DFA Advisors & Proposal Coaches

Program Advisors

Laurel Lawson

Laurel, a white woman with creamy skin, cropped silvery hair, and hazel eyes, looks thoughtfully to one side. Crimson lipstick punctuates a slight smile.Choreographer, designer, and artist-engineer: Laurel is a transdisciplinary artist making work which imagines new kinds of experience, reinterprets traditional stories, and questions cultural assumptions. Her performing arts career began in music before serendipity brought her to dance, where she found a discipline combining her lifelong loves of athleticism and art. Featuring synthesistic mythology and partnering, her work includes both traditional choreography and novel ways of extending and creating art through technology and design; in the creation of worlds and products experienced, installed, embodied, or virtual. Whether beginning in the studio or with code, her art is grounded in and enriched by liminality, the in-between, and arises from her experience as a queer and genderqueer disabled woman and understanding of disability and access as aesthetic forces.

Laurel began her dance career with Full Radius Dance in 2004 and is part of the disabled artists’ collective Kinetic Light, where in addition to choreographic collaboration and performance in such award-winning works as DESCENT she contributes production design and leads both access and technical research and innovation, including projects such as Audimance and Access ALLways, a holistic approach to equitable accessibility in the arts informed by user experience and hospitality. Co-founder and CTO of CyCore Systems, she brings two decades of expertise in UI/X and product architecture to both technological and artistic work to create impactful experiences, and is also the founder and director of Rose Tree Productions, an Atlanta-based nonprofit. Laurel teaches and speaks internationally on a range of topics.

ID: Laurel, a white woman with creamy skin, cropped silvery hair, and hazel eyes, looks thoughtfully to one side. Crimson lipstick punctuates a slight smile.

Michèle Steinwald

White female-identified middle aged person with a wide smile and squinting eyes, wearing a yellow V-neck top, along with dangling earrings and shoulder-length medium brown and grey streaked straight hair. Blurred in the background is the back of some houses and a wooden fenced.

Marked by five major influences, Michèle Steinwald is a feminist, DIY, artist-centered, pseudo-forensic, embodied, community-driven, cultural organizer:

- At age 14, she saw Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker in Rosas’ Bartok and fell in love with contemporary dance (1986)

- At age 15, she produced her friend’s post-punk band Pestilence at the all-ages music venue One Step Beyond in Ottawa, Canada (1987). Seven people came. She knew all but one.

- At age 21, she studied with choreographer Deborah Hay and was forever changed (1994).

- At age 25, she attended Easter service with pastor Cecil Williams preaching at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco and saw/felt what true inclusion was (1998).

- Since her teen years, she has deliberately watched the TV series Law & Order, noting human behavior and gut instincts through problem-solving.

Steinwald holds an MA from the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance and was published in Curating Live Arts (Berghahn Books – New York/Oxford). Committed to social justice in the arts, she has researched and facilitated original sessions at conferences and gatherings such as APAP (2018 & 2019) in partnership with American Realness, Interrarium at Banff Centre (2018), National Performance Network (2017 & 2018), Arts Midwest (2011 & 2014), and DanceUSA (2012 & 2013 + 2014 host). Although Canadian, Steinwald is working in the US as an independent curator, dramaturg, and occasional writer.

ID: White female-identified middle-aged person with a wide smile and squinting eyes, wearing a yellow V-neck top, along with dangling earrings and shoulder-length medium brown and grey streaked straight hair. Blurred in the background is the back of some houses and a wooden fence.

Proposal Coaches

Holly Bass

Photo of Holly Bass

HOLLY BASS is a multidisciplinary performance and visual artist, writer and director. Her work has been presented at spaces such as the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Museums, the Seattle Art Museum, Art Basel Miami Beach (Project Miami Fair) and the South African State Theatre. Her visual art work includes photography, installation, video and performance and can be found in the collections of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the DC Art Bank, as well as private collections. A Cave Canem fellow, she has published poems in numerous journals and anthologies. She studied modern dance (under Viola Farber) and creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College before earning her Master’s from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. As an arts journalist early in her career, she was the first to put the term “hip hop theater” into print in American Theatre magazine. She has received numerous grants from the DC Arts Commission and was a 2019 Red Bull Detroit artist-in-residence and a 2019 Dance/USA Artist Fellow. She is a 2020-2022 Live Feed resident artist at New York Live Arts. A gifted and dedicated teaching artist, she directed a year-round creative writing and performance program for adjudicated youth in DC’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services for four years as well as facilitating workshops nationally and internationally. She is currently the national director for Turnaround Arts at the Kennedy Center, a program which uses the arts strategically to transform schools facing severe inequities.

