BIPOC Professional Dancer
Midday Movement Series is thrilled to relaunch BIPOC Professional Dancer Mentorship, a mentorship program supporting early-career BIPOC professional contemporary dancers to establish their dance paths in Greater Boston. This program aims to empower and celebrate early-career BIPOC dancers by creating a sense of connection and community, and by providing a space to address the impacts of structural inequities and strategies to help navigate and overcome them.
This program is a crucial next step in MIDDAY's current racial justice work. By providing a new generation of BIPOC dance artists with resources to create their own sense of purpose and belonging in the Greater Boston dance community, MIDDAY will continue to cultivate a sustainable and vibrant local dance sector.
In this eight month program, four early-career professional contemporary dancers (4 years of experience or less) will receive and commit to the following:
class stipends to take a minimum of 60 hours of dance classes over the course of the program (equivalent to one MIDDAY class and one additional Boston, Somerville, or Cambridge-based dance class of their choosing per week for 18-20 weeks);
$500 personal stipend to use at their discretion;
Bi-weekly mentorship consultations with MIDDAY director Marissa Molinar to help guide their individual growth (about 18 hours over the course of the program);
Monthly all-mentee gatherings to encourage peer-to-peer networking, support, and learning (about 18 hours over the course of the program);
Access to an all-mentee chat group to encourage connection between and beyond group gatherings.
The program will run from August 2022 - March 2023, culminating with a small celebration in which each mentee will present their top takeaways from their training and mentorship experiences. Mentees and guest dance artists will be invited to show work and works-in-progress at this celebration.
This program is open to contemporary dancers of color who are:
at least 18 years old,
self-identify as a professional or pre-professional dancer,
are developing a professional career as a dancer,
and have four (4) years or less of professional experience.
Applications Are Closed!
Applications for this cycle closed June 30, 2023
Email us for more information.
BIPOC Professional Dancer Mentees (2023-2024)
Aileen Leon-Echeverria is a Boston based freelance contemporary dancer and arts administrator. Originally from Mexico City and raised in South Florida, she grew up training in ballet and flamenco under Isabelle Bienvenu and Damaris Ferrer. She graduated magna cum laude in 2020 from Boston Conservatory at Berklee with a BFA in contemporary dance performance. There she had the opportunity to train under Joy Davis, Kurt Doulgas, and others. At the Conservatory she also had the opportunity to perform works created by Juel D. Lane, Thang Dao, Dam Van Huynh, and others. During the summers she received a merit scholarship to attend Ballet Hispanico's ChoreoLaB. There she was able to learn the company's repertory and train under Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Mario Zambrano, Bennyroyce Royon, and others. She also participated in GagaLab and SpringboardX. Currently, Aileen is a company member with Eventual Dance Company. She also freelances with local choreographers such as Audrey MacLean and Grant Jacoby. Aileen is passionate about making the arts accessible and continuing her dance career and is excited to where those passions will take her.
Leah Misano is a freelance dance and movement artist. Hailing from South Carolina, she has found a home in Boston since attending the Boston Conservatory (BFA in Contemporary Dance Performance). Leah spent the 2022-2023 season performing with Whim W’Him Seattle Contemporary Dance where she worked on several new creations. Upon returning to the Boston area, Leah is looking forward to working with her mentor, Jun Kuribayashi and diving back into her own movement practice.
Tambre Keene was born and raised in the Boston community. She began her dance training at 4 Star Dance Studio. Tambre attended Boston Arts Academy, where she received training under William Mclaughin, Tatiana Obeso, and Sheryl Thomas. During this time, she also had the opportunity to receive training from Ruka White and Levi Marsman. She even attended and
performed at the National High School Dance Festival. Tambre spent summers with The Boston Conservatory summer intensive and The Earl Moesley Institute of The Arts summer intensive. Tambre has received a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and a Minor in Psychology from Dean College. At Dean, she received training from Kristina Berger, Russell Clarke, Kimberly Calore-Sedlak,
Tara Iacobucci, and Lindsy Lapointe. Also during her time, She completed an internship at The Dance Complex as an Arts Administration and Communications Intern, wrote a book with Joan Phelps Palladino, performed work at the American College Dance Association Conference, and engaged in research at Jacobs Pillow with Stephen Tracy-Ursprung. Upon graduating, Tambre wants to continue dancing, create change, and explore the dance world's entirety.
