The NYU Center for Ballet and the Arts today announced the artists and scholars who will serve as fellows in residence for the 2017-2018 academic year. The program provides fellows from a range of disciplines with a stipend, access to studio and office space, an apartment, and time away from daily life to focus on a specified project.
The Center for Ballet and the Arts (CBA) at New York University, the first international institute devoted to the creation and academic study of ballet, today announced the 19 new artists and scholars who will serve as fellows in residence for the 2017-2018 academic year. The group includes distinguished individuals in a range of disciplines, including choreographer Annie-B Parson, scholar Christopher Wood, journalist Alma Guillermoprieto, and designers Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung.
The Center also announced that Israeli dancer and choreographer Danielle Agami will receive the Center’s third annual Virginia B. Toulmin Fellowship for Female Choreographers, and scholar Natalie Rouland was named this year’s Fellow for the Study of Russia and Ballet, a joint fellowship with NYU Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia. Both will assume their fellowships in January 2018.
Entering its fourth year, the CBA Fellows program invites scholars and artists from the field of ballet and its related arts and sciences to work at the Center on their own scholarly and artistic projects. The program provides fellows with a stipend, access to studio and office space, an apartment in some cases, and time away from daily life to focus on their specified project – a book, a ballet, a film, a digital lecture series, or other work of their imagining related in some way to ballet.
Previous fellows have included Frederick Wiseman, Suzanne Vega, Basil Twist, and Jonah Bokaer. Wiseman’s fellowship project, Titicut Follies: The Ballet, premiered with the James Sewell Ballet at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts this month.
CBA Fellows in residence for 2017-18 also include dance and design team Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer who reconstruct lost ballets; choreographers Mariana Oliveira, Helen Simoneau, Paul Vasterling and Christopher Williams; scholars Claire Bishop, Nancy Isenberg, and Ruth Horowitz; choreographer and professor Anjali Austin; writer Claudia Roth Pierpont; and set and costume designer Jean-Marc Puissant.
The Center for Ballet and the Arts was founded in 2014 by Jennifer Homans, Distinguished Scholar in Residence at NYU, with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and is an international institute for scholars and artists of ballet and its related arts and sciences. It exists to inspire new ideas and new ballets, to expand the understanding of ballet, and to bring new vitality to its history, practice, and performance in the 21st Century.
Since its founding, CBA has hosted and sponsored numerous presentations and events related to the intersection of ballet practice, performance, and scholarship, in addition to supporting a wide variety of academic and artistic projects through its ongoing resident fellowship programs. For more information about the Center visit: balletcenter.nyu.edu.
About the 2017-2018 Fellows:
Project: Perspectives of an American Artist: The Auto-Ethnographic Chronicles of an African-American Classical Ballet Dancer
Anjali Austin is a distinguished interdisciplinary artist whose career includes thirteen years of performing with the critically acclaimed Dance Theatre of Harlem. A movement artist, she has performed classical, neo-classical, and contemporary works by prominent choreographers, and choreographs nationally and internationally. Ballets she has performed include Billy the Kid, Swan Lake (Act II), Serenade, Flower Festival, Dougla, Concerto Barocco, Prince Igor, Paquita, and Frankie and Johnny – in which she held a vocal role. Also to her credits are PBS television specials Fall River Legend, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Creole Giselle. Ms. Austin is a Professor in the School of Dance at Florida State University, holds an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College, serves as President–elect of CORPS de Ballet International, conducts lectures on the history and legacy of Black classical ballet dancers, is a Specialized Master Trainer in GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® methodology, and recently premiered her solo work Live Oak at PianoFight in San Francisco, California.
At the Center for Ballet and the Arts, Austin will continue her research and writing on the history of Black classical ballet artists for the development of a book. The work will provide insights that include untapped information sources, historical and legacy connections in dance, and opportunities for (re)discovery of and exposure to the significant contributions of ballet dancers of color to the discipline. This topic aims to openly share the unique experiences and perseverance of individuals who have worked at, and on, a superior level to gain what is often considered “basic” notoriety; investigate the absence of these formidable artists in our ballet training centers; and chart a course for correcting this imbalance by embracing the rich history of Black classical ballet dancers.
