SAN FRANCISCO and MENLO PARK, Calif.—The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation are pleased to announce the recipients of a $300,000 initiative to support the creation and production of new dances by California choreographers. The funds are directed toward innovative California choreographers who represent a wide spectrum of cultural and aesthetic perspectives.

The works will be commissioned and premiered by Bay Area nonprofit organizations. Each organization will receive a $50,000 grant divided into two parts: $12,500 or more will be a commissioning fee to a California-based choreographer, while the remaining funds will go to the presenting organization for expenses related to the creation and world premiere of the commissioned compositions. The resulting works will have their world premiere public performances in the San Francisco Bay Area between December 2015 and June 2017.

The recipients of the 2014 Choreographer Commissioning Awards are (in alphabetical order by organization):

AXIS Dance Company / Stephan Koplowitz

Stephan Koplowitz will work with this mixed-ability dance company to create a site-specific outdoor work inspired by the history, design, and architecture of the Yerba Buena Gardens and the unique movement capabilities of these dancers. The work will involve up to twenty performers with and without disabilities, original music, and the use of digital technology to augment an immersive promenade tour performance at various sites in the outdoor garden space. The project will premiere in the summer of 2016.

CounterPulse / Dohee Lee

Dohee Lee will create ARA: Waterways Time Weaves, a participatory ritual performance featuring elements of Korean shamanic dance, contemporary dance, and music with acoustic and electronic elements, including motion sensors on the performers. Community workshops will generate collective stories and group choreography for the world-premiere performance, which will take place in spring 2016 at CounterPulse’s new performing space in San Francisco.

Destiny Arts Center / Nicole Klaymoon

Nicole Klaymoon will collaborate with Destiny Arts Center’s pre-professional youth dance company to create a multidisciplinary intergenerational performance exploring gendered violence pervasive in hip-hop and the lives of Oakland youth. Integrating multiple urban dance styles, choreo-poetry, and documentary theater, adult performers will develop source material from the youth who will be integrated into the performance at Laney College in Oakland, set to premiere in the spring of 2016.

ODC / Brenda Way

In celebration of the dance company’s forty-fifth anniversary, Brenda Way will collaborate with composer Paul Dresher and visual designer Alex Nichols to create Walk Back the Cat. The piece will have eleven dancers and four to six musicians working in small groups, revealing a discrete narrative that culminates in a final image with all performers. Cinematic in design, the work will be seen in flashbacks that carry the audience toward the ending. It will premiere at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco in spring of 2017.

Project Bandaloop / Amelia Rudolph

Amelia Rudolph will create Coyote Waltzes, a vertical dance piece that illuminates the beauty, vulnerability, and complexity of organic systems in the wild, through the lens of the trickster coyote. It will be performed and filmed remotely in the Sierra, and then publicly as a multimedia performance on the Great Wall of Oakland. Termed “site responsive” by the choreographer, this new work commemorates the hundredth anniversary of the National Park Service and will premiere in spring of 2017.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts / Kim Epifano

Kim Epifano will create Last Blue Couch in the Sky, a site-specific dance work at six to eight locations in San Francisco’s SOMA district, culminating with an evening-long indoor component at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Celebrating her company’s twentieth anniversary, this work will pay homage to the seminal places that influenced her work, while acknowledging the gentrification taking place in San Francisco. The project will premiere in the spring of 2017.

“I am pleased to collaborate with the Hewlett Foundation to support a diverse array of choreographers reflective of the Bay Area’s aesthetic diversity. The awards support what is truly distinctive in Bay Area dance: mixed ability, culturally specific, aerial/vertical, hip-hop, modern, and site-specific forms,” said Stacie Ma’a, the president of the Gerbode Foundation. “As arts organizations and artists are under mounting economic pressures to live and work in the region, awards at this level help ensure that the extraordinary legacy of dancemaking continues.”

“This year’s grant recipients will create some of the most innovative and diverse dance performances in the Bay Area,” said John E. McGuirk, director of the Hewlett Foundation’s Performing Arts Program. “New work like this is essential to cultivating a vibrant arts community, and we are proud to be able to support these artists.”

