April Sellers

2011 Choreography Fellow

Photo credit: Warwick Green

Photo credit: Warwick Green

April Sellers has developed a unique, emotive approach to modern dance as dancer, choreographer, and Artistic Director of The April Sellers Dance Collective, which she founded in 2002. Her dance transforms life's mundane moments into physical expressions of the struggle to be human. Layering modern-dance technique within everyday gestures and text-based narratives, Sellers creates dance that holds up a magnifying glass to raw and rarified emotions. 

Sellers's past works have explored such diverse topics as women's sexual identity (In Her Place, 2000), the cultural and personal rituals of loss (Unveiling Grace, 2003), and the vulnerability of the material body (The V Project, 2007). Her work has been performed at the Walker Art Center, Minnesota Fringe Festival, Red Eye Theater, and Bryant Lake Bowl. In 2002, The April Sellers Dance Collective was awarded an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Sellers's work with choreographer Judith Howard on House of Big Love won a Minnesota SAGE Award for Outstanding Performance in 2006. She has also collaborated with poets, painters, filmmakers, and chefs to present groundbreaking works in such spaces as galleries, rooftops, bowling alleys, gardens, and parks. Notably, Sellers has been featured as a dancer in original works by many artists including Laurie Van Wieren, and John Munger.  

In early 2011, Southern Theater commissioned two works for the Tandem series of independent choreographers (Instructions to a Fancy Pack and Acceptable Doses, 2011). Her future works will continue to tell stories of humanist expression through movement and text, but will focus more intimately on the subjectivity of the dancers and their alternate points of view. In particular, her use of hyperbolic emotions will aid in the exploration of the female image in popular culture. 

Minneapolis-based since 1997, Sellers moved to Minnesota after graduating with a BFA in Dance from Ohio State University. 

For more info, visit her site.


Ananya Chatterjea

2012 Choreographer Fellow

Ananya Chatterjea is dancer, choreographer, dance scholar, and dance educator, who envisions her work in the field of dance as a “call to action” with particular focus on women artists of color. She is the Artistic Director of Ananya Dance Theatre, a company of women artists of color committed to the intersection of artistic excellence and social justice. She is also Director of the Dance Program and Professor of Theater Arts and Dance in the University of Minnesota.
Ananya is the recipient of a 2011 Guggenheim Artist Fellowship for Choreography. She was named "Best Choreographer" by City Pages (2007) and has received awards from the BIHA (Black Indian Hispanic Asian) Women In Action organization, the MN Women’s Political Caucus, the 21 leaders for the 21st Century Award from Women’s E-News, and was honored by the Josie Johnson Social Justice and Human Rights Award, for her work weaving together artistic excellence, social justice, and community-building.
Recent engagements include performances at Festivale Danca Indiana de America de Sul in Campinas, Brazil; Indigenous Contemporary Dance Festival at National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque; and the Norwegian Theater Academy, Oslo (2012); an artist residency at the New Waves Institute in Trinidad (2011); performances at the World Dance Event at NYC’s Dance Theater Workshop (2010); the keynote address and performance at the 2009 International Conference of Pedagogy and Theater of the Oppressed (2009); teaching and performance at Bates Dance Festival (2008); performances at Erasing Borders Festival (NY, 2008); teaching at the American Dance Festival (2008); and performances at the O’Shaughnessey’s Women of Substance Performance Series (2008). Her choreographic project Tushaanal/fires of dry grass (Sept 2011) was reviewed as “an intricately wrought yet wholly powerful work” that “alternately shimmers and scorches with fervent intensity” (Star Tribune, 9/9/11) and received enthusiastic ovations from audiences.

Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy

2012 Choreographer Fellow

RANEE and APARNA RAMASWAMY are Artistic Directors, Choreographers, and Principal Dancers of Ragamala Dance, acclaimed as one of the Indian Diaspora’s leading dance ensembles. They are disciples of legendary Bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer Alarmél Valli. Inspired by the philosophy, spirituality, mysticism, and myth of their South Indian heritage, Ranee and Aparna’s work retains roots in this collective history while carrying the classical dance form of Bharatanatyam into the 21st century. They see the classical form as a dynamic, living tradition with vast potential to convey timeless themes and contemporary ideas.

