USA Dance Panel for 2009

Jennifer S. B. Calienes

Director, Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography,
at Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

Pat Graney

Executive Director, Pat Graney Company, and
USA Rasmuson Fellow, Seattle, WA

George Lugg

Associate Director, Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater,
Los Angeles, CA

Sixto Wagan

Co-Executive Director and Performing Arts Curator,
DiverseWorks Artspace, Houston, TX

Statement by Jennifer S. B. Calientes

In this particularly challenging economic climate artists, organizations, funders, and audiences alike have been forced to re-examine programs and core values in order to shift, trim, and re-prioritize for survival.

Despite this reality, a small group of colleagues convene in Los Angeles to decide which artists will be honored with both the prestige and financial support that accompanies a USA Fellowship. The number of selected artists remains consistent with years past, the award amount has not decreased, and the number one criteria of consideration remains artistic excellence.

The panel process is a humbling experience.

During our breaks, we look out at the La Brea Tar Pits. The site is spectacular, the smell poignant. One can’t help but take note of the metaphorical resemblance to our field: the constant pulse of dance in our society, the ephemeral nature of the form itself, the tug of war between evolution and preservation, and the unmistakable human vulnerability as we consider the very precarious position in which many artists find themselves today.

The conversations are as rich and diverse as the pool of remarkable applicants. Emotions run high as we think through the potential impact of such an award, the message it sends the field, and the choices we must all make.

As our deliberations continue, several individuals rise to the top. Each of these artists continues to push our field forward, evolving traditional form in efforts to best reflect upon a complex contemporary landscape. They are living testaments to the progressive nature of a bodyand- time-based art form. Their awards are both acknowledgments for their contributions to date and investments in their potential.

Our sincerest congratulations to all.

Postscript: Hours after returning home from Los Angeles, we received the news that our beloved Merce Cunningham had passed. On behalf of the panelists and our field, we raise a glass to his legacy and spirit, and to the creative potential of this art form.