The Gerbode and Hewlett foundations were assisted in making these grants by an advisory panel composed of the following nationally respected dance experts:

  • Ella Baff is the executive and artistic director of Jacob’s Pillow. She has received several awards, including the William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, the Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Ministry of Culture, and an honorary doctorate from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. She co-chaired two congresses of the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA) and is consultant, panelist, and guest speaker for foundations and nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and abroad.
  • Aparna Ramaswamy is co-artistic director, choreographer, and principal dancer of Ragamala Dance. Ramaswamy’s training is in the classical form of Bharatanatyam, under legendary dancer/choreographer Alarmél Valli. She has toured extensively, both as a soloist and with Ragamala. Ramaswamy’s work been commissioned by the Walker Art Center, Lincoln Center, Krannert Center, Clarice Smith Center, and presented by the Kennedy Center’s American Dance Festival and the National Centre for Performing Arts (Mumbai, India), among others.
  • Dana Reitz is a choreographer, dancer, and visual artist. Renowned as a soloist, she and Mikhail Baryshnikov also toured together with a program of solos; she later created a duet for Baryshnikov and Kabuki master Tamasaburo Bando (Tokyo). Her work has been commissioned and produced by multiple venues, including the Festival d’Automne in Paris, the Hebbel Theater in Berlin, the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, and Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival in New York. Reitz is a founding member of the Center for Creative Research and is senior faculty at Bennington College.
  • Julia Rhoads is the founding artistic director of Lucky Plush Productions, a dance-theater company. Her work has been presented nationally and internationally, and numerous dance and theater companies, including Tony-award winning Lookingglass Theatre and Redmoon Dance Company, have commissioned her independent choreography. NEFA National Dance Project Production awards, NDP Production Residency awards, National Performance Network Creation Fund awards, and an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts have supported her work.
  • Raphael Xavier is an award-winning artist from Wilmington, Delaware, who is credited with the resurrection and growth of the breakdancing community in Philadelphia. He is also a former company member of the internationally acclaimed, Rennie Harris Puremovement. He is a Pennsylvania Fellow of the Fine Arts and a 2013 Pew Center for the Arts and Heritage Fellow. A self-taught hip-hop dancer and breakdancing practitioner since 1983, Xavier continues to learn and recreate new ways to expand the vocabulary of the dance form through research, performance, and practice.

About the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation
The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation is interested in programs and projects offering potential for significant impact. The primary geographical focus is on the San Francisco Bay Area and Hawaii. The Foundation’s interests generally fall under the categories of arts and culture, environment, reproductive rights and health, citizen participation, building communities, inclusiveness, strength of the philanthropic process and the nonprofit sector, and foundation-initiated special projects.

About the Special Awards Program
For more than twenty-five years, the Gerbode Foundation has made innovative grants through its Special Awards Program to Bay Area arts institutions to commission new works from choreographers, playwrights, and composers. The Special Awards Program has also supported visual artists, poets, and multimedia artists.

In a time of cultural shifts and fiscal insecurity in the arts, these coveted, nationally respected awards have helped underwrite culturally and aesthetically diverse, acclaimed new works by prominent artists and emerging ones. These grants have supported artists at critical junctures in their careers; enabled nonprofit local arts groups to develop and debut substantial, original works; and enriched Bay Area audiences, readers, and viewers by giving them first access to ambitious new creations.

About The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation helps people build measurably better lives. The Foundation concentrates its resources on activities in education, the environment, global development and population, performing arts, and philanthropy, and makes grants to support disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. A full list of the Hewlett Foundation’s grants can be found in its online grants database. Follow us on Twitter at @Hewlett_Found.

The Foundation’s Performing Arts Program is founded on the premise that the experience, understanding, and appreciation of artistic expression give value, meaning, and enjoyment to people’s lives. Its goals are to ensure that exceptional works of art are created, performed, and preserved, and to provide more opportunities for participation in arts experiences. The program supports artistic expression and its enjoyment through grantmaking to a wide range of high-quality arts organizations in one of the most culturally diverse regions in the country. The Foundation’s Performing Arts Program currently supports more than 200 organizations throughout the Bay Area. Both the scale of funding and the singular nature of multiyear general operating support have made the Hewlett Foundation a key investor in the cultural life of the Bay Area.

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