Ranee and Aparna’s work has been supported by the NEA, National Dance Project, Japan Foundation, USArtists International, and a Joyce Award; commissioned by the Walker Art Center and American Composers Forum; and toured extensively, highlighted by the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., American Dance Festival in Durham, NC, Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, and National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai, India. In 2011, they were jointly named “Artist of the Year” by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

RANEE has been a master teacher/performer of Bharatanatyam in the U.S. since 1978. Since her first cross-cultural collaboration with poet Robert Bly in 1991, followed by her founding of Ragamala in 1992, she has been a pioneer in the establishment of non-Western dance traditions in the Twin Cities and in pushing the boundaries of Indian classical dance on the global scene. Among her many awards are 14 McKnight Fellowships, a Bush Fellowship, an Artist Exploration Fund grant from Arts International, the 2011 McKnight Foundation Distinguished Artist Award.

APARNA has received three McKnight Fellowships in Dance and Choreography, a Bush Fellowship, an Arts and Religion grant funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, two Jerome Travel Study Grants, and an Artist Exploration Fund grant from Arts International. Her choreography and performance have been described as “a marvel of buoyant agility and sculptural clarity” (Dance Magazine), “thrillingly three-dimensional,” and “an enchantingly beautiful dancer,” (The New York Times). In 2010, Aparna was the first Bharatanatyam dancer/choreographer to be named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch”.



Carl Flink

2012 Choreography Fellow

The artistic director of Minneapolis/St. Paul based movement theater Black Label Movement (BLM), choreographer Carl Flink’s dancemaking is recognized for its intense athleticism, daring risk taking, and humanistic themes. Institutions that have presented/commissioned his choreography include the Bates Dance Festival, TED, TEDx Brussels, Theater Latté Da (Minneapolis, MN), the Chicago Humanities Festival, The Minnesota Orchestra, Company C Contemporary Ballet (San Francisco, CA), and Same Planet Different World (Chicago, IL), as well as, dance programs such as the University of Illinois, Stanford University, the University of Iowa, Mount Holyoke, and the University of Kansas.

Flink completed a research collaboration with biomedical engineer David Odde at the University of Minnesota Institute for Advanced Study called The Moving Cell Project. In July 2012, Flink joined Odde at The Oceanographic Institute in Woods Hole, MA to work with scientists on a research technique called “Bodystorming” developed in the Moving Cell Project. This project also includes Flink’s collaboration with Science Magazine correspondent John Bohannon. Flink, Bohannon, and BLM created A Modest Proposal for the 2011 TEDx Brussels with over 1.5 million internet views and a presentation for TED 2012: Full Spectrum entitled The Facts of Life Talk.

A professor of dance at the University of Minnesota, Flink’s grants and awards include a 2008 McKnight Artist Fellowship for Choreography, Twin Cities City Pages 2012 Best Choreographer, a 2008 Boomerang Award recipient, 2011 and 2012 Live Music for Dance MN grants, and a 2010 Ivey Award recipient. During much of the 1990s, he was a member of the Limón Dance Company and Creach/Koester Men Dancing.

Beyond the dance world, he holds a J.D. from Stanford Law School and was a staff attorney with Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Inc. from 2001-2004. He raises three glorious daughters with his artistic and life partner Emilie Plauché Flink.


2013 Choreographer Fellow

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

HIJACK is the Minneapolis-based choreographic collaboration of Kristin Van Loon and Arwen Wilder. HIJACK is the confluence and clash of two independent compositional/kinesthetic impulses. Their dances embrace juxtaposition. Their dances house unlikely intimates and question “who is the enemy?”

Specializing in the inappropriate, HIJACK is best known for "short-shorts:" pop song-length miniatures designed to deliver a sharp shock.

Over the last 25 years they have created over 100 dances and performed in venues ranging from proscenium to barely-legal. HIJACK manipulates context by employing a site-specific approach to every performance and toying with audiences' expectations. HIJACK has performed in New York (at DTW, PS122, HERE ArtCenter, Catch/Movement Research Festival, La Mama, Dixon Place, Chocolate Factory), Japan, Russia, Central America, Ottawa, Chicago, Colorado, New Orleans, Seattle, Philadelphia, San Francisco, at Fuse Box Festival in Austin Texas, and Bates Dance Festival in Maine and Seattle Festival of Dance Improvisation. HIJACK questions where and for whom contemporary dance is performed, gigging regularly in both social settings and concert settings.  

