Past Fellows | Dance Research Fellowship

The Dance Research Fellowship is designed to provide space and resources for scholarship within the field of dance to occur.  The 2021 fellows' work all centered around the theme of dance and democracy, the binding focus for this year’s cohort. View the 2021 Dance Symposium Brochure

Tommie-Waheed Evans

Referencing human rights as radical performance, HOME is an examination of race and marginalization. As today’s society still struggles with inclusivity, HOME is about belonging. The project will explore the discomfort, abandonment and strife of segregation and social injustice through the voices of African Americans and LGBTQ people. At its core, HOME aims to give birth to a new consciousness, create connections, and bring about change. Ronald K. Brown and Donald Byrd’s video archives will serve as the foundation for exploring ideas of healing and liberation.

2021 Guggenheim Fellow Tommie-Waheed Evans is a queer black dance maker, born and raised in Los Angeles, California, amidst racial divide, gang warfare, and earthquakes. His work explores blackness, spirituality, queerness and liberation. He began his formal training with Karen McDonald before receiving a fellowship at the Ailey School, and a Master of Fine Arts in Choreography from Jacksonville University. He has toured and performed nationally and internationally as a company member of Lula Washington Dance Theater, Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Philadanco. Since 2004, he has created more than 50 original dance works that range widely in scope, length, tone and subject matter. waheedworks, his Philadelphia-based dance company, is the primary vehicle for his creative research. The company’s mission is to create a radically collaborative body of work that speaks to the human condition. His work brings together urban street dance styles and contemporary dance vocabulary through bold and raw movements propelled by gospel music and polyrhythmic sounds. He has also been commissioned to create works for BalletX, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, PHILADANCO, Verb Ballets, Ballet Memphis, The University of the Arts, Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Lula Washington Dance Theatre, Louisville Ballet, among others. He has received accolades and honors including 2020 Center of Ballet and Arts resident fellow, 2019 Princess Grace Honoraria Award in Choreography, New Music Project Grant, Howard Gilman Foundation Fellowship, Joffrey Ballet Winning Works 2019, and Ballet Memphis New American Dance Residency 2019.

Petra Kuppers
Crip/Mad Dramaturgies

Kuppers’ project redirects the focus of disability dance and performance studies from representation and creation to dramaturgy, i.e. the space of research, audience development, cast development, and textual embodiment of performance. But focusing on dramaturgy as the lens, the project will offer new perspectives on the processes that fuel performance making, and will model how arts-based research methods can interact fruitfully with historical and textual scholarship. It will guide future researchers to new ways of approaching dance and disability, by working directly with disabled (crip) artists and (mad) artists, i.e. people who identify with and reclaim these labels. 

Petra Kuppers (she/her) is a disability culture activist, a wheelchair dancer, and a community performance artist. She creates participatory community performance environments that think/feel into public space, tenderness, site-specific art, access and experimentation. Petra grounds herself in disability culture methods, and uses eco somatics, performance, and speculative writing to engage audiences toward more socially just and enjoyable futures. She teaches at the University of Michigan in performance studies and disability culture, and is also an advisor on the low-residency MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts at Goddard College. Kuppers received the American Society for Theatre Research’s best dance/theatre book award, the National Women’s Caucus for the Arts' Award for Arts and Activism, and her performance poetry collection Gut Botany was named one of the top ten US poetry books of 2020 by The New York Public Library. She is the Artistic Director of The Olimpias, an international disability culture collective, and co-creates Turtle Disco, a somatic writing studio, with her wife, poet and dancer Stephanie Heit, from their home in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Her next academic book project, Eco Soma: Pain and Joy in Speculative Performance Encounters, will appear with the University of Minnesota Press in early 2022. 

zavé martohardjono

As preparation for a performance and installation project that queries what the dance practices of ancestors and Native communities reveal about colonial genocide and cross-cultural, multi-ethnic revolutions, martohardjono will research documentation of folk and contemporary Southeast Asian, Iranian and First Nations dance-theater and ritual dance that tells stories of community self-preservation in the midst of genocide.

zavé martohardjono is a queer, trans, Indonesian-American artist born in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal and living in Lenapehoking/Brooklyn. They use de-colonial and anti-assimilationist dance, ritual, and multimedia practices to make performances, films, and installations that contend with the political histories our bodies carry. zavé has performed at the 92Y, El Museo del Barrio, The Kennedy Center, Storm King Art Center, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Gibney Dance, Boston Center for the Arts, Tufts University, and elsewhere. They've published in Imagining: A Gibney JournalThe Dancer Citizen, and We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics. In addition to being a Dance Research Fellow, they are a 2019 Movement Research AIR and 2021 Gibney Dance in Process artist. 

