March 24, 2023
PRESS CONTACT: LOIS WELK, Program Manager  607-329-0467

Choreographer Alison Clancy 2022 Recipient (r) with Emily Arden Jones (ctr) and Joshua Eguia (l)


Twelve New York-based choreographers have been selected for the NYS New York Choreographers Initiative 2023 (NYSCI), a funding opportunity administered by The New York State DanceForce in partnership with the New York State Council on the Arts.

The NYS Choreographers Initiative is designed to help choreographers develop their choreographic skills by providing them with resources to advance their creative practice. The awardees each receive a $2,500 stipend, access to a mentor, and support for 20 hours of creative time with dancers and other collaborators of their choice. Each project is basically a mini-residency, designed to fit the specific needs of each artist.

“Through the Choreographers Initiative, artists can remain in their own communities to stage works, employ dancers, and grow with professional mentorships,” said Mara Manus, Executive Director of NYSCA. “This incredible opportunity seeds vibrant artistic expression all over our great state and we look forward to see what takes flight from this work.”

Originally launched for Western NY in 2018, the Choreographers Initiative expanded in 2022 to include the 55 upstate counties of New York State, and now serves choreographers who reside in the regions of Western NY, Central NY, Capital District/North Country, and Hudson Valley/Long Island.

Alison Clancy, a 2022 NYSCI recipient, remarked: “Every aspect of this was wonderful. I really appreciated the open-ended focus on creative research and experimentation; it allowed me to tailor my project to meet the moment and my current inspirations/goals.”

2023 NYS Choreographers Initiative Awardees

Central NY/Capital District/No.Country
Omonike Akinyemi (mentor: Yvonne Gutierrez)
Maya June Dwyer (mentor: Adam Barruch)
Teresa Fellion (mentor: JoAnna Mendl Shaw)
Olive Prince (mentor: Jane Comfort)

Hudson Valley/Long Island
Souleymane Badolo (mentor: Nora Chipaumire)
K.J. Holmes (mentor: Henry Threadgill)
Kris Seto (mentor: Maria Bauman)
Larissa Velez-Jackson (mentor: David Brick)

Western NY
Laura D’Amico (mentor: Laurie MacFarlane)
Kelly Johnson (mentor: Harold Taddy)
Megan Rakeepile (mentor: Naila Ansari)
Zoe Walders (mentor: Kendra Portier)

Selection Committees

Central NY / Capital District / North Country
Sukanya Burman
Caren Calder Adams
Elaine Gardner
Cheryl Johnson
Anna Rubio

Hudson Valley/Long Island
Naila Ansari
Kim Engel
James Lemons
Anna Rubio
Ivan Sygoda

Western NY
Caren Calder Adams
Margarita Espada
James Lemons
Ivan Sygoda

Omonike Akinyemi (mentor: Yvonne Gutierrez)

Omonike Akinyemi is a dancer/choreographer/film-maker who holds an MFA in film production from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. She trained in dance at Ballet Hispanico of New York and performed with the junior company for 6 years before joining the Martha Graham Teen Choreography program.

After leaving New York for Yale University, Omonike founded AlaafiaDance Company, an organization that performed African diaspora dance throughout Connecticut. There in New Haven, she also danced with Val Ramos Flamenco and became a scholarship student at the Katherine Dunham Summer Dance Workshop in East St. Louis, Missouri.

Omonike was awarded a Wendy E. Blanning Fellowship to research and create a documentary video on Flamenco dance,“Duende to Cool”: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Flamenco in 1995. This project took her on a journey from Spain to Los Angeles and back again to New York.

A two-time award winning fellow in Screenwriting and Film-making of the New York Foundation for the Arts, Omonike’s 2000 film,“Nelly’s Bodega”, drew upon her research into Yoruba culture from Southwestern Nigeria and Cuba and was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and on television with WNET/PBS.

