USA Dance Panel for 2011

Anna M. Glass Coquillot

Managing Director, 651 Arts, New York, NY

Elizabeth Doud

Artistic Director, Miami Dade College Cultura del Lobo, Miami, FL

Bebe Miller

USA Ford Fellow, Columbus, OH

Bonnie Homsey

Chair of Dance, Princess Grace Foundation— USA, Los Angeles, CA

Ben Johnson

Director, Northrop Concerts, Director, Northrop Concerts and Lectures, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

Statement by Anna M. Glass Coquillot.

While sitting down for a performance at New York Live Arts in New York City, I was reintroduced to a speech given in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy in honor of the poet Robert Frost, who died in January of that year. In his speech, President Kennedy championed the role of the artist in a free society saying, “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” I am so fixated on the second half of this quote that it deserves repeating. Society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him. This is the spirit in which the United States Artists Fellowships are awarded. To provide opportunities for some of our country’s greatest artistic minds to forge ahead in realizing their visions, even if that means, as President Kennedy observed, sailing against the currents of time.

The recipients of this year’s fellowships are all incredibly dedicated to their craft, both in form and in practice. Using the human body as their instrument, they create work that is provocative, beautiful, challenging, thought-provoking, and in some instances all of the above. They further the continuum of American dance while expanding its boundaries to embrace a changing world and how they experience it. Yet what links Donald Byrd, Nora Chipaumire, Michelle Ellsworth, John Jasperse, Liz Lerman, Lar Lubovitch, and Morgan Thorson together is their commitment to realizing their visions against all odds and the impact of their work not only on the field of dance, but on our society.

As panelists, we are both honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to participate in a process that celebrates and rewards the artist’s vision. In many ways, the achievements of these artists are an achievement for all of us. While this fellowship will provide artists the opportunity to follow their visions’ wherever it takes them, it is the rest of us who get the benefit of being taken on an incredible journey.

In the end, I think that is what President Kennedy truly meant to convey—as a country, we must support artists at all stages of their careers and without any expectations. If we invest in artists and support opportunities for artistic achievement, as President Kennedy stated, we “will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens.”