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Victoria Bradford
Press Releases


by Victoria Bradford
January 5, 2016
Chicago Dancemakers Forum is pleased to announce its annual call for proposals for its Lab Artist Awards in 2016. Through $15,000 cash awards complemented by a full year of mentorship and professional development, CDF supports choreographers as they explore and develop new work. CDF fosters dance excellence and innovation while building relationships among dance artists, presenters, audiences, and funders.

CDF Lab Artist alumni are diverse in age, gender, race, and dance discipline, working in tap, Bharatanatyam, Chicago house culture, dance for the camera / dance cinema, voguing, contemporary dance, non-dance choreographies, movement improvisation, modern techniques, footwork, and ballet. These 49 Lab Artist alumni — 90% of whom remain based in Chicago — include Lane Alexander of the American Rhythm Center and Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Julia Antonick and Jonathan Meyer of Khecari, Kevin Iega Jeff of Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, and Barak adé Soleil. They and others work actively in the field, with many building national audiences and international recognition in the years since receiving their CDF awards.

“The most fulfilling outgrowth of my experience with CDF is that research and development practices were set in motion and they continue to inform my process of making work,” says Julia Rhoads, CDF Lab Artist in 2005 and artistic director of Lucky Plush Productions. “I am also grateful to CDF for offering a platform where I could have a deep and detailed exchange with other choreographers and a consortium of colleagues who are active in the field.”

The 2016 Lab Artist application will be available online starting on January 1, 2016. Visit this link: http://chicagodancemakers.submittable.com to access and submit the online form. Criteria and program information are available on the CDF website. Three optional Application Work Sessions will be offered by CDF in order to advise those interested in completing the online form. Select applicants will be invited to complete and submit expanded proposals for consideration during a second round, during which each candidate will meet with the CDF Program Director.

The complete program cycle is as follows (dates subject to change):

2016 Lab Artist Application Work Sessions:

January 4, 2016 from 6–8pm at the Chicago Cultural Center
February 11, 2016 from 6–8pm at the Old Town School of Folk Music
February 13, 2016 from 6–8pm at the Dorchester Art + Housing Collaborative

2016 Lab Artist Award Cycle:

January 1, 2016: Application opens for 2016 Lab Artist Award proposals
February 8, 2016: Application closes (first-round submission deadline)
February 29, 2016: CDF invites select candidates to submit expanded proposals
March 1 to May 22, 2016: CDF Program Director meets with second-round applicants
May 23, 2016: Second-round expanded proposal submission deadline
June 29, 2016: CDF announces four Lab Artist Awardees for 2016
July 2016: CDF Lab Artist retreat launches full year of granting and support

CDF selects Lab Artists based on their artistic vision and potential for creative growth. Strong candidates are active in their field and developing a distinctive trajectory in their work. Lab Artists possess the skills and experience to undertake a project of extended scale, new discovery, or deeper exploration, and the capacity to benefit from an environment of artistic interchange. They are able to articulate their needs, use independent research time, and make the most of their opportunities to work with the consortium members and other artists participating in the program.

Contact Victoria Bradford at 337-794-8222 / victoria@chicagodancemakers.org and/or Zachary Whittenburg at 312-850-9744 X 136 / zwhittenburg@hubbardstreetdance.com.


CDF was founded in 2003 in response to studies which clearly identified a need for multi-layered support of Chicago choreographers. CDF addresses that need through its Lab Artist Program which makes $15,000 cash grants to selected, independent recipients. By combining these grants with mentorship throughout the research, development and performance of new work, the program builds a strong community of colleagues and peers for its artists. CDF emphasizes creative process and encourages choreographers to delve deeply into their work. Throughout the year of support Lab Artists participate in regular roundtable meetings designed to strengthen relationships with their peers and people of influence in the field.

A panel consisting of local and national dance leaders and previous award recipients selects four talented choreographers at a key moment in their artistic development. Applicants must demonstrate quality of work, a clear vision, a solid body of work, a compelling area of inquiry, and a firmly grounded work ethic. The selection process is rigorous, competitive and educational, beginning with an open call for proposals. After an initial selection process the panel applies criteria such as innovation, knowledge of craft, depth of perception, and social relevance to a second review. All applicants receive critical feedback with finalists receiving one-to-one support in developing their full proposals. Even those who are not selected describe the application process as a constructive, professional development opportunity.

Past evaluations of Lab Artists program show that the artists deeply value the financial awards, elongated time for artistic process, and the interaction that CDF offers. The experience of the Lab Artist year is highly validating. In addition, choreographers view the grants as essential ingredients in furthering their artistic development, as well as increasing prestige and visibility. In recent years more than half of the applicants were new to the panelists, which indicates the increasing strength and diversity of the dance field in Chicago and the ongoing relevance of CDF as a support system.

A consortium of committed individuals founded CDF in 2003. They included representatives of Chicago’s most innovative presenting and incubating dance institutions: the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, and Links Hall. The Chicago Community Trust supplied seed money for the first three years of the program through its Dance Initiative, led by Sarah Solotaroff Mirkin. Ongoing, the consortium organizations have provided a variety of resources for CDF and the artists. In 2014 the consortium expanded to include leaders from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and a rotation of Lab Artist alumni.
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