Branjae is the birth child of classic soul, funk and R&B, with a culmination of lyrical depths, energetic theatrical performances, and genre fluidity. Her storytelling comes as unique as the personas she embodies. Branjae’s showcase encourages elevated consciousness by connecting with her audiences for the soul purpose of creating unity and harmony.
2019 proved to be her biggest year yet and included the largest expansion to her portfolio of work. US publications AfroPunk and Billboard premiered her latest project, “Street Light.” The project’s exclusive Tulsa screening was sponsored by DVIS, Tulsa FMAC, and Circle Cinema. Additional collaborations included: “Duet Jazz Club Presents: Branjae’s NYE Extravaganza,” “SRO Presents: Branjae’s Juke Joint Jive,” and a full feature on Emmy Award-winning series “Play It Loud.” 2019 concluded with four nominations at the Tulsa Music Awards and one nomination at the Independent Music Awards.
Kripalaya Dance Academy specializes in Bharatanatyam and other dance styles of India. Kripalaya is proud to celebrate over 15 years of teaching and performance to local communities to help them appreciate and cherish the traditional aspects of this ancient art form. The school’s main mission is to preserve this culture while promoting unity in diversity.
Priya Raju began studying the Indian classical dance known as Bharatanatyam at age five. After her family moved to the United States, she frequently traveled to India to continue her training. Priya has studied and worked with some of the great luminaries of dance and music in India and won many accolades along the way. As the director of Kripalaya Dance Academy, she strives to promote and preserve the ancient art form of Bharatanatyam and other styles of Indian dance. As a choreographer, Priya Raju and her school were featured in Tulsa Opera’s production of The Pearl Fishers in 2016, Faust in 2017, and Carmen in 2019. In 2018, Priya Raju received the Women of the Year – Pinnacle Award by the YWCA, in partnership with the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women, recognizing her work in promoting diversity in the art of dance and for being a mentor and role model to young girls.
Poornima Pillai started learning Indian classical dance under the guidance of Smt Padma Sasikumar, disciple of famous Indian dancer Kalamandalam Kalyani kuttiyamma. She started learning at the age of four and completed her arangetram at the age of 13. She underwent extensive training in both Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam, two of the popular classical dances of southern India. She has also participated in competitive dancing and won a gold medal for Bharatanatyam at the state level collegiate competitions. Destiny brought Poornima to Tulsa as part of her education, where she met Priya Raju, Director of Kripalaya Dance Academy. The association with Priya and Kripalaya gave Poornima the much-needed boost to move her passion forward. As part of Kripalaya, she performs at various prestigious events in Tulsa and beyond. Outside the world of dancing, Poornima works as a Senior GIS Analyst for Cimarex Energy and enjoys life in Tulsa with her husband and two little boys.
Chandini Kanderi is a sophomore at Union High School. She lives with her parents and her younger sister, Manaali. Chandini is part of the National Honor Society, and she enjoys participating in different activities at her school. Dance has been a major part of her life, as she has been dancing since she was four. Chandini studies Bharathanatyam at Kripalaya Dance Academy, and has been for about 11 years. She feels that dance is such a good way to express anything. She will always be grateful for being able to dance, as it has taught her so much.
Sunshine 2.0 is a professional traveling theater troupe based at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, New York. The troupe provides performances and activities for deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults that highlight the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM), as well as educational topics pertaining to the Deaf experience. The theater troupe travels to schools and programs serving deaf and hard-of-hearing students, colleges, museums, conferences, civic groups, festivals and other venues.
Performances are presented in voice and in American Sign Language, are accessible to all audience members and cover subjects for people of all ages. Currently, these performances can come to your school or organization on the east coast at no cost!
Using an array of performance techniques, Sunshine 2.0 offers a series of engaging programs and workshops. Sunshine 2.0 audiences have a rare opportunity to see exciting and entertaining performances that will create a lasting impression.
Jerald Creer was born in Richmond, Virginia, and lived in Frankfort, Germany, for a few years. Jerald then moved back to America at age 5. Jerald graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Social Work and Master of Science in Secondary Education (MSSE) degree. He has been acting and dancing since the age of 6. His career highlights include his participation in programs with the Garth Fagan Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Rochester Association Performing Arts (RAPA Playhouse) and RIT Dance Company. Since joining Sunshine 2.0, Jerald is stimulated through traveling and meeting with students and other professionals around the world.
Shiann Cook is a Cleveland native who recently relocated to Rochester to join the Sunshine 2.0 team. Shiann went to Cleveland School of the Arts, where she studied dance with former Dayton Contemporary Dance Company member Terrance Greene. She has performed at the International Association of Black Dance conference in Denver, Colorado, and has traveled around the country performing professionally. Shiann also studied theater for two years under the leadership of Dr. Scott Miller and Nina Domingue-Glover, where she was taught African American theater, classical theater and how to direct, write and produce her own plays. She is currently a member of Sunshine 2.0, where she serve as a dance captain and voice actor for ASL signers.
Bianca Ware is an artistic old soul hailing from the urban landscapes of Wisconsin. She has been dancing since she was four years old, trained in various styles such as ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop, modern, and African Dance. Bianca holds a BFA degree in Dance: African Dance and the Diaspora, with a professional background in Ko-Thi Dance Company as a dancer, musician, and research assistant in Milwaukee, WI. She draws inspiration from her years of travel nationally and abroad, gaining new experiences by immersing in different cultures, languages, and the people. She enjoys exploring the art of dance, ASL song and poetry, and acting with Sunshine 2.0.
Zain Ahmed was born and raised in Pakistan. He moved to Chicago when he was 8 years old. He has recently graduated in Marketing with a minor in Psychology at Rochester Institute of Technology. In high school, he was involved in many plays at a local theater at International Center on Deafness and the Arts (I.C.O.D.A) in Chicago. In his senior year of high school, Zain and his team went to Dubrovnik, Croatia for the International Conference for Deafness arts showcase. When he was a college student, he was involved in several plays, including Hairspray and Almost Maine. In his free time, Zain loves to dance in Lollywood (Pakistan) and Bollywood (India), traveling, and meeting new people.
Dr. Greg Stone
Master of Ceremonies
Dr. Greg Stone is the provost of TCC’s Southeast Campus. From 2014-2019, he served in that capacity at the downtown Metro Campus, and from 2006-2014, he was an assistant professor of English at TCC. Dr. Stone provides executive leadership for the college’s general education departments and programs. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Tulsa, master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, and an AA in journalism from what was then known as Tulsa Junior College. His dissertation topic (admittedly of little to no interest among the general public) is about the lecture circuit of the mid-nineteenth-century, so TEDx is right up his alley. When away from the office, he enjoys spending time with friends and family, landscape painting, travel, cooking, the novels of Zane Grey, and writing 150-word biographies about himself for publication in places like the material you now hold in your hands.