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November 2021

Dance Dialogue: Trajal Harrell

Trajal Harrell is a NYC-based choreographer and now is also one of five invited directors at the Schauspielhaus Zurich. Recently, ADA Co-Director Andrea Snyder spoke with Trajal to discuss the evolution of his position in Zurich and to better understand the differences he finds between making dance works in the U.S. versus in Europe, and what's ahead for this company and him.

In 2017, Benjamin von Blomberg, dramaturge at the Kammerspiele in Munich, began to follow Trajal's choreographic development after he saw Trajal's Antigone Sr. At the time, Trajal was part of the "free scene" in Europe (meaning community of independent artists). Von Blomberg invited Trajal to make a new work for the Kammerspiele. He choreographed an all-male Romeo & Juliet, entitled Juliet & Romeo. The creation of this work was the first time Trajal felt that he could devote his full attention to the creative process; he was free to make the work without his time and focus drawn away from other matters. In NYC, Trajal had frequently had to most everything himself. Now others were there to take care of whatever was needed for the work to develop. This made a significant difference in his very being; he had space in his head. It was liberating; he had far fewer worries.

Subsequently, von Blomberg became the Co-Artistic Director of the Schauspielhaus Zurich, and in 2019 instituted a new vision for the institution. Previously, the theater focused on guest artists, but with von Blomberg's new vision the theatre began to concentrate on just eight artists over a period of five years - six in theatre, Wu Tsang (a U.S. based visual and performance artist), and Trajal Harrell. Trajal's responsibility in Zurich is to create a dance company within the Schauspielhaus institution. He is the house choreographer and one of the current five in-house directors, and is now starting his third year in this position.

Trajal Harrell/Schauspielhaus Zurich Dance Ensemble begins touring this fall with the opening performance on November 2, 2021 at Euroscene in Leipzig, Germany, of his newest work, Koln Concert, music by Keith Jarrett and Joni Mitchell. Trajal will be the first American choreographer to have his work seen at Euroscene.

When Christian Watty, curator for Euroscene, first saw Trajal's work he was moved to invite Trajal to Watty's own first season of programming at Euroscene:

      “After many months of lockdown and distancing rules in the theater, Koln 
    Concert is looking for a language to bring people close even in times of 
    social distancing. The shared experience of frailty – of people dancing who 
    show their vulnerability on stage – is a reminder of the need to stay close 
    despite everything. A reminder to have respect for oneself and for each 
    other, and not to forget that there are many stories to be told about those 
    who are barely heard or seen. People pushed into the shadows, the lonely, 
    the addicted, the abandoned, the homeless, the sad, who defy their 
    abandonment proudly and with beauty.”

Trajal realizes he has "hit the jackpot" in Zurich, but not without a significant learning curve and complications. "I am rethinking everything. Nothing prepares you for this," said Harrell. Yes, he has a salary that has supported him throughout the COVID lockdowns, also his company is embedded into the institution along with the addition of additional dancers and guest artists, and he can make work on a scale that is unique for a touring dance company. Until now, he only worked for touring fees. Now, he has been able to put in a system of rehearsal directors to make sure the repertoire stays fresh. He now has the luxury of extended time to make a new work - generally he uses about six weeks, Nevertheless, the learning curve of working in a large European institution means he now has to deal with a myriad of negotiations within the organization. Institutionalization creates a new set of complex issues to navigate. The time, energy, and cooperation necessary for multiple in-house directors with different visions to be on the same page requires more communication and better administration. 

Trajal sees himself in a unique position with a unique perspective. He's both national and international. "I never wanted to choose between the U.S. and Europe, and I never went into a country's system for support," he explained. His work is very American, and his training ground has been NYC, which requires total commitment and passion to overcome so many hardships, often just for one weekend of performances. His own company still struggles in the U.S. and continues raising money to survive. Still, he knows he is extremely fortunate to have this unique international opportunity for as long as he is part of the Schauspielhaus. His choreographic future is planned out to 2024 with a commitment to create one-two pieces each year.

