Chicago Dancemakers Forum invites proposals from innovative choreographers for the 2017 Lab Artist Awards

Chicago Dancemakers Forum invites proposals from innovative choreographers for the 2017 Lab Artist Awards 1 PHOTO: 


Power Goes by The Seldoms, Artistic Director, 2009 CDF Lab Artist, Carrie Hanson
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, March 2015 Photo Credit: William Frederking

Chicago Dancemakers Forum (CDF), under the leadership of Executive Director Ginger Farley, is pleased to announce its open call for applications for Lab Artist Awards in 2017, marking the program’s 14th year. The most significant, sustained sources of support for individual choreographers working in Chicago, CDF’s four Lab Artist Awards each include a $15,000 cash grant, combined with a full year of mentorship, as recipients explore and develop new works. The program fosters dance excellence and innovation while building relationships among artists, presenters, audiences and funders.

A panel consisting of local and national dance leaders, alongside former Lab Artist awardees, selects choreographers at key moments in their careers, through a two-round process. Applicants must present the content and quality of their completed projects, articulate clear visions and compelling areas of inquiry, and demonstrate firmly grounded work ethics. Successful applicants have developed a distinctive trajectory in their work and are positioned to create high-quality projects of greater depth and scale.

Jewel Tones, by 2016 CDF Lab Artist, Onye Ozuzu Photo Credit: William Frederking

Jewel Tones, by 2016 CDF Lab Artist, Onye Ozuzu Photo Credit: William Frederking

Past CDF Lab Artists are diverse in age, gender, race and discipline, working in tap, Bharatanatyam, Chicago footwork, dance for the camera, voguing, contemporary dance, non-dance choreographies, modern techniques, ballet and more. Fifty-three Lab Artist alumni recognized throughout the program’s 14 year history — 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. These and other Lab Artist alumni have built national audiences and international recognition since receiving support from CDF and, collectively, CDF’s Lab Artists emanate the distinct character and power of new dance made in Chicago. 

Says Ginger Farley, CDF Executive Director: “I am so pleased to once again be able to offer this outstanding program to Chicago choreographers. It’s always an honor to work with the thrillingly talented, bold and risk-taking dancemakers selected for Lab Artist Awards. Over the past 14 years, we have seen and fostered significant expansion and growth of the field of dance in Chicago. CDF is grateful for the support of the donors and funders that make the CDF Lab Artist Awards possible. Their ongoing investment is but one indicator of Chicago’s strong commitment to its exciting, flourishing and distinctly diverse dance communities.”

While rigorous and competitive, the CDF Lab Artist selection process is also designed to be educational and energizing for all who participate. Free application and information sessions, integral to the program’s success and offered at CDF community partner sites throughout Chicago, provide space and time for gathering advice, sourcing feedback within the application process, and asking questions.

Application Information Sessions: December 2016

Near West Side / West Loop
Friday, December 2, 2016 from 8–8:30pm
at the Hubbard Street Dance Center
1147 W Jackson Blvd at S Racine Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60607
Further details available here.

Monthly new choreography showcase DanceChance, co-hosted by DanceWorks Chicago and the Lou Conte Dance Studio, precedes this session from 7–8pm.

Lincoln Square / North West Side
Thursday, December 8, 2016 from 4–5:30pm
at the Old Town School of Folk Music
4544 N Lincoln Ave at W Wilson Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60625
Further details available here.
This session is co-hosted by 2016 CDF Lab Artist Carole McCurdy.

Online Chat

Thursday, December 22, 2016 from 10–11am

Further details will soon be available here.

Application Work Sessions: January 2017

Rogers Park / Loyola Park / Far North Side
Wednesday, January 4, 2017 from 11am–12:30pm

at 1230 W Greenleaf Ave at N Sheridan Rd
Chicago, Illinois 60626
Further details available here.
This session is co-hosted by 2010 CDF Lab Artist Rachel Damon of Synapse Arts.

River North / Gold Coast / Near North Side
Thursday, January 12, 2017 from 10–11:30am
at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts
1016 N Dearborn St at W Oak St
Chicago, Illinois 60610
Further details available here.
This session is co-hosted by 2008 CDF Lab Artist Jan Bartoszek of Hedwig Dances.

Downtown Chicago / Loop
Monday, January 16, 2017 from 4:30–6pm
at the Fine Arts Building
410 S Michigan Ave at E Congress Pkwy, Suite 520
Chicago, Illinois 60605
Further details available here.
This session is co-hosted by 2016 CDF Lab Artist Pranita Jain of Mandala South Asian Performing Arts, 2007 CDF Lab Artist and RDDI participant Ayako Kato, and RDDI participant Nico Rubio.

Jackson Park / South Shore / Woodlawn
Monday, January 23, 2017 from 6–7:30pm
at the Stony Island Arts Bank
6760 S Stony Island Ave at E 68th St
Chicago, Illinois 60649
Further details available here.

This session is co-hosted by 2016 CDF Lab Artist Onye Ozuzu.

Application Timeline: 2017 Lab Artist Awards

The first-round application becomes available online starting December 22, 2016 at with a deadline of February 6, 2017. There are no fees to apply. Select applicants based on their artistic vision and potential for creative growth will be invited to submit expanded proposals for consideration for a second round in spring 2017, during which finalists will meet individually with CDF staff to receive critical feedback and one-to-one support in developing their full proposals. Even those who are not selected as CDF Lab Artists describe the application process as a constructive, informative experience and opportunity for professional development. 

December 22, 2016: First-round application goes live

February 6, 2017: Deadline for first-round applications

March 13, 2017: CDF invites select candidates to submit second-round proposals

March 15–May 15, 2017: Finalists meet with CDF staff

May 22, 2017: Deadline for second-round applications

Selection criteria for the second-round include innovation, knowledge of craft, depth of perception and social relevance. Lab Artists must 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. 

June 22, 2017: CDF announces 2017 Lab Artist Awardees

July 2017: CDF Lab Artist Awards Celebration and a retreat beginning the granted year 

About Chicago Dancemakers Forum

Chicago Dancemakers Forum elevates the field of dance by being a catalyst for the artistic and professional growth of dancemakers, providing time and resources for in-depth exploration and creation. Through robust interaction among dancemakers and with the public, CDF builds broad support and appreciation for Chicago’s diverse dance communities. The organization bases its work on the following core beliefs: dance matters, an inclusive arts community is the only option, the artist is at the center, creative inquiry is as valuable as product, Chicago has a rich and thriving dance ecosystem, and collaboration activates change.

CDF began in 2003 in response to studies which clearly identified a need for multi-layered support of Chicago choreographers. Originally conceived and led by consortium made up of leaders from three 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 consortium now includes the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, and a rotation of former Lab Artists.

In 2016 CDF received operating support from the New England Foundation for the Arts and the MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. The Chicago Dancemakers Forum has entered its second decade of supporting individual dancemakers and is building a fund of $1,000,000 to sustain its vision into the future, supported by the following foundations and corporate funders: The Chicago Community Trust, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Goldman Sachs, Chauncey and Marion D. McCormick Family Foundation, Morrison-Shearer Foundation, Merrill Lynch, and Sandbox Industries.

For more information, contact CDF Program Director Shawn Lent via email at