Saturday, August 1st

Erie Dance Consortium

Let’s Move Kids

Join the Erie Dance Consortium and get up and move from home! Get up out of your chair and follow some guided kid-friendly dance moves from Erie Dance Consortium Instructors. EDC will be providing Let’s Move Kids dance breaks throughout the festival to keep you up and moving.

Jill Rouke

Jill Rouke has been weaving for over 40 years. This local weaver specializes in handwoven art
and accessories. She will be featured with some of her weaving projects and shown working on her current weaving project, a mask made of metals to symbolize the time spent living in quarantine during COVID 19.

Mabel Howard

Kat Wolper

Hypothetical Horror and Kind Veg.

The Typewriter Poetry of Hypothetical Horror is teamed up with Katherine Green of Kind Veg. Katherine directs a program that brings healthy food to low income folks. Hypothetical Horror is an Erie artist who overlays her improvised, typewritten poetry onto pages out of books, cards, or donated artwork.

Nialwak Athow and Afaf Kormouna

Nialwak and Afaf are henna artists from Sudan. Henna is a plant that grows in the region
around the Indian Ocean. The leaves are dried, ground up and made into a paste for dying hair, nails, and for temporary tattoos. Henna is part of cultures in East Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, and practiced by Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists. Despite this great cultural diversity, all these cultures share one thing — the importance of a large, traditional wedding. In all these disparate cultures a bride receives henna on her hands, arms, feet, and legs. This is the first, and only time, she will be so elaborately decorated. Henna marks this important rite of passage as a girl becomes a woman.
Nialwak and Afaf say that henna is about happiness and celebration and used for social events like weddings, prom, and Mother’s Day. Henna is also how they stay connected to their Sudanese culture. They say, “All Sudanese people know henna. Everyone who sees henna loves it, even Americans. They ask and want to know what the henna means. A long time ago only married women do henna. Now teenage girls do henna, but never on their feet, only their hands.”

“For the Sudanese we always have big weddings. A bride without henna is like a bride without a beautiful dress. It is as important as the wedding ring. Henna makes the bride feel beautiful and loved. When we do henna for a bride we give her a blessing. Henna is our way to show respect for a special day. When Nialwak returned to Africa to visit, all the women in her had henna because they celebrated her visit.”Nialwak and Afaf learned this traditional art form from their community. The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts has recognized both of them as master artists and awarded them grants to pass their tradition on to their daughters and other Sudanese women in Erie. They regularly do henna for weddings and celebrations in Erie’s Sudanese, Somali, and Iraq communities. They have done workshops and demonstrations at the Erie Art Museum and local festivals. This year offers a great opportunity. When at the Blues & Jazz Festival in previous years, lots of people
got a small henna tattoo from Nialwak, Afaf, or their daughters. This year they will do a
wedding henna demonstration so watchers can see their tradition in all its glory. Both Afaf and NIalwak are visual jazz artists. Each henna tattoo is unique and created on the spot.

Cee Williams

Nibal Ab el Karim & Zoey Crenshaw

Nibal Ab el Karim

Nibal grew up in a Palestinian family in Nazareth, Israel. She became a professional singer in her late teens, and sang at local festivals and at college events. People took pride in her singing as it was a symbol of their common suffering and desire for peace. Nibal met her Syrian-born husband at college in Jordan.  Since Syria and Israel have no diplomatic relations and the Jordanian government could not offer the couple and their two infant children any legal status they sought asylum in United States in 2009. She now has four children and lives with her husband in Erie. They own and run Sham Market and the Shawarma Station food truck that specialize in Syrian cuisine.
Nibal has been active in sharing her music and children’s songs from other refugees as part of
the Old Songs New Opportunities project. Since 2013 she has visited over 40 early childhood
classrooms to teach multicultural songs that help children develop and learn. She has assisted
in many teacher trainings about the power of song and believes that music can act as a
passport to another culture.  Nibal’s gentle manner, beautiful voice and eagerness to connect
with individuals comes through in her teaching.

