DANCE NEWS: The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Announces 2021 Dance Research Fellows

DANCE NEWS: The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Announces 2021 Dance Research Fellows

Published on June 23, 2021
zavé martohardjono. Photo ©Liz- Schneider Cohen

The Sixth Class of Research Fellows Will Focus on The Topic of Dance and Democracy

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts's Jerome Robbins Dance Division has selected its new class of Dance Research Fellows. Selected from a robust pool of applicants, these researchers and dance artists will explore the complex relationship between dance and democracy. 

This year's fellows are:

  • Tommie-Waheed Evans
  • Petra Kuppers
  • zavé martohardjono
  • Ariel Nereson
  • Jason Samuels Smith
  • Huiwang Zhang

Each fellow will receive a stipend of $7,500 and a research period from July 1 to December 31, 2021 to complete their work. The fellows will also enjoy the invaluable assistance of the Dance Division's curatorial and reference staff throughout the duration of their fellowship.

The Fellows will showcase the outcome of their research in a presentation or performance at a day-long symposium on Friday, January 28, 2022. The symposium -- which serves as the culmination of the fellowship -- is free and open to the public, and attendees are encouraged to observe as many presentations as possible throughout the day. Online reservations will be accepted beginning in late 2021. After the success of last year's virtual symposium, a virtual option will also be available.

"The distinguished alumni of the Dance Research Fellowship are deeply engaged in furthering dance as a form and as a field of scholarship," said Linda Murray, Curator of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. "With this current class I can already see that the contribution of the Fellowship to discourse in dance will continue. They were selected from an incredibly strong applicant pool and I am excited to support this new cohort as they navigate their projects on the intersections of dance and democracy."

The Jerome Robbins Dance Division Dance Research Fellows was created in 2014 to support scholars and practitioners engaged in graduate-level, post-doctoral, and independent research using the division's unmatched holdings. Past fellows include Malaika Adero, Kiri Avelar, Reid Bartelme, Ninotchka Bennahum, Claire Bishop, Phil Chan, Yoshiko Chuma, Emily Coates, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Silas Farley, Jack Ferver, Robert Greskovic, Triwi Harjito, Joseph Houseal, Jeremy Jacob, Harriet Jung, Sergey Konayev, Julie Lemberger, Alastair Macaulay, Emmanuele Phuon, Ferne Louanne Regis, Hiie Saumaa, Apollinaire Scherr, Gus Solomons Jr., Yusha-Marie Sorzano, Pam Tanowitz, Victoria Tennant, Justin Tornow, Preeti Vasudevan, Tara Aisha Willis, Netta Yerushalmy, and Elizabeth Zimmer.

The 2021 round of the Dance Research Fellows is made possible through the generosity of the Anne H. Bass Foundation, The Evelyn Sharp Foundation, the Geraldine Stutz Trust, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Committee for the Jerome Robbins Dance Division. 

Founded in 1944, the Jerome Robbins Dance Division is the world's largest dance archive with an international and extensive collection that spans seven centuries. We provide a community space for dance professionals, researchers and the general public, offering programs and exhibitions, a dance studio for special projects, educational activities, residencies, fellowships, documentation of performances and oral histories and, of course, dance reference services, all free of charge.


About the 2021 Jerome Robbins Dance Division Dance Research Fellows:

Tommie-Waheed Evans. Photo by Marcus Branch

Tommie-Waheed Evans

Referencing human rights as radical performance, HOME is an examination of race and marginalization. As today’s society still struggles with inclusivity, HOME is about belonging. The project will explore the discomfort, abandonment and strife of segregation and social injustice through the voices of African Americans and LGBTQ people. At its core, HOME aims to give birth to a new consciousness, create connections, and bring about change. Ronald K. Brown and Donald Byrd’s video archives will serve as the foundation for exploring ideas of healing and liberation.

