Laurel Lawson as Venus (Photo by MANCC / Chris Cameron)
(Washington, DC) – Dance/USA, the national service organization for professional dance, recently announced that Dance/USA Fellowships to Artists (DFA) has awarded $1,000,525 in funding to 31 dance artists addressing social change through their work. Laurel Lawson, an Atlanta, GA-based disability arts leader is among the inaugural Dance/USA Artist Fellows.
As a dancer, choreographer, activist, product designer, and engineer, Lawson explores dance technique and choreography that is specific and authentic to disabled performers and embodiments. Through this fellowship, she intends to expand dance frontiers in technique and choreography, create new work, and explore ways to expand access to the disability arts field via technological platforms.
“I am beyond honored to be recognized by this Dance/USA fellowship,” comments Lawson. “As the only recipient from the Southeast, and as a disabled artist, this support is deeply meaningful as I continue my work.”
Lawson joined Atlanta-based Full Radius Dance in 2004, and has performed in Atlanta and around the world with the company. In addition to other collaborations and solo projects, Lawson is a member of the Kinetic Light collective, along with fellow dancer/choreographer Alice Sheppard and designer Michael Maag. Founded in 2016 and working in the disciplines of art, technology, design, and dance, Kinetic Light creates, performs, and teaches at the nexus of access, disability, dance, and race. The collective tours its signature work, DESCENT, this fall with performances scheduled at Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center for the Arts, November 2019.
Lawson also leverages her expertise as a product designer and User Interface architect, and Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of Decatur-based tech consultancy CyCore Systems, to create new and accessible platforms for artistic creation and experience. For example, Lawson and Kinetic Light are breaking new ground in theatrical audio description through Audimance, an open source application which creates a rich user- and choice-centered spatialized, auditory experiences of dance and performance art.
Laurel Lawson (Photo by Hayim Heron; Courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow)
The 31 Dance/USA Artist Fellows hail from across the United States, and specialize in a wide variety of dance forms ranging from disability arts to Black vernacular and urban styles to indigenous forms and beyond. Fellows were selected through a rigorous review by a peer panel. In this pilot round, DFA addresses a decades-long issue in the dance field: the importance of supporting individual artists. DFA was established through the generosity of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. See the list of Dance/USA Artist Fellows here. Find the review panel here.
About Dance/USA Fellowships to Artists (DFA)
DFA provides direct support to dance artists who work through dance to address social change within one or more communities. DFA funds may be used at the artist’s discretion to support costs related to their practice; artists are not required to complete a project or perform. The panel was charged with constructing a fellowship portfolio that reflects a range of artists, practices, and communities. Many of the Dance/USA Artist Fellows utilize community facilitation and organizing to advance issues, including race, disability, and immigration; others are the bearers of cultures that were nearly lost.
Dance/USA Artist Fellows work in an extremely wide range of dance forms and traditions, including: disability arts; indigenous forms; traditional dances of Africa, Cambodia, and the Philippines; Latin and Caribbean forms; Black vernacular and urban styles; percussive forms such as tap and zapateado; and contemporary and post-modern dance, drawing from improvisation, performance art, movement theater, as well as scores of dance forms, including Indian, African diasporic; physically integrated, adaptive, jazz and ice skating.
About Laurel Lawson
Laurel Lawson found in dance a pursuit that combined her lifelong love of athleticism and art. Lawson joined Atlanta-based Full Radius Dance in 2004, and has performed in Atlanta and around the world with the company. In addition to other collaborations and solo projects, Lawson is a member of the Kinetic Light collective along with fellow dancer/choreographer Alice Sheppard and designer Michael Maag. Other career highlights include performing in festivals in Italy and South Korea and a film appearance in Warm Springs (HBO, 2005). She currently makes work which draws on myth and liminal spaces, and her newest work, the tenderness of things lost and found, will be premiered by Cleveland Dancing Wheels in June 2019. In addition to performing, choreographing, and teaching dance; Laurel is also a lifelong advocate, public speaker, member of the USA Women’s Sled Hockey team, and CTO and co-founder of an engineering consultancy based in Decatur, GA.
About Kinetic Light
Working in the disciplines of art, design, architecture, and social justice, Kinetic Light creates, performs, and teaches at the intersections of disability, dance, and race. Through rigorous investment in the histories, cultures, and artistic work of people with disabilities and people of color, Kinetic Light transforms understandings of the dancing body thereby enabling new, powerful understandings of the moving world. The collective seeks to showcase freedom of movement as a pathway for others to understand how mobility—literal, physical, and conceptual —is fundamental to participation in civic life and to our understanding of American identity. In 2018, Kinetic Light made its Jacob’s Pillow debut (as part of the Inside/Out Performance Series), performed at the Whitney Museum, and produced sold-out runs of DESCENT, the collective’s first evening-length work. Also in 2018, the readers of Dance Magazine voted DESCENT the year’s most moving performance. Kinetic Light will tour DESCENT in Fall 2019. For more information visit kineticlight.org.
About the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
The mission of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is to improve the quality of people’s lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental conservation, medical research, and child well-being, and through preservation of the cultural and environmental legacy of Doris Duke’s properties. The Arts Program of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation focuses its support on contemporary dance, jazz, and theater artists, and the organizations that nurture, present, and produce them. For more information, please visit ddcf.org.
Propelled by our belief that dance can inspire a more just and humane world, Dance/USA will amplify the power of dance to inform and inspire a nation where creativity and the field thrive. Dance/USA is the national service organization for the professional dance field. Established in 1982, Dance/USA champions an inclusive and equitable dance field by leading, convening, advocating, and supporting individuals and organizations. Dance/USA’s core programs are focused in the areas of engagement, advocacy, research, and preservation. Learn more about Dance/USA at danceusa.org.
Funding credits: Laurel Lawson is a 2019-20 Dance/USA Artist Fellow. Dance/USA Fellowships to Artists is administered by Dance/USA and is made possible with generous funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.