The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Dance at Princeton University announces the creation of the Caroline Hearst Choreographer-in-Residence program, a gift of Margaret C. and William R. Hearst, III. In this inaugural year of the residency program and in celebration of the opening of the new Lewis Arts complex, four choreographers have been chosen to be choreographers-in-residence – Ralph Lemon, Abigail Zbikowski, Karen Sherman and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. In future years, the Program in Dance will name one artist a year as Caroline Hearst Choreographer-in-Residence.

Petronio

Princeton students perform a work by Stephen Petronio at the Princeton Dance Festival. Photo by Bentley Drezner

The Caroline Hearst Choreographer-in-Residence program is designed to foster the Program in Dance’s connections with the dance field. It provides selected professional choreographers with resources and a rich environment to develop their work and offers opportunities for students, faculty and staff to engage with diverse creative practices. For the inaugural year, the program is commissioning new dance works from three choreographers: Ralph Lemon, Karen Sherman, and Abby Zbikowski. Over the next two years, these artists will share their work and processes with the Princeton community through workshops, residencies, open rehearsals, and performances. The new program is designed to be flexible enough to create meaningful interaction between artists and students. Each artist will develop engagement activities to suit the interests of the students, and students will create projects that involve the selected artists.

In October, the program will also support the presentation of A Love Supreme, an evening-length work by internationally acclaimed choreographers Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Salva Sanchis, set to music by John Coltrane and performed by the Belgium-based Rosas dance company. A Love Supreme, the inaugural performance planned for the Hearst Dance Theater, will be one of the main events of A Festival of the Arts being held on the Princeton campus from October 5 through 8 to celebrate the opening of the new arts complex. The Hearst Dance Theater is named in recognition of the Hearst family’s generous support of the Lewis Arts complex.

In announcing the new program Susan Marshall, Director of the Program in Dance and MacArthur Foundation Fellowship recipient explained, “ The Hearst Choreographer-in-Residence program will give our students a unique opportunity to witness some of today’s most relevant choreographers engaged in a variety of choreographic processes. I expect this program to take on many forms in the coming years as we offer our students rare opportunities to work side by side with important choreographers — as dancers, design assistants, dramaturgs or conversing audiences. In a time of dwindling resources for new dance, this program allows Princeton University to support dance artists through helping them continue to create.”

Ralph Lemon, whose career spans over 30 years, is a director, choreographer, writer, visual artist and curator, and the Artistic Director of Cross Performance, a company dedicated to the creation of cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary performance and presentation. In 2016 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama. He is known for developing intellectually rigorous and experimental performances that are as socially and politically resonant as they are personal. This approach is evident in his multimedia collaboration How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? (2008-2010), a work with live performance, film and visual art. Other recent works include the innovative dance/film project Four Walls (2012); a commission for the Lyon Opera Ballet, Rescuing the Princess (2009); and the epic cycle, The Geography Trilogy (1997-2004). His honors include two “Bessie” Awards), an Alpert Award in the Arts, a Creative Capital Award, a U.S.A. Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Choreographers Award, and one of the first Doris Duke Foundation Performing Artist Awards. Lemon has been an IDA Fellow at Stanford University; artist-in-residence at Temple University; Miller Endowment Visiting Artist at the Krannert Center; Fellow of the Humanities Council and Program in Theater and Dance at Princeton University; Associate Artist at Yale Repertory Theatre; a Visiting Critic at the Yale School of Art’s Sculpture Department; and the 2013-14 Annenberg Fellow at the Museum of Modern Art, where he curated a series of “performance essays,” titled Value Talks.

Karen Sherman, a 2016-17 Hodder Fellow at the Lewis Center, makes performances that incorporate her background in dance, writing, theater, music, and the handyman arts. She is also a freelance stage technician, carpenter, sound and scenic designer. Her current project, Soft Goods, is a dance/performance work created in collaboration with an ensemble of stage technicians and dancers that examines work, aliveness, death, disappearance, and occupational self-obliteration. Her work has been presented nationally by Walker Art Center, PS 122, Fusebox Festival, Movement Research, ODC/Dance, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, and The Chocolate Factory Theater, among many others. Her awards include a 2007 “Bessie” Award for her performance in Morgan Thorson’s Faker, multiple McKnight Foundation Fellowships in Choreography and Dance, a Bush Foundation Fellowship, two MacDowell Colony Fellowships, and residencies with Vermont Performance Lab, Movement Research, Studio 206, and the Bogliasco Foundation in Liguria, Italy.

