In a dress, a woman poses and smiles,
Program Director, Dance

The National Dance Project (NDP) virtually convened a 2020 panel of Advisors to complete the first stage of the two-stage application and review process for the Production Grant program – selecting 38 Finalists out of 168 applications. One of the essential sources of funding for dance in the U.S.*, Production Grants provide funding for the creation and touring of 20 new dance projects by choreographers and companies through a package of support including:

  • $45,000 to create a new work;
  • $10,000 in unrestricted general operating support;
  • up to $35,000 in tour subsidies that go to U.S. organizations that bring the new work to their communities;
  • $11,500 to a support a Production Residency for Dance and additional community engagement work.**

As the COVID-19 public health crisis continued to intensify, we shifted our in-person review process to a virtual one. Following intense and thoughtful conversations, the 12 Advisors selected 38 projects to advance to the final application round. NEFA recognized that the applications were written prior to COVID-19 and prepared Advisors to assess all applications respecting the integrity with which they were submitted. Advisors were able to honor the time and effort put into each application, while recognizing the future impacts of COVID-19 including delays to project creation and touring, as well as the potential for projects to be altered by the changing state of affairs worldwide.

During the preliminary round of the Production Grant program, feedback from all Advisors was collected for all 168 applications and will be provided to applicants upon request. During the final application process, Advisors and NDP staff work with the 38 NDP Finalists as they prepare their full proposals, reviewing narratives, budgets, and work samples to ensure each Finalist puts together their strongest application possible. 

We are excited to share the 38 Production Grant Finalists for 2020! We hope that presenters, curators, and other arts professionals will take this opportunity to learn about each of these artists/companies and their projects in development. This year’s Finalists include 24 choreographers and companies that have not previously received an NDP Production Grant; 16% of the 168 applicants applied to NDP for the first time. 

NEFA and the NDP Advisors are proud of what this Finalist cohort represents. These artists and companies are working within various dance forms, traditions, and aesthetics across many regions. Their projects work in and with communities of people who embody a multitude of intersections and uplift their voices by sharing their untold and previously unheard stories. As we continue to fight against structural inequities that have excluded individuals and communities from opportunity, NEFA remains vigilant in listening and learning how we can serve the dance field, and we work to counter the persistent  inequities that pervade the dance field based on race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, class, language, culture, nation of origin, age, and geography. The artists/companies in the 2020 Finalist cohort are a testament to our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in our field and communities across the country.

From now through July 10, each Finalist will work with an NDP Advisor and NDP staff to put together a strong full proposal. In August, Advisors will meet again virtually to determine the 20 projects that will receive the full Production Grant package of support. Given the evolving situation with COVID-19, we continue to remain nimble and evaluate our processes in order to be best support artists/companies during and after this global pandemic. 

In acknowledgment of the effort it takes to prepare and submit a full NDP proposal, it has been NEFA’s practice to offer all finalists who are not selected as part of the NDP cohort with a $1,000 finalist award. However, to support artists/companies with emergency conditions related to COVID-19, NEFA will increase the finalist award in 2020 to $2,500.

*NEFA defines U.S. as all 50 of the United States, as well as Washington D.C., American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

**Following feedback from previous grantees, and in an effort to continue to make NDP’s Production Grant an equitable source of funding, the Production Grant package will now include funds for a Production Residency for Dance and additional community engagement support for all grantees. Previously these separate grants were only received by a portion of the Production grantees. NDP recognizes that each project contains unique elements that would greatly benefit from this additional support, and acknowledges the additional labor previously required to receive this support. We believe this shift will provide increased agency for grantees as they develop their projects and aim to foster genuine partnerships with presenters.

Advisors, Special Thanks, and Funders

NDP Advisors

The 12 NDP Advisors are new and established leaders in the dance field who work together to select projects during both stages of the Production Grant review. 

Advisors serve year-long terms to provide a dynamic range of aesthetic perspectives and experiences during the intense review process, advising the program and making grant selections. We are immensely grateful for their dedication and service.