Project: Creating New Narrative Ballets
Paul Vasterling was appointed CEO of Nashville Ballet in 2010, twelve years after becoming its artistic director, and 22 years after joining the company as a dancer. Vasterling has created numerous works ranging from classical, full-length story ballets to contemporary one-acts set to music by internationally renowned composers and songwriters. A magna cum laude graduate of Loyola University in New Orleans, Vasterling was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship enabling him to work extensively in South America, paving the way for a tour there by Nashville Ballet in 2005. Under his leadership, Nashville Ballet has transformed from a troupe of 12 professional dancers into a company of 24 with a second company of more than 20 dancers.
At the Center for Ballet and the Arts, Vasterling will research the progression/evolution of narrative in ballet over time, and work with a filmmaker to experiment with different avenues for telling stories in ballet. Both of these components would inform the ultimate work: creating scenarios for new ballets. The first ballet would be based on Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, which is of particular interest to Vasterling because of the relevant dialogue about gender roles and the time periods through which the work travels. The second story Vasterling hopes to explore is Caroline Randall Williams’ Lucy Negro, Redux, which is based upon Shakespeare’s Dark Lady sonnets and juxtaposes a mixed-race relationship in two radically different time periods.
Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung
Project: A New Way In: Reconceiving Ballet through Design
Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung founded Reid & Harriet Design in the Fall of 2011. Prior to meeting at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Bartelme spent 10 years working as a dancer, and Jung studied visual arts and completed a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley. Collaboratively, they have designed costumes for Justin Peck, Pam Tanowitz, Kyle Abraham, Pontus Lidberg, and Trey Mcintyre, among others. They have costumed dozens of productions for companies including American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the Malpaso Dance Company, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and the Pennsylvania Ballet. Along with Justin Peck, they are featured in the documentary Ballet 422.
The impetus for the creation of a new dance work most often comes from a choreographer. In an effort to illuminate a less common approach to dance creation, Bartelme and Jung will take on the role of project directors to reimagine The Nutcracker. The project will allow them to expand upon their role as costume designers and tackle the development of concept, story, and design of a holiday classic.
Project: A Dancing Childhood: Memory and the Dance
Alma Guillermoprieto is a Mexican writer and reporter. She became a journalist in the late 1970s, writing about the Central American civil wars. Since then she has written extensively about Latin America, principally for The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and National Geographic. She is the author of Dancing with Cuba, a memoir about her time as a dancer, and Samba, about the central role of carnival in the favela of Mangueira in Rio de Janeiro. Guillermoprieto is a MacArthur fellow and a founder of the New Journalism Foundation created by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Cartagena, Colombia. Most recently, she was the recipient of Spain’s Ortega y Gasset lifetime achievement award.
Guillermoprieto was an alarmingly precocious eleven-year-old when she took her first class at Mexico’s foremost, or only, modern dance company, twelve when she joined the group, and sixteen when she left it in 1965, bound for New York and the Graham studio. Her project is a memoir of those years—of Art with a capital A, the glamour of 1960s bohemian Mexico, a painful adolescence, and the dance that pulled her forward, so often against her will.
Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer
Project: Balanchine’s Twenties: Early Solos and Duets
Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer are a dance and design team based in London. For three decades, they have reconstructed lost ballets and created original productions through their partnership entitled Ballets Old & New, staging their work with major companies worldwide. Hodson and Archer give lectures and workshops, write books and articles, and exhibit their production drawings. Their book The Lost Rite, on “Le Sacre du Printemps” (1913), was recently published in Russian by the Vaganova Academy in St Petersburg.
Hodson and Archer are currently preparing a book on their reconstructions of five early ballets by George Balanchine. During the fellowship at the Center for Ballet and the Arts, they plan to host workshops to teach solos and duets from these ballets and to share their methods of reconstructing and staging. Their focus is on the stylistic heritage Balanchine brought from Petrograd and how he integrated it with what he encountered in Paris and in other Ballets Russes ports of call.
Project: The Shakespeare-Ballet Exchange: Common roots, Shared conventions, Reciprocal Influences
Nancy Isenberg, professor of English Literature at the Università di Roma Tre until her recent retirement, has worked at the State Archives in Florence reconstructing flood-damaged manuscript collections, covered feminist issues as a journalist, collaborated with the Rome Opera House publications department, and been active in international scholarly projects, networks, and associations. Currently, she divides her research interests between women writers in European cultural history and connections between Shakespeare and ballet. She has published studies on dance in Shakespeare’s world and works, ballet appropriations of Romeo and Juliet, Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet and Othello, and most recently, the chapter on “Ballet” in the Cambridge Guide to Shakespeare’s Worlds (2016). Her work on literary ballets outside the Shakespeare canon includes ballet appropriations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and the fairy tale Cinderella.
