USA Dance Panel for 2008

Jennifer S. B. Calienes

Director, Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

Olga Garay

Executive Director, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles, CA

Marc Bamuthi Joseph

Artist and USA Rockefeller Fellow for 2006, Oakland, CA

Peter Taub (Chair)

Director of Performance Programs, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL

Renae Williams Niles

Director of Dance Presentations, The Music Center, Los Angeles, CA

Statement by Marc Bamuthi Joseph

Living a life in the world of dance is the stuff of dedication, guts, and determination, leavened with an inherent understanding of the tension between the vulnerability and the prowess of the human body. But the dance world is now vast in its conceptual and physical scope. The common lineage of an American dance history exists, but many of the most significant dance makers today no longer work in anything remotely resembling the structure or style of the masters who launched American dance in the twentieth century—George Balanchine, Alvin Ailey, and Martha Graham. Merce Cunningham’s legacy is closest to us now, and just passing into history. Opportunities for dance training are bountiful. The model of the dance company with its year-round dancers who learn only from one choreographer is close to extinct. Fundamentally, contemporary dance artists are likely to find source and inspiration from the complex worlds they inhabit—from conceptual practice, social engagement, personal identity, physical space, traditional forms, and popular culture. And for each dance artist, their unique location in the swirl of our global culture, their connection to movement training, and their theories of how movement accumulates meaning, leads to vastly different art-making.
As the review panel assembled by United States Artists considers the varied and deep pool of artists who have submitted fellowship proposals, the discussion is wide-ranging. The panelists resist speed and linger to explore favorite work samples, to revisit artist narratives, to wonder at the sophisticated physical languages these artists have created.
We talk about activism, about identity, about the different concerns and aesthetics of the many dance-making regions of the country.
We are thrilled by rhythm and musicality, and also awed by silence.
We note spatial principles, anatomical specificity, casting choices, design elements, and keen attentiveness to physical environment.
We reflect on dance that is trancelike in its focus, dance that exults in visceral and kinetic euphoria, dance that gives space to inner lives, dance that is so opaque that we meet it more than halfway and are inspired in the process.
We share how deeply impressed we are with artists who not only make their own dances but also build opportunities for other artists through the structures they create.
We tell each other about the impact that so many of these artists have had on us as choreographers, as curators, as dance-lovers, as advocates.
We marvel at the fact that there are still important dance artists we are learning about for the first time as we watch their work samples and read their written statements.
We are thrilled by the group of dance makers who will receive this year’s USA Fellowships. Miguel Gutierrez, Dayna Hanson, Deborah Hay, Trey McIntrye, Bebe Miller, and Awilda Sterling-Duprey, you have inspired us and so many who come into contact with your work. The physicality of your work, the ideas that inform you, the unexpected choices that you make,are phenomenal. We wish you all the continued success in your work as you continue your lives in dance.
Cathy Edwards