The Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University (CBA) and National Sawdust, with continued support from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, announce the 2023-24 Fellows: composers Erica “Twelve45” Blunt and Wang Lu and choreographers Ausia Jones and Tiler Peck.
Now in its third year, the CBA-National Sawdust program has been extended from five months to a nine-month academic year. The fellowships promote equity in the fields of choreography and musical composition by supporting women and other artists who are traditionally underrepresented in both fields. A majority of the participants are women of color.
“We are delighted to continue our partnership with National Sawdust to support and nurture the work of these four talented artists,” says Jennifer Homans, founder and director of the Center for Ballet and the Arts. “We are grateful to the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation for its commitment to helping us build a diverse community of scholars and artists working in an environment that fosters the development of new ideas.”
The 2023-24 Fellows will receive financial support, studio and office space, and access to NYU’s resources and the CBA’s network of artists and alumni. National Sawdust will provide mentoring and access to its state-of-the-art performance space in Williamsburg, and it will bring audiences behind the scenes to witness the research and creative processes of the Fellows through its digital platform, Motif. The Fellows will participate in regular programming, including creative seminars, professional development sessions, and informal discussions with Toulmin alumni.
Additionally, this year’s Fellows will participate in choreographer Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process (CRP), which teaches artists how to offer and receive feedback from their peers respectfully and constructively. They will be introduced to CRP techniques in a one-day intensive; afterward, CRP facilitators will check-in regularly with them. This marks the first time National Sawdust and CBA will offer CRP training. The goal is to provide tools for effective interdisciplinary collaboration.
“We’ve worked diligently with the team at the Center for Ballet and the Arts to create a fellowship that allows artists to experiment, collaborate, and stretch themselves in the creation of works that marry sound and music,” says Paola Prestini, composer and co-founder and artistic director of National Sawdust. “There is truly no other fellowship like this in the world, and I’m so eager to welcome this new cohort of composers and choreographers into our literal and figurative space to see how they thrive as artists and colleagues. I congratulate them all and thank the Toulmin Foundation for its commitment to growing this partnership over the last three years and into the future.”
The fellowship builds on previous Toulmin-funded programs at the CBA, including the Virginia B. Toulmin Fellowship (2015-2017) and the Virginia B. Toulmin Fellowship for Women Leaders in Dance (2018-20).
The 2023-24 Fellows
Erica “Twelve45” Blunt, DJ, composer, sound designer
Blunt has performed at such venues as the National Gallery of Art, the Highline Ballroom, and the Brooklyn Museum. Her career spans various genres and styles, as illustrated by her video mix series, Day by Day, which combines music and nature visuals to evoke peace and introspection. She composed and designed the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s ballet Sounds of Hazel, which premiered in New York’s City Center in April. In the same month, she premiered an evening-length work, The Path, at EMERGE125, the modern dance company where she is resident composer. She collaborated with Tiffany Rea-Fisher, EMERGE125’s executive artistic director, who was a fellow in the program last year. Blunt has composed works for the films, Rights of Renaissance and Geography of Grace. In 2022, she received the John Brown Lives! Fellowship for Artists, Activists, and Scholars, and then joined JBL! as a board member promoting justice and equity.
Ausia Jones, artist, dancer, choreographer
Jones earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance with a focus on choreography from the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance. While studying at USC, she received training at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Orsolina Forsythe/Pite, and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Jones joined Ballets Jazz Montréal in 2020. She has performed works by William Forsythe, Robert Battle, Crystal Pite, Aszure Barton, and Jirí Kylián, and has choreographed at Ballets Jazz Montréal, USC Kaufman, and New York Live Arts. In addition, she received a YoungArts Honorable Mention in Choreography and Modern Dance, an Orion Choreographic Fellowship, a Toulmin Creator Grant, and she served as a White Bird panelist Celebrating Black Women in Dance.
Wang Lu, Associate Professor of Music, Brown University
Lu’s artistic practice is based on improvisation, through which she creates compositions that combine the sounds of urban environments, linguistic intonations, and traditional Chinese music. Her works have been performed by the Ensemble Modern, the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, and Boston Lyric Opera, among others. She won the Berlin Prize in Music Composition from the American Academy in Berlin, the Wladimir and Rhoda Lakond Award in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Koussevitzky Award from the Library of Congress. She was a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow and the recipient of a Fromm Commission from Harvard University. She has released two albums, Urban Inventory (2018) and An Atlas of Time (2020).
Tiler Peck, Principal Dancer at New York City Ballet
Peck has been a Principal Dancer with New York City Ballet since 2009. She made her Broadway debut at age 11 as Gracie Shinn in The Music Man, appeared as Ivy Smith in the Broadway production of On The Town, and originated the title role in the musical Little Dancer at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Peck made her choreographic debut at the Vail Dance Festival in 2018, choreographed and appeared in episodes of Tiny Pretty Things and Ray Donovan, and recently choreographed the film John Wick 3. She is a recipient of the Princess Grace Statue Award and the Dance Magazine Award and was named one of Forbes’s 30 under 30.
The Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University (CBA) is an international research institute for scholars and artists of ballet and its related arts and sciences. It exists to inspire new ideas and new dances, expanding the way we think about the art form’s history, practice, and performance in the 21st century.
National Sawdust is a nonprofit cultural institution that commissions, produces, and presents programming rooted in sound and supports multidisciplinary artists and arts organizations in the creation of innovative new work. The organization also offers numerous mentorship opportunities that counteract industry barriers and the historic marginalization of diverse communities in the arts, providing artists and arts workers with guidance, resources, and relationships with established visionaries to accelerate their careers. Founded by Kevin Dolan and composer Paola Prestini in 2015, National Sawdust operates out of an intimate venue, equipped with a state-of-the-art Meyer spatial sound system, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Prestini serves as Artistic Director, alongside Managing Director Ana De Archuleta, making National Sawdust one of the few New York cultural institutions led by women.
The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation is the first charitable organization to focus its performing arts grantmaking on promoting emerging female composers, choreographers and playwrights in the fields of opera, symphonic music, ballet and theater and to promoting women of color creators within these fields, focusing its grantmaking on a broad diversity of voices that need to be heard. The Foundation carries on the principles of its founder, Virginia B. Toulmin, a long-time patron of the arts, who believed in equal access and opportunity for women.