The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Unveils 2024-25 Dance Research Fellows

The Dance Research Fellows are Marina Harss, Jordan Demetrius Lloyd, Alessandra Nicifero, Marcelline Mandeng Nken, Brian Seibert, and Maria Vinogradova.

By: Jun. 28, 2024
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The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Unveils 2024-25 Dance Research Fellows The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts' Jerome Robbins Dance Division has revealed the 2024-25 Dance Research Fellows. On the 50th anniversary of his arrival in the U.S. this year’s fellowship focuses on Mikhail Baryshnikov and his archive, which is preserved by the Dance Division.

The Dance Research Fellows are Marina Harss, Jordan Demetrius Lloyd, Alessandra Nicifero, Marcelline Mandeng Nken, Brian Seibert, and Maria Vinogradova.

This year’s fellows will look at a wide range of materials within the archives over the six-month research period. The projects range from creation of new performance work to tracking how Baryshnikov, a Russian immigrant, became an American dancer. Each will receive a $10,000 stipend and dedicated support from a dance librarian as they work with the Library’s archives over the next six months. 

The fellowship culminates with an opportunity to present their projects on January 31, 2025, at our annual Dance Symposium.

Mandeng Nken, Brian Seibert, and Maria Vinogradova.

This year’s fellows will look at a wide range of materials within the archives over the six-month research period. The projects range from creation of new performance work to tracking how Baryshnikov, a Russian immigrant, became an American dancer. Each will receive a $10,000 stipend and dedicated support from a dance librarian as they work with the Library’s archives over the next six months. 
The fellowship culminates with an opportunity to present their projects on January 31, 2025, at our annual Dance Symposium.

Marina Harss

Writer and dance critic Marina Harss recently published The Boy from Kyiv, a biography of choreographer Alexei Ratmansky. In her research for that book, she found many similarities between Ratmansky and Baryshnikov—dance artists separated by a generation who left their homes in the Soviet Union at around the same age. But a key difference separates the two artists. When Ratmansky left the former Soviet space, he expected to return; Baryshnikov knew he would never go back to Russia—those differences are reflected in their artistic and personal identities. Harss’s research for her fellowship will focus on ideas of Russianness and Americanness through the lens of Baryshnikov’s career including his tenure at American Ballet Theatre, collaborations with choreographers like George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, and Mark Morris, and pop culture appearances. Harss will explore where Baryshnikov has chosen to perform his Russianness or distance himself from it, and how his national identity has shifted, changed, and intersected with his artistic identity.
Marina Harss is a writer, journalist, and critic based in New York City, writing on all aspects of dance and occasionally on opera. Her features, profiles, reviews and interviews have appeared in: The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Nation, The Guardian, Tanz, The Boston Globe, Dance Magazine, Pointe Magazine, and many others.

Jordan Demetrious Lloyd

As a dancer, Baryshnikov was recognized for his incredible artistry. Jordan Demetrious Lloyd will use the fellowship to explore Baryshnikov’s evolution across his career, culminating in the creation of an intergenerational dance performance and a digital process archive. His research considers modern-day code switching as a conceptual framework to explore qualities of performance. He plans to interrogate the fluidity of Baryshnikov's career and examine the moving images of rehearsal footage, notes, journals, and interviews in the Library’s collection. He also plans to interview two choreographers that both Baryshnikov and Lloyd have worked with. 

Jordan Demetrius Lloyd is a choreographer and dance scholar who has worked with choreographers like Tere O'Connor, Netta Yerushalmy, Donna Uchizono, and many more. As a choreographer, Lloyd has received The Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship, two New York Dance and Performance Bessie Award nominations, and was listed on Dance Magazines 2023 "25 to Watch" list. 

Alessandra Nicifero

In 2000, Baryshikov co-directed PASTForward with David Gordon as part of his White Oak Dance Project. The project brought prominent members of the Judson Dance Theater together with new generations of performers and new audiences. Baryshnikov, who had previously danced with Trisha Brown in If You Could See Us (1996), performed Brown’s Homemade (1966)—a reflection on the very essence of choreography, its transmission, and the simultaneous co-existence of different temporalities. For her fellowship, Alessandra Nicifero will explore how Brown’s theoretical approach in Homemade was creatively reinvented for Brodsky/Baryshnikov (2015). In this case, Baryshnikov’s choreographic response to Joseph Brodsky’s recorded voice, reflects on the experiences of exile, embodying a contrapuntal conversation between two formal languages—that of poetry and movement.
 