For the time being, Trajal is thrilled to be part of this diverse, international environment, to learn as much as he can, to bring with him all the skills he learned while working in NYC, and to bring his artistic dreams to reality. While appreciating what he has, he also keeps front and center a resonating piece of advice given to him by choreographer Meg Stuart. She reminded him to "not only make the big works" while he's in Zurich; they won't tour. Trajal continues to maintain his focus on work that fits different scales, including museums and the gallery world.

Photo by Michael Sharkey.

Awards and Special Recognitions

Recognizing awards and special recognitions received by American artists both at home and abroad.
Click here to submit an award for inclusion
The Bessies Announce Recipients of the 2021 New York Dance and Performance Awards
The NY Dance and Performance Awards have saluted outstanding and groundbreaking creative work in the dance field in New York City for 37 years. Known as “The Bessies” in honor of revered dance teacher Bessie Schönberg, the awards were established in 1984 by David R. White at Dance Theater Workshop. They recognize outstanding work in choreography, performance, music composition, and visual design. Nominees are chosen by a selection committee composed of artists, presenters, producers, and writers. All of the nominated artists received a $500 honorarium, courtesy of a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Lifetime Achievement in Dance
George Faison

For a life devoted to the splendors of dance’s impact on the world, Faison exploded from the ranks of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, electrified audiences with his ballet Suite Otis, and sailed over to Broadway where he was the first Black male to be awarded a Tony for “Best Choreography” for The Wiz. A beloved dance community ringmaster, Faison scaled his life beyond his own successes to help mentor a new generation, honor his elders, and uplift forgotten dance heroes while simultaneously throwing epic mix parties. After triumphing as a dancer, choreographer, director, producer, educator, and human impresario, Faison took one more momentous step opening The Faison Firehouse Theater in Harlem: a full-service theater, research, and education community center, designed to give back and uplift the many who lacked access to an ecosystem of professional dance and theater facilities. A pillar of the dance community, Faison gave form to a community’s dreams.
Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance

In addressing the political movements of the 1960s and building on the growth of Black Dance throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the celebration DanceAfrica consistently showcases, nurtures, and augments a public understanding of the many traditional and indigenous dances of Africa and the African Diaspora. With the early implementation of the African styled Bazaar that surrounds the performance venue, DanceAfrica has become as much of a New York City cultural event as it is a series of performances. Thus, in fostering an ongoing relationship with the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation’s Youth Arts Academy, DanceAfrica has ensured that subsequent generations within the community will benefit from the foundations set forth by its founder, the late Baba Chuck Davis, and current artistic director, Abdel R. Salaam. As such, it remains the nation’s largest festival of African Dance.
Outstanding 'Breakout' Choreographer

Hope Boykin

An immensely multi-talented and multifaceted dancer, choreographer, and educator, Boykin is more than a force of nature. Boykin is a writer who infuses text in her work. In a particular piece, she had singers and dancers together, voices and movement together to create many dimensions. She is a force to be reckoned with in terms of her accomplishments and accolades in the world of dance and theater.

Outstanding Productions
Ayodele Casel
Ayodele Casel: Chasing Magic at The Joyce Theater
For a brilliant, tuneful invention aligning music, performers, lighting, and filming. For reminding us of and revitalizing the power of connections between rhythm, music, song, and people. For truly creating magic with, and beyond, virtuosity. 

Israel Galván

Maestro de Barra at The Joyce Theater

Filmed in his neighborhood Spanish bar, Galván’s masterfully syncopates flamenco rhythms against everyday sounds of fish searing in a pan, soccer games blaring, or tables being set. In this “tongue in cheek” piece, traditional flamenco is wittily flipped on its heels in a deliciously engaging production that laces ballet and modern dance into Andalusian traditions. Galván’s Maestro de Barra is an exhilaratingly joyous piece that bets on hope for the future of dance and humanity. 

