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Grass Stains Inaugurates Site-Specific, Mentorship Dance Program


Photo: Ana Mendez "Sea Creatures."
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As programs like the recent Dance USA conference continue to shine a spotlight on Miami’s flourishing dance community, choreographers are constantly looking for new ways to finance and get their work seen. Programs like Miami Light Project’s pioneering Here & Now commissioning series and Miami Theater Center’s Sand Box Series have proven that directly supporting generative artists is a key way for an artistic community to thrive. Stepping in as a new source of support for dance in Miami is Grass Stains, a commissioning and mentorship program developed by choreographer Pioneer Winter, expressly for artists looking to create site-specific dance.

With support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Grass Stains is launching its inaugural program with commissions to six Miami-based dance artists: Jenny Larsen, Agustina Woodgate, Marissa Nick, Hattie Mae Williams, Niurca Marquez, and Ana Mendez.

In addition to a $5,000 commission fee, commissioned artists will work one-on-one with a mentor, who in this first year is Guggenheim Fellow and Bessie Award-winning artist Stephan Koplowitz, dean of The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles. Koplowitz will work with artists not only on the artistic development of their work, but on how to manage the careful balancing act of producer and artist.

It’s a program that Winter feels will deeply invest on the creative community of South Florida. “It’s a capital building project,” he says emphatically. “It’s not just like here is $5,000; it’s here is $5,000, AND here is a mentor to help you make strong work now, so you can continue making strong work in the future.”

Commissioned artists will spend the fall studying with Koplowitz remotely, before engaging in an in-person intensive in January 2016. It will be around this time that artists will start identifying the sites they will develop their work on. The final performances will begin premiering in June 2016.

Another interesting facet to the program -- each of the commissioned artists commits to assist in one another’s work. “Whether it’s ushering or it’s helping out with sound or something until you do realize that this isn’t just fixing the digital artists, this is a cohort … It’s like a fellowship almost, “ explains Winter.

It was this holistic investment approach to supporting both the artists and their work that was what attracted commissioned artist Ana Mendez to apply. “I like investigating how I make work. I’m looking forward to working with this group who will support me and give feedback, and I’ll give feedback,” she says.

By focusing on site-specific work, Winter also sees a way to further develop and marry the audiences for both performance and art in Miami. “I think site-specific performance is one of the best ways to blend in different genres of art and performance together, so I also see in the future more blending in of our audiences, which are for the most part pretty segregated.”

“I’m most excited about the lasting impact it will have, that this is not a one-shot thing, this is something that will continue, this is a link that the artist will now have to -- a really great mentor and artist.”

For her part, Mendez is eager to explore unique locations and get to work imbuing then with her creative work. “I want to charge a place with energy -- take an empty place and infuse it with magic, make a place not so special, special. I love that we have a mentor to do this.”

For more information, go to pioneerwinter.com/grass-stains/

 


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