Donna Uchizono, an associate professor at Florida State University’s School of Dance, has earned a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant and an FSU Planning grant to support the archive and preservation of her continuing body of work.
Through her company, Donna Uchizono Company (DUC), Uchizono will use the funding for the labor and time-intensive archival process covering the creation and performance of more than 50 dance works to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Jerome Robbins Dance Division at Lincoln Center. She will work with innovative archivist Cori Olinghouse, whose research focuses on how embodied practices come to life at the archive site.
“How grateful and honored I am to receive the National Endowment for the Arts Projects Grants award and the FSU Planning grant,” Uchizono said. “With the vast amount of powerful work across the nation, I am humbled to be included in the esteemed list of artists and dance organizations.”
DUC, a New York City-based contemporary dance company, has performed throughout the United States, Europe, South America, Asia and Australia and is among the 104 NEA Grants for Arts Projects in Dance across America selected during this second round of Grants for Arts Projects fiscal year 2021 funding.
“The recent funding awarded to Donna Uchizono and her company is wonderful news,” said James Frazier, dean of the College of Fine Arts. “After a year of financial struggle in the performing arts sectors, the funds are sure to be particularly impactful.”
Uchizono follows in the lineage of post-modern experimental dance, a predominantly white field, but, as an American-born and raised woman of Asian ancestry, she has carved her own space within that framework.
As such, for her decades of work, Uchizono has recently been distinguished as the “only” American-born contemporary choreographer of Asian ancestry to have received the recognition of both multiple esteemed national awards* and significant national/international touring of an eponymous company.
The project includes preserving Uchizono’s works, developing an archival methodology that reflects how embodied practices, like dance, are archived and transmitted, and reveals the historical economic upheavals that significantly impacted the existing dance company model.
Uchizono said as large dance companies such as Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and Alvin Ailey are shrinking, new, more adaptable structures are constantly emerging. Knowledge about the changing landscape is invaluable for students who are future dance makers.
“As a dancer, I feel as though I am always fighting the majesty of the word — I am a dancer, not a writer, and this archival process is allowing me to document my work uniquely and profoundly,” Uchizono said. “Sharing the new exploratory methodologies of dance documentation with FSU students will demonstrate how the field of dance is leading the way in archival practices and teach them how to look at archiving their works as they move through their careers.”
Her pedagogical approach will expose students to the preeminent collection of dance research materials at the Performing Arts Library, understand the historical events that shaped the current dance company model and teach students how to envision their choreographic works as a total body of work as they look toward the future.
“The work of archiving professor Uchizono’s career is a wonderful example for our students, demonstrating the significance of dance and dance-making, and the cataloging and preservation of these to the history and understanding of our society,” Frazier said. “Uchizono’s work will be an important example and resource not only to our students but to people around the world.”
For her creative work, Uchizono has been recognized by a Guggenheim Fellowship, United States Artist Award, Alpert Award, “Bessie” New York Dance and Performance Award, both National Endowment for the Arts Company Project Grants (9) and Fellowships (3), MAP Fund (4), Jerome Foundation (3), National Dance Project (2), Creative Capital, Greenwall Foundation (3), National Performance Network (4), Dance Magazine Grant, and Metropolitan Life, among many other awards. Most recently, she received the inaugural 2021 Rosin Fund-Movement Research Grant, a 2021 New York City Cultural Development Fund Award (CDF), a Doris Duke Relief Fund (2021) and was honored to receive “unsolicited” support from NYC CDFA for 2022 in recognition as a vital New York City arts organization.
Her current work, “Iron Jane,” originally to premiere in New York City in 2020, postponed to 2022, received project funding from the inaugural Dance/NYC Dance Advancement Fund (made possible by the Ford Foundation), Harkness Foundation, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, FSU Arts and Humanities Program Grant and New Music USA.