Julie Baker Innovation Fund brings South African Dance to The Center for The Arts

In 2015 Julie Baker gathered a select group of visionaries to create The Innovation Fund. The purpose of this fund was to expand The Center’s ability to take artistic risks and produce newer works. Through the Innovation Fund, The Center has provided a stage for new programming opportunities and a laboratory for collaborations that explore diversity, innovation and community. It is place where multicultural work is introduced in order to educate our audiences, where new artistic experiences are brought to the community, and it provides an incubator for new ideas and artistry.

Some of the work made possible by the Innovation Fund include Shanghai Acrobats, A Literature to Life Presentation of Richard Wright’s Black Boy, The National Russian Ballet, Black Violin which incorporated a collaboration with Music in the Mountain’s Youth Orchestra and Rhiannon Giddens, a Grammy-winning country, blues and old-time music singer and musician.

On Thursday, November 9th The Julie Baker Innovation Fund brings a festival of South African Dance direct from Johannesberg.

The Center for the Arts flourished under the leadership of Julie Baker during her tenure as Executive Director which ended in September of 2017. In honor of her leadership The Center received a generous match of $15,000 from Dan and Joanne Castles and Telestream to help us grow the Innovation Fund. The  Center’s goal is for the fund to reach $100,000 by 2019.

In addition, in honor of Julie Baker’s leadership, entrepreneurial spirit, risk taking, The Board and The Staff renamed this important initiative, The Julie Baker Innovation Fund.

Support from the Julie Baker Innovation Fund has allowed two dance companies – Gumboots and Real Actions Pantsula – featuring more than 20 dancers and musicians, and two visions of South Africa, to share one stage at The Center for the Arts.  These groups offer a fascinating glimpse into life under apartheid and are directly reflective of The Center’s mission of bringing diverse and innovative programming to The Center.

To support this work and make it accessible to our dance and artist community, The Center has introduced the Innovation Ticket available to artists and innovators. This discounted ticket will allow dancers and other artists around the community to be able to take part in this celebratory and thought-provoking performance from visionaries in South Africa.  Please call the box office at 530-274-8384 and ask about the Innovation Ticket or how you can support the Julie Baker Innovation Fund. You may also email boxoffice@thecenterforthearts.org with your information and the access code will be sent to you.


At times joyous, at times reflective, the Gumboots Dance Company presents Stimela — The Musical, a unique tale of rural Africans who come by train in search of work in Johannesburg, where working the mines means better wages at the cost of a life away from family. Created by Thapelo Gordon Motloung, whose Spirit and Bones was described as a “masterpiece” and an “energetic, thought-provoking and amusing musical tale” (Sowetan Live). The other half of the program features the Pantsula Dance Company, celebrating a uniquely South African style of dance that grew up on the streets under the apartheid regime. There, young men practiced for hours a day and developed a vision of a better life through dance.

Real Actions Pantsula was established in 1992 by Sello Reuben Modiga. Modiga established the group after realizing the talent of young dancers in Orange Farm, a small town in South African outside of Johannesburg. The group consists of 30 young, talented teenagers around the community. One of Modiga’s missions, as director and choreographer of the group, is to take South Africa’s youth off the street in an effort to give them a life free from the harmful influence of their community through the power of dance.

Stimela “The Gumboot Musical” is written and directed by critically acclaimed, South African playwright Thapelo Gordon Motluong. It is a vibrant musical piece told through narration, music and Gumboot dance. It tells a tale of rural African men who come by train from all walks of life in search of greener pastures in the City of Gold, Johannesburg. As time passes, life proves to be more challenging than they expected. They endure difficult working conditions in the gold mines simply to make ends meet so they can send money back home. The journey unfolds through a series of flashbacks as we learn about each man’s story from the eyes of Zakhele Ndlovu, a young Zulu man who leaves behind his mother and the love of his life, Buhle Zwane.

  • Purchase Tickets Here:

  • Thursday, November 9, 7:30 PM
  • $32 Member
  • $37 General public
  • $14 Students with ID & children under 12
  • Doors open at 6:30pm