Abby Zbikowski is a choreographer, Assistant Professor of Dance at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and faculty member at the American Dance Festival. Her choreographic work with her company, Abby Z and the New Utility, has been presented by the Gibney Dance Center, Movement Research at Danspace Project, and most recently the Abrons Arts Center where the company had a sold out run of its latest evening-length piece, abandoned playground. Zbikowski has been an Artist-in-Residence as part of the nEW Festival in Philadelphia, the American Dance Festival, and the Bates Dance Festival. She has studied intensively at Germaine Acogny’s L’École de Sables in Senegal, holds a B.F.A. in dance from Temple University, and an M.F.A. in dance from Ohio State University, where she worked closely with mentors Bebe Miller and Vickie Blaine. As a performer, Zbikowski has worked with Charles O. Anderson/Dance Theater X, Vincent Mantsoe, and the Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project. She has been on faculty at the Ohio State University and has taught technique and creative process abroad at the Academy of Culture in Riga, Latvia as part of Global Practice Sharing, sponsored by Movement Research.

Hearst Choreographers-in-Residence will be chosen yearly through a nomination process and will include choreographers at various stages of their careers exploring a wide range of aesthetics, including those who may not otherwise fit easily into the Dance Program’s curriculum. Each artist will receive significant commissioning support, as well as opportunities to workshop and perform the work in progress in the Lewis Center’s new state-of-the-art studios and theaters, designed to encourage interdisciplinary collaborations. The dance faculty will work closely with each artist to craft meaningful engagements with students in ways that benefit the artists’ needs, as well as those of the students, and to further increase students’ understanding of and ties to working choreographers.

Under Marshall’s guidance over the past eight years, the dance faculty has grown from two full-time faculty and four adjunct professors to five full-time and nine adjunct faculty. The number of dance courses have also increased from nine to 23 and the curriculum includes introductory courses, courses suited for dancers at the pre-professional level, as well as courses in dance studies and interdisciplinary contemporary practices. Acclaimed artists who have recently visited campus to work with student dancers include choreographers Bill T. Jones, William Forsythe, Dean Moss and Pam Tanowitz and dancers Lil’ Buck, Ana “Rokafella” Garcia, Robert La Fosse, Jessica Lang, Heather Watts, Damian Woetzel, and Silas Reiner, Princeton Class of 2006. Reiner, whom The New York Times called “one of the superlative performers of our day,” explored dance for the first time as a Princeton undergraduate and went on to dance with Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and now works as an independent choreographer and dancer.

The presence of more than 20 extracurricular dance companies makes Princeton a particularly lively environment for dancers, choreographers, and their audiences.

Students in the Program in Dance earn a certificate, similar to a minor, in addition to their major area of study. These certificate students are deeply committed young artists who often create full-length works as part of their senior thesis projects. The guest artists made possible through the Hearst Choreographer-in-Residence program will contribute significantly to an environment focused on creativity, risk-taking and process. Increased access to respected working artists in the program is also expected to raise the curiosity of introductory-level students and students in other disciplines.

“This new program is among a growing roster of programs at the Lewis Center designed to provide support for artists,” notes Michael Cadden, Chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts. “Because universities understand the importance of experimentation and risk-taking to the development of new work and new knowledge, they are playing an increasingly important role in the national arts ecosystem. Creating the right ‘labs’ for such work and putting students in conversation with seasoned professionals and emerging artists provides our undergraduates with both the ability to stretch themselves as artists and the opportunity to experience how creative thinking informs all areas of human endeavor.” Other Lewis Center programs of support for artists include Hodder Fellowships, Princeton Arts Fellowships, and the Berlind Playwright-in-Residence program.

“We have exceptionally talented, open, and invested students,” notes Marshall, “and we want to provide them with exceptional opportunities.”

“The Hearst gifts recognize Princeton’s Program in Dance as one of the leading undergraduate programs in the field of dance studies.” adds Cadden. “We’re delighted that the Hearst gifts so generously celebrate our past and present while ensuring a glorious future.”

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