Indigenous Enterprise

Indigenous Enterprise: Powwow Style at The Joyce Theater

With stunning views of both suburban and urban landscapes, Indigenous Enterprise: Powwow Style brings to life a dynamic range of traditional American dances from various tribes. For reminding us that powwows are essential for gathering, sharing, celebrating, and preserving the rich heritage of Native American People. For presenting the authenticity of each style, offering insight into the original connection that exists between humanity and nature’s elements, and for speaking boldly to the pure necessity of the arts beyond entertainment. 

Saul Williams, Bill T. Jones, Maria Bauman, Kayla Farrish, Marjani Forté-Saunders, d. Sabela grimes, Jasmine Hearn, and Shamel Pitts

The Motherboard Suite at New York Live Arts

The Motherboard Suite is a dynamic collaboration of musicians and choreographers who use their embodied artistry to activate the space in this transformative work. In this creative exploration, time, space, and personal stories are interrogated through multiple lenses, including technology – ancient and contemporary, race and othering, exploitation and activism. The spoken word and the embodiment of text are the conjurers of the then, now and next iterations of who we become.
Outstanding Performers

LaTasha Barnes

Sustained Achievement 

Barnes is celebrated globally for her musicality, athleticism, and joyful presence. “Your Favorite Dancer’s Favorite Dancer”; this is how Barnes is referred to within the dance community. With a performance history that includes Caleb Teicher & Company, Dorrance Dance, Ephrat Asherie Dance, Ladies of Hip-Hop, Passion Fruit Dance Company, and numerous wins in Lindy Hop, house dance, and hip-hop battles, Barnes is as popular as she is versatile. She is an amazing dancer telling a beautiful and captivating story.

Jasmine Hearn

The Motherboard Suite, Order of Time at New York Live Arts

While each choreographer is invited to explore “the intersection of technology and race, exploitation and mystical anarchy, where hackers are artists and activists,” Hearn takes the investigation to another realm. Hearn’s performance throughout the work is both ethereal and grounded, skillfully capturing the viewer in the juxtaposition of effort and ease, comfort and discomfort in the discovery of a dynamic sweet spot—somewhere along the journey. In The Motherboard Suite, Hearn brings multidimensional artistic tools to bear, including a choreographic practice based on an interdisciplinary approach to multiple dance forms, the use of embodied and verbal language, and being a receptive thought-partner and collaborator.   

d. Sabela grimes

The Motherboard Suite, We get what you deserve at New York Live Arts

In The Motherboard Suite, grimes brings the Africanist presence into the performance space. Upon entering the performance conversation, grimes invokes Africanist ancestral synergy that becomes the vessel (and activist) at the crossroads that interrupts and transmutes the dire premonitions repeated in Williams’ haunting poetic verse. grimes’ every movement is a declaration of power and agency that reverberates with resistance and liberation. Their skillful use of a fusion of contemporary and traditional African-derived dance forms reunites Orishas from across the oceans and centuries via the brilliant technology of the human body and spirit.  

Annique Roberts 

Sustained Achievement with Ronald K. Brown/Evidence

Roberts is an absolute force in our dance community. Her years of true grit and rigor with Ronald K. Brown/Evidence is profound. She has helped shape the form of the company while also maintaining the mission and philosophy of the group through superb guidance and leadership. She is an astounding performer, one who not only conveys the steps, but embodies every ounce of the work’s philosophy. The work doesn’t define her, but she has defined the work through connection, steadfast rigor, and clear work ethic. Roberts is celebrated for the dignity brought to the work, but also the ability to explore, teach, and share this work in communities throughout the world.
Announcing the 2021 Neilsen Visionary Prize by The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation
The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation today announced that Alice Sheppard, internationally-recognized dancer, choreographer, and founder of disability arts ensemble Kinetic Light, is a recipient of the $1 million 2021 Neilsen Visionary Prize. The prize funds will not go to Sheppard, personally. She plans to use 100% of the award to create a fund to support disabled artists; funding equipment, access, care, travel and other needs related to training, development, and creation.

