BIPOC Female Choreographers in Ballet Initiative

Building on past partnerships and initiatives, and in line with Dance/USA’s mission to champion an equitable and inclusive dance field, Dance/USA developed the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) Female Choreographers in Ballet Initiative to amplify the creative voice and artistic vision of BIPOC female choreographers. Dance/USA partnered again with the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation to award grants to mid-size member ballet companies* that have both a proven track record of supporting female choreographers and have commissioned new works by female choreographers for the 2022-2023 season. The companies and choreographers funded are: 

Sidra Bell

Commissioned by Nashville Ballet
Performance Dates: February 10-12, 2023

Commissioned by Nevada Ballet Theatre
Performance Dates: February 18 & 19, 2023

Woman in a dark shirt smiles at the camera

Photo: Genna Baroni

Bell’s career has spanned close to 20 years, and she is currently a Master Lecturer at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and a recent Artist-in-Residence at Harvard University. She has also held Adjunct Professor and Lecturer positions at Ball State University, Marymount Manhattan College, Georgian Court University, and Barnard College. She has a BA in History from Yale University and an MFA in Choreography from Purchase College Conservatory of Dance. She was a University of Minnesota Theater Arts & Dance Cowles Visiting Artist and an Artist-in-Residence at Cornish College of the Arts. Her body of work was featured in the Harvard University Theater, Dance & Media course Contemporary Repertory: Dance Authorship in the 21st Century. Bell was the 2019 Honoree at CPR-Center Performance Research’s Gala in New York City. Featured speaking engagements and presentations have included CalArts, The Juilliard School, Yale University Master’s Tea (Silliman College), Yale Club of New York, Harvard University, MIT (Hacking Arts New Media Panel), University of Oklahoma, Kinetech Arts San Francisco, The Spence School (A.M. Perspectives), Gibney Dance Center, Ball State University, Cornish College, Yale, The Mellon Forum of Life, University of Texas at Austin, Yale Alumni in Dance, Marymount Manhattan College, Studio @ 550 Boston with JCC Newton and University of Colorado at Boulder.

Awards: Bell has won several awards, notably a 1st Prize for Choreography at the Solo-Tanz Theater Festival in Stuttgart, Germany in 2011 for Grief Point. and a 2015 National Dance Project Production Award from the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA). Additionally, NEFA awarded the company a Production Residency for Dance. The collaborating soloists on works she created also won performance awards for two different solos at the Stuttgart Solo-Tanz Theater Festival (1st and 2nd Prizes respectively). The company was one of 25 recipients of the Dance Advancement Fund from Dance/NYC in 2017. Her work has been seen throughout the United States and in Denmark, France, Austria, Bulgaria, Turkey, Slovenia, Sweden, Germany, China, Canada, Aruba, Korea, Brazil, and Greece. The company was lauded as #1 in Contemporary Dance by the Pittsburgh Examiner in 2014 for garment, in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s 2010 Best in Dance for ReVUE, and in the 2012 Year in Review in ArtsATL’s notable performances for Nudity. February 3 was named SIDRA BELL DAY by Mayor Thomas Roach in the City of White Plains, NY.

Bell is a sought-after Master Teacher and her alternative pedagogy, Contemporary Systems-an interior & material approach was featured in Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine and Dance Studio Life Magazine. She has taught her unique creative practice at major institutions for dance and theater throughout Canada, Europe, South America, and the U.S.

Learn more about Bell. 
Follow Bell on social media: Instagram and Facebook

Natrea Blake

Commissioned by Orlando Ballet  
Performance Dates: March 23-26, 2023

Woman in a dark top with her hair pulled back looks at the camera.

Courtesy Natrea Blake

Natrea Blake, born and raised in New York City, received her B.F.A in dance from The Juilliard School and graduated from the world-famous High School for the Performing Arts. Natrea also trained at Bernice Johnson, The Ailey School, Ballet Hispanico, and Peridance Center. Blake’s diverse background has given her the opportunity to work with choreographers such as Paul Taylor, Lar Lubovitch, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Hans Van Manen, David Parsons, Savion Glover, and Marguerite Derricks. Blake was the grand prize winner of Orlando Ballet Dance Accelerator 2 in collaboration with the Juilliard School. She has taught Contemporary, Modern, and Jazz at artistic institutions such as, The Juilliard School, Rutgers University, Broadway Dance Center, The Ailey School, Earl Mosley Institute for the Arts, Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts, Dance Cavise, Tulsa Ballet, and The Broadway Experience. In summer 2013, Blake was commissioned to choreograph a new work for Tulsa Ballet’s second company. Presently, she is an adjunct professor at NYU (Tisch School of the Arts) where she teaches ballet and jazz. In addition, she has had the honor of traveling to South Africa as a visiting master instructor/choreographer.