As a choreographer, Omonike creates works that blend Flamenco and African dance with film and musical theater. Her first original musical, “How to Stay Sane in Paris”, was presented at the New York State Museum and at Off-Broadway theaters in 2007. As a performer, Omonike Akinyemi has also portrayed complex characters on stage such as Shakespeare’s “Othello” and Miller’s “Tituba” in The Crucible with the Glimmer Globe Theater.

Omonike teaches dance at Albany High School and performs, choreographs, and produces films with Image Quilt Productions,Inc. and Image Quilt Dance Theater. She choreographed a 3-Act Ballet, “Liberte: From Paris to the Caribbean with the Chevalier”, in June 2022, which featured members of Image Quilt Dance Theater and Albany High School’s Dance program, in dance performance that spans classical ballet to Afro-Caribbean dance and capoeria. Omonike looks forward to creating new choreographic works that delve into the history of creolized cultures.
Souleymane Badolo (mentor: Nora Chipaumire)

Solo, Souleymane Badolo, started his professional career as a dancer for the DAMA, a traditional African dance company. In 1993, he founded his own Burkina Faso-based troupe, Kongo Ba Téria, which fuses traditional African dances with western contemporary dance and continues to tour internationally. Mr. Badolo has danced with world-renowned contemporary African dance company Salia ni Seydou, worked with French choreographers Elsa Wolliaston and Mathilde Monnier, and performed with the National Ballet of Burkina. He and Kongo Ba Téria are featured in the widely-screened documentary Movement (R)evolution Africa which documents the continent’s emergent experimental dance scene.

Since moving to New York City in 2009, Badolo has created a number of solo projects commissioned and presented by Danspace, New York Live Arts, Dance New Amsterdam, Harlem Stage, the 92nd Street Y, the Museum of Art & Design, and the sprawling River to River Festival (R2R). He has collaborated with Nora Chipaumire, Ralph Lemon, Reggie Wilson, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar of Urban Bush Women. His ongoing research in Africa has been supported by The Suitcase Fund of New York Live Arts.

Mr. Badolo was nominated for a 2011 New York Dance & Performance (Bessie) Award as Outstanding Emerging Choreographer and in 2012, received the Juried Bessie Award (from jurists Lar Lubovitch, Yvonne Rainer and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar). In summer 2013, he was named Artist-In-Residence at the Institute for Curatorial Practice and Performance at Wesleyan University and Mount Tremper Arts. Badolo was commissioned to create a dance for Philadanco as part of James Brown: Get on the Good Foot, produced by The Apollo Theater for presentation there in October 2013, followed by national and international touring dates. Mr. Badolo is a participant in the Extended Life cohort of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) and the recipient of Wesleyan University’s 2014 Mariam McGlone Emerging Choreographer Award. He graduated from Bennington College with an MFA in June 2013. Since that time, he has been a guest instructor at The New School and Bennington College. Mr. Badolo was selected to be the Harkness Foundation Artist-in-Residence at the BAM Fisher for summer 2015 and was commissioned by BAM to create Yimbégré, an evening-length work for presentation in the 2015 Next Wave Festival. 2016 Bessie for Outstanding Production for his piece Yimbégré, which “gloriously communicated the clash and reconciliation of the different traditions held within one’s life, one’s body.” The Suitcase Fund of New York Live Arts has supported Badolo’s ongoing research in Africa. He previously taught at the New School, Denison University, and Bennington College, Bard College. 2013-2014 DanceForce Award.
Photo by Adam Eaton
Laura D'Amico (mentor: Laurie MacFarlane)