Photo Credit: Pamela Janzesian

Lily Kharrazi
Brown-skinned Middle Eastern Woman in a grey sweater is standing outside looking directly at the camera with a slight smile.

Antonio Delfino Staff Photo Headshot by Shweta Saraswat, Oct 3, 2018.

Lily Kharrazi is Director of Special Initiatives at the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA)  where she has had the privilege of meeting and working with many cultural communities by supporting the genres and expressions that animate their values, aesthetics, and way of life.  She has been with ACTA for 16 years.  She has studied Ethnic Arts and Dance Ethnology (UCLA) with Allegra Fuller Snyder, a pioneer in the field of dance and anthropology.   Lily has worked in refugee resettlement and was formerly program director at World Arts West, producing nine seasons of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival curating such seasons as Dance of the Islamic World.  She serves as a consultant to both local and national projects involved with arts and culture for funders such as the Flora and James Hewlett Foundation, Walter & Elise Haas Fund, the Ford Foundation, California Arts Council, and with Dance/USA.  Her involvement with the inaugural Fellows program led to co-editing the publication, “Voices From the Field: Dance USA Artist Fellows In Practice and Community”.(2020)

As a first-generation American of Iranian- Jewish descent, she brings her multi-lingual and minority status along with embodied pride in this otherness to her work. The through-line in her work and practice continues to be a dedication to create respect for the myriad ways in which we as human societies order and create meaning in our lives through the arts, particularly through dance and movement. 

ID: Brown-skinned Middle Eastern Woman in a grey sweater is standing outside looking directly at the camera with a slight smile.

Yvonne Montoya, MS

ID: A black and white picture of Yvonne wearing a black sleeveless top, against a nondescript black and white background. Yvonne is smiling. She has brown eyes, curly brown hair with highlights. She is a Nuevomexicana/Xicana with skin the color of biscochitos.Yvonne Montoya is a mother, dancemaker, bi-national artist, thought leader, writer, speaker, and the founding director of Safos Dance Theatre. Based in Tucson, AZ and originally from Albuquerque, NM, her work is grounded in and inspired by the landscapes, languages, cultures, and aesthetics of the U.S. Southwest.

Montoya is a process-based dancemaker who creates low-tech, site-specific and site-adaptive pieces for nontraditional dance spaces. Though most well-known in the U.S. Southwest, her choreography has been staged across the United States and in Guatemala, and her dance films screened, at Queens University of Charlotte, NC and the University of Exeter (U.K.) Under her direction, Safos Dance Theatre won the Tucson Pima Arts Council’s Lumie Award for Emerging Organization in 2015. She is currently working on Stories from Home, a series of dances based on her family’s oral histories.

From 2017-2018 Montoya was a Post-Graduate Fellow in Dance at Arizona State University, where she founded and organized the inaugural Dance in the Desert: A Gathering of Latinx Dancemakers. Montoya is a 2021 Southwest Folk Alliance Plain View Fellow, a 2019-2020 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, a member of the 2019-2020 Dance/USA Fellowships to Artists pilot program, and a recipient of the 2019 National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC) POD grant, the 2020 MAP Fund Award, and the first Arizona-based artist to receive the 2020 New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) National Dance Project Production Grant. For more information, visit www.yvonnemontoya.co

ID: A black and white picture of Yvonne wearing a black sleeveless top, against a nondescript black and white background. Yvonne is smiling. She has brown eyes, curly brown hair with highlights. She is a Nuevomexicana/Xicana with skin the color of biscochitos.

Heena Patel

Description: Picture of Heena, an Indian woman with shoulder length curly hair, wearing a purple long-sleeved shirt, gold earrings and a gold necklace looking into the camera with a smile on her face and her arms casually crossed. Heena Patel is a multi-hyphenate arts worker, coach for creatives and South Asian women, facilitator, and gathering designer. For nearly 15 years, she has been amplifying South Asian arts and culture in the dominant performing arts sector as a producer, agent-manager, mentor, artist, consultant, and curator. The CEO of MELA Arts Connect, her work has focused on nurturing the ecosystem around South Asian performing arts and community.