In addition to the Production Grant review process, Advisors are also called on upon throughout the year to assist NDP staff with field and relationship building initiatives such as the grantee cohort gathering, as well as for their input on NDP’s funding criteria, application questions, program priorities, and processes which help to strengthen the program and the field at large. Beyond their term of service, Advisors continue to serve as ambassadors for the program in their communities, working with artists and organizations to ensure dance continues to thrive nationally. 

Special Thanks

This year’s unique NDP Production Grant process would not have been successful without the support and contributions of Kristin Gregory, Program Manager, and Cheri Opperman, Grants Manager. It is because of their tenacity, forward-thinking, and care that NDP continues to flourish. 


NEFA's National Dance Project is generously supported with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with funding for special initiatives from the Boston Foundation, and the Aliad Fund at the Boston Foundation.

2020 National Dance Project Finalists

Please Note: All project descriptions are from each finalist’s preliminary application. We recognize that elements of their descriptions may shift as they prepare their full proposals due to COVID-19.

7NMS: Marjani Forte-Saunders and Everett Saunders, Pasadena, CA

A Prophet's Tale: A Portrait of the Lyricist
A Prophet's Tale is a multi-year, iterative dance performance, music, and literary project, sharing the life-journeys of the Emcee/Lyricist – an alchemist and minister of Hip Hop culture whose pivotal journeys share a timely, personal, and universal story of transcendence, ingenuity, and wisdom. Premiering at Abrons Arts Center and 651 Arts, Prophet will develop over residencies at NCC Akron, Brown University/Conference for Research Choreographic Interfaces, and University of Chicago.

Adele Myers and Dancers, Miami, FL

T.W.I.S.T is a multidisciplinary feminist dance-theater project that blurs lines between research/community engagement and performance/activism as a radical practice of female collaboration. An acronym for These Women in Space and Time, T.W.I.S.T integrates elegant athleticism, film, visual art, audience-interaction, and wit to interrogate relationships between gender, space, time, and power in the public domain.

April Sellers Dance Collective, Minneapolis, MN

Rumble Strips
Rumble Strips will explore the inherent contradictions in honoring one's own identity and needs while functioning in a shared world. Following multiple solo and full-company developmental residencies, Rumble Strips will premiere in Minneapolis in January 2021. Rural and small city audiences will be a priority for the tour, with initial destinations of Boston, MA (Dance Complex), Asheville, NC (BeBe Theatre), Hoboken, NJ (Mile Square Theatre), and San Antonio, TX (Palo Alto College).

AXIS Dance Company, Oakland, CA

Home Sweet Home working title
Home Sweet Home is an integrated dance exploring the multiple meanings of home as it uncovers the human need for belonging. Choreographer Marc Brew delves deep into his own emotional journey as an immigrant, a disabled gay man, a dancer – always moving to follow his ambition while longing to belong

Ballet Hispánico, New York, NY

Doña Peron
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa will develop a new full-length work for Ballet Hispánico based on the life of Evita Peron, presenting the episodes in her life that led to her becoming a powerful icon of the Argentinean people. Working title Doña Perón, a nonlinear series of “snapshots”, will capture the essence of Evita’s strength, struggle, and emergence as a leader and change agent. The work will premiere in spring 2021 and be included in a national and international tour.


Loom is vertical dance company Bandaloop’s newest work for touring. The first evening-length piece by new artistic director Melecio Estrella, Loom is a multimedia public art weave of vertical dance, projection, music, and fabric puppetry. A collaboration with media technologist Osman Koc, composer Ben Juodvalkis, and Bandaloop dancers, Loom braids the historic mythologies of weaving with the ecological implications of modern industrial fabric production.

