MEET OUR FOUNDERS
Jeanne Ruddy is a dance professional whose career has spanned six decades. Primarily a modern contemporary dance artist, her work has encompassed sacred dance, contemporary dance, Broadway, film, teaching, writing and choreography. Her work has influenced and touched generations of dancers and choreographers through her performances, her choreography and her teachings in the United States as well as in Germany, Russia, Brazil, and Cuba. She has established three dance companies over her career: Raintree Dance Harvest in Bloomington, Indiana, Jeanne Ruddy & Dancers in New York City, and Jeanne Ruddy Dance in Philadelphia. Her choreography combines compelling narratives about a variety of social issues such as abuse of women, climate change, navigating personal relationships and the universal voyage of life. Her first professional job in New York was on the Bicentennial Tour of The King and I with Yul Brenner, where she later performed in the Broadway cast. Fulfilling a dream, she was chosen to become a member of the Martha Graham Company where she worked with Ms. Graham for a decade when Ms. Graham choreographed two new works a year for the Company’s New York seasons. Ruddy rose to Principal Dancer and was featured in the PBS Great Performances series in Graham's Cave of the Heart. She also performed leading roles in such Graham works as Andromache's Lament, Diversion of Angels, Deaths and Entrances, Seraphic Dialogue, Clytemnestra, Cortege of Eagles, Embattled Garden, Herodiade, and Appalachian Spring. At that time, the Graham Company toured four months of each year throughout the US, Europe, Mexico, and Canada playing the world’s most important stages. After leaving the Graham Company Ruddy was a guest professor at Connecticut College, Sarah Lawrence College, and Florida State University as well as accepting invitations for international congresses of dance and summer festivals in Brazil, Cologne, Germany, Moscow, Russia, and later Cuba. In the American Dance Festival in Moscow, Ruddy was the first to introduce the Graham Technique to Russian dancers at the Bolshoi and across Russia. Ruddy was invited to join the faculty of the Juilliard School Dance Division teaching the freshman and senior classes while also serving as the scout for hopeful dancers auditioning across America. Concurrently, Ruddy taught at the Alvin Ailey School of American Dance and was promoted to Chair of the Contemporary Dance Department and was involved in the initial concept of the partnership with Fordham University for the creation of the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program. Ruddy relocated to Philadelphia through marriage and founded Jeanne Ruddy Dance, a contemporary dance company that grew to eleven dancers performing and creating new work by Ruddy and other invited top-tier choreographers over thirteen years. The need for a rehearsal space to house the JRD Company created the Performance Garage. Co-founded by Ruddy, with her husband, Victor Keen, it is now Philadelphia’s home for dance with a 110-seat dance theater. It is a non-profit where victor has served on the Board since its inception. Now, twenty-thousand people enjoy either classes, rehearsals, auditions, video shoots, or performances each year. Ruddy considers the creation of the Performance Garage her most important contribution to the field by supporting burgeoning dance companies and emerging independent choreographers to develop and further the art form. For her work with her company, Jeanne Ruddy Dance, and her work developing the Performance Garage, Ruddy received The Independence Foundation Fellowship Award in 2000. Other awards and grants include the National Endowment for the Arts Challenge America as well as the NEA’s Artistic Excellence award, three Pew Foundation Dance Advance awards, three William Penn Foundation grants, six Fels Foundation awards, nine years of support from the Independence Foundation, the Dolfinger McMahon, PECO—an Exelon Company, Land Services Inc, Independence Blue Cross, and twenty years of support from the Suzanne F. Roberts Cultural Fund, among others. Ruddy received an endowed fund—the Martha LaVallee-Williams Community Outreach Fund for her Company’s work with their youth engagement program. To re-open the Performance Garage after the pandemic most essential were the Shuttered Venue Grant, and the Covid Relief Fund.
Victor Keen is the Co-Founder & Board President of the Performance Garage, and an avid supporter of the arts. Along with his wife, director, choreographer and dancer Jeanne Ruddy, Victor purchased the Performance Garage in 2000, and helped to oversee its transformation from an abandoned auto-body shop into the vibrant center for dance that it is today. As a founding member of the Board of Jeanne Ruddy Dance, Victor supported the company during its entire 12 year run, and was instrumental in the organization’s transition to an arts service organization following the company’s final season. In addition to his work with the Performance Garage, Victor is a devoted advocate for the arts in Philadelphia and beyond. He served on the Boards and Executive Committees of the highly regarded Kimmel Center and Philadelphia Theatre Company. Victor also owns the Bethany Mission Gallery, a repurposed church/mission adjacent to the Performance Garage. The gallery houses Victor’s extensive collection of outsider art, vintage radios, toasters and toys, and is one of the world’s largest private collections of outsider art. As the current Board President of the Performance Garage, Victor is passionate about serving the diverse group of dancers, artists, and students who call the Performance Garage home.
“...the perfect incubator for original work.”
Jessica Foley | Writer, Philadelphia Weekly