Meet the Winners of the Latest Round of Gerbode/Hewlett Foundation Choreography Grants

Every so often two heavyweights in their respective artistic or professional fields unite and create something truly magical. (Think Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin.) Yet, more often than not, the end result turns out to be pretty disappointing. Like, oh, the AOL/Time Warner merger. 

Fortunately, news out of the Bay Area, which finds two philanthropic heavy hitters combining their powers to support choreography and community involvement, falls squarely into the former camp. We're talking about the Wallace Alexander Gerbode and William and Flora Hewlett Foundations.

We first mentioned this exciting pairing earlier last year. Hewlett has been a big dance supporter in the Bay Area for quite a while, and their partnership with Hewlett dates back to 2000. The foundations award six choreography grants at $50,000 a pop, which made us wonder what do the foundations look for in applicant choreographers?

We studied the CVs of past winners and came up with two answers. Firstly, they look for unique approaches to alternative forms of music, and secondly, they look for unique interpretations of traditional forms of music.

The foundations jointly announced this year's round of winners, so we figured now's as good a time as any to test our hypothesis. The resulting works will be premiered by a variety of Bay Area nonprofit organizations, starting in the spring of 2016 and extending through spring 2017. Each organization will receive $50,000, divided between a commission for a California-based choreographer and the expenses involved in creating and presenting the resulting world premieres.

As for the winning works, they include:

  • ARA: Waterways Time Weaves, a "participatory ritual performance, featuring elements of Korean shamanic dance, contemporary dance, and electronic and acoustic music," presented by CounterPulse and developed by choreographer Dohee Lee in community workshops and group choreography.
  • A multidisciplinary, intergenerational exploration of "the element of gendered violence in hip-hop and the lives of Oakland youth," generated at the Destiny Arts Center under the guidance of Nicole Klaymoon.
  • A site-specific performance, premiering in various parts of the Yerba Buena Center, created by Stephan Koplowitz and the mixed-ability AXIS Dance Company. The event will involve dancers with and without disabilities, as well as original music and digital technology.
  • Walk Back the Cat, a piece created by ODC choreographer Brenda Way, composer Paul Dresher, and visual designer Alex Nichols.
  • Last Blue Coach in the Sky, a site-specific dance work by YBC affiliate Kim Epifano, which will extend out to other SOMA locations and will address the issue of gentrification.
  • A multimedia performance, premiering at Oakland's Great Wall, by Project Bandaloop, which includes a "vertical dance" created by Amelia Rudolph in filmed performance in the Sierras. 

Taken in total, at least half of the winning proposals provide unique interpretations on either traditional or alternative forms of music. The others inject an added element of social commentary, addressing timely issues like gentrification and urban violence.

For more information on these winning projects click here.