It's always fun when the recipient of a grant veers slightly off-script and says what everyone else is thinking.
Such is the case with Brooklynite Steven Reker, the winner of the American Dance Institute’s second annual Solange MacArthur Award for New Choreography. It's common knowledge that it isn't exactly easy nowadays to be an artist in New York City — and especially Brooklyn. The lack of affordable spaces for artists is so acute that even Mayor de Blasio is scrambling to address the problem.
So what did Reker say with regard to receiving the award, which recognizes a "rising American choreographer" with financial and administrative support in the form of a cool $10,000 for presenting a commissioned work?
He said what any of us would say if we were speaking truthfully. The gift would allow him to create "a piece I have wanted to make for years but could only imagine making since my resources are somewhat limited in NYC" (emphasis added).
"Limited resources" for a choreographer in New York City, of call places. Why of course! And so I couldn't help but chuckle just a little at Reker's pithy commentary and self-awareness.
A closer examination of the award itself reveals some other interesting nuggets. The award, as previously noted, goes to a "rising American choreographer." But what exactly does that mean? For an answer, we turn elsewhere, to the American Dance Institute's website, which notes that the award "deepens ADI’s already strong commitment to the development of new works and aims to support artists at a crucial moment in their careers" (emphasis, once again, added).
This is a subtle but nonetheless important combination of words. That's because Reker's CV suggests he is not exactly a novice. Quite the opposite, in fact — he seems, to steal an over-used industry term, to be "on the verge," if not already beyond the verge.
Reker moved to New York from Arizona in 2006, finding work as a dancer and guitarist on David Byrne's 2008-2009 tour, as a composer in Yasuko Yokoshi's dance work, and as a choreographer for Miranda July's film The Future. In 2009, Reker debuted his own group, People Get Ready. NPR Music has called People Get Ready’s marriage of indie rock melodies and movement “the best mix of performance art and music in decades.”
The raves didn't stop there. The New York Times wrote that his work had “blossomed into an ephemeral landscape where music works in tandem with movement and lights." And if you're in the area, Reker headlines a concert in Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series on February 27.
And so the award and the funding that comes with it will help propel him to that critical — overused industry term alert! — "next level."
That, in a nutshell, the gist of the Solange MacArthur Award: to reward choreographers who've proven themselves on some of the world's largest stages and to provide crucial support to bring their new work to even wider audiences.
ADI Commissioned Artists are selected through a closed nomination process conducted by ADI’s Artistic Advisory Board.