Ariel Nereson
Plague Dances: Revisiting Bill T. Jones' AIDS Archive in the Time of COVID

Plague Dances brings together ideas and practices from Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane's choreography, critical race theory, and queer studies in order to make visible the ongoing contributions of queer artists of color to reimagining collectivity. Through highlighting archival materials, the project will show how artists have been developing tools that can address the urgencies of our contemporary moment, when the convergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and institutionalized racial violence demand revitalized democratic formations.

Ariel Nereson, PhD, is a dance scholar, educator, and practitioner. She is currently Assistant Professor of Dance Studies and Director of Graduate Dance at the University at Buffalo - SUNY. Broadly, her research considers the relation of performance histories to practices of racial violence and white supremacy in the US, with a focus on the intersection of racialization, embodiment, and movement-based performance. She is the author of Democracy Moving: Bill T. Jones, Contemporary American Performance, and the Racial Past, forthcoming from the University of Michigan Press in early 2022.

Jason Samuels Smith

Samuels Smith's project aims to rebuild, restore, reclaim and reconnect to his roots. Challenging the current tap canon he will seek out alternate resources to surface an unwritten history in tap and to challenge a tap narrative that is scattered and skewed. 

Jason Samuels Smith, (tap dancer, choreographer, performer) received an Emmy, Dance Magazine Award, American Choreography Award, and Gregory Hines Humanitarian Award. Television/film and choreography credits include Outkast's IdlewildBlack NativityPsych; Secret Talents of the Stars (MYA); So You Think You Can Dance; Dean Hargrove's Tap Heat. Stage Credits include Broadway's Bring in Da' Noise, Bring in Da' Funk; Debbie Allen's Soul Possessed, and Imagine Tap!. His touring works included India Jazz Suites as documented in "Upaj: Improvise," A.C.G.I. Tap Company, Going The Miles, Chasin' The Bird, and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards's And Still You Must Swing. Director of L.A. Tap Festival and Tap Family Reunion, Samuels Smith supports DRA/Broadway Cares, Tied to Greatness, CTFD/The Actors Fund, Groove with Me, TapTakeOverHarlem, amfAR, and AHF among others. Samuels Smith promotes respect for tap dance, developed a pro tap shoe by BLOCH, and creates opportunities for upcoming generations as he travels as an ambassador for tap around the world.

Huiwang Zhang
Towards a Democratic Body: Documenting the Creative Processes with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company

The project will link the lineage of the postmodern movement approach to the historical and current creative processes of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company to establish scholarship on the possibility and significance of process-oriented performance. Drawing on Jones' and Zane's collaborative dance making in the '70s and '80s, Zhang will consider how a movement vocabulary is built through an active doing and thinking process to create a democratic body.

Huiwang Zhang danced with the China Opera and Dance Drama Company and Paper Tiger Theater Studio in Beijing. He joined the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company in 2017 after the completion of his Masters study in Dance and Choreography from the U.S and Germany under the great mentorships of Stephen Koester, Sharee Lane, Ellen Bromberg and Katharina Christl. He has also performed with PearsonWidrig Dance Theater and Yin Mei Dance. Huiwang's movement research and teaching are inspired by his traditional training in Chinese Classical Dance, Martial Arts and from teachers like Jennifer Nugent, Sarah Pearson, Leah Cox, Patrik Widrig, Tao Ye, Eric Handman, and Janet Wong. His choreography, often through a sociocultural lens, gives voices to communities at risk of social exclusion and people whose stories are lost in the official narratives, carefully structuring an alternative history from the personal and private stories of the individual. His work has been exhibited internationally in China, the U.S. and Germany. Huiwang voluntarily edits a dance e-journal "upsidedown" in China where he writes and translates perspectives in contemporary dance making into the Chinese language.


Before 2021, previous recipients of the Dance Research Fellowship includeL Malaika Adero, Silas Farley, Yoshiko Chuma, Joseph Houseal, Victoria Tennant, Gus Solomons Jr., Adrian Danchig-Waring, Alastair Macaulay, Robert Greskovic, Julie Lemberger, Hiie Saumaa, Reid Bartelme & Harriet Jung, Claire Bishop, Justin Tornow, Netta Yerushalmy, Preeti Vasudevan, Emily Coates, Elizabeth Zimmer, Tara Aisha Willis,  Emmanuèle Phuon, Apollinaire Scherr, Triwi Harjito, Jeremy Jacob & Jack Ferver, Kiri Avelar, Ninotchka Bennahum, Phil Chan, Sergey Konayev, Yusha-Marie Sorzano & Ferne Regis, Pam Tanowitz.