Bijayini Satpathy, New York, NY

Abhipsaa-A Seeking
Globally acclaimed, Bijayini Satpathy is the foremost master of Odissi dance. Her first choreographic work Abhipsaa-A Seeking is commissioned by Duke Performances and will further expand the form and its impact by integrating new musical approaches and staging. She will collaborate with three contemporary composers, five musicians, a costume designer, and lighting/set designer. Development and engagement residencies are at Duke Performances and Baryshnikov Arts Center. The world premiere is February 5-6, 2021, at Duke Performances.

Bridgman|Packer Dance, Valley Cottage, NY

Ghost Factory
Inspired by the residents and vast deserted factories of Johnson City, a small upstate New York town, Ghost Factory explores remnants of a past industrial era. Live performance merges with video imagery of abandoned buildings while stories told by elders who worked in these factories are woven into the piece, evoking the humanity these spaces once held. In conjunction with the stage performance, audiences are invited to reflect on their own community’s stories & contribute to an interactive oral history audio/video installation in each venue lobby.

Brownbody, St. Paul, MN

Tracing Sacred Steps
Brownbody will develop Tracing Sacred Steps, an evening-length work that blends modern dance, social justice practice, figure skating, and Ring Shout. It features an all-Black cast of six professional skating artists from around the U.S. and a Minnesota based actor/vocalist. It will premiere in spring 2021 at Highland Ice Arena in St. Paul, MN, for an audience of 500+, with potential tours to Jacob’s Pillow and the Yard. The performance cultivates relationships with local Black communities, surrounding the performances with multiple engagement events.

Company SBB, New York, NY

Embarqued: Stories of our Soil
Embarqued: Stories or our Soil is a dance-theater work centered around a transformative shipmast inviting reflection, revealing post-colonial foundations and mythology. Through questioning existing relationships to memorials we call up all who made our united history, enabling us to viscerally and holistically connect our country both forwards and backwards in space and time.


Hearkening back to my Salsa roots, this work will be an embodiment of our complicated truths and a re-framing of our relationship to sugar as a way to confront harmful systems of oppression. Our cultural organizing work with black and brown communities in South LA in conversation with Celia Cruz’s music re-interpreted woven together with multiple personal narratives, Azúcar! will be a tapestry of truth-telling, a call for liberation, and an affirmation of our future as a people.

Culture Mill, Saxapahaw, NC

Eclipse is an original performance in which up to 50 people of all ages, identities, and abilities negotiate relationships and power dynamics in real time to silently build a large, emergent structure in a public space, completing it for a moment of stillness before the group entirely disassembles the structure. The work is uniquely developed through a series of community workshops, and enacted through a score which generates a different form in each iteration of the performance.

Dancing Earth, Santa Fe, NM

BOUND: Shadows of Slavery working title
In collaboration with historian Estevan Rael-Gálvez, BOUND: Shadows of Slavery is a choreo-archive that breaks the silence surrounding Native slavery in the U.S. Southwest. BOUND embodies Rael-Gálvez’s 30 years of research through contemporary dance ritual, contextualized within aspen branch gathering walk to assemble for installation/set design, story-sharing dinners highlighting ingredients that reflect the cultural fusion, oral history soundscapes, documentary film footage, and an exhibition of post-1848 photos of the enslaved and other archival records.

DELIRIOUS Dances, Brooklyn, NY

3 RITES: Life, Liberty, Happiness
3 RITES: Life, Liberty, Happiness by DELIRIOUS Dances/Edisa Weeks features three interactive performance rituals that integrate dance, live music, text, visual installations, community discussions, and shared meals to humorously and poignantly interrogate why life, liberty, and happiness were included as unalienable rights in the United States Declaration of Independence. 3 RITES explores what these rights mean today, who has access to these rights, and how they manifest in the body.

Dianne McIntyre, Cleveland, OH

Speaking in the Same Tongue
Speaking in the Same Tongue is a full-length movement, sound, and language-based work choreographed and directed by Dianne McIntyre which includes poetry by Ntozake Shange, and original music by Deidre Murray. McIntyre performs with four additional dancers and five musicians. A four-month rehearsal and development period will take place in Harlem from November 2020-February 2021 with a subsequent tour including local performers in the work at each tour site.

