THE ERA FOOTWORK CREW
Photo by Wills Glasspiegel
The Era Footwork Crew are pioneers of the battle dance known as Chicago footwork. Since 2014, they have expanded upon what it means to be a dance crew, addressing inequality and racism through their lyrics and panel discussions and supporting women and girls in the history of footwork through collaboration and documentation. They have performed from Japan to Peru, performing and choreographing alongside leading artists such as Chance the Rapper, DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn, and Theaster Gates. Institutions like the Field Foundation, the University of Chicago, the Joyce Foundation, and NEFA (New England Foundation For The Arts) have recognized The Era with grants in support of the group's boundary-breaking artistic and social leadership. The Eras work has been in short documentaries by VICE, CBC (Canadian Broadcast Company), and the Chicago Tribune.
Jamal “Litebulb” Oliver is a dancer and dance activist at the forefront of footwork culture in Chicago. Known for the intricacy and creativity of his dancing, Litebulb has performed with leading artists such as Chance the Rapper and DJ Rashad. Since 2009, he has traveled to international stages, from PS1 MoMA to the Barbican in London. Litebulb co-founded The Era in 2014. His practice is both intensely local and broadly international. In 2017, he co-founded Open the Circle, a nonprofit organization devoted to channeling financial resources into low-income communities through the arts. He has received awards and grants for his innovative work, including recognition as a “dancer of the year” in Dance Magazine, and artist grants from Chicago Dancemakers Forum, the Field Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the New England Foundation for the Arts, and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.
Brandon K. Calhoun aka “Chief Manny” (director, writer, editor, animator) is a Chicago footwork dancer, dance educator and filmmaker. As a filmmaker, Brandon’s direction and hand-drawn animations accentuate footwork’s rhythms and phrases, revealing dance as a visual language. His animations drive the recent projection, Footnotes, a video made for large scale display on the facade of the Merchandise Mart (the Mart) in Chicago. As a dance filmmaker, Brandon has produced and edited dozens of short videos for Chicago Dancemakers Forum, beginning in 2017. His dance films and videos have screened at the Chicago Cultural Center, University of Chicago, Theaster Gates’ Stony Island Arts Bank and other respected venues. A cultural organizer and multidisciplinary artist, Brandon also performs poetry and footwork in an award-winning new multimedia footwork performance by The Era, In the Wurkz, touring to Wesleyan University in Connecticut and the Walker Art Center Minneapolis in 2021.
Jemal “P-Top” De La Cruz, or “Legendary Top” as he’s known widely in Chicago, is an icon of footwork dancing. A bonafide “hometown hero,” P-Top represents the Uptown neighborhood on the north side of Chicago footwork. P-Top danced in the film Manglehorn with Al Pacino and has performed footwork across the world and in several countries. P-Top has also performed alongside Chance the Rapper. Before joining The Era, P-Top was affiliated with the dance group Goon Squad. Beyond dancing, P-Top has worked a multitude of jobs from crossing guard to caring for the elderly. He has four young sons, footwork dancers of the future. P-Top runs a regular footwork dance event in Chicago known as "The Ring," which targets and empowers youth in low-income communities.
Sterling “Steelo” Lofton is recognized among the top footwork dancers in the world. He came to prominence as a battle dancer in the legendary clique Terra Squad. In 2014, Steelo co-founded The Era Footwork Crew and began to tour internationally. He has danced at festivals such as Pitchfork and Lollapalooza. Steelo was recognized as a choreographer of the year (New City Magazine) and cultural organizer of the year (FADER Magazine) alongside The Era. Steelo is focused on the fashion side of dancing, helping to design merchandise and visual art to represent footwork and The Era. He created "footwork saves lives'', a campaign to help bring awareness to footwork as a positive outlet for youth in Chicago. Steelo recently started his own fashion line called "Stiched by Steelo." He was awarded an honorary doctorate from South Shore High School for his community service through dance. Steelo’s rapping and lyricism has been featured on several mixtapes and he was interviewed in multiple documentaries from The Chicago Tribune to VICE. “Footworker’s boots,” a pair of Timberland boots customized by Steelo, was featured in The Era’s art gallery show at the Hokin Project in 2014. He lives and works on the east side of Chicago.
Creative Administration Research (2022-2024)
Ideas in Motion: 21st Century Dance Practices (2023)