Cynthia Oliver

She // Her // Hers

[ID: Cynthia stands in profile extending an arm behind her to hold and display the skirt of her long, flower-printed dress designed and crafted by Robert Young.]

Choreographer and Performer
Urbana, IL
2021 USA Fellow

This award was generously supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Cynthia Oliver is a dance maker, performer, and scholar reared in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. Her work incorporates textures of Caribbean performance with African and American aesthetic sensibilities. She has toured the globe as a featured dancer with the contemporary companies David Gordon/Pick Up Performance Co(s), Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, Bebe Miller Company, and Tere O’Connor Dance and as an actor in works by Laurie Carlos, Greg Tate, Ione, Ntozake Shange, and Deke Weaver.

She earned a PhD in Performance Studies from New York University, a New York Dance and Performance Bessie Award for choreography, a 2016 Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography Mellon fellowship, and a 2011 University Scholar award from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She was a 2017 Center for Advanced Studies associate and currently serves as Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation in the Humanities, Arts, and Related Fields at UIUC, where she is a professor in the Dance Department with affiliations in African American Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies.

She has authored numerous articles for a variety of journals and edited volumes as well as the book Queen of the Virgins: Pageantry and Black Womanhood in the Caribbean (2009). Her most recent evening-length performance work, Virago-Man Dem, premiered at BAM’s 2017 Next Wave festival and toured the country. Oliver is thrilled and honored to be selected as a 2021 United States Artists Fellow.

Portrait photo by LaTosha Pointer.

  • Artwork by Cynthia Oliver
    Virago-Man Dem premiere, 2017. Brooklyn Academy of Music Next Wave Festival. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.
    [ID: Black performers in hoodies strike dramatic poses on a dark stage. A graphic of a Black man in profile projects behind them.]
Artwork by Cynthia Oliver