Doug Varone and Dancers, New York, NY

Seven Last Words
Doug Varone and Dancers will create and tour Seven Last Words in collaboration with SITI Company. Created to Joseph Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Christ, the collaboration will investigate the human capacity to transform antipathy, confusion, and loss into fresh imaginative possibilities. Integral to the development process will be 3-5 joint creative/teaching residencies that include interactive work-in-process showings. Committed sites include: Bates Dance Festival, Purchase College, and Baryshnikov Arts Center.

Emily Johnson/Catalyst, New York, NY

Being Future Being
Choreographer Emily Johnson’s newest work delves into the power of future creation stories. An evening-length performance for the stage, featuring Johnson and a cast of more-than-human creatures, this new work seeks to (re)build new visions of the forces that brought this world into being. In doing so, it brings into focus new futures with the potential to reshape the way we relate to ourselves, and to the human and more-than-human cohabitants of our worlds.

Gesel Mason Performance Projects, Austin, TX

Yes, And working title
Yes, And is a performance project that recenters Black womanhood and femininity as the norm and operating force in the creative process. Seemly contradictory, the work is both: YES, an unapologetic celebration of Black sisterhood; AND, a complex investigation of issues and experiences (motherhood, trauma, sexuality, joy, mental health, self-care - the list is non-exhaustive) from a Black female center.

Helen Simoneau Danse, Winston-Salem, NC

Delicate Power
Delicate Power is a new 30 min dance piece by choreographer Helen Simoneau that investigates power, inclusiveness, and gender with an all-female identifying cast of five performers and three collaborators. Set to a live musical score by Pulitzer prize-winning composer and musician Caroline Shaw, with dramaturgy by Melanie George, the work will examine how women hold and exert power through voice and body, and honor individual agency and choice in relationship with others. In addition to the live performance, a film version of Delicate Power will be created in collaboration with filmmaker Liz Sargent.

Jody Kuehner, Seattle, WA

Heaven Sent
A two-part, bi-coastal performance project: A multi-genre performance by lead artist Jody Kuehner (WA) in collaboration with The Bearded Ladies (PA), queering unexamined pop nostalgia through pleasure, song, and spectacle to seduce and challenge audiences; and the parallel creation of a new, collective, queer performance network to bring gender-slippery work to new audiences across social, political, and economic barriers.

Lenora Lee Dance, San Francisco, CA

Convergent Waves
Convergent Waves will be a site-responsive, immersive, multimedia experience premiering at Pao Arts Center in Boston April 23-25, 2021, with projected touring in San Francisco, NYC, LA, and potentially Chicago and Honolulu May 2021-November 2022. The piece celebrates the contributions of activists & non-profit leaders, reclaiming space by eliciting stories of community agency, resilience, and transformation.

Martha Graham Dance Company, New York, NY

Convergence working title
The Graham Company will expand the audience for modern dance with Convergence, a two-part project beginning with a repertory work. With choreography by Hofesh Shechter, whose work includes dance, opera, and theater, and music by Sam Shepherd, who is equally at home on the concert stage and London clubs, Convergence will tour through April 2024. Beginning in 2022, Convergence will be developed into a rave event and presenters will be able to offer either or both formats in theaters and alternative spaces.

Meg Foley, Philadelphia, PA

Blood Baby
Blood Baby is an iterative performance project exploring gender performance, queer motherhood and parenthood, queer sexuality, and belonging through the use of choreography, sculpture, and drag, woven together by an original queer creation story, written by Sylvan Oswald. Supported by participatory queer/artist parent community convenings, collective readings, and somatic workshops, Blood Baby is made in collaboration with Michèle Steinwald as dramaturg and with text and facilitation by Oswald. Blood Baby will be supported by partnerships with Chocolate Factory Theater, NCCAkron, and Kinsey Institute. It will have multiple premieres beginning in 2022-23 at Velocity Dance Center.

