The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage Announces 2012 Dance Advance Grant Recipients

Twelve local dance artists and organizations receive $812,000 in funding

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage has awarded $812,000 through Dance Advance to 12 dance projects, representing seven individual artists, three dance companies, and two presenting organizations in the Philadelphia area. Two individual artists are first-time grantees; one is a first-time applicant.

These projects demonstrate the Philadelphia dance community’s interest in revisiting seminal works by groundbreaking choreographers, commissioning new pieces that involve dynamic and potentially transformative collaborations between traditional and contemporary practitioners, and exploring social issues and cultural identity. This year’s funded projects include the metamorphosis of a parking lot in North Philadelphia into a carnival of nature; a premiere by one of the region’s brightest young choreographic voices, exploring an underground dance style; and a challenging production of a rarely performed work by an internationally acclaimed ballet master.

Dance Advance Director Bill Bissell notes, “The 2012 grantees explore performance practices that push against traditional boundaries of how and where dances are made, seen, or engaged with by audiences. Their projects reflect changes taking place in the field of dance both nationally and internationally, and connect dance and dancing to the realm of ideas. This has rich implications for both the artform and for Philadelphia audiences.”

“These projects represent some of the most innovative dance productions that will take place in the region over the coming year,” said Greg Rowe, Director of Culture Initiatives. “Audiences once again have many exciting events—and brilliant performances—to look forward to.”

Dance Advance grants are awarded in all genres of dance to applicants who reside in the five-county region of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Proposals were evaluated in a two-step process by a panel of dance professionals and leaders, according to criteria of artistic excellence, project excellence, and project impact.

Since its inception in 1993, Dance Advance has funded a total of 391 dance-specific projects. These awards represent a value of over $11.4 million invested in advancing artistic achievement in the region’s dance communities and bringing outstanding dance programming to local audiences.

The 2012 funded projects in dance include …

Bryn Mawr College Performing Arts Series
$113,000 | Presenting Organization, Production Grant

The Bryn Mawr College Performing Arts Series will present Susan Rethorst: Inquiring Mind/Choreographic Mind, a retrospective that aims to introduce local audiences to Rethorst’s work, which is largely unknown outside New York City and Europe, and yet has influenced a generation of dance artists. In addition to new iterations of Rethorst’s past work, including the critically acclaimed Behold Bold Sam Dog, the program will feature a series of public events, including public discussions, master classes, and workshops with local artists and audiences, throughout winter 2012–13, which will provide unique windows into her methodology.

Group Motion Multi Media Dance Theater
$138,000 | Company, Production Grant
Group Motion Multi Media Dance Theater, Philadelphia’s longest running contemporary dance company, will commission choreographer Susan Rethorst to create a new work for its dancers. Rethorst’s style, which draws on the potential of each individual dancer’s body and their movements to create the work, represents a departure from Group Motion, which has long started with a theme and asked dancers to adapt their movements to it. Artistic Director Manfred Fischbeck will work closely with Rethorst and Group Motion’s six dancers to examine how this new technique challenges the company. Video footage shot during a four-week rehearsal will be integrated into the final performances—the first time that Rethorst will use multimedia in her work—which will be produced by Philadelphia Dance Projects at Philadelphia’s Arts Bank in January 2014. Rethorst will author an article about the process, to be published in a catalogue that will accompany the performance.

Germaine Ingram
$25,000 | Individual, Planning Grant
Germaine Ingram, a tap dancer, choreographer, and 2010 Pew Fellow in the Arts, will collaborate with improvisational dancer and choreographer Leah Stein for a year-long laboratory to examine how dance can address historical, social, and political themes. For the past three years, Ingram worked on The Spirits Break to Freedom, an upcoming performance that explores the history of slavery at Philadelphia’s President’s House. That project has pushed her to look beyond tap for new tools of expression. Ingram and Stein will work with artists and dance professionals who share their interest in researching and experimenting with new methods for conveying history and social issues through movement, including Ananya Chatterjea, executive director of Ananya Dance Theatre in Minneapolis, and Peter DiMuro, former producing artistic director of Liz Lerman Dance Exchange.