Alessandra Nicifero is an independent dance scholar and translator based in New York. Her articles and reviews on performing arts, have been published in “Hystrio,” “Danza&Danza,” and “Dance Research Journal,” where she previously served on the editorial board. Her monograph on Bill T. Jones was published in 2010, and she co-edited Choreographing Discourses, A Mark Franko Reader (Routledge, 2018) with Mark Franko.

Marcelline Mandeng Nken

Baryshnikov’s emotional depth and vulnerability in his acclaimed performance as Albrecht in Giselle in 1977 challenged traditional ideals of masculinity in ballet. For her fellowship, Marcelline Mandeng Nken will create a dance work with fabricated props and costumes titled “Queening the Knight,” inspired by Baryshnikov’s performance. Mandeng Nken will broaden her research into the Library’s collections that deal with the theme of masculinity, including papers about Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free and Baryshnikov’s directorial debut of The Nutcracker. Ultimately, Mandeng Nken will examine vulnerability, masculinity, and intimacy, while paying homage to Baryshnikov’s contribution to the dance world. 

A recent graduate of Yale School of Art, Marcelline Mandeng Nken creates performance driven immersive installations built on a series of inversions including shifts in environment scale, casting the audience as performing agents and the use of organic elements to measure the passing of time. Her most recent performances took place in Manhattan at Judson Memorial Church as a part of Movement Research and The Kitchen as a part of Moor Mother’s record release.

Brian Seibert

In 1986, Baryshnikov became a naturalized citizen of the U.S., a change in status he celebrated on national television during a centenary celebration of the Statue of Liberty, performing a work to music by George Gershwin choreographed by the foremost Russian figure of ballet to have become American: George Balanchine. Brian Seibert will investigate the process by which, during the dozen years following his arrival in the U.S., Baryshnikov became American—less politically than artistically and as a public figure. In many of the performances that Baryshnikov took on, from “Baryshnikov on Broadway” to dancing choreography by Twyla Tharp, the very idea of a Russian ballet star being interested in Broadway or Hollywood is treated as exceptional, surprising, somewhat comic. Through his fellowship, Seibert will track his evolution, showing how by the time Baryshnikov was officially naturalized, he had already become culturally naturalized in the public mind, an American dancer.

Brian Seibert is the author of What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing (FSG, 2015), which was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award and won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. Since 2011, he has been a dance critic and features writer for The New York Times, and he has contributed to The New Yorker since 2002. 

Maria Vinogradova

The Mikhail Baryshnikov archive at the Jerome Robbins Dance Division includes nearly 1,500 minutes of 8mm footage. According to Maria Vinogradova, it is likely that not all of them were shot by Baryshnikov himself, but that he also acted as a gatherer of films created by fellow dancers. Currently completing a book on the history of Soviet filmmaking, Vinogradova has found that dancers constitute a special chapter in this history. Ballet dancers, due to their elevated social status, were able to travel abroad—a privilege available to just a handful of Soviet people. At the same time, since its very inception, film was enthusiastically received by dancers worldwide as an aid in their work, especially in the absence of a system of notation for dance. Soviet dancers, many of whom owned film cameras, understood this significance of the medium, using it both as an aid in their professional work and a means to record their often extraordinary daily lives. The scope of Baryshnikov’s 8mm film collection at NYPL, as appears from the metadata, reflects both impulses. This collection will be in the center of Vinogradova’s research during the fellowship tenure.

Maria Vinogradova, PhD, is a film and media historian specializing in the study of Soviet film culture, in particular, nonfiction, experimental and amateur films: their creation, distribution, circulation, and afterlives in the post-celluloid era. She is currently working on her book manuscript On the Public Rails: A History of Soviet Amateur Filmmaking (1957-1991). This project has been supported by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies (2021-2022) and National Endowment for the Humanities (2022-2023).
Stay tuned for more about the Dance Research Fellows and their work!



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