Born and raised in the Finger Lakes, Laura simultaneously occupies the spaces of art and agriculture. After earning two degrees in the STEM fields, she has danced three years at the Garth Fagan Summer Movement Institute under scholarship(’18, ’19, ’21), appeared in an original work by Norwood Pennewell, and has been studying Gaga Movement Language, including three laboratory intensives (1/22, 8/22, and 1/23). Laura is an agricultural and animal activist, professionally licensed in veterinary technology, and cares deeply about where our food comes from and how it relates to societal progress. She performed in the stage premier/official reconstruction of America’s first copy written Labanotated score, Songs from the Hebrides (1951), by Nona Schurman (1909-2016), in collaboration with SUNY Geneseo and The Ohio State University. She has also performed with Commotion Dance Theatre, Frazee Feet Dance, AspieWorks, Joshua Lang, and Roy Wood. Recently she has been commissioned to run a community dance workshop with the nonprofit arts organization, The Dove Block Project, which was a process-based sensory journey beginning with individual research and evolving into a collaborative group dynamic in phrase work inspired by the artwork in the gallery. Another grant-based project will be occurring Summer 2023 with the Boys and Girls Club of Geneva.
Photo by Maya June Dwyer
Maya June Dwyer (mentor: Adam Barruch)

Maya is an interdisciplinary choreographer specialized in theatrical, site-specific dance. She has trained and worked with companies including PUSH Physical Theatre, The Hofesh Shechter Company, Meredith Monk, Meryl Tankard, and Pilobolus.

She has received three choreography commissions from Society for New Music's Vision of Sound Festival for SOLILO: Dictionary of Dedications (2020), Holding Patterns and Paradigm Shifts (Co-created w/Imani Pearl Williams, 2021), and The Scary Part Is (2023). In 2019, her piece Padam premiered at the Salt City Dance Festival.

Director-choreographer credits include Once, Spring Awakening, Fiddler on the Roof (Manlius Pebble Hill School); The Trojan Women, The Squirrels and in February 2023, Cabaret (Le Moyne College Mainstage).

Performance credits: Harper Pitt, Angels in America (Redhouse Arts Center), The Chosen, Dracula Nat’l Tour (PUSH Physical Theatre), Chana, Indecent (Centerstage at the JCC).

Grants awarded:
Opportunity to Create grant from A.R.T - NY (Pansy Craze)
NYSCA Community Arts Grant (Pansy Craze)
NYSCA Individual Artist Commission (The Herpes Play)

Maya was recently a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographer’s Foundation Observership Program. She created 5 original immersive dance theatre works with Breadcrumbs Productions, including Marie and the Nutcracker Prince (2019 - NYS tour to historical mansions/museums), 1918 (2018 commission by the Cayuga Museum of History and Art), and Pansy Craze (2019 - Wunderbar in Syracuse).
Photo by Jaqlin Medlock
Teresa Fellion (mentor: JoAnna Mendl Shaw)

Teresa Fellion founded BodyStories: Teresa Fellion Dance in late 2011, after working as an independent choreographer since 2004. Fellion’s work has been positively reviewed by The New York Times, The Dance Enthusiast, World Dance Reviews, Edinburgh Festivals Magazine, East Hampton Press, among others. She has received the Choreographic Fellowships from SummerStages Dance Festival and ICA Boston, American Dance Guild Fellowship for Jacob’s Pillow’s Choreographers’ Lab, and LEIMAY Outsight Garden Choreographers Fellowship. Teresa has received grants for her work from The National Endowment for the Arts Window Award, O’Donnell Green Foundation for Music and Dance, Brooklyn Arts Council Community Arts Fund Grant, The New Music Organizational Fund, Dance NYC, Indie Theater Fund, and Foundation of Contemporary Arts.

Teresa’s choreography has been commissioned by NYC DOT’s Summer Streets, chashama at Anita’s Way 4 Times Square, Marigny Opera Ballet, Island Moving Company, Marcia Brooks/Various Works MixT Company, and The Hudson River Museum. Teresa has led workshops and master classes, and been commissioned to set work at University of Florida, NYU, Pace University, Jacob’s Pillow, Wilson College, and several performing arts schools. She was also the Dance Department Director and lead faculty at Studio Republik Dubai. She is a teaching artist and professor at SUNY Old Westbury, Middlesex College, Symphony Space, ArtsWestchester, and DreamYard Project.