HIJACK has enjoyed long relationships with Red Eye Collaborations (as part of their Critical Core), Bryant Lake Bowl Theater where their 1996 "Take Me To Cuba" was the theater’s first ever dance concert), Zenon Dance School (where they have taught every Wednesday morning for 18 years), and Walker Art Center where they have performed in every imaginable context including the opening of the McGuire Theater, at Dyke Night, First Free Saturday children’s programming, in the sculpture garden, and in the light of the Benson Film Collection in the Mediateque. In 2013, Walker Art Center commissioned “redundant, ready, reading, radish, Red Eye” to celebrate twenty years of HIJACK and Contact Quarterly published the chapbook “Passing for Dance: A HIJACK Reader”.

Their 2018-20 projects include: performing End Plays with Lisa Nelson, curating and hosting Future Interstates (a series of dance improvisation performances initiated by HIJACK and Body Cartography in 2015), creation and premiere of Jealousy (a collaboration with sculptor Ryan Fontaine and lighting designer Heidi Eckwall at Hair + Nails Gallery), touring an evening of dance with films to micro-cinemas and managing & dancing in the 2019 McKnight International Choreography residency of Galia Eibenshutz at Cedar Cultural Center.


Emily Johnson

2013 Choreographer Fellow

Photo by Tim Rummelhof

Photo by Tim Rummelhof

Emily Johnson is an artist who makes body based work. Originally from Alaska, she is currently based in Minneapolis. Since 1998 she has created work that considers the experience of sensing and seeing performance. Her dances function as installations, engaging audiences within and through a space and environment—sights, sounds, smells—interacting with a place's architecture, history, and role in community. She works to blur distinctions between performance and daily life and to create work that reveals and respects multiple perspectives. Johnson received a 2012 Bessie Award for Outstanding Production for her work, The Thank-you Bar at New York Live Arts. She is a 2012 Creative Capital and Joyce Foundation grant recipient. She is a 2011-12 Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography Returning Choreographic Fellow, a 2012 Headlands and MacDowell Colony Artist in Residence, a 2011 Native Arts and Cultures Fellow, a 2012, 2010, and 2009 MAP Fund Grant recipient, and a 2009 McKnight Fellow. Current works include The Thank-you Barand Where (we) Live with SO Percussion, directed by Ain Gordon. Niicugni premiered at MANCC/Florida State University/Seven Days of Opening Nights and tours through 2013 with support from National Dance Project to MassMoca, The Redfern Art Center at Keene College/Vermont Performance Lab, The Coil Festival/PS122 at Baryshnikov Arts Center, TigerTail, Arizona State University/Gammage Theater, Northrop/O'Shaughnessy, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, and Bunnell St. Gallery in Homer, Alaska. Johnson is of Yup'ik descent and is a shareholder in the Calista Native Corporation. Her family is from Bethel and Akiak, Alaska and she was raised on the Kenai Peninsula. 


Karen Sherman

2013 Choreographer Fellow

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Karen Sherman moved to Minneapolis in 2004 from NYC. Her work has been presented nationally by P.S. 122, Walker Art Center, Danspace Project, Movement Research at the Judson Church, Dance Place, Fusebox Festival, Highways Performance Space, ODC, The Red Eye Theater, and many others. She has worked and collaborated with such artists as Morgan Thorson, Sally Silvers, Dan Hurlin, Emily Johnson, Lisa D’Amour, Katie Pearl, Nami Yamamoto, Neal Medlyn, NTUSA, The Love Everybody Players, Tanya Gagné, Circus Amok, and the feminist punk pop band, Le Tigre.

She has received numerous awards for her work as a choreographer, performer, and designer, including a 2007 “Bessie” Award for her work in Morgan Thorson'sFaker, McKnight Foundation Fellowships in Choreography (2006) and Dance (2009), a Bush Foundation Artist Fellowship (2009), Sage Awards for her work as a Performer (2006) and Scenic Designer (for her 2008 work, copperhead), City Pages Best Artist Awards as a Dancer (2007) and Choreographer (2009), MacDowell Colony Fellowships (2010, 2003), a Movement Research Artist Residency (1999-2000), and a Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship and residency in Liguria, Italy (2010).

