Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center
Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center(TWDCC) facilitates a working home for professional world & contemporary dance artists, while providing dance education that is committed to access, equity, and excellence.
Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center’s (TWDCC) programming nurtures, promotes and supports professional and emerging artists from Santa Cruz and the Bay Area. While allowing traditional art forms to flourish, we encourage world and contemporary artists to take risks, probe traditional definitions, and forge new ideas. Unique to Santa Cruz, Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center(TWDCC) provides a platform for artists of color, artists using traditional structures in contemporary performance to tell their story, and artists looking to breakthrough established forms of presentation. TWDCC provides ongoing community conversation; audiences have opportunities to watch, engage, and learn from performance, curated festivals, artists talks, and community dance classes. TWDCC links artists, audiences, and community through our cultural center on the Tannery Arts Center Campus and through partnerships with civic and cultural organizations throughout Santa Cruz County.
Cat Willis—Founder, Director
Executive Director BIO
Cat Willis is the founder and director of the Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center. She has lived in Santa Cruz for 14 years. She is originally from Rochester, N.Y., where she began her dance education with Garth Fagan Dance, with whom she studied extensively for six years. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Dance from SUNY Brockport. Her passion for cross cultural understanding, dance arts research, study, and performance has led her to Central America, the Caribbean, and West Africa. She has taught dance throughout Santa Cruz, including two years with Mountain Elementary School as resident choreographer. Cat serves on the Arts Council of Santa Cruz Grants Advisory Committee, the Arts Council of Santa Cruz grants panel, and was the 418 Project’s 2009 Artist in Residence and the Theatre Bay Area’s CA$H grant recipient in Dance. Cat was a featured 2014 TEDX Santa Cruz speaker and was recently nominated for The Su Job Award for Education by Artspace. Her work through her dance company, DIASPORA, has been shown throughout Santa Cruz and the San Francisco Bay Area. She most recently received the 2015 Gail Rich Award for her work through the Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center.
TWDCC Board of Directors
Carmela Woll, Board President
Carmela Woll is a Dancer and an Attorney. In 1997, she co-founded and directed what was to become a multiple award-winning dance studio in Santa Cruz, California. In 2000, she received an esteemed “Calabash Award” from the Santa Cruz County Cultural Council (SCCCC) acknowledging both her contributions to the local dance community and her Excellence in the Ethnic Arts as a Hip Hop dancer and teacher. She has served time as a Santa Cruz City Arts Commissioner and as an SCCCC Grants Committee member. Aside from practicing law, Carmela frequently performs with her Bellydance troupe and has recently embarked on the study of Odissi (Classical Indian Dance).
George Newell, Board Treasurer
George Newell has a long history in local government and community organizations. After moving to California from his home in Oklahoma in 1970, Mr. Newell established and managed the Veterans Reentry Program for Vietnam Veterans at Monterey Peninsula College. In 1974, George moved to Santa Cruz to work for Santa Cruz County and in 1978 became the County Administrative Officer. In 1989, he was hired by Sally Reed to be the Deputy County Executive for Santa Clara County, and in 2000 retired after serving as County Executive.
Throughout his carrier George Newell has worked with many community organizations in both Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Counties. He has helped organize and govern groups supporting the delivery of programs for at risk youth, organizing neighborhoods for community development and expanding health care for people in need. He has served on the board of the Long Marine Lab Seymour Center and was part of the founding of the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County and served as President of the Cultural Council during its 25th anniversary year. Since the fall of 2004 George Newell has served as Executive Director for the Tannery Arts Center. He is currently on the Boards of the Tannery Arts Center, Museum of Art and History, Art Forum, and the Tannery World Dance and Cultural Center and is a printmaker in the print shop of the Printmakers at the Tannery.
Mia Birdsong, Board Member
Mia grew up on the East Coast surrounded by writers, story tellers, educators, artists, and activists. She is co-director of Family Story. She has spent more than 20 years fighting for the self-determination and pointing out the brilliant adaptations of everyday people. Most recently, she was the Vice President of the Family Independence Initiative (FII). Under her leadership the organization expanded and achieved national recognition. Through FII, she created and curated the Torchlight Prize, an award for groups of everyday people working together to strengthen their own communities. She holds a B.A. in African American Studies from Oberlin College. Mia sits on the board of directors of People’s Grocery. She lives with her husband and two children in Oakland, CA.
Micha Scott, Board Vice President
Micha Scott is a dance professional with 21 years of performing, teaching, and choreographic experience. She was a senior member of the world renowned Garth Fagan Dance in New York for 13 years before coming to the west coast. She is currently a lecturer at Santa Clara University, the resident choreographer at Mountain School in Soquel, CA, and an instructor at several private dance studios in the Santa Cruz area. She is also currently dancing with Tandy Beal and Company.
Michael Watkins was elected as Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools in November, 2006, and is now in his second term as superintendent. He held the statewide position of President of the Juvenile Court and Community Alternative School Administrators of California and currently holds the position of President-Elect of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA). Michael began his teaching career with the Oakland Public Schools and from there went to work for the Alameda County Office of Education. He holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology, Life-Time Teaching Credentials in secondary and special education, and a Masters in School Administration. His work with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education began when he assumed the position of Learning Handicapped Program Specialist later becoming the Director of Special Education. Before becoming Superintendent, he served as the Director of Alternative Education where he was honored by both the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors and the Watsonville City Council for his work with at-risk youth and for outstanding achievements in education.
Yasmina Porter, Board Member
Yasmina Porter is a Dance Historian dedicated to youth mentorship and supporting her students to achieve their highest potential as artists and world citizens. She has taught and researched dance in West Africa, Cuba, Jamaica,Mexico and Spain.. Her honors include: The J. William Fulbright Fellowship and West African Research Association Fellowship. Her current work focuses on cross cultural expressions of spiritual unity through dance.
Jennifer Radakovich, Board Secretary
Jennifer Radakovich earned her MA in Dance (Ethnology) from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a certificate of Pacific Island Studies from Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. She has lectured and led workshops on Serbian, Samoan, Hawaiian, Tahitian and Korean dance, dance and gender and Labanotation at universities across the U.S. and in Seoul, Korea. She has published in the Korean Research Journal of Dance Documentation and the Korea Times. Jennifer is currently the company manager for Tandy Beal & Company and serves on the Board for the Tannery World Dance and Cultural Center.
TWDCC Non Discrimination Policy:
The TANNERY WORLD DANCE & CULTURAL admits all community members and students of any race, color, national origin, and ethnic origin to all of the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis race, color, religion (including religious dress and religious grooming), sex (including pregnancy, perceived pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or related medical conditions), gender identity, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, age, physical or mental disability, or any other basis protected by local, state, or federal laws.