increase accessibility to concert dance in underserved communities through performance, arts education, and community engagement. We recognize that dance experiences offer unique emotional and psychological benefits that many disadvantaged communities are largely left out of. Our focus is on offering local and affordable concerts to make positive arts engagement more accessible to all. We hope that these efforts will inspire future dance organizations to look beyond outreach programs and begin to view marginalized communities as primary audiences for their work.
Executive Artistic Director
Tyler received her dance training from Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center under the direction of Homer Hans Bryant. She went on to attain her BFA in dance from the Mason Gross School of Arts at Rutgers University. At Rutgers while studying choreography under dance makers like Pam Tanowitz and Stephanie Batten Bland, she realized her own passion and talent for dance creation. Through 773 Dance Project, she's excited to use this talent to create accessible dance experiences for Chicago's underserved communities.
Pauline Mosley was born and raised in Chicago, IL. She began her formal training under the direction of former Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Homer Hans Bryant at the Chicago Multicultural Dance Center. While studying there, she had the opportunity to perform in Memoria with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center at the Auditorium Theater. In May of 2019, Pauline graduated from the Alonzo King LINES Ballet BFA at Dominican University, summa cum laude. While in the BFA she had the privilege of working with choreographers such as Alonzo King, Maurya Kerr, Christian Burns, Sidra Bell, Alex Ketley and Kyle Abraham. She has performed works by Gregory Dawson, Laura O’Malley, Alice Klock, and Arturo Fernandez and others.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Shadayah Gray is a Chicago native. Her dance training began at Mayfair Academy. While in high school, Shadayah performed with Whitney M. Young Magnet School's award winning poms team. Shadayah has also studied Ballet and Horton through Deeply Rooted Dance Theater's summer intensive program. Despite pursuing a career in finance, her love and passion for dance has always remained strong and has guided her to 773 Dance Project. Shadayah is extremely excited to get to work creating opportunities for all ages to engage in dance activities without barriers.
Veronica Thompson is a proud Chicago native. She holds graduate degrees in early childhood and Advocacy and curriculum and supervision from National Louis University. With more than 25 years in education, including 16 years as a Chicago Public Schools principal on the city’s south side, she is passionate about equity and opportunity for all children of color to be their very best selves in their educational and career paths. As a 773 Dance board member, she brings experience as an educator who believes in the educational and therapeutic value of the arts.
Kaysi Gray is a Chicago native passionate about communal health, wellness, medicine and education. She is the co-founder of an organization, Seed Wellness, which aims to aid in the integration of wellness into the Black community. Kaysi strives to inspire others toward achieving total spiritual, mental and physical wellness. She believes that all people should have the opportunity for arts engagement because such experiences are vital for growth and creativity. As a board member, she looks forward to growing communities through the mission of 773 Dance Project.
Taja Fooks-Thornton, is a native of Pennsauken, New Jersey. She received a BFA in Dance from Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts and a BA in Public Relations. She has trained under artists such as Dara Stevens- Meredith, Laceda Nelson, Carlye Eckert, and Brittany Engel-Adams. She has performed choreographic works by Brian Brooks, Camille Brown, Troy Powell, Darrel Grand Moultrie, and Yvonne Rheiner. She was a company member with Eleone Connections for four seasons and is a dancer with Disney Cruise Line.
Cynthia Wagner is a St. Louis, Missouri native. She began studying dance at 10 years old with the Pelagie G. Wren Dance Academy. She went on to dance with the Black Repertory Dance Company and the Creighton University Dance Company. She’s also taught ballet, pointe, tap, and jazz at Best Talent Center. Cynthia continued her love for dance with the founding of Powerhouse Productions where she facilitated dance seminars led by talent such as Darrin Henson. Later, she returned to school to attain her bachelor’s degree in business management and her master’s in business administration. She is the founder of Creative Marketing Methods and a member of the National Black MBA Association. She brings a wealth of experience and passion to the board of 773 Dance Project.
Michael Thompson is a graduate of the The John Marshall Law School. While a student, Michael interned with the Cook County 6th Municipal District in Markham, where he clerked for the presiding judge, the Hon. Marjorie Laws. After his clerkship in Markham, he became a student intern with the Federal Public Defender’s Office under Lead Attorney, and Intern Coordinator, Sergio Rodriguez. Throughout Michael’s entire tenure of law school, he served every summer as an Assistant Program Director for Just the Beginning - A Pipeline Organization. In that work he helped to create and implement summer programs that provided access to the legal field for a diverse group of youth. After graduating from law school, Michael managed the WIOA grant for a school district, exceeding all performance metrics in the first year. After a short transition to the private sector, reviewing contracts and commercial insurance, Michael came back to the workforce system with Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, as Manager of Workforce Solutions, where he developed demand driven solutions for employer clients in the labor market. Michael is passionate about creating equal experiences for people regardless of their income level and is excited to serve on the board of 773 Dance Project.
Innovative and inspiring author, educational consultant, social emotional intelligence facilitator, and life coach X’ernona Woods has committed and dedicated well over twenty years of her life’s work to supporting socio-economically challenged youth through her State of Illinois Librarian recommended financial literacy prosperity building programs, children’s books and workshops entitled “Kid Millionaire” and other publications. Due to the staggering increase of poverty in America, X’ernona Woods created the “Kid Millionaire” wealth building kit. X’ernona has been acknowledged and featured in a plethora of media outlets sharing her passionate connection and love for youth by empowering communities and schools abroad with impactful knowledge to further enrich the growth and development of youth. X’ernona Woods is a member of the Illinois Jump Start coalition, Chicago Federal Reserve Money Smart , Illinois Author, Global Association of Teachers of Economics presenter, Young Professionals of Chicago, Chicago Public School Financial literacy and Ingenuity partner, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. public service organization. She is also an Ariel Capital Investments Chicago Game Changer Award recipient. X’ernona also has a love and passion for dance, expressed through her time choreographing for inner city scholars. X’ernona’s belief is that dance offers a vainglorious experience of freedom and expression to live and feel without boundaries.
Rachelle Legrand is a New Jersey native who has always had a passion for storytelling. She received her B.A. from Rutgers University in Journalism and Africana Studies and upon graduating, she began her career as an actress performing at renowned theatres, theme parks and stages across the east coast. She has won several awards for her work in the performing arts and has held numerous pageant titles. In 2021, she graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in television, radio and film. She currently works as a lifestyle television host in Michigan. You can find more information about Rachelle Legrand at rachellelegrand.com.