As choreographer of the company, Fellion examines society's darkest and brightest moments, moving audiences to perceive emotional and psychological aspects of the human condition. Fellion holds social justice as one of the core tenets of their work, exploring issues of the human experience while raising awareness on a local and global scale. Fellion's artistic practice involves dynamic and purposeful movement manipulation - breeding tension below the surface, then propelling forward. Movement is intricately technical and controlled in every nuance, with a look that's not controlled. Euphoria, focus, and persistence are communicated through quirky, stylized vocabulary, rhythm, harmony, and dissonance.

Fellion's artistic practice focuses on communicating universal human encounters and emboldening audiences to lean into frustration, while finding channels for healing and growth. Fellion builds from prior movement vocabulary through extensive phrase manipulation and enjoys playing with adding and subtracting various elements of a piece; exploring how spatial orientation can affect its perception. The included voices of every body involved in the work are integral to Fellion's practice. A major part of Fellion's choreographic process involves exploring the narratives of communities including the LGBTQIAP+ and people with disabilities, and using movement to portray that to its truest possible self. Fellion frequently collaborates with international artists and has partnered with StudioRepublik Conservatory in Dubai, ENTPE University in France, Ballet du Cameroun, and Edinburgh BDF Festival at EICC.
Photo by K.J. Holmes
K. J. Holmes (mentor: Henry Threadgill)

KJ. Holmes, independent dance artist, singer, poet, actor and teacher, travels throughout the world teaching and performing at universities, festivals and venues that range from theaters to site specific locations to living rooms. Her training began as a child with ballet, church choir and musical theater as well as judo and fencing. Her dance studies at the New School for Social Research and with Ideokinesis scholar Andre Bernard led her to improvisation and new dance techniques that were being explored at that time. K.J. has helped to define, first as a student and now as a teacher and performer, many contemporary improvisational practices, collaborating with forerunners Simone Forti, Lisa Nelson and Steve Paxton. She continues to push into new frontiers of dance and theater with her love of research and experience, working with many brilliant dancers, artists, musicians, actors and poets including Miguel Gutierrez, Xavier Le Roy, Karinne Keithley Syers, Matthew Barney, Edwin Torres, Julie Carr, Roy Campbell, Jr. Her dances have been presented in NYC at the Chocolate Factory Theater, Danspace Project, The Kitchen, P.S. 122, Movement Research at the Judson Church, D.T., Dixon Place, The Thalia Theater at Symphony Space, the Joyce Soho and the Vision Jazz Festival, as well as throughout the U.S, Europe, and South America. K.J. is currently devising her dance/film installation 900 Bees are Humming.
Photo by Kelly Johnson
Kelly Johnson (mentor: Harold Taddy)

Kelly Johnson is a dance educator, choreographer, performing artist, mother and community organizer. With an MFA in Choreography from The College at Brockport, she has performed and choreographed for the SANKOFA African Dance and Drum Ensemble since 2000 under the direction of Clyde Alafiju Morgan and Khalid Abdul N'Faly Saleem. She conducts research in Jamaica and Guinea West Africa and performs with Company Atebayilla, directed by internationally recognized Djembefola, Mohamed Diaby. At Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Johnson teaches African Diasporic and Modern dance techniques, composition and performance. As seen in her work as a visiting educator and choreographer to communities beyond her home campus, she enjoys collaborating and learning from new populations. Her values of honoring ancestral voice, interrogating systems of power, embodying feminist perspectives and centralizing compassion are seamlessly woven throughout her work in the classroom and on stage.
Photo by Lindsay Browning
Olive Prince (mentor: Jane Comfort)

