Choreographer jhon r. stronks took us seriously when we joked that he could use his 2014 MasterMind Award cash prize for anything he wanted. "You can use it to buy pencils, a plane ticket, anything you want," we said. He didn't buy pencils, but he did buy paper and a couple of plane tickets. The paper covered the floor of the set of Undoing:gniodnU which stronks presented last October. Layers of colorful paper were laid on the floor and then covered with white paper. As the dancers performed, the white paper was torn away to reveal the colorful paper mosaic beneath it.
Collaborator Jasmine Hearn and stronks flew back and forth between Houston and Pittsburgh to work on their joint project B.L.K. Gurls ~n~ W.H.T. Boiz: Singin' 'bout Gawd!, which focuses on issues of gender, race and spiritual reconciliation. The pair presented the work in Pittsburgh and Houston in September and are now readying it as a touring production. "I hadn't really thought of that - to tour it, but it seems to make sense now that we've worked on it some more."
Along with putting the finishing touches on B.L.K. Gurls ~n~ W.H.T. Boiz, stronks spent the last year, he tells us, settling into his job as theater manager for Dance Source Houston. "The space needed lots of work, not major reconstruction, but lots of little things. Now it's where I'm happy with the space and able to expend my energies on something besides clean-up."
Of our three 2014 winners, stronks is the only one who expressed any discomfort with receiving an award. "I'm not making dance for awards or prizes. That's not why I do this so getting something like an award feels a little strange. I had to tell myself, 'This is what it is. I don't have try to explain it or justify it. I can just let it be what it is.' That somebody wanted to give me an award or to acknowledge my work, it's still a little strange to me."
stronks was also the only one who experienced anything less than enthusiastic congratulations from his peers. "There were lots of people who were happy for me and nobody ever said anything like 'you don't deserve it' or anything like that. It wasn't like that. It was more of a silence, lots of people in the dance community just didn't say anything one way or the other. And since I didn't walk around telling people, 'Hi, I'm jhon and I just won an award,' it kind of didn't really come up too often. Was that a lack of support, I don't know. Was it me being weird? Them being weird? I really don't know.
"At the [MasterMind Awards ceremony] I think I said something like, 'To everyone who gets me, thank you. To everyone who doesn't get me, thank you.' That's still how I feel," he says. "The people who support me have an impact on me, of course; and the people who don't support me, they have an impact an on me, too. It's up to me to take what both of those [groups] give me and decide what to do with it. That hasn't changed."
Our previous MasterMind winners:
MasterMind Award winners 2009 Patrick Medrano and Katy Anderson Hightower High School's Broadcast Academy Nova Arts Project
MasterMind Award winners 2010 Reginald Adams and the Museum of Cultural Arts, Houston Opera Vista SoReal Cru
MasterMind Award winners 2011 Foodways Texas Catastrophic Theatre Nameless Sound
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MasterMind Award winners 2012 The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum Alex "Pr!mo" Luster The Pilot Light Restaurant Group
MasterMind Award winners 2013 Opera in the Heights Karen Stokes Dance Stark Naked Theatre
MasterMind Award winner 2014 Chuy Benitez jhon r. stronks Apollo Chamber Players