Dance/USA Fellowships to Artists

Overview and Guidelines

Dance/USA Fellowships to Artists (DFA) is made possible with generous support from the Doris Duke Charitable FoundationDFA addresses a decades-long issue in the dance field -- the importance of supporting individual artists. Read how the program structure was developed here.  Read how the program aligns with Dance/USA’s new strategic plan here

In May 2019, the DFA Artist Fellows were announced. See the list of Fellows here. Find the press release announcing the fellows here. Find the review panel here.

Any announcements regarding the program's future will be posted here by late 2020.

Table of Contents

1. Artist Fellowships

     About Art for Social Change 
     Not Competitive
     Fellowship Amounts
     Review Criteria
     Application Process and Assistance
2. Creation of Peer Community
3. Fellowship Visibility Raising
Schedule Overview
How to Apply and What Happens to Your Application
To Get Help or Ask Questions, and Watch the Guidelines Webinar 


  1. Provide fellowships to artists to support their creative and social change work, which impacts one or more communities in which they work. 
  2. Provide a resource and support network to fellows during the fellowship period.
  3. Recognize the specialized expertise of these artists and increase visibility for their practice.

DFA seeks to identify dance artists who have not had access to significant national funding in support of their work.

1. Artist Fellowships

Direct support will be provided to dance artists who have substantive practice of working through dance to address social change within one or more communities.

DFA will support artists who are creating work that is relevant to current times, and that tells the truths of peoples and issues in our communities and world today. Artists funded must have dedicated their practice to directly and meaningfully addressing the needs of one or more community(s).Outside of the communities in which they work, these artists may not be well known for the ways in which their practice might inform and inspire their choreography and performance. 

Fellowship funds would be used at the artist’s discretion to support costs related their practice, which may include the creation of work. Artists are not required to complete a project or to perform.  

About Art for Social Change

The following language is adapted, with permission, from the Leeway Foundation.

Art for social change intentionally affects and respectfully engages communities and audiences. Creating social change must be integral to the ideas, beliefs, and goals that are woven throughout an artist’s process of creating and sharing the art. Art for social change is art with a vision and an intentional analysis. It is an artistic or creative cultural practice that may operate in traditional or nontraditional forms or settings. Art with a vision impacts people and communities in many ways. It can:

  • Create space for expression and build a sense of community
  • Raise consciousness
  • Engage and utilize a reciprocal process where there is teaching and learning simultaneously and the content for engagement is mutual, as is the benefit for the artist and the community they are engaging.
  • Preserve or reclaim traditional cultural practices
  • Alter or question how we think about ourselves, our society, or our culture
  • Create a vision of a more just world
  • Be a tool or strategy for organizing and movement building
  • Challenge racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, ageism, ableism, or other oppressions
  • Question mainstream culture and beliefs
  • Shift or transform the perception of power and /or privilege and the dynamics associated with justice, equity, and/or accountability


  • An indigenous artist works with tribal nations on community exchanges around the themes of water and land. 
  • A disabled artist expands their movement program for disabled people and their nondisabled caregivers, which may culminate in performances to raise awareness and advocate for inclusion.  
  • A Latino choreographer continues his ongoing research with an immigrant community to explore notions of citizenry and family. 
  • A dance artist who identifies as gender nonconforming facilitates workshops, dialogues, and performances for transgender and nonbinary dancers. 
  • A dance artist conducts research in both prisons and churches, running concurrent programs and generating ideas for new work.  
  • A choreographer who identifies as female explores sexual harassment through her ongoing work with women, including creating a work that tours to women’s agencies. 
  • A folk and traditional artist gives voice to indigenous cultures by collaborating with elders about cultural traditions and eventually hosting educational activities and presenting performances.
  • An ALAANA choreographer broadens and deepens an ALAANA community’s access to and interpretation of a mainstream dance form through ongoing work with a range of body types, genders, and movement styles.

Applicants must be dance artists and:

  • Have at least seven years of experience working deeply in one or more communities around one or more social justice issues. (Experience, in this context is defined broadly; refer to LOI form for the definition.)
  • Be U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents.
  • Have an artistic practice in dance or that is movement-based.
  • Not have received significant national funding. Specifically, artists cannot have personally received awards or unrestricted fellowships that come with major six-figure funding, such as MacArthur Foundation “Genius” awards and Doris Duke Artist Awards.
  • Either have first-voice perspective, as a member of the community with which they work, or substantial in-depth experience with the community(s). Refer to examples above. 

Consideration will be given to artists who have not received national funding recognition. The panel will be charged with constructing a fellowship portfolio that reflects a range of artists, practices, and communities. 
Before applying, artists are encouraged to think carefully about the depth of their community practice, as well as their level of prominence in the dance field. New: Artists who have received some national funding (e.g., below six figures) are eligible.  Please contact the DFA program director with questions about eligibility and competetiveness. 

Not Competitive

  • Artists whose practice takes place solely in higher education settings, such as college professors who create work only for their students
  • Artists whose work is not tied to social change, such as those who solely teach dance in schools or studios
  • Artists who wish to explore a social justice issue for a new work, but who have no prior experience with the community(s) it affects. 
Fellowship Amounts 

Dance/USA will fund up to 30 one-year fellowships of approximately $33,000 each, for a total funding allocation of at least $1,000,000. 