Recent credits as a producer and artistic director include the multidisciplinary stage show Bollywood Boulevard, immersive dance experience Garba360, and desi:NOW - a showcase of hyphenated South Asian identities. Heena Patel has facilitated the commissioning and/or presentation of numerous South Asian productions and artists such as Raghu Dixit, Indian Ocean, Mystic India, Shilo Shiv Suleman, and more at venues such as Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and the MET. As a cultural strategist and consultant, she supports organizations in developing long-term strategies for community building with the South Asian diaspora. She also works with South Asian creatives as a coach around strategy and mindset to build a career in the arts. Heena was an ISPA Fellow and APAP Leadership Fellow. She serves on the board of NAPAMA (North American Performing Arts Agents and Manager) and is a member of CIPA (Creative & Independent Producers Alliance) and WOCA (Women of Color in the Arts).

ID: Picture of Heena, an Indian woman with shoulder-length curly hair, wearing a purple long-sleeved shirt, gold earrings, and a gold necklace looking into the camera with a smile on her face and her arms casually crossed. 

Photo Credit: Raashi Desai Photography

Kevin Seaman

A studio portrait of Kevin in front of a light grey background. They are wearing an olive green mesh tunic on top of a black long sleeve shirt with a quartz pendant on long silver chain and an oversized grey and black scarf draped around their body. Kevin is bearded and wearing olive green shadow and octagonal earrings, and looks directly into the camera. Kevin Seaman (they/them) is a San Francisco-based interdisciplinary artist and the Artistic Director of Diamond Wave. Their videos exploring queer history, symbolism and intersectionality were presented on SalesForce Tower in June 2021 in collaboration with Jim Campbell’s Studio. Their work has also been presented at The Stud, Brava, CounterPulse, YBCA, Frameline, the Tank NYC, the Austin International Drag Festival, SATTELITE ART SHOW Miami, the National Queer Arts Festival, Stockholm’s Stolt Scenkonst, Atlantic Center for the Arts, and Yale School of the Arts. They were an inaugural Association for Performing Arts Professionals Leadership Fellow, and received the 2017 Americans for the Arts Emerging Leader Award and the 2019 Theatre Bay Area Legacy Award. In their role at Diamond Wave, they are part of the leadership team of the Artists Adaptability Circles, a new, collaborative seed funding and leadership development program, and lead the THEYFRIEND nonbinary performance festival as well as the MASCellaneous creative queer masculinities workshop series.

ID: A studio portrait of Kevin in front of a light grey background. They are wearing an olive green mesh tunic on top of a black long sleeve shirt with a quartz pendant on long silver chain and an oversized grey and black scarf draped around their body. Kevin is bearded and wearing olive green shadow and octagonal earrings, and looks directly into the camera. 

Photo Credit: Kevin Seaman

Krista Smith

A picture of Krista beside a fence on a farm. She is a fat white woman with chin-length, dark brown hair. She is looking straight into the camera with a closed-mouth smile and wearing a thin silver necklace.

Krista Smith, Grant Specialist, is a white queer fat femme who lives in Columbus, Ohio, the ancestral and contemporary territory of the Shawnee, Potawatomi, Delaware, Miami, Peoria, Seneca, Wyandotte, Ojibwe, and Cherokee peoples. Smith founded Krista Smith Development in 2015 to provide grantwriting, strategic planning, and development training and coaching to LGBQ2S+, TGNC, BIPOC, and/including Disabled led arts organizations and artists. Smith is a lifelong dance and performing artist and the founder of several queer performance companies including the Queen Bees (Seattle 2001-2005) and ButchTap (Oakland 2007-12). Smith also served as the Program Director for the Institute for Civic Leadership at Mills College, a women’s leadership program. In addition to writing grants and facilitating strategic planning processes, Smith provides technical assistance to marginalized artists and arts organizations led by marginalized people to support them to secure grant funding; advocates locally and nationally for equity in grants funding; and has served on many review panels for arts funding. 

ID: A picture of Krista beside a fence on a farm. She is a fat white woman with chin-length, dark brown hair. She is looking straight into the camera with a closed-mouth smile and wearing a thin silver necklace.