"I am so grateful to the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation. Through this honor, they emphasize the fact that disability is not a deficit; it is a powerful creative and cultural force," stated Alice Sheppard. "So many disabled artists have come before me and have made it possible for me and Kinetic Light to create world-changing work. I dedicate these funds to disabled artists. We do not move alone. We are interdependent, collective, and communal."

Sheppard is Artistic Director of the disability arts ensemble Kinetic Light. Founded by Sheppard in 2016, Kinetic Light works in the disciplines of art, technology, design, and dance, and creates, performs, and teaches at the nexus of access, queerness, disability, dance, and race. In the company's work, intersectional disability is an aesthetic, a culture, and an essential element of artistry. As a disability arts ensemble, Kinetic Light is led by a disabled artist; disabled artists create, design, and perform the work. The art is connected to the rich traditions and exciting contemporary conversations of disabled artists in all fields.

Established in 2020 to honor the memory and legacy of Craig H. Neilsen, the Visionary Prize celebrates influential voices who show great potential to expand or advocate for new ideas for those living with a disability.
Two Dance Artists Receive Doris Duke Artist Awards of Up to $275,000 Each
The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) announced the 2021 Doris Duke Artists, each receiving an award of $275,000 intended as an investment in their artistic potential and celebration of their ongoing contributions to the fields of contemporary dance. Signifying the largest national award to individuals in the performing arts, the prize consists of $250,000 in completely unrestricted funding and an additional $25,000 dedicated to encouraging savings for retirement. Rather than being tied to specific projects, these awards are available to recipients to use in the manner they determine will best support their ability to create and thrive. 

Dormeshia, Tap Dancer and Choreographer

Dormeshia, a 2021 Doris Duke Artist in the dance category, is a dynamic tap dancer and choreographer who has been hailed as “the queen of tap” by The New York Times.  

A tap dancer since the age of three, Dormeshia began studying the form under the instruction of Paul and Arlene Kennedy in California and went on to perform in Rome at the Tip Tap Festival by the age of eight. Shortly after, she made her debut on Broadway at age 12 in the musical revue “Black and Blue” with legends Jimmy Slyde, Bunny Briggs and Lon Chaney to name a few. She was also the only female tap dancer featured in the Tony Award-winning musical “Bring in da' Noise, Bring in da' Funk” on Broadway as well as the international tour.  

In addition to her appearances on and off Broadway, her film credits include “The Rise and Fall of Miss Thang,” “TAP” with Gregory Hines, Spike Lee's “Bamboozled” and “The Rodgers and Hart Story: Thou Swell, Thou Witty.” Dormeshia is also known for being tap coach to Michael Jackson over the course of 11 years, and her choreography was used in his music video for “Rock Your World.”  Dormeshia is also one of five tap dancers representing tap dance in the Forever collection of U.S. Postage Stamps.

Cynthia Oliver, Choreographer and Dancer

Cynthia Oliver is an award-winning dancemaker, performer and scholar whose work incorporates performance with African and American aesthetic sensibilities. Born in the Bronx, NY, raised in Virgin Islands and significantly influenced by the Black avant-garde, Oliver is known for creating performance collages that move from dance to word and then to sound and back again toward an eclectic and provocative dance theater.  