NAKA Dance Theater, Oakland, CA

Y Basta Ya! (Enough!)
We propose a series of touring dance performances and movement workshops to give voice to Latina women and their experiences with invisibility, labor rights, domestic violence, and sexual abuse. Y Basta Ya! (Enough!) is centered around their stories and will amplify the power and healing in this community of women survivors, creating visibility for the mission and the work of Mujeres Unidas y Activas’ (MUA) Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse support group. Together, we are co-creating a process to strengthen MUA’s programming and direct services that can become a model for social justice organizations nationwide.

Ni'Ja Whitson, Riverside, CA

The Unarrival Experiments
The Unarrival Experiments is a multi-site and multi-form project that centers the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy in a Black, Queer, and Trans-embodied lens. Under darkness as its primary landscape, this 'Experiment', a live performance installation, focuses virtual reality technologies and panoramic projection in an excavation of "the vaporous body". This work explores the profound, elusive wonder of invisibility and cosmic darkness in an easy, but not limited to, metaphoric relationship to the systemic invisibilities of Black and Trans folk, while aligning the spiritual intelligences of Yorùbá cosmologies with astrophysics.

nora chipaumire, New York, NY

The Queen vs. Nehanda working title
The Queen vs Nehanda is an African opera exploring the story of Nehanda, a spirit of the Shona people in Zimbabwe. In the late 19th century, her medium was Charwe Nyakasikana, an influential and powerful religious leader, who conducted the first revolt of her people against the settlers in 1896-97. Enacting an imaginary British criminal court against Nyakasikana, this participatory opera offers a new defense for the first hero of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle and tests performance’s capacity to investigate colonial violence in Africa.

Pam Tanowitz Dance, New York, NY

Song of Songs
Pam Tanowitz will develop and tour of Song of Songs, a new evening-length dance work. Song of Songs will be created in collaboration with composer David Lang, who will set the biblical “Song of Songs” for chorus and ensemble, and Izhar Patkin, an Israeli-American visual artist who will create the décor. Song of Songs will be the third piece in Tanowitz’s masterworks trilogy, following New Work for Goldberg Variations and Four Quartets. Each work investigates dance in dialogue with iconic works of the past.

Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, A Dance Company, Brooklyn, NY

The Equality of Night and Day
Choreographed by Ronald K. Brown for his company Evidence, The Equality of Night and Day will examine balance, equity, and fairness with respect to young people, women, and people of color, in light of contrary current events and how things are not always as we presume. Created for nine dancers, Equality will feature Brown’s singular mix of dance forms and physical storytelling; a new score by Jason Moran for his jazz trio; visual content by African American photography expert Deborah Willis; and text by civil rights activist Angela Davis.

Sean Dorsey Dance, San Francisco, CA

The Lost Art of Dreaming
Sean Dorsey Dance’s new full-evening work The Lost Art of Dreaming will expansively imagine transgender and queer Futures, disrupting long-entrenched fatalistic American constructs that deny us the space to dream about our own futures. The work will feature full-throttle contemporary dance, grand-scale costuming, highly-physical theater, and exquisite queer partnering. During the creation process and touring, Dorsey will host DREAM LABS – free creative workshop spaces for trans/queer community. The work will premiere in San Francisco April 22-24, 2021.

STAYCEE PEARL dance project & Soy Sos, Pittsburgh, PA

CIRCLES combines dance, visual arts, and an original soundtrack to present snapshots of popular culture through Choreographer Staycee Pearl’s lens as a mid-career Black woman. CIRCLES explores white supremacy and its aftershocks in African Americans today, and offers a path to self reclamation. The visual arts component will be developed by Staycee Pearl drawing from her experiences. The soundtrack is being created by Herman Pearl in collaboration with a diverse roster of Black Female and Queer club music artists.