Blake is also an accomplished commercial and hip hop dancer who assisted Darrell Grand Moultrie on Beyonce’s (Mrs. Carter Tour 2013). Other credits include Pal Joey (Workshop, associate choreographer), Broadway’s Shuffle Along (LAB), Fashion Rocks Live! at Radio City Music Hall (CBS), Law & Order (Trial by Jury), Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope (LAB), Beyonce (Staples Center), Stars of Ballet and Broadway (Detroit Music Hall), The Elan Awards (NYC), and Milwaukee Repertory Theater “The Color Purple” (Assistant Choreographer). Blake has also had the pleasure of resetting the work of choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie for over 20 years at major institutions like Atlanta Ballet, The Juilliard School, The COCA School, The Ailey School, Perry Mansfield, and Milwaukee Ballet.

Learn more about Blake. 
Follow Blake on social media: Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn

Stephanie Martinez

Commissioned by Sacramento Ballet
Performance Dates: May 19-21, 2023

Woman in a black tank top looks at the camera, resting her chin on her right hand.

Courtesy Stephanie Martinez

Over eleven years of award-winning works, Chicago-based choreographer Stephanie Martinez moves her audiences along a journey guided by the kinetic momentum of her work. With original creations for Joffrey Ballet, Ballet Hispánico, Luna Negra Dance Theater, Charlotte Ballet, Sacramento Ballet, Eugene Ballet, Nashville Ballet, Ballet Memphis, Kansas City Ballet, and National Choreographers Initiative among others, Martinez’s versatility expands the boundaries of contemporary ballet movement. Martinez has created over 60 ballets on companies and collegiate programs across the country.

In 2015, Martinez was awarded Joffrey Ballet’s “Winning Works: Choreographers of Color” commission and the Chicago 3Arts Award in recognition for her work as a female artist of color. More recently, Martinez was awarded an NEA grant for her premiere of Bliss! with Joffrey Ballet. Dubbed “a chameleon” of choreography by the Chicago Tribune, Martinez’s psychologically revelatory works challenge the viewer’s notion of what’s possible.

Learn more about Martinez.
Follow Martinez on social media: InstagramFacebook.

Caili Quan

Commissioned by Sacramento Ballet
Performance Dates: May 19-21, 2023

A woman wearing a tank top smiles at the camera.

Photo: Sara Black

Caili Quan is a New York-based choreographer who danced with BalletX from 2013 to 2020. She has created works for BalletX, Owen/Cox Dance Group, UC Santa Barbara, Columbia Ballet Collaborative, and Ballet Academy East. She served as an Artistic Partnership Initiative Fellow and a Toulmin Creator at The Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU. With BalletX she performed new works by Matthew Neenan, Nicolo Fonte, Gabrielle Lamb, Penny Saunders, Trey McIntyre, and danced at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Vail Dance Festival, Belgrade Dance Festival, and DEMO by Damian Woetzel at the Kennedy Center. “Mahålang,” a short documentary that wove familial conversations of her Chamorro Filipino upbringing in Guam with scenes from BalletX’s “Love Letter,” was accepted into the Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF44) and Center for Asian American Media Festival (CAAMFest 2021).

Learn more about Quan.
Follow Quan on social media: Instagram

Rena Butler

Commissioned by Oklahoma City Ballet   
Performance Dates: June 23-25, 2023

Woman in a white shirt looks at the camera.

Courtesy Gibney Company

Rena Butler hails from Chicago, IL. She began her studies at The Chicago Academy for the Arts, studied overseas at Taipei National University of the Arts in Taiwan, and received her BFA from SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance. Butler danced with companies such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (also a choreographic fellow), AIM by Kyle Abraham, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, David Dorfman Dance, Manuel Vignoulle/M-Motions, The Kevin Wynn Collection, and Pasos Con Sabor Salsa Dance Company. Currently, she dances for Gibney Company, and was recently named its Choreographic Associate.

Butler’s choreographic work includes BalletX, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Boston Dance Theater, The New Orleans Museum of Modern Art in collaboration with Academy Award-Winning jazz composer, Terrence Blanchard, CHTV Stories television program in Switzerland, a film short in collaboration with Third Coast Percussion x Devonté Hynes/Blood Orange, The Young Choreographer’s Festival in NYC, The Ailey/Fordham School, TEDxChicago Virtual Salon 3.0: Design Your Life, and more. In 2019, she was the recipient of the prestigious Princess Grace Award for Choreography, and has been spotlighted in Dance Magazine’s On The Rise feature.

Butler has taught dance and choreographic workshops at L’Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Danse de Marseille in France, The Macau Cultural Center in China, Ailey Camp Chicago, and SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance.

Butler served on the Consortium for Chicago Dancemakers Forum for three years, was on the annual panel for Black Girls Dance in Chicago, and co-created and directed DanceLab—a free, choreographic course for Chicago teens, empowering participants of varying socioeconomic backgrounds and identities to find commonality in creation. She currently serves on Dancewave’s Artistic Advisory Council in NYC, and as a dance and choreographic mentor for young, aspiring artists as part of the Pointe People Mentorship Program.

Follow Butler on social media: InstagramFacebook.

*Eligibility requirements included Dance/USA ballet company membership, annual operating budget between $750,000 and $14.9M as of the most recently completed fiscal year, a track record of including choreographic works created by female ballet choreographers in annual performance seasons by the main company, and inclusion of new work by a BIPOC female choreographer in the 2022-2023 performance season.

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