PRESS RELEASE: Trisha Brown, Linda Shelton, Raven Wilkinson, and Toby Lerner Ansin to be Honored by Dance/USA

March 25, 2015

Contact: Johanna Tschebull

Washington, DC – Dance/USA, the national service organization for professional dance, is pleased to announce the 2015 Dance/USA Honorees: 

  • Trisha Brown, founding artistic director and choreographer, Trisha Brown Dance Company, will receive the Dance/USA Honor Award in absentia. 
  • Linda Shelton, executive director, The Joyce Theater Foundation, will receive the Dance/USA Ernie Award. 
  • Raven Wilkinson, whose talent and skill enabled her to become the first African American woman to break the color line and dance with a major classical ballet company, will receive the Dance/USA Trustees Award. 
  • Toby Lerner Ansin, founder, Miami City Ballet, will receive the Dance/USA Champion Award.

The awards will be given on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at the Opening Night Celebration, which kicks off the 2015 Dance/USA Annual Conference being held June 17-20, 2015 in Miami, Florida. The Dance/USA Annual Conference is the country’s broadest gathering of dance professionals, offering expertise from industry leaders, enriching professional development, and the tools to move the dance field forward. Early Bird Rates for the 2015 Annual Conference are available until April 17, 2015. Register early here and save money.

“Trisha, Linda, Raven, and Toby are groundbreaking, influential leaders in our field,” said Dance/USA Executive Director Amy Fitterer. “They have each broken the glass ceiling in a unique way, each Honoree is known for her powerful talent and vision, and they have all substantially impacted the world of professional dance.”

“These awards are special,” continued Fitterer. “The Dance/USA membership singled out these individuals for recognition and we look forward to celebrating their accomplishments this June in Miami.”

Brown, founding artistic director and choreographer of the Trisha Brown Dance Company, will receive the Dance/USA Honor Award. Born and raised in Aberdeen, Washington she graduated from Mills College in Oakland, California in 1958; studied with Anna Halprin; and taught at Reed College in Portland, Oregon before moving to New York City in 1961. Instantly immersed in what was to become the post-modern phenomena of Judson Dance Theater, her movement investigations found the extraordinary in the everyday and challenged existing perceptions of performance. Brown, along with like-minded artists, pushed the limits of choreography and changed modern dance forever. Read more here.

Shelton, the executive director of The Joyce Theater Foundation, a position she has held since 1993, will receive the Dance/USA Ernie Award. Under her leadership, The Joyce Theater has become one of the nation’s leading venues for dance, introducing numerous international companies to American audiences and nurturing many American companies. Prior to joining The Joyce, she served as General Manager of The Joffrey Ballet. Before The Joffrey, she managed tours for the Bolshoi Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Moscow Virtuosi, Sankai Juku, and worked with Philip Glass productions. From 1982 – 1988, she held various management positions at The Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation. Ms. Shelton began her work in the dance field as an intern at the New York State Council on the Arts, Dance Program. Read more here.

Wilkinson, whose talent and skill enabled her to become the first ballerina of color with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1955, will receive the Dance/USA Trustees Award. Wilkinson, who went on to be a leading dancer with the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam, is credited with being the first African American woman to dance for a major classical ballet company.

Born Anne Raven Wilkinson in New York City, she had been a fan of ballet since the age of five. On her ninth birthday, an uncle gave her the gift of ballet lessons to the Swoboda School (later known as the Ballet Russe School), where she studied under the direction of well-known dancers from Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre. She later transferred to the Professional Children’s School in the Bronx where she continued her training, remaining there through her last two years of high school. Madame Ludmilla Schollar, formerly associated with the St. Petersburg Imperial Russian Ballet, also gave Wilkinson private classes in technique. Read more here

Ansin, the founder of Miami City Ballet, will receive the Dance/USA Champion Award. Thirty years ago, she invited Edward Villella to her home, persuaded him to be the artistic director of a new ballet company, then convinced a group of friends and associates to donate the seminal funds that brought viability to her vision. Ansin then galvanized community and financial support, helped assemble the original Board of Trustees, and laid the foundation for an on-going development program. Then she focused her efforts on securing major financial funding for the infant company. Because of her vision, leadership, and unceasing effort, Miami City Ballet today is an internationally acclaimed company. Read more here

Nominated by the membership and voted on by the Board of Trustees, the Dance/USA Honor, Ernie, and Trustees Awards are given to outstanding members of the national dance community. The Honor goes to an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in the dance field through artistic excellence and/or force of vision. The Ernie, named for the late Ian (Ernie) Horvath, goes to an individual working “behind the scenes” in the dance field, who has significantly empowered artists and supported their creativity individually or as a community. The Trustees Award is given at the discretion of the Dance/USA Board of Trustees to recognize an outstanding professional whose work has special significance to the field. Nominated and voted on by the Host Committee, the Champion Award is given to any organization, business, foundation, or individual in the Annual Conference host city whose achievements, leadership, and support have sustained and/or significantly advanced dance in their home community.

About the Dance/USA 2015 Annual Conference
Dance/USA will host its 7th Annual Conference in Miami, FL from Wednesday, June 17 through Saturday, June 20, 2015. Nearly 500 individuals will convene in Miami for the country’s broadest gathering of dance professionals, including executive directors, artistic directors, development directors, agents, artists, emerging arts leaders, company managers, marketing directors, dance service organizations, and more. Key topics at the Conference include the following: financing dance, technological change, equity and inclusion, and social responsibility.

The 2015 Annual Conference will be held at multiple arts venues in Miami-Dade County. This will allow attendees greater opportunity to explore the host city and connect with the local arts scene. A coalition of 23 individuals from the greater Miami area serves as the Annual Conference Host Committee. The committee is headed by the coalition’s lead organizations: Miami City Ballet and the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs.

For more information about the 2015 Dance/USA Annual Conference, please visit the conference website at 

Dance/USA is grateful to its 2015 Annual Conference funders: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Capezio/Ballet Makers Dance Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Harkness Foundation for Dance, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and The Shubert Foundation. The Conference is also made possible with the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor, and Board of County Commissioners. Additional thanks to 2015 Annual Conference sponsors: DeWitt Stern Group, Gold Sponsor; American Harlequin Corporation, Silver Sponsor; and InstantEncore and Gaynor Minden, Bronze Sponsors. 

About Dance/USA 
We believe that dance is essential to a healthy society, demonstrating the infinite possibilities for human expression and potential, and facilitating communication within and across cultures. 

Dance/USA is the national service organization for the professional dance field. Established in 1982, Dance/USA serves a diverse national membership of dance groups working in the genres of aerial, ballet, contemporary, culturally-specific, hip-hop, ice, international, jazz, liturgical, single-choreographer, and tap, dance presenters, dance service organizations, dance agents, dance educators, independent dancers, freelance choreographers, students of arts administration and/or dance and business in service to dance, and individuals related to the field. Learn more about Dance/USA by visiting our website, 

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