HPSD Alumna Tara Aisha Willis named a New York Public Library for the Performing Arts 2019 Dance Research Fellow

Photo: Chris Walker / Chicago Tribune

Hyde Park School of Dance is proud to announce that HPSD alumna Tara Aisha Willis,  Associate Curator of Performance for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, was named the Jan Schmidt Fellow as a part of the annual Dance Research Fellowship program through the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library For the Performing Arts.

A member of the new class of Dance Research Fellows for 2019, Willis and her cohort of 6 other fellows were "selected from a record number of applicants from around the world" (nypl.org). "These researchers and artists will help the Dance Division celebrate its 75th anniversary by focusing on topics selected by each of the five curators who have overseen the collection during its history. A sixth collection was selected by members of the Dance Division's expert staff." For the duration of her fellowship, Willis will be the sole researcher and artist appointed to the New York Public Library For the Performing Arts's Dance Theatre Workshop Collection.

About The New York Public Library For The Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center 

"The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts houses one of the world’s most extensive combinations of circulating, reference, and rare archival collections in its field. These materials are available free of charge, along with a wide range of special programs, including exhibitions, seminars, and performances. An essential resource for everyone with an interest in the arts — whether professional or amateur — the Library is known particularly for its prodigious collections of non-book materials such as historic recordings, videotapes, autograph manuscripts, correspondence, sheet music, stage designs, press clippings, programs, posters and photographs. The Library is part of The New York Public Library system, which has 92 locations in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island, and is a lead provider of free education for all." (nypl.org)

About The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts's Dance Research Fellowship Program

"Created in 2014 to support scholars and practitioners engaged in graduate-level, post-doctoral, and independent research using the Dance Division's unmatched holdings, this program awards a stipend of $7,500 and a research period from July 1 to December 31, 2019 for fellows to complete their work.

The Fellows will showcase the outcome of their research in a presentation or performance at a day-long symposium on Friday, January 24, 2020. The symposium -- which serves as the culmination of the fellowship -- is free and open to the public, and attendees are encouraged to observe as many presentations as possible throughout the day. Online reservations will be accepted beginning in late 2019. 

'We received more applications than ever for this year's fellowships,' said Linda Murray, curator of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division. 'An anniversary is an opportunity to reflect and reset so, in this cycle for our 75th year, we asked each of the former curators to select a topic that they believed to have historic importance. In the project proposals that we received, what emerged was how well these legacy collections resonate with issues currently being experienced by our community today. It is a humbling testament to the Division's breadth, depth, and resonance that it can continue to speak to the field so profoundly.'

The Jerome Robbins Dance Division of The New York Public Library is the largest and most comprehensive archive in the world devoted to the documentation of dance. Chronicling the art of dance in all its forms, the Division acts as much more than a library. It preserves the history of dance by gathering diverse written, visual, and aural resources, and works to ensure the art form's continuity through active documentation and educational programs. 

Founded in 1944, the Dance Division is used regularly by choreographers, dancers, critics, historians, journalists, publicists, filmmakers, graphic artists, educators, students, and the general public. While the Division contains more than 44,000 books about dance, these account for only a small percentage of its vast holdings. Other resources available for study free of charge include papers and manuscript collections, moving image and audio recordings, clippings and program files, and original prints and designs." (nypl.org)


About Willis's Research Project

Dancing Black/Dancing Blackness:
Kinetic Theorizations of Race in Contemporary Choreographies 

"Willis will undergird her analyses of how lived experience, discourse, and lineage appear in several recent, often improvisational, performances by black dance artists with archival research on how experiments by black choreographers were presented, perceived, and framed in 1980s-90s New York City. Seeking evidence of the shifts in categorization used to define and historicize the intersection of racialized experience and ambiguous choreographic practices, Willis will attend to the sociopolitical contexts in which artists created their work to form non-linear histories. Additional curatorial research into solos by a range of artists will trace trajectories of relation and transmission from 1960-90 to current restaging practices, across lines of racial, formal, and geographic distinction." (nypl.org)

Congratulations on the incredible accomplishment, Tara, and best of luck in your research from all of your friends here at Hyde Park School of Dance!


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