Isabelle “Izzi” King (they/them) was born and raised in New Jersey and began their dance journey at age two. They trained in tap, ballet, contemporary, jazz, hip-hop, and musical theater at Anita Ehrler’s Dance Extensions. (AEDE). King also participated in regional and national dance competitions with AEDE for eight years. Izzi is a 2022 graduate of Wheaton College (MA) with a Cum Laude honors in Sociology and minors in Psychology and Dance. At Wheaton, Izzi began exploring modern dance and techniques from the West African Diaspora and experienced working with choreographers such as Andy Taylor-Blennis, Kurt Adametz, & Diane Arvantines. King was also a recipient of the Departmental Award of Honors in Theater and Dance Studies for the class of 2022. As well as a three-time nominee and finalist for the Eleanor Augusta Norcross Leadership in the Arts Award. Wheaton has also asked them back to set works on their Dance Company and choreograph their production of the musical RENT. Since graduation, King has joined Urbanity Dance as a member of their professional company and faculty. Izzi has also had the pleasure of working with choreographers, Shura Baryshnikov, Rachel Linksy, & Jenny Oliver on local projects since moving to Boston. They have a deep passion for community that drives them to share their passion for movement as medicine with those around them.
BIPOC Professional Dancer Mentees (2022-2023)
Miranda Lawson (she/her) is a Boston based dancer and choreographer. Originally from Somerville, Massachusetts, she trained primarily in contemporary and Hip-hop dance forms at The Studio Dance Complex (TSDC) where she frequently returns to teach. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Psychology from Mount Holyoke College, where she earned awards in choreographic excellence and leadership through social justice work. Miranda has performed in works by Meg Anderson, Chloe London, Jenna Riegel, Wendy O’Byrne and in TU Dance’s“One” restaged by Kaitlin Bell. She has also worked with Boston based company Urbanity Dance and has had many collaborations with Contemporarily Out of Order. Miranda has attended Bates Dance Festival, was the recipient of the Leadership Scholarship from American Dance Festival, has been an intern for Boston University’s REACH Summer Dance program, and has shown her own work at the American College Dance Association Conference. She is currently a choreographic resident through the Urbanity X Residency program for the 2022 season and is working on “Concourse” with Barbie Diewald and Shakia Barron, which was most recently in residence at Jacob’s Pillow, High Street Studios, and MAGMA.
Pearl Young (she/her) is a Waterbury, CT native, a recent graduate of Tufts University with Magna Cum Laude honors and was the recipient of the Alice E. Trexler Dance Studies award for the Class of 2022. Her choreography and goals as a dancer have consistently revolved around creating space for and demanding attention toward Black American styles. Growing up dancing in predominantly white competitive studios disjointed her identities as a Black woman and as a dancer based on the priorities of the studio. When she began choreographing dances in high school, she dedicated her choreography to representing the journeys through social injustices Black people have taken. Pearl had the honor of receiving the rights to perform Pearl Primus’s “Strange Fruit”, taught by Kim Bears-Bailey of Philadanco, as her culminating senior thesis piece. In college, she became an active member of the dance community. Pearl's passion for immersing herself in Black American Dance manifested in her founding of Harlem Grooves, a collegiate dance company dedicated to Black American dance, and her work as the lead choreographer in Tufts’ recent production of “Almanac: The Musical”. Additionally, Pearl became a dance minor and a dance department ambassador—a position that fueled the creation of a dance major as Tufts previously only offered minors. Most recently, Pearl was invited to reset a piece as a freelance choreographer at the Taft School she looks forward to a piece of hers being performed in the Onstage 360 show on July 30th.