Olive Prince, a native of Rochester, NY, has worked as a company member with Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers, and Merian Soto for close to a decade as well as Cardell Dance Theater and Group Motion. Her performance credits include touring internationally in Tawain, Singapore, Germany and Indonesia as well as nationally at the Lincoln Center Outdoors Festival, Battery Park Dance Festival, Joe’s Pub, Interlaken Arts Festival, and throughout venues in Philadelphia, PA. Prince received her MFA in dance and choreography from Temple University where her choreography was chosen for the American Colleges Dance Festival Association’s National Concert at the Kennedy Center. She has been commissioned to create dance for many Philadelphia companies and colleges including site-specific work for Hobart & William Smith Colleges, the Magic Gardens, and the Iron Factory. She was also commissioned by Drexel University to create an original piece for students to perform at the International Night of the Singapore Youth Festival – the only American company ever to receive this invitation. Prince is artistic director of Olive Prince Dance which has been presented at Triskelion Arts Center (NYC), the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival (PHL), the International Contemporary Dance Conference, New Dance Alliance’s Performance Mix Joyce Soho, the CEC Resident Artist Series, the nEW Festival and as part of the Susan Hess Choreographer’s Project where she was a resident artist.

OPD’s most recent work has been created in collaboration with visual/installation artist, Carrie Powell developing Fringe Arts performances: Of Our Remnants (2015) Silencing The Tides (2017), and Courage Systems (2019). Prince was featured in an interview on her work, on WHYY’s piece “Articulate with Jim Cotter”. Prince runs Drexel University’s Dance

As an educator, Prince has been teaching at Drexel University since 2008, focusing on modern dance, composition, and improvisation. She became the Director of Drexel University Dance Ensemble & FreshDance in 2020 where she curates, produces, and creates 4 performance experiences a year for 60+ dance students.
Photo by Bokgabane Rakeepile
Megan Rakeepile (mentor: Naila Ansari)

Megan Rakeepile, a passionate artist born and raised in Buffalo NY, has studied in a range of dance styles and technique for the past 30 years. The two genres of dances that Megan specializes in are Afro Caribbean and Afro fusion. They both share similar foundations that are influenced by the African diaspora and the survival of colonization.

Megan started her dance training at Miss Barbara School of Dance in 1991-2006 and later became a competitive dancer in 1995-2006. She also received training at Buffalo City Ballet in 1998-2007 where she was able to audition and get in for two years at NYSSSA (NYS Summer School of the Arts) in 2004 & 2005. She graduated from Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts with a dance degree in 2008. Then she set her sights on Toronto to dance professionally and entered the professional training program (PTP) at Ballet Creole from 2008-2010 where she received her dance certification in several styles of modern, classical, and traditional dancing.

She continued to dance and teach as a freelancer in Toronto until 2010, then got an opportunity to go back to the states in Rochester NY, to dance with Garth Fagan Dance Co. She stayed for a year 2010-2011 but found that her passion is with the youth and community back home in Buffalo NY. Megan started nonprofit art programs in her community in 2012 to the present day, partnering with her past home church Grace UCC, Fruit Belt Coalition, Urban Christian Ministries, New Generation Ministries, and Matt Urban Center, and now with her current home church New Covenant UCC. Megan now has established her own company called MahatmaMmoho Collective (Steps Together Collective) in 2014 based in Buffalo NY. Her goal is to bring together artists from all walks of life and professions to create a work of unity and culture exchange.
Photo by Vivian Babuts Photography
Kris Seto (mentor: Maria Bauman)

I’m a queer second generation Chinese-Thai-Filipino-American artist, writer, and movement maker who grew up in Mukilteo, Washington and has lived in Boston, New York City, and now Prattsville, NY.

My movement background includes a variety of styles and techniques including traditional Thai folk, hip-hop/street jazz, as well as contemporary forms including Gaga, Butoh, and Nadine Bommer’s Animate Dance Art.

In 2014, I co-founded VESSELS, a dance-theater collective, with longtime collaborator Shoey Sun. Together we’ve performed and showcased at INSITU Site-Specific Dance Festival, WNYC’s Next Big Thing, The CUNY Dance Initiative, BAM + New York Live Arts’ Everybody, McQ by Alexander McQueen, Bubble_T, and Movement Research at the Judson Church.

