Dance projects win $929,000 from Pew

Among them: An original work for a Ukrainian troupe and a book on Joan Myers Brown.

February 22, 2011
By Stephan Salisbury, Inquirer Culture Writer

The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage has awarded $929,000 to help fund nine dance projects in the region, including a grant of $150,000 to the Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble for an original work by Brooklyn choreographer Mark Morris.

The Pew grants, made through Dance Advance, were announced Monday.

Bill Bissell, Dance Advance director, extolled the variety of projects and the openness to new ideas they represent.

The Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble’s decision to mark its 40th anniversary next year with an original piece commissioned from Morris represents a significant effort to expand the Voloshky repertoire, according to company artistic director Taras Lewyckyj. In a statement, Lewyckyj noted that Morris utilizes folk traditions “while creating wildly innovative contemporary works.”

Voloshky will join with Ukraine’s Virsky Dance Company to perform the new Morris work.

“Those who believe that folk dance is primitive and naïve will have their vision broadened,” said Lewyckyj. “Those who have been reluctant to embrace newer artistic visions will expand their way of seeing this art.”

Other grants include $50,000 to writer and former dancer Brenda Dixon Gottschild to complete Joan Myers Brown and the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina: A Biohistory of Performance and Race, to be published by British publisher Palgrave Macmillan in January 2012.

Brown founded the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts in 1960 and the Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadanco) in 1970. She grew up in Southwest Philadelphia hoping to become a professional ballerina despite a ballet establishment that spurned African Americans. Dixon Gottschild’s book explores the largely untold story of dance in 20th-century black Philadelphia.

Bryn Mawr College received $53,000 for the Sganarelle Bryn Mawr College Performing Arts Series to present contemporary choreographer John Jasperse’s Fort Blossom, created in 2000 and performed only at the Kitchen in New York City prior to this production.

Headlong Dance Theater received $150,000 to bring Headlong directly into private homes where company members will work with non-dancers to create 25-minute dance-theater works to be performed in the homes in front of small audiences; group dinners will follow the performances. Headlong will partner with Raíces Culturales Latinoamericanas and Scribe Video Center to locate participant homes and document the project.

Lisa Kraus, dance artist and writer, received $50,000 to develop and direct, an online project that will cover the landscape of dance in the Southeastern Pennsylvania five-county region.

Nichole Canuso Dance Company was awarded $71,000 for artistic director Canuso to begin Directing My Dancers/Directing Myself, a planning project that includes a mentorship under U.K.-based dancer Wendy Houstoun.

Pasión y Arte received $118,000 for its first outside commission as well as its first collaboration with a major flamenco artist: Spanish dancer and choreographer Rosario Toledo. Toledo will choreograph an original dance for Pasión y Arte with public performances in March 2012.

The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival was awarded $237,000 for a variety of activities built around the first Philadelphia appearance of dancers and choreographers Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Shantala Shivalingappa. They will perform their duet Play for the first time in the United States at the festival in September, and Shivalingappa will present her solo work Namasya.

Choreographer Jumatatu Poe received $50,000 for development of The Flight Attendants, a satirical commentary on the service industry. In summer 2011, Poe’s project will sponsor workshops with members of his company, idiosynCrazy productions, to be led by visiting dance artists Jasmin Vardimon and Donte Beacham.

Contact culture writer Stephan Salisbury at 215-854-5594 or

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