For the ninth festival of contemporary and modern dance, the Midwest Trust Center brings four choreographers to create original works for four local dance companies to perform at the world premieres. Each new work will then be owned by the dance company for two years for use in their own programs.
This year’s collaborative partners are:
The Kansas City Ballet, working with Stephanie Martinez
Over 11 years of award-winning works, Chicago-based choreographer Stephanie Martinez moves her audiences along a journey guided by the kinetic momentum of her work. With original creations for Joffrey Ballet, Ballet Hispanico, Luna Negra Dance Theater, Charlotte Ballet, Sacramento Ballet, Eugene Ballet, Nashville Ballet, Ballet Memphis, Kansas City Ballet and National Choreographers Initiative among others, Martinez’s versatility expands the boundaries of contemporary ballet movement. Martinez has created over 60 ballets for companies and collegiate programs across the country.
In 2010, Martinez assisted Broadway legend Ann Reinking in setting “Fosse Trilogy,” and in 2015, was awarded Joffrey Ballet’s Winning Works: Choreographers of Color commission and the Chicago 3Arts Award in recognition for her work as a female artist of color. More recently, Martinez was awarded an NEA grant for her premiere, “Bliss!” at Joffrey Ballet. Dubbed “a chameleon of choreography” by the Chicago Tribune, Martinez’s psychologically revelatory works challenge the viewer’s notion of what’s possible. Martinez was also lauded as the subject of “Fearlessly Inspired, 2020” and acknowledged as a “shining example of resilience, adaptability and artistry in an extraordinary year.”
Owen/Cox Dance Group, working with Bryan Arias
Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Arias studied dance in New York City. He was a performer with the Netherlands Dance Theater (NDT) and Crystal Pite’s company, Kidd Pivot. As a choreographer, Arias has created original works for companies such as The Paul Taylor Company, The Gibney Company, Netherlands Dance Theater, Zurich Ballet, The Bolshoi Ballet, Bern Ballet, Ballet Theater Basel, Tanz Lucerne Theater, Hessisches Staatsballet and Nuremberg Ballet.
Arias is the recipient of the 2017 Princess Grace Choreography Fellowship Award, the 2019 Jacobs Pillow Fellowship Award and the 2020 prestigious German Der Faust Award in choreography. In 2020, he co-founded Company Snorkel Rabbit, a multidisciplinary company based in Basel, Switzerland, and currently the resident company of Opera de Massy (France).
Störling Dance Theatre, working with Victoria Marks
Marks is an Alpert Award-winning choreographer, Guggenheim and Rauschenberg Fellow and Fulbright Distinguished Scholar, who has been making dances for stage and film for the past 40 years. She is a professor in the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance and serves as Chair of UCLA’s Disability Studies minor. Her projects migrate between “choreo-portraits” for individuals and groups, and dances for and with dancers that fuel her inquiries into movement.
Currently, her projects include the Dancing Disability Lab at UCLA, a gathering of dance artists who together challenge “ability paradigms” and recently, “Ten Questions: If not now, when?” a course and public event that brings together three outstanding members of UCLA’s community from the arts, humanities and sciences to address questions crucial to this contemporary moment. Some of the most recent questions include: How do we remember? How do we heal? How do we love?
Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company, working with Charissa Barton
Barton is a multifaceted creative with more than 25 years of experience in the entertainment industry. A choreographer, director, educator and producer, Barton has collaborated with Robert Battle, David Parsons, James Gunn, Julie Taymor, Howard Schatz, Alan Tudyk and Katy Perry, among others.
Her stage choreography was recently featured on the Pritzker Pavilion stage in Chicago and Ailey Theater in New York. She is co-founder of Axis Connect, a creative platform for world-class dance artists. Her choreography for screen appears on HBOMax, Netflix and SyFy series. Barton has performed with Aszure & Artists, Benjamin Millepied & Co. and Parsons Dance Company on world-renowned stages, including the Sydney Opera House, Kennedy Center, Teatro alla Scala, Theatro Municipal and at the Spoleto Festival, Umbria Jazz Festival and Jacob's Pillow, among others.
Barton has been featured in numerous publications, including Variety, New York Times, Washington Post, Vogue Magazine, Dance Magazine and several prominent international publications. Alongside her achievements in the entertainment industry, Barton ran a humanitarian organization that brought aid to communities in need around the world. Armed with a unique creative voice, her experience, leadership skills and collaborative spirit render her invaluable across multiple disciplines. A lifelong learner, she is currently in the director program at UCLA extension.
Supported, in part, by Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission; George H. Langworthy Sr. and Adrienne Kilbride.