At the Center for Ballet and the Arts, Isenberg will focus on a book project on connections between Shakespeare and ballet, exploring the rich, complex, and long-standing reciprocal influences of these two performative and narrative genres throughout their histories. With a focus on culture and politics, the book reflects the strong attraction of the ballet world to Shakespeare, and discusses how Shakespeare contributes to making ballet relevant to contemporary audiences.
Project: New Narrative Ballet – Uirapuru
Mariana Oliveira is the choreographer and artistic director of The Union Project Dance Company. Originally from Brazil, she studied at the Royal Academy of Dance in London, and was a trainee dancer at the National Dance Company of Wales. She has recently created new works for the Joffrey Ballet Studio Company, Milwaukee Ballet, and Arkansas Ballet. Oliveira has also presented works at the Jacob’s Pillow Festival, and for two consecutive years has been a finalist of the McCallum Theatre Choreography Festival. Oliveira taught at the Bolshoi Ballet School in Brazil, the only Bolshoi School outside Russia, for the dancers of the youth company.
At the Center for Ballet and the Arts, Oliveira will work on a new narrative ballet entitled Uirapuru. The piece is inspired by the Brazilian folk tale of the same name. The uirapuru, also known as the “musician wren,” is a rare bird found in the Amazon rainforest and is the subject of several legends and fables due to its unique and beautiful song. Set to the famous composition Uirapuru, by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, Oliveira’s adaptation tells the story of a forbidden love in the 1940s.
Project: New Work
Helen Simoneau – a native of Rimouski, Québec, and based in North Carolina since 2004 – has received commissions from The Juilliard School, the American Dance Festival, the Bessie Schönberg Residency at The Yard, Springboard Danse Montréal, the Swiss International Coaching Project, and Oregon Ballet Theatre. Simoneau was a resident artist at Baryshnikov Arts Center and Bates Dance Festival, and has received fellowships from the Bogliasco Foundation and twice from the NC Arts Council. Notable venues that have presented her work include The Guggenheim Museum in New York, Dance Place, Joyce SoHo, Tangente in Montréal, the L.I.G. Art Hall Busan in South Korea, Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out, and the Athens International Dance Festival. Simoneau’s work has also been presented at PACT-Zollverein in Essen as one of three finalists for the Kurt Jooss Prize and at the 13th Internationales Solo-Tanz-Theater Festival in Stuttgart, Germany, where she received 1st place for choreography.
In Simoneau’s pursuit to develop fresh material and new approaches to dance making, she seeks immersion in New York City with the benefit of access to professional ballet dancers with vested interests in collaboration and discovery. Attending to equal empowerment of dancers will be crucial to the exploration.
Project: Dance in the neoclassical imaginary
Christopher Wood is Professor and Chair of the German Department at New York University. His research and writing addresses European art and culture from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries. Wood has also taught at Yale University, and as a visitor at the University of California at Berkeley, Vassar College, and the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He has been a fellow at the Society of Fellows, Harvard University; the American Academy in Rome; the American Academy in Berlin; the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; and the Internationales Forschungszentrum für Kulturwissenschaften, Vienna. In 2002 he was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and he is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
At the Center, Wood will focus on the choreographic aspirations of neoclassical sculpture, in particular the work of Antonio Canova. The isolated sculpted body pictured the dancer’s escape from composition; her embodiment of emergence, modality, and transition; the dance’s uncoupling of aspiration from goals; the persistence of a real and “unenchanted” body—the dancer’s—into the fiction proposed by the artwork; and finally the indivisibility of the dancer’s body: her invulnerability to any analysis or partitioning that would diminish her sovereignty over her surroundings.
Supported in part by the Merce Cunningham Trust:
Project: Cunningham’s Events
Claire Bishop is a professor in the PhD Program in Art History at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her books include Installation Art: A Critical History (2005) and Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship (2012), for which she won the 2013 Frank Jewett Mather award, and Radical Museology, or, What’s Contemporary in Museums of Contemporary Art? (2013). She is a regular contributor to Artforum, and her essays and books have been translated into eighteen languages. Her current research concerns the impact of digital technology on contemporary art and performance since 1989, and is funded by an Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant.