Most recently I’ve completed a residency at the UAlbany Art Museum and founded MoveFest on Main, a festival that brings NYC artists to teach young people in Catskill NY for a week, followed by a community day of dance.

My work centers collaborative world building—weaving together bodies, dance, theater, sound, video, text, time, and environments to create somatic encounters/containers for new possibilities. I unpack interiority + identity, memory, power, class, as well as dominant media and narrative systems as they live in us.

My work de-privileges logic and formalities in favor of sensorial, non-linear, and decolonial modes of meaning-making. At a broad level I’m always wondering: How do we re-culture a culture?
Photo by Gregory Kramer
Larissa Velez-Jackson (mentor: David Brick)

Larissa Velez-Jackson (LVJ) (they/she) is a choreographer, interdisciplinary artist, and teacher who uses improvisation as a main tool for research and creation. They are a Boricua-ltalian-American originally from Newark, New Jersey, and an ongoing cancer survivor, committed to the healing potential of art and body/mind practice. Called “an adroit physical comedian” who “seems to be questioning entrenched conventions of contemporary performance” by The New York Times, LVJ creates works that offer audiences an accessible entry into contemporary art's critical/political discourse. LVJ was named a Caroline Hearst Choreographic Fellow at Princeton University (’21-’22) and was recently awarded Dance/NYC's Disability. Dance. Artistry Residency (’22). In 2011, they launched an experimental song-and-dance collaboration with their husband, Jon Velez-Jackson, called Yackez, “The World's Most Lovable Musical Duo." Yackez presented a two-act world premiere at New York Live Arts in March '17, entitled “Give It To You Stage," a year after LVJ received the prestigious Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Grant to Artists Award. In ’16, LVJ was also nominated for “Outstanding Emerging Choreographer” by the New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” awards. LVJ is the Artistic Director of their project-based company, LVJ Performance Co. The theme of healing of self and community continues in their new Yackez project that will begin its research at Jacob’s Pillow’s Pillow Lab in the spring of '23.
Photo by Zachary Frazee
Zoe Walders (mentor: Kendra Portier)

Zoe Walders (she/her) is a dancer and choreographer from Rochester, NY. She holds a BA in Dance from SUNY Potsdam. She is a performing artist with Frazee Feet Dance and Create A Space NOW. In 2022, Zoe co-created her second evening length show, Jumpsuit Suite in the Rochester Fringe Festival and returned to her alma mater as a guest choreographer. She recently completed the Doug Varone Devices Choreographic Intensive and presented her new work, Everything is Just a Little Bit Wrong, at Gibney Dance Center in New York City. Her other recent choreography and performance credits include her first evening length performance, Wild Gestures, Mariah Maloney’s The Forest is Behind You, Frazee Feet Dance’s In Process of Being and SHIFT, the 2020 Rochester Vision of Sound Festival, and The Wake Forest Dance Festival. In addition to her choreographic and dance performance work, she is a freelance singing artist and the Operations Associate for Urban Bush Women.

About the New York State Council on the Arts

NYSCA preserves and advances the arts and culture that make New York State an exceptional place to live, work and visit. The Council upholds the right of all New Yorkers to experience the vital contributions the arts make to our communities, education, economic development, and quality of life. To support the ongoing recovery of the arts across New York State, NYSCA is awarding record funding in Fiscal Year 2023, providing support across the full breadth of the arts.

NYSCA further advances New York’s creative culture by convening leaders in the field and providing organizational and professional development opportunities and informational resources. Created by Governor Nelson Rockefeller in 1960 and continued with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, the Council is an agency that is part of the Executive Branch. For more information on NYSCA, please visit, and follow NYSCA’s Facebook page, Twitter @NYSCArts and Instagram @NYSCouncilontheArts.