Boston – Next Steps for Boston Dance, a partnership between the Boston Foundation, the Aliad Fund and Movement Arts Creation Studio, is pleased to announce its slate of 2023 grantees. The seven grantees will receive multi-layered support from Next Steps, including $6,000 in ‘implementation funds’ for new work, along with 250 hours of flexible rehearsal space, five consulting meetings with expert advisors in chosen areas of need, and access to other resources from and with their fellow cohort members.
“At a time when we need arts and artists to inspire, engage and help us heal from the trials of the past few years, this group of talented leaders is pushing boundaries and realizing new creative visions in dance and circus arts,” said Catherine T. Morris, Director of Arts and Culture at the Boston Foundation. “We are pleased to be able to partner with them and excited to see their work take shape over the coming year.”
Former dancer/choreographer Amy Zell Ellsworth (Aliad Fund), a donor at the Boston Foundation, worked with Ruth Birnberg, who directs the grant program and supports the artists during their artistic journey. They partnered with the Foundation’s arts and culture staff in the development, design and investment to bring the effort to life. Next Steps grants are awarded to artists directly, but the benefits reach beyond the awardees as they develop their careers, connect with each other, and create paying opportunities for countless other artists who work with them on their projects.
“What makes Next Steps unique is the mix of resources these talented artists receive from the program, from both within and outside their own Next Steps cohort,” said Zell Ellsworth. “In turn, they get to know movement artists in different genres and career stages. By building those relationships, they can serve as connectors in a larger ecosystem of dancers, producers, performers and audiences that build vibrancy for the arts in Boston.”
In 2021, TBF and the Aliad Fund were joined in sponsorship of Next Steps by Movement Arts Creation Studio, allowing for the program to expand to include circus arts producers and performers among the grantees. “The Next Steps for Boston Dance program is time-tested in cultivating a thriving pipeline of dancers and movements artists as well as new choreography in our city”, said Valentine Talland, President, Movement Arts Creation Studio.
Since the program’s founding, Next Steps for Boston Dance has awarded 40 grants to Greater Boston artists. To learn more about Next Steps and see a list of past years’ grantees, visit tbf.org/nextsteps.
Meet the 2023 Next Steps Grantees
Victoria Lynn Awkward
Recently awarded 1 of 15 Artists of Color making an impact in Boston by WBUR, Victoria is the Director of VLA DANCE. She aims to celebrate the talents and artistries of Boston through contemporary dance. Originally from Massachusetts Victoria L. Awkward trained at Impulse Dance Center by LuAnn Pagella and worked with Boston-based artists such as Karen Krolak. She then graduated from Goucher College with honors in Dance, Visual Art and Education. Alongside running VLA DANCE, Victoria is a freelance choreographer and performer and is an active member of teacher training organization, Midday Movement Series.
Philadelphia-born Creative is a recent MFA graduate of Hollins University, currently a Full-time Associate Professor of Dance at Boston Conservatory at Berklee. Known for his work with International recording artists such as Mariah Carey, and Beyonce, he's the winner of the 2016 MTV Video Music Award for Best Choreography for Beyonce's "Formation" as well as a "Peabody Award" winner for his contribution to "Lemonade." Anthony's a two-time gold medalist and the 1998 National Gold Medalist for the NAACP ACT-SO competition. While attending the University of the Arts, he was hand-selected by Judith Jamison to join Ailey II and later Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Alexis is a Boston-based circus artist known for her powerful, captivating performances. Inspired by circus shows she saw as a kid in California, she left competitive gymnastics at age 11 to perform with Splash Circus and then the San Francisco Youth Circus. Alexis attended the National Institute of Circus Arts in Melbourne, Australia, specializing in cyr wheel and aerial rope. She has performed all around the world with P&O Australia and AIDA Cruises, Shanghai Circus, and Flynn Creek Circus. Locally she frequently performs with the Boston Circus Guild and Circus 617, a contemporary circus collective that she co-founded in 2020.
Wendy Jehlen was born and raised in Somerville and grew up in Boston’s theater and dance communities. Her work questions the boundaries that we imagine between ourselves and seeks to break down these imagined walls through an embodied practice of radical empathy. Her choreographic approach incorporates elements of Bharata Natyam, Odissi, Capoeira, Kalaripayattu, Butoh, and a wide range of Contemporary movement and theater forms. She has created and performed in the US, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, China, Italy, India, Japan, Mali, Mexico, Mozambique, Rwanda, Palestine and Turkey. She is a Fulbright Scholar, a Fulbright Specialist, an Arts Envoy of the Dept of State, and was one of the first Brother Thomas Fellows.
Rachel Linsky is a Boston-based contemporary dance artist. She directs and choreographs ZACHOR, an ongoing series that seeks to preserve the words of WWII Holocaust survivors through dance. She has presented work at venues throughout Boston including New England Conservatory and the Boston Center for the Arts and has presented dance films in national and international festivals. She has been awarded funding by NEFA, The City of Boston, CJP, The Russell J. Efros Foundation, The Beker Foundation, and is currently a Community Creative Fellow through JArts and CJP. In addition to her choreographic work, Rachel dances with KAIROS Dance Theater and The Click and teaches with Koltun Ballet Boston.
Olivia is a Boston-based, multidisciplinary artist interested in pole dance, photography, and videography. Originally from Los Angeles, her passion for dance led her to Walnut Hill School for the Arts. Upon graduating from Boston University in 2020, she began her business, Olivia Moon Photography. Across her creative practices, she centers her self-identity to challenge the concept of what is considered normal in today’s society. Through pole dancing, Olivia hopes to engage people in a way that opens paths to their own journey to self-love. This year, WBUR highlighted Olivia as one of 15 artists of color leaving an imprint on Massachusetts.
Beheard.world’s performing arts group is comprised of Black, Brown and White artist/educators who create original performances, talking circles and workshops utilizing modern and hip hop dance with Spoken Word. The organization has a long history of collaborating with diverse musicians, filmmakers and composers to create original pieces that have been presented in renowned theaters but also on basketball courts converted into open-air theaters in economically challenged neighborhoods. The company has toured extensively throughout New England, the South and Midwest with the support of the NEA, The Boston Foundation, NEFA, the Mass Cultural Council and The Boston Dance Alliance.