Kùlú Mèlé African Dance & Drum Ensemble
$61,000 | Company, Planning Grant
As it approaches its 50th anniversary, Kùlú Mèlé, a local dance and drum ensemble dedicated to preserving dance and drumming traditions of Africa and the African Diaspora, will engage contemporary choreographer Ronald K. Brown of Brooklyn’s Evidence dance company for an extended residency, to develop new approaches to its work. Brown, whose compositions have been performed by accomplished companies such as Alvin Ailey and PHILADANCO, shares Kùlú Mèlé’s interest in preserving African traditions. Brown’s own practice integrates forms that stem from these traditions with modern and urban styles. He will work with Kùlú Mèlé Artistic Director Dorothy Wilkie and dancers to expand the current repertoire and push Kùlú Mèlé to bridge these styles.

Taras Lewyckyj
$50,000 | Individual, Production Grant
As artistic director of Philadelphia’s Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, Taras Lewyckyj oversees performances that combine Ukrainian and American dance aesthetics, culled from folkloric traditions and contemporary styles. In this project he will recover, restage, and document lost works of acclaimed Ukrainian dance artist Anatoly Kryvochyzha. Lewyckyj first saw the work of Kryvochyzha, who was artistic director and chief choreographer of Yatran Ukrainian National Dance Company, in 1977, when Yatran performed in the United States. Shortly thereafter, Kryovchyzha was removed as head of the Yatran company for his interactions with the Ukrainian Diaspora community in Philadelphia and exiled from his native country for 14 years by the ruling Communist regime; he has since returned to the Ukraine. Lewyckyj will travel to the Ukraine to work with Kryovchyzha and the Zoriany dance company to recreate the historic work, including the original musical scores and costumes. Lewyckyj will make a film of the recovered work, which will be presented in Philadelphia to local dance artists and the Ukrainian community, along with a panel discussion on the history of Kryvochyzha’s experiences, including that of censorship and political exile.

Painted Bride Art Center
$100,000 | Presenting Organization, Production Grant
Painted Bride Art Center will present the seminal duets of Bill T. Jones and the late Arnie Zane—challenging, autobiographical works that launched their careers and remain some of the most significant examples of postmodern dance to date. Body Against Body will trace the history of these major figures, reflecting on their powerful collaborative vision and chemistry. The duets, which tell the story of the duo’s relationship and shed light on the cultural and social issues of the 1980s, when they were first presented, explore issues of gender, race, and politics—issues that remain relevant to contemporary art makers and audiences. The Bride, which first presented Bill T. Jones’ work more than 30 years ago, will restage Blauvelt Mountain and Monkey Run Road—two duets from an original trilogy, which according to dance critic Elizabeth Zimmer, “retain their brilliance and intensity.” The duets will be performed by dancers from Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. Jones, a Tony Award-winning choreographer and Kennedy Center Honors Award recipient, will participate in a pre-show discussion with dance critic Marcia Siegel, to discuss the cultural contexts behind the works and the importance and challenges of their restaging.

Pennsylvania Ballet
$150,000 | Company, Production Grant
Pennsylvania Ballet will acquire and present Artifact Suite, its third work in three years by choreographer William Forsythe, who is noted for propelling ballet from a strictly classical dance form to a dynamic, 21st-century art. Featuring 29 dancers in a 45-minute ballet, Forsythe’s signature choreography in Artifact Suite pushes dancers beyond their perceived physical limits, demanding sharp timing, precise syncopation, and coordination. Forsythe keeps the work fresh by making changes to the choreography every time a new company performs it. “There is always something to improve, some craftsmanship to carry out, and new solutions to discover,” he says. Two of the choreographer’s former dancers, Jodie Gates and Noah Gelber, will stage Artifact Suite over four weeks of rehearsal, and Forsythe plans to visit Philadelphia to work with the dancers in advance of the final performances in June 2013. A public symposium, featuring Freya Vass-Rhee, the dramaturge of the Forsythe Company, will address the “innovative, exciting, and infuriating” qualities of Forsythe’s early work and offer audiences insight as to why he remains an influential figure in choreography.

