Announcing the Fall 2022 Development Fund Awardees

January 13, 2023  •  8 minute read

Kesha McKey performing in a staged promotional photo for “Raw Fruit” in New Orleans, LA. Photo: Jafar Pierre Photography.

The National Performance Network (NPN) is pleased to announce we are awarding $110,000 and leveraging more than $185,000 through the Fall 2022 Development Fund to further support 12 Creation Fund projects.

The Development Fund, which is phase 2 of NPN’s Creation & Development Fund (CDF), helps offset managerial, artistic, or technical needs when developing a work. These needs can include supporting technical residencies, building or deepening community engagement, relationship building, storytelling, or studio time to adapt a work for travel.

NPN’s approach to artistic support is built on the notions of partnership and long-term relationship building. NPN actively strives to expand the capacities and connectivity of its constituents. The Development Fund is structured to maximize these goals. Artists can apply independently or as a team with a co-commissioner of their choosing, depending on the needs of the project.

The Creation and Development Fund is made possible with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency).

Fall 2022 Development Fund Recipients

J’Sun Howard

(Chicago, IL)

The Righteous Beauty of the Things Never Accounted For

Co-commissioning partner: Links Hall (Chicago, IL)

The Righteous Beauty of the Things Never Accounted For is a new experimental dance piece that explores Black Fugitvity—radical ways in which Black people subvert time, race, gender, and family history to refuse/navigate systemic oppression and racial injustice. Featured at co-commissioner CANDY BOX Dance Festival, this first iteration of Righteous Beauty explores the otherwise possibility by considering the theme of home, homes we didn’t know we needed to be in. Development funds will be used for intensive revision and rehearsal process, collaboration with designers, and the next phase of Righteous Beauty with a technical residency at co-commissioner Links Hall.

A medium-light skinned Black woman is sitting next to a crouching fair-skinned white man who is ready to run toward a tall medium-light skinned Black men. The tall Black man with is back to the viewers is leaping into the air, his knees are bent, right arm extending to the sky, left arm extending toward the Black woman and white man. They all are wearing white long sleeves shirts, white joggers pants with a bandana print, ski masks around their necks, and NK95 masks.
Jack Randel, Lauren Roebuck, and Myles Matthews performing “A Particular Embraced Affinity of Veering” in the Performance Studio of the University of Michigan Department of Dance (2022). Photo: Kirk Donaldson.

KM Dance Project

(New Orleans, LA)

Raw Fruit

Co-commissioning partner: BAAD! Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (Bronx, NY)

Raw Fruit is a new immersive dance–theater experience led by Kesha McKey and Catherine Caldwell of KM Dance Project. This multidisciplinary work uses the technology of the kitchen to examine legacy, identity, socialization, unity, and friction inside the Southern Black family.

KM Dance Project will partner with co-commissioner BAAD! to complete a robust week-long creative residency leading up to the performance at BAAD! KM Dance Project will take time to reexamine Raw Fruit, as well as engage in a community exchange of gathering and class offerings at BAAD!, leading with reciprocal learning and generating a sustained relationship. KM Dance Project will also be working with a local dramaturg and costume designer to further define theatrical elements of the work.

A medium light-skinned African American woman mid-movement dancing in front of a large rustic gray metal panel attached to a concrete wall. Her knees bent in a slight squatting position with arms in a stirring motion crossing in front of the torso at the hands. She is wearing a white knee-length dress that has bows tied at the tops of the shoulders, a white waist belt tied in a bow and white flat string-up sneakers.
Kesha McKey performing in a staged promotional photo for “Raw Fruit” in New Orleans, LA. Photo: Jafar Pierre Photography.