At the Center for Ballet and the Arts, Bishop will research Merce Cunningham’s Museum Events. The recent proliferation of contemporary dance in art museums has led to polarizing debates about the intersection of visual art and dance. Missing from these debates is an understanding of historical precedents, among which Museum Events, produced between 1964 and 2012, are crucial forerunners. These ninety-minute remixes of work in the company’s repertoire were performed in non-traditional venues and broke the frontal orientation of dance. Bishop’s research seeks to provide a historical critique of how the Events developed, and their relevance to contemporary dance in the museum.
Project: Dance Careers: Commitments, Choices, Transitions, and Labor Markets
Ruth Horowitz is professor of Sociology at New York University. Among her publications are Honor and the American Dream: Culture and Identity in a Chicano Community (1983), Teen Mothers: Citizens or Dependents? (1994), Street Drugs, Street Kids, Street Crime (with J. Inciardi and A. Pottieger, 1993), and In the Public Interest: Medical Licensing and the Disciplinary Process (2013). She is the recipient of several book awards: Honorable mention, C. Wright Mills (1983); Cooley Award (1994); Law Section (2013). Additionally, she received the George Herbert Mead Distinguished Career Award (2015). Dance has always been her favorite “after school” activity.
Few high school aged ballet dancers continue on to careers in dance. Only a few join companies, staying only a few years. Some teach or make their lives outside the world of dance. Others join the “project based” economy, often after college, struggling to make a living from dance but often doing other activities too. Horowitz’s interviews and research will examine how dancers make these decisions and transition between different life stages.
Project: Short Ride Out, in Four
Annie-B Parson co-founded the OBIE award winning Big Dance Theater in 1991. Big Dance was most recently seen at The Kitchen, The Menil Collection, American Realness, and BAM, and was honored by P.S. 122. Parson has also made dances for the work of Mikhail Baryshnikov, David Byrne, David Bowie, St. Vincent, Laurie Anderson, Salt-N-Pepa, Jonathan Demme, Ivo van Hove, Sarah Ruhl, , Esperanza Spalding, and Nico Muhly, and has dances in the repertory of the Martha Graham Dance Company and The Royal Ballet. Awards include New York Dance and Performance Bessie Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, Duke Artist Award, Franky Award, USA Artist Award, Foundation for Contemporary Art’s Grants to Artists Award, and an Olivier nomination.
At the Center for Ballet and the Arts, Parson will work primarily on a suite of dances inspired by ideas around erasing the master. Parson will bounce off Rauschenberg’s Erased DeKooning by erasing Stravinsky’s Concerto for Two Pianos (II. Notturno), at first slavishly attending to each musical gesture and then departing from it, while leaving faded marks of Stravinksy’s rhythms and musical structures in the dance material. She will create two duets that will complete the quartet of dances, and will sketch new ideas for future works with her company Big Dance Theater.
Claudia Roth Pierpont
Project: City of the World
Claudia Roth Pierpont is a staff writer for The New Yorker, where she has written about the arts for more than twenty years. She has a Ph.D. in Italian Renaissance art history from New York University, and is the author of three books: Passionate Minds: Women Rewriting the World (2000), a collection of essays about women writers ranging from Hannah Arendt to Mae West; Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books (2013), an exploration of the life and work of Philip Roth; and American Rhapsody: Writers, Musicians, Movie Stars, and One Great Building (2016), a collection of essays on American subjects including George Gershwin, Nina Simone, and the Chrysler Building.
A history of the culture of New York City leading up to and through its glory years in the twentieth century – broadly speaking, the twenties through the seventies – the book concentrates on both institutions and individuals. Chapter subjects include the American Museum of Natural History, Duke Ellington and his band, the Museum of Modern Art, and the New York City Ballet.
Project: Ballet Beyond its Choreographic Identity
Jean-Marc Puissant is an award winning set and costume designer working internationally for opera, theater and dance. Designing productions of all scales, styles, and genres, Puissant’s design practice is rooted in the identity of unique collaborations, supporting the nature and craft required by each art form across the performing arts. He was nominated as Best Scenographer at the 2016 Benois de la Danse, was a finalist of World Stage Design 2013, and several productions he designed won Laurence Olivier Awards, South Bank Show Awards, National Dance Critics Awards, and TMA Awards. Puissant trained at the celebrated Motley Theatre Design Course in London after studying Art History at La Sorbonne, Paris. His career began as a dancer, studying at Paris Opera Ballet School and Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris. A professional dancer with Birmingham Royal Ballet and Stuttgart Ballet, Puissant danced and created roles in classical, neo-classical and contemporary repertoires.
