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SAIC Graduate ’06, Jillian Pena, Recovering from Crash

By Uncategorized

by M. Perel

Jillian Pena, a talented dancer, choreographer, artist and alumna of SAIC was struck by a car and profoundly injured on August 11th while crossing the street in Brooklyn, New York. She suffered two hematomas on the left side of her brain and above her left eye, and was rushed in for surgery at Bellevue Hospital.

The driver of the car that struck Pena, Walter Drumgo, 54, had 11 previous suspensions and has not had a valid license in three years.  He has been charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of motor vehicle and driving with a suspended license.

Pena, a National Merit Scholar who is pursuing a Ph.D. in practice-based perfomance from Goldsmiths College was in New York at the time of the accident working on a couple of dance related projects with local choreographers before returning to the UK where she was developing her dissertation.

At Bellevue Hospital a coma was induced so that Pena’s brain could heal, and for the past month, she has been steadily regaining her consciousness and strength. She does not have health insurance to cover the costs of her hospital stay and treatments.

Her parents left their home in Albuquerqe, New Mexico in order to be with her, and have been staying in various apartments and hotels over the course of the month in order to take care of her. Within the next month, she will be receiving tests to clear her for a trip back to her family’s home where she will continue to recover. Her mother writes daily about her healing process on a blog.

Pena performed “Splistream” alongside Michelle Elsworth at Dance Theater Workshop in New York last Spring. Click here to watch her interview on the piece.

Out of the desire to honor and support Pena, a group of friends in Chicago recently hosted a dance party to raise funds for her. Faculty who were close with her at SAIC, namely Mark Jeffery and Barbara DeGenevieve, have sent packages through the Alumni Affairs office with cards, music, and a boombox for her hospital stay. These faculty members and her friends are looking to plan a benefit for Jillian, at a date yet to be determined, that will feature an art auction as well as video and performance installations.  There will also be meditations for her at a local studio, so friends and whomever is willing, can sit and “send her healing energy.”

For now, the best way to help Jillian Pena is to send a donation to her family via Paypal. In order to do that you must log onto Paypal and set up your own account,  press on the “send money” tab and enter Any amount makes a difference.

To view Pena’s work go to If you are interested in showing your support through meditation or helping with benefit plans, you should contact M. Perel at

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