The Land Memory Bank

(Saint Bernard, LA)


Mondo Bizarro

(New Orleans, LA)

Invisible Rivers

Co-commissioning partner: Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans (New Orleans, LA)

Invisible Rivers is a project that employs the artistic practices of music, theater, and boat-building to respond to our region’s interconnected struggles against coastal land loss, environmental racism, and displacement. We are building boats in rapidly disappearing areas of our coast and hosting dialogues and performances on them. The Development Fund project is a collaboration between the Land Memory Bank, Mondo Bizarro, and the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans. Funds will be used to support the planning and execution of community engagement activities before the Bulbancha presentation of Invisible Rivers.

A medium-skinned accordion player with a black short-sleeved shirt and a straw hat is standing on a partially constructed boat called the Float Lab. He is singing while looking out at a crowd of about 50 people.
Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes performing on the Float Lab as part of the Invisible Rivers Project. Photo: Todd Duke.

Yvonne Montoya / Safos Dance Theatre

(Tucson, AZ)

Stories from Home

Stories from Home is a series of dances embodying oral traditions of Latinx communities in the American Southwest. Choreographer Yvonne Montoya and an all-Latinx cast of dancers draw upon personal histories and ancestral knowledge, including stories from Montoya’s family members. The work explores how geographies, languages, and stories among Latinx and border communities have shared histories and experiences. NPN Development Funds will be used to support the lighting design for Yvonne Montoya’s Stories from Home.

Brown-skinned Mexican American dancer Esteban Rosales wears a white sleeveless top, black pants, and a red, blue, yellow headpiece with brown fringe. Rosales stands barefoot in the center of a brick-walled room. His head is tilted down, back curved, knees bent, right arm shoulder height, palm facing inward and thumb up. His left hand is at his side, holding another headpiece decorated with gray ribbon and yellow flowers. On the side of the room, a group of dancers are lined up on the wall, with their focus on the singular dancer at the center of the room.
Dancer Esteban Rosales and the cast of Yvonne Montoya’s “Stories from Home” rehearsing the dance “Pajarito” at [nueBOX] in Phoenix, AZ (2022). Photo: Lindsey Sandler.

NAKA Dance Theater

(Oakland, CA)

Y Basta Ya!

Co-commissioning partner: La Peña Cultural Center (Berkeley, CA)

Y Basta Ya! (Enough!) is a multidisciplinary and multilingual performance project highlighting stories of Indigenous and Latina immigrant women. The work emerges from a multiyear community development process in collaboration with immigrant rights organization Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA). NPN Development Funds will support a three-month residency for NAKA Dance Theater and 4 MUA collaborators to work at La Peña Cultural Center to develop and present a work-in-progress performance for the final touring work.

Eight women and nonbinary people are wearing brightly colored long skirts with ruffles in red, white, magenta, teal, orange. They are in a tight circle, outdoors, with their backs to the audience, holding up a ball of colorful ribbons. Behind them is a colorful mural with flowers, a sun, and the words 'Rebirth' and 'Mujer' (woman).
Performance photo from work-in-progress showing of “Y Basta Ya! (Enough!).” EastSide Arts Alliance Garage Lot, Oakland, CA. May 2022. Performers: Sarita, Emelia, Leticia, Adriana, Agustina, Luciana, Cristina, Cindia, Mari, Ana. Photo: Scott Tsuchitani.

Papel Machete

(San Juan, PR)

On the Eve of Abolition

Co-commissioning partner: Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater (Bronx, NY)

On the Eve of Abolition is Papel Machete’s multimedia, theater and puppetry play which has been in creation and development since 2020. The story is set in the year 2047 in the transnational liberated lands of what used to be known as the US and Mexico, after a movement of abolitionists have created the conditions to end the prison-industrial complex. In the next year, Papel Machete will present the first work-in-progress performance at Cara Mía Theater and hold a production intensive in Puerto Rico to finalize the performance. Development Funds will be used to pay the artists, for travel to Puerto Rico for a creative production intensive, and to purchase materials and equipment needed to mount the final performance.

