Ni’Ja Whitson

They // Them // Theirs

[ID: Ni’Ja, a stylish Nonbinary Trans person with long locs draped over their left shoulder, stands in front of a window overlooking greenery and trees. In a dark sweatshirt and gray infinity scarf, they look directly at the camera.]

Multidisciplinary Artist, Performer, and Writer
Los Angeles, CA
2021 USA Fellow

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

Ni’Ja Whitson (New York/Los Angeles) is an award-winning, Queer, Nonbinary Trans multidisciplinary artist and futurist. Whitson engages transdisciplinarity through a critical intersection of the sacred and conceptual in Black, Queer, and Transembodiedness—site, body, and spirit. They are a Creative Capital awardee (2019), a two-time recipient of the Bessie Award (2017, 2019), a Hermitage Fellow (2020), and an artist in residence at 18th Street (Los Angeles) and New York Live Arts (2020–23).

They were the featured choreographer of the 2018 CCA Biennial, a 2018–20 Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center Fellow, and an invited presenter at the 2019 Tanzkongress international festival. They have been commissioned for work by Danspace Project, Abrons Arts Center, and American Realness in New York, the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, and the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, among others.

Their practice extends to choreography for conventional and experimental theater and performance, most recently with Yale Dance Lab and for the opera Omar—composed by Rhiannon Giddens and directed by Charlotte Brathwaite—scheduled to premiere at the 2021 Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC. Their writing has been published in Contact Quarterly, Dancing While Black journal, and the Critical Black Futures anthology (2021).

They hold an MFA in Performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College in Plainfield, VT. Whitson is an assistant professor of Experimental Choreography at the University of California, Riverside, and a sought-after speaker, consultant, master class facilitator, and conversationalist, with appearances at notable institutions and events including Princeton University, Movement Research in New York, the American Dance Festival, the Collegium for African Diasporic Dance (2020 keynote), and UNESCO.

Portrait photo courtesy of the artist.
  • Artwork by Ni’Ja Whitson
    Dark Matter, 2019. 20 minutes. Cypher-Watermill Arts Center, New York. Photo by Maria Baranova.
    [ID: In a dim performance space, a nonbinary trans artist squats close to the ground on the toes of one foot with the other leg extended long behind them. In their mouth they hold a neon rope that emits a cool white light.]
  • Artwork by Ni’Ja Whitson
    Oba Qween Baba King Baba, 2019. 70 minutes. Photo by Ian Douglas.
    [ID: Four dancers wearing white glow in darkened space, which is illuminated by galactic projections on the floor. One dancer jumps with her hands and arms stretched wide.]
  • Artwork by Ni’Ja Whitson
    A Meditation on Tongues, 2017. 84 minutes. Photo by Ian Douglas.
    [ID: A gender nonconforming performer balances on their stomach on a set of risers surrounded on three sides by the audience. Their arms are outstretched, legs lifted, and mouth and face open and tense.]
Artwork by Ni’Ja Whitson Artwork by Ni’Ja Whitson Artwork by Ni’Ja Whitson