She holds a BFA in Acting from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts (with a double major in Women’s Studies) and is also a singer, fifth-generation lasso spinner, and former student of flying trapeze. Her background in these areas, as well as her work in nearly every facet of arts production as a producer, production manager, technical director, scenic and sound designer, and technician, informs each aspect of her work. As Administrator and Production Manager of New York’s legendary Judson Church from 1994-2004, she co-created, produced, and curated START, a multi-disciplinary series integrating politics and arts. Her writing, including essays and poetry, has been featured on many live, web, and print forums, including The Movement Research Performance Journal, Culture Bodega, The Performance Club, and The Triumph of Poverty: Poems Inspired by the Work of Nicole Eisenman (Off The Park Press).

One with Others, incorporated dance, writing, and carpentry and toured in 2014 to TBA Festival (Portland), Red Eye Theater (Mpls), Fsebox Festival (Austin), DiverseWorks (Houston), and The Chocolate Factory (NYC).

Megan Mayer

2010 Choreography Fellow

Photo Credit: Sean Smuda

Photo Credit: Sean Smuda

Megan Mayer is a choreographer, performing artist and photographer based in Minneapolis. Her dances resonate with audiences by fusing nuanced imagery gleaned from vulnerable situations with a strong sense of musicality and comic timing. By unearthing and luxuriating in anti-performance moments, traditionally undisclosed aspects of performance in turn become the focus. She excels at revealing and showcasing performers' distinctive personalities and characteristics in her dances. She credits/blames her parents for her irreverent humor and affection for diverse musical styles. 

Mayer was awarded a 2010 Jerome Foundation Travel Study Grant, and had a choreographic mentorship and workshop with New York dance artist Douglas Dunn in Fall 2010. Her production We tried to throw the light (2010) was commissioned by The Southern Theater. I Could Not Stand Close Enough To You (2009), co-commissioned by The Walker Art Center and Southern Theater for Momentum: New Dance Works, was named 2009's top dance event by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune. Her suite of Pulp Dances (2007) was commissioned by the Minnesota History Center.

She has premiered original dances at Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater, The Southern Theater, The Walker Art Center, The Soap Factory, Bedlam Theater, in the CATCH series (NYC) and in public bathrooms. She has a growing body of work of short dance films, several of which are in collaboration with film artist Kevin Obsatz. Her dance film Over Time (2009) was created for Skewed Visions' online Cubicle series. An engaging performer, she has worked with many artists including Charles Campbell, Laurie Van Wieren, Karen Sherman and The Ethnic Dance Theatre. She holds a B.A. in Dance from the University of Minnesota.


Vanessa Voskuil

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

2015 Choreographer Fellow

Choreographer and director Vanessa Voskuil has created more than twenty contemporary performance works ranging from large community-inclusive performance projects to ensemble and solo works for site-specific locations and theater settings. Her work has been described as “visually arresting,” “boldly and uncompromisingly moving within its own time and its own logic,” and “interlaced with surrealist sensibility and bracing intelligence.” Voskuil has received two Minnesota Sage Dance Awards for Outstanding Design and nominated twice for Outstanding Performance. She has been named one of the “7 Artists to Watch” by Minnesota Monthly Magazine and recognized by the Star Tribune as one of “9 Minnesota Artists to Expect Great Things.” 


Penelope Freeh

2014 Choreographer Fellow

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Photo by Tim Rummelhoff

Penelope Freeh won a Minnesota SAGE Award for Outstanding Performer in 2010. With composer Jocelyn Hagen she received a Metropolitan Regional Arts Council Arts Activities Grant (2013) and two American Composers Forum New Music for Dance Grants (2010, 2014). Additional awards include: McKnight Artist Fellowship for Dancers (1998), MN State Arts Board Fellowship (1998), two Career Opportunity Grants (1999, 2001) and Artist Initiative Grant (2012), and a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant (2001). In May 2008 she was featured in and wrote "Why I Dance" for Dance Magazine.

Commissions include: James Sewell Ballet, MN Ballet, Gem City Ballet, the Walker Art Center/Southern Theater’s Momentum, MN Orchestra, 3-Legged Race, Skylark Opera, Nautilus Music Theater, Theater Mu, the University of MN, MN State University, and Russia’s Link Vostok Dance Festival among others. She has twice been presented by New York City’s Ballet Builders. Residencies include: the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, MN Dance Lab (Regional Dance Development Initiative) at the College of St. Benedict, St. Catherine University, Carleton College, the Reif Center, St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, and Perpich Center for Arts Education.

Freeh danced for James Sewell Ballet for seventeen years, serving as Artistic Associate from 2007-11. She is affiliate faculty at the University of MN and Zenon and summer faculty at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp.

For more information, visit her site.