A brown-skinned, femme, masked person sits crosslegged in a tent with the words 'On the Eve of Abolition' above her and 'Papel Machete' below her. She holds up a large tarot card with the word 'Abolition' on it and stares directly into the camera. She is wearing a green jumpsuit and a black head wrap.
Sugeily Rodríguez Lebrón as the Storyteller, Neva. Photo by Tina Orlandini with art treatment by José Hernández Díaz.

Parris-Bailey Arts Inc.

(Knoxville, TN)

Yankee Bajan

Co-commissioning partner: Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator (Miami, FL)

In this moment of uncertainty, there is a commonality to our search for connection. We look to the past in the spirit of Sankofa, looking back as we move forward, never forgetting the lessons of the past. Yankee Bajan, a play with music, focuses on the growing movement of Black individuals and families to explore Black life outside of the US. These expatriates, building homes and communities in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean, seek a return home or a new life without the pressures and assumptions of the “white gaze” and racism in America. Development Funds will support community events in Barbados, Miami, Boston, and Charleston, South Carolina, as well as virtually.

A grayscale photo of the ocean surrounding the Island of Barbados. White clouds hang above the sea, and the sea reflects the sun on the water. The water is calm but has movement within the photo. Typed across the top of the photo are the words: 'Caught between the desire to escape and the desire to return is the mystery of knowing when we are home.'
The ocean surrounding Barbados. Photo and design: Russell Watson.

Ashwini Ramaswamy

(Minneapolis, MN)

Invisible Cities

Co-commissioning partner: The Great Northern Festival (Minneapolis, MN)

Bharatanatyam choreographer and dancer Ashwini Ramaswamy’s Invisible Cities reinterprets Italo Calvino’s novel through interwoven cultural perspectives, with interactive, projected artwork created live.

The work is a largescale production featuring thirteen dancers, one visual artist, and one technical director, and Development Funds will be used to compensate team for intensive studio and technical rehearsals. It will also support community engagement events, including “Choreograph Your Classic” with Magers & Quinn Booksellers and the digital and in-person experience “Becoming Visible: Immigrant stories through dance” in collaboration with Green Card Voices. The artists hope that these events will foster deeper conversation and generate a breakthrough on how immigrants are perceived, treated, and accepted.

Four dancers are in four quadrants of the frame, with a black background. Left top corner: an Indian female dancer, light-browned skin with black hair, wearing a golden costume, white hair flowers, jewelry, fingers painted red. Right top corner: an Asian man in black, with glasses, dancing Left bottom corner - Dark skinned female dancer with black hair is dancing with waving arms, smiling Left right corner - Caucasian female dancer with blond hair is twisting her body in dance
Clockwise from top right: Ashwini Ramaswamy, photo: Amanulla. Joseph Tran, photo: Adam Adolphus. Berit Ahlgren and Alanna Morris, photos: Maria Baranova.

Sandglass Theater

(Putney, VT)


Co-commissioning partner: The Yard (Chilmark, MA)

Feral addresses the act of making visible and reclaiming the work of women through celebrating intuitive knowledge, how it is housed in our bodies, and how it can be used as a tool for individual and cultural repair. Navigating the tension between domesticated and wild behaviors, the project reveals and challenges the cultural construction of our identities in everyday life.

Funds will be used to support a development residency at the Yard on Martha’s Vineyard that will focus on the physical movement and choreographic elements of the show, particularly in the use of body puppets that are deeply attached to movement quality of the puppeteers. Sandglass will also offer workshops for the Yard’s community on how puppets and movement can truly enhance storytelling and artmaking.

A silhouette of a woman's head, shoulders and arms looking at the shadow of a wolf’s head. The woman is reaching cautiously toward the wolf. The background is streaked in blue and purple horizontal lines and the whole image is framed in black shadow.
Shoshana Bass in rehearsal and development for “Feral” at Sandglass Theater (2021). Photo: Maria Pugnetti.

