With major support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and additional support from the Ford Foundation and Mertz Gilmore Foundation, Urban Bush Women (UBW) has named a new Cohort of five Choreographic Fellowship Candidates: Maria Bauman (NY), Hope Boykin (NY), Ananya Chatterjea (MN), Stephanie McKee (LA) and Ni’Ja Whitson (CA/NY). The new Cohort was selected through a nationwide vetting process to identify choreographers who have distinctive artistic voices, compelling point of views addressing particular issues of cultural narrative and history, and exemplified readiness for the program.
The UBW Choreographic 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 program supports the development of work dealing with complex narratives addressing race, history, cultural identity, ethnicity and pressing social issues.
The Fellowship program is designed to ensure the work and the works’ vision and multiplicity of components are more fully realized than 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.
Read more about the new class of choreographers below. Feature articles will be released on each choreographer over the course of the next year.
The inaugural Cohort of Fellows – Marjani Forté-Saunders, Francesca Harper, Marguerite Hemmings, Paloma McGregor and Amara Tabor-Smith – are in their second year of the program. Working alongside dramaturges including Lizzy Cooper-Davis, Douglas Corbin, John Perpener and Talvin Wilks; and developing work through residencies at Arizona State University, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Jacob’s Pillow, Junebug Productions, the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University, Stanford University, University of the Arts and Virginia Commonwealth University; these choreographers and cultural organizers are forging new paths for themselves and the field with support from Urban Bush Women.
Maria Bauman is a multi-disciplinary artist from Jacksonville, FL. She creates bold and honest artworks for her company MBDance, based on physical and emotional power, insistence on equity, and fascination with intimacy. In particular, Bauman’s dance work centers the non-linear and linear stories and bodies of queer people of color onstage. She draws on her studies of English literature, capoeira, improvisation, dancing in living rooms and nightclubs, as well as concert dance classes to embody interconnectedness, joy, and tenacity. Bauman was recently recognized with a Bessie Award for Outstanding Performance with Skeleton Architecture. Currently, she is Artist in Residence at Brooklyn Arts Exchange and just finished her tenure as Community Action Artist in Residence at Gibney Dance. Bauman is also a community organizer and co-founder of ACRE (Artists Co-creating Real Equity). Organizing to undo racism informs her art-making and the two are folded together within her practice.
Hope Boykin born and raised in Durham, North Carolina was a three-time recipient of the American Dance Festival’s Young Tuition Scholarship. While attending Howard University in Washington, DC, she felt a call to seriously continue her studies in dance and moved to New York City where she studied at The Ailey School and worked as assistant to choreographers Milton Myers and the late Talley Beatty. She was an original member of Complexions, danced many years with Philadanco–The Philadelphia Dance Company, where she received a “Bessie” a New York Dance and Performance award. Hope joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 2000 and continues to perform, educate, speak, and create for the company. Hope shares her heart lessons, as an author of “MOMENTS,” and continues to guide young artists who have a desire and are willing to learn from her mistakes and grow from her transparency.
Ananya Chatterjea (2011, Guggenheim Choreography Fellowship; 2012, McKnight Choreography Fellowship; 2016, Joyce Award; 2016, NPN Creation Fund; 2017, NDP Production Grant, 2018, MapFund) is Artistic Director of Ananya Dance Theatre and makes “People Powered Dances of Transformation” intersecting women artists of color and social justice choreography. She has presented her work at the Crossing Boundaries Festival, Ethiopia (2015), the Harare International Dance Festival, Zimbabwe (2013), the New Waves Institute of Dance and Performance, Trinidad (2012), and other locations. Ananya is Professor of Dance at the University of Minnesota, where she teaches courses in Dance Studies and technique. She is currently writing her second book (Palgrave McMillan), exploring the politics of “contemporary dance” from the perspective of artists from global communities of color.
Stephanie McKee is a performer, choreographer, educator, facilitator and cultural organizer who is deeply committed to creating art that substantively reflects disparate conditions, and then leveraging the art as a powerful tool for change. Based in New Orleans, she is the Artistic Director for Junebug Productions Inc., the organizational successor to the Free Southern Theater (FST), which was formed in 1963 to be a cultural arm of the Civil Rights Movement and was a major influence in the Black Theater Movement. In 2015 Ms. McKee was awarded a National Theater Project Grant for Gomel/To Return: Movement of Our Mother Tongue which she directed. Additionally, she is a member of Alternate ROOTS, a 2007 New Voices emerging Leader alumnus, a 2015 APAP Leadership Fellow and a Dance USA Leadership mentor.
Ni’Ja Whitson (MFA, MFAW) is a gender nonconforming/Trans interdisciplinary artist and writer who has been referred to as “majestic” by the New York Times, and by Brooklyn Magazine as a “culture influencer.” They received a 2017 Bessie Award as one of 21 Black Womnyn and Gender Nonconforming artists curated by Eva Yaa Asantewaa for Danspace/Platforms. Recent awards include MAP Fund, Camargo Fellowship, Dance in Process (DiP) Residency, and a Hedgebrook Fellowship. Whitson collaborates as choreographer, performer, director, with notables cross-disciplinarily including Douglas Ewart, Cynthia Oliver, Jaamil Kosoko, Sharon Bridgforth, Charlotte Brathwaite, Byron Au Yong and Aaron Jafferis. Recent commissions include EMPAC, Cornell Council for the Arts Biennial, BAM Next Wave Art, and American Realness Festival. Ni’Ja Whitson is an Assistant Professor at the University of California Riverside and is founder/artistic director of The NWA Project.