2021 Guggenheim Fellow Tommie-Waheed Evans is a queer black dance maker, born and raised in Los Angeles, California, amidst racial divide, gang warfare, and earthquakes. His work explores blackness, spirituality, queerness and liberation. He began his formal training with Karen McDonald before receiving a fellowship at the Ailey School, and a Master of Fine Arts in Choreography from Jacksonville University. He has toured and performed nationally and internationally as a company member of Lula Washington Dance Theater, Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Philadanco. Since 2004, he has created more than 50 original dance works that range widely in scope, length, tone and subject matter. waheedworks, his Philadelphia-based dance company, is the primary vehicle for his creative research. The company’s mission is to create a radically collaborative body of work that speaks to the human condition. His work brings together urban street dance styles and contemporary dance vocabulary through bold and raw movements propelled by gospel music and polyrhythmic sounds. He has also been commissioned to create works for BalletX, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, PHILADANCO, Verb Ballets, Ballet Memphis, The University of the Arts, Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Louisville Ballet, among others. He has received accolades and honors including 2020 Center of Ballet and Arts resident fellow, 2019 Princess Grace Honoraria Award in Choreography, New Music Project Grant, Howard Gilman Foundation Fellowship, Joffrey Ballet Winning Works 2019, and Ballet Memphis New American Dance Residency 2019.

Petra Kuppers. Photo ©

Petra Kuppers
Crip/Mad Dramaturgies

Kuppers’ project redirects the focus of disability dance and performance studies from representation and creation to dramaturgy, i.e. the space of research, audience development, cast development, and textual embodiment of performance. But focusing on dramaturgy as the lens, the project will offer new perspectives on the processes that fuel performance making, and will model how arts-based research methods can interact fruitfully with historical and textual scholarship. It will guide future researchers to new ways of approaching dance and disability, by working directly with disabled (crip) artists and (mad) artists, i.e. people who identify with and reclaim these labels. 

Petra Kuppers (she/her) is a disability culture activist, a wheelchair dancer, and a community performance artist. She creates participatory community performance environments that think/feel into public space, tenderness, site-specific art, access and experimentation. Petra grounds herself in disability culture methods, and uses eco somatics, performance, and speculative writing to engage audiences toward more socially just and enjoyable futures. She teaches at the University of Michigan in performance studies and disability culture, and is also an advisor on the low-residency MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College. Kuppers received the American Society for Theatre Research’s best dance/theatre book award, the National Women’s Caucus for the Arts' Award for Arts and Activism, and her performance poetry collection Gut Botany was named one of the top ten US poetry books of 2020 by The New York Public Library. She is the Artistic Director of The Olimpias, an international disability culture collective, and co-creates Turtle Disco, a somatic writing studio, with her wife, poet and dancer Stephanie Heit, from their home in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Her next academic book project, Eco Soma: Pain and Joy in Speculative Performance Encounters, will appear with the University of Minnesota Press in early 2022. 

zavé martohardjono. Photo by Liz Schneider-Cohen

zavé martohardjono

As preparation for a performance and installation project that queries what the dance practices of ancestors and Native communities reveal about colonial genocide and cross-cultural, multi-ethnic revolutions, martohardjono will research documentation of folk and contemporary Southeast Asian, Iranian and First Nations dance-theater and ritual dance that tells stories of community self-preservation in the midst of genocide.

zavé martohardjono is a queer, trans, Indonesian-American artist born in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal and living in Lenapehoking/Brooklyn. They use de-colonial and anti-assimilationist dance, ritual, and multimedia practices to make performances, films, and installations that contend with the political histories our bodies carry. zavé has performed at the 92Y, El Museo del Barrio, The Kennedy Center, Storm King Art Center, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Gibney Dance, Boston Center for the Arts, Tufts University, and elsewhere. They've published in Imagining: A Gibney Journal, The Dancer Citizen, and We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics. In addition to being a Dance Research Fellow, they are a 2019 Movement Research AIR and 2021 Gibney Dance in Process artist. 