Cassie Wang (she/her) is a Boston-based multidisciplinary artist with a focus on contemporary dance performance. Originally from Kansas City, she grew up training at the American Dance Center under the direction of Kristopher Estes-Brown and Jennifer Tierney. She graduated magna cum laude in 2021 from Pomona College with a B.A. in Computer Science and minors in Dance and Media Studies. There, she had the opportunity to originate works with choreographers such as Derion Loman, Becca Lemme, Iyun Ashani Harrison, and Ronit Ziv. She has also trained with the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, BODYTRAFFIC, GagaLab, and the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. Cassie was the recipient of the DanceJerusalem Scholarship and the Virginia Princehouse Allen Dance Award. Currently, Cassie is a company member with VLA DANCE and KAIROS Dance Theater and freelances with local choreographers— most recently Jessi Stegall, Luminarium Dance, Dara Capley, and Chavi Bansal. Her choreographic works have been presented at the Solstice Dance Project, ACDA Baja, and NACHMO Boston. As a 2022 Emerging Artist Fellow with Dunamis, she recently presented her first multidisciplinary project for her capstone involving choreography, animation, and painting. Working to combine her backgrounds in dance, digital art, animation, and tech, Cassie is intrigued by the creative possibilities that lie at the intersection of art and technology.
Imani Deal (she/her) was born and raised in the Greater Boston Area. Deal is a graduate of Montclair State University, where she
received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and a minor in Business. During her training at MSU, she had the privilege of dancing in works by Camille A. Brown, Earl Mosley, and Charles Weidman. Deal maintained a position on the Dean’s List throughout college and is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.
Since graduation, Deal has danced in local projects by Jenny Oliver and Rachel Linsky. She also has been a member of Roots Uprising Dance Company since 2020 under the direction of Nailah Randall-Bellinger. The pieces that Deal has recently performed amplify topics such as Holocaust remembrance and the Middle Passage. Deal’s goal is to open an Arts Center that gives back to the inner city through the arts while also expanding her dance career through traveling around the world.
Why Is BIPOC Mentorship
Necessary in Dance?
Relationship- and community-building pathways for newly arrived dance artists is crucial in our local dance sector in general. Metro Boston's professional dance sector --even among dance professionals-- is often described as "hidden" and "hard to find," as well as "deeply siloed" and difficult to navigate. Mentorship provides an opportunity for more seasoned artists to not only welcome new artists in and orient them within the local landscape, but also allows for resource sharing and "showing them the ropes;" formal and informal goal-setting; networking; encouragement and artistic growth; and more. Mentorship has proven to be a valuable resource across sectors, and the dance sector is no different.
For BIPOC artists, the need is even greater. Due to a lack of visibility across the sector and representation in sector leadership, BIPOC artists are prone to isolation, macro- and micro-aggressions, and a lack of a sense of belonging, dance artists of color have a hard time making Metro Boston their home, especially in predominantly white genres such as contemporary dance. This program seeks to addres some of these needs.
In addition, living as a person of color in Metro Boston is difficult enough on its own, due to issues including gentrification and cultural erasure; housing, food, and medical injustice; the historical and growing wealth gap, and more. Below are a few resources that provide more detail and data about these specific hardships:
The Weathering Hypothesis
As summarized by PubMed: "The weathering hypothesis states that chronic exposure to social and economic disadvantage leads to accelerated decline in physical health outcomes and could partially explain racial disparities in a wide array of health conditions." The weathering hypothesis was originally proposed in 1992 by public health researcher Dr. Arline T Geronimus to explain disparities she observed in health outcomes especially for Black women.
WEALTH + OPPORTUNITIES
The Color of Wealth in Boston: A 2015 study looking at the widening wealth gap in Boston
For entrepreneurs of color, Boston lacks access and capital: A 2020 publication from MIT Sloan
Boston’s Booming - But For Whom? : A 2018 study from Boston Indicators