Zoey Crenshaw

Zoey Crenshaw began dancing pre-professionally at the age of 14. She was the recipient of the Mercyhurst Preparatory School Creative Arts-Dance Scholarship and the Shayna Stefanik Memorial Dance Scholarship for 2016-2017. She was a part of the Erie Dance Theater Company under the direction of Nathaniel Johnson for four years. She is continuing her dance education at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and will be entering her junior year, pursuing a B.F.A degree.

Nibal and Zoey are collaborating for a one of a kind performance. She is singing an Arab ballad, Kalemone, (They Told Me About You) from the legendary Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum. “Awaken the fire of longing in my heart and my eyes/ Return the past to me with its grace and pleasure / His sweetness…and his torture…” Although most can’t understand the Arabic lyrics, Nibal’s haunting voice and Zoey’s graceful movements will communicate the song’s story of about the pain of love lost.

Samara Proctor & Electric Vehicles

Mariana Syrotiak & Plant It Forward

Puppeteer Mariana Syrotiak teams up with Diane Esser of Plant It Forward. Diane is the founder of Plant it Forward, a grassroots tree planting initiative. Diane is working on making a change for Climate Change by encouraging everyone to plant a tree wherever they live or work. If everyone plants a tree, we can increase our tree canopy. Increasing the tree canopy will reduce the heat index and improve our environment. Collaborating with Plant it Forward is Mariana Syrotiak of the National Marionette Theater, based out of Erie! Mariana is a professional puppeteer and educator who has performed all over the world. She proves that puppets are powerful tools for social change.

Luchetta Manus

Thasia Lunger

A longtime local poet, reading in the area since the 1990’s, Thasia Anne has five books available on As well as writing poetry, Thasia Anne created a program on Cable Access Media, Poetry, Prose, and Personalities, with her husband Bear as videographer.
She also is the director, producer, and participant in (WOW) Women of Word featuring a few
Man Made Words which is presented yearly on Edinboro campus. Find out more by going to

Piñata artist Esther Ortiz teams up with the Green New Deal Coalition. The Green New Deal Coalition is a group of young activists making a connection between a healthy environment and economic justice. Esther Ortiz creates original, bespoke piñatas, drawing from her Mexican tradition.


Join Carla Hughes of SheWorks for a performance titled All Rhythm, No Blues. Carla is the Artistic Director of her solo performance company, SheWorks Dance Theatre and a Rostered Teaching Artist for the Erie Arts & Culture, Arts in Education Program. Carla has been teaching for over 20 years with special emphasis in Jazz, Modern, and Hip Hop. Carla incorporates traditional modern techniques with her own style of release, Jazz and Neo-soul to create contemporary movement. Former member of Kuntu Repertory Theater in Pittsburgh, PA; and Erie Theater Company (ETCO) in Erie, PA. She is also a participating director with J&J Productions; a local theatre production company in Erie, PA.

Choreography by Carla Hughes
Poetry by Anthony Holman
Music by Lynn Johnson (drums) and Parris Baker (saxophone)
Dancers: Hannah Borczon, Taylor Arrington, Corrinne Dietrich, Jaden Johnson, Ramani Rosa, MaKyla

Sunday, August 2nd

SoMar Danceworks

SoMar is committed to the creation and presentation of original contemporary dance works that enrich, enilghten, and entertain audiences in Erie and the tri-state region.

The company features the dances of Solveig and Mark Santillano. Serving as co-artistic directors, choreographers, and dancers, Solveig and Mark are seasoned performers who have danced all over the world. Their work is know for its artistry, physicality, wit, and creativity. Their choreography has been influenced by their association with their former companies, Pilobolus Dance Theatre and Momix.

