Chicago Dancemakers Forum Supports Six Choreographers With 2019 Lab Artist Awards

Salmon Mitsu (photo Rich Matheson)

(Chicago, IL) – Chicago Dancemakers Forum announces the six recipients of the 2019 Lab Artist Awards. Anjal Chande, Jane Jerardi, Mitsu Salmon, Vershawn Sanders-Ward, Darling Shear, and Nejla Yatkin will each receive a cash grant of $15,000 combined with mentorship and collegial exchange throughout a year of artistic exploration. The Chicago Dancemakers Forum staff and consortium leadership support the artists as they research, develop, and present new dance works.

Chicago Dancemakers Forum fuels the field of dance by stimulating and nourishing the artistic and professional development of Chicago’s individual dancemakers. Since its inception in 2003, Chicago Dancemakers Forum has granted over $1 million to artists and is the single largest, local source of support for the city’s dancemakers which has an open call for applications.

Nejla Yatkin (photo via Chicago Dancemakers)

Chicago Dancemakers’ Lab Artists program is unique in its emphasis on an extended period of creative research. The Lab Artists are selected for the quality of their work, the distinctness of their vision, and their potential for artistic growth. Each of them has identified a unique path of artistic inquiry for the year which will lead to the creation of a new dance. By engaging leaders in the field in dialogue with the artists, the Lab Artists program fosters excellence, innovation, and connectivity in the field of dance. Past Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab awardees vary in age, gender, race, and dance discipline. They work in tap, bharatanatyam, butoh, burlesque, Chicago Footwork, dance for the camera, voguing, classical Japanese, West African, contemporary, and more.

Executive Director Ginger Farley shares, “We are thrilled to announce these six Lab Artists. Each has a unique and distinctive choreographic voice and together provide a rich array of dance disciplines and human perspectives reflective of the city and the time that we live in.”

Vershawn Sanders-Ward (photo via Chicago Dancemakers)

The 2019 Lab Artists will be recognized during the 2019 Awards Celebration and Benefit on Thursday, July 11, 5:30-8:30 PM at The Arts Club of Chicago, 201 E. Ontario, Chicago, IL 60611.

Chicago Dancemakers Forum 2019 Lab Artists

ANJAL CHANDE is a choreographer, composer, and writer, making dance-theater performances grounded in an improvisational practice and bharatanatyam roots. In 2007, Chande founded Soham Dance Space in Chicago. Her work has been presented by Sophiensaele in Berlin, the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, West Wave Festival in San Francisco, Drive East in New York, World Music Festival in Chicago, and multiple cities in India. She’s been recognized through the U.S. Fulbright Program, Ragdale Foundation, Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, and Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Anjal’s Lab Year project “This Is How I Feel Today” explores wealth inequality, intergenerational relationships, the politics of art, and the next cup of tea. She will devote her Lab year toward an intensive phase of researching the dramaturgical possibilities for this work.


Anjal Chande (photo Kylie Bellard)

JANE JERARDI is a Chicago-based artist working in the media of choreography, performance, video installation, and writing. In observing the ordinary and even awkward, she sorts out and enunciates the unexpectedly beautiful. She has created work since 1998 for a variety of contexts –- from theaters and galleries to record store listening booths and public subway escalators. Her Lab Year project, “Delicate Hold,” delves into how we articulate our desires in a kind of manifesto and an embrace of empowerment, focusing on desire as it is articulated in Buddhist thought, feminist writing, and the tenets of dance improvisation – how we might become deeply attuned to desire by staying in the moment. “Delicate Hold” will be a departure for the artist as she aims to step outside the work to direct it, focusing on its overall architecture and structure.

Darling Shear (photo William Frederking)

MITSU SALMON creates dance, performance, and visual works that fuse multiple disciplines. She has participated in artist residencies at Taipei Artist Village (Taiwan), Incheon Art Platform (Korea), Oxbow (MI), Guildhall (NY) and PAM (CA) as well as locally at Links Hall, High Concept Lab, HATCH, and the Chicago Cultural Center. She has performed at places such as Dance Theater Workshop, Performance Space 122, and Urbanguild (Japan). She has received the Midwest Nexus Touring Grant and DCASE IAP. Her practice asks: How do personal and family memories connect and collide? How are ancestors held and resisted in our body? Mitsu’s Lab Year project, “Orchid,” draws from her familial stories to investigate botany and imperialism as connected to contemporary issues of migration and the environment. The work examines the choreography of plants, in terms of physical gestures and human-intervened transportation.

VERSHAWN SANDERS-WARD is a movement artivist, defined as “one who utilizes their artistic genius to ignite a social revolution by creatively using the body and movement as tools to gain personal and collective freedom.” Ward is the Director of Red Clay Dance and is motivated by the belief that the act of building a more equitable society begins with the every individual in that society to acquire the social capital needed to thrive. Vershawn’s creative practice in dancemaking, performance, teaching and cultural organizing, provides spaces for these experiences to occur. Her Lab Year project, “Experiments in Artivism,” develops distinct tools/technologies to excavate deep embodied memories and refine her ability to use embodied research as the foundation of her dancemaking practice. These new tools will be put in practice to develop a solo work focused on the effects of female incarceration on families.

Jane Jerardi (photo M Wichita)

DARLING SHEAR is a Chicago Native with roots in Atlanta. GA. As a freelance dancer/choreographer, Darling has worked with The Fly Honeys of the The Inconvenience, Body Cartography, Links Hall, Victoria Bradford, The School of the Art Institute, DePaul Museum, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Salonathon, Open TV beta and many more. Darling’s work is intentionally queer and sex positive. Her Lab Year project, “Tech, no-Jesus,” explores our crippling addictions to technology and religious dogma in contrast to a lack in our greater collective relationship to spirituality. Through guerilla anthropological/ethnographic methods, “Tech, no-Jesus” hopes to excavate and capture the philosophical tension of Matthew 6:24.

NEJLA YATKIN creates award winning and critically acclaimed works inspired by issues of identity, feminism, and memory. She brings an incandescent trans-cultural perspective to her creations. Her recent dances have been traveling around the world, empowering and inspiring local communities to re-imagine themselves in public spaces anew, by incorporating an interactive participatory dance practice. She is a 3Arts Awardee and a Princess Grace Choreography Fellow. Nejla’s Lab Year project, “About Witches Faunas and Aliens,” is a site-specific solo dance with elements of a promenade performance including contemporary dance, ritual, music, energy healing and community participation. A documentary film is capturing the performance process throughout.

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