Oliver holds a Ph.D. in performance studies from New York University. Her scholarly work, like her choreographic work, has focused on performance in the Anglophone Caribbean. She has taught at New York University’s Department of Drama, Tisch School of the Arts, The Newcomb Summer Dance Intensive at Tulane University, Florida State University and the University of Utah. She is currently serving in her fifth year of a five-year term as Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation in the Humanities, Arts and Related Fields at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she is a professor in the dance department with affiliations in African American studies and gender and women’s studies. Oliver is also a widely published author with articles in a variety of journals and edited volumes. Her nonfiction book, “Queen of the Virgins: Pageantry and Black Womanhood in the Caribbean,” was published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2009.  Oliver is currently a 2021 United States Artist Fellow. 
The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Announces $500,000 Grant to the Stephen Petronio Company
The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has announced a grant of $500,000 to the Stephen Petronio Company to conserve a 77-acre parcel of land surrounding the Petronio Residency Center, and adjacent to the Catskill Preserve, designating it as a forever wild open space to be named the Doris Duke Preserve at Round Top, Greene County. This novel undertaking will enable the Stephen Petronio Company to safeguard the sustainability of the Petronio Residency Center while protecting in perpetuity an important haven for biodiversity. The grant will facilitate the Stephen Petronio Company's ability to obtain full and enduring ownership of the expansive property that cradles the Petronio Residency Center-where it works to nurture generations of contemporary dance artists-while simultaneously expanding the footprint of protected land along the Catskill corridor and significantly advancing regional conservation efforts in the Hudson Valley.

The Doris Duke Preserve at Round Top, Greene County will be established through a permanent land conservation easement, held in perpetuity by the Greene Land Trust. The most distinctive characteristic of an easement as a conservation tool is that it enables specific conservation goals on the land while keeping ownership and management with the existing landowners and allowing for uses harmonious with conservation objectives. This mechanism enables an experienced land conservation organization, such as a land trust or government agency, to work with a landowner in order to achieve conservation purposes.

Upcoming Events and Opportunities

Visit American Dance Abroad's Events & Opportunities page for all the latest deadlines. Contact to submit an opportunity for inclusion.

Dance Days Chania
Open Call for International Festival
Due: November 27, 2021
Learn more
Choreography 36
Open Call for Applications
Due: April 15, 2022
Learn more
National Dance Project
Open Call for Travel Funding
Due: Rolling Applications
Learn More
Open call for residency applications
Due: November 10, 2021
Learn more
ACT Festival
Open Call for Festival Applications
Due December 13, 2021
Learn more
*The inclusion of an opportunity or event posted on American Dance Abroad's newsletter should not be interpreted as an endorsement of that opportunity. American Dance Abroad has created this listing in an effort to increase access to and knowledge about international opportunities.

News From the Field  

American Dance Abroad brings you links to articles of international importance. Please send us your suggestions for new links to include next month.

This Report expands the scope of Dance Data Project®’s research to examine, for the first time, the largest U.S. contemporary and modern dance companies.
As part of a shared research project with Dr. Heidi Boisvert and Melissa Painter through the Guild of Future Architects, Dance Magazine spoke with a number of dancers, choreographers and scholars thinking through the ramifications of COVID on our lives, and what comes next.

A new research fellowship, developed in collaboration with NYU’s Center for Ballet and the Arts and the Laboratory for Neurogenetics of Language at The Rockefeller University, is tackling an age-old question: Why do humans dance? And what can dance teach us about the brain?

Seeing theater these days can involve waiting in lines to show proof of vaccination and getting rapid coronavirus tests for young children. Many fans seem undeterred.
Now, as the dance companies that managed to survive are returning to the stage, the ghosts of those that no longer exist haunt the field.

International Performances

COMPANY Venue  DATE Location
Trajal Harrell/Schauspielhaus Zurich Dance Ensemble
euro-scene Leipzig

November 2, 2021

Leipzig, Germany

Valerie Green Amalgam Studio
November 13-28, 2021
Beirut, Lebanon

Martha Graham Dance Company Cannes Festival

Stadthalle Neuss

November 27, 2021

November 30, 2021

Cannes, France


Lines Ballet Centre d’Art et de Culture

Théâtre des Sablons


Théâtre du Vellein

November 25, 2021

November 27, 2021

December 1, 2021

December 3-4, 2021

Meudon, France

Neuilly-Sur-Seine, France

Avignon, France

Villefontaine, France

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