SoMar Dance Works: What Was I Scared Of?
Text by Dr. Seuss
Choreography by Mark Santillano
Dancers: Mark Santillano and Solveig Santillano

Chuck Joy

Chuck Joy, poet. Author of several poetry collections including Percussive, and Theme of Line. Current Erie County Pennsylvania Poet Laureate. Host, Poetry Night, weekly live poetry open mic.

PennFuture & SoMar Danceworks

SoMar Dance Works teams up with Sarah Bennett of PennFuture. Sarah is the new Campaign Manager for Clean Water Advocacy at PennFuture. PennFuture has been dedicated to protecting Pennsylvanian’s rights to clean water and clean air for 20 years. SoMar Dance Works was founded by Solveig and Mark Santilliano. Before moving to Erie to teach dance at Mercyhurst University, Solveig toured with the experimental modern dance company Momix while Mark danced with the renowned company Pilobolus.

Luke Kuzmish

Matt Borczon

Benjamin Aysan & Samone

Benjamin Aysan was born and raised in Turkey. He first career was as a chemistry teacher. He
moved to America with his wife and two childrenin 2010 and has managed Turkish Cultural
Centers in Portland and Salt Lake City. He has long admired the calligraphy of Aydin Cayir and Melik Sayin, prominent Turkish artists. He hosted them for programs in Salt Lake City in 2013 and they gave him encouragement and guidance to start writing calligraphy himself. Since then, he has been devoted to this art form and spends three hours every morning practicing calligraphy. He moved to Erie several years ago to direct the Turkish Cultural Center. He has done demonstrations at several Erie festivals and is active with the Interfaith group One Table.
Benjamin says, “Calligraphy is the art of beautiful writing and is as old as the printed word.
Calligraphy is an extremely revered art form for Turkish people. Using calligraphy to write
verses of the Koran is called husn-u hat. It is one of the most beautiful ways to express religious devotion. Poetry also holds great respect in Turkish culture, and calligraphy is a way to honor it. I use italic letters to reflect traditional Turkish calligraphy. Writing calligraphy relaxes me and puts me in a state of mind where I can solve many of life’s problems.” Benjamin will respond with live calligraphy to the jazz musicians performing on Sunday. It is mesmerizing to watch his fluid pen.

He will do this in collaboration with Samone, a spoken word artist who aims to create awareness of the unseen connections that weave among humankind. Samone experiences synesthesia, a condition in which one sense triggers an alternative sense. This cross-wiring in her brain compels her to bridge words and visual expression. Samone’s powerful eloquence combined with Benjamin’s flowing pen will be a treat for the eyes and ears.

Kristen Weeks speaks for Herbalists Without Borders. Kristen is a musician, activist, gardener and herbalist dedicated to teaching people about the wealth of healing plants growing all around us, even in the city.

Sean Thomas Dougherty

Bryan Toy & Solar Revolution

Illustrator Bryan Toy teams up with Solar Revolution. John Purvis Jr., Vice President of Solar
Revolution. Solar Revolution has been installing solar panels in the Tri-State area for over 12 years. Solar Revolution’s main goal is to reduce energy costs while providing clean and Renewable energy to the community.

Bryan Toy is a masterful illustrator and painter. His sense of humor and his ability to create art quickly is highly entertaining. Bryan Toy, local cartoonist, recently retired from teaching art and now spends his time drawing. You can see his work in the Erie Reader or at local art shows. He specializes in caricatures and painting.

Joining the Erie’s Blues and Jazz Festival lineup, Dafmark is committed to presenting original choreography that incorporates local and national talent. Their mission is to offer a unique, creative and educational experience, in the art of dance that is steeped in social consciousness.

Dafmark Dance Theater: Will There Be Singing?
Choreography: Dafna Rathouse-Baier
Text from A Pigeon and a Boy by Meir Shalev, as translated by Dafna Rathouse-Baier.
Additional text by Mahmoud Darwish (Earth Poem) and a quote by Bertold Brecht
Dancers: Jennifer Dennehy, Jessica Annunziata, Dafna Rathouse-Baier.