At the Center, Puissant’s practical and research-based project will focus on the process surrounding creating and producing ballet, both historically and in a contemporary context from a non-choreographic perspective. In doing so, Puissant aims to create a forum of interviews and discussions with established creatives, producers and technicians. In parallel, he will work and document his current design work for contemporary ballet productions and existing ballet repertoire.
Christopher Williams is a choreographer, dancer, and puppeteer devoted to creating movement-based works in New York City and abroad since 1999. His work has been presented internationally as well as in local venues including City Center, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Dance Theater Workshop, Danspace Project, P.S. 122, the 92nd Street Y, and La Mama. His collaborators have included directors Peter Sellars and Michel Fau, conductor Raphaël Pichon of Ensemble Pygmalion, members of the Anonymous 4 and Lionheart, as well as critically acclaimed composer Gregory Spears and visual designer Andrew Jordan. Currently, he is working on commissions from Danspace Project and Interlochen Center for the Arts, and has previously been commissioned by the Opéra National de Bordeaux, English National Opera, Princeton University, the Harkness Dance Center, Danspace Project, and through HERE Arts Center’s Dream Music Puppetry Program. His awards include a Bessie Award for New York Dance and Performance (2005), fellowships from The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Bogliasco Foundation, as well as residencies via the Robert Raushenberg Foundation at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center, the Tyrone Guthrie Center, Kaatsbaan International Dance Center, Movement Research, Joyce SoHo, Djerassi, Yaddo, and The Yard.
As a fellow at the Center for Ballet and the Arts, Williams will conduct research and create choreography for an original contemporary ballet entitled Narcissus. The new work, set to Nikolai Tcherepnin’s ballet score Narcisse et Echo, composed in 1911 for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, will reappropriate themes of the eponymous ancient Greek myth on which it is based to re-imagine the ballet through a contemporary queer lens.
Virginia B. Toulmin Fellow, sponsored by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation:
Project: mOving forward
Fueled by her vision to transform dance and engage new audiences with bold, innovative work, Israeli dancer-choreographer Danielle Agami founded Ate9 in 2012. Today, based in Los Angeles, California, she leads the nonprofit organization as a home for original creation and movement research. Previously, Agami was a member of the Batsheva Dance Company and senior manager for Gaga People USA. Agami’s recent awards and recognition include the 2016 Princess Grace award for Choreography, 25 to Watch in 2015 by Dance Magazine, and the grand prize for the 2013 & 2014 Annual Choreography Festival at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, California.
During Agami’s fellowship at the Center for Ballet and the Arts, she will invest in the development of a new technique class. After extensively practicing both the Gaga movement language and the traditional ballet technique, Agami will structure a class that allows the two to meet in balance. Agami and invited dancers will experience the relationship between content and form, enhancing the dialogue surrounding both. She will ask the dancers to reflect on their own experiences with dance, helping them stay in touch with their answers throughout their practice.
Fellow for the Study of Russia and Ballet, a collaboration between CBA and the NYU Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia:
Project: Power on Pointe: Russian Ballet from Petersburg to Paris
Natalie Rouland is a scholar of Russian literature and ballet. She holds a PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Stanford University and has taught literature, film, and culture courses at Stanford, Miami University, and Wellesley College. Her research has been supported by the IIE Fulbright Program, the Fulbright-Hays Program, the Stanford Humanities Center, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and the Library of Congress.
In her book, Power on Pointe, Rouland argues that during the late imperial period of ballet, the embodiment of power, literature, and the voice of protest transformed the reputation of Russian art and culture in the twentieth century. In the space of heated debate over the future of Russian identity, the imperial ballet, its fanatics, and its critics kept the preoccupations of an era alive in the conversation between the page and the stage. The continued performance and cultural significance of these ballets and their preservation in divisive and riotous literature attest to their importance in the construction of Russian national identity. While contemporary Russian ballet showcases the strength of the state and the country’s rich cultural heritage, this comprehensive study of the ballet’s imperial roots in literature, history, and popular culture will illuminate the relationship of the ballet spectacle to political constructs and the public perception of power, enhancing our understanding of Russia’s continuing role on the world stage.
The Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University is an international institute for scholars and artists of ballet and its related arts and sciences. It exists to inspire new ideas and new ballets, expanding the way we think about ballet and bringing vitality to its history, practice and performance in the 21st century. For more information on upcoming events, visit the Center for Ballet and the Arts at: balletcenter.nyu.edu.