Ariel Nereson. Photo ©

Ariel Nereson
Plague Dances: Revisiting Bill T. Jones' AIDS Archive in the Time of COVID

Plague Dances brings together ideas and practices from Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane's choreography, critical race theory, and queer studies in order to make visible the ongoing contributions of queer artists of color to reimagining collectivity. Through highlighting archival materials, the project will show how artists have been developing tools that can address the urgencies of our contemporary moment, when the convergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and institutionalized racial violence demand revitalized democratic formations.

Ariel Nereson, PhD, is a dance scholar, educator, and practitioner. She is currently Assistant Professor of Dance Studies and Director of Graduate Dance at the University at Buffalo - SUNY. Broadly, her research considers the relation of performance histories to practices of racial violence and white supremacy in the US, with a focus on the intersection of racialization, embodiment, and movement-based performance. She is the author of Democracy Moving: Bill T. Jones, Contemporary American Performance, and the Racial Past, forthcoming from the University of Michigan Press in early 2022.

Jason Samuels Smith. Photo copyright of the artist

Jason Samuels Smith

Samuels Smith's project aims to rebuild, restore, reclaim and reconnect to his roots. Challenging the current tap canon he will seek out alternate resources to surface an unwritten history in tap and to challenge a tap narrative that is scattered and skewed. 

Jason Samuels Smith, (tap dancer, choreographer, performer) received an Emmy, Dance Magazine Award, American Choreography Award, and Gregory Hines Humanitarian Award. Television/film and choreography credits include Outkast's Idlewild; Black Nativity; Psych; Secret Talents of the Stars (MYA); So You Think You Can Dance; Dean Hargrove's Tap Heat. Stage Credits include Broadway's Bring in Da' Noise, Bring in Da' Funk; Debbie Allen's Soul Possessed, and Imagine Tap!. His touring works included India Jazz Suites as documented in "Upaj: Improvise," A.C.G.I. Tap Company, Going The Miles, Chasin' The Bird, and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards's And Still You Must Swing. Director of L.A. Tap Festival and Tap Family Reunion, Samuels Smith supports DRA/Broadway Cares, Tied to Greatness, CTFD/The Actors Fund, Groove with Me, TapTakeOverHarlem, amfAR, and AHF among others. Samuels Smith promotes respect for tap dance, developed a pro tap shoe by BLOCH, and creates opportunities for upcoming generations as he travels as an ambassador for tap around the world.

Huiwang Zhang. Photo copyright of the artist

Huiwang Zhang
Towards a Democratic Body: Documenting the Creative Processes with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company

The project will link the lineage of the postmodern movement approach to the historical and current creative processes of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company to establish scholarship on the possibility and significance of process-oriented performance. Drawing on Jones' and Zane's collaborative dance making in the '70s and '80s, Zhang will consider how a movement vocabulary is built through an active doing and thinking process to create a democratic body.

Huiwang Zhang danced with the China Opera and Dance Drama Company and Paper Tiger Theater Studio in Beijing. He joined the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company in 2017 after the completion of his Masters study in Dance and Choreography from the U.S and Germany under the great mentorships of Stephen Koester, Sharee Lane, Ellen Bromberg and Katharina Christl. He has also performed with PearsonWidrig Dance Theater and Yin Mei Dance. Huiwang's movement research and teaching are inspired by his traditional training in Chinese Classical Dance, Martial Arts and from teachers like Jennifer Nugent, Sarah Pearson, Leah Cox, Patrik Widrig, Tao Ye, Eric Handman, and Janet Wong. His choreography, often through a sociocultural lens, gives voices to communities at risk of social exclusion and people whose stories are lost in the official narratives, carefully structuring an alternative history from the personal and private stories of the individual. His work has been exhibited internationally in China, the U.S. and Germany. Huiwang voluntarily edits a dance e-journal "upsidedown" in China where he writes and translates perspectives in contemporary dance making into the Chinese language.

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