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Choreographer Alice Sheppard Awarded $1 Million Neilsen Visionary Prize

Production will dedicate 100% of funds to disabled artists.

The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation today announced that Alice Sheppard, internationally-recognized dancer, choreographer, and founder of disability arts ensemble Kinetic Light, is a recipient of the $1 million 2021 Neilsen Visionary Prize. Fellow 2021 recipients are Kim Anderson-Erisman, PhD and Wesley Hamilton.

The prize funds will not go to Sheppard, personally. She plans to use 100% of the award to create a fund to support disabled artists; funding equipment, access, care, travel and other needs related to training, development, and creation.

"I am so grateful to the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation. Through this honor, they emphasize the fact that disability is not a deficit; it is a powerful creative and cultural force," stated Alice Sheppard. "So many disabled artists have come before me and have made it possible for me and Kinetic Light to create world-changing work. I dedicate these funds to disabled artists. We do not move alone. We are interdependent, collective, and communal."

Sheppard is Artistic Director of the disability arts ensemble Kinetic Light. Founded by Sheppard in 2016, Kinetic Light works in the disciplines of art, technology, design, and dance, and creates, performs, and teaches at the nexus of access, queerness, disability, dance, and race. In the company's work, intersectional disability is an aesthetic, a culture, and an essential element of artistry. As a disability arts ensemble, Kinetic Light is led by a disabled artist; disabled artists create, design, and perform the work. The art is connected to the rich traditions and exciting contemporary conversations of disabled artists in all fields.

Established in 2020 to honor the memory and legacy of Craig H. Neilsen, the Visionary Prize celebrates influential voices who show great potential to expand or advocate for new ideas for those living with a disability.

Alice Sheppard is an internationally recognized dancer, choreographer, and founder of the disability arts ensemble Kinetic Light. She studied ballet and modern dance with Kitty Lunn and started her career performing with Infinity Dance Theater and AXIS Dance Company.

As Bessie award-winning choreographer, Sheppard creates movement that challenges conventional understandings of disabled and dancing bodies. In 2016, Alice founded Kinetic Light, a disability arts ensemble featuring herself, Jerron Herman, Laurel Lawson and Michael Maag. Working in the disciplines of art, technology, design, and dance, Kinetic Light creates, performs, and teaches at the nexus of access, queerness, disability, dance, and race. In the company's work, intersectional disability is an aesthetic, a culture, and an essential element of artistry.

In addition to performance and choreography, Sheppard is a sought-after speaker and has lectured on topics related to disability arts, race, and dance. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, academic journals, and the anthology Disability Visibility, edited by Alice Wong.

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