Sean Dorsey Dance

(San Francisco, CA)

The Lost Art of Dreaming

Sean Dorsey Dance’s the Lost Art of Dreaming is an invitation to embrace expansive imagination, reconnect with longing, connect with joy and pleasure, and propel ourselves toward loving Futures. The project includes a new full-evening production that is a fusion of full-throttle dance, intimate storytelling, soul-stirring song, and exquisite queer partnering, as well as Dream Labs, trans-supportive dance workshops, the Dictionary of Joy and Pleasure, Postcards from the Future, and many more magical opportunities to connect and create.

Development Funds will support a creative residency for lead choreographer Sean Dorsey to finish the script, soundscore, and choreographic plans, as well as to rent rehearsal space.

Image is a color photograph of 6 dancers dancing on a black-floored stage. In the center of the photo is a Black trans woman wearing a turquoise corset and floor-length silver skirt, with shoulder-length brown and blond hair, singing and holding her arms out emotionally toward the camera. Surrounding her, 5 queer and trans and gender-nonconforming dancers (Latinx, white, white, Asian-American and Black) spin and spin—all of them are wearing elaborate turquoise, blue, and silver strapless ballgowns. As the 5 dancers spin around, their many layers of skirts twirl up in the air.
Sean Dorsey Dance performing “The Lost Art Of Dreaming.” Left to right: Héctor Jaime, Nol Simonse, Sean Dorsey, Tory Teasley, David Le, Brandon Graham. Photo: Lydia Daniller.

Lisa B. Thompson

(Austin, TX)

The Black Feminist Guide to the Human Body

Co-commissioning partner: The Vortex (Austin, TX)

The Black Feminist Guide to the Human Body is part performance, part health fair, and part block party. The raucous performance meditation includes stories full of joy, fear, sorrow, lust, hunger, confusion, pride, and shame presented by dancers and a chorus of Black women, girls, femmes, sisters, aunties, mamas, and nanas of various body types, skin colors, hairstyles, and personas. The show explores the beauty and pain of inhabiting a Black female body from birth to death.

This award will support a three-day developmental workshop and reading of The Black Feminist Guide to the Human Body at the Vortex. The workshop will allow the director, playwright, composer, choreographer, and performers to collaborate in person for the first time. The reading will be held for invited guests as well as selected community partners and organizations that will be part of the first production.

A dark-skinned woman with black glasses is wearing a black turtleneck and a colorful scarf. She is smiling and her eyes are looking to the side.
Lisa B. Thompson. Photo: Gordon Lewis.

Helanius J. Wilkins

(Boulder, CO)

The Conversation Series: Stitching the Geopolitical Quilt to Re-Body Belonging

Co-commissioning partner: RedLine Contemporary Art Center (Denver, CO)

Rejecting finite points or products, The Conversation Series: Stitching the Geopolitical Quilt to Re-Body Belonging is an ongoing and always shifting dance-quilt, confronting and celebrating heritage, resiliency, justice, and hope. Activating technologies of the body, tools, and toys in a non-colonizing fashion, this work centers belonging to disrupt the erasure of silenced stories and forge paths towards justice/equitable landscapes.

Funds will support revision and development, including rehearsals to evolve elements of the stage production leading to the Louisiana premiere performance in October 2023; fees for artists and collaborators; and community-centered investigations and building in Denver through activities in collaboration with Lead Commissioner REDLINE Contemporary Arts Center.

An interracial male duet (one white male, one Black, medium light-skinned male) in blue, partially see-through knit tops and gold football pants on stage with a set that includes a park-style bench and diamond and rectangular shaped projection surfaces upstage. The Black male dancer is downstage in a jump with legs bent and left arm extended above, and white male dancer is upstage in profile leaning back.
Helanius J. Wilkins (he/him/his) and A. Ryder Turner (he/him/his) performing “The Conversation Series: Stitching the Geopolitical Quilt to Re-Body Belonging” during a creative development residency in Denver (2021). Photo: Carlos D. Flores/Watcheye Studios.