HDD has designed a project to bring its place-based practice of storytelling and art making to the Martin Luther King campus. The artistic residency, which began in 2018, promotes civic pride, enhances the cultural vitality of the neighborhood, and bridges efforts between public health, art and culture.

HDD received the distinction of becoming the first dance company to be awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant. This grant will be used to develop and execute the first phase of the project (2019-20), and has received matching funds from Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ office, LA County Arts Commission, CalMHSA and the Weingart Foundation. Additionally, HDD has convened a team of community leaders to serve as project advisors, including: Yolanda Vera and Dr. Jasmine Eugenio (LA County Department of Health Services), Dr. Jan King and Beatriz Navarro (LA County Department of Public Health), Karly Katona and Salya Mohamedy (Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ staff), Linda Griego and Denise Rodriguez (MLK Health & Wellness Community Development Corporation).

HDD will continue this artist residency with workshops, performances (by HDD dancers and the community), and intergenerational conversations thanks to support from the California Arts Council and its Creative California Communities grant. These activities will be lead by HDD company dancers, teaching artists and collaborators. Community members at large will have the opportunity to participate in workshops, attend rehearsals and performances, volunteer at events, and engage in activities that promote healing through creative expression, connection and transformation.

Stay Awake

Stay Awake was a cross-disciplinary work created on site at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital. Choreographed and directed by Heidi Duckler, this work was inspired by the ecosystems of the new hospital and explored how human interactions influence our health and our community. Stay Awake featured HDD company dancers Raymond Ejiorfor, Tess Hewlett, Roberto Lambaren, Lily Ontiveros, William Yivisaker, Rafael Quintas, Jasmine Rafael, Rebekah Denegal, SHE Street, Carissa Songhorian, Himerria Wortham, and Luke Zender. New York-based experimental percussionist and composer Jessie Cox, performed an original composition written for this premiere. William Roper played live tuba along with a variety of wind instruments. Large Shiva, a Los Angeles-based improvisational orchestra directed by Justin Bardales, also performed live for this work.

Photos by Teri Weber

MoveWell@ King/Drew High School & Recuperative Care

First person stories of Recuperative Care clients were recorded and shared with dance students at King/Drew High School who created original choreography inspired by these personal narratives. The piece was presented at the high school’s Multicultural Day (see below). The project focused on transformation and how we can use our creativity to advance empathy, optimism, and connection.


HDD held a workshop at the newly constructed affordable housing project for seniors, the Gateway at Willowbrook in late 2018 and returned in 2019 for a 12 week residency and final performance (video below) . Teaching artists provided wellness education using healing movement activities in collaboration with the senior residency and local community partners from the Department of Public Health. The workshop focused on supporting mental health through movement. Immediately following the workshops, there was a Q& A and discussion.

Beauty in Your Backyard

Beauty in your Backyard was a multi-disciplinary community artist engagement that highlighted talented local artists in the fields of architecture, music, photography and the performing arts. The public forum focused on aspects of the history, beauty and inspiration found in the neighborhood of Willowbrook, California. The panelists included musical composer and tuba player William Roper, esteemed architect and adjunct professor Robert Ley, contemporary photographer Janna Ireland, and scholar, activist, playwright and artist Funmilola Fagbamila. The discussion was followed by a reception.

Ages Take Action: Give the Vaccine a Shot!

Ages Take Action: Give the Vaccine a Shot, a collaboration between Heidi Duckler Dance, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital Campus, Los Angeles Unified School District, community members, and community institutions throughout Watts/Willowbrook, began as a nontraditional PSA created to provide both an artistic and personal approach to dissemination of vaccine information, because amongst the numerous resources that existed none engaged the arts – that which connect us most to our humanity. Click to learn more.