Review Criteria
  • Breadth and depth of practice in art for social change for at least seven years
  • Clarity of social change issue being explored, including how it leads to justice and the ways it affects community(s)
  • Degree to which social change is an intentional, documented part of the artistic practice
  • Strength of the artist’s relationships to the community(s) with which they work
At the full application phase:

  • Artistic merit of work.  The review process will acknowledge and respect the aesthetic choices that each artist has made, including the dance form and context in which the artist chooses to work. Artistic merit includes a range of factors including the authenticity of the artist’s relationship/connection to the content/community involved in the work as well as ways in which the artist’s work reveals something about the world, communicates a unique perspective, invites discovery or new insight, asks questions, and/or reflects understanding and authentic expression of cultural tradition(s).   

Application Process and Assistance

All artists may apply to DFA, including those that are not currently Dance/USA members. Applicants first submit a Letter of Inquiry (LOI). The deadline for the LOI is 5:30 p.m. Pacific Time, on Friday, November 16, 2018. By Friday, December 21, 2018, up to 60 applicants will be invited to submit full applications. Fellows will be notified in April 2019. If you have concerns about accessing the Internet to submit your application, please contact the DFA program  director immediately at (202)955-8325 or

For more information, refer to the How to Apply section below as well as the list of Frequently Asked Questions. In addition, Dance/USA encourages applicants to contact staff with questions; to set up a time speak with either staff or a proposal coach, see the To Get Help or Ask Questions section below.  

2.  Creation of Peer Community

A goal of this program is to provide fellows with occasional opportunities to connect in person as a peer community during the fellowship period (2019-2020). Information and learning from fellows will be shared with the Dance/USA membership and the broader dance field.  

Fellows will be required to attend, in person, two meetings: one in June 2019 and one in June 2020. Travel costs will be covered by Dance/USA, in addition to the fellowship funds. The agenda and structure for these meetings will be informed by the fellows. 

See the DFA Fellowships Timeline for additional information. 

3. Fellow Visibility Raising

Each fellow will be required to participate in a visibility-raising activity, such as a webinar or podcast.  Taking place in early 2020, these activities will leverage visibility for fellows by sharing their creative practice and community engagement work with the dance field and broader public. Fellows may be asked to speak during the Dance/USA conference in 2020; their participation would be optional. Other methods to raise visibility will be developed as the fellowship period commences.

Schedule Overview

Letter of Inquiry Deadline

Friday, November 16, 2018 at 5:30 p.m. Pacific Time. Confirmation of receipt will be sent via email by Friday, November 23, 2018.

Notification of            Invitation to Apply

By Friday, December 21, 2018

Full Proposal Deadline

Friday, February 8, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time

Notification of 
Funding Decisions

Mid-April, 2019

Start Date

June 1, 2019

End Date

July 31, 2020

Fellows Peer Community

From the summer of 2019 to the summer of 2020

Fellows First In-Person Meeting (Required)

June 12-13, 2019 (with June 11 as the travel date) in Cleveland, OH, just prior to Dance/USA conference (DFA covers travel).

First payment

Late June, upon attendance at the first fellows meeting.

Second In-Person Meeting (Required)

June 2020, prior to Dance/USA conference in City TBA (DFA covers travel). Meeting will take place over two days, with fellows traveling the day before.

Final Report Due

No later than August 31, 2020

For more details on what to expect during the fellowship period, see the DFA Fellowships Timeline.

How To Apply and What Happens to Your Application

1.  Letter of Inquiry.  All applicants must submit a letter of inquiry form by Friday November 16, 2018. Applicants complete this form to provide contact information, document their experience, and answer questions about their artistic practice. 

The LOI will be reviewed for eligibility and completeness. Both LOIs and applications will be reviewed by a peer panel comprised of artists, educators, and administrators who specialize in areas including choreography, social justice, presenting, and reflective of a range of demographics and dance forms.

By December 21, 2018, a group of up to 60 artists will be invited to submit full applications. 

2.  Full Application. The deadline for full applications is Friday, February 8, 2019, at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The full application guidelines will be distributed in December 2018.

The full application will require each artist to:

  • Answer some additional questions about their artistic practice and how it addresses social change.
  • As relevant to the artistic practice, submit work samples, which can take a variety of forms. Samples may be videos (shot formally or informally), photos, documents, or other materials.  Dance/USA understands that the quality of work samples can vary. Samples will represent only one piece of information considered by the panel.
  • Provide references of community members and leaders who can speak to their relationships with the community(s) they serve.
  • Submit a short, informal video statement (e.g., using a phone or other camera) of up to five minutes answering a few questions about their artistic practice.

To Get Help or Ask Questions

As a national service organization, Dance/USA is available and ready to assist artists, regardless of membership status, in understanding DFA and applying for support.  The following options are open to all applicants: 

1) Proposal coaching, offered by one of several outside consultants as well as the DFA program director, is available to any applicant. Sign up for a time here

2) Webinar. On Wednesday, October 17, 2018, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time a webinar was offered about applying.  Attendees were allowed to ask questions. The webinar recording is available here. 

3) Frequently Asked Questions. Review this page to obtain answers to commonly asked questions. Note: you may wish to revisit this page, as questions will be added and marked in red as "New."

4) The DFA program director is available to all applicants to answer questions or provide additional guidance. DFA is managed with Callahan Consulting for the Arts. Suzanne Callahan, consultant and DFA program director, is available and ready to discuss your LOI and answer any questions. Contact her at (202) 955-8325 or email Or, set up a time to speak at this link

After reading these guidelines and the LOI form, artists are encouraged to seek help in advance of either deadline.

Learn about the Letter of Inquiry process, including directions for submitting it.
Review the Frequently Asked Questions.
View the FellowshipsTimeline.
Read about how and why DFA was developed