Techmoja Dance and Theater Company, Wilmington, NC

Quiet As It's Kept
Quiet As It’s Kept explores the intersection of historical sexual trauma, Southern culture, and silence in the African-American community through dance.

The Francesca Harper Project, New York, NY

Unapologetic Body
Unapologetic Body is a coming of age story. After losing both parents, I decided to travel through memories and redefine myself. Apologizing and assimilating as a woman of color in the ballet world had found its way into my habits. It was up to me to find my way back to love. Unapologetic Body is the story of an African American woman standing on the shoulders of those who actively confronted the constraints of racism and sexism, a woman claiming her own legacy. Unapologetic Body reminds us how to bravely lean into love.

The Seldoms, Chicago, IL

Dance-theater about lawns, weeds, and the politics of public space. In 2020, people in cities and suburbs across America have a complex relationship to grass – turf that operates a monocultural carpet and homogenizes our built/natural world. Another kind of grass – cannabis – is increasingly public and legal, and makes a paired theme here. Performed by five dancer-actors moving and laboring upon lawn-like spaces, GRASS lights up the environmental, social, and economic aspects of these cultivars, and mows down our belief that we grow grasses – rather, they grow us.

Urban Jazz Dance Company, San Francisco, CA

UNHEARD Deaf Refugees in America
Based on live interviews with Deaf and Hard of Hearing refugees, UNHEARD Deaf Refugees in America is an 80-minute interdisciplinary dance production utilizing American Sign Language, film, modern dance, ballet, and folk/rock music. The show will be staged on six Urban Jazz Dance Company dancers and premiere at ODC Theater in San Francisco April 2-4, 2021 for an audience of 500.

Vanessa Anspaugh, Portland, ME

Aggression Confession 2020
In a time when we are flooded with insurmountable atrocity (bodies abused, bodies crossing borders, and bodies tortured) I ask, How do we not desensitize to the enormity of bodies in pain? And how does rage live alongside care? This new theatrical-dance work is created with Bessie and Tony award winning collaborators that include four mothers over 40 and four queer/non-binary (younger) performers. The work is slated to premiere at The Bates Dance Festival with confirmed performances and commissions at New York Live Arts and other venues.

Will Rawls, Brooklyn, NY

[siccer] is an animation and dance project prompted by how black bodies are cited, (mis)quoted, circulated, and estranged as moving, talking images in cinematic media. Using stop-motion to animate the collective actions of five dancers, [siccer] reinterprets “strangeness” as a desirable kind of contagion, or embodied threshold, that confounds simplistic "capture". By improvising and expanding upon the film’s scenarios, [siccer] is exploring ways for dancers to sustain open-ended dialogues with their animated selves.

Yjastros: The American Flamenco Repertory Company, Albuquerque, NM

MESTIZO is a unique full-evening length work produced for Yjastros: The American Flamenco Repertory Company, made in collaboration between the company’s Artistic Director and Choreographer Joaquín Encinias, Theater Director Alejandro Tomás Rodriguez, Flamenco Composer Calvin Hazen, and Filmmaker Christopher Roybal. This production will be performed in the Yjastros Fall 2020 performance season (November 12-15, 2020), then toured in other cities near the United States-Mexico border and in Madrid, Spain in May 2021.

Yvonne Montoya, Tucson, AZ

Stories from Home
Stories From Home is a series of dances embodying the oral traditions of Latinx communities in the American Southwest. Choreographer Yvonne Montoya and an all-Latinx cast of dancers draw upon personal histories as well as ancestral knowledge, including stories from Montoya’s great-grandmother, grandmother, great-aunts, and father. With a movement aesthetic informed by these sources and universal themes of love, family, and home, Stories From Home brings these largely underrepresented experiences to the stage. The format and presentation of Stories From Home is flexible; it can be performed as a full-length dance work for the traditional stage; as single, brief solos; paired with a keynote address for conferences or educational events; and outdoors, on proscenium stages, in blackbox spaces, digitally, or in classrooms.

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