Jumatatu Poe
$50,000 | Individual, Production Grant
Jumatatu Poe’s work exists at an intersection of dance, theater, sociology, and psychology. He will produce and premiere Private Places at the 2012 Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, his first evening-length feature at the annual event. Private Places examines our everyday interactions with service providers, such as flight attendants—the subject of another recent performance. Poe’s choreography explores JSette, an underground dance style borne from Southern drill-team events and made popular in the gay African-American club scene. JSette is a tight and meticulous dance form, marked by extreme, explosive movements, which have the potential to elicit strong reactions from both audiences and performers. “I’m committed to discovering ways to respectfully ask performers to go to uncomfortable emotional and psychological places,” Poe says. He will present a series of public events to engage local lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender audiences, as well as African-American communities, and to bring attention to JSette and discuss its relevance in pop culture and contemporary dance.

Viji Rao
$25,000 | Individual, Planning Grant
Viji Rao is a dancer trained in Bharatanatyam, a classical South Indian dance form marked by expressive hand gestures and elaborate rhythmic patterns. After 10 years in Philadelphia, spent mostly collaborating with dancers and companies from other traditions, Rao will develop a series of solo works that expands upon her artistic roots in South Indian dance. She will develop three distinctive dances based on incarnations of the Hindu goddess Devi in collaboration with three choreographers: Hari Krishnan, artistic director of INDANCE, Toronto, who specializes in experimental exploration of Bharatanatyam traditions; C.V. Chandrasekhar, one of India’s most highly regarded Bharatanatyam practitioners who creates choreography within the canon of traditional vocabulary; and Delhi’s Santosh Nair, who will create a contemporary work based in the generations-old martial art form of Chhau. Members of local Indian and dance communities will be invited to attend a session that will introduce the work of these choreographers and demonstrate new approaches to classical forms.

Merián Soto
$50,000 | Individual, Production Grant
Merián Soto’s We Are, the culmination of her ambitious Branch Dance series, which began in 2005, will take place in a parking lot in North Philadelphia’s barrio, a primarily Latino community. Under Soto’s direction, the typically congested, urban lot will become a carnival of images, sounds, and smells of nature, in a presentation that is part of Taller Puertorriqueño’s “Café Under the Stars” series. Soto’s performance will encourage audiences to participate in meditative movement with the dancers, in the hopes of achieving heightened consciousness for all. “I am committed to collaboration as a source of empowerment, for both the dancers and the artists that work with me, as well as audiences who experience and contribute to it,” says Soto.

Kate Watson-Wallace
$25,000 | Individual, Planning Grant
A young choreographer interested in site-specific performances, 2007 Pew Fellow Kate Watson-Wallace has created CAR, during which audience members experience the performance in the backseat of an auto, and HOUSE, which takes place inside a Philadelphia row home. Now, with Mash Up Body Lab, Watson-Wallace will work with dancers 18–29 years of age in a three-month research project that embraces, emulates, and layers movements found in popular YouTube clips, music videos, and more, in order to develop new types of “21st-century” dance. The group will use digital audio, video, and social media to document their process throughout and invite audience feedback. New York choreographer Miguel Gutierrez, with whom Watson-Wallace has previously engaged in workshops and who shares her interest in improvisation, will act as her mentor. He will ask challenging questions and instigate risk-taking throughout to guide her and the dancers through this new experimental process.

Raphael Xavier
$25,000 | Individual, Planning Grant
A practitioner of hip-hop dance since 1983, Raphael Xavier brings a wide range of experience to the stage. Xavier specializes in breaking, a street dance form he has taught to new generations of hip-hop enthusiasts for years in order to keep its history alive. “As a traditional folk art, it’s important to disseminate hip-hop dance and culture in as many ways as possible,” he says. His new performance, The Unofficial Guide to Audience Watching Performance, is autobiographical and presents a running story throughout, in which Xavier will be both narrator and dancer. Renowned artist and Bessie Award-winner Ralph Lemon will act as dramaturge, helping Xavier to push the boundaries of hip-hop.

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