Urban Bush Women Announces Choreographic Fellowship Candidates
With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Urban Bush Women (UBW) has named five Choreographic Fellowship Candidates; Marjani Forté-Saunders, Francesca Harper, Marguerite Hemmings, Paloma McGregor and Amara Tabor-Smith.
The UBW Fellowship Program is one component of the evolving UBW Choreographic Center, a ten-year initiative to bring greater national, recognition and support to women choreographers of the African Diaspora. The Fellowship Program is structured over two years and includes a 9-month planning process with Fellowship Candidates, followed by a full year of Fellowship activity.
The inaugural Cohort of Fellowship Candidates was selected through a rigorous application and review process. The Fellowship program will support the development of work dealing with complex narratives addressing race, history, cultural identity, ethnicity and pressing social issues. These five choreographers were part of a nationwide vetting to identify choreographers who have demonstrated readiness for the program, and have distinctive artistic voices and compelling point of views addressing particular issues of cultural narrative and history.
The Fellowship program has been designed to ensure the work, and the works’ multiplicity of components and vision, are more fully realized then would be possible without additional edification, reinforcement or support. The program includes direct financial support, one or more residencies, mentorship, writing and reflection. Participating choreographers have made a commitment to placing one’s choreographic process as the highest priority examining questions of craft, clarity of vision and execution of ideas in a rigorous and granular way through a dramaturgical and research process.
More information on these five artists can be found below. Feature articles will be released on each choreographer over the course of the next year.
Marjani Forté-Saunders was born in Pasadena, CA and is currently a Harlem resident. Saunders toured with UBW Inc. for 5 yrs, and is now an independent artist and co-founder with Nia Love, of LOVE|FORTÉ A COLLECTIVE. She is a Princess Grace Choreography Fellow (2014), Jerome Foundation Awardee (2015) and participant of LMCC Extended Life Residency (2015-2017). Undergirded by a SURDNA Foundation Thriving Cultures grant, she curated a 3-month exhibit at MoCADA featuring the work of 4 multimedia artists encore performances of "being Here.../this time" and LOVE|FORTÈ's Memory Withholdings. Saunders recently choreographed Sampha’s Short Film “Process” directed by celebrated film director Kahlil Joseph. She is an active member of Urban Bush Women’s BOLD Teaching Network, and has served on faculty at Hunter CUNY, Bard College, and the Yale School of Drama. Her work stems from being born in and having engaged with culturally rich, vibrant, historic, and politically charged communities.
Francesca Harper danced with Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) and as Principal Dancer in Ballett Frankfurt. She was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts and has performed at the White House. Her Broadway credits include: Fosse, The Producers, All Shook Up, The Frogs, The Color Purple and leading roles in Sweet Charity and Sophisticated Ladies. Harper was a ballet consultant for 'Black Swan', and has appeared on Boardwalk Empire, David Letterman, and Oprah Winfrey, and is currently in Sleep No More in New York City. Harper has choreographed on Ailey, Ailey II, Hubbard St II, and DTH. Harper was honored with a Living History Award during Black History Month in 2013, and an Innovation and Technology award from Louis Vuitton for her choreography for Fashion week in 2013, and her piece, 'System,' created for DTH, has its New York debut on April 21st, 2017 at New York's City Center. Harper was awarded a fellowship at the Center for Ballet and the Arts in 2017 in which she started developing a new immersive work, and film entitled ‘(y)ourstory’. The Francesca Harper Project, founded in 2005, tours worldwide.
Marguerite Hemmings is Jamaican born, raised in New Jersey, and has been living in NYC for the past 12 years. She graduated from Columbia University receiving her BA in Education and Urban Studies. As a dancer, Marguerite specializes in street styles, social dances, hip hop, and dancehall. She currently teaches Experimental Dancehall, a class that looks at the power of African diasporan social dance through a lens of dancehall/reggae culture and music. As for her latest projects, she has been working on a multimedia endeavor called ‘we free’ that explores the millennial generation’s take on liberation. Iterations of 'we free' have been shown at Brooklyn Museum, BRIC Arts Media, Gibney, JACK, and MoCada and will be shown in New Orleans this summer.
Paloma McGregor is a Caribbean-born, New York-based choreographer whose work centers Black voices through collaborative, process-based art-making and organizing. A lover of intersections and alchemy, she develops projects in which communities of geography, practice, and values come together to laugh, make magic and transform. She has created a wide range of work, including a dance through a makeshift fishnet on a Brooklyn rooftop, a structured improvisation for a floating platform in the Bronx River and a devised a multidisciplinary performance work about food justice with three dozen community members and students at UC Berkeley. Residencies include: 2016-18 NYLA Live Feed; 2014-16 BAX Artist in Residence; 2014 LMCC Process Space; 2013-14 NYU’s Hemispheric Institute Artist in Residence; and 2013 Wave Hill Winter Workspace. Grants include: Surdna Foundation; Lambent Foundation Fund; MAP Fund; Dance/USA - Engaging Dance Audiences.
Amara Tabor-Smith describes her work as Afro Futurist Conjure Art. Her dance making utilizes Yoruba spiritual ritual to address issues of social and environmental justice, race, gender identity and belonging. She is the artistic director of Deep Waters Dance Theater, and co founded Headmistress-- a collaboration with Sherwood Chen. Amara is the former associate artistic director and dancer with Urban Bush Women, and has performed in the works of dance and theater artists such as Ed Mock, Joanna Haigood, Ronald K. Brown, Faustin Linyekula, Ana Deveare Smith, and Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Residencies and awards include, The Headlands Center for the Arts, CHIME Mentorship Exchange, CounterPULSE Theater, and ODC Theater artist in residence. She is a 2016 Creative Capital awardee, and was recently awarded a residency at Sacatar in Bahia, Brazil. Amara received her MFA in Dance